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The 'genocide' in Darfur isn't what it seems

Activist hype, though well-intentioned may have misdirected funds that could have saved lives.

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The "Save Darfur" movement is one of the largest American activist movements in recent history.

It emerged in the summer of 2004 in reaction to an issue that had little impact on the lives of average Americans: a year-old civil war in Darfur. Horrific stories of rape, murder, and genocide began to appear in US newspapers and define Darfur. Millions were moved by these accounts and organized a movement to stop the violence.

In the next five years, however, the war in Darfur became one of the most misunderstood conflicts in recent history.

That's because the activist campaigns mischaracterized and sensationalized it in order to grow the movement. Such distortion helped the PR effort, but it arguably hurt the very people who needed help.

Activists inflated casualty rates, often claiming that hundreds of thousands of Darfurians have been "killed." What they tended to leave out was that the majority of the casualties occurred as a result of disease and malnutrition ( stemming from war).

Differentiating between those may seem insignificant in the shadow of the horrific acts of war crimes in Darfur, but ignoring these categorizations has led many activists to put pressure on the US government to fund violence-prevention plans and international peacekeeping troops, often in lieu of providing humanitarian aid and funds for peacemaking.

The Save Darfur Coalition has been particularly effective in using its scores of followers to pressure policymakers. They have hired lobbyists in Washington to draft legislation and pressure politicians to focus their efforts on violence prevention and UN troop deployment.


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