Friday, March 21, 2008

Darfur, untamed

It has now been almost six years since the Sudanese government has wreaked havoc and mayhem in Darfur. To date, an estimated 400,000 or more civilians have been killed by the Arab militia known as the “Janjaweed” They have also been accused of raping thousands of women, torture, and murder in what has been called by the U.S. government as “genocide” It is of no surprise that when genocide or an crime against humanity occurs anywhere, the world really can’t bring itself to do something. A good example of this is the genocide in Rwanda, when as the world and the UN stood back for 100 days and watched over 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis murdered by the Hutu extremist. Not only did the UN Security Council (along with the U.S.) knew full well what was happening, but refused to do anything to put an end to the genocide (which the U.S. government refused to use the “G” word). Today, Rwanda is a painful legacy of shame and inaction that makes some wonder, how could this have happened on our watch? Don’t we recognize that every single person in this world is human and deserves dignity and respect no matter where they live or who they are? If world leaders have learned their lesson from Rwanda, why is it that six years later, Darfur still is untamed and people keep dying everyday? But the true heroes of Darfur are the ordinary citizens, especially the youth whom are carrying the initiative to make sure Darfur goes unnoticed. All over the world, people are making there voices heard for those who can’t speak and holding their governments accountable for the continuing disregard of blood being spilled. In any case, Darfur could once again become inducted in the “Hall of Shame” for the whole world and we only have the gods of history to judge us.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Excellent Column in the Toronto Star by Roméo Dallaire

A great column published in the Toronto Star today by Roméo Dallaire emphasised Canada's responsibility to protect:

A leading middle power goes AWOL from Darfur: Canada championed the `responsibility to protect' but has been virtually absent from the scene
Canada championed the `responsibility to protect' but has been virtually absent from the scene
We Canadians should be mad as hell that the genocide in Darfur, now entering its sixth year, rages on unimpeded while our leaders stand by and do nothing. It's not as if we don't hear daily about this ongoing crisis. If we plead ignorance, then it is willful ignorance.
Detailed UN and media reports from the ravaged area tell of more massacres and more violence against inhabitants and 2.2 million displaced persons. Systemic rape as a weapon of war has become a major feature of the conflict. Darfuri boys between the ages of 12 and 18 are singled out and murdered. Non-governmental organizations seeking to bring desperately needed relief to the population are looted and attacked. Darfuris fleeing to Chad suffer in squalid, unsupplied camps while cross-border attacks by the janjaweed militias occur unabated.
Why does the slaughter, which has already claimed 200,000 to 300,000 lives, continue? The brave but beleaguered African Union peacekeeping force (AMIS) attempted unsuccessfully for several years to stem the tide of violence and human rights violations. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1769 six months ago to relieve the AMIS forces and create a combined UN-AU force, dubbed UNAMID, to stop the killing and ensure distribution of humanitarian aid.
On Feb. 18, UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes summed up one offensive in west Darfur that illustrates UNAMID's daunting challenge. He said their assessments have revealed the extent of the violence inflicted on 160,000 civilians in the northern corridor connecting El Geneina and Kulbus, including the 20,000 currently at risk in Jebel Moun. "The civilian population has experienced widespread displacement, property damage and significant trauma and loss of life. Approximately 57,000 civilians have been displaced due to the offensive." Compounding their plight, the Khartoum government has grounded all humanitarian aid flights to these besieged people.
So why is UNAMID still not fully deployed? Bluntly speaking, it's because Sudan is obstructionist, China is complacent, and Canada and the rest of the international community are AWOL.
The Sudan government is a major obstacle to peace efforts in Darfur. It has foot-dragged, niggled and pontificated against UNAMID every step of the way, even in the face of Resolution 1769. The reason is clear enough: Khartoum and the janjaweed militias want to buy time to torture, drive out and kill as many Darfuris as possible before the combined UNAMID becomes fully effective.
Standing solidly behind Khartoum is China, a Security Council member and the major supplier of weaponry and engineering support enabling Sudan to carry out its bloody agenda in Darfur.
The Chinese deny this, of course, but it was China that watered down Resolution 1769 to create loopholes permitting delay and weakening the resolution. Chinese officials have recently made soothing statements about their eagerness to stop the bloodshed, but no meaningful action has ensued. China's weapons still clatter into Sudan while Sudanese oil flows back to China – it's the perfect genocidal storm.
As the 2008 Olympic Games approach and China squirms in the international spotlight about its role in the genocide, every country should bear down on China to act resolutely to end the Darfur tragedy.
For Canadians, the big question must be: What is Canada doing to help Darfuris? They are under attack by their own vicious government. Whatever happened to the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) principle that Canada championed so stridently at the UN in 2005? Aren't we morally obliged, after all the arm-twisting by our diplomats at the UN to adopt R2P, to be a model state when it comes to applying R2P measures in Darfur?
Canada has been virtually absent from efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis. Now is the time to lead by example by committing serious resources to the UN, which is in desperate need of our high-quality troops and leadership.
It is not acceptable for Canada to point to Afghanistan and say that mission precludes a leading role in Darfur. The military told the Martin and Harper governments that it could handle two major international operations.
To his credit, former prime minister Paul Martin appointed an advisory group and had begun contributing real resources, but Stephen Harper promptly fired the group and contributions stalled. As a leading middle power, are we incapable of handling two problems at once? If we are capable, why aren't we moving on Darfur?
Canada has become hypocritical. Instead of demanding a meaningful, robust military presence, Canadians and their elected officials throw aid money at the problem to buy peace for our consciences.
Maybe we should stop prattling about our country's greatness and accept that we are no better than any other world power, middle or otherwise, where unbridled self-interest and fear of casualties dominate debate.
To prove otherwise, Canada should set aside its economic interests and show its mettle by expressing to oil-thirsty China our willingness to cut PetroChina out of the Alberta oil-sands project if it continues to arm the Sudanese.
More than ever, we need to find the statesmanship in Canada to intervene in this massive human rights tragedy. We said great things after the Rwandan genocide, but we have done nothing. And Darfur is not our only failure: We did not intervene to stop the slaughter in the Congo and we are leaving Sierra Leone too soon.
Speaking to the Conference of Defence Associations recently, Harper said there are times when political will must use force to bring peace and security to besieged peoples.
Canadians must ask themselves: If not Darfur, where? If not now, when?Senator Roméo Dallaire is the author of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Never Again, all over again: A letter to the future President

A letter published in the California Chronicle by our own Ruth Gonzalez. Congratulation Ruth!

Dear Mr. /Ms. President,"With great power, comes great responsibility." As corny as it sounds (Sorry Spiderman) it rings true. Your job as our "Commander in Chief" and "Leader for the Free World" comes in a time when our country and the world especially are involved in conflict after conflict, which seems to have no end. I would like to bring up my concern and growing outrage toward the continuing genocide taking place in Sudan´s Darfur region. This five year old conflict has already claimed the lives of over 400,000 non-Arabs and millions uprooted from their homes, due in larger part to the Sudanese militia known as the Janjaweed. Just knowing of the pure evil that they are causing and the simple fact that the world does not seemed that moved to take concrete action to ending this madness, just makes me ashamed and sick as a human being. For over the last 60 years, the phrase "Never Again" has been passed by the lips of politicians, presidents, world leaders, and the world over. But as the century progressed the names like Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda have become part of an already disdainful legacy of indifference and apathy. But yet as the killings continue, there is also hope. For the first time in history, there is a huge movement of mostly young people that are rallying together as one voice to putting an end to the genocide and already it has proved effected. We can only do so much. Now this is where you come in. You have the tools and influence to really make change not just in Darfur, but in other areas like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Uganda. Your predecessor has done some good by publicly saying that these atrocities are wrong and authorizing sanctions, but that isn´t enough. Pressuring countries like China to stop their businesses with Sudan can help and supporting the International Criminal Court can mean a world of difference. The ICC, with the support of the U.S. Government, will help bring those responsible to justice.
In retrospect, there have been moments in history where the human spirit can shine a light through the darkest of times: the liberation of the Death camps in Europe, the trials in Nuremburg, a small band of peacekeepers staying during the Rwandan genocide when the world looked away. And now, ordinary people are joining together and voicing their outrage at the continuing genocide in Darfur. But we also need someone who can lead the way towards the end of this crisis and helping the people of Darfur to a better future. Professor Elie Wiesel once said "Remember: Silence helps the killers, never his victims." If the world continues to stay silent while Darfur burns, then we all are helping the Janjaweed in killing the innocent and when this ends, history will have no mercy towards us. I can only fear that the US, whom is a great preacher in human rights, can only turn away because of our own sovereignty and self interest getting in the way of what is just and righteous: that all humans are the same and have every right to be treated as such. Hopefully you can see this within your own conscience.The choice is up to you to take action.Respectfully Yours,Ruth Gonzalez