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Countering genocide: the growth of the movement to protect Darfur.

AS THE GENOCIDE in the western region of Sudan persists, now in its third year, the voices of concerned Americans have been raised, reflecting a movement that is both expansive and diverse.

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Since this genocide began in 2003, targeted offensives by the Sudanese government have resulted in the deaths of over 400,000 people and the displacement of millions more. Civilians have been systematically targeted in attacks by the Sudanese government and their proxy militias. In recent months, humanitarian conditions on the ground have deteriorated drastically, reversing many of the moderate gains of 2005. In addition, the Sudanese government's obstruction and harassment of aid workers, combined with continual shortfalls in international donor funding, has exacerbated an already untenable situation and left millions at risk. The recent signing of a peace deal between the government and one of the main rebel groups in Darfur marks a small step forward in the crisis, but without a strong international force to provide security and enforce the peace deal, little will change for the people of Darfur.

The unfolding genocide in Darfur has mobilized communities across the United States, coming from a great variety of backgrounds. Included among those inspired to act have been student organizations and religious groups, forming alliances united around the principle of protection for the people of Darfur. There is broad consensus on the need for a multinational peacekeeping force in Darfur. Many groups believe that the United Nations is the appropriate body to deploy such a force, while some others advocate a NATO operation, but the universe of people concerned about Darfur has been united in the demand for U.S. leadership in galvanizing international support for a multinational operation to be deployed to the region. This demand has been communicated through such actions as local events and protests, letters to the editor, messages to Congress and the Bush administration and a huge rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on April 30.

Leadership on this issue has emerged particularly in the African-American community, through networks of church groups and others, as well as civic leaders. In the summer of 2004, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was instrumental in pushing the Bush administration to acknowledge that genocide was in progress in Sudan.

To date, the Bush administration remains the only government to have publicly acknowledged that genocide is taking place in Darfur, but it has failed to take the necessary actions to stop this crime against humanity.

Increasingly, activists insist that the Bush administration be accountable to the concerns of its constituents, to its own pledges and responsibilities and to the moral imperative to react to genocide by leading the international community to take action and deploy a peacekeeping force to Darfur. Nothing short of an international intervention can stop the genocide in Darfur, and this continues to be the rallying cry for millions.

--Ann-Louise Colgan and Diana Duarte

www.africaaction.org
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Author:Duarte, Diana
Publication:Colorlines Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:487
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