Sunday September 17th marked the observance of Global Day for Darfur; demonstrators in more than 30 nations hoped to send a message to Sudanese government and rebel leaders that the violence in Sudan’s Darfur region must stop. The event was organized in response to the recent dispatch of 26-thousand Sudanese government troops to the embattled region, which directly violates the Darfur Peace Agreement of May 2006 and several United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions.
Meanwhile, Khartoum has rejected the Security Council’s plans to introduce a UN peacekeeping force, saying the recently approved proposal is tantamount to a foreign invasion.
In addition, unless renewed by African countries, the mandated 7-thousand troop African Union (AU) monitoring force presently in Darfur is set to expire on September 30th. Sudan says it wants to replace the AU force with its own troops, and some African leaders are anxious to end what has been a difficult mission which has seemingly failed to curb attacks by government-supported Islamic militias against civilians and rebel units. 2 million people have been uprooted by the past three years of fighting and 200-thousand civilians have died.
Two seminary students attending Sunday’s New York City protest, Josh Snyder and Ezra Weinberg, told VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser about the goals of the New York rally.
“It seems organizers wanted the protesters to do three things: they wanted people to text-message the President and to the White House to pressure them to act, and also the UN and to Kofi Annan. Number two was to do a massive phone campaign. And number three was to start spreading a message to other people in America, whether it was just wearing a T-shirt or whatever,” Snyder said.
Weinberg says that he thought the protest crowd was mainly comprised of organized religious groups from the US and from international non-governmental organizations.
“I thought there was a pretty substantial amount of people there. There were congregations, youth groups. I would say a very strong religious turnout, speakers from every faith. It looks like the majority of organizing was happening around the specific NGO’s that deal with this issue; Amnesty International, and the American World Jewish Service. There was more internationally focused NGO’s than local stuff,” Weinberg noted.
Weinberg says that the New York demonstration also attracted speakers from Darfur itself, with first-hand accounts of the atrocities, and also celebrities and journalists who had traveled extensively in the Darfur region.