In 1998, President Bill Clinton addressed survivors of the attempted genocide in Rwanda four years earlier, in which nearly a million people were killed, many hacked to death by machetes:
It may seem strange to you here, especially the many of you who lost members of your family, but all over the world there were people like me sitting in offices, day after day after day, who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror. The international community, together with nations in Africa, must bear its share of responsibility for this tragedy as well. We did not act quickly enough after the killing began. We should not have allowed the refugee camps to become safe haven for the killers. We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide. We cannot change the past. But we can and must do everything in our power to help you build a future without fear and full of hope.Watching Hotel Rwanda in the comfort of my living room last night, a cool beer in hand, I was stunned by the callousness of western governments who refused to step in and help a nation with no real reserves of oil, gold, or diamonds. Then I realized that there, in front of my TV, I—and my government—are in the same situation Clinton characterized: we don't fully realize the horror engulfing Africans, and we're failing to act in any meaningful way. In the Darfur region of Sudan, a similar, yet still-smaller scale genocide is going on. Since the start of the conflict, up to 300,00 have died in Darfur and over two million have been displaced from their homes due to a violent civil war. Yet the governments of the west are largely unresponsive. UN humanitarian efforts there are facing a shortfall of $1.3 billion, an amount equivalent to just a week of war in Iraq. For this inaction, history will judge western nations, says UN chief Kofi Annan, as "slow, hesitant, uncaring and that we have learnt nothing from Rwanda."
What does it take for the US to intervene? Will we only step in when there are natural resources or votes to be gained? What are we to make of a president and a Congress dominated by Republicans who tout their Christian values but fail to prevent the death of innocents?
Small ways to help:
Buy the CD The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (ASAP), sponsored by True Majority, with 100% of net proceeds going to help reduce violence in Sudan.
Donate to the Genocide Intervention Fund or Human Rights Watch.
Keep up on Darfur news, and news from throughout Africa (the Congo, Sierra Leone, etc.) and don't let these issues fall through the cracks: write to your Congressional representatives and local papers.