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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

HOW DO WE GET DARFUR IN THE NEWS? THERE'S A GENOCIDE GOING ON

The Press is Letting Us Down

How do we get the media to report news that deserves reporting, but isn't getting its due?


Genocide should be covered. If the free press reported real news, instead of bubble-gum, empty-headed gossip-quality news, then maybe the people that I meet might know that genocide is off-the-charts unacceptable and that Darfur is not a disease, but a region in the country of Sudan on the continent of Africa.


My Letter to the Editor published in our local weekly newspaper:

Newport This Week

Dear Editor,

The wife’s poster read “Genocide is a Shame to Mankind”. The husband’s poster read “Schindler’s List, The Killing Fields, Hotel Rwanda – Darfur 2006. 400,000 Murdered and Counting – DON’T WAIT FOR THE MOVIE” at the April 2006 Save Darfur rally in Washington, D.C. But there are already movies about Darfur, for example, Darfur Diaries, The Devil Came On Horseback and with a November release, Darfur Now.

February 2003, fighting broke out in the Darfur region of western Sudan between Government forces and two groups of rebels. March 2004, the UN declared Darfur the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. July 22, 2004, the U.S. Congress unanimously recognized the crisis as genocide. September 2004, the World Health Organization announced that between 6,000 and 10,000 refugees were dying each month and President Bush called the crisis a “genocide”. It is 4 years and 8 months since the outbreak and still there has been no real effective action or diplomacy that has stopped the worsening of the crisis. China has been in the business of supporting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in order to obtain Sudan’s oil and selling weapons for the Sudanese military. Seventy per cent of Sudan’s budget is spent on the military which in turn is used against the unarmed Darfuri families. China is the most influential nation with Sudan and enables the Sudanese government to perpetrate genocide in Darfur. As Beijing prepares to host the 2008 Olympics, national and international activists are currently doing symbolic Olympic Torch Relays in 60 cities in the U.S., as well as near Darfur, in bordering Chad, in Rwanda, Armenia, Germany, Bosnia, Cambodia and Hong Kong. Rhode Island’s Torch Relay will take place in Providence, October 27 at 3:00 p.m. starting at Waterplace Park. Using the Olympic symbol of the Torch Relay activists are highlighting Beijing’s Olympic theme of “One World, One Dream” and asking China to help bring the Olympic dream to Darfur. China has already shown some action as a result of this on-going campaign.

Two brothers, who are Freshmen at Salve Regina University, are the keynote speakers for the Providence Torch Relay Ceremony. Edward and Edwin Mutanguha are Rwandan citizens and have personal stories about their experience with genocide. I met them as a result of posting a flyer on Salve’s campus about the Torch Relay and Edward contacted me after spotting it. Both of these young men are impressive. They are willing to do anything that it takes to educate others about what genocide means to have lived through life with genocide and come out the other side of it. As Edward said to me “genocide is a man-made problem and that means we can change it.”

As a part of the Ceremony which will follow the Torch Relay at the Rhode Island State House, speakers will include U.S. RI Representative James Langevin, Providence Mayor David Cicilline, Mindy Wachtenhein and STAND national director Scott Warren. Music will be by Rhode Island high school and college students of the RI Darfur Ensemble and Salve Regina freshman, singer and composer, Ryan Hurley of Barrington.

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My Letter to the Editor published in our local daily newspaper:

The Newport Daily News

Dear Editor:

Recently, someone innocently asked me if Darfur was a disease and another asked what genocide is. It takes courage to ask questions when you could hide what you don’t know. Darfur is a western region in the country of Sudan. And since 1944, the word genocide refers to violent crimes committed against a group of people with the intent to destroy the existence of the group.

Genocide is just a word. But what it stands for is a man-made disaster. And it continues like any ongoing bad behavior that is allowed with impunity. There are always key players who have specific leverage to intervene and find ways to end what can be ended - because if it is man-made, it can change. The four and a half years of hell on earth in Darfur and for the resulting refugees continue with the world’s political leaders knowing what is going on and doing little to make a difference. The Darfuri families just want to go home, even though their homes have been burned down.

One of the major countries which has significant leverage to influence the Sudanese government to be proactive to end the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur is China. What can we personally do to make a difference? October 27 there will be an opportunity to shine a light on China’s link to the Darfur families’ crisis. People of Rhode Island can use their presence at a symbolic Dream for Darfur Olympic Torch Relay in Providence starting at Waterplace Park and culminating on the grounds of the RI Capitol building to make a statement. The summer Olympics theme is ONE WORLD, ONE DREAM. To leave Darfur out of this Olympic “world dream” would be hypocritical.

The Relay campaign aims to urge China – as Sudan’s chief diplomatic sponsor, major weapons provider, and largest investor and trade partner; and as host of the 2008 Summer Olympics – to use its unique position to lead the world in bringing an end to the ongoing violence and suffering in Darfur. Chinese oil companies are in Sudan and 70 % the money made by selling the Sudanese oil to China goes to Sudan’s military, which in turn is used on the Darfuri people.

If China desires to use the Beijing Olympics to mark its ascension as a world power, they must also assume the responsibility that goes with the position. Instead of continuing to bankroll the genocidal regime in Khartoum, China could make genocide history and focus its energy on bringing the Olympic Dream to Darfur.

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