African Voices on Darfur
Many African activists, intellectuals and political figures have spoken out on the Darfur crisis. Below is a selection of quotes and excerpts.
Politicians and Leaders
The solution to the Darfur issue is within the reach of the IGAD and the organisation should ensure that the benefits which it secured in the south should not be cancelled out by the current conflict. It will also be painful for Kenya if all the efforts it had put in getting peace in the south was cancelled by the Darfur conflict.
-- Kalonzo Musyoka, Kenyan Member of Parliament and Former Environment Minister.
South Africa needs to take more assertive action on the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.
-- Tony Leon, Member of Parliament and leader of the Democratic Alliance, South Africa.
We have to work with the Sudanese government so that it becomes part of the solution… We have to work with the rebel movements in Darfur so that they become party to the solution...so that the outcome we get is a stable political settlement… In the end if you denounce the government of Sudan as genocidal, what next? Then don't you have to arrest the President? We are looking for the solution, and it does not lie in making radical statements, not for us as Africans.
-- H.E. Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa.
Civilized nations must not be indifferent to any conflict – internal or external – regardless of the factors that fuel it. We must properly equip and fund the current African Union mission now, while we move urgently to mount an effective United Nations intervention. Our government has called upon the General Assembly and the Security Council to exercise its authority, under Chapter Seven, to restore peace, security and stability to Darfur… The world must not allow a second Rwanda to happen… [m]y Government therefore calls on [this] General Assembly and the Security Council to exercise the Chapter VII authority to restore peace, security and stability to Darfur… the continued stalemate over whether an AU or UN force should be deployed or maintained in the region exposes weaknesses in international cooperation and collaboration, and demonstrates a lack of international will to address the sufferings and yearnings of the citizens and residents of Darfur who plea every day for international intervention.
-- H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia.
It is not in the interest of Sudan nor in the interest of Africa nor indeed in the interest of the world for us all to stand by and see genocide being developed in Darfur…If the need arises and if the AU has to secure more troops and if the resources are found, Nigeria will surely consider giving more troops to the AU.
-- H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria.
Our forces will not stand by and watch innocent civilians being hacked to death.
-- H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.
I ask these other factions to come and meet me in Dakar so that together they can join the accords. In that way, we can all work for peace in Darfur… "If it’s not sorted out, it could spread in the whole sub-region."
-- H.E. Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal.
The aggravation of the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur necessitates intervention of international forces to protect civilians from the atrocities of the Janjaweed militias so long as the government is not capable of protecting them.
-- First Vice-President of Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit, Head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.
Activists and Eminent Personalities
Africa’s leaders persist in minimizing the international crimes being committed in Darfur as ‘a humanitarian crisis’, very much redolent of acts of nature like a flood, earthquake or hurricane. But Darfur is not an act of nature. It is caused by human actions, exercising political authority. They must be halted and brought to account. One point of view within the leadership of the African Union is that unlike the case of Rwanda, a genocide in terms of both the quantity (nearly one million killed) and quality (mass murder) of the acts perpetrated, “a mere” 50,000 have been killed in Darfur. Apparently, in the arithmetic of the African Union, the 2 million forcibly displaced into death-like conditions in refugee camps guarded by the same Janjaweed militia that have raped, outraged, and violated them should have been physically wiped out too.
-- Chidi Odinkalu, human rights activist, Nigeria.
Governments across the continent are united in apprehension of an AU troop pull out from Darfur. The events and demonstrations across Africa from Dakar to Juba on the Global Day for Darfur on Sunday also showed the depth of feeling of ordinary Africans at this time. We all recall the horror which unfolded in the wake of the withdrawal of international forces from Rwanda in 1994. This concern, however, must now be transformed into action by African leaders.
-- Alioune Tine, Secretary-General of the Rencontre Africaine pour les Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO), Senegal.
…it would not be an exaggeration to state that today's Darfur insurrection is an anti-slavery rebellion conducted in the 21st century.
-- Aaron Tesfaye, Political Science Professor and author, Ethiopia.
Darfur does not even represent a throwback to centuries before. It is a manifestation of the highest form of savagery occurring right in front of our eyes. At the same time, those of us more privileged than the inhabitants of that region allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by problems that will constitute pleasures to those whose fate and circumstances we have the misfortune of discussing. The fact that it exists in any form and constitutes the subject of discussion in the gathering of individuals such as us is a huge indictment of the collective ability of Africans as a whole and even greater indictment of those involved in relationships with African countries and the politics of Africa. The circumstances constitute a disgrace to mankind and one which every right thinking individual, organisation or Government must profess to eliminate… Darfur is a genocide that we can stop.
-- Andrew Obinna Onyearu, Capoon (highest office), National Association of Seadogs (NAS), Nigeria.
When I think of the people in Darfur today, it makes me sick to the stomach because I know what it's like to watch your protectors walk away and I know the fear of waiting for help that never comes. We survivors stand with the victims in Darfur. We are not here to tell the World's politicians how to do their job. All we say is: if you don't protect the people of Darfur today, you will have failed to do it, and never again will we believe you when you visit Rwanda's mass graves, look us in the eye and say 'never again'.
-- Freddy Umutanguha, Coordinator, Aegis Rwanda.
The world can't keep saying ‘Never again’… [w]e have a horrendous tragedy unfolding in Darfur… [t]he harsh truth is that some lives are slightly more important than others... If you are swarthy, of a darker hue, almost always you are going to end up at the bottom of the pile… [w]e should be suspicious when people say the ethnic cleansing of defenceless civilians is in fact a civil war. They really mean: “These exotic people are all as bad as each other.” How can we be expected to put our soldiers in harm's way when there is no good side to defend?… In our world of 24-hour news cycles, people could be forgiven for thinking Darfur did not exist. The Sudanese government's policy of making it hard for the media and humanitarian groups to get access to its remote western region has paid off… Today is the international day of action for Darfur. Around the world from Cape Town to London, Moscow to New York, concerned citizens are asking why the UN Security Council's resolutions on Darfur have yet to be enforced. We are still waiting for a no-fly zone, targeted sanctions against the architects of the genocide, and referrals to the International War Crimes Tribunal. No wonder the Khartoum regime denies UN peacekeepers access to Darfur… Today is also the first anniversary of the adoption by the UN of a policy called the Responsibility to Protect. According to that document the international community should put aside its narrow self-interest and act to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing. In practice, people are still being terrorised and murdered in Darfur with impunity. The UN has recognised Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, but it has not applied sustained pressure on the government of Sudan to accept a strong international peacekeeping force.
-- Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus, facilitator of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Nobel Prize Laureate.
As the armies of the Sudanese state mass for the final onslaught on its long determined design of race extermination, that future will stigmatise you one and all, will brand you collaborators and accomplices if you abandon the people of Darfur to this awful fate, one that so blindingly scrawls its name across the supplicating sands and hills of Darfur – Genocide!
-- Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize Laureate, prominent author, political activist and intellectual, Nigeria. Soyinka has called Darfur “a blot on the conscience of the world.”
More so as Africans, we should be disappointed with the failure of the African Union to act decisively with a problem that is occurring in its own backyard.
-- Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari is a PhD fellow in Political Science at the University of Paris Pantheon Sorbonne, France.
It is time that us Africans really stood up and said, “this is wrong!”… we need our voices to be heard… We can’t have anymore Rwanda’s, Darfur can’t happen, we can’t watch it happen like it’s a movie from afar… Any atrocity or tyranny that happens to any African peoples anywhere in the world is happening to all of us Africans. Any tyranny that is happening anywhere in the world to any human being is happening to us too as human beings and we can’t divorce ourselves from it… let us stand up and let our voices be hears… It’s a heart breaking situation, my African brothers and sisters and people all over the world; and it’s something that we should really stand up and say, its enough, no more, this has to stop. Because if we don’t, the people who lose their freedom are losing a bit of our freedom too. And if you are not jealous of your freedom, they will take it away from you when you are asleep; and when you wake up the next morning, you will find yourself where you were before you were free!
-- Hugh Masekela, South African musician, activist and Goodwill Ambassador of the Darfur Consortium.