Back to Darfur

With all the excitement over the elections over the past few weeks, events in Sudan have been a little ignored. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that the situation has improved at all. In fact, it may just be getting worse again.

To update everyone on the situation, I would like to highlight an article in the Christian Science Monitor from last week:

"Last month saw heavy fighting between government troops and rebel factions in North Darfur. Many of the areas targeted by the government were under control of the only rebel group to have made peace with the government in 2006, contrary to the agreement's cease-fire. Tens of thousands of Darfuris are believed to have been displaced, many of them still hiding in the mountains afraid the bomb-dropping Antonov planes will return...

...Analysts have characterized the current conflict as low-level, compared to the height of the conflict in 2003-04, when government troops and allied militias allegedly burned villages, raped women, and looted animals en masse. But many Darfuris say the conflict is worse today than it was almost five years ago. Rape, looting, and killing by government police are weekly occurrences in camps for the displaced, residents say...

..."People who have been here a long time say this conflict is as bad now as it has ever been," one UN official said. "Things are going to worse before they get better."

So business as usual in Darfur. The government threatens and attacks people in the camps for displaced people. Humanitarian organizations which are supporting millions of people with life-saving work are constantly harassed and pressured to leave. Lawlessness and insecurity are the name of the game.

Meanwhile, in what has become almost a signature move, Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, is once again making a mockery of international peace and justice. This time, he has convened a conference in Khartoum to elaborate a comprehensive vision for peace in Darfur. The only problem: no rebels were invited. None. Zero. Zilch.

Not surprisingly, I don't have a lot of faith in this initiative, which seems very clearly designed to try to deflect the possibility of an arrest warrant against the President from the International Criminal Court. That said, there are a lot of actors involved, including the members of the African Union, the Arab League (traditional Bashir supporters), some civil groups, and international mediators, so wouldn't it be great if I were proven wrong? As I've mentioned before, I think it would be amazing if Sudan's own fledgling civil society were gradually able to hold some sort of peaceful influence on the government. Still, I wouldn't hold your breath...

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