Friday, May 28, 2004

Darfur: A Decade Hence, Will That Be The Word By Which We Memorialize Our Stark Failure To Stop Another Genocide?  

The situation in Sudan is a complicated one and has been for years. Still, isn't it amazing that while we and most of the rest of the world sit and watch, inch by inch and bit by bit the scenery is moved into place, the vast cast of extras is driven onto the stage and the scene is set for another inevitable genocide that wasn't inevitable. What happened to "never again?" As with Rwanda, no one can say we didn't know something terrible was happening.

But what exactly? That's part of the problem of mobilizing concern. Most of us think of conflict in the Sudan in terms of the decades long civil war between the North, mainly Muslim, and the South, mainly Christian. And it's all the more confusing for many of us to read that Wednesday, an historic agreement was signed between the government in Khartoum, and the main rebel army in the south, ending that conflict, in which, by the way, it is estimated that two million people have died.

The agreement does not include Darfur, in western Sudan, where both sides in the conflict are Muslims; for over a year now a new civil war has emerged between Arab militias aligned with, and probably armed by the government in Khourtoum and tribal African leaders who have fielded an armed rebellion in pursuit of more equitable share of Sudanese resources, chief of which is limited arable land.

This all Muslim off-shoot of the longer running conflict has resulted in a program of ethnic cleaning by the majority Muslim militias, which, in addition to the killing of tens of thousands, has driven somewhere near a million non-combatants from their villages into makeshift camps where the Sudanese government is making it near impossible for relief workers to get to them. Sound all too familiar? The stage is set for that too familiar but still horrifying pageant of dazed refugees, women, children, the elderly, wounded young men, huddled together in a vast tract of desert, without sufficient water or food or medicines, dying hideous deaths from starvation, dehydration, dysentery, and diseases that are easily cured by the most commonplace of medicines, watched by their own deathly ill loved ones, and watched by us, while we wonder why we didn't do something sooner?

Surely there is something we can do to cancel the performance.

Knowledge of the situation is the first step toward action, and courtesy of John Quiggin, another of those estimable Australian bloggers, whose eponymous website is well worth a visit, I can direct you to a remarkable website, "Sudan: The Passion Of The Present," maintained by a small group of people who have set themselves the task of pulling together the kind of information that is required, as John puts it, "to motivate action."

The site carries news, analysis, and links to other important websites, like this one, The Sudan Tribune, another invaluable mine of information and analysis.

Memorial Day weekend strikes me as an excellent opportunity to pay a visit, follow the links, inform yourself as a prelude to some kind of action. It's already late, perhaps too late to stop the ethnic cleansing, but not too late to stop genocide. The Bush administration, to its credit, has expressed concern, as has Kofi Anan, and other UN representatives. Up to now, the government in Khartoum has been able to use the desire of the international community to achieve a peace settlement in the larger, longer-running civil war as a trump card to tamp down their concerns about this other smaller conflict.

What is called for is not outrage that this or that official, institution, or government hasn't yet mounted effective action; what is needed is a grassroots effort to support those NGOs, and other humanitarian sources who are trying to get those with the power to do so to find a way to intervene effectively on behalf of a population who cannot fight back, or fend for themselves.

Any thoughts from readers on various kinds of grassroots action that blogs and their readers might accomplish are welcome.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
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