In what little coverage the media has given to the crisis in Darfur, they have often represented the conflict as a case of murderous, government-backed Arab militias called Janjaweed against a virtually helpless indigenous African population. This oversimplified analysis has failed to put the conflict in its proper perspective. In fact, Darfur's Arabs are black, indigenous, African and Muslim, just like Darfur's non-Arabs, who come from Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa, and a dozen smaller tribes.
The conflict began in 2003, when two new rebel groups, The Sudan Liberation Army and The Justice and Equality Movement, took up arms against government military installations. The two groups represent various ethnicities, all of which speak Nilotic (originating in the Nile region) languages and come from sedentary farming communities. The sedentary Nilotics of Darfur were intermittently subjected to attacks by the Janjaweed- nomads of various local tribes who speak the Darfuri Arabic dialect. Conflicts in Darfur between these groups were commonplace for centuries, but traditionally solutions were reached by negotiations. In fact, nomads and farmers in Darfur have a long history of interdependence and intermarriage. However, during the 1980s and 1990s, conflicts caused by resource competition escalated. The current conflict in Western Sudan is an economic one, over land between two groups facing water scarcity in a changing ecosystem. Due to the grim realities on the ground, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement has demanded that the Sudanese government stop arming the nomadic groups in Darfur and address long-standing grievances over underdevelopment in the region.
Various observers maintain that since Darfuri militants launched their rebellion, the Sudanese government has embarked upon a "scorched-earth campaign" in which it has deployed bombers, helicopter gunships, paramilitaries, regular armed forces, and local nomadic tribal militias known as the Janjaweed. Some analysts argue that the campaign has produced the greatest single exodus of refugees in the world. In 2003, 1.2 million people internally have been displaced and more than 200,000 in neighboring Chad. In July of 2004, experts warned that without rapid humanitarian intervention, what UN officials called, "The worst humanitarian crisis in the world today", could claim 350,000 more lives in the next nine months. Since this time, there have been many conflicting reports on the actual number of people, including women and children, who have died from curable diseases, starvation, and murder.
Since the US has expressed an "interest" in spreading Democracy and stopping crimes against humanity, one would think that the US would rush in to help. However, for decades, civil wars have taken the lives of many millions in Africa, yet the US has only expressed outrage occasionally! Aside from its most recent military intervention that forced the Liberian President, Charles Taylor, into exile in Nigeria, the US has been satisfied with making occasional statements on crisis' in Africa. The US and the rest of the International Community remained silent as the Christian Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda killed tens of thousands of people, often mutilating their bodies, displaced more than 1.6 million people, kidnapped thousands of children, and forced many to become soldiers or sex slaves. The US-controlled global financial institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank, have contributed to obstructing the development of Sudan, Chad, and other countries in the region. The Guardian's analyst, George Monbiot, contends that the "cannibalistic IMF [is] responsible for more deaths every year in Africa than the Janjaweed."
"African oil is of national strategic interest to us, and it will increase and become more important as we go forward." said, Walter Kansteiner, US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. So, the US' interest in Sudan suggests that strategic and not humanitarian reasons are the main motivating factors for action, if any are taken.
Recently, the International Criminal Court has been handed documents outlining allegations of war crimes committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. A United Nations inquiry identified a number of government and army officials, militia and rebel leaders. The UN Security Council ordered that the 51 named suspects should appear before the court in The Hague. It is the first time a case has been referred to the court in The Hague by the Security Council.
When will American's start to care about what is happening in Africa, and put pressure on our government to take action to stop "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today"?