Groups Plan For Second Darfur Rally

By Guest Author

Published July 07, 2006, issue of July 07, 2006.
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Organizers of April’s Save Darfur rally in Washington are planning another large-scale event to draw attention to the continuing killings in Sudan.

The second protest will be held in New York City on September 17 and, like its predecessor, will be orchestrated by the Save Darfur Coalition, a collection of 150 faith-based advocacy and humanitarian aid organizations.

Discussions also are in place to stage rallies across the country that day, as well as in Europe and Canada.

Unlike the first rally, which was aimed at President Bush and at policy-makers on Capitol Hill, this event will court a more international audience. Rally director Chuck Thies said it will focus on the demand for the United Nations, which will be meeting in Manhattan that week, to deploy a peacekeeping force to Darfur.

In addition, Thies said there will be a push to make sure attendees represent an “international community.” He said that the coalition will hold community roundtables in New York’s immigrant neighborhoods, advertise in non-English-speaking newspapers and strive to include world music acts in the lineup.

The rally in Washington leaned heavily on Jewish organizations and demonstrators, a dynamic recently derided by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as he rebuffed calls for a United Nations peacekeeping force to be stationed in Darfur. “If we return to the last demonstrations in the United States, and the groups that organized the demonstrations,” the Sudanese president said last month, “we find that they are all Jewish organizations.”

Officials at some Jewish groups say that it is too early to tell what role the organizations will play in the New York rally. But two groups that helped organize the Washington event, American Jewish World Service and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, have pledged their support for the New York gathering. Both organizations are members of the executive committee of the Save Darfur Coalition.

Martin Raffel, the JCPA’s senior associate executive director, said he expects the Jewish community to leave its mark on the event again.

Raffel dismissed concerns about the high level of Jewish participation. “It’s genocide,’” Raffel said. “If we’re taking a leadership role, then I say so with great pride.”

The Save Darfur Coalition was co-founded by American Jewish World Service and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004. The museum issued a genocide alert for Darfur even before the American government did.

The conflict, which began in 2003, has left as many as 400,000 people dead. Government-backed Arab militias are responsible for systemically killing, raping and torturing black Africans in Darfur. Many Darfuris now live in makeshift refugee camps, where famine and disease are endemic.

Since the April rally, the situation on the ground has not seen drastic improvement, despite the signing of a peace agreement May 5. The agreement calls for disarming the government-backed Janjaweed militias by October as well as for downsizing the largest rebel faction, but there have been problems in achieving an actual cease-fire.

The September rally is expected to push for a U.N. peacekeeping force to replace ill-equipped African Union troops.

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