On Sunday 15 May exiles from Sudan, along with supporters, gathered in London to demand that the British government take action to halt the genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
The protest was organised by Waging Peace and the Darfur Solidarity Campaign and drew 300 people from across Britain. Protesters gathered outside Downing Street and the Sudanese Embassy and staged a die-in, symbolising the genocide. They held up placards with “Peace keepers into Darfur” and “Sanctions against Sudan's killer leaders” in a call to the government to use its position in the UN to secure a mandate for the “enforcement of peace” in Darfur.
No end in sight
An estimated 400,000 people have been killed in Darfur while two million have been forced to flee their homes. The displaced are living in crowded refugee camps, and with no sign of an end to the conflict they have little chance of returning to their communities.
There will be a massive shortage of food as people have been unable to plant crops; Oxfam have called for increased international aid to feed the population until the next potential harvest in October 2006.
The Darfur region is the size of France yet there are only 2,200 African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces to protect the civilian population. The AU has proposed an increase to 8,000 by September but this number will have little effect against the mobile guerrilla forces of the government backed Janjaweed. An estimated 30,000 troops are needed to secure peace in the region. The AU has now officially requested help from NATO countries.
500 killed every day
Outside Downing Street protesters held a five-minute silence as a coffin was driven down Whitehall emblazoned with the words “Protect Darfur: 500 killed every day”.
Abdellatife Ismail, a Sudanese refugee, attended the rally. He said, “My village was attacked and more than 73 people were killed. Lots of people are talking about it but very little is actually being done.”
Protesters also called for a “no-fly” zone over Darfur to stop the bombing of African villages and a 15,000 strong UN peacekeeping force to protect the civilian population.