I am sitting at the edge of a holocaust, sipping sweet tea with one of the stunned survivors. Osman Ibrahim is my age - 28 - and today, he is running for his life with his wife and four children. In halting Arabic, he explains what has happened to him and two million Darfuris like him.
One morning last month, Osman was tending his crops in his village 30 miles away, over the border in Darfur, when he heard the sound every black Darfuri dreads. It was the whirr of the Sudanese military's helicopters, followed - as thunder follows lightning - by the approaching horses and machine-gun fire of the Janjaweed. This militia are known as "devils on horseback", unleashed by the Arab supremacist government in Khartoum to cleanse the region of its "Zurga" ("niggers").
"The helicopters bombed my house," Osman says plainly, "and the Janjaweed started to kill everyone in the village." He scrambled to gather his kids - the eldest is nine, the youngest is just nine months - and he saw that "the Janjaweed were killing everyone in the village, massacring everyone." As the family fled across the border on foot, the Sudanese military and their Janjaweed proxies followed them. They bombed fleeing families right up until they crossed over into the Central African Republic (CAR), and he fears they will follow them here. Now Osman's baby is sick, because they could barely feed him as they ran. He has diarrhoea and stomach problems. Osman doesn't say it, but we both know that babies routinely die of diarrhoea and stomach problems out here.
In the refugee camps now swelling on the Darfur-CAR border, this is a standard story. There are mothers who had their babies snatched from their arms and tossed onto bonfires. There are women who were raped, and told by their rapists they were being implanted with "Arab seed" to "destroy the nigger race". Osman says quietly, "The Sudanese forces are determined to exterminate all the black people in Darfur."
After all the headlines and all the summits and all the protests, the Darfur genocide is continuing unimpeded. There is currently a feeble smattering of 7000 African Union peace-keeping troops on the ground, covering an area the size of France. These soldiers are barely being paid. They are disillusioned and defecting and, Osman says, "they have done nothing to protect us at all." A combined UN-African Union peace-keeping force is due to arrive - next year, at the earliest, and it will only go in if the Sudanese government genocidaires agree friendly terms. This is the sum total of the international response.
What can we do now to support Osman, before he joins tens of thousands of his countrymen in permanant exile or a mass grave? He and everyone in the refugee camps desperately want disciplined soldiers with guns to stand in between them and the militias determined to hunt them down. But with the American and British governments responsible for unleashing an equally horrific slaughter in Iraq, it will take a long time before they can be trusted to embark on a humanitarian intervention.
Osman doesn't have a long time. He may not have a year. There are three things we as ordinary citizens need to do now, today, to protect him.
The choppers (and head-choppers) that raided Osman's village were bank-rolled by global petrol sales. The Sudanese government rakes in billions from selling oil to the world, and spends it on top-of-the-range hardware to trash Darfuri villages. They recently put in a petrol-soaked order for ten Russian Mig-29s, one of the most advanced military aircraft on the market. We have it in our power to choke off that money. Hamish Falconer, the executive director of Sudan Divestment UK, explains how: "Mining oil is a capital-intensive activity. The Sudanese government simply doesn't have the capacity to do it on its own. It is only possible with the support of outside companies - some of which are based in the UK. If people do not want to be funding genocide, they need to get their pension funds, their investment portfolios, their universities and their local councils to defund these companies."
Dozens of companies trading on the London Stock Exchange are not based in Sudan, but nonetheless buy and sell their genocide-scented petrol. For a full list, and a guide to how to get involved, go to www.sudandivestment.co.uk.
But divestment here is only a first step. As it currently stands, where Western companies withdraw, Chinese corporations swiftly step into the breach. Sudan sells 60 per cent of its oil and 40 per cent of its exports to China, and the proportion is growing. In turn, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is - as the human-rights campaigner Nat Hentoff puts it - "the chief protector, investor and arms supplier" to the Sudanese genocidaires, lavishing cash and vetoing any meaningful UN Security Council action. The Sudanese finance minister, Elzubair Ahmed Elhassan, brags, "We are getting support without conditions from China."
Only China can halt the genocide now. Yet, ordinarily, the Chinese dictators are impervious to international human rights condemnation. Look, for example, at how they continue to brutalise Tibet, the Uighurs, the Falun Gong and trade unionists in their own country. But the Beijing Olympics next year provide us with a crucial pressure point, where we can inflict real pain on the CCP. They are desperate for their post-Tianenmen coming-out party to go without a hitch. But unless China stops the flow of petrodollars to the Sudanese genocidaires, Save Dafur campaigners are determined to brand the games the Genocide Olympics.
Already, Steven Spielberg is having to make uncomfortable noises about shooting the CCP's Olympic propaganda films, and pressure is building on the corporate Olympics sponsors, including Johnson and Johnson, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's. The US boycotted the Moscow Olympic Games after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; isn't a genocide even worse? Shouldn't we all be refusing to turn up unless China changes its support for race-slaughter?
So those of us who take the incantations of "Never Again" seriously can, and must, disrupt the work of the genocidaires. But sitting here in the dusk in the shadow of Darfur, Osman says that - though this will help - only armed intervention will ultimately guarantee his safety, especially since the Darfuri rebel groups are now themselves collapsing into anarchic banditry and violence. He wants us to force our governments to pay for the African states to provide troops to enter Darfur, with or without the consent of the Sudanese tyranny - and now, not next year.
"Only United Nations troops will stop the killings," Osman says slowly, looking back towards the country he cannot return to. "Otherwise, soon we will all be dead."
© 2007 The Independent