Lecture Series to Explore Darfur

Professor Edward Alpers will discuss the roots of the crisis in Sudan, which has lasted more than three years.

It's not about religion at all.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Sarah Winter, Daily Bruin reporter

Today, 7:30 p.m.
UCLA Extension
Lindbrook Center
10934 Lindbrook Ave.

IN A LECTURE titled "The Crisis in Darfur: A Concise History," history Professor Edward Alpers plans to discuss the historical reasons behind the current situation in the Darfur region of Sudan tonight.

As part of a weekly lecture series put on by UCLA Extension, Alpers said he will put the conflict – which the United States has called genocide – in a historical context and hopes to shed light on the roots of the problem.

Darfur, a region in western Sudan, has been home to fighting and bloodshed for more than three years. Since the beginning of the conflict hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and many more displaced. The Sudanese government has been accused of supporting the killings in their resistance to various rebel groups.

Alpers said he will focus on historical reasons behind the crisis, which include the struggle for control over crucial resources such as oil and water and the current Sudanese government's desire to maintain power.

"The control of oil resources is critically important in Sudan right now," he said.

People often attribute the conflict in Darfur to racial and religious tensions, but Alpers said that though these problems do exist, there are deeper and more important reasons for the conflict.

While conflict throughout Sudan has often been linked to religion, the root of the conflict in the Darfur region "is different because everyone in Darfur is a Muslim," he said.

"It's not about religion at all," he said.

The lecture series, called "Behind the Headlines," focuses on an array of current issues by featuring speakers with extensive knowledge on the subject.

"My goal is to present speakers that are doing the most cutting edge research of current events and contemporary issues," said Regina Lark, director of the humanities program at UCLA Extension.

Past lecture topics have included global governance, same-sex marriage rights and nuclear proliferation.

The Darfur conflict has made headlines as the United Nations continues to negotiate with the Sudanese government over peacekeeping forces in the region.

Locally, students have become involved with the issue by advocating for various institutions to divest financial holdings with the Sudanese government. So far, the University of California and the state of California have implemented divestment plans, and students are currently pushing the city of Los Angeles to divest.

The Sudan Divestment Taskforce was created by UC students to encourage the UC to divest from its holdings in Sudan. The divestment model it created was used as a framework for other divestment plans such as the one for the California state pension funds.

Darfur Action Committee (DAC), a student-run activist group that Alpers advises, is currently advocating for the Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System to divest its holdings from the Sudanese government.

Karina Garcia, a member of the steering committee of DAC, noted the importance of educational awareness events such as this lecture.

"In order to take effective action and advocacy, people need to be informed," she said.

Alpers said he hopes the knowledge he provides through the lectures will inspire people to take action.

"If I add anything to their understanding and they decide to take any actions because of that, that's a little help for the situation," he said.

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2006