Those who have followed closely the tragedy in Darfur know that in recent months two of the key players on the Obama administrations policy team — U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and special envoy J. Scott Gration (a retired Air Force major general) — have seemed to disagree over how best to approach the government of Sudan, and over whether the killing in Darfur still amounts to genocide.
As this story from August shows, Rice has talked of the "ongoing genocide." Gration has spoke of the "remnants of genocide."
Words are critical to diplomacy, of course. Just a short while ago, All Things Considered host Melissa Block spoke with Gration about today's announcement by the administration of a new policy on Sudan. Melissa noted that while Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both used the word "genocide" today, Gration did not. Does he think the genocide continues in Darfur?
"I agree totally with the words that the president has used, the words that Secretary Clinton used and also Ambassador Rice," Gration said. (Obama called the killling "genocide" today.)
Gration said that many people in Darfur now live in "dire and unacceptable conditions that are the result of the conflict (and) genocide."
The U.S., he said, is trying to "change their lives" so that the "next generation of Sudanese don't have to endure the loss and the pain and the suffering."
"You would say, then, that there is an ongoing genocide in Darfur?" Melissa asked.
"I'm saying ... just exactly the way the president said it ... yep," Gration answered.
Melissa pointed out that Secretary Clinton has talked of an "ongoing genocide." Would Gration agree?
"The definitional aspects of it are important and we discussed those," Gration said. "The administration's position is extremely clear and right now we have to move forward and change the situation on the ground so people have a better life."
Heres how that part of their conversation sounded:
Gration, Without Using Word, Agrees That 'Genocide' Continues In Darfur
The Associated Press sums up the situation in Darfur this way:
The conflict began in February 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in Khartoum, claiming discrimination and neglect.
U.N. officials say the war has claimed at least 300,000 lives from violence, disease and displacement. They say some 2.7 million people were driven from their homes and at its height, in 2003-2005, it was called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
The CIA World Factbook says this:
A separate conflict, which broke out in the western region of Darfur in 2003, has displaced nearly two million people and caused an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths. The UN took command of the Darfur peacekeeping operation from the African Union on 31 December 2007. As of early 2009, peacekeeping troops were struggling to stabilize the situation, which has become increasingly regional in scope, and has brought instability to eastern Chad, and Sudanese incursions into the Central African Republic. Sudan also has faced large refugee influxes from neighboring countries, primarily Ethiopia and Chad. Armed conflict, poor transport infrastructure, and lack of government support have chronically obstructed the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected populations.
Much more from the interview with Gration is due on today's edition of ATC. Click here to find an NPR station near you.