Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The news from Kabbum

Witness to Darfur: (pt. 2)
I try to disappear, sliding my hot and sticky body down the back seat of the SUV as it bounces along an unmarked dirt road. I realize for the first time since arriving in Sudan that I am actually terrified. Our cell phones have quit working, and now the VHF radio signal is gone. My companions, part of the relief group, the International Medical Corps (IMC), don’t have to tell me that these could be signs of an impending Janjaweed attack...

Everyone knows what is going on in Darfur. But almost nothing is being done to stop these attacks, which are coordinated by the militias and the Sudanese government in Khartoum, using helicopters, communications jamming, etc. I heard a report on the radio from someone traveling with the African Union Army who was shown a list of towns the Janjaweed planned to attack. They still couldn't stop the slaughter, except in one of the towns. Khartoum is still trying to cover up the problem:

Dutch aid workers arrested in Darfur over rape report - 31 May 2005

AMSTERDAM — Two high-profile members of the Dutch division of Doctors without Borders have been arrested in Sudan, just weeks after the volunteer aid group released a report about the widespread rape of women in the crisis region Darfur.

British national and the Artsen zonder Grenzen (AzG) chief in Sudan, Paul Foreman, was arrested on Monday and released on bail that night. He is reportedly "outraged".

A second AzG worker, Vincent Hoedt, was arrested on Tuesday morning and is being taken to the Sudanese capital Khartoum. He is responsible for the aid group's activities in Darfur. AzG had expected his arrest.

A Sudanese public prosecutor said the government was angered by an
AzG report in March alleging hundreds of rapes in the Darfur region.

But an AzG spokeswoman in Amsterdam was "very shocked and outraged" by the incident. "It is our mandate to speak out about human rights violations. This is too crazy for words," she said.

The spokeswoman said Foreman is accused of undermining Sudanese society by publishing an incorrect report.


The arrests are the first such action taken against an aid organisation since reports of violence and a refugee crisis started to emerge from Darfur in 2003.

Sudan said AzG had to consult with the government prior to publishing the report, claiming it asked the group on multiple occasions to provide evidence.

On that basis, justice officials believe the claims are false — a penalty that carries a maximum three-year jail term.

AzG chief Foreman said he is refusing to hand over medical documents because they are protected under the medical profession's privacy code...

Thanks to Google News, I know that reliable sources such as the China Daily and The Washington Times are reporting that the situation is improving. President Bush hasn't mentioned Darfur in months [update: just after I posted this, I read that Bush, meeting with South Africa President Mbeki (another person who holds responsibility for letting this genocide continue) discussed Darfur. Mbeki reiterated his desire not to accept U.S. military help, claiming the genocide is something the AU can solve.], and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan believes a political solution is possible, but:

Improvement is in the Eye of the Beholder
Jan Pronk, U.N. envoy to Sudan, recently said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan was greatly impressed by improvement of the situation in Darfur. In Pronk's words
"Mr. Annan was really impressed by the improved situation in Darfur, which he visited on Saturday," Pronk told a press conference in Khartoum.


"Foreign press reports, especially in the American press, which speak of no progress in Darfur are completely untrue," he added.
At the time Annan was in Darfur, The Scotsman was reporting that
Confidential African Union (AU) reports have provided damning new evidence of the involvement of Sudanese government forces and their Janjaweed militia allies in the murder and rape of civilians in the Darfur region.
At the same time, two aid workers from Doctors Without Borders were arrested because of a recent report documenting hundreds of cases of rape in the region.

On top of that, the World Food Program reported that the number of people requiring food aid in Sudan is now more than six million, while the UNHCR reported that Janjaweed and government attacks have all but destroyed village life and forced some 2 million people into makeshift slums. With the majority of villages destroyed and insecurity rampant, it is not surprising that the displaced have become entirely dependent on foreign aid and are increasingly unwilling to return home.

As Eric Reeves explained in his most recent update
Sometime in the summer of 2004 (we will never know precisely when), genocidal destruction in Darfur became more a matter of engineered disease and malnutrition than violent killing. In other words, disease and malnutrition proceeding directly from the consequences of violent attacks on villages, deliberate displacement, and systematic destruction of the means of agricultural production among the targeted non-Arab or African tribal groups became the major killers.
According to a recent International Crisis Group estimate, "a minimum presence of 12,000-15,000 [military] personnel is needed now to undertake the tasks of protecting villages against further attack or destruction." But as it stands now, the African Union hasn't even been able to deploy the 3,000 or so troops required under its current mandate and will most likely be able to field the 7,000-12,000 troops called for in its expanded mission.

Thus, it is rather difficult to comprehend just what sorts of "improvement" Annan and Pronk claim to have witnessed in Darfur.

The international community continues to fail to seriously addresses this crisis and so we ask you to join the Coalition for Darfur as we attempt to raise awareness of this genocide and collect contributions for worthy organizations providing life-saving assistance to the forgotten people of Darfur.

Well said.


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