“An interview with…” — survivors of genocide

Genocide Awareness Film Series

Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future
A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public. All details are here.

As part of featuring the stories of survivors and their children, Living Ubuntu volunteer, Alicia Buly, has been conducting a series of interviews. Most of these survivors will speak at the April film series events. To date, there are five. They are listed below.

Cambodia’s Past Shapes America’s Future – An Interview with Zaklin Phat (April 3 – Cambodia)
Second Generation Survivor, First Generation Activist – An Interview with Martina Knee (April 17 – Sudan)
Giving Back to Sudan, from San Diego – An Interview with Wai John Wai
Finding Strength in Testimony – An Interview with Edith Umugiraneza (April 1 – Rwanda)
Activism Through Education – An Interview with Levon Marashlian (April 2 – Armenian)

[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.

As genocide continues, does reconciliation wait for peace?

Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.
– Desmond Tutu

Genocide in Darfur, a decade on, continues.

A recent New York Times article, New Strife in Darfur Leaves Many Seeking Refuge, tells us that by no means are things getting better with “fighting since the beginning of the year… displacing nearly 300,000 people, more than in the last two years combined….”

In a recent interview, former UN senior official, Mukesh Kapila, talks about its beginning in 2003. Here is part of his answer when asked about the moment he knew he had to go outside of UN channels:

I filed my reports to HQ in New York, I shared my information with the diplomatic community in Khartoum, I made representations to the Sudanese authorities. Nobody was interested in taking much notice. It was in the ‘unwelcome news’ category, and the excuse was we don’t want to antagonize Khartoum. We just need to get a good north-south peace agreement, the land will flow with milk and honey and the problems will end. But I knew John Garang, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (the rebel group in neighbouring South Sudan), was going to delay signing until Darfur was sorted out. He told me to travel the world and tell people that.

Then a representative in the office of the Sudanese president told me they were working on “the final solution in Darfur.” This was the government admitting they were embarking on a genocidal policy in Darfur. So I said OK, I need to discuss this with policy-makers. I got briefings in London and New York, where I saw satellite images confirming everything we suspected. I said, “You know more than I do — why are you not doing anything?” They said, “It’s not a good time. Get humanitarian aid in — concentrate on that.” I said, “Are you kidding? They are talking about final solutions, we need a political process here.”

It’s really an incredible piece, well worth reading in its entirety, Darfur after 10 years: ‘My job is not done’, says Mukesh Kapila.

As a genocide continues into the long-term, does the reconciliation effort have to wait for peace to begin? Or does it need to begin in order for peace to occur? Read more of this post

What does a small child have to do to survive in South Kordofan, Sudan?

Children in Kauda, South Kordofan, Sudan, shelter from a passing Antonov, 2012. Photograph: Peter Moszynski

Hi everyone,

What does a small child have to do to survive in South Kordofan, Sudan?  This photo says it all.  How can we possibly even begin to imagine what it is really like for them to be in this horrific situation?  The accompanying question is, why do we continue to do so little to help them?

An eerie silence suddenly descends upon Kauda’s market as people scan the skies for the source of the distant yet all-too-familiar throb of Soviet-manufactured plane engines.

“Antonov!” the cry goes out, and people scatter, diving into the nearest hole or scrambling for cover wherever they can. After a few minutes the engines fade and people get up, dust themselves off and attempt to get on with what passes for normality for the beleaguered inhabitants of Sudan‘s Nuba mountains.

“Women and children usually constitute the largest number of casualties from these bombing raids,” says Ahmed Kafi, local co-ordinator for one of the few international NGOs that still maintains a presence on the ground. “Most of the men and older children learned long ago to take cover when they hear an Antonov approaching, but the younger ones often run in panic and there is nothing in the world that can prevent a mother from chasing after her children.”

From “World again turns blind eye to people of Sudan’s Nuba mountains,” by Peter Moszynski

Then this morning’s news:  Two Antonovs dropped 28 bombs in the town of Kauda in South Kordofan.  Amazingly, no one was reported as having been killed.  A few days ago in the village of Eieri a family of five was not as lucky.  They were killed.

Here is one little helpful thing you can do.  Ask the UNSC, AU and US to Provide Civilian Protection in Sudan. To sign the petition, click here.

Thank you.

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005

Protests in Sudan: death, disappearance, and the dread of not knowing

Students demonstrate in Sudan

Students demonstrate outside the Ministry of Justice, over the deaths of four students from war-torn western region of Darfur in Gezira state, at Khartoum. ((Reuters) (December 9, 2012)

Hi everyone,

A few months ago, protests in Darfur got personal for me.  As the reports of government forces using live fire on demonstrators and mass numbers detained, one of my Facebook friends, living in South Darfur, suddenly didn’t have a profile on line anymore.  With no response to my email query to him to find out if he was okay, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of dread and helplessness.

There were myriad explanations and I knew he might be just fine.  Yet, just in case, I reviewed, and reviewed again, the names of those who had been killed.  I was relieved to not see his name listed, but that was the extent of info I had access to.  He re-surfaced after a few silent weeks and told me he had indeed been detained for five days.  He said it was the Government of Sudan that had taken down his Facebook profile and this of course had been my fear.  His communications had an undertow of lack of safety far more than what I had ever heard from him before.  It took a while, but he eventually managed to get out of the country and I continue to live with fingers crossed for his safety.  Silence in between emails can feel very long.

For many years I have heard stories of those who have been “disappeared” in many different countries of the world.  This was my first personal experience of realizing that I might have a friend who so-to-speak “disappeared”, leaving me in the uncertainty of not knowing what had happened, and not knowing if it involved yet another act by a malevolent, genocidal government.

Fortunately, my friend was released, able to communicate, and leave the country.  Yet, the brief silence left a deeply embedded experience of what it is like when you just don’t know.  For some, over the course of a lifetime, they never get to know what happened to those they love.  If ever there was an act of cruelty to inflict torment without direct contact, leaving family members to just not know anything has to rank very high on the list of most extreme cruelties human beings can do to one another.

With that as background, protests continue in Sudan and in many of them, those from Darfur continue to be targets.  Some protestors were killed;  some disappeared.  And somewhere others sit wringing there hands, feeling a sense of dread and helplessness, not knowing what happened to their loved ones.

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005

You don’t give hair extensions to people in a war zone… or do you?

Do we need to change how we think about what refugees need and what qualifies as legitimate humanitarian aid?  IRIN recently featured, SECURITY: New report on R2P challenges humanitarians.  Ironically, civilians successfully fleeing conflict on their own is often the best means of civilian protection available.

The report also indicates that sometimes the requests for assistance are not what one would expect.  After escaping near death, refugees often wanted “non-necessity” items to preserve ceremonies and traditions.  Guitar strings, bead and hair extensions were deemed important for wedding celebrations, music and dancing.  After losing the home they knew, it makes sense that it is genuinely important to be able to preserve that which is familiar, life-affirming, and solidifies a sense of belonging and community in their displaced location.

Screening of “In My Country” on Saturday, December 3

Hi everyone,

Last June, a few of you were at my house for a screening of “In My Country”.  This film is based on the true life accounts of journalists covering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa.  One reason I have always liked the film is that it does a great job of illustrating what Ubuntu really means.

Among those in attendance that night were, Isaac, Wai and Simon, friends from the Sudanese-American community living in San Diego.  Also with us that evening, Awichu, a new friend originally from Uganda.  As I looked around the room that night, I realized there were only a couple of us that had been born in the U.S.  With life stories based in many different countries, the conversation after the film that night spontaneously took on some of the toughest issues we face in this life:

  • What does it take to heal?
  • How do we manage to genuinely forgive?
  • Is reconciliation always possible?
  • How do those themes get applied when entire countries have been torn apart for decades?

After the great experience of exploring “Ubuntu” together, it was Simon that was the first to suggest we screen the film for their community down in San Diego. We are going to do that on Saturday, December 3rd, and we would really like for you to come join us that night.  All details are below and on the website.


Barbara English
Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005


Screening of “In My Country”

Screening of "In My Country"

What does it take to heal deep wounds and get to genuine peace and reconciliation?

Watch the trailer »

South Africa 1996.  The government has established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate abuses of human rights during the Apartheid regime.  These hearings serve as a forum for those accused of murder and torture to be confronted by their victims…

Saturday, December 3
4p Potluck
5p Screening and discussion

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
3725 30th St.
San Diego, CA

Join us for an evening of food, conversation and contemplation.
We will have homemade Sudanese food at the potluck. Feel free to bring a dish :)

For more information, visit

Any questions? Please contact us at info@livingubuntu.org or (949) 891-2005.

“A beautiful and important film about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It will engage and influence not only South Africans, but people all over the world concerned with the great questions of human reconciliation, forgiveness, and tolerance.”
– Nelson Mandela

* * *

South Sudan Independence Celebration this Sunday, July 10th

Hi everyone,

South Sudan Independence Celebration in San Diego this Sunday, July 10th. Click for more details.

A mere five days after our own 4th of July celebration of Independence Day in the U.S., the world’s newest country will arrive.  This Saturday, July 9th, South Sudan will officially be a new, independent nation.  To mark this historic occasion, the Sudanese community in San Diego is planning a massive celebration this Sunday, July 10th.

Here are the details:

South Sudan Independence Celebration: FREE!!
Sunday, July 10th
1:00p – 8:00p

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
3725 30th Street, San Diego, CA

Program includes: Music, traditional Sudanese dances, speeches from community leaders, performances by the Sudanese youth, home-cooked Sudanese food and more… Over 400+ people are expected at this event.  Click here for more information.

Independence comes with a mixture of sentiments.  Cause for celebration is inter-mingled with knowing that these remain times of tragic suffering and great uncertainty for many in various parts of Sudan. This weekend we come together in support of the Sudanese people and hold hope for peace and healing.  One way to demonstrate that support is to attend one or more of the events (see below) they have planned in San Diego.  We hope you will join us at the festivities this weekend.

Unfortunately, we’re double-booked on Sunday and will be the late-arrivers in San Diego after our Summer Body Group: Finding Your ‘No’ in the afternoon.  There are a few from Orange County who will be driving down for the celebration.  If you’d like to carpool, please get in touch with us. 

Hope you can make it.

Barbara & Anshul
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005
| blog | facebook

PS:  We are extremely grateful to GI-Net / Save Darfur for their support of this event.  Thank you :)


Friday July 8, South Sudan Independence Live Broadcast
9p-12a.  Sudanese American Youth Center in San Diego
Click here for more info »

Saturday July 9, South Sudan Independence Day Party
9p-2a.  World Beat Center, San Diego, CA
Come and enjoy the Biggest African Party of the Year and lets kick off the summer with an event that screams Africa, at the one and only World Beat Center.  Find out more »

Sunday July 10th, South Sudan Independence Day Celebration: FREE!
1p-8p.  St Luke’s Episcopal Church, San Diego, CA
The Sudanese Community would like to invite you to this family-friendly event to celebrate the new South Sudan’s Republic.  Click here for more info »

* * *