Time is Running Out

The race to help refugees in South Sudan – video

The race to help refugees in South Sudan – video

“Women wait in the heat for up to four hours twice a day, next to their long queues of buckets and jerry cans. Men with sticks and whips police the lines. Fights break out all the time. No one has to ask why. There is simply not enough water and we are running out of options and we are running out of time.” -Oxfam’s Pauline Ballman works in the Jamam Refugee Camp in South Sudan

Unity state has borne the brunt of aerial bombings by Sudan even after South Sudan had said it would withdraw from Heglig. On Monday, Sudanese warplanes bombed a market and an oil field in South Sudan, killing at least two people, after Sudanese ground forces reportedly crossed into South Sudan with tanks and artillery. There are numerous bombings taking place, just Wednesday, Sudan also bombed the village of Chotchara.

Since fighting broke out in Blue Nile state in Sudan between government forces and rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, about 85,000 people have fled into South Sudan’s Upper Nile state. The states of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, where violence began last year, lie north of the border with South Sudan, and have populations who were aligned with the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) during Sudan’s long civil war. Antonovs planes that bombed the refugees’ villages in Blue Nile have flown over Jamam camp, about 75km west of the border with Sudan, three times in the past week. Already the camp is barely coping with lack of water supplies with so many new people and now there are fears that more may arrive as conflict spreads. There is also the prospect of cholera breaking out as people drink dirty water to survive the dead heat. Time is running out!

The United States, spearheaded by Susan Rice said on Thursday it has drafted a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at making legally binding an African Union demand that Sudan and South Sudan stop border clashes, resume talks and resolve their many disputes.

This comes after President Obama’s announcement of a new executive-branch initiative, the Atrocities Prevention Board to strengthen the United States’ ability to prevent mass atrocities. Watch Elie Wiesel’s Introduction and President Obama’s full remarks:

Fulfilling the Pledge of ‘Never Again’

Fulfilling the Pledge of ‘Never Again’

As much as proposals and resolutions create sound progress and policies, the change must be implemented on the ground because time is running out. Sudan needs to immediately halt aerial bombings of innocent people and we need to provide assistance to those who are suffering and on the brink of death.

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.

Obama: What happens in Sudan “matters”

President Obama spoke earlier this week at the United Nations meeting about the future of Sudan.  Because of his presence, the meeting was attended by the Vice President Taha and Salva Kiir, president of Southern Sudan.

[President Obama’s speech starts at 20:30]

At this moment, the fate of millions of people hangs in the balance.  What happens in Sudan in the days ahead may decide whether a people who have endured too much war move forward towards peace or slip backwards into bloodshed.  And what happens in Sudan matters to all of sub-Saharan Africa, and it matters to the world.

- President Barack Obama, September 24 2010

OC For Darfur planning meeting is this Tuesday, January 19th

Hi everyone,

This past Thursday, The Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLM) nominated Yasir Arman to run against president Omar Al-Bahir in the first democratic elections in Sudan since the coup d’état in June 1989 that brought General Bashir to power. Mr. Arman inspired by President Obama’s "change" campaign is hoping to walk a similar path.

“SPLM is a national liberation movement has been struggling for many years and made great sacrifices, it stands with the issues of change and ‘change’ is the first word in the program of the SPLM, as well as the issue of a real transition to democracy, and justice for marginalized and vulnerable, human rights, the rights of women, is the most important is what we want done” he said.

Click here to read the complete article. Many of us in the activist community fear that these upcoming elections will not be "free and fair" and people of Sudan will not have an opportunity to genuinely express their voice and pick their leaders.

Our next planning meeting is this Tuesday, January 19th at 6:30p.
We will meet at Patty’s office in Newport Beach. Here is the address.

Patty’s office @ 6:30p
2424 SE Bristol Street, Suite 300
Newport Beach, CA 92660

We will discuss:

  • Update on what’s going on in Darfur, Congo and Burma.
  • Upcoming book fairs, documentary screenings and other events by Huntington Beach Reads Program [link].
  • Orange County Walk Against Genocide in April.

If you’d like to get involved and help with the planning of any of these activities, I hope you will join us :)

See you on Tuesday.

Anshul Mittal
Orange County for Darfur
ocfordarfur.org | calendar | photos | shop | blog | facebook | twitter

Gration: We don’t have all the monitoring mechanisms that we need yet

Yesterday, Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration and National Security Council Director, Samantha Power sat down with Jerry Fowler of the Save Darfur Coalition and Layla Amjadi of STAND.  They discussed a wide range of topics regarding the recently released policy by the Obama Administration.

Click here to watch the complete webcast.

Gration:  We don’t have yet all the monitoring mechanisms that we need.  When the NGOs were expelled, we lost some very valuable NGOs that we have not gotten back in yet…  And the fact is that while we’ve been able to compensate for food and water and healthcare and sanitation, some of the protection NGOs have not been able to get back in…

For us to objectively verify, we’re going to have to have different types of NGOs on the ground and more of those NGOs on the ground. And we’re going to have UNAMID with more freedom of movement and the ability to monitor better what’s happening on the ground, so that we can take action.  And those are the things we’re working on right now.

Other highlights that stuck out at me in this illuminating conference include:

  • Samantha Power mentioned that  everytime President Obama has sat down with Chinese President, Hu Jintao,  “this issue has been discussed”.
  • And Scott Gration mentioned that “a major impediment to [Darfuri] people returning home is the ‘pschological stuff’.”

I’m glad senior officials in the Administration recognize the deep impact of such trauma and how that affects peacemaking.

OC For Darfur strategy meeting is this Tuesday, Oct 27

Hi everyone,

This past week has been quite eventful. On Monday, the Obama administration released their official foreign policy towards ending the genocide in Sudan. This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully it’ll make a significant difference in this critical situation.

Then this past Saturday, a few of us attended the screening of The Greatest Silence, a powerful documentary that sheds light on systemic and horrifying rape and violence against women in Congo. It was a big call to action for all of us and we will be exploring how to organize something locally here in Orange County.

Our next planning meeting is this Tuesday, Oct 27th at 6:30p. We will meet at Patty’s office in Newport Beach. Here is the address.

Patty’s office @ 6:30p
2424 SE Bristol Street, Suite 300
Newport Beach, CA 92660

We will discuss:

  • Update on what’s going on in Darfur right now.
  • What else does the anti-genocide movement need?
  • What will it take to end / prevent genocide?
  • Our tentative plan for 2010.

If you’d like to get involved and help with the planning of any of these activities, we would love to have you come and attend :)

See you on Tuesday.

Anshul Mittal
Orange County for Darfur
ocfordarfur.org | calendar | photos | shop | blog | facebook | twitter

Darfur update: New United States policy for Sudan

Hi everyone,

The Obama Administration finally released their long-awaited official foreign policy on Sudan. Here is a quick summary. The administration’s policy lays out three strategic U.S. objectives:

  1. A definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses, and genocide in Darfur.
  2. Implementation of the North-South CPA that results in a peaceful post-2011 Sudan, or an orderly path toward two separate and viable states at peace with each other.
  3. Ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe haven for international terrorists.

You can watch the whole briefing by Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and General Scott Gration on the State Department blog. I highly recommend it.

On paper, this policy is a step in the right direction. However, the devil is in the details and we are concerned about it’s implementation. The Save Darfur Coaltion, Enough Project and GI-Net are holding a conference call tomorrow morning at 10a to discuss the implications of this new development. All details are below.

Also, there are quite a few events coming up this week that a few of us will be attending (details below). I hope you will join us.

Anshul Mittal
Orange County for Darfur
ocfordarfur.org | calendar | photos | shop | blog | facebook | twitter


Sudan Policy Review Conference Call
Tuesday, October 20th at 10:00a PST

Call-in Info: (877) 254 – 9825
Participant Code: There’s no code, just say that you’re calling in for the Sudan Policy Activist Call


Screening of “Worse Than War”

Thursday, October 22th at 7:00pm
Valley Beth Shalom, Encino, CA

Worse than War visits the sites of the worst mass slaughters of the 20th Century with Holocaust scholar Daniel Goldhagen. Encounter killers, survivors, witnesses, journalists and political leaders whose stories provide powerful insights into the scourge of genocide. Followed by a conversation with Rabbis Schulweis and Feinstein and Enough Project founder John Prendergast. RSVP at JewishWorldWatch.org

Ending Violence Against Women in Congo
Saturday, October 24th at 5p
6360 W. Sunset Blvd (between Vine and Ivar, with DeLongpre to the south)
Los Angeles, CA

Please join the Hollywood Film Festival and Enough Project for a symposium, “Ending Violence Against Women in Congo,” which will examine the root causes of the conflict and rape epidemic in Congo, and explore practical ways that American citizens and consumers can play a role in ending the violence. For more information, click here.

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