‘Darfur Now’ takes viewers on emotional journey

Mark Dipaola

On a night when the Men’s Basketball home matchup against Monmouth University drew many would be activists to the T.D. Bank North Center, a small handful of Quinnipiac students and Hamden residents crowded into Alumni Hall at 6:30 p.m. to address the crisis that is genocide in Sudan’s region of Darfur.

The event, which was staged by members of QU STAND, the International Human Rights Law Society, the Black Law Students Association, the Women’s Law Society, and the Albert Schweitzer Club, featured a screening of the documentary ‘Darfur Now,’ and a brief word from Quinnipiac communications Professor William O’Brien.

“Anything you can do to learn more about what’s going on in Africa you should do,” said O’Brien at the start of the presentation.

The film takes viewers on an emotional and compelling journey through war torn Darfur, through the eyes of several survivors and activists, including actor Don Cheadle, who starred in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. The film also focused on the activities of a rebel faction in Darfur, as well as the battle waged by the Sudan Divestment Task Force to pass a divestment law in California. Also captured in the documentary was the investigation into the atrocities in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.

According to O’Brien, the conflict in Darfur is centered on the struggle for natural resources. In an opening statement, O’Brien cited a recent uprising in Chad, where a rebel faction attempted to overthrow the government. Incidents in Sudan and Chad should not be seen “in isolation”, said O’Brien.

“What this is about, is oil,” he said. “In both countries, there are large reserves of oil.”

After low oil prices drove Chevron out of Sudan and into Chad, China became the Sudanese government’s primary trading partner, said O’Brien.

“It is the Chinese government money that is actually being used to pay the Janjaweed,” he said. “They are fueling the war.”

Although attendance was sparse, audience members offered positive feedback.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking that nobody is addressing the problem,” said Hamden resident Mike Biagioli. “I thought there’d be many more people here. It’s very informative to know which people and agencies are really trying to accomplish something.”

This sentiment was echoed by Pete Ropiak, also of Hamden.

“You don’t usually hear about these kinds of things,” he said. “It’s very interesting. It keeps your attention. People need to find out more about these things.”

According to Danielle Robinson, the co-president for the International Human Rights Law Society, the film could have better addressed the impact of oil in Sudan.

“I was really excited about Professor O’Brien’s introduction,” she said after the film. “He knows a lot about what’s going on in Sudan and he wanted to emphasize that the conflict is over oil. His participation tonight really helped to fill in that gap.”

Robinson discussed plans to collaborate with STAND in starting a divestment campaign. The two organizations, she said, will likely meet with President Lahey in order to ensure that the university is not tied to any companies doing business in Sudan.