The ongoing genocide in Darfur is one of the longest-running and deadliest current conflicts in the world. Situated in Western Sudan, Darfur is an economically marginalized state roughly the size of Spain. The conflict began in 2003 when two rebel groups attacked the Darfuri capital of El-Fasher, bombing the airport to illustrate their frustration at being sidelined during economic and political powersharing agreements between the North and South of Sudan. Instead of retaliating against the rebel groups, the Sudanese government in Khartoum created a plan to “drain the pond to catch the fish,” or to target the ethnic groups in Darfur rather than the rebels themselves. The Sudanese government, along with trained and armed militias called the “Janjaweed militias” (“Janjaweed” means “devil on horseback”), bombed villages and then looted and burned the remaining houses. By now, an estimated 90% of all of the villages in Darfur have been destroyed, leaving an estimated 2.5 million people displaced and roughly 300,000 killed.
Recently, the conflict has become more complex, as the various rebel groups in Darfur have splintered and are fighting amongst themselves. With a huge fraction of the population already homeless, the government has started using more subtle tactics to deprive Darfurians of peace. In 2008, after President Omar al Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Sudan expelled 13 aid groups from the Darfur region. In addition, a fragile peace between the North and the South of Sudan is threatening to dissolve with a referendum on secession of the South in 2011. It is clear to everyone that if a peace does not hold between the North and the South, there is no hope for peace elsewhere in the country.
For over a decade, rape, killings, and displacement have become part of the status quo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The ongoing crisis in the DRC has been called the “world’s deadliest conflict” in terms of human lives lost since WWII. According to a survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee, 5.4 million lives have been lost since the start of the first war. The first war lasted from 1996 – 1997 and the second war lasted from 1998 – 2003. Since then, there has been a resurgence of violence, caused by a variety of rebel groups and even the Congolese government. Several peace accords have been signed since the end of the second war, but almost none of them implemented. Historically, ethnic tensions in the eastern DRC arise out of the region’s position as a meeting point of the Congolese and Rwandan/Burundian ethnic groups. Interethnic conflicts were historically fought over political power and land rights in the Kivu regions of the country, which are now the most violent and unstable regions. Tensions between the Rwandan Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups have also exacerbated the conflict due to the massive influx of Rwandan refugees into the eastern DRC after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The profits from a variety of minerals, including tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold continue to finance the ongoing instability, as they provide income to the military groups responsible for the conflict. The armed groups generate an estimated $185 million each year by trading in conflict minerals.
The conflict in Burma is often referred to as “the slow genocide”. Since a military coup in 1962, the Burmese military junta has been gradually but systematically killing non-Burman ethnic groups, many of whom live in semi-autonomus mountainous regions of the East. While seeking to establish a pure Burman country (the government has even changed the name of the country to Myanmar – “Land of Burmans”), the government hopes to evade international criticism. In 1990, the government held elections as part of this political show. Despite efforts to sabtage opposition parties, National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, won 82% of the vote. The ruling military junta received only 2% of the votes. They refused to cede power and Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for the since the elections. Again, in an attempt to avoid international scrutiny, government militias avoid direct gunfire but often use much more gruesome tactics to destroy ethnic minorities. Rape, forced labor, and land mines are common violent tactics, but the military junta relies primarily on starving the ethnic minorities by burning villages, stealing crops, and cutting off aid. Many of the victims are women and children, and nearly all are civilians. Genocide Intervention Network estimates that 3200 villages have been destroyed since 2006, leading to the deaths of 530,000 people.
In March of 2011, part of the wave of uprisings known as the Arab Spring, Syrian civilians began to protest, calling for a more democratic society. President Bashar Al-Assad, who has held power since 2000, made small concessions in the face of widespread opposition, but has refused to step down, despite calls from protestors and sanction from the international community, including the United States government. Several months into the conflict, now called the Syrian Civil War, the United States placed sanctions on Assad for suspected human rights abuses committed against protestors. More sanctions have followed, as well as an official call from many world powers for Assad to step down. Despite this, violence, displacement and human rights violations have continued for more than two years. An estimated 70,000 people Syrians have died, and 2.5 million have been displaced. Learn more at syriadeeply.org.