This Thanksgiving, let us give thanks for what we have in our lives and seek to bring blessings into the lives of those who lack them.
As I write this article, Sudanese Armed Forces are amid an offensive against the Sudan Revolutionary Front that has largely been a failure. We are thankful that those who defend themselves against genocide have thus far been able to withstand the offensive. For many thousands of innocent civilians, however, there is no way to withstand the indiscriminate bombing of villages. From November 21-25 alone, nearly 25,000 civilians have become displaced from the intentional bombing of civilian targets. More than 460,000 people have been displaced over the course of this year.
The Khartoum Regime continues its regular campaign of displacement and ethnic cleansing and genocide through bombing huts and fields.
A video was released on November 18 of such a bombing along with a plea from Yassir Arman for help. Here is the plea. The video (graphic and difficult to watch) follows:
As has been the case on no few occasions over the years, when one wants to know what is going on in Sudan, one simply needs to go to Eric Reeves’ website. Reeves offered a comprehensive analysis of the events ongoing in Sudan in an article published on Saturday. Here, I would like to offer a brief summary for those without the time to access Reeves’ more extensive one.
Sudan’s economy is in shambles. The NCP government has been forced to eliminate subsidies on fuel. The protests currently ongoing are directly in response to that action, but indirectly are the result of an unsustainable situation. Subsidies were based upon sales of the oil now belonging to South Sudan. Sudan simply does not have the income to maintain them any longer.
Neither can the NCP regime continue indefinitely to fund the police state necessary to maintain order with a population becoming increasingly hostile. Subsidies help to keep the population content. The police apparatus keeps the lid on rebellion. With failure of subsidies AND a weakening ability to fund the police apparatus, the regime cannot endure. The pending economic collapse will accelerate if subsidies are reinstated. The government simply cannot afford to fund it any longer.
Eric Reeve’s summed up the situation well:
There is no exit for the regime, not after years of gross mismanagement of the economy, endemic graft, massive self-enrichment, misguided spending priorities, and a vast and expensive system of political patronage. The value of the Sudanese pound will fall even faster; the cost of imports will grow at a devastating rate; inflation will accelerate, though not with the precipitous nature of the nearly 100 percent increase in the price of fuel and cooking oil that has been experienced over the past six days. Reinstating subsidies would also ensure that the IMF abandons the regime.
There is no way to predict which way al-Bashir will jump; but if he remains committed to “confrontation,” we may be sure that it will be bloody and may well be long, given the nature of the response already in evidence.
We can expect the situation in Sudan to continue to deteriorate so long as the Bashir regime remains in power.
Edmond Burke said:
The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.
The problem we face today is that good men are more than willing to speak and far less than willing to do. They look at Syria and say, “Look at the dead children in white sheets! Stop!” and they look at Sudan, if they look at Sudan at all, and sounding like Dr. Seuss’ Once-ler say, “Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!” but they do nothing and let the Once-ler go on making thneeds – ruining the world, or in the case of Sudan, go on killing innocents. Today there is rebellion in the streets of Sudan and rebellion in Syria. The best we can do is to suggest to immoral murderous dictators that we would rather they not kill?
One could make the argument that in Syria we see only bad options. There is the regime of Assad on the one hand, an ally of our enemy Iran, who has used chemical weapons against his own people, and on the other hand, rebels led by Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, not exactly our friends.
In Sudan, perhaps believing that the Sudan Revolutionary Front SRF is not capable of rising to power at this point, we see only the regime of Omar Bashir or another terrible option. This perception of Sudan would be grossly in error. The SRF can lead and how can we allow a regime we already know to be genocidal to remain in power if we have any option to end their reign?
But we spend our time searching for good options, for allies, as a dowser searches for water, blindly hoping, pretending that we will simply come upon them. In so wandering aimlessly, we let evil triumph again and again.
In what scenario in Syria now will evil not triumph; if we allow the choice to be between Assad and Al Qaeda? In what scenario in Sudan will evil not triumph; if we allow the choice to be between Bashir and a failed state? Our obligation is not only to try to choose the better of evils, but to try to create non-evil options if we can. We must DO something or evil will certainly flourish.
There is no concern that America will not speak out about perceived evils around the world. We have quite a set of pipes! The question is whether or not we will act to stop the evils. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has a simple motto which more than aptly applies:
What you DO matters!
Those of us who have been involved with Sudan related issues for a decade or longer feel some anxiety about the decision by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan to dissolve the government and restructure it, removing numerous key leaders. However, we also know well, it was obvious in fact, that the government as it had been constituted was incapable of functioning as South Sudan needed it to function. Whether this was because there was infighting among leaders or because people had been appointed to positions based upon what they did during the long war rather than based upon their ability to direct the ministries to which they had been appointed, we do not know. We do know that the people of South Sudan have seen corruption proliferate and conflict spread while the needs of the average citizen in many parts of the country have gone largely unmet.
We also know that while things could improve quickly under the right circumstances, it is all too easy for them to deteriorate as well. At this moment, there is a significantly increased military presence in the streets of Juba and there are heightened fears of conflict between the Dinka and the Nuer, the two largest tribes, with the former Vice President Machar a Nuer. There are also many voices praising Kiir’s decision, hoping for new faces in the government with reduced corruption. Machar himself is calling for calm while criticizing the Kiir’s decisions.
For the health of South Sudan moving forward, a true multiparty political system that encourages healthy policy debate is absolutely essential. The fact is that right now, the SPLM is so dominant that free debate is difficult to achieve and tends to occur within the party itself where dissenters are criticized or even ostracized, something not helpful to the advancement of the nation on the whole. In other countries, Kiir, Machar, and Pagan Amum might well lead two or three different political parties, offering criticism of one another while promoting different solutions to the problems faced by the nation. Perhaps, this is the direction in which the nation is headed, something that would be beneficial in the long run.
Our fervent hope is that the rebuilt government will be more effective at creating prosperity and renewing hope for the people of South Sudan. Only time will tell if our hope will come to pass.
According to an article in the Sudan Tribune, Japan and specifically the Toyota Corporation will work with South Sudan to construct and oil pipeline through Kenya. If the project comes to fruition, it would radically alter the dynamic in play now. Sudan faces sanctions and numerous other limits to its income. Transit fees collected from South Sudan for oil shipped through its pipeline to Port Sudan constitute a major source of income that among other things allows the government to pay its security forces and purchase weaponry.
The simple fact is that the more that oil flows through Port Sudan, the more blood will flow in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur.
Fighting, as Sudan does, is expensive and the oil revenue is essential to maintaining the fight. Of course, building the new pipeline will take years, not weeks or months, and the suffering in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and Darfur will continue.
Meanwhile, the more that Sudan works with Iran with Iran providing the Khartoum Regime both income and weaponry, the more that other nations will be willing to work with the rebel groups and to support South Sudan in its disputes with the north. With every attempt to subdue the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces that fails and results in both the death of soldiers fighting only for a paycheck and in the capture of additional military assets to be used by the SRF against the state, the situation worsens for Sudan. With every child who dies of starvation in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the more well motivated and committed rebel troops there will be fighting against the Khartoum Regime. The strategic situation for Sudan is not a good one now and if the oil pipeline is actually developed through Kenya, it may prove to be the coup de grace against the Khartoum Regime.
All of this is yet far off, however. There is much work to do now to save innocents lives threatened by the hands of the genocidaires in Sudan.
My interview with Mukesh Kapila on “Understanding the World” is now both on Youtube and Podcast. Dr. Kapila talked about the situation in Sudan and the history of the genocides perpetrated by the Sudanese government against the people of Sudan over the past decades. Dr. Kapila is a leading authority on genocide and perhaps the leading authority on the Sudanese genocides. He is well worth listening to. Below is the Youtube recording of the program which lasts about an hour. Dr. Kapila is on for about 50 minutes of the show. At the bottom of this posting you will find the audio only podcast link.
The podcast of the interview may be found by clicking on this link.
The Obama administration is preparing to welcome a senior Sudanese delegation to the United States for some rare highest-level diplomacy between the countries.
State Department spokeswoman Hilary Renner says Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie and other officials have accepted an invitation to Washington for a “candid discussion on the conflicts and humanitarian crises within Sudan.”
- The Seleka rebel (Islamist) takeover of CAR,
- Mali rebels relaxing in Darfur and ongoing conflict in Mali against the French,
- The potential of thousands of militants fleeing Syria for other opportunities to fight if the situation there gets out of hand,
- Weak new Islamist regimes (Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, CAR) across the north of Africa,
- Unrest in Jonglei province of South Sudan,
- Ongoing rebel action against the Sudanese government in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile,
- Ongoing Sudanese Armed Forces activities against the rebels and against civilians in rebel held areas,
- Major financial crises in both Sudan and South Sudan,
- The recent International Monetary Fund IMF pressure brought to bear on both Sudan and South Sudan to pay off the massive debt owed, and
- Ongoing peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan,
- Talks which center around achieving both prosperity and peace through the transfer of oil through a single largely indefensible pipeline that any number of groups would have an interest to put out of operation.
A wonderful interview with a real hero. Carl Wilkens helped to save the lives of hundreds of children in Rwanda during the genocide that took place there and now travels the world helping to educate against genocide. During this interview he was inspirational. Listen, learn, and be inspired to act!
This video is excellent for use by students and teachers as it contains no graphic footage or descriptions but nonetheless does a superb job of explaining what genocide is like as well as dealing with “the other” in our communities and our lives. I hope that activists, students, and teachers will find it helpful.
Carl Wilkens will be joining us in Des Moines on April 20. He is speaking at the Temple 5101 Grand Ave that night at 7:30 pm.
The Sudan Tribune reports that at least five UN peacekeepers from India, two United Nations Mission in South Sudan UNMISS staff members, and five civilians were killed on Tuesday in Jonglei, near the Gumuruk settlement in Pibor County. UNMISS has warned recently about deteriorating conditions in Jonglei. Rebels have been fighting the government in the area for the past two years, since 2010, when David Yauyau lost the election to become a member of parliament. The article notes that:
UNMISS’s patrols also aim to protect the many humanitarian aid convoys that operate in Jonglei to provide assistance those affected by the fighting between the rebels and the South Sudanese army (SPLA), which has been carrying out a disarmament campaign in the area for over a year.
Meanwhile the rebels deny involvement and blame the government.
Carl Wilkens will join Rabbi Kaufman and Mark Finkelstein live on Understanding the World tomorrow morning, April 11, 2013. The show airs beginning at 8:30 am Central and runs until 9:30 am. You may listen in live or join in the chat room on the internet at www.12Talk2.com or see the recording on Youtube at www.youtube.com/12talk2net .
Carl Wilkens will be speaking in Des Moines at Temple B’nai Jeshurun on April 20 at 7:30 pm admission is free of charge.
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Bridget Conley-Zilkic – Project Director
“The 1994 genocide in Rwanda illustrated the absolute worst in humanity — not only in how it was perpetrated, but also in how the people of Rwanda were abandoned by the world. Against this horrible history, the brave and honorable decision of Carl Wilkens to stay and help stands out as a glimmer of hope for everyone, then and now.” B. Conley-Zilkic
About Carl Wilkens-
As a humanitarian aid worker, Carl Wilkens moved his young family to Rwanda in the spring of 1990. When the genocide was launched in April 1994, Carl refused to leave, even when urged to do so by close friends, his church and the United States government. Thousands of expatriates evacuated and the United Nations pulled out most of its troops. Carl was the only American to remain in the country. Venturing out each day into streets crackling with mortars and gunfire, he worked his way through roadblocks of angry, bloodstained soldiers and civilians armed with machetes and assault rifles in order to bring food, water and medicine to groups of orphans trapped around the city. His actions saved the lives of hundreds.
Carl returned to the United States in 1996. After being featured in the 2004 PBS Frontline documentary, “Ghosts of Rwanda”, about the Rwanda genocide, he began to receive letters, phone calls and offers from teachers around the country to come and share his experiences with students.
In January 2008, with no end in sight to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan, Carl decided quit his job and dedicate himself full time to accepting these invitations. He and his wife Teresa have since formed an educational nonprofit, World Outside My Shoes, to facilitate this important work.