For nearly 10 years, the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan has raged on – killing hundreds of thousands of people and driving nearly three million from their homes. The atrocities committed by the Sudanese government, labelled a genocide, attracted a firestorm of media interest.
But lately, it feels like Darfur has been erased from the map. The never-ending peace process has failed to bring about a lasting solution, and new threats of war between Sudan and South Sudan have captured global attention. Yet sources inside Darfur claim that attacks continue, with reports surfacing only yesterday that an Antonov plane dropped four bombs in South Darfur.
Tiptoeing around Darfur
Despite frequent evidence of continuing attacks, recent reports have painted a rosier picture of the current situation, highlighting the fact that some 140,000 people left refugee and IDP camps in 2011 – after nearly a decade – to return voluntarily to their homes. But if the government’s killings are carrying on after so many years, why aren't we hearing about them?
An article in Foreign Policy this week asks this very question, and comes to a disturbing conclusion: the regime in Khartoum has successfully silenced the UN using threats and intimidation.
Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has adroitly manipulated international responses to his crimes, obstructing UN action at every turn and keeping a tight hold on power, despite an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest on charges of genocide. In 2009, Bashir kicked out all international humanitarian agencies; since then, the UN has stayed largely quiet on human rights abuses committed in the region.
In Foreign Policy, Colum Lynch reports:
The United Nations human rights agencies essentially stopped issuing public reports on abuses there three and a half years ago, according to UN officials, human rights advocates, and a leaked UN report. The sunnier accounts of events in Darfur in some ways reflect the tendency of the UN and African Union leadership to trumpet the successes of a peace process that they have helped broker, and downplay its failures... The UN High Commission for Human Rights has not issued a single report on abuses in Darfur, Sudan, since January 2009, when it documented government killings of displaced Darfurians back in the Kalma camp for internally displaced peoples (IDPs) in August 2008.
Without accurate reports on what is happening in Darfur, and as the two Sudans slide closer to all-out war, how long will Bashir's reign of terror will be allowed to continue? And if you have any ideas for the Avaaz community to pursue to bring change in Darfur, please comment below.
Further reading: Read the rest of Lynch's report on The Silence in Sudan