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Darfur conflict more complicated than X vs. Y

By Alex Captain

While I applaud the author of the opinion piece “While We Were Sleeping...” (Column, Oct. 18) for urging action on a very important and much-neglected situation, he paints a simplistic and inaccurate picture of the tragedy currently taking place in Darfur.

The author presents the conflict in Darfur as a “genocide” committed by a “gang of Arab militants” against Darfur’s “black African” population. The reality is far more complex. The African Union itself (which would be among the first groups to condemn a genocide committed against fellow Africans) states in a July 8th resolution that the conflict in Darfur “can not be defined as genocide.” Why not? Because the facts on the ground do not support the claim that one ethnic group is systematically wiping out another--the violence in Darfur is a civil war and a separatist insurgency, not genocide. The relevant comparison is Chechnya’s decade-long separatist conflict, not the Holocaust. The comparison to the Holocaust is irresponsible and misleading.

Moreover, the various tribes in the Darfur region have been fighting each other for over two decades without regards to ethnic affiliations. Arab tribes fight other Arab tribes; African tribes commit atrocities against other African tribes. The current violence in Darfur arises as much from tribal divides as ethnic ones.

We have an obligation, as the author rightly claims, to help stop the violence in Darfur and to alleviate the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of refugees. The Janjaweed and other groups perpetrating atrocities must be stopped, and the Sudanese government must be held accountable for its actions. But villainizing of the Arabic-speaking people of Darfur does an injustice to the Arab victims of the violence and conveys a thoroughly inaccurate picture of this tragic conflict.


October 19

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