KIGALI (AFP) – US actress and activist Mia Farrow took part in a torch-lighting ceremony in Rwanda on Wednesday to increase public pressure on Olympics hosts China to end the "genocide" in Darfur.
The Olympic-style relay organized by the "Dream for Darfur" campaign started on August 9 in Chad to urge China to influence Khartoum to end the suffering in Darfur before the Games begin next August.
"China as 2008 Olympic Games host must play an important role to stop the genocide that is now underway in Darfur," 62-year-old Farrow said at the ceremony in the Rwandan capital Kigali.
The event was held at the entrance of Kigali’s Ecole Technique Officielle, where 2,500 Rwandans were massacred during the 1994 genocide perpetrated by Hutu extremists mainly against the Tutsi minority.
According to the United Nations, at least 800,000 people were slaughtered in the space of a few weeks during the genocide.
The atrocities committed by Khartoum and its proxy militias in Darfur since a rebellion erupted there four years ago have been described by Washington as genocide, although most other states have refrained from using the term.
At least 200,000 people have died from the combined effect of war and famine in the arid western region of Sudan and more than two million have been displaced, according to UN estimates.
In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, China — which is by far the largest foreign investor in Sudan and absorbs almost two thirds of its oil output — has been under mounting pressure to use its clout on Khartoum.
The four-month torch relay will pass through a number of world cities scarred by mass killings, including Yerevan, Sarajevo, Berlin and Phnom Penh.
Farrow has been at the forefront of the civil society Darfur awareness campaign that started picking up two years ago and also receives the support of Hollywood stars George Clooney and Don Cheadle.
Earlier this month she offered Khartoum her freedom in exchange for the safe passage of a key Darfur rebel figure who is confined to a UN hospital in Sudan’s Kordofan region and needs treatment abroad.