The western Sudanese region of Darfur made the headlines for a significant portion of last year when millions of civilians were displaced by fighting between rebel groups and the pro-Sudanese government Janjaweed militia. The Janjaweed militia was also implicated in the killing of innocent civilians and the raping of women, leaving a trail of fear and terror wherever it went. To some it was genocide – the mass killing of people who simply sought a greater say in how their lives were governed. To others, it was an unacceptable humanitarian disaster ignited by a rebellious movement in Darfur, which nonetheless had to be brought to an end. African Union troops were then sent in to keep the peace with assistance from international bodies like the United Nations, European Union and the United States. Peace talks on Darfur between the rebel groups and Sudanese government are scheduled to continue (they have been going on intermittently for while) in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Tuesday, 29 November 2005. The blogosphere has been active on the crisis in Darfur. We take a look at some bloggers and what they have to say on this.
Sleepless in Sudan, a blog by an aid worker in Darfur can be likened to the blogosphere’s premier authority on life in Darfur based on a first-hand account. Authored by a female aid worker, it contains periodical accounts about happenings in Darfur. This article posted two weeks ago laments about the fact that attacks in Darfur still continue:
“More than two years have passed since Darfur's rebel groups first began fighting, and government troops and Janjaweed militia responded by fiercely attacking villages and civilians – but the scenes of horror continue in many parts of Darfur… Not only is it acutely disturbing to hear locals tell you that 50, 60 or 70 people have been killed today – there are also concerns that the insecurity is still preventing humanitarian agencies from assisting victims with food, water and shelter.”
Sleepless in Sudan also documents and reports on the slight positives being achieved in Darfur such as the allowing back of an aid agency to camp and the seventh and final round of peace talks slated to begin in Abuja.
The blog But That’s Just My Opinion takes a rather cynical view of the conflict in Darfur, seeing it as one that reflects a long standing trend in Sudan – an Arab minority wishing to impose its views and values on a black African majority. It says:
“The Arabs have come to dominate the Sudan, and have consigned the indigenous Negroid population to the lowliest status, treating them as slaves, from a tradition which began as the Arabs moved into this stretch of Africa, which was once the site of Nubia, the great African civilization. Sudan has been mired in civil conflict, with the Christians rallying behind the [late] John Garang led Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, SPLA, fighting for control of the South from the Arabs of the North.”
But That’s Just My Opinion also traces the history of the subjugation of black Africans by Arabs on the African continent. In its final analysis, it leaves the following warning with Darfur in mind:
“Sudan remains at war, and the war is endless because the Arab Muslim population in the North is unwilling to grant the Black Negroid population its humanity.”
Sudan: The Passion of the Present focuses on the Darfur peace talks scheduled to begin at Abuja.
The blog Octogenarian asks “Darfur: Where is the American black outrage.” Also touching on the black African–Arab divide in Sudan or what it refers to as the “racial component” of the conflict, Octogenarian challenges African-American leaders to speak out against what it calls the “genocide” in Darfur:
“…I am unaware of an angry outcry about Darfur by the most prominent African-American militants, notably Louis Farrakhan, Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Most striking is the apparent absence of Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, in the effort to defend fellow black Muslims in Africa. If these activists have expressed outrage at the massacres of African blacks by Arab militias, it has certainly been muted.”
The complexity of the Darfur crisis is reflected by the diversity of voices in the blogosphere. In the long run, peace would only be achieved if the political will for it exists. We should be hopeful that the talks in Abuja will yield fruitful results.
Alex de Waal has done some excellent reporting from and about Darfur. He argues that the Arab vs. black African framing of the conflict is misleading – all the “Arabs” are in fact black Africans. Reading his work it strikes me that we desperately need a “journalism of complexity” and not one that simplifies the situation to the point of distortion.
Counter-Insurgency on the Cheap – Alex de Waal