Imagine that you are a citizen of an African country who keeps up with world events by listening to the radio. Two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, you heard the international community vow it would never again stand by as defenceless civilians were slaughtered. Yet, at the same time, genocide was unfolding in a remote and arid corner of western Sudan called Darfur. A year later, you heard about the United Nations' "Responsibility to Protect" policy, committing the same countries to intervene to protect civilians if they were being ethnically cleansed and murdered by their governments. While you listened to leaders congratulating themselves, African villages in Darfur were being destroyed, people killed and women raped on a vast, systematic scale. You knew the perpetrators of these racist crimes were being paid for and supplied by the government of Sudan. Then you found out that although the UN voted to impose targeted sanctions against those responsible for Darfur, only one retired general has been sanctioned. And although the UN voted for a no-fly zone, it was never enforced. Like many Africans, you are in despair about the 400,000 dead in Darfur, and concerned about the three million people in refugee camps. Their suffering has continued for three years, but when you switch on your radio you learn that UN peacekeepers had been despatched to Lebanon within 30 days of the start of bloodshed. You will not be surprised that the Chinese put their oil interests in Sudan before human rights. You understand the Russians value their arms sales to Khartoum and want to avoid setting precedents for international intervention because of Chechnya. But although the British and Americans say they care about Africa and human rights and democratic values and send generous food aid, they have held back on exerting sustained and serious pressure on the Khartoum junta.
To be effective the international community must make it personal, and hit the generals where it matters: their money. Freeze their Swiss bank accounts, stop their shopping trips to Paris with a travel ban, put a spanner in the shady network of business interests they hold in the names of party loyalists. Send them to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity if they step outside Sudan. Rule out "most favoured nation" trading status.
But we have not done this. The mastermind behind the misery in Darfur, Salah Gosh, who is the head of Sudan's sinister intelligence department, has been allowed into Britain for medical treatment. After the international day of action for Darfur, the African Union extended the mandate of the 7,000 monitors until January. But they remain under-funded and in need of the UK's logistical assistance. Rape and murder continues, despite the AU presence, illustrating exactly why we need UN peacekeepers with a robust mandate. Khartoum's generals are open about their plan to empty Darfur's camps and force refugees to walk home to their burnt-out villages, knowing thousands will die. We deserve Africa's fury for our double standards in the face of the horror sweeping Darfur. But it is not too late to stand together and apply sustained and serious pressure on Khartoum in a manner that convinces them our words are not just hot air.
Andrew Mitchell MP is shadow International Development SecretaryReuse content