Is There A Save Darfur Industrial Complex?

hollywood on darfurBy BAR Managing Editor

Bruce A. Dixon

What does it mean for Africa when right wing end-of-the-world-is-near evangelical Christians join forces with the Robert F. Kennedy Center For Human Rights?  What does it mean for African Americans when Bush, Obama, and nearly all last year's presidential candidates from both parties encourage the continuation of an African civil war rather than a political settlement between the parties?  What does it mean when 21st century PR firms employ FaceBook, slick viral marketing and millions of dollars to create a simple, satisfying, feel-good excuse for military intervention on the African continent?

Is There a Save Darfur Industrial Complex?

By BAR Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon

African tragedies, observed Ugandan scholar and Columbia University professor Mahmood Mamdani in a March 20 presentation at Howard University, usually occur in the dead of night, outside the sight, concern or hearing of the Western public. The exception to this, he noted, has been Darfur. No armchair observer, Mamdani has traveled and worked extensively in Darfur as a consultant to the African Union in its attempts to peacefully resolve the conflict there.

Mamdani called Save Darfur “the most successful piece of single issue organizing since the Vietnam era antiwar movement, really more successful than the antiwar movement.” But Save Darfur, with slogans like “boots on the ground,” “out of Iraq, into Darfur” and persistent demands for the creation of “no fly zones” is far from being an antiwar movement.

As BAR pointed in a 2007 article, Ten Reasons Why "Save Darfur" is a PR Scam to Justify the Next US Oil and Resource Wars in Africa, Save Darfur is no grassroots movement either.

The backers and founders of the "Save Darfur" movement are the well-connected and well-funded U.S. foreign policy elite. According to a copyrighted Washington Post story this summer

'The "Save Darfur (Coalition) was created in 2005 by two groups concerned about genocide in the African country - the American Jewish World Service and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum...

'The coalition has a staff of 30 with expertise in policy and public relations. Its budget was about $15 million in the most recent fiscal year...

'Save Darfur will not say exactly how much it has spent on its ads, which this week have attempted to shame China, host of the 2008 Olympics, into easing its support for Sudan. But a coalition spokeswoman said the amount is in the millions of dollars.'

Though the "Save Darfur" PR campaign employs viral marketing techniques, reaching out to college students, even to black bloggers, it is not a grassroots affair, as were the movement against apartheid and in support of African liberation movements in South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique a generation ago.  Top heavy with evangelical Christians who preach the coming war for the end of the world, and with elements known for their uncritical support of Israeli rejectionism in the Middle East, the Save Darfur movement is clearly an establishment affair, a propaganda campaign that spends millions of dollars each month to manufacture consent for US military intervention in Africa under the cloak of stopping or preventing genocide.

None of the funds raised by the "Save Darfur Coalition", the flagship of the "Save Darfur Movement" go to help needy Africans on the ground in Darfur, according to 2008 stories in both the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The Appeal of Save Darfur to US Audiences

Mamdani explained the unique appeal of the Save Darfur Movement to US audiences by noting that unlike US responsibility for the one million Iraqi dead over the last six years, the Save Darfur Movement does not demand that we understand Darfur's history, ethnography, or the complexities of the current conflict there, or acknowledge any culpability of our own. Unlike the killings in Iraq, Save Darfur does not demand that Americans respond as citizens, with a need to account for responsibilities and actions, but merely as human beings with a need to feel powerful and justified. Save Darfur, Mamdani argued, has de-historicized and de-politicized the conflict for its American audience, presenting them with a simple morality play in which they can be the heroes.

Everybody wants to be a hero. Nobody wants to be a citizen.

And what could be more heroically self-justifying and self-affirming than intervening on the side of the angels in the picture of straight-up racial conflict presented to us by the Save Darfur Movement? The trouble is, it's an utterly false picture. The historic and present uses and definitions of race in America are not nearly the same as those in Africa. Most of Darfur's janjaweed who committed atrocities against civilians in Darfur are as black as those they murdered, and just as indigenous. The prosecutors at the International Criminal Court who recently indicted the Sudanese president are accountable only to the wealthy nations of the UN Security Council, not to anybody on the African continent. And the casualty figures thrown out by Save Darfur are wildly inflated.

Darfuri Casualties Inflated by Save Darfur and US Authorities

Professor Mamdani noted that in response to a request from members of Congress, GAO, the independent US government agency whose job it is to monitor the accuracy of information disseminated by other organs of government assessed the widely varying casualty figures coming out of Darfur in 2006. 2004-2006 was the time when the atrocities in Darfur were at their height. They took the low end figures of 50 to 70 thousand dead which came from the World Health Organization and the much higher ones of 200 to 400 thousand coming from people affiliated with Save Darfur, and submitted them to the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists told GAO that the lower figures were more accurate, and those were used in its 2006 assessment of the Darfur situation.

The State Department however, produced reports with two different sets of casualty figures, low numbers for the use of its policymakers, and the higher ones produced by Save Darfur and its allies for public consumption.

To this day, Mamdani contended, the US public is being fed grossly inflated on Darfuri casualties. He recounted a briefing he attended where the commander of the African Union's forces reported 1500 deaths in Darfur in all of 2008, as many as Save Darfur and the US government claim are dying every month.

Comparing Darfur and the Congo, Fake VS Real Genocides

Nobody disputes that there is a bipartisan military industrial complex in the US, which creates the “facts” it requires to justify interventions around the world. The Save Darfur coalition, comprising as it does figures who trace their activism to the Freedom Movement like Congressman John Lewis, along with the compatriots of the late Jerry Falwell, would not hold on any other issue under the sun. It is a creation of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment which urgently needs “humanitarian” cover for its imperial ambitions to control Africa's oil and other resources.

The blatant hypocrisy of the Save Darfur Movement is most evident when one compares the manufactured concern over 50 to 70 thousand dead in Darfur to the ink and air devoted to five million dead in neighboring Congo. But using professor Mamdani's yardstick, it's not hard to understand. Intervening in Darfur makes us heroes. But in the Congo, proxies of the US and the West have been instigated the invasion and depopulation and plundering of the whole of Eastern Congo. There is a lake of oil beneath Sudan, much of it in Darfur. But the Chinese are pumping that oil, not Chevron or BP or Exxon.

To return to our own 2007 article on the Save Darfur movement”

...The selective and cynical application of the term "genocide" to Sudan, rather than to the Congo where ten to twenty times as many Africans have been murdered reveals the depth of hypocrisy around the "Save Darfur" movement.  In the Congo, where local gangsters, mercenaries and warlords along with invading armies from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola engage in slaughter, mass rape and regional depopulation on a scale that dwarfs anything happening in Sudan, all the players eagerly compete to guarantee that the extraction of vital coltan for Western computers and cell phones, the export of uranium for Western reactors and nukes, along with diamonds, gold, copper, timber and other Congolese resources continue undisturbed. 

Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young and George H.W. Bush both serve on the board of Barrcik Gold, one of the largest and most active mining concerns in war-torn Congo.  Evidently, with profits from the brutal extraction of Congolese wealth flowing to the West, there can be no Congolese "genocide" worth noting, much less interfering with. For their purposes, U.S. strategic planners may regard their Congolese model as the ideal means of capturing African wealth at minimal cost without the bother of official U.S. boots on the ground. “

Responding to the very real genocide in the Congo would require ordinary Americans to think like citizens rather then heroic self-affirmers. But that's a hard sell.

We can only hope that the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other members of Congress who last month lent their credibility to the Save Darfur people can get over their self affirming “heroism” and begin to meet Dr. Mamdani's challenge: to act like citizens and the leaders of citizens, to do the homework, to help others do the homework and to face up to our responsibilities for real genocide in the Congo, and prolonging the war in Sudan. It's not too late.


So ignore Darfur?

I must say that I find it interesting that many folks are so quick to want the US to "do something" in Darfur while also wanting the US to refrain from it's meddling in other countries. I also have noticed the quality and quantity of the "Save Darfur" materials hitting my inbox. Americans do seem to be very selective about what to be "outraged" about.
My question is this: Is Darfur an issue to be concerned about? What can we do about it as enlightened citizens?

don't ignore it, but react as a citizen, not as a "hero"

Wannabe heroes are in search of affirmation and the warm glow they get from doing unambiguous good in the world.  Citizens do homework.  They take the time and effort to understand the history of other parts of the world, and seek sustainable, peaceful, political resolutions to conflict 
Start by educating yourself on the issue.  Follow the links in the story above, which are offered for precisely that purpose.  C-SPAN has video of the entire two hours of Mahmood Mamdani's presentation here, in which he gives a superbly informed history of the conflict, and an insightful analysis of what makes the whole thing appealing to Americans in a way that stopping the hundred times greater killings in Iraq or the Congo is not . I would have embedded the video in the story, but was not able to.
Save Darfur presents us with a depoliticized, ahistorical picture that allows Americans to think of themselves as good guys and heroes for getting behind our government's exercise of global reach to stop "genocide" in Darfur.
Visit the web site of Friends of the Congo and acquaint yourself with the very real genocide with a hundred or two hundred times the number of dead one country over from Sudan, which the proponents of robust US intervention in Darfur ignore, because the profits from the brutal extraction of Congolese resources are flowing westward instead of eastward.  Ask yourself why 'Save Darfur" is prolonging the war and demanding robust interference in the form of a special emissary, no fly zones and the rest rather than encouraging a peaceful political settlement to emerge.  And ponder why fewer than thirty thousand dead in Sudan constitute genocde and demand our intervention, while five million dead in neighboring Congo, where Western interests dominate, are not.

Save Darfur Industrial Complex

Bro. Bruce and the entire staff of BAR:
Thanks for this article; I/we look forward to more articles about Sudan in the future.
And yes, in the video clip, the voice you hear asking about the Save Darfur Industrial Complex is yours truly!   

MJPC blames the Congolese Government for the Deteriorating Situa

"There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in a lawless eastern Congo for six months"
Following the deteriorating situation in east Congo, the MJPC called today for the Congolese Government to urgently  pay the salaries  to thousands of  soldiers who have not been paid for over six months in eastern Congo, take swift action to enforce the International Criminal Court's (ICC) warrant against Bosco Ntaganda and to hold accountable perpetrators of sexual violence against women for their acts.
"Failing to hold accountable individuals who commit war crimes and crimes against humunity continues to be the leading cause of  widespread and systematic sexual violence acts against girls and women in the easten Congo"  said Makuba Sekombo,  Community Affairs Director of the Mobilization for Justice and Peace in the DR Congo (MJPC).
Mr. Sekombo again criticized the government of Congo for not only the continuing failure to protect women and young girls from sexual violence, but  also for  "encouraging conditions that create opportunities for sexual violence to occur". "There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in a lawless eastern Congo for six months" said Sekombo.

The MJPC has also renewed its call for the Congolese government to take urgent needed action to end human rights abuses in east Congo, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure reparation for the victims of sexual violence.
The MJPC has been urging the Congolese government to compensate the victims of sexual violence in order to also help combat impunity in eastern part of Congo where sexual violence against women and children  has been widely used as weapon of war for more than decade. The MJPC online petition calling for  for help to put pressure on Congolese Government to compensate victims of sexual siolence in Eastern DRC can be signed at  
About MJPC
MJPC works  to add a voice in advocating for justice and peace in the DRC particulary in the east of DRC where thousands innocent civilian including children and women continue to suffer massive human rights violations while armed groups responsible for these crimes go unpunished 
For more information about  the  MJPC and its activities, visit or call Makuba Sekombo @ 1-408-8063-644 or e-mail: [email protected]. The online petition calling on the Congolese Government  to put urgently in place a comprehensive program of compensation for the victims of sexual violence in eastern Congo can be signed at 

good points

The whole Darfur fiasco seemed strange from the start.  The issue with the Congo doesn't help the cause, but it doesn't mean ignore either situation.  I thought the continent had some sort of "African Union" establishment.  What's up with that?

the African Union is very much alive....

and so is the old dream of continental unity.  Africans on the street take it so very seriously that their leaders are forced to do the same or at least pay consistent lip service thereto.  The African Union, descended fromsuccessor to the old OAU, the Organization for African Unity has an extensive web site at  Muammar Khadafi of Libya is currently its chairman or whatever the title is, and from what I understand he too has always taken the proposition of African unity quite seriously.  From what I understand, the African Union is quite active though not much covered in the US, so you can be excused for not knowing much about it.

But if you listen to Mahmood Mamdani's C-SPAN presentation, he talks about spending several months in Darfur and Sudan talking to famers, herdsmen, intellectuals, labor unions, imams, military and political figures while in the employ of the African Union and its efforts to bring peace to Darfur.  Obviously they are doing something.

But again, coverage is scarce to nonexistent here.  Two places to look for news from the continent are AllAfrica at and Pambazuka News at, I think.  There are links to both these in the left hand column.


Thanks for the heads up.   I knew about the AU, but had to "discover" it out of sheer curiosity a year or so ago due to impatience concerning the usual news and always hearing of the EU.  Same goes for seeing pictures, news, and content that show the complete 180 of items you usually hear concerning the continent. You have to literally find the news, though that's to be expected considering the MSM format... 

oh my god! BAR did you really axed my comment???

Please note that my last comment was NOT!! meant to condescend my brothers
and sisters in Darfur!  Oh my god!
Sorry if you took it that way, and mybay it was my fault for not including information.
I thought you knew me after so many comments...


if you think I did a mistake, please let me know so I can learn, and I am sure
you have seen products that were more worse than what I have posted.

it looked like spam...

... because it plugged a product and led off with a link.  I actually thought it might have been machine-generated, and wondered why our automatic stuff didn't catch it.

Thank you for the

Thank you for the clarification.


Politic can't be trust, nothing is real, all is about the apotik online and individual benefit these days.

During pre-election campaign

During pre-election campaign Barrack Obama noticed time and again, that struggle against financial crisis and improvement of a social and economic situation in the country will be the main priority of activity of its administration. And it is valid, the first appointments of the elected president concerned the economic block of its command in which it has included very strong economists led by the live classic of financial liberalism Larri Summers. Thus Obama, certainly, understands what to operate it is necessary as fast as possible and unmistakably as obviously, that crisis only grows. So, in the third quarter 2008 falling of gross national product of the USA has made 0,5 %, in the fourth - 3,8 % [1]. In December, 2008 the rate of unemployment has made 7,2 %, and in February 2009 - 8,1 % that became the worst indicator since 1983. In February, 2009 the new administration has presented the foregrounds on a conclusion of the American economy from crisis. On February, 12th the new Minister of Finance of the USA T.Gajtner has presented the variant on rescue of bank system. It is possible to state an essence of its offers in three points.
First, Gajtner has suggested to toughen check of bank sector by introduction «the test for durability», and in particular for financial institutions with actives more than 100 billion US dollars. Secondly, Gajtner has suggested to create bad bank - institute, which would be engaged in buying up of "bad" actives (toxic assets), i.e. the actives having a low credit rating. According to Gajtnera, «the bad bank» should be created at joint participation of the state and private investors. The new Minister of Finance has suggested to allocate for these purposes from 500 billion to 1 bln. US dollars. Thirdly, Gajtner has supported increase to 1 bln. dollars of volume of financing «Programs of urgent crediting under maintenance with securities». The given program has the purpose crediting of bank sector on account of reception by the state of a part of actions of the given institutes.
Despite all ambition of the plan of the new Minister of Finance, the American share market has reacted to it falling. According to the exchange players, the new plan strongly has a reality, and main, its positions obviously specify that the new administration not only does not understand, in what direction it is not necessary to search for an exit from crisis, but also can estimate a situation adequately. So, the government does not have even the exact figures, "bad" actives concerning the general size. Moreover, the private sector does not burn with the desire to participate at all together with the state in their buying up.

You have done a great job

You have done a great job martin. The lights thrown on the development of the education system is great.

Though the “Save

Though the “Save Darfur” PR campaign employs viral marketing techniques, reaching out to college students, even to black bloggers, it is not a grassroots affair, as were the movement against apartheid and in support of African liberation movements in South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique a generation ago. Top heavy with evangelical Christians who preach the coming war for the end of the world, and with elements known for their uncritical support of Israeli rejectionism in the Middle East, the Save Darfur movement is clearly an establishment affair, a propaganda campaign that spends millions of dollars each month to manufacture consent for US military intervention in Africa under the cloak of stopping or preventing genocide.
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Only education can change the context of this world. So the education plays a major role in development of humanity. You have explained the importance of education evry well. My hearty wishes to you. Robinson