A rerun of “The Real World” is glaring on the tube in your room. It’s still early, and you’re passing the time waiting for your roommates to wake so you can rehash last night’s party. With not much on your mind except the hottie you just met, you lay down to rest your eyes. What you don’t know is that your world is about to change.
Enter Zacharia Akol, an MSU student from southern Sudan. He came to the U.S. over four years ago. The tall, handsome, well-spoken 23-year-old’s broad smile would never suggest any hardship. One would never know that he is from a nation torn by genocide.[zach]
Akol lost both of his parents in 1993 during the Sudanese Civil War, a conflict that still rages today. At nine years old, he fled to Ethiopia because his life was in danger and was separated from his six other siblings because of war. One look into his eyes and any search for empathy or an understanding of terror in the Sudan will end.
You can still barely hear the sound of American consumerism disguised as music television when a bomb explodes outside your front door. You’re confused. What the hell was that? Next you hear helicopters, heavy gunfire and more exploding artillery. When your roommates wake and run into the living room, a group of men complete with machine guns and hatred glowing in their eyes barge through your door.
“Students don’t know anybody in that part of the world, so they don’t empathize,” the public policy and public administration policy and applied economics senior said.
Currently in the Sudan, 2.5 million people are considered internally displaced (known as IDPs) and over 400,000 have been killed since fall of 2003. Roving militia called Janjawid scour the region of Sudan called Darfur, and cause widespread fear and atrocities.
Most of Africa receives little to no press coverage from the United States, even though President Bush has declared it as genocide. Even the United Nations has claimed that it is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today, but few are inspired.
So it’s not surprising that this information may be new to some people. Many students have never heard of the country or its conflicts and most could not dream to pinpoint it on a map. So what is the Sudan and where is it?
The Sudan borders Egypt to the south and has a coastline on the Red Sea. It measures to about one quarter of the size of the United States, making it the largest country in Africa. To the far west of the Sudan is the region of Darfur. The Sudanese government is an authoritarian military regime with Islamic ties, and the majority of its attention is centered in the capitol, Khartoum, neglecting much of the outer regions.
African studies professor Charles MacKenzie, who has worked with the World Health Organization in Sudan, said neglect by the government of the outer regions is one of the main reasons for the fighting. “There are 62 eye doctors in Sudan,” Mackenzie said, “and 62 of them are in Khartoum.”
Neglect and marginalization are key to why the uprisings are occurring. The two rebel groups, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) based in Darfur and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) based in southern Sudan, have taken up arms to fight against marginalization of their regions by the centralized government. As fighting intensified in 2003, the government began covertly supplying the rag-tag Janjawid militia. Previous to the uprising, these men were known as common bandits who stole cattle and committed other non-life-threatening acts. “They [Janjawid] are not necessarily one group,” MacKenzie said. “Some of them are just thugs.”
However, these “thugs” are now well-equipped men who swoop in after military aircraft bombard Darfur villages. Their job is to “add the finishing touch,” which includes racial intimidation, village destruction, castration, rape and mass murder.
What happens next is straight from hell. Women are raped; men are forced at gunpoint to pull down their pants before being castrating. After you writhe in pain, they’ll finally shoot you. When they are done with everyone in the house, they’ll burn it to the ground, dump dead bodies into the water supply to contaminate it, and move to the next home.
Genocide, or ethnic cleansing, which is the coined euphemism in Darfur, is alive and well. According to outside agencies, such as Human Rights Watch, the government is trying to remove the large populations from non-governmentally controlled areas in Darfur where they cannot be controlled. In other words, the government is trying to quell the uprising by killing off all natives. MacKenzie says the number of deaths in Darfur are misleading because the SLA pushes the numbers up and the Sudan government plays them down in an attempt to discredit one another. But is even one civilian death forgivable? Even if we are to believe the Sudanese government, then the death toll is around 70,000 civilians. Well, Saddam Hussein was hunted down for less. So, why has the U.S. decided these deaths are somehow less important?
Associate professor of journalism Dr. Folu Ogundimu, an award-winning broadcast journalist for Nigeria’s WNBC, said that America has more than a moral duty to stop these horrendous problems in the Sudan. “If they [U.S. Government] don’t do anything,” Ogundimu said, “then what they will do is create a well of hatred in the Sudan.”
The U.S. needs to get involved and stop the violence. When Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden worked from the Sudan, the U.S. pressured and forced him out in 1994. Now, more than ever, the Sudanese need this pressure from the U.S and the U.N. Here at MSU, some students are committed to the cause.
In the fall of 2004, political theory and constitutional democracy junior Lindsey Hutchison began researching Darfur for a Model United Nations conference for high school students. To her horror, she began to discover the grim truth. Today, Hutchison is the president and co-founder of the Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) coalition at MSU, which started in February. “At STAND, we are committed to educating fellow students and community members about Darfur,” Hutchinson said. “We also raise humanitarian aid and lobby government officials to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.”
Another organization, the Sudan Interest Group, is a fledgling wanting to fly at MSU. Akol is currently the only student in the group. Its cause is much the same as STAND but with a more direct goal– to end Sudanese war. So why has their been little response? “People don’t have enough time,” Akol said of other students from or interested in the Sudan. “They have time for what they came here to do– study.”
Just when you’re about to gasp for your last breath, you feel a nudging at your side. Wait! It’s your roommate coming to wake you. Disoriented and groggy, you realize this was all just a vivid nightmare. You must have fallen back asleep. Phew. But, for so many people just like you; that think, feel and smile broadly—just like you do—the nightmare is reality.
What is happening in Darfur is more than a civil war; it is racial execution. Even though we eat, breathe and sleep thousands of miles from Africa, and there are plenty problems to worry about here, we need to care—and act. Let this be a wake-up call to those of us who don’t realize that while we sit in our homes with our God given right of freedom to watch The OC, millions of people continue to suffer unthinkable human injustices.
For more information on how to help email the Sudan Interest Group at akolzach@msu.edu, email MSU STAND Coalition at msu.stand@gmail.com, and visit National STAND Coalition at http://www.standarfur.org/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *