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Darfur Tragedy Recalls Horrors of Bosnia

Darfur Tragedy Recalls Horrors of BosniaInan op-ed jointly written for The Providence Journal,a Tufts scholar and the head of a Balkans support organizationspeak in favor of U.S. intervention in Sudan. Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.03.04] As the violence in theDarfur region of Sudan mounts, fears of the mid-1990s genocidein Bosnia are replaying in the minds of international observers.According to Tufts classics professor and Dayton Peace AccordsProject chairman BruceHitchner and director of the Center for Balkan DevelopmentGlenn Ruga, the U.S. needs to intervene now in Sudan as it did10 years ago in the former Yugoslavia.

“Nothingwill change until that will exists, and sadly, as in 1992, theimpetus must come from the United States,” Hitchner andRuga wrote in an op-ed published in The Providence Journalin October.

Darfur isa poor region of the Arab-ruled nation of Sudan where “ethniccleansing” of African civilians by government-sponsoredmilitias is reportedly taking place. The authors criticize Westernnations’ delay in reacting to the mounting crisis, whichSecretary of State Colin Powell has called genocide.

In 1992, Hitchnerand Ruga recalled, Bosnian Serb forces began the process of killingwhat would eventually amount to 200,000 civilians and leaving4 million people in Bosnia homeless.

They likencurrent negotiations with the Sudanese government to efforts madeto accommodate the Serbs, such as the Lisbon Agreement and theVance-Owen plan in 1992, the Owen-Stoltenberg plan in 1993, andthe Contact Group in 1994.

“Allfailed to achieve their objective of creating a sustainable peace,”they write.

In 1995, theU.S. agreed to begin bombing Serbian military positions. The changein the situation, Hitchner and Ruga say, was immediate.

“Withinweeks, the Bosnian Serbs agreed to all of the allied demands,”they wrote. The Dayton Peace Accords, signed in November 1995,ended the conflict and established a structure for Bosnia andHerzegovina.

“Today,”Hitchner and Ruga continue, “the world watches in horroras genocide takes place in Darfur.”

While theU.N. mulls establishing a commission to investigate whether ornot the strife in Sudan constitutes genocide, plans for humanitarianaid, tighter sanctions, an arms embargo, and an African peacekeepingforce lack only, the authors say, “the will [of countries]to act.”

With the UnitedStates immersed in military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,the best way to direct the country’s attention to the eventsin Sudan is “the engagement of opinion makers, the media,and Congress” – efforts, Hitchner and Ruga argue,that successfully directed the U.S. to pay attention to Bosniain the 90s.

“Electedofficials in Washington must feel sustained pressure from theirconstituents,” they write. “And this can be achievedonly if the horrors of Darfur come home to the American public,in the same way that the siege of Sarajevo, the atrocities inKosovo, and now the war in Iraq have come home to us: throughintensive media coverage.”

The media,the authors assert, bear a large portion of the blame for theslow response to the crisis.

Aside from“the occasional visit of officials to the refugee campsand the occasional mind-numbing reports of diplomatic initiatives,”a fixation on coverage of the war in Iraq has obscured the Sudaneseconflict in the public eye.

“Untilthe news media commit themselves to systematic and unrelentingcoverage of Sudan, Congress, the American people, and the worldwill turn a blind eye on yet another genocide in Africa,”they wrote. “And the tragic lesson of Bosnia -- the necessityof facing up to genocide -- will have been lost.”

Hitchner andRuga had strong words for those opposed to U.S. intervention inDarfur.

“Thosewho oppose swift U.S. action in a leadership role to stop ethniccleansing are only advancing the cause of genocide, and thosewho perpetrate it,” they wrote.

 

 

 

 

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