John Prendergast (LAW ’85), a leading expert on the Darfur crisis in Sudan, condemned the international community’s response to alleged genocide in the region during a speech in Reiss Auditorium last night.

He called the actions of the United Nations and leading world powers “timid, contorted and legalistic.”

Prendergast also discussed the irony of the often repeated phrase “never again” upon the 10-year anniversary of the Rwandan killings this April. Recalling recent history, he said the similarities between the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and Darfur in 2004 were unsettling.

“[The analogy] shows how little progress we have made over these last 10 years,” Prendergast said.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and over a million have been displaced in a year and a half long conflict that has witnessed the systematic destruction of black Africans by Arab militias in the western region of Darfur.

U.S. Agency for International Development estimates warn that 350,000 or more civilians may die over the coming months if more robust action is not taken.

During his presentation, Prendergast criticized the United Nation’s Security Council for failing to avert what the U.S. has declared genocide.

He cited several reasons for the organization’s ineffectiveness, including its internal divisions, tendency to try to solve severe conflicts with humanitarian aid and determination to treat all parties involved in the conflict as equals.

Prendergast called military intervention a “very last resort” for the U.S., suggesting that the Bush administration build consensus by going through the continuum of diplomatic pressure.

He did, however, support increased involvement of African Union peacekeeping troops in Darfur, which will soon number 3,500 in a region the size of France.

Expanding on this “continuum,” Prendergast described avenues for the international community to avert further killing and make lasting peace.

He proposed the creation of a system of accountability for leaders in Khartoum, an arms embargo on all of Sudan, freezing the finances of government run businesses and threatening action in international courts for war crimes.

Prendergast said the Bush administration’s previous facilitation of north-south peace talks was “too simplistic.”

He noted that the attempt to solve Sudan’s larger, broader conflict between the politically powerful, Muslim and Arab north and the oil-rich, Christian and Animist and black African south failed because it does not address representation for Darfur.

He claimed that the U.S. not utilizing a comprehensive approach to ending the conflict.

Despite the current situation, Prendergast noted that women in Darfur would have a chance to regain their rights when a peace is negotiated. Under the current regime, women do not participate in the government or the peace talks.

“The talk was very informative,” Pamela Erickson (MSFS ’05) said. She noted that Prendergast did a “comprehensive job [of] putting the conflict in historical perspective.”

Prendergast, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68), is the author of six books concerning conflict in Africa and a frequent panelist and Op-Ed contributor on African issues. He recently appeared on CBS’s “60 inutes” to discuss the situation in Darfur.

Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, hosted the International Crisis Group’s speech on the ongoing conflict in Darfur. About 100 people attended the event.

STAND, one of the few student groups in the country focused on Darfur, seeks to increase awareness about the crisis, advocate political action and raise relief funds for Sudanese refugees.

Only a month old, STAND has raised roughly $300 so far, according to Martha Heinemann (SFS ’05), who founded the group with other Georgetown students after a visit to the United States Holocaust Museum.

STAND is working in partnership with the Holocaust Museum to create a national campus campaign by the same name.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.