One of the first things that puzzled me about Darfur was why the West cared about what was happening in Sudan’s western region, when it gave such little attention to conflicts in Somalia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and others that I’ve forgotten about. Now it seems that Darfur is going the way of those other wars. My regular Google Trends search shows that news outlets (in the lower of the two graphs) are now paying more attention to Somalia – predominantly its pirates – than Darfur, represented by the blue line which has now slipped beneath that of Congo too. Its last spike came in March, when President Bashir was indicted by the ICC and responded by expelling 13 aid agencies.
Now it is in danger of becoming just another forgotten crisis. Its pulling power was always based on its status as the first genocide of the 21st century – a dubious claim and one that is clearly no longer true. The outgoing AU-UN hybrid force commander has declared the war is over, and the statistics provided by Alex de Waal at Making Sense of Darfur have long suggested that simmering tribal conflicts – over land or livestock – are the biggest cause of violent death. In his latest update, he reports 67 violent deaths during the month of October, the biggest contributor being clashes between the Zaghawa and Birgid around Muhajiriya (although these are the aftershocks of fighting earlier this year, part of the higher-level rebels versus government conflict).
The question now, given that the humanitarian crisis continues, is what next for advocates? There’s no longer a genocide button to push. How do we keep people interested in just another African disaster?