KHARTOUM—More than seven years into the crisis in Sudan's western region of Darfur, the first survey to systematically document the views of Darfuri refugees is being released Thursday.
The report, entitled "Darfurian Voices," offers a rare, direct insight into the mindset of those most affected by an ongoing conflict that the United Nations estimates has already left 300,000 dead and another 2.7 million displaced. 24 Hours for Darfur, a U.S.-based organization, interviewed more than 2,000 Darfuri refugees on the Chadian side of the Sudan-Chad border to compile the results.
The findings of the survey indicate that Darfuris remain skeptical of the prospects for peace, hugely supportive of indictments against the Sudanese leadership by the International Criminal Court, and adamant about the need for reparations (though not necessarily as a condition for peace). The report provides nuanced feedback on issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation to policymakers, journalists, and activists eager to bring the crisis to an end. It also raises questions about whether current international efforts are headed in the right direction.
The report couldn't come at a more opportune time. On the heels of local and national elections, Sudan is now headed full speed for a referendum in January 2011 that will offer the autonomous south of the country the opportunity to secede. The South is likely to vote for independence, and as such, international attention has shifted away from Darfur, preoccupied instead with sporadic violence along an oil-rich North-South border. Many international Sudan-watchers fear that if the vote does not proceed smoothly, the January referendum could spark a return to outright civil war.
But the survey is a potent and needed reminder that the situation in Darfur has not been resolved. No matter the outcome of the referendum, the Darfur crisis demands ongoing global attention. Two of the report's detailed findings -- that Darfuris want to see the Sudanese president prosecuted and are skeptical of peace talks -- seem particularly pertinent this week, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful international engagement with the situation.
On Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a second arrest warrant for the Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Al Bashir, adding three counts of genocide to the list of seven crimes for which he is already indicted. The "Darfurian Voices" report indicates that Darfuris overwhelmingly support the Hague-based court, with 98 percent of those surveyed saying they want to see Bashir put on trial at the ICC. That comes in stark contrast to the view expressed by the African Union, which has repeatedly called Bashir's indictment "detrimental" to the pursuit of peace. When asked what development would most likely help peace to be achieved in Darfur, the refugees' most common response was the arrest and prosecution of Bashir.