What’s happening in Darfur?
The United Nations Security Council on announced that it will be phasing down the number of peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region. According to the international body, by next year, the troops would be cut down to nearly half the current numbers by next year.
At one point, Sudan was one of the largest countries in Africa. It is also a region that is geographically diverse and is rich in resources such as petroleum, iron ore, copper, zinc, silver, gold, hydropower and more. But through the decades the region is plagued by problems. Since becoming politically independent in 1956, proxy wars took place between Sudan, Chad and Libya which caused instability. In the 1980s, despite there was widespread famine. The first civil war ended in 1972 but the second war began in 1983. During this period, reportedly four million were displaced and two million died. Thus, the region came to be increasingly militarised. But the worst was still yet to come.
Humanitarian emergency in 2003
The conflicts along with famines resulted in Darfur becoming one of the most marginalized and underdeveloped regions in Sudan. On February 2003, the militant groups, Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) began fighting the Sudanese government. They claimed that the government had actively oppressed the non-Arab population in Darfur. As a response, the government carried out a horrific ethnic cleansing campaign against the non-Arab in Darfur. There was genocide in the region and hundreds of thousands of civilians died as a result. In 2006, the UN approved a resolution to send new peacekeeping forces of 17,300 forces. In 2009, Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. He was charged with allegedly directing much of this genocide which included mass killing and rape of the people of Darfur.
Despite the fact there is an international warrant in his name, he has “won” consecutive elections in 2010 and 2015. In 2011, the region was divided into two countries – Sudan and South Sudan. But the humanitarian crisis has not ended.
UN says that since 2003 more than 300,000 people in the region have been killed and many more have been displaced. The announcement regarding the withdrawal of troops comes after US pressured the UN to cut its costs. A recent agreement struck by the UN cuts the cost of its annual peacekeeping budget by $600 million. For now the UN has said that the numbers will only go down if the current government is able to improve the condition of living for its citizens. It is also seeking active cooperation from the government in the future to ensure the well-being of in the region.
Our assessment is that despite the efforts taken by the international community to address the problems in Darfur, there has been little success. Those living in the region have been through some of the most horrific tragedies to hit the world in the 21st century and their plight should not be forgotten. It is imperative for the international community to come together and not let this region and its people slip through the cracks.