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Their presence is felt even before they are seen. Heralding their coming is the low hum of helicopters. This sound moves legs; villagers dash into the forest, leaving behind everything, taking along all who they can.
Then the helicopter gun ship arrives, strafing the village, destroying houses and killing any who did not leave the village. Then you see them, the Devils on horse backs. They come galloping out of the forest. They finish the killing, they rape women, they make the village uninhabitable and they take bounty from the village. This is a Janjaweed attack. This is the Sudan genocide. This is the massacre that led to the death of some 500,000 people.
Why the killings? Who’s being killed? Who are the Janjaweed?
Sudan is the largest country in Africa, covering a land space of 2,505,813 sq.km. It lies south of Egypt, east of Chad and north of Kenya. Its population of 43,939,598 is made up Arabs and Africans, nomads and farmers, Muslims, Christians and Animists. Sudan's capital is in Khartoum. This ethnically diverse country went through 50 years of civil war, famine and human rights violations. These sufferings were due to the British undemocratic passage of governance to the foreign Arabs in 1956. The discovery of oil in the southern part of Sudan also aided the Civil war. The government was fanatically Islamic and it ruled by Sharia, the traditional Muslim Law Code. Forceful imposition of this law code on the south of Sudan in 1985 led to an uprising by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). A successful revolt by the SPLM led to the installation of a democratically oriented, but still religious, government. There was hope for a stable Sudan.
In 1989, as peace agreements were being consolidated between the democratic Islamic government and the SPLM and just as the Sharia Law was being frozen, General Omar al-Bashir led a successful coup against the government and upon his imposition, he returned the authoritarian form of Islamic government, including the Sharia law. He then declared a Jihad, a holy war, against the non-Muslim and the democratic African Muslim people of Sudan.
At first glance, this situation looks like a battle fueled by religious zeal. This however is a typical case of 'looks might be deceiving'. This is a war that pits the Arabic Muslim against the African, dark-skinned, Muslims and non-Muslims of Sudan. It is the massacre of the sedentary, tribal and agricultural society that embraces diversity; the type of diversity frowned upon by the ethnic fanaticism of the Arabic government. This fanaticism has plunged the Middle East for years.
The Janjaweed, in plain, simple terms, are government hired assassins and eradicators. They are bandits who are turned into “government sanctioned and controlled bandits”. Their job is simple and deadly. Invade the village, kill the men, rape the women, destroy the houses and take everything your heart desires from the village. Although, the government of Omar has denied involvement, aid and support of the Janjaweed raids, it is an overt lie that is unbelievable. It is obvious that the Janjaweed, who are Arab nomads, are not capable of flying attack helicopters. Why are they being used? The Janjaweed are cheap, in fact, they are priceless. After each raid, the Janjaweed take the villagers' lands, their farm produce, and their animals. To go straight to the point, the Janjaweed, after each raid, take all they can from the raided villages. The government just has to provide the weapons and nothing more. For a government that is known for its unwillingness to share the country's wealth or even use the money on the country, the Janjaweed and their moneyless price is just the right tool.
In 1994, in another part of Africa, over 800,000 people were killed over a feud for power between Hutu and the Tutsi. This is became known as the Rwanda Genocide. After this genocide, the world, as a community, promised “NEVER AGAIN”. We said never again will we fail in our responsibility to save lives, never again will we watch genocide go down and do nothing about. In the year 2004, our promise of never again became 'AGAIN AND AGAIN'. We failed to act. We failed to acknowledge the critical situation in Darfur. The world human crisis representative, The United Nations, failed in its responsibility. They wasted precious time determining whether or not the massacre in Darfur was genocide. They said there was no evidence to support a genocide in Darfur and held on to the belief that the crisis was “blown out of proportion”. While they deliberated in their comfortable chairs, under peaceful conditions, 2.5 million people lost their homes and an estimated 500,000 people died and yet, they said this was no genocide.
They had the opportunity to send a clear message to the Khartoum government. They, however, chose to approve the deployment of more African Union monitoring forces to Darfur. These forces are under-armed, under-funded and unprepared for the crisis in Darfur. They, the UN, failed to issue an arms embargo ensuring the Sudan government had no access to weapons. They failed to inflict any real pressure on the government of Sudan. They passed on their authority to impose an oil embargo on Sudan. Am embargo that would have gotten, not only Sudan to act, but it will have also prompted swift response from Sudan's biggest oil trade partner, China.
On the 9th of January 2011, Sudan will once again be given the chance to rest and be free of all worries. On this much awaited day, Southern Sudan will conduct a referendum to decide whether or not it should split from Northern Sudan and become an independent state. If this referendum should fail, the likelihood that Sudan will return to a civil war is very high. It becomes critically important, then, that action be taken now to see to the success of this referendum. A wise saying says “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” and yet another one says that “experience is the best teacher”. We have the experience; we have seen what lack of action on the part of the world means for the people of Sudan. We have enough warnings from the past to arm us against the implications of our inaction. We can, we should and we must let our experience serve as the warning that will arm us ready for action. We must do something, everything we can, to see to it that the people of Sudan die no more. It is our duty and obligation to them
No more should we rely on the UN to do anything about this matter. It is our responsibility to act. We can make a difference. You can help save lives in Sudan. The situation in Darfur is another holocaust. This is your chance to, not only say NEVER AGAIN, but to act on your promise. This is your chance to say 'enough is enough, Sudan is dying, I have to act and act fast'. You can help give Sudan the chance to breathe the air of freedom, life, liberty and peace. Do not wait for the chance to speak. Help create the chance by speaking out. Raise your voice for the people of Sudan. Do something now. Do more than nothing today.
We, the undersigned, are appalled by the genocide in Sudan and we petition the Government of Canada to do everything in its power, not only to stop this great violation of human right, but also to help prevent future occurrence of this type of disaster.
We ask that the people of Sudan be set free from the clutches of a terrible and heartless dictator, Omar al-Bashir.
We also ask that the Janjaweed be brought to justice. We ask that Canada should do more than nothing.
The Save Darfur, Save Sudan, Save Lives! petition to THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA was written by Mobolaji Oyeyemi and is in the category International Affairs at GoPetition.