Harvard University senior Layla Amjadi posed yesterday’s inquiries as the director of STAND, the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network, which organized the five-day program for student advocates from across the United States.
“Overall, the fact that the White House, General Gration and Samantha Power, have opened up and allowed the communication to begin is a positive sign, I think, that the outreach to the activist community is encouraging. And STAND is much honoured to have seats at the table. However, I think that activist students were disappointed at the lack of (administration) answers. Looking at some of the feedback on Twitter and Facebook and emails, it seems as though students are still frustrated.
They hand-delivered 100 personalized videos to the offices of the 100 US senators and created a total of 500 video messages for their legislators, all conveying the sense of urgency and importance of strengthening US Darfur policy. STAND’s Amjadi says the anti-genocide coalition’s program was well received.
“We’ve actually heard great response from our activists. We did go on the (Capitol) Hill on Monday. Many of them (the students) reported back on how pleased they were with how receptive their elected officials and foreign policy legislative aides were.
During the 2008 US presidential campaign, Senator Barack Obama’s African family background and his outspoken commitment to ending the Darfur violence won high marks, particularly from young American voters and helped energize his candidacy. Support on college campuses benefitted Obama, even though US Sudan policy earlier earned wide bipartisan support from Democratic and Republican political leaders alike in previous years.
But STAND director Layla Amjadi says students this week in Washington are frustrated by concerns that the Obama administration is losing ground because of delays and its reluctance to elevate Darfur policy to a higher profile.
“Participants were really frustrated by how vague the policy review was on benchmarks and pressures and incentives. Activists wanted to hear how were these decisions being made and what constitutes an incentive. What constitutes pressure? And what are the standards for which they’ll be deployed?” she asked.
Another concern raised Tuesday at the White House was how to ensure that Sudanese civil society be given a voice to help the country recover from its turbulent past and how to help Sudan’s more than two million refugees and displaced persons living in camps return home.
“Activists wanted to know when can these people go back, whether it be weeks, months, or years, and on that question, we failed to receive a specific time frame,” she noted.
Amjadi expects a major test of the US administration’s resolve on Darfur to come up later this week when President Obama travels to China. She says student activists are hoping to hear that Obama brings the Darfur situation up with Chinese officials and President Hu Jintao and achieves progress to curb Beijing’s attempts to arm Khartoum and extend political support that encourages further violence.