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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Want to ‘Save Darfur’? Lose the slogan

    How many of you have noticed the pervasive green T-shirt, bumper sticker or wristband demanding “”Save Darfur””? Considering the trend this organization has become, I’m sure almost every reader has crossed paths with these words.

    Now for the real question: How many of you have actually been inspired enough by the wearer’s humanity to travel to Darfur to fix their situation? Last I checked, the genocide in western Sudan is still prevalent, so these articles of clothing do little more than spread meager awareness of the issue. While everyone should be cognizant of the brutalities in Sudan, no one can prove they really care about what’s going on by simply talking about it.

    Judging by the number of people in “”Save Darfur”” related online groups and discussion boards, Facebook.com can really fool someone into believing real changes are being made or at least formulated by “”Save Darfur”” supporters. There are well over 100,000 registered Facebook users in various “”Save Darfur”” groups, all of which advocate donating money to the organization to help end the crisis in Sudan.

    Considering the shape Sudan is in, financial contributions are only a start to solving the problem. Even so, the organization would have over $500,000 in donations if all faithful members of these Facebook groups supplied a scanty $5 to the cause. While possible, it’s unlikely that every single group member has done this. With maybe two clicks of a mouse, one can join a “”Save Darfur”” Internet support group, but apparently, donating a few dollars is too much for everyone who broadcasts their supposed compassion.

    The Save Darfur Coalition’s Web site stresses the importance of genocide awareness by providing history and articles on the situation. Similar support groups promote educating oneself on the situation by reading academic books, watching documentaries and looking out for news reports. Understanding the issue is essential to solving it, but that alone does not encourage someone to take action.

    On the surface, actively participating in and becoming a part of the Save Darfur Coalition seems like the first step toward bettering the circumstances in Sudan, but anyone who has done substantial research on the organization should be aware of their sordid spending habits in 2006.

    According to a June 2007 article in The New York Times, Save Darfur did not spend their $15 million budget toward the victims and refugees of Darfur. Though it’s unclear how they used their money exactly, Save Darfur has been criticized for its high-profile campaigning.

    In February 2007, the organization adopted a major advertising campaign along with the implementation of a no-flight rule over Darfur. Perhaps they needed to market the cause even more, but considering the conditions of Darfur, most contributors expect their handouts to aid the victims.

    Africa scholar and Columbia University professor Mahmood Mamdani has experienced the ineffectiveness of the organization. In 2007, “”Democracy Now”” interviewed Mamdani about his findings during a trip to Sudan. When Mamdani asked the United Nations humanitarian officer what assistance the Save Darfur Coalition gives, the man replied “”Nothing.”” Mamdani questioned the public, “”The Save Darfur Coalition raises an enormous amount of money in this country. Where does that money go? Does it go to other organizations which are operative in Sudan, or does it go simply to fund the advertising campaign?””

    Despite these cases, people still jump on the bandwagon and vocalize their concern for the casualties in Darfur. Perhaps the stories were downplayed, but someone who expresses a genuine interest in saving Darfur should be knowledgeable about the humanitarian organization as well as the actual issue at hand.

    If we really want to help the victims of murder and rape in Darfur, we should familiarize ourselves with this information and feel free to act independently of the coalition. Many people sincerely worry about the abused in Sudan. However, there are definitely those who feign alarm in order to appear humane. While some of us may experience an ego boost from joining the “”Save Darfur”” listserv and learning to appreciate the Facebook newsfeed for publishing our new membership to the group, other members of the group are likely to be unaware of the numerous controversies surrounding the organization, therefore slightly misguided as to how they can make a difference in the situation.

    At our own accord, we can urge politicians and world leaders to support legislature to pressure the Sudanese government to change. Though written letters may go ignored, they are one of the few constructive means of solving the genocide problem in Sudan.

    Our government ultimately decides what issues are most important to focus on, but they should consider something we are passionate about. Otherwise, joining a Facebook group isn’t going to cut it, nor will sporting “”Save Darfur”” attire.

    – Laura Donovan is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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