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Darfur, Sudan

In February 2003, civil unrest broke out among black African rebel groups in Sudan's western region of Darfur, seeking equal rights from the Arab Government of Sudan (GOS). In response, the GOS began sponsoring militias among Arab nomadic tribes to squelch the rebellion. These well-armed militias became known as the Janjaweed, meaning "devil on a horse". Together, the Janjaweed and GOS launched widespread, systematic attacks on the civilian population with the shared goal of eliminating all black African tribes in Darfur, including the use of torture, rape, looting and destruction of whole villages. The conflict was deemed a genocide by world leaders and the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since 2003 it is estimated that nearly 400,000 Africans have perished and nearly 3 million were displaced by the violence. Though the conflict has calmed substantially and some refugees are returning home, Darfur remains unstable and a heavy UN force continues to monitor the region.

In 2005, Global Grassroots founder, Gretchen Wallace, visited the Darfur refugee camps of Eastern Chad to explore the ideas for change that existed among genocide survivors, and to understand more deeply the issues which were being unmet by traditional aid. She discovered extraordinary wisdom and solutions among the displaced populations she visited throughout the region. However, ongoing cross-border conflict and the complexities of working within the structure of the UN in refugee camps led Global Grassroots to commit its work to serving in post-conflict environments like Rwanda.

Our journey to Eastern Chad also represented the first step towards producing the documentary film, The Devil Came on Horseback, about Gretchen Wallace's brother, Brian Steidle, a former US Marine who served as an unarmed military observer in Darfur during the height of the genocide. The film was produced and directed by Break Thru Films in association with Global Grassroots and 3Generations, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and on the National Geographic Channel in 2007. Nominated for three Emmy awards, the documentary has reached over 10 million people globally and has been screened by hundreds of universities and community groups worldwide to raise awareness and mobilize action on the crisis. Global Grassroots continues to serve as the charitable arm for the film and proceeds from license fees go to support our work with genocide and violence survivors across post-conflict Africa.

Brian Steidle and Gretchen Wallace also co-authored his memoir, titled The Devil Came on Horseback: Bearing Witness to the Genocide in Darfur, published by PublicAffairs.

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Educational Resources

>Art Works Project's: Darfur/Darfur Exhibit and Photography Book

>Google Earth and US Holocaust Memorial Museum's Crisis in Darfur: Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative

>Stop Genocide Now's i-ACT and Camp Darfur projects

>The Rebecca Davis Dance Company's ballet Darfur

>mtvU's Darfur is Dying Video Game

>3 Generations' Survivor Stories

>The Enough Project's Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Project

>Facing History and Ourselves' teaching units for documentary film: Darfur Now and book: Not on Our Watch

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