i-ACT / Darfur
from i-ACT Website
iACT provides humanitarian action to aid, empower, and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities.
To create a world where people are connected and equipped to act. iACT is a hands-on leader empowering those affected by mass atrocities to live healthier and more dignified lives. Through advocacy and on-the-ground change, we provide the tools and training necessary to create a new culture of participation for people responding to and facing humanitarian crises globally.
In 2005, iACT Founding Executive Director Gabriel Stauring visited his first Darfuri refugee camp, located on the Chad-Sudan border. Stauring’s goal was to collect the stories of survivors of the Darfur genocide, then share them with individuals, the international community, and governmental actors in order to inspire action. The trip, intended to be his first and only, turned into visits taken two to three times every year, as well as a new path in life.
Over the next several years following that first trip, Gabriel built a strong group of volunteer team members who became personally connected to the Darfuri refugees, such as Adam, Fatna, Achta, and Guisma, and who were dedicated to supporting iACT’s trips, programs, and campaigns through their unique and diverse sets of skills and expertise. Gabriel traveled the U.S. with iACT’s first exhibit, Camp Darfur, educating communities and inspiring them to take part in nationally coordinated campaigns.
In 2007, Katie-Jay Scott, iACT’s current Chief Operating Officer, joined the iACT team and the full-time staff size doubled. Driven by their passion to provide support for individuals and communities affected by mass atrocities, Katie-Jay and Gabriel formalized iACT in 2009. Building upon years of listening to refugees and observing the refugee context in eastern Chad, iACT began to focus on filling gaps in humanitarian response and on improving the ways to create and implement programs with refugee populations.
This model begins with the beneficiary community identifying its own needs. Once identified, iACT conducts research on current solutions, models of success, failures, philosophies, and resources. We then form a team of diverse experts, and in partnership with refugee beneficiaries, begin building a framework around a possible community-driven solution.
iACT refuses to accept the status quo of humanitarian aid and services for displaced communities. Instead, we begin with the assumption that anything can be delivered or implemented, and, placing the community at the center, we look outside the box to create solutions that use the environmental limitations as assets rather than obstacles. Through a process of testing and iterations, a program is eventually shaped and molded to be the most effective for that community.
Today, iACT is an international organization pioneering processes, programs, and education campaigns to improve the humanitarian refugee response around the globe. iACT is about action and empowerment inspired through personal relationships. Teamwork is at the heart of our change model. We collaborate with experts and organizations across different sectors, and, most importantly, the refugee beneficiaries, in order to design and implement education, sports, and human rights solutions at the forefront of humanitarian efforts.
When: 2003 – Present
Location: Western Sudan
Estimated Dead: 350,000 – 500,000
Number of Displaced: 3 million
The Sudanese government, along with Arab militia known as Janjaweed, are attempting to exterminate and/or drive out the indigenous population of Darfur with a campaign of murder and terror. Since 2003, almost half a million civilians have died as a result of violence, starvation, and disease while nearly three million people have been driven from their homes and forced into refugee camps in neighboring countries or Internally Displaced Person camps (IDP) within Sudan. Janjaweed militia have also been accused of widespread rape throughout the region, with estimates being well above 10,000 cases.
The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 with the onset of the Darfur Rebellion, spearheaded by two rebel groups known as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM), seeking greater autonomy for Darfur. This desire for autonomy comes out of the complex ethnic make-up of the Sudan.
The North is primarily of Arab muslims, the South is comprised of African christians, and the majority of Darfur (in the West) is African muslims. However, power has always been concentrated in the north of the country, leaving the other regions and ethnic groups both marginalized and without representation. This disparity in power has led to two protracted civil wars between the north and the south that left over two million dead.
Just as the Darfur Rebellion was beginning, the Second Sudanese civil war was finally coming to a close and the northern government and the southern rebel movements were finalizing the conditions for an independent South Sudan.
War-weary from decades of civil war and keen on sustaining the territorial integrity of the Sudan, the Sudanese government sought to silence the Darfur rebellion quickly and aggressively. After a year of fighting rebel groups, the government offensive transitioned to attacking civilian population centers in 2004.
The Sudanese government employed a scorched-earth policy, in which they not only attacked rebel strongholds but also destroyed villages and civilian population centers in order to eliminate any support for the rebel groups or autonomy in the region. Sudanese soldiers and Janjaweed militia engaged in a campaign of murder and destruction, leaving thousands dead and thousands more fleeing for their lives. By 2006, the UN classified the conflict in Darfur as the world’s “worst humanitarian crisis.”
While the genocide in Darfur gained large amounts of public attention in the late 2000s, public awareness on the issue and support for action has waned. Public awareness began to drop off around 2008-2009 as violence in the region decreased due to peace talks between the government and rebel forces.
However, peace talks broke down in early 2010 and violence in the region has resumed without much public attention. In 2014 alone there were over 3,000 attacks on villages throughout the region.
There are currently nearly 20,000 African Union and UN troops stationed in Darfur. While these troops have been in Darfur since 2005, there has been little success in stopping the violence over the past decade.
Their mandate is strictly for peacekeeping, which prevents them from taking offensive measures to stop Janjaweed or the Sudanese government’s attacks.