(cross posted at kickin it with cg and Clintonistas for Obama)

Darfur, which means 'land of the fur' is a region in western Sudan.  The region is divided into three states: West Darfur, South Darfur, and North Darfur.  Approximately the size of Spain,  the arid and impoverished region has been in a state of humanitarian emergency since February 2003.

The original conflict broke out after a rebel group began attacking government targets, claiming that the region was being neglected by its capital in Khartoum and oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.  

One side of the armed conflict is composed mainly of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed, a militia group recruited mostly from the Arab Abbala tribes of the northern Rizeigat, camel-herding nomads. The Janjaweed are accused of the worst atrocities.  The other side comprises a variety of rebel groups, notably the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), recruited primarily from the land-tilling non-Arab Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit ethnic groups.

The Sudanese government, while publicly denying that it supports the Janjaweed, has provided money and assistance to the militia and has participated in joint attacks targeting the tribes from which the rebels draw support.

The current lines of conflict are seen to be ethnic and tribal, rather than religious, some attest that the combination of decades of drought, desertification, and overpopulation are among the causes of the conflict, because the Arab nomads searching for water have to take their livestock further south, to land mainly occupied by Black African farming communities.  There are now more than a dozen rebel groups - making peace talks extremely difficult.

The Sudanese government, led by President Omar al-Bashir admits mobilizing "self-defence militias" following rebel attacks, however it denies any links or control to the Janjaweed, who are accused of trying to "cleanse" black Africans from large swathes of territory.  Refugees say that following air raids by government aircraft, the Janjaweed ride into villages on horses and camels, slaughtering men, raping women and stealing whatever they can find.  Many women report being abducted and held as sex slaves for more than a week before being released.

After strong international pressure and the threat of sanctions, the government promised to disarm the Janjaweed. But so far there is little evidence this has happened.  Trials have been announced in Khartoum of some members of the security forces suspected of abuses - but this is viewed as part of a campaign against UN-backed attempts to get some 50 key suspects tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.  

Millions of civilians have fled their destroyed villages, with more than two million in camps near Darfur's main towns.  The Janjaweed patrol outside the camps and Darfuris say the men are killed and the women raped if they venture too far in search of firewood or water.

As the conflict enters its sixth year, with much of Darfur inaccessible to aid workers and researchers, conditions continue to deteriorate for civilians. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, even by the most conservative estimates. The United Nations puts the death toll at roughly 300,000, while the former U.N. undersecretary-general puts the number at no less than 400,000. Up to 2.5 million have fled their homes and sought safety in camps throughout Darfur, or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic.  But many of these are camped along the stretch of the borders remain vulnerable to attacks from Sudan.  As well Chad's eastern areas have a similar ethnic make-up and the violence has spilled over into the border area. Both capitals have also been attacked this year by rebel groups.  

Based on Sudan's actions over the past five years, it is clear that unless the international community imposes additional political costs for President Bashir, his government will continue to buy time by either accepting initiatives only to backtrack later or impose new conditions that render them useless.  The Sudanese government stresses that the situation and numbers are being exaggerated.

Humanitarian assistance in Darfur continues to be at risk of collapse, in part because of sustained harassment by the Sudanese government, and in part because of the government's militia allies and common criminals. In September 2006, the United Nations estimated that such a collapse would cause up to 100,000 civilian deaths every month.  Troublesome developments suggest that such a failure is becoming more likely with the World Food Program's Humanitarian Air Service receiving no funding in the first three months of 2008. Last-minute donations totaling six million dollars funded it through the beginning of May and many aid agencies working in Darfur but they are unable to get access to vast areas because of the fighting.

The Save Darfur Coalition who is raising awareness and demanding an end to the genocide describe the current situation as follows:

In the second half of 2007, the Sudanese government's divide-and-conquer strategy, described by Human Rights Watch as "chaos by design," caused an increasingly frenzied free-for-all in Darfur. Rebel groups fragmented further and criminal activity as well as intertribal fighting increased exponentially.  Still, the effects of tribal fighting should not be overemphasized. Of the eight largest displacements between January and November 2007, seven resulted from government or Janjaweed attacks. Only one was the result of intertribal fighting.  In early 2008, deaths and displacements from military operations by the government, its allied militias and rebels were even more common relative to those caused by tribal conflicts.  

Darfur activists and other human rights organizations wrote a letter to both candidates outlining the resolution SR 632:

Senator John McCain
Senator Barack Obama
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

August 7, 2008

Dear Senators McCain and Obama,

The day before Olympian Joey Cheek, a 2006 Gold Medalist in speed skating, was to travel to Beijing, the government of China revoked his visa. Mr. Cheek is one of the strongest voices in the pursuit of peace in Darfur.

Mr. Cheek and a group of other current and former Olympic athletes had been calling for an Olympic Truce for Darfur - a cessation of hostilities in the Darfur region for a period before, during and after the Games. The Olympic Truce dates from ancient Greece and has been revived as a diplomatic tool over the past several decades.

Earlier this week, Darfur activist leaders and human rights groups from across the country sent an open letter calling upon each of you, as US Senators and presumptive presidential nominees, to promptly announce your intention to co-sponsor a new resolution, SR 632, that urges the Chinese government and the broader international community to use the upcoming Olympic Games as an opportunity to push for peace and security in Darfur. We also asked that you support an Olympic Truce for Darfur in your public statements in the coming week and during the Olympic Games.

Although the Senate is in recess, additional Senate co-sponsors can submit their names now, to the offices of current co-sponsors, and those names will be officially recorded in September when the recess is over. As presumptive presidential nominees, your co-sponsorship will send a clear message to China and the international community that you are committed to help bring an end to the genocide in Darfur.

Your co-sponsorship of the resolution is critical, particularly in light of the significant advertising time your campaigns have purchased to air during the Olympic Games. We believe there is an obligation to balance the purchase of Olympic advertising time with a message about Beijing's responsibility, as Olympic host and close partner of Sudan, to do more to bring security to Darfur.

Mr. Cheek's visa revocation and Senate Resolution 632 both present important opportunities for you to act. The White House has already expressed the President's concern and instructed the US embassy in Beijing to discuss Mr. Cheek's visa with the Chinese government.

Last month, Mr. Cheek and more than 200 other athletes issued an open letter to world leaders calling for an Olympic Truce for Darfur. The athletes, including more than 70 hopefuls for the 2008 Games, called on world leaders to (1) ask the Government of Sudan to cease hostilities against civilians, at least for the 55-day truce period of the 2008 Beijing Games, (2) use the truce period to allow humanitarian workers to access the civilians in Darfur who have been without food, clean water and medical care for years and (3) make progress on deployment of peacekeepers.

We ask both of you to join these athletes - men and women who represent all that is great about American and Olympic values - and release public statements announcing your co-sponsorship of Senate Resolution 632 and your support for an Olympic Truce for Darfur.


American Jewish World Service
Ruth Messinger, President
New York, NY

Americans Against the Darfur Genocide
Nikki Serapio, Director
Palo Alto, CA

Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action
Roz Duman, Founder/Coordinator
Denver, CO

Darfur Action Coalition of Wisconsin
Sachin Chheda, Coordinator
Milwaukee, WI

Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy
Mohamed Yahya
Founder/ Executive Director
Washington, DC.

Darfur Metro
Eileen Weiss, Director
New York, NY

Darfur People's Association of New York
Motasim Adam, Director
Brooklyn, NY

Dream for Darfur
Jill Savitt, Executive Director
New York, NY

Essex County Coalition for Darfur
Gloria Crist, Founding Member
Montclair, NJ

Investors Against Genocide
Eric Cohen, Chairperson
Boston, MA

Kentuckian Interfaith Taskforce On Darfur
Bob Brousseau, Chair
Louisville, Kentucky

Louisvillians Helping to Save Darfur
Dave Robinson, Chair
Louisville, KY

Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
Susan Morgan, Director of Communications
Boston, MA

New York City Coalition for Darfur
Sharon Silber, Director
New York, NY

Physicians for Human Rights
Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer
Cambridge, MA

San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition
Esther Sprague, Executive Committee
San Francisco, CA

Save Darfur Washington State
Deborah Jones, President
Seattle, WA

Team Darfur
Martha Heinemann Bixby
Executive Director
Washington, DC

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Charlie Clements, President and CEO
Cambridge, MA

Use Your Voice to Save Darfur RI
Sandra Hammel, Director
Providence, RI

In addition to contacting both Senators Obama and McCain (who have both remained silent on this to date) to co-sponsor SR 632 , you can also contact the Save Darfur Coalition.

Tags: Darfur, general election, genocide, mccain, obama, Olympics (all tags)



please - let's all stop...

ignoring a humanitarian emergency.

by canadian gal 2008-08-10 07:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Darfur.

It's gone on far too long.  It has been a humanitarian emergency for a decade now?  It's mind boggling.

One of the best advocates for Darfur was a professor of mine at Smith College named Eric Reeves.  Proud to say I took a couple of his English classes.

I wrote about him getting an honorary degree from Smith this year.  He's been on leave because he's been fighting cancer.

Here's the diary, I love to share his story.

by Ellinorianne 2008-08-10 07:51PM | 0 recs
wow. cool story.

and god's speed to eric.

by canadian gal 2008-08-10 07:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Darfur.

Issues like this are so important. I was looking forward to this Diary. Rec

by Politicalslave 2008-08-10 08:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Darfur.

This is such a messed up situation.

by psychodrew 2008-08-10 08:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Darfur.

it really is.  and yet - so many in the western world either ignore this or vaguely know there's a problem but can't be bothered.  it so sad.

by canadian gal 2008-08-10 08:23PM | 0 recs
i was thinking about you as I

agonized over that complex comment.

You have been there a long time, you know I'm sure about the Chinese involvement in Sudan.  Do you have any idea what it would take to get China to stop feeing the flames in Darfur?  Are people on the streets of Shanghai aware, and is there any willingness to voice any dissent?



by chrisblask 2008-08-10 08:27PM | 0 recs
Re: i was thinking about you as I

Yeah, that was the only comment I could write in response to this wonderful diary.  

This is what the Chinese government says, the Darfur crisis is an internal Sudanese dispute and the Chinese believe that sovereign nations should be allowed to settle their disputes on their own.  There are three possible reasons they are saying this:

First, they don't want to endanger their economic relationship with Sudan.
Second, they can't support "interfering" in Sundan and then turn around and say that Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang are internal Chinese issues that other nations should not be interfere with.
Third, the Chinese actually believe it.  During the Century of Humiliation that I wrote about a few days ago, foreign powers--US, Japan, and Europe--forced their way into China at gunpoint and the emperors were powerless to stop them.  So the Chinese are highly sensitive to issues of national sovereignty.

I don't think the average people know very much about this situation at all. Nobody I have ever asked about it seemed to know anything.

I can see the Chinese budging on North Korea and Iran, but not on this.  They're not going to (from their perspective) "violate the sovereignty" of another nation.

That's why I said this is such a messed up situation.

by psychodrew 2008-08-11 04:56AM | 0 recs
China is the key to Darfur

And how to pressure them to take any reasonable steps to halt the violence is a tough question.

US Flag Bearer Lopez Lomong is something of a statement to China in himself:

US flag bearer Lopez Lomong said Friday he disagreed with Chinese policy on his former country Sudan, and was disappointed prominent Darfur activist Joey Cheek had been barred from the Olympics.

Lomong was a victim of violence in southern Sudan as a child and spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Kenya before being adopted by a US family.

He became a US citizen last year and was voted by US sport captains to carry the American banner in Friday night's opening ceremony.

US Olympic Committee (USOC) chairman Peter Ueberroth called Lomong being the flag bearer "a terrific selection" and "a wonderful statement."

Asked to elaborate, he said: "It's a good way to judge a country when people come to the US and want to become citizens," he

When asked if Lomong's selection was a message from US athletes to China's government on human rights issues, he said that if it was, that was a good thing.

"The athletes would better be able to answer that than I could," Ueberroth said. "Either way, it's fine. Either way, it's good."

Lomong met US basketball star LeBron James after his comments, impressing the National Basketball Association superstar.

"It's unbelievable what he has been through, knowing where he has come from and hearing his words," James said. "There's no better person to be the flag bearer for us. I'm happy about it."

Lomong told a handful of US athletes he wanted to carry the flag when they gathered in San Francisco before flying to Asia.

"I mentioned to my peers I would like to be the one carrying that flag," he said. "A lot of my peers spread the word."

Lomong retold his tale of being taken from his family by a militia at six, escaping captivity after three weeks and running through the wildnerness three days to Kenya, where he spent a decade in a refugee camp.

The Chinese people has placed enormous pride in the Olympics, and being shunned and embarassed at the games is, as psychodrew pointed out in his diary, a potentially volatile situation.

Only China can fix Darfun by ceasing its blind purchases of oil from Sudan and propping up the corrupt Sudanese government.  I'd love to think that pushing them to support an Olympic Truce would be an opportunity to start them down that road, but honestly I'm not sure if it wouldn't be too much to expect from them given how little the Chinese government has shown it cares.

I can only rec this, anyway, because something has to be done.  At least we can keep it visible.


by chrisblask 2008-08-10 08:25PM | 0 recs
you can also let both...

obama and mccain know that you want them to sponsor 632.

by canadian gal 2008-08-10 08:30PM | 0 recs
i don't know whether I do or not...

Why are you making me think, CG!?!?


Is it just going to end up being used by Beijing to sow anti-American discord among the Chinese population?  Will it in any way cause a bullet to be not fired, and even if so will it cause a backlash as soon as the light is turned away?

The big question of how to make China stop this mess has not left my mind for a long time.  I just don't know if this helps, and I don't know if it hurts.  It may be the middle one: use this opportunity to renew public awareness, but do not force the leading politicians on either side (US and China)to directly call each other names during the games (in which case, you are doing that work by publishing this here)...

I just don't know.

by chrisblask 2008-08-10 08:49PM | 0 recs
you know what it will do if nothing else?
it will let the candidates know that this is important to their constituencies and the willful ignorance will no longer be tolerated.
by canadian gal 2008-08-10 08:58PM | 0 recs
I'm just worried

that the next president will get the bright idea of sending American troops (perhaps with UN troops in tow) to Darfur to fix the situation.  Darfur is a mess, but I am firmly of the minority position that other countries sometimes have to settle their own problems, as awful as that sounds, and that well-meaning fixers too often make awful things even worse, Iraq being a good example.

by Dumbo 2008-08-10 09:54PM | 0 recs
Depressing and nauseating at the same time...

Wonderful diary, though. Very highly recommended.

by sricki 2008-08-11 03:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Darfur.

CG - Thank you for writing this.  This is too an important issue to ignore, or forget about.

Highly phantom rec'd.

by snark adam excuse 2008-08-11 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Darfur.

Great diary about only one of many human rights outrages that are occurring throughout the world. This one, in particular, is close to American hearts because we seem to be implicated ala Sudan's oil, and to that extent, are contributing to human rights crimes in Darfur. Human rights drims in Palestine is another one at which we, Americans, are contributing. I'm certain there are others, where Real Politik is resulting in the deaths of peoples around the world.

American has fallen quite a way from its basic liberal democratic principles, and we need to get back to our ethical-moral grounds. How the hell can we tell China to respect human rights when we so hypocritically support the deterioration of human rights elsewhere.

Great diary. Hope you will do the rest of the world in similar fashion. Tell it like it is.

by MainStreet 2008-08-11 06:31AM | 0 recs
Excellent summary, CG

but there are no easy answers to these problems.  I'm all for the Resolution, but al-Bashir and the Janjaweed have shown time and again that diplomacy, resolutions, and declarations of disapproval have zero effect on their ability to continue the violence.

It's on questions like Darfur that the anti-war left has no satisfying answer.  We can declare our opposition all we want, but practically speaking the only thing that could have stopped the violence would have been some kind of armed intervention.  And how and where do we decide to intervene in places?  We can't just go, Bosnia: good, Iraq: bad, Kosovo: good, Somalia: bad, Rwanda: should have, Afghanistan, shouldn't have (despite the vicious rule of the Taliban), Iran: we shouldn't, Darfur: we should.

All of the above involve(d) brutally violent regimes engaged in systematic and savage repression of their own people, including massive human rights violations on a huge scale and the occasional outright genocide.  How do we decide whether and where to intervene?  I see no good answers from the left, and my only consolation is that the right is even more bankrupt on this issue.


by Koan 2008-08-11 07:13AM | 0 recs
you make a very interesting point.

one of which is completely proven in the fact that the list you provided there are some that i agree with and other that i disagree.  that said - it really is time for the world to take this issue seriously - the world ignored rwanda (and other atrocities) and yet still we didnt learn the lesson.  if everyone lets the presidential candidates know that we think this issue is important they can no longer remain silent.

by canadian gal 2008-08-11 07:33AM | 0 recs
This is precisely the kind of situation

that does warrant an armed intervention.

I don't believe the left is as ambivalent on this issue as you might think. There's general consensus that the case for armed intervention is rarely black and white, but Rwanda and Darfur are about as close to it as they're going to get.

The real problem is getting people motivated over a humanitarian tragedy in a part of the world they have little contact with, and know even less about. And getting politicans to sign on to initiatives that aren't politically expedient, and won't impact their campaign war chests.

by Sumo Vita 2008-08-11 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: This is precisely the kind of situation

You might be right, and if we Americans ever agree that any foreign interventions are to be made in defense of human rights and against suffering, then we could maybe stop the next Rwanda or Darfur.

But what if Bush & Co. had decided to sell the war in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention on behalf of the Kurds? (This probably would have worked better for Gulf War I, coming on the heels of the genocidal Anfal campaign.)  Instead of non-existent WMD and faked connections to Al Qaeda, they could have used Hussein's well-documented terror campaigns against his own people from the 80s onward.  Would that have been enough justification to remove him?  Where was the left's outrage about this?

My personal problem with the Iraq invasion wasn't that there weren't plenty of good reasons to go in, just that the Bush admin trumpeted bullshit ones (WMD) while dissembling the true ones (oil and gas).  [Add this to the fact that, even in March 2003, it was obvious that the thing had been planned by incompetent, starry-eyed believers in America's ability to do everything it wants with impunity, who didn't know the difference between Sunni and Shi'a.]

One possible answer to this is that perhaps such a humanitarian-based regime change in Iraq could have worked, but only if widely supported in the international community.  And as Darfur sadly shows, the problem with garnering international support for a humanitarian invasion is that all such intn'l efforts are hampered by delays, conflicting interests, hemming and hawing, etc . . . while people keep dying.

Just raising questions; I got no answers.

by Koan 2008-08-11 11:30AM | 0 recs
Many do claim Iraq was a humanitarian intervention

It's standard-fare rightwing rote these days, now that the WMD rationale is shot.

I can't speak for the left, but I'd guess that it wasn't the case that there was no outrage over Hussein's Anfal campaign. The measured response reflects the perception that the world had more dire needs to be addressed. There was also a perception that the Kurdish separatists chose to fight Hussein, a far cry from the ethnic genocide witnessed in Rwanda.

But you're sadly right - business and political interests decide our foreign interventions. Bleeding hearts are a minority in this country. And as long as we believe in a representative democracy, things are likely to stay that way.

by Sumo Vita 2008-08-11 09:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Darfur.

Thank you for an awesome diary!! I just wish that the prosecutor for the Hague had taken some time to think about the potential consequences of his actions with regards to the arrest warrant for the Sudanese president.

by Ignored and Disgusted 2008-08-11 10:43AM | 0 recs
Obama needs to speak up on Darfur

I'm surprised he's been silent on this issue so far, as this diary points out.

by Sumo Vita 2008-08-11 11:12AM | 0 recs
Wow CG

This is an excellent diary.  I have been offline for the past few days, and I missed it when you posted this (I think I was on a plane on Sunday night).

darfur was the reason I was supporting Sen. Biden... he was the only one who spoke about it.

There is one picture that still haunts me... I will not post a link, but if you do a search for Kevin Carter + Sudan, you will easily find it.

by SevenStrings 2008-08-13 09:33AM | 0 recs


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