Friday, April 20, 2007

A Post about Darfur

Displaced people from Darfur
Yesterday Jamaal sent me a link to an article about Darfur, in which the president was using some very strong language about stopping the conflicts, sanctions and UN action. I was going to post on it right away, but I decided to hold off, as the VTech stuff has been really intense and I had put on a mini-post with a link about that, and then I put it off again so my pro-choice rage could go on there. Now I'm ready to talk a bit about Darfur. I promise I won't get to intense, because Jam and most of you who read this (because most of the areaders are good friends unless there are people lurking out there, which they are more than welcome to do) have heard me get drunk and rant about Rwanda. Actually, if you know me really well, you've probably heard me rant about it 100% sober too. Anyways, this is the article, which has been edited by me, just to leave out some extraneous junk:

Updated: 4:46 p.m. ET April 18, 2007

WASHINGTON - President Bush, increasing pressure on Sudan, said Wednesday the U.S. will tighten economic penalties and impose new ones if Sudan’s leader does not act quickly to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.
Bush said Omar al-Bashir’s government must allow U.N. support forces, facilitate deployment of a full U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, end support of militias and let humanitarian aid get through.
“The world needs to act,” Bush said. “If President al-Bashir does not meet his obligations, the United States of America will act.”

Bush said the U.S. would bar certain companies from participating in the U.S. financial system, punish individuals responsible for violence and issue new penalties against Sudan’s government.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the four-year conflict. It began when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the Arab-led central government. The Khartoum government is accused of responding by unleashing the janjaweed militias of Arab nomads, who are blamed for indiscriminate killing. The government denies the charges.
Feingold wants action
Sen. Russ Feingold, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, said Congress has called for many of the steps Bush outlined.
“What is needed now is their quick and effective implementation and enforcement,” said Feingold, D-Wis. “We are long past the point of warnings.”
The current force of 7,000 AU peacekeepers has been unable to stop the fighting. About 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes and are living in poorly protected camps in the province and eastern Chad.
The United Nations and U.S. have pushed Sudan to accept thousands more U.N. troops to build up a combined AU-U.N. force of 20,000. Al-Bashir repeatedly has rejected a U.N. force, but his recent agreement to accept 3,000 U.N. troops could be a sign that the pressure is beginning to have an effect.

Broken promises
Sudan’s government, however, has reversed position in the past after appearing to agree to a peacekeeping mission.
“His regime makes promises, signs agreements and makes pledges — only to hedge, qualify and renege on their commitments,” said David C. Rubenstein, director of the Save Darfur Coalition. “President Bashir has been one broken promise after another, and we fear this concession may be an extension of that trend.”
Bush said he wants to give U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon more time to pursue diplomatic efforts. But Bush said the U.S. would take action if al-Bashir does not move quickly. Bush did not say how long he would wait.
The Treasury Department will tighten economic penalties, allowing the Bush administration to block any of the Sudan government’s dollar transactions in the U.S. Also, 29 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government will join a list that makes it a crime for American companies and individuals to do business with them.
People held responsible for the violence in Darfur will face similar financial penalties, “calling the world’s attention to their crimes,” Bush said.

Rice to draft new resolution
Bush is directing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to prepare a U.N. Security Council resolution for new penalties against Sudan’s government and those found to be violating human rights or obstructing peace.
The resolution would expand an embargo on arms sales, prohibit Sudan’s government from conducting offensive military flights over Darfur and strengthen the U.S. ability to monitor and report any violations, Bush said.
“That kind of diplomatic interaction is going to be replicated all around the globe, with the thought in mind that we may well have to act on a Security Council resolution,” department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. “This is designed to send a clear message of the seriousness of our intent.”

While I support any action against continued bloodshed, I throw up my hands and say to the President "Why did it take you so long? where were you 4 years ago when this started??? oh. Invading Iraq. Right." I understand that our military is stretched thin at the moment, and furthermore, I'm not exactly sure the US military has any right to go marching into Darfur and start laying down the law. I believe that this situation is why we have United Nations peacekeeping forces. Unfortunately, governments are so wishy-washy about that, and they ultimately end up either not agreeing to send anyone or sending inadequate numbers in times of conflict. Actually, before I blame the president, whose administration has at least had the balls to declare the atrocities committed by the janjaweed in Darfur as what they are, genocide, I should probably go a bit deeper with my finger-pointing, and point out the inefficacy of the United Nations. You can't pass resolutions demanding that militias be disbanded and disarmed. Yeah right, like they'll pay attention. We're talking about remote Sudan here, will they even KNOW this resolution was passed? Whose going to approach them to tell them? Whose going to enforce it? Unless someone other than the ill-equipped African Union military gets over there, absolutely no one. I support the Bush administration's ideas about ending the conflict, but honestly, how is going to yet another UN Security Council resolution, even if it does threaten with sanctions and "new penalties" for those disturbing the peace or committing violent acts against humanity.

What Darfur needs is a UN Peacekeeping Force, and not a half-assed one, like Rwanda, and it needs one now, not later, not in 3 months when al-Bashir has had his 3 strikes. NOW. Between 200,000-400,000 are already dead, millions displaced and causing a strain on other African nations already struggling to survive. Thirteen years later, Rwanda is still reeling from the genocide that we let happen. Yup, the United States and Bill Clinton (that's for you, T1 (-;) and Madeleine Albright stood and watched stultified as images of children and women being hacked to death by machetes streamed into our living rooms. Congress sat and scratched their asses. One million people were murdered in a matter of months. The UN peacekeepers sent there were not allowed to open fire against men who were beating people to death in the streets in broad daylight, their criteria for assassination based soley on their appearance. The UN military's job was to get the white people out, and "keep the status quo." No weapons, no acts of war, when a peace-keeping body equipped with guns and tanks could have crushed the genocide in a matter of days, when the UN knew that the plans for this genocide were in place, where there were major weapons caches, and who the leaders were. The United States could've scrambled Rwanda's radio broadcasts, which had been overtaken by Hutu rebels and was being aired throughout the cities and towns in Rwanda with anti-Tutsi propaganda, urging Hutu men and boys to "crush the Tutsi cockroaches." But oh, would that be a violation of the first amendment? Hmmm, too tough to say, better do nothing, best to just say "oh Somalia went badly, we can't intervene in these "acts of genocide." '' By the time the United States (and many other countries in the EU, I can't blame the US entirely for their ignorance of the situation) and the United Nations decided that something should happen and that UN troops should be deployed to Rwanda, it was too late. COWARDICE! President Bush agreed when he took office. He looked at that Rwanda report and wrote on it "Not on my watch." Guess what, Mr. President, you've been watching it for 3 years. Maybe it's not happening as quickly, maybe the issues are a little less clear, but it's happening under our noses and it needs to stop. I can only hope that the United States and the UN will take these issues seriously and act quickly.

Also, I would just like to make a note about Bill Clinton for a second. I do bash him from time to time on this blog, and I'll admit, it's not cause he let a girl leave her knee prints on the Oval Office carpet. My disdain for the man stems from his handling of the Rwanda situation. I realize that he is not the only person to blame here, and I think that I've learned with this current administration is that you truly cannot blame one person for something as big as this. The thing is, that even though I'm young-ish, I lived through this time, I watched what happened on the news and I was horrified. Less than a decade later, I sat in a classroom and watched the first-hand footage, I heard the radio broadcasts from the genocide. I sat there and listened as my professors, two celebrated scholars of African history, recounted their desperation to contact their Rwandan friends (they both did their theses in central Africa and spent extensive time in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda....Catherine and David Newbury, you can google them and find their great work) as the genocide unrolled. Catherine stood there with tears running down her face and she told us that she dialed the country code for Rwanda and then any random number to try and contact any person who could tell them what was going on and whether or not their friends were safe. Her husband, David, had to take over part of the story-telling. These were rather standoffish shy professors, not given to showing too much emotion while lecturing, but the memories got to be too much. I remember David stepping in and saying "Oft-times when Catherine called a random Rwandan number, she would hear the Interahamwe come in and kill the person to whom she was talking. She listened to the genocide on the phone." Between those stories, the press footage from Rwanda, and later, watching Clinton's visit to Rwanda which lasted 20 minutes and during which time the engines of Air Force One were not turned off and the president of Rwanda was presented with a mere plaque as our country's apology for allowing 1 million people to die, I decided that I could not forgive Bill Clinton for this. Everyone exalts him as our best president and vilifies Bush for killing Iraqis and Afghanis, which I will not argue, his actions have done, but Bill Clinton, everybody's hero, let 1 million Rwandans die because he was scared of messing up again, and because he was told that the conflict seemed "tribal," the type of thing in which outsiders should not interfere. You know what I think? They just weren't important enough. I can't accept that. Maybe I won't forgive Bush for Darfur either, but I don't worry about his vilification by the general American public, that's a guarantee, but to watch people practically kiss the ground Clinton walks on makes me ill, and in a lot of ways, I think that's where my intense dislike for HRC stems as well. If I were the president's wife, I would've made a huge scene about this, especially if he had had a very public affair behind my back. Even moreso if I had my eye on the American presidency. Instead, there was nothing. I think also, that's why I turn to Barack Obama - knowing that he has Kenyan ancestry sets my heart at ease. I know that Africa will no longer be ignored - how could one so blantantly ignore one's heritage? It will no longer be viewed as "the dark continent over there that's too large, too poor and too diseased to contend with." I put my greatest hopes for our nation and for Africa on him while I look deep into my soul and try to forgive the others for their grievous shortcomings.

Skulls in Nyarabuye, Rwanda where hundreds were hacked to death in a church. The cracks in the skull were caused machetes.


Excalibur said...

Great post!

Al said...

Thanks dear.

Excalibur said...

You could really have a syndicated column discussing issues that are going on in Africa. You're so passionate about the issues going on there. It's just a testament to your heart.

Al said...

Thanks baby. I would love to bring Africa to the America masses, it's distinctly missing from most of our radar, and I include myself in that "our" because unless you actively seek African news, it's rarely brought to you. And of course I'm slacking on my News From Africa blog :( Maybe after the semster ends??!

Excalibur said...

No you're exactly right. I just happened to be clicking on the International News section and then clicked on Africa.

If it's not mainstream news chances are I haven't heard of it. Perhaps certain issues will make it's way onto this blog too, like Madonna back in Malawi, LOL.