Just as peace is finally within reach in Sudan's bloody North/South civil war, a new threat of ethnic cleansing and mass death is looming elsewhere in Sudan, in the huge western province of Darfur. Government-armed Arab militias known as the Janjaweed, with open support from the Sudanese military, are attacking villages from non-Arab ethnic groups. An estimated 15,000 to 30,000 people have been killed so far; between 1 and 2 million people have been driven from their looted and burned homes. Most of these refugees are in camps inside Darfur, where Janjaweed openly rape women and steal food aid. The government has repeatedly blocked and delayed humanitarian aid efforts, in a policy predicted to kill 350,000 from hunger and disease in the upcoming months. This is deliberate, ethnically targeted genocide by starvation.
As the recent peace deal with Southern rebels proves, U.S. and other international pressure can make Sudan's government do the right thing. The question now is whether we will take the trouble to do so.
Ironically, the gathering crisis in Darfur has gone on simultaneously with this spring's 10-year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis (and moderate Hutus) died while the world did nothing. The body count isn't that high in Darfur yet, but it's growing. With food stocks burned or looted, the planting season already lost, and the rainy season rendering roads impassible through September, immediate and massive humanitarian aid, as well as disarmament of the Janjaweed, is vital.