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Some say star power and awareness campaigns are not enough to resolve conflict.
One of the most noteworthy criticisms voiced by Mamdani — that activist groups inaccurately raised the specter of genocide by exaggerating the number of people killed in Darfur — has, to some extent, been accepted by international bodies like the ICC, and even some activists themselves.
Estimates of fatalities that ranged as high as 400,000 have slid, in official tallies, to about 100,000, Mamdani said, and some 80 percent of those deaths were due to disease and may, or may not, have been war-related.
“The estimates of the dead are usually done by agencies whose funding depends on how many have died,” Mamdani said.
“Maybe it’s stupid, frankly, to talk about” the number of dead in Darfur, acknowledged John Prendergast, a leading activist in the Darfur movement, while responding to Mamdani in a debate at Columbia University earlier this year. “At the end of the day it’s not really credible … it’s not something we are ever going to know.”
The Obama administration is divided on the subject. The word “genocide” is a powerful term, and focuses the world’s attention on ethnic violence that might otherwise be dismissed. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice described the situation in Darfur as “genocide” in a speech in Europe last week, but Gration declined to go that far.
“What we see is the remnants of genocide,” he told reporters at the State Department, carefully selecting his words. The level of violence in Darfur has decreased significantly, Gration said, and “it doesn’t appear that it is a coordinated effort similar to what we had in 2003 to 2006.”
Mortality estimates in remote, war-torn places like Darfur are extrapolations, said Prendergast, and though he personally still believes that what happened is accurately termed genocide, “I wouldn’t fall on my sword for it,” he said.
“I do know the number of dead, diseased and the number who will suffer will increase exponentially if we do not act boldly” now, he added.