On Feb. 26 and 27, the Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition (PDEC) will welcome to
our city outgoing U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador
Princeton Lyman. During his appearance here, he will meet with activists and
members of the Sudanese community, be recognized for his service by City Council,
and give a presentation at the Ford Institute, GSPIA, University of Pittsburgh.
In the process we hope he will not only update his audiences on the current
situation in Sudan and South Sudan, but also help us think through a crisis
in the advocacy movement arising from the growing complexity of the
challenges on the ground.
The PDEC was founded in 2004 as news reports were being broadcast of widespread
racially targeted atrocities, which some were calling genocide, in Darfur, western Sudan.
Over the past almost nine years, PDEC organized bus trips, marches, postcard campaigns,
petition campaigns, fasts, exhibits, conferences and speakers series, many in conjunction
with national and local organizations, all with the aim of urging government action to help resolve
the crisis in Darfur and other areas of a formerly unified Sudan.
As time went by, we saw many changes: the introduction of a United Nations-African
Union civilian protection force in Darfur (UNAMID), a peace agreement signed by
the government of Sudan and one Darfur rebel group, a referendum on separation
by Southern Sudanese leading to South Sudan independence, charges
brought by the ICC against Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for war crimes
and genocide, unresolved North-South issues over oil, border demarcation, and
the status of Abyei, and a concatenation of rebel activity and Sudan government
bombing in the border areas leading to a humanitarian access emergency in
the Nuba Mountains as well as in parts of Darfur where millions live in IDP camps.
In the process, the seemingly simple picture and simple objective we had concerning
the Darfur crisis in 2004 — stop the hands of the oppressors, block the Janjaweed
and the Sudan government’s Antonov bombers from harming innocent civilians in
their villages — had to yield to a much more complex picture, where U.S. government
influence, while significant, played its hand indirectly through entities such as the African
Union, the United Nations, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The United States could not press a button and make all well. We advocates had to learn
We are still trying to deal with these changes and align our advocacy more
closely with the challenges and opportunities which are really existent. Some of our
most prominent advocates nationally continue to call for a tougher stance against
the Bashir regime and a willingness to consider forms of intervention, for instance,
imposition of a no fly zone and/or a program (solely under U.S. auspices if all else
fails) to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of the Nuba mountains. On the other
hand, it seems clear that with much diplomatic capital invested in resolving North-
South issues, and with rebel forces fighting the Sudan government in Nuba, the US
government seems to want to play a more “diplomatic” hand.
The complexity of the new paradigms brought on in large part through South Sudan
independence compels advocates to rethink the laudable but growingly insufficient
resort to rhetorical condemnations. What specific measures need to be taken to
move Sudan including Darfur toward a peaceful and democratic constitution?
What specific measures need to be taken to bring stability and democracy to South
A Darfuri friend in Pittsburgh recently mentioned that he read that some of the al-
Qaida offshoot forces in Mali, routed by the French, are now finding their way into
Darfur. This reminded me, that we need to understand, among other things, the
specifics of U.S. goals and objectives in Sudan and across the band of sub-Saharan
Africa including Sudan’s supposed role in the U.S.’s anti-terrorism strategy.
For many years the mantra has been “don’t stand by, stand up,” and many young
people and adults have answered this call growing out of an awareness of the fact
of mass cruelty in history and the way it must have been abetted by inaction, but
there comes a point where slogging replaces the charge of the light brigade, and we
advocates must have something to offer that fits into a larger frame of concerns and
priorities or else the effort will inevitably bog down or run out of steam. We will be
looking forward to Ambassador Lyman’s visit as we work through these changes.
(David L. Rosenberg, currently of Mt. Lebanon, has been volunteer coordinator of PDEC
since its inception. Princeton Lyman will be speaking in Posvar Hall, Room 3431, at 1:30 p.m.
on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The event, open to the public without charge, is sponsored by the
Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition and the Ford Institute for Human Security/GSPIA.)