The Magazine

From Sudan to the East River

John Danforth's unsung service.

Jun 21, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 39 • By NINA SHEA
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In all this, the United States has stood virtually alone. Europe allowed its oil companies to partner with the Bashir regime and funded the regime's "human rights" commissions--as if the slave raids and forcible mass starvation were problems of underdevelopment. The Chinese and Malay governments directly invested in Khartoum's oil partnership.

Africa as a whole was indifferent to the suffering, and voted to have Khartoum represent it on the U.N. Security Council and Human Rights Commission. The Arab League treated Khartoum as an esteemed member. What made the difference in the end were unilateral American diplomatic and economic "sticks," the credible threat of military pressure, bipartisan action by Congress, and the resolute leadership of President Bush--of which the appointment of Danforth was a pivotal part.

Ending the atrocities of a sitting government through peaceful negotiation, of course, fails to produce regime change. Khartoum thus is at liberty to continue its ethnic cleansing in Darfur, where it has already killed at least 10,000 people and displaced a million, often to harsh refugee camps. The besieged African tribes in Darfur are largely Muslim; but like the Nuba Muslims, they speak tribal languages, not Arabic, and their Islam is of the moderate, Sufi variety--making them apostates and fair game for killing in the eyes of the Islamists in Khartoum.

President Bush has publicly condemned the assault on Darfur. He retains U.S. economic sanctions, and has designated $288 million in relief for Darfur. Elsewhere the issue generates little interest. U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan and some European leaders have expressed concern, but they have mostly failed to act; the aid to Darfur mustered by the 25 E.U. nations totals $12 million. Given the Bush administration's record on Sudan so far, John Danforth's arrival at Turtle Bay may bring a new day.

Nina Shea is director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom.