With the conclusion of Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month and our Future Without Genocide Campaign, Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) publishes this statement with the intention of highlighting the ongoing suffering in Darfur and to urge our supporters to continue to prevent genocide, support victims, and fight for justice. While our campaign has ended, our work continues to support the resilient people of Darfur.
DWAG focused our Future Without Genocide campaign this past April towards empowering the children of Darfur so that they may forge ahead and produce bright futures in Darfur marked by security, stability, and peace. The children of Darfur have grown up during a time of conflict where mass casualties, widespread displacement, and violence have been a part of their daily lives. By fundraising to send children to school, raising awareness about the suffering children have experienced at vulnerable ages, and advocating for their access to healthcare and education, DWAG has highlighted that while children have disproportionately suffered, they are also beacons of hope for the future of Darfur.
Diving into the history of the genocide, for more than 18 years, violence, rape, arrest, murder and torture have devastated the lives of thousands of innocent civilians in Darfur. Countless men, women, and children have lost their lives, while the survivors continue to endure unimaginable suffering and trauma. During the genocide, the Sudanese government’s military forces and its allied militia, the notorious Janjaweed, carried out systematic attacks against the Darfuri people based on their ethnicity. They have bombed and burned villages, abducted civilians, looted private properties, and used rape as a weapon of war against women and girls. As a result, more than 3 million Darfuris were forced to abandon their homes and villages and continue to live in makeshift displacement camps within Sudan and Chad.
The rate of violence in Darfur remains alarmingly high despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2020. Insecurity and violence continue to devastate the lives of innocent civilians in Darfur. Systematic attacks on the Masalit people have continued and worsened in recent months. In El Geneina, as recently as April 2021, we see violent incidents in which the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), largely made up of former Janjaweed militia members, targeted indigenous Africans in Darfur, a disturbing reproduction of genocidal violence to levels not seen since the early 2000s. Furthermore, displacement and violence continues even into 2021. Due to emergent violence committed by the RSF, 237,000 Darfuris have been displaced in the first four months of 2021 alone, a number that dwarfs the 53,000 people that were displaced in all of 2020. This return to violence and massive displacement is destabilizing regions of Darfur whose local governments are unable to cope without national and international support.
This situation in the region is worsened by the recent decision to withdraw the troops and personnel of the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and replace it with the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). While UNAMID was in no way perfect, UNITAMS has no civilian protection mandate, rendering it useless in the face of recent violence across Darfur.
Women and girls also continue to be victimized by this violence. Despite huge gains made in women’s rights, with the repeal of oppressive public order laws in 2019 and the criminalization of female genital mutilation in 2020, Sudanese women and girls continue to face numerous challenges. In February 2020, three girls were raped in the Krinding camp in El Geneina. In April 2020, four displaced women were beaten in West Darfur by government militiamen. In June 2020, attacks on an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Central Darfur by armed militia resulted in the death of two civilians and the rape of a 23-year-old woman at gunpoint. Despite ongoing violence against women, there has been very little justice brought against the perpetrators of these crimes as they continue to act with impunity.
Despite the violence in Darfur, the international community has made the disturbing choice to turn a blind eye. Many advocates, as well as the media, have moved away from advocating for Darfur or have passively accepted the narrative imposed by the Sudanese government. Instead of calling the situation what it is, a genocide, they have begun to use words like “mass atrocities” or “conflict.” It may seem like a harmless grammatical tweak, but there are severe consequences to this change. Avoiding the word “genocide” dilutes the urgency of the continuing situation in Darfur and allows the world to move away from this issue, ultimately endangering the lives of those who survive and long for justice.
This is Why We Need You, Your Voice, and Your Support.
Despite the challenges, DWAG and its supporters remain vigilant and refuse to stand idly by. We say NO to the silent conspiracy on Darfur and YES to empowering survivors and ordinary citizens to lead grassroots movements that hold leaders accountable and compel them to act. We believe that when we act together, we can shine a light on one of the darkest places in the world and ensure a just future without genocide in Darfur.
What You Can Do to Help
It takes only one of the following steps to contribute towards a solution, even after the end of our Future Without Genocide campaign for Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month:
Commemorative months end, but action and advocacy continues. We cannot do this without your support, and that is why we are calling on you to continue to stand by our side. We need you to add your voice, speak with us, and mobilize the masses so that the people of Darfur may experience justice, security, and peace.