By Sarah Nagy
Another Holocaust? Never again. Another Cambodia? Never again. Another Rwanda? Never again. Again and again…never again. Yet—faced with the current genocide occurring in Darfur, Sudan—the world has arrived at another crossroads. Stand up or sit down? So far apathy seems to have a choke-hold on the international community.
How did we allow ourselves to arrive at this place once again? For three years now, with the international community standing on the sidelines, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has been waging a campaign of genocide against the “black” farmers of Darfur (the western province of Sudan). To quell a rebellion of farmers fighting the negligent policies of the Sudanese government, Bashir has trained a militia consisting of mostly Arab herders, which he then unleashed upon the “rebels” (although Bashir’s definition of “rebel” has come to encompass the entire “black” population of Darfur—particularly those from the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massalit tribes). Preceding the milita’s attacks, Sudanese soldiers flying helicopter gunships and Antonov bombers begin the destruction of villages and the murder of innocents. Then Bashir’s militia, or the Janjaweed (“evil on horseback”), descend upon villages—burning the buildings, looting people’s personal property, poisoning the water, destroying crops, killing the livestock, raping the women, abducting or killing the children, and killing the men. Racial epithets are shouted during the attacks, for example calling the farmers zurgas (a derogatory term for “blacks”).
Those that do survive the attack face a harrowing journey. Often with very few belongings, they must leave behind their home and the dead bodies of loved ones. For days, sometimes weeks, the farmer-turned-refugee must flee to the Chad/Sudan border to take shelter in one of the few established refugee camps throughout Darfur and inside Chad. Conditions within the camps are often squalid, hardly fit to be called a “camp.” There are not enough supplies available to the humanitarian aid organizations running the camps; refugees must become resourceful, putting up shelter using sticks, branches, whatever they can find. Long lines for food and water are a norm. Medical attention is meager, doctors doing the best they can given the situation. Trips outside of camp boundaries for firewood are exceedingly dangerous, with attacks upon women by the Janjaweed not uncommon. African Union forces are in place, but with only 7,000 troops to monitor an area the size of France and a mandate that does not allow the use of force, their ability to protect civilians is minimal at best. Most recently, there has been spillover of the conflict into Chad and the Central Africa Republic, with Janjaweed crossing the border and attacking civilians there. As a result, refugees are being made of refugees, and humanitarian aid workers—what few are still there—are finding themselves in an exceedingly dangerous situation.
It is important to keep in mind what led to the current situation Darfurians are faced with today. An ideology of Arab supremacism and racism has been in place at the governmental level since the 1980s, when a group called the Arab Gathering took power. They believe that only those truly following the Prophet Muhammad have the right to rule a “Muslim land,” and thus the “black” leadership in Darfur must go. A deadline of 2020 was set to complete the “project” in a 1998 directive known as “Qoreshi 2,” distributed by the new leadership. Qoreshi ideology singles out Darfurians as “half-caste,” and Arabs as “true”—thus “pure.” Out of this directive and ideology emerged the Janjaweed, and they have been responsible for carrying out genocide against the people of Darfur, with the backing of the Sudanese government. If allowed to continue, perhaps the Arab Gathering’s “project” will be completed sooner than 2020.
There is much the international community can do and should do to keep the Arab Gathering and Janjaweed from continuing the destruction of Darfur. Progress has been made by former Secretary of State Colin Powell calling the situation what it is: genocide. But it is not enough simply to call it genocide; the international community must act. Progress has been made with the passing of the UN Security Council Resolution 1706 in August of 2006, authorizing UN peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan (certainly “inviting” the Sudanese government’s consent, though not requiring it due to the invocation of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter). But it is not enough to simply pass a resolution; the international community must act. The following steps should be taken:
· Freeze the assets of Sudanese government officials who have already been linked to the genocide;
· Bring China and other countries with oil interests in Sudan to the table and make them part of the solution; countries such as the United States can use their power to make this happen;
· Enforce a No-Fly Zone over the Darfur region to ensure that the Sudanese government cannot continue its policy of destruction through the use of helicopter gunships and Antonov bombers;
· Place Peacekeeping forces on the ground—with or without consent from the Sudanese government. State sovereignty cannot continue to excuse upwards of 300,000 deaths and 3.5 million refugees;
· Take actions to ensure the flow of humanitarian aid into Darfur, without which the refugees cannot survive;
· Provide asylum within U.S. borders for Darfuri and Chadian refugees;
· Continue grassroots “Save Darfur” movements within countries such as the United States; this will ensure the issue to remain on the government’s agenda.
Instead of waiting for the genocide to be over and then proclaiming: “Another Darfur? Never again,” the international community must stand up now. The people of Darfur have suffered enough, and President Bashir is becoming too comfortable and receiving too many signals from the rest of the world that, while the world does not condone his government’s actions, the world will not intervene. It is time to start taking the proclamation of “Never again” seriously.
- Flint, Julie and de Waal, Alex. “Ideology in Arms: The Emergence of Darfur’s Janjaweed.” The Sudan Tribune. 30 August 2005.
- Gettleman, Jeffrey. “Toll of Darfur Underreported, Study Declares.” The New York Times. 15 September 2006.
- Kristof, Nicholas D. “If Not Now, When?” The New York Times. 29 October 2006.
Reeves, Eric. “Death in Darfur.” 20 October 2006.
- Wadhams, Nick. “U.N. Passes Darfur Measure, With a Catch.” The Associated Press. 31 August 2006.