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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Kobe Bryant Rallies Support for Darfur

You may have already seen the PSA that Kobe Bryant just did regarding the genocide that the Sudanese government has been committing for years in the Darfur region. If you missed it, you can check it out here:

Darfur/Kobe Bryant PSA

According to a press release that I received from Hunter Payne, the founder of the non-profit organization Aid Still Required, "Bryant joins NBA notables Steve Nash, Tracy McGrady, Luol Deng, Derek Fisher, Baron Davis, Grant Hill, Derek Fisher, Emeka Okafor, Andrew Bynum and many more in speaking out about the atrocities. Celebrities and dignitaries involved in similar advocacy include Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Sheryl Crow, Mia Farrow, Common, Ellen DeGeneres, Donovan McNabb, Jessica Biel, Don Cheadle, Desmond Tutu, Barack Obama and President Bush. A few weeks ago Steven Spielberg quit his Beijing Olympics Artistic Director position in protest of China’s policies regarding Darfur. Between 200,000 and 450,000 people have been slaughtered in Darfur over the past five years and 2.5 million have fled to refugee camps...Cleveland Cavaliers forward Ira Newble began the NBA players Darfur campaign late last season by writing a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao asking him to use his considerable influence on Sudan to stop the violence. 12 Cavaliers signed the letter, the notable exception being LeBron James, who said at the time he needed to know about the situation more before signing. Separately last summer Newble and Tracy McGrady traveled to refugee camps in Chad on the Darfur border. Both have professed their trips to be life-altering. 15 NBA players have taped public service announcements, all calling for support."

Anything that increases public awareness of the horrors of Darfur is important and could still potentially save thousands of lives; as Edmund Burke once wrote, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." That said, I must disagree with one of the premises cited in the aforementioned press release, namely that the crisis in Darfur is primarily related to drought conditions there and a lack of "sustained economic development." While those issues do indeed need to be addressed, what has been going on in Darfur for years while most of the rest of the world shut its collective eyes is nothing less than state-sponsored genocide being committed by Sudan's Arab/Muslim government against ethnic African communities within its borders. This has been documented for quite some time. For instance, an April 27, 2004 fact sheet from the U.S. State Department declared, "The international community can no longer ignore the violence and atrocities taking place in Darfur. For more than 20 years the people of Sudan have been witness to a civil war between the Government of Sudan in the north and the Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Movement/Army stationed in the south. Now as both sides are close to the signing of an agreement that would end the conflict in the country, the Sudanese government, using supported Jingaweid (Arab) militia groups, are systematically killing, looting and destroying ethnic African communities in the western Darfur region of the country."

Basically, the Sudanese government has used the region's very real economic and ecological problems as a pretext to commit ethnic cleansing against a non-Arab, non-Muslim population that it considers to be undesirable. For that reason, simply sending aid to the region is not enough, because the Sudanese government will not equitably distribute that aid, as the above report noted: "Government forces obstructed the flow of humanitarian assistance to the Darfur region. Many thousands of civilians fled into Chad and were without access to any aid because of continued fighting. The UN reported that there has been a total disengagement of Government administration and suspension of all services in non-Arab villages in Darfur. However, no such measures have taken place in Arab villages located in the Darfur region. For example, South Darfur/West Darfur border, non-Arab and ethnic Fur villages in the vicinity are without services but a largely Arab village only four kilometers away has full services complete with schools, health and administrative facilities."

It is worth noting that Sudan is ruled by an authoritarian government controlled by the National Congress Party, which used to be known more descriptively as the National Islamic Front; that group has been in charge of the country for two decades and in the 1990s they provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden. Perhaps it is not fashionable to speak of good and evil but the horrors of Darfur are not simply the result of ecological and economic problems; these atrocities have been committed at the direction of evil Sudanese leaders and their followers who are determined to completely destroy defenseless ethnic communities in Sudan. I seriously doubt that this genocide will be stopped until that fact is understood and the international community finds the necessary backbone to deal with this issue aggressively; for instance, the political and military leaders who are responsible for this genocide should be put on trial just like the Nazi war criminals and perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge massacres were brought to justice.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:16 PM

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