Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2010

Unwilling and Unable: The Failed Response to the Atrocities in Darfur

James Traub

September 2010

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


Starting in mid-2003, the government of Sudan responded to an armed rebellion in the western state of Darfur with a massive campaign of killing and expulsion carried out both by regular army troops and by a proxy force known as the Janjaweed. United Nations (UN) sources estimate that this orchestrated effort led to the death of at least 300,000 people, while over two million were forcibly displaced. Extensive documentation by the UN, human-rights organizations and the media leaves no doubt that the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and did so over a period of many years. Yet all attempts to stop the killing, whether by neighbors, regional organizations, Western states or the UN Security Council, proved ineffective. In 2005, states-including Sudan-unanimously agreed that they had a responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities; but this abstract commitment has had little effect on the Sudanese government or on other UN member states who had made this pledge.