Friday, July 22

BandAids and Bandits

Most medical professionals know that in order to cure a disease, you strike at the cause. Putting bandaids on symptoms may be comforting temporarily, but the disease always returns.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is trying to apply bandaids in the Sudan. On her recent visit there demanded that the Sudanese government own up to its responsibilities and acknowledge accountability for the violence in Darfur. All this while her own security people were being hassled by the Sudanese.

Condoleezza Rice today demanded a full apology from the Sudanese President after members of her entourage were allegedly roughed up by guards at a diplomatic meeting.

Jim Wilkinson, a senior adviser to the US Secretary of State, was grabbed and thrown against a wall at the entrance to President Omar al-Bashir’s palace in the capital Khartoum.

US officials said that the security guards elbowed and pushed them, barring advisers and the press from entering the meeting by slamming closed the residence's wooden doors.

An attempt was also made to seize tapes from a National Public Radio reporter before Sean McKormack, Miss Rice's spokesman, and others intervened.

Visiting a refugee camp, Rice called the crisis in Darfur, where 180,000 have died since 2003, a "genocide," the same word Powell used in his visit. And she warned that she wants "actions, not words" from Khartoum on dealing with the situation in Darfur. The State Department has found that the Sudanese government, after promising to quell the violence in Darfur , is still paying salaries to leaders of Arab militias known as Janjaweed that continue to attack and kill black civilians.

The leverage Rice has on Khartoum are strict sanctions that, if lifted, would allow Sudan to improve its decrepit infrastructure. But, first, she says she wants to see Khartoum live up to the peace deal it signed on Darfur. On that, she must stay tough.

Meanwhile, back in the US Senate, Kansas Senator Brownback reintroduces his Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2005, which also calls for increased pressure on the Sudanese government.

“As tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Congress’ declaration of genocide in Darfur, Sudan, it is not the time to start thinking about easing sanctions or restoring certain diplomatic ties. It’s time to address the needs of the African Union and to sanction those responsible for genocide,” Brownback said.

The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2005 increases pressure on Khartoum, provides greater support to the African Union mission in Darfur to help protect civilians, imposes sanctions on individuals responsible for atrocities, and encourages the appointment of a U.S. special envoy to help advance a peace process for Darfur.

Today Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Sudan for the first time. While momentum for international support to end this crisis has been building, the violence and humanitarian crisis continues. Rape is still being used as weapon. Some women who have become pregnant due to brutal rapes have been forced to abort their unborn babies, while other women have been imprisoned for bearing illegitimate children. In addition, the government remains prepared to raze the Kalma refugee camp, moving 120,000 people against their wishes, thus, sending them back into areas where there is no security against these rapes and killings.

In remarks prior to the G-8 summit on June 30, 2005, President Bush declared, “the violence in Darfur is clearly genocide,” and “the human cost is beyond calculation.”

Brownback applauded Senator Corzine and his colleagues in the House, including Congressmen Hyde, Tancredo, Payne, Wolf, Smith and others, who have diligently worked with him to ensure a strong piece of legislation that they hope will move quickly and be enacted so that further relief may be provided to the suffering victims.

Brownback traveled to the Darfur region of Sudan in July 2004 and issued a report with recommendations for the international community to deal with the dire human rights situation there. Brownback also authored legislation declaring the dire situation in Sudan genocide, and sponsored legislation providing $95 million in emergency humanitarian aid to the Darfur region.

The Sudanese government reminds me of a doll I had when I was a child. With the skirt pulled down in one position, the doll was white but if you turned the skirt inside-out, the doll was black.

The white doll side:
Rice acknowledged that Sudan, once a terrorism sponsor, is a far better place today than it had been for decades, or even since her predecessor, Colin Powell, visited it 13 months ago. Sudan now has an elected national unity government that has become a useful ally in the U.S. fight against global terrorism, has increased its flow of oil substantially and, above all, is consolidating the peace deal ending Africa's longest civil war. The war pitted the Arab government in Khartoum against black Christian and animist rebels in the south and cost millions of lives. Today, a former rebel leader is vice president and the new constitution protects religious and political rights for all groups.

The dark doll side:
Villagers in Mirhanda in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where UN peacekeepers have chased out the Rwandan Hutu rebels terrorising the population, said on Thursday they feared the fighters would return to their stronghold. "Before leaving, they threatened us they would return," said 16-year-old Burhendwa Kahegesha, staring at the smouldering straw huts that served as a hideout for some 900 fighters for the past three years. "I am happy that the men are gone, but they said that we were responsible for their leaving. They will come back for revenge," he said. The Rwandan Democratic Liberation Forces (FDLR) rebels, who have been hiding out in eastern DRC since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, have inflicted terror on the residents of Mirhanda for years. Living in mud houses near the rebel base, some 70 families make up Mirhanda village, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of Bukavu, the provincial capital of the volatile Sud Kivu region.

The Sudanese government is a Muslim government. They have supported the rebels, providing them with guns and gunship support when they ravage the villages of native Africans. Threatening them with sanctions is about as effective as threatening Saddam Hussein and we all know how that worked. Sanctions are bandages on symptoms; what the situation needs is a strike at the heart of the disease.

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