Suicidal donkeys: Indian peacekeepers in Sudan raise the alarm, but is anyone listening?

Genocide in Darfur. A collapsing peace agreement between north and south. A Ugandan rebel force roving and killing at will in southern Sudan. In the midst of these tragedies, a lone voice cries out: What about the donkeys?

For Indian Army peacekeepers in the Sudan, the plight of the simple donkey has gone unnoticed by an international community preoccupied with ending mass killing and the destruction of a nation.

This neglect ended in tragedy this week with the unexpected suicide of two donkeys. A new UN mission report by Major Shambhu Saran Singh, reported by the Indian Express, describes the unfolding donkitarian crisis:

A donkey, who had decided to end his miserable and wretched life, ran towards the Nile. As he approached the banks, he plunged into the river and moved towards the current and the strong current of the mighty river swept it to a watery grave.

In a second instance reported by Major Singh, an overworked donkey preferred to be beaten to death by his master rather than pulling a heavily loaded cart through the market.

Indian army veterinarians are urging the people and government of Sudan to provide donkeys with a week’s rest and a good diet of grain to drive away the “suicidal tendencies”. After 20 years of war and displacement, and amidst daily human rights violations , experts warn that donkey welfare will not get the attention it deserves.

Fortunately, Indian peacekeepers, who comprise close to one third of the 10,000-strong peacekeeping force in sourthern Sudan, appear to be making donkey welfare a chief priority.

Media coverage like this BBC article remains focused on the 2.5 million people that have fled their homes in Darfur’s five-year conflict, which has killed at least 200,000 people.

Not surprisingly, no UN figures are available on donkey deaths or displacement.

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