Sudan’s President denies role in Darfur Violence

March 21, 2007

[Thanks to Eclecta for not letting me miss this.]

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir

This post might as well be called, “are you fucking kidding me?” In this remarkable MSNBC piece, Ann Curry interviews Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, which is widely viewed by the world to blame for the atrocities that are going on in Darfur.

Ms. Curry notes in her blog, “how does one interview a man accused of unleashing genocide?

Human Rights Watch says President al-Bashir should be prosecuted for war crimes in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has summoned one of the ministers in his government to face possible charges for crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir has just suspended cooperation with the ICC investigators and continues to publically state the situation in Darfur is exaggerated and solely a regional conflict . Now, in his first television interview to the west in four years, he will have a chance to answer these accusations.

So how exactly am I to face this man? How will I exact the truth, and at the same time keep the horror that I saw on the Darfur border from being revealed in my own eyes? I was never good at poker. I am gearing up for one of the greatest challenges of my career.

A challenge indeed. Omar al-Bashir is one piece of (rotten) work. Check out how the 2-hour interview came out:

Ann Curry: Mr. President, I have this map from the U.S. Department of State that shows more than a thousand villages in the Darfur region — more than a thousand burned.

And the question is, how can this be done by Arab militias without the support of the Sudanese government? This is shocking.

Omar al-Bashir: What do you think about the picture that Colin Powell presented before the national security that confirmed and illustrated the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What do you think about it?

Curry: You’re saying this is not true?

Al-Bashir: This picture is the same fabrication and the same picture as the ones Colin Powell presented about Iraq.

In other words, we have Ms. Curry, who to her credit seems genuinely concerned about the atrocities in Darfur, and this creep throws Iraq at her face, as if to say, you and your country have no credibility or moral standing to be asking these questions.

A bonafide war criminal is basically calling George W. Bush and his Iraq wet-dream a war crime. This is even embarassing to write, but it takes one to know one. We have no moral compass to guide us. Lord help us.

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Escaping Sudan, Torture, and Brad Pitt

January 23, 2007

John Dau of Sudan stars in a film about refugees

I’m a little behind in postings, but rest assured this blog ain’t dead.

Here’s a fantastic article from the Washington Post about John Dau, a Sudan refugee now living in N.Y.

What debt does a man owe his past? Do survivors have an obligation to the dead?

As a boy, John Bul Dau ate mud, drank urine and swam rivers to outrun the men with the guns. He survived a 1,000-mile trek from his village in southern Sudan to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. He dug shallow graves to bury children who collapsed. The next day, a hand or foot would be stretching out of the earth, gnawed by hyenas.

As a man, John Dau is a 34-year-old security guard and college student in Syracuse, N.Y. He’s recently married, a brand-new father and a citizen of a strange country called the United States.

But Dau, the subject of the National Geographic documentary “God Grew Tired of Us,” which opened in Washington yesterday, is using his life here to try to improve the lot of people back home. Life in its fullest sense, he says, is something in which connections remain, over the years, over the oceans.

That first sentence, what debt does a man owes his past? Do survivors have an obligation to the dead? is not only beautiful in the literary and philosophical sense, but a creed to most survivors and refugees worldwide. John Dau is definitely thinking about those who fell behind:

So even as Dau landed in America, with one inglorious job after another — factory worker, burger flipper– he sent money back to the refugees. He also helped create a tiny nonprofit at a local church, the American Care for Sudan Foundation . It’s all volunteer, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward building a hospital clinic in his home region.

He’s just starting work at a new nonprofit, Direct Change, that is trying to push the clinic funding from its current $180,000 level to its $230,000 goal. They’re scheduled to start construction next week.

Contrast Dau’s behavior with the current right-wing rhetoric of every man for himself. People don’t have to go through such horrible life experiences to help out – that’s John Dau way of helping because that’s what life dealt him. What better way to restore the honor and integrity of the United States than helping out the world’s destitute? They are not asking for a handout – they are asking for a fair chance at a decent life in this world, nothing more.

He certainly commands attention:

He’s talking in a small office in the National Geographic headquarters in downtown Washington, soft of voice, shy of manner. He’s wearing a leather jacket and a Disney “Cars” watch. He is 6 feet 8 inches tall. Last week, Variety reported that at the Hollywood premiere of the film, you could pretty much walk up to producer Brad Pitt and chat as long as you wanted. Dau? Forget it. The man was mobbed.

Good for you, John Dau.

In fact, there’s a better way to salvage the reputation of the U.S. Get those soldiers out of Iraq – where they don’t want them – and move them into Sudan – where they are sorely needed. That’s a surge I would support.


Sudan, Darfur rebels agree 60-day ceasefire

January 11, 2007

Good news, but don’t get your hopes up:

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s government and Darfur rebels have agreed to a 60-day ceasefire and a peace summit sponsored by the African Union and the United Nations as steps toward stopping the violence in west Sudan, a visiting U.S. official said on Wednesday.

Sudan has also agreed to let foreign journalists visit Darfur after a two-month ban and to remove a requirement for exit visas for aid workers, one of the biggest bureaucratic obstacles to the world’s largest aid operation in Darfur.

By the way, it isn’t George W. Bush or Condi Rice that gets the credit for this – it is none other than U.S. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson:

Richardson said rebel commanders he had met in Darfur had also agreed to the ceasefire, which would begin on a date to be set by the United Nations and the African Union, which are jointly mediating Darfur peace efforts.

A joint statement by the Sudanese government and Richardson also said Sudan would not use military aircraft painted in white colors, usually reserved for humanitarians, and that Darfur rebel commanders could safely call a conference in the field monitored by the United Nations and the AU.

See, that wasn’t that hard. Just acknowledge the problem, go there and talk about it. Just like we wish had happened in Iraq.


2006: A Violent Year for Aid Workers

December 31, 2006

This is sort of a follow-up on a previous post of mine, “International aid work a deadly profession“. From Reuters’ AlertNet:

Violence against aid workers reached its highest level in a decade in 2006, as conflict escalated in Sudan’s western Darfur region, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, new figures show.

There were 90 major incidents in 2006, compared with 72 in 2005 and 66 in 2004, according to New York University’s Center on International Cooperation (CIC) and Britain’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI), which have measured violence directed at aid operations since 1997.

[…]Over the year, 83 aid workers were killed – the highest number since 2003 – 78 were wounded and 52 kidnapped. Afghanistan had the greatest number of aid worker deaths at 26, followed by Sri Lanka with 23 and Sudan with 15.

With what’s going on in the Middle East, folks would think that Iraq accounts for a large share of attacks, but this is incorrect:

Sudan accounted for over 40 percent of major attacks in 2006. Recent weeks have seen a spate of raids on aid agency compounds and vehicles in Darfur, where conflict has uprooted some 2.5 million people.


Darfur in Crisis, Still

December 28, 2006

I think it was Senator Russ Feingold that mentioned on Meet the Press that the while the U.S. pours billions into Iraq, Somalia receives around 1-2 million dollars a year in foreign aid. You just can’t ignore other crisis in the world while hoping that they go away. Darfur really, REALLY, needs a U.S. intervention:

Almost four years after conflict broke out in Darfur, calls are being made for greater efforts to resolve the predicament in this western region of Sudan.

During an event marking International Human Rights Day Dec. 8, outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated that the world can, and must intensify the drive to address violence in Darfur.

Renewed fighting has been taking place in the region over the past two months, and aid agencies warn that this is causing thousands of civilians to flee into mountainous areas where they are cut off from assistance. Sudan’s government has clashed with a coalition of rebels that failed to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja — the National Redemption Front.

Why does the world continue to ignore Darfur? The whole world has plenty of evidence of a genocide in Darfur, yet where are they? In Iraq. Talk about priorities. To put some of this in context, Osama bin Laden was LIVED and OPERATED in Somalia for years before 9/11.


Sudan’s “Lost Girls” still struggle in the U.S.

December 27, 2006

Sudan’s “Lost Girls” in the U.S. are overcoming their shyness and beginning to talk about the horrors they survived, problems adjusting to U.S. life and their worries about the women still in Sudan:

Veronica Abbas

At 24, Abbas has lived long enough to witness the greater part of the violent clashes in Sudan. She is a “Lost Girl” of Sudan–a genocide survivor–and was a part of the first group of female refugees granted U.S. asylum in 1999.

Her sad assessment of other Lost Girls was echoed in a 2003 congressional report by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which found the young women’s young male refugee counterparts–who outnumber them roughly by 38 to 1–faring much better. Sudanese “Lost Boys” were making substantial strides in achieving independence, the report found, with employment rates 18 percent higher than among male U.S. counterparts. Lost Girls, by contrast, lag U.S. female counterparts by 25 percent.

Go read the rest, it is a worthwhile read.