Thursday, 26 June 2008

Lost Voices of Darfur

As the international media focuses its attention on the electoral chaos in Zimbabwe, the ethnic cleansing of Darfur by the Sudan government carries on. It is five years since reports first emerged of the Islamist regime’s attacks through its proxy militias, the Janjaweed, but still nothing has been done to actually stop its campaign of slaughter and destruction.

United Nations' resolutions remain unimplemented, the African Union force has not received the proper equipment to enable it to halt the genocide and the regime’s lucrative business deals with European companies and others go on uninterrupted.

In the crypt of Christopher Wren’s 17th century church St. Bride’s, the NGO Waging Peace launched an exhibition on 25 June that everyone should see. The organisation, which campaigns against genocide and systematic human rights abuses, has collected more than 500 drawings by Darfuri children stranded in refugee camps in eastern Chad.

The drawings show villages under attack, people being killed – beheadings, babies thrown on to fires, children shot – and helicopter gunships and planes raining down death and destruction on unarmed civilians. These powerful pictures give a shocking account of the atrocities that have taken place during the last five years in Darfur and are so detailed that they have been accepted by the International Court in The Hague as evidence against high-ranking officials in the Sudan regime and others who may be found responsible.

Photographs from the late 1980s show the contrast: a beautiful and peaceful landscape, picnics in the Jebel Mara, smiling children, and happy-looking people going about their daily chores.

Iklass, a Darfuri mother of 3 and refugee in Britain since 2004, spoke at the launch of the exhibition of her personal experiences of the attacks: friends and neighbours murdered by gunmen; a newborn baby taken from its mother and thrown into a pot of boiling water; schools attacked and schoolchildren raped in front of their families – and much more.

Iklass was invited to address the Labour Party’s conference last year. She related those same stories to party delegates and later to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. How is it then that nine months later no action has been taken against the regime and the genocide has been allowed to continue, save for efforts by the AU’s undermanned and under-resourced troops? What happened to the helicopters Prime Minister Brown promised when George Clooney visited Downing Street on 7 April this year? Why is the Home Office continuing to send Darfuri asylum seekers back to Khartoum? How can Khartoum be considered safe for these refugees when it is home to the very regime that has masterminded the genocide?

The ethnic cleansing began while British politicians and their lackeys concentrated on cobbling together a flawed peace deal between the Sudan government and the South – to the exclusion of other areas of Sudan. Darfur is a casualty of that agreement and sadly it may not be the last. The Sudan government is the problem.

See the Events page on the Africa Confidential website for further information.

Lost Voices of Darfur: An Unveiling: 25 June-20 July 2008 – St Brides’s Church Crypt, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8AU

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