One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

If an American journalist jailed in Iran…

…can end her hunger strike, then why can’t fucking Mia Farrow?

At least she’s inspiring a whole host of wannabe misguided (and hungry) activists.


May 6, 2009 Posted by | Darfur | , | Leave a comment

How do you say “Envoy” in Swahili?

I’ve been struck by how many news reports announcing the appointment of Scott Gration as Envoy to Sudan have prominently noted that the former Air Force general also speaks Swahili. This is great and all, as is the fact that he grew up in DR Congo, but Swahili is not a major language in Sudan. But, hey, it’s an African language, and Sudan is in Africa, so he’s basically already won over the confidence of the entire country continent.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Darfur, Sudan | , , , | 3 Comments

War crimes beget war crimes

This seems rather circular:

Court indicts sitting president for war crimes.

President retaliates by kicking humanitarian organizations out of the country.

UN wonders whether kicking out humanitarian organizations is a war crime.


March 9, 2009 Posted by | Darfur | , , | 1 Comment

Eat this cooperation, Bashir

Franklin Graham has a pretty skewed sense of the word “cooperate,” when it comes to Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

For all his faults, Mr. Bashir has demonstrated that he is able to cooperate. On several occasions he has complied with my requests. When a hospital we operated in eastern Sudan was seized by government forces, Mr. Bashir granted us limited access. Mr. Bashir also made television time available for us to broadcast a Christian program at Christmas and Easter.

He gave you limited access to your own hospital that he seized with his government forces? And I’m really sure that all the Darfuris that he was busy directing his proxies to kill and displace really appreciated those Christian broadcasts.

Bashir showed off his cooperative instinct today when he told the ICC the “eat” the warrant for his arrest that it will be presenting tomorrow.

UPDATE: I somehow missed the part in the op-ed where Graham suggests that we don’t need the ICC because we have God.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Darfur | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel conducts genocide elsewhere, too

Of all the reasonable legal, political, and humanitarian arguments for why the UN Security Council should suspend indictment of the Sudanese president for genocide and crimes against humanity, the new president of the Afribbean African Union, Muammar al-Ghaddafi, gives what is probably the most reasonablest:

“Why do we have to hold President Bashir or the Sudanese government responsible when the Darfur problem was caused by outside parties, and Tel Aviv (Israel), for example, is behind the Darfur crisis?”

Blame Israel — of course.  Why didn’t anyone think of that before?

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Darfur | , , , , | Leave a comment

Please be nice, Mr. Genocidaire

From the Department of Fat Chance:

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should cooperate fully with whatever decision the International Criminal Court, or ICC, issues regarding his case and ensure the safety of civilians and U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan.

Pretty please don't make things even worse for us.

Pretty please don't make things even worse for us.

Even if he wasn’t a genocidal dictator who has clung resolutely to power for 20 years by employing ethnic-based massacres as a political tool, I don’t think it’s very likely that Bashir would simply hand himself over to be tried in The Hague. That said, Bashir is a genocidal dictator who has clung resolutely to power for 20 years by employing ethnic-based massacres as a political tool, so I think it even less likely that he will utterly refrain from harassing UN peacekeepers and humanitarian organizations — nothing has stopped him, after all, from doing so even when the international community was explicitly censuring him for it — and act “very responsibly.”

I know the S-G was pretty much bound to say something in this tricky situation, and that that something was pretty much bound to be a hollow pronouncement, completely trapped as he is between his inability to affect the ICC’s decisions and his inability to affect the Sudanese government’s response. One might add, if one finds cynicism gratifying, his inability to affect the situation on the ground in Darfur, but that is not the point here.  Ban finds himself in the same awkward position as the rest of us Darfur-watchers — sitting on his ass waiting to see what the ICC will do and how Bashir will react.  Hopefully he’s preparing for the worst.

(image from flickr user Ammar Abd Rabbo under a Creative Commons license)

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Darfur, UN | , , , | Leave a comment

Drinking water bibles

bibleAid groups face enough illegitimate harrassment from the Sudanese government.  So it doesn’t exactly help their reputations when one of them has stashed thousands of bibles in its office.

[Sudan’s state news agency] said Thirst No More was supposed to be in the war-torn region supplying drinking water. It had “failed to provide justification” for its ownership of so many bibles, North Darfur’s HAC commissioner Osman Hussein Abdalla told the agency.

Clearly, they were going to use the bibles to dig wells to provide drinking water.

And when Sudan asks UN peacekeepers to clear out of a rebel-held town that they are about to attack in which “something will be happening,” it’s probably just because the peacekeepers had too many bibles, too.

(image from flickr user Wonderlane under a Creative Commons license)

February 2, 2009 Posted by | Darfur | , , | 1 Comment

If you can’t shield dictators in Zimbabwe anymore, try Sudan

mbekimugabeForgive me for my skepticism re: the AU’s choice of moderator for the whole ICC-Darfur mess in Sudan.

The African Union has asked former South African leader Thabo Mbeki to head a panel on how to reconcile the need for accountability in Darfur with opposition to calls for Sudan’s president to be prosecuted.

Mbeki was a notorious obstacle in attempts to pressure Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, so I don’t hold out hope of him taking a hard line toward Sudan’s resident autocrat.  Moreover, this whole scheme seems set up for failure: the AU has made clear its opposition to the possible ICC indictment of President Bashir, so any “reconciling” here will surely only be for show.

(image from flickr user Sokwanele – Zimbabwe under a Creative Commons license)

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Darfur, Zimbabwe | , , , | Leave a comment

Murder is illegal, states a new UN report

Another dispatch from the “No Shit, Sherlock” Department:

Sudanese forces violated international human rights law by using lethal force in “an unnecessary, disproportionate and therefore unlawful manner,” when they fired on a crowd in a displaced persons camp in Darfur last August, killing 33 civilians, states a new United Nations report.

I appreciate the fastidiousness, but did they really need a report to determine that?

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Darfur | Leave a comment

Genocide in Darfur and the Detroit Lions

football bad as, you know, genocide.

The Detroit Lions were a terrible football team this year.  They lost every single game.  Understandably, the general manager of the team, Matt Millen, bears a large amount of responsibility for this horrific failure.  According to a Detroit Free Press columnist, though, Millen  is to blame for a lot more as well.

The Lions coaching search to me is kind of like Darfur. It’s the story that I know I’m supposed to care about and read up on and be all knowledgeable about. But I just can’t get into it for some reason. Actually, I know the reason. He was staring at me from my TV screen last Saturday night: Matt Millen.

Yep, that’s right, the slaughter and suffering of a few million people is akin to an American football team’s search for a new head coach.  It’s good to know that honest Americans’ priorities — not to mention entire moral schema — are well in order.

(image from flickr user Big Swede Guy under a Creative Commons license)

January 12, 2009 Posted by | Darfur, Football | , , , | 1 Comment

When to bomb Khartoum…

Nick Kristof proposes a series of seriously tough measures that President Obama can take vis-à-vis the recalcitrant and stubbornly unrepentent survivalists running the Sudanese government.

The United States could target Sudanese military aircraft that defy a United Nations ban on offensive military flights in Darfur. The first step would be to destroy a helicopter gunship on the ground at night. A tougher approach would be to warn Sudan that unless it complies with international demands (by handing over suspects indicted by the International Criminal Court, for example), it will lose its air force — and then if it does not comply, to destroy all its military aircraft on the ground.

Thumbs up to bombing

Thumbs up to bombing

I’ve tended to agree with these relatively low-hanging aggressive actions, such as openly planning a mission to bomb Khartoum with enough seriousness to give Omar al-Bashir the willies, as was suggested, I believe, by Susan Rice, Tony Lake, and Don Payne in a Time article about two and a half years ago.  The problem is, what would be the immediate impetus for such an aggressive response?  To destroy a country’s air force for failing to reign in the chaos of a genocide that it unleashed nearly six years ago is hardly the most clear-cut or reflexively legitimate course of action.  This isn’t to say it isn’t warranted — just that such decisive action would have proved a lot more effective years ago (or, say, had Iraq not happened).

The situation now requires announcing some sort of ultimatum for the Sudanese authorities; and this is not nearly as neat a deal as it may seem on its face.  The génocidaires in Khartoum have survived this long not only because of the international community’s inability to commit to such game-changing steps, but also precisely because of their ability to fudge their way out of agreements and to baldly proclaim they are making concessions when they are in fact doing no such thing.  The tricky part for the Obama administration will be both to call this bluff, and, perhaps more importantly, to identify it at the appropriate time as a bluff.

(image of U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Rich Williamson from flickr user talkradionews under a Creative Commons license)

December 28, 2008 Posted by | Darfur, Sudan, U.S. Foreign policy | , , , | Leave a comment

The dangers of firewood

(cross-posted at UN Dispatch)

In displaced persons camps in Darfur, women — who “only” face the risk of rape, rather than that of being killed — face constant danger whenever they venture out of the camps to collect firewood. As Liv Ullman, honorary chair of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, reminds us, though, sexual violence is not the only threat associated with gathering firewood, and nor are women in Darfur the only ones who are endangered.

solar cooker.jpgNor is sexual violence the only aspect of the problem. Firewood, burned indoors, produces toxic fumes that threaten the health of children. The need for firewood is frequently a rationale for keeping girls out of school. And its collection — which often includes cutting down trees on agriculturally marginal land — is a major factor in irreversible environmental degradation.

The many dangers of firewood gathering have been recognized for years by the United Nations and nongovernmental, international, and humanitarian organizations. Yet little has been done to promote effective protection strategies. Development aid to help these and other vulnerable people — already at historic lows – could begin falling precipitously as the world’s economic woes deepen.

It is time to get beyond firewood. The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children – an organization that I helped found nearly 20 years ago — has begun a worldwide drive to explore alternative fuels and cutting-edge energy technologies, such as clean-burning fuels, fuel-efficient stoves, and solar cookers. Working with UNHCR and the World Food Program, its goal is to reduce the violence by promoting the development of safe alternatives to firewood.

I just selected Solar Cookers International as my charity of choice at a “charity Secret Santa” event. I strongly suggest donations to similar life-saving organizations this holiday season.

(image of a solar cooker from flickr user Akuppa under a Creative Commons license)

December 17, 2008 Posted by | Darfur | , | Leave a comment


In case you thought it couldn’t be any worse

Strong evidence has emerged of children and adults being used as slaves in Sudan’s Darfur region, a study says.

Kidnapped men have been forced to work on farmland controlled by Janjaweed militias, a coalition of African charities says.

Eyewitnesses also say the Sudanese army has been involved in abducting women and children to be sex slaves and domestic staff for troops in Khartoum.

But Khartoum said the report was “very naive” and called the authors ignorant.

Not at all surprised by the findings, and even less so by Khartoum’s obstinately combative reaction.

UPDATE: Beth at Passport saw it at the same time and has more.

December 17, 2008 Posted by | Darfur, Sudan | , | Leave a comment

An important job for NASA

Cartography, here we come.

Cartography, here we come.

If NASA and Barack Obama’s team could stop their apparent sniping, maybe they could get to work constructing some sort of multimillion-dollar craft to go deep into space and construct…maps.

If Africa’s conflicts were mapped from outer space, those conflict zones would look like three holes into which entire regions are tumbling.

I think the State Deparment already has some pretty good maps identifying where Somalia, Darfur, and DR Congo are located (Africa!).  Granted, they probably don’t have cool 3-d effects to depict these areas “tumbling” into holes, but I’m not sure how much that would help resolve the conflicts anyway.

Sending satellites to track pirates, on the other hand, seems like a great idea.

(image from flick user D’Amico Rodrigo under a Creative Commons license)

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Darfur, DR Congo, Humor, Somalia, U.S. Foreign policy | , , , , | Leave a comment

An “intriguing proposal” to let Sudan’s génocidaires get off scot-free

Why The Economist thinks this might be a worthwhile solution to the whole false dichotomy of “peace versus justice” in Sudan is baffling:

Now Sudan’s most prominent opposition politician, Sadiq al-Mahdi, thinks he has an answer: what he calls a “third way” between hauling Mr Bashir to The Hague and doing nothing about crimes in Darfur. He suggests setting up an independent “hybrid” court for Darfur, which would have both Sudanese judges and international ones and sit in Sudan.

There is absolutely no way — zero — that Khartoum would allow this sort of initiative to have any meaningful judiciary power whatsoever. It would be a farce, an insult, and a step backwards. And as much as I hate to say it, the “hybrid” peacekeeping operation hasn’t panned out so well either.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Darfur, Sudan | , , | Leave a comment