The headlines in Darfur this week told a story which has become as repetitive as the rising of the sun over the Sahara: Sudanese military forces attacked Darfur refugee camp, dozens dead, dozens more wounded.
"I am inside the camp Kalma. Now there is still shooting," Abakr Suleiman, a senior tribal leader inside the settlement, said at 10 a.m. "There is heavy shooting. They came into the camp and killed people. There are houses burning."
This week’s story followed much of the same pattern we have seen throughout the conflict: on Monday, the Sudanese Armed Forces gathered 100 vehicles outside of Kalma camp, Darfur’s largest Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp. They attacked the camp under the pretense that they wanted to clear out illegal weapons in the camp – Darfuri IDPs said the Sudanese Armed Forces wanted to really clear out ethnic Darfuris from the camp. As the sun set, the dust settled, and the news wires began picking up the story, there were reports of between 27-64 dead, and scores wounded. Meanwhile, UNAMID faced many obstructions in trying to get to the camps to evacuate the casualties, and had its medical relief partners outright blocked from entering the camps. And as the sun rose the next day, more armed forces were gathering outside the camp.
And meanwhile, food is running out in Kalma as the rainy season approaches.
The attacks have led the US, UN, and UNAMID to call out the Government of Sudan on its actions, but in turn, it has led all the main rebel groups to call out the world on its silence:
• The SLM-AW said, “These people fled the killings to these camps for safety after they lost everything. The government’s final solution is to kill them right where they are at.”
• JEM added: “This is genocide happening before our eyes. The international community must live up to its responsibility and protect the civilians”
• SLM-MM warned, “The situation may well develop into another war. The silence of the international community is a negative signal”.
And Darfuri IDPs have not kept silent: thousands of residents of Kalma refugee camp demonstrated during the funerals of their fellow IDPs.
This is the fifth attack of its kind against Kalma. While this seems to be a repeat of the same patterns that have written themselves into sands of Darfur, the world has to finally learn from these patterns.
This is a pattern that displaced Darfuris have been living with and dying because of for five years. And Darfuris are not sitting by simply as victims, waiting for the international community to come and save them: they have bravely organized within these camps to defend and look after each other and are unbelievably active in the face of such a deadly reality.
But at the end of the day, when the sun sets over Kalma camp, the IDPs, no matter how brave, cannot hold their own against the guns of the Government of Sudan. And that is where our Responsibility to Protect comes in – identifying and working to end this pattern of a government abusing its citizens, so that its citizens can return home and rebuild the peace that has been taken from them. As the sun sets on Kalma camp today, can we as an international community look at the residents and say that we have done everything we can to fulfill our duties under R2P: fully supporting UNAMID, entering into robust negotiations with real incentives, real consequences, and discussing real underlying issues, holding the worst offending parties responsible for their genocidal actions?
We have a lot of work left to do as an international community. As the sun rises over Kalma camp today, Darfuris will begin another day of working hard to protect and care for themselves and their families; let us begin another day of fulfilling our responsibility to protect and support them.