The civil war between the North and the South began when Southern soldiers mutinied against Northern officers in 1955, a year before independence from Britain. War continued at different intensities for 50 years, with barely a decade of peace. The South’s grievances centered around the longstanding concentration of power in the hands of Northerners. Seventy percent of residents around Khartoum have access to piped water, while Southerners rely on wells and boreholes–and make do with less than 100 miles of paved roads. Successive regimes in Khartoum have centered power in the North along with resources, education, health and the influence of Islam and Sharia law even though most Sudanese speak African languages and most Southerners are Christian.
When Chevron discovered oil in the South in 1978 a new phase of revolt in the south took place with the founding of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. In 1985 a popular uprising overthrew the regime, however power fell to a military elite that continued repression and pressed forward a campaign of Islamization. Khartoum pioneered a war strategy of arming indigenous ethnic militias to massacre and displace members of ethnic groups that supported the rebellion, thus freeing up choice land for the regime’s allies–and clearing oil-rich areas of potential rebels. The current President, Omar al Bashir (in power by coup since 1985) later employed this practice of building up proxy militias in Sudan’s west when it armed the Arabic-speaking Janjaweed against rebels in Darfur.
Since 2003, Darfur in Western Sudan has been embroiled in a deadly conflict. It is estimated that four hundred thousand people have been killed and2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes are now living in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad.More than 3.5 million people are completely reliant on international aid for survival.The people of Darfur continue to experience horrendous crimes, including the mass rape of women and girls, burning of homes and religious buildings, killing of babies, and other atrocities. The main perpetrators of these atrocities have been the Sudanese-government-sponsored Janjaweed militias, who have often operated with direct help from the Sudanese military. In-fighting among the various rebel groups and factions has also taken a damaging toll.
For the first time in U.S. government history on September 9, 2004 the ongoing crisis was referred to as a “genocide” by Secretary of State Colin Powell when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In his words, ” We concluded–I concluded–that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility–and that genocide may still be occurring.”
Not since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has the world seen such a calculated campaign of displacement, starvation, rape, and mass slaughter. In fact, the only thing keeping the death rates in Darfur from skyrocketing is the presence of one of the most elaborate humanitarian aid systems the world as ever seen.
Unfortunately, that aid network came under attack as well. In July of 2006 alone, more aid workers were killed than in the previous three years combined. Aid workers have also frequently been arrested by the Sudanese government. If the aid network collapses due to violence, the monthly death rate in Darfur could top 100,000 according to Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs.The men, women, and children of Darfur are being deprived of their humanity. Many of them have lost their homes, communities,families, and dreams for the future. Their government continues to deny that they need international protection, even as thousands more are displaced by government-backed attacks. Those who escape the initial attacks contend daily with the constant threat of further violence, and the ever-present specters of disease and starvation. Since the signing of theDarfur Peace Agreement in 2006, things have actually gotten worse, and the possibility of a dramatic increase in death rates looks increasingly real. These families need our support, and we can’t afford to wait any longer.
On March 4, 2009 the International Criminal Court indicted the first sitting head of state for war crimes and mass atrocities; Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir.
According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the north and the south in 2005, South Sudan held a referendum on January 9, 2011 to determine unity with the north or secession. The South chose secession and celebrated their first independence day on July 9, 2011. However since then there has been increasing insecurity between the two countries along the border areas. Shortly before southern secession, the Sudanese government took aggressive military action against its civilians in the border areas of Abyei and South Kordofan, displacing close to 200,000 civilians combined. June 6, 2012 was the one year anniversary of this new violence with thousands of people displaced to refugee camps in the South and the humanitarian situation has become grave just before the rainy season (summer 2012). President Bashir continues to block foreign aid groups from coming to the aid of these refugees. There is no question that the Sudan Armed Forces are duplicating the scorched earth campaign used in Darfur.
For a more detailed description of the history and how to take action go to: The Enough Project
September 2011 video by The Enough Project: Straight Talk on Sudan: Winds of Change
“What has become most notable about the human catastrophe in Darfur is it’s invisibility, a direct consequence of the decision by senior UN officials to shut down access to information about human suffering, deprivation, and destruction in this vast region”, Eric Reeves January 23, 2011
Please stand with us and with the people of Darfur by lending them our prayers, our support, and our voices to their plight.
“ON OUR WATCH” PBS’s FRONTLINE asks why the United Nations and it’s members once again failed to stop the slaughter. What did the world mean when it said “NEVER AGAIN”? In the wake of the paper trail of UN resolutions one writer says that “if the UN could die of shame, it would have been dead years ago”. Darfur is the first genocide of the 21st century.
Please click here for a detailed Crisis Guide and video from the Council on Foreign Relations.