My significant other is a teacher and is not involved in policy work. As a concerned citizen, she bought a Save Darfur t-shirt and wears it occasionally. One night last month, she wore her shirt out to a gathering of my friends, most of whom work in political and environmental nonprofits and businesses.
A couple of these friends had a strange reaction: they giggled, as if to say “oh, Save Darfur? I didn’t get the memo.” This reaction wasn’t intended maliciously, but it illustrates how big an issue Darfur has become and how “trendy” it seems in some quarters, especially among people who work on very un-sexy issues.
Personally, I couldn’t be happier that this humanitarian crisis has generated such broad concern. Since it was labeled the first genocide of the 21st century, the situation in Darfur has united people across the political spectrum. I’m very pleased that the Save Darfur Coalition, of which my organization is an Executive Committee member, has succeeded so greatly in branding the issue. The word “Darfur” immediately gets the attention of Members of Congress and arouses much sympathy and passion in citizens across the country. Plus, Americans of all political stripes agree on the basic solution: stop the atrocities and hold the perpetrators accountable.
The downside to this branding is that it can be misleading. After all, a good part of the “Darfur” violence isn’t taking place in Darfur anymore. It’s happening in Eastern Chad.
Chad is now home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and Sudanese refugees. And a quick glance at the Darfur/Chad web site for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees makes it abundantly clear that Chad is the focal point of humanitarian work right now in the region.
Yesterday, it was reported that Janjaweed militias massacred approximately 400 people in Chad on March 31. To call for intervention in Sudan without mentioning Chad or the Central African Republic, where violence is also picking up, is to commit a grievous sin of omission.
Please, if you own Save Darfur paraphernalia , keep wearing it! But if you do, or if you see it on someone else, know this: the “Darfur atrocities” aren’t just about Darfur anymore.
— Scott Paul