Scroll to top

Making Sense of Statistics

No comments

Making Sense of Statistics

Posted by Rebecca Brocato on March 30, 2009

Making Sense of Statistics

Many recent debates and discussions regarding the ICC warrant for President Bashir have included disagreements regarding the best approach towards the use of statistics to judge the conflict. Writing as part of the roundtable discussion currently underway on The New Republic’s website, Smith College Professor and Darfur expert Eric Reeves recently had this to say about mortality statistics in Darfur:

"Violent mortality is likely to be understated for a number of reasons. For example, deaths that may be directly related to genocidal violence and displacement, but which take the form of dehydration or disease, are typically not reported as violent deaths, if they are reported at all. In some of the most brutal violence of recent years — which took place north el-Geneina (West Darfur) in February 2008, in much of North Darfur during Khartoum’s large-scale August 2008 offensive, and in Muhajeria and surrounding villages in South Darfur in February 2009–we know that many scores of thousands of people were displaced, and that a great many subsequently died. But we simply don’t and can’t know how many because there is no meaningful commitment of resources on the ground for a comprehensive tabulating of deaths."

"When asking whether genocide in Darfur continues, however, we need to consider more than recent deaths. We should recall, for example, that the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 315,000 people were newly displaced in 2008 alone, most of them deliberately and violently. The agents were typically Khartoum’s regular forces or its militia allies (although there was substantial violence between Arab tribes as well). Given the harshness of the environment in Darfur, and the overcrowding of IDP camps, such deliberate displacement of African tribal groups should force to mind Clause (c) of Article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention: ‘Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.’ This is precisely the meaning of much intentional displacement in Darfur, especially evident in the recent attacks on villages in the Muhajeria area of South Darfur."

Reeves’ entire comment can be found here.