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Darfur Genocide is Rwanda in Slow Motion

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In Darfur, the desolate western region of Sudan, a genocide continues to unfold. Some call it “Rwanda in slow-motion.” The violence began two and a half years ago, when militias armed and trained by the government of Sudan started attacking black African farmers—killing, burning, and raping—in a systematic effort to drive them from their tribal lands and eradicate their culture.

Now most of the villages in Darfur have been destroyed. An estimated 400,000 civilians have been killed, some 3.5 million people driven from their homes or otherwise placed at risk.

The genocide is far from over, however. Sudan government troops and their proxy militias continue to attack the survivors, preventing them from returning to rebuild villages and plant crops. This has become a genocide of attrition. The UN estimates that nearly half the population of Darfur now lives at risk: wholly dependent on outside aid and threatened with starvation and disease. The efforts of various organizations around the world—the UN and organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, and others quietly engaged in providing humanitarian relief—are crucial to the survival of those in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.

Hopes are focused on the African Union's tiny peacekeeping force, whose presence in a few villages has allowed IDPs to return. However, the AU role is narrowly confined to observing the on-again off-again cease-fire. Its mandate does not include protecting civilians or humanitarian aid convoys, which are increasingly coming under attack, not only by Sudanese government troops and militias, but by the rebels, as well, as the food shortage becomes ever more desperate.

As we go to press, the AU peacekeeping force—only 6,300 troops to police an area the size of France—is about to run out of money to meet its payroll. Efforts are under way in the U.S. Congress and in the UN to provide financial assistance and to broaden the AU's mandate, but foot-dragging makes this painfully slow.

The Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of over 100 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations, is spearheading efforts to force action by the U.S. Congress. Their website, www.savedarfur.org, provides action updates and the latest news from Darfur.

David Morse is the author of "War of the Future: Oil Drives the Genocide in Darfur", available online at http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=14239
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