Another slow day in N’Djamena today. We’re all incredibly excited to be on the UNHCR flight tomorrow morning with our permits ready to go. With any luck, we’ll even make it out to Goz Beida in the afternoon instead of staying the night in Abeche. From Goz Beida we’ll be able to access the refugee camp called Djabal where we’ll spend the majority of our time.
Fortunately, we’ve had a bit of internet access here so we’ve been keeping ourselves busy. I stumbled across an op-ed in the New York Times today by Madeleine Albright in which she commented on the Burmese government’s “criminally neglectful response to last month’s cyclone.” Albright, however, clearly recognizes that the Burmese government’s actions are part of a disturbing trend worldwide including Sudan and Zimbabwe among many others.
She points out three distressing realities of today’s world: “totalitarian governments are alive and well; their neighbors are reluctant to pressure them to change; and the notion of national sovereignty as sacred is gaining ground.” Sudan’s government is certainly alive and well, with a GDP that has actually risen since 2003. Sudan’s neighbors have been relatively quiet (many are silent) in pressuring for change. I consider the US a global neighbor in that we still maintain political ties to the government, and despite our declaration of genocide, have failed to take a strong enough stance against its behavior. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, its national sovereignty is putting the lives of millions of Darfuris at risk. UN resolutions regarding Sudan have given the government far too much say in how and when a peace force should be deployed. The stipulation that they must agree to the force in the first place, along with the toleration of the government’s refusal to accept non-African forces are just two examples.
Albright concludes by asking if the international community is “just a collection of legal nuts and bolts cobbled together by governments to protect governments? Or is it a living framework of rules intended to make the world a more humane place?” The truth is, the international community, be it the UN, AU or NATO or any other body, is only as strong as the countries that make it up. That’s where all of you come in. We need to force the US government to become a real player in international community, to set precedents, take risks, and make a stand. Otherwise who knows how long it will be until we can tell the refugees in Djabal that they can safely return home.
Looking forward to giving you some of the thoughts of Darfuri refugees in the coming days, rather than just my political rants :-)