Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"Save Darfur"


Sudan, since its independence in 1956, has been plagued with intensive civil war between the Arab oriented North, and Sub-Saharan South. The violence between the two regions was further escalated when the then President Jafar Numayri wanted to implement Islamic law in the country, in 1985.


In February 2003, fighting breaks out in the Western Sudan province of Darfur. The drought instigates tensions between the nomadic and farming populations. The following two groups are involved in the rebellion against the government, fighting against injustice and economic marginalization:

Sudan Liberation Army (SLA): comprised of nomadic Non-Muslim tribal Africans
Justice and Equality Movement (Jem): comprised of African Muslims

Even though, the above two rebel groups have different ethnic backgrounds, they are both fighting against the Sudanese militia, known as Janjaweed.

The government reacts by sending Janjaweeds to Darfur to put an end to the rebellions. The militia is ordered to burn the entire villages suspected of supporting the rebels. Rape is their weapon of choice.

The villagers try to flee to the neighbouring Chad where the UN has set up refugee camps.

Darfur: The United Nations & African Union

In July 2004, the talks between the UN and Sudanese government failed. The Sudanese government refused the help of UN forces. Their refusal to allow the UN forces on their soil can be attributed to three main reasons:

Sovereignty: The Sudanese government is afraid that the UN interference would be a threat to their sovereignty
Division: Their other concern is that the UN interference would divide the rival North and South into two different nations
Oil: They do not trust the United States' intentions. They are afraid that the United States will use Darfur as an excuse to control the booming Sudanese oil economy (Iraq, anyone?!)

So as a result, the Sudanese government has instead favoured the help of African Union (AU) peacekeeper forces. The UN forces have formed a coalition with the AU forces, but they are poorly trained, and have inadequate safety equipments. Moreover, the peacekeepers are usually targeted by the Janjaweeds, and their movement is strictly monitored by the government.

Darfur: The US & Arab World Failure

The United States hasn't done enough to force the Sudanese government to end the genocide. The US inadequacy can be attributed to two factors. Firstly, in 1998 when the US embassies were bombed in Tanzania and Kenya, the US government suspected that a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was producing chemical weapons of mass-destruction. Consequently, the US attacked the plant in Sudan, which obviously didn't sit too well with the Sudanese people and government.

Moreover, as Nicholas Kristof (yes, him again) pointed out that the US, after the Iraq havoc, does not want to attack another "Arab" oil rich country.

But the US has amazing relations with other Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, so why does it not try to influence the Sudanese government through them? Or is it the United States' oil dependency that's stopping it from pestering Saudi Arabia and UAE?

These Arab countries are, however, donating money to build mosques in the region. What is the point of building these mosques when there are people who are dying of hunger, and inhumane violence? If not with money, they should at least use their Arab connection to influence the Sudanese government. Moreover, Kuwait and Malaysia have also invested money in the Sudanese oil companies, so they can also use their economic influence to negotiate with the Sudanese government regarding Darfur.

Darfur: China

Much is written about boycotting the upcoming Olympics because of China's close ties with the Sudanese government. Some have even referred to the Olympics as "Genocide Olympics." I personally disagree with this immense criticism of China. Firstly, by focusing on China we are evading the United States from its responsibilities. I mean, really, my congratulations go out to Bush for recognizing the mass-killings as a genocide. But recently the Congress cut down on its funding, when they were asked for $724 million in emergency funding for the African Union (AU)-UN peacekeeping mission. But, with two wars to worry about, and poor economy the US really cannot be blamed for its inability to do enough.

So the world has instead started using China as a scapegoat. The new emerging power has been criticized because of its "non-interference" policy. Sudan exports 2/3rds of its oil to China, so China can use it's economic hold in Sudan as a leverage to resolve the issue. China's "non-interference" is akin to a similar policy that the United States exercised in the post-WWI era. The United States' non-interference cost the Czechs their country, and the Allied Forces a significant amount of causalities in the early years of WWII. I think what China needs to realize is that as an emerging superpower and member of the UN Security Council it has some responsibilities to adhere to. The vulnerable Darfurians are really counting on these powerful leaders to step up and provide a voice to their struggles. But they seem more concerned about their financial benefits.

How can we help?

In the past 7-8 years, technology has advanced so much. The other day my friend and I were reminiscing about ICQ, and how it was not too long ago, when ICQ was the coolest thing, ever. Then just between high school and university, we saw Google becoming the primary search engine, the emergence of MSN messenger, Wikipedia, YouTube, iPod, and so on. Now I hear that kids are allowed to use laptops in high schools. While this advancement is impressive, but it is also really sad to think that there are people in this whole different continent who cannot afford basic necessities like food, proper shoes, clothing, and immediate medical help.
We are all part of a global community, and every single contribution we make counts.

In September 2007, Doctor Without Borders, which was working in West Darfur to provide immediate healthcare to women, was forced out of the region by the militia. The bombings, in March 2008, further made it impossible for the organization to return to their clinic. However, the organization is still present and providing healthcare in North and South Darfur. More information about their work can be found here, and donations can also be made online.

Genocide Intervention Network is also providing direct aid to Darfurians, and is also accepting donations. In addition, Christian and North American Muslim organizations are also doing their best to provide aid to Darfurian refugees in Chad.


If there is anything I have learned from my years at University of Toronto is that to always cite my sources :-). In addition to Nicholas Kristof's numerous bi-weekly NYT op-ed columns, following sources were used to learn about the Genocide.

Council on Foreign Relations
National Geographic, April 2008.
Not On Our Watch

"The crisis in Darfur is not simply an African problem it concerns the entire international community. Whatever name we give it, it imposes responsibilities on all of us. And we must rise to this challenge." - Kofi Annan


Shak said...

Brilliant overview, thanks.

(Does it count as stalking if I'm the only one who comments here?)

Zany said...

hehehehe...what can i say my friends are not that tech-savy, and if its any consolation I stalked you first.