By Anne Bartlett
June 3, 2011 — Today, Darfur is old news. Complex, seemingly irresolvable problems, fractured armed movements and the failure of the uprising against the government have silenced the outcry over what is happening in the region. Even today, the arrest of Ratko Mladi?, the architect of the Srebrenica massacre seems to generate little reflection about what power can do to innocent people, when in the hands of an amoral maniac. In Jebel Marra people do not need to be told. They know. They know today and have known for the last ten years what it means to be on the receiving end of an amoral government and the self-interested behavior of the international community.
This of course begs a question: What is happening in Darfur? The answer is that for many people in Darfur, they are in a much worse situation today than at the height of crisis in 2004. Today, however there is no hue and cry. Today, few seem to care. Why? As a start, a blind eye has been turned to the behavior of the Government of Sudan in the Jebel Marra, since this fits with the current agenda of the international community. In the ensuing media blackout, a bombing campaign that was started in January 2010 continues daily in eastern Jebel Marra with endless carnage. At this point however, bombs are not the only concern. Saddiya, as we will call her, died recently in Nyala hospital from the toxic outflow from the bombs. Equally deadly, yet much more difficult to see, she was rendered more and more weak over time from the toxic cocktail that she was exposed to. Brought down the mountain to an under-resourced hospital in Nyala, it simply wasn’t possible to diagnose what was ailing her. She therefore died a long and painful death, aged 36. Her four children lost their mother to this silent killer; they had already lost their father a few years ago at the hands of the Janjawiid.
In the Jebel Marra, her mother, struggles on. She is now close to close to 70. She was bombed out of her village in the mountains last year and forced to run for her life. Her cows, which she had tended over many years either perished, or those that were left had to be sold. The money she got for them allowed her to buy some dried tomatoes which she tried to sell in the market in Nyala. Before she could get there she was robbed by the bandits that have been brought in from West Africa to occupy the land that once belonged to her and her family. Today, after farming all her life and bringing up ten children, this old lady does not have enough food. For her, life is its own form of torture. Today, life is almost too much to bear.
Her son also knows about torture. He experiences it every day. Arrested a month ago in Nyala University compound for complaining about what was happening to his family, he now spends his days in Nyala’s NISS headquarters. His life is a living nightmare. Allowed to visit the bathroom only once every 24 hours, he is beaten if he is forced to urinate outside of this time. Starved of sufficient food, denied the ability to wash – even to wash himself in order to say his prayers – he is guarded by people who call themselves Muslim. Musa Kasha, the Governor of South Darfur sits on his hands, pretending that he has no control over what these people have been subjected to, when he himself is deeply responsible. In the vastly overcrowded prison, unshaven men sit talking to themselves in 50 degree heat. Many of them are losing their minds. Mental breakdowns are the norm for the people of Jebel Marra since there is no reason to hope.
This is but a snap-shot of one family from Jebel Marra, Darfur. What did they do to deserve this living hell? They were born in Darfur. They were born in a time when people talk about genocide, but do little else. They had the misfortune to be forcibly assimilated to a nation, Sudan, that neither cares about their rights nor what happens to them.
The question today, is what we are all prepared to do to help these people? Are we prepared to allow Darfur to be wiped clean of its people; to have them herded into camps like cattle; to have their aggressors now police them while living off their land? Is Britain prepared to ignore its historical responsibility for creating this situation in the first place? Is the international community prepared to accept its responsibility for standing by and doing next to nothing? These questions and their answers require more than soul searching from all of us. On this day when a genocidaire from the Balkans is finally held to account, the question is what are we all going to do to bring the Sudanese government to account and to end the agony of the people of Darfur?
Anne Bartlett is a Professor of Sociology and International Studies at the University of San Francisco. She may be reached at email@example.com