by Emily Landgraf
In a region in Sudan the size of France, it is estimated that more than 400,000 people have been killed and more than 2.7 million have been forced from their homes. This is Darfur, which was the topic of discussion at Darfur Now, presented by STAND, the Student Led Division of the Genocide Intervention Network, held at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 6, in Sweigart Auditorium.
Two young guest speakers, Caustan De Riggs and Angela Wallace, spoke to students about the crisis in Darfur on behalf of Me to We, an organization for people who want to change the world with their daily choices.
“We’re not just an organization, we’re a philosophy,” De Riggs said.
Each of the speakers talked about the experiences that made them want to help.
De Riggs spoke about working with government officials in Grenada after Hurricane Ivan to draw up a recovery plan for the country.
Wallace told the audience about her trip to rural southern Mexico and the extreme poverty she witnessed there.
These events inspired the speakers to get involved with the global community, which led them to the movement to save Darfur.
After relating their experiences, De Riggs and Wallace showed the audience clips from the documentary Darfur Now: Six Stories. One Hope.
The documentary explained the conflict in Darfur. In that region, African rebels who were tired of being ignored by their government retaliated against it. The government then sent the Janjaweed, or “devils on horseback,” to put down the insurrection, according to the film. Since 2003, the conflict has raged on, resulting in death and destruction.
“These stories will always happen if we continue to ignore each other’s human rights,” De Riggs said of the plight of Darfuris in refugee camps.
In these camps the Darfuris still face danger, since the Janjaweed still know the refugees’ whereabouts.
“It’s a very dangerous situation for the people living in the internal displacement camps,” Wallace said.
The aid organizations face danger in their mission to help the people of Darfur, according to the speakers.
“They have been shot at, kidnapped, even killed,” Wallace said. “These are the risks people run trying to help the people of Darfur.”
Many countries have agreed to divest themselves of their interests in Darfur. There are others, such as China and Russia, that refuse to give up their oil interests in Sudan.
“I don’t see why anyone should put economic interests over someone’s life,” De Riggs said.
However, some progress has been made, according to the speakers. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Omar Al Bashir, the president of Sudan. In response, Bashir expelled 13 aid groups from Sudan.
“He’s basically saying to the court, ‘I don’t respect you. Your laws don’t apply to me,’” Wallace said.
Activists continue to call attention to the situation in Darfur. President Barack Obama appointed a high- level diplomat, Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, as an envoy to Sudan.
“We have to do everything in our power to make it stop,” Obama said in the documentary. “We need to act now.”
The speakers encouraged the audience to visit takepart.com/darfurnow and call 1-800-GENOCID(E).
“I thought you needed money to make a difference,” De Riggs said. “You don’t need to put on a façade to do good work.”