A month after the charges against Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir were upgraded to the crime of genocide by the International Criminal Court, Eric Reeves reports on the virtual invisibility now of the conflict in Darfur:
The bitterly ironic truth is that Darfur has been doubly betrayed by the international community's response to the ongoing crisis in southern Sudan . The first betrayal came during the 2003–2004 negotiations to finalize the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005. Darfur was excluded from the issues to be negotiated in this comprehensive peace because it was considered too complex and because Khartoum would not agree to any addition to the negotiating agenda. Much of the world obligingly played down the atrocities being committed throughout Darfur in the interests of seeing the CPA through to completion. There was, however, no lack of knowledge about the genocidal character of counter-insurgency in Darfur ; the International Crisis Group was one of several important organizations that, early on, reported the ethnically targeted destruction of civilians with no connection to military actions:
“Government-supported militias deliberately target civilians from the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massalit groups, who are viewed as ‘Africans’ in Darfur and form the bulk of the SLA and JEM [rebel groups] ethnic base. … The latest attacks [by the government-supported Arab militias] occurred deep inside the Fur tribal domain, against unprotected villages with no apparent link to the rebels other than their ethnic profile.” (December 2003)
This was only one of many reports publicly available that proved simply too inconvenient for those seeking to secure the CPA; in the end, there was almost no international pressure on Khartoum to halt the genocidal counterinsurgency during its most violent phase. When the world finally turned its attention from South Sudan to Darfur, the consequences of previous inaction were all too apparent. The vast majority of African villages in Darfur had been destroyed, typically with a terrifying completeness. Mortality was already in the hundreds of thousands.
What's more, in the intervening years, our diplomatic failures have made it more likely that the Darfuris' expulsion will never be reversed. Since the beginning of the genocide, Arab militia members have been seizing land from the displaced populace. Now, Arab groups from neighboring countries such as Chad and Niger have taken up residence, with Khartoum 's encouragement, on the land of the displaced, often as payment for their efforts in the counterinsurgency. Recent reports make clear that this is becoming the new status quo, and those few Darfuris attempting to return to their lands are finding intolerable insecurity. Camps for displaced refugees are themselves increasingly encountering shortages of food, clean water, primary medical care, and a lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene. Following last year's poor rains, an inadequate rainy season this year will likely deplete the ground reservoirs in many locations and precipitate disastrous water shortages amid dense concentrations of human beings.
Yet, despite the extreme vulnerability of Darfur, it is the lurching diplomatic efforts toward South Sudanese self-determination that dominate current international attention, and they too are belated and insufficiently coordinated. Meanwhile, far too many observers ignore the continuing reports from Darfur of large-scale, ethnically based human destruction, which has diminished significantly since 2003–2005, but nonetheless continues, most recently in the Jebel Marra region.