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Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Discipline of Diligence

Our attention spans as humans seem to be getting shorter and shorter.  Some blame the Internet generation, video games and the touch-pad age.  Others blame a general apathy on our part to see the importance of following anything that is not immediately gratifying.  I tend to be an optimist.  Whatever the reason, following an issue or subject that we are passionate about, that is bigger than ourselves and that most likely, challenges and confounds our ability to find answers for, is a discipline.   There is an inherent importance in this day and age for actually paying attention to the same subject over a longer period of time.  With that said, I wanted to continue to follow and to update you, the reader, about any developments on the stories and subjects that I have written about so far.  I will start with the oldest story herein and move forward, chronologically and will likely post in several parts. 

The Machine Gun Preacher

The movie had mixed reviews in the box office. Many critics thought it was a bust but apparently it is being widely hailed among evangelical church groups as a brave testament, and sermon topic for the role that one man can have in saving people.  I still have not seen it and do not intend to.  However, a friend, who is an academic, encouraged me to see it and try and weigh the film and the idea through the academic lens.  I intend to do so, at some point.  In the meantime I have been awaiting the documentary that has been promised to show his questionable trip to Darfur.  To date, I have not been able to locate a copy.  I have repeatedly attempted to contact Sam Childers himself via his website, blog, his friends and his email address with no response to date.  I believe that constructive criticism is important and dialogue should be exercised accordingly.  He may in fact be able to dispel the rumours and my arguments and questions to his legitimacy.  I would welcome that.  However, so far, his silence tends to raise more questions about the legitimacy of many of his claims about his work in Sudan.  Alas, it seems that under legitimate questioning he is more likely to pawn it off as “persecution” for doing God’s will.

Southern Kordofan

Southern Kordofan, along with Blue Nile State and the Darfur states, continue to be subjected to the marginalization policies and violence of the National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum.  This has intensified greatly since the South Sudanese seceded in July.  Continued attacks along the border regions in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile State specifically have resulted in massive displacement into refugee camps just inside the new borders of South Sudan.   The NCP government has pursued civilians into these areas and continued aerial bombardment well within South Sudan’s territory.   The resultant displacement is a humanitarian disaster.  South Sudan’s recent decision to simply shut off the oil pipeline has only served to exacerbate the tensions.  The posturing by the new government in the South is expected.  However, the resistance and intolerance of the NCP’s actions in Sudan itself is growing as well, both by civilians and armed rebel groups.  In fact, this shared persecution is one of the uniting factors between rebel forces in each of the three states and a recent announcement of uniformity in their goals has sparked a renewed hope that the brutal regime’s continued crimes against their own people will come to and end. Khartoum’s response was as efficient and brutal as ever with the killing of Khalil Ibrahim, one of the rebel leaders and a former minister in the Government of Sudan.  However, with each passing day we are hopeful that the seeds of change sewn elsewhere in the world will begin to inspire ordinary citizens stand up to the NCP government of Omar Bashir.  In fact, residents of Nyala, South Darfur, where I once resided, displayed their discontent with the ruling NCP today in what can only be described as general civil disobedience in the town.  As expected, they were met with a categorical show of force by police, military and the infamous Abu Tira, all loyal to the NCP.  Undoubtedly, there is a long road ahead.

Unfortunately, the situation in neighbouring Southern Kordofan has gone from bad to worse with intensified bombing of civilian targets and a complete blockade of aid reaching the state.  There are now legitimate concerns that the NCP is laying siege to towns in order to ready themselves for a full on attack of both rebel and civilian targets, particularly in the Kauda Valley.   The resultant civilian casualties of a siege and subsequent attack are likely to be disastrous.  Already aid groups estimate that nearly half a million civilians are at risk of food insecurity in the coming months. Although plans for the African Union to negotiate access for aid, one wonders, diplomatically speaking, what will be sacrificed.  For example, will the support for the ICC warrant for the arrest Omar Bashir be dropped?

Citizen journalist Ryan Boyette continues to exemplify what it means to be committed to constructive action.  His professional, and extremely important work remains a valuable contribution to the mountain of evidence of the NCP’s atrocities, through his regular reporting from the front lines including heavy fighting: http://twitpic.com/7rz48v.   

Ryan’s most recent report is as follows:

“On January 9th and 10th, 2012 there was heavy fighting between SAF and
SPLA-N forces in the village of Braum and Tess.  The SAF forces pushed their way to Braum in an offensive attack.  The SPLA-N forces repelled the attack and the SAF forces retreated back to Kadugli.

During the attack in Tess the SAF air force bombed the surrounding area
wounding and killing many civilians.  The exact number is unknown.  Although I have attached pictures of the wounded civilians.  The civilians were treated by the SPLA-N medic in a near by village.  There have also been reports of rape of women in Tess village by SAF soldiers.  Since SAF troops are still located near the road to Yida Refugee camp many civilians are scared to travel south to the refugee camp.”   

You can follow Ryan on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ryanboyette

At this juncture I think it is important to tip our hats to two groups of people.  The first group is rather obvious; immense appreciation should be shown to all of the people assisting to bring aid to those displaced by the tensions and fighting.  Your diligence, devotion and sacrifices are appreciated.  Secondly, and more importantly still, I commend the ordinary Sudanese citizens who are participating in acts of civil disobedience in the northern towns and cities in order to show their own distaste for the current leadership.  Undoubtedly, you will need to be brave. 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Update on The Price of Plunder

In the intervening days since Friday’s deadly events, some progress has been made in stabilizing Ijema Funan, the injured ranger.  Although his injuries are severe and likely to be a life-long disability, he is stable and in excellent hands in Nairobi.  For that I am intensely grateful. He will undergo multiple, lengthy and extensive surgeries to replace his shattered shoulder and repair the wound on his face.

Abdullahi Mohammed’s (aka Abdi) funeral was attended by many in the community, a testament to the loss and pride of the community of the role rangers play in protecting the local environment.  He will be sorely missed.

Additionally, in an excellent turn of events, two of the perpetrators have been captured in the nearby town of Mackinnon Road.  A full report of their capture is available here.  Their capture represents an important step in bringing justice to the families of Abdi and Ijema and the wider WW family.  Their arrest is also leading to a wealth of intel on other nefarious activities in the area, including the recovery of the assault rifle used the incident.

Thank you for your continued reading.  I will keep you updated. La Luta Continua

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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Price of Plunder

I write this post with sadness. As I am typing, one of my friends and former colleagues is in surgery in a Nairobi hospital, a round from an AK having ripped off half his face and a second round through his shoulder.  Another former colleague has just been buried in the red sands of Tsavo.  This is the human price of plunder. 

In the last two years, the massive escalation of elephant and rhino poaching in eastern and southern Africa has resulted in the emergence of powerful cartels which fund and control the wealth generated from the sale of the ivory and horn.   There are various theories as to where the money ends up with some experts claiming that the money funds Al-Shabab activities in nearby southern Somalia.  Others believe that there is at least complicity, if not full involvement, within the local government structures in order to allow for the massive scale of the current crisis.  The crisis that is emerging erodes the natural ecosystems on which Kenyans are intrinsically tied and on which forms the foundation for the future.

Often, brave men like my two friends are all that stand between the widespread plundering of the environment by powerful groups of criminals.  They have selflessly given their lives for that cause and will be remembered as heroes. 

In Paul Collier’s book, The Plundered Planet, he asserts that the developing world’s greatest asset is its natural capital.  Collier claims that the governance and management of natural assets can have one of two impacts: either to buoy the country towards a sustainable development path, or in the absence of regulation, result in the absolute plunder of the natural environment.  In the past, too often, the latter has been the case. Governance (regulation), technology and natural capital form the three main components of his argument.  A poignant reminder of this paradigm comes in the form of one of Collier’s simple equations: Nature + Technology – Regulation = Plunder.  I will write more on this at a later date. 

As one man’s family mourns him, and another man’s prays for his recovery, the plundering of the environment continues unabated.  If the environment is crucial to our development, and the foundation of our future, it is my hope that we soon come to realize that the price of plunder is ultimately a human one. 

Rest in peace brother.

                                                                    

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Uncategorized