Thoughts on the Darfur genocide
I am not sure how many of you have been following the events of the Sudanese genocide, but I have. At the heart of every genocide/war or political struggle always lies the inevitable breach of human rights. The Darfur conflict in Sudan presents one of the major human rights violations faced today. On the one side of the conflict, is the Sudanese military group known as the Jinjaweed (a Sudanese militia), while the other side of the conflict consists of rebel groups in Sudan namely: the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA), and the Justice and Equality movement. While there is no clear-cut distinction as to whether this is an ethnic conflict or a religious conflict, it is primarily viewed as a tribal conflict. The main tribes under attack are the non-Arab tribes of Masalt, Fur, and Zaghwa, by the Afro Arab tribes in Darfur. The actual root causes of this conflict are ambiguous. Some claim that problems such as drought and overpopulation that had plagued Darfur for decades, triggered this conflict, while others blame global warming, economic, and political issues, but one would require a nuanced approach to understand why this conflict actually started. What might have started as an internal power struggle has spilled into an aggressive violation of the rights of the Sudanese people.
Despite the appalling nature of the crimes in Darfur, no real national/international intervention has been implemented to try and stop this war. In 2004 the United States government referred to this conflict as genocide, and called on different Nations to intercede in Darfur. Despite their appeal to the United Nation (UN)’s General Assembly to intervene, the UN dismissed this as a non-genocide issue, and therefore no serious action has been taken. Whether or not it is politically correct to classify the situation in Darfur as genocide, is not important and shouldn’t diminish our responsibility to further human rights. My main concern of course, if not how or why this war started, but what this genocide means for the rights of the Sudanese directly affected by this war. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted the minister of state and the president of Sudan, although, both gentlemen have refused to appear before this court claiming that the ICC doesn’t have any jurisdiction over Sudan. It is aggravating that despite gross violations of human rights by the Sudanese government, not one human rights’ perpetrator has been brought to justice. The irony of the situation is overwhelming. The ruling body that is meant to protect and defend the rights of its citizens is at the helm of these human rights abuses. What is even more worrying is that there isn’t any court of law in the world that can be used to bring these human rights perpetrators to justice. If human rights are to be defended, there should be laws in place to ensure the protection of these rights. It is unfortunate that even though there are two powerful and well equipped international courts of law (ICC, ICJ), neither has the jurisdiction or concernment to resolve the problems of Sudan. If however, as is in the situation in Sudan, and other African nations that have found themselves plagued with gross human rights violations, there isn’t any legislative body that can be used to protect human rights’ holders, then there perhaps isn’t much hope left.
The conflict wouldn’t be, as we know it today, if the government hadn’t orchestrated a plan to skillfully involve and support the works of the Jinjaweed. The Jinjaweed have carried out gruesome activities, and committed crimes that have led to gross violations of human rights. Even though the government might try to downplay their role in this conflict, other crimes such as detaining witnesses, tampering with evidence on mass gravesites, censorship of the media cannot be ignored. And of course as a result of the violent nature of the activities surrounding this war, a lot of Sudanese have lost their lives to this war while others have had to involuntary flee their homes and live in camps. It is estimated that over two million people are dead, thousands of women have been raped, and countless children have been forcefully recruited as young soldiers, while six million people have been forced to flee their homes, giving Sudan the largest number of internally displaced persons. One of the fundamental human rights that every individual is entitled to is the right to life, which is contingent on the right to personal security. One cannot fully enjoy his or her human rights if these two rights are threatened. These people shouldn’t have to live in harsh conditions, and in fear of their safely every day, if the situation can be avoided.
Despite how grim the situation seems, we can turn this around by being the voice of those who are suffering. If you have the platform to speak out about various human rights or perhaps directly affect change in Sudan and other nations that are facing human rights violations, then you should use it.
Fingers crossed that the ongoing peace talks will result in something positive and rewarding.
Food for thought:
How can we as human rights holders protect our human rights, or the rights of others, if we ourselves don’t have the rights we seek to protect?