Remember Darfur

A forgotten twenty-first century genocide.  This is how Daowd Salih, founder of the Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy in Sudan, referred to the current situation in Darfur.

Since February 2003, Darfur, a western Sudanese region, has suffered intense conflicts affecting an estimated five million citizens. Although the United Nations initially paid substantial attention to this region, in recent years there has been an undeniable abatement of active intervention, foreign mediation and media attention in Darfur.

The conflict commenced in early 2003, when rebel groups in Darfur revolted against the central government, decrying its negligence in the region. The groups claimed that the policies of the repressive government in Khartoum had done little to solve the chronic food shortage in the west.  Many in Darfur believed this abandonment was the result of a deep-rooted ethnic divide.  High poverty rates plagued the region, which has scarce access to water and other resources.  Therefore, when nomadic ‘Arab’ tribes moved into the area to graze their herds, the settled ethnic ‘African’ farmers were angered.  Salih says that the central Arab government in Khartoum did little to intervene in the conflicts that ensued between these groups because they consider the ‘African’ citizens an inferior race to their ‘Arab’ counterparts.

By January 2004, the situation in Darfur had escalated into full-blown rebellion.  With orders from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the army moved in to repress the uprising. They allied themselves with the ‘Arab’ Janajaweed militia.  By taking up a scorched-earth policy, these armed groups committed ghastly acts of ethnic cleansing.  They systematically pillaged entire ‘African’ villages, burned crops, and raped women.  In a single week, the United Nations reported that more than 18,000 refugees had fled to nearby Chad.  By September 9, 2004, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled the crisis in Darfur a ‘genocide.’

In the years that followed, the genocide in Darfur generated an immense amount of publicity in the media and a large response from foreign powers.  Fearing a repeat of the Rwandan genocide, the U.N. took the situation seriously.  In July 2004, the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) was created with the mandate of dealing with enforcing international humanitarian law in Darfur.  By 2005, there were a total of 17,000 peacekeepers in the region.

John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, an organization that aims to end genocide, spoke with The Politic about these actions.  As a past director of African Affairs at the National Security Council and special advisor at the State Department, Prendergast is an expert on Darfur.  He noted that the actions taken by the UN were only a “partial solution.”  By the time peacekeepers had been deployed to Darfur, the damage had already been done.  Prendergast said that the Janjaweed militia had already finished attacking the targeted areas; thus, when the AU and the UN intervened, death rates fell, which gave the false impression that the situation had markedly improved.

In the years since, however, the situation in Darfur has stagnated.  The Sudanese government and leading rebel groups of Darfur have signed a number of peace agreements.  Yet the region has not experienced significant change as President al-Bashir has not implemented the reforms promised.  Prendergast asserts that “you can sustain international interest on an issue for only so long a period … definitely, Darfur’s period has come and gone in terms of the public spotlight.”  In the years since, the attention on Darfur has been phased out and replaced with other issues in Africa that the world has found more pressing and immediate.

In 2011, for example, it was Sudan’s split into two countries. However, there is still hope for this western Sudanese region.  Although the secession of South Sudan took attention away from the crisis in the west, this may have positive implications for Darfur as South Sudan and Darfur share many of the same problems.  And in December, China sent a special envoy to encourage the central government to settle its disputes with South Sudan.  China alluded to the adverse implications on its investment in the country if the issue is not resolved.

It has become apparent that if real change is to occur in the region, foreign powers must take action against the current regime.  Beyond Chinese pressure, Prendergast stressed the importance of U.S. involvement because of its singularly important role in the region.  For now, however, those in Darfur can only hope that the stakes are high enough for others to intervene.

 

Join the Conversation

5 Comments

  1. Better thinking I’m sure is weolcme. We have done nothing but start to forget and I think that silence is complicity as it was in the holocaust and Rwanda.The problems in Darfur are not as complicated as some would make them sound though even humanitarian agencies are having a hard time getting to places they need to get without encountering violence more often than not because people want their supplies as opposed to anything else.Khartoum itself is in some ways thriving yea most who live there are silent as well. So let’s be silent.Interesting piece in the WSJ by the Chairman of the Sudanese Liberation Movement, Abdel-Wahid al-Nur , ( Why We Won’t Talk to Sudan’s Islamo-Fascists) though written for an American audience which according to some Sudanese friends makes it slightly watered down and though sided toward his agenda ( which some also say is that of thugs with no plans for policy ) he contends the government that came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 needs to go.They are asking for only the things promised by the UN, support for the people who are suffering’s and African Union troops promised. The silence, which is back, on the issue of Darfur certainly doesn’t help his cause.Successful change most often, if not always, comes from within. If not being silent helps Sudan get what they need then I’m all for noise against Coke, Dell or whoever chooses to remain silent in the wake of genocide.Like or Dislike: 0

    1. James is playing a binsseus man and he’s doing binsseus (big binsseus) in China. Does China have some shameful foreign policies? Hell yeah? Does America have shameful foreign policies? Absolutely. The fact is this: most of the entire world has bought into the capitalist framework, and every single one of us contributes to it everyday whether we realize it or not. You be hardpressed to find a person who doesn’t buy stuff from China or from other nations who have atrocius human rights records. Its the nature of a world that is based on consumerism.Sorry about the diatribe, but while Newble has a worthwhile cause, its silly for us to get on James when he’s simply working within a structure in which important things get ignored, and most of the society (including James) are unaware or don’t take action. Newble’s petition isn’t going to do a thing, because the system isn’t going to change. I’m not directing this at you specifically, but it would be entirely hypocritical if we point the finger at James and not at ourselves. Our entire society is guilty of apathy in the Sudan case and many others.

    1. Sure the arab countries don’t care, since muislms are terminating non-muslim poeple. And it is not that much about business or capitalism or system or whatever. United Nations are trying to make efficient moves to support suffering poeple in that area, but Chian simply exerts its veto on every resolution made by the U.N. just the same way U.S. exerts their veto against on any resolution against Israel Don’t get confused between social-economic ideologies and international politics fellas, and like Lebron James, if you are ignorant, at least keep your mouthes closed These twisted moves cannot be explained by any rationnal theorie other than egocentrism and humain being despising Eric

  2. The crisis in Darfur will only be ended when we have leaerdship in place that shares our commitment to ending it. We must make our voices heard by voting for the candidates we believe share our beliefs, and who has the backbone to follow their principles. Get out there and vote!! Send letters to your representatives, local, state, and national, don’t just put it on the executive’s shoulders. The pressure from us, here at the grassroots level, will push upward to the top if we do!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *