Boston Activisits take action on Darfur Crisis

Boston Activists take action on Darfur Crisis

By Talia Whyte
Special to the Boston People's Voice

August 11, 2005

The crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan has provoked Boston activists to find ways to save the thousands of lives suffering in what many political heavyweights such as Colin Powell has called genocide. The Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur is a collaboration of faith-based and secular organizations that seeks to raises awareness among citizens and stir politicians to take a more proactive role in the situation.

“Despite UN and Congress having designated this as genocide, the leadership has engaged in silence, complicity and pitiful hand wringing,” said Rev. Dr Gloria White-Hammond, co-chair of the Coalition who traveled to Sudan many times and has seen the atrocities first hand. In 2001 she traveled to Sudan with a contingent which included WBZ anchorwoman Liz Walker.

On the federal level there are two bills pending in the House of Representatives on this issue. The first bill, the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2005 (HR 3127), seeks ‘to impose sanctions against individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity…’ This bill is being co-sponsored by Massachusetts Congressman Michael Capuano. The second bill, HR 1435, amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 by seeking to deny international tax credit and benefits to companies doing business either directly or indirectly in Sudan until the genocide ends. There is also a similar bill pending in the US Senate. Locally there are related efforts happening with Senator Andrea Nuciforo and Representative Byron Rushing having introduced Massachusetts bill number 2166 at the State House recently. The bill, which has co-sponsors in both houses, has been referred to the Committee on Public Service, but a public hearing date has yet to be announced.

The Coalition believes that a grassroots movement led by the citizens is the only way to force politicians to pay more attention to Sudan. “We need more political pressure,” said Rebecca Kushner, a representative from the Coalition. “The US has a lot of power in the world. Only the citizens can mobilize our elected officials to stop the genocide.”

The Coalition’s website (www.savedarfurma.com) gives advice on the many actions a concerned citizen can take, such as collecting signatures for a petition calling for a strong response to the crisis in Darfur or putting together a delegation of citizens to meet with their local congressperson, senator or representative. In the past some citizens have used alternative ways of activism like putting together a photo exhibit showing pictures from Darfur. Another act of creative activism is to hold a fast. The Coalition feels that this is a powerful way to express solidarity with those suffering in Sudan. The money that would have been spent on a meal could be donated to an organization that is providing aid in Darfur.

The Coalition is not only seeking more humanitarian aid for Darfur victims, but also increase the number of African Union (AU) troops with a strong mandate and full logistical and material support in the region. In June NATO (North American Treaty Organization) agreed to send an additional 6,000 troops to the region after many months of political pressure. The International Criminal Court has also announced an inquiry into the war crimes committed in the region.

Despite some signs of progress in Darfur, more works needs to be done and it has to be done by the general public. The Coalition feels that the more citizens know about the crisis and advocate for its end, the more lives that will be saved. An estimated 400 people die everyday in Darfur.

“They need to educate themselves and others on the issue,” said Kushner. “We didn’t take action eleven years ago in Rwanda. We can’t have the same thing happen again. It was shameful then and it is shameful now.”


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