Hopefully Not too Little too Late

Gen Gun Maw addresses the standing committee in Laiza, Kachin State (PHOTO: The Irrawaddy)

SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN

With Sudan and South Sudan presidents meeting eminent, it’s evermore pertinent to draw attention to the growing human catastrophe in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. United to End Genocide is advocating March 16 as the national day of action for Sudan in response to the escalating crisis.

Furthermore, on March 7 a new piece of legislation, the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act was introduced in the House of Representatives to propel immediate action. Implementing the legislation includes holding Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his forces fully accountable with strengthened and increased sanctions, and immediately working to ensure the delivery of food to prevent mass starvation as a result of genocide by attrition.  Take action here.

“We welcome the introduction of strong bipartisan legislation to address the blockade of food and humanitarian aid and the ongoing bombing of civilians that has put the lives of 500,000 people at risk in Sudan.” – Tom Andrews, United to End Genocide President

George Clooney and John Prendergast, who together co-founded the Satellite Sentinel Project, just returned from Sudan’s troubled Nuba Mountains region in the hopes of bringing attention to and potentially heading off hostilities. They spoke and gave their report to Washington and the Council on Foreign Relations March 14. Watch their video clip here:

http://www2.americanprogress.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=205

“There’s a difference between two armies fighting and what the Geneva Convention calls war crimes.We saw that very specifically happening on two occasions: rape, starvation, lack of humanitarian aid. They’re scaring the hell out of these people and they’re killing, hoping and trying to get them just to leave.” – George Clooney, Activist for Sudan.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A top commander of the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group, Lt. Colonel Bizimana, has surrendered to the UN mission in South Kivu. A joint military offensive between the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and the Congolese army pressured Lt. Colonel Bizimana, also known as Idrissa Muradadi, to turn himself in along with three of his bodyguards. He is being processed through the Demobilization Disarmament Rehabilitation, Repatriation and Reintegration (DDRRR) and awaiting extradition to Rwanda.

The FDLR, operating in Eastern Congo, is known for their destructive attacks and brutality against civilians. They are comprised of primarily former Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and interahamwe, responsible for killing 800,000 people in the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

“It’s very good news for us because the surrender of Idrissa will also have a demoralizing effect on his troops and we are expecting to see a lot of the FDLR [rebels] surrender in the coming days.”  - MONUSCO spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai

I am surprised by the surrender but wonder how the outcome will turn out. The integration process has become extremely messy because of the convolution and mixed loyalties created by the number of armed factions. To add to the calamity, just because Bizimana surrendered to MONUSCO doesn’t necessarily mean any problems are solved because both UN officials and Congolese army officials have been reported to have killed, raped, and endangered innocent civilians. Thus, we must continue to seek sustainable and ingenious ways to solve this dreadfully complex conflict and the rampant impunity that plagues the DRC.

In light of this surrender, the ICC’s first verdict on March 14 has found Thomas Lubanga guilty of recruiting child soldiers during the DRC conflict. While the case may help set a precedent for other cases involving the recruitment of child soldiers, the ICC has much work to do with the trying, process, and sentencing of war criminals.

BURMA

The government has signed provisional ceasefires with several armed ethnic groups in recent months as part of political reform in the country, but has resulted without agreement and an end to fighting with the Kachin ethnic group. Most recently, daily clashes have prompted the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burmese government to hold peace talks.

“Negotiations have not yet yielded any agreement. There needs to be more discussions about the withdrawal of Burmese army bases from the region. We will continue to talk until we reach an agreement.” – Gen Gun Maw, the deputy military chief of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The KIO says it wants government troops to withdraw from their bases in Kachin strongholds before it signs any ceasefire with the government. The government delegation, though, has maintained that such issues can only be discussed after a ceasefire is in place. President Thein Sein ordered an end to fighting with Kachin rebels December 10 of last year, but the hostilities between the two continue.

We follow UN envoy to Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana’s call on the Burmese government to develop a plan to “officially engage with ethnic minority groups in serious dialogue and to resolve long-standing and deep-rooted concerns.”

In light of Ambassador Derek Mitchell’s current presence in Burma this week, a petition has been launched to increase civilian protection. We hope you will make time for this action: Support Ethnic People of Burma: Tell Ambassador Mitchell to Protect Ethnic Civilians.

Behind the scenes: George Clooney in Sudan

Here is a fascinating behind-the-scenes with George Clooney in South Sudan.

George Clooney in Sudan

via GlobalPost.

Google and George Clooney team up to help Sudan

George Clooney has initiated a cutting-edge human rights project that combines satellite photographs, field reports and Google technology to help prevent the resumption of a deadly civil war in Sudan.

To launch Wednesday, the Satellite Sentinel Project analyzes satellite images and on-the-ground reporting to monitor the tense border between North and South Sudan.

“We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we’re watching, the world is watching,” said Clooney. “War criminals thrive in the dark. It’s a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight.”

via GlobalPost.com.

Sudan: Farrow, Clooney are Ignorant

The Sudanese government is certainly unimpressed with Mia Farrow’s current hunger strike for Darfur – which it views as “unwarranted”.

According to the spokesperson for the Sudanese embassy in London -

We appreciate Mia Farrow’s intentions and we respect her for her interest in the welfare of the Sudanese people…but as a politician she is only a beginner…she is like George Clooney…he is good-looking but ignorant…she is ignorant too.

The spokeperson feels that Farrow is overlooking the fact that all aid groups were not kicked out of Darfur – only the foreign ones were.

Another Busy Day

The Darfur front is once again ripe with breaking news -

Actor George Clooney met with US President Barack Obama on Monday to discuss the Darfur crisis. Clooney brought with him 250,000 postcards collected by Save Darfur signed by people from across the nation. Vice President Joe Biden was also present for the discussion.

After the meeting, Clooney announced that President Obama intends to appoint a special envoy to Sudan. Contenders for the position include Africa expert and humanitarian John Prendergast and former diplomat to Sudan Roger Winter.

Two workers from a French aid group were shot and killed in South Darfur by gunmen riding camels and horses. Reports state that the workers stumbled upon a robbery in progress and may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Kristof and Clooney Together in Chad

NY Times writer Nicholas Kristof has traveled to a small Chadian town bordering Darfur, home to thousands who have been forced from their homes after fleeing genocide.

Kristof’s partner on his journey is George Clooney, famous actor and avid Darfur supporter.

What Kristof and Clooney found in the town of Dogdore is disheartening – desperation, fear, and an unanswered need for humanitarian aid. All this, after six years.

A shocking sidenote – Kristof reveals that the UN has pulled Clooney’s security escort – effective immediately.

Also check out Kristof’s blog - On the Ground.

Darfur Behind Obama “Hope” Poster?

I found this interesting and thought you would too -

The inspiration for the Barack Obama “Hope” poster is believed to be a 2006 photo of the US President sitting next to George Clooney at the National Press Club on Darfur, holding a green Save Darfur wristband.

Click here to see for yourself.

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