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More Darfur Daily “News”

September 2, 2009

Well, the crack communications experts at the Save Darfur Coalition are at it yet again. For Darfur Salvationistas, anti-genocidaires, activists and advocates, last week’s Darfur-related news was dominated by two basic storylines.

First, there was the outgoing UNAMID commander Gen. Agwai declaring that the Darfur region currently suffers more from low-level conflict and banditry than full-scale war.

Additionally, Humanity United, with the help of some “friends” in the save Darfur community, rolled out the SUDAN (ACTION) NOW advertising campaign.

Let’s take a quick peek at what the Save Darfur Coalition highlighted regarding these two stories:

Darfur Daily News – 8/27/09

AFP: Darfur peacekeepers have ended massacres: chief. The outgoing head of the UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur defended his soldiers against persistent criticism of their effectiveness, insisting they have ended the massacres that long plagued the Sudanese region. “I have achieved results,” Rodolphe Adada told AFP in an interview, hitting back at the criticism. “The main result is the end of massacres in Darfur,” he said, as he prepared to step down as head of the world’s biggest peacekeeping operation.

The Atlantic: Obama’s Envoy Agrees: Sudan Is Urgent. Though he doesn’t agree with the calling out of his bosses, President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan does share the sentiment of a coalition of U.S.-based Darfur peace groups that Sudan demands immediate action–action that, from his point of view, is already being taken–a State Department spokesman for Maj. Gen. Scott Gration says.

August 27th, 2009 by Allen Combs

Darfur Daily News – 8/28/09

August 28th, 2009 by Allen Combs

Voice of America: Activists Say General Agwai’s Comments on Darfur Miss the Bigger Picture. A coalition of anti-genocide advocacy organizations has called on the Obama administration to team up with concerned nations and draft a proposal that would bring lasting peace to Sudan. The position came as the commander of the UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur says the region was no longer in a state of war. “The fact that open hostilities between rebel groups and the government militias have dwindled is certainly a good sign that we are one step closer to what would hopefully be an eventual peace. But unfortunately it does not mean the situation is getting that much better for the millions of affected civilians who remain in Darfur,” said Alex Meixner, director of policy and government relations for Save Darfur Coalition.

MinnPost.com: War in Darfur over? Not quite. The war in Darfur is over? That’s what the outgoing general of the United Nations forces in that troubled African region says. “The political and humanitarian crisis in Darfur is not over. Nor is the threat of full-scale fighting over, said Sean Brooks, policy associate of Save Darfur Coalition. “We find Gen. Agwai’s statement surprising, considering that just a few weeks ago he said that the U.N. forces are only at 70 percent deployment and need to be fully deployed to protect the people of Darfur.

The New York Times: As Darfur Fighting Diminishes, U.N. Officials Focus on the South of Sudan. As the fighting in Darfur diminishes after years of conflict, senior United Nations officials say they are focused increasingly on the deteriorating situation in another part of Sudan: the south. The shift in alarm has been building for months, but was reinforced late Wednesday when Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, the departing commander of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, told reporters that the war in Darfur was essentially over. Senior United Nations officials said that while General Agwai was basically correct, they did not want to play down the dire consequences some three million displaced people face in Darfur. Still, they noted, the escalating skirmishes in the south could reignite the civil war there, which in years past proved far more deadly than the conflict in Darfur.

Interesting, if somewhat predictable choices. Why not Agence France-Presse’s “Darfur war over at least for now says departing UN chief” instead of the chosen “Darfur peacekeepers have ended massacres: chief” (or BBC’s “War in Sudan’s Darfur ‘is over'”)? I guess article titles that reinforce concepts like massacres/violence, crisis/urgency, and call into question a General’s field assessment based on firsthand experience are far better for business than more direct AFP/BBC reporting. I mean, we all know of the journalistic powerhouse that is MinnPost.com, but what the hell is an “AFP” or a “BBC?” Am I right?! In other words, SDC is marketing fear and violence in lieu of aggregating and disseminating on-the-ground reporting, commentary, and analysis of the ongoing crisis in Darfur/Sudan.

As for the coverage of the SUDAN NOW campaign, in addition to the inclusion of The Atlantic blog post noted above, SDC’s Jerry Fowler posted the following over at SDC’s Blog for Darfur:

Partners for Peace

Our friends at Humanity United and several other groups have launched a new initiative called Sudan Now. We joined with them in a series of print and online ads this week as the Administration’s long-running Sudan policy review appears to be entering its final stages. It’s vital that the Administration get the policy right. Key elements in a strong policy will be that it is:

  1. comprehensive (addressing Sudan’s interlocking crises, including Darfur, implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war in southern Sudan and the proxy war with Chad);
  2. multilateral (the U.S. must work with other countries that have leverage on the various actors to address these crises);and
  3. based on a balance of incentives and pressures.

Above all, effective implementation of the policy will require the personal and direct engagement of President Obama. More details on what we’re looking for can be found in the letter to President Obama signed by more than 113,000 citizens that I delivered to Special Envoy Scott Gration on August 5.

Meanwhile, we also have partnered with the Sudan Inter-Faith Working Group, a broad array of faith-based organizations, in the Moved by Faith initiative. Together, we are seeking clergy of all faiths to sign on to a letter that tells President Obama that his “strong leadership is critical in realizing peace and justice in Sudan.” The complementary efforts of Sudan Now, Moved by Faith and the citizen sign-on letter show the breadth and passion of the movement calling for President Obama to lead for peace in Darfur and all of Sudan.

August 25th, 2009 by Jerry Fowler

“Friends” at Humanity United?! Don’t you mean “major funder,” Mr. Fowler? A little bit of transparency will not kill you, I promise. Give it a try, you might like it. If not, you can go back to dissembling and misleading.

And if you thought so highly of Humanity United’s current initiative, why didn’t you sign on to the entire campaign (like the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, Stop Genocide Now and Investors Against Genocide) rather than just “a series of print and online ads?”  Could it be that you don’t totally agree with your largest funder on policy or politics, but you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to not participate in some less meaningful way? Or are you just keen on some free publicity for your declining organization?

And why didn’t Save Darfur mention the blog post (below) from POLITICO’s uber-blogger Ben Smith, one of the most widely-read and important inside-the-Beltway political voices in the blogoshpere? Jeez. A big-time political voice highlights a friend’s campaign with a LARGE post that sits at the top of his blog for a blogosphere eternity and it gets nary a mention from Save Darfur? Hmm…

Pressing Obama on Sudan

One segment of Obama’s base that remains largely dissatisfied with the administration is human rights advocates, and in particular the movement formed to stop the genocide in Sudan, which took out ads this week in national and Martha’s Vineyard papers using Obama’s own words on the crisis there to press for action.

The ads are the product of a new group, Humanity United. One consultant to Sudan advocacy groups, Chuck Thies, emails that the move is the product of restlessness among advocates at the administration’s “seeming inaction” and concern at Sepcial Envoy Scott Gration’s statement that genocide in Sudan had stopped.

Writes Thies:

The organizations that lead the advocacy movement are divided on whether or not to hammer the Obama administration (despite having pounded away at Bush). There are those who want to allow the administartion more time to develop a detailed policy and plan of action, and there are others who recall Obama’s words as a Senator and on the campaign trail about the need to take strong, immediate action to protect civillians from the genocide.

Enter Humanity United, the organization funded by Pam Omidyar. HU has heard the voices of those who wish to push Obama harder and thus is spearheading this campaign. It has brought many of the leading Darfur advocacy organziations onboard to varying degrees. The campaign should please most activists and not upset those wishing to give the Obama administration more time. One goal is to unite the activist community like to was in 2006/07 and to a degree 2008. Most activists leaders agree that without a united, vocal campaign there is little hope for more than caretaking in Darfur.

Soemthing to chew on that has not yet entered the public debate: Though the rate of death from violence in Darfur has been greatly reduced in the past year, millions of people still live in unsafe refugee and IDP camps, slowly starving to death. No one suggested the Holocaust genocide ended until the death camps were liberated; the same should be true for Darfur.

We have it from various sources that some of the fine folks at the Save Darfur Coalition thought quite highly of this post. And yet it didn’t make the final cut for the Blog for Darfur or Darfur Daily News. It makes one wonder if the mere presence of Chuck Thies,  a “consultant to Sudan advocacy groups” as well as a former Save Darfur employee (who was the driving force behind the now famous Save Darfur rallies in NYC and Washington, DC in 2006), played some role in the exclusion of the post at Blog for Darfur and/or Darfur Daily News. So here’s the question: Did Jerry Fowler’s jealousy of Mr. Thies or Mr. Thies’s proximity (real or perceived) to the Darfur advocacy community have an impact on the decision not to include this widely-read/circulated and very relevant piece on any SDC-related sites? For those familiar with the situation, it’s hard to believe that one or both of these didn’t play some role in the exclusion.

Regardless, Save Darfur continues to promote only the “news” that reinforces their outdated narrative of fear, crisis, and violence, promotes SDC as the undisputed leader of the Darfur advocacy “movement”, while also pandering to the few remaining Big Donors. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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