From John Ryle's Disaster in Darfur, a thoughtful article in the New York Review of Books, out today (August 15 issue):
In the harrowing of Darfur there is a clear continuity with the government's earlier military strategy in the south. Darfur has been described as "Rwanda in slow motion." But more significantly, it is southern Sudan speeded up. For two decades in the south successive Khartoum governments have employed the same counterinsurgency techniques as in Darfur today, with similar results. During the 1980s and 1990s Arab militias from Darfur and neighboring Kordofan, similar to the Janjawiid but known to the southerners by the derogatory term "Murahaliin" (nomads), were deployed against communities in SPLM-controlled areas of Bahr-el-Ghazal, the province to the south of Darfur. The famines that afflicted Bahr-el-Ghazal in 1987–1988 and 1998–1999 were the result of these attacks. Mortality figures can only be guessed at, but they were in the hundreds of thousands, comparable with those projected for Darfur today.
These attacks were coordinated by military intelligence and sometimes accompanied by aerial bombardment, as in Darfur. And an ideology of Muslim religious and Arab racial superiority was used to justify them. Similar tactics, including mass rape, were used against the Nuba of Kordofan, another group involved in the southern rebellion. And as recently as last March, well after the cease-fire in the south, government-backed militias launched systematic attacks on villages in SPLM-controlled areas of the Upper Nile.
Ryle's piece adds to the argument for peacekeepers to be sent immediately:
To prevent more killing—and the concealment of crimes already committed— the international presence in Sudan requires an information network in the field that can match that of the Sudan government's own security forces. Short of a serious threat of external military intervention, it will be difficult to achieve this. Even now, with evidence of war crimes mounting by the day, there is no international unanimity in condemning the government of Sudan. A general UN arms embargo would be opposed, for example, by China, which, in return for oil from fields in southern Sudan, has, in recent years, provided the Sudanese government with three new arms factories. An embargo would, in any case, do little to stem the flow of weapons within Sudan. An international tribunal on the Rwandan model is something to be pursued, but this is a long-term project that will not resolve the immediate crisis.