A few readers have challenged what I wrote here recently, when I challenged Ruth Messinger’s claim that “Half a million people are dead and 3.5 million are displaced” as a direct result of the genocidal violence in Darfur. In that post I noted that the WaPo’s Emily Waxreported from the Chad-Darfur border at the end of April that “tens of thousands” had been killed during the genocide, and said my judgment would be to prefer Wax’s figure over Messinger’s.
I’ve done a little more online research on the issue. A WaPo editorial noted on April 24 that, “On his recent visit to Sudan, Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick… said that the State Department’s estimate of deaths in Darfur was 60,000 to 160,000.”
The editorial claimed that range was far too low, and continued: “Other authorities suggest that mortality is likely to be closer to 400,000.” The sources they used for that included various extrapolations from limited samples taken by NGOs.
In this report from Khartoum yesterday, Evelyn Leopold of Reuters wrote,
- Since 2003, at least 200,000 people in Darfur have died from bullets, hunger or disease, 2.5 million have been thrown out of their homes, many burned to the ground, and hundreds of women have been raped, mainly by Arab militia after a rebellion broke out. The Sudan military had armed militia although it is no longer certain if they control their allies.
And in this June 4 report, also from Khartoum, AFP’s Charles Onians wrote:
- In 2003, the SLM alongside the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched a rebellion in the western region of Darfur, prompting a heavy-handed crackdown by the Khartoum government and its proxy militia called the Janjaweed.
Since then, the conflict has left around 300,000 people dead and 2.4 million homeless.
Since Leopold and Onians are currently on the ground in Sudan, and presumably in good contact with the many aid workers and international diplomats there, I would be inclined to go with their estimates at this point.
I really liked the way Onians framed his little casualty report– putting the casualties clearly in the context of the armed political conflict of which they are such a tragic result, without trying to claim that they were “all” the victims of either one side or the other.
So maybe I would go with his casualty total, or say something like “somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 deaths.” This is considerably more than “tens of thousands.” But I also think it’s important not to convey the false impression (as Messinger did) that all the deaths have been inflicted by one side in the conflict.
Each one of these deaths is a tragedy. How many unrecognized Mother Theresas, how many Yo-Yo Ma’s had their lives snuffed out in those brutal circumstances?
Let’s all do whatever we can to help end the conflict that made such brutality possible.