Powell Says Rapes and
Killings in Sudan Are Genocide
New York Times
September 10, 2004
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - Secretary of State Colin
L. Powell declared Thursday that the United States viewed the
killings, rapes and destruction of homes in the Darfur region
of western Sudan as genocide, and he called on the United Nations
Security Council to recognize that the situation required urgent
While the declaration has no immediate effect
on the role or obligations of the United Nations, said Fred Eckhard,
spokesman for the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, it could be viewed
as tantamount to invoking Article 8 of the 1948 Convention on
the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide - the first
time that any nation had invoked that provision calling upon the
United Nations to take action.
In toughly worded testimony before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Powell said he had concluded
that genocide had occurred after studying the findings of experts
who had interviewed victims of violence in western Sudan, where
attacks have been carried out by government-backed militia known
as the Janjaweed.
"When we reviewed the evidence compiled by
our team," Mr. Powell said, "we concluded - I concluded
- that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government
of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility, and that genocide
may still be occurring."
After Secretary Powell's testimony, the White
House released a written statement from President Bush echoing
his determination that the violence in Sudan amounted to genocide.
"We urge the international community to work with us to prevent
and suppress acts of genocide," Mr. Bush said in the statement.
But even as Mr. Powell delivered the administration's
verdict on genocide, there were signs of trouble for a draft Security
Council resolution on Sudan threatening penalties if Khartoum
did not rein in the militias and permit an outside force to secure
Objections were raised by the ambassadors of both
Pakistan and China, two countries that have warned that threats
of sanctions will backfire and make Sudan more intransigent.
"We want to concentrate on keeping the government
of Sudan engaged and not go down a path that could terminate that
engagement," said Munir Akram, the Pakistani ambassador.
The Chinese ambassador, Wang Guangya, suggested that China might
veto such a resolution.
Mr. Powell's call for action was aimed at underscoring
a sense of urgency at the United Nations, State Department officials
said. But there was also a political dimension to his testimony.
Some critics of the Bush administration, including
Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, have
called on the United States to take a more assertive role in ending
the conflict in Sudan. There has also been criticism from African-American
groups, including a group of ministers who support the White House
on other matters.
Congress has passed a resolution declaring the
Sudan situation genocide, and last week Mr. Kerry called on the
administration to follow suit. But until now, Mr. Powell has said
that he did not want to use the word without examining the facts,
and furthermore said that using the word by itself would not accomplish
Mr. Powell repeated the point on Thursday, but
he said the United States and others would continue to put pressure
on Sudan by threatening economic sanctions and encouraging a settlement
of the rebellion in Darfur that prompted the Janjaweed to retaliate.
Talks to bring about such a solution, including
sending at least 3,000 troops led by Nigeria, have been taking
place in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
"Some seem to have been waiting for this
determination of genocide to take action," Mr. Powell said.
"In fact, however, no new action is dictated by this determination.
We have been doing everything we can to get the Sudanese government
to act responsibly. So, let us not be too preoccupied with this
A moment later, he added: "Call it civil
war. Call it ethnic cleansing. Call it genocide. Call it 'none
of the above.' The reality is the same. There are people in Darfur
who desperately need the help of the international community."
The Sudan conflict, which erupted last year, has
led to tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of 1.5
million people. The term genocide has long been a sensitive and
emotional one in international conflicts.
In 1994, in a situation that some critics say
was similar to the current one in Sudan, the Clinton administration
at first resisted using the word genocide to describe atrocities
in Rwanda. It was only after 800,000 people had been killed that
the word was applied. President Clinton later expressed regrets
for not acting more quickly.
Secretary Powell, however, has said the administration
has been acting even while not using the word. Aides say Mr. Powell
waited to use the word, in part because he wanted the State Department
report to be completed, and also out of concern that its use would
merely antagonize the Sudanese government.
Mr. Powell has said several times that even threats
of sanctions can backfire in certain situations, and he has instead
tried to meet with Sudan's leaders and apply more low-key pressure.
He visited the affected area in June.
"There's an overall reluctance to impose
severe sanctions against Sudan at the moment because people are
unsure as to whether they would have the desired effect,"
Mr. Powell told the Senate panel, referring to the Security Council.
"So I think we've got a lot of work to do before we could
get the kind of sanctions that would actually change behavior
of the authorities in Khartoum."
The administration is also concerned that threats
and punishments against Sudan would antagonize the Arab world,
which already sees the Bush administration as being tooeager to
punish it. The conflict in Sudan is waged by an Arab-dominated
government against non-Arab people in Darfur.
The decision to use the word genocide on Thursday
brought praise from some who have called on the administration
to do more.
Richard C. Holbrooke, a former United Nations
ambassador in the Clinton administration, said using the word
was the correct thing to do. "Should he have done it earlier?"
Mr. Holbrooke said in an interview. "Probably. But the important
thing is to put maximum pressure on the government in Khartoum,
and this is a significant step."
On Thursday evening, the United States ambassador
to the United Nations, John C. Danforth, expressed impatience
with the resistance to sanctions from China, Pakistan and others.
Any country that vetoes a resolution calling for sanctions, he
said, "would have to explain the continuing tragedy of Darfur"
and explain why it favored "stepping back and letting people
die and be shot down by helicopters and raped."
Warren Hoge contributed reporting from the
United Nations for this article.