Thursday, September 14, 2006

Darfur - "tomorrow is too late"

An appeal from survivors of former genocides and other mass murders--in Rwanda, the Holocaust, and Bosnia--via Norman Geras (on Normblog).
"When I think of the people in Darfur today, it makes me sick to the stomach because I know what it's like to watch your protectors walk away and I know the fear of waiting for help that never comes," says survivor and rally organiser Freddy Umutanguha, Coordinator for Aegis Rwanda. "We survivors stand with the victims in Darfur. We are not here to tell the World's politicians how to do their job. All we say is: if you don't protect the people of Darfur today, you will have failed to do it, and never again will we believe you when you visit Rwanda's mass graves, look us in the eye and say 'never again'." [....]

"After the Holocaust, the World said 'never again' but genocide has happened again and again," says Susan Pollack. "A year ago I travelled to New Delhi to help send the message that 'never again' would mean nothing until world leaders accepted their responsibility to protect people at risk of mass murder. They did so; now they must honour their word for the people of Darfur."

"Darfur's Africans are being murdered. How can we leave them without protection?" says Kemal Pervanic. "I ask people everywhere; remember how Bosnia suffered and end the bloodshed in Darfur now. You don't have to be a politician to take up the responsibility to protect. Just start to make your voice heard. The World's leaders have to know we care."
How many of us actually do care? If you care, make your voice heard and demand action. (Some places to start are here and here and here.)

=> This appeal is not directed only, or even primarily, at Americans. Public and governmental response to the Darfur genocide in the US has been inadequate, but at least there has been some (intermittent) response. From most of the rest of the world, with just a few exceptions, there has largely been indifference. Or worse than indifference. Some governments--especially those of China, Russia, and members of the Arab League--are actively supporting and protecting the genocidal Khartoum regime in the arena of international politics and diplomacy (including the UN Security Council). But part of what makes this complicity so effective is the absence of countervailing pressures from elsewhere.

For the victims in Darfur, the most deadly absence is the almost complete failure of European public opinion (with the partial exception of Britain) to become at all aroused about this massive ongoing atrocity. This means that that European governments, which were not inclined to take strong action in the first place, feel little public pressure to do anything serious to stop the Darfur genocide, but instead are encouraged to focus eclusively on the potential risks of action, political and otherwise.

This failure was emphasized as far back as 2004 by former US Presidential candidate Howard Dean in a powerful, eloquent, but evidently ineffective appeal that Europe should act on Darfur. In the spring of 2006, after the "Save Darfur" rally in Washington DC, Samantha Power (author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide) ended her piece "The Void," which included some sharp criticisms of US government policies, by re-emphasizing this even more depressing wider perspective.
But, at this juncture, U.S. pressure is not sufficient to do the job, and other countries must be brought around. And, for that to happen, the burgeoning endangered people's movement must spread beyond U.S. shores.
Walking away from the [Save Darfur] rally in Washington, a British friend of mine shook his head and said, "You'll never hear me say this again, but today made me want my kids to grow up American." When I asked why, he said, "What happened today could never, ever happen in Europe." Europeans fond of denouncing both the Rwandan genocide and American imperialism had better prove him wrong.
Those of you who are citizens of other countries, particularly European countries, should try to prove him wrong. Find ways to urge your governments to do something serious about this catastrophe.

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
From Norman Geras (Normblog)
September 14, 2006
Darfur: 'tomorrow is too late'

Here's a press release from the Aegis Trust, dated 14 September 2006:
Survivors Say: Stop Genocide in Darfur
London: Rwandan, Bosnian and Holocaust survivors speak out

In September 2005, Survivors Susan Pollack (Holocaust), Beatha Uwazaninka (Rwanda) and Kemal Pervanic (Omarska, Bosnia) travell[ed] to Islamabad, New Delhi and New York to lobby for international commitment to the 'responsibility to protect.'

One year on, they will address Sunday's demonstration outside [the] Sudanese Embassy and open an exhibition about Darfur, calling on World leaders to honour their promises. They will be joined by survivors from Darfur, including Ismail Jarbo, who in 2003 saw his father killed during a Government attack.

"After the Holocaust, the World said 'never again' but genocide has happened again and again," says Susan Pollack. "A year ago I travelled to New Delhi to help send the message that 'never again' would mean nothing until world leaders accepted their responsibility to protect people at risk of mass murder. They did so; now they must honour their word for the people of Darfur."

"Darfur's Africans are being murdered. How can we leave them without protection?" says Kemal Pervanic. "I ask people everywhere; remember how Bosnia suffered and end the bloodshed in Darfur now. You don't have to be a politician to take up the responsibility to protect. Just start to make your voice heard. The World's leaders have to know we care."

"The Janjaweed and the Army are ready to finish the job they started," says Ismail Jarbo. "For the sake of my people, do whatever it takes to ensure UN protection. Protect them today, because tomorrow is too late."

Kigali: vigil at site of massacre which followed UN Pull-out

On Sunday 17 September, hundreds of Rwandan genocide survivors will march from a school where 2,000 Tutsis took refuge in 1994 to the site, several miles away, where they were massacred after UN peacekeepers protecting them pulled out. Their march will call on the World not to abandon Darfur to its fate today in the way that they were abandoned twelve years ago.

As the Belgian troops drove out of the Ecole Technique Officiele (ETO) on 11 April 1994, Hutu militia waiting at the gates walked in. The Belgians at ETO had little firepower and no back-up. They were ordered to leave. And yet it was obvious that their withdrawal would be followed by a bloodbath. The survivors draw chilling parallels with Darfur today.

"When I think of the people in Darfur today, it makes me sick to the stomach because I know what it's like to watch your protectors walk away and I know the fear of waiting for help that never comes," says survivor and rally organiser Freddy Umutanguha, Coordinator for Aegis Rwanda. "We survivors stand with the victims in Darfur. We are not here to tell the World's politicians how to do their job. All we say is: if you don't protect the people of Darfur today, you will have failed to do it, and never again will we believe you when you visit Rwanda's mass graves, look us in the eye and say 'never again'."

Donning blue berets as part of the 'Global Day for Darfur' call for UN protection in Darfur, the survivors will also wear T-shirts bearing the words, "I Survived Genocide in Rwanda. Stop Genocide in Darfur."
It's on Sunday 17th September, 11.00 am to 1.30 pm - the Global Day for Darfur.

Posted by Norm at 02:29 PM |

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