Friday, October 10, 2008

Darfur delineated

Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings. -Elie Wiesel

So what’s the deal with Darfur? First let’s start with where it is. Darfur is a western region of Sudan. Sudan is bordered by Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Congo, C.A.R, Chad and Libya. The climate is mostly desert in Sudan besides the fertile grounds near the Nile River and the Red Sea. Unfortunately, the Darfur region is far west of the Nile river. There is little water and fertile land is sparse. The issue of land is key to the current conflict.

Basically, in Sudan there is a regular army but there are also government supported militias who attack civilians. Imagine if in Florida a large militia emerged which started raping, beating, and killing the elderly. This militia would surely be put down by the United States government. In Sudan, the government actually funds or offers military support to these militias.

The militias are the "Janjaweeds." They were initially sent to the Darfur region by the Sudanese government to clear the region of rebel groups opposing the Sudanese government. (This is somewhat separate from the Sudanese civil war which lasted for 20 years and recently ended after a peace agreement was signed in 2005.) Instead of fighting just the guys fighting the government, they scorched the earth and displaced and killed hundreds of thousands of African civilians. If the Janjawee can eliminate a large percentage of the population, the land is theirs, as are the limited resources.

The Africans driven from their homes by the Janjawee are living in displaced persons camps. Sometimes humanitarian aid can’t get to the camps because it is blocked by the Sudanese government or the Janjaweed.

The estimated death toll in Darfur is currently at more than 400,000.

So this is the thing. Ten years ago there was a genocide in Rwanda. It took a Hollywood movie for anyone to care about it and then it was too late. President Clinton said the biggest regret of his presidency was not doing more in Rwanda.
We, as voters, need to pressure our government to do more about Darfur. I’m not saying invade or anything, but we can allocate more funds to aid agencies, we can help train the African Union troops. Whatever we do we have to do more than we are doing now.
So write your representatives, call the President, and donate money.

Here’s an idea for a little quicky fundraiser. Print out a blank map of Africa. Charge $1-$5 for the map and distribute to coworkers. Whomever can identify the most countries will win the pool and their winnings will be donated to the Save Darfur campaign in his/her honor or in honor or in memory of someone else. (Don’t let anyone cheat and use the Internet!)

Please forward this to anyone who might be interested.

A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent. -Elie Wiesel

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