This is a guest post by Joy Henry.
Darfur is an area in western Sudan, a country on the east coast of Africa. Since 2003, a civil war has been waged in the region, killing over 400,000 and displacing over 2.5 million. The Sudanese government is directing an ongoing push to kill off an ethnically distinct portion of its population, the African Muslims who inhabit the Darfur region.
Who is Involved
Sudan can roughly be divided into north and south portions, each with a distinct ethnic population; the north has mainly a tribal Arab population, while the south has black Africans farmers. There is a history of tension and racist feelings between the two populations--after slavery ended here, Arab feelings of superiority became directed towards the African population. The Sudanese government has been decidedly Arab-centric and supportive of these racist views. The Darfur region, a region with a mixed population, actually had not felt the discrimination as harshly until a group of Africans joined together and began confronting the Sudanese government about its racist practices.
The fighting began in 2003, when a group of black Africans called the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) began accusing the government of supporting Arabs and discriminating against Africans.
In response to this uprising by the SLM/A and the JEM, the Sudanese government enlisted its military as well as Arab tribesman to fight against the rebels. This group of Arab tribesman, called the Janjaweed, have been called a "mixture of the mafia and the Ku Klux Klan" by reporters. The Janjaweed view Africans as less than human, and began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against them. The government's military and the Janjaweed militia have used terrifying tactics of rape, starvation, and mass murder against the African populations in Darfur.
What is Being Done to End the Genocide
Amnesty International was one of the first to report the genocide in Darfur and spread awareness about the situation, in July 2003. After the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan called Darfur "the world's greatest humanitarian crisis" in 2004, international media attention began pouring in.
In 2006, the UN began putting peacekeeping troops on the ground in Sudan. The troops focused on protecting civilians and ensuring that humanitarian aid was getting safely into the country. By 2006, the UN has upwards of 20,000 troops, police, and civilians on the ground there.
Criticism of the Response to Darfur
Without great monetary support from the wealthy nations of the world, however, the UN peacekeeping forces have fallen far short of what is necessary to contain the genocide in Darfur. Throughout 2008, the UN troops were far too small, and the lack of necessary equipment, like helicopters, impeded their efforts. Some groups argue that if the Security Council and the UN had responded to Darfur sooner, that the crisis there could have been averted.
China has especially been criticized for supporting the Sudanese government in order to ensure its access to oil reserves in the region. It has also been repeatedly accused of supplying weapons to the government's military.
How Can You Help
There are several things you can do to help end the crisis in Darfur. One is to write your local Congressperson to ask them keep Darfur an important issue in the government. At SaveDarfur.org, you can easily put in your information and send a form letter asking different officials to take action on Darfur.
You can also encourage divestment from companies that support the genocide in Darfur. The Divest for Darfur campaign rallies U.S. investment firms to keep their funds out of these companies.
And finally and most importantly, stay informed on the current news of what's happening in Darfur. The Save Darfur Blog is a good place to start. Darfur Voices, STAND, and Humanitarian Rights are other good sites.