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As Shake Hands with the Devil opens in Canadian cinemas, we are witnessing another potential genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, says a professor at McGill University in Montreal.

International law professor Payam Akhavan told Globe web site readers in a Sept. 10 article that it may be too late to prevent another African genocide despite the deployment of a United Nations-sanctioned peacekeeping force.

Understanding the anatomy of genocide is essential to confronting future Darfurs,” Prof. Adkahvan saids. “Ethnic cleansing is not an unforeseeable disaster like an earthquake or tsunami. Nor is it a spontaneous outburst of tribal hatred. It is a considered political choice, a deliberate strategy for wielding power that can be predicted and prevented through timely action.”

He adds that “Although genocide cannot be predicted with mathematical exactitude, there are early warning signs – incitement to hatred, radicalization of ethnic politics, and the distribution of weapons to militants – that should trigger preventive action.”

The professor compared Darfur to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the subject of the current film based on Canadian General Romeo Dallaire’s book. He argues that the early warning signs have been evident in Darfur since at least 2003.

The challenge before the international community is to move from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention, the professor said. “By the time headlines announce news of atrocities, it is usually too late. Absent pressing interests by powerful nations, there is no willingness for military intervention, and a sense of urgency by a distraught public is soon reduced to compassion fatigue.

The time to act is before tensions escalate into genocidal violence, when the cost of intervention through diplomatic or economic measures is manageable and likely to produce far better results.”