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Duk, Sudan - a place of terrible memory and a place of hope. Muwt's story began here, where will it end no one knows. By a extreme case of coincedience I met Muwt the other night at an African Culture Week student panel event. He talked about a group he was part of that was working to build a health clinic in their former home village. It sounded like a great opportunity for my own organization to get involved. After the event I talked to Muwt and found out that there was an art gallery event just nearby to benefit the health clinic. Since I had actually met the artist, who was putting on the show, a year earlier I decided to join him.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) peacekeepers are trapped in the middle of the fight. Checkpoints are all over the North Kivu province and the UN personnel are not exempt from interrogation. The UN peacekeepers are forced to live with a precarious relationship with the various warring factions in the DRC, including the government army. The DRC's current government army is just a conglomerate of merged rebel armies and so there does not exist a common identity. You never know who you may have to deal with at a checkpoint. Recently a rebel leader in North Kivu surrendered to the UN forces. Kabila has given the green light to loyal troops to engage and disarm rebel General Nkundu. The recent fighting between government forces and rebels probably caused the small rebel group of about 30 to surrender. The resurgence of fighting has also brough with it human rights abuses. From 2005 - 2007, over 258 cases of rape were recorded along with 14,200 cases of sexual violence. Less than one percent of these made it to court. The UN Independent Expert on human rights has called for an end to the impunity of sexual violence cases and urged Kabila to take up a 'zero-tolerance' policy.
From: !Enough: the project to abolish genocide + mass atrocities -
Dissident Congolese Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda's more than 3,000 loyal forces have carved out control of parts of North Kivu Province. The Congolese government has responded by realigning itself with the FDLR -- a militia composed of more than 6,000 Rwandan Hutu rebels, many with links to the 1994 genocide in their home country -- to fight Nkunda's more effective force. This threatens to draw Rwanda back into Congo's conflict, which would lead to rapid escalation and potentially plunge Congo back into regional war.
We are back again to the age old debate of language and the way it is used - this time however the consequences are much greater. Genocide, how do you define it? In a Slate News, Senator Obama's comments are noted when referring to genocide. The article, titled "Getting comfy with genocide", gets deep into the definition of genocide and the consequences of our current use of the term.
After reading the question of the title, the first country that comes to mind is Somalia and a slew of African countries. Somalia always seems to be at the top of the list and always seems to fit the necessary criteria of a failed state no matter what happens. On returning from Ghana I was talking with my uncle about Africa and was very surprised about his views and ideas especially when came to the subject of conflict. He wondered whether it would have made a difference if there had been no colonizers? Wouldn't Africans still be fighting each other regardless of the colonial 'divide and conquer' strategy? Could it have been worse if the colonizers never 'intervened?'
Genocide continues, people continue to be murdered, lives continue to be lost. The next month will mark the anniversary of the Darfur Peace Agreement. The crisis in Sudan's western region of Darfur is only getting worse. The Sudanese government claims to be making it easier for aid groups to provide humanitarian support, yet aid groups are at times allowed to work and later denied. Under-staffed and under-supported African Union troops are being threatened and killed. The US deputy secretary, John Negroponte, sees this as the last opportunity to bring in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force as hope seems to be running out for a solution. As Negroponte travels to Sudan he will be bringing the message that Washington's patience has run out. Ban Ki-moon says that he thinks a misunderstanding with the Sudanese government is holding up the peacekeeping force.
The genocide in Darfur is not contained by the Sudanese borders. Back in February the UN warned that Chad, which borders Sudan's western region of Darfur, could become the scene of the next genocide if action is not taken soon. The UN has recommended peacekeepers to the border countries of Sudan to halt the spread of the killing. The janjaweed is penetrating further and further into Chad to attack refugees in camps. The UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) has expressed worries that the spillover from Darfur will exacerbate the ethnic tensions. The janjaweed had started the violence, but now Chadian locals have joined in and increased the magnitude of the conflict and the killing.
By way of Africa, countries become superpowers. By way of Africa, countries gain influence, power, and resources. By way of Africa, exploiters can fuel their desires. And now this is the point where you should ask: "Why?" Well listen my children (not meant as a speaking down to you) and you shall hear of the midnight rise of the new Paul Revere. Instead of racing to sound the alarm of an invasion of British troops, this new Paul Revere races to beat the competition to the resources of the land and people. The new Paul Revere races to establish himself economically and politically in every middlesex town for his bank accounts to be up and full. This new Paul Revere yells to the people to get up and listen to what he can give them and what they can give him in return, he tells them not be get up and to arm against the invasion, but to sit down and join him in this great opportunity.
Is the Iraq conflict now seen as a humanitarian crisis as much as the more well-known Darfur genocide? How can the two be compared. For starters we can look at US commitments to both conflicts. Back in 2000 when Bush was handed a press release about the Rwandan genocide, he wrote, "not on my watch" in the margin. In 2003 we became involved in Iraq to fight terrorism? The polls now tell us taht Americans would rather be involved in Darfur than Iraq. Why? Maybe because we would rather save lives than assist in their destruction. David Bosco of the LA Times writes of the ugly truths in his blog on the Foreign Policy website. Recent UN findings have totaled over 34,000 Iraqi deaths in just 2006. "The death toll for Darfur has become a political football, but the U.S. State Department's most recent estimate is that 200,000 people have been killed by the violence since it began in 2003, and over 2 million people have been displaced," writes Bosco. However the estimates vary and many state that over 400,000 have been murdered in Darfur. Bosco wants is trying to make us think of the possibilities of our actions in both Iraq and Darfur. Is it too late in either case? Is one life more valuable than another? His closing statement sums it all up, "Yet, while it's not clear to me that the U.S. military is doing "no good" in Iraq, absent a more realistic regional strategy from the White House, what little it is accomplishing by staying is probably not worth the costs."