What is Obama's stance on genocide in Darfur?
How will the Obama administration deal with and prevent genocide? Edward Kissi, an assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of South Florida, says that in many of his campaign speeches, Obama referenced genocide in order to condemn and draw attention to the mass killings in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Kissi suggests that one reason was to stress his âchangeâ campaign theme by contrasting the failure to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda with restoring Americaâs moral standing in the world.
âIn order to indicate that his idea of change included a commitment to the eradication of the following six global threats of the 21st Century. I call them Obamaâs Six Horsemen of a Global Apocalypse. One: terrorism, two: nuclear weapons, three: climate change, four: poverty, five: genocide, and six: disease.â
Kissi spoke Wednesday on âThe Obama Presidency & Genocide Preventionâ at the USF Tampa campus library in an event sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies, the Institute on Black Life, and the USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center. Nearly 100 million people were killed in genocides during the 20th Century, Kissi says, and it is unclear whether Darfur should be included in that category.
âThere is no consensus yet among scholars who study genocide, that the estimated 300,000 deaths and the nearly 1.2 million displaced civilians in the continuing civil war in the Darfur region of Sudan since 2003 constitute a genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. The Bush administration and President Obama deemed the killings in Darfur, Sudan, as the first genocide of the 21st Century. The United Nations and some scholars who study genocide consider that as a mislabeling of what are clearly war crimes.â
Mark Greenberg, the director of Special and Digital Collections at USF Libraries, pointed out that Lissiâs legal and academic definition of genocide contrasted with the moral definition used by a previous speaker at USF, journalist Rebecca Tinsley, chair of the nonprofit group Waging Peace.
âWhether she used the term in its legal or most academic definition, I really canât say. â¦ Individuals left her talk with a commitment to try and do something.â
Kissi says the term âgenocideâ has come to mean any form of morally objectionable or indiscriminate killing. But that can lead to clichÃ©, or the term can be used as a political tool for activists. Kissi paraphrased the legal definition from the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
âThe intentional destruction â which includes killing â of particular groups of people by a perpetrator, often a state, and in recent years armed non-state groups or militias. So in very simple terms, when we talk about genocide, we mean the intended or actual extermination of a group from the face of the earth.â
Kissi says itâs not always easy to distinguish between the moral and legal-academic definitions of genocide.
âIt is the â¦ actualized intent to completely or partially destroy a group that distinguishes genocide from other forms of killing. So we have to distinguish between the Holocaust and the War in Iraq, Or the Holocaust and the war in Darfur. But again there are grey lines in between.â
If the Obama administration is confronted with a budding genocide, Kissi warns against U.S. military intervention.
âWe have had too many of that, far too many of that. And perhaps that may be one of the causes of Americaâs indebtedness, and one of the causes of the antipathy of the world toward the United States. The president should be very, very careful not to walk in the tracks where ghosts reside. â¦ He should give the responsibility to protect target groups in genocide situations to local and sub-regional bodies.â
James Coleman, a senior majoring in history at USF, disagrees. He thinks that U.S. military interventions, such as in Bosnia, are appropriate.
âInstead of taking the economic route to use our military to better our countryâs resources, letâs step away from that. Letâs go ahead and use it to stop moral turpitude where we can stop it. Letâs stop a genocide or a potential genocide as the case may be.â
Kissi suggests that current day genocides could be perpetrated against high-risk populations such as immigrants.
âThe likely victims of genocide in the [21st] Century will neither be religious, racial, political, but transnational groups known as immigrants. They can be black, green, blue, indigo, Sikh, Christian, Jew, Muslim. And if you look at what is happening in Europe, notions of nativism and nationalism and others, those are the high-risk groups that we have to seriously protect.â
On Monday, the USF Libraries Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center will host a lecture on âColonial Violence in Kenya and Algeriaâ by University of Munich and Princeton University professor Fabian Klose. It will be at 2 p.m. in the Grace Allen Room of the Tampa campus library.comments powered by Disqus