Sudanese to rally in Portland for Darfur independence

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PORTLAND — The Sudanese community is coming together Thursday for a Monument Square rally to draw attention to continued violence in their former homeland.

Organized by the Fur Cultural Revival and Sudanese Community Association of Maine, the rally will be held from noon to 2 p.m. and will feature speeches by Sudanese leaders and freedom songs by the CG Sudanese Band. The rain date for the event is Friday, Dec. 10, at noon.

The groups have held two previous rallies, in October and November, all leading up to a Jan. 9 vote by the people of southern Sudan, who will decide whether the Darfur, Nuba Mountain and Blue Nile regions of the country will form a country of their own.

“I think (the vote) can help,” Darfur advocate and genocide survivor El-Fadel Arbab said. “With (Sudanese President Omar) al-Bashir in power, it’s never going to end.”

The Darfur region began attracting international attention in 2003, when members of the Janjaweed militia began attacking civilians throughout the area, burning homes, raping and killing thousands of people. Since then, it is estimated that more than 400,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million displaced by the continuing violence.

The war in Darfur has been labeled a genocide by the foreign governments and the international community has condemned the violence. In March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“We’re urging the United States government to do more, to put more pressure on the Sudanese government,” Arbab said.

Portland is home to more than 100 Darfur refugees, one of the largest concentrations of the ethnic group in the country. Arbab said the community plans to hold monthly rallies in Monument Square to continue to draw attention to the genocide.

“This killing and the raping of women and very young girls, it really breaks our hearts,” Arbab said. “We’re really trying to do something about it.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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