Last Sunday, thousands of protesters in four dozen cities around the world rallied together to protest the genocide occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan, Africa. This “Global Day for Darfur” was organized in accordance with the start of the U.N. General Assembly debate this week to demand the United Nations put diplomatic pressure on Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir to let peacekeepers in and commit troops to save innocent civilians in Darfur.
In Central Park, New York City, an estimated 30,000 protesters were present. Most were from the tri-state area, but others traveled from further locales such as New Hampshire and Vermont. Student organizations were heavily present at the rally, handing out stickers and flyers for more information on what you can do for Darfur after the rally.
Maggie Robertson, a student at the University of Vermont and a member of STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur), a student initiative to raise awareness about the war and genocide, was handing out bright orange stickers to be worn stating, “I’m standing in for Darfur Victim #200,589.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright was one of the 20 speakers at the rally, urging the United Nations and the United States to implement stronger initiatives to allow peacekeeping sanctions. “This is not about politics, this is about people . we need to tell the United Nations that this is what it is here for, and President Bush has to make it clear to the United Nations that the United Nations has to get in there,” Albright said.
Since 2003, nearly 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur, and millions more have fled their homes. The refugees have been victims of rape, senseless beatings and massacres since the initial revolt of ethnic African tribes against the Arab-led government. The government has been accused of inflicting atrocities by the deployment of Arab militiamen, known as Janjaweed in the western province.
A peace agreement signed in May by the Sudanese government and a rebel group was expected to cease the fighting and restore peace. But it generated an increase in fighting between rebel factions rivaling against each other. The death toll continues to rise.
Al-Bashir met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan last Saturday and refused any deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops in Darfur. He spoke yesterday at the summit of the Nonaligned Movement in Cuba saying that, “We are against invading forces; the 1906 resolution places Sudan under supervision because we are an independent nation and we don’t want colonialism to return to Sudan.”
The current war and genocide in Darfur have sparked significant outreach from non-profit organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The posters and banners held up cited many references to past acts of genocide, such as in Rwanda and in Europe during World War II.
Albright, who experienced the Rwandan genocide during her term in the Clinton administration, reflected that, “The world has to act and it must do so now because … time is not on our side. The possibility exists that by this time next month, there will be no peacekeepers in Darfur or humanitarian workers, just killers and victims. That would be a failure and we cannot be complicit to it.”