To give you some background on the crisis in Darfur, let me give you the basics. Darfur is located in western Sudan, neighboring Chad. The region is about the size of France, has 6 million inhabitants from various ethnic tribes, and highly relies on farming and herding. Darfur is one of the poorest areas in Africa, and has very little governmental infrastructure. The current “War In Darfur” started in 2003. In February of that year, two rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army, and the Justice and Equality Movement, both representing non-Arab ethic groups, rose up to fight against the Sudanese government. Their attacks on the government were founded on years of inequality and lack of protection and support from the state in the Darfur region. While they seemed to look for a peaceful solution to this problem, the government in Khartoum soon began to use force and violence to suppress the rebellion. A militia known as the Janjaweed emerged and the government increased arms and support for them to attack and attempt to defeat the non-Arab sects of the region. Since 2003, the Sudanese government has used mass murder, torture, and rape to attempt to end this conflict. To date, over 2.6 million citizens have had to leave their homes in search of refuge. In addition, thousands of refugees have had to leave Sudan to travel to Chad in hopes of finding safety. Women and children have become victims of rape and abduction, and an entire generation of children have reached school-age without ever having a home. Over 4 million victims are completely reliant on international support and aid.
In 2009, the International Criminal Court issued a formal arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes. However, he has not been charged with genocide, despite arguments to have the crime added to his warrant. Because Sudan rejects the ICC’s jurisdiction, al-Bashir still remains as President in Sudan. Sadly, in response to the warrant, numerous relief organizations and workers were forced out of the country, leaving over 1 million Darfur refugees without food, water, and healthcare. Every day victims of the war in Darfur are suffering. In addition to lacking the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter, they face the threat of violence, rape, and even murder.
The crisis in Darfur has become one of the biggest international concerns. The atrocities that have taken place there are barbaric and it is up to us to end the suffering and help with relief and aid. As I mentioned in another recent blog, I applaud the efforts of celebrities such as George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt who started the Not on Our Watch campaign, along with David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub, to raise awareness of the crisis and have been hands-on in the struggle. Many of you may be wondering what you can do to help. As I always say, the first thing you can do is ADVOCATE! Take the time to write or call your political leaders and Congress representatives to express your concern. Your voice can be the most powerful weapon in this fight. With the Obama administration still constructing their foreign policy, we stand at the prime time to write to him and make sure that Darfur is at the top of U.S. foreign policy priorities. You can also write an op-ed piece voicing your concern and to bring attention to the cause. The more people who become aware of the situation, then we will have more that can join the struggle. Right after you read this blog, please visit Save Darfur by clicking here. Once on the site, please sign your name to their petitions. There are also a number of NGO’s that are working hard to provide relief. Click here to visit these organizations websites and consider sending in a much needed monetary donation, no matter how big or small.
I also encourage you to read more on the situation and check out books such as Darfur: A New History of the Long War (African Arguments) by Julie Flint; Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival by Jen Marlowe; and Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast. Click here to see more titles about Darfur.
At the end of the Holocaust, the world adapted the slogan “Never Again.” But we face a time where it has happened again. The genocide in Darfur is happening today and we need to speak up to end it. Please join the fight and spread the word. The people of Darfur are relying on “the best and the blessed of us to help the rest of us.”
For more information on the war in Darfur, click here to visit The Angelrock Project’s page dedicated to the cause.
Peace and blessings,