Urgent Time to Act

A child in a North Darfur refugee camp (radiodabanga)


“Our concerns are heightened by clashes reported yesterday between the national armies of Sudan and South Sudan in Lake Jau and other border areas,” Melissa Fleming, Spokesperson, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Over the past three days, new bomb attacks paralyze strategic areas of Sudan. Antonov planes dropped more than 40 bombs on the villages of Dika, Bain, Keda, Jok and Senagarai in North Darfur. Meanwhile, ground troops in six tanks and 150 vehicles moved in to the villages beating male residents, looting and burning houses. The soldiers also reportedly raped more than 30 women and girls and arrested ten of the men.

In addition, Unity State Minister of Information Gideon Gatpan said Sudan dropped at least three bombs near oil fields in the town of Bentiu. The bombings come one day after Sudan and South Sudan clashed in the disputed border town of Jau, prompting Sudan to cancel President Omar al-Bashir’s trip to meet with South Sudan President Salva Kiir next week.

Making the humanitarian crisis more pressing and horrific is the refugee situation as thousands of displaced Sudanese face mass starvation and chronic water shortages.

“It took 17 days to walk here. We were facing hunger on the way, and that’s how other people starved to death, and with the rains, a lot of people lost their lives from pneumonia. The water here is not enough… People end up fighting at the water point.” Hamid Yussef Bashir, one of around 37,000 refugees in Jamam camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State.

There is an urgent need to relocate fleeing refugees in order to avoid civilian casualties “among a population that has already endured a great deal of trauma,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In total, more than 105,000 Sudanese refugees forced to flee from attacks in the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile have ended up in South Sudan and neighboring Ethiopia.

When will signed peace treaties equate to zero civilian deaths and human rights abuses?

Children wash copper on at an open-air mine in Kamatanda in the rich mining province of Katanga. Forced by poverty;hundreds of children leave school to work at the mine. (Gwenn Dubourthoumieu , AFP/Getty Images)


Is corporate accountability possible? Human-rights groups, led by the Canadian Association Against Impunity (CAAI) and survivors of a massacre in the Katanga province of Democratic Republic of Congo have turned to the Supreme Court of Canada to sue a Canadian mining company on behalf of the victims of a massacre in Congo. Congolese families are seeking to appeal the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a human rights case against the Canadian corporation Anvil Mining Limited. The company is alleged with providing logistical support including planes, trucks and drivers to Congolese troops who massacred over 100 unarmed civilians in Katanga province in 2004. The port was key to the operation of a copper mine, the exit point for $500,000 worth of copper and silver every day.

“My father has not lived to see justice delivered,” said Dickay Kunda (whose father, a policeman, was badly beaten and tortured while in military custody). His 22-year-old sister Dorcas also died after being raped by soldiers. “But after more than seven years, we now look to the Supreme Court of Canada for justice,” he added.

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, advocates say the ruling could set a precedent for whether corporations can be held accountable for their involvement in human rights violations committed abroad. However a 2010 UN report says that “the Kilwa case demonstrates the difficulty in proving the legal responsibility of private companies in the perpetration of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.”

We, as responsible consumers have the voice and power to urge corporate accountability. We can do this by putting pressure and seeking justice on corporations who greedily make profit from exploiting populations and committing human rights abuses and also we can commit to buying conflict-free products.


As we await Burma’s elections on April 1, the Burmese government has allowed the United Nations to ship a second round of humanitarian aid to rebel-controlled areas in northern Kachin state. It is only the second time the government has let international aid to enter areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization.

But unfortunately, the aid doesn’t come close to addressing the needs of tens of thousands of displaced ethnic Kachin. Aye Win, a U.N. spokesman in Rangoon, says the aid is not enough. He says there are at least 50,000 people displaced and in need of sustained help.

The UN has grown slightly more verbose over the matter, requesting that aid deliveries be continued well into the future (OCHA says food insecurity could last until the end of 2013). I urge that there needs to be a sustained commitment to humanitarian assistance to the 60,000 people in Kachin.

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