Deadly Indifference

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<b>Why don&#146;t we care about Sudan?</b>

As the U.S. and its allies claim moral victory in their crusade against Iraq, a long and brutal genocide campaign continues to unfold in Sudan. As it has for decades, the rest of the world will do little to stop it.

In late January 2003, Mel Middleton founder and executive director of Alberta-based human rights organization, Freedom Quest International travelled to Sudan on a fact-finding mission. Accompanied by a delegate from Servant’s Heart, an American NGO, he uncovered fields littered with human remains, including those of young children.

The team estimates that 2000 to 3000 civilians had been massacred in the Upper Nile province in South Sudan. Survivors testified that heavily armed Government of Sudan (GOS) soldiers had pillaged the villages.

Upon his return, Middleton was intent on publicizing his findings. But the Canadian media did not respond as he had hoped.

Media Letdown

Save a handful of newspapers and radio stations, the Canadian media has shown little interest in the story thus far. Mel Middleton is not surprised. “Unfortunately, reports of massacres, human rights abuses, slavery and crimes against humanity in the Sudan are so numerous that they are no longer newsworthy, ” he says. “It seems as long as the people being killed are black Africans, the mainstream media shows little interest.”

According to Freedom Quest, more people have died or been displaced in Sudan than in Kosovo, Bosnia or East Timor. Sudan’s bloody conflict is the longest standing civil war in history. So far it has claimed an estimated two million lives.

While Sudan has been plagued with civil conflicts between its Arab Muslim north and African south since its independence in 1956, today’s conflict under the National Islamic Front (NIF) is far more brutal. The Islamic fundamentalist regime in Khartoum has waged jihad on southern tribes and has managed to acquire sophisticated weaponry through money from the development of Sudan’s oil resources.

Prior to oil exploitation, there was no winning party in the war. The political elite would eventually have had to compromise with southerners who lived on Sudan’s oil-rich lands. Today, this balance has been destroyed.

Misconceptions and Confusion

Occasionally, the mainstream media does diffuse information about Sudan, but the information is sporadic and often insufficient to raise the kind of public outcry needed to change anything.

We in the West have a tendency to accept large-scale death in Africa without batting an eye. When we hear of thousands, even millions, of people dying in Africa, we often attribute it to natural disasters, epidemic diseases or poverty, with a corresponding sense that nothing can be done. Even in the case of entire villages being massacred, Westerners imagine that such violence is inherent to African cultures, that is it “natural” or at least to be expected. The Canadian media and Canadians, then, rarely probe the actual causes.

One explanation for the West’s indifference towards the suffering of African people is the failure to recognize that many of the problems — including famine — are, as Middleton puts it, “man-made.” In fact, according to Freedom Quest, famine has been one of the tools used by the NIF to wipe out inhabitants of Southern Sudan. Thousands of people have been displaced during the war. They have been terrorized out of their homes in order to make room for oil exploitation. One of the consequences of displacement, Middleton explains, is famine.

Further Reading

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