Members of Swarthmore Sudan discussed their group’s objectives and recent accomplishments and fielded questions from students at a Student Council-sponsored fireside chat on Tuesday.
The discussion opened with a description of the genocide, which co-founder Mark Hanis ’05 referred to as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” According to Hanis, at least 10,000 people die every month in Sudan, totaling 300,000 dead and 2 million displaced to date.
Most of the discussion centered on Swarthmore Sudan’s main objective, the Genocide Intervention Fund. The GIF is a tax-exempt organization that “will combine fundraising for the U.N.-supported African Union peacekeepers with advocacy efforts demanding government policies designed to improve security and civilian protection in Darfur,” Hanis said in an e-mail.
“The work that we’ve been doing spans a number of tactics,” including divestment efforts and pressure for legislation, group member Susannah Gund ’08 said at the chat.
Co-founder Andrew Sniderman ’06 said the “primary goal of the advocacy work is to expand the mandate” that now regulates what AU peacekeepers can do. According to Sniderman, peacekeepers now can monitor ceasefire, protect aid workers and patrol camps, allowing some villagers to return to their homes. “The idea is to get the U.S. government to pressure the government of Sudan to expand the AU mandate,” he said.
“We’ve gotten a lot of press and every day we’re getting more attention from major policy makers,” Gund said. Most recently, Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, spoke about the organization on NPR. Sniderman was also recently interviewed on Canadian radio, and a piece on the organization is set to run in the Ideas section of The Boston Globe. In addition to other sponsors, the group recently won support from Roméo Dallaire, the former Force Commander of U.N. Assistance Mission in Rwanda, according to Gund.
Gund also introduced the group’s plans for a 100 Days of Action Campaign, beginning on April 6, during which the group hopes to raise $100,000 for the GIF and write 10,000 letters to government officials with the help of schools, religious organizations and individuals across the country. “A lot [of other colleges] are volunteering to fundraise or to sponsor an action day,” Gund said. “They are encouraged to hold letter writing events, fundraising events and also awareness events.” Right now, there are 77 colleges planning events.
Swarthmore Sudan representatives also discussed Sudan Saturdays, held every week in Trotter, where anyone who is interested can come to sign letters, e-mail news organizations, e-mail students at other colleges, make and hang posters and do any other activities that are needed for the week. In addition, the group is planning a “high-level panel” in March, according to member Jennesa Calvo-Friedman ’08.
Swarthmore Sudan also met with faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon in an information session sponsored by the President’s Office to discuss their thoughts on the organization, according to Calvo-Friedman. “They talked to us about effective measures to motivate faculty and staff,” Gund said. She added that one suggestion was creating a weekly newsletter to update faculty and staff about the latest news in the organization.
Student Council Co-President Andrew Gisselquist ’05 said the idea for the chat “was presented to us as an opportunity to ask questions” on Swarthmore Sudan. “After lengthy discussion over whether this was the appropriate venue, we voted unanimously for it.”
“We know it’s an issue that a lot of students are involved in or interested in,” Gisselquist said.