quiet genocide in western
is in the offing
A.H. Jaffor Ullah,
.In the post 9-11 era, everyone’s mind is focused on global terrorism
for good reasons. For one thing,
is now fretting for more than ever over the possibility of al-Qaeda
again attacking their soil
The year 2004 is very important for
. The nation is gearing up for a presidential election. Therefore,
does not want any terrorist attack lest it disrupts the election
process. The rest of the world also follows American dictums. Thus, when
the world of ours is mired in global terrorism who has time to think
about what goes on in the hinterland of Africa, which was once called
by white men.
On May 19, 2004, I heard an in depth report on human rights violation
that is going on right now in the Darfur region of western
in National Public Radio (NPR)’s "Morning Edition" program.
I was not fully aware of the viciousness of the on going genocide
against the indigenous people of western
perpetrated by militias who are predominantly of Arabic extraction.
Therefore, in one sense it is a classic case of ethnic cleansing, which
has been going on for several months. Unfortunately, the news of the
plight of indigenous black people of western
, who speak a dialect of Bantu language, came to us very late when an
astounding 30,000 people have lost their lives.
The perpetrators of the genocide are Arabic speaking Sudanese Muslims
who works for the government in some capacity. Surprisingly, the victims
are Muslims too. Therefore, unlike the past Muslim versus Christian feud
that made the headlines a few years ago, this time around the conflict
has racial overtone. In this case, the victims complained that they were
targeted primarily for their ethnicity and for their dislike of
authoritarian regime in
The Arab Sudanese have raided hundreds of villages in Darfur region in
the west, burned houses, taken forcibly the villagers’ cattle, raped
their women, forced them to flee out of
. The villagers after losing every tangible asset they had moved to
where a draught-like condition exists at this time. International relief
organizations have set up refugee camps over there.
Some experts who are now at the scene in
have opined that if corrective actions are not taken now, an estimated
350,000 indigenous people from
region may die of malnutrition, hunger, and disease. Under this
backdrop, it remains to be seen what the civilized democracies of the
world would do to assuage the plight of the refugees.
The NPR’s web site has the following blurb - "In Western Sudan, a
conflict worsens -- and some say it's the world's latest case of ethnic
cleansing. Can lessons from the past help leaders prevent genocides in
the future? We look at attempts to avoid a humanitarian disaster in
." The NPR interviewed 4 experts who forewarned the danger that is
lurking in Darfur region of
It is very disturbing to know that when a full-scale genocide takes
place not many people in the world are aware of it happening. It is only
after when the genocide is completed that we hear about it. Take the
case of Armenian Genocide that took place during the World War I
(1914-1918) in the hands of Turks in which about 600,000 to 1 million
ethnic Armenians lost their lives or the Holocaust in which about 6
million Jews were exterminated by Nazis during the World War II
The world quite did not notice the extermination of such a huge number
of people. In 1947, when
were being created, the world witnessed killings of both Hindus and
Muslims that may surpass a million marks. In 1971, the Punjabi dominated
killed an estimated 3 million Bangalees purely for political reason.
Again, the world remained very silent.
In April 1994, the Hutu tribesmen of
killed about 800,000 Tutsi tribal people in a civil war but we learned
about the systematic genocide once the killing had stopped. Therefore,
it is imperative that the plight of Bantu-speaking indigenous people of
be told at this time.
A week after I heard the news of the recent genocide in western
, I saw a video clip in the evening television news in the ABC network.
We saw Sudanese Arab militia raiding a village in
region. The perpetrators came riding horse or camel. They beat the local
Bantu people with stick while igniting their house made with straws and
other ignitable plant materials.
The unarmed indigenous people were fleeing nervously leaving their house
and cattle. It was later reported that the Arab Sudanese were after the
cattle, which they rounded up and take with them. Therefore, the Arab
Sudanese are doing this ethnic cleansing for financial gain and at the
same time squashing the rebels who despise an authoritarian government
To give the readers some idea about how serious the problem is in
let me just cite some figures pertaining to refugees and effected people
region. The U.N. has said an estimated one million people have been
displaced by the conflict in
, and calls it the largest humanitarian emergency facing the world at
this time. It also says about 120,000 refugees have crossed into
Rebels and human rights groups have accused
’s government of arming militias of Arab heritage to loot and burn
black African villages, and accused
of carrying out ethnic cleansing, a charge the government readily
dismisses. Villagers and human rights groups accuse
of arming the janjaweed (horseback riders) to loot and burn African
villages and fight a proxy war against rebels who launched a revolt last
year demanding a fairer share of power and resources.
government, however, readily denies the charge, calling the janjaweed
outlaws. Western powers including
should mount an aggressive diplomatic campaign to ensure that the
implements a promise to provide immediate, full access for aid
operations to effected people, including opening the railway line so
that the UN can deliver food and medicine from
Regarding the present crisis in Darfur region of Western Sudan the
powerful think-tank organization the International Crisis Group (ICG)
said, "Urgent international action is required on several fronts if
‘Darfur 2004’ is not to join ‘
1994." The ICG invoked the memory of
1994 as shorthand for international shame in which the Hutu tribesmen
killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis in 1994 as world power did nothing to
stop the ethnic cleansing in East Central African nation of
. The ICG also said, "What UN officials have already called the
worst humanitarian situation in the world today could claim an
additional 350,000 in the next nine months, mainly from starvation and
To give credence to the
genocide respected international human rights organization Amnesty
International (AI) has done its investigation. On June 8, 2004, the AI
gave press release in which it mentioned that incommunicado detentions,
unfair trials, torture, and ill treatment of western Sudanese are the
hidden side of the
Because of the wide coverage in late May 2004, international attention
has focused on the humanitarian crisis in
; however, the failure of the legal system, which underpins the human
rights crisis, has gone practically unnoticed. The vast majority of
detainees in Darfur and those arrested outside
in connection with the conflict were not told the reasons for their
The arrestees are not allowed access to lawyers, families, and medical
assistance. They are denied their right to be brought promptly before a
judge or other judicial official. Torture is widespread amongst the
detainees. The AI further stated, "The failure of the justice
system cannot be ignored. Injustice is not just a consequence of the
conflict; it is one of its causes. These abuses, like the fighting, will
worsen if immediate preventative measures aren’t taken."
Because of the wide news coverage in the western nations and also due to
pleas from Amnesty International (AI), the international donors'
conference on Darfur met in
on June 3, 2004 to decide how to provide humanitarian help to displaced
. We hope that the conflict between the rebel group (of western
) and Arab militias will come to end because of outside intervention.
Let us not forget that the conflict has engendered the refugee problem.
Without this political conflict ending soon, the problem in
region will not go away.
In summary, a regional political crisis in western
had engendered a wide-scale ethnic cleansing in
. The indigenous black people who speak local language (of Bantu family)
are the victim in this conflict. The Arab militias who are loyal to
Sudanese government are the aggressors. An estimated 30,000 black
Sudanese have so far been killed, about a million people have left their
homes; some have moved to neighboring Chad creating a massive refugee
If humanitarian aid does not reach these displaced people, an estimated
300,000 refugees may die because of hunger, malnutrition, and disease.
Political pressure should be applied from donor countries and
neighboring Muslim nations so that
government immediately stops mobilizing Arab militias to western
. The refugees should be brought back to their villages as soon as
possible. Lest we forget, genocide is a crime punishable by a trial in
the International Court of Justice.
government be aware of this. The ex-President of
, Slobodan Milosevic, is now being tried for genocide against Kosovo
Albanians and committing crime against humanity. The same could apply
for the head of the authoritarian regime that runs Khartoum
administration. Incidentally, the government is run by an alliance of
the military and the National Congress Party (NCP), formerly the
National Islamic Front (NIF), which espouses an Islamist platform.
A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans,