“We knew from day one what was going on (in Darfur),” says Mukesh Kapila, former head of the United Nations in Sudan, in an interview promoting his new book Against a Tide of Evil.
In 2003, Kapila was sending daily reports to his superiors at the UN Headquarters in New York about a state-sponsored genocide against the people of the region of Darfur by the Sudanese army and its allied Janjaweed militias.
Kapila says he had more than enough evidence to back up his claims that a genocide was taking place in Darfur, but his reports went unheeded. “The reaction from New York — there was no reaction,” he says. “It is as if the reports disappeared into a black hole.”
Next, Kapila tried approaching different nations — including his adopted home country of Great Britain — to see if the government there was willing to take action. His insistent pleas fell on deaf ears.
“There was only one thing left: that was to tell the story as I knew it to anyone who would listen, anywhere in the world,” Kapila says. In 2004, he gave a lightning-rod interview to the BBC, describing the scorched-earth policy that was threatening more than a million people in Darfur.
More interview requests poured in, and soon Darfur was dominating headlines around the world. The UN finally bowed to pressure and sent a peacekeeping force to try to stop the genocide. For Kapila, the response was too little too late. The genocide had been allowed to happen, and he still agonizes over whether he could have acted sooner to save more lives.
Kapila, Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester and Special Representative of Aegis Trust for the prevention of crimes against humanity, will speak at Concordia on Tuesday, May 7 as a guest of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS).
Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director of MIGS, explains that the organization has been working directly with Aegis Trust for several years, and it recently approached Kapila to help create an international network for parliamentarians for the prevention of genocide.
“We want to show them what they can do, how they can exercise their power,” he says. “We've actually submitted a proposal with Aegis Trust and Mukesh Kapila to the UN for funding to establish something that we call the Global Democratic Alliance for the Protection of Civilians.”
Matthews sees Kapila’s upcoming talk at Concordia as an opportunity to strengthen ties between MIGS and the Darfur whistle-blower. “It’s a chance for him to talk about his book and his experiences to the Concordia community and the wider Montreal community, but he also wants to talk with us in more detail about future projects and collaborations,” he said.
Ten years later, the conflict in Darfur and Sudan’s neighbouring regions is far from over, and the atrocities continue. Just this week, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, declared that the current situation there is “very troubling.”
Kapila is using the launch of his book as a chance to put Sudan back in the spotlight, urging his audiences to support his campaign against the continuing crimes against humanity being perpetrated there.
“It is disgraceful that people should be bombed from the skies, missiled, their fields burned, their homes destroyed, their food stocks completely gone, and unable to grow their crops, season after season after season,” he said during a 2013 visit to Sudan’s Nuba Mountain region, where he met refugees, mostly women and children, forced to hide in caves to survive. “These are crimes against humanity. These are war crimes. I don’t know why the world isn’t doing more about it.”
When: Tuesday, May 7, 2013, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Where: Room LB-1014, J.W. McConnell Library Building (1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.), Sir George Williams Campus
Registration is required.
• Mukesh Kapila