Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Slaughter Spreads

By Nicholas D. Kristof

Last month villagers along Chad's border with Sudan told me how brutal militias were attacking their towns, murdering their babies, raping their daughters and burning their huts, while shouting racial slurs against blacks. Now those impoverished Chadians may find themselves not only attacked by genocidal marauders but also ruled by them.

Over the past week, Sudan has sponsored a full-scale invasion of Chad, seeking to oust Chad's president and replace him with the warlord who has overseen the murder, rape and pillage in those border areas.

Sudan seems determined to extend its genocide to Chad, and the upshot is that the catastrophe of Darfur may now be multiplied manyfold.

One of the towns I stayed in during my visit to Chad last month was Adré, which by some accounts — denied by the government — has now been seized by this Sudanese proxy force known for throwing babies into bonfires. So I wonder what happened to the children I met in the Adré hospital, like Fatima Juma, a 13-year-old girl who would have been unable to flee because she had been shot in the chest and arm while fetching water.

That the fighting has spread to Chad underscores that our policy in Darfur has not only been morally bankrupt, but also catastrophic in a practical sense. Appeasing Sudan has allowed the situation to worsen, because our policy has essentially consisted, after every outrage, of making the Darfuris turn the other cheek.

Chad's president, Idriss Déby, is a corrupt dictator. But he at least had the gumption to show some discontent at the genocide next door, and Sudan is taking aim at him precisely for that reason. If we let Sudan get away with ousting him for refusing to applaud a mass slaughter, we will have compounded our own shameful record.

It's not that President Déby was even very active against the genocide. Worried about offending Sudan, his government threatened to arrest me if I again sneaked into Darfur illegally from Chad to cover the genocide. But Mr. Déby did have the guts to grant Darfur refugees a safe haven in Chad, saving their lives — although now, disgracefully, he has threatened to expel them if the Darfur conflict is not resolved by June.

The fighting in Chad, including a battle in the capital, Ndjamena, that reportedly killed 350 people on Thursday, is nominally between the government and rebels. But make no mistake: those "rebels" are simply a proxy force of Sudan, made up in part by the Sudanese janjaweed militias that orchestrated the killing of several black African tribes in Darfur.

The Chadian rebels operate from a base that journalists have visited in Sudan. The rebels' guns, vehicles and uniforms come from the Sudanese government.

Their leader, Mohamed Nour, was handpicked by Sudan to lead this invading force. Sudan's vice president, Ali Osman Taha, has visited Mr. Nour at his base. And the "rebels" often drop by the town of Geneina, where everybody sees that they include some Chadians but also many Sudanese janjaweed fighters.

"Even a kid of 5 years old in Geneina knows that the Sudanese government is organizing the militias," said Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a heroic Sudanese who leads an independent human rights group active in Darfur.

The danger now is threefold.

First, Chad may collapse into civil war, chaos and banditry, like Darfur itself but on a much larger scale.

Second, the 200,000 refugees who fled Darfur and are living in U.N.-run camps in Chad may be specifically targeted for mass slaughter.

Third, the unrest may force international aid workers to pull out of Chad. Then the refugees will starve to death more gradually.

The U.S. has called on "all parties ... to reduce those levels of violence" — which is a bit like suggesting in 1943 that Nazis and Jews alike cease hostilities. The U.S. and other major powers need to be much more forceful in shoring up Chad against the invaders.

France has a major military base in eastern Chad and should start strafing the invaders. The U.S. should back France, send a top envoy to Chad to show support, and provide intelligence to Chad and France about the invaders' whereabouts.

President Bush and millions of Americans today will celebrate Easter and the end of Holy Week. But where is the piety in reading the Bible while averting one's eyes from genocide? Mr. Bush, how about showing your faith by doing something a bit more meaningful — like standing up to the butchers?


Post a Comment

<< Home

Search WWW Search