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Post by Connie & Anika, STAND: Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, University of Delaware

The United Nations estimates that over 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur, as a result of the genocide that endures in this region. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those forced to leave their homes but reside within their country in shelters known as IDP camps.

Last year, we attended the “Seal the Deal” rally in Washington D.C, in which hundreds urged PreIMG_1857sident Bush to enforce passed legislation in dealing with Darfur. Several mock IDP camps were set up on the National Mall, exposing the realities of life inside of a real IDP camp via accurate representations of food rations and medical supplies, as well as photographs, videos and written information. These camps immediately caught our attention and we, along with many others, spent a great deal of time walking inside each tent to learn more about the lives of the displaced people of Darfur.

After the march, we decided to apply for a Rights, Camera Action mini-grant from AID in order to create a mock IDP camp similar to the ones we saw at the rally in D.C. for our campus’s next genocide awareness event.
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Yesterday, as anticipated, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo asked the pre-trial chamber of the ICC to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir for genocide and crimes against humanity. Also as anticipated, this is causing serious debates within the international legal community, which is divided over the wisdom of Mr. Ocampo’s strategy.

UN Dispatch has a pretty good wrap-up of the various arguments, which (and correct me if I’ve left one out) go something like this:

1) Indicting Bashir will only make his regime carry out more violence in Darfur, and will endanger the UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping force and the humanitarian missions underway in the region. Also, this will make any kind of peaceful settlement impossible.

2) Bashir was attacking the UN/AU force and the aid workers already, so and there is no peace or peace process to threaten. And Darfurians want Bashir prosecuted.

3) Without enforcement mechanisms, the ICC will realistically never catch Bashir anyway, and this will only evoke more public cynicism about the weaknesses of international justice.

4) Bashir and his regime are carrying out, at the very least, massive crimes against humanity and probably genocide, so "they’ll never catch" him is a dumb argument. It’s ridiculous to argue that a head of state should be given a free pass because he committed the very worst crimes.

I am not sure which argument I find most compelling right now, because I find all of them compelling for different reasons.

Meanwhile, in other serious international crimes news…. American domestic media has done a really poor job of covering the revelations that a 2007 International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report concluded that the interrogation techniques used against detainees at Guantanamo Bay were "categorically torture" (and thus a war crime) and could leave senior members of the Bush Administration vulnerable to prosecution at home or abroad. And the Administration and its enablers took this quite seriously in their own perverse way.

From Glenn Greenwald’s blog:

Harper‘s Scott Horton yesterday interviewed Jane Mayer about her new book, The Dark Side The first question he asked was about the Bush administration’s fear
that they would be criminally prosecuted for implementing what the
International Red Cross had categorically described as "torture."
Mayer responded "that inside the White House there [had] been growing fear of criminal prosecution,
particularly after the Supreme Court ruled in the Hamdan case that the
Geneva Conventions applied to the treatment of the detainees," and that
it was this fear that led the White House to demand (and, of course,
receive) immunity for past interrogation crimes as part of the Military
Commissions Act of 2006.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley discussed these issues on Countdown.

Good grief.

As this post is being read, violence continues in the Darfur region of Sudan. Without engaging in the debate concerning whether or not the atrocities in Darfur may indeed be deemed genocide according to international law, mass atrocities continue to be committed. The mass violence in Darfur is an issue that affects the ‘international community’ as well as smaller communities in the US and the people who are victims of genocide in Sudan, and while it is a challenging issue to discuss, there are solutions. There are obvious and less obvious community sectors and major global and local forces contributing to the problem. What is needed? A creative solution that operates both within existing state structures and outside the nation-state is what is needed.

The crisis in Darfur has many root causes and has grown out of several separate but intersecting conflicts (Straus 125). The first is a civil war between the Islamist, Khartoum-based national government, and two rebel groups based in Darfur (The Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality movement). “The rebels, angered by Darfur’s political and economic marginalization by Khartoum, first appeared in February 2003” (Straus 124). The government did not begin a major counteroffensive until the rebels carried out a major attack on a military airfield. Khartoum responded by “arming irregular militia forces and directing them to eradicate the rebellion. The militias set out to do just that, but mass violence against civilians is what followed” (Straus 125). The government essentially decided to covertly fight the rebels. In 2004, the government and main southern rebels entered negotiations and neared a comprehensive agreement. However, the Darfur region was never represented in these discussions: “the Darfur rebels decided to strike partly to avoid being left out of any new political settlement” (Straus 125). Here it can be seen that a community that was marginalized was merely attempting to fight for their rights.

More specifically, Darfur, which is about the size of Texas, is home to about six million people and several dozen tribes, which are then split between “those who claim ‘African’ descent and primarily practice sedentary agriculture, and those who claim ‘Arab’ descent and are mostly semi-nomadic livestock herders” (Straus 126). However, these divisions are far from clear since all Sudanese are technically African, and Darfurians are nearly all Muslim. In addition, years of intermarriage have decreased obvious physical differences between ‘Arabs and black ‘Africans’ (Straus 126). Extended drought and environmental factors have caused increased land disputes and have escalated the tensions in the region. The Khartoum government did not help matters by supporting and arming Arab tribes in the mid-1980s to “prevent the southern rebels from gaining a foothold in the region” (Straus 126). In response to rebel uprisings the government armed Arab militias to target black African civilians who came from the same tribes as the rebel groups.

While one person may be able to make a small mark, what is really needed in this solution is for people to come together and lobby governments all over the world to take action, while at the same time working outside the government structure to support projects such as solar cookers in refugee camps or NGO’s on the ground providing much-needed assistance. Gary Delgado, Oakland organizer writes in his introduction how his own experience as an organizer led him to believe, “the ground-breaking work, the innovation, the experimentation, and the motivating livid anger that comes from the truly oppressed is at the heart of the work in immigrants’ rights organizations, gay and lesbian organizations, disabled people’s organizations and organizations of people of color” (7). Organizers must not only focus on those who have money to donate, but also incorporate all oppressed people to illustrate that these actions will not be tolerated.
What should be included? Elements of activist using people power “to embarrass, disrupt, and publicly challenge key decision makers, forcing them to adhere to the group’s demands” (Delgado 20) and using “indigenous leadership with a professional staff.” It is also important to recognize where the solution fits into the larger picture and whether or not it can solve the root causes or serve as a band-aid. The situation in Sudan seems more similar to an analogy of a hemorrhage in that you cannot stop a hemorrhage with band-aids, “however many you apply; for a hemorrhage, you need major surgery. And I worry that as we fritter away our time and energies debating the minutia of small scale do-it-yourself-type community initiatives, the patient will bleed to death” (Gilligan 10). At the same time as we try slowing to patch up the patient, Sudan, we must also be aware of the larger picture, but it is these smaller scale initiatives that will hopefully lead to change.

According to Colin Fletcher, who writes on community problems, the problems must first be acknowledged as a shared. As Fletcher says, “the problems of society today can only be solved when society has become a community. Community occurs when a common predicament is shared. Sharing requires sympathetic understanding which in turn is the beginning of wisdom” (Fletcher 44). If we, as an international community, can recognize that this is indeed an issue that is important, than as individuals we can lobby our governments by movements in the street such as the Stop Genocide Rally on the Washington Mall in April 2006. Also by increasing awareness and continually showing that as an international community, we care.
This will also be a period calling for more collaboration between many diverse communities around the world (Calderon 53). As Calderon says, “Changing relations between all peoples and all countries are developing a more interdependent world. Today, we live with the reality that no community, no economy, and no country is able to exist separately” (Calderon 54). Although it may be hard to see at first glance how the victims of the genocide in Darfur are connected to us, as students in the US we are able to transcend national boundaries and work alongside communities as diverse as those in Sudan.

Since the movement to stop genocide is so strong in the US we can expand outwards and help train and mobilize others to lobby their governments to take some kind of action on the issue of Sudan. As a former student at Pitzer College, I brought together students, staff, faculty and anyone else interested to discuss current events in Sudan. I asked people with indigenous knowledge such as Lako Tongun, who is originally from the Sudan to work with Jerry Fowler, a visiting professor from the Holocaust Memorial Museum Committee on Conscious and student activists across the five colleges to come together to increase awareness of an important issue. Small groups must connect to schools outside the US, and tell them about what they are doing to help educate others about Darfur in hopes that schools can pass the message forward and contact other schools to mobilize transnational activism to stop genocide in Sudan, or at least assuage the situation.

Looking at the problem of genocide in Darfur, as students, we cannot change the ecological factors, we cannot individually choose to go in to fight against government-backed militias, nor can all of us travel to Sudan to speak to the refugees. We may not all agree on the measures that should be taken by the US or so-called international community to stop the atrocities: Should there be an invasion to stop the violence, an increased African Union force, targeted sanctions, comprehensive sanctions, or suspension of UN membership? The conditions are further complicated by the changes that are taking place day to day, as time goes by. What we can control is our own activism.

For more information:
http://www.ushmm.org/conscience/alert/darfur/contents/01-overview/
http://www.genocideintervention.net/
http://www.standnow.org/

References:

Fletcher, Colin, “The Meanings of ‘Community’ in Community Education,” in Community Education: An Agenda for Educational Reform, ed. Allen Garth, et al., Philadelphia: open University Press, 1987, 33-49.

Calderon, Jose, “An Essay on Sources of Intercommunity Conflict and Models of Collaboration,” California Politics and Policy, (10-1998), p.53-57.

Gilligan, James (2001) “Who Benefits from Violence” Preventing Violence. London: Thames and Hudson, 7-28 and 131-38.

Straus, Scott. “Darfur and the Genocide Debate,” Foreign Affairs, volume 84, No. 1 available at http://www.polisci.wisc.edu/users/Straus/Straus.pdf

The situation in Darfur is only getting worse. It’s ghastly to think that we may be watching the Sudanese version of "Hotel Rwanda" or "Welcome to Sarajevo" in a few years time. We should not delude ourselves: this genocide can be stopped. Sudan is not a powerful state militarily. It is arming men who ride into towns and villages on horses and camels, and supporting the destruction of Darfur from the air with old Russian jets. Even simply inserting a peacemaking force to protect the refugees would save many lives. All of this, of course, would have to be done against the will of the Sudanese government and the UN Security Council (because of Russia and China), but I am of the school that believes a state that is in the midst of committing a genocide against its own people long ago forfeited any claims to sovereignty, and that this is the one instance when, at least as it is currently composed, the Security Council must not be allowed to have the final say. No one ever consents to be killed, or to watch as her or his loved ones are killed. And to commit mass atrocities is antithetical to the very purpose of government. When people are no longer treated like citizens, and are disposed of in large numbers, as if they are not even human beings, it falls on the conscience of the rest of the countries of the world to intervene.

I want to see no more hand-wringing from those with the ability to stop this. We can argue about humanitarian interventions until the end of time (Iraq was NOT a humanitarian intervention, by the way), but people are fighting for their lives, and now is the time for action.

From the UN News Centre:

Darfur: UN Rights Council holds special session; Annan calls for end to nightmare

12 December 2006 The newly enhanced United Nations Human Rights Council today held a special session
on Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, with top officials from
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on down calling for immediate action to
end the nightmare of civilian deaths, mass rape, millions uprooted,
indiscriminate bombardment by Government planes and rebel abuses.

“It is essential that this Council send a clear and united message to
warn all concerned, on behalf of the whole world, that the current
situation is simply unacceptable and will not be allowed to continue,”
Mr. Annan told the 47-member body in Geneva in a video address.
“The people of Darfur cannot afford to wait another day. The violence
must stop. The killings and other gross violations of human rights must
end.”

He noted that in the last few weeks, fighting has escalated and
conditions for the civilian population have got even worse with armed
militias attacking with impunity, destroying dozens of villages,
displacing thousands more to join the over 2 million already uprooted,
and raping large numbers of women. Some 4 million people now need
humanitarian aid.

From Reuters Alertnet:

Plan B for Darfur

 11 Dec 2006 15:07:00 GMT
Blogged by: Nina Brenjo

"Ever since summer, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been making
fools of world leaders who want to stop the genocide in Darfur", says
the Chicago Tribune.
If you take that view, you’d probably say he was still doing that for
International Human Rights Day yesterday, marked by campaigners’ calls
for peace in Darfur. The conflict in Darfur is spilling over into neighbouring
Chad, where the government is fighting off rebels it claims are
supported by the Sudanese government.

Significantly, and unlike Sudan,
Chad’s government is willing to have U.N. troops on its side of the
border with Sudan. The United Nations should take this offer up
quickly, says the Tribune editorial, since other options to do
something about the conflict in Darfur aren’t looking too promising.
Deployment in Chad wouldn’t halt violence in Darfur, but it might at
least help contain it, the paper concludes. Some aid agencies are getting a bit fed up with "leaders who
want to stop the genocide in Darfur". The secretary-general of the
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which was expelled from Darfur last month, complains in Britain’s Independent
that they don’t seem be speaking out about humanitarian access to
Darfur being squeezed, making it harder and harder to provide
"life-saving relief".

NRC’s Tomas Archer says relief agencies are still being
hounded by the government, some aid organisations’ permits have been
withdrawn, aid workers are barred from accessing the area and their
work is constantly being obstructed. Meanwhile, there are 4 million people in need of protection
and emergency relief in the coming months, and "…the international
community cannot continue to mince words, pretending that the
hostage-taking of humanitarian operations in Darfur is not happening on
its watch," Archer continues. " (It’s) time for the international
community to break its code of silence, and act," he concludes.

The Economist
agrees with the Chicago Tribune about the deployment of U.N. troops in
Chad on the border with Sudan, but also warns about the link between
Darfur and Sudan’s south:
"…if Darfur remains a killing field, the chance of the south staying peaceful is small," it cautions.
Julie Flint, co-author of "Darfur: A Short History of a Long War", complains in the Lebanese Daily Star
about the end-of-year deadline the United States has given to the
Sudanese government to change its mind about allowing in international
peacekeepers. Otherwise, the threat goes, the United States will resort
to "Plan B ". But it’s probably an empty threat, Flint says. And anyway, she asks: "What was – is – Plan A?"

UN Dispatch has a great post about an article on UN peacekeeping written by (of all people) Peter Beinart in (of all publications) The New Republic. I checked the article out, and, while I may not have a great personal impression of Beinart  (he did something nasty at a function I helped organize in DC this year), he makes excellent points, and emphasizes, as too few American writers do, how much good the UN actually does.

From UN Dispatch:

He hits all the main points. As a result of Iraq, says Beinart, Americans may have a declining appetite for ambitious nation building projects. However, the United Nations is poised to fill that gap. As Beinart notes, the UN has a capacity to oversee complex nation/peace building operations that is unparalleled by any government on its own; long serving expert staff in areas as diverse as justice sector development and election management makes the UN uniquely suited to take on these tasks in societies emerging from conflict.

Peacekeepers are the core of these kinds of operations. And perhaps the one point that Beinart could have emphasized more forcefully is the gap between the demand for peacekeepers worldwide and the financial resources available to the United Nations to oversee their deployment. The Department of Peace Keeping Operations is forced to maintain the current level of peacekeepers around the world and prepare for new
missions without ever experiencing an increase in its budget commensurate to the new operations the Security Council authorizes.

Complicating matters is that the single largest financial donor to peacekeeping operations, the United States, is constantly in arrears. The United States has agreed to pay 27% of the costs of peacekeepers around the globe, but it never makes that amount in full. For FY 2007, it is estimated that the United States will be close to $400 million in arrears.

These backlogs come at a time when the United States is increasingly looking to peacekeeping operations for world conflict zones. For example, just yesterday Ambassador Bolton raised the prospect of a UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia. People can debate the merits of sending blue helmets to Somalia (for the record, the prominent NGO The International Crisis Group cautions against this approach) but if

peacekeepers for Somalia are approved, this would be the fourth mission the Security Council will have authorized since August. The Security Council already approved missions for Lebanon, Darfur, and East Timor, which if implemented in full would increase the number of blue helmets across the globe by 50%.

Financially supporting in full peacekeeping operations is critical. It is the only way that major powers, the United States included, can maximize the UN’s share of the burden of maintaining peace and security
throughout the globe.

Did you know that the American Jewish World Service and the American Society for Muslim Advancement were founding members of the Save Darfur Coalition?  Have you heard there’s an Evangelicals for Darfur campaign? It’s true! The philanthropy focus of many religious groups is starting to go global.

I just encountered a really amazing pan-evangelical print ad, signed by Christian leaders from across the nation and addressed to the President of the US.  It is as follows:

Without you, Mr. President, Darfur doesn’t have a prayer.

We come to you from across the evangelical spectrum. We beseech you to act on your faith and do the right thing in leading the world to bring an end to the genocide affecting “the least of these” in Darfur. To date, over 400,000 people have been killed. 2.5 million displaced. Countless more raped, maimed and tortured. Men, women and children created in God’s image. Ending the atrocities will require your personal leadership in supporting the deployment of a strong U.N. peacekeeping force and multilateral economic sanctions. While we often disagree on matters of politics, we are united in the belief that your leadership can make the critical difference in Darfur. We join together now to urge you, in the words of Proverbs 24:11-12, to “rescue those being led away to death.” We pledge to do everything we can to rally support in both Congress and in the U.N. to uphold your efforts in bringing the horror in Darfur to an end.

Even if you can’t agree with this ad in its entirety, for whatever reason, I hope you find it as encouraging as I do to see people of faith working to address crucial international issues. Athiest-Muslim-Christian-Agnostic-Hindu-etcetera, I believe we share a human ethic that compels us to address serious injustices in the world! Now we only have to coordinate our efforts! 🙂

Cheers y un saludo cordial,

Lindsay

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