Sudan became a state in 1956. At the time of independence, much of its power was held by an elite of northern Arab tribes. This new elite neglected the interests of many parts of the country, leading to two bitter civil wars between the corrupt Sudanese leadership and disgruntled Southern rebels. In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, stating that South Sudan would have a shared stake in the government.
In the years preceding, however, it became clear that Darfur - the western region of Sudan - was going to be left out of the power-sharing agreement altogether. Facing economic hardship and increasing attacks from Arab raiders, the people of Darfur wanted leaders who could guarantee the region security. In 2002, rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) demanded fair representation.
The Government of Sudan refused to grant Darfur any real political control. Instead of responding to the SLA/JEM rebels, the Sudanese government hired Janjaweed militias to wipe out the entire region. Their strategy was to terrorize the civilians of Darfur, forcing them away from their villages and the region at large. This would prevent the territory from ever posing a challenge to the government of northern Arab elites.
This campaign was, and still is, a genocide (learn why). Millions of civilians have been displaced and hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the atrocities. The United Nations has called Darfur the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) put forward 150 peacekeeping forces in 2004 and raised the number to 7000 within a year. Yet these troops had little to no authority to protect civilians under the AMIS mandate.
In mid-2007 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1769. This called for the establishment of UNAMID - a hybrid United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur with more troops, more funding, and a stronger mandate.
Peace on the Horizon
At this critical juncture what we need is rather simple. What will bring peace in Darfur is helicopters - twenty-four to be exact - so that the new peacekeeping force can defend civilians before their village is destroyed. With these helicopters, UNAMID will be better equiped to contain violence on the ground.
We continue to hope that a meaningful peace agreement can be reached between all warring parties. In the meantime, NGOs continue to provide aid to refugee camps on the ground and activists, such as us the Darfur Association, continue to fight for awareness and a more permanent solution.