Hearing the Cries, Heeding the Cries

Nakivale refugee camp has been home to thousands of Congolese during and since DR Congo's civil war

Nakivale refugee camp has been home to thousands of Congolese during and since DR Congo's civil war

SUDAN and SOUTH SUDAN

This week’s news offers a small glimpse of hope as the thousands of lives that are being jeopardized in the Nuba region is finally grasping the attention of the international community, government officials, and the media with recent visits by Anne Curry and Nick Kristof.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday accused the Khartoum government of actively trying to undermine the government of South Sudan and suggested that the US is prepared to take measures against Bashir. Her comments came in response to Representative Ed Royce’s (R OC, CA) introduction of a new piece of legislation last week to expand the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice program to include those wanted for the most serious human rights abuses, which includes Bashir’s indictment by the ICC.

The UN Security Council also called on the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N to cooperate fully and ensure that humanitarian assistance is delivered to those suffering from the rising levels of malnutrition and food insecurity. However, as attention is finally turned to these atrocities, attention is not enough, genocide by attrition still continues.

“We are still expecting them, they are still around us and now we don’t sleep in the houses, we are sleeping in the bush. That means the war is still there, no change.” Meluth Kur Jok, an elder who has sought sanctuary in Jonglei’s Akobo town since five close relatives were killed and 80 children abducted in an attack on his home village of Woulang a few weeks ago, told IRIN of his fears of more violence.

An unlikely actor, an American man married to a Nuba woman, Ryan Boyette, is risking his life to collect video of atrocities and has set up a network of local citizen journalists to document the atrocities and starvation in hopes of making the world care enough to intervene. So far the Associated Press, CNN, Fox News and Al-Jazeera have used his videos or photographs, and he plans to post more on a website, EyesAndEarsNuba.org and he was the one that helped Nick Kristof enter the Nuba Mountains.

Now more than ever we can feel the value of Ubuntu and realize that if one person is suffering, we are all suffering and must heed the cries for help and humanitarian assistance to the starving and afflicted people of South Kordofon/Nuba Mountains.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

All is not as it appears in the DRC as little is done to provide safety and security to the endangered and constantly antagonized Congolese civilian population. It is in the works to open up a third refugee camp in Uganda to cope with a influx of at least 100 people a day crossing the border to escape an upsurge in violence in eastern region of DRC. However, the population continues to be at risk from killings, abductions, and rape by armed men in the Eastern Kivu provinces, during transit, and in refugee camps. It is a situation replicated in thousands of registered and unregistered displaced persons settlements throughout the Great Lakes region. So what is being done?

The first case brought to the International Criminal Court filed in 2004 charging Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga with war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under age 15 as soldiers during the conflict in 2002, has come to a verdict to be heard on March 14. This will be the ICC’s first judgment since its conception a decade ago. As an avid follower of DRC’s long entrenched conflict watching  heinous human rights abuses and brutal rapes committed, it’s extremely disappointing that this narrowly focused case is the only one being heard after nine years and does not even come close to address the extent of crimes endured by the thousands of civilians everyday. It is also important to mention that Lubanga’s co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda charged by the ICC at the same time with war crimes relating to the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Ituri is currently untouched and a Congoloses general.

“There has never been a systematic attempt to address the issue of impunity within the Congolese justice system,” said Aaron Hall, Enough Project Congo policy analyst and report co-author. “The lack of accountability for war crimes including the murder of civilians, rape, plunder, and extortion is one of the key obstacles to creating an environment for peace and development in eastern Congo.”

I believe the ICC and the international community should work much harder with local partners to begin to hold perpetrators accountable, tackle impunity, and bring an ounce of justice to victims and survivors in the DRC.

BURMA

Burma’s on the surface changes are twofold. On the one hand Burma has headed toward reform and cease-fires reached with ethnic insurgents, and unprecedented open discussion about human rights violations, including in Kachin State where fighting since last June has displaced 70,000 people. However, on the other hand, the Burmese army is acting no better than it has in the past six decades, with reports of sexual violence, use of forced labor and firing on civilians.

“With all the changes happening in central Burma, it’s quite alarming that the military has shown absolutely no compunction to change its behavior,” Human Rights Watch senior researcher, David Mathieson told the Wilson Center.

Mathieson also noted less-documented rights abuses by some ethnic armed groups against their own people, including use of child soldiers—rampant too in the national army—and executions of Burma prisoners of war. It goes to show that although Burma’s release of prominent political prisoners is a step towards change, Burma has a long way to go as sporadic fighting and lack of accord between Kachin rebels and Burmese government leaves thousands of civilians in makeshift camp on the Chinese border.

Save Darfur? Or Save Sudan?

NY Times columnist and Darfur advocate Nicholas Kristof recently published an article speaking of the “real danger of the North-South war in Sudan reviving, partly because Darfur has been allowed to fester and because there have been no real disincentives for President Bashir to engage in mass slaughter”.

Kristof fears that what has happened in Darfur may repeat itself in South Sudan. He believes that it may be possible that a “new version” of the Janjaweed is developing and planning to head south.

In short, everyday that we allow the Darfur genocide to continue, the potential for another set of atrocities to occur in a second area of Sudan grows.

Click here to learn more about the current situation in South Sudan, where tensions are escalating rapidly.

Kristof Discusses Rape

Nicholas Kristof’s latest op-ed discusses rape - a weapon of war which often outlasts the war itself.

Put simply by Kristof -

Even when the fighting ends, the rape continues.

Sexual violence plagues several areas ripped apart by war – Congo, Sudan, Bosnia, Rwanda, Liberia – leaving a lasting impact on women, girls, men, boys, and children born out of such a crude violation of one’s rights as a human being.

A police officer from Liberia was interviewed as part of Kristof’s column. His words stayed with me -

Rape is a scar that the war left behind.

Hope Remains at IDP Camp’s Obama School

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Camp Djabal - Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

After Barack Obama was elected US president in November, School No. 1 at the Djabal refugee camp in Chad was renamed the Obama School.

NY Times writer and Darfur advocate Nicholas Kristof recently visited Djabal, home to thousands who have fled the genocide in Sudan.

Regarding the Obama School, Kristof writes -

It’s a pathetic building of mud bricks with a tin roof, and the windows are holes in the wall, but it’s caulked with hope that Obama may help end the long slaughter and instability in Sudan.

Is there reason for the residents of Djabal to be hopeful?

Kristof thinks so.

This Wednesday, the International Criminal Court will release its decision on issuing an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. There is talk that top Sudanese officials may oust Bashir if a warrant is issued.

Additionally, several current US leaders back the Darfur cause, including President Barack Obama, VP Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice. The Obama administration plans to conduct a review of the policy on Darfur led by human rights defender Samantha Power.

I agree with Kristof. Hope is not lost. Not for those living in Djabal. Not for the refugees in other Darfur IDP camps. And not for the millions around the world who refuse to turn a blind eye to the extermination of a people.

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.

US Authorizes Airlift, Blasts Kristof, and Meets with Kiir

US President George Bush has ordered an airlift of much needed (and much delayed) equipment to the UN-African Union mission (UNAMID) trying to hold pieces together in Darfur.

According to US National Security advisor Stephen Hadley, the airlift will “help UNAMID directly protect civilian lives and improve the safe and effective delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid”.

Certainly a curious move by the US – occurring during the final two weeks of Bush’s presidency regarding a now almost six-year-long crisis.

However, in perhaps an even more curious move, the US criticized NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for his own criticism of the Bush administration’s inability to accompany its tough words for Sudan with tough actions.

Kristof responded by saying he was “flattered” to be mentioned in a statement issued by the US government.

In other news, Sudanese First VP Salva Kiir met with President Bush Monday to discuss the North-South peace agreement and the Darfur conflict. To read more about their meeting, click here.

Omar Al-Bashir is “going to be indicted”

n_scarborough_kristoff_081205thumbMy favorite reporter, Nicholas Kristof appeared earlier today on Morning Joe at MSNBC.  He talked about his recent op-ed about the lack of iodine in the world’s food and water supply which results in “irreversible brain damage” for children.  Sudan and the current situation in Darfur came up as well.

And a bombshell from Mr. Kristof.

We now have a real opportunity [in Darfur] because President Bashir of Sudan is going to be indicted by the International Criminal Court.  That is a 100 percent certain. And that is going to happen in the next couple of months.  Then there is a real possibility that the Sudanese leadership is going to throw him under the bus.

And we have to do everything we can working with African leaders, working with Middle Eastern leaders and especially with China to make sure that it happens.

Watch the clip »

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