Darfur, an area in western Sudan, is the site of the first genocide of the 21st century.
As in other genocides of the past, little was done in a timely manner to aid the innocent victims.
In 2003, the government of Sudan began to arm a militia group called the Janjaweed to attack the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a rebel movement responsible for attacking government military targets and soldiers.
Shortly afterwards, and upon the government’s insistence, the Janjaweed ceased targeting the SPLA specifically and instead started direct attacks on civilian villages. Genocidal practices were encouraged from all levels of the government against the defenseless population.
Men, women and children were slaughtered, while women and girls would be fortunate to escape without being violently raped.
The international community gradually became aware of the violence, and in October 2003, the government of Sudan stated that they had reached a ceasefire, and that it would be respected.
Humanitarian aid was put in place and waiting to be forwarded to the increasing numbers of refugees.
However, in November 2003, the Sudanese government blocked American aid, charging that the wheat and sorghum to be provided had been genetically modified. The government of Sudan was now implementing new means to kill its victims. Starvation became an inescapable outcome for those displaced from the conflict.
In April 2004, the United Nations began an intensive fact-finding mission. The government of Sudan requested “time to prepare,” utilizing that time to dig up and incinerate the bodies from the mass graves that they had been dumped in.
The government began issuing army identity numbers to the Janjaweed militia members in an attempt to legitimize them as official soldiers. By the time of the UN arrival, the cover-up by the Sudanese government was strengthened as they began to block access to particular areas where massive atrocities had occurred.
Though the UN was aware of the scope of the violence, it was also completely powerless to do anything about it.
In September 2004, the situation in Darfur was described by the European Union to be “tantamount to a genocide.” Despite all the rhetoric, very little was done to aid the people of Darfur.
Finally, in March of 2009 the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Omar Al-Bashir, the current president of Sudan and commander-in-chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces. He was indicted on two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, but the warrant notably refrains from indicting Bashir with the more serious charge of genocide.
Bashir has refused to give himself up, continuing to rule Sudan as an international fugitive. He views the ICC’s indictment as a tool by Western nations to remove the current Sudanese government from power.
As long as he remains in power, justice will never be served for his crimes in Darfur.
Brendan Forsyth is a sociology student at the University of Winnipeg.
Published in Volume 64, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 28, 2010)