Violence in Darfur
Since 2003, the government of Sudan and its proxy militia, the Janjaweed, have conducted a counter-insurgency operation against rebel groups in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Targeting communities that share the same ethnicity as the rebels, government forces and Janjaweed continue to terrorize and kill civilians, rape women and girls, burn villages and drive innocent people from their homes. It is estimated that more than 450,000 people have died because of the conflict. About 3 million refugees and internally displaced people live in Sudan and across the border in Chad.
In March 2009 and again in July 2010, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and three counts of genocide. Al-Bashir retaliated against the civilian population by expelling humanitarian aid agencies providing vital services to Darfuris.
Ongoing Conflict in Sudan
Darfur is but one conflict in Sudan. For over two decades, a brutal civil war raged between President al-Bashir’s government in Khartoum and the southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, leaving approximately 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced.
In 2005, both sides of the conflict signed a peace agreement that ended the fighting and established an interim period through July 2011 to test the viability of unity between North and South. A historic referendum on independence for the South occurred in January 2011—and six months later, on July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became an independent nation. Though the lead up to the South’s independence was marred by abhorrent violence perpetrated by the Khartoum government, the separation occurred in jubilant fashion. Dignitaries from around the world, including a high-level U.S. delegation, were on hand in Juba for the historic occasion.
For many years, AJWS was at the forefront of the campaign to bring this conflict to the forefront of international attention. AJWS co-founded the Save Darfur Coalition and also provided funding to organizations working with people in Sudan and Chad, who fled violence and persecution and sought refuge in displacement camps. AJWS supported emergency and general health care services, water and sanitation programs, and education services.
Today, while we no longer provide funding to local organizations in Sudan, AJWS continues to collaborate with Jewish and interfaith communities and other advocacy organizations to bring an end to the bloodshed.
The government of Sudan begins a brutal massacre of the people of Darfur (a region in western Sudan) unleashing the Janjaweed militia against civilians. Over 10 years, this campaign of destruction has killed 450,000 people and displaced over 3 million and is recognized as the first genocide of the 21st century.
AJWS co-founds the Save Darfur Coalition to bring together American organizations to advocate for peace in Darfur.
Secretary of State Colin Powell declares the situation in Darfur a “genocide,” raising the profile of this conflict in the eyes of the international community.
A peace agreement ends the civil war that had been raging between Sudan’s North and South since 1983. The agreement calls for a referendum to determine whether the South can secede from the North, to take place in 2011.
The end to the civil war does not end the violence in Darfur; the genocide continues unabated.
AJWS and the Save Darfur Coalition organize a mass rally on the National Mall in Washington, calling for peace in Darfur.
The international community attempts to broker a peace agreement over Darfur but it fails, and the Sudanese government continues the genocide.
The UN authorizes 26,000 peacekeepers to Darfur in hope of stopping the killing. The force takes a long time to reach its full strength and, due to resource constraints and limits put on it by the government of Sudan, makes only a marginal impact on improving the lives of the Darfuri people.
AJWS Releases the Darfur Special Report.
During the U.S. Presidential primaries, AJWS and the Save Darfur Coalition launch a campaign asking the candidates to prioritize peace in Sudan. In response to these advocacy efforts, Obama, Clinton and McCain all publicly pledge to end the genocide if they are elected.
The International Criminal Court calls for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes against humanity. Over the years since, the warrant has limited his travel and relations with other countries, but he has yet to be apprehended.
In advance of the upcoming referendum on southern secession that was required by the 2005 peace agreement ending North/South civil war, the South Sudanese people fear that the referendum will not take place on time, which they believe would unleash a resurgence of violence and potentially start a new civil war.
An American interfaith coalition led by AJWS urges the U.S. to apply its influence to ensure that the vote takes place peacefully and on time.
Thanks, in part, to pressure by the U.S. and the international community, the referendum passes in relative peace in January, creating the new country of South Sudan.
Although the fragile peace generally holds between the North and the South, violence ignites in the border states South Kordofan and Blue Nile—home to groups aligned with the South in the civil war but whose homes are now within the Northern border. The government of Sudan begins indiscriminately bombing its citizens and in an effort to starve out the people, the government blocks humanitarian aid.
To protest the humanitarian crisis on the border, AJWS staff participate in a high profile demonstration in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. At the conclusion of the protest, a member of AJWS staff is arrested for civil disobedience along with George Clooney, U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern and Jim Moran, civil rights activist Dick Gregory and Benjamin Jealous—the president of the NAACP.