While the situation
in Darfur is complex, the factors underlying this humanitarian
catastrophe bear a striking similarity to the economic, ethnic, and
political motivations that have contributed to previous incidents of
genocide and “ethnic cleansing” throughout the world.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa,
located in the northeastern part of the continent. The Darfur region of
western Sudan – the states of North Darfur, West Darfur and South Darfur
- is approximately the size of Texas. North and West Darfur border Chad
on the west, while South Darfur borders the Central African Republic.
Over the past twenty years, drought and
the encroachment of the desert have made water and arable land scarce in
Darfur. As a result, the population of herders (primarily Arab Muslims)
have come into increasing conflict with farmers (primarily black
Since Sudan’s independence in the 1950’s, there have been numerous
insurgencies against the central government. In southern Sudan, the
government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A)
signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end a twenty-year-old civil
war on January 9, 2005.
While peace talks moved forward in the south, a rebellion erupted in
Darfur in early 2003 when two loosely allied rebel groups, the Sudan
Liberation Movement/Army (SLA, previously known as the Darfur Liberation
Front) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), attacked government
military installations. At that time, rebels in Darfur, seeking an end
to the region's economic and political marginalization, also took up
arms to protect their communities against an on-going campaign by
government-backed militias recruited among groups of Arab culture in
Darfur and Chad. These "Janjaweed" militias have received government
support to clear civilians from areas considered disloyal.
The Sudanese Government and the Janjaweed
are systematically killing civilians (reportedly targeting the Fur,
Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups) and routinely using rape and other
forms of sexual violence as weapons of terror. Standard procedure is for
the Janjaweed to kill all of the men in a village and rape the women.
Millions of people have been forcibly displaced from their homes because of
government and Janjaweed attacks, and hundreds of thousands have
In July 2004, the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a resolution
declaring the situation in Darfur “genocide.” That September, both
Secretary of State Powell and President Bush also used the term genocide
when referring to Darfur.
On January 25, 2005, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry concluded that
Sudanese government forces and the Janjaweed “conducted indiscriminate
attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced
disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual
violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur.”
Although the Commission's report documented clear evidence of
government-orchestrated mass murders of targeted ethnic groups (in other
words, genocide), the Commission held that it did not have sufficient
evidence of government "intent" to commit genocide -- a politically
expedient finding that allowed the UN to avoid an immediate and decisive
Only about half of those who were forced
out of their homes are receiving aid; others are in camps that are not
yet served or are, literally, wandering in the desert. Even those living
in camps that receive international humanitarian aid remain at risk.
Food is scarce and sanitary conditions appalling. The makeshift camps
are continued targets of attacks and forced relocation. People who
venture outside the camps (to search for firewood or other necessities)
risk being killed or raped. Children are dying from malnutrition and
diarrhea, and the current supplies of food, water and medicine are
insufficient. Four million people face the prospect of death if aid is
While the international community has debated sanctions against the
Khartoum government, the definition of “genocide” and where the
perpetrators of war crimes should stand trial, the situation in Darfur
has deteriorated further. Early in 2006, the Sudanese government stepped up
attacks on civilians. Aid organizations cite deteriorating security;
threat of famine; mounting civilian casualties; the ceasefire in
shambles; the negotiation process at a standstill; the rebel movements
beginning to splinter, and new armed movements appearing in Darfur and
neighboring states. In late Spring, the rainy season will further
restrict humanitarian access to the camps. There is simply no time to
The Current Situation
In September 2006,
the UN passed a resolution that would send 20,000 international
peacekeepers to Darfur. However, any deployment is contingent on
the permission of the government of Sudan, which has not been
Since declaring the
situation a genocide, the Bush Administration has been oddly passive.
Recent reports that the US considers
Sudan a partner in the war on terror suggest that the administration
weighs this intelligence information as more valuable than the lives of
millions of people who remain at risk in Darfur.
What Needs to Be Done
The people of
Darfur need four basic steps to take place to end their nightmare:
international protection force of tens of
thousands with a mandate to protect civilians must be
deployed to stop the killing, despite Sudan's posturing. The few thousand African Union observers
with notebooks cannot stem the tide of violence.
SECOND, donor nations must increase the supply of humanitarian aid to
the region. With the protection force in place, the aid should be able to
reach --and save the lives of-- those who need it most.
government must allow displaced persons to return to their homes.
The protection force should remain in place to ensure the immediate safety of
FINALLY, the UN and
the US must help to broker a comprehensive peace accord that covers
all of Sudan. Insecurity over the north-south peace accord
contributed to the current tragedy in Darfur, and similar crises have
begun to erupt in other parts of the country.
What You Can Do
The situation in Darfur could not be more dire, but the Bush
and international community continue to debate and delay. An
international protection force is needed immediately to stop the killing
in Darfur and allow humanitarian aid to be delivered effectively. Take the Darfur Pledge today and
contact President Bush every day until a protection force – with a
mandate to protect civilians – is deployed. Please encourage your
friends and family to do the same.
You can also support
aid organizations operating in Sudan
and organizations (like
The ETHIC) working to secure
peacekeepers for Darfur.
This information sheet relies heavily on the following sources:
American Jewish World Service
Canadian Jewish Congress
Darfur Accountability Act of 2005
(introduced in Senate)
Darfur Genocide Accountability Act of 2005
(introduced in the House)
The Guardian Archive of Articles on Darfur
S State Department, “Documenting
Atrocities in Darfur” (9/04)
Washington Post, "Darfur's
Real Death Toll" (4/24/05)
Washington Post, “Envoy
Visits Darfur Camp To Stress U.S. Commitment” (4/15/05)
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