A report issued by the United Nations says law enforcement officers and the Sudanese military are continuing their campaign of rape and violence against the people of the Darfur region of Sudan. The U-N says that in the past two-and-a-half years, at least one-hundred-eighty-thousand people have been killed and two-million others have been driven from their homes and live in refugee camps.
Civil war broke out in Darfur in 2003. Complaining of discrimination by Arab Sudanese, African rebels attacked government facilities. Sudanese Arab Janjaweed militia supported by the Sudanese government responded by attacking members of Darfur's African Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes. A peace agreement was signed this year by representatives from the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement.
In May, the Sudanese government established a committee to look into cases of violence against women. The government also set up a special criminal court in Darfur to prosecute those accused of sexual violence and other charges. But, as the U-N report says, it remains to be seen whether or not the Sudanese government's action will effectively address the crimes against the people of Darfur.
According to the U-N, "Many women do not report incidents out of fear of reprisals and are discouraged from reporting, given the lack of redress for sexual violence." U-N Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour says the Sudanese government shows "an extremely unreceptive attitude towards even recognizing the magnitude of the problem":
"The [Sudanese] government has to acknowledge that this is not a fabrication by humanitarian workers and N-G-O's [nongovernmental organizations]. This is the reality for the lives of many women...that they are preyed upon continuously by members of the armed forces, by militia, soldiers, policemen, people who should in fact be brought under control by the government."
The U.S. remains the world's leader in providing humanitarian assistance to Sudan, but is examining what type of focused effort it can put forth to help ameliorate the phenomenon of violence against women. In Sudan, says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, "the stories are unbelievable, but they are true." Violence against women is a serious problem, she says, and "we have got to have a better response."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.