A civil war in Sudan for the past 20 years has led to the death of 2 million people. However recent events have pointed to what some are calling genocide and there are estimates of 2.2 million at risk of dying in the near future due to inadequate humanitarian relief.

This lesson is organized around gaining an understanding of the current situation in Darfur, Sudan. It is recommended that the entire class take part in this first portion together (1). Groups could then be set up to explore other aspects of this conflict, research the Web sites indicated and report back to the class in a general sharing (2) to (3). Discussion or research questions have been included for each additional section.

1. What's happening in the Sudan?

Read the following story and background report explaining efforts to avert this growing crisis:

Violence Reignites in Darfur

New Concerns Stir on Darfur's Humanitarian Situation\\\\
Guiding questions:

  • How has the civil war affected the lives of the Sudanese?
  • Why is the area of Darfur of recent concern?
2. The crisis in more detail

Independently or as small groups, research the Web sites of the following agencies involved in monitoring events in this area. Take notes on what you discover and consider the following topics in detail:

Class discussion or topics to research:

  • What has been the cause of the civil war in the Sudan?
  • What evidence has been presented for the charges of genocide being made?
Doctors Without Borders: Sudan

Human Rights Watch: Sudan: Failing Darfur

BBC News: Darfur Conflict Q & A

3. Is this genocide? Why is the terminology significant?

As you've read, over the past several years efforts have been under way to broker a cease-fire and peace agreement among the various factions in this war. Others, who have been observing the fighting that has been going on, have identified the deliberate actions taking place as indications of genocide. They cite these actions as indicators of the "intent to destroy" definition found in the Genocide Convention [see entry below], and urge the international community to take action.

Parties to the genocide convention are obligated, under the terms of the convention, to prevent genocide when proof is presented, i.e. to mount a humanitarian intervention. This can include the taking of military action.

Genocide Convention Article 2
In the present convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The final text of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted on Dec. 9, 1948 by the 3rd General Assembly of the United Nations. The United States signed the Convention on Dec. 11, 1948 and ratified it on Nov. 25, 1988.

For additional information see:

U.S. Institute for Peace: The Genocide Convention at 50

In your groups, using the definition and information about genocide above and the information you researched in part 2, come up with evidence as to whether you think genocide has occurred in Sudan. Present that evidence to the rest of the class.

Decide as a class: Should the United Nations declare that a state of genocide is occurring in Sudan and mount an increased humanitarian intervention to prevent further loss of life? What kind of action plan would you recommend if it is or is not a genocide? How should the United States be involved? Create a specific action plan for Sudan.

Extension Activities
What about those responsible?

The issue of impunity, not punishing those responsible for war crimes and genocidal acts, is of ongoing concern. Research the progress made with regard to these efforts for acts of genocide committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. How might the International Criminal Court be of use in this situation? Look at the Web sites below for more information.

Working in parallel with a Rwandan justice system that has prosecuted many people who committed acts of genocide, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has handed down landmark verdicts, which send a message to those who may be contemplating genocide in other countries. It was the first international court to convict anyone for this crime; the first court of any kind to hold a former head of government responsible for genocide; the first to determine that rape was used as an act of genocide; and the first to find that journalists who incite the population to genocide are themselves guilty of that crime.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Class discussion: What measures might be taken against those considered responsible for the acts of genocide occurring in Sudan?


Thematic Standards
I Culture and Cultural Diversity
Analyze and explain the ways groups, societies and cultures address human needs and concerns.

II Time, Continuity, Change
Apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict and complexity to explain, analyze and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity.

III People, Places, Environment
Examine, interpret and analyze physical and cultural patterns and their interactions, such as land use, settlement patterns, cultural transmission of customs and ideas, and ecosystem changes.

VI Power, Authority, Governance
Examine persistent issues involving the rights, roles and status of the individual in relation to the general welfare.

IX Global Connections
Explain conditions and motivations that contribute to conflict, cooperation ad interdependence among groups, societies and nations.

Human Standards
9 -- Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface
10 -- Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
13 -- Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of the Earth's surface

Civics Standards
3 -- Understands the sources, purposes and functions of law, and the importance of the rule of law for the protection of individual rights and the common good
9 -- Understand the importance of Americans sharing and supporting certain values, beliefs, and principles of American constitutional democracy

Non-profit Tax ID # 203478467