We in journalism are pretty good at covering wars after they start. But we make a lousy early warning system about wars that are approaching on the horizon. That’s mostly because until people start shooting, there’s not much to write about or film; the prospect of war just isn’t very dramatic, especially in visual terms.
But we should all try to pay more attention to the risk of a catastrophic war ahead in Sudan. Everybody knows it may be coming, but until the bullets start flying, it simply isn’t going to get the attention it merits.The big news story in the last couple of days has been President Bashir’s reelection as president in Sudan, in a seriously flawed election, but behind the scenes the real question is whether the north-south civil war is going to resume. Read More >>
Washington — Recent remarks by the U.S. envoy to Sudan predicting credible elections have led to criticism both here and in Sudan over Washington's policy toward the African nation.
The statement by Scott Gration that Sudan's elections will be as "free and fair as possible" came amid an extensive boycott of the presidential elections by major opposition parties in Africa's largest country.
Last week, President Omar al-Bashir's main challenger, Yassir Arman, boycotted the presidential elections due to security fears, the continued conflict in Darfur and irregularities in the electoral process. Arman was backed by the south Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), a Christian-dominated group that fought the Sudanese government during what is known as the second Sudanese civil war that lasted for 22 years.
The civil war ended in 2005 when the SPLM and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Kenya.
Sudanese will cast their ballots from Apr. 11 to 13 in presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections, the first in more than 20 years.
Despite a widespread opposition boycott of the polls, the U.S. envoy to Sudan has come out publicly in defence of the elections.
"They (electoral commission members) have given me confidence that the elections will start on time and they would be as free and as fair as possible," said Gration in Sudan's capital Khartoum on Saturday.
"These people have gone to great lengths to ensure that the people of Sudan will have access to polling places and that the procedures and processes will ensure transparency," he said.
Submitted by kennedy@genocid... on Tue, 03/30/2010 - 9:10am
On Sunday, Human Rights Watch released a new report on atrocities that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels committed in the northeastern DR Congo during December 2009. The report, “Trail of Death”, details the massacre of more than 300 people in the Congo’s Haute Uele region last December.
Over a four-day period in December 2009, the LRA rampaged through a 105 kilometer swath of Haut Uele’s Niangara territory (maps available here). During this time, the rebels posed as Ugandan or Congolese soldiers, first re-assuring people in order to gather together village residents. After locals had congregated, the LRA tied victims up in human chains and forcibly abducted them. At approximately the same time, the rebels appeared to have looted towns for supplies and killed those who were considered of little use. It appears that the purpose of these repeated raids was to kill civilians, loot supplies and replenish the LRA’s force through forced recruitment. “Trail of Death” lays out the atrocities in gruesome detail, highlighting the threat that even small groups of rebels pose to civilians throughout Central Africa.
Congressman Royce challenges top Africa diplomat on LRA
March 27th, 2010 by michael in: Campaign Watch, Main Site
On Thursday, at a House of Representatives hearing on United States policy toward Africa, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) challenged the US' top Africa diplomat about what our country is doing to prevent the LRA from gaining renewed support from their old patrons in the Sudanese government. A recent report by our colleagues at Enough Project alleged that a group of LRA has moved into South Darfur with protection from the Sudanese government.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson responded, "I have to say that Kony has been elusive to the Ugandan military as Osama bin Laden has been to allied operations in the Afghan-Pakistan area. It is very difficult terrain that he is operating in, it is very difficult to go after him. The Ugandans have made a real effort, but it has been real difficult."
Calls for increased investment from the United States in attaining LRA leader Joseph Kony's apprehension have been increasing. A spokesperson for the International Criminal Court last week called for American leadership to arrest Kony, who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Rep Royce (R-CA)
"In the case of Joseph Kony in Uganda, he is a militia leader surrounded by armed men. We need ... the operational support of countries like the U.S., to the DRC, to Uganda, to the Central African Republic, to assist them in mounting an operation to arrest him. They have the will -- so it's a totally legitimate operation, politically, legally -- but they need this kind of assistance. And the U.S. has to be the leader," said Beatrice Le Fraper Du Hellen, special adviser to the prosecutor at the ICC.
March 13th, 2010 by michael in: Conflict Watch, Main Site
This week, our colleagues at Enough Project shared the troubling information that elements of the LRA have moved into southern Darfur, the troubled western region of Sudan where militias backed by the Sudanese government have been accused of committing genocide. Enough Project researchers received this information from multiple, credible sources.Bashir
Then, yesterday, President Museveni of Uganda stated that Kony himself was likely among the LRA fighters in Darfur.
AFP quotes Museveni as saying, "About one month ago Kony himself disappeared. Our military said that the small group in which Kony was had disappeared into Darfur. That is what they told me."
There was a rare flash of good news about Sudan recently. The government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the two main rebel groups who have been fighting against the government of Sudan and has been backed by the government of Chad, signed a preliminary cease-fire at a meeting in Doha, Qatar. As the BBC reports, the deal "includes a framework for further talks, during which issues such as the sharing of power and wealth, and the return of internally displaced people and refugees will be discussed."
As a Save Darfur blog on the "peace deal" notes, "Any time the Government and the rebels agree to stop fighting, the innocent civilians of Darfur and Chad benefit," and this is no doubt true this time. However, there is a reason that advocates are not celebrating this as an end to conflict. Firstly, it is by no means a comprehensive deal: the government of Sudan has no such cease-fire deal in place with the other main rebel group, the Abdul Wahid al-Nur faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement. This group has recently blocked humanitarian groups trying to get to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and is not known to be overly anxious to sign a peace deal. Secondly, ceasefires like this one have not been properly adhered to in the past. (The BBC has an excellent analysis on the new "peace deal" here.)
By Melissa Pistilli—Exclusive to Tantalum investing News
With respect to companies that are responsible for what are now being called conflict minerals, I think the international community must start looking at steps we can take to try to prevent the mineral wealth from the DRC ending up in the hands of those who fund the violence here. —U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
The phrase “conflict minerals” is quickly becoming a much more familiar term as concerned consumers, organizations and politicians begin to raise public awareness of the role the mineral trade plays in fuelling the violence raging in the eastern provinces of the DR Congo.
While the “conflict” in the Congo has been labeled a war, Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast recently said it’s actually more “a business based on violent extortion.” Prendergast appropriately dubs it a “mafia-style economy.”
Unfortunately, it is not just the FDLR militia or the Congolese army who profit from this violent business of forced labor and institutionalized rape. Also profiting are the governments of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda as well as the companies that purchase and refine the metals, those that fabricate electronic components such as tantalum capacitors, and those that produce electronic devices like cell phones and laptops.
As controversy over conflict gold and dirty mining escalates, ethical issues are becoming as important for gold as they are for diamonds.
By Rob Bates, Senior Editor -- JCK Online, 3/1/2010 12:00:00 AM
Issue 1: Conflict Gold
Background The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has had a higher profile ever since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to that country last summer. The ongoing war there is considered one of the world's worst, with gruesome reports of rape, sexual violence, and other atrocities. Until now, activists who charge that conflict minerals are funding Congo unrest have focused mostly on minerals used in electronics, rather than gold. But Sasha Lezhnev, of the Enough Project, said that's changing. "Gold is increasing as a problem as its price goes up," he told JCK. He said gold is now the second-biggest contributor to Congo unrest after tin.
Recent news60 Minutes in late November ran a story explicitly linking gold jewelry to the Congo war. Lezhnev said his group plans to survey the major jewelry chains and sellers about how they source their gold. A bill about conflict minerals is under consideration by Congress, but it doesn't mention gold.
The future Lezhnev said conflict-mineral activists would like to see a "Kimberley Process for gold," but some Kimberley Process veterans say that's unlikely. "People use the term 'Kimberley Process' without really knowing what that is," says Jewelers of America chairman Matthew A. Runci. "It's an open question whether that kind of approach can be developed for gold." He said his group is now meeting with gold miners and NGOs to discuss possible solutions. In any event, major companies will be under pressure to show a traceable supply chain.
Thu, Feb 25, 2010
By Melissa Pistilli—Exclusive to Tantalum Investing News
Apple recently published a report on their site addressing how the global powerhouse is taking the responsibility to pressure its suppliers to not only treat their employees fairly, but also ensure conflict minerals are not a part of their products.
The report details a “Supplier Code of Conduct” to which companies are required to adhere as a condition of their contract. The Code deals with such issues as labour, human rights and ethical standards. Compliance is managed “through a rigorous monitoring program” of “factory audits, corrective action plans, and verification measures.”
The Apple report speaks directly to the problems associated with conflict tantalum in its supply chains, saying the company requires its tantalum capacitor suppliers to certify that the materials they use “have been produced through a socially and environmentally responsible process.”
Like Hewlett Packard and many other technology-producing companies, Apple maintains that “the combination of a lengthy supply chain and a refining process makes it difficult to track and trace tantalum from the mine to finished products—a challenge that Apple and others are tackling in a variety of ways.”
However, the United Nations and NGO’s such as Global Witness and the Enough Project have proven otherwise.
In honor of Valentine’s Day I attended a benefit production of Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues. This year the V-day global campaign focus is “Stop Raping our Greatest Resource: Power to Women in the DRC.” Over 5.4 million people have died in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 1998 – currently 45,000 people die each month. Thousands of women experience brutal sexual violence on a daily basis. Thankfully journalists like Nicholas Kristof are keeping the DRC in the news – most recently with this moving video of a Message for President Obama. However, as one Congolese woman says, “we speak but nothing changes.” The Enough Project highlights how our demand for conflict minerals – the material in the cellphone in your pocket – fuels this deadly war. Congolese women and men risk their lives so we can talk on our cellphones, check our email and update our Facebook status. What will we do for them?