Darfur activists: Obama not doing enough


In the New York Post, Democratic polical analyst Kirsten Powers talks to Darfur activists who are very unhappy at President Obama for not following up on his campaign promises and doing enough to stop the genocide in Sudan:

They’re fasting, writing letters and posting videos on YouTube pressing him to take a leadership role he promised he’d take on Darfur.

The Web site "Darfur Fast for Life" showcases the frustrations of Pam Omidyar, who, with her husband Pierre, the founder and chairman of e-Bay, was among Obama’s top supporters. Joining Omidyar in her fast are such activists as Gabriel Stauring, founder of Stop Genocide Now, and Shannon Sedgwick Davis, a supporter who calls Obama’s inaction "unbelievably disappointing." Actress Mia Farrow initiated the fast, but was advised by her doctor to stop after 12 days of consuming only water. British billionaire Richard Branson has taken over for her.

They’ve watched as Obama has tackled the economy, health care, global warming, the tax system, financial regulations, education reform, embryonic stem-cell research and more. Sadly, human rights don’t seem to have made the cut. (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shocked many when she asserted recently regarding China that human-rights issues couldn’t interfere with such other issues as solving the economic crisis).

During his campaign, Obama raised expectations among human-rights activists that he’d place Darfur at the top of his agenda. He highlighted a "passion in bringing an end to this crisis." Calling genocide "a stain on all of us," he claimed that "the United States has a moral obligation any time you see humanitarian catastrophe."

The activists say the president could have done something to prevent Sudan from expelling aid groups from the country in March, but waited too long to speak out. And they criticize the adminstratioh’s special envoy to the region:

Worse, some worry that the mastermind of all this suffering, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, is manipulating Obama’s special envoy to Darfur, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration. Bashir has charmed outsiders who believe (erroneously) that he sincerely desires to work to end the suffering. Activists were especially alarmed when Gration provided an overly sunny report of Darfur’s ground situation and told some privately that it could be time to ease sanctions and remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Activist Shannon Sedgwick Davis dismisses the idea that Obama is too busy with the economy to address Darfur. "That’s an easy out," Sedgwick Davis says. "He has an amazing team that surrounds him for issues just like this and he needs to empower them to do much, much more. That’s what they are there for. Hillary Clinton isn’t sitting in her office trying to balance the budget."

Gabriel Stauring of Stop Genocide Now has visited the Darfur refugee camps seven times and despairs over the rapidly worsening conditions. He says of those suffering there, "They put so much hope in America. They have this idea that America stands for the right thing and that help is going to come. When Obama took office their hope shot through the roof. They are waiting."

How much longer will they have to wait?

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