It’s often hard to find signs of hope in Sudan’s Western Darfur province, which is considered one of the bleakest places on the planet. Civil war rages in what many call a campaign of genocide that has killed hundreds of thousands of Darfuri civilians and displaced millions of others.
A Christian leader in the Horn of Africa has welcomed a Sudanese government pledge of $300 million in aid for Sudan’s Darfur region but said that it is insufficient and should not distract attention from the underlying causes of the conflict.
Not long ago donkey-drawn plows turned the soil over in fields of sorghum and peanuts near Bela village. But today the village is deserted. In 2003, Arab militias killed 37 people and drove the survivors away. Now there is only silence—the sound of genocide in slow motion. The grass and weeds growing up amidst skeletons of burned huts are proof that the world hasn’t cared enough to stop the violence and bring the people of Bela home.
In Dinka Bor tradition, long ebony shafts serve as walking sticks for the elderly, as scepters for newly married women and as weapons for initiates into manhood. Wooden spears are vital to Dinka cattle herders moving through alien territory. Hardwood branches, carved by Christian evangelists into crosses, are still implements of worship.
Christians from all traditions and from across the political spectrum have been pressing President Bush to try to get more United Nations peacekeeping troops on the ground in Darfur to stop the unrelenting violence there. The National Council of Churches endorsed the UN resolution in August that called for sending UN troops.
Following the signing in Nigeria of a peace agreement between Sudan’s government and Darfur’s biggest rebel group, Africa’s largest grouping of churches urged that UN peacekeepers step in for duties now carried out by African Union (AU) troops.
Actor Don Cheadle, nominated for an Oscar for his role in Hotel Rwanda, a film about the 1994 mass killings in Africa, joined a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers to call for stronger measures to end the civil war in Sudan’s Darfur region.
On my last night in Nyala, in southern Darfur, convoys of combat-ready security forces circled the streets of the city, which has become part fortress, part camp for the displaced, and part home for dozens of international humanitarian groups.
When the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army signed a peace accord and power-sharing arrangement on New Year’s Eve at Lake Naivasha, Kenya, South African President Thabo Mbeki, who witnessed the signing, declared, “Africa begins the year 2005 on a very good footing.”
The U.S. does little and the rest of the world does less
Oct 19, 2004
What happened to the United Nations?” asked Haruun Ruun, executive secretary of the New Sudan Council of Churches. “The killings and rapes are still happening in Darfur.” Ruun was in New York last month to press the UN to impose sanctions on the Sudan government, which has implicitly backed the marauding Arab militias that have terrorized the black population in western Sudan.