by Joel Brinkley
Since early 2003, at least 300,000 people have been killed. More than 2 million others have been forced from their homes. And day by day, even now, the problems are worsening.
More people fled to feculent refugee camps in the first two months of 2013 than in all of the previous year. The reason: intensifying aerial bombardments and indiscriminate military raids.
The surviving victims of this terrible, unending conflict are suffering from multiple illnesses, including tuberculosis, malaria, scabies, night blindness, typhoid -- even leprosy, the region's health minister recently declared. The people are especially vulnerable, he added, because of widespread malnutrition -- even starvation. And yet for nearly everyone, health care is unavailable.
Is this Syria or Afghanistan? Maybe Somalia or Yemen?
No, the war no one recalls is in Darfur, Sudan.
Surprised? Almost nothing has changed since Darfur was on front pages in the mid 2000s. Back then, I traveled with the secretary of state when she visited Darfur and talked about the conflict with
And so it continues: Just a few days ago,
In Washington seven years ago, State Department Spokesman
For 10 years there's been no shortage of sympathetic rhetoric. Beyond that, though, nothing effective has been done. And without question that's only because of one man:
The conflict in Darfur began on Feb. 28, 2003, when rebel groups attacked government positions, accusing the leaders in Khartoum of ignoring their region. The government struck back with a fury, enlisting local militias to massacre civilians and burn down entire villages.
Back then, the world was slow to react, but in September 2004 the Bush administration declared that the carnage constituted genocide. The West, primarily the United States, brokered two peace treaties between the government and Darfur rebels, in 2006 and 2009. But then, Bashir simply ignored them and continued the carnage.
Then, in 2009, the International Criminal Court indicted Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes. He refused to face the charges, though he is subject to arrest whenever he leaves the country.
Well, by 2009, the world had turned away. The U.S. sidelined the problem by appointing special envoys, one after another "in soap-opera fashion," a Darfur rebel leader wrote in the
Little if any attention was paid to Darfur. Other priorities came along, and Western leaders quietly gave up because they realized the problem could not be solved while Bashir still ruled the nation.
The lack of attention to this decade-long horror is now proving to be a severe problem for aid agencies working to keep millions of Darfuris alive.
Even under indictment, Bashir still travels widely, to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Egypt, Eritrea and other states whose leaders lay down red carpets and greet him with kisses on both cheeks. As the
The next time Bashir takes a trip, if someone would simply arrest him, that would save uncounted thousands of lives.
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