Sudanese refugee calls for international action

    Experts gathered to speak about and raise awareness of the continuing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, in an Oct. 13 conference at Great Hall in Eleanor Roosevelt College.

    Approximately 50,000 people have been killed and nearly two million left homeless since the rebellion of two tribes in southern Sudan renewed a civil conflict between two ethnic groups.

    “The [United Nations] has declared this the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today,” said moderator Joyce Neu, executive director of the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

    Supported by the Sudanese military, the Janjaweed militia and other northern paramilitary groups have attacked and destroyed over 400 villages in the region, according to Catholic Relief Services Western Regional Director Jim DeHarpporte.

    “It’s the same story,” said DeHarpporte. “Villages being surrounded by the Janjaweed in some kind of death trap, then an attack, burning, pillaging and raping.”

    Survivors of the attacks are forced to travel across the desert to seek shelter at camps in the neighboring country of Chad, he said.

    “One woman spent four to five days hiding at day, traveling at night to get to safety,” DeHapporte said. “She decided to go back and see what happened to her village … all her loved ones. One hundred and twenty people total had been shot and killed.”

    The United States has declared the crisis a genocide, and has called for action by the UN Security Council.

    Several panel members encouraged more rapid action.

    “The [international] community has a mandate to protect lives,” said Bol Bulabek, a refugee from South Sudan and executive director of the Sudanese Community of San Diego. “We don’t need to wait any longer.”

    DeHarpporte focused on the security situation in the country as an ongoing problem.

    “Security is the number one issue,” said DeHarpporte. “There are lots of gaps with the humanitarian aide: water, shelter and food. But security is still what is most important. We are morally and legally required to take action.”

    One panelist was more skeptical of the long-term benefits of thirdparty intervention however.

    “A third party cannot solve another’s issues,” said Abdul Adid. “The solution in peace should be coming from home.”

    The African Union currently has a plan to send 3,000 peacekeeping troops to the region, but lacks proper logistical support, DeHarpporte said. The United States has said it will not send any aircraft to aid the multinational force.

    The panelists encouraged listeners to contact their representatives and press for greater action in Sudan.

    Readers can contact Benjamin Bartlett at [email protected].

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