Things are always bad in Africa's largest country, the Sudan. It is a place of nightmares; the difference being the color and texture of each person's nocturnal terror. Today's terror rained upon Darfur's black Muslims by Khartoum's Arabs is a terrible betrayal. But it's of a much less magnitude, less murderous than that visited upon the Christian blacks of South Sudan in the 1960s and 1970s, even though both have one thing in common -- Arab aggression.
These are indeed ugly days for President Omar al Bashir. Not only because his conscience must in some way, no matter how small, be inflamed but also, whether he likes it or not, he's an indicted international criminal. The ICC -- International Criminal Court -- decided after many months, that al Bashir is an international fugitive. It's just a matter of time before he stands trial, like the Serbian Milosevic and Liberia's Robert Taylor, in The Hague.
But things are much worse for the people al Bashir is accused of driving out of their homes and lands in Darfur. It is particularly hard for the surviving 3 million who are now refugees in the desert between Chad and Sudan. The Western relief groups that supplied them with food, medicines and shelter were just expelled by al Bashir and their chance of ever returning to their former homes is remote.
Their dead husbands, fathers and brothers were murdered by al Bashir's war dogs -- the Janjeweed. We know the staggering number of the dead and the displaced: 300,000 killed and 3 million displaced. But we have no way of measuring the pain and suffering of each individual Darfurian child. One can only imagine it.
For quite a while Darfur was out of the international community's focus. The nightly TV news and images recounted the suffering of Gaza's and Israel's children, after months of Hamas's missile attacks on Israel. Israel retaliated with overwhelming air and ground attack on Gaza. And as is the nature of the Middle East violence and fighting, each flare up tends to take the oxygen out of all other world struggles, pain and misery, in every corner of the globe. The deafening noise of protest from the Arab world drowns everything else.
With a lull in the Israel, Palestinian violence, the bright lights can now be shone elsewhere. Today, I find some encouragement in the fact that the eyes of the world were, albeit for a few moments, turned onto Sudan and Darfur after the ICC's indictment of al Bashir.
And even though al Bashir's supporters noisily poured out into Khartoum's streets; and the compliant, seemingly unthinking African Union has come out against the ICC ruling, I'm encouraged. You see, violence and wholesale murder in Sudan are all old practices. The genocide that took the lives of more than 2 million South Sudanese black Christians was not witnessed by anyone. The world of the 50s, 60s, and 70s was busy with the Cold war and in many ways, black lives and black deaths had very little value, little meaning to the civilized world. Things are today different.
The genocide in South Sudan eventually came to an end after the United States decided to play an active role. No one was ever indicted for the slavery of thousands, the genocide of two million and the displacement of 4 million. For me then, the terror in Darfur -- horrific and inhumane and an extension of the Arab on black African humiliation, domination and genocide that it is -- is taking place before the eyes of the world. And it is talked about in the United Nations. Furthermore, only a quarter million lives have so far been lost. I compare Darfur to that earlier south Sudan tragedy that took place in the dark cold war years.
Given Africa's seemingly unending terror and continuous pain we tend to look at the glass of life as either half full or half empty. The mind tries to find something of a silver lining in life's terrible dark cloud, the worst of human conditions. I have been doing so in so far as the horrors of Darfur are concerned. Today's glass is half full in the Darfur crisis.
The atrocities unleashed by Khartoum's Arabs against the black south Sudanese in the 60s and 70s was so much worse and the world was so indifferent about it. In yesterday's south Sudan killings, the glass was empty; the world's attention could not be bothered with the dying Africans. It's so much different today. I am hopeful al Bashir will relent and capitulate; and the Darfurians will return to their homes someday.