Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Choosing Khartoum over Disneyworld


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I’m ashamed that our government ignored the Rwandans in 1994. Over one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in 6 months.

I said I wished I'd helped them - somehow.

Gruesome stories now of tortured Sudanese are impossible to ignore. Another African genocide. Horrible.

"The origins of the conflict in Sudan are extremely complex and have resulted in an unacceptably high level of loss of life and extreme suffering," said Ana Rodriguez, United Nations Volunteer Program Manager in Sudan.

Com' ooon Ana… I’ve learned a lot watching CSI on TV. I can guess who supported the government sponsored military action by looking at the crime scene and gleaning principles of TV forensic science.

First clue – Sudan is south of Egypt and west of Saudi Arabia.

Second clue – Arabic is Sudan’s official language. Sunni Muslims predominate northern Sudan.

Third clue – The criminals’ MO: Twofers - where a mother carrying her baby swaddled around her waist are killed with one bullet. People’s eyes gouged out and their ears ripped off. Huts set afire with the family still inside. Women gang-raped. Men castrated alive resulting in slow death by bleeding. Severed penises stuffed in the mouths of men killed by alternative method. Children’s faces smashed with blunt objects.

These crime scene clues tell us Arab militants, known as the Janjaweed, are responsible for the attempted annihilation of African tribes in Northeast Africa. Millions have been killed in Sudan, the largest country in Africa.

Women and children have suffered greatly during this war. At least the Iraqi civilians have protection under the Geneva Convention Rules of War.

Thank goodness for the January peace agreement that officially ends 20 years of civil war in Sudan. Given recent history on the Balkan Peninsula, peacekeepers will be there for the long term. And thousands of humanitarian workers will be needed to rebuild roads, schools, health clinics, and attend to other infrastructure needs. There are an estimated half million refugees and another four million uprooted by the conflict. Cholera, meningitis, and polio are rampant.

Help is on the way.

Following the UN Security Council’s decision last week to form the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) – (drum role) - It was announced today that some 160 United Nations Volunteers will be deployed over the coming months to Sudan to support the peace process in the region. They will join 10 volunteers who have been in Sudan since early March as port of the UN Advance Mission in Sudan. Yaaawn.

Well, it’s a start.

Ana Rodriguez may not want to admit who caused the suffering in Sudan, but today she announced an initiative to help the Sudanese survivors - (drum role) - help themselves. A large number of Sudanese nationals will also be recruited as UN Volunteers, which, she says, will go a long way in building trust and gaining support from the people affected. Yaaawn.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on 24 March to deploy 10,000 troops and more than 700 civilian police in southern Sudan for an initial 6 months. No one's packed their bags yet.

Ironically, another UN press release today announced that the independent committee probing alleged misconduct and mismanagement in the United Nations Oil-for-Food program for Iraq, presented to Secretary General Kofi Annan a second interim report dealing with the employment of his son by a Swiss company awarded a contract in the multibillion dollars for relief efforts.

I’d planned a vacation in Disneyworld. I'm feeling a little guilty. I may email Ana and tell her I’m available that week. Jerry knows I have an experiential learning and helping style. The bad guys in Sudan are real terrorist Arab militarists. The bad guys in Disneyworld are only plastic Pirates of the Caribbean.

Or maybe I’ll go to New York City to see who’s real or plastic of the 4,000 Secretariat staff in the 40 story UN building. That’s the beautiful building near the site of the World Trade Center.


United Nations volunteer program

feeding program for displaced people in Sudan.

Episcopal Relief provides food and supplies to people in Sudan.

What web sites on international volunteerism and relief have you found?

Please share a personal empowering experience when you volunteered abroad.

There is a small articulate minority in this country which advocates changing our national symbol which is the eagle to that of the ostrich and withdrawing from the United Nations.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Speech, Democratic National Convention, July 1952.