Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How Will China Handle the Spread of "Genocide Olympics"?

As time progresses, The Darfur crisis remains to be one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisises. Hundreds of thousands have died or suffered from war crimes, starvation, and disease. Sudan’s government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes by denying UN intervention. Today, more people are reaching out to China for diplomatic assistance. A growing number of activists argued that Darfur needs China to forcefully use its power and influence to help end the massive violence by imposing sanctions on trade. However, China continues to show little effort. For the past two years, the Bush Administration accused China of failing to use its power and influence as they refused to cease arms control trade. President Bush argued that China’s leadership is crucial because they have the ability to pressure Khantoum to allow UN peacekeeping operations. Instead, China refrained from being the diplomatic protector, by not voting for the UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which authorized UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan.

In January of 2008, President Hu Jiantou announced that China will remain close ties with Sudan. President Hu Jiantou argued that China needs to acquire foreign oil reserves in order to balance their energy consumption. China has invested billions of dollars in Sudan’s oil industry and is the major weapon supplier. These weapon deliveries include ammunition, tanks, helicopters, fighter aircraft, and antitank mines. The constant exchange of weapons is contributing to the 200,000 lives lost and the 2.5 million people that have been driven from their homes.

Beijing's determination to keep the 2008 Olympic Games from being tainted provoked the U.S. and many nongovernmental organizations to publicize China’s failure to take action. In May of 2007, 108 U.S. House of Representative members sent a warning that the Beijing Olympics could be endangered if China does not modify its trade policies with Sudan. Today, Mia Farrow started a campaign called, “Genocide Olympics,” which aimed to boycott the Beijing Olympics. Initially, Farrow called on corporate sponsors and celebrities to publicly denounce China’s actions in Sudan. Film Director, Steven Spielberg joined the campaign, which is very significant because he is the artistic adviser to China for the Olympic Games. Spielberg sent a rebuttal letter to President Hu Jiantoo, accusing China for being partially responsible for the killings in Darfur and asking the government to bring an end to the human suffering there.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

President Bush Calls for an End to Darfur Conflict

President Bush gave a speech in Kigali, Rwanda this week, calling for nations to increase their efforts to end the conflict in the Sudan's western Darfur region "once and for all".

The president has stated that he is frustrated that other nations have not been willing to work equally hard to end the conflict.

"The Rwanda people know the horrors of genocide," Bush said. "My message to other nations is: 'Join with the president and help us get this problem solved once and for all.' And we will help."

Shortly before his speech, President Bush met with Rwanda President Paul Kagame.

Rwanda was the first nation to deploy peacekeepers to the Darfur region in a joint mission. The U.S. has given $17 million dollars and trained 7,000 troops to help with the conflict. It has also committed $100 million in funding to help train peace keepers to the area.

"I'm not comfortable with how quickly the response has been," said President Bush.

Bush gave his speech after a visit to the Kigali Memorial Center. The Center discusses the genocide in 1994 that left over 800,000 Tutsis killed. Many were shot and hacked to death.

"It's a moving place. It can't help but shake your emotions to their very foundation," Bush said. "There is evil in the world and evil must be confronted."

With President Kagame next to him, President Bush described his reaction to what he'd seen, "I just can't imagine what it would have been like to be a citizen who lived in such horrors, and then had to, you know, gather themselves up and try to live a hopeful life," he said.

President Bush also discussed The Congo with President Kagame. Rwanda invaded The Congo in 1998, leading to the death of over 5.4 million people. Rwanda has been accused of plundering the resources of The Congo after the invasion.

Kagame and Bush spent a great deal of time discussing the peace accord after the war and ensuring its implementation.

"The most important thing is to get results for the agreement and that's what we discussed today, on how to help bring peace to this part of the world," Bush said.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What Should President Bush Say About the Congo During His Trip to Africa?

Submitted by Friends of the Congo

Washington, DC - February 15, 2008 - As president George Bush travels to Africa, the world's attention will be focused on the countries that he visits; Rwanda is one of those countries. Rwanda and its leader Paul Kagame are deeply implicated in what the United Nations say is the deadliest conflict since World War Two. Rwanda's and Uganda's 1996 and 1998 invasions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which were backed and supported by the United States and other western powers unleashed untold human misery and suffering.

According to the International Rescue Committee, 5.4 million Congolese have died, 50 percent of which are children five years old or younger. Amnesty International has reported that tens of thousands of women have been raped, some victims as young as 2 years old and as old as 70 years. Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says the Congo conflict is one of the ten most underreported stories of 2007. In those fleeting moments when the conflict is reported, it is done without context and often presented as wanton killing by Africans perpetually doomed to committing insane acts of violence and atrocities without any mention of what fuels the conflict.

American, Canadian, and European corporations' pilfering of Congo's natural resources is inextricably linked to the heinous rapes and appalling deaths. Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reminded the world in his January 2008 interview with the Financial Times of London that "The international community has systematically looted the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and we should not forget that."

A myriad of reports since 2001 has documented the pillaging of the Congo by neighboring countries and western corporations and its role in fueling the conflict in the Congo. To the chagrin of many human rights groups and people of conscience throughout the globe, western nations have refused to hold their corporations accountable and put the necessary pressure on their client states of Rwanda and Uganda to keep their hands off the Congo.

Congo's gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt, coltan, tin, chromium, germanium, nickel, and uranium are central to the functioning of many modern amenities such as cell phones, computers, electronic devices, our children's video game consoles, kitchen appliances, automobiles, airplanes, and numerous other devices. Its rainforest, often called the World's second lung, is central to the world's battle against climate change. Undoubtedly we in the West are indirectly benefiting from the pilfering and the widespread killing in the Congo.

President Bush has an opportunity to say and do a number of things that can make a positive difference in the Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

1. Demand that Paul Kagame, a former Fort Leavenworth, Kansas military student, immediately cease his interference in the Congo.
2. Pressure Paul Kagame to open up democratic space in Rwanda and provide a path for the Hutu's in the Congo to return to Rwanda.
3. Call for a process of national reconciliation and justice throughout the entire Congo, not just in the east. Such reconciliation should institute a process where the victims of human rights abuses and atrocities are able to secure justice.
4. Call for U.S. and other western corporations who are poised to make spectacular profits in the midst of the rapes and killings to cease their pilfering of the Congo.
5. Declare that the natural wealth of the Congo belongs to and should benefit first and foremost the people of the Congo and not solely foreign multi-nationals.

Carrie Crawford

Friday, February 8, 2008

Africa's Electricity Crisis Sustains Poverty

Once the sun goes down in Africa, about 75% of the population lives in a world of darkness. Day-to-day living conditions suffer from no electricity. Time-management is crucial because people are unable to cook or clean and simply forced to sleep. Electricity is one of the top most expensive necessities in Africa, and many residents are denied this basic staple. Typically, public facilities, such as hospitals and schools can only afford electricity for fifteen days out of the month. According to the World Bank News Broadcast, Sub-Saharan Africans use seven times less electric power than people in high income countries. Up to 250 million Africans have no easy access to electricity and are left to use kerosene lamps or burning fire.

South Africa’s energy crisis is a huge issue. The country consumes most of the electricity in the region. As a result of the shortage, the power supply has been unable to meet with growing consumption. During the winter seasons, South Africa suffered from constant blackouts due to the high demand of heater usage. Old electrical infrastructure is the main cause of the common blackouts. There are not enough modern power plants to provide electricity. Low use of energy slows down Africa’s economic growth and mitigates its ability to reach its long-term goals of poverty reduction. Africa needs more energy access, which will alleviate poverty by increasing local commerce, creating more jobs, enhancing incomes, and improving safety.

Low electrical access has turned away many foreign investors, donors, and tourists. In Tanzania, a non-profit organization from England donated computers to many school systems. Unfornately, low power hindered the students' ability to take advantage of the computers. Furthermore, Tanzania’s local power company has no desire to help provide the electricity in public schools. It has been over ten years since the company has actually visited the school system.

Today, a growing number of international groups have been involved in addressing Africa’s power shortage by providing reliable and commercial electricity. In 2007, the World Bank Group and the International Finance Corporation initiated a new project called Lightening Africa, which aims to provide more access to affordable modern lightening services. In this project, the goal is to provide more local entrepreneurs and business the chance to sell low cost, high quality lightening products. More than a dozen sponsor groups have provided funding for new affordable lightening advancements, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light emitting diodes(LEDs), which is guaranteed to provide durable, portable, and clean technology.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The United Nations Digs Deeper Into the Kenyan Crisis

The President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, recently held a series of meetings with African Heads of State during the 10th summit of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

During the meetings, Mr. Kaberuka stressed the importance of ending the crisis in Kenya and not losing the gains made over the past several years.

During his meetings with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Mr. Kaberuka suggested ways the bank could help end the crisis. In a joint statement with the World Bank, The African Development Bank stated the following:

"By our early estimates, the current situation could drive 2 million Kenyans into poverty, reversing the gains made over the last few years".

Both institutions went further, saying that they "support efforts by Mr. Kofi Annan and his team, under the African Union initiative, to bring all parties together to make credible and visible progress toward quick and peaceful reconciliation."

Additionally, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, was in Kenya this week to put energy behind the efforts of Kofi Annan and his mediation talks.

Mr Ban made his appearance as France called for the UN Security Council to get more deeply involved in the Kenyan Crisis. Thus far, the crisis has left 850 dead and over 300,000 homeless.

Mr. Ban's message to Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga and the Kenyan people was simple: "It has to stop." His message was delivered in Nairobi and repeated several times.

At the same time Mr. Ban was speaking in Nairobi, Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, Ross Hynes, was also getting involved Mr. Hynes stated that Canada can no longer engage in "business as usual" with the Kenyan government. He claimed that Canada would refuse contact with Kenyan leaders accused of disabling democratic institutions. He also said that they may even deny them visas to his country.