Just so that we don't forget about the children, women and men who are still dying, raped and tortured in Sudan going on for the last eight years now, I have provided the SaveDarfur.org's Darfur Primer below. Following the primer, I've included a reading and film list on the issue for your enlightenment. Because April has been declared Genocide awareness month (I'm not sure who established that) and because of my past efforts to discuss the 1994 Rwandan genocide, I've decided to be a bit more proactive this month concerning the present day genocide in Darfur, with its lack of American media attention. Please stay informed.
The Darfur region is a drought-prone area of western Sudan. By area, Darfur is roughly the size of Texas and is divided into three states that had a collective population of approximately 6 million people before the crisis in Darfur began in 2003. Darfurians exist largely on subsistence farming or nomadic herding. There are between 40 and 80 ethnic groups in Darfur. Most villages are multi-ethnic and, despite ethnic differences, there is a history of peaceful coexistence. Local languages include Arabic, Fur and Massalit.
The conflict in Darfur began in the spring of 2003 when two Darfuri rebel movements – the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – launched attacks against government military installations as part of a campaign to fight against the historic political and economic marginalization of Darfur. The Sudanese government, at the time engaged in tense negotiations with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) to end a three decades long civil war between North and South Sudan, responded swiftly and viciously to extinguish the insurgency. Through coordinated military raids with government-armed militia (collectively known as the janjaweed), the Sudanese military specifically targeted ethnic groups from which the rebels received much of their support. The civilian casualties were immense. Over 400 villages were completely destroyed and millions of civilians were forced to flee their homes.
An immense humanitarian crisis resulted from the mass displacement of these civilians. From direct attacks and the deterioration of living conditions, many experts estimate that as many as 300,000 people lost their lives between 2003 and 2005. In September 2004, President George W. Bush declared the crisis in Darfur a “genocide” – the first time a sitting American president had made such a declaration regarding an ongoing conflict. Despite the world’s growing outcry, the violence continued in Darfur and the number of dead and displaced increased considerably.
In May 2006, the Sudanese government signed a peace agreement with one of the rebel movements (SLM-Minni Minawi). However, the Sudanese government continued to fight the two other groups (SLM-Abdel Wahid and JEM) that refused to sign the agreement. The rebels also suffered from serious internal divisions and due to political differences, the movements began to fight one another, making the conflict in Darfur even more complex and jeopardizing the lives of more civilians in the process.
The United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) now in Darfur replaced an underfunded and underequipped African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur in January 2008. UNAMID to this day remains without the necessary resources to protect the 2.7 million internally displaced persons who live in large camps across Darfur. There are also around 300,000 Darfuri refugees living across the Sudanese border in neighbouring Chad. Overall, the UN estimates that roughly 4.7 million people in Darfur (out of a total population of roughly 6 million) are still affected by the conflict.
Today, fighting between the rebel movements and the government continues. In the last few years, opportunistic bandits and militias have also taken advantage of the anarchy in Darfur. General banditry and looting jeopardize humanitarian aid and gender-based crimes are now being committed by many different sides. Despite this chaotic environment, the Sudanese government remains the most responsible for the violence in Darfur. President al-Bashir and others in his government created the anarchic conditions presiding in Darfur today through their violent violent counterinsurgency campaign targeting innocent men, women and children. Furthermore, the Sudanese government has obstructed the deployment of an international peacekeeping force, avoided serious negotiations with the rebel groups, refused to prosecute any individuals responsible for crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, and most recently expelled thirteen international humanitarian aid groups from Darfur. These actions continue to leave many civilians in Darfur unprotected and dispossessed of their basic human rights.
The following lists come from the Orange County for Darfur website.
A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide by Eric Reeves
The Khartoum regime is committing genocide in Darfur while the international community watches in silence or with mere hand-wringing. Action is essential now if we are not to see a further extension of the international failures so conspicuous in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide by Rebecca Hamilton *highly recommended
This is the story of the individuals who organized protest marches, lobbied government officials, and raised funds in the belief that the outcry they created would force world powers to save the millions of Darfuris still at risk.
Heart of Darfur by Lisa French Blaker
An experienced nurse with Doctors without Borders, the author was posted to Darfur in 2005 for nine months to “provide assistance to populations in distress”. In Darfur she found plenty. She worked not only under harsh physical conditions, but also the deliberate brutality and malice of the janjaweed and Sudanese government soldiers.
Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast
Don Cheadle teamed with human rights activist Prendergast to plead for greater awareness of the horrors of genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and issue a call to action.
Sudan: Darfur and the Failure of an African State by Richard Cockett
The author provides an account of Sudan’s descent into failure, looking at all of Sudan’s numerous internal wars and rebellions since independence and showing how they are interconnected and looking at the country’s complex relationship with the wider world.
Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir w/ Damien Lewis *highly recommended
Bashir, a refugee living in London, offers a vivid personal portrait of life in the Darfur region of Sudan before the catastrophe. She anticipated a bright future after medical school, but tensions between Sudan’s Arab-dominated Islamist dictatorship and black African communities’ tribe finally exploded into conflict.
The Translator: A Tribeman’s Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
The Translator is a suspenseful, harrowing, and deeply moving memoir of how one person has made a difference in the world–an on-the-ground account of one of the biggest stories of our time. Daoud Hari has helped inform the world about Darfur.
Darfur DiariesIn October, 2004, three activists snuck across the Sudanese border into rebel-held territory to document the atrocities in Darfur. They returned with some of the first footage exposing the massive war crimes being perpetrated by the Sudanese government
Darfur NowTheodore Braun’s absorbing documentary about the atrocities in Darfur, the westernmost region of Sudan, Don Cheadle poses a fundamental question facing moviegoers attending a film about African strife: How do you respond to an event as difficult to understand as a government-sponsored mass murder of part of a country’s civilian population?
On Our Watch *highly recommended
Three years of fighting in Darfur have destroyed hundreds of villages, displaced 2.2 million and led to more than 400,000 deaths. President Bush has accused the government of Sudan of genocide, but the U.S. has taken few concrete actions to stop the fighting. This Frontline documentary tells the story of those who have lost their loved ones to this war, those who are fighting to survive and those who are working to bring peace to the region.
Sand and Sorrow *highly recommended
Offered exclusive and unparalleled access to the situation on the ground inside Darfur, Peabody award-winning filmmaker, Paul Freedman, joins a contingent of African Union peacekeeping forces in Darfur while a tragic and disturbing chapter in human history unfolds.
The Devil Came On Horseback *highly recommended
A documentary that exposes the genocide raging in Darfur, Sudan as seen through the eyes of a former U.S. marine who returns home to make the story public.
To stay informed and to donate to the cause of awareness and prevention, go to SaveDarfur.org.