Activists Frustrated with Lack of Focus on Darfur Crisis

Celebrities, lawmakers launch 'fasting chain' to highlight suffering

ByABC News
May 21, 2009, 6:40 PM

May 24, 2009 — -- Months after 13 aid groups were expelled from Darfur by the Sudanese government, escalating a years-long humanitarian crisis there, celebrity activists and lawmakers have engaged in fasts of solidarity, been arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, and protested in front of the White House.

And despite a statement by the White House condemning the expulsion of the aid groups, activists are increasingly frustrated with the White House and President Obama for their perceived lack of concrete action on the issue.

On Friday, a small group of Sudanese immigrants gathered in front of the White House to express their disappointment in Obama for not being active enough on Darfur from the outset of his presidency.

"I voted for him," said protestor William Deng, of the Southern Sudan Project. "And I did it because I knew he was going to do something about Darfur. But now he's silent, he's never done anything. And I feel, I regret that he doesn't do anything about our issues."

Scrutiny of Obama's reaction to the crisis in Darfur will intensify as he prepares for his first trip to Africa as president, a two-day visit to Ghana in July.

A "fasting chain" begun by the actress Mia Farrow and taken up by billionaire Richard Branson, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and others has brought more attention to the issue of Darfur in recent months. Farrow's fast, which she quit for medical reasons, has sparked more followers online.

"Among President Obama's priorities, Darfur has to take its place," Farrow told reporters on Capitol Hill this week.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who have called for more action by the U.S. government on Darfur, have not yet expressed frustration with the White House, but several were arrested in a protest outside the Sudanese embassy in April.

Some have followed Farrow's lead with their own fasts of varying lengths and have asked President Obama for a meeting on Darfur.