An official of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum says if the genocide in Darfur is going to stop it’s going to take stronger political will on the part of the United Nations and individual countries.
Jerry Fowler is the staff director of the museum’s Committee on Conscience. He and John Heffernan of Physicians for Human Rights have co-written an article in the Washington Post newspaper warning time may be running out for the displaced civilians in Darfur.
Mr. Fowler recently visited refugee camps in neighboring Chad and spoke about his visit with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.
Mr. Fowler says, “I returned to Chad to check up on the refugees and to find out what their conditions were a year after the first time I was there. The Holocaust Museum has been speaking out on the situation in Darfur since the beginning of 2004 and will continue to do so as long as the crisis remains.”
Conditions for the Darfur refugees in Chad have gotten better. He says, “The refugee relief effort in Chad has improved quite a bit. The camps are more organized. There’s more infrastructure in place. It’s still a pretty marginal existence and I know in some of the camps further north there are still real problems with water…but by and large the refugee situation has stabilized quite a bit from last year.” Nevertheless, there’s growing frustration that the refugees’ plight will continue for a very long time.
Mr. Fowler does not see major improvements in Darfur itself, despite several thousand African Union peacekeeping troops. “The deployment certainly has led to a little bit of improvement, but overall the situation remains really dire. The countryside is completely insecure. The two million people who’ve been driven from their homes can’t really go back because they’re subject to attack. So, whatever improvement there’s been is dwarfed by the continuing scale of the problem where you’d just got an immense civilian population that has been subject to murder and to rape and to looting and the survivors are barely hanging on in basically internally displaced persons camps.”
Following the genocide of World War Two, the term “Never Again” arose to signify there would be no more holocausts. However, when the Holocaust Museum official looks at Darfur he says, “My reaction is we still have a long way to go. We’ve made this promise over and over again since the end of the Holocaust that we’ll never again allow civilian populations to be targeted because of their group identity. And there in Darfur, that’s exactly what’s happening. And there’s still just enormous effort that’s necessary for us to really live up to the idea that we’re not going to let this happen.”