Monday, August 28, 2006

Child Soldiers: Expanding the Dialogue

WINNIPEG: The opening of the conference yesterday was absolutely amazing. I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Senator Dallaire, as well the Rev. Dr. James Christie of the University of Winnipeg. Before the conference closing, General Dallaire and I will have the opportunity to sit down and discuss the collaboration that is possible with NA. The energy in the room last night was amazing. My one regret is that the dialogue with actual child soldiers will not be as expansive this week as we had hoped, due to VISA problems. I am fully confident, however, that the workshops and plenaries that arise from the sessions will produce instruments to prevent the use of children as soldiers. As Romeo Dallaire eloquently said, we must work to eradicate the concept that adults could actually use children as weapon systems in war.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Child Soldier's Conference

WINNIPEG: 1 and a half hours until Senator Dallaire kicks off the conference with his address. I have had the honour of speaking with him on two seperate occasions and organizing a forum for him with the peacekeeping students at McGill University, but I am still overwhelmed with emotion whenever we meet.
I will endeavour to pass on regards from all the Never Again team!

What the F*@K is taking so long?

MIAMI: ''Something ugly is brewing in Darfur'' Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown warned last week, refering to the already deteriorating three year genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Tomorrow, the Security Council will have an emergancy meeting to discuss on what to do for Darfur despite a letter of protest from Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir stating that there is a plan to restore order and protect civilians, which 2 million Darfurians were displaced since 2003. The one thing that gets under my skin is that if al-Bashir wants to restore order, why the f**k did you have to wait for three years? Oh that's right YOU'RE the one whom is overseeing the mass extermination taking place! It's truly amazing what the ablilty of hate can do to ones mind set. Like Hitler when he preached about getting rid of the Jews, and Rwanda's extermist radio calling the Tutsis ''cockroaches'' hate is always involed in a genocide. With international pressure building up, and the mandate for the AU running out of time, the UN have better roll up it's sleeve, think hard, and DO something before this goes into the UN's already tainted legacy of not being able to stop a genocide that could have been stopped.

Friday, August 25, 2006


To see such evil
Such horror
Such indifference
Such blood
Having innocence taken away to no avail
To have action glued to the grass
Dark ruby rivers overflowing with no signs of stopping
To have the soul in tattered rags
In such misery
Never endding despair
Drowning in an ocean of eyes
No laughter
Losing control
In a cocoon tainted by the sorrow
Scalding waters burn the soul
Eroading to destruction
If you can only see that despair
I'll do my fair share of mendding your heart
Let me feel your meloncholy so you can rest.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

my life in a haiku

summer jigsawing
never again fun for all
building peace on skype


Friday, August 18, 2006

Defining Moment

In a small dark room
Stumbling crashing
Sorrow full in heart's content
Gasping Reaching
Not knowing what to do
Hopeless dying
Opening Pandora's box
All the secrets and scandel escaping
Like salt water waves splashing on my face
A story emerging of betrayel, inhumanity, indifference,
and evil.
A lone soul to struggle with Lucifer's doing's.
Endding with a shatter
I soked in the words
Dark, heart reanching, seductive,
a tainted history but with remarkable courage
So sick and twisted of nothing but horror.
For me truth and beauty come from within the evil.
It's arms strong and comforting wraping around my aching soul.
Faith giving me a fighting chance
Hanging on to my treasure
Simple dazzling beautiful
Worth more than all the diamonds and gold in the world.
A sort candle glow will light the way.

Note: This is based on how the book ''Shake Hands with the devil'' made a huge impact on my life.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

International AIDS conference

WINNIPEG, CANADA: Now, with the opening of the 16th International AIDS conference we find ourselves asking "Can we again stand idly by?" This is a time to move into action and live up to our Responsbility to Protect.

The Rwandan genocide was full of absolute horrors and atrocities. That horror lives on some 12 years later for the many women who were gang-raped and are now dying slowly from AIDS. It may not be a machete severing one's neck, but it is just as deadly. AIDS 2006 is an opportunity for the international community to not simply renew its commitment to fighting the AIDS epidemic, but a time to act to protect all those suffering from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including the 9% of the population in Rwanda who are HIV positive.

Where is our Prime Minister on this historic occasion? One has to ask. The lack of his presence at the International AIDS conference in Toronto begs the question, how is Canada demonstrating its commitment to protect the 36.3 million adults and 2.3 million children who were living with HIV at the end of 2005 ( I challenge the Prime Minister to stand up for Canadians who are suffering from HIV/AIDS and the millions of people around the world who are currently living with the virus. We indeed have a responsibility to protect to help control the spread of HIV worldwide.

Dear Sudan,

MIAMI, USA: Dear Sudan,
I see your people suffering. Running away to escape hunger, illnesses, rape, and murder. There bodies cry out in pain but their souls screech out a horrable scream. A cry for help. The little children look like the living dead, with their infected bellies, stick thin arms and legs, flies despending on there faces. While I sleep on my cozy nested bed tonight, they lie down trying to make it thorugh another hour; another day. The world seemes to know whats happening, but all I hear is words: ''This is an humanitarn disater of biblical paportions'' or ''Were doing everything we can to stop this crisis'' I want to scream ''NO! Stop talking get off your ass and do something!'' True while there are people whom are speaking out and trying to do something, I fear this will be another case of internation apathy. I may not be doing much but I will do more. The world is seeing you suffer. We refuse to turn away in vain.
I hope this helps.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Prevention works!

LONDON, UK: Once again all eyes seem to be on Britain, concerned emails come from America and Africa and the column inches and TV news fills to the brim with terror plots.

Leaving aside my cynicism for a moment about the media, this episode makes an important point. In NGO circles when conflict prevention is always valued, someone normally points out that governments don't like to invest in prevention because 'you don't get any credit for preventing a war/genocide'. Surely, then, '10/8: foiled' is the exception that spectactularly proves the rule. And again, while I try and put aside my concerns about the arrests of men mainly younger than myself, there's no doubt that if indeed major loss of life has been avoided then the international intelligence services must be applauded for protecting us. It shows the value of intelligence for prevention of violence and the wide value of investing in nonviolent prevention of violent conflict. If the world's media were only so concerned about the thousands of African deaths through armed conflict then perhaps Responsibility to Protect would start getting somewhere.

For me, one of the most intelligent police actions is bringing sniffer dogs into London. After the bombings last year, police with huge guns were bought in to 'reassure' the public, but after the shooting of the Brazilian Menezes it was found that this wasn't very reassuring, especially if you were male, young and dark skinned, but in fact also if you were simply carrying a backpack (as a sidenote, single females are considered as much of a security risk by some security experts since the blowing up of an El Al plane by a young Irish woman who did not know her boyfriend had planted the bombs in her luggage). They also found that a machine gun generally doesn't generally have the heightened sense of smell of a spaniel. The smiling, wagging dogs transform the atmosphere of tension at Euston by being friendly and calming presences as well as reassuring those of us using the trains every day. It's a peaceful, imaginative action.

OK, just one little note of cynicism about the blanket media coverage of these plots. It's August. There is no other news. Well, unless you count the Middle East, those DRC elections, two people blown up in Iraq, peace activists being arrested by the dozen for mischief-making up at Prestwick and, hang on, more than a million people being evacuated and 104 dead in China. Never heard that on the breakfast news while they were listing what you could take on a plane. I could go on, but won't.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

For all our sakes, CEASEFIRE

NEW YORK, USA: Yesterday, Amnesty members and supporters held silent vigils worldwide asking for a ceasefire in Israel and Lebanon. We had about 60 simulateneous vigils in cities all across the United States alone joining together to simply stand with the victims on both sides of the Israel/Lebanese conflict. Our message was:
1) Call for a ceasefire
2) Demand that all governments stop the supply of arms to the conflict
3) Stand in solidarity with victims and survivors on both sides of the Israel Lebanon conflict

Click the link below to see a video of our DC vigil, covered by The Washington Post:

I attended one that one of my colleagues organized in front of Penn Station, one of the busiest intersections in Manhattan during rush hour. I have to admit I was a bit unprepared, unlike my Executive Director who donned his Amnesty t-shirt for the event (he usually wears a button-down shirt and tie). But the important thing was that I got out there - I passed out "Urgent Action" flyers asking people to write to the US govt, Israeli govt and Hizbullah and held a big homemade poster that said "STOP the sale of arms" and "CEASEFIRE".

Standing still and silent in a big, loud intersection in a huge city like NY during evening rush hour gives you an interesting perspective of the world:

First, it made me re-realize how silly it is how important we all think our own lives and schedules are, rushing around to get to our destination, totally disconnected from the rest of the world. We plug into iPods earphones or bury our noses in our train reading. I confess, I am one of the biggest offenders of this horrible habit of residents in capitalist, industrialized society. There is just so much information to consume, and in that process, you get disconnected from what the heck you are actually reading or hearing about. Ironic I've spent hours of my life reading about and listening about the Lebanon crisis, but haven't had time to actually do anything about it until Mon night!

The other thing I re-gained an appreciation for is how difficult it exactly is to change the world. Changing the world starts with changing someone's mind - and if you think it's difficult to change President Bush's mind, try a busy New Yorker's! When trying to hand out flyers, the negative reactions I received ranged from annoyance and utter disinterest to anger while the positive reactions included people signing petitions, asking for more copies of our flyers, and thanking us for holding the event. Some people smiled and others looked at me like I was dirt. My biggest frustration was that I only had less than 1 second to make an impression on them; and usually their reaction is dictated by what they already believe, not of the merit of our argument.

It made me really appreciate all of the people who go out to protest what they believe in, sign petitions and write letters. It takes a lot of effort, energy and courage and it DOES make a difference. Even though the prognosis for a ceasefire in the Middle East is grim, I can at least be proud of the fact that we are doing our best to advocate for victims of human rights violations. And that was enough, at least for yesterday.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Common Apathy

MIAMI, USA:In 1915 the Ottoman empire from Turkey wanted to get rid of it's Armenian problem by any means nessarary. That what resulted in the torture, starvation, and murder of over a million Armenians. Despite from the pleas of U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman empire, Henry Morgenthau Sr,to take action, the U.S wanted to keep up with it's friendly ties with Turkey, even if people were being murder. This would be one of the many cases of genocide(the word was yet to be created)and the U.S along with the international community, would simply not be able to stop the mass kilings of a specific race. But why is the international community apathetic to genocide? There are many reasons why no international body would even utter a peep of protest to a goverment that is commiting crimes againest humanity.

A young Polish scholar named Raphael Lemkin was apalled from the Armanian genocide. Why was a crime like this not punished by internation law? For years he researched about this and finally in 1943, he came up with took the root words genos (Greek for family, tribe or race) and -cide (Latin - occidere or cideo - to massacre) to create the word genocide. In the original adoption of the Geneva convections, Lemikin explaines the defenition:

"Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups."

Finally in 1948, the United Nation adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide making it a crime under international law. But it wasn't untill 1988 when the U.S sighed the treaty.

The mass murder of Jews by the Nazis during World War 2 was ignored by the U.S. due largely in fact because it didn't want to deal with another problem from Germany, despite reports of Death Camps. In Cambodia Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge killed up to 2 million Cambodians through 1975-1979. With this coming after Vietnam and the fact that that the regiem had a seat at the U.N, nothing was done. The Iraqi Kurds were gased buy the thousands in 1988. The U.S had ties with Iraq up untill the invation of Kuwait. In Bosnia Serbs tortute and killed Non Serbs over an estimated seven to eight thousand men and boys during 1992-1995 which of course the U.S. was slow to respond. Rwanda in 1994 faced a horrific genocide that killed over eight hundred thousand Tutsi by Hutu extermist in just one hundred days. This time the U.S. and the U.N. did know what was happening but did nothing to stop the killings. The Kosovo Albanians in 1999 were killed by Serb security forces. According to The New York Times "On April 19, the State Department said that up to 500,000 Kosovar Albanians were missing and feared dead."

One or the many reasons why the world is leary to responding to genocide is Self Interest. If there is no economic vaule to a country where genocide is being commited, then why bother? Another reason is not starting a big huge war with a country that has good relations just because that goverment is killing it's own people. With the current genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, there are American companies who have deals with Sudan because of oil and China a permanent member of the Security Council, has relations with the Sudanese president, whom is accused of conducting the genocide that are killing more than four hundred thousand Sudanese.

It is no surprise that genocide rages on.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Melanie and Joseph's Internship in Kigali

We are in the midst of preparing for our internship. Clare has been such an immense help! Currently, we are in the process of putting the final touches on our fundraising letters and are optimistically looking forward to an enthusiastic response. We have been already rewarded by the response that has been given by our friends and colleagues to our internship.

One of the first steps on our journey was to get our passport photo taken and have that stamped by the photo shop and signed by the doctor. This morning, we both had our first Twinrix shots, which is a combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine is administered in 3 doses, so we are looking forward to getting our second dose in another month. Note that vaccines really should be budgeted for because just this one costs $176.59 a pop! (and that's not counting the $18 doctor administration fee). Really, to anyone who is concerned about needles, it barely hurts at all - and this is coming from someone without a high pain threshold. This week, we will be visiting a travel clinic to get all of our other vaccinations up to date. Hopefully, by Monday, we'll have the official go ahead to begin fundraising.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Albert in New York

Our Rwandan director, Albert Nzamukwereka, landed in New York last weekend to spend three months as a guest of the International Center for Tolerance Education. You can read his very first impressions of the city at his blog which he has promised to keep updated.

We're very excited that Albert has had this opportunity. It is the first time that a Never Again volunteer has been able to work full time in a fully supported environment and the New York Never Again chapter are fully geared up to make sure he gets the most from the trip: meeting NGOs, networking, talking to schools as well of course as enjoying New York's vibrant social scene and food!