geno·cide noun \ˈje-nə-ˌsīd\
Definition of GENOCIDE
: the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group
Most of us are familiar with the term from learning about the Holocaust of WWII, during which time roughly 6 million Jews were slaughtered. Some may also know the word from learning about the Rwandan Genocide of 1994—thanks, likely, to the movie Hotel Rwanda—when an estimated 850,000 people were murdered. And finally, some may have heard the word in this past decade in reference to Darfur.
For those who are unfamiliar with what’s happening in the Darfur region of Western Sudan, or for those who need a refresher, there’s a genocide taking place. In February of 2003, two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice Equality Movement (JEM) joined forces and accused the Sudanese government of oppressing non-Arab (Black African) Sudanese and favoring Sudanese Arabs. Though the Sudanese government denies the claim, it began using oil revenues to provide funding and weapons to a militia group of Arab Sudanese called the Janjaweed (literally translated to “devils on horseback”) to, in conjunction with the Sudanese government, military and police, systematically mass murder the Black African Sudanese civilians.
Babies, children, women, the elderly, any and everyone the Sudanese government and Janjaweed deems non-Arab, Black African “slaves” are being exterminated. Some estimates put the number of human casualties around 400,000 from direct combat or starvation and disease inflicted by the conflict. And millions more have been displaced and forced into refugee camps over the neighboring borders, resulting in additional humanitarian problems. (Most of us saw the dastardly effects of the displacement caused by Hurricane Katrina in our wealthy, powerful country; imagine what it’s like in third-world nations.)
After eight years of innocent people being raped, innocent people being chained up and burned to death, innocent people having their heads bashed against rocks, innocent people having their homes burned to the ground, innocent people contracting diseases, innocent people withering away from starvation, innocent people being forced out of their home land, what has been done to end this horror? What has been done to stop these atrocities from continuing to happen day after day, month after month, year after year?
In a word: nothing.
The world’s most powerful countries have essentially limited themselves in expressing concerns and demands for the United Nations to take action in ending the genocide in Darfur. Has the world already forgotten about Rwanda, less than two decades later? How many more innocent lives must be ruined before proper action is taken?
Part of the problem is that Sudan, like many nations in that part of the world, is rich in oil. But it’s controlled by China. Sudan doesn’t have the economic and technological structures in place to drill and sell oil, so China does it for the country and pays the nation a small percentage. That way, China gets its oil at a much lower price. In turn, China provides much of the funding to the Sudanese government, military, police (and therefore the Janjaweed) for them to carry out their mass murder of the Black African Sudanese.
Similar to the Rwandan genocide, the United States is hesitant to get involved because it has no national interest in the area. And doing anything that would pit the United States against China would be detrimental to the former.
You’re probably wondering, “But what can a regular citizen like me do if people with way more power aren’t even doing anything?” That’s a good question.
After watching the unfathomably depressing documentary The Devil Came on Horseback, I wrestled with this question myself. Here are my answers:
- Write a hand-written letter to your Congressman/woman asking what he or she and the American government are doing about the genocide in Darfur. Hand-written letters are very likely to make it to your Congressman/woman’s desk versus emails or typed letters
- Watch The Devil Came on Horseback, which is on Netflix Instant View, to further inform yourself (but be prepared to be utterly upset, depressed and emotionally exhausted during and after)
- Visit http://www.thedevilcameonhorseback.com/ to learn more about the film and about what else you can do
- Visit http://www.savedarfur.org/ to learn more and take further action
- Spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn, email and orally to get people talking about the conflict once again
If you’re thinking you’re too busy to do anything about it, we all know that’s simply not true. Every single one of us has ten spare minutes at least one day out of the week to write a letter to our Congressman or woman, click on one of the links and read more about the issue, or spread the word. Most of us (myself included) have time to post silly, irrelevant Facebook status updates, so please, I implore you, take that time and put it to better use by helping the innocent victims of the Darfur genocide.