Since February 2003 the Sudanese government has sponsored bands of Janjaweed (“devil on horseback”) who routinely raid villages and kill farmers in that nation’s Darfur region. The result so far is an estimated 450,000 deaths and three million displaced people.
“Rape is routinely used as a tool of genocide to dilute the African blood of the victims,” Katie-Jay Scott of StopGenocideNow.org said. She explained a typical raid: the Janjaweed surround a village in the early morning. They disconnect all cell phone networks. Then government airplanes drop bombs onto a village. As villagers scatter, the Janjaweed kill as many people as they can.
Those who escape face grim options. They might be able to make it to a refugee camp in neighboring Chad, but must walk many days through the desert without food or water to get there. After weeks of processing they might be allowed to cross the border and claim the barest of necessities—one tent per family and a small food ration. Many refugees have spent years in these camps.
Five hundred people die in Darfur each day. Eighty percent of the children affected by the fighting suffer from malnutrition. And there are more than 200,000 currently living in the camps in Chad. Humanitarian organizations can help just 20 percent of the survivors.
Last week, Maui Community College (MCC) students got a chance to face this tragedy head on when Camp Darfur, a traveling interactive examination of the genocide plaguing Sudan, visited the campus. MCC’s Hawai‘i Institute for Human Rights sponsored the visit in collaboration with StopGenocideNow.org (SGN).
“It was an extremely informative event,” Josh Cooper, MCC’s Political Science professor and Hawaiian Institute for Human Rights’ director, said. “It was inspirational because it was ran by normal everyday people who didn’t know what to do but knew that they had to do something [about Sudan].”
It was midmorning on MCC’s Great Lawn when Gabriel Stauring and Katie-Jay Scott of SGN set up five white canvas tents with the help of MCC student and faculty volunteers. Each of the tents represented the history of five genocides and millions of untimely deaths. They formed a physical timeline of the tragedies using video clips and facts painted on and hung around the exhibit.
Throughout the day, around 100 students, faculty and community members toured the displays. They emerged from the experience with a deeper understanding of human atrocities that spanned the globe: Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur.
At the end, participants were challenged to help call for an end the current killing in the Darfur region of Sudan.
“I found there was no way to interact personally with the victims,” Stauring said of his inspiration to spearhead several projects working for an end to the Darfur genocide. As a family counselor, he identified a need to “make it personal” and help concerned citizens all over the world interact with Sudanese refugees.
To do this, Stauring and Scott visited several Sudanese refugee camps in Chad. There they filmed refugees, posting the videos and a blog about their experiences online. Anyone with Internet access could then watch the videos and connect with the refugees by asking them questions that would be passed on by the activists. The result was a dialogue between the victims and people throughout the world.
Once home, they added their footage to the Camp Darfur project to aid in educating the public.
“I believe change can be made,” Scott said. “That’s what keeps me going.”
For more information visit stopgenocidenow.org. MTW