Spotlight on Sudan

After the government’s second attempt to kill me, I fled Sudan.

That was 2005, the year I was forced to abandon work, friends, and family to become a refugee in the United States. Now, 7,000 miles from home, I am fighting harder and making my voice heard to secure safety, comfort, justice, and peace for those I left behind.

Today, the people of Sudan need all of us to speak out, to demand that the U.S. government do everything in its power to prevent another war as southern Sudan prepares to become a separate country, and bring lasting peace and security to the people of Darfur.

As a child, my parents taught me that we all bear responsibility for one another–that we’re all one family. In 1988, several years before the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region began in full, hundreds of villagers near my hometown of Kabkabiya, in northern Darfur, were attacked and forced to flee their homes. My father believed it was our duty to stand up for those people and help their families stay together. Despite our limited accommodations, we hosted 10 displaced families at one time, all of whom became our brothers and sisters. My father’s actions gave me my first taste of the power of activism.

The genocide began in my region of Darfur in 2001, when the government of Sudan led by Omar al-Basher and its allied Janjaweed militias launched a scorched-earth campaign against a number of the indigenous tribes in Darfur. Since then, hundreds of villages have been destroyed, millions of people displaced, and hundreds of thousands murdered, tortured, and raped.

While Darfur is rarely in the news these days, the crisis is far from over. Currently, one out of every three civilians continues to suffer in camps for internally displaced persons, which are plagued with insecurity and lack basic resources. Sudan’s government continues to bomb Darfuri villages, leading to massive civilian displacement. In 2010 alone, more than 268,500 Darfuris were forced to flee from their homes into camps for displaced people.

In less than a month, residents of the country’s southern region will vote on whether to secede from Sudan and form a new country. They’re expected to vote overwhelmingly for independence, creating the world’s newest country.

However, the North isn’t keen to let the South go. The same regime that orchestrated the genocide in Darfur also participated in two civil wars with South Sudan, where more than two million people lost their lives. Many experts who have followed the conflict in Sudan fear the referendum will spark renewed large-scale violence.

Sudan is thousands of miles away from us, and the Sudanese people aren’t on most Americans’ minds. Yet, as my father taught me, we are one family that is part of the larger world community. Please remember your brothers and sisters who continue to suffer after years of violence and oppression.

The Obama administration can and should direct the full force of its diplomacy during Sudan’s referendum period to ensure civilian protection and prevent a return to civil war. It should focus its diplomatic efforts on ending the ongoing genocide in Darfur. President Barack Obama needs to know that Americans are paying attention. Join me in speaking out for the people of Darfur and all of Sudan.

Niemat Ahmadi is the Darfuri Liaison Officer for the Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition. To learn how you can add your voice to help the people of Sudan, visit www.savedarfur.org or www.genocideintervention.org