By Evan Gray, Blog Writer
Usually, we think of an anniversary as a positive milestone, a time to look back on past accomplishments and celebrate the progress that’s been made over the years. However, as 2015 rolls around, marking the 10-year anniversary of STAND’s founding in response to the multiple humanitarian crises in Sudan, there is precious little to cheer about.
As stated by Niemat Ahmadi, president and founder of the Darfur Women Action Group, in an interview last year, “The situation in Darfur is really, really dire, and it’s worsening every day”. This grim analysis is backed up by the statistics, which show a staggering increase in the level of violence and instability over the past two years due to ongoing conflicts in Darfur, South Sudan and the Sudanese border states of Blue Nile and South Khordofan. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), around 400,000 new Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were registered in Sudan in the period between January and August 2014, with that number set to rise to 450,000 by the end of this year.
A recent increase in violence against foreign nationals, combined with chronic obstructionism on the part of the Sudanese government, has also made the jobs of humanitarian organizations increasingly difficult, forcing some to withdraw completely or reduce services in some of the hardest hit areas of the country. Even UN peacekeepers have not been immune, with United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) patrols in west Darfur having experienced frequent attacks by masked gunman since the beginning of this year. These events have only worsened the tense relationship between peacekeepers and Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, who recently called for the closing of the UN’s human rights office in Khartoum and the withdrawal of UNAMID forces despite deteriorating conditions in Sudan.
However, the situation did not always appear so bleak. Ten years ago, it seemed that Sudan, and in particular, the crisis in Darfur, was one of the foremost issues on many world leaders’ agendas. News items were filled with strident criticisms of Bashir’s government and its genocidal actions against non-Arabic Darfuris from foreign dignitaries and Hollywood celebrities alike. Optimism over the possible resolution of the conflict peaked in 2009 with the indictment of President Bashir by the International Criminal Court and the beginning of peace talks between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a prominent Darfuri rebel group, and the Sudanese government.
Unfortunately, the reality of the international community’s response to the conflict has not matched up with its promising rhetoric. With the UN Security Council holding back on meaningful action against the Sudanese government and neighbouring countries refusing to enforce the arrest warrant issued for Bashir in 2009, the ICC recently announced that it was shelving its case against al-Bashir until further notice. In the meantime, the violence in Darfur and elsewhere has only intensified, while more recent crises in Syria and Iraq, among others, have drawn attention away from the region, reducing international pressure for peace and accountability.
In light of this growing gap between the severity of the conflict and the attention paid to it by the world at large, it is now more important than ever for Canadians to raise their voices in support of the people of Sudan. As one of the primary architects of the Reponsibility to Protect doctrine (R2P), which requires international intervention in such cases of widespread and persistent human rights abuses, Canada’s government can and should be doing more. We simply cannot allow our leaders to stand by for another decade while an entire generation of people have their lives, and their hopes for the future, destroyed due to this conflict.