The genocide in Darfur, a region in western Sudan, is now in its sixth year and it continues unabated despite pressures from the international community. Analysts believe the underlying causes are decades of drought, food shortage and over-population that eventually deteriorated into immense chaos and war. But the genocide is not just the result of poverty. It has deep ethnic roots. Sudan’s Khartoum regime is biased. The Arab-led government has repeatedly harassed the non-Arab Black tribes throughout the country. ‘Since 2003, the government of Sudan and its Janjaweed militia has executed a systematic campaign of mass murder, rape, and starvation against the black African tribes of Darfur .’
The violence and clashes were widely neglected till Amnesty International brought them to light in about 2002. Since then, even though the crisis has received increasing media coverage and attention, the response has been meager. Sudan is inhabited by tribes of different backgrounds. Those which are the victims of the violence include the Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa. These tribes, along with other rebel groups like the Sudan Liberation Movement have been continuously attacked by state-sponsored militias, the most prominent one being the Janjaweed. While the government openly denies supporting the Janjaweed, it has backed the militia, provided them arms and launching attacks with the aid of the Sudanese military. ‘Sudan denies backing the militias, and has warned the US and UK not to get involved in another Iraq-style crisis .’
The United Nations has estimated about 300,000 casualties, while almost 2.5 million people have been displaced from homes. Most are now in refugee camps, or have fled to neighboring Chad. In 2007, the International Criminal Court issued warrants against the former Minister of State of the Interior of Sudan, and a top Janjaweed later, accusing them of war crimes. Sudan though refused to acknowledge the trials claiming that neither ICC nor the UN could intervene in the country’s affairs.
Later, in 2008 the ICC issued a lengthy warrant against the sitting Head of State Omar Al-Bashir. Sudan’s president has been accused of three crimes of genocide, and five against humanity and several other war crimes.
“From the beginning we said we are not a member of the court … the court has no jurisdiction over Sudan,” Bashir said in comments carried live on Sudan state television .
“Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes … will know that all of these things are lies .”
But as the situation worsens, crime rates are escalating, and civilians are being terrorized. Recently, there has also been inter-tribal fighting, but the scale of that is insignificant compared to the genocide. The United Nations World Food Program is also finding it difficult to work under increasingly hostile situations. Many refugee camps are surrounded by armed men of the Janjaweed. The Sudanese government is also wary of foreign intervention, issuing visas very selectively. In fact many humanitarian organizations have been rejected visas, and so cannot enter the country. Significant aid is being provided to refugees along Sudan’s border with Chad.
Sudan also has support from allies like China and Russia. China particularly is believed to be Sudan’s biggest arm supplier, and has invested heavily in the countries oil reserves. ‘While the the United Nations says that up to 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.2 million fled their homes since the conflict erupted in February 2003, Sudan says 10,000 have been killed .
1. The Genocide in Darfur: Hundreds of thousands have died. Millions are in need. (www.ourpledge.org)
2. BBC News. US House calls Darfur ‘genocide.’ 2004, July 23. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3918765.stm)
3. Thomasson, Emma. ICC prosecutor seeks arrest of Sudan’s Bashir. Reuters. 2008, Jul 14. (http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSL1417202620080714)
4. Sudan’s Bashir says ICC has no jurisdiction. Reuters. 2008, July 14. (http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUKMCD46568020080714)
5. Sudan tightens grip on Darfur camp
2008, August 26. (www.ourpledge.org)