Last week Desmond Tutu wrote a piece for the The Sunday Times to mark the International Day of Action for Darfur on the 17th September. I didn’t know about that Day of Action, despite our fundraising for MSF in Darfur on Larvatus Prodeo not long ago: how many of us did?
Tutu’s article, A blind eye to genocide, makes for uncomfortable reading:
In Darfur 2m people have been ethnically cleansed since 2003, women and girls are systematically raped and tortured daily, there is cholera in the refugee camps and the violence is spilling into next door Chad, and all without the attention, or response, it deserves.
This summer, after 30 days of war between Israel and Hezbollah, and a thousand dead, the international community rightly intervened and dispatched UN peacekeepers. After 3Â½ years, and an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 dead in Darfur, it is still unclear if a United Nations force will be sent. We Africans conclude that double standards apply to our continent.
Meanwhile, amid the scramble to find excuses to abandon Darfur, experts scour the history books for evidence of “ancient tribal or ethnic hatreds” on which to blame the “savagery” of African genocides (as if it had not in fact occurred in the centre of Europe a mere 60 years ago).
I’m always finding ways in which my unconscious privilege, as citizen of a wealthy and peaceful democracy isolated from regional conflicts, has affected my reactions to events in far off lands. Tutu lifts the veil on just what those privileged lenses mean to the people subject to the genocidal Sudanese elite in Darfur: famine, violence and death. I’m off to find some contact details for the appropriate politicians and send some emails and letters. It’s a very tiny thing to do, but at least it means our politicians can’t forget Darfur if enough of us undertake to keep reminding them.
Join me. In Australia, send a letter to our current Minister for Foreign Affairs, and copy it to the Shadow Minister, Kevin Rudd, stating that while more humanitarian assistance is the least we can do, humanitarian assistance alone is not enough (especially as much of it is not getting where it’s most needed). There needs to be a UN force in Darfur to protect civilians, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1674, which recognised the responsibility of governments to protect their own people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and also the responsibility of the international community to intervene when a government shows itself unable to protect its people.
The Hon Alexander Downer
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Write a letter to your own MP as well, and also your State Parliamentary Representatives.
More information on Darfur and activism at Darfur Australia Network – they have suggestions for letters you can personalise, and also links to international organisations working to ensure that UN Security Council Resolution 1674 be fully implemented to protect the people of Darfur.