Axver (axver) wrote,
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The humanitarian crisis in Sudan cannot be ignored any longer.

Edit at 4:47pm on 26 July 2004: Please be aware the information in this article was current when I wrote it. For more recent information, I would like to direct you to darfur_crisis. Statistics I read today place the death toll at higher than 50,000 and the displaced population at approximately 1.2 million. Predicted deaths over the coming months are in the hundreds of thousands.

I have never made a post like this before. However, the crisis in the Sudan simply cannot be ignored and awareness must be raised NOW. I shall present information and facts soon, but firstly, I would like to request that you help to spread the word and inform people of this dire situation. All I ask you do is link back to this entry and encourage your friends to read it. For those who do not know any HTML, this is the code you need for LiveJournal;

(Replace [ with < and ] with >)
[a href="http://www.livejournal.com/users/axver/212240.html"]Your text here[/a]

‘Your text here’ means precisely that – you can insert whatever you desire the link to say. Feel free to copy or distribute any or all of this entry or link to it here; all I ask is that I (André Axver) am acknowledged as the author.

Now, the facts. If there are any inaccuracies or errors, please inform me and I will make the appropriate amendments. I live in Australia and I have compiled all this information from my own knowledge and research.

For those who do not want to read a lot or have little time, click here for the condensed version.

Contents

Feel free to scroll down to the sections that interest you.

1. Sudan? Where’s that? What can you tell me about the country?
2. What crisis are you referring to?
3. How did this crisis begin? How long has it lasted?
4. Who has been impacted? What is the situation now?
5. What is happening to solve this crisis?
6. What should be happening?
7. What can I do?
8. Conclusion - If you read nothing else, PLEASE READ THIS.

Footnote one: About Rwanda.
Footnote two: For the curious, why I am interested.
Footnote three: Sudan is not the only crisis.

Credits

1. Sudan? Where’s that? What can you tell me about the country?

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and borders nations such as Ethiopia in the east and Egypt in the north. Although there are mountains in some far corners of the country, the terrain is predominantly flat, with desert found in the north. The Nile and tributaries flow through the nation and the nation has a coastline on the Red Sea, placing it at one of the cradles of civilisation. The region has a rich and diverse history stretching back to times before the Egyptian Pharaohs, and the nation as the world knows it today became independent from Britain on 1 January 1956. It has not had a happy history since then, suffering all manner of civil strife and unease, along with severe drought and famine. There have been disputes with neighbouring nations over border alignments, influxes of refugees from other countries, and exoduses of some elements of the Sudanese population to escape conflict.

In 1989, an Islamist party came to power in a coup, and since then, it has ruled from the capital, Khartoum, with members of the military elite. Often, the government will train and arm independent militia due to a distrust of the military. Some steps have been made towards economic progress, but civil unrest and environmental calamities mean that most of the population still live in desperate poverty. Life expectancy is around 56, not all children receive an education, diseases eradicated or easily treated in the West are commonplace in Sudan, and internationally, the nation often goes unnoticed.

2. What crisis are you referring to?

Although there are many problems and issues facing Sudan, I am specifically referring to the looming tragedy and genocide in Darfur, a region in the west of the nation, along the border with Chad. I feel this is the most urgent issue addressing the nation and the UN has stated that it is "the world’s worst humanitarian crisis."

3. How did this crisis begin? How long has it lasted?

In February 2003, two loosely allied rebel organisations rose up against perceived discrimination and marginalisation and attacked installations of the Sudanese military. They also took action to protect their communities from two decades of government-funded militia attacking and clearing areas considered disloyal. These militia, known as Janjaweed or Janjawid, had received increased government support and comprise of Muslim Arabs. The Darfurians are predominantly non-Arab black Muslims. The history of the conflict is complex and tied to the history and ethnicity of the region, while Human Rights Watch has confirmed that the militia are inarguably linked to the Sudanese military and government, with Peter Takirambudde stating "they are one."

Conflict has continued unabated since early 2003, and is more complicated than some would make it appear. The International Crisis Group reports that there are three interwoven conflicts – one between the government and rebels, a second involving Janjaweed attacking civilians, and the third is a struggle between separate Darfurian communities. It is a complicated issue and solutions will not be easy. What is clear, however, is that the Janjaweed, with the support of the government, are conducting campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the non-Arab black Darfurian population.

4. Who has been impacted? What is the situation now?

Over thirty thousand people have been killed and another million displaced. Yes, that’s right – thousands are dead and a million are homeless. As the figures clearly show, this is a major crisis and it has the potential to become another Rwanda. In 1994, arguably the worst atrocities since the Second World War took place in the small nation of Rwanda (see Footnote One for more details), and ten years on, Sudan risks following in Rwanda’s footsteps and becoming a human rights calamity of enormous proportions. Indeed it is a tragedy already and it is hard to believe it has been overlooked for so long. It is clear that a genocide is occurring in Darfur.

Despite peace talks and an increase in international attention, conflict and strife continue to plague the region. Aid groups are skeptical of government claims of reigning in the militia and are vehement that official activity is obstructing aid and relief efforts. The Janjaweed are still attacking villages, harassing civilians and refugees, and are even being integrated into the police and armed forces. The ethnic cleansing is far from over. Recent atrocities have included the following;

• A ten year old girl collecting water was brutally raped by members of the Janjaweed.
• When Janjaweed attacked a village in south Darfur and killed twenty-six, they threw six children onto a fire and burnt them alive.
• Women venturing out of towns and refugee camps to collect firewood for cooking have been physically and sexually assaulted by the Janjaweed.
• The government has forcibly relocated over eleven thousand displaced persons against their will.

The catastrophe is now being compounded by the onset of the wet season. Once dry riverbeds shall fill with water, roads will be rendered impassable, and conditions will swiftly deteriorate in refugee camps and villages. Camps are overcrowded, undersupplied with food, and lack basic facilities such as toilets, fostering the spread of infectious diseases, dysentery, and starvation. Mortality rates are increasing, and even if the wanton killing halts, a massive crisis that will claim thousands and thousands more lives is still likely to occur. Multitudes of refugees will die over the coming months of preventable diseases and hunger because they do not have satisfactory aid. What aid does come to the nation is hampered in its delivery because of stalling tactics by the Sudanese government and Janjaweed.

5. What is happening to solve this crisis?

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Colin Powell have both visited the nation, (unstable) peace talks have been entered into, some governments have called for Khartoum to rein in the Janjaweed, and aid agencies are working to help victims. However, the efforts of the central government are pathetic at best, they are continuing to allow the militia to act with immunity, and have severely hindered aid efforts. A US-sponsored UN resolution on 23 July threatened Sudan with sanctions if the Janjaweed are not disarmed and the US Congress unanimously passed a motion calling upon President George W. Bush to call the actions “genocide.” However, President Bush will not label the atrocities as genocide because then the US will be obligated to intervene and end the violence.

There is talk of a UN force being in place by the end of the year, with Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill stating Australia may contribute, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair has not ruled out the use of force to end the crisis. However, official channels are proving to be slow and progress is not being made at any reasonable pace.

6. What should be happening?

Most importantly, there needs to be greater awareness. Rwanda occurred because both Western governments and the general population did not comprehend the enormity of the catastrophe occurring before their very eyes. This has the potential to easily happen again, but with heightened awareness, that likelihood can be decreased.

It is my belief that a force led by the UN and US should be sent into Sudan immediately to disarm the Janjaweed and halt violence. A multinational peacekeeping force should enter to protect civilians, while aid organisations should have complete and unrestricted access to conduct programs to help and save refugees and victims. I do not suggest a regime change, but stable talks between the Darfurians and Khartoum must be conducted to establish a permanent and satisfactory peace.

There is no time for half-measures or threats. An even greater humanitarian crisis looms clearly on the horizon, and it may already be too late for thousands of Darfurians. The more time the West waits, the worse the suffering will be. The longer solutions get lost in bureaucratic red tape and political motives, the more people will die.

7. What can I do?

You can RAISE AWARENESS NOW. Too many people do not know what is occurring in Darfur at this very moment. Do your part and heighten the public’s awareness – link to this article with the code I gave at the start, tell your friends, urge your local newspaper and media to publish more on the crisis, write to your local representatives, do whatever you can. If you are the praying or religious type, I ask that you please pray for the region. I advise everyone to read reports from a wide variety of sources, specifically the material published by the United Nations. It is better to receive your information from as close to the source as possible, and you should read media reports with a critical eye. Too many people take what they read from a single newspaper as the gospel truth.

If you can, please support an aid mission to Sudan. Any support or assistance is better than none, especially when the situation is so dire. I would believe many can do little more than promote further awareness, but please donate whatever you can. I do not have any links, nor am I affiliated with any organisations, nor will I recommend any for you to support. That’s action for you to take.

Again, I repeat, raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis and genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region now.

8. Conclusion (and the condensed edition of the whole report).

To summarise, government-backed Arab militia named Janjaweed have been committing genocide against the non-Arab blacks of Sudan’s Darfur region. Over thirty thousand people are dead and at least a million homeless. Atrocities occur daily, and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is taking place at this very moment. Without assistance and action, it will only become more tragic. Refugee camps are overcrowded, diseases are rampant, and despite negotiations, militia continue to murder men, rape women, and kill children. The violence must be halted, international governments and agencies must act swiftly, and significant aid must reach the region. You can raise awareness of this disaster. I urge you to do it. It’s too late for some, but there is still time to act before Rwanda happens again. After that disaster, the entire world said "never again." I ask you, did we lie?

Footnote One: About Rwanda.

In 1994, a genocide of disastrous proportions occurred in the small African country of Rwanda. Eight hundred thousand people of the Tutsi ethnic group were slaughtered in a hundred days by members of the Hutu ethnic group as the world stood by, unaware of the scale of the killing until it was too late. After the blackest spot of the decade, the world swore never to allow such horror and violence to occur again.

Now is the time to see if that promise will be kept.

Footnote Two: For the curious, why I am interested.

I subscribe to the newsmagazine Time, and right at the beginning of July, I received an issue that featured an article about the crisis in Sudan. It was the first I had heard, and I was shocked and appalled. Over the next couple of weeks, a series of co-incidences and my original shock kept the crisis in my mind, and after being disgusted at an issue of Time where they chose to report on Las Vegas’s tourist industry rather than important issues, I really did some research. Warning bells went off in my head, I knew most people were oblivious to the crisis, and what you see here is the result of my research and desire to inform people.

Footnote Three: Sudan is not the only crisis.

While the genocide in Sudan is shocking, it is tragically just one of many crises ravaging our world. It is your world, you can change it. Be aware and educated of what is happening beyond your borders, and do what you can. The fortunate among us have a responsibility as humans to care for the suffering, sick, impoverished, and dying. From Aceh to Zimbabwe, Haiti to Chechnya-Ingushetia, turmoil plagues our world. Do not allow yourself to slip into a comfort zone neglecting the less fortunate. If you have the chance to help and make a difference, please seize that opportunity and help as many as you can. These people may be strangers, but they are your fellow human beings and deserve a lot better than a life of fear, persecution, and terror.

Credits.

I believe in credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, I have not got a list of all of my sources, particularly not print publications, as I was not logging sources until sometime yesterday. However, I shall still offer an admittedly incomplete bibliography.

Robinson, S., 'Nowhere To Hide', Time (5 July 2004), pages 24-25
Australia considering sending troops to Sudan – Channel NewsAsia
Bush resists Sudan ‘genocide’ action – Reuters
Crisis in Darfar – International Crisis Group
Rebels agree to new Darfur talks – BBC News World
Sudan – CIA World Factbook entry
Sudan – New Darfur Documents: Ties Between Government and Janjaweed Militias Confirmed - Human Rights Watch - Recommended reading
Sudan section of The Scotsman
Sudan – Top News – AllAfrica.com
UN Links
Sudan Information Gateway
UN: Greater Darfur Region Crisis
UN: Weekly Humanitarian Roundups (I specifically referred to the report for 11-18 July)
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