Ah, the Minneapolis paper is telling us to reflect on Peace in Dafur this Christmas.

on Tuesday, a U.S. task force on preventing genocide presented a report to the public on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. convention against genocide. The task force, chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, recommended that preventing genocide be a top foreign policy priority, and that a fund be established — $250 million a year — to combat genocidal wars.

Well, actually I’m glad someone noticed the latest genocide in the Sudan.

The UK Economist, however, is a bit more cynical on the subject:

“…When the signs suggest that mass-murder is being planned, diplomats should warn the would-be perpetrators of dire consequences if they proceed. If all else fails, America should send in the marines, but the authors hope that the mere threat of this will usually be enough…. American interventions to crush murderous governments do not always go as planned. Ask George Bush.”

Ah, but the progressive types hated Bush so much that they rewrote the many genocides of Saddam, while ignoring the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda that the European Union and the US allowed to occur during the Clinton administration.

But other genocides occurred during Clinton’s tenure. Who remembers the earlier Sudanese civil war which was indeed a genocide against the Christian and animist tribes in the south that displaced 4 million refugees in the country and half a million to other countries,  killed 2 million and sold 200 thousand into slavery?

And do you include in your list only wars (see below) or do you include famines?

The list goes on and on

1991-97: Congo’s civil war (800,000)
1991-2000: Sierra Leone’s civil war (200,000)
1991-: Russia-Chechnya civil war (200,000)
1991-94: Armenia-Azerbaijan war (35,000)
1992-96: Tajikstan’s civil war war (50,000)
1992-96: Yugoslavian wars (260,000)
1992-99: Algerian civil war (150,000)
1993-97: Congo Brazzaville’s civil war (100,000)
1993-2005: Burundi’s civil war (200,000)
1994: Rwanda’s civil war (900,000)
1995-: Pakistani Sunnis vs Shiites (1,300)
1995-: Maoist rebellion in Nepal (12,000)
1998-: Congo/Zaire’s war – Rwanda and Uganda vs Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (3.8 million)
1998-2000: Ethiopia-Eritrea war (75,000)
1999: Kosovo’s liberation war – NATO vs Serbia (2,000)
2001-: Afghanistan’s liberation war – USA & UK vs Taliban (40,000)
2002-: Cote d’Ivoire’s civil war (1,000)
2003: Iraq’s liberation war – USA, UK and Australia vs Saddam Hussein (14,000)
2003-: Sudan vs JEM/Darfur (200,000)
2003-: Iraq’s civil war (60,000)

So quick, what do you do?

Right now, 5 million people in Zimbabwe are at risk for malnutrition and disease. Do you invade? Ah, but Mugabe is already blaming the West for it’s troubles, including the cholera spread because the water system failure due to lack of repairs.

The African Union and South Africa would raise holy hell in the UN if the UK sent in troops to overthrow that tyrant.

So do you invade Dafur, and risk the wrath of the UN? After all, China is making nice with that government, with the aim of getting their oil. China has a veto in the UN Security Council. This essentially prevent the UN from justifying outside intervention.

What about the really bad genocide, the millions dead due to factional and tribal fighting in Central Africa? The UN peacekeepers are already there, and inadequate. Do you authorize more peacekeepers into this hellhole? If so, which group will you back to take over once peace is restored?

Africa’s problems are terrible, but at least they are the result of “ordinary” chaos and war.

The really dangerous problem is not “genocide” per se as much as “democide”: murder of the people by their own government, not merely by murder, but by disease and starvation.

This is what is happening in Zimbabwe, where 5 million are at risk for lack of food in the next year, mainly due to the government’s policies.

Alas, the dirty little secret is that a couple million dead Africans won’t bother the US or the European Union very much.

The real danger to the world is the last of the communist dictatorships that killed so many millions in the twentieth century: North Korea.

Between 300 and 800 thousand people died from starvation in the 1990’s in North Korea, with repeated reports of lack of food on and off since then; now the danger is that a similar famine is looming in the near future, and the head of state is partially incapacitated from a recent stroke.

The six countries are trying to present a united front to try to negotiate with the government there to shut down their nuclear bomb making facility in exchange for food and fuel, but the North Korean government keeps breaking the deal; to make things worse, some of the food aid goes to the Army or is diverted into resale in China.

War is out of the question: even without nukes, too much of the South Korean population lives near enough to the DMZ to be affected by a war. On the other hand, if that country starves, the one who will have to cope with the problem will be China (where the border is more “porous” and many ethnic Koreans can assiste refugees).

So although the “in” humanitarian disaster of the year is Dafur, followed by Zimbabwe, the really dangerous one is in North Korea.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs about Africa at Makaipa Blog.

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