“This is not history. Genocide is happening now,” I still remember writing this in 2005 after my first visit to Darfuri refugee camps on the Chad-Sudan border. As I walked the camps during that month-long trip, every person and family I met had a shocking story of violence, displacement, and unimaginable loss. Yet, as shocking as it was to me, they maintained hope. They still envisioned a future in which they could return to a peaceful homeland. Given the recent violent events in Darfur, it’s clear that future has not arrived.
This week, I started receiving messages over WhatsApp from Darfuri friends describing horrific violence in the capital of West Darfur, El Geneina, and surrounding villages and IDP camps. Those messages were followed by a flood of news updates echoing the stories my friends had told me. More than 120 people killed, hundreds injured, and thousands displaced. They sent me pictures of homes turned to ashes, bodies being buried, and families on the move.
A good friend shared, “Nothing has changed on the ground in Darfur, and despite Darfuris yelling, no one is hearing them. For how many days IDPs were protesting for UNAMID forces [the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur] to stay in Darfur, but no one was listening.”
After 31 trips to the Chad-Sudan border, I know that Darfuris will remain hopeful. It is part of who they are. They are also committed to the necessary, hard work to make peace a reality. They have been doing the work in Darfur, in refugee camps, and around the world by the diaspora. The UN and the international community need to support, and civil society needs to be at the center. The ones with the guns cannot be the only ones at the table.
Before anything, there needs to be immediate protection for innocent civilians. My friend tells me, “If there is not a rapid solution for this problem, believe me, Darfur will be the land of genocide more than any time before.”