Saturday, August 14, 2010

Concerns over violence continue...

A diverse group of activists from Amherst, Holyoke, and Albany @ the Information table on 8/7/10

For a long time our Darfur Coalition in Western Mass continued to bring to attention the plight of civilians in the camps where violence targeted them from two sides: the government militia and as a result to fight among rebel groups.

Women in Darfur are raising their voices and calling to end violence.

The following petition was circulated by Sisterhood for Peace network
To: Leaders of Darfurian Movements

We are Darfurian women who are in displaced persons camps, villages, rural areas, towns, and valleys of Darfur and scattered as refugees around the world, as well as women from all over Sudan who advocate for peace and for a solution to the Darfur conflict. We appeal to you to unite in order to end the suffering of the people of Darfur, especially women and girls whose rights have been violated, and who continue to face violence, rape, and early pregnancy.

We are tired of the war and violence, and want our sons and daughters to grow up in a country where they can enjoy their full rights and where peace and security prevail.

We, the women of Darfur, have united to heal the wounds. We have built our power. It is time for the Darfurian movements to unite. We want you to remember that everyday a young woman is raped, and another leaves school. We have already lost a generation and do not want to lose other generations. We cannot wait any longer.

Let us make sure that the International Day for Peace (21 September 2010), is the day when we take the first step toward unity and toward achieving peace in Darfur and Sudan.

Darfurian Women Demand Peace (DWDP)

Last week, Aug 7th, WMDC joined again the local chapter of Amnesty International in Downtown Amherst and set up a table for information on the crisis in darfur.

The event drew many activists who discussed strategies to stop the violence in darfur.

Among activists who stopped by to sign petitions was Ms. Tamador Sheikheldin, writer, poetess, and theater director from Sudan who has been living in the area for a while since she had to flee her country in the early 1990. "I will tell people in Sudan about the great solidarity work here in the valley with the people in Darfur" She said in appreciation for the tireless efforts of human rights activists she witnessed whenever she came to the Amherst Farmers Market.

"I really admire the work of WMDC in bringing the voice of women to the world. We need to stop violence against women and children in the camps" said Ms. Mahasin Alnaggar, and activist from Albany who expressed interest to start similar group in her upstate New York town.

Friday, August 06, 2010

NY Times: Increase of Violence in Darfur

"Violence Said to Be Rising in Sudan's Darfur Region"

Published: August 4, 2010

UNITED NATIONS — Violence in the turbulent Darfur region of Sudan has spiked over the past several months, Alain Le Roy, the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, said Wednesday. He attributed the increase to a combination of factors, including fitful peace talks, renewed tribal rivalries and overall tension in Africa’s largest nation as its south prepares for an independence referendum.

Calling the situation a “bleak picture,” Mr. Le Roy told a news conference that security had deteriorated significantly as optimism for a cease-fire in 2009 faded.

Recent United Nations statistics indicated that killings this year already rivaled the 832 violent deaths recorded for all of 2009. May alone, with 400 deaths, was the bloodiest month since peacekeeping forces were deployed in December 2007.

It is difficult to boil down the complicated tapestry of actors in the region, especially as rebel movements have splintered and increasingly well-armed criminals have flourished in the seven years the war has dragged on. Some recent bloodshed was even pegged to a Ponzi scheme that bilked thousands of their savings.

First, in May, the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, Darfur’s most powerful rebel group, broke off peace talks that had been taking place in Doha, Qatar, after the Sudanese government rejected its demand that it be the sole negotiator for the rebels at the table. Since then, the group has been trying to reassert itself militarily, and was forced into some confrontations after neighboring Chad improved ties with Khartoum and closed off the group’s usual escape routes over the border.

Second, the conflict was first set off by clashes between nomadic Arab tribes and more sedentary Africans over water supplies. With some two million people, mostly Africans, displaced from their lands, the Arab tribes are now fighting among themselves for the spoils, and water resources are even scarcer.

Third, southern Sudan, which has fought the north for 50 years in a war that has killed about two million people, is expected to vote for independence in a Jan. 9 referendum. The government in the north wants to pacify Darfur before the referendum — both because Darfur will take on added weight in the smaller country that Sudan will probably become and to discourage any Darfuri notions about breaking away.

“They want to reassert their political and military control,” said Fabienne Hara of the International Crisis Group. “They are very scared that Darfur will not be under their control by January 2011.”

The United Nations peacekeepers remain locked in constant confrontation with the government. For example, an Egyptian peacekeeper bled to death in May after the government refused to allow a helicopter flight for his evacuation, United Nations officials said. The Sudanese government regularly professes its full cooperation.

Much of the international attention on Sudan is focused on ensuring that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 between the north and the south does not collapse as it reaches its most critical moment. Just five months away from the independence vote, the commission to supervise the balloting lacks a leader, and knotty questions, including who will be eligible to vote, remain unanswered.

Larger issues like dividing oil resources between the north and south also remain to be negotiated.

Some analysts fault the Obama administration for lacking a clear-cut policy on Sudan, divided between the softer line of Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, President Obama’s Sudan envoy, and the more confrontational approach often voiced by Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations.

They deny a rift, but one senior State Department official said that Washington was still struggling to define a policy. “There is no sense of urgency that this is a crucial moment and we have to craft it,” said the official, speaking anonymously because of a lack of authorization to speak publicly on the matter.