SUDAN WATCH: Apathy toward African tragedy - Everyone should leave Darfur and walk out of Sudan

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Apathy toward African tragedy - Everyone should leave Darfur and walk out of Sudan

On Jan 21 the LA Times/Washington Post published an opinion piece by Briton Terry George, the director, producer and co-writer of the movie Hotel Rwanda. He and his partners have worked with the UN to establish an International Fund for Rwanda.

Mr George says more than three weeks have passed since a powerful tsunami destroyed much of the coastline of southern Asia and washed over more than 150,000 souls. He writes about the tsunami-waves of aid and describes his feelings turning from empathy to anger.

My reaction was the same when within the space of four days the whole world proved it was capable of reacting to disasters. On day four, I thought to myself, hold on -- 400,000 people from Darfur alone have perished at the hands of humans. Crimes against humanity can be halted whereas a natural disaster lasting a matter of minutes cannot.

My theory is the disaster in Asia is something the public can identify with and easily understand. Many people around the world have at one time or another travelled to Asia and its paradise like resorts. Almost every person in the West knows someone who knows someone affected by the disaster. It touched almost everyone. TV pictures showed areas in Asia where there were not enough people left alive to bury the dead. Donations for the victims was clear cut: if aid and water was not delivered within a matter of hours to the eleven countries affected, disease would spread across the vast region incurring a loss of many more lives. Donations were earmarked for the victims and so the aid was bound to help the victims directly not like in Africa where it is intercepted and stolen or funds misused in different directions by corrupt people.

All civilians in Darfur should make a stand and leave now

The African continent over the past 50 years has built itself a reputation for corruption and railing against help from the West. Seldom do we hear words of appreciation out of Africa. On the contrary, all we hear this end is African politicians being downright antagonistic and disrespectful claiming that the West has ulterior motives and foists help on it.

Generally speaking, Africans give the impression they resent help from the West and class it as interference. Africans insist they want to solve their own problems and even rally up other countries to support this view. This has gone on for decades and although the West has not given up on helping Africa, the public generosity towards tsunami v Sudan, Congo and Uganda is understandable and is only to be expected. Africans need to be aware of the reputation they have built for themselves in the West. The African people themselves (not the politicians) need to wake up and stand up and do something and tell us what we can do to help.

If I were there in Darfur, I would exhort everyone to leave the Sudan -- to walk over the border into Chad, Libya or wherever and refuse to return until an adequate number of UN peacekeepers could ensure security. Three million people from Darfur turning up unexpectedly would soon capture the world's attention. TV crews would have something new to film. There are no news blackouts over the border. Aid agencies would have to go into overdrive, international security would be needed to handle such an exodus. The host countries would be under pressure - along with the UN. Without any civilians in Darfur, the rebels (if they care to stay) and their government can get on with it. Leave them to their own bloodbath and endless talk. It is their choice. Civilians - especially all the women and children - need to make a stand. Leave the Sudan. Now.

As for the 500,000 Sudanese expected to return to southern Sudan: I say, stay where you are. The UN are working now on setting up camps and infrastructure to accommodate the expected return of at least 500,000. Don't you find it odd that all of a sudden the UN can think in terms of catering for such a massive influx without any sense of urgency in getting UN peacekeepers in place? I do.

Here is an excerpt from Terry George's op-ed "Apathy toward African tragedy":
Of course our politicians will come up with any number of excuses as to why Sudan and Central Africa are different-political complexity, geographical remoteness, cultural complexities. Enough! The tsunami aid effort has clearly proved that when the great powers have the will they can respond rapidly and decisively. Have you ever heard those two words-''rapidly" and ''decisively"-used to describe intervention in, or aid for, Africa? Why not?

You can find my answer to all these questions in Hotel Rwanda, when Nick Nolte's character, Col. Oliver, explains why Rwanda is being abandoned by the West. ''You're dirt," he says. ''We think you're dirt, less than dirt, you're worthless. You're not even a nigger- you're an African."
Further reading:

Jan 23 BBC SA police to charge 40 'scam MPs' -- Several high-profile MPs could face criminal charges. Forty members of South Africa's parliament will be charged with fraud on Monday, police say. The charges arise from a $2m scam in which MPs allegedly colluded with travel agents to inflate their travelling expenses."

Jan 23 Times Online Q&A: Wendy Chamberlin Deputy High Commissioner at the United Nations' refugee agency.

Jan 23 op-ed Why blase response to horror in Darfur? by Jeremy Levitt, assistant professor of law at DePaul University College of Law, writes: Several justifications might explain why the tsunami tragedy has received greater attention than Darfur, including donor disinterest and fatigue with Africa's crises; donor apprehension about peacekeeping in Africa in the wake of the Somalia debacle; extensive media coverage of the tsunami (access to Darfur is difficult and raw footage of acts of genocide are rare); responses to natural vs. manmade disasters, and the climbing death toll in Asia.
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Taiwan looks forward to closer oil cooperation with Chad president

Last year, it was reported there is oil to be found on the Chad-Sudan border. Today, a report from Taipei says President Chen Shui-bian said Sunday the Republic of China looks forward to expanding petroleum exploration cooperation with Chad. Chen made the remarks while holding talks with visiting Chadian President Idriss Deby at the Presidential Office. The report explains:

Chad formally became an oil exporting country in October 2003 and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Taiwan on cooperation in oil exploration and petrochemical development. The Chadian leader was accorded full military honors in the ceremony, including a 21-gun salute. Chen also lauded Deby for his contributions to helping resolve armed conflicts in the Darfur region in Sudan to promote stability in Africa. Deby has on many occasions spoken out in support of Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other major international organizations.
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Sudanese VP asks Libyan leader to help resolve Darfur issue

The following Jan 22 report from Libyan/Sudanese TV is copied here in full for future reference [note it reveals that Bashir has entrusted Taha with the "Darfur problem file"]

Sudanese First Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha has handed over a copy of the comprehensive peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement to the Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi and urged him to continue his efforts to resolve the Darfur problem.

In this context, Al-Qadhafi received today Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, the first vice-president of the Republic of Sudan.

Taha, left Khartoum this morning for Libya to follow-up efforts being exerted in the framework of the Tripoli conference for the people of Darfur which is being sponsored by the Libyan leader, Col Muammar al-Qadhafi, on solving the Darfur problem.

During this meeting, Sudanese First Vice-President handed over to the Libyan leader a copy of the comprehensive peace agreement between the government of the Republic of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, signed in Kenya this 9 January.

Taha pointed out that Libya was the first African and Arab country he was visiting after the signing of this agreement in appreciation for the brother leader of the revolution's personal role and for the Great Jamahiriyah's efforts to reach this agreement.

He also hoped that Col al-Qadhafi, would honour the implementation of this agreement with his personal presence [in Sudan], out of the pride in his continuous role and interest in the stability, security and unity of Sudan.

During this meeting, which Maj-Gen Mustafa Mohamed al-Kharrubi attended, the Sudanese first vice-president conveyed once more the appreciation of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the Sudanese government and people for the brother leader's efforts to find a solution to the Darfur problem.

The Sudanese first vice-president, currently entrusted by President Al-Bashir with the Darfur problem file, appealed to the brother leader's help and continuous efforts to find a just solution to this problem acceptable to all the parties.

Sudanese First Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and the delegation accompanying him left Libya this evening.

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