July 9, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1979

New Arab Coalition Calls on Muslim World to End Silence on Darfur

July 9, 2008
Sudan | Special Dispatch No. 1979

A group of 36 non-governmental organizations from 12 Arab countries recently formed the Arab Coalition for Darfur, aimed at rallying the Arab world to find a solution for the Darfur crisis. The coalition was established at the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, recently held in Kampala, Uganda. Following is a translation of the organization's first communiqué, released June 17, 2008.[1]

"Most of the Responsibility [for the Darfur Crisis] Lies with Local Parties [Involved] in the Conflict, Who Have Overstepped All Boundaries"

"For a long time now, the Muslim world – its governments, its peoples, and its nongovernmental organizations – has responded to the daily massacres and to the suffering of millions of Muslims in Darfur with total silence. In order to end this inactivity and silence... the Arab Coalition for Darfur, a regional nongovernmental coalition of representatives from 12 countries, held a series of meetings and activities at the periphery of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers [which took place] this week in Kampala...

"It has been claimed that global imperialism and Zionism are to blame for the conflict [in Darfur]. We have formed this coalition in order to show solidarity with our brothers in Darfur, and to highlight other aspects of the Darfur crisis which have nothing to do with the West or with imperialism.

"The suffering of the Muslims in Darfur is [no less] real as that of [the Muslims] in Palestine and Iraq. Most of the responsibility [for the crisis] lies with local parties [involved] in the conflict, who have overstepped all boundaries [and have violated] the Geneva Conventions regarding the protection of civilians in times of war. They have come to the point of burning villages, [committing] murder and rape, attacking aid workers, and deporting and exiling thousands, if not millions, of innocent civilians [from their homes]. We must acknowledge the atrocities that are occurring in Darfur on a daily basis, just as [we acknowledge] the ones occurring in Palestine and Iraq. The Muslim world has a moral obligation to oppose injustice and oppression wherever they occur.

"It must be noted that the daily suffering of the Darfurians is still going on. [Just recently,] in late May 2008, 13 farmers were burned alive when the rebels – who are now part of the government – attacked the village of Katol. Earlier in May, they attacked the village of Shegeg Karo, causing the death of six children. [Since the beginning of] 2008, more than 150,000 people have fled their homes. The responsibility for these crimes lies with all those involved in the conflict. Moreover, the savage air raids on civilians in their villages and homes continue, and basic humanitarian aid is still prevented from reaching those who desperately need it.

"At the same time, the UNAMID peacekeeping forces[2] are finding it difficult to carry out their task. They must be strengthened, since their [activity] on the ground is [currently] hampered by limitations on their movement and by [a shortage of] necessary supplies. Last month, [when] the [Sudanese] police attacked and looted a refugee camp in northern Darfur, the UNAMID forces – though present in a [nearby] town – were unable to intervene and assist. Thus, women in Darfur are still raped when they go to gather firewood, for those who are meant to protect them are not doing their job. These are the conditions in which millions of Darfurians live.

"The Muslim World Must... Breach the Wall of Silence Before It Is Too Late"

"Though two million [people] now take refuge in enormous refugee camps, the Muslim world continues to ignore the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The appalling humanitarian situation may deteriorate still further, since the daily attacks on aid workers continue. This has forced the international food organizations to reduce rations by half, so that there will be enough to go around for four million people. This has caused malnutrition to spread even further, since people refrain from working their fields for fear of being attacked. With the aid agencies unable to supply sufficient food or other crucial necessities such as water and medical care, the situation is becoming [more and more] dangerous. This year [alone], nine Sudanese aid workers have been killed in Darfur, and 30 others have been kidnapped and are still missing.

"This situation is not unavoidable. The Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab and Muslim world [at large] can take the necessary steps to end this ordeal. Economic aid is welcome, now that the humanitarian crisis has come to a head, but funds alone cannot [provide] a solution to the conflict. There is need for a solution that will put an end to the crisis once and for all.

"In light of the ongoing violence, a peaceful [solution] seems more unattainable than ever. The most urgent step [to be taken now] is to compel all sides in the conflict to agree to stop the hostilities, and to ensure the enforcement of this agreement. UNAMID has [so far] failed to affect any change in the life [conditions] of the Darfurians. The member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference must support and strengthen these forces by working to lift the limitations imposed by Sudan and the delays [caused by] the international community. The governments of Chad and Sudan must be urged to settle their differences and [resolve] their mutual conflicts, and any further hostilities between these two countries must be prohibited.

"Continued silence in the face of the events in Darfur will have disastrous consequences for the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The deteriorating situation in Darfur is increasingly threatening Sudan's neighbors... The Muslim world must take a decision to breach the wall of silence before it is too late."

[1], July 17, 2008 ;, July 18, 2008.

[2] A joint force of the U.N. and the African Union in Darfur.

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