In his column Thursday, Ibrahim Kakwan criticized groups advocating action in Darfur for not recognizing the complexity of the issue and asked whether we should be getting involved (Save Darfur?, 11/13/2008). There is one simple answer to his question: yes.
As Kakwan wrote, the genocide in Darfur is a complicated situation to understand, to say the least. Because of the crisis’s dynamics it’s also easy for information to become convoluted. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, so we are here to set the facts straight.
In Darfur, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced — forced to flee their homes. More than 400,000 people are dead. For more than 20 years between 1983 and 2005, a civil war raged between north and south Sudan. Darfur, the western part of Sudan, was left out of the 2002 peace negotiations that ended the war. A competition for resources and government representation ensued, leading to escalated violence in the Darfur region.
The Sudanese government is responsible for the genocide. It funds the Janjaweed, a rogue militia, and provides the group with weapons, vehicles and helicopters to attack Darfurians. The Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, has stalled peace negotiations and refuses to make any permanent decisions regarding the conflict. For example, he has repeatedly declared unilateral cease fires without implementation or even negotiations with opposing factions. Humanitarian aid groups have been forced to pull out of the region because of continual targeting by the Janjaweed.
The Sudanese government is also to blame for allowing attacks on innocent civilians. In fact, the International Criminal Court is currently considering charging al-Bashir with 10 counts of intents to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. A warrant stands for his arrest.
We cannot do enough to capture and bring the world’s attention to the emergencies in Darfur. We’ve recognized and called the crisis what it is: genocide — the systematic destruction of a specific group of people. Together, as members of the human family, we recognize that the terrorist regime of Khartoum has and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocidal acts. This is an international consensus.
Yet, little has happened, and the killings have continued years later. The ICC has investigated and proven that Janjaweed militias are tools of the Sudanese government and that the regime in Khartoum is attempting to obliterate the people of Darfur.
There are few Darfur activists who claim the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army is innocent. Though fighting on behalf of an oppressed people — the Darfurians — it, too, has engaged in war crimes. Violence is a by-product of violence, no matter how idealistic we pretend to be. The nation of Sudan has a long and twisted history of civil wars in response to underrepresentation, overexploitation or simple neglect at the hands of the government.
More than 250 weeks of genocide have passed, and we, as the international community, have yet to come together on behalf of Darfur. We have argued semantics and logistics at length, failing to put the welfare of the people first.
The U.N. Security Council needs to enforce its resolutions regarding the deployment of 26,000 peacekeeping troops in Darfur. However, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China has repeatedly blocked these resolutions time and time again because of its relationship with the Sudanese government and its interest in Sudanese oil. China has vetoed all attempts to provide relief on the ground in Darfur.
Despite the tremendous challenges that we face, it is essential that our collective journey continue because we cannot rest until the darkest atrocities are brought to light. Ending genocide must be a global priority.
So today give the people of Darfur your voice, thoughts and prayers. They have been neglected and persecuted by the very government that should be fighting on their behalf. In the time it has taken you to read this article, more civilians have been forced to flee their homes. A woman has been raped. An orphaned child has given up hope. The question is not if we should save Darfur. The question is how soon can we do it before it’s too late.
Kate Marten is a School of Nursing sophomore. She is a member of the University’s chapter of STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition.