Dark days in Darfur

As Blair trolls around Africa on his farewell tour playing dress up withColonel Gaddafi, the situation in Darfur continues to worsen.

We shouldn’t be beating about the bush – this is genocide. The Sudaneseregime is one of the most brutal and destabilising in the world today.Some 400,000 Darfuris have perished due to the measures taken againstthem by the Government of Sudan and allied militias.

Two and a half years ago, Tony Blair took a stand saying that’international focus on Darfur will not go away while the situationremains outstanding’. But that stand was only temporary – for last year,Salah Gosh – the Sudanese security chief who orchestrates the violencein Darfur – was twice "welcomed" to this country.

And this wasn’t another case of the Government failing to keep track ofwho is coming in or out – for he was granted a visa to come and getmedical treatment. What a sickening contrast between the treatment hegot from this country and the treatment he is responsible for dishingout to hundreds of thousands in Darfur.

Our unwillingness to act on violence in Darfur has assured theGovernment of Sudan that it can commit gross violations of human rightswith impunity. The regime in Sudan has played the internationalcommunity for fools. Despite promises the African Union troops have notgot to work – and there are still no UN peacekeepers in Darfur.

Taking action on Darfur

So what is to be done? First and foremost, we need to stop the killing. The AU troops must be deployed. And if we need more leverage – then we need to get China and Russia fully on board.

We need to stop the Sudan Government bombing Darfur with immediate and urgent action to assess the feasibility of a verifiable no-fly zone.

We need an immediate and serious extension of the UN arms embargo.

We need to hit those orchestrating the violence where it hurts: impose travel bans and asset freezes on all the individuals named in the UN’s own Commission of Inquiry and Panel of Experts reports and those named by the International Criminal Court.

We also need to stop the flow of money that Khartoum needs to pay for all this genocide – which means the UK and EU targeting those companies that are providing Sudan with revenue, arms and diplomatic cover.

What we can do for Darfur

But we shouldn’t just wait for others to act. There are actions all usindividuals can and should take too, from lobbying some of the keydecision makers for the above to publicising the need for action andindeed putting pressure on other bodies – such as local councils – whichmay have funds invested with firms that are supporting the Sudaneseregime.

So whilst I am hoping to be called to speak in a debate in Parliament onSudan (which will have taken place by the time you read this), I alsowant to set up a local "Darfur Group" to campaign for effective actionat local, national and international levels.

Just go back a moment and re-read the figure I gave near the start ofthis article: 400,000 killed in Darfur. Exact population figures are(unsurprisingly) hard to get, but Darfur’s population is in the six toseven million range. The UK’s population is around 60 million. So theequivalent would be something approaching 4,000,000 people being killedin the UK – or around 13,000 to 14,000just in Haringey.

Those numbers are almost unbelievably large and completely dwarfanything like the 9/11 tragedy (where New York’s official death toll wasjust short of 3,000).

That’s why thinking about just raising the issue (again) in Parliamentseems somehow quite inadequate. I am determined to campaign activelywith local like-minded people to put pressure on at all levels – on Haringey Council (to ensure their investments aren’t helping sustain the Government inKhartoum), on our Government, the EU, the UN and any government that canput pressure on the Sudanese Government to end this murder.

So – get in touch, let’s start a local group, and let’s do more for Sudan and chip away at that awful sense of the meagreness of the UK’s response to such monstrous brutality.

If we don’t act, who will?

(c) Lynne Featherstone, 2007