The genocide we never discuss

By David Conard

Nearly the equivalent of everyone in Kane County has been murdered.

Are you paying attention now? The 404,119 Kane County residents reported in the 2000 Illinois census are alive and well. But Sudan, which housed three al-Qaida training camps starting in 1994, has supported Janjaweed militias that have killed 400,000 people in the Darfur region since 2003.

If all of Kane County’s residents were shot or raped to death, we’d care, but since it happened in Sudan, Africa, we don’t. Do we think them any less human?

In fact, how little we care is shown by the criminal lack of media coverage.

CBS, NBC and ABC gave the Darfur genocide 26 minutes of coverage in 2004, said a recent American Journalism Review article.

Just 26 minutes, despite an April 20, 2004 BBC article stating, “U.N. officials have described the situation in Darfur as the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.’” And that was when only 10,000 people had been killed.

“The amount of media attention of this is minimal, compared to the scale,” Akenji Ndumu told me over the phone. Ndumu is a coordinator for Africa Action, a Washington D.C. advocacy group.

“Ten-thousand people are dying a month,” Ndumu said. “The simple answer to that is racism. If it was a European country, with or without economic interest, the response would be different.”

I’m sure we both hope that’s wrong. Both of us want to believe America is a humane country that cares about genocide no matter the location. We hope it’s a country that cares when hundreds of villages are burned, thousands of men and boys are shot, thousands of women are gang-raped and more than 2 million people are left to starve in relief camps in Darfur and eastern Chad.

Maybe it’s just our leaders who don’t care.

On Sept. 9, 2004, then Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the situation in Darfur a genocide on behalf of the Bush administration. The anniversary of that declaration was 12 days ago, but the same number of people are dying each month.

I’m sure the Bush administration will spin the situation, saying they have worked hard to stop the genocide. That doesn’t change the fact that the same number of people are dying each month that were dying a year ago.

Ndumu thinks the Bush administration is doing this because a U.S.-brokered peace deal ending a 21-year north-south civil war and Sudan’s cooperation on the war on terror are more important to our leaders than 400,000 murdered people in Darfur.

I’m all in favor of hurting those who attacked us on 9/11. But U.S. diplomats can’t pull the same garbage they did during the 1980s -you know, when Saddam Hussein was our best buddy, when Donald Rumsfeld was shaking Saddam’s hand and overlooking Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds.

“Looking for some sense of rationality in U.S. foreign policy is a game,” Ndumu said. Less eloquently, I would say the U.S. State Department is about as believable as a yokel on Jerry Springer saying he or she hasn’t cheated. This is why other countries don’t trust us.

So Bush and the U.S. government have reneged on their promise to stop Darfur’s genocide. So has much of the world. So have we, citizens of the world.

However, Ndumu said there is something you can do. You can sign Africa Action’s petition, demanding that Bush act. The petition is located at the Africa Action Web site at Africa Action wants 400,000 signatures.

Check out the situation for yourself at or Be a kind human being. Do something. But if you can’t take five minutes out of your day to try and stop genocide, I say you’re a terrible person. Yep, I said it. Remember, the SS guards at Buchenwald had their little excuses too.

And you can write all the angry letters you want. But then, the fact is, you’ll spend time criticizing me and not helping Akenji Ndumu and many other brave people stop mass murder.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.