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Has the genocide in Darfur stopped?

Don't Panic ... Your War Questions Answered

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It has not.

Darfur is part of Sudan, the largest country in Africa. You actually could stick Texas and Alaska in Sudan and still have room left for South Carolina. Wouldn't it be nice if Texas just went away to Africa for a while?

Sudan is so spacious that it has found enough room for not just one but two of the world's deadliest civil wars.

For more than 20 years, the brutal Muslim Arab minority that controls Sudan's central government has fought a civil war with Christian and animist black Africans in the country's southern half. Animism is a catch-all phrase for the system of traditional religious practices still popular in Sudan's south.

This on-and-off war has killed between 1.5 million and 2 million Sudanese. Imagine that. Imagine a war so comprehensively deadly that there's a 500,000 margin of error in the fatality count. About 500,000 Americans died fighting in World War II, Vietnam, Korea, and the two Persian Gulf wars combined.

Sudan's Muslim Arab government reached a peace accord with southern rebels in 2003. That peace has largely held, though it's still tenuous.

Unfortunately, while that peace accord was taking shape, another civil war broke out, this time in Darfur.

Darfur is Sudan's western region and is about 25 percent larger than the island of Great Britain. It's supposed to be home to about 6 million people. In all likelihood, however, that number is a lot lower, thanks to the century's first genocide.

The genocide started after Darfur's black African population began a large-scale rebellion against Sudan's Muslim Arab central government. Darfur's black Africans, mostly farmers, were unhappy with the way they were treated by the central government. Specifically, they were unhappy about the preferential treatment granted to Darfur's nomadic Arabs.

The government decided to put down the rebellion with the help of a brutal Muslim Arab militia called the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed-government alliance has destroyed hundreds of Darfur villages, killing nearly 200,000 people and rendering approximately 2 million more homeless. Of those 2 million, about 1.8 million are in refugee camps in Darfur, and 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad.

The Janjaweed is attempting to remove as many black Africans as possible from Darfur. That's why it's a genocide.

Tales of child-killings and gang rape are abundant in Darfur. A New York Times reporter interviewed a woman who said she worked the fields outside her village even though she knew she was likely to be gang-raped by the Janjaweed. Women work the fields in Darfur because if they don't, there will be no food for their families; if their husbands were to work the fields, they'd be killed by the Janjaweed. Darfur's women are forced to choose between rape, starvation and the deaths of their husbands.

The so-called civilized world's response to the genocide has been shameful. The food-giving part of the United Nations is trying its best, but the security-making part of the U.N. has been mostly silent. The U.N. doesn't operate without consensus, and right now there is no consensus to help Darfur. The reason largely is greed.

Sudan's Muslim Arab central government controls Sudan's ample oil fields. And U.N. powerhouses China and Russia don't want to jeopardize their lucrative access to Sudan's oil.

Oil lust hasn't just thwarted the world's response to the Darfur genocide. According to some reports, it may even be the cause of it.

Last Spring, the British press reported that investors paid Sudan's government millions of dollars for oil rights in Darfur. The deal was signed in October 2003, around when the ethnic-cleansing campaign started. Sudan's government might very well be supporting the genocide to simply get Darfur's black African farmers off oil-rich land.

The African Union has sent 7,000 peacekeepers to Darfur in an effort to protect the refugee camps and food convoys, but they have largely failed. Not because they're bad at their jobs, necessarily; they've done a decent job where they are stationed. The problem is that a force of 7,000 people in a place roughly the size of Great Britain (with no transportation infrastructure) can't be in that many places. The New York Police Department alone employs 35,000 people!

By the way, the 7,000 African Union peacekeepers soon may leave because they're out of money. Congress and the Bush administration were going to give them $50 million but decided against it. Incidentally, $50 million is how much the federal government just promised to spend to build a rainforest and aquarium in Iowa.

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