Darfur: a forgotten crisis, with relevance for Europe

A few days ago, the European Union’s External Action Service issued a statement, expressing how it is “appalled by and condemns” a “recent dramatic escalation of violence”. We are not talking here about the broadly covered conflict in Gaza, but instead about the situation in Darfur, a region of western Sudan.

According to the EEAS, there are “credible eyewitness reports of how more than a thousand members of the Masalit community were killed in Ardamta, West Darfur, in just over two days, during major attacks carried out by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its affiliated militias. These latest atrocities are seemingly part of a wider ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by the RSF with the aim to eradicate the non-Arab Masalit community from West Darfur, and comes on top of the first wave of large violence in June.” It added: “The international community cannot turn a blind eye on what is happening in Darfur and allow another genocide to happen in this region.”

Double standards

A thousand casualties is quite something, but somehow little attention seems to be given to the issue. Evidently, the casualties in Gaza, Israel and Ukraine, are just as terrible, but it does raise the question why one conflict receives so much more attention than another one. Maybe it is the fact that foreign correspondents are able to relatively easily report about it from a first world country, Israel, which is clearly very different when having to report from Sudan. As a result, we then do not see people going out and protesting about the fate of the victims in West Darfur, and neither do we witness millions of people posting about it on social media. Surely, there are no bad intentions, but it is hard to deny the moral outrage is reserved for certain victims and not for others.

There are other possible explanations. When it comes to Ukraine, this is happening on the European continent, so it only makes sense for Europeans to take a closer look at it. When it comes to the Israeli-Palestianian conflict, one of the two sides is a Western democracy. Another element, especially to explain the obsession by many on the left for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is that Jewish culture tends to highly value critical thinking and financial acumen – evidenced by the disproportionate number of Nobel prizes won by Jews. Those are things that are typically not highly valued by especially the authoritarian left, which is all about collectivism and preferably not questioning the grand plan.

The flag of Palestine is widely known, as opposed to Sudan’s flag (picture), which is strikingly similar to Palestine’s. The Darfur conflict lacks special summits or active involvement of European politicians, even if the death toll this month may be up to 1300, according to Al Jazeera, as 2000 people would be injured and 310 missing. Responsible are the Janjaweed militias, a Sudanese Arab militia group.

The relevance for Europe

The history of the conflict is that when non-Arabs rebelled against the government twenty years ago, complaining about discrimination, the Sudanese government responded by mobilising and arming mostly Arab militias, which came to be known as the Janjaweed, who then got involved in large-scale atrocities. Later, many of them, morphed into the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the paramilitary group that is now fighting with the regular army.

Already today, neighbouring Chad already hosts more than a million displaced people, which includes almost 400,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur.

Over the last month, the RSF have advanced in Darfur, taking over whole cities and towns across the sprawling region, despite the fact that talks were hosed in Saudi Arabia, brokered by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

It would not be wise to look away from this conflict. One only needs to remember how Sudan once hosted al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. All across Africa, Islamists have been causing havoc.

Particularly for Europe, the situation in West Darfur deserves more attention. The region is right next to Libya and Egypt. If there is one thing Europe can miss, it is instability in Egypt, which counts almost 110 million inhabitants and is only a few hundred nautical miles from Crete. Also, the migrant pressure on Europe is already incredibly today, as reception facilities are basically full all across the continent, as these are having to cope with various crises. Meanwhile, politicians continue refuse to consider proven solutions like Australia’s approach, which managed to put an end to the migration chaos and enabled more orderly transfers straight from refugee camps.

While Europe isn’t overly interested in West Darfur, others are. The Russian terrorist-mercenary Wagner army, for example, is active in Sudan. This is not to say that the EU or European governments should directly intervene, but it could put more diplomatic pressure on those actors that are active in the conflict or on those countries that are currently intervening. Also, having a closer look to make sure that EU humanitarian aid isn’t falling in the wrong hands could be a good start.

As much as it is normal to feel more involved with one crisis than with another, ultimately, security concerns, not media attention, should decide how much importance policy makers devote to a conflict. In the case of Darfur, more attention is warranted.