A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend about work, and I explained that I am an intern at United to End Genocide. He asked me about which countries we focus on, and when I mentioned Sudan, and the Darfur region he stopped me and said “isn’t Darfur over with?”.
The answer is no, unfortunately, people in Darfur still experience unimaginable violence and instability. In fact there has been a sharp spike in violence over the past few weeks.
In late February, Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces’ militia attacked communities in southern Darfur resulted in total destruction of about 38 villages. UNAMID (the joint AU-UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur) reported incidents of looting, arson and civilian causalities. In a recent statement, UNAMID expressed its concern over the recent escalation of violence in Darfur and called for “unhindered access to the affected area”.
While there are no official numbers (due in part to the restriction of peacekeepers), the UN Chief of Human Rights estimates that 50,000 people have been displaced due to the recent clashes. Many camps housing internally displaced person (IDP) find themselves overwhelmed by the volume of people fleeing from the violence. Many aid organizations are not able to reach those in need due to government-imposed restrictions.
Many walk for miles to reach these under-resourced IDP camps. According to Radio Dabanga, many of the new arrivals at the El Salam camp are women, children and the elderly who have markings on their bodies from beatings and torture. Water is depleting quickly, and people dare not to leave because the camp is surrounded by armed groups including the Janjaweed.
Following reports of violence in Darfur, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement expressing their concern over the “escalation of violence by the Sudanese Government-supported Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Darfur”. The statement also encouraged the Sudanese government to allow UNAMID access to the affected areas in order to offer much needed assistance. Looking towards the future, the statement also urges Sudan and oppositional groups in Darfur to “begin an inclusive and comprehensive political dialogue to achieve a peaceful resolution,”
As a response to the large scale attacks in Darfur, Darfuri Students in Khartoum organized peaceful protests this week to demand an end to the violence and protection for their families. The government responded with a brutal crackdown, much like it did during the peaceful protests in September 2013, by firing tear gas and bullets. At least one student was killed.
The evidence sadly shows that in fact, no, Darfur is not “over with” and it won’t be until we take action.
By Andalisa Lopez, intern at United to End Genocide.
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