As I write this column, thousands of miles away in Darfur a full-fledged campaign of genocide is taking place, whose brutality in scope and magnitude is beyond comprehension and continues unabated by the international community.
Darfur has been officially coined “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world” by the United Nations and has been equally admonished by global leaders as unacceptable and morally reprehensible. However, rhetoric aside, we have yet to see the global community take action against the sort of impunity that is running rampant in Darfur.
Although it is difficult to come by a precise calculation of the number of deaths that have resulted from the conflict, it remains indisputable that scores of innocent people have fallen victim to a tragedy largely endorsed and executed by the Sudanese government.
Research conducted by John Hagan of Northwestern University in 2005 suggests that the number of people who have either died violently or have gone missing since the initiation of the conflict in 2003 is estimated to be 140,000.
One must also take into account the plight of the refugees, whose livelihoods have been shattered and are now living in destitute conditions within displacement camps. BBC News reports that nearly 2 million people have fled their homes as result of the conflict. Often going long stretches without food, water, and necessary medical attention, life in displacement camps is far from satisfactory. Hagan estimates that additional 250,000 lives have been claimed by malnutrition and disease, which, when combined with violently incurred deaths, brings the total of dead in Darfur to an estimated 390,000.
Most disturbing of all, however, is the sadistic manner by which ordinary villagers are being killed and violated. The standard military offensive used by the Sudanese government has now become a widely known fact. First, indiscriminate air raids are launched on villages. Following these attacks, the Janjaweed, a government sponsored Arab militia, rides into villages gunning people down, looting, setting fire to homes, raping women and young girls, and, wherever possible, torturing and enslaving the least fortunate.
The degree of bestiality in the Janjaweed attacks is unimaginable. As the New York Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof writes, “(T)he Janjaweed have beaten mothers with their own babies, until infants are dead, and lately they have diversified into gouging out people’s eyes with bayonets.”
Still, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has the audacity to pursue chairmanship of the African Union (AU), while calling the crisis in Darfur an exaggeration devised by rebel group agitators.
Earlier this week, the AU wisely bypassed al-Bashir’s turn to be chairman, citing the conflict in Darfur as a primary reason. It would have been a major conflict of interest considering the AU has sent 7,000 peacekeeping forces to Darfur. AU forces, though, have not proven very effective in constraining the violence due to a limited mandate and lack of experience, logistics, and resources. Moreover, the peacekeepers’ reputation has been tainted with allegations of rape coming from the very people they are supposed to be protecting.
Although world leaders would like to see the problem in Darfur just suddenly disappear, this is not an option. If untreated, the cancer of violence that has become Darfur will continue to spread and engulf other vulnerable and innocent bystanders. Already, the violence has spilled over to Chad, which has increased hostilities between the two countries.
In the end, what will end this genocide will come in the form of international pressure – and not just on Sudan. Other countries, such as Russia and China, which have been major suppliers of aircraft and guns to the Sudanese government, should also be feeling the heat.
It does not really matter how fervently global leaders chastise the Sudanese government with their harsh language because, at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.