Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is Britain not bothered about raped children in Darfur?

Eight years ago, David Cameron said: 'We cannot remain silent in the face of this horror'

On 31 October, when most of our children were playing trick or treat, 200 women and girls (as young as seven) in Darfur were raped. According to locals, the perpetrators were the Sudanese Armed Forces. One month later, the victims of this egregious assault are no closer to justice.

Rape has been a weapon of war in Darfur for decades. The attack in the village of Tabit, however, is on an unprecedented scale. Despite numerous sources verifying it, the discredited hybrid United Nations/African Union force (Unamid) issued a press release that claimed: "None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit." What the release didn't say is that, according to a Unamid officer, military personnel accompanied the Unamid delegation so, "no one could speak freely".
Unamid's chicanery emerges at the same time as a UN investigation exonerated the force of previous allegations of cover-up. Despite finding instances in which Unamid officials withheld evidence indicating the culpability of Sudanese government forces in crimes against civilians and peacekeepers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon concluded: "There was no evidence to support the allegation that Unamid intentionally sought to cover up crimes against civilians."
To the uninitiated, withholding evidence of crimes against civilians may sound like a cover-up. But in UN land, unless the scandalous event was the result of an intentional cover-up, and you can prove it, it doesn't count.
Where is the UK in all this? Instead of calling for an independent investigation into the mass rape in Tabit at the time, our government diverted attention away from it. Issuing a press release about food vouchers for displaced people in Darfur (440,000 beneficiaries over seven months) was, in my view, an act of either wilful obfuscation or gross ineptitude.
The cash/vouchers have been in place since 2011, but there's no evidence that I could find that anyone other than the government of Sudan benefits from the UK's £11m contribution. A local UN official told me he was unaware of the scheme. The three million Darfuris living in camps want reinstatement of the humanitarian organisations expelled by the genocidal regime in 2009. Not gimmicks. Read full story >>>>

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Security Council Press Statement on Darfur

19 November 2014

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Gary Quinlan (Australia):
The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the allegations reported in the media of mass rape in Thabit, North Darfur, on 30 and 31 October 2014. They called on the Government of Sudan to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations. They called on the Government of Sudan to fulfil its obligation to allow, in accordance with the Agreement between the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan concerning the status of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, the full and unrestricted freedom of movement without delay throughout Darfur to UNAMID, so as to enable them to conduct a full and transparent investigation, without interference, and verify whether these incidents have occurred. They further called on the Government of Sudan to ensure accountability, if the allegations are verified.
They noted that proper access to Thabit and its population for UNAMID is essential to conducting a full investigation into the allegations in order to determine their veracity and, if verified, to ensure accountability.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Darfur Crisis, a decade after! Where do we stand?

Darfur Crisis, a decade after! Where do we stand?

Darfur Union in The Netherlands will hold, on October 4th, 2014 at 13.00
hours a conference on Darfur under the title Darfur Crisis, a decade after!
Where do we stand?

Dr. Sharif Harir, a former teacher at Bergen University, civil society
organizations, individuals committed to peace and stability in Darfur and
representatives of Darfur movements will be attending the conference.

Place and address:
Potgieterstraat, 1053 XX, Amsterdam
By public Transport:
Tram 13, 14 and 17 from Amsterdam Centre Station
Darfur Union cordially invites you to attend the conference. Your presence
and input will contribute to the success of the conference.
For more info, please contact the following numbers:
+31 643663089
+31 642330058
+31 686300855

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Colorado Groups Rally to Stop Genocide in Sudan

Friday, 30 May 2014 – Denver, the American center of the modern day abolition movement, is at the forefront of freeing thousands of people who are still living in slavery in Sudan. Over a dozen Colorado groups active in both Sudans, including the Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action, rally at a press conference and petition drive to pressure President Obama to free thousands of slaves and stop the genocide in Sudan. The event is in response to Sudanese communities requesting global support to end crimes against humanity, genocide, and slavery perpetrated by the Sudanese Islamist regime against indigenous Black Sudanese Africans.
Approximately 35,000 indigenous Black South Sudanese are still enslaved in both Sudans. Christian and Muslim peoples are subjected to an ongoing genocide by their government in Sudan's Darfur, Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile regions. Bishop Acen Phillips remarks, “I don’t think anyone here left Sudan because they wanted to. Many refugees deeply miss their families.”
Emmy award winning journalist Tamara Banks emcees the event, and other speakers include refugees speaking about their stories of survival escaping genocide, and for justice and freedom in their former countries. Other speakers include Colorado citizens who are refugees from the genocides in Sudan (including Darfur), a Coloradan teen who is responsible for freeing hundreds of slaves, and representatives from 20 Colorado groups active in both Sudans.
The rally is fostering hope in both countries. Refugee speakers express appreciation to the support of Denver communities, saying they want their families at home to feel hopeful instead of abandoned or forgotten. George Tuto from the Nuba mountains, Omhagain Dayeen and Ahmed Ali (from Darfur), and Oja Gafour from the Nuba Mountains all spoke about escaping genocide.
The event organizer, Pastor Heidi McGinness, Director of Outreach for Christian Solidarity International (CSI), says, “We need to stop genocide and slavery; they are crimes against International Law and humanity.” CSI has been active in Sudan and South Sudan since 1995, delivering humanitarian aid to the victims of war and genocide, and assisting the South Sudanese Underground Railroad in bringing their family members out of slavery. Andrew Romanoff, former Speaker of the Colorado House, speaks about the successful petition launch to end slavery and the two genocides in Sudan. His legislative work has led to divestment of public pension funds that have done business with Sudan, a major victory in cutting one link to the genocide. Full story >>>>>>>

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Pretending Darfur Isn’t: the world continues to avert its eyes from accelerating human suffering and destruction

Eric Reeves, 31 May 2014

The international community is by now quite experienced in pretending that the massive humanitarian crisis in Darfur doesn’t really exist, or exists in some acceptable and remediable form, destined to improve with time. The world has been encouraged in this dangerously expedient ignorance by the likes of Ibrahim Gambari and Rodolphe Adada (both former special representatives of the UN and AU to UNAMID); U.S. special envoy Scott Gration; former UN humanitarian coordinator Georg Charpentier, and UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick. All have suggested, some dismayingly recently, that things aren’t really so bad in Darfur. Charpentier and Cycmanick supported the claims by UNAMID as recently as 2011 that the fighting was minimal. Adada claimed at the end of his tenure in 2009 that there was merely “low intensity” fighting and some carjackings; Gambari claimed at the end of his tenure in September 2012 that he had “achieved all he set out to do” as special representative, and minimized fighting, mortality, displacement, and human suffering. Scott Gration was taken to task by an inter-agency humanitarian group for suggesting (July 2009) that conditions were ripe for returns by Darfuri IDPs.

The history of misrepresentation is long and ugly. Current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (then Senator and unofficial presidential representative) declared in April 2009 that Khartoum’s expulsion of half the humanitarian capacity in Darfur—thirteen of the world’s finest humanitarian organizations—would be replaced in “a few weeks.” Cynically, he declared that he had Khartoum’s promise on the matter, as if the regime’s promises have somehow meant something in the past. This was an anticipation of the Obama administration’s subsequent “de-coupling” of Darfur from U.S. Sudan policy, and the appointment of a diplomatic lightweight as special envoy for the region (Dane Smith).
Some within the UN system have begun to speak out, and the truths at last spoken are terrifying in their implications:
“Entire generation may be lost in Darfur”: UNICEF Representative in Sudan (Radio Dabanga, KHARTOUM, 12 May 2014) – The UN children’s rights and relief organisation, UNICEF, has warned that an entire generation in Darfur may be lost as a result of more than ten years of violence in the region. “Life in the camps might produce a new generation without ambition,” the UNICEF Representative in Sudan, Geert Cappelaere, said in a press statement issued on Saturday. “In particular as about 60 percent of the displaced in Darfur are minors.”
It requires a willful blindness not to see what is occurring in Darfur, unless one is willing to dismiss entirely the reports that come from the ground—by way of Radio Dabanga, Sudan Tribune, and Radio Tamazuj, and the UN itself on notable occasions. But even the dismissing of these repeatedly confirmed and highly detailed accounts does not explain the silence that has followed the most dire warning from a range of humanitarian organizations still working in Darfur. It is a silence, or near silence, that accompanies even such extraordinary announcements as these about the work in Darfur and Sudan of the International Committee of the Red Cross:
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has expressed regret for Sudan’s suspension of its activities, saying it has led to negative humanitarian implications. ICRC also announced it is laying off 195 employees of its local staff while imploring on Khartoum to reverse its decision and allow it resume its work to help the affected population. Last February, the Sudanese government ordered the ICRC to halt its activities in the country saying that the aid organisation needs to comply with the humanitarian work guidelines and the voluntary work law in order to continue operating in the country.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Darfur: A Bibliography of Violence and International Indifference

By Eric Reeves

The accelerating avalanche of violence that continues to sweep across Darfur has finally compelled acknowledgement by the international community, which inevitably refers to this as a “recent” development. This is despicably disingenuous. UNAMID, the UN, and all international actors have long had available voluminous evidence of extreme violence in Darfur that goes back years. To be sure, we know from the superb account by Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy (April 7, 2014) that UNAMID and the UN did a great deal by way of obscuring, hiding, or failing to report the evidence of this violence that they had in hand. This is shameful beyond reckoning, and Part One of Lynch’s searing account of UNAMID (“They Just Stood Watching“) concludes with a quote that sums up the cynicism of UNAMID, in particular its special representatives for the UN and African Unity—Rodolphe Adada, Ibrahim Gambari, and currently Mohamed Ibn Chambas:
[Former UNAMID spokesperson Aicha] Elbasri says that she raised concerns about UNAMID’s refusal to acknowledge the government role with one of the peacekeepers’ local commanders, Maj. Gen. Wynjones Matthew Kisamba. She still remains shaken by his answer. The UNAMID forces, she recalls Kisamba saying, had to occasionally massage the truth. “You know, sometimes we have to behave like diplomats,” he told her. “We can’t say all what we see in Darfur.”
As culpable as such an attitude may be, responsibility also lies with news organizations that did not press UN and UNAMID officials nearly hard enough about the realities with which they were being presented. There is no other way to account for the grotesque caption to a photograph in a piece by the New York Times (“A Taste of Hope Sends Refugees Back to Darfur,” dateline: Nyuru, West Darfur; March 2, 2012): it reads in part, “peace has settled on the region.” The correspondent, according to all my Darfuri sources—some of them from this region of Darfur—was quite simply taken in by Khartoum’s and the UN/AU’s version of a “Potemkin Village” (see my account based on Darfuri sources and reports from Radio Dabanga at Notably, this is the last dateline by a major news organization from an area significantly away from the urban areas and displaced persons camps—over two years ago.
There are notable exceptions: see below my discussion of the Reuters dispatch reporting on the massacre of non-Arab/African civilians at Tabarat (North Darfur) in September 2010. But since that time, reports of such honesty and detail have rarely been produced by journalists “covering” Darfur. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Activists strive to bring attention back to Darfur crisis

Editor's note: The following is Part 1 of a two-part series on decade-long humanitarian efforts in Sudan, a country plagued by war and other crises. The next part will focus on efforts in South Sudan.
Mukesh Kapila is as blunt as he is passionate.
Speaking to a group of Sudanese living in New York City, he urged them not to give up on pressuring the Sudanese government to end, after a decade, what he and others have called its genocidal policies in the province of Darfur.
"A lot of good ideas have come from diaspora and you can do a lot of good," Kapila said. "But are you doing enough? Are you doing enough?"
He added, his voice rising, "You, the Sudanese people, have a responsibility to your brothers and sisters in Darfur. It can't be Oxfam [the humanitarian group] or the U.N. They can only do small things."Kapila, speaking to a few dozen Sudanese at an event sponsored by the Darfur People's Association of New York, knows from personal experience these questions can become vexing.
An India-born U.K. citizen and a former diplomat whose stints include assignments with the United Nations in Sudan, Kapila has penned a memoir of his experiences in Darfur that he acknowledges is a "strident cri de coeur" and a "deeply personal account" of the early years of the unfolding Darfur crisis, which began in 2003.
The hallmark of his book, Against a Tide of Evil: How One Man Became the Whistleblower to the First Mass Murder of the Twenty-First Century, is his argument that the world was indifferent to the plight of Darfur, despite early -- and passionate -- warnings from Kapila (working for the U.N. at the time) and others about what was afoot there. The book does not spare the U.N. or other international groups from scathing criticism.
In a sort of preview of the book for his audience, meeting last October in Brooklyn, Kapila, who now teaches at the University of Manchester in England, stressed that, a decade after the events began, the Darfur crisis is far from over, despite attempts by the Sudanese government to minimize what has happened.
Niemat Ahmadi, president and founder of the Washington-based Darfur Women Action Group, was in the audience. She said later she could not agree more with Kapila.
"The situation in Darfur is really, really dire, and it's worsening every day," she said, citing recent reports of mass shootings, killings and systematic violence against women.
A statement on the website of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington said its government is committed to a peace settlement in Darfur. It also states the Sudanese government's belief that the Darfur crisis has been "manipulated and overblown by the media."
That, of course, doesn't surprise Kapila and others. "[Sudanese President Omar] al-Bashir wants to present the whole thing has gone away ... after so many years of advocacy," Kapila said. He was referring not only to action by the Sudanese diaspora but the remarkable advocacy coalitions -- many of them driven by partnerships between Christians, Jews and Muslims -- that, for a time, raised the profile of a little-known and marginalized region in western Sudan.
These energized activists launched a movement that put the issue of genocide front and center for the world to consider, along the way garnering support from celebrities like George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.
That may have been the movement's greatest success -- as well as drawing attention to a situation that ultimately resulted in the 2008 indictment of al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the first time a sitting head of state was so charged.
But activists in the United States acknowledge that their work is far from over. "Justice is always costly and peace is always fragile, but both are worth working for," said activist Peggy Harris, a deacon in the Episcopal church who also assists in the resettlement of Sudanese refugees by working with Catholic Charities in Des Moines, Iowa.
Sharon Silber, active in the New York Coalition for Darfur and all Sudan, formerly the New York City Coalition for Darfur, agreed. "We're not going to abandon the issue even though it is frustrating work," she said, acknowledging that a decade-long commitment of activism has not always been easy to sustain. Yet, she said, it does continue for her and others, with regular demonstrations and vigils outside the Sudanese Consulate in New York and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
Harris and Silber acknowledge the difficulties they and other activists face, given the intractable nature of the conflict, which in the last year has been overshadowed by events in the border state areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile and, more recently, by a political crisis in South Sudan. Southern Sudanese fought against the government of Sudan in a two-decade conflict that killed millions. South Sudan, as the new nation is called, was granted independence in 2011.
Activists are also fighting donor fatigue and the not-unexpected cycle of their fellows coming and going. "It's like a dance -- you move in and you move out," Harris said of fellow activists, acknowledging that "it's been tough" at times. Yet, core groups of people in their respective cities of New York and Des Moines keep the issue alive, Silber and Harris say. "We keep getting pushed to the back row. But activists keep climbing on the chairs to get attention," Harris said.
A key reason? The ongoing nature of the crisis, with reports of continued armed attacks and violence against civilians by the so-called Janjaweed militias, as well as increasing hunger and malnutrition throughout Darfur.
The recent violence, the activists argue, is the latest in a decade-plus conflict that has uprooted millions and has caused deaths that are estimated in the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands, from both direct violence and from illness or malnutrition. The displaced say they are victims of government-led efforts to drive them from their farms and villages, a charge the Sudanese government denies.
"Just because the international community is not focused on Darfur doesn't mean there is peace in Darfur," said Ahmed Adam, a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York and a co-chair of its Two Sudans Project. He is also a former spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, known as JEM, one of the armed opposition groups that have been engaged with now-stalled peace negotiations with the Sudanese government.
In a statement summarizing recent events, the International Crisis Group, an independent advocacy and study organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflicts, said in January that violence in the region "spiked in 2013, as the mostly Arab militias initially armed by the government to contain the rebellion increasingly escaped [Sudanese capital] Khartoum's control and fought each other."
Recent fighting, the group said, "displaced nearly half a million additional civilians -- in all 3.2 million Darfurians need humanitarian help."
Carolyn Fanelli, Sudan country representative for Catholic Relief Services, confirmed the continuing depths of the problems. She told NCR the humanitarian situation worsened in 2013, largely due to new displacements of people in several parts of the region.
"Humanitarian actors, including CRS, have responded in the areas where we can reach, and we all hope and pray for an improving situation in 2014," she said. At the same time, Fanelli said, the operating environment in Darfur "is becoming increasingly complex."
She added: "The nature of the conflict in Darfur is changing -- in particular, there is now more intertribal conflict -- and this makes it a much more unpredictable landscape for humanitarian actors."
Another factor in the situation: the international landscape. "There have been so many new emergencies in the world since the Darfur crisis first grabbed headlines in 2003 and 2004 -- Haiti, Japan, Syria, the Philippines," Fanelli said. "It is very easy to forget about Darfur or to throw up our hands in frustration that humanitarian assistance is still needed more than 10 years after the conflict began."
That is a humanitarian perspective. From the related but different focus on human rights, the view can be even more frustrating. To a person, activists interviewed said they have been profoundly disappointed by what they see as Darfur's de-emphasis by both President Barack Obama and Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The activists' disappointment is keen. Power is a onetime Harvard professor and journalist who reported from Darfur. Her book "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide was a widely respected study that became a guiding text for activists involved in Darfur-related work.
"That book was a huge influence on activists and [Power] became a role model for them," said Ahmadi, who acknowledged that the roles of author and government leader differ.
But, she said, government leaders are judged by what they do -- and while Syria, for example, has consumed much attention, Darfur has apparently slid from sight on the U.S. agenda, with the Obama administration placing too much emphasis on engagement with the Sudanese government, Ahmadi argues. "When you're in government, you have the power to do certain things," she said. From the perspective of activists, she said, the Obama administration "has not done enough."
"We need to be tightening sanctions," added Silber, who thinks "the Obama administration has been played" by the Sudanese government, long spoken of, even by its critics, as a wily and adroit player of international politics.
As for Obama, the onetime U.S. senator from Illinois called genocide "a stain on our souls." But the lack of visibility on Darfur by his administration, activists argue, is prompting them to call for a more robust "civilian protection-oriented policy" on Darfur and Sudan. That is a cornerstone of a campaign the group Act for Sudan is calling "Obama's Stained Legacy."
The campaign argues that Obama's policy on Darfur "has failed to prevent the tragic loss of countless lives and the mass displacement and starvation of countless more innocent people." Unless Obama acts now "to protect innocent civilians from their genocidal government," the activist group said, "he will ultimately be remembered for his stained legacy on genocide."
Activists say it is up to them to keep the pressure on -- and that can be daunting work. "It's very frustrating," Adam said at a Columbia University coffee shop in late January. "We're not in a post-genocide, post-conflict situation."
He paused, looking out toward the campus. "Sometimes I understand the fatigue. But I tell people to refocus. 'It's not over,' I tell them. 'It's not over.' "
[Chris Herlinger has reported on Darfur for NCR and is the co-author of the book Where Mercy Fails: Darfur's Struggle to Survive. He is also the senior writer for the humanitarian agency Church World Service.]

Sunday, January 19, 2014

On Darfur, it’s shhh, don’t mention Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir who is accused of crimes against humanity

By Tess Finch-Lees

Remember Darfur? It’s a region the size of France in the western side of Sudan. In the past decade, an estimated 500,000 civilians have been slaughtered and four million forced into refugee camps.

Despite Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, being accused of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, the UN continues to treat this despot with deference. Its strategy of appeasement has been proven to prolong the agony of Darfuri and Southerners alike, but there has been no change of tack at the UN.
Those of us who have been involved in Sudan for a number of years will know that the ongoing violence in the South (it never stopped, the media just got bored) is the legacy of the botched comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) in 2005. After 20 years and an estimated two million killed, President Bashir was forced to concede the South’s right to self-rule. The cost of so-called peace in the South, though, was silence on the oil rich region of Darfur.
This theory was confirmed by an Amnesty International representative. When I asked why Darfur seemed to be absent from the agenda, I was told that the UN had issued warnings to NGOs to be silent on Darfur. Why? So as not to upset Mr Bashir, therein risking the derailment of the CPA. To which I replied: “How can a human rights organisation agree to turn a blind eye to genocide in one part of the country in order to secure a Band-Aid peace agreement in another?” I never did get a reply.
The truth is that the CPA was ill conceived and bereft of detail (in terms of land ownership involving coveted oil, infrastructure and constitution). Alas, as everyone (except UN diplomats) knows, the devil is in the detail and the devil has been wreaking havoc in the region ever since.
Last month Aicha Elbasri, a former spokeswoman for the UN African Union Mission in Darfur (Unamid), told the Dutch newspaper Trouw of her dismay at the “lies” Unamid tells about itself. She expressed frustration at willingness of Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, to perpetuate what she described as an inherent misrepresentation of the reality on the ground.
According to the renowned US academic Eric Reeves, there were 100 eyewitness accounts of aerial attacks on civilians in Darfur. The Unamid report documented two. Despite rape and sexual violence being systematically used as a weapon of war in Darfur, the epidemic is airbrushed out of Mr Ban’s report. Carjacking and kidnapping are diligently recorded but rape is shamefully ignored.
In 2005 I attended a cross-party International Development Committee hearing on Darfur. Listening to Mukesh Kapila, a previous UN humanitarian co-ordinator in the region, give evidence, I was moved to tears. Despite his position of power, Dr Kapila’s absolute impotence resonated with me when he said: “To me, the greatest regret to my dying day will be that we failed in Darfur.” He added that UN member states, including Britain, had exerted pressure on him to downplay the severity of the Darfur crisis, which he believed amounted to genocide. When he refused to be silent, he was forced out of his job.
In order to understand the current crisis in the South, we must consider Sudan as a whole, as opposed to isolated regions and “complex ethnic tensions”. The elephant in the room that the UN (which some Sudanese officials believe to be controlled by the US) refuses to address is Mr Bashir. President Obama’s political sensitivity at being seen as anti-Muslim in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan takes precedence, it seems, over any moral obligation to the victims of genocide. Read the full story >>>>>>>>