Justin Marozzi

Monty Python’s guide to the Darfur conflict

The genocide publicised by movie stars is over, says Justin Marozzi. What must now be resolved is a civil war with unlimited breakaway factions — and Hollywood cannot help

The genocide publicised by movie stars is over, says Justin Marozzi. What must now be resolved is a civil war with unlimited breakaway factions — and Hollywood cannot help

It wasn’t the gleaming black helicopter parked on Second Avenue that raised eyebrows. New Yorkers barely blink at such a routine form of transport. No, passersby were more taken by the improbable banner hanging from its tail: ‘SEND ME TO DARFUR’.

Last week’s publicity stunt in Manhattan, in which a Robinson R44 helicopter was symbolically presented to the United Nations, was organised by the Save Darfur Coalition, the organisation that has done more than any other to keep the issue of Darfur alive. The event marked the first anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1769, which created the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission Unamid, and coincided with a report revealing how the international community has betrayed it by failing to provide the manpower and materiel it needs.

The Darfur lobby has heavyweight support. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel, among others, have all supported this latest report, endorsed by more than 30 human rights groups, think tanks and NGOs, including the ubiquitous Save Darfur Coalition.

George Clooney, the most bankable Hollywood star of his generation, is also big on Darfur. ‘Many governments have offered expressions of concern, but few have offered the most basic tools necessary to keep civilians safe and for peacekeepers to do their job,’ he says. ‘It is time for governments to put their helicopters where their mouths are.’

He’s quite right. Unamid needs helicopters, not to mention another 16,000 peacekeepers. The failure of the international community to live up to its promises is shameful. The problem is, Darfur has become an emotive campaign in which awkward truths — not least that the genocide is over — have become hostage to a more superficially exciting story.

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