Tag Archives: Darfur

Feeling the Effects of Genocide

3 Dec

It was my summer 2007 trip to Nyamata, Rwanda that brought me face to face with the effects of genocide. 

Our Rwandan guide led us to the grave site of some 42,000 people who had been slaughtered only years before.  My mind could not comprehend such evil acts let alone absorb the fact that I was standing IN a grave surrounded by the skulls & bones of thousands who paid an ultimate price for what? 

Lt.Gen. Romeo Dallaire puts it best, “Rwanda–“It’s a story of betrayal, failure, naivete, indifference, hatred, genocide, war, inhumanity and evil. In just one hundred days over 800,000 innocent Rwanda men, women, and children were brutally murdered while the developed world, impassive and apparently unperturbed, sat back and watched the unfolding apocalypse or simply changed channels. Almost fifty years to the day my that father and father-in-law helped to liberate Europe–when the extermination camps were uncovered and when, one voice, humanity said, ‘Never again’–we once again sat back and permitted this unspeakable horror to occur. We could not find the political will nor the resources to stop it. Since then, much has been written, discussed, debated, argued and filmed on the subject of Rwanda, yet it is my feeling that this recent catastrophe is being forgotten and its lessons submerged in ignorance and apathy. The genocide in Rwanda was a failure of humanity that could easily happen again.”

The Grave of  42,000 in Nyamata, Rwanda

The Grave of 42,000 in Nyamata, Rwanda

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour will be presenting a two hour special called, Scream Bloody Murder tomorrow, December 4 at 9pm EST.

(CNN) — They share a deep sorrow: an idealistic American who tried to protect the Kurds of Iraq, a Canadian general who refused to follow orders in Rwanda, a French priest who fought for the soul of Cambodia.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for "Scream Bloody Murder."

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for “Scream Bloody Murder.”

Each one tried to focus the world’s attention on the world’s most heinous crime: genocide. Each time, they were shunned, ignored or told it was someone else’s problem.

To understand why, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour traveled to the killing fields of Europe, Africa and Asia for a two-hour documentary, “Scream Bloody Murder.”

Having reported on mass atrocities around the world, this time Amanpour traced the personal accounts of those who tried to stop the slaughter.

The yearlong CNN investigation found that instead of using a U.N. treaty outlawing genocide as a springboard to action, political leaders have invoked reason after reason to make intervention seem unnecessary, pointless and even counter-productive.

December marks the 60th anniversary of the U.N.’s Genocide Convention, when — in the aftermath of the Holocaust — the nations of the world pledged to prevent and punish future attempts to eliminate ethnic, religious and national groups.

“The Genocide Convention should have stopped genocide, but it didn’t,” said Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. Intervention is a daunting challenge, he believes, because of a tendency to minimize accounts from refugees and victims. “It’s better not to believe, because if you believe, you don’t sleep nights. And how can you eat? How can you drink a glass of wine when you know?

1970s: Cambodia

Father François Ponchaud was a Catholic missionary in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge guerillas — communist revolutionaries — seized power in 1975. They expelled all foreigners from the country.

But working from France, Ponchaud gathered refugee accounts and monitored radio broadcasts to document the slave labor, torture and executions the Khmer Rouge were using to kill one-fourth of Cambodia’s population.

He published his findings in a major French newspaper and wrote a book, “Year Zero.” But even so, Ponchaud tells Amanpour, “No one believed us.”

1980s: Iraq

CNN found that intervention is often weighed against political and economic costs.

Declassified U.S. government documents show that while Saddam Hussein was gassing Iraqi Kurds, the U.S. opposed punishing Iraq with a trade embargo because it was cultivating Iraq as an ally against Iran and as a market for U.S. farm exports.

According to Peter Galbraith, then an idealistic Senate staffer determined to stop Hussein from committing genocide, the Reagan administration “got carried away with their own propaganda. They began to believe that Saddam Hussein could be a reliable partner.”

1990s: Bosnia

Even extensive news coverage may not lead to intervention.

During the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the media reported on the Bosnian Serbs’ ethnic cleansing of Muslims: the siege of Sarajevo, the concentration camps, the use of rape as a weapon of war.

It was like watching “a color remake of the black-and-white scenes we’d seen in World War II,” said U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whose Jewish grandfather fled Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power.

Holbrooke was an early advocate for a U.S.-led military operation against the Bosnian Serbs.

“I took a stand that I believed was correct,” he told Amanpour. “I didn’t think it was so controversial.”

But it would take three years — and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica  — for Holbrooke to make his case within the Clinton administration.

1994: Rwanda

In Rwanda, where Hutu soldiers and militias massacred their Tutsi countrymen, the Clinton administration tried to avoid characterizing the ethnic slaughter as genocide.

According to an internal memo, the State Department worried that under the 1948 Genocide Convention, using the term “genocide” could force the U.S. “to actually ‘do something.'”

The head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda, Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, begged for additional troops. Instead of reinforcements, Dallaire got an order to withdraw completely. He would not leave Rwanda.

“I refused a legal order,” he told Amanpour, “but it was immoral.” His tiny U.N. force was not enough to stop the slaughter of more than 800,000 people.

2003: Darfur

Some human rights advocates consider Darfur, the western region of Sudan, to be the scene of the first genocide of the 21st century.

The atrocities in Darfur grow out of a civil war between rebels from Sudan’s African tribes and the country’s Arab-led government.

In 2003, when the rebels attacked government outposts in Darfur, a U.N. human rights monitor warned that in the “escalating conflict,” Sudan’s government may be “engaged in … ethnic cleansing aimed at eliminating African tribes from Darfur.”

At the time, world attention was on Iraq, where the United States was fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The early warning on Darfur “disappeared into a big hole,” according to Mukesh Kapila, then the U.N.’s top official in Sudan.

Even when the U.N. Security Council put Darfur on its agenda, it took more than three years to authorize a robust peacekeeping force.

“There was no lack of information,” says activist Eric Reeves. “There was a lack of will to stop genocide.”

In July, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court accused Sudan’s president of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, charges Sudan denies.

How will history judge the world’s response to Darfur?

“It will applaud the young people … who believe in solidarity,” says Wiesel. “It will certainly criticize the leaders of the world.”

And the next time somebody screams bloody murder to stop a genocide, will anyone listen?

Food Distribution Day

22 Oct

I spend most of my days doing everything in my power to engage business leaders, celebrities, students, friends and family in the Interface philanthropic crusade.  Today I reached out to a few people (Sheila E, Eric Mabius of Ugly Betty, Evan Walker, Harriet Giles of Auburn Univerisity, Mary Fanaro of Omnipeace, Andrew Keegan, Jeff Sheets, Cynthia Garrett, Chris Stamos) whom I thought could influence our work for the better.  I sent an email to Mia Farrow.  Most know her as the American actress who has appeared in over 40 films.  However Ms.Farrow is also notable for her extensive humanitarian work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Her latest effort is www.miafarrow.org containing a guide on how to get involved with Darfur activism, along with her photos and blog entries from Darfur, Chad, and the Central African Republic. In 2008, she was selected by TIME Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world. I was pleasantly surprised to get a kind email back from Ms. Farrow saying, “great work, Scott” & now I am looking forward to speaking with her to gain her insight into making Interface THE philanthropic movement to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  We are on the right path!!

I thought you might enjoy an entry Mia shared with us regarding a Food Distribution Day at a camp for Darfuri refugees.  Please share this with everyone you know…

Thank you Mia for being a voice for the millions who do not have one.

Voices from the refugee camps
Today was ‘Food Distribution Day at Oure Cassoni camp for Darfuri refugees.
Food rations have been cut. What used to feed a family of four now must be stretched to sustain 6 people.
Listed below are  the rations given out today at Oure Casssoni — to each person. They must make their supply last for one month. They will also share their rations with newly arrived, unregistered  refugees.  The camp quota cannot exceed 27,000 people. The aid agencies do not have the capacity to sustain more.   
Each person receives;  
2.65 oz of cooking oil
1.59 oz  of sugar
0.55 oz’s of salt (for the first time in months salt has been available)
3.3 pounds of lentils
22 lbs cereal
3.3 lbs sorghum
 soap—but none has been available for months
The goal is to give each refugee 2100 calories.   But for months they have been receiving 1800 calories-less than the minimum requirement. Suggested calorie consumption in the US is about 2500 calories a day. Conservatively.
I have heard that Chadians, the 250,000 also displaced by Janjaweed attacks, receive 40% of what the Darfuri refugees are given, but I have not yet been able to  confirm this.
The World Food Programme representative here told me that “US dollars cannot buy what they could before. “ The WFP is running out of money. As you know, food rations to the more than 2. 5 million people in the camps of Darfur have been halved (as of last May) Insecurity on the ground has forced food to be delivered by air. This is unsustainably expensive yet we cannot let people starve. It is the children under five who die first. Anyone wishing to help should donate to the WFP.
The cost of grain has risen dramatically. And the cost of transportation is, as we all know, sky high.  The people here have been asking for new jerry-cans, the plastic containers they need to carry water from the water-point to their dwellings.  But the cost of getting  the containers to the camp now exceeds the cost of manufacturing and purchasing them. All supplies come here by road through Libya and Cameroon. When the roads are impassible-which is OFTEN in the rainy reason,  supplies cannot get through. It is a precarious situation.  

Mia Farrow at the Djabai Refugee Camp

Mia Farrow at the Djabai Refugee Camp