The U.S. State Department reiterated Thursday that it still considers government-inspired violence against inhabitants of Sudan's western Darfur region as genocide. The Sudanese government had seized upon remarks by the Obama administration's special envoy for Sudan Scott Gration on Wednesday as suggesting that Darfur genocide did not occur.
The State Department says genocide has clearly taken place in Darfur, and it says an assertion Wednesday by Sudan envoy Gration that violence against civilians there is no longer coordinated does not contradict that assessment, first made by the United States in 2004.
The comments by Gration here Wednesday had drawn praise from a senior Sudanese Foreign Ministry official, Ali Youssef, who said the envoy's remarks meant there was no genocide at all and that Gration is better informed about the Darfur situation than other U.S. officials because he has visited the region.
But at a press briefing Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley said there is no question that genocide has taken place in Darfur and that the United States continues to characterize the circumstances in the same way former Secretary of State Colin Powell did when he made that determination in 2004.
"I would say that clearly, going back first to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and up to the present day, involving the president, the secretary [of state] and others, we have made clear: clearly a genocide happened in Darfur, and we can say just as clearly that the situation in Darfur remains dire, and we are working as hard as we can, as Scott said yesterday, to restore the humanitarian capacity and help deal with that situation," he said.
Crowley said he did not find the Sudanese official's interpretation of the Gration remarks particularly credible.
Gration, a Swahili-speaking retired U.S. Air Force general, told reporters Wednesday that recent violence in Darfur was mainly between Sudanese government and rebel forces, and between Sudanese and Chadian factions. He said government-backed Jinjaweed militiamen and warlords, the main perpetrators of past killings, still conduct what he termed terrorist attacks on Darfur civilians, but not in the coordinated fashion of past years.
"What we see is the remnants of genocide. What we see are the consequences of genocide. The results of genocide. We still have thousands of people living in camps as IDP's [internally-displaced persons]. We have women who are still afraid to go out and collect firewood. And we have children who are not having the benefits of growing up in their homeland, but are growing up in these camps. So what we need to do focus on the people. We need to correct the situation." Gration said.
Gration, who has held the Sudan envoy post since March and just completed his third overseas trip in that role, said the need now is for a Darfur cease-fire and a political process so that displaced persons can have the right to return voluntarily to their homes.
The United Nations says the Darfur conflict, which erupted in 2003, has killed as many as 300,000 people and displaced nearly three million.
Despite the genocide determination, the United States maintains diplomatic relations with Sudan and is hosting a Sudanese delegation next week for a multilateral conference aimed at supporting implementation of Sudan's 2005 north-south comprehensive peace accord