Archive for October, 2008

October 30th, 2008

A Vision of Chaos

I would like to take a moment away from the focus on Darfur to highlight the worrying events of the past week in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. While Stand focuses almost exclusively on Darfur and Sudan in its activities (with good reason), it is important to our fundamental mission of making preventing genocide a cornerstone of Canadian foreign policy to stay informed about all pertinent events in the world.

For those who don’t know, over the past week the eastern region of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has embarked on a spiraling descent into further violence and chaos. North Kivu is a resource-rich area that has been more or less at the center of the various wars and violent conflicts in the region since the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 (many of the Hutus responsible for the Rwandan genocide fled to this region). Last year, a mortality survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee concluded that 5.4 MILLION people have died as a result of war and violence in the DRC since 1998. That’s the most amount of people killed in a conflict since World War II. DRC currently plays host to the largest peacekeeping force in the world, at 17,000.

The most recent bout of fighting began in late August when a peace agreement between the government and a rebel group led by Gen. Laurent Nkunda collapsed. Since then some 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.

In the past week the situation has deteriorated dramatically due to a very serious and well-crafted offensive by Nkunda’s rebels. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes, especially around the provincial capital Goma. Many aid agencies including Oxfam, MSF and IRC have suspended their most if not all of their activities and evacuated most of their personnel. The rebels are now besieging Goma, although things have momentarily calmed down following a cease-fire last night. It is yet to be seen whether the cease-fire will hold. Nkunda claims that he is fighting to protect ethnic Tutsi populations and make sure they get a fair share of the region’s resources. Most experts seem to think that he is being supported in some way by the Rwandan government (though of course Rwanda denies this).

Unfortunately, eastern DRC must be one of the most difficult regions in the world to provide minimum standards of protection, with its volatile mix of ex-genocidaires, ethnic tensions, warlords, resources, weak and corrupt government, and interfering neighbors. Outside interference and interventions are difficult enough in a case like Sudan where its more obvious who “the enemy” is. In North Kivu government soldiers have been accused of raping, pillaging and killing civilians as they flee in the face of the better-trained enemy. The rebels also commit horrible acts of violence and are responsible for the majority of the displacement. The UN peacekeeping force (MONUC) has had some notable successes in the past, including by enforcing agreements with gunships at times, an approach to peacekeeping that would more accurately be called “peacemaking” or “peace enforcing” and is controversial to say the least.

So what can we do? Not much, unfortunately. The first thing I would recommend to everybody is to get informed. Do some research, find out about the situation, ask your professors about it. Also, a letter to a newspaper or politician is never a bad idea when trying to bring attention to a bad situation. Getting attention to the conflict is definitely the first step.

I would welcome anybody else’s thoughts in the comments section about what we can do to help settle the conflict and prevent the deadly violence that seems all too often to consume the DRC.

Posted in News Update, The Scholar | 1 Comment »

October 30th, 2008

A Few Items of Interest

I would just like to highlight a few items from Save Darfur Canada (SDC).

1. SDC just announced the Darfur Challenge, a fundraising competition for elementary, middle and high schoolers. Check it out or get involved here.

2. I just received a mailing from SDC called the Darfur Advocacy News which has the following to say about Stand Canada’s election performance:

Stand Canada acheived some important successes over the course of this election. Notably, their new elections website and blog. 51 candidates who publicly expressed their support for Stand`s Speak the name! campaign were elected across the country, including 8 Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Conservative Party, 27 from the Liberal Party, 14 from the NDP and 2 from the Bloc Québécois.

They also give a shout-out to the blog!

3. At the end of the mailing they point out a few upcoming events:
– US Save Darfur Coalition national conference, Nov. 7-9 in Washington D.C. (apparently FREE)
2008 Annual Royal Society of Canada Symposium: The Cultures of War and Peace, Ottawa, Nov. 14;
Holocaust Memorial Week Toronto, November 2nd to 9th :
Save Darfur Human Rights Fair Kitchener – Waterloo, November 28th

Posted in The Activist | 1 Comment »

October 29th, 2008

Canada Gives Turabi Something to Remember

When studying Sudan, there are a few names that keep appearing over and over again: Omar al-Bashir, John Garang, Sadiq al-Mahdi and Hassan al-Turabi, to name a few.

The last one, Hassan al-Turabi, is arguably the father of Sudan as it now looks. It was Turabi who was the force behind implementing shari’a (Muslim law) in the North of Sudan and who led the Islamist movement that ended up dominating the political scene. It was his ideology that inspired Omar al-Bashir to take charge of the country in 1989. He remained the real power behind Bashir for about a decade. In fact, it was Turabi who invited Osama Bin Laden to hang out in Sudan in the mid-1990s.

It was also Turabi who inspired and taught Khalid Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement. I even heard an expert on Darfur once suggest that Turabi was a big force behind the Darfur uprising of 2003-4, which he encouraged in a bid to gain leverage over Bashir while the two men were struggling for power. Now, I believe, he is under house arrest in Khartoum after splitting with the ruling coalition of Bashir (the NCP) in 1999.

Anyway, I bring him up because I just came across a surprising story about Hassan al-Turabi’s last trip to Canada. Turabi, the man of power behind so many events in Sudan over the past 30 years, was visiting the country in 1992 when he was suddenly beaten up in the Ottawa airport by a black belt in karate. Apparently, the former Sudanese martial arts champion just happened to be walking through Ottawa airport when he saw the man whom he blamed for so many of Sudan’s problems and decided to give him a few karate chops to the head. Turabi ended up with serious injuries and stayed in the hospital for four weeks. The BBC also mentions the incident.

Now while I don’t think we can include karate chops as a suggestion in our policy prescriptions, it is a telling story about some of the anger that has built up against members of the northern elite over the last 50 years of mismanagement.

Needless to say, I don’t think Turabi’ll be visiting Canada again in the near future…

Posted in The Scholar | 7 Comments »

October 27th, 2008

Walking 4 Darfur in Winnipeg

Check out this article in the Jewish Tribune on Winnipeg’s Walk 4 Darfur. While I personally was not in the area to partake, it sounds like it was a great event with some 500 people in attendance. Special shout out goes to Bobbie Whitman for “doing a fan-tab-ulous job with the event.”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

October 20th, 2008

A Blogger in Darfur

Everyone interested in an in-depth look at Darfur from a counter-insurgency perspective should really check out the commentary over on one of my favorite blogs, Abu Muqawama. It’s really interesting to hear the perspective of someone who was recently “on the ground” in Darfur and Khartoum, talking with rebels, government officials, and Khartoum residents. There are three different sections to the commentary, all of which give the sort of eye-witness accounts and analysis that we haven’t seen enough of in relation to Darfur.

Worth checking out.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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