SUDAN WATCH: Darfur food crisis: Khartoum's sitting on vast amounts of Sudan's grain that could save tens of thousands of Sudanese lives - Eric Reeves

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Darfur food crisis: Khartoum's sitting on vast amounts of Sudan's grain that could save tens of thousands of Sudanese lives - Eric Reeves

Eric Reeves, an American English professor living and working in Boston, MA, USA, says the food crisis in Darfur could be averted if Khartoum were to make humane use of the 300,000-500,000 metric tons of grain within its strategic food reserve. Excerpt from his opinion piece at Sudan Tribune May 14, 2006:
Humanitarian logisticians estimate that it requires approximately 17,000 metric tons of food per million people in need per month. There are over 3 million people in need of food in Darfur, and many more just as acutely in need in eastern and southern Sudan. This enormous quantity of grain---which could save many tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Sudanese lives---is sitting idly at various locations in Sudan. Khartoum's National Islamic Front regime refuses to disperse it, or even to sell it at a reasonable price to the UN'S World Food Program. According to the US Agency for International Development, Khartoum sets a price so high that it is actually cheaper to procure food elsewhere and transport it to Darfur and other places of need.

To deny Sudanese civilians access to Sudanese food at time of critical need offers a powerfully revealing glimpse of what the National Islamic Front represents---and of what, most fundamentally, it means to be "marginalized" in Sudan.
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Eric Reeves supported campaign to force Talisman Energy out of southern Sudan, accusing the company of complicity in genocide

Excerpt from "How the world shed light on Darfur" (Alan Freeman, May 13, 2006 Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada):
It was 1998 and Prof. Reeves was immersed in an earlier personal passion, wood turning. A skilled artisan, he created bowls from exotic African hardwoods and sold them at U.S. galleries with proceeds going to his favourite charity, Medecins sans frontieres.

He still recalls a discussion with Joelle Tanguy, head of the charity's U.S. wing, who told him that southern Sudan was the most ignored humanitarian disaster at the time. "I told her, I'll see what I can do. As it turns out, it became a life-defining moment."

Prof. Reeves soon was spearheading the campaign to force Talisman Energy to sell its extensive oil holdings in southern Sudan, accusing the Calgary company of complicity in what he called the genocide of the largely Christian and animist inhabitants of the region.

Over the next four years, Prof. Reeves was a key figure in pressuring major U.S. pensions into dumping their holdings, depressing Talisman's stock price and forcing it to sell out to an Indian oil firm in early 2003.

Some critics suggest that the Indian oil firm, along with its partners from China and Malaysia, are impervious to the kind of criticism that made a publicly held company like Talisman act with a higher sense of corporate responsibility.

"Talisman always claimed that it was a force for good and a force for moderation." Prof. Reeves said. "That's just horse crap."

Just as peace was arriving in southern Sudan in 2003, Darfur was exploding, so Prof. Reeves changed his focus. He travelled to Sudan to see the crisis first-hand. When he returned to Massachusetts, he was diagnosed with leukemia. It has been a long slog.

He has taken two semesters of medical leave in addition to three semesters of leave without pay for his Sudan work.

"My immune system got hammered by the last chemo so I'm continuing to take anti-bacterials and anti-virals. But I'm feeling great. My energy is where it normally is. Right now, I'm fully in remission. The battle will need to be fought again, but for now, I'm good."

As for Darfur, Prof. Reeves doesn't see the signing of the peace accord as any reason for celebration. He is not convinced the pact will hold and does not believe that Western countries will provide the needed soldiers and firepower to turn the weak African Union peace force into a robust UN-sponsored peacekeeping contingent.

"We are putting literally millions of people at risk. It's unconscionable that the world community watches while these people continue to face extraordinary security threats, extraordinary humanitarian shortcomings, which will only get worse as the rainy-season hunger gap gets worse."

"I'm terribly pessimistic. I think we can see more mortality in the next half year than we've seen to date. These people are so vulnerable. I am deeply dispirited. How can it be that we watch Rwanda unfold in slow motion before our eyes?"
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May 6 2006 (Nicholas Kristof NYT - via CFD) Heroes of Darfur: For three gruelling years, Eric Reeves has been fighting for his life, struggling in a battle with leukemia that he may eventually lose. And in his spare time, sometimes from his hospital bed, he has emerged as an improbable leader of a citizens' army fighting to save hundreds of thousands of other lives in Darfur.

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