On March 4th 2009, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of President of Sudan Omer Al-Bashir. Within hours, Al-Bashir ordered 13 humanitarian aid groups out from Darfur and Sudan. This was not a mere reactionary move. The regime in Khartoum is comprised of a very calculating gang. That is the secret of their survival for almost 20 years in power. The expulsion of the humanitarian aid groups is meant to present the international community with tough choices. It is the start of the scenario of "Let's talk."
Khartoum is very good in negotiating its way out of troubles. Al-Bashir's bargaining chips here are the lives of 4.7 millions Darfuris. Yes, they are his citizens in the first place, but they also have been his hostages for six years. Some observers say that most of the influential individuals around Al-Bashir are western educated. These individuals understand exactly how the international community thinks, but the international community does not understand how the government of Sudan thinks.
Over the last six years, I have seen and felt the systematic destruction of the once wonderful society I grew up in. Al-Bashir, after killing hundreds of thousands of my people and burning their homes, confined those who managed to stay alive in sub-human shelters called camps in Darfur and Eastern Chad. Their misery didn't end there. Deprived of security and peace, they found the humanitarian aid groups were the only means of survival.
The aid groups provided almost everything to those Darfuris trapped in those camps, but more importantly they provided hope and protection to them. Had it not been for the humanitarian aid workers, Janjaweed attacks would have been deadlier and more rampant. The mere presence of the humanitarian aid workers in the camps and around the Darfuri people was a deterrent from attacks by the Sudanese armed militias. The aid workers were the eyes and ears of the world in Darfur.
After Al-Bashir announced the expulsion of the 13 non governmental organizations (NGOs), the international community seemed caught off guard. China came to the aid of its ally Al-Bashir in the UN Security Council and struck down an attempt to pass a resolution ordering Al-Bashir to reverse his expulsion decision. Seeing the world leaders doing nothing, Al-Bashir was emboldened and expelled three more NGOs. The international community stood by as if searching for words other than those already heard.
Al-Bashir got bolder and announced on Monday, March 16th, that he will get rid of all remaining foreign NGOs within a year and turn over the humanitarian aid operations to Sudanese organizations. Darfuris know exactly what Al-Bashir's announcement means. In the camps, refugees suspect most Sudanese humanitarian organizations are a cover for government security agencies.
Without the NGOs, it is not just security and hope that will be missed in the camps. Now starvation, thirst, diseases, will be added to Al-Bashir's arsenal in his quest to annihilate the people of Darfur.
Right now, as I write this, meningitis is spreading through the Darfur camps for internally displaced persons (IDP). New cases climbed to 38 cases in the Kalma IDP camp and 9 cases have been reported in the Kassab IDP camp. Now more than ever immunization is needed in all camps.
Also, the situation in the Zamzam IDP camps is deteriorating rapidly. There are 63,000 new comers since January without any services or registration. They gather on the bare ground of the camp. They are the first casualties of NGOs expulsion. The water problem is getting worse. Some women and children spend close to 11 hours at the pump just to fill one 4-gallon plastic container. The clinics are closed in the camp. Only God knows how acute the health situation is in the camp in the absence of NGOs.
This is a calculating regime. Each time the international community seems in disarray, that is the time Al-Bashir and his cronies make their moves. They only stop when they are stopped.
In October 2006 in an op-ed, Dr. Susan Rice, Mr. Anthony Lake, and Congressman Donald Payne wrote: "History demonstrates that there is one language Khartoum understands: the credible threat or use of force. After Sept. 11, 2001, when President Bush issued a warning to states that harbor terrorists, Sudan -- recalling the 1998 U.S. airstrike on Khartoum -- suddenly began cooperating on counterterrorism. It's time to get tough with Sudan again."
I believe that, with 4.7 millions human beings' lives at stake, now is the time to get tough with Al-Bashir's regime.
Mohamed Suleiman lost members of his family to the Darfur genocide while still others remain in Darfur. Now living in the United States, Suleiman translates English language news about Darfur into Arabic and houses it online in an effort to increase awareness within the Sudanese community in the United States. He is an member of the Executive Committee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.