Inside Darfur

On Thursday, Oct. 15 the Wilfrid Laurier University classes of EN330 and EN119 hosted guest speaker Debbie Bodkin, who provided an insider’s look into the Darfur conflict.

Taking time away from her job as a detective at the sexual assault department of the Waterloo Regional Police Service, Bodkin spoke about her experience as a special investigator in the conflict zone.

In Dafur, Bodkin worked for the Coalition for International Justice and in collaboration with the U.S. State Department.

After two weeks of investigation, the U.S. State Department reviewed her team’s findings. They declared to the world that genocide was occurring in Darfur with some Sudanese government involvement. It was to be the first time genocide was stopped in its course, in stark contrast to the Holocaust and Rwanda, but no action was taken. While the UN had the opportunity to step in, they chose inaction.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it because here in the Waterloo Region … you literally don’t stop until you have made an arrest, or at least identified who’s done it,” Bodkin said.

Bodkin was later contacted by the UN, who wanted her assistance in their reassessment of the situation in Darfur. This time the goal was to scrutinize crimes post-2003, and determine how the issue in Darfur could be stopped.

The country of Sudan is largely populated by Arabic immigrants.

Darfur is notably the only province with a majority of Africans. In turn, it was being neglected by the Sudanese government.

In response, militia groups from Darfur challenged the Sudanese leadership. In 2003, the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, decided that the best way to eliminate the resistance in
Darfur was to eliminate the minority, the African people.

Once in Darfur, Bodkin and her team flew to Alginina, their target area.

Throughout her presentation, the hospitality of the Darfuri people was apparent. After their own horrific experiences, they were still looking out for the well being of others.

Debbie explained that they offered her team what little food and water they had, a place to sit and genuine concern for their comfort.

“In 23 years I’ve never interviewed a victim here who could totally put aside what has happened to he or she and check on me first,” Debbie remarked.

Despite their efforts, the United Nations released a report in 2005 saying that there is no proof that genocide is occurring in Darfur.

The reason: there is no evidence that the government is trying to eliminate one group of people. Bodkin attests that this is why the genocide is ongoing in Darfur today.

While there is an arrest warrant for Bashir, no effort has been made to enforce this; he remains the leader of Sudan.

When asked by a member of the EN330 class how she feels about being a part of this experience, Bodkin explained that she has no regrets.

However, even today, Bodkin is frustrated that very little has been done in the way of legal repercussions.