Today’s New York Times features (above the fold in the non-virtual version) an article on the peace in Darfur, and at no point do they use the word genocide, talk about the conflict as a race war, or even discredit the African Union! The article actually presents the situation with nuance, only a few buzzwords, and even has interviews in which people from different perspectives admit that things are a bit different from what they feared. Could it be that the flagship of US journalism has a New Year’s resolution to turn the page on US coverage of African armed conflicts?
The conflict and refugee crisis in Darfur and neighboring Chad has become the new textbook case in the perils of humanitarian aid and refugee advocacy, influenced as it has been by a mini-industry in Western activism (e.g., Save Darfur) as well as biting criticism of these movements by academics (e.g., Mahmood Mamdani at Columbia). Anyone having anything to do with displaced populations should know all sides of these arguments in order to really understand what it is you are getting involved with when you get involved in internal conflicts. Such conflicts are anything but clear cut, anything but simple. Nuanced situations don’t play well in US media, aren’t easy to market, and certainly don’t fit Western stereotypical views of “war in Africa.” However, if the rest of the world is going to intervene in African nations’ politics and care for refugees from African conflicts, it’s high time articles such as today’s become the standard.