Saturday, June 05, 2010

Sudan activists - "Rethinking Darfur" by Marc Gustafson

  • As an awareness campaign, the SDC was very effective, but it failed to portray the story of Darfur accurately.
  • During 2007 a number of American political figures proposed that the United States should attempt to fix things by attacking Sudan.
  • The violent death rate in Darfur declined significantly after a ceasefire was signed in April 2004, while the number of those who were dying of disease and malnutrition remained high.
  • Despite the decline in violent deaths, activists, journalists, and academics continued to sensationalize the problems in Darfur.
  • The very existence of peace talks was rarely mentioned in American media. Activist groups and individuals dismissed the process as irrelevant.
  • The increase of international troops in Darfur did not reduce the problem of banditry or improve access to the affected population.
  • Stories of race-based rampage and warfare—like the one activists promoted in Darfur—attract more attention than do more mundane but materially more devastating events.
  • Ignoring the changes in the scale and nature of the Darfur conflict has hindered understanding of and response to the conflict.
Source: Cato Institute - Foreign Policy Briefing No. 89
June 1, 2010
Rethinking Darfur
By Marc Gustafson

Here is a copy, in full:

Executive Summary

The war in Darfur has been devastating to the Darfuri people, and its aftermath has been a tragic story of suffering, displacement and sorrow. At the same time, the war has become one of the most misunderstood conflicts in recent history. Analysts and activists have oversimplified the causes of the war, slighting its historical and systemic causes. For years, public commentators ignored important changes in the scale and nature of the violence in Darfur, causing important misperceptions among the public and in the policy community.

Analysts misrepresented the scale of the conflict by selecting high-end estimates from local casualty surveys and then extrapolating them over the entire region. They also largely ignored the fact that the majority of the deaths from violence occurred before the end of 2004. Similarly, many commentators failed to mention that disease and malnutrition (as a consequence of war) caused over 80 percent of the casualties in Darfur, far more than violence itself. The total number of people who have died from violence in Darfur is approximately 60,000, which is considerably smaller than the 400,000 casualties often cited by activists.

This policy briefing draws on historical analysis, explores mortality surveys, and dissects six years of American budgetary allocations in Sudan to demonstrate that the conflict in Darfur has been misunderstood by both policymakers and the general public, leading to problems in crafting policy toward that troubled land.

Marc Gustafson is a Marshall Scholar and doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. He is currently writing his dissertation on political trends in Sudan.


In the summer of 2004, one of the largest American activist movements in recent history emerged in response to the plight of a population located in Darfur, one of the most remote regions of the world. In this mostly desert province along Sudan’s western border with Chad, a civil war between the government of Sudan and two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army, or SLA, and the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, had killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions from their homes. The Khartoum government perpetrated war crimes against civilians in Darfur, and the rebel groups showed a similar disregard for the most basic human rights of the civilian population in the region.

The causes of the civil war in Darfur include a troubled history of sub-state political and economic disputes, land rights, geopolitical interference and the rapid diminution of water resources and arable land due to desertification.[1] This decades-long story of Darfur’s development, however, is a complicated one to convey to a large public audience. Instead, by the summer of 2004, stories of unidirectional murder, rape, and genocide started to appear in American newspapers. In the absence of historical context, these stories came to define the public’s perception of Darfur and ultimately moved millions of Americans to join a campaign intended to stop the violence.

By 2005, the Darfur activist movement had ballooned into a multimillion-dollar, highly commercialized awareness campaign. In its first year, the Save Darfur Coalition, which acted as an umbrella organization for most of the activist campaigns, raised more than $15 million.[2] By 2006, the organization had more than tripled its income, raising almost $50 million in donations and spending 95.1 percent of its funds on advertising and mobilization.[3] Mostly through direct advertising and public events, the campaign shaped the public discussion on Darfur and ultimately influenced American foreign policy. Since the same mischaracterizations that fueled interest in the conflict came to influence American policy, it is worth examining the nature of the war and how activists portrayed it over the last six years.

How Activists Mischaracterized the Darfur Conflict

As an awareness campaign, the SDC was very effective, but it failed to portray the story of Darfur accurately. Activists began by inflating casualty rates, often claiming that hundreds of thousands of Darfuris had been “killed,” when in reality, the majority of the casualties to which they refer occurred as a result of disease and malnutrition (as a consequence of war).[4] Differentiating between those who “died” and those who were “killed” may seem callous in the shadow of the horrific acts of war crimes and injustice in Darfur, but ignoring these distinctions has been central to how the activist movement has gone astray. Since many activists assume that hundreds of thousands of Darfuris have been “killed,” they have pressured the U.S. government to fund violence prevention plans and international peace-keeping troops, as opposed to different, potentially more effective, policy changes.

In 2006 the SDC hired lobbyists in Washington to draft legislation and pressure politicians to focus their efforts and funds toward violence prevention and United Nations troop deployment. After hiring lobbyists, the SDC launched a public pressure campaign with the central purpose of “urging the immediate deployment of international peacekeepers to protect the people of Darfur.”[5]

At more than 150 nationwide events, activists learned how to pressure government officials by mail and telephone. By the end of 2006, according to the Save Darfur website, supporters had sent a million postcards and 764,570 e-mails to President Bush and Congress and called the White House 12,545 times.[6] The central message of the calls and mailings was that “time is running out” and that the violence must be stopped.[7] The SDC held rallies in New York City and Washington, D.C., where advocates such as George Clooney spoke about how the situation in Darfur was “quickly worsening.” After the rallies, Clooney, who had recently returned from a trip to Darfur where he was advised and escorted by the SDC, addressed the United Nations Security Council on September 14, 2006. He stated in his address that the situation in Darfur was “getting much, much worse,” and that “in the time that we’re here today, more women and children will die violently in the Darfur region than in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel, or Lebanon.”[8]

Before the lobbyists, public pressure campaigns, and activists emphasized the need for troop deployment in 2006, the United States Congress had approved more than $1 billion in assistance funds to Sudan. Less than 1 percent of those funds were allocated to support the peacekeeping efforts of the African Union, which began deploying troops in 2004.[9] These numbers indicate that the U.S. government was initially more focused on providing humanitarian aid and development support than it was on funding peacekeeping activities.

Figure 1
U.S. Contributions to Peacekeeping in Darfur

[ See chart at ]
Note: The yearly totals are taken from two sources: (1) the actual and supplemental allocations listed in the congressional budget justification under the categories of “Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities” (CIPA), and “Peacekeeping Operations,” (PKO); and (2) the funding for private contractors as documented in U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Darfur Crisis: Progress in Aid and Peace Monitoring Threatened by Ongoing Violence and Operational Challenges,” GAO-07-9, November 2006, For a more detailed description of the CIPA and PKO allocations for 2007, 2008, and 2009, see the Stimson Center’s Future of Peace Operations Program Reports. The reports for CIPA allocations are available at, and the PKO reports are available at

From 2006 until 2008, when the SDC and many other groups began to directly pressure the U.S. government, the allocation of U.S. funds to peacekeeping activities increased dramatically (see Figure 1) to approximately 50 percent of the total budget allocated to Sudan.[10] Overall emphasis on deploying military forces increased dramatically. By 2007, the United Nations announced that it would begin deploying the world’s largest peacekeeping mission in Darfur and the United States promised to fund one quarter of the UN peacekeeping effort.[11]

Meanwhile, during 2007 a number of American political figures proposed that the United States should attempt to fix things by attacking Sudan. In February then-senator Hillary Clinton suggested to Defense Secretary Robert Gates during congressional testimony that the United States should consider “directing punitive strikes against Sudanese planes known to have taken part in illegal bombing missions in Darfur.”[12]

Figure 2
Violent Deaths in Darfur (per year) 2004–2009

[ See chart at ]
Note: The yearly totals listed above are taken from a variety of sources. Year 2004 was taken from the 2005 Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters report. Year 2005-2009 are estimates based on the following: 1. The CRED report’s partial reporting of 2005. 2. United Nations African Union in Darfur monthly violence reports. 3. The United Nations Mortality Survey for Darfur 2005. 4. Data-set from Armed Conflict Location and Event Data. 5. African Union Mission in SudanMonthly News Bulletin. 6. United Nations Mission in SudanMonthly News Bulletin. 7. Unpublished UN mortality reports posted on the Social Science Research blog entitled, “Making Sense of Sudan.” All the reports indicate that the average annual violent death rate in Darfur between 2005 and 2009 was somewhere between 1000 and 3500.

In October, Susan E. Rice, who would later become President Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, proposed that Congress should immediately “authorize the use of force in order to end the genocide.”[13] Most boldly, Sen. Joe Biden, during his campaign for the presidency, stated flatly that “I would use American force now,” asserting a “moral imperative” to “to put force on the table and use it.”[14]

In retrospect, the emphasis on military means and peacekeeping seems misguided because, as many casualty surveys now show, the violent death rate (those who were “killed”) in Darfur declined significantly after a ceasefire was signed in April 2004, while the rate of those who were dying of disease and malnutrition remained high. According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Brussels, which has produced three of the most comprehensive casualty studies to date, the number of violent deaths dropped to approximately 150 per month by the end of 2004.[15] In an interview conducted in 2005, UN official Jan Pronk also confirmed that “about 100 persons” were being killed per month by violence and that most of the violence in Darfur consisted of “banditry, looting and crime.”[16]

In 2005 the United Nations conducted another, more comprehensive survey, which concluded that the decline in violent deaths since its previous report in 2004 has been “substantial.”[17] By the middle of 2005, the CRED conducted another casualty survey in Darfur; the U.S. Government Accountability Office called it the most reliable study of casualties in Darfur to date.[18] In addition to criticizing other mortality reports for improperly extrapolating the limited surveys conducted to the entire Darfur region, the 2005 CRED report examined more than 20 surveys conducted throughout the region and concluded that the total number of violent deaths from 2003–2005 was approximately 30,000. A later report from CRED published in the Lancet in 2010 estimated the total number of violent deaths in the conflict from 2003 to 2010 at 62,305.[19] Figure 2 outlines estimated deaths from violence from 2004 to 2009.

Despite the decline in violent deaths, activists, journalists, and academics continued to sensationalize the problems in Darfur. In fall 2006, the SDC, ignoring the recent CRED report and UN statements about the rapid diminution of violence, began to run ads in the United States and the United Kingdom reading “SLAUGHTER IS HAPPENING IN DARFUR. YOU CAN HELP END IT. In 2003 Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir moved to crush opposition by unleashing vicious armed militias to slaughter entire villages of his own citizens. After three years, 400,000 innocent men, women and children have been killed.”

Shortly after the ads were released, the British Advertising Standards Authority found that Save Darfur’s ad campaign violated codes of objectivity, and it ordered the group to amend its ads to present the high death toll as opinion, not fact.[20] But by that point, the Save Darfur Coalition had already convinced millions of Americans that the situation in Darfur deserved immediate military intervention.

Activists have also mischaracterized the nature of the violence in Darfur, highlighting almost exclusively the crimes of the government of Sudan and rogue Arab tribes. Save Darfur advertisements, newsletters, and websites continue to use the term “ongoing genocide” to describe the conflict, even though the nature and scale of the violence has changed significantly since the height of the conflict in 2003–2004. The repeated use of the word “genocide” distorted the balance of culpability and innocence. Using the term “genocide” implies that there is a unidirectional crime taking place, one in which there are victims (i.e., the people of Darfur) and a culprit (i.e., the government of Sudan).

In reality, however, there are victims and villains on both sides of the civil war in Darfur. The government of Sudan has killed many people and is responsible for war crimes in Darfur, but the rebel insurgents are also guilty. When the United Nations conducted its International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, it found that in addition to Khartoum’s “crimes against humanity,” many of the rebel groups had also engaged in “serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law.”[21]

The international community has largely misunderstood the role of the rebel groups, believing that they emerged to protect the people of Darfur from the government’s genocidal onslaught. In reality, however, the rebel groups initiated the war by launching an insurgency in 2003, winning the first 32 out of 34 battles against the government.[22] Unable to control the insurgency, the government armed ad hoc militia groups in Darfur to suppress the rebel movement. These militiamen, often alongside Sudanese government soldiers, killed, raped and tortured tens of thousands of innocent Darfuris. After 2005 and the introduction of international observers, government-led attacks declined rapidly and the rebel groups began to fissure. Rebel infighting became the primary cause of violent deaths and other atrocities in Darfur by 2006. The government and its ad hoc militia groups were likely responsible for the majority of casualties from violence before 2005, and the majority of casualties from violence overall, but by 2006, fractured rebel groups and individual defectors were wreaking havoc in Darfur, becoming the chief perpetrators of violence against civilians and attacks on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.[23]

The Activist Impact in Darfur

Most of the rebels’ actions have gone unnoticed in the international community because of how the conflict has been framed by activists and American government officials. Use of the term “genocide” has allowed rebel groups in Darfur to slip under the radar and commit crimes without the rest of the world taking notice. Had “genocide” not been the focus, activist campaigns might have also challenged the rebel groups. For example, Eritrea, Chad, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLM, were the principal funders of the rebel groups in Darfur. They were (and some still are) also allies and aid recipients of the U.S. government, which means they could have easily been pressured to cut their lifelines to the rebel groups.[24]

Additionally, a disproportionate emphasis on “genocide” and military violence has hindered the peace process. The primary peace process, which led to the Darfur Peace Agreement, lasted almost two years, but was hastily concluded in May of 2006 after seven rounds of negotiations. UN official Jan Pronk stated a month earlier that the peace talks were being given a one-month deadline. One of the reasons for the deadline, according to the chief African Union mediator, Salim Ahmed Salim, was that the process was “severely underfunded.”[25] The other reason for the deadline, according to Alex de Waal, a Darfur expert and program director at the Social Science Research Council, was that the international community, particularly the United States, was putting pressure on the AU mediation team to expedite the agreement.

If U.S. political leaders and activists had been more focused on peacemaking, perhaps more funding and time could have been allocated to the talks. Instead, the U.S. government spent over $1 billion on peacekeeping and rushed the peacemaking process to an end. “With more time,” argues Alex de Waal, “the AU team and [British international development secretary Hilary] Benn could probably have found a formula to satisfy” all parties.[26]

The abrupt end of the peace talks caused a number of problems. First, one of the most important provisions of the Darfur Peace Agreement was the incorporation of the rebel groups into both the armed forces and the local police force. This police force could have addressed the issues of banditry and the safety of the aid workers, which would later become significant problems in Darfur. It also could have provided jobs for many of the rebels who eventually turned to banditry in desperation after their rebel groups broke apart. The creation of the police force was one of the provisions that was being negotiated in the final days of the peace talks and was cut short before all parties came to an agreement.[27] Second, more time may have prevented the rebel groups from splitting into different factions. After the peace agreement ended, fighting between rebel groups became one of the most significant causes of violent deaths in the region. Alex de Waal argues that the peace agreement’s abrupt end is one of the reasons why the rebel groups split into so many different factions.[28]

Before the peace talks had come to an end, activists had already decided that the deployment of international troops was the best solution to the problems of Darfur. The very existence of peace talks was rarely mentioned in American media. A survey of Save Darfur newsletters since 2004 shows that the peace process was scarcely mentioned to the SDC community. Other activist groups and individuals dismissed the process as irrelevant. For example, only one week after the peace agreement was signed, Eric Reeves, one of the most prominent Darfur activists and chroniclers of Darfur events, declared that the agreement was “a meaningless piece of paper signed under genocidal duress” and that more effort should be focused on stopping the violence.[29]

In defense of SDC’s strategy to focus primarily on violence prevention and claims of genocide, rather than on the peace agreement or development, Alex Meixner, SDC’s policy director, argues that violence in Darfur was preventing humanitarian aid from reaching those who needed it. Peacekeeping was therefore “necessary to complement humanitarian assistance.”[30]

An analysis of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s monthly reports partially supports Meixner’s point. In 2005 and 2006 USAID reports document attacks on aid workers and note that some locations were too dangerous for aid workers to provide assistance. The humanitarian groups, however, still had access to approximately 90 percent of the affected population in 2005, which is remarkable given the landscape and size of Darfur and the short time they were given to reach such a dispersed population.[31] Insecurity was part of the reason why the humanitarian groups could not reach the remaining 10 percent, but according to the newest CRED report, released in January 2010, the primary problem by 2006 was that the humanitarian aid budget had been significantly cut.[32] The World Food Programme, the primary supplier of food to Darfur, experienced a 50 percent budget cut, while UNICEF was only able to raise 11 percent of its yearly budget. The number of aid workers was reduced by 18 percent, meaning that the number of affected populations without assistance increased.[33] At the same time that the humanitarian budget was cut, the budget for peacekeeping soared into the billions, meaning that donors were more interested in funding the peacekeeping mission than providing humanitarian assistance.[34]

Insecurity, however, was still a problem and was preventing access to some regions of Darfur, particularly in West Darfur. USAID reports indicate that the primary causes of insecurity in the inaccessible camps came from bandits and car thieves, two problems that peacekeepers are not traditionally deployed to address. These issues require a local police force, a developed penal code and further civic development, all important elements of the failed peace agreement. As the rate of violent deaths in Darfur dipped below emergency levels, attacks against peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers began to rise.

Figure 3
Humanitarian Access to Affected Populations in Darfur

[ See chart at ]
Source: United Nations Darfur Humanitarian Profile no. 33, 20October%202008.pdf.

Richard Gowan, an expert on peacekeeping at the Center on International Cooperation, says that this trend is indicative of the current “crisis in peacekeeping” worldwide. Part of the problem, says Gowan, is that the traditional role of peacekeepers has changed significantly since the Cold War, when peacekeepers were meant to perform military tasks and monitor the implementation of peace agreements.[35] Today, the mission of peacekeepers is often unclear, as “there is no strategic formula for determining when peacekeepers should be deployed, or more importantly, when they should leave.”[36]

In Darfur, peacekeepers were originally sent in to monitor the April 8, 2004, ceasefire and to act as a deterrent to warring Sudanese parties. Over time, civic infrastructure broke down in the absence of a viable peace agreement, and the peacekeepers were suddenly responsible for local development and civic duties for which they were not trained.[37] Therefore, the SDC and the international community’s demand for more peacekeeping troops not only precipitated a harmful reallocation of funds away from humanitarian aid in 2006, but it was also ill-conceived, signaling a belief that peacekeepers, instead of the local citizenry (via the peace process), could repair Darfur’s infrastructure and perform the necessary law enforcement duties.

Not surprisingly, then, the increase of international troops in Darfur did not reduce the problem of banditry or improve access to the affected population. In fact, humanitarian access to affected areas worsened after the United Nations began to deploy troops (see Figure 3). In 2008 the United Nations published a report indicating that during the months following the April 2004 ceasefire, the accessibility to affected populations was relatively high, averaging roughly 90 percent. However, once the international peacekeepers began to be deployed in 2006, the accessibility decreased. (It is important to note that only one third of the authorized peacekeepers had been deployed by summer 2008.[38])

Had the Abuja peace talks been properly funded and the two sides given adequate time to come to an agreement, a more robust local police force could have been established to control the banditry that impeded humanitarian assistance. Also, rebel groups may not have fractured into as many splinter groups, causing rebel defectors and rebel infighting to become a significant threat to aid workers.

Darfur and Activists Today

Today the situation in Darfur continues to be mischaracterized. Most of the ongoing violence can be attributed to banditry, lawlessness, and fighting between rebel groups, with one notable exception being the recent government attacks in Jebel Marra.[39] According to UNAMID reports, the average monthly casualty rate for the last five months of 2009 was 51.[40] Very few of these are linked to the conflict between Sudanese government forces and the rebel groups. Since last year, the conflict in Darfur has not met the 1,000 casualties per year threshold that many political scientists consider necessary for a conflict to be categorized as a “civil war.”[41] In January Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, the commander of the peacekeeping force in Darfur, described the situation as “calm, very calm at the moment, but it remains unpredictable.”[42] Additionally, Sudan’s elections in April - which were expected to reignite violence in many areas of Darfur - were surprisingly peaceful.

Despite these changes, there still seems to be no consensus over what to call the situation in Darfur. On the one hand, many government officials and activists have not changed the way they talk about the conflict. President Obama used the word “genocide” in the present tense when addressing the issues of Darfur in speeches in Germany and Ghana in 2009.[43] U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice also continues to use the term “genocide.”[44] Activist groups such as the SDC and the Genocide Intervention Network still frequently use the terms “ongoing genocide” and “war in Darfur” in their literature and advertisements.

On the other hand, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration argues that the genocide in Darfur had ended.[45] The Obama administration’s Sudan policy, released last October, referred to the genocide in Darfur as if it were still happening, but substantively centered on a more conciliatory approach to Khartoum, offering both incentives and pressure.[46] Additionally, former top commander of UNAMID, General Martin Agwai, has stated that the war in Darfur has come to an end. Most of the remaining violence, he says, is due to “low-level disputes and banditry.”[47] Even Eric Reeves, a promoter of erroneous casualty figures early in the conflict, concedes that “there is no doubt that violence has diminished significantly in the past two or three years - and many, including myself, have been slow to recognize how significant this reduction has been.”[48]

SDC has learned many lessons from its mistakes and has made efforts to improve the way it provides information. It has decreased the Darfur casualty rate on its website, from 400,000 to 300,000, and provided a section explaining the “myths” of the Darfur conflict. It has shifted its central focus away from violence and toward the upcoming referendum in the south, the peace process in Doha, Qatar, and pressuring the U.S. Government to not recognize the results of Sudan’s recent elections. Other groups, such as the Genocide Intervention Network have also adjusted the casualty rates, and have made efforts to encourage support for the peacemaking process. Additionally, Special Envoy Gration has shifted the U.S. government’s primary focus to the peace process in Doha, and to the peace agreement between the north and the south.

Regardless of these changes, however, members of the current administration do not agree with Gration’s response to the Darfur conflict and many activist groups regularly criticize Gration’s efforts to support peace over punishment and engage diplomatically with the current government of Sudan. There is still disproportionate emphasis on the government of Sudan’s role in the conflict and undue attention paid to the issue of genocide over the root causes of the conflict.

While activists have contributed to these conditions, it must be said that the current landscape of Darfur activism is vastly mixed, with different groups pursuing different policy objectives.


There is no doubt that American activists were able to bring attention to the conflict in Darfur. In fact, their efforts may be the reason why Darfur is host to the largest humanitarian assistance effort in the world. Even so, their efforts have had negative consequences. One likely unintended consequence was the diversion of public attention from other wars of greater scale and longevity. For example, in the nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo, the annual casualty rate since 2003 has been approximately four times higher than it was in Darfur. A decade-long civil war in that country has led to the deaths of almost one million people, many more deaths than in Darfur.[49] But there is no American activist movement for the Congolese and the level of international humanitarian aid and peacekeeping assistance is still smaller than what it is in Darfur.

One possible explanation for why the public came to pay attention to Darfur and not to the DRC is rooted in the nature of the Darfur activists’ campaign. Stories of race-based rampage and warfare - like the one activists promoted in Darfur - attract more attention than do more mundane but materially more devastating events involving complicated political processes, famine, or other causes of death. Some activists are aware of this phenomenon.[50] Accordingly, one could see how the stories of genocide and rapine in Darfur not only mischaracterized the conflict, but turned attention from other, more devastating environments like the one in the DRC.

It is easy to understand why activists do not want the U.S. government or the international community to shift their focus away from the difficulties that many Darfuris still face, especially since violent conflict could easily return in the absence of an effective peace agreement. However, ignoring the changes in the scale and nature of the Darfur conflict has already hindered understanding of and response to the conflict. Today, Darfur’s peacekeeping and humanitarian missions continue to grow, yet the level of violence has remained below emergency levels since the end of 2004. Banditry, intra-tribal fighting, and, most importantly, the absence of a peace agreement still pose serious problems, but these are problems that demand the development of local infrastructure and participation, not the type of intervention advocated by activists and even some political leaders.

In the case of Darfur, activists created a number of negative consequences. They promoted an inaccurate perception among the public and policy elites about the nature and extent of violence in the region; they helped shift U.S. diplomatic emphasis away from the peacemaking process and from atrocities committed by rebel groups; and they diverted attention from more devastating problems elsewhere. Despite activists’ good intentions, these costs are real, and should be added to the ledger we use when measuring the impact of political activism on the Darfur issue.


1. On economic disputes and land rights, see Alex de Waal, ed., War in Darfur and the Search for Peace (Cambridge, MA: Global Equity Initiative, 2007). On geopolitical interference, see Julie Flint and Alex de Waal, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (London: Zed Books, 2006), p. 51. The diminution of annual rainfall over the last century is documented in Alex de Waal, Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan, 1984–1985, 1st ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 85.
2. Internal Revenue Service, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax—Save Darfur Coalition, Vol. Form 990, 2005–2006.
3. Ibid., 2006–2007.
4. Olivier Degomme and Debarati Guha-Sepir, “Patterns of Mortality Rates in Darfur Conflict,” The Lancet 375, no. 9711 (January 2010): 294–300, IIS0140-6736(09)61967-X/fulltext. The CRED report is the most comprehensive assessment of casualties to date. It draws its data from more than 63 different casualty surveys conducted in almost every region of Darfur. For the claims of the Darfur activists, see,, and Also, see news archives by activist Eric Reeves and journalist Nicholas Kristof, where one can see cited casualty rates between 450,000 and 700,000. Nicholas D. Kristof, “Will We Say ‘Never Again’ Yet Again?” New York Times, March 27, 2004; and Eric Reeves, “Darfur Mortality: Shoddy Journalism at the New York Times,”, August 14, 2007,
5. On the pressure campaign, see Save Darfur, “Global Days for Darfur,”, April 3, 2007, Other efforts of the campaigns are available on the website. As for the lobbyists, this is public information available on and by looking at the publicly available yearly IRS reports on
6. Save Darfur Website,
7. Save Darfur Website Archive at
8. A transcript of Clooney’s speech is available at
9. United States Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, 2004, 2005,
10. The total annual budget includes contributions to the United Nations through the Contributions for International Peacekeeping Assistance (CIPA) account.
11. Lauren Landis, “En Route to Darfur,” Dipnote: U.S. Department of State Official Blog, September 28, 2007, index/en_route_darfur.
12. Comment during hearings on Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2008, February 6, 2007.
13. Susan E. Rice, “The Genocide in Darfur: America Must Do More to Fulfill the Responsibility to Protect,” Brookings Opportunity 08 Position Paper, October 24, 2007, http://www.brookings. edu/papers/2007/1024darfur_rice_Opp08.aspx.
14. “Biden Calls for Military Force in Darfur,” Associated Press, April 11, 2007.
15. Debarati Guha-Sepir, Olivier Degomme, and Mark Phelan, “Darfur: Counting the Deaths. Mortality Estimates from Multiple Survey Data,” 10 Ignoring the changes in the scale and nature of the Darfur conflict has hindered understanding of and response to the conflict. Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters Report, May 2005, sites/default/files/ID%20211%20-%20Counting %20the%20Deaths.pdf.
16. Quoted in, “Interview with Jan Pronk,” August 4, 2005, transcript at german/interview-concerning-sudan.html.
17. “Mortality Survey among Internally Displaced Persons and Other Affected Populations in Greater Darfur, Sudan,” Report of the World Health Organization and the Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan, September 2005, p.2,
18. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Darfur Crisis: Death Estimates Demonstrate Severity of Crisis, but Their Accuracy and Credibility Could Be Enhanced,” GAO-07-24, November 2006, p. 19,
19. Degomme and Guha-Sepir, p. 298.
20. British Advertising Standards Authority Adjudication on Save Darfur Coalition, August 8, 2007,
21. United Nations, “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary General,” January 25, 2005, p.158,
22. Flint and de Waal, p. 99.
23. See Reports of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) for 2004–2009,
24. For evidence of these countries funding rebel groups, see ibid. Washington no longer sends aid to Eritrea.
25. African Union, “Briefing by Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, AU Special Envoy and Chief Mediator for the Darfur Conflict to the UN Security Council,” January 13, 2006.
26. Alex de Waal, “I Will Not Sign,” London Review of Books 28, no. 23 (November 30, 2006),
27. In the final days of the peace agreement, the United States Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick insisted that the bulk of rebels incorporated into the Army and local police forces come from one of the rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army/MM (Minni Minnawi). This bred discontent among the rebel groups and was one of the reasons why the other rebel groups refused to sign.
28. Alex de Waal, “I Will Not Sign.”
29. Eric Reeves, “Why Abuja Won’t Save Darfur,” New Republic (online), May 10, 2006,
30. Alex Meixner, “Misinterpreting the Genocide in Darfur,”, August 25, 2009,
31. United Nations Darfur Humanitarian Profile, no. 33, See also Chart 2, “Percentage of Affected Population Accessible to UN Humanitarian Aid,” in this article.
32. Degomme and Guha-Sepir.
33. Ibid.
34. The 2010 Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters report shows that after these budget cuts, there was a rise in child mortality rates and diarrhea-related deaths, even though the violent death rate continued to decline.
35. Richard Gowan, “The Strategic Context: Peacekeeping in Crisis: 2006–2008,” International Peacekeeping 15, no. 4 (August 2008): 453–69.
36. Personal interview with Richard Gowan, January 15, 2009.
37. Both the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNMID) peacekeeping forces have included small police forces, but their capabilities have been very limited, given their size and the extensive training necessary for familiarizing police officers with the cultural and legal norms of Darfur. The failure to control banditry in Darfur, and many other states with peacekeeping activities, has precipitated a systemic reallocation of resources at the United Nations from military- centric peacekeeping to police-centric peacekeeping. This change is addressed in B. K. Greener, “UNPOL: UN Police as Peacekeepers,” Policing and Society 19, no. 2 (June 2009): 106–18.
38. “Darfur Force Only at ‘Half Strength’ by End of the Year,” Telegraph, September 18, 2008, at-half-strength-by-end-of-the-year.html.
39. Recent government attacks in Jebel Marra in early March are of particular concern because they have caused significant civilian casualties, possibly as many as 200. For details see Agence France- Press, “U.S. ‘Extremely Concerned’ by Reported
Darfur Offensive,” March 2, 2010, MqekdY9K_-t_nyuoSy5N8f3pRQ.
40. Monthly casualty reports from the United Nations African Union in Darfur have been posted on the Social Science Research Council blog, Making Sense of Darfur, Reports for January and February have yet to be made public.
41. For the casualty reports of the last year, see On political scientists’ 1,000 person per year casualty threshold, see Melvin Small and J. David Singer, Resort to Arms: International and Civil Wars, 1816–1980, 2nd ed. (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1991) or Harvard’s Correlates of War website,
42. Quoted in Jeffrey Gettleman, “Fragile Calm Holds in Darfur after Years of Death,” New York Times, January 2, 2010.
43. Transcript of Obama’s Germany Speech,; Transcript of Obama’s Ghana Speech,
44. Mark Leon Goldberg, “Amb. Susan Rice: Darfur Is an ‘Ongoing Genocide,’” UN Dispatch, January 26, 2009, node/7599.
45. Colum Lynch, “Sudan’s ‘Coordinated’ Genocide in Darfur Is Over, U.S. Envoy Says,” Washington Post, June 18, 2009.
46. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Susan E. Rice, and Scott Gration, “Remarks on the Sudan Strategy,” October 19, 2009,
47. Quoted in “War in Sudan’s Darfur ‘Is Over,’” BBC, August 17, 2009,
48. Quoted in Gettleman.
49. Human Security Report, “The Shrinking Costs of War,” January 20, 2010, p. 42,
50. Two analysts at the International Rescue Committee noted that number of deaths seems not to be the primary determinant of attention, and stressed the importance of raising salience. Despite their appalling estimate of deaths in the Congolese conflict—4 million people—they noted that since 98 percent of the deaths were not from violence, people viewed the devastation as “unheroic, seemingly apolitical and therefore untelevisable.” Richard Brennan and Anna Husarska, “Inside Congo, An Unspeakable Toll,” Washington Post, July 16, 2006.

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