On March 16, 2012, Hollywood actor George Clooney got arrested for the first time in his life — not for drunk driving or drug abuse, as what people usually expect with celebrities — but for civil disobedience. The actor was taking part in a protest outside Washington’s Sudanese embassy. He and his fellow protestors wanted to bring more attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis happening in Sudan.
They got their wish. When Clooney got arrested with his own father and several members of the U.S. Congress, the media brought the Darfur Conflict and its tragic aftermath to mainstream awareness.
Nevertheless, there’s never too much talk about this topic, given how Sudan’s government still denies its citizens of their human rights in spite of peace talks. Those living in areas of conflict can’t receive food and other forms of humanitarian aid because the government blocks the access of outside organizations that want to send assistance.
To fully understand how it got to this, it’s best to go back to how it began.
Sudan is a country in Africa and its capital, Khartoum, is the seat of government. Darfur is a region in the western part of Sudan. Khartoum is predominantly Muslim, while Darfur is mostly populated by non-Arab black Africans.
Prior to the notorious Darfur Conflict that began in 2003, rebel groups have accused Khartoum of being oppressive toward the non-Arabs. One form of Khartoum’s oppression, as these groups claim, was violent ethnic cleansing as a means to get rid of Sudan’s non-Arab population to promote Arab solidarity.
Then, in the spring of 2003, amidst other conflicts that plagued the country, two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), started attacking government installations as a form of protest against Khartoum’s alleged oppression of non-Arabs, particularly the black Africans.
In retaliation, the Sudanese government initiated raids headed by the military and militia, known also as Janjaweed. The raids were swift and vicious. They targeted not just the rebels, but ethnic groups that supported them. The result was a terrible civil war that decimated hundreds of villages and claimed thousands of lives. To make matters worse, civilians who were displaced by the conflict had nowhere to go except to stay within the outskirts of Darfur. Those who strayed too far were raped and beaten, and often killed.
To be fair, many Arabs in Sudan are against the conflict, but there’s not much they — or anybody else — can do when Khartoum is dead set on punishing Darfur for its rebellion. Until now, the government has made no move to rebuild the fallen region, and even forbids any form of assistance to come in.
Many Sudanese people died from violence caused by acts of warfare. In fact, then-U.S. President George W. Bush called the Darfur Conflict a genocide because of the 300,000 lives lost from 2003 to 2005. But that number is steadily rising. Many more will die from inflicted famine, a famine caused not by a real food shortage, but by inhumanity.
Let’s not allow this to happen. Please sign this petition urging the UN Security Council to protect civilians in Sudan. Something must be done, and we can be the ones to do just that.