Hope Remains at IDP Camp’s Obama School

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Camp Djabal - Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

After Barack Obama was elected US president in November, School No. 1 at the Djabal refugee camp in Chad was renamed the Obama School.

NY Times writer and Darfur advocate Nicholas Kristof recently visited Djabal, home to thousands who have fled the genocide in Sudan.

Regarding the Obama School, Kristof writes –

It’s a pathetic building of mud bricks with a tin roof, and the windows are holes in the wall, but it’s caulked with hope that Obama may help end the long slaughter and instability in Sudan.

Is there reason for the residents of Djabal to be hopeful?

Kristof thinks so.

This Wednesday, the International Criminal Court will release its decision on issuing an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. There is talk that top Sudanese officials may oust Bashir if a warrant is issued.

Additionally, several current US leaders back the Darfur cause, including President Barack Obama, VP Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice. The Obama administration plans to conduct a review of the policy on Darfur led by human rights defender Samantha Power.

I agree with Kristof. Hope is not lost. Not for those living in Djabal. Not for the refugees in other Darfur IDP camps. And not for the millions around the world who refuse to turn a blind eye to the extermination of a people.

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Another Busy Day

The Darfur front is once again ripe with breaking news –

Actor George Clooney met with US President Barack Obama on Monday to discuss the Darfur crisis. Clooney brought with him 250,000 postcards collected by Save Darfur signed by people from across the nation. Vice President Joe Biden was also present for the discussion.

After the meeting, Clooney announced that President Obama intends to appoint a special envoy to Sudan. Contenders for the position include Africa expert and humanitarian John Prendergast and former diplomat to Sudan Roger Winter.

Two workers from a French aid group were shot and killed in South Darfur by gunmen riding camels and horses. Reports state that the workers stumbled upon a robbery in progress and may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sarah Palin on Darfur

Last week, Governor Sarah Palin finally expressed an opinion on Darfur. At the Vice-Presidential debate, she pretty much agreed with Joe Biden on the US response to the genocide in Darfur.

Watch it below. (double click on video for full screen)

Sarah Palin: But as for as Darfur, we can agree on that also, the supported of the no-fly zone, making sure that all options are on the table there also.

America is in a position to help. What I’ve done in my position to help, as the governor of a state that’s pretty rich in natural resources, we have a $40 billion investment fund, a savings fund called the Alaska Permanent Fund.

When I and others in the legislature found out we had some millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through legislation of those dollars to make sure we weren’t doing anything that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur. That legislation hasn’t passed yet but it needs to because all of us, as individuals, and as humanitarians and as elected officials should do all we can to end those atrocities in that region of the world.

I’m glad Gov. Palin is supportive of Divestment from Sudan now. Apparently that wasn’t always the case.

After the debate, ABC News reported that “Palin’s administration openly opposed the bill, and stated its opposition in a public hearing on the measure.”

“The legislation is well-intended, and the desire to make a difference is noble, but mixing moral and political agendas at the expense of our citizens’ financial security is not a good combination,” testified Brian Andrews, Palin’s deputy revenue commissioner, before a hearing on the Gara-Lynn Sudan divestment bill in February.

Gara says the lack of support from Palin’s administration helped kill the measure.

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Read the ABC news story refuting Palin’s Sudan claim.

Watch the entire debate on CNN.

Joe Biden – A Champion for Darfur

I was excited to hear that Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate. Biden has been a great advocate to end the genocide in Darfur. He is one of the few members of the Senate who has actually been to Darfur. According to darfurscores.org, he was “instrumental in passing the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act in 2006.”

This past April, he chaired a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on “The continuing crisis in Darfur.” Below is his opening statement.

For five years, the people of Darfur have suffered death, deprivation and destruction. Government forces, janjaweed militia, and rebel groups have all preyed upon civilians and the aid workers trying to help them. When the United Nations finally assumed joint control of the peacekeeping mission, hopes rose that it would make a real difference to the people of Darfur. Those hopes have not yet been fulfilled. I truly want to know: why not and what will we do to change this?

DarfurScores.org gives him an A+ on Darfur. For those curious, Obama too gets an A+. John McCain on the other hand gets a C.

Look up the Darfur score of your legislator.

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UPDATE: Michael Crowley at The New Republic has a source that told him that Biden, after ending his primary campaign “vowed that he would use his Senate Foreign Relations Committee perch to hound a president Clinton or Obama into real action on Darfur.”

This is very encouraging. I’m really pleased with the Democratic ticket this year. We need this kind of leadership in the world to live up to “never again”. I wonder who John McCain will pick as his running mate…