Interview with John Prendergast on Darfur

AllAfrica.com has an excellent interview with International Crisis Group’s John Prendergast, who visited rebel-held areas of Darfur recently along with Harvard’s Samantha Power. Prendergast explains why he thinks the international community hasn’t yet been moved to intervene in Darfur:

In Somalia, there were stick-thin figures on our nightly television when former President Bush decided to send in American troops [in December 1992]. In Darfur, the pictures aren’t as graphic yet…

What’s going to start killing them in large numbers, which will then create the dramatic graphics that will – three months from now – instill the kind of emotion necessary for sufficiently robust action, are the diseases that are going to rip through these camps. I think that there will eventually be some form of action, but it just may happen after a couple hundred thousand people who could have been saved will have died.

Prendergast notes that the debate over whether the crisis in Sudan is a genocide or not is a largely meaningless one – the international community has an obligation to act to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe as well, and debate over terminology may well be a smokescreen to cover lack of will at the top to provide the support needed for intervention.

He further points out that intervention in Darfur is extremely unlikely to involve US troops – the AU has expressed its intent to send 3,000 troops to the region, a deployment that would clearly have peacekeeping implications. Prendergast notes that such a deployment would require substantial fiscal and logistical support from the US, rather than troops on the ground.

Reuters reports that 35,000 Sudanese marched in Khartoum to protest the UN resolution threatening action, if not sanctions, against the government unless major progress is made in the situation in Darfur. The article also suggests that AU involvement is likely to provoke a much less dramatic reaction than US intervention:

Hassan Ahmed, a Sudanese protester in his 60s, said: “If they want to send African troops, then those are from among us, but we will not allow a single American foot to rest on Darfur soil.” He said he was not a government loyalist.

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