Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 19 February 2007

Darfur and the Genocide Glitterati

separation
increase
decrease
separation
separation

By Anne Bartlett

Feb 18, 2007 — I will not be popular for saying this, I know. But as I opened my e-mail inbox this morning, I was confronted by yet another batch of Darfur events which aimed, in one way or another, to either solve or ameliorate the crisis. More panels of the genocide glitterati pontificating on what could be done for Darfur; more hand-wringing and head shaking about the lack of action on the ground, more wine and cheese events and bands of happy African dancers for entertainment. Yet almost without exception, there were few Darfurians represented among these people, especially those who have been active in the crisis.

Advocacy is good. It is important work in which human rights abuses are highlighted and dialogue is initiated about what can be done. But without specific targets in mind, and perhaps more importantly, without engaging the people on the ground, it has limited value. This value is even further diminished when the advocacy is based on analytically elegant, yet substantively inaccurate explanations for the crisis such as: longstanding “Arab/ African” tensions, or my personal favorite, the dynamic of insurgency/counter insurgency brought on by “rebel” action.

The story of Darfur is much larger than the land itself. What has happened there is not a simple pitting of one group against another; of Arab against African. The story of Darfur is the story of Sudan as a whole. Mired in conflict for decades, it is the story of national versus regional power, of entrenched privilege, of pervasive racism and marginalization. It is the story of long held political alliances, of external geopolitical influence and the way such influences permeate Sudan, creating and maintaining fracture points that stretch the length and breadth of the country and right into the psyches of the people. The story of Darfur is a political story first, before ethnic or other tensions come into play.

Engaging the dynamics and the complexity of the region is difficult work, but is made even more difficult if Darfurians aren’t front and center of the process. There is no way to simply “solve” the Darfur crisis from the outside, since peace must first be organically produced and second, it must be sustainable. This means that effort should be concentrated in two specific areas: 1) empowering local groups so that they can speak for their own needs and rights and 2) making the National Congress Party (NCP) aware that the cost of marginalization, manipulation and war mongering will be high — prohibitively so.

Easier said than done? Perhaps. But a start would be to recognize the political history of this regime and the fact that punitive intervention is the only sort that works. This means a concerted attack against their economic base (which in reality means attacking their geopolitical support and revenue), legal pressure through ICC warrants and working with the Sudanese people to counter the regime’s strategies of misinformation. This is one side of the equation and work appears to be going in that direction.

But the other equally important side of the equation means empowering Darfurians. Little if any of the money raised by advocacy groups has been spent on building the democratic process on the ground, assisting with negotiation skills training or helping locals to figure out how to make their needs known in a constructive way. The rebels, lambasted by everyone after the Abuja negotiations, were a classic case in this regard. Coming, as they did, from local villages – doctors, farmers, teachers, students, lawyers – they were unable to deal effectively with the international political circuit, or the near impossible task of negotiating with the Sudanese government. While some of the problems could be attributed to personality issues, training would not only have been helpful, but could have stemmed a lot of the problems that were subsequently encountered in the negotiation process.

Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim’s current trip to the region with the hope of uniting the factions is a start. So is the EU’s tougher stance against the regime’s posturing. But this also needs to be accompanied by a change of focus for the advocacy groups involved in the crisis. Enough of the genocide glitterati, the incessant meetings and pontification. Enough of the wine and cheese events, the celebrity breakfasts and protest rallies where Darfurians get a paltry 2 minutes at the end to discuss the crisis affecting their region. If only a fraction of the money spent on these events was spent on the ground or in providing leadership support, the people of Darfur would be in a much better position.

While some helpful overtures have been made in the last few days, it is patently obvious that the balance of power still lies with entrenched geopolitical interests rather than vulnerable men, women and children. Work needs to be done to change the dynamic. As Eric Reeves eloquently pointed out last week, a viral campaign against the Genocide Olympics is a good place to start. But so is a concerted campaign to “give back” to Darfur by training, facilitating and assisting its people to confront this shameful mockery of a government. To this end, how about some more scholarships to help Darfurians educationally; how about some negotiation skills training for the “rebels” (especially before the next round of talks); how about some grants to facilitate inter-tribal dialogue?

It was distressing this week to hear a Darfurian say: “the people of Darfur have to help themselves out of this crisis, because no-one else will”. Let’s not turn this crisis into a social club where everyone but the Darfurians are invited. Let’s also not forget that locals, living through this nightmare on the ground, are the real experts in this crisis.

* The author is a Director of the Darfur Centre for Human Rights and Development, London. She can be reached at albartle@uchicago.edu



The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

Comment on this article



The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.


Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis


National dialogue building nation 2017-05-22 21:10:41 By Amb. Dhano Obongo Initially, I congratulate and commend H.E the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, for recognising the need for a national dialogue among 64 (...)

The raging just revolution in Darfur will continue burning until victory 2017-05-22 21:04:22 By Mahmoud A. Suleiman Author Mahmoud Yusuf says that we live in a historical stage full of serious events that will affect the future of mankind on this planet, including what is related to (...)

South Sudan: How culture of revenge inhibits development and progress 2017-05-13 08:09:39 By Steve Paterno Admittedly, revenge or the act of it is inherently human in nature. The human beings since biblical times could not dissuade from the proverbial practice of an 'eye for an eye.' (...)


MORE






Latest Press Releases


HRW denounces "collective punishment" in South Sudan’s Wau 2017-04-15 07:06:48 Human Right Watch South Sudan: New Spate of Ethnic Killings Urgent Need for Justice; UN Should Increase Patrols in Wau (Nairobi, April 14, 2017) – Government soldiers and allied militias (...)

Statement by South Sudanese Communist Party on the National Dialoguel 2017-03-22 05:44:42 The Communist Party of South Sudan On the Initiative of the National Dialogue The initiative taken by the President of the Republic of South Sudan declaring a need for a national dialogue is an (...)

An Appeal to President of the Republic of South Sudan 2017-03-15 07:22:45 Dear. Mr. President, I write to appeal to you for the release of political detainees now in the custody of the National Security Service at Jebel and other detention facilities. In doing this, I (...)


MORE

Copyright © 2003-2017 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.