US Secretary of State Colin Powell begins his important visit to Sudan today. Major questions: How tough will Powell be with the Sudanese government, how will the leaders respond, and what will be the consequences if, as expected, Sudan continues to deny the genocide?
Indications that Powell plans to take a strong stand include US government's drumbeating prior to the visit, including the release of satellite photos documenting the destruction on the ground. Currently Voice of America is making strong statements about the need for the Sudanese government to stop the "ethnic cleansing" in Darfur, Sudan--and about the urgency of Secretary Powell's visit.
On the other hand, the US government has not yet declared the situation a genocide, and has not committed to military intervention to stop the slaughter on the ground and to protect the advance of aid efforts in Darfur. In a story being widely circulated today, Africa Action called the Powell trip "Dangerously Naive" and demanded stonger action against the Sudanese government. This story was at the top in Google news "Sudan" when I just checked, and top on AllAfica.com. Africa Action's point of view is that it is impossible to negotiate in good faith with the genocidal, highly manipulative regime in Sudan. Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit.com is out in front this morning with a summary on Sudan--thanks Glenn! He includes a link to a story that suggests Human Rights Watch seems to be asking for military intervention.
Meanwhile--and predictably--the government of Sudan is taking many steps to silence voices on the ground--ranging from the already reported intimidation of refugees, to banning an anti-US, anti-Israel demonstration that was planned for today, and a broad ban on all demonstrations as part of "security measures" for the visit. A government state newspaper is also claimed yesteday that thousands of refugees are leaving camps and returning home on the eve of the visit. BTW none of these steps are doing much to stop the continual flow of real news from Sudan and Darfur, given a small world of satellite phones, the net, and NGOs.
The poblem at the "world system" level is not lack of knowledge, but lack of decisive action and a (so far) unwillingness to preempt Sudanese sovereignty in order to bring in military force to protect the victims on the ground--or at least to impose a no-fly-zone on government bombers. The Sudanese government is correct in its assessment that what is at stake is its ability to control its own internal affairs. Under the genocide treaty, which the US signed in 1948, the world's governments are obligated to take preemptive, protective action in the case of a genocide within any one nation's borders.
The government says it welcomes the visit of Secretary Powell but rejects interference in its internal affairs:
A statement issued by President Umar Hasan al-Bashir on 24 June had said "foreign quarters" were using Darfur as "an alternative entry to interference in Sudan's internal affairs", according to the Khartoum-based Al-Sahafah daily newspaper.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il reportedly added during a press conference on Saturday that he rejected "any pressure" by the US and UN concerning "conditions" in Darfur during the impending visits.