At the Cafe Chat for this week, we were asked to blog about our passion. This got me thinking about my passions. I am very passionate about Africa, especially the Darfur region of Sudan. I have tried to keep this blog free of activism, but I am a lawyer and some things are inbred. The question continues to reverberate in my being; what shall be done with Darfur?
I have read a lot about the conflict in Darfur and done some research on it. The issues are complex. I have heard and read often, that the conflict in Darfur is a struggle for resources; I think that is oversimplifying things. Reuters AlertNet has an article on its site about the current issues in Darfur. I got this brief history there.
The conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region flared in 2003 when two rebel groups rose up against the government, accusing it of neglect.
Khartoum moved swiftly to crush the revolt by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).
The government is widely accused of arming militias drawn from Arab tribes who have used scorched-earth tactics against the rebels’ communities.
The militias, known as Janjaweed, are blamed for killings, widespread rape and abductions. Refugees describe them as ferocious gun-wielding men riding camels or horses who burn villages and steal whatever they can carry.
Khartoum has repeatedly denied any links to the Janjaweed, dismissing them as outlaws.
Exact figures for the number of people killed in the conflict are hard to determine.
In April 2008, the United Nations said that as many as 300,000 may have died since 2003 – a figure disputed by Khartoum, which puts the figure at closer to 10,000.
The violence has also driven around 2.5 million people into squalid camps in Darfur and neighbouring Chad.
According to International Crisis Group, the removal of so many people from their homes appears to be part of a government policy of ethnic cleansing in a bid to cripple support for the rebel movements.
The displaced people are mostly African farmers from the Fur, Zaghawa and Massaleit tribes. The Janjaweed come from Arabic-speaking pastoralist communities, which herd camels in northern Darfur and cattle in southern Darfur.
Both the farmers and the pastoralists are Muslim, dark-skinned and have intermarried for centuries.
The Zaghawa are also camel herders and have strong ties to Chad.
The conflict in Darfur has become a world humanitarian crisis; hunger, famine and human rights abuses are rife in that district. This is why, it was with immense shock that I read on the New York Times site that even as it receives a billion pounds of free food from international donors, Sudan is growing and selling vast quantities of its own crops to other countries, capitalizing on high global food prices at a time when millions of people in its war-riddled region of Darfur barely have enough to eat (Read more).
What is going on with Darfur? India, which is not going through the crisis which Sudan faces, in March, 2008 put a ban on the exportation of rice so that it’s citizens would have enough food to eat. Same with Liberia, which banned all food exports in May, 2008. So what on earth is the problem with Darfur?
One would have thought that with his arrest pending at the International Criminal Court of Justice, Sudan’s President, Oman Hassan Al-Bashir would seek to find lasting solutions to the lingering crisis, instead he resorts to dancing in Darfur! The root cause of the state of the African Continent has been nothing other than appalling leadership. Apparently, Sudan has not been excepted from this. The International world has taken notice. But progress seems slow. More people need to get involved in the Darfur crisis; we need to begin asking what we can do for Darfur.