Guest Post - Comments Needed

Here is a guest post from an anonymous Stand'er seeking feedback:

Recently, I've been asked to share my thoughts on Darfur as it stands today. That deadline has sharpened in my mind some of the questions I have on region right now. Obviously, situations change, and the Darfur we see today is not the same as that of four or five years ago.

Darfur has evolved to become far more complex than its original two- or three-sided conflict (the Government vs. one or two major rebel groups). I am also aware that rebel groups are guilty of adding to the chaos, having recruited child soldiers and engaged in acts of violence themselves (to what degree is an underreported issue). So, one question is, who much power does Sudan actually have to stop the violence? If the GoS suddenly wanted to bring peace to Darfur (and to its strained relations with South Sudan), would they be able to?

Given the painfully sluggish attempt to get 26,000 peacekeepers on the ground (I think we've reached about 50% of that goal), I am unclear on how much of this is Sudan's fault, and how much is the fault of UN Member States. Certainly, the GoS has in the past shown a lot of intransigence, and back-and-forth on UNAMID--rejecting contributions by certain nations, and flip-flopping whether or not to accept UNAMID or componenets thereof. Where my knowledge lags is in Sudan's actions of late--has the threat of ICC arrests made her more cooperative, or is this same-old, same-old? A final question is this: is targeted divestment still the right way to go with Sudan? Is it possible that it's no longer the correct remedy for the problem?

Knowing who holds the most influence in Sudan should directly affect where we focus our activist energies. I have my own hunches on all this, but what better place than the Stand blog to ask my peers for some research help!

We're in the thick of the holidays, but any links or responses you can give would help--short or long.


Here are a couple links to get us started:

Both place continued blame strongly on Khartoum. From the former, here is an interesting side note: "Since July this year the Government and specially the National Congress Party priority has sharply changed. The issue of the ICC Chief Prosecutor's endeavour to indict President Omer al Bashir has become the only agenda in their calendar....[the GoS] has changed their instinct for common survival into individual concern for self-preservation. Every single one of them is looking back to see whether he has any link with the violations committed in the Darfur conflict and what responsibility he may have which could take him to The Hague. Some of the NCP leaders are even contemplating handing over President Bashir to save the Islamic movement. This movement recently elected Mr Ali Osman Taha to become its Secretary General, the post which used to be occupied by Dr Hassan al Turabi before the 1999 split." Continue reading this article...

End Slavery in Darfur

This just in from Stand'ers Scott Fenwick and Joel Stephanson - Thousands Made Slaves in Darfur. During the North-South war, Sudan became famous for the slave trade. Armed by the government as proxy militias, Arab tribes on the border with the South would raid Southern villages and kidnap children to sell as slaves in the north. The justification for this practice in many ways was based on fact, many in the "Arabized" north refer to the more "African" southerners as "abeed," which means slave in Arabic. Because the southerners were viewed as an inferior race, the practice of slavery was accepted all too often.

This BBC article points out that the slave trade is still alive in Darfur, even among government soldiers who kidnap young boys and girls as slaves. I don't know whether there is still the same "rascist" element to it, but it would not surprise me considering the government-sponsored militias and government troops see themselves as more "Arab" and thus superior to ethnic groups like the Fur. (just to remind people, almost everyone in Darfur is a muslim).

Unfortunately, in civil war scenarios like Darfur, it is extremely difficult to combat something like this. Joel Stephanson has recommended checking out the Darfur Consortium, a group of Africa-based and Africa-focused NGOs working to bring peace and justice to Darfur. Otherwise, we need to continue working to bring attention to ongoing human rights abuses like this and demand action from our leaders. If anyone has any other ideas on how to take action to prevent slavery in Sudan, please sound off in the comments section.

And thanks to Joel and Scott for bringing this issue to our attention! Continue reading this article...

The Problem with the Camps

Here at Stand-Canada, we've been talking for quite some time about the dangers and difficulties associated with the camps for Internally Displaced Persons and refugees in and around Darfur. Today, the New York Times has a really good article illustrating some of the problems associated with the camps, particularly the upending of traditional authority structures and the empowerment of radical elements. It focuses in particular on the rise of angry youths in the camp who are rabidly anti-government:

“You cannot call them a unified group with one political ideology, but they are all angry...That is the factor unifying them.”

This article touches on a couple really good points that I'd like to stress here:

1) the situation in the camps drastically complicates the rebel groups' ability to negotiate. We've already seen that with exiled rebel leader Abdul Wahid al-Nur who frequently takes an extremely hard-lined position in order to consolidate his support among radical elements in the camps. This article suggests that the inhabitants of the camps are so anti-government that any rebel group seen to negotiate would immediately lose legitimacy in their eyes and possibly even put people of their similar ethnicity in danger of reprisals (rebel groups tend to line-up with ethnicity in Darfur).

2) The article briefly touches on something that jumped out at me from this article. Does anyone else see the resemblance in this scenario of situations in Afghanistan, Somalia, or Lebanon? Basically, in a lawless environment, people turn to radical elements that are able to provide meaning and bestow some semblance of order in an unstable world. The Taliban did this in Afghanistan following the country's many civil wars in the '90s. The Shabab, or Islamic Youth, in Somalia are also seen as the only real possibility for order in the country, despite their brutal tactics. The Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are still sources of trouble in that country as well.

Basically, this is a worrying scenario. The government doesn't know how to deal with it (and is probably unable to deal with it actually). These youth are angry, frustrated, and disillusioned with both the international community and the rebel groups. And, something that the article does not touch on is the fact that they all have guns - I recently spoke with someone who returned from the camps and was just floored by the sheer number of guns available. These "mobilized" youth could become a source of violence and trouble for a long-time to come in the country.

I don't really know that there is any easy way to deal with this situation, other than try to stem the number of weapons entering the camps, provide some sort of opportunity for the youth, and work to end the war. I'd love to hear more thoughts, but this situation is definitely something to look out for... Continue reading this article...

Voices of Victims

For all you Winnipeggers out there...

Tutsi genocide survivor and human rights activist speaks at the Berney Theater, Asper Jewish Community Campus

December 9, 2008 (WINNPEG) The Jewish Students’ Association/Hillel in partnership with the East Indian Students’ Association, The African Students’ Association, Walk4Darfur and STAND are proud to present Eloge Christian Butera on January 8th, 2009 at 7pm at the Berney Theatre inside the Asper Jewish Community Campus.

Butera will be speaking about his experience as a survivor of the 1994 Tutsi genocide and the need to prevent genocides and other human rights violations.

Butera is currently a second year law student at McGill University and previously studied religions and psychology at the University of Manitoba, where he was actively involved in various human rights awareness and advocacy initiatives. He has spoken to dozens of audiences across Canada about his experience.

Winnipeg composer Zane Zalis, along with his talented musical troupe Prodigy, will also perform excerpts from I Believe, which will premiere on May 21, 2009. I Believe documents the Holocaust experience as seen and lived by those directly involved -- the perpetrators, the victims, the observers and, in a plea for informed hope and peace, ourselves.

Tickets are $5.00 and can be purchased at any of the following locations:
∑ Answers – University of Manitoba at University Centre
∑ Info-booth – University of Winnipeg
∑ Jewish Federation of Winnipeg – C300-123 Doncaster Street

A portion of all ticket sales will be donated on behalf of the partners, organizations and students to Tubahumarize, a women’s collective based in Kigali, Rwanda. The organization was founded by Butera’s mother, Jeanne Mwiliriza, to provide trauma counseling and support to widows and orphans of the genocide. Since then, the collective has grown to help hundreds of women and children escape domestic violence. Continue reading this article...

One Year Later

The New York Times recently had this important editorial on Darfur. It's good to see that there is still some attention out there for Darfur, an issue that it seems many people have started to give up on. It starts with this:

"In January, President Bush said this about Darfur: “My administration called this genocide. Once you label it genocide, you obviously have to do something about it.”

Yet, last week — nearly one year later — this is what the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, told the United Nations Security Council about Darfur: “Genocide continues. Rapes in and around the camps continue. Humanitarian assistance is still hindered. More than 5,000 displaced persons die each month.” How can this still be?

One of the most interesting parts of this article to me was that the author seemed to be celebrating the role of the International Criminal Court and Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for finally putting some real pressure on the government in Sudan. While the killing has not stopped, the government of Sudan has taken a few superficial steps towards peace, such as calling a ceasefire and pledging to prosecute war criminals. Although these steps at the moment seem to be merely aimed at saving face rather than genuinely working towards peace, it is precisely these sorts of moves that Canada, the US, and other nations should pick up on and build off of. Even a superficial step can turn into reality if there were other nations holding the government accountable to the pledges it makes and the words it speaks in this time period. So I tend to agree with the author of this article - Moreno-Ocampo has generated some real it's just time for some one else to pick up on the "ripe moment" he has helped create.

Continue reading this article...

Susan Rice for a Change of US Policy?

While the Canadian government is in shambles, Stand'er Ben Fine recently sent me this article about US President-elect Obama's new choice for UN Ambassador. Like Clinton, it is expected that Obama will make this position a Cabinet-level position, critical to making foreign policy decisions.

This could very seriously represent a change of US policy when it comes to Darfur or response to genocide. As the VOA article mentions, Rice gained some notoriety when she called upon the US to use force against the Sudanese government to end the crisis in Darfur. Here is an op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post outlining her policy recommendations. The basic outline of her argument is that the US should not be afraid to bomb Sudanese military targets or blockade Sudan from oil exports in order to enforce compliance with UN resolutions.

Clearly, this is a very controversial stance and built upon the US actions against Serb targets in the late 1990s in response to Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Would force end up making the situation worse? Could it empower an even more radical elite within the National Congress Party (NCP) that currently rules Sudan? Could it unravel the fragile north-south peace treaty and plunge the country back into a larger civil war, even as (supposedly) the possibility of elections approaches for next year? Would it make the UN peacekeepers currently deployed sitting ducks for government retaliation? In that case, there could be a very serious escalation in which US ground troops would have to get involved eventually. And with military interventions, it is almost inevitable that some civilians will be killed...

On the other hand, I would welcome an Obama presidency that made it clear from the outset what sort of actions it would accept and wouldn't accept, while at the same time ensuring that the US complies with international law to maintain its own moral legitimacy. The Bush Administration, despite forceful action to bring about the end of the North-South civil war, has had its hands tied on Darfur, partly because of Iraq, the war on terror, and the loss of legitimacy due to Gunatanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. I think Obama might have a little more leeway because of the street cred he already seems to have in the rest of the world.

So basically, it would be great to see Susan Rice and Obama outline a strategy from day one that is both consistent and coherent. There will be much more international support for the use of force in Sudan if it is clear that other steps have been taken and the Sudanese Government has clearly violated resolutions or agreements. I also believe that other countries would jump behind the US if they seriously took the lead on pushing for peace negotiations.

At the very least, I think we can be fairly confident that Rice will keep the issue of Darfur on the agenda, as well as other possible scenarios of genocide, considering her research interest in failed states and responsibility to protect.

If only we had some similar hope in Canada right now... Continue reading this article...

Darfur Digest - December

Stand’s Darfur Digest is a monthly report which contains analysis on current events relevant to the crisis in Darfur and offers a unique Canadian perspective. It chronicles developments in four areas: Canadian politics, the security situation, negotiations and engagement, and humanitarian affairs.


I. Executive Summary

Canadian Politics and Darfur: Newly-appointed Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon issued a statement supporting the Government of Sudan’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire in Darfur. There was no mention of Darfur in the Speech from the Throne. Defence Minister Peter MacKay hinted that Canadian troops could still play a role in Afghanistan after the 2011 end-date for the mission, but if not, Canadian Forces could be called to participate elsewhere in the world.

Security in Darfur: The security situation in Darfur came under international attention in November as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced a ceasefire in the region. Despite this, days after the ceasefire announcement there were reports of bombings and UNAMID peacekeepers being attacked. The Indonesian Formed Police Unit (FPU) conducted its first confidence building mission to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Northern Darfur.

Negotiations and Engagement in Darfur: The ICC Prosecutor presented evidence against three rebel commanders for their role in the September 2007 attack against peacekeepers in Darfur. The Arab League and the African Union called on the UN Security Council to suspend the July 2008 ICC charges against al-Bashir. However, the Bush administration has stated that it will veto the effort. In mid-November the Sudanese government called for a ceasefire. This ceasefire, however, was short lived as rebel groups accused the government of attacking an area in northern Darfur. One of the rebel groups (JEM) demanded direct talks with Khartoum and said it would not go to a planned peace conference in Qatar if it involved a large number of Darfur's fractured insurgent movements.

The Humanitarian Situation in Darfur: The United Nations launched the 2009 Work Plan for Sudan in November, valued at $2.2 billion, but a global recession could make it hard to attract the necessary money. On the ground, aid workers fear that Darfur IDP camps will breed long-term dangers, as frustration mounts among the civilian population and violence hampers humanitarian work. A recent UN investigation uncovered that Sudanese officials are working with Chadian rebel forces against the aid community. Meanwhile, dry roads means more access for aid vehicles to reach isolated populations, while the UN relief chief visited Darfur at the end of November.

II. Policy Recommendations

1. Build on Canada's recent commitments to Darfur by appointing a Special Envoy to the region. A Special Envoy could strengthen Canadian policymaking on Darfur in three key ways: 1) providing the world with a public face for Canada's efforts on Darfur, 2) providing a presence on the ground in Sudan, and 3) coordinating an integrated “all of Sudan” approach to Canadian peacebuilding. Specifically, a Special Envoy could play a key role in assisting efforts of the Darfuri rebel groups to form a unified and coherent bargaining position, a critical success factor for renewed negotiations.

The Canadian government should pursue targeted divestment from Sudan conditioned on the Sudanese government's cessation of atrocities in Darfur and active engagement in the peace process.

3. Canada’s mission to the UN should engage more actively in multilateral diplomacy at the UN to bring renewed prominence to the Darfur issue internationally and rally greater international support for conflict resolution efforts.

Please forward this to other people interested in making a difference for the people in Darfur.

To receive a copy of the Digest, feel free to send me an email at
Continue reading this article...

6 Signs of a Good Activism Organization

It's been a little while since I posted anything, so I thought I would give a rundown of the Six practices of great non-profits that was discussed at a recent meeting I attended. I believe the list initially comes from Not on Our Watch, the book by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast (though it may have changed slightly as it was passed down the line).

1. A comprehensive range of activities, from working with governments to working in the field to advocacy. Advocacy tends to be improved by in depth knowledge of the situation in the field, while humanitarian activities can be well-supplemented by working with governments to find solutions to the problems a non-profit may be addressing.

2. Harness market forces and partner with businesses.

3. Turn individuals into evangelists.

4. Build and utilize non-profit networks and alliances.

5. Adapt to changing circumstances.

6. Share leadership.

Stand performs a couple of these functions uniquely well. A couple of them don't really apply to us. And some of them I believe we could probably improve on. Stand does not have too much difficulty turning individuals into committed advocates. The national conference last year was a great example of how the organization tries to share leadership (though I believe that internal communication is still something that can be worked on to give everyone more of a sense of what people are doing). We are also fairly good at adapting to changing circumstances, which has been proven by some Stand'ers' willingness to take up the cause of civilians suffering in the Democratic Republic of Congo right now.

On the other side of the coin, we are not uniquely situated to provide humanitarian aid (clearly), although perhaps there is room to make partnerships with groups that do. And although we have some good connections with other groups in the Save Darfur movement, I think there is probably room to establish more connections with groups within Sudan itself, or around the world. Unfortunately, I don't really know about whether we have partnered with business, although the divestment campaign has been a success on this front. Anyone else care to comment?

I know it is not traditional to put an organization's internal discussions in a public forum, but Stand has always been an inclusive and interactive organization and we'd love to hear your opinions. Meanwhile, I leave you with six ways you can be an activist on your own.

1. Raise Awareness
2. Raise funds
3. Write a Letter
4. Call for Divestment
5. Join an organization
6. Lobby the government (through personal meetings/calls to your representatives) Continue reading this article...