Echoing the 1984 beginning of their fight against apartheid, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) and former Representative Walter Fauntroy were arrested in July outside the Sudanese embassy for acts of civil disobedience. The two seek to raise awareness of the unfolding genocide in Sudan. Rangel's arrest was followed by those of Representative Bobby Rush; former Representative Bob Edgar, who heads the National Council of Churches; activist and comedian Dick Gregory; and others.
The arrests were part of ongoing protests by the Sudan Campaign, an alliance of groups that include African Action, the Congressional Black Caucus, and Christian Solidarity International, and other civic and church groups.
Conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan has, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development, resulted in 30,000 deaths, the razing of 56,000 homes, and the displacement of some 2 million people. Arab militias have carried out attacks against the mostly black population of the region, killing and raping residents and burning villages.
According to Fauntroy, although the strife has broken out along ethnic and religious lines, it is in fact a resource war. The predominantly black areas of Sudan contain reserves of oil and water. Chevron is reportedly developing the Sudanese oil fields. Fauntroy says the current hostilities, which began when blacks sought land and political power, are now an effort to complete the disenfranchisement of black Sudanese.
International observers say that, absent immediate action, the situation could result in a worse tragedy than the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The Sudanese government has blocked aid efforts, claiming that any problems are the result of drought and that there is no unusual violence.
In a June visit to Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell renewed demands for the government to admit aid agencies and threatened a UN resolution creating an arms embargo and travel ban on the Arab militias. Critics call the administration's responses inadequate.
Rangel and others are calling for immediate intervention by UN peacekeeping troops and direct aid to the affected areas. In July, the U.S. House and Senate unanimously passed resolutions labeling the conflict in Darfur genocide.
Doug Pibel is a YES! contributing editor.
For more information, go to www.sudan campaign.com or www.africaaction.org.