Kofi Annan vs. Me


This land stinks of fear and death. —Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, from Darfur, October 20

Only last May, when the atrocities in Darfur were already well-known, Sudan was reappointed to the [U.N. Human Rights] Commission through 2007. The American envoy walked out in disgust at the time, but much of the rest of the world yawned. No wonder Sudan’s leaders don’t take the U.N. seriously. —The Wall Street Journal, editorial, September 16

The world must act now. Failure to do so will implicate us all in the preventable deaths of at least half a million people. There can be no more missed or vague deadlines, and no more watered down U.N. resolutions. —Ruth Messinger, president and executive director, American Jewish World Service, Newsday, October 22

I have been a frequent critic of Kofi Annan in the various places I write, since even before he became secretary-general of the United Nations. I have now heard from this hollow man through his spokesman. In a letter in the October 19 Washington Times, Edward Mortimer, director of communications for the secretary-general, berates me for a piece I wrote in papers around the country for the United Media syndicate, which The Washington Times titled, “The U.N. Is Hopeless.” I’ve said the same thing here.

Says Annan’s public relations man: “Secretary-General Kofi Annan has left no stone unturned.” For a shining example, we are told, Annan has created a commission of inquiry “to determine whether or not acts of genocide have taken place [in Darfur].”

This is how genocide is described in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “Genocide [is] committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such . . . ”

Reports from media all over the world have documented for months that Sudan’s National Islamic Front government and its barbaric Arab Janjaweed colleagues are responsible for the deaths—by murder, and from disease in the teeming refugee camps—of 70,000 black Africans in Darfur. That’s a figure from the U.N.’s own World Health Organization. Smith College professor Eric Reeves, the authoritative source on these atrocities in Darfur, says the total mortality is now close to 300,000.

And Andrew Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, predicts that if not enough humanitarian aid is received in time, there will be close to a million dead.

Moreover, the secretary-general’s spokesman must have a poor clipping service, because there is this statement by Kofi Annan himself on PBS’s October 15 NewsHour With Jim Lehrer:

“The impression . . . has been gained in some quarters that if you were only to label it genocide things will fall in place. [That], I’m afraid, is not really correct. We know what needs to be done.”

Kofi Annan’s spokesman, in correcting me for my insufficient admiration for Kofi Annan, stresses his support for increasing the size of the African Union’s deployment in Darfur, and expanding “its monitoring function to protect civilians.”

In fact, Nigeria, speaking for the African Union on October 18, flatly rejected “all foreign intervention in Darfur,” insisting that this is a “purely African question.” And the African leaders support Sudan.

But the African Union—even if it were to send 4,000 or more troops—has neither the logistical nor transportation capacity to deal with the massive killings, gang rapes, and destruction of crops and villages perpetrated by the Janjaweed in collaboration with the Sudanese army and its attack helicopters.

On her return from Darfur, Samantha Power, author of the indispensable “A Problem From Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (HarperCollins Perennial paperback), said (Time, September 4): “The only hope for peace is an international protection force.”

African Union soldiers, she added, would have to be “equipped and paid for by the major powers [and] eventually reinforced by 10,000 additional troops from other nations. Yet . . . no statesman—not [Colin] Powell and not [Kofi] Annan—has attempted to rally the money, troops and political cooperation needed for such a force.”

And even if there were such an attempt, the United Nations would not be involved, because of the very structure of its deciding body, the Security Council. China has already pledged a veto of any such military intervention because it has a large investment in Sudan’s oil reserves and, as it has shown at home, a searing contempt for human rights.

If hundreds of thousands of black African lives in Darfur are to be saved, it will take an international force, outside the U.N., made up of countries that do not savage their own people and are committed to stopping genocide in Darfur and preventing it everywhere else. This country could help organize such a force. But can the survivors in Darfur depend on the White House and Congress? It’s up to the rest of us to pressure those bodies to act.

On October 4, Kofi Annan, for once, was not playing word games. In a report to the Security Council, he spoke of “increasing numbers of the population of Darfur . . . exposed without any protection from their government to hunger, fear and violence. The numbers . . . are growing and their suffering is being prolonged by inaction.”

Whose inaction? At the top of the United Nations, it’s Kofi Annan (who also failed in Rwanda). Along with him are the United States and the rest of the world. Here in America, we are far from Darfur, a place that, in Kristof’s words, “stinks of fear and death.” When the corpses there reach Rwanda’s total of 800,000, maybe someone here will light a candle of contrition.