Rocio La Rosa

Research Associate
202-546-3950

Famine and Crimes against Humanity Again Strikes Sudan

South Sudan and Sudan continue to fight for territory. The regime's target is now the people in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan. More than a 100,000 residents have fled to the south after violence erupted in the contested region of Abyei. The Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has denied international relief for the people, and government military forces continue to move south, encouraged by the lack of response from around the world.

Escalating the mass murders of the Nuba and Blue Nile population, the Sudanese regime has deployed bombers to the border regions. Reporters describe being on the ground when suddenly civilians scramble to find a hiding place whenever they hear planes. Thousands are living in caves, hoping that heavy boulders will provide shelter from the bombings. The wounded have to be driven to American hospitals, more than five hours away. Sudanese officials declare that the bombers have been sent to target rebel forces; however survivors and foreign reporters argue that civilians are being targeted. Along with eliminating natural resources, government military units have captured children and raided homes. They have also allegedly fired weapons into unarmed crowds and randomly rounded people up for execution. 

The effects of these mass murders are unimaginable and long-lasting. The Sudanese people have not been able to prepare for the planting season. Villagers fear being caught in the fields when military air raids begin. U.N. officials stated that no more than 10 to 15 percent of the usual harvest will be available for the region's populations this year, resulting in famine and increasing deaths. A hunger crisis is unavoidable without humanitarian aid at this point. Even if both nations implement the February 10th nonaggression and cooperation agreement, thousands of dislocated people in the region will not have enough food to survive.

"Where you live shouldn't determine whether you live"

Until yesterday, the name Joseph Kony wasn't on the radar of most Americans. But thanks to a video campaign from the non-profit organization Invisible Children that went viral yesterday, more Americans know about Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda who has is wanted by the International Criminal Court of conscripting child soldiers. But just as quickly as the video spread across Twitter and Facebook, so has the controversy.

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an event sponsored by the University of California Washington Center that showed the video. This event was planned weeks before the video campaign went viral, and was made even more interesting by having a representative of Invisible Children available to answer questions about its campaign and the controversy swirling around it after the video was shown.

The Kony 2012 film reveals a new personal reason for spreading awareness for the children threatened by the LRA. IC co-founder and filmmaker Jason Russell shares his concern for his son, Gavin. The world Gavin was born into includes people like Joseph Kony who abducts children like him and forces them to fight his unworthy battles. The film recollects how Jason, Lauren and Bobby met Jacob, a former child soldier of Kony's, while in Uganda. The audience experienced again the moment that the three recent college graduates decided to help children, like Jacob, to see life in a different way.  Viewers will see breath-taking images of past IC campaigns in different cities. The film explains the new event and the meaning of this year's April 20. With 26 million views the day after its release, the film encourages people to participate this April in an event to share Kony's story by covering the streets with posters.

Occupy Damascus?

On February 13, Syria's Representative to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, spoke at the U.N. General Assembly to emphasize the irrationality of international engagement with protestors in Syria. "We in Syria would not imagine sending soldiers to defend Occupy Wall Street protesters," argued Ja'afari. But can the analogy by Ja'afari be justified?

The Occupy Wall Street "people-powered" movement began September 17, 2011, months after the initial uprisings in Arab nations. This is not to say that Occupy lacked mass support because, as people have seen, thousands of people around the world demonstrated against corporations and in some cities continue to camp out in financial districts. The Occupiers are the 1% taking a stand, which is fundamentally similar to the Syrian opposition. Many Syrians are also taking a stand against random killings, tyranny, and civilian torture. So yes, the Occupy and Syrian movement have found ways to physically demonstrate their disapproval of each society. Both Occupy and the Syrian uprising reveal the strength of the masses in making the rest of the world aware of their movements and taking action.

With that being said, both movements also face a similar weakness. The fact that Occupy is a leaderless movement has kindled debates about the likelihood for impact and results based on their principles. Many Americans have openly expressed their annoyance or distaste for the Occupy encampments. Criticism from minority groups and the upper class shrouds the Syrian protests as well. Still, the Syrian opposition attempted to fill the shortcoming by announcing the formation of the Syrian National Council (SNC) last November. The SNC struggles to communicate with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other protesters that prefer more forceful strategies to overcome Assad.