We, the members of the Sudanese Darfurian in Australia Association, from our exile in Australia are here to express our concern about the ongoing civil unrest and hardship in Darfur. We strongly believe that the international community, represented by the UN Security Council, has a responsibility to provide protection, food, shelter, and education for the neglected people of Darfur. The current renewal of conflict shows that the approach of the regional and international communities to the human tragedy in Darfur has failed to define and address the root of the issue.
As you read this, people are dying needlessly in Darfur. A day does not pass there where the sky does not witness the shedding of blood, the screams of women being raped, the cries of children orphaned and left without protection of any sort. The protection that has been promised to the people of Darfur has turned out to be a hollow shell of words and nothing more. The state is in chaos.
The African Union peacekeeping force on the ground has proven unable to carry out the task of stopping the bloodshed. There are nowhere near enough troops deployed to monitor the situation, let alone intervene to stop violence and inequity. With the best will in the world the men currently deployed cannot hope to secure peace in a region the size of France.
Humanitarian assistance reaches only those survivors of the deliberate and planned mass killing who have managed to make their way to an NGO distribution centre. Refugees and displaced persons not yet registered to receive the few grams of rations available from the NGOs are subject to a second government strategy, “breaking confidence”. As they wait for NGO help these people are attacked in the camps – their remaining possessions are looted, women are raped as they search for firewood, men are killed if they leave the “safety” of the camps to hunt for food and, on their way out from these raids, the militia take hostages.
These depraved attacks on a civilian populace with no arms to defend themselves and already weakened by grief, wounds, and hunger take place in front of the African Union peacekeepers and NGO staff. These witnesses are often just as powerless as the victims. If an NGO seeks to document the abuse, their staff may have their passports confiscated and/or suffer other forms of intimidation. Camps are forcibly relocated to “bury” evidence and make it harder to keep a track of what is happening. The new site is more than likely to be less secure than the last and more easily attacked by militia. To add to the confusion and terror, militia who are unpaid by their masters take matters into their own hands and attack at will to secure their income. Thus the masters who set these men to their vile work are able to deny responsibility for their actions and further confuse the situation.
The international community has been the single hope for millions of neglected Darfurians. They keep chasing the mirage of peace and security in their dreams, rocking themselves back and forth on the hard ground trying to pass the night with one eye open counting the stars and watching for trouble. They hope for a new dawn and a new sun rising in the sky - different to the one that they sit under twelve hours a day with only tattered mat on their head waiting for a miracle to happen.
Sudan hasn’t seen peace since 1955. Three generations have been born to war and war has become a habit handed down from generation to generation. The divide and rule policy that has governed the country since the independence has worsened and taken new and dangerous shape since the International Comprehensive Strategy was implemented on 1989 by the National Islamic Front (NIF/NCP). There was hope in Naivasha peace agreement but the sudden death of the first Vice President, Dr John Garang, has made its implementation difficult. The newly formed National Government lacks credibility due to the lack of law and order, accountability and commitment to the peace process as a unifying formula for the federation of all Sudan.
Southern leaders and members of the new government are, perhaps understandably, more concerned with their own problems and redressing the wrongs of the past as they apply to their own people. However, the international community has a responsibility to all the people of Sudan – North, South, East and West. The end of the North-South civil war does not mean that all Sudanese are living in peace. Whilst we celebrate the end of one war, another continues to destroy the future of millions. How can Sudan be at peace when more than two million of her Darfurian citizens are displaced?
When the Rwandan genocide contaminated the roots of the Nile River with the detritus of human decomposition, someone at least saw and documented it. Who is going to witness the blood of Darfurians? If the international community does not act to stop the atrocities being committed against the people of Darfur, then they are lost. It doesn’t matter what it is called – genocide, ethnic tensions, tribal conflict – it is, in the end, an undeserved death and deprivation of hope for a people who have suffered much in the past and hope only for peace and a chance to rebuild their country.
The UN must act decisively on this issue – it is not beyond their power to at least try to help these people. If they fail, so be it – but at least let them try to do something more than talk. Until those committing atrocities are held accountable they will not stop. The UN must hold those responsible accountable. The peace accord is a great triumph but if it comes at the cost of Darfur’s future, it is a hollow one.
If Sudan is to be healed then all of its component states must be accorded peace and equality. The task is difficult – factions exist on all sides. However, the first step must be to disarm those who use their weapons against their own people. Until the standing army and militia groups are purged of those who believe that some Sudanese citizens are worth more than others, no peace accord is going to last.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa and shares a border with nine other countries. Instabilities and “ethnic tensions” in Sudan have a habit spreading - to Chad, Congo, Uganda, Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Central African Republic, Kenya and Ethiopia. Leaving aside any humanitarian arguments, it is in the international community’s interest to ensure that Sudan achieves a lasting peace if we want a peaceful African continent.
We urge the Security Council to revisit the Darfurian crisis and take serious and sincere measures to end the anarchy and bring about social equity and justice. The ongoing peace process will not achieve stability in the region unless there is a full disarmament of the militia groups, a withdrawal of government troops from Darfur, and an experienced international peacekeeping force deployed to monitor and sponsor a national reconciliation conference that will allow Darfurians to heal their wounds.
For/President of Sudanese Darfurian in (NSW/ACT) Association, Australia.
Mobile 0412 085 868