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The Guardian: What has changed in Darfur since George was there in 2006?

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The Guardian: What has changed in Darfur since George was there in 2006?

Post by party animal - not! on Thu Dec 11 2014, 20:25

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Really interesting article on the current situation including quotes from all sides

By the way, did we know Amal meant Hope in Arabic? Someone is hoping to start a new initiative with that name

John Prendergast interview too






What happened to Darfur after George Clooney came to town?

In 2006 a Hollywood star sparked global interest in a war in Sudan. Did it make a difference? We speak to the people who were there

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George Clooney in Darfur in 2008. Photograph: Sherren Zorba/AP/PA Photos

More than 10 years of violence between rebels and government forces in Darfur has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions. And while the intensity of the conflict has diminished since the early years, it shows no signs of abating.

In 2009 Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, became the world’s first sitting leader to be indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity over the government’s role in Darfur’s conflict.
Yet for many in the west, Darfur is best known for its connection to the Hollywood actor George Clooney, who has been credited with putting the conflict on the world stage.
He raised money, garnered celebrity support and even addressed the UN to try draw attention to widespread atrocities in the region. Even when the world’s attention wandered elsewhere, Clooney continued his work on Sudan. In 2010 he launched the Sentinel Project to track human rights abuses by satellite and in 2012 he was arrested outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington DC.
Clooney in handcuffs might make headlines but did it have any impact on the people living in Darfur? Has anything changed or is life as precarious as ever? We speak to people who have lived or worked in the region over the past 10 years.

North Darfuri

Has George Clooney make a difference to the lives of people in Darfur?
Clooney might be doing something fantastic – tracking the movements of Sudanese troops and militias – but for me as a person living in Darfur, in touch with what is happening on daily basis, I don’t see that it has halted, or even reduced, the genocide. The killing, displacement, sexual assaults and rape never stopped.
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The Sudanese government is perpetrating another form of genocide by arming the different tribes, especially those with Arabic origins, letting them kill each other. In the past five years the tribal fighting has intensified, using weapons provided by Khartoum. They fight over land, administrative boundaries some are just using their power to terrify others.
The Janjaweed militias are still there and after the Darfur peace agreement in 2006 some were integrated to the armed forces and the police.
There has been no improvement in the security situation: in the towns, looting, breaking shops and killing is often perpetrated by armed personnel, allegedly belonging to the armed militias. Between towns and markets, people have to pay protection fees and pay taxes at checkpoints, otherwise they compromise their safety.
In October there was alleged mass rape in a village called Tabit. An investigation team from Unamid, the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission, was only allowed to reach Tabit 10 days after the incident.
The military denied the incident from the beginning as did the people of Tabit, probably because they were afraid. The peacekeepers requested to be allowed to do another investigation but they were not allowed.
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A member of the Abdul Wahid faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebel movement stands guard in Darfur. Photograph: HANDOUT/Reuters
Peacekeepers cannot move without government permission and must keep their movements to a minimum incase of carjackings or personal attacks. People question its presence and effectiveness: how can it protect civilians if it cannot protect its own personnel?

In general, the trust in the international community is diminishing. There is a feeling that Darfur is a forgotten place, that it’s not important
In general, the trust in the international community is diminishing. There is a feeling that Darfur is a forgotten place, that it’s not important. As for Clooney, I do not hear people talking about him or expecting anything.

What is the situation in Darfur now?
The most dramatic change is the escalation of tribal conflict, mass killings, and the burning of villages causing mass displacement. Until 1992 Darfur was one region, in 1993 it was divided into three areas: North, South and West. In 2012 two more areas were added: Central and East. The government considered making deals with some tribes and not others. This just created new dynamics of conflict.
The militias are a security threat in Darfur and they also constitute a challenge to Khartoum – they don’t obey the rules and have differences with the government over entitlements and payment. Some young militia members are also heavily using drugs which affects their behaviour and actions. The Doha peace deal was brokered in 2011 but no progress was made, apart from power sharing and allocation of positions to the former rebels.
Does Darfur need another global campaign? If you were in charge what would it be called? And what would it hope to achieve?

Yes, for sure, but not just a media or celebrity campaign. It should be led by the major powers in the UN security council to pressure conflicting parties to reach a comprehensive and just peace.
The actions of Khartoum is what has to change. A robust peacekeeping force is also required to ensure the government complies, it should be UN mandated and establish clear working relationships with the government on access, civilian protection and the free movement of peacekeepers.
The campaign could be called United for a Peaceful and Stable Darfur because what we need is security
The campaign could be called United for a Peaceful and Stable Darfur because what we need is security, ensuring our own safety so we can think, work and produce – with fear nothing can be achieved.

This account is from an aid worker from north Darfur, her name has been withheld to protect her identity

Abdel-Rahman El-Mahdi

Has George Clooney make a difference to the lives of people in Darfur?
The global campaign on genocide was hardly felt or even heard of in Darfur, or for that matter in the more affluent, better-connected capital Khartoum.

Clooney is better known for his marriage to an Arab, the British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin, than for his activism. Unfortunately he visited Darfur before the wedding. He was just another visiting “khawaga” (local term for a westerner or white person) who did not have much to offer the suffering people.
Almost 10 years after the global campaign on genocide not much has changed. The conflict continues, so do the reports of rape and human rights abuses.
What is it like in Darfur now?
Life in Darfur continues to deteriorate alongside the overall state of affairs across the country. Tribal militias have emerged as a prominent third party to the ongoing violence. Insecurity is rampant and the plight of the millions of internally displaced is no longer news, it is just normal.
Darfur has changed for the worse
The separation of South Sudan in 2011 and the civil war that followed caused an influx of refugees, putting further stress on southern Darfur.
Two peace agreements in 2006 and 2011 between various parties have both failed to deliver real peace.
Darfur has changed for the worse, what we had in 2006 was much better than what we have now.

Does Darfur need another global campaign? If you were in charge what would it be called? And what would it hope to achieve?
The whole of Sudan needs a campaign, Darfur is part of a broader and bigger problem. Similar conflicts are rampant in other parts of the country, including the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. What they have in common is deteriorating governance being exercised by from Khartoum.

If I was in charge I’d call our new campaign AMAL meaning hope in Arabic. Coincidentally it’s Clooney’s wife name but that’s not intentional. It would have one objective: getting all interested parties in one room to put a stop to conflicts across the country, Darfur included. There’d be space for Clooney to play a role in the too!
Abdel-Rahman El-Mahdi is the president of the Sudanese Development Initiative. He is based in Khartoum and travels to Darfur regularly

John Prendergast

How were you involved in the campaign? How was Clooney received in Darfur?
The campaign already existed in the form of the global Save Darfur campaign before Clooney got involved. He added considerable weight and attention to the efforts when he travelled to Darfur and started campaigning in the US. His appearance on Oprah amongst others helped to attract attention and inspire action in response to what was unfolding in Darfur.
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John Prendergast with George Clooney in South Sudan. Photograph: Jeff Trussell/Enough Project
I’ve traveled with Clooney to Sudan and South Sudan five times. He is a very humble and empathetic person. Most people we came into contact with simply appreciated that he cared and was willing to come out of his comfort zone to be with them in their time of need.

What is the situation in Darfur now?
Unfortunately it is highly unstable because the core problem hasn’t been addressed: an abusive central government willing to maintain power by any means necessary.
Has the world lost interest? What could the international community have done differently?
It is very difficult to maintain interest and focus for a sustained period of time especially on issues halfway around the world that are not perceived to be in the US national interest.

African stories often hit the news and burn out quickly, the key is to act when the spotlight is brightest and do so in a way that promotes a sustainable solution to the crisis, rather than just managing it.

In Darfur, governments around the world focused on getting a UN force which could only manage the situation, not address the core problem: bad governance in Khartoum. This is a common story and Darfur is just one small example.
Attention to global issues is always fickle but there are solutions. Clooney and I are working on a new initiative, to be launched in 2015, that will chase the assets of some of the world’s worst war criminals, disrupting networks that fund and profit from genocide. This is our contribution to the global effort going forward.
John Prendergast is the founding director of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity

Aicha Elbasri

What is the situation in Darfur now?
Since the world has forgotten Darfur, Omar al-Bashir’s government has officially integrated the infamous Janjaweed militiamen into its armed forces, rather than neutralising them, disarming them and preventing them from harming more civilians. Meanwhile its air and ground campaigns smite civilians and rebels alike.
The government has pitted Arab and non-Arab tribes against each other. The rebels are still fighting the government, but they are also attacking, looting, abducting civilians. Darfur has become a free-for-all killing zone.
Weapons have been proliferating since the UN security council adopted its ineffective-partial arms embargo on the region in 2005. Millions of non-combatant women, men and children are trapped, unseen and unprotected. Countless people are condemned to wander from one camp to another, hoping to survive.
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Aicha Elbasri accused the UN of failing to do enough to protect civilians. Photograph: Albert Gonzalez Farran/ UNAMID/EPA
Even according to the UN’s modest estimates, more than 2 million people are “internally displaced” – a euphemism for homeless.
But the UN is not saying how many people have died in, or as a result of, the fighting since Darfur burst onto the global agenda in 2003. The last official estimate was 300,000 goes back April 2008. Since then, no one has kept proper records of the deaths and injuries sustained in Africa’s hidden war.
Worse has turned to worse. The Sudanese government has turned a conflict depicted as “Arabs versus Africans” into an all-out war.
Since Darfur slipped off the news and policy agenda, Unamid and the UN’s peacekeeping office have fully documented three major shifts: integrating the Janjaweed in to Sudanese forces; pitting Arab tribes against non-Arab tribes, and pitting Arab tribes against each other. But they have deliberately covered them up to protect the Sudanese government, currently indicted by the ICC.
What could the international community have done differently?
Instead of sending more troops, better trained and equipped to protect civilians, the UN has laid off nearly 6,000 peacekeepers since April 2012. This was based on the mission’s sunny reports that said that the war was over and the situation had largely improved. In August 2014 the security council went as far as envisaging “an exit strategy” for Unamid, on the grounds that other projects were missing out.
The downsizing of the mission – while Darfur burns more ferociously than ever – is reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 when General Romeo Dallaire requested more peacekeeping troops to help stem the violence, his pleas were rejected and his force was reduced to a token level.
Aicha Elbasri was the former spokesperson for the Unamid mission in Darfur, she resigned last year accusing the UN of a “conspiracy of silence” over the conflict

Patricia Parker

Has George Clooney make a difference to the lives of people in Darfur?
Sadly no. There was no evidence or even talk of him, either in the camps or the villages. What people were aware of was talk about the international community giving assistance and bringing security. Security was, and still is, the most urgent and desperately needed help.
What is the situation in Darfur now?
Life is desperate. Sudan has suffered soaring inflation since South Sudan seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the state’s oil output. Families can not afford protein in any form, children’s hair turns white and many have died of starvation. People’s annual income has dropped below £25. Women continue to be at risk of attack.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] A vet tends to a Kids for Kids-loaned donkey in Darfur. Photograph: Kids for Kids.
Although the camps received food the villages were left without any assistance. Aid agencies are conspicuous by their absence. What little health care there was before 2003 was withdrawn the moment violence erupted. There is none beyond the towns. People’s survival capacities in times of drought collapsed.

Does Darfur need another global campaign? If you were in charge what would it be called and what would you hope to achieve?
I’d call it Children’s Campaign for a Chance of Life, it would ask for clean water, food, education and healthcare. The campaign would need to help people to help themselves and provide sustainable assistance.
All aid sent to Darfur in the past decade has disappeared into the sand, there is no evidence of it anywhere. No improvement in infrastructure, and a massive deterioration, if one can call it that, in the ‘standard of living’. Life is worse in Darfur than ever. The future for children is grim.
Patricia Parker is the founder of Kids for Kids, a UK NGO working in Darfur. They loan goats which provide nutritious milk for children, and donkeys, which can provide an income for their mothers to 70 villages. She travelled there regularly until 2011 but has since been unable to arrange access. She is in regular contact with local staff on the ground who continue the work.


Last edited by Nicky80 on Fri Dec 12 2014, 19:33; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added text and pics)

party animal - not!
Zip a dee Clooney!

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