Mass Atrocity Crimes Watch List

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Genocide Prevention Project, sponsor of April 2009 Genocide Prevention Month, published a Mass Atrocity Crimes Watch List for 2008 – 2009.

The list identifies countries of high concern based on factors such as exclusionary ideology, discrimination, and presence of refugees and internally displaced persons.

The number of countries included on the list?

5? 10? 15?

How about 33!

The crimes occurring in some countries on the list have escalated to genocide (Sudan for example). One can only hope that a similar fate does not await the others.

1,600 Walk for Darfur

Today, Peggy, my dad, and I, along with 1,600 other people, walked 4 miles at Mission Bay in San Diego to raise money and awareness about the Darfur genocide.

At the end of the day, $70,000 was collected for American Jewish World Service and its projects which benefit Darfur’s IDP camps. Speakers at a rally following the walk included a rabbi, Miss South Sudan, South Sudanese refugees, and many more.

It was a very inspirational day. So uplifting to see so many people out there, not to mention so many people from different walks of life.

Something said today truly touched me. The first San Diego Walk for Darfur was held two years ago. The organizers of the event never imagined that a second San Diego Walk for Darfur would be necessary. They simply figured that the atrocities could not possibly go on for that long.

Well, the second San Diego Walk for Darfur has come and gone. Let’s do what we can to ensure that a third San Diego Walk for Darfur does not become a reality.

Bringing Smiles to Congo’s Children

A group of performing clowns (creatively named Clowns Without Borders) plans to tour displacement camps in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Children make up more than 50% of the population of camps in eastern DRC. A spokesperson for Clowns Without Borders believes that the clowns may help the camps’ children “overcome their trauma”.

The group previously performed in Syria and Yugoslavia, where their smile-producing initiative was a success.

Arson Attack at IDP Camp

While Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir taunted the ICC by traveling to Egypt, arsonists started a fire at an IDP camp in West Darfur – killing at least two people and destroying 600 shelters.

Reports have emerged that describe the arsonists as armed men, some in uniform, who entered the camp during the middle of the night.

The fire, fueled by strong winds, damaged a quarter of the camp – home to 6,000 people.

JEM rebels blame state-backed militias for the fire –

This is part of a government campaign to clear people out of the camps.

The fire is currently under control.

IDP Camp Rejects Aid

The Kalma IDP camp in Southern Darfur plans to turn away aid from international and national organizations until foreign humanitarian groups are allowed to return to the country.

Kalma’s chief sheik explains the reasoning behind the camp’s decision –

We want the international aid groups back…if we allow them to distribute the food, then the government will be able to say to the world that everything is OK in Kalma.

It is quite obvious that everything is not OK in Kalma.

The camp’s water pumps are not working due to a lack of fuel, forcing residents to turn to a polluted nearby river instead. Additionally, several of the camp’s health clinics have closed their doors.

And if that is not enough, a meningitis outbreak is wreaking havoc on the camp. Doctors Without Borders was just about to vaccinate 100,000 people in Darfur against meningitis when it was kicked out of Sudan by government order. The chances of the vaccination campaign continuing despite the absence of the aid organization are slim.

Although numbers have yet to be confirmed, reports from the Kalma camp document 85 cases of meningitis, including several deaths – just in the past two weeks.

“The King is Naked”

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has again asserted that he received “zero” information from humanitarian groups in Darfur.

He also dismissed the idea that the issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir directly caused the subsequent expulsion of aid organizations –

It is very interesting, the prosecutor is responsible not the criminal? The king is naked. It is not my responsibility that he is naked.

The devastating effects of aid groups being kicked out are beginning to come to fruition. One Darfur IDP camp is expected to experience a severe water shortage. The camp, designed to hold only 30,000 people, is currently home to 80,000.

ReliefWeb has released a great diagram showing the extent that various humanitarian assistance projects in Sudan are affected by the aid group expulsion – including water and sanitation, food security, health and nutrition, and shelter. Affected beneficiaries amount to as high as 1.5 million.

South Sudan Preparing for Darfur Refugees?

Photography Courtesy of Stop Genocide Now

Photograph Courtesy of Stop Genocide Now

With critical aid groups expelled from Darfur, many believe that it is only a matter of time before refugees head south.

The UN and the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) are preparing for a possible mass influx of Darfur internally displaced persons seeking food, water, shelter, and other assistance.

Problem is, South Sudan has issues of its own. Already, thousands of DRC refugees call South Sudan home after fleeing their country due to attacks by the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army.

Simple logic – when the number of humanitarian groups present decreases, the amount of aid decreases. Yet the number of people in need of support continues to grow.