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What if a genocide indictment would lead to another genocide?

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darfur refugee

The Sudanese president Al-Bashir got indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country’s western Darfur region. By now, everyone knows.

The international community, and the aid organisations working inside Sudan were weary of upcoming indictment since months.

Now the Sword of Damocles has fallen, they are dealing with the consequences: Sudan accused aid agencies of passing on information to the ICC and first expelled 10 NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations), followed by another three.

The impact goes beyond the expelled Darfur-based aid agencies themselves and their relief programmes. Many of these NGOs are implementing partners of other -often larger organisations-, who themselves were not expelled.

Concretely, this means that for non-expelled organisations, providing aid relief in Darfur will become even more challenging than it already was, with the security problems and logistical problems. More challenging, if not impossible for what is the largest humanitarian operation in the world.

So no wonder the aidworkers’ blogosphere has been abuzz today on the ICC indictment and its consequences for the humanitarian relief efforts in Darfur. Check what Michael, Harry, Thirsty Palmetto, Paul, Scott, Peter and Rob have to say. (and check AidBlogs for more).

Add to that, what Rob Crilly, a reporter currently in Darfur, wrote on his blog a few days ago:

Today I met families who fled the fighting in Muhajiriya (..) One of them was Mariam Ahmed Abu. (..) She had survived six years of war but left when she realised she no longer had any children left to care for her. (..)

She hadn’t heard of the ICC until I asked her about it and I’m starting to think that taking Bashir to the Hague will be more of a victory for activists far away from Sudan than for the people stuck in this miserable war.

All of that combined makes me think in how far the ICC indictment by itself will not cause a new genocide. Not one executed by AK47s and bombs dropped from helicopters, but a hidden genocide caused simply by blocking aid to flow to Darfur… Would we then have killed in the name of justice? Murdered those we should have protected?

More on The Road about Darfur and Sudan.

By the way, if you have a high bandwidth Internet connection, you can watch “Darfur now”, the movie online, right here on the The Road.

Picture courtesy

Written by Peter

March 5th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Soapbox

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Sudan – From the 1994 famine to five years of Darfur. What is the solution?

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This photo by Kevin Carter won the “Pulitzer Prize” in 1994 and became a symbol of the Sudan famine at the time. The picture depicts stricken girl crawling towards an United Nations camp, located a kilometer away. The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat her.
This picture shocked the whole world. No one -including the photographer- knows what happened to the child.

Here is the story behind the picture:

In 1993 Carter headed north of the border with [his colleague] Silva to photograph the rebel movement in famine-stricken Sudan. To make the trip, Carter had taken a leave from the Weekly Mail and borrowed money for the air fare. Immediately after their plane ) touched down in the village of Ayod, Carter began snapping photos of famine victims. Seeking relief from the sight of masses of people starving to death, he wandered into the open bush. He heard a soft, high-pitched whimpering and saw a tiny girl trying to make her way to the feeding center. As he crouched to photograph her, a vulture landed in view. Careful not to disturb the bird, he positioned himself for the best possible image. He would later say he waited about 20 minutes, hoping the vulture would spread its wings. It did not, and after he took his photographs, he chased the bird away and watched as the little girl resumed her struggle. Afterward he sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God and cried. “He was depressed afterward,” Silva recalls. “He kept saying he wanted to hug his daughter.” (Full story)

Three months later Kevin Carter committed suicide.

This was Sudan in 1994. We are now 2008. Five years into Sudan’s Darfur conflict. The humanitarian situation is just as desperate. Maybe with less famine, but with just as much despair, as I wrote in several posts about Darfur over the past year.

Many, including celebrities like George Clooney (watch his video diary), Mia Farrow (Pictures and video), Angelina Jolie (Articles), Steven Spielberg (Article) and others have done efforts to raise the awareness over the problems in Darfur.

There are groupings like the “Save Darfur Coalition”, an alliance of over 180 advocacy and humanitarian organizations representing 130 million people, and the Darfur Genocide movement. Amesty International created Eyes on Darfur.

Numerous fundraising websites (like The Darfur Wall), campaigning, video advocacy and education , awareness sites and Online Info Centers were created.

Musicians made songs like Living Darfur. And there is even a game (Darfur is Dying) created to advocate the Darfur issues.

Public pressure was raised against the countries in alliance with the Sudan government, focusing lately on China and its hosting of the Olympics.

Athletes, normal citizens, students, food lovers and bloggers on a global and a local level united to raise awareness and increase pressure on the Sudanese government.

You can buy items online through Yahoo! to show your support and you can even see how each US legislator scores on his or her support for Darfur.

Many governments responded with pressure on Sudan and several UN resolutions condemned the Darfur genocide (Overview).

The African Union sent troops, and UN Peacekeepers were deployed, eventually merging into one, called UNAMID.

And still, despite all of this, peace talks have failed to get off the ground, the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission will not be fully deployed for months to come, and two-thirds of Darfur’s population is dependent on the world’s largest aid operation.

“The situation is not better than it was five years ago,” says Auriol Miller, head of Oxfam in Sudan. “We would still say the situation is getting worse. Humanitarian workers are being targeted and attacked (see this post) in a way that has got increasingly worse over the last few years.”

A BBC reporter recently wrote:

“When I last visited the remote, arid region in November, destitute refugees lined up at the Abu Shouk camp, desperate to tell their stories so the world could find out what had happened to them.

They spoke of toddlers being burnt alive in villages as men on horseback razed their houses to the ground; of women being raped as they fled their homes looking for safety in the early stages of the conflict.

At night, people said they still found it hard to sleep – terrified of being killed while in their beds. (Full)

So, if everything else fails, what helps? What is the solution for Darfur? What is the solution for Sudan?

Darfur refugees

More posts on The Road, about Darfur and Sudan.

Pictures courtesy and WFP.
What set me thinking: Iqbal Latif

Written by Peter

April 14th, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Articles

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Sometimes I Am Ashamed to Work for the UN.

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UNinvolved - From Die Burger; Advertising Agency: FCB Cape Town; South Africa; Creative Director: Francois de Villiers; Art Director: Anthony de Klerk; Copywriter: Marius van Rensburg; Photographer: Chad Henning

I am pissed off. Two articles were published in the last days that make me ashamed to work for the UN.

Before we start, let me make something clear: The “UN” is one “brand” consisting of several parts which have completely different goals, operational practices and funding mechanisms. In fear of over-simplifying, I would distinguish three main parts in the UN:

  1. “The Political Side”, UN secretariat in New York and UN security council, are probably the UN’s most visible side. In this large forum “where world issues are debated and decided upon”, every nation has its vote and voice. The critics would say “all equal, but some have a bigger vote and a louder voice than others”.
    This side of the UN is funded through direct contributions by the UN member countries, and as such by the taxes citizens like you and me pay.
  2. “The Peace Keeping Side”, codenamed “UNDPKO”, are the famous blue helmet-ed forces we see on TV. Stationed in conflict zones like Sudan, Eritrea, DRC etc… they often work hand in hand with the UN Department of Political Affairs in enforcing political and military stability in (potential) conflict zones. Just as “the Political Side”, the “Peace Keeping Side” is funded by the UN members. Once again, your tax dollar “at work” (well.. “not at work” would sometimes be more appropriate).
  3. “The UN Humanitarians” are not one organisation, but a few hundred organisations. Well-known names in this branch are UNICEF, WHO, WFP, UNHCR, UNDP etc… Most of these organisations are “voluntary” funded. This means they do not receive annual funding from the UN headquarters, but they launch appeals for each of their projects, be it in the development or emergency relief sector.

The “voluntary funding” scheme the humanitarian organisations work under, is somewhat an insurance those organisations are “kept on their toes”. If you screw up a project well enough, donors will be less eager to fund your projects next time. The “humanitarian market” (as I like to call it), is a competitive market. The need for funding exceeds the “capacity of the world to donate”. So “competition” keeps the humanitarian organisations somewhat in line. “Somewhat”, is the right term though, but we will expand on this another time.

Now, what pisses me off on a regular basis, is that the “UN number 2″ from above, the “Peace Keeping Side”, often gets involved in all kinds of bad press.
You still remember the reports about UN peacekeepers unable to prevent the Rwanda genocide? Or the Srebrenica massacres where the Dutch UN peace keepers “stood by”. There were many reasons why these tragedies happened. And even more excuses.

Totally UNexcusable are, amongst others, the sex scandals (the whole works including pedophilia, rape and prostitution) by UN Peace Keepers in DRC and in Haiti. Or the gruesome stories of Belgian UN Peace Keepers “roasting” a Somali boy. (read also this this article).

Shame, deep shame, we should all have. All of us.

While most of the time, I can still tell myself, “Ok, this is not concerning the UN humanitarians, this is not ‘us’, this is the ‘other UN arm’.” Still, the criminals wore the same colour as I do: “UN Blue”. They went into a country supposedly to help the population, and not to kill people and urinating on them afterwards, sexually abusing them.

I want to be able to keep my head up high, tough. Once of the reasons I continue to work for the UN (For a number 3, a UN humanitarian organisation), is to be able to say: “I not only criticize. I actually try to make a change.”! And the best way to make a change is a “change from within”. I try to speak up when confronted with any wrongdoing. While it gave me the reputation of being “difficult” (they say “a pain in the a**”), I do need to live with my conscience. I need to be able to say “I tried my level best”. And to be honest, I feel people *do* listen. At least where *I* work!

But still, … still, there are those days, like today, where I get frustrated, pissed off, wandering if all the fighting is worth it. Those are the days, like today, where I read that the audit of the UN peace keeping mission in Sudan wasted millions of dollars: (Below is an extract but the full post is here):

U.N. officers in Sudan have squandered millions by renting warehouses that were never used, booking blocks of hotel rooms that were never filled, and losing thousands of food rations to theft and spoilage, according to several internal audits by the U.N. Office for International Oversight Services. One U.N. purchasing agent has been accused of steering a $589,000 contract for airport runway lights to a company that helped his wife obtain a student visa, while two senior procurement officials from the United States and New Zealand have been charged by a U.N. panel with misconduct for not complying with rules designed to prevent corruption.
The U.N. procurement division “did not have the necessary capacity and expertise to handle the large magnitude of procurement actions” in Sudan, particularly during the early phases of the mission, according to a confidential October 2006 audit. Investigators also detected “a number of potential fraud indicators and cases of mismanagement and waste.”

It pisses me off that millions of dollars are wasted through mere miss-management or for personal gain, in a country where millions fight to survive starvation every single day.
Also today, I read how the United Nations forces failed to help East Timor’s president Jose Ramos Horta after he was shot in an assassination attempt in Dili this morning:

Mr Carrascalao told ABC Radio’s PM that when UN police arrived at the scene of the attack they refused to help.
“I have to regret that we advised the United Nations Police who went to the scene but 300 metres before reaching there, they refused to proceed,” he said. “The President was lying on the road and bleeding and already shot, and they refused to continue to give him assistance. It was finally the family and an ambulance from our hospital that went and rescued the President when he was more than half-an-hour bleeding and losing a lot of blood. The United Nations Police didn’t take action until the Portuguese Generale got there. That’s one of the worst things that could happen to this country; have police from everywhere, everyone within one system and mostly looking after themselves than looking after the situation here.” (full article)

Those are the days I am ashamed. Ashamed to say “I work for the UN”!

Pictures Die Burger and Chad Hanning (UNinvolved), WhatReallyHappened and Gamma Liaison (Belgian Peacekeepers).
Source: The Other World News

Written by Peter

February 11th, 2008 at 7:15 am

Posted in Articles,Ranting

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China, the West and Darfur: Why Do We Still Buy This Shit?

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April 8, 2007.

Warning: This piece is opinionated.

1. Darfur According to the Chinese State Media: “Stable and Natural”

Reuters Alertnet reports:
“A Chinese government delegation visited refugee camps and met officials in western Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur province to “get acquainted” with the situation there, Chinese state media reported on Sunday.

More than 200,000 people are believed to have died in Darfur and some 2.5 million have been driven from their homes into squalid camps since ethnic tensions erupted into revolt in 2003.

The United States and other Western powers have sought to authorise U.N. peacekeepers to quell violence in Darfur, where government-backed militia have been fighting rebel forces. African Union troops have failed to stop massacres.

China, which buys much of Sudan’s oil and wields veto power over U.N. resolutions, is facing rising criticism from Western governments and rights campaigners for having rejected U.N. forces without Khartoum’s agreement.

On Saturday the delegation, lead by Beijing government envoy Zhai Juan, went to Abu Shouk Camp, in North Darfur province, and met provincial governor Youssef Kibir, Xinhua news agency said.

“Administrative officials said that life of some 50,000 internally displaced people (at the camp) was stable and natural,” Xinhua reported.

Continuing their four-day official visit, the delegation also visited a refugee camp with 14,000 people in Nyala, South Darfur province, and met provincial governor Al-Haj Atta al-Mannan Idris.

Idris said the general situation was “stable and improving”, but “sporadic fighting” had occurred between rebel factions and tribes in the recent period, Xinhua added.

Last week Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan offered visiting Sudanese Joint Chief of Staff, Haj Ahmed El Gaili, stronger military cooperation while also urging that Sudan consider a peace proposal put forward by the now retired U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan.

2. Sudan and China: an “OW”-relationship: “Oil out, Weapons in.”
(Also called a “win-win relationship”…)

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “China takes 64 percent of Sudan’s oil exports”. The same report states that “China has sold the Islamic government in Khartoum weapons and $100 million worth of Shenyang fighter planes, including twelve supersonic F-7 jets. Experts say any military air presence exercised by the government—including the helicopter gunships reportedly used to terrorize civilians in Darfur—comes from China.”

China is one of Sudan’s major sources of weapons, says a BBC report.

3. So, we in the West, get good scores on this one?

Nah, don’t think so.. The media reports cited above might be allied to the West and Western politics, and are all to happy to report China’s debatable interest in oil import from and weapons export to Sudan. Because… well, because it is China who gets the oil and the business, and not the West… So let’s relativate it a bit:

When last year, the UN Security Council is debated a US draft resolution on the Sudan crisis, based on colliding views whether a genocide is or is not happening in Darfur, the issue of Sudan’s oil is became a key factor. If an oil export embargo was approved, China and India would have lost their influence over Sudan’s vast oil reserves and a Khartoum regime change would open up these resources to the West. The US is in favour of sanctions (hey I wonder why!), China is against (surprise!).
The population of Darfur is presently, as the UN puts it, suffering from “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” It is well documented that the Khartoum government bares much of the responsibility for this suffering, which the UN calls “ethnic cleansing” and the US called “genocide”. It is however also well documented that the US through its closest African allies, helped train the SLA and JEM Darfuri rebels that initiated Khartoum’s violent reaction. (source: Afrol News)
[Just something that crossed my mind: Remember the Taliban used to be backed by the US (through the Pakistani Secret Service) in their fight against the Mujaheddin and Russian influences… That one ran out of hand also, did it not?]

According to the “European Coalition on Oil in Sudan”, here is a list of the companies who have oil interests in Sudan. Or in a map format. Quite a few of non-Chinese (European, North-American) companies have interests also!

Still, China is fast emerging as one of the world’s biggest, most secretive and irresponsible arms exporters, according to a report issued by Amnesty International.

4. So.. What is the conclusion?

So, what should we conclude? The US has Iraq, China has its Darfur for main oil supplies and everyone should be happy? Or should the conclusion be that if we would use more alternative energy sources, the world would be a better place, not only for the environment, but also for the refugees, terrorism and civil unrest? One thing is for sure: the situation in Darfur is “NOT stable and natural” as the Chinese and Sudanese media reported today… Unless if we all accept an ongoing genocide is “stable”, because it has been ongoing since so long, and “natural” as… well… as it is in Africa of course… That’s where people kill each other naturally, no?

Some excellent video footage by Philip Cox:

A more recent video by BBC reporter Jonah Fisher:

Pictures courtesy WFP
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Peter

January 1st, 2006 at 9:40 am

Posted in Ranting

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