MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
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Connecting The Dots
Problem From Hell
By Larry and Brian Kelley
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."-Emerson.
More than two million prisoners are jammed into 200 concentration camps, where they "live" in squalor and disease, awaiting starvation and death. Ninety-five percent of the Acholi population is imprisoned in these camps, where each week about 1,500 children die, according to the World Health Organization, and rape is as common as a cough.
Welcome to Northern Uganda, where AIDs is used as a "deliberate weapon of mass destruction" against the Acholi population, infecting close to 50 percent of the women. Some 1.5 million prisoners are squeezed into squalid IDP (Internal Displaced Person) concentration camps and over 30,000 children, as young as seven, are abducted and forced into child soldiering and sexual slavery.
These are just a few of the observations of Olara A. Otunnu, former UN under secretary-general, in two recent reports: "The Secret Genocide" (Foreign Policy, August '06) and "Uganda: Open Letter to the LRA" (The Monitor, May '07).
According to Otunnu, Ugandan soldiers who test positive for Aids are sent to serve in the North and the rate of infected Acholi women has risen from close to zero to close to 50 percent.
There's not much doubt that these acts constitute genocide under section (c) of the definition established by the 1948 Geneva Convention: "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."
America did not pass the convention until 1986, almost 38 years after its proposal, and only then, with a controversial "opt-out" clause. This gave the U.S. president the choice of whether or not to consent to the court's jurisdiction in each individual case. Under the "doctrine of reciprocity" any country America tried to bring to justice could cite our own reservation and not consent to jurisdiction. So much for muscle.
The Ugandan government, under President Yoweri Museveni since 1986, justified this treatment of the Acholi people, under the guise of a war against the rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA). However, Otunnu claims "there is a long-standing relationship (overt and covert) between the Moseveni regime and the LRA leadership.
"The truth is" writes Otunni "that reports of indisputable atrocities of the LRA are being employed to mask more serious crimes by the government itself... to keep the eyes of the world averted. It is methodical and comprehensive genocide, conceived and being carried out by the government."
He says the Bush administration has offered no public participation in the on-again Juba Peace Talks in Kampala, under-cutting the potential of the process, and in three recent press statements by the State Department, avoided even showing support for the endeavor.
Instead, the U.S. focused on "humanitarian assistance" and the State Department defended this passivity, hiding behind the philosophy of "African solutions for African problems."
But the president of the African Student Organization at the University of Pittsburg claims U.S. culpability goes much further. "American and British arms and funds have allowed Museveni to spread war and terror in Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and the Dominican Republic of Congo," says Peter Okema Otika, an Acholi from Northern Uganda.
In a June 20 article in The New Vision, Uganda's self-proclaimed leading website, a spokesman for the president said there has been "a lot of progress" at Juba and that the government is now discussing "reconciliation."
Dr. Ruhakana Rogunda, the government's chief negotiator at Juba, described the talks as "confidence building for peace" and is proposing that "those who committed crimes admit them and ask for forgiveness from the people, who are willing to forgive," according to the report by Anne Mugisa and Maria Wamala.
"We would like everybody who has played a significant role in the conflict, who may not have gone through the legal process, to undergo the accountability process." Ouch. That sounds even more painful than the legal process.
* * *
As if one case of genocide were not enough, as many as 400,000 black Africans in Darfur have been killed in the last four years by Arab militias linked to the Sudanese government.
Since 2003, the "janjaweed" or "evil horsemen" militias have been "looting, burning, raping and killing entire black villages," reports Gerard Pruner in his article "The Politics of Death in Darfur" (Current History, May '06).
Darfur is a clear case of genocide under section (a) of the Geneva Convention: "killing members of the group." Government aircraft bomb and strafe villages and janjaweed militias share camps with the national army, according to Antonio Cassese in his book "International Criminal Law" (Oxford).
Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair was horrified, recently telling reporters, "What is happening in Sudan at the moment is unacceptable, is appalling and is a scandal for the international community."
A report by Jody Williams, Nobel laureate and anti-land mines campaigner concluded that Sudan's government had "orchestrated and participated in" war crimes and human rights abuses such as rape and torture across the region.
An International Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Security Council concluded that the crimes committed in Darfur "may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."
The Bush response was rhetoric and humanitarian aid but with no military action. According to Nick Grono, Vice President for Advocacy and Operations at the International Crisis Group, the U.S. is not shrinking from the word "genocide" but from the obligation to intervene implied by the word.
He says the U.S. has not acted due to Sudan's help in the war on terror, but other UN member nations have conflicts of interest as well in Darfur.
China is the largest importer of Sudanese oil, buying two-thirds of it, and both China and Russia are quick to block UN intervention for fear of future intervention in their own conflicts. In addition, the Arab League is opposed to a Western peacekeeping force entering an Arab country. Can't imagine why.
The Sudan Tribune reports that the latest U.S. strategy is to threaten sanctions against Sudan unless UN peacekeepers would be allowed into the war-torn western region of Darfur. Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir said he was not concerned by the U.S. threats.
"Let the new madmen, or the new conservatives pick whatever they want as sanctions," he said. "We will bow only before God."
In January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon unsuccessfully urged Bush to lift the U.S. spending cap on its peace-keeping budget. The U.S. pays no more than 25 percent of expenses for peacekeeping operations.
In her book, "A Problem From Hell," Samantha Powers concludes that the common thread running through all recent genocides, including Rwanda in 1994, when militias wiped out 10,000 Tutsi a day for 80 days, is the unwillingness of the world's most powerful countries, especially the U.S., to act to stop the slaughters, even when information becomes available to confirm the atrocities.
Not to mention that we're busy enough killing Iraqis.
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