Almost a year on from the Darfur Peace Agreement, the fickle media spotlight has returned to the region. Neill Garvie, Christian Aid’s country manager in Sudan, asks why so little has been done over the past four years to stop the suffering and calls on our politicians to show more commitment to resolving the problem.
I hear politicians speak on the radio, they make bold statements about Darfur and while their rhetoric is stronger than ever, the commitment has gone.
They say they are going to impose sanctions or deploy United Nations troops and we believe them. But they know that this will never be passed by the UN, so they can make these empty promises.
Darfur is not their priority. They are thinking about their electorate at home and will say whatever is best captured in a soundbite to make it look like they care.
The international community imposed a peace agreement on Darfur and look at what has happened. The agreement forced too many issues and the situation has only got worse.
Rebel groups disagreed with each other and between themselves over the content of the Darfur Peace Agreement. This led to splits and an increase in fighting and insecurity.
The only people who gained from it were the politicians who pushed it through and who claimed they had brought peace to Darfur.
Heavy-handed peace deals won’t work in Darfur. What the world has failed to see is that people did not start fighting because they wanted peace. They started to fight for their cause, whatever that might be.
Unless the peace process finds ways to address the reasons for the conflict it will never end. We cannot just announce peace, it has to be found.
This will really test the commitment of our politicians but they do have some leverage. Pressure can be brought to bear on the Sudanese government through, for example, trade. And they can offer support to a peace process without looking to impose a blueprint. This might provide less of a PR opportunity but it likely to have a greater impact.
It has to happen now. If the scale of the suffering in Darfur is not enough to do this, I don’t know what it will take. But it is time to abandon the empty rhetoric.