My biggest assignment last year in sociology class was to make a presentation to the class about the worst dictators, or rulers, in the world today. Some of the students had Kim Jong Ill from North Korea, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as their projects, but the one that sticks out the most in my mind was President Omar al-Bashir from Sudan.
President Omar al-Bashir was chosen as the worst dictator in the world last year by Parade because of the horrible human atrocities that have taken place in the Darfur region of Sudan under his reign. I had certainly heard of the Darfur genocide before sociology class, but when my friend Jordan presented this horrible leader to us on that warm spring day, I began to open my eyes to the travesty taking place in Sudan. I was shocked that something this horrid was going on in the world and no one was doing much about it.
The problems in Darfur have been in the news consistently for the past few months because people are finally starting to look at the issue and realize that this genocide must come to an end.
We invaded Iraq to dismantle weapons of mass destruction (which didn’t exist) and to save the Iraqi people from their cruel dictator, Saddam Hussein. In my opinion the same cruel leadership is taking place in Africa and there is hardly the same response to the atrocities. Why?
In order for one to fully comprehend what is going on in Darfur they must get a bit of background information about the subject. Sudan is a country in East Africa and has a mixed population of Arabic and Black African people. President al-Bashir and the Janjaweed (pro-government militia) have murdered 400,000 black Africans and displaced 2 million from their homes. Their crime? They are non- Arabic speaking people, black, and they are different. It’s basically a fight between Muslim Arabs in the north and black Africans in the south. The intent of the Janjaweed and Sudanese government is to cleanse Sudan of black African tribes.
More than half the country is made up of non-Islamic and non-Arabic speaking Africans, and at the rate they are being murdered they will be completely destroyed if we don’t stop the genocide.
It has been said that the genocide in Darfur is the worst slaughter of human beings since the horrible tragedy in Rwanda in 1994. This could be one of the greatest calculated mass attacks on a group of innocent individuals since the Holocaust in World War II.
After reading many articles and watching the news I have become more and more aggravated with the way the rest of the world is responding to this situation. My question is, why doesn’t America do something more to help these poor African people in their time of need? If we are to play world police and try to be the big super power in the world, shouldn’t we should try and cease this genocide?
The United Nations has tried to send a peacekeeping force into Sudan to stop the Janjaweed, but it has not been successful because Sudan won’t let them in. The UN has a strong policy of not entering areas that they aren’t invited. There is a small band of African Union soldiers, but they aren’t getting the job done. The Janjaweed continues the slaughter.
In July 2004, the United Nations wrote a resolution that demanded that the Sudan government disarm the Janjaweed. The Sudanese government and the Janjaweed have disregarded the resolution. The United Nations can’t just sit back and watch and say ‘well we tried’. That’s not good enough.
After reading more about Darfur and Sudan, it makes sense why the United States and the United Nations are hesitating to make a move. It’s called politics and there is a little bit more at stake than meets the eye. Sudan supplies 7% of China’s petroleum and the country is starting to rise in stature as it expands its oil industry. The Bush Administration and the United States are tiptoeing around the subject because Sudan is a great ally against the war on terror. The issues of oil and terrorism muddy the water.
The Bush Administration and the United Nations have acknowledged that the problem in Sudan must be stopped and is “the largest and most complex humanitarian problem on the globe.” I completely agree, but because Sudan has nothing of material interest to the United States we are hesitant to go in and fix the problem. The United States was brilliant at taking charge and ridding Iraq of the terrible dictator Saddam Hussein because the United States had a great interest in the Iraqi oil.
I believe oil is a big reason why the USA has turned into world police. Now there is an even greater problem going on in Africa with the AIDS epidemic, and in Sudan, with the Darfur genocide, and America is pausing to think of the ramifications before aiding them.
That makes me want to move out of this country. It’s embarrassing.
We should help those in their time of need regardless if we will get anything out of it. The African tribes targeted in this horrible genocide do not deserve this. They have done nothing wrong. They are people living simple lives and suddenly they were attacked because the government and the Janjaweed wanted to rid their country of any non-Arabic speaking people. This has to be stopped.
I’ve had a keen interest in Africa for years. I want to travel there to explore the amazing land and meet the people. I want to help the AIDS victims. The humanitarian in me knows that there is a grave problem in Africa and it angers me when the United States turns a blind eye and focuses on problems that don’t have any relevance to helping human kind.
It’s a bit ironic to me that people start paying attention to these horrible issues in the world after celebrities like Bono, of the band U2 ,and Oscar winning actor George Clooney, get involved. They are wonderful human beings that are using their power and position in this world to try and make it a better place, but people need to recognize these issues without putting a famous figurehead at the front.
If you ask anyone about the AIDS issue in Africa (me included) within a minute the name Bono comes up. Other famous people like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are using their clout in our materialistic society to try and make the world a better place. Most people had never heard of the country Namibia until the world watched in anticipation to see when Brad and Angelina’s baby was going to be born. Celebrities have brought much interest back to Africa and that’s great, but the interest should be there because of the issues and the people and the beautiful continent.
Many websites, charities, and even protests like “Voices to Stop Genocide” have emerged within the last few months to convince the United States and the United Nations that their help in Darfur is imperative. We all live on the same planet earth so how can we sit back and watch a mass slaughter of people and not do something about it?
This is where America should flex its muscle and do something to help the black African tribes of the Sudan before they are slaughtered. America should show that we are a compassionate nation that cares more about people, than oil.
(Chelsea Murray is an 18 year old freshman at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY)