Find out the facts before protesting Darfur issues

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Darfur”
Apr. 4, 2008

To the editor:
It is important to see increasing on-campus coverage of the Darfur crisis.

Over the past two years, I have spent seven months in Sudan as a field researcher and project coordinator. During that time I visited many of the camps where the millions of displaced persons reside across Darfur, southern Sudan and Khartoum.

Since the start of the recent conflict, when rebels in Darfur killed 200 government soldiers in February 2003, a massive wave of destruction and displacement has taken place in the region.

Campus activism is important to raise awareness of this and other humanitarian crises, however I caution uninformed activism.

Some questions we should be asking ourselves: who are the Darfurian rebels, where do they come from, and what do they want? Why is the conflict never mentioned in reference to the long-running Sudanese civil war or the conflicts that plague six of the nine countries surrounding Sudan?

Why is China singled out when other governments are dumping guns and landmines in the region? What is the role of oil? Why are the tens of thousands killed by violence and the hundreds of thousands who die (often due to disease in the camps) simply grouped together?

Why are local Darfurian actors not engaged by the international community in relief and development efforts? Can international pressure on China bring true peace to a region devastated by colonialism, long-running inter-tribal conflict and civil violence?

Just like many of today’s conflicts across the globe, the root causes and potential solutions are complex and require extensive historical and contextual knowledge.

We can certainly make a difference, however a movement that over-simplifies the complexity of the conflict may cause more harm than good. If we are to make a positive difference, we must first understand what is really going on.
"Samer Abdelnour
PhD Candidate
Richard Ivey School of Business

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