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Don’t Quit Now

Bringing the Darfur Genocide to an End

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Reading the headlines and watching the news about Sudan can certainly be discouraging. The litany of gloom and doom is well documented.[1] The U.N.-authorized protection force for Darfur is being held up. Peace talks for that region are having difficulty getting off the ground. The peace deal in Southern Sudan is in trouble.[2] And President Bashir presides gleefully over all this bad news, defying the international community and carrying out policies that—if unchecked—will lead to further war throughout the country.

What the media doesn’t tell you is that significant progress has been made in finally getting the policies right toward Sudan, mostly because of pressure from activists and the U.S. Congress. And if these policies are pursued with additional vigor, we have a real chance at ending the continuing cycles of violence in Sudan. This is the time to step up efforts to end the genocide in Darfur and consolidate the peace in Southern Sudan. We need to turn up the heat, demand real action from our policymakers, and forge links between those active on Darfur and those who worked for peace in Southern Sudan before that war ended in 2005.

Let’s remember that for social and political movements throughout history—be it the civil rights movement in the United States, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, or worldwide efforts to end colonialism and slavery in Africa and elsewhere—gains were rarely instantaneous or immediately tangible. But with time and momentum, they achieved what most people during those eras believed to be unachievable.
 
Over the last four years, what started as a few students, a few religious leaders, and a few members of Congress has grown into a broad-based nation-wide campaign on Darfur.[3] People from across political, religious, cultural and ethnic divides have joined forces in an effort to end the crises in Sudan, and to prevent future crises in the region from unfolding. With every passing day, this campaign has grown larger, stronger and smarter.

This represents the first popular movement against a real-time genocide since the term “genocide” was coined over half a century ago. This is an extraordinary accomplishment in and of itself. Most participants in this movement have never been to Darfur. Most have never met a person from Darfur. And yet they write letters, come to demonstrations, and become what Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power calls “upstanders” in the face of the most horrific crimes against humanity.

The point is simple and clear: Activism matters. This movement has become a formidable force for change, and its accomplishments so far include helping to press for serious peace negotiations, protection for innocent civilians, and accountability for those most responsible for crimes against humanity. To put the daunting news out of Darfur in context, we thought it would be helpful to take stock of all this burgeoning movement has accomplished so far.

Wars and genocide do not end overnight. In most cases, an end requires that the key international actors start working together and get the policies right.[4] After four and a half years of death and destruction in Darfur, for a variety of reasons and motives, the international community has finally begun cooperating and moving in the right direction.
 
The evidence is everywhere, but you don’t read it in the headlines or see it on the nightly news. But if you look closer, you can see that the international picture is shifting considerably regarding Sudan, and it is because of activist pressure.

International Cooperation to End the Crisis

Look first at China. The global campaign to tie the Chinese government and its multi-billion dollar investments in the Sudanese oil sector to the atrocities in Darfur is biting hard in Beijing. Just recently, Dream for Darfur—a leading activist group bringing pressure to bear on China—issued a report grading Olympic sponsors on their response to Sudan. This public grading, as well as other activist and celebrity pressures on the Chinese government in relation to the upcoming Olympic Games,[5] has led the Beijing government to begin to play a much more active behind-the-scenes role in encouraging progress in Darfur. For example, China’s quiet pressure on the Khartoum regime led the latter to accept the U.N.-authorized hybrid force, but China has not sustained that pressure and as a result the Sudanese government has not allowed the force to deploy. More pressure on China is needed to ensure that it is judged by the results in Darfur, not by its new attitude.
 
Look at France and Great Britain. President Sarkozy responded to citizen pressure in France and pledged to work to bring the Darfur crisis to an end. He and Prime Minister Brown of the U.K. have pledged to go to Darfur together to support the peace process, and both have said that they will consider sanctioning those undermining peace and protection in Darfur. This is a huge step forward, but there needs to be more pressure in London and Paris—in the form of rallies, demonstrations, and letter-writing campaigns—to ensure that these two leaders live up to these promises of accountability.
 
Finally, look at the United States itself. President Bush finally decided earlier this year, over four years after the genocide began, to begin to ratchet up pressure on the government he accused of committing the genocide. But unfortunately the pressures were all unilateral in nature. Now is the time for the United States to lead in the U.N. Security Council to make those pressures multilateral by leading the Council to impose targeted sanctions against anyone obstructing the deployment of the force. (See the activist action section at the end of this briefing for what you can do).

China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States represent a potent quartet whose potential for bringing leverage and ingenuity to the cause of peace in Sudan is unlimited, and as yet not fully realized. This is progress that we must capitalize on as activists.
 

Getting the Policies Right: Activist Success Stories

Activists are responsible for helping to change or influence a number of the key policies that are critical prerequisites for ending the crisis in Sudan. Progress is being registered across the 3 Ps of crisis response: peace, protection, and punishment. These are the three ingredients for bringing peace to Sudan.

Peace

  • Activists and their allies in the U.S. Congress succeeded in having a Special Envoy named to address the crisis. We need to push harder to make sure the administration has a full-time envoy backed by a team of diplomats working full-time in the region. Two deputies should focus on and closely coordinate between Darfur and Southern Sudan, respectively.
  • Activists have kept up the drumbeat of support for a credible peace process. After a false start in early November, the mediators are making adjustments and assessing options for a more effective approach. (See “A Strategy for Success in Sirte” at www.enoughproject.org
  • Earlier this year, China appointed an experienced diplomat in Africa, Liu Giujin, as its special envoy to Darfur, despite its general distaste for envoys of this kind. This was due directly to global activist pressure. Since assuming his post in May, Liu has visited Darfur several times and traveled to Libya for the peace talks. 
  • In a related move, activists and their congressional allies also pressured the administration to name an envoy to deal with the conflict in Northern Uganda (see “What to do about Joseph Kony,” at www.enoughproject.org), which has done much damage in, and has close links to, Sudan. 
  • Activists are beginning to develop important links between the Darfur movement and the constituencies that helped to focus U.S. government attention on Southern Sudan. This will provide the impetus for an even more politically potent push to deal with Sudan as a whole and end the cycles of violence that have plagued that country since independence.

Protection

  • For the first time in four and a half years, the United Nations Security Council—in a unanimous, 15-0 vote—authorized the deployment of a United Nations/African Union hybrid force to Darfur, and the Sudanese regime accepted the force. This was an extraordinary accomplishment, brought about partially as a result of the global activist efforts that are multiplying in countries throughout the world, including the 35 countries that held “Global Day for Darfur” rallies in the spring of 2007. Now an even harder task is at hand: getting that force deployed and protecting Darfur’s vulnerable people. We need to finish the job.

Punishment

  • Activist pressure resulted in the United States stepping aside and allowing the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution referring Darfur to the International Criminal Court. This resolution gave the ICC authority to investigate and prosecute those most responsible for human rights violations committed in Darfur. Activists reminded the administration that it would want to avoid a headline reading, “U.S. vetoes justice for genocide in Darfur.”
  • In response to intense congressional and activist pressure, the Bush administration finally expanded sanctions on transactions involving the Sudanese oil sector earlier this year, signaling that the period of “all bark and no bite” was over for U.S. policy toward Darfur. Those sanctions must become multilateral through the U.N. Security Council to have maximum meaning, but the U.S. action is a start. These expanded sanctions were announced shortly after Darfur activists in the United States participated in over 450 “Global Days for Darfur” events in 47 states calling for action to stop the genocide. 
  • Activists have launched the most effective divestment campaign since the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s and early 1990s targeted South Africa. The efforts have targeted endowments, public pensions, and mutual funds. The effect of such an initiative is political as much as economic, as it casts Sudan and the companies that support it as pariahs that must change their behavior or be denied international investment capital.
  • Twenty-two U.S. states have divested so far, a collection of both red and blue states, as well as big and small ones. Ten cities have also divested.
  • Due to activist pressure, the U.S. Congress is nearing passage of the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, a vehicle for getting foreign companies operating in Sudan to suspend or change their Sudan business operations or lose their contracts with the U.S. government. 
  • Fifty-eight universities have divested, and 47 more have active ongoing campaigns aimed at cleaning their endowments of stocks under-writing genocidal policies.
  • Eight countries have initiated targeted Sudan divestment campaigns (United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, and Germany).
  • Fidelity, a massive mutual fund company, has sold more than 90 percent of its holdings in PetroChina in response to a major activist campaign. Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway followed suit after being targeted at his shareholder meeting, selling 100 percent of his PetroChina holdings.

Don’t Give Up Now!

Change takes time. Ten years ago, most experts saw no end in sight for the horrific wars plaguing Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Burundi. Today those countries are at peace, growing economically, and healing the scars of the past. With a little help, Sudan can also join the ranks of the many post-conflict countries in Africa and around the world. Activists, legislators, journalists, and policymakers can play a major role in accelerating that transition to peace in Sudan. They’ve already made a huge difference in raising awareness and fostering policy change.
 
It is our choice what we do with our time, where we place our priorities. Even as we grow frustrated with the struggle for peace in Sudan, it is crucial to realize that things often get worse just before they get better in most conflict zones throughout history. We must continue our important work and recruit more members into the first anti-genocide movement in history organized against an ongoing genocide. We have a chance to help bring this crime against humanity to an end.

On our watch.

Endnotes

1 For the most exhaustive commentaries on the current state of play, see Eric Reeves’ columns at www.sudanreeves.org.
2 Roger Winter and John Prendergast, “An All Sudan Solution: Linking Darfur and the South” (Washington: ENOUGH Project, 2007) available here.
3 It was less than four years ago that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Jewish World Service convened a meeting which led to the founding of the Save Darfur Coalition, a broad-based coalition dedicated to ending the genocide that now has over 180 member organizations and a constituency of 1.3 million citizens willing to take action.
4 See John Prendergast, “Africa’s Sudden Splash of Good News,” Washington Post, September 23, 2007, available here.
5 Mia Farrow’s advocacy has been particularly effective on this issue.

The mission of ENOUGH, a joint initiative founded by the International Crisis Group and the Center for American Progress, is to end crimes against humanity in Darfur, northern Uganda and eastern Congo, and to prevent future mass atrocities wherever they may occur.
For more information, visit www.enoughproject.org

 

 

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