On Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m., Eric Reeves, Professor of English at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, gave a lecture entitled “A Long Day’s Dying: Genocide by Attrition in Darfur” in the Interfaith Chapel.
Reeves is a leading authority on Sudan, a human rights activist and a writer. He has spent the past eight years working as a Sudan researcher and analyst, and has written lengthily on the crisis. His book “A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide” will appear on shelves in March of 2007.
The talk was co-sponsored by Hillel, Catholic Newman Community, Interfaith Chapel, Sigma Chi Fraternity, St. Sebastian Society, the campus chapter of Amnesty International, Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity and Protestant Chapel Community.
Reeves began his talk by describing the situation in Darfur, which is the western province of Sudan. In February 2003, rebel groups of African Muslims, angered by the inequalities between Africans and Arab leaders, struck out against the government. In return, the government promptly responded by arming militias, known as the Janjaweed, to suppress several African ethnic groups.
Reeves mentioned that these militias terrorize Africans by destroying villages, murdering and raping women and girls, raiding food supplies and blocking international aid. Human rights groups say that by funding the Janjaweed, the government is carrying out an ethnic cleansing campaign.
Reeves compared the gravity of the situation in Darfur to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
“Cataclysmal human destruction has begun with no end in sight,” Reeves said of the problem in Darfur.
He went on to criticize Western powers for standing by and allowing the violence to continue. Although the U.S. Congress, the European Union Parliament and French, German and British senior officials have condemned the actions taking place in Darfur as genocide, they have not taken sufficient action to stop these atrocities.
“Aid has been denied to the African people,” Reeves said.
Instead of taking charge of the problem, Western governments have left the work to the African Union, according to Reeves, whose purpose is to help secure Africa’s democracy, human rights and economy, as well as to bring an end to intra-African conflict.
“African solutions for African problems” seems to be their excuse. Reeves noted that this is not a solution to the problem because the AU, which was established in 2001, has neither the experience nor the resources necessary to deal with the situation alone.
Reeves repeatedly condemned the failure of Western countries to provide humanitarian aid and military support, calling it an “abysmal failure.” The few resources that people in Sudan do have will soon run out for good.
Additionally, conditions in camps for the thousands of people left without food or shelter are extremely poor.
“The security situation in the camps is ominous,” Reeves said. There have been a number of horrible attacks on these camps.
Reeves concluded by saying that working to put an end to the genocide will not be easy and that “it is our choice whether we want to be among the few [who care and take action] or the many [who are indifferent].”
After the hour-long talk, the large audience was extremely engaged by the lecture, and many people had follow-up questions concerning the AU, the sources of military and humanitarian aid, the threat of the Darfur conflict to surrounding regions, especially Chad, and about China’s role in the Darfur situation.
China is Sudan’s largest trading partner and main foreign investor in Sudan’s oil industry. Despite the fact that the Sudan government uses oil revenue to purchase arms to fight against its African population, Chinese companies have not withdrawn, thus allowing the genocide to continue.
Reeves revealed his plan to persuade China to help rectify the problem. In 2008, China will host the Olympic Games, with the slogan “One World, One Dream.” This event, Reeves said, serves as a great opportunity to highlight China’s complicity in the genocide to the whole world, turning the Olympics into a large-scale protest venue.
Reeves said that the Chinese leadership will thus be forced to choose between helping stop genocide in Darfur, or be shamed to rest of the world during the Olympic Games.
The task of remedying the situation in Darfur, Reeves stated, is “extremely arduous, with frustrating results,” but something has to be done, because it is the only way to stop the Darfur genocide.
Barbosu is a member of the class of 2010.