As we begin a new year, many of us will think about what we accomplished since January 1, 2007 and set our goals for 2008. But in Darfur, the hope will remain the same: to return home, leave the camps behind and begin to rebuild their lives as people, as mothers, fathers and children of Darfur.
December 31st is the deadline for the deployment of a 26,000 strong peacekeeping force made up of global allies from the United Nations and African Union nations (UNAMID). But this will be yet again, another failed promise. The obstacles that UNAMID faces come from not only President al-Bashir, but from the international community as well.
Yes, al-Bashir has failed to accept non-African Union troop pledges for over two months while rejecting troops from Thailand, Nepal, and Nordic countries. He has delayed and denied the use of land in Darfur for UN base camps. He has denied night flights and continues to impose curfews for peacekeepers. Most critically, he is trying to insert language into the agreement that would require UNAMID to notify the Government of Sudan before all movement of troops and equipment. Additionally further language would give Sudanese authorities the right to disable UNAMID’s communications network at any time; a power that parallels the Government’s tactic of blocking cell phone usage before a village attack.
President al-Bashir is doing everything in his power, as a leader of a sovereign nation, to keep private the continued deaths, rapes and pillaging that his regime supports in Darfur. But even as al-Bashir attempts to stop the peacekeeping force, we as the international community should be continuing with our plans for deployment.
We should be preparing our trained peacekeepers to support the overwhelmed and under-funded AU peacekeepers. We, as a global community, we have military departments, and budgets, and technology, but we cannot even supply 24 helicopters and heavy transport trucks to stop ethnic cleansing. The United States said we cannot give vehicles and helicopters as ours are all in use. On December 2 nd, the general of the peacekeeping force said only 6,500 troops and 3,000 police will be on the ground by the proposed deadline of December 31, 2007; that less than a third of the 26,000 promised. And most of these will be an extension of the existing African Union troops already there.
As activists, and a community fighting to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, we need to continue to pressure our leaders to make the promise of resolution 1769 real. We need to demand that President Bush stand up to China, Russia and the world. We need to be an example for the world by providing our fiscal and logistical support. Your voice is the voice of Darfurians, please use that voice to demand immediate attention to the failed promise of Resolution 1769.
In October alone, 120 people were killed, 30,000 displaced, seven aid workers killed and 10 vehicles hijacked. The African Union mandate remains one to observe and monitor a 2004 ceasefire agreement between the government and rebels. Nothing has changed on the ground.
Our voices and our hope for change in Darfur need to be stronger in 2008. In two months, we will have allowed ethnic cleansing to continue for 5 years. We will NOT allow this to go on. As you look forward in 2008, hold hope in your heart and take action in your life.
Thank you for all your commitment thus far to end the genocide. We will end this in 2008.