Just when it seemed that the United Nations could not be any more ineffectual, another problem has appeared on the UN’s doorstep in a display of blatant mockery. Under pressure from China and the European Union, and after months of investigation and deliberation, the UN has failed to muster the courage to call the massive slaughter occurring in Sudan genocide.
The past several months, of course, have not been the UN’s finest. Large levels of corruption have been uncovered in the UN’s handling of the Oil for Food Program. Corruption charges directly implicate UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his son, Kojo, whom Annan handpicked to oversee the program. Evidence suggests that Kojo and other UN officials accepted bribes and kickbacks from Saddam Hussein in exchange for allowing oil money to flow directly to Saddam for his personal use.
Meanwhile, an audit performed by Deloitte Consulting has revealed larger levels of corruption throughout the UN. The audit, which polled 6,000 (roughly one third of) UN employees, found that the organization is rife with corruption. Ironically, according to Fox News, the head of the UN’s own anti-corruption department was a figure cited as one the most often being corrupt. Workers described the UN offices as some where nepotism and misconduct rule the day and frequently go unpunished.
Yet unlike Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan cannot seem to create the image of a mischievous persona whose moral deficiencies can be excused due to his effective leadership. The tragic events that began in Sudan over a year ago have proved insufficient to raise whatever semblance of leadership resides in the Secretary General.
Currently, a war is raging in Sudan between the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and the Sudanese government. The SLA and JEM have repeatedly complained that their government neglects their home region of Darfur. In March 2003, the SLA and JEM began attacking Sudanese military installations due to the government’s lack of response. Apparently, this was a bad idea.
According to a State Department investigation, the government’s response has included both indiscriminate killing and the rape of innocent civilians. The investigation included a survey of over one thousand villagers, 61% of whom had witnessed the murder of a family member and 16% had been raped or heard about a rape victim. A British reporter painted an even more brutal picture through CNN’s International Correspondent’s program: “Usu-ally there are bodies around the villages. There are mass graves outside… I mean large pits in the earth, maybe 10 to 20 bodies in them, and these pits, 20 to 30 pits around the villages.”
While some publications have claimed that the State department is exaggerating the severity of the situation in order to embarrass the UN, even the UN has assessed the situation in Sudan as no less than a tragedy. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, UN human right’s report labeled the Sudanese government’s handling of the situation as a “reign of terror,” and a UN human rights investigator was quoted on August 6, 2004, saying that there was “overwhelming evidence” that the government had killed innocent civilians. The UN estimates that one in five children in Sudan are acutely undernourished, and many are dying of exhaustion and dysentery.
Yet despite the universally tragic assessment of the plight of Sudanese villagers, the UN remains hung up, not on what action to take, but on the most basic step of what to label the situation. On September 9, Secretary of State Colin Powell had the typical arrogant, American audacity to call the systematic pillage of villages in Darfur, carried out by an Arab government against non-Arab Sudanese people, genocide. This bold move, meant to move the international community into the direc-tion of action and moral leadership that the UN so abhors, drew the expected negative reaction from many around the globe. According to an article in the Washington Post on September 10, officials “from a number of Secu-rity Council member nations expressed concern that Powell’s statement would complicate efforts to win broad sup-port for a new resolution,” to bring sanctions against Sudan. Ironically, this response resembled that of the Sudanese government itself, who said the resolution would only make it more difficult to resolve “internal problems.”
While the US Congress voted 422-0 to call the tragedy in Sudan genocide, the African League and the Arab League have said that it is not. The European Union remains the 4th grader who didn’t study for the math test, answering that “it does not have enough information,” according to the Washington Post. Apparently, the fact that the issue is over a year old and has been the subject of investigations by both the UN and the US State Department just isn’t enough to get a firm response of any kind from the pillars of diplomacy across the pond.
The lack of international outrage, of course, leaves the UN helpless. Pathetically, pressure from China forced a US drafted resolution in the Security Council to change its language to say that the UN “shall consider” rather than “will take” action against Sudan through an oil embargo. When such semantics become the focus of debate, it seems plausible that all hope for real action is lost. Not surprisingly, these semantic issues have been raised by both China and France, who have significant oil investments in Sudan, and appear reluctant to anger the Sudanese government. Expect “No genocide for oil” bumper stickers to appear on US automobiles any week now.
After a long several years with significant conflict in the international community, the United States has been labeled a recklessly militant hegemony, bullying about the rest of the world and ignoring the innocent, goodhearted United Nations. It is situations like the current slaughter, genocide, massacre, or whatever you want to call it in Sudan that questions why the UN is cited as such a moralistic international body in the first place. It appears that the United Nations has an agenda of it’s own that is inconsistent with it’s mission of supporting and enforcing fundamental human rights, which is explicitly stated in its charter.