Raising awareness of Darfur conflict Sept. 29

Rockford Humanitarian Awareness Group is holding a candlelight vigil to raise awareness of the Darfur region in Sudan, at the Peace Plaza on Perryville from 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 29.

The group’s goal is to raise awareness by helping educate local people about what’s going on in the Sudan region. The point of this is to get people talking, maybe donate a little money, which the group will send to the International Rescue Committee, which has aid workers on the ground there.

Four speakers will offer their thoughts, and coffee and candles will be for sale on a donation basis.

Information about the region

Darfur is a semi-arid western province of Sudan—Africa’s largest country. Darfur alone is the size of France.

In an Arab-dominated country, Darfur’s population is mostly black African.

For years, there have been tensions between the mostly African farmers and the mostly Arab herders, who have competed for land.

Opposition groups in Darfur say the government neglects their province, and discriminates against black Africans.


The conflict began in 2003, when rebel groups began attacking government targets.

In retaliation, the government launched a military and police campaign in Darfur.

More than 2 million people fled their homes.

Many spoke of government aircraft bombing villages, after which the Arab Janjaweed militia would ride in on camels and horses to slaughter, rape and steal.

The refugees and some western observers said there was a deliberate attempt to drive black Africans out of Darfur.

The government admits mobilizing “self-defence militias,” but denies links to the Janjaweed and says the problems have been exaggerated.


Those who fled the violence are now living in camps across Darfur. About 200,000 refugees have crossed the border into Chad.

Those living in camps now depend on food aid from international donors.

Aid agencies have repeatedly warned that continuing violence is making it difficult, or impossible, for them to provide the displaced people with the help they need.

Peace deal

Attempts by the African Union (AU)—a grouping of African states—to end the conflict resulted in a peace deal being signed in 2006.

The Sudanese government backed the deal, but only one rebel faction—Minni Minawi’s faction of the Sudan Liberation Army—signed up.

As part of the deal, the government agreed to disarm the Janjaweed, but there is little to suggest that this has happened.

At the same time, Minni Minawi’s men now seem to be fighting on the side of the government against the other rebel groups.

All this means that violence has actually increased since the peace deal was signed.


The AU has sent 7,000 soldiers to try to monitor a ceasefire.

The Sudanese government agreed to allow this force to operate.

But this relatively small force has not managed to end the violence. It has been described as a “sticking plaster on a gaping wound.”

Britain and the U.S. have been pushing for the United Nations to take over the peacekeeping mission, and the AU is happy to stand aside. It recently extended its mandate to allow troops to remain until the end of the year.

Sudan, however, says it will not allow a U.N. force on its territory. Recent negotiations have reached a stalemate.

From the Sept. 27-Oct. 3, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!