posted on: Thursday March 18, 2010
Victoria Ngare ’12 / World Staff
Darfur has been a hot-button issue in the United States since 2004 when the Bush administration described the situation in Darfur as genocide. Because of the actions of many pressure groups across the nation, including many student groups, the government made Darfur one of its top priorities. The international community took steps to bring those responsible for the atrocities in Darfur to justice. In 2009 the International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted President Omar Al-Bashir on criminal charges of committing crimes against humanity in Darfur. This made Bashir the first sitting head of state to be indicted for such crimes.An arrest warrant was issued for Bashir, but has not been carried out because there is no policing force to the ICC. The ICC depends on supporting nations to be its police and carry out its arrest warrants. Thus far, no signatory nation has stepped forward.According to The Washington Post, U.S. envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Major General J. Scott Gration has been pushing for a peace agreement between the government and the Darfuri rebels before the upcoming Sudanese elections in April. He points out how extremely important these national elections will be and how they may overshadow the issues in Darfur. The Islamic nation of Qatar has served as a mediator between the rebel groups in Darfur and the government in Khartoum.Bashir’s government has managed to sign a preliminary peace treaty with the Justice and Equality Movement rebel group in Darfur, but fighting has flared up again, this time between the Sudanese Military and the Sudan Liberation Army, another rebel group. Bashir’s government has had a hard time convincing the other rebel groups to sign the peace treaty. Although fighting largely subsided in early 2009, recent fighting, specifically in the Jebel Marra region has resulted in the death of about 200 people and the displacement of about 100,000 people. But even with the small victory of signing a preliminary peace agreement, Bashir’s government has a lot more to be concerned about.A peace agreement ending a 23 year long civil war was signed in 2006 between North and South Sudan. This agreement stipulated that Sudan hold elections this coming April and gave the South, which has wanted to secede since the early 1980s, the right to vote to either secede or stay with the North in a referendum in 2011. According to Ibrahim Mirghani of Al Zaiem Al Azhari University in Sudan, Bashir’s government cannot win the upcoming elections without garnering the votes from Darfur. It is also very likely that the South will secede, further complicating things for Bashir. If the South secedes, the North loses its hold on the oil in the South, an important source of revenue for the central government in Khartoum.Darfur is a complicated issue with many parties involved. While the political entities have failed to establish peace, it is the people of Darfur that have suffered. With about 300,000 people already dead, almost 3 million displaced (according to UN statistics), most villages burned, and with little to no infrastructure, Darfur is still in chaos.