Stop the Crisis in Darfur
Because of the leadership and commitment of Danielle Vyas at Modern Musings, I am humbled to present this blog post on the Crisis in Darfur. As our brothers and sisters continue in war/genocide, the brutality continues to deplete its most natural resources: human lives. This post serves to provide information on the crisis and what we can do to stop it.
Let's start with background information on Darfur and the Sudan. One of the most informative and comprehensive sources of information on this issue is SaveDarfur.org. Here is an excerpt of the background information on Darfur.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa, located just south of Egypt on the eastern edge of the Sahara desert. The country's major economic resource is oil. But, as in other developing countries with oil, this resource is not being developed for the benefit of the Sudanese people. As much as 70 percent of Sudan's oil export revenues are used to finance the country's military.1
Darfur, an area about the size of Texas, lies in western Sudan and borders Libya, Chad and the Central African Republic. It has only the most basic infrastructure and development. The approximately 6 million inhabitants of Darfur are among the poorest in Africa. They exist largely on either subsistence farming or nomadic herding. Even in good times, the Darfuri people face a very harsh and difficult life; these are not good times in Darfur.
The current crisis in Darfur began in 2003. After decades of neglect, drought, oppression and small-scale conflicts in Darfur, two rebel groups – the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – mounted an insurgency against the central government. These groups represent agrarian farmers who are mostly "non-Arab black African" Muslims from a number of different tribes. President al-Bashir's response was brutal. In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to local tribal and other militias, which have come to be known as the Janjaweed.2 Their members are composed mostly of "Arab black African" Muslims3 who herd cattle, camels, and other livestock. They have wiped out entire villages, destroyed food and water supplies, and systematically murdered, tortured, and raped hundreds of thousands of Darfuris. In previous internal conflicts (in the south, center, and east of the country), the Sudanese government also employed the tactic of using proxy militias to attack the civilian populations that have been thought to support insurgencies. These attacks often occur with the direct support of the Government of Sudan's armed forces or at the very least, with their tacit approval.
This scorched-earth campaign by the Sudanese government against Darfuri civilians has, through direct violence, disease, and starvation, already claimed as many as 400,000 lives. It has spilled over into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. In all, about 2.3 million Darfuris have fled their homes and communities and now reside in a network of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Darfur, with over 200,000 more living in refugee camps in Chad. These refugees and IDPs are almost entirely dependent on the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations for their basic needs – food, water, shelter, and health care.
Approximately 1 million more Darfuris still live in their villages, under the constant threat of bombings, raids, murder, rape and torture. Until the arrival of the long-awaited United Nations peacekeeping force, authorized by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1769, actually takes place, the safety of these civilians depends on the presence of the underfunded and undermanned African Union peacekeeping force. Known as AMIS, the force, in Darfur since October 2004, numbers just 7,400 troops and personnel. AMIS lacks a civilian protection mandate as well as adequate means to stop the violence. Its sole mandate is to monitor and report ceasefire violations and it has done little more, due to its limited mandate but also because of its anemic capacity.
In the summer of 2007, outbreaks of violence between some of the Arab tribes that worked together as part of the Janjaweed began to occur more frequently. This latest mutation of the conflict, is indicative of the ever-changing dynamic of this crisis. The United Nations recently reported that tribal and factional fighting is now killing more people than the clashes between the government or government-backed militias and rebel forces.
Another new dynamic, reported by various news sources, is the tens of thousands of non-Darfuris arriving in Darfur in recent months, with many ending up on lands belonging to displaced Darfuris. Different news outlets have reported slightly varied information about Arab groups from neighboring countries, like Niger and Chad, resettling in Darfur. Many news reports cite the same rumors and unconfirmed reports of third-party nationals being given Sudanese identity documents, as well as other evidence of a planned scheme to permanently settle Arabs from outside the Sudan on the lands of displaced Darfuris. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that as many as 30,000 people have left Chad for Darfur in a steady flow since early 2007.
The Crisis in the Sudan can be resolved. The Darfuris can reclaim their land and rebuild their nation.
Here's what needs to be done:
The Save Darfur Coalition insistently calls for various measures to pressure Khartoum to end the genocide, something it has made clear it will not do in response to diplomacy alone. Such steps should include:
- World leaders must make peace in Darfur a top priority: It has been over two years since President Bush declared the situation in Darfur genocide, and yet it continues. The President and his administration have made little progress; the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. The performance of nearly all other world leaders, with few exceptions, has been even worse. The situation in Darfur demands more than tough rhetoric. The President must take a leadership role in maintaining a coalition of key international actors to force Khartoum to end the killing. Arab and African leaders must also take on a proactive role in mediating an end to this crisis that has brewed in their midst for nearly half a decade now. In the immediate term, all U.N. member states must participate, whether financially, logistically, or through troop or equipment contributions to a swift and effective deployment of the hybrid force authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1769.
- China must use its leverage with Khartoum: China has a great deal of influence on Sudan given its status as Sudan's top trading partner, its strong military ties to Sudan, and its protective role in the U.N. Security Council. Although China did not exercise its veto, as it had vowed to do early on, and voted for Resolution 1769, it did significantly weaken the final text of the resolution. China's vote in favor of 1769 came only after it managed to remove language calling for sanctions if Sudan fails to cooperate. Additionally, the hybrid force's mandate to "seize and dispose" of weapons found in Darfur in contravention of the arms embargo (UNSCR 1556/2004) was diluted in the final text, allowing the force to merely "monitor" them. China has displayed increased unease and engagement regarding Darfur, but more must be done. China is deeply image-conscious, especially with regard to the growing possibility that the 2008 Olympic Games will be marred by Darfur-related activities. Chinese oil investments in Sudan, which benefit the regime but not the people and help fund government military operations in Darfur, are also susceptible to pressure through the growing global divestment movement. All this leverage needs to be consistently applied to China, which is in a unique position to influence Khartoum's calculations.
- Humanitarian Aid: Humanitarian aid in Darfur must be sustained while efforts are made to protect civilians and broker an agreement for a lasting end to the conflict. This means continued funding of aid programs and an international push to end Sudan's obstruction of aid efforts. The Government of Sudan is also guilty of innumerable violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, which have hampered the effective delivery of aid. Such actions must be brought to an end immediately. Given repeated U.N. and NGO warnings of the fragility of their efforts, the international community must prepare a contingency plan for a collapse of current aid programs.
1 Jeffrey Gettleman, "Far Away from Darfur's Agony, Khartoum is Booming," New York Times, 23 October 2006.