Sudan: Darfur, genocide or humanitarian disaster? Ethnic war or mass murder?

The Friends of Darfur Coalition
The Friends of Darfur, a London (UK) based coalition of Africans and anti-war activists, will hold a protest on Friday, June 25th outside the Sudanese Embassy at 2:00pm.
The Friends of Darfur Coalition will on Friday urge the UK government and the stalwarts of the African Union to stop the wordplay and acknowledge that genocide has been underway.
Proceeding from the embassy, we shall march to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on King Charles Street, to the South African and Nigerian Embassies on Trafalgar Square and finally to BBC headquarters at Bush House.

Darfur, genocide or humanitarian disaster? Ethnic war or mass murder? The Friends of Darfur Coalition will on Friday urge the UK government and the stalwarts of the African Union to stop the wordplay and acknowledge that genocide has been underway.

We have watched nightly broadcasts of state-sponsored militias who have killed, raped, kidnapped, bombed, displaced, starved and burned thousands. Over one million have been exiled from their homes and remain subject to further attack. The response: concerned statesmen pledge humanitarian help and in hushed language encourage the Sudanese government to cease its murderous campaign. We have been here before and the result for the international community has often been shame. Is it going to be shameful accommodation or a stand rooted in the pledge of “Never Again” that the world made with more eloquence than principle half a century ago?

We are saddened and outraged that even as the world focuses so much attention on conflicts in the Middle East, so little is spared for Sudan. Is this what the war against terrorism is about? That as long as the terrorised are Africans anything goes?

Our campaign for the summer and fall began on Saturday with a 24-hour vigil outside the UNHCR office in Millbank Towers. Friday’s protest will be the continuation of this campaign. We expect between 400-1000 people to be present.

We urge you to give it the deserved coverage on Friday. Please call 07980 747 650 should you need any further details. Thank you.


Martin Kimani (for The Friends of Darfur Coalition)
45 Cooks Road
London, SE17 3NG
07980 747 650
The Two Towers in Khartoum and London

Millbank Tower, the London office of the UNHCR and the British Labour Party, is halfway between the headquarters of the British secret service and Parliament. Between truth and deception. Millbank Tower: glass and cement, sharp angles and silver lettering – modernity. Liberté, égalité… On Saturday last week, a small group from Darfur held an all-night vigil outside the tower hoping that its occupants will act to stop an ongoing campaign of slaughter in west Sudan. It was a cold night, made chillier by the thought that it was meant to be warm summer. Cars sped by with their passengers wearing puzzled expressions – what are those black people doing? It was a cheerful enough gathering, but also a lonely one for there was no TV camera present and no reporters in bulletproof vests. Morbid jokes were made about how much more attention would be focused on Darfur if only it had been invaded by Rumsfeld’s boys.

For decades, the Khartoum government has destroyed Sudanese lives with numbing regularity. It is as if the sheer scale of suffering has rendered the Sudanese invisible – perhaps such a fate is the price they must pay for the world to ensure that its humanist ideals remain unsullied. On Saturday the little band made to become visible, to deliver their message of great injustice borne to the occupants of Millbank Tower. Who knows what the result of that cold night will be? But for those who were present it was a triumph of hopeful anger, a refusal to give in to the hopeless shrug. Run from the tower that kills, appeal to the tower that says it saves.

Darfur: Burning, killing, torturing, raping, enslaving, chasing and terrorizing of black African Muslims by black Arab-African Muslim militias. It makes the head swim for it is no simple matter; there is great complexity in Darfur’s suffering. But consider the facts not in doubt: Thousands are dead and over million have fled their homes with many huddled on the Chad-Sudan border enduring further attack. The main perpetrators of this campaign are the Janjaweed militia, which has been sponsored, supported and directed by the Sudanese government. The victims have been targeted because they are black Africans; the aim is to ‘cleanse’ Darfur of their presence. Every tower in Khartoum and on the Thames knows Article Two of the 1948 Geneva Convention: genocide is an acted-upon intent to eliminate a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. One hundred and thirty seven states are signatories of that famous agreement. Where are they? Where are their citizens on whose behalf they signed on the dotted line?

On Friday June 25th, several hundred of them – perhaps more or even just a few – will be outside the Sudanese Embassy in London and in Washington DC at 2pm. There, they will say no to death and destruction in Darfur. Thumbs down to the Sudanese government’s denial of human choice and possibility.

A radio exchange between a Sudanese ground commander and a pilot overhead (it was taped by a British journalist in February) captures the aims of the attackers:

Commander: We've found people still in the village.
Pilot: Are they with us or against us?
Commander: They say they will work with us.
Pilot: They're liars. Don't trust them. Get rid of them.

Another exchange was also captured on tape, this time in Geneva at a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Biodun Owoseni, of Nigeria, was heard to forcefully say that ‘…Nigeria could not accept such biased, holier-than-thou prescriptions contained in those resolutions…’ He was referring to a tough resolution against the Sudanese government proposed by the United States and watered down by an Africa group with the collaboration of the European Union countries. If only these ‘brothers’ could generate such outrage and unity at their annual bowl-in-hand meetings at the International Monetary Fund. Why would the United States lead the charge to censor the Khartoum regime if not to attain its geo-strategic interests and perhaps tap some oil? Is this praise for America and a condemnation of African governments that breaks racial ranks and betrays the fight against the Man? Yes, we reject the false unities of small men and their limited, deadly destinies. And no, we do not praise America for we do not wear the blindfold of a child at a piñata party. Our immediate interest and geo-strategic aim: African life is precious, not to be negotiated away by be-suited tower dwellers or violated as it is in Darfur. That is why we wanted a strong resolution.

It is doubtful that shame is a feeling much in vogue amongst the governments in the Africa group, the EU, the US and the rest of the Genocide Convention signatories. Hopefully, their citizens are not yet overcome by apathy and are in touch with a sense of neighborly concern and compassion. Failing that, we must put our stock in their ability to feel shame. We shall see because on Friday June 25th we shall march from the Sudanese Embassy, to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, to the Nigerian and South African embassies, and to the BBC. We shall demand that Darfur be declared genocide and the legal obligations arising from such a conclusion be honored. That the displaced are allowed to return home safely with the expectation that the Sudanese government will restitute them. We shall insist that Khartoum disarm the Janjaweed militias; that it respect ceasefires it has signed with the Darfur rebel groups; and that it participate in further talks outside Sudan in a spirit of good-will.

Our carrot: we will stop our pavement diplomacy once there is serious commitment to these aims from the concerned parties. Our stick: that we won’t stop.

Join us.

Martin Mbugua Kimani