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Darfur the victim of 'crisis-hopping'

Darfur the victim of 'crisis-hopping'
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The causes of the 2003 Darfur massacre have not been dealt with and the international community needs to do more than “crisis hopping” to resolve problems, an author says.

Prioritising what is urgent over what is important is not an effective way to develop policy, according to Rebecca Hamilton (pictured), whose book ‘Fighting for Darfur’ was published earlier this year.

“If you only pay attention to headline news, then you lose the opportunity to really save lives and ensure you have policies that are implemented in a sustainable way,” Hamilton said in an interview in London. “What we often end up doing – the media, advocacy, community and policy makers – is crisis hopping, from one to the next, and never fully resolving one crisis before you move on to the next one. We’ve certainly seen that in Sudan.”

The conflict that broke out in western Darfur in 2003 has left between 200,000 and 400,000 people dead, and about two million people displaced, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Ms. Hamilton calls that the “first genocide of the twenty-first century,” while criticising the international community for engaging in an “unproductive debate” to find the appropriate label for the situation.

Sudan’s government recalled its negotiating team from Doha, Qatar last week after clashes between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels with the Sudanese army, Al Jazeera reported. The Doha peace talks have been ongoing for the past two years, but Hamilton insists it won’t reach any results until both sides “believe that there is no military solution to the situation.”

The concern today is that even the basic gains that were made in terms of giving access to food and clean water to displaced people is at risk again, Hamilton says. There are fewer aid agencies active on the ground, partly because many were expelled in 2009, and there is also a larger number of displaced people.

In the future, a referendum on the status of Darfur could be useful, but at this point there is no way that it could be held in conditions where people can vote freely and fairly, she added.

The government has proposed to hold a referendum to slice Darfur into several states or unify the region. The JEM suspended the Doha peace talks, claiming that it was “not acceptable” that the government simply declared a referendum in a region that is not ready for one.

‘Fighting for Darfur, Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide’, Rebecca Hamilton.
Published February 2011 by Palgrave Macmillan

By Ali Sheikholeslami
London Correspondent