Darfur: no more empty promises

Derek Thurber

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Since early 2003, the Arab government of Sudan has persecuted, raped, murdered and forced the removal of non-Arab, Muslim ethnic groups such as the Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit in the northwestern region of Sudan known as Darfur.

Around 200,000 people have died from violence, disease and starvation. More than two million more have been forced from their homes, their villages burned, and all their worldly possessions stolen. The government-sponsored Janjaweed militia responsible for these attacks has been systematically targeting villages throughout the Darfur region. Thousands of villages have been targeted and destroyed in this way.

Darfur is the home of 30 ethnic groups, all of which are native African ethnicity and all are Muslims. The Janjaweed are recruited, armed, trained and supported by the government of Sudan and come from a few nomadic groups who claim Arab backgrounds.

The United States Department of State, the United Nations and several non-profit human rights organizations have reported firsthand that the violence is done on a perceived racial basis. They have also confirmed, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum genocide watch, that the Sudanese government is responsible for inflaming ethnic conflict, impeding international humanitarian access, resulting in deadly conditions of life for displaced civilians, bombing civilian targets with aircraft and murdering and raping civilians.

All of these offenses listed above are cause for the declaration of “genocide” in Darfur, a distinction the international community has been reluctant to place on the crisis.
Their reluctance stems from the Holocaust.

After that horrible tragedy, the international community said “never again.” To insure that it never happens again, the United Nations, as well as other national governments, put into place protocols to be enacted in the case that genocide is declared to be occurring. For this reason, the international community must respond to the crisis if it is declared genocide but are not obligated to respond if it is just killing.

It is ironic that one terrible event can cause the international community to strive to prevent further genocide in the world, and yet at the same time prevent the international community from recognizing other acts of genocide.

During this past week, international aid organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Save Darfur Coalition finally decided this has gone on to long. Rallies were held this last week in 30 major cities around the world including London, Paris, San Francisco and New York.

Each city had different memorial events taking place through the course of the day to bring attention to the crisis. Among the notable activities was people who wore blindfolds under the message “don’t look away.”

Demonstrators in Rome wore t-shirts with a blood stained hand on it. There was also a peace torch passed around which they said was lit in Chad, the home of thousands of Darfur refugees.

In London, demonstrators carried around signs saying, “Rape, torture, murder. How much longer for Darfur?”

Actor Matt Damon and supermodel Elle Macpherson, among others, were featured in a video made just for this event. The video was made to show the horror of the events taking place in Darfur.

These rallies were held because of an important meeting of UN officials scheduled to meet next week about the issue of Darfur. The point was to show that the world supports action against the Janjaweed.

Many people believe the UN will adopt a policy to support the affected people of Darfur. However, the Sudanese government is unwilling to allow any foreign aid organizations into their country. The government has allowed limited number of African Union peacekeepers in but no non-Africans.

The message of these rallies is clear, though. It is time for the world to respond to these problems, despite the Sudanese government. The UN’s verdict is expected late next week.
The world once said never again; it is time for them to follow through on that promise.