A decade has passed since the eruption of brutal violence and conflict in Darfur. In these 10 years, 300,000 people died and three million people were displaced from their homes, fleeing horrifying atrocities. Four representatives of the government of Sudan, including president Bashir, were indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Soon after the conflict began in 2003, the world rallied to the cause, and this region in west Sudan received global attention as hundreds of thousands people mobilised to act to prevent further suffering of civilians.
Yet ten years on the situation in Darfur remains extremely fragile and atrocities continue, whilst humanitarian access continues to be limited. Darfur has slowly slipped from the international agenda, and 2011 saw an increase in violence, with renewed offensives from the Sudanese Armed Forces and new proxy militias. The fighting continues and every year people are newly displaced. Three and a half million people continue to require food aid, including some 1.4 million seeking refuge in camps. The dependency of these people on humanitarian assistance hangs in the balance, relying on the cooperation of a government which has shown little regard for its people.
Until there is peace in Darfur, there will continue to be humanitarian needs, including long-term support whilst people build up their self-sufficiency once more. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, signed between one of the rebel movements and the government of Sudan, brought some hope, yet this promise will only be fulfilled if all parties are genuinely committed to peace.
This same government now also faces accusations of perpetrating crimes against humanity in the Sudanese states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where civilians are being targeted by aerial bombardment on a daily basis. Marketplaces have burnt to the ground, farmers are unable to harvest and large parts of the population are forced to survive on just roots and leaves. Following the Sudanese government's blocking of international aid into this region, at least one million people are now at severe risk of starvation and famine by April. If and when the famine comes, it will be entirely man-made.
I am chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group on Sudan and South Sudan, which was formed in 1998. For 15 years, this group of UK Parliamentarians across all parties have shown passionate interest and concern for peace, justice and development in Sudan and South Sudan. As parliamentarians, we are in a position to ensure that the UK government remains committed, including actively engaging in diplomacy which can help end violence and conflict, and continuing our commitment to helping the people of Darfur through humanitarian and development aid. We have a responsibility to care. There are limits to our influence, but I believe that these efforts have the power to help, and at the very least demonstrate the affinity which exists between our countries and our peoples.
It is for this reason that, this week, a group of UK parliamentarians has joined forces with politicians in the US and Australia to urge our foreign ministers to show leadership in the UN Security Council to ensure that the violence across Sudan is brought to an end, and to continue our long-term commitment to peace and development in the region. It is wholly unacceptable that the Security Council is silent as thousands of lives hang in the balance this spring. Governments must demonstrate global leadership to end the decade-long war in Darfur and prevent an entirely man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile so that civilians can finally build a life for themselves in an atmosphere of peace and stability.
History has taught us that we must not look away. Today, we stand with our counterparts across three continents in urging our leaders to seize this moment and ensure the men, women and children in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur and across Sudan have both a voice and a future.