The genocide in Darfur is staggering: Since February 2003, as many as 200,000—and possibly as many as 400,000 people—have been murdered in Sudan’s Darfur region. More than two million victims have been displaced and many of these victims are women and children. In addition, thousands of women have been raped, and it is reported that almost 80 percent of children under five years old are malnutritioned. Despite these horrific statistics, reports continue to pour in about aerial bombings and genocidal attacks against Darfur civilians. U.N. peacekeeping forces are stationed in the area appear to be unable to stop this genocide in Darfur.
Origins of Genocide in Darfur
The roots of the genocide in Darfur begin with the ethnic and tribal conflict occurring between non-Arab rebel groups—the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement—and the Janjaweed, a primarily Sudanese Arab militia group consisting of camel and cattle herders who have joined with the Sudan’s People’s Armed Forces (although the Sudanese government denies any involvement or support for the Janjaweed).
Although the genocide in Darfur has deep historical roots, it erupted in February 2003 primarily over water and land. Overpopulation, drought, and climate change resulting in desertification caused the camel and cattle herders to seek water and new territory. In the process, they moved their herds into territory already occupied by farmers. The government opposed these advances and non-Arab rebel groups accused the Sudanese government of oppression. The Sudanese government responded by launching vicious air assaults, which were also supplemented by slaughterous ground attacks staged by the Janjaweed. Initially, the conflict occurred in Darfur, although it has since spilled across the border into Chad and into the Central African Republic (CAR) because as refugees have fled into these areas the Janjaweed have followed. To understand the genocide in Darfur more viscerally, look at this civilian refugee camp known as Creida pictured to the left. This one camp contains a refugee population of 137,000.
Responses to the Genocide in Darfur
As early as 2003, United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, pronounced the Darfur situation “genocide.” But global foreign policy response has changed little. Currently, the United Nations and the African Union have installed small peacekeeping forces in the region but because they are restricted by the Sudanese government in what these forces can do, where they can go, and what equipment they can use, the Janjaweed still have free reign to attack, murder, and rape. As a result, public policy has largely been to ignore it.
One high profile activist who has been involved in trying to change global public policy and save Darfur from the beginning has been actress, author, and activist Mia Farrow. She has visited the Darfur region three times—2004, 2006, and 2007. She has also published photographs of Darfur and written several articles discussing the plight of Darfur victims. Recently, she was also assisting in the “Dream for Darfur” campaign—a campaign to pressure China at the 2008 Olympic games into influencing the Sudanese government to halt the genocide and human right violations occurring in Darfur.
Farrow is not only asking for a change in public policy toward genocide in Darfur, she is also asking for your personal help. If you want to save Darfur, the first step is to spread the word. Then, step up and do you part. She has established an organization, MiaFarrow.org, to inform concerned citizens and tell them how they can save Darfur. You can also learn more about Farrow’s articles, hear her speak out about Darfur, and view photos from her Darfur visits.