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Darfur action called crucial

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Suliman Giddo

Suliman Giddo

OGDEN — Suliman Giddo moved from the Darfur region of Sudan to the United States eight years ago because he thought if he lived here he could do more in helping to bring an end to ongoing conflicts and acts of genocide in his homeland.

If Giddo had stayed in Africa, he likely would have had to choose a side in those often bloody conflicts and devote most of his time and energy to a low-paying job just to support his family.

"I'm quite certain I'm more effective here," Giddo said in an interview Wednesday after giving a speech at Weber State University.

He and over 200 others from Darfur have chosen to live in Indiana because there they can work on an assembly line at an automobile plant — rarely requiring the need to talk to anyone — while they learn English toward the goal of getting a college education here.

Giddo is co-founder and president of the Darfur Peace & Development Organization, a nonprofit group based in Fort Wayne, Ind., that has chapters in five states here and regional offices in Saudi Arabia, Chad, Sudan, Canada and Europe.

His appearance this week at WSU is part of Giddo's ongoing effort to help raise awareness about Darfur's problems and to encourage more Americans to get involved in becoming part of the solution.

"There's a lot you can do," Giddo told his audience.

But he doesn't claim there is a single solution to myriad root causes of conflict that include: financial dominance by a military-controlled government unwilling to share oil revenues among its people; migration of large groups of mostly ranchers and farmers into more fertile areas that ultimately are unable to accommodate them; and lack of a common identity among Sudanese who are considered either Arab or African, which harbors another layer of conflict by way of having dozens of different tribes that don't always get along.

On his group's Web site, www.dpado.org, it outlines how to make a monetary donation, which Giddo assured people at WSU will make an impact at distribution sites for rations in Darfur, despite its government's attempts to disrupt humanitarian efforts from other countries.

That's one solution.

While not everyone listening to Giddo's speech agreed that the United States has done all that it can or should to help Darfur, Giddo pointed out how 60 percent of the outside relief actually reaching people there is coming from the United States.

Giddo called on other countries to acknowledge the genocide among warring tribes, which the United States has done, he said.

"Action has to follow that," Giddo added.

He estimated that in recent years about 400,000 people have been killed, 3 million displaced from their homes and that about 240,000 have fled Darfur to become refugees in neighboring Chad.

If all opposing factions in Darfur could somehow demonstrate they can work together toward peace and an end to extreme poverty there, Giddo figures other governments will pitch in. He would like to see more Americans contact their elected leaders to educate them about Darfur.

"We need help from outside to bring us together," he told the audience. "Now it becomes your turn."

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com