Genocide in Darfurnot someone else’s problem

A little over two weeks ago, Dr. Ellen Kennedy, the director of the Minnesota Genocide Intervention Network, came to speak to Ames High School students about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. She spoke passionately, drawing on both facts and her personal travel experiences. Many of the students listening were already familiar with the topic, but it was a good reminder of the horrors that still need to be stopped. The speaker’s goal was not just to educate students, but also to prompt them to take action and advocate the ending of the killing. “Our legislators in Washington don’t do anything about genocides because we don’t let them know we care,” Dr. Kennedy said. “If we want to stop genocide, we need to take a stand.” One of the things Dr. Kennedy stressed was the prevalence of genocide in history. She talked about Alice, a young Rwandan lady whom she met two summers ago. In 1994, when Alice was only 14 years old, she returned from a neighboring village to find her own completely destroyed. Her grandparents, parents, and siblings were all gone. That year, the Rwandan genocide claimed 1 million innocent lives. The 21st century is already experiencing its first mass killing in Darfur. Over the last four years, more than 400,000 people have died and 2,500,000 people have been displaced, and it is still going on. Tension in Darfur reached its breaking point in 2003 when two rebel groups, consisting of mostly non-Arabs, challenged Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir. The government of Sudan reacted by directly supporting local tribal and other militias, which are known as the Janjaweed. Their members are mostly Arabs. The Janjaweed indiscriminately attacks villages in Darfur, completely wiping them out and destroying their food and water supplies to make them utterly uninhabitable in the future. During the last part of her presentation, Dr. Kennedy showed students a short clip from 60 Minutes about the search for Jacob, a 16-year-old Darfuri who managed to survive the attack on his village. Footage of his obliterated village showed the harsh brutality of the attack. It’s hard to comprehend that hundreds of villages in Darfur look the same as that one. Dr. Kennedy concluded her presentation by encouraging students to learn more about the genocide and talk to people who could make a difference. She told students of an easy way they could help, by calling 1-800-GENOCIDE. Callers get told by a recording about some key points to mention and then are automatically connected to their governor, senators, representatives, or the White House. “My favorite part of the presentation was when Dr. Kennedy had a student actually make the call,” junior Aisha Azher said. “It’s a lot easier than I thought it would be.” She plans to call the number herself after she does some research about the Darfur genocide. More information about ways to help stop the Darfur genocide can be found at the Minnesota Genocide Intervention Network’s website, The website also provides up-to-date news on the situation in Darfur. Knowledge is not enough though; action must also be taken. After all, in the words of Dr. Kennedy, “This is our problem.”