How Much More Will It Take?

Women gather at a dried-up water-point in Jamam, South Sudan (AFP/Hannah Mcneish)

Women gather at a dried-up water-point in Jamam, South Sudan (AFP/Hannah Mcneish)

SUDAN & SOUTH SUDAN

“They attacked us for three days, from Tuesday until Thursday evening. They burned down five villages, looted more than 20 and destroyed water wells and pumps” displaced witness from North Darfur said to Radio Dabanga.

More than 7,000 people have fled their homes in North Darfur after government forces and militants reportedly burned down their villages last week. In an area in the center of the Darfur region, Jebel Marra, the Sudanese army has continuously been bombing the villages of Nari, Jerri, Sinjo, Amra Rashid, Kaya, Fatah and Amar Jadid. This has forced more than 30,000 to flee to nearby areas, trying to find shelter in the harsh mountainous terrain where there is no water.

In addition, fighting along the border between the two nations, and aerial bombardment by the Sudanese Armed Forces into the territory of South Sudan have intensified. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon pleaded with Sudan and South Sudan on Wednesday to withdraw troops from the disputed Abyei region amid. Sudanese fleeing from Abyei, are now nearly destitute after missing harvests and exhausting the scant resources of local communities in the newly-independent, impoverished south.

There is some hopeful news. President Obama on Tuesday provided $26 million to tackle the urgent and developing refugee crisis brought on by violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

“We continue to call upon the government of Sudan to allow full and unfettered access for international humanitarian agencies to South Kordofan and Blue Nile to provide emergency assistance to those in need.” President Obama

The situation is ongoing though and extremely dire, there are 30,000 refugees stranded just in the dusty border town of Yida, between Sudan and South Sudan. How many more lives on the line, how many more pictures of wounded, starving children need to be viewed, how many more devastating and heartbreaking stories are going to be published before there is an end to the humanitarian crisis?

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

“We are very concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in South Kivu, especially in the northern part of the province, in Shabunda, Walungu and Kalehe territories,” Laetitia Courtois, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sub-delegation in Bukavu.

The fighting is intensifying in the DRC and the civilian population is suffering and paying the highest price. The ICRC has evacuated 53 civilian field casualties, including 18 children, from areas in which fighting was taking place and arranged for them to be treated in hospitals in Bukavu. Tens of thousands of people recently fled their homes in North Kivu Province, following attacks by armed groups and ensuing military operations by the national army. At the end of March, a large proportion of the population in the outskirts of Beni, North Kivu, fled their homes following the killing, raping and looting of villagers by armed men. UNHCR reported 33 attacks in north-eastern DRC.

Regrettably, the unstable security environment is just the beginning.  If civilians aren’t killed by armed groups, they die from limited access to health care.

“For the wounded, the ability to obtain care quickly often makes the difference between life and death.” – Courtois.

How do we stop so many gruesome civilian casualities? One man living in Congo, is taking matters into his own hands. Freddy Mwenengabo has gone on a hunger strike since March 4 to urge the Canadian government to address the human rights issues in Congo. He said he is willing to die for the cause because it will be one more death added to the millions who have already died. This is a drastic plea for change but the media and government have taken notice. It makes me wonder, do we have starve ourselves, see celebrities get arrested, and go to great lengths just to grab enough attention to push for change?

BURMA

Aung San Suu Kyi wins the elections (BBC News)

Aung San Suu Kyi wins the elections (BBC News)

Sunday wasn’t just April Fool’s Day but a historic day for Burma’s democracy as it held elections after decades. Although official results have yet to be released, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to victory in a milestone by-election.

The US has declared that it is ready to relax sanctions on Burma, easing a ban on American companies investing in or offering financial services to the country.

“This election is an important step in Burma’s democratic transformation, and we hope it is an indication that the government of Burma intends to continue along the path of greater openness, transparency and reform,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said the US was ready to allow private US aid groups to pursue non-profit activities on projects such as democracy building, health and education, and to give select Burmese officials and politicians permission to visit the US. Washington wants Burma to free all political prisoners, lift restrictions on those who have already been released, seek national reconciliation, and to end military ties to North Korea. I cannot help to think that the ease of sanctions is either a blessing or curse. Just because Burma is on the road to democracy, doesn’t mean the West can push for its demands on how the country should be run.  It is not easy to build a new country after half a century of authoritarian rule, and we should monitor Burma’s developments and embrace progress without overstepping our ‘big brother’ role.

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Urgent Time to Act

A child in a North Darfur refugee camp (radiodabanga)

SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN

“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)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

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.

BURMA

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.

Good books and films about mass atrocities in Sudan

Sudanese human skulls on display Mukjar, Sudan.

Sudanese human skulls on display Mukjar, Sudan.

April was Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. In honor of this, we compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the regions where we focus our awareness and advocacy efforts on an ongoing basis.  We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.

In April we featured books and films associated with the genocides that have commemorative dates in April.  In May, the regions of our present day efforts are the focus.  A previous post was specific to books and films about the Darfur genocide and the list below is more inclusive (e.g. Darfur, South Sudan, Sudan).  This is the ninth post in this series, mass atrocities in Sudan.

Recommended Books:

A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide, by Eric Reeves
The Khartoum regime is committing genocide in Darfur while the international community watches in silence or with mere hand-wringing.  Action is essential now if we are not to see a further extension of the international failures so conspicuous in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Emma’s War, by Deborah Scroggins
Young British relief worker Emma McCune came to Sudan determined to make a difference in a country decimated by the longest-running civil war in Africa.  She became a near legend in the bullet-scarred, famine-ridden country, but her eventual marriage to the rebel commander Riek Machar made international headlines—and spelled disastrous consequences for her ideals.

Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide, by Rebecca Hamilton *favorite
This is the story of the individuals who organized protest marches, lobbied government officials, and raised funds in the belief that the outcry they created would force world powers to save the millions of Darfurians still at risk.

Heart of Darfur, by Lisa French Blaker
An experienced nurse with Doctors without Borders, the author was posted to Darfur in 2005 for nine months to “provide assistance to populations in distress”.  In Darfur she found plenty.  She worked not only under harsh physical conditions, but also the deliberate brutality and malice of the janjaweed and Sudanese government soldiers.

Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast
Don Cheadle teamed with human rights activist Prendergast to plead for greater awareness of the horrors of genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and issue a call to action.

Read more of this post

Good books and films about the Darfur Genocide

© Finbarr O'Reilly

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.  In honor of this, we have compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the areas that we cover.

We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.  This is our fourth entry, the Darfur Genocide.

Recommended Books:

A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide, by Eric Reeves
The Khartoum regime is committing genocide in Darfur while the international community watches in silence or with mere hand-wringing.  Action is essential now if we are not to see a further extension of the international failures so conspicuous in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide, by Rebecca Hamilton *favorite
This is the story of the individuals who organized protest marches, lobbied government officials, and raised funds in the belief that the outcry they created would force world powers to save the millions of Darfuris still at risk.

Heart of Darfur, by Lisa French Blaker
An experienced nurse with Doctors without Borders, the author was posted to Darfur in 2005 for nine months to “provide assistance to populations in distress”. In Darfur she found plenty. She worked not only under harsh physical conditions, but also the deliberate brutality and malice of the janjaweed and Sudanese government soldiers.

Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast
Don Cheadle teamed with human rights activist Prendergast to plead for greater awareness of the horrors of genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and issue a call to action.

Sudan: Darfur and the Failure of an African State, by Richard Cockett
The author provides an account of Sudan’s descent into failure, looking at all of Sudan’s numerous internal wars and rebellions since independence and showing how they are interconnected and looking at the country’s complex relationship with the wider world.

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur, by Halima Bashir w/ Damien Lewis *favorite
Bashir, a refugee living in London, offers a vivid personal portrait of life in the Darfur region of Sudan before the catastrophe.  She anticipated a bright future after medical school, but tensions between Sudan’s Arab-dominated Islamist dictatorship and black African communities’ tribe finally exploded into conflict.

The Translator: A Tribeman’s Memoir of Darfur,  by Daoud Hari
The Translator is a suspenseful, harrowing, and deeply moving memoir of how one person has made a difference in the world–an on-the-ground account of one of the biggest stories of our time.  Daoud Hari has helped inform the world about Darfur.

Recommended Films:

Darfur Diaries
In October, 2004, three activists snuck across the Sudanese border into rebel-held territory to document the atrocities in Darfur.  They returned with some of the first footage exposing the massive war crimes being perpetrated by the Sudanese government

Darfur Now
Theodore Braun’s absorbing documentary about the atrocities in Darfur, the westernmost region of Sudan, Don Cheadle poses a fundamental question facing moviegoers attending a film about African strife: How do you respond to an event as difficult to understand as a government-sponsored mass murder of part of a country’s civilian population?

On Our Watch *favorite
Three years of fighting in Darfur have destroyed hundreds of villages, displaced 2.2 million and led to more than 400,000 deaths.  President Bush has accused the government of Sudan of genocide, but the U.S. has taken few concrete actions to stop the fighting.  This Frontline documentary tells the story of those who have lost their loved ones to this war, those who are fighting to survive and those who are working to bring peace to the region.

Sand and Sorrow *favorite
Offered exclusive and unparalleled access to the situation on the ground inside Darfur, Peabody award-winning filmmaker, Paul Freedman, joins a contingent of African Union peacekeeping forces in Darfur while a tragic and disturbing chapter in human history unfolds.

The Devil Came On Horseback *favorite
A documentary that exposes the genocide raging in Darfur, Sudan as seen through the eyes of a former U.S. marine who returns home to make the story public.

Background on the Darfur Genocide: Since 2003, the genocidal conflict in Darfur has devastated millions of non-combatant civilians and resulted in the death of at least 200,000 people. As of 2010, Sudan continues to direct its troops and proxy Janjaweed militias to systematically destroy the livelihoods of Darfuris by bombing and burning villages, looting economic resources, and murdering, raping, and torturing non-combatant civilians. A proliferation of rebel groups in Darfur is also complicit in the recruitment of child soldiers and the commission of other acts of violence against civilians.  The Darfur conflict has displaced over 2.7 million people within Sudan, with an additional 250,000 crossing the border into Chad. The actions of the Sudanese government, particularly the expulsion of 13 international aid groups in March 2009, continue to affect those who have sought safety in towns and displaced persons camps.

– From GI-Net / Save Darfur Coalition (link)

Compiled by Paulina Robles and Barbara English of Orange County for Darfur and Martina Knee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month

Photograph by Rev. Wilfredo Benitez for Orange County for Darfur

April 2011 is the first official Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month in the State of California. In April 2010, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 144 proclaiming April of each year Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.

In honor of this, we compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the areas that we cover.  Below we have included links to all of our Resource List entries.  We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.

Good books and films about the Bosnian Genocide
Good books and films about the Rwandan Genocide
Good books and films about the Cambodian Genocide
Good books and films about the Darfur Genocide
Good books and films about the Armenian Genocide
Good books and films about The Holocaust
Good books and films about mass atrocities in Burma

Good books and films about mass atrocities in Congo
Good books and films about mass atrocities in Sudan
Good books and films about Genocide

Compiled by Paulina Robles and Barbara English of Orange County for Darfur and Martina Knee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.

Southern Sudan Acquires Helicopters

I’m not sure this is a good development.

South Sudan, which is on the verge of independence, now has 10 helicopters and the beginning of an air force, the southern army spokesman said Friday. The spokesman, Philip Aguer, did not say where the helicopters were from, but said they were transport helicopters that could be used as gunships. He said the south would not use them to antagonize the north, which has vastly superior air power.

via Sudan – South Acquires Helicopters – NYTimes.com.

“On Our Watch” screening on Saturday, Feb 12th

Hi everyone,

Our Veggie Grill Fundraiser is this Sunday, January 30th. Click for more details.

Did you see the recent article: Sudan urges U.S. to look beyond Darfur, restore ties? It’s not surprising that Khartoum might think this is a good idea, but given that genocide by attrition continues in Darfur, and violence is once again escalating in the region, why is our government rapidly heading toward normalization of relations with Sudan?

Recently, much of the international focus has been on the landmark elections in Sudan. It is pretty clear that Southern Sudan has chosen to secede.  Meanwhile, focus on Darfur seems to have disappeared.

On Saturday February 12, we will be screening the incredibly powerful Frontline documentary, “On Our Watch”. We hate to think that a film made about genocide in Darfur back in 2007 is still timely and relevant for us to be screening in 2011, but it is. Much has happened in Darfur over the past few years, yet “On Our Watch” remains one of the most informative, disturbing, and compelling films elucidating the roots of the conflict and the international failure to adequately respond.   Please join us for this event. The act of bearing witness is an essential one.  All details are below.

We will be collecting some basic household supplies much needed by Sudanese families that have recently arrived in the San Diego area. A complete list of what is most needed is on our website. It would be great if you could help out by bringing something with you when you come to see the film.

Thank you.

Barbara & Anshul
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
ocfordarfur.org | blog | facebook

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Screening of “On Our Watch”
Darfur: Genocide in the 21st Century

Screening of "On Our Watch"

“If you have a security council [that] cannot deal with these issues, then we have to ask ourselves, what is the purpose of the Security Council?”
– Mukesh Kapila, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan 2003-2004.


Saturday, February 12th
6:45p refreshments
7:00p screening & discussion

Mesa Verde United Methodist Church
1701 Baker St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Cost:
Free

The world vowed “never again” after the genocide in Rwanda and the atrocities in Srebrenica, Bosnia.  Then came Darfur.  Over the past seven years, more than 300,000 people have been killed, 2.5 million driven from their homes, and mass rapes have been used as a weapon in a brutal campaign supported by the Sudanese government against civilians in Darfur.

Why are we as a world so helpless in the face of genocide?

Visit http://livingubuntu.org/events for more information. Please help us in planning for the event and RSVP on the website.

Partners include:
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
Mesa Verde United Methodist Church
Citizens for Global Solutions, South Orange County
Amnesty International, Irvine
Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange
IUCC Advocates for Peace and Justice
St. Anselm of Cantebury Episcopal Church

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