Monday, February 11, 2008

In Darfur, the Worst May Be On Its Way; Meanwhile, in the West, Courage Among Olympic Athletes & Cravenness in High Places

"This mother's three children were burned alive." -- For More Compelling Photos from Mia Farrow's Journeys, click here.

A major assault by the Sudanese army and allied militia has left two Darfur towns badly damaged by fire, sources close to a U.N. reconnaissance mission to the region said ... The news came as the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed one of its staff members had been killed in the offensive. Aid group MSF Switzerland said a small number of its staff had gone missing after the attacks. Reuters, 2-12-08

In Darfur, the Worst May Be On Its Way; Meanwhile, in the West, Courage Among Olympic Athletes & Cravenness in High Places

By Richard Power

As I type this Darfur Crisis Update, I hear the heart-wrenching refrain of a powerful African-American spiritual in my mind: "Ain't no hiding place down here, ain't no hiding place down here."

The facts on the ground are spinning out of control. The worst may be on its way.

The Prime Minister, Nouradine Delwa Kassire Coumakoye, said the influx of refugees into eastern Chad risked becoming a "bone of contention" between the two countries and said that if the international community did not relocate them, it would do so.
Tensions are already high between N'Djamena and Khartoum after an assault on the Chadian capital a week ago by Chadian rebels based in Darfur. Chad accuses Sudan of backing the rebels, a charge it denies.
"Chad can no longer support something so harmful to it," Mr Coumakoye said. "Refugees bring insecurity. Today, Chad is under attack from Sudan because of these refugees. We ask quite simply that they be moved. If not, we will do so. Their presence is causing us problems. We have had enough. We will move them in the superior interest of our country. We can no longer continue to sacrifice our people."
Independent, 2-12-08

Meanwhile, in the West, we are witness to an astounding contrast --

Exemplary courage among British Olympic athletes:

Two British Olympians have revealed their membership of a pressure group aiming to embarrass China about its tacit support of human rights abuses in Africa.
Richard Vaughan, the country’s top badminton player, and Shelley Rudman, Britain’s only medal winner at the last Winter Olympics, have publicly signed up to Team Darfur, a group urging China to use its leverage with Sudan to hasten an end to the Darfur crisis.
A further eight British athletes, as yet unidentified, are members of the 205-strong group which hopes to use press conferences and possible podium appearances in Beijing this summer to protest about China’s engagement with the regime in Khartoum.
But the athletes’ involvement with such a politically sensitive issue has raised concerns that their Olympic ambitions may be jeopardised. Vaughan, who represented Britain at the last two Olympics, said last night that he feared he would miss out on selection because of his involvement.
Times (London), 2-12-08

Utter cravenness in the Oval Office:

Lawmakers and human rights activists sharply criticized President Bush yesterday for issuing a signing statement that they said has undermined congressional efforts to pressure the Sudanese government to crack down on rebels responsible for the genocide in Darfur.
At a House Financial Services Committee hearing, members of both parties denounced a signing statement that Bush issued Dec. 31.
The statement challenged the constitutionality of the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, which makes it easier for states and municipalities to divest their pension funds from companies that do business with Sudan.

Yes, that's right, George W. Bush felt compelled to issue a signing statement undermining the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act.

What could he be doing instead?

If he had the compassion, the conscience or the courage of a British badminton player, he could endorse and act upon the Joint Statement of Save Darfur Coalition, the ENOUGH Project, and the Genocide Intervention Network:

The outcome of the crisis in Chad remains uncertain, but the peril for civilians in Chad and Darfur is enormous. A low-intensity, festering civil conflict between the Chadian government and a disparate group of rebels exploded into violent confrontation in the capital N'Djamena. Thousands of refugees fled the city, and the threat of renewed violence continues. The Sudanese government, which is responsible for genocide in Darfur, supports the rebels trying to overthrow Chad's government because it wants to block the deployment of European Union peacekeepers to Eastern Chad. Sudan's ruling party not only threatens its own citizens, which it has destroyed in great numbers, it is a menace to the entire region. It will remain a menace until the rest of the world makes the cost of doing so too steep.
Policy Recommendations:
1. The U.S., France and UK should work with China and Russia to introduce immediately a UN Security Council resolution authorizing targeted sanctions on senior Sudanese officials responsible for supporting the overthrow of a neighboring sovereign government, for obstructing the deployment of international protection forces in Chad and Darfur, and for continuing to promote violence in Darfur.
2. The U.S., UK, France, and China, as leading members of the UN Security Council, and in coordination with the UN, the AU, and the broader international community, should work together to ensure that the UNAMID peacekeeping mission in Darfur and the EUFOR and MINURCAT peacekeeping missions in Chad/CAR are immediately and fully deployed.
3. The U.S., France, UK and China should use this opportunity to form an international "Quartet" to work with the UN and AU to promote an end to the interconnected conflicts in Chad and Sudan.
Joint Statement on the Crisis in Chad, 2-8-08

I encourage you to follow events in Darfur on Mia Farrow's site, it is the real-time journal of a humanitarian at work; the content is compelling, insightful and fiercely independent.

Click here to sign the TURN OFF/TUNE IN Pledge.

For a Words of Power Archive of posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

Here are other sites of importance:

Dream for Darfur

Enough: The Project to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Genocide Intervention Network

Divest for Darfur.

Save Darfur!

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,