The simmering conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, now at least three years old, has seen hundreds of thousands die from violence and disease and over 2 million left homeless. And despite years of awareness campaigns, the violence is set to flare up again.
In eastern Chad, which borders Darfur, an estimated 200,000 refugees and native Chadians have been fleeing the Sudan-government financed Janjaweed militia (numbering up to 50,000 Arabs) which stages raids into Chad to continue the looting and raping that started in Darfur. "We fled Sudan because of this violence," said Yaquoub Mohamed Mohamed Abu, head of refugees in the camp. "But now it is coming here."
The conflict overlaps with a Chadian insurgency against that country's president of 16 years, Idriss Deby. Deby accuses Sudan of aiding the insurgency and has severed diplomatic relations in response. In the midst of the chaos, Chad threatened to forcibly repatriate the refugees, though they now say this will not happen.
Meanwhile, in Sudan, the main Sudanese rebel groups fight the Sudanese army, the Janjaweed, and each other, leaving the area too dangerous for humanitarian assistance from the Red Cross and others. The UN is considering taking over the 7,500 (NATO-assisted) African Union patrolling the area, though Sudan has barred UN officials from visiting while talks with rebels continue.
The AU, which Sudan tolerates as an inter-African force, has given a deadline of April 30 for the talks to conclude (before giving up and going home, presumably).
Confused? You're not alone (though Angelina Jolie says that shouldn't matter). While the US has pushed for sanctions and UN intervention (military action requires oil, you see), others such as Russia and China are opposed, preferring further diplomatic efforts, such as the fragile "declaration of principles" between Sudan and rebel groups signed in July 2005. In the meantime, the US settled for sanctions on four key Sudanese nationals, including a travel ban and asset freeze. (That'll show 'em!) "We are doing what we can to support the current African Union mission," said Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. "But everybody recognizes that that you need a more robust force that's going to come from the UN." Reports suggest that a force of 20,000 troops would be sufficient to protect civilians, but some caution that this would repeat the mistakes of Iraq, which leads to the obvious question of why the Muslim world has been unable or unwilling to help resolve what is largely an intra-Muslim conflict.
Muslim Americans, however, are speaking out, as can be seen at an interfaith rally on April 30th in Washington DC that includes the Muslim Public Affairs Council and CAIR as co-sponsors. "There is also the daily genocide that the Muslim janjaweed militia wages against the indigenous tribes of Darfur, most of whom are also Muslims but of darker skins," says Muslim American journalist Hasan Zillur Rahim. "Isn't it too much to expect that [the] typical American will continue to be reassured by our words while the horrific deeds continue unabated?"
Zahed Amanullah is associate editor of alt.muslim. He is based in London, England. This entire article including links can be found at alt.muslim