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    Young girl with infant child at refugee camp in Darfur. Photo by Dan Scandling, Office of U.S. Representative Frank Wolf

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The Passion of the Present (the essay)

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    In Darfur, a region in western Sudan approximately the size of Texas, over a million people are threatened with torture and death at the hands of marauding militia and a complicit government. Genocide evokes not only the moral, but also, the legal responsibility of the world community. Under international agreement, a nation must intervene to stop a genocide when it is officially acknowledged.

    "Officially" is the key word here. So far, no nation in the international community has "officially" acknowledged the truth: Sudan is a bleeding ground of genocide. In this void, the Sudanese government continues to act with brutal impunity.

    Thankfully, there are individuals working in human rights organizations who are watching - and witnessing - and organizing, in support of the victims in Darfur. These individuals represent, for all of us, a personal capacity to bear witness to the passion of the present; one candle lit against the darkness.

    However, before one can light a candle, someone has to strike a match: a donation to any of the human rights organizations active in Sudan, contacting your government representative, local newspaper, radio and t.v. station. Our individual activism is essential for the candlepower of witness to overcome and extinguish the firepower of genocide.

    This world has long endured wars that take lives. Let us be part of one that saves them.

    About: The Passion of the Present site is a totally non-profit labor of love and hope - in peace. Thanks for joining the effort.

  • Detailed administrative map of Sudan
  • Oil concession maps
  • Climate and biogeography of Sudan
  • Satellite Images of destruction in Darfur, from USAID

About this blog

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  • GOOGLE SEARCH THIS SITE: More than 2966 chronological posts from April, 2004. Try "oil" "China" "women" "genocide treaty" "UN" "Kofi Annan" "timelines" "grassroots".

  • Our name comes from an essay entitled "The Passion of the Present" that one of our grassroots founders wrote and circulated by email in March of 2004. The blog started at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School.

    The editors are semi-anonymous in order to keep the focus on Sudan. This site is a resource for a blog-based information community now numbering several hundred interlinked bloggers and sites. Visitors come from around the world. Daily traffic ranges from just under a thousand visitors, to more than eight thousand on days when news attention peaks.

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« Heartbreaking Wasington Post Editorial on Darfur this Saturday Morning, July 31 | Main | Holocaust Museum Declares Emergency »

July 31, 2004


B.K. DeLong

Other powerful things - we have a Presidential election going on right now. If every supporter emailed their candidate, they would realize pretty fast that this is an issue that needs addressing. For Bush, it would be a chance to show he can do something that's more humanitarian-oriented than war-monging. For Kerry, it's a chance to show how to handle international crisis' like this without "sending in the military" either way - the Sudanese win.

Maybe NATO will make more of an effort than the UN.

Jim Moore

I really like the idea of contacting all candidates--not just incumbants. This gives us twice as many targets for letters, and sets up a kind of positive competition.

Since many of them have acted--all house and senate voted to call it a genocide--and some have been arrested at the embassy protest in Washington, including at least one candidate--we might start by thanking them.

Kerry has already called Sudan a "genocide" at the NAACP convention. What he needs to do now is bring attention to it. I wonder if there is a way for him or his staff to get actively involved and/or put some special resources into it?


Jim- in regards to getting Kerry involved, how about through his wife? She is actually from Africa and graduated from a university there. She may have a soft spot in her heart for the people of Sudan. I have tried to contact his campaign, but to no avail. I am going to his next campaign stop in Grand Rapids, MI. We'll see what I can do. Anyone out there have some connections to Teresa Heinz Kerry? Maybe "angling" her support would be more beneficial for the cause.



How do we organize a collaborative blog research project? I think we should for companies in the EU and North America that have been doing business in Sudan and where the money has been going?

We can organize a boycott or something to get any companies involved there to leverage the max extent possible the governments of home country and Sudan to end this murder.

Which mining companies are active in Sudan? Who has been active there in the last 5 years? Which US companies were doing oil exploration? What did they pay for those rights?

Any other Ideas?

Donald Larson

To the War in Iraq oppenents: Why aren't you waiting for the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution for force to be justified in Sudan?

Don't you all want to be consistent?

Are any of you that want to see force used in the Sudan willing to put your life on the line to go fight the enemy there?

How is that cause different than America going to war in Iraq? Because the French may help? LOL!

I'm hoping President Bush uses the Sudan cause to show how flip-flop his opponents are, both the ones running against him for President or the day-to-day variety that change their minds of how America should act unilaterally with the wind...


Jim Moore

Actually, I think for many people this has been a wake up call in regard to the UN--the process has been slow, weak, and not very helpful. I have lost significant respect for Kofi Annan. I have new respect for those who are willing to take action to save lives. The real hero here is likely Obasanjo, who seems tonight to have gotten permission from Sudan's president to bring in more troops, as long as they are African. And it seems that Obasanjo would have been willing to come in without permission, if that had been necessary. We will see how all this works out.

I actually am for preemption when necessary, both for preventing attacks--the Bush Doctrine--and for stopping human rights abuses--perhaps this can be the Obasanjo Doctrine. So I want to extend the United State's willingness to act, with or without the United Nations.

Upon reflection on my own thinking on Iraq, I supported waiting for the UN because in my gut I thought it the wrong time to go into Iraq-and this seemed a way to slow things down. In the future I will be clearer and take the position that if I think the timing or the preemptive target is wrong--I will try to articulate why, rather than deferring to a process answer such as "go through the security council."

Finally, have I changed my view by being involved in the Sudan issue? Yes, I have. Do I feel bad about this? No. I am a learner learning. I am "learning about learning" by being a part of study and activism regarding Sudan.

I think it can be helpful to discourse and learning to call folks on their inconsistencies and changes of view. I also think it is completely appropriate for a person to answer you by saying "yes, I have changed my view, based on learning the following. Here is my current best thinking."

As Dave Winer said earlier today, "I like flip-flops. I have a pair.."
Thanks for your comment, Jim

Faith McDonnell

President Bush has done more to intervene and help the people of Sudan than any previous president. Immediately after he took office, he appointed USAID director Andrew Natsios to be the special humanitarian coordinator for Sudan. And Natsios appointed Roger Winter, the former director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees, and a true hero of Sudan advocacy, to be his deputy. Then President Bush appointed former senator John Danforth to be the special envoy for Sudan. This happened in a Rose Garden ceremony (signifying that it is a big deal) just five days before 9-11. Danforth helped to broker a peace deal between the Government of Sudan and the forces who have been fighting for the freedom of the Southern Sudanese for the lasttwenty years. Genocide did not start with Darfur. Genocide in Sudan is Islamic jihad against all those who do not want to have Sharia (Islamic law) imposed upon them. The Government of Sudan did all the things that it is now doing in Darfur in Southern Sudan -- Arab militia killing, enslaving, raping; aerial bombardment of civilians, famine, scorched earth, and religious persecution. President Bush also passed the Sudan Peace Act in 2002, which has acted as a "stick" to force Khartoum to participate in the peace talks.

I'm glad Senator Kerry has finally taken an interest in Sudan. He was never any help in getting the Sudan Peace Act passed in Congress. And if his attitude on human rights in Vietnam while he has been in the Senate is any indication (he blocked the passage of the Vietnam Human Rights Act -- because of trade interests in Vietnam), he won't do squat for Sudan.

Raleigh Myers

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

Aljazeera - August 4, 2004

Darfur Deciphered:
The Neglected Issues that Fuel Sudan's Crisis

by Roshan Muhammed Salih

Sudanese officials and an alleged militia leader have poured scorn on
international claims about the conflict in western Darfur.

They told Aljazeera that Darfurian rebels, who are widely perceived to be
the victims of the conflict, must share the blame for the crisis.

And they say the international media is wrongly portraying events in
Darfur as a racial war, when it is really a dispute over land.

The comments come as the Sudanese government is bearing the brunt of world
condemnation for the crisis in its western province.

Powerful western nations, as well as the United Nations, human rights
groups and Darfurian rebels, say Khartoum is directly responsible for the
killing of more than 50,000 people and the displacement of more than a
million others.

They accuse the government of training and arming a militia, known as the
Janjawid, to wipe out opposition to its rule in the province.

UN resolution

The situation is so acute that the UN Security Council has given Khartoum
a month to disarm the Janjawid or face punishment.

A UN resolution last Friday also required Khartoum to facilitate free
access for humanitarian groups and to allow about 1.2 million displaced
people and 150,000 refugees in neighbouring Chad to return home.

Western nations have further raised the possibility of military
intervention to protect the Darfurians.

But Sudan has reacted with indignation to the accusations.

Khartoum, which has called the Janjawid "bandits", says the Darfur rebels
are prolonging the conflict to force a foreign intervention.

It says Washington is using the crisis to try to topple its government,
and that any military intervention may lead to the disintegration of the

Darfur marginalisation

The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 when two rebel groups - the
Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM) - demanded an end to alleged economic marginalisation and
sought power-sharing within the Sudanese state.

The movements, which are drawn from members of the Fur, Masalit, and
Zaghawa tribes, also sought government action to end alleged abuses by
their rivals - pastoralists who were driven on to farmlands by drought and

But an Arab tribal chief, who Washington accuses of being the most senior
Janjawid leader, told his tribe is only defending itself.

Musa Hilal, speaking from house arrest in Khartoum, said: "When the
rebellion began last year, the government approached us and armed us. My
sons were armed by the government and joined the Border Intelligence.

"Some tribesmen joined the Popular Defence Force. I called my tribe to
arms as well. We were caught up in an uprising the rebels began - what
should I have done?"

He added: "We had camels stolen and young men murdered - banditry
performed by the Zaghawa. When we retaliated, the Zaghawa joined with the
Fur. When the tribes retaliated, they called in the world community. Now
Zaghawa support the rebels - they are enemies."

'Janjawid' denials

Hilal, who denies his tribe has committed any atrocities, said his force
will disarm when the Darfurian rebels respect a ceasefire.

He added: "Rebels constantly talk to human rights groups and aid workers
as if the Janjawid were some kind of organised army. There is no political
or military common policy for the tribes that are fighting rebels for
their very existence. They started this war.

"Janjawid means nothing, but it is a word used to encompass all evil. A
convenient way for Americans to understand who are the good guys and who
are the bad - it is easier to sell policies that way."

A Sudanese official, who refused to be named, told Aljazeera the Darfur
crisis is being turned into a race issue by much of the media, which
portrays it as "Arab tribes" attacking "black Africans".

But the official said the tribes, which are all Muslim, are of mixed
ethnic stock and the conflict is a land issue between nomads and
subsistence farmers in the region.

Jan Egeland, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, has also said the war is
more complex than is generally reported.

Ethnic cleansing?

In an interview with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs, he said: "There are many armed groups and many
criminal gangs in Darfur...

"I believe that all sides are involved [in attacking civilians] -the
so-called Janjawid militias, organised militias, too many unemployed men
with too many guns, government forces and definitely also rebel forces."

He added: "It's complex because some have said it doesn't fit the legal
definition of ethnic cleansing. The same tribes are represented both among
those who are cleansed and those who are cleansing."

Nevertheless, human rights groups say the Sudanese government is
responsible for "ethnic cleansing" and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

In a report in May, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Khartoum
and the Janjawid militias "it arms and supports" have committed numerous
attacks on civilians among the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes.

HRW said government forces oversaw and directly participated in massacres,
summary executions of civilians, burnings of towns and villages, and the
forcible depopulation of wide swathes of land.

Rebel pleas

It said the government and "its Janjawid allies" killed thousands of Fur,
Masalit, and Zaghawa, raped women, and destroyed villages, food stocks and
other supplies essential to the civilian population.

The militias have also driven more than one million civilians, mostly
farmers, into camps and settlements in Darfur where they live on the very
edge of survival, the report said.

In response to the crisis, the Darfur rebel movements have called for
rapid international action.

They have demanded that Khartoum disarm the Janjawid, bring those who
allegedly committed crimes to justice, allow unimpeded humanitarian access
to the region, and free prisoners of war.

Mahjub Husain, external liaison officer for the Sudan Liberation Movement,
told Aljazeera that the rebels only sought to globalise the crisis because
of the "overwhelming crimes perpetrated against the Darfur people".

"We view all the measures taken by the Sudanese regime as superficial and
characterised with procrastination and deception," he said.

'Genuine grievances'

"The Janjawid are a government institution like the interior and foreign
ministries, mainly designated for [ethnic] cleansing, genocide, rape and
subduing under the direct auspices of the vice president's office."

He added: "We call for the liberation of Sudan from the current attitude
of ... marginalising [Darfur], from injustice, from servitude, from
slavery and from all the culture that has no respect for human rights."

Meanwhile, the Sudanese government, which has pledged to disarm the
Janjawid, acknowledges the rebels in Darfur have genuine grievances.

Hasan Abd Allah Bargo, a Sudan government representative and a negotiator
with the Darfur rebel movements, told Aljazeera: "Darfur is underdeveloped
like other regions of Sudan ... but we don't agree on using armed struggle
to resolve this matter."

He added: "The issue of economic development has been exploited by some
political parties."

Other Sudanese officials, such as Khartoum's envoy to the African Union
(AU), have accused Washington of using the Darfur crisis as a pretext to
topple the Sudanese government, which Washington has long opposed.

Foreign intervention

Usman al-Said, Sudan's ambassador to the AU, told reporters last week that
western military intervention in its remote western region would risk
splitting Africa's largest country and unsettling its neighbours.

"The Americans are targeting the government of Sudan because of its
political stance," he said, pointing to Sudan's policies on prominent Arab
issues such as Iraq and the Israel/Palestinian dispute.

Moreover, Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir has said the international
community is ignoring reports about ceasefire violations by Darfur rebels.

He has argued the rebels were the ones who walked out on peace talks and
should be held responsible for exploiting the situation to make political

Sudan's Hasan Abd Allah Bargo told Aljazeera: "The rebel groups are
presently disinterested in conforming with the current arrangements, thus
paving the way for foreign intervention. This will breed a new crisis for
the government."

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Usman Ismail has also questioned the
need for foreign troops in Darfur, saying his government was doing all it
could to disarm militias.

"Why should we have to rush and to talk about military intervention as
long as the situation is getting better?" he said last week. "My
government is doing what can be done in order to disarm the militia."

He added: "As for the US... Bush wants to see a quick end to this problem.
He wants to list Sudan as one of his achievements in this election year."

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