Lessons from a war child

Last Wednesday, the University Programming Council presented a talk featuring former Sudanese child soldier Emmanuel Jal. Jal, who is also a hip-hop artist, spoke in the Student Union Ballroom about a childhood spent training as a young solider in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

He spoke of a new vision to heal the rift in the Sudan. However, in order to address the tragic human story of ethnic cleansing and genocide occurring in Darfur, an entirely new approach is needed.

A vicious civil war has been going on since 2003 in the Darfur region of Sudan. A sizable number of University of Massachusetts students care deeply about the situation in Darfur as it has been one of the major causes of our time. It is especially important in politically left and left-leaning circles and among all people who care deeply for others.

The question before us is this: what is the best way for students to get involved with the resolution of this conflict?

In one sense, UMass students could volunteer to join the militia of the side they favor. The government-backed militia known as the Janjaweed is considered to be the perpetrator of the genocide against the Sudanese people represented by Emmanuel Jal. Students could inquire, consistent with United States law, about securing permission to join the resistance movement, the SPLA.

One major traditional approach is to bring awareness of the situation to the public and to petition the United Nations to intervene. This approach has not fared well in the past. Emmanuel Jal even intimated that the recent arrest warrant issued by the United Nations against complicit President Omar al-Bashir could even cause further division in the Sudan. This is due to the fact, Jal reasons, that President al-Bashir has succeeded thus far in implicitly supporting the ethnic cleansing because he retains support among many sectors of the Sudanese population. Securing an arrest warrant could further radicalize President al-Bashir’s supporters.

The other major traditional approach is to engage in boycotts, promote divestment and to petition the United States and the United Nations Security Council for sanctions. However, these are only indirect actions that take years to affect changes. The government and the militia movements in the Sudan can stall until effective alternative trade routes are established. In the meantime, an unacceptable level of violence continues to occur.

Instead, Jal is seeking a mediated settlement between the parties. It is thought that this could lead to an everlasting peace. But history and reality show otherwise. Unless one side wins an overwhelming victory, long-term peace will become elusive. Jal’s solution could prove unstable in this case.

The real potential rectification of the matter, which would require the support the American people, would be a rapid and intense invasion of all of the Sudan by the United States military. A swift and intense occupation of Khartoum, Al Fashir, Nyala, Sawakin, Kasala, Al Qadarif, Bor and Juba would be required. There are allegations that the Sudan received some of Iraq‘s missing weapons of mass destruction. These nuclear weapons would have to be quickly secured by the U.S. Armed Forces.

A federated commonwealth would then have to established, with extensive local rights for all populations. The rights of all Sudanese would be inviolate. The government could not promote a single identity at the expense of others. Identity and traditions would have to be handled on a local level.

Alternatively, the Sudan could be broken up into smaller nations, as long as the rights of all native population groups are maintained. To secure human rights, no transfer of populations or ethnic cleansing could be permitted.

Democratic institutions would then be resumed upon the careful watch of the international community and the United Nations. If far right political parties, or parties espousing a racist or exclusivist philosophy, were to attain power upon the restoration of democracy, international action would have to be swiftly taken.

It can be pointed out that Sudan is not within the national security interest sphere of the United States. American intervention would have to be effected strictly on moral and humanitarian grounds. If the American people consent to such a use of the U.S. Armed Forces, this would be a just and noble pursuit in which to engage.

Emmanuel Jal offers another solution, and this is one in which UMass students can choose to engage. While it would be difficult for students to volunteer to serve in the resistance movement, with the proper security measures, students can engage on the ground by rebuilding schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Spring break service trips can
be organized and students should join these trips. This would be a direct and effective way for students to serve to resolve the crisis in Darfur.

More than any indirect social, economic or political action in reference to Sudan, the friendships and goodwill developed on these trips will go all that much further to repair the breeches of human discord in Sudan.

Eric Magazu is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]