In my case, I am sad that so few of us know about the genocide in Darfur. Sudan is the largest country in Africa, located just south of Egypt on the eastern edge of the Sahara desert. The country's major economic resource is oil. But, as in other developing countries with oil, this resource is not being developed for the benefit of the Sudanese people, but instead, for an elite few in the government and society. As much as 70 percent of Sudan's oil export revenues are used to finance the country's military.
Darfur, an area about the size of Texas, lies in western Sudan and borders Libya, Chad and the Central African Republic. It has only the most basic infrastructure or development. The approximately 6 million inhabitants of Darfur are among the poorest in Africa. They exist largely on either subsistence farming or nomadic herding. Even in good times, the Darfuri people face a very harsh and difficult life; these are not good times in Darfur.
The current crisis in Darfur began in 2003. After decades of neglect, drought, oppression and small-scale conflicts in Darfur, two rebel groups - the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - mounted a challenge to Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir. These groups represent agrarian farmers who are mostly non-Arab African Muslims from a number of different tribes.
President al-Bashir's response was brutal. In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to local tribal and other militias, which have come to be known as the Janjaweed ("devil on horseback"). Their members are composed mostly of Arab African Muslims who herd cattle, camels, and other livestock. They have wiped out entire villages, destroyed food and water supplies, and systematically murdered, tortured, and raped hundreds of thousands of Darfurians. These attacks occur with the direct support of the Government of Sudan's armed forces.
One aspect of the conflict that we need to understand is the impact China has on the situation. I suspect that the issue of China's support of the Sudanese government will become much more visible as we get closer to the 2008 Olympics being hosted by China. The issue was raised at the recent Democratic presidential candidate debates.
'Villagers', there are many aspects of this story for all of us to explore. I encourage you to check out the briefing paper on the genocide in Darfur provided by the SaveDarfur.org folks. Other random thoughts:
- Perhaps it is time to find some heroes for Darfur here in America.
- Paula Mooney posted seven things each of us can do to support the men, women and children of Darfur.
- Fredric Mitchell shared some power photos and background information along with a challenge to each of us in a post on the YBP Guide blog.
- Darfur Daily News is shared here in the blogosphere.
Bottomline? Our Manic Monday jaunts around cyberspace are fun, however, we should take a moment to reflect on the heat that others are experiencing. Perhaps this Manic Monday each of us will take a moment to (a) learn more about the genocide in Darfur and (b) take some personal step to help.
Perhaps we can each pledge to donate a dollar for everyone that leaves a comment or signs our Mr. Linky thing-a-majig! Just a thought...