HeadCount Human Rights Update: Eyes of the World on Darfur

As Sudan, a country notorious for political instability and brutal genocide, prepares for a national election in April, the world will be watching.

Since 2003, an estimated 300,000 lives have been lost in Sudan's ethnic conflict. A new study shows that nearly 80 percent of the casualties have been caused by disease due to "unsanitary [living] conditions with little or no healthcare infrastructure." The violence, which has spilled over into neighboring Chad, has also displaced some 2.7 million people from their homes.

The conflict in Darfur is complicated and has demonstrated the limited ability of the international community to stop genocide and other mass atrocities.

  • Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, has criticized the UN Security Council for failing to enforce sanctions against Sudan. It is widely viewed that the Security Council's slow progress on this issue is the result of the special relationship the government of China has with Sudan. China is deeply invested in Sudanese raw materials and energy. The Government of China has used its Security Council veto power to block more powerful UN action in Darfur, prolonging the conflict and blocking most meaningful international intervention.
  • A peace agreement between the Sudanese Government and an influential rebel group called the Justice Equality Movement was signed on Feb. 23 but is already facing challenges, much like previous failed peace deals. As such, hope that the upcoming election in Sudan could help cement this agreement as an important first step to complete peace in Darfur may be unraveling. Last week several candidates announced an election boycott. The Obama administration immediately sent an envoy to the region to help mediate the situation, however it remains uncertain whether Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir will have credible election opponents.
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) has received praise for its March 4 indictment of Omar Al-Bashir for war crimes. The indictment is said to have weakened Bashir's power and further isolated the Sudanese President internationally. However, the ICC indictment also led to a dramatic decrease in humanitarian services in Darfur, exasperating famine and disease.
  • A number of musicians have taken steps to raise awareness about Darfur in the live music community, including Jack JohnsonMatisyahuBen Harper and The Flaming Lips who each pitched a track in for an Amnesty International CD to raise money for Darfur awareness. Additionally, Bob Weir & RatDog participated in the "Rock for Darfur" concert series with their 10-10-07 show in Myrtle Beach, SC.

If you want to try a little democracy in action, keep tabs on pending Darfur related legislation and email your Senators and Congressional reps.