Sunday, 31 May 2009

Darfur: is ‘genocide’ label applicable?

Link: Crisis in Darfur: Some fear ‘genocide’ label is doing more harm than good []

This is quite an alarming article in that it touches on something I have been considering for sometime: the use and misuse of the term ‘genocide’.  I will pen a post this week as to exactly how genocide is defined and the harm that can be caused by overusing and misusing the term.  In the meantime, the article above discusses the matter in regards to the situation in Darfur.

The article discusses how the United Nations determined in 2005 that the Sudanese government was not committing genocide.  As I discussed in March the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands indicted Sudan's president Omar Hassan al-Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity but he was not charged with genocide. (ICC prosecutors were appealing against the court ruling though and wanted to expand the charges to include genocide).  The article states that Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have specfically been reluctant to use the term ‘genocide’.

The relevant issue here is this: does the term ‘genocide’ help or hurt the people of Darfur?  Does it matter if we use this term as opposed to other terms?

“Most agree that it has mattered a lot. When former U. S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell first described Darfur as a case of genocide in 2004, a $1 billion-a-year international aid effort quickly followed, elevating the crisis above other African conflicts, including those in Somalia and Congo, where the mortality rates in recent years have been higher and the displacement greater” - 

Why does it take a label of ‘genocide’ before we do anything?  If we were able to get action by using less explosive terms, then people wouldn’t be so tempted to use this particular word. 

I don’t have an answer – yet.  But in coming months, I hope to take a deeper look at some of these conflicts in an effort to understand the lack of agreement over whether conflicts such as those in Darfur and Sri Lanka constitute genocide.



  1. Those are some interesting questions you have posed.

    I frequently find myself in your other blog (through Adgitize) and just stumbled on this one.

    Great stuff posted here!

  2. @ Dogs Deserve Freedom: Thank you very much for visiting this blog. I see it as a true labour of love as I don't expect too many people are interested in these things!

  3. Interesting post. I think the use of words such as genocide stirs up more emotions than other words because we picture mass horror and can relate it to other atrocities throughout history. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  4. @ Mountain Woman: Hiya! I agree with what you say about the term 'genocide'. I must write again soon - I have a bit of writer's block with this particular blog at the moment!


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