Until he left for Black Forest Academy in Southwestern Germany, Scott Sutton spent his youth playing with monkeys and elephants under the mango trees in Darfur, Sudan, where his parents worked as missionary doctors.
Sutton, a human rights activist, shared his personal stories about growing up in Darfur, talked about the past and present genocidal conditions in the region and spoke about the development of South Sudan.
In 2003, a struggle for economic authority over the region sparked a genocide.
“The war was extremely bloody. There was a conflict between the North and the South Sudan for more economic control. Eventually the South Sudan gained its independence, but the war had already done too much harm,” said Sutton.
Sutton explained the effects of the genocide, which claimed 400,000 lives, displaced 2.5 million and left four million people hungry. The people of Darfur were subjected to constant threats of rape, assault and death, and 90 percent of Darfur’s villages were destroyed.
“It may be easy to say that the result of the crisis was the government’s fault and was caused by the difference of opinions between nomads and farmers, and Black Africans and Arab-Africans. But the reality is that history is rarely that simple,” said Sutton.
Sutton emphasized the importance of humanitarian aid in the Sudanese conflict. The Sudanese government, however, has opposed both international intervention and help from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) numerous times in the past.
“My father, as a missionary doctor, provided direct medical care for the children and adults in Darfur during this time. Soon, there was a strong international reaction and attention from the media, attracting figures like George Clooney,” he added.
According to Sutton, Darfur eventually gained support from organizations such as the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
Sutton encouraged students to stay active and continue to make positive changes in the Darfur community.
“Hopefully in the long run we can make structural changes [in Darfur] to prevent future atrocities, remain in good national anti-genocide constituency and organize a genocide prevention task-force,” said Sutton.
“Bottom line, I want to tell you today that this issue is real, and it is current. Students in Africa matter just as much as you. In order to improve the current conditions in Darfur, your generation is the first and the greatest test.” he added.
Sutton hopes that students can understand that everyone deserves equal treatment, and that they should use their skills to help improve issues in the world, rather than to pursue personal gains.
“Too often in America its easy to ignore things going out on elsewhere because we don’t know the people, they’re different from us and it takes too much time to understand. My goal in sharing my personal story is to help bring names and faces to life,” said Sutton in an interview with The Phillipian.
Sutton’s visit was organized by the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition (STAND) and sponsored by the Abbot Academy Association.
“A lot of our work centers around the Darfur Crisis; that is the reason why we started the organization. To have someone who is an American who lived in Darfur during peacetime is something incredibly rare. The fact that someone offers a perspective of both critical and personal side is something that really motivated us to bring him here,” said Junius Williams ’14, Director of Education of STAND.
Sutton is the 2009 Carl Wilkens Fellow with the Genocide Intervention Network, a D.C.-based human rights group focused on preventing crimes against humanity. He was recently recognized for his leadership by the Triangle Business Journal in its 2011 “40 Under 40” Leadership Awards.
Sutton now lives in Charlotte, NC, where he is an active speaker, sustainability professional and community leader.