A local group of concerned citizens are working to spread awareness of the ethnic cleansing in Darfur by meeting and sharing information about the situation and possible solutions to the conflict in the African nation of Sudan. SaveDarfur-Bloomington will host an event May 19 featuring Dr. Sarah Archer, a registered nurse and consultant with the U.S. military.

Archer is also former Director and Medical Coordinator of the International Medical Corps' presence in Rwanda in 1994-95. She will lead a teach-in on campus titled "Crisis in Darfur" at 5:30 on the 19th in Swain Hall East, Room 105.

"My discussion will focus on the effects of complex humanitarian emergencies like Darfur," Archer said. "I will go over the Genocide Convention on War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity as stated in the Rome Convention of the International Criminal Court (ICC)."

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The origins of civil war in Sudan go back to Western colonialism and power plays that followed the country's independence in the 1950s. The divisions are the usual ones, regional, racial, religious and those of class.

A peace accord between the central government and rebels was partly brokered by the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in 1972. The Addis Ababa accords allowed for repatriation of refugees and amnesty arrangements, which held relative peace for over a decade.

Political influence of the Southern region of Sudan grew during this period. In seeming reaction to the growth of political power of the South, then president Jaafar Nimieri issued a series of decrees in 1983, better known as the September Laws. These provisions called for the implementation of Sharia (fundamentalist Islamic law), including executions and amputations ordered by religious courts.

Both secular Muslims and the predominantly non-Muslim South bitterly resisted this attempt to merge church and state. Various military takeovers of government and coups took place.

In July 2002, the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) committed themselves to concluding a final comprehensive peace agreement by December 31, 2004. This was in the context of a special session of the United Nations Security Council in Nairobi, Kenya, only the fourth time the Council has met outside of New York since its founding.

Open warfare erupted in Darfur in early 2003 after two loosley allied rebel groups attacked military installations.

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U.S. attention to the South of Sudan left many rebels in the Western region of Darfur to feel even more politically and economically marginalized. They took up arms to secure self-determination and resist the 20-year campaign of harassment by government-backed militias recruited from peoples of Arab extraction, known as the Janjaweed.

Over the past year, the Janjaweed militias have enjoyed increased support from central authorities to clear civilians from areas considered disloyal. Government bombing sorties often precede these ground assaults.

The U.S. Congress has declared that the killings in Darfur amount to "genocide" and urged that the President call the situation "by its rightful name -- genocide". The Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, for the first time in its history, has declared a "genocide emergency," indicating that genocide is imminent or actually happening in Darfur.

According to the findings of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry in January of this year, "government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and enforced displacement, throughout Darfur...on a widespread and systematic basis...The vast majority of the victims have been from African tribes."

It is estimated that 200,000 have died, 1.6 million have been displaced and 200,000 have fled across the border to Chad. In recent months, several relief organizations have pulled out to protect their aid workers. Conditions in the refugee camps are abyssmal and deteriorating.

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Though the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A formally signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on January 9, 2005, the conflict has escalated.

U.S. brokered deals allocated Sudanese government positions and oil revenue to rebels in the South. It would seem that other marginalized groups want their share of the pie that is an economically ravaged country. International assistance and aid seems to only come after bad gets worse or even worse.

The website SaveDarfur.org says we are again collectively turning our head to atrocities occurring in Africa: "Not since the Rwanda genocide of '94 has the world seen such a calculated campaign of slaughter, rape, starvation and displacement. Villages are being razed, women and girls raped and branded, men and boys murdered, and food and water supplies targeted and destroyed."

Students in Canada are wearing green wristbands to indicate their concern. And just last week, Harvard College administrators agreed to allow students and affiliates to donate money to the Genocide Intervention Fund by swiping their Crimson Cash cards at dining halls, following the examples of the Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.

Mylo Roze can be reached at .

To learn more about U.N. and U.S. legislative proposals or find ways to help those affected, see ... To get involved with the local group, e-mail Mylo Roze.