As IRIN reports, the International Criminal Court has found former Liberian President Charles Taylor, also known for brutal meddling in neighboring countries, guilty on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Sierra Leoneans must feel good about this show of justice delivered — especially via a system governed by laws and rules. It’s no surprise that the top thugs are generally convicted: There always seems a mountain of evidence that they have committed the crimes with which they are charged. What’s more interesting to me, in terms of how the ICC is doing, is the resolution of other cases. Sometimes, the charges have been dismissed; there’s been an acquittal; defendants have died mid-process. Each of these types of resolutions reflects other facets of the search for justice when it comes to the grossest crimes against humanity.
Let’s hope we aren’t seeing the unraveling of the fragile peace between the countries of South Sudan and Sudan (South Sudan became independent last July), but an alert from the International Crisis Group suggests bleak prospects for calm to prevail. There’s little long-lasting optimism derived from news, reported by the BBC reports today that “South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has ordered the withdrawal of his troops from the Heglig oil field across the border in Sudan,” which both countries claim as their own. Khartoum claims it drove out South Sudanese forces. Heglig provides more than half of Sudan’s pol, says the BBC.
And so the civilians of both countries, who have suffered so much for so long (particularly women and children), likely will be caught once again in conflict. An earlier post here notes the worsening humanitarian emergency. The crisis group gives recommendations for what needs to occur to help stave off war, recommendations that highlight the danger of resolving key issues. The fundamental question is this: How does anyone get the countries’ leaders to make decisions that protect their citizens and give the two nations a real chance at progress? We’ll see how the diplomats do.
Here’s an excerpt from the International Crisis Group alert:
Sudan and South Sudan are teetering on the brink of all-out war from which neither would benefit. Increasingly angry rhetoric, support for each other’s rebels, poor command and control, and brinkmanship, risk escalating limited and contained conflict into a full-scale confrontation between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA). Diplomatic pressure to cease hostilities and return to negotiations must be exerted on both governments by the region and the United Nations (UN) Security Council, as well as such partners as the U.S., China and key Gulf states. The immediate priority needs to be a ceasefire and security deal between North and South, as well as in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. But equally important, for the longer-term, are solutions to unresolved post-referendum issues, unimplemented provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) (that ended the civil war in 2005), and domestic reforms in both countries.
The U.N. humanitarian news agency, IRIN, reports on the burgeoning crisis in Sudan, near the South Sudan border. Often, one humanitarian crisis grabs the world’s attention and other emergencies get barely any attention at all. I’d make that case now, except I’m having a hard time recalling any humanitarian crisis around the world that is gaining a spotlight. I’m worried that economic troubles and domestic politics are marginalizing diplomacy and the importance of nonmilitary foreign aid.
So take a few minutes to read through the story below about Sudan — not Darfur. Civilians are fleeing violence in Sudan’s Blue Nile state and struggling in refugee camps where there is a serious lack of clean water. Aid agencies are trying to dig boreholes but encountering all sorts of problems. The result? “For the moment we have an average of 5-6 litres per person per day. For survival it’s 3-7 litres, but for basic water needs such as drinking, bathing and washing we need at least 7.5-15 litres per person per day,” says an Oxfam water expert.
I’m hoping there is enough attention and concern to make sure needed supplies get to this part of the world to drill boreholes or truck in water so that diseases that could be prevented don’t become the refugees’ next deadly stalker. Read the story below and then go to IRIN to read more about this and other humanitarian crises.
Posted: April 3rd, 2012 under Africa, Disaster aid, Foreign policy, Global health, NGOs, United Nations, humanitarian, refugees.
Tags: CARE, IRIN, Oxfam, preventable disease, South Sudan, Sudan, water
Here’s a link to her appearance on CNN. She’s a wonderful young lady who hasn’t let the injuries she suffered at the hands of Joseph Kony’s LRA stop her.
Posted: March 14th, 2012 under Africa, NGOs, Uganda, human rights, humanitarian, international children's issues.
Tags: Central African Republic, children and conflicts, children's rights, CNN, Democratic Republic of Congo, Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, Lord's Resistance Army, northern Uganda, South Sudan
A war victim’s opinion
on Kony 2012
By Victor Ochen
In light of the recent publicity around Invisible Children’s ‘Kony 2012’ documentary and campaign, and speaking as a survivor, a young man born and raised in the midst of the LRA war, growing up in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and avoiding abductions in many ways, struggling with my security, feeding and education, my life story represents the realities of the Kony’s LRA war and its aftermath. As the director of the organization, African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET) that was founded in 2005, and working with the most dedicated group of young people whom some are direct war victims, former child soldiers. Our painful childhood experiences didn’t make us less but instead created in us the conviction to care and save lives of our people who are hurt, and are struggling with physical and emotional pains.
It’s against this background that I would like to make a response to Kony 2012, in the following four points and from the survivors’ point of view.
First, it is important to take stock of the efforts by the Government of Uganda, the African Union, European Union, the United States and other key international partners to help end the LRA threat once and for all. These actions are important but much more needs to be done. In particular there is a need for much greater protection of civilians in South Sudan and the DRC and Central African Republic where the LRA is now active. Furthermore, many of the devastating effects of the war between the LRA and the Government of Uganda have still not been addressed in northern Uganda, even though the LRA has not been active here since 2006. These include the most serious physical and mental health effects, the weakening of key social and protective services, the nearly complete absence of remedy for harms suffered, and an utter lack of accountability
Second, as someone whose brother and cousin were abducted and who are among the thousands of disappeared whose fate is unknown, I join with other Ugandans who hope our relatives are still in captivity and will come back home alive. Any advocacy aimed at military bombardment of the LRA rebels remains therefore very sensitive throughout northern Uganda, and I imagine the DRC and South Sudan and Central African Republic as well, because thousands of children and adults have been abducted and have still not come home yet. My own father is deeply traumatized due to my brother and cousin’s abduction, and every time he hears about any report of killing LRA rebels he is not sure whom they have killed and wonders if people are celebrating his beloved son’s death. These are the feelings many families have. I agree that Kony must be stopped as soon as possible. However, it must be done in a way that avoids further civilian casualties and the loss of the lives of innocent children. Raising potentially false expectation such as arresting Kony in 2012 will not rebuild the lives of the people in northern Uganda. Rebuilding communities and rehabilitating victims’ is what we need. The stronger survivors become, the less Kony remains an issue. Restoration of communities devastated by Kony is a greater priority than catching or even killing him.
Third, one of the main criticisms launched against Invisible Children is in regards to their financial accountability. I completely understand how generous donors generally feel if their funds are not better used. Working with victims demands more or physical and human accountability. Tangible and practical life changes that brings about smiles in the teary faces is much better than well designed financial report. A typical example is my own organization which in the last five months received $100,000 from the United Nations in Uganda under the Peacebuilding Fund for Victims’ medical/surgical rehabilitation(Response and Redress for Victims of Serious Violations Project). With this small amount of money, we provided critical reconstructive surgeries to 447 victims of war. On average it only takes about $350 to provide the intensive and reconstructive medical rehabilitation. This money allows us to help children with severe burns, girls and women who have suffered terrible sexual violence, it helps rebuild lips, ears, and noses that have been cut off, it helps heal debilitating gun and shrapnel wounds, provides extensive psycho-social care, and restores hope and dignity to victims of the war. To date we have helped over 1500 victims of war suffering from such horrific and inhuman pains, but there are thousands more victims from Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, DRC, Central African Republic and yet, we do not have the resources to help all in need. There are definite, life-changing needs in northern Uganda, and there are ways to directly help victims now. Let us bear in mind that some of these victims were infants when they were mutilated. They have, if they have survived at all, been living in pain throughout their childhood.
Fourth, for whatever efforts are put forward as a result of the media storm about this film, let’s put the real victims first. As such, simply killing or catching Kony will not improve the lives of the victims in northern Uganda. I agree that people’s generosity must change lives, but why spend millions on Kony alone while thousands of survivors are dying of repairable physical and psychosocial pain? Any strategy to deal with his capture should be complemented by a strategy to help his victims. The survivors I work with daily and those I meet in my work have shown incredible strength and dignity, while struggling to move forward against seemingly insurmountable odds, and trying to build a better life for themselves, their children and grandchildren.
The more we are connected directly to the victims, the more real our support becomes. Given that millions all over the world now have a better understanding of the plight of the war’s victims, now is the time to work together for regional peace and a better, reconciled and stronger Uganda.
Victor OCHEN, director for AYINET Uganda.
Posted: March 14th, 2012 under Africa, NGOs, Uganda, human rights, humanitarian, international children's issues.
Tags: Central African Republic, children's rights, Democratic Republic of Congo, Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, Lord's Resistance Army, northern Uganda, South Sudan
Here is the link to my piece. http://bit.ly/zmqlq3
Posted: March 14th, 2012 under Africa, Central African Republic, NGOs, Uganda, human rights, humanitarian, international children's issues, slavery.
Tags: Central African Republic, child abuse, child slavery, child soldiers, children's rights, Democratic Republic of Congo, Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, Lord's Resistance Army, northern Uganda, South Sudan
I wrote an essasy today on the whole Invisible Children/Kony 2012 video phenomenon. Because of a lack of space in the newspaper, I couldn’t put in all the voices that should be heard. While I do think the best way to stop mass human rights atrocities is with worldwide support and action, the heroes of each individual situation are locals who are doing far more than I, an Invisible Children staffer, or any outsider could do. So through the day, I’ll be posting comments/stories about and from Ugandans. Here’s the first, from a writer with the Guardian, an independent newspaper in Uganda.
Robert Madoi: Julius Achon’s ‘Kony 2012′ without
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 00:54
The resolute constancy of the video to draw staggering ululations from the blogosphere has been its very downside as sceptics have least been impressed about its dated storyline. Fascinatingly, ever since the guns went silent in both the Acholi and Lango sub-regions, sport is one of the few things that have come menacingly close to putting out the correct narrative of the pre and post-war northern Uganda on the blogosphere.
But with just hundreds of YouTube views and retweets, clearly the narrative of one dauntless black man doing his best to rehabilitate war-torn northern Uganda wasn’t appealing, even Hollywood-esque. Back in February of 2011, I captured in this very column the compelling story of former Ugandan Olympian Julius Achon. Conscripted into the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a skirmish between the rebels and the Ugandan army (UPDF) saw Achon embark on a run that would start off as mundane and end olympian.
Achon ran away from the LRA rebels all the way to a World Junior Championships title and three Olympics. Whilst training for the last of those Olympics in 2003, he ran into 11 panic-stricken children cowered under a bus. Orphaned by the civil war, they had nowhere to go. The bus was a safe haven. Achon, scarred by the war himself, was touched. He desperately wanted to help.
He ended up doing that and more. His efforts to rehabilitate children whose milieu had been devastated by a two-decade-long war culminated in the inception of the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund in 2007. Achon didn’t have much, he took home just $5000 from some obscure Portuguese running club, but he gravely wanted to make a difference.
When he read about the two cents I had put in for his foundation, Achon got in touch with me via e-mail. He commended my effort before extending an invitation to me to go see firsthand the humanitarian work his foundation is doing in his native district. When would this be, I quickly inquired. It would be in November. Sweet November!
I always take my annual leave here at The Observer in November, so there was no stumbling block. Orum would be my destination in November. I have never been to northern Uganda. But when I was little, I remember my dad going to Atiak (in Gulu) in 1994. I recall being apprehensive about the possibility of the LRA rebels gunning down the helicopter in which dad was travelling. Dad did return back in one piece with some game meat!
Clearly, I needed something to rejig what had turned out to be an enduring attribute of northern Uganda – the worry about the LRA rebels; not the game meat! Achon was now going to give me that something by letting me peer into a foundation that is a touchstone of hope. Lamentably, when November came, Achon forgot to get in touch with me. He must have been busy – we haven’t interfaced in awhile. But looking at uploads on his foundation’s website, I couldn’t be more proud.
The medical facility as well as quarters for medical staff he has been building in his home village had reached beam level. The dream of not having locals trek 42 miles on dirt roads to receive basic medical care had now reached the homestretch. I didn’t get to go down to Orum with Achon, but thanks to the world being a global village I managed to get a lowdown nonetheless.
That he is taking this story of recovery to Uncle Sam – not on Oprah’s couch or P Diddy’s Twitter page, but some Americans open to the narrative of solutions to Africa’s problems being sort of home-grown – is as inspiring as it is transformational. Above all, Achon’s tale points to the fact that sport and sporting personalities have a role, a big role, to play in birthing rehabilitations in Uganda. Hopefully, a few years down the road, a David Obua here and Dan Obote there will author similar howling footnotes as Achon has.
Posted: March 14th, 2012 under Africa, Central African Republic, Foreign policy, Uganda, human rights, humanitarian, international children's issues.
Tags: Central African Republic, child soldiers, children's rights, Democratic Republic of Congo, Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, northern Uganda, Resolve, South Sudan, the Lord's Resistance Army
Here I sit in my hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the last day of a three-day weekend celebrating the King’s birthday. There have been fireworks every night that children, sitting in a line on a busy street curb, gape at with wonder on their faces. The faces of Cambodians were far different yesterday, as I traveled by taxi to the Phnom Tamao Zoological Garden and Wildlife Rescue Center, about 25 miles (40 kms.) outside of Phnom Penh. The drive showed me every side of Phnom Penh. There were building cranes, cement trucks and workers at numerous construction sites, adding to the boom that certainly has gone on since I last was here 14 years ago. There were plenty of smaller economic activity, pagodas and farms along the way.
But the sight that really got to me was on the dusty road that leads to the zoo. Lining both sides of it, maybe 40 or 50 feet apart, were profoundly poor Cambodians, most of them elderly and all of them flecked with dust from the road, sitting on the ground. They looked as though they had lived a thousand lives, all of them difficult. As we passed in our car, they either would rise with their arms outstretched and hands cupped, or sit on the ground begging. The people lined the road like shade trees, except of course, there were no shade trees, so they sat in the sun or got a large palm frond and turned it into a tiny awning. They stayed there, through the heat of the afternoon, as hundreds of Cambodians, many as poor as the beggars, looked in delight at the tigers, elephants, lions, bears, monkeys and other animals in the park.
I’ve seen a lot of poverty in a lot of locales around the world, but this road and the Cambodians who lined it, stabbed at me more than those others. My driver said when he goes on that road, he gets a stack of the Cambodian currency, the riel, and gives each person a small donation. He also said the numbers of beggars on that road was increasing. If you are wondering, I did not ask the driver to stop. It was too overwhelming, and I generally do not like to encourage begging. Instead, I donate money to good, local NGOs that help the vulnerable, particularly children. I don’t know, though. I might break that rule if I ever go down Heartbreak Road again.
My friend, Melissa Fitzgerald, is a longtime northern Uganda activist who has used her acting skills (she was a regular on West Wing) to produce a film on children in northern Uganda. Here’s information on the documentary, the times, and how to get tickets. Show up for it. Show up for the kids of northern Uganda.
The Philadelphia Premiere of STAGING HOPE
Tuesday November 1st at 7:30pm at the Ritz East
125 South Second Street Philadelphia, PA 19106
For ticket information please call (267) 239-2941
To purchase tickets online please go to the Philadelphia Film Festival’s website:
Opening remarks by Mayor Michael A. Nutter
Brief Q &A with filmmakers Melissa Fitzgerald and Katy Fox and reception immediately following the film
Please join us for the Philadelphia premiere of Staging Hope. Staging Hope tells the riveting story of a cross-cultural
collaboration between a group of American actors and 14 Ugandan teenagers (many former abducted child soldiers)
as they work together on a theater program in war-torn northern Uganda
Produced by: Melissa Fitzgerald and Katy Fox
Executive Produced by: CIndy Landon John Prendergast and Martin Sheen
Directed by: Bil Yoelin
There will be a second screening of Staging Hope on Wednesday November 2nd at 7:35pm at the Ritz East
Sponsored by PECO
Posted: October 17th, 2011 under Africa, NGOs, Uganda, civil wars, human rights, humanitarian, international children's issues.
Tags: child soldiers, documentaries, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Lord's Resistance Army, northern Uganda
This just in from CNN, that President Obama will send 100 U.S. troops “to help hunt down the leaders of the notoriously violent Lord’s Resistance Army.” That includes the top guy, Kony. This is good news — only if they find Kony and the others and, once and for all, disassemble this small but hideous militia that seems to have no goals other than to rip apart childhood in that part of the world by kidnapping children and forcing the boys to become soldiers and the girls to be sex slaves. The international community has long needed a focused, concerted effort to catch these guys and free the remaining young victims in their grasp. This group has had an outrageous endurance that was bolstered by all sorts of factors, including political intrigue, pandering and self-enrichment, and the world giving these kids a lesser human value. I mean, really, if God forbid there were a gang kidnapping American children en masse, every imaginable resource would have been tapped to get those thugs and end the victimization of kids. Can you tell I’m breathless about the potential of this development? Congratulations, incidentally, to advocates like Michael Poffenberger, cofounder and executive director of the nonprofit group, Resolve, which has been working endlessly on keeping the LRA’s atrocties squarely in front of the public and Washington policymakers. Let’s hope their efforts result in the end of the LRA and the imprisonment and trial of Kony and his cronies. Here’s the CNN news alert.
President Barack Obama is sending about 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to help hunt down the leaders of the notoriously violent Lord’s Resistance Army.
“I have authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield,” Obama said in letter to the House Speaker John Boehner and Daniel Inouye, president pro tempore of the Senate. Obama was making a reference to the head of the guerrilla group.
“I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.”
U.S. military personnel will advise regional forces working to target Kony and other senior leaders. The president said the troops will not engage Lord’s Resistance Army forces “unless necessary for self-de fense.”
Obama said the United States has backed regional military efforts since 2008 to go after the group, but these efforts have been unsuccessful.
Obama notes that the Lord’s Resistance Army “has murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa” and “continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.
Posted: October 14th, 2011 under Africa, International Criminal Court, civil wars, human rights, humanitarian, international children's issues.
Tags: Central African Repblic, DRC, Joseph Kony, Lord's Resistance Army, northern Uganda, Uganda