14/05/2013 09:54 BST | Updated 13/07/2013 06:12 BST

Darfuris Need Peace Before Reconstruction


Ten years ago, the people of Darfur began resisting the oppression suffered at the hands of President Bashir's regime. Since then, the non-Arab Darfuri population has been systematically killed, raped and tortured. Despite the international community condemning the regime - with David Cameron claiming in 2008 that the UK could not "remain silent in the face of this horror" - a decade after this disaster began, the Darfuri population continue to wait for the bloodshed and ethnic cleansing to stop.

Current media focus on conflicts such as Syria means people can be forgiven for assuming "Darfur is over". It's not. Just last week 18,000 civilians had to seek refuge after clashes between the Sudanese Army and rebels. Even UNAMID peacekeepers, who are meant to protect civilians, are not safe from the violence, with one recently killed during fighting, and another seriously injured.

Since the conflict began hundreds of thousands have been killed - but we may never know the true figure. Millions more lost their homes, with thousands of children knowing no other life than the displacement camps they were born into. Living in unhygienic conditions without access to an education, their future is far from certain.

The disaster has continued for ten years too long already, and although this anniversary is a chance to remember those who have already suffered, our primary focus must now be to prevent another lost decade for Darfur. But how?

Bashir and his regime have tried to refocus attention away from the war it is waging by highlighting reconstruction and business opportunities. The recent Doha conference, to raise funds to rebuild Darfur, is a prime example, with the government using this as 'proof' the situation is improving. This is completely disingenuous - insecurity in the region continues because of the regime's ongoing ethnic cleansing. Before the international community diverts its attention to aid and development, we need to remember that the government continues its attacks in the region, and remember those who are suffering under Bashir's brutally racist-Islamist police state. Government and businesses alike should place the Darfur people before profit, and refuse to do business with a regime that insists on killing its own citizens with impunity while talking about peace and reconstruction.

The time for lengthy diplomatic negotiations to solve this crisis is long past. Darfur does not need any more UN resolutions - it simply needs to implement those passed as long ago as 2004. Why do the regime's bank accounts remain unfrozen? And why do we not enforce travel bans for high ranking officials? Action on these questions alone would make the government of Sudan sit up and listen. But as long as government Antonovs keep bombing civilians, we need to go further - implementing a no fly zone over Darfur to provide security for innocent civilians. Ultimately, if the international community wants peace in Sudan, we must ensure that President Bashir is brought before the International Criminal Court to stand trial for his crimes against humanity.

This week Darfur 10 - a campaign led by a coalition of NGO's including Waging Peace - petitioned the British government to help stop the violence. It is a clear reminder that although we should remember the hundreds of thousands who have already lost their lives, the international community must be reminded of those still suffering the consequences of this decade long conflict.