The United States is calling the rape, pillaging and slaughter of blacks in western Sudan by the Islamist Khartoum regime and its Arab militia allies genocide.

“We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed [tribal militia] bear responsibility and genocide may still be occurring,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell in testimony this morning to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The U.S. is formally bringing the issue before the U.N. Security Council, calling for oil sanctions and an increase in African Union troops.

Activists who have monitored atrocities committed by Sudan’s cleric-backed National Islamic Front regime and its allies for many years hailed the U.S. declaration.

“It thrilled me,” said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House. “I felt I was a witness to human-rights history.”

The significance of the finding cannot be overstated, she told WorldNetDaily.

“This the first time in history that a state that is party to the Genocide Convention has formally charged another state while the genocide is still in progress,” said Shea, who also is a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent panel created by Congress.

Sudan and the U.S. both signed the 1948 U.N. Convention on Genocide.

As WorldNetDaily reported, some analysts have asserted for the past year that the killing in Darfur is part of a wider effort that fits the U.N. definition of genocide, which is to “deliberately inflict … conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Khartoum’s “deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid offers clear and unambiguous evidence of an intent to destroy” African tribal groups in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, said Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts devoted to researching and speaking out about the northern African nation’s ongoing crisis.

The All Africa Conference of Churches, a continent-wide group, has warned Darfur resembles Rwanda 10 years ago when up to a million people were slaughtered as the world looked on.

The conflict between mainly black rebels in Western Sudan and government-backed Arab militiamen has led to the deaths of tens of thousands and about 1.2 million refugees.

Separately, Sudan’s Islamist regime in the Arab and Muslim north declared a jihad on the mostly Christian and animist south in 1989. Since 1983, an estimated 2 million people have died from war and related famine. About 5 million have become refugees.

But Shea says the Darfur slaughter essentially is part of the Khartoum regime’s effort to Arabize and Islamicize the entire country.

The Darfur situation is more complex, she said, because the African tribes involved are Muslims. Nevertheless, they are not Arab Muslims, and they reject the Khartoum regime’s imposition of its brand of radical Islam.

“They have rebelled against that,” she said, “and the government is putting down the rebellion through genocide.”

‘Oil on the fire’

Responding to the U.S. declaration, a Sudanese official asserted it will only raise tensions as Sudan’s government engages in peace talks with rebels in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

“We don’t think this kind of attitude can help the situation in Darfur,” Sudanese Deputy Foreign Minister Najeeb Al-Khair Abdel-Wahab told the Associated Press. “We expect the international community to assist the process that is taking place in Abuja, and not put oil on the fire.”

Abdel-Wahab insisted the government is “doing everything possible to resolve the crisis.”

Shea believes, however, that the declaration will help the peace talks, because Sudan’s current mode of negotiation — in which it has suppressed international recognition of atrocities — has not helped.

“This is so monumental, this label is so heinous, that Sudan has used deception, obfuscation and outright lying in the past to avoid it,” she said.

She noted Sudan successfully convinced members of the the U.N. Human Rights Commission to not charge Khartoum with involvement with slavery.

“This is going to be a shock to them, and I think that it just might help everything,” said Shea. “The cover-up to date has not helped in restraining their ruthlessness.”

In his testimony this morning, Powell announced the U.S. will initiate a new U.N. Security Council resolution under the Genocide Convention.

He noted the significant U.S. role in trying to end the violence throughout Sudan and the provision of up to 80 percent of all international humanitarian aid to Darfur.

Powell said the intervention of U.N. peacekeepers is unlikely because no country is willing to send troops, but suggested an expanded mission of the African Union is the best solution.

The State Department has produced a report of atrocities in Darfur that forms the basis of its genocide determination.

Shea said she finds it “uncomfortable” that the U.S. has not made a formal declaration of genocide regarding Khartoum’s slaughter of 2 million Christians and animists.

“I commend the Bush administration for taking heroic action to stop the killing in the south,” she said referring to sanctions and efforts in the two-year-old peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya, between Khartoum and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement. “But I am dismayed that there was so little press interest, and human-rights interest really, in monitoring and analyzing the genocide that was occuring all those years there.”

The situation in Sudan gained wide attention, she said, when celebrities got involved and “drove this to the front pages because the victims in Darfur were Muslims.”

“Much of the Christian community here feels hesitant about speaking on behalf of persecuted brethren and are more comfortable speaking about persecution of other religions,” she observed.

As WND reported, black leaders in the U.S., including Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and civil-rights activist Joe Madison, have staged protests, such as planned arrests in front of the Sudanese embassy and hunger strikes.

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said today the U.S. should deploy airplanes, helicopters and trucks to the Darfur region to deliver relief supplies.

“The sense of urgency obligates us to move from analysis to action,” he told the AP.

Jackson called the Darfur situation another example of excessive U.S. patience in the face of a crisis involving Africans, referring to racist rule in South Africa and the genocide in Rwanda.

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