“Never Again!” That was a commonly uttered phrase following the discovery of the Nazi-sponsored genocide in Germany known as the Holocaust. The general consensus in the international community was that modern civilization could not permit such atrocities to reoccur. For it was indifference and lack of knowledge on the part of society that enabled Hitler and the Third Reich to carry out the largest mass killing in modern history. The Holocaust is a very real part of history. To not talk about it would be an injustice to us all.
The object of attention today though is something that is happening now. It is something that can still be changed. I am referring to the Darfur Conflict. That is what the UN calls it. Unfortunately, to simply call it a conflict would be a drastic understatement.
To give a brief history, since February of 2003, the Darfur region of Sudan has been in turmoil. Various militias attacked government agencies, claiming that the government was showing favor to Muslims. There are many other social problems. Among those militias, most notably is the Darfur Liberation Front. Also on their side are the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement. These armies and militias are comprised mostly of non-Arab people. Many other militias have either joined these militias or have aided in their cause.
On the side of the government are of course the Sudanese Army and the notorious Jangaweed. Jangaweed is a massive militia group, mostly made up of members of Arab tribes to the north. The Sudanese government denies having funded the group. However, it is well known that they have funded and supported the Jangaweed in their attacks on tribes in Darfur.
The conflict does not only consist of mass killings. There are countless reports of rape, slave trade, and pillaging. To add fuel to the fire, the region has been suffering from severe drought and famine. Overpopulation is also an issue. Mostly Arab nomadic farmers in the north have been forced to migrate southward in the hopes of finding water and food. The only problem is that the region is already occupied by non-Arab farmers.
The conflict may be referred to as an ethnic cleansing. The government is run by mostly Muslims, and much of the population. Most independent research groups estimate the death toll around 400,000, some more and some less. These deaths are primarily due to violence and disease. Furthermore, many independent research groups are estimating that around 2.5 million have been displaced. To this day hundreds of thousands rely on international aid to continue to live. These figures are rough estimates by various groups and are widely acknowledged as the general consensus.
On August 31, 2006, the UN proposed Resolution 1706 to the Sudanese government. They opposed it. The very next day, the Sudanese government continued to attack helpless and unarmed villages. Many different peace resolutions and cease-fire agreements have been rejected or broken. It is also notable that the Sudan humanitarian affairs minister Ahmed Haroun has been charged with 51 counts of war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Fighting continues to this day. Please understand that this is an extremely brief history of the conflict. The nature of the conflict is very complex. So to try to fully understand the nature of the situation, one would have to do his/her own research.
You might be asking yourself what, if anything, you can do. The first step is to open your eyes and become aware of the situation. Our mass media has failed us in reporting on the situation. You rarely hear coverage of the Darfur Conflict, especially if the Jonas Brothers have had a busy week. So we, as citizens, must make a concerted effort to inform ourselves. So, in essence, you have completed the first step of the solution by becoming (somewhat) informed. Another step is to raise awareness yourself. Share with others about what’s going on over there, and hold the media accountable for what they choose to report on. Another step, if you choose, is to donate to organizations helping with the crisis. However, do your research before donating; making sure the organization is credible. Beware of scams. Another possible step, if you are a person of faith, is to pray for the situation and for the innocent lives over there. The last step is to divest from companies that do business with the Sudanese government. Many people are investing in companies that are profiting from genocide.
We said that we will “Never Again” allow for such atrocities to take place. The only difference today is that we know better. We can make the decision to become informed citizens. Many during World War II had no idea what was happening to the European Jewish population. Now we do know. Still to this day, for the most part we are seeing indifference on the part of the international community.
Let me encourage you to try to make a difference. I know it’s easy to say “I’m only one person, so what can I do?” However that is how true change comes about.