Sudan in crisis while world yawns

    If thousands are massacred and no one sees it, did it really happen?

    If thousands are massacred and one of the world’s most powerful nations identifies it as genocide, will anyone try to stop it?

    I suspect that this piece probably won’t grab your attention. You see, I’m about to address yet another conflict that has ravaged a region of Africa, and, honestly, who gives a damn about Africa?

    Perhaps we should, since for the past 40 years, that continent’s largest country, Sudan, has been experiencing one of the longest civil wars on the globe, a civil conflict that has reached nightmarishly brutal levels in the past few years.

    A short and simplified synopsis of the recent escalation: Since February 2003, violence has plagued Western Sudan, leaving 70,000 dead and more than a million forced from their homes. For the past two years in the Darfur region of Sudan, Arab militiamen called the Janjaweed have obliterated villages, murdering thousands and displacing more than a million. These militiamen have been given support by the Arab Sudanese government to put down uprisings by the region’s non-Arab Muslims.

    The violence has soared in the last year. To this day, human rights groups estimate that thousands are displaced every week, and many continue to die due to the Janjaweed, disease or starvation, and farmers who weren’t killed off have fled to refugee camps. Darfur is going through its worst food shortage in decades. Two harvests have thus been lost, with a third loss looming, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    Time magazine recounts the horror as reported by Darfurian eyewitness Melkha Musa Haroun: “… the Janjaweed fighters on a rampage deciding whom to kill spotted a one-year-old boy and decided he was a future enemy. In front of a group of onlookers, a man tossed the boy into the air as another took aim and shot him dead.”

    When the December tsunami hit Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, countless student organizations climbed over themselves in a tsunami of response announced via the campus list-serve, including fundraising and donation drives camped all over Library Walk. For months, countless media outlets wrote about it daily, almost ad nauseam, complete with heart-wrenching photographs and interactive media online.

    While this is all necessary and commendable, it begs the question: Why isn’t there anything close to this in response to the thousands in Sudan affected by similar issues of lost homes, starvation and disease? These are not victims of an unpreventable force of nature. The innocents of Darfur are victims of a very preventable and stoppable campaign carried out by forces that must be held accountable and penalized. The excuse of benign ignorance is no longer possible.

    Where are the voices of student organizations calling for justice? Where are the concerned students visibly protesting the raping of women, the raiding and burning of villages and farms, the poisoning of wells and the murder of thousands, including children? Where are the efforts to raise money and supplies for aid? Where are the petitions to local congresspersons and criticism of the international community for taking no penalizing action against the Sudanese government in Khartoum?

    In the case of the tsunami, we can all shake an angry fist at the heavens, curse the shifting of tectonic plates, throw a few coins in a tin can and move on. It seems the political complexities of Sudan’s conflict have become reason enough to explain the deafening silence in the face of such man-made horror. This silence has been attributed to sympathetic Arab countries, which have opposed sanctions on Khartoum’s Arab government, or countries like China and France, “whose firms have sunk a lot of money into Sudanese oil wells,” according to the Economist.

    Even more confusing is the lack of interest among major media outlets, which for the longest time reported very little on the atrocities in Sudan. Media attention has grown slightly since former Secretary of State Colin Powell officially declared the conflict to be “genocide” last summer and Congress finally verified his statement in the fall.

    As UCSD students, we have our studies, an abundance of student organizations, sports and part-time work to keep our hands full, and so perhaps we rely on passive sources of information rather than carefully reading the newspapers. In doing so, we run the risk of missing out on important issues like the one in Sudan. The fact is, we really do have the time to pay some attention to what is going on in the world. I’ve seen that we are energetic and will go the extra mile for causes we find important.

    While I luxuriously lap a latte at the Living Room in La Jolla, I’ll read, with no small discomfort, of a woman in Furbaranga, Sudan, who is ferreting by on a fixing of grain seeds. An interest in global affairs may not come easily and may not always be uplifting, but it’s necessary to develop. Reading about what’s going on, especially from varied perspectives, leaves me feeling like less of a lemming leaping into the latest issue without knowing why.

    As students, our purported goal is the pursuit of knowledge, and the attempt to obtain the tools to learn outside the classroom after graduation day. The need to meet this goal and pay attention to the world is especially acute since the mistakes of the past are now being repeated at a dizzying rate. Remember when the world recoiled at the horrors of the Holocaust and loudly incanted “Never Again”? Yet about a decade ago on the continent of Africa, ethnic cleansing left 800,000 dead. Does Rwanda ring a bell?

    What can students do? At the very least, we should pay attention, show concern, ask questions, talk to friends, professors, and family and circulate knowledge. We can get involved with UCSD student organizations that have already given some attention to the issue of Darfur’s crisis, like the World Refugee Action Coalition, International Affairs Group or Americans for Informed Democracy. We can sign petitions to let elected officials know that this is an issue that should be prioritized on Capitol Hill, that the United States should continue to pressure the international community to provide the African Union with resources to act as a peace-keeping force and penalize the Sudanese government for its continued encouragement of bloodshed.

    Another option is to simply donate a few dollars to organizations that send food and medical aid to refugees. The outstanding, multi-faith, unified coalition at SaveDarfur.org and the well-known Doctors Without Borders come to mind. In the short term, the thousands of refugees who have fled to the nearby country of Chad are highly dependent on humanitarian aid for food.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wisely noted, “”Man’s inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good.”” Until we take some action, large or small, to bring this issue to light, we can expect to witness the horror of inhumanity, perhaps in perpetuity.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal