Archive for December, 2008

December 25th, 2008

Guest Post – Comments Needed

Here is a guest post from an anonymous Stand’er seeking feedback:

Recently, I’ve been asked to share my thoughts on Darfur as it stands today. That deadline has sharpened in my mind some of the questions I have on region right now. Obviously, situations change, and the Darfur we see today is not the same as that of four or five years ago.

Darfur has evolved to become far more complex than its original two- or three-sided conflict (the Government vs. one or two major rebel groups). I am also aware that rebel groups are guilty of adding to the chaos, having recruited child soldiers and engaged in acts of violence themselves (to what degree is an underreported issue). So, one question is, who much power does Sudan actually have to stop the violence? If the GoS suddenly wanted to bring peace to Darfur (and to its strained relations with South Sudan), would they be able to?

Given the painfully sluggish attempt to get 26,000 peacekeepers on the ground (I think we’ve reached about 50% of that goal), I am unclear on how much of this is Sudan’s fault, and how much is the fault of UN Member States. Certainly, the GoS has in the past shown a lot of intransigence, and back-and-forth on UNAMID–rejecting contributions by certain nations, and flip-flopping whether or not to accept UNAMID or componenets thereof. Where my knowledge lags is in Sudan’s actions of late–has the threat of ICC arrests made her more cooperative, or is this same-old, same-old? A final question is this: is targeted divestment still the right way to go with Sudan? Is it possible that it’s no longer the correct remedy for the problem?

Knowing who holds the most influence in Sudan should directly affect where we focus our activist energies. I have my own hunches on all this, but what better place than the Stand blog to ask my peers for some research help!

We’re in the thick of the holidays, but any links or responses you can give would help–short or long.

Here are a couple links to get us started:

Both place continued blame strongly on Khartoum. From the former, here is an interesting side note: “Since July this year the Government and specially the National Congress Party priority has sharply changed. The issue of the ICC Chief Prosecutor’s endeavour to indict President Omer al Bashir has become the only agenda in their calendar….[the GoS] has changed their instinct for common survival into individual concern for self-preservation. Every single one of them is looking back to see whether he has any link with the violations committed in the Darfur conflict and what responsibility he may have which could take him to The Hague. Some of the NCP leaders are even contemplating handing over President Bashir to save the Islamic movement. This movement recently elected Mr Ali Osman Taha to become its Secretary General, the post which used to be occupied by Dr Hassan al Turabi before the 1999 split.”

Posted in The Dreamer | 2 Comments »

December 21st, 2008

End Slavery in Darfur

This just in from Stand’ers Scott Fenwick and Joel Stephanson – Thousands Made Slaves in Darfur. During the North-South war, Sudan became famous for the slave trade. Armed by the government as proxy militias, Arab tribes on the border with the South would raid Southern villages and kidnap children to sell as slaves in the north. The justification for this practice in many ways was based on ethnicity…in fact, many in the “Arabized” north refer to the more “African” southerners as “abeed,” which means slave in Arabic. Because the southerners were viewed as an inferior race, the practice of slavery was accepted all too often.

This BBC article points out that the slave trade is still alive in Darfur, even among government soldiers who kidnap young boys and girls as slaves. I don’t know whether there is still the same “rascist” element to it, but it would not surprise me considering the government-sponsored militias and government troops see themselves as more “Arab” and thus superior to ethnic groups like the Fur. (just to remind people, almost everyone in Darfur is a muslim).

Unfortunately, in civil war scenarios like Darfur, it is extremely difficult to combat something like this. Joel Stephanson has recommended checking out the Darfur Consortium, a group of Africa-based and Africa-focused NGOs working to bring peace and justice to Darfur. Otherwise, we need to continue working to bring attention to ongoing human rights abuses like this and demand action from our leaders. If anyone has any other ideas on how to take action to prevent slavery in Sudan, please sound off in the comments section.

And thanks to Joel and Scott for bringing this issue to our attention!

Posted in News Update | No Comments »

December 21st, 2008

The Problem with the Camps

Here at Stand-Canada, we’ve been talking for quite some time about the dangers and difficulties associated with the camps for Internally Displaced Persons and refugees in and around Darfur. Today, the New York Times has a really good article illustrating some of the problems associated with the camps, particularly the upending of traditional authority structures and the empowerment of radical elements. It focuses in particular on the rise of angry youths in the camp who are rabidly anti-government:

“You cannot call them a unified group with one political ideology, but they are all angry…That is the factor unifying them.”

This article touches on a couple really good points that I’d like to stress here:

1) the situation in the camps drastically complicates the rebel groups’ ability to negotiate. We’ve already seen that with exiled rebel leader Abdul Wahid al-Nur who frequently takes an extremely hard-lined position in order to consolidate his support among radical elements in the camps. This article suggests that the inhabitants of the camps are so anti-government that any rebel group seen to negotiate would immediately lose legitimacy in their eyes and possibly even put people of their similar ethnicity in danger of reprisals (rebel groups tend to line-up with ethnicity in Darfur).

2) The article briefly touches on something that jumped out at me from this article. Does anyone else see the resemblance in this scenario of situations in Afghanistan, Somalia, or Lebanon? Basically, in a lawless environment, people turn to radical elements that are able to provide meaning and bestow some semblance of order in an unstable world. The Taliban did this in Afghanistan following the country’s many civil wars in the ’90s. The Shabab, or Islamic Youth, in Somalia are also seen as the only real possibility for order in the country, despite their brutal tactics. The Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are still sources of trouble in that country as well.

Basically, this is a worrying scenario. The government doesn’t know how to deal with it (and is probably unable to deal with it actually). These youth are angry, frustrated, and disillusioned with both the international community and the rebel groups. And, something that the article does not touch on is the fact that they all have guns – I recently spoke with someone who returned from the camps and was just floored by the sheer number of guns available. These “mobilized” youth could become a source of violence and trouble for a long-time to come in the country.

I don’t really know that there is any easy way to deal with this situation, other than try to stem the number of weapons entering the camps, provide some sort of opportunity for the youth, and work to end the war. I’d love to hear more thoughts, but this situation is definitely something to look out for…

Posted in The Scholar | No Comments »

December 15th, 2008

Voices of Victims

For all you Winnipeggers out there…

Tutsi genocide survivor and human rights activist speaks at the Berney Theater, Asper Jewish Community Campus

December 9, 2008 (WINNPEG) The Jewish Students’ Association/Hillel in partnership with the East Indian Students’ Association, The African Students’ Association, Walk4Darfur and STAND are proud to present Eloge Christian Butera on January 8th, 2009 at 7pm at the Berney Theatre inside the Asper Jewish Community Campus.

Butera will be speaking about his experience as a survivor of the 1994 Tutsi genocide and the need to prevent genocides and other human rights violations.

Butera is currently a second year law student at McGill University and previously studied religions and psychology at the University of Manitoba, where he was actively involved in various human rights awareness and advocacy initiatives. He has spoken to dozens of audiences across Canada about his experience.

Winnipeg composer Zane Zalis, along with his talented musical troupe Prodigy, will also perform excerpts from I Believe, which will premiere on May 21, 2009. I Believe documents the Holocaust experience as seen and lived by those directly involved — the perpetrators, the victims, the observers and, in a plea for informed hope and peace, ourselves.

Tickets are $5.00 and can be purchased at any of the following locations:
– Answers – University of Manitoba at University Centre
– Info-booth – University of Winnipeg
– Jewish Federation of Winnipeg – C300-123 Doncaster Street

A portion of all ticket sales will be donated on behalf of the partners, organizations and students to Tubahumarize, a women’s collective based in Kigali, Rwanda. The organization was founded by Butera’s mother, Jeanne Mwiliriza, to provide trauma counseling and support to widows and orphans of the genocide. Since then, the collective has grown to help hundreds of women and children escape domestic violence.

Posted in The Activist | 1 Comment »

December 15th, 2008

One Year Later

The New York Times recently had this important editorial on Darfur. It’s good to see that there is still some attention out there for Darfur, an issue that it seems many people have started to give up on. It starts with this:

“In January, President Bush said this about Darfur: “My administration called this genocide. Once you label it genocide, you obviously have to do something about it.”

Yet, last week — nearly one year later — this is what the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, told the United Nations Security Council about Darfur: “Genocide continues. Rapes in and around the camps continue. Humanitarian assistance is still hindered. More than 5,000 displaced persons die each month.” How can this still be?

One of the most interesting parts of this article to me was that the author seemed to be celebrating the role of the International Criminal Court and Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for finally putting some real pressure on the government in Sudan. While the killing has not stopped, the government of Sudan has taken a few superficial steps towards peace, such as calling a ceasefire and pledging to prosecute war criminals. Although these steps at the moment seem to be merely aimed at saving face rather than genuinely working towards peace, it is precisely these sorts of moves that Canada, the US, and other nations should pick up on and build off of. Even a superficial step can turn into reality if there were other nations holding the government accountable to the pledges it makes and the words it speaks in this time period. So I tend to agree with the author of this article – Moreno-Ocampo has generated some real pressure….now it’s just time for some one else to pick up on the “ripe moment” he has helped create.

Posted in News Update | 1 Comment »

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