Here’s a 5-pager on the sad state of affairs prevailing in Darfur, compiled by Rohan again. Do thank him for the hard work he has put in, and I don’t even have to tell you, but, please post in your doubts and opinions.
SITUATION IN DARFUR
Darfur, a Sudanese province, has been the site of some of the worst violence and oppression in all of war-ravaged Sudan. The crisis in Darfur broke out in 2003, while Sudan’s government was already engaged in bloody civil war, the North-South war. The North-South conflict was Africa’s longest-running civil war, lasting from 1983 to 2005 and claiming over two million lives—but the fragile peace that has been achieved is still threatened by the violence that continues to rage in Darfur.
The North-South conflict involved mostly the Arab Muslim population in the North and the black Christian population in the South. In 1983, Christian-dominated southern areas rebelled against the attempts made by the Muslim-dominated government in the North to force Islam onto the whole country and to control the South’s oil resources. Meanwhile, discontent was brewing in Darfur. Many Darfuris believed the government was neglecting the Darfur region, and oppressing the non-Arab Darfuris. (While the majority of Darfuris are Muslim, most are not ethnic Arabs.)
Twenty years after the start of the North-South war, while Sudan’s military was preoccupied with the North-South war, dissatisfied Darfuris saw an opportunity to rise up: Darfuri rebels attacked government-controlled areas including police stations and military outposts. The rebellion is not unified; it is composed of many small rebel groups and two large ones, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
The government led by Omar al Bashir, whose military was already overextended by the North-South conflict, began supporting militias that it hoped would suppress the rebellion in Darfur. These militias only increased the violence: reports of brutality against civilian Darfuris soon gained international attention. One of the most brutal militias is the JANJAWEED—Janjaweed fighters reportedly ride into villages on horseback, murder civilians, rape women, steal valuables and burn houses.
The Sudanese government insists that it does not support the Janjaweed or any human rights abusers. Human rights groups, government officials around the world and representatives of the United Nations disagree. They say that the government is not trying hard enough to stop the violence against the people of Darfur.
WHAT CAUSED SUDAN’S NORTH-SOUTH CIVIL WAR?
Christians in the south began to fight the government after it imposed sharia—a form of strict Islamic law. Conflict over distribution of oil money: The oil company Chevron discovered oil in Sudan in the 1970s. Southern rebels began to fight against the government in 1983 because they believed the oil money was only going to the North.
WHAT CAUSED THE CRISIS IN DARFUR?
Southern rebel groups the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) say that Darfur has been neglected by the government. Their province is underdeveloped, and remains so because Darfuris are not Arabs, they are Africans or Blacks, ethnically different and distinct.
Today, the situation in Darfur is considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The fighting has claimed tens of thousands of lives, and more than two million people have been forced to flee their homes. Many have had to flee across the border as refugees to Chad, causing tensions with that country.
Some countries consider the violence to be genocide, the deliberate attempt to wipe out people of a particular race, religion or nationality. In particular, the United States believes that the Janjaweed are guilty of committing genocide against the black Sudanese living in Darfur. Violence has prevented vital humanitarian aid to the region. According to the United Nations Mission in Sudan, government police forces have also been raiding refugee camps. In early November 2004, police entered the Al Geer camp and destroyed Shacks, shot into the air and shouted at the refugees. UN agencies assisting the refugees Withdrew personnel due to concerns for their safety.
In December 2004, rebel forces attacked a town in Darfur and government forces retaliated bringing humanitarian aid to a halt. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to stop a group of food-carrying trucks heading to the area. As a result, 260,000 people went without food for many days.
CEASEFIRE IN THE CIVIL WAR
Three long years of peace talks regarding the North-South civil war finally led to the signing of a “permanent ceasefire” on December 31, 2004. But the ceasefire already faces grave challenges:
Factions from the North and South will have to overcome twenty years of hostility to put together a power-sharing government. Militias and rebel groups must both be disarmed, and both groups will eventually have to combine to form a unified Sudanese military. Both sides must achieve these goals with very little international aid (countries that have promised developmental assistance have not met their pledges).
Even at the conclusion of war, civilians may continue to suffer. As the country tries to establish peace around 1.2 million of the four million people displaced during the war will return to their towns in southern Sudan, estimates the United Nations. The large number of returning refugees will likely overwhelm providers of social services and infrastructure.
A PEACE AGREEMENT FOR SUDAN
The ceasefire agreement is designed to distribute power and resources between the North and the South in Sudan :
• There will be a separate assembly, or law-making body, in southern Sudan.
• The leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the main southern rebel group, will be named vice-president. The old government will now share power with former rebel groups.
• Money made from selling Sudan’s oil will be split evenly between the North and the South.
• The rebel groups and the government will join their armed forces into one army.
• The southern Sudanese, many of whom want to secede (form a new country) will be given the opportunity to vote in 2011 about whether to remain a part of Sudan or become their own country. This vote is likely to be a source of conflict in the future.
And though the war between the North and the South officially ended on January 9, 2005, the war in Darfur carried on—and escalated. Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s special representative for Sudan said, “December  saw a build-up of arms, attacks of positions, including air attacks, raids on small towns and villages, increased banditry and more looting.” The violence was so severe that neither the UN nor NGOs were able to provide aid.
CONFLICT IN DARFUR PERSISTS
Even if Sudan is able to meet all of the difficult challenges of its peace agreement, Darfur will be a serious threat to maintaining peace. Several ceasefires had been signed in Darfur between rebels and the government, but both sides quickly violated them.
The continued violence in Darfur and the harsh policies of the Sudanese government have led many observers to question whether the government is really committed to peace at all. Some in the Sudanese government see the ongoing conflict in Darfur as proof that rebels need to be stopped once and for all through even harsher treatment. Meanwhile, some rebels in the South believe that the conflict in Darfur will weaken the government. They may be tempted to go back to war, believing the government can be toppled. Without peace in Darfur, the agreement between the North and the South cannot be guaranteed.
But some international observers are optimistic, believing that the North-South agreement could be a model for a future agreement in Darfur. It will provide a possible model for resolving the Darfur problem in power-sharing and in resource-sharing. The hope is that Darfur will be able to follow the example of the rest of the country, so that Sudan can be at peace for the first time in decades.
However, the violence has not stopped. “The government launched a massive attack in Darfur just as they were in Abuja for the last round of peace talks with the rebels reaffirming their commitment to a ceasefire,” said Julie Flint, a human rights worker in Sudan.
DANGER FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS IN DARFUR
The militias have used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war against the women and girls of the Darfur region. There is also evidence of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers from the African Union. A female refugee from the West Darfur town of Disa describes how she was assaulted by Militia men: “I was sleeping when the attack on Disa started. The attackers took me away, they were all in uniforms.”
The UN Security Council passed several resolutions in 2004 condemning the violence in Darfur and welcoming the gradual progress made in the North-South conflict. Resolution 1547 established a special political observer mission to Sudan for a period of three months. This mission helped improve contact between the government and rebel groups and was extended by 90 days through Resolution 1556. Since the signing of the agreement, the UN Security Council created a peacekeeping force to monitor the new North-South agreement. In 2005, a UN mission was established to go to Darfur to see if genocide was in fact occurring, as the United States said. The mission concluded that although very serious abuses of human rights were occurring, it could not accurately be called genocide. It called for war crimes trials for those who were responsible for the abuses. In April 2006, the World Food Programme announced it would cut in half the food rations for Darfuri refugees. Donor countries did not meet their pledges, officials said, so the WFP would be unable to provide food aid in the amount needed. Later, Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that Sudan’s government was violating international humanitarian law by preventing food, fuel and
relief aid to civilians in the Darfur province.
In May 2006, the largest rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, agreed to sign a peace deal with the government. But JEM and other rebel groups refused. Though the government and SLA both went ahead with the agreement, UN reports later indicated that the government did not maintain its pledge to halt attack on civilians.
African Union troops have been stationed in Darfur to help establish peace, but the AU does not have the money to sustain a peacekeeping force there. The government of Sudan has firmly opposed a UN peacekeeping mission. Though a November 2006 agreement allowed for the creation of a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force as large as 27,000 troops, the arrangements are only tentative. The government continues to resist peacekeeping forces. “They are refusing to let the international community come in and assist,” Secretary-General Annan said of the Sudanese government. “They will be held individually and collectively responsible for what is happening and what happens.”
Some countries have suggested that the Security Council should impose sanctions against Sudanese oil. Sanctions are a way of punishing a country if it does not comply with a Security Council resolution. In this case, member states would not be allowed to purchase oil from Sudan, which would hurt Sudan’s economy, and would hopefully compel Sudan’s government to stop supporting the human rights abuses in Darfur. Currently, some members of the Security Council are opposed to sanctions. Several countries rely on Sudanese oil, so sanctions would be also be damaging to their economies.
Other UN member states have tried to convince the new Human Rights Council to issue a resolution condemning the militias and Sudanese government for using rape and violence against civilians as a tactic of war—but the resolutions have been defeated. Instead, the Council has sent “fact-finding missions” to Darfur, and has called for an “immediate end to the ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, with a special focus on vulnerable groups, including women and children, while not hindering the return of all internally displaced persons to their homes.”22 Human rights groups have criticized this response as “lukewarm.”
TERMS AND CONCEPTS
Ceasefire: an agreement between groups in conflict to stop the violence.
Janjaweed: the militia that has been responsible for human rights abuses in Darfur. While the Sudanese government states that it does not support the Janjaweed, many human rights groups believe the government uses the militia to oppress and abuse the people in Darfur.
Marginalization: being put in a position of less importance, influence or power.
Power-sharing government: a government composed of opposing groups, which must share governing power and decision-making authority.
Refugees: people who are seeking asylum, or safety, in another country because they fear
persecution or violence in their own country.
Sanctions: A type of punishment that is meant to force a country to comply with an
international law. Economic sanctions prevent a country from trading or receiving money or trade.
Secede: to withdraw from a country, with the intention of creating a new, separate country.