saving the date
I've been staring at this post from Alex de Waal over on the SSRC's excellent Making Sense of Darfur blog for the last few minutes, trying to figure out why on earth the Save Darfur movement has decided that September 21 is a good day to fast for Darfur, given that it marks the Eid, the day that devout Muslims (including most...Darfuris) break the Ramadan fast. While I'm sure that this is all an unintended coincidence, um, guys, you might want to think about rescheduling. Just a suggestion.
However, as de Waal points out, a culturally insensitive, poor choice of date is the least of the problems in the movement for the moment:
"Having spent most of the last few months in Sudan, especially Darfur, it is increasingly evident that “Save Darfur”—here meaning not just the Save Darfur Coalition but the wider movement—is out of touch with realities. What they describe and prescribe has little or no relation to what is happening and what should be done.
"Next was a revealing quote from John Prendergast in response to the remark by Gen. Martin Agwai, outgoing UNAMID Force Commander, that the war in Darfur was essentially over. He could not dispute Gen. Agwai’s facts nor his integrity. Prendergast’s criticism was that this was 'something that takes the wind out of the sails of international action.'
"This was perhaps more illuminating than Prendergast intended: his campaign is not about domestic solutions but international (read: U.S.) action. That’s Save Darfur’s second big error: if there is to be a solution, it will come from inside Sudan, and must be political, addressed at the structural political challenges of Sudan. A campaign focused on a genocide that isn’t happening, for the U.S. to step up its pressure to stop killing that has already ended, is just making Save Darfur look poorly-informed, and America look silly."
That should keep the activists good and mad for a few days.I've long maintained on this blog that poorly informed activism is often more harmful than good. If de Waal is right, then the Save Darfur movement's focus on what was going on 2004 is certainly hampering peace efforts today, which isn't good for the people of Darfur. Surely the thousands of committed Darfur activists in the U.S. and Europe can recognize this, and can agree that it is better to advocate for a long-term peace than to insist on a set of objectives that are no longer relevant to the situation. Right?
(Before those of you who hate Alex de Waal leave a mess of comments and send nasty emails about how this entire post is invalid because you hate Alex de Waal, please remember that the fact that you don't like Alex de Waal or things he has said in the past doesn't mean he's wrong here. And remember that he, unlike you, has spent decades working in Sudan, including in Darfur, where he conducted his doctoral thesis research in the 1980's. It's possible that even if you disagree about the particulars, he does know what he's talking about.)
UPDATE: An anonymous commenter lets me know that the Eid is actually September 20 this year (beginning at sunset on the 19th), not the 21st. This appears to be accurate, at least according to the Lebanese cleric cited in a story I found on a google search. Since de Waal's wife is Muslim, I would assume he has some good reason for thinking it's the 21st. Can any readers enlighten us here?