It was a serene evening at a crowded market in the village HigairTunu, South Darfur. This place was frequented by families- mothers, fathers, children and the elderly who greeted their neighbors and friends as they exchanged news of the community and purchased their weekly necessities. Suddenly, assailants besieged the market on camelback and opened fire on the unarmed shoppers. The torrent of bullets rained down on the innocent, transforming a peaceful scene to one that was chaotic and tragic.
One can only imagine the anguish of this heartbreaking scene. Mothers holding their crying children, men and women falling from gunfire, people confused and terrified at the commotion. In the frenzy, the market’s tables overturned spilling the goods and produce like the blood spilled from the market frequenters. Life and lives were lost in the market that night. Among the survivors, the loss changed their lives forever but in terms of the violence, life was unchanged.
It was June 5 when the armed militiamen killed these Darfuri civilians in the market. The crime has not yet been solved. Both major rebel groups have condemned this violent attack on civilians. According to news reports, the governor of South Darfur has downplayed the incident, referring to the attack as a “quarrel” between four men and a female market seller.
A local community leader has pointed out that the government and security community failed to order any of their forces to trail the gunmen. The leader criticized the government, emphasizing that “criminals are still armed, even though the government has made much of its recent disarmament campaign”. Displaced civilians in Darfur have also been unimpressed with the government’s reforms to address the violence and complain that the violence has not ebbed. Particularly, the civilians have charged state-backed militias with attacking them and appropriating their land.
According to U.N. estimates more than 300,000 people were killed in Darfur conflicts over the past 15 years and upwards of 2.7 million became displaced. We must keep alive the memory of this violent act and so many others. A civilization depends on our ethical compass for bringing justice to those afflicted by persecution in Darfur. Our compass must guide our efforts in aiding and empowering the Darfuri women, men, children and elderly because an attack on their human rights is an attack on all of us.
It is incumbent upon the international community to be vigilant in monitoring violent incidents in Darfur and Sudan. Clearly, the right to peacefully assemble at a market is something the world can understand and support.
Attacks of its kind are not new to civilians in Darfur and nor are a single incident, it’s a part of a deliberate policy of the government of Sudan to eliminate the people of Darfur which are well documented over the last 14 years. The international community must meet its responsibility by challenging the regime in Sudan and make it clear that impunity for such horrendous crimes is not an option. We must demand that of all of our leaders including the US government.
Maxfield- Outreach Intern