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On eve of South Sudan’s 1st anniversary, Sudanese united in London: Omar Bashir must go

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 03:03

In this short film released today, Aegis captures the moment the Sudanese community in the UK came together on London’s streets for the first time in a unified call for President Bashir – the only head of state in the World currently wanted for genocide – to leave office and answer for his crimes at the International Criminal Court.

The moment came last Saturday, 30 June, on the 23rd anniversary of Bashir’s seizure of power in Sudan and little more than a week ahead of the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence (which will be marked on Monday, 9 July).

With the Sudanese Government blocking food aid from hundreds of thousands bombed out of their homes in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile during the past year, activists, Darfuri and Nuba groups had organised delivery of a petition to 10 Downing Street calling on UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the British Government to take assertive diplomatic action to secure humanitarian access.

The London organisers expected at least a few dozen Nuban and Darfuri refugees to take part. They did not expect what actually happened: hundreds of Sudanese, from right across Sudan, pouring onto the streets in solidarity with the Nubans and with demonstrators back home.

“There’s two options. They either step down or we will topple them.”

As Baroness Cox, Nuba and Darfuri representatives entered Downing Street with the petition, Whitehall echoed to Arabic chants of “Khartoum, revolt, revolt! We’ll not be ruled by Kafori!” (Kafori was the birthplace of Omar Bashir). And then in English, “El Bashir to ICC!”

Protests have shaken Khartoum in recent weeks following imposition of harsh austerity measures triggered by South Sudan halting the flow of its oil to the north in January.

“I think there’s a misconception that the revolts are only purely because of austerity measures that have been recently put in place,” one young woman comments in Aegis’ film at the demonstration. “There’s been protests since January of 2011 around human rights violations that are occurring in Sudan.”

Ali Mahmoud Hassanein, Vice President of Sudan’s Democratic Unionist Party, also comments in the film. “People are fed up of this regime because of so many reasons. Because of the bad relationship between the north and the south; because of the war in Darfur; because of the war in the Nuba Mountains; because of the war in the Blue Nile area; because of the suppression and oppression of people all over Sudan; because of the malpractice of the government in economic matters. People are quite fed up, and they have come to a point where they cannot coexist with this regime.”

One placard read, ‘We are all Elbow-Lickers’ – a reference to Omar Bashir’s jibe that anyone who wants to overthrow the Sudanese Government can lick his elbow. Another read, ‘keep calm and tweet the revolution’ – a modern Sudanese twist on the popular British wartime poster ‘keep calm and carry on’. With Sudan’s mainstream media state-controlled, and with western media leaving Sudan a long way down the priority list, activists in Khartoum are taking to Twitter under the hashtag #SudanRevolts to make themselves heard – at home and around the World. Hundreds have been jailed in Sudan in recent weeks.

“This is a very violent, autocratic regime. These people are actually going out and killing people, don’t make any mistake about that,” says one Sudanese London demonstrator on Aegis’ film. “You look in the Nuba Mountains at what they’re doing now, they’re basically just bombarding people in the mountains. These are normal civilians. So this is the kind of regime you’re dealing with. Even on a day-to-day basis, you feel it in Sudan.”

Outside the Sudanese Embassy, the crowd took up a powerful chant that has become emblematic of the Arab spring. It translates simply: “The nation needs a change of regime.”

“People think it’s an Arab Spring, a new thing,” says one young man.  “We’ve actually done this twice before. In Sudan it’s happened once in the ‘50s and once again in ‘85. So we can really change things again.”

“They either step down or we will topple them,” says another. “There’s two options. There’s no further alternative, and it’s about time that we get rid of them.”

"Captured in today’s film from Aegis is a sense both of optimism and new-found determination among the Sudanese community to overthrow their dictator," says the Aegis Trust's Special Representative Dr Mukesh Kapila, former Head of the UN in Sudan. "I'm greatly heartened by this. I also find it remarkable that in its first year as a nation, by stopping oil production South Sudan has succeeded in generating the kind of economic pressure for change in Khartoum that the international community failed to generate in over two decades."

The petition to Prime Minister David Cameron was supported by the Aegis Trust, Darfur Union UK, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), Nuba Now Campaign, Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad, Waging Peace and Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

Sudan in crisis: take action with the Aegis Trust

Thu, 06/28/2012 - 10:21

The Aegis Trust invites all supporters to sign this petition and join Sudanese refugees walking at 1.30pm Saturday 30 June from Lancaster Gate to Downing Street to deliver a letter to David Cameron calling for assertive diplomatic action to secure humanitarian access to all areas of Sudan affected by conflict – particularly the Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan.

The Sudanese Government is blocking international aid from reaching hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes in the two areas by fighting and Government bombardment during the past year. These people are now at increasing risk of starvation.

To find out more about the crisis in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, watch Aegis’ latest film and read this article by Aegis Special Representative Dr Mukesh Kapila, formerly head of the UN in Sudan.

“When Aegis visited the Nuba Mountains earlier this year, I witnessed for myself the flight of women and children from Sudanese Government bombers and saw captured anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs which had been used against civilians,” says Dr Kapila. “Bold measures are needed to secure humanitarian access to the hundreds of thousands who not only continue to suffer the daily threat of bombardment, but are now at risk of starvation. The situation in the Nuba Mountains is the World’s worst forgotten crisis, and it’s time the British Government showed some leadership on it.”


Many of those walking on Saturday – including Baroness Cox, founder of the Humanitarian Aid Relief trust (HART) – will go barefoot in solidarity with people displaced from their homes across Sudan.

“I recently visited camps along the Sudan border, where there are now at least 150,000 refugees, with 1000 sometimes arriving in a single day, many ill, having walked for seven days without adequate food or water”, says Baroness Cox. “With the arrival of the rainy season last month there is little access for emergency food supplies.”

Even as the crisis escalates in the Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, 2.5 million people remain displaced from their homes in Darfur and 300,000 are living as refugees in Chad. An increase in violence in Darfur, the blocking of humanitarian aid and the denial of visas to humanitarian organisations means many more civilian lives are at risk.

 Zaki Samwiil, a representative of Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad (NMSA), says: “The main purpose of the walk to Downing Street is to stand in solidarity with all marginalised communities of Sudan but in particular with those in the Nuba Mountains who are currently facing aerial bombardment by their own government. By conducting this walk we hope to exert pressure on the UK government to take some serious practical measures in order to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those most vulnerable in the region.”

The Aegis Trust, Humanitarian Aid Relief trust (HART), Nuba Now campaign, Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad (NMSA), Waging Peace, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and Darfur Union in the UK and Ireland are all supporting the walk on Saturday, which will coincide with an international day of action following recent anti-government protests in Khartoum.

The date marks the 23rd anniversary of Omar Bashir taking power in Sudan. The Sudan Government has vowed to crack down on protests in the country and a number of activists have been detained. The protests began with students using the #SudanRevolts hashtag on Twitter.

Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, says: “Securing humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile should be one of Britain’s highest international priorities. Innocent people are dying for lack of it. Far more will die if it isn’t secured quickly. Piecemeal action on Sudan isn’t enough anymore though. It’s the only country in the World governed by an indicted genocide suspect, yet nations including the UK continue to conduct business as usual with Khartoum. Britain should set an example by downgrading diplomatic relations with Sudan – especially if unhindered aid access is not immediately granted to the hundreds of thousands now running out of food.”

The letter to be delivered to the Prime Minister’s office has already been signed by more than 400 people and will be delivered by Baroness Cox, together with representatives from the Nuba Mountains and Darfur.

The Aegis Trust aims to prevent genocide worldwide. By giving regularly you can help Aegis Trust’s important work continue. Click here to make a DONATION.

Mukesh Kapila to address Durham students re ongoing Sudan crisis

Tue, 06/19/2012 - 02:19
19 Jun 2012 – As head of the UN in Sudan in 2004, Dr Mukesh Kapila blew the whistle on the Darfur crisis – making it a global news story overnight – when he stated in broadcast media that the Sudanese Government was committing systematic ethnic cleansing in the region. Now Special Representative on Crimes Against Humanity for the Aegis Trust, on Wednesday 20 June Kapila will be talking to students at Durham University about the ongoing crises in Sudan. The talk, which is open to the public, will take place at 2.15pm, Elvet Riverside 141, New Elvet, Durham DH1 3JT. Visiting Chad and South Sudan earlier this year with the Aegis Trust, Kapila slipped across the border into Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, where since June last year, hundreds of thousands of Nuba have been driven from their homes by Sudanese armed forces. As shown in 'Nuba 2012: Return to Genocide?', there he saw women and children fleeing Sudanese bombers and witnessed first-hand evidence of anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs being used by Sudan – war crimes under international law. As Kapila noted in Think Africa Press last week, “The suffering of the Nuba people increases daily and, quite possibly, they face an existential threat…. [but] right now, it appears that the rest of the world cannot or will not use the ample provisions of international law to stop the atrocities being visited upon Nuba - and in Darfur and the Blue Nile.” “Aegis Students is proud to invite Mukesh Kapila to Durham University for a unique insight into his experience in the international field of humanitarian work and conflict,” says Sophie Lansdowne, President of Aegis Students Durham.  “He has had an incredible career, including working in high profile positions at the Department for International Development, the World Health Organisation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as making his own personal sacrifices to raise the alarm internationally when he witnessed the beginning of the genocide in Darfur.”

One year into ethnic cleansing, bold measures needed to help Sudan's Nuba

Tue, 06/05/2012 - 01:05

5 June 2012 - Nuba 2012: Return to Genocide? is a short film released today by the Aegis Trust on the first anniversary of a massacre by Sudanese Government forces in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan State, which marked the start of the new wave of ethnic cleansing against the Nuba. Featuring Dr Mukesh Kapila on his first return visit to Sudan since he blew the whistle on the Darfur crisis as head of the UN in Sudan in 2004, the film includes prima facie evidence of war crimes.

Using hit lists, on 5 June 2011 Sudanese troops in Kadugli commenced a massacre of Nuba civilians.  They targeted anyone associated with the SPLM-North – the section of the SPLM that was based in the Nuba Mountains, in contested areas north of the new border between Sudan and South Sudan. Special provisions for these areas had been made in the ‘Comprehensive Peace Agreement’ – the peace deal which ended a two-decade war between the southern rebels of the SPLM and the Sudanese Government in Khartoum. However, those provisions were never fulfilled.

Seeking refuge at the UN base outside Kadugli, Nuba residents were shot dead in front of UN peacekeepers who made no evident attempts to protect them.

The massacre was initiated just days before South Sudan formally declared independence. It was accompanied by an assault on the armed wing of the SPLM-North – which had refused Sudanese Government demands to lay down weapons ahead of the schedule set in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

New film shows evidence of war crimes

“The massacre which began on 5 June 2011 marked the start of a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Nuba,” says Dr Mukesh Kapila, former head of the UN in Sudan, now the Aegis Trust’s Special Representative for Crimes Against Humanity.

“The Sudanese Government has spent the past year trying to mask its ongoing atrocities as no more than a legitimate counter-insurgency against the SPLM-North, but ground attacks and aerial bombing have been used to drive hundreds of thousands of Nuba civilians from their homes and prevent them from growing crops, putting them at risk of starvation. At the same time, the Sudanese Government has completely blocked food aid to the region.

“I have seen clear evidence of crimes against humanity in the Nuba Mountains with my own eyes, as you can see for yourself in the film being released online by the Aegis Trust today,” says Dr Kapila. “I also witnessed evidence that the Sudanese Government is using illegal weapons in the process – including anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs – both of which constitute a war crime under international law.

“In the ongoing absence of cooperation from Khartoum, and with the rainy season now making transport increasingly difficult on the ground, it’s time for the British Government and wider international community to help local community groups facilitate assistance,” says Dr Kapila. “This is not without risks, but bold measures are justified. Time is at a premium and tens of thousands of lives are now under threat.”

“Sudan is the only nation in the World led by a man wanted for genocide at the International Criminal Court,” adds Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, who accompanied Mukesh Kapila on his return visit to Sudan, crossing into the Nuba Mountains from South Sudan in March this year. “Especially in light of clear evidence that he is presiding over ongoing systematic and widespread atrocities against civilians, it’s time for Britain to set an example by downgrading diplomatic relations with his regime.”

Clive Owen backs London-Paris ride for peace-building education in Rwanda

Thu, 05/31/2012 - 21:45
1 June 2012 - Clive Owen – star of ‘Hemingway & Gellhorn’ – took a break from filming ‘Blood Ties’ with Mila Kunis this week to throw his support behind www.riding4charity.org, the first-ever London to Paris fund-raising bike ride for the Aegis Trust, for which he is Ambassador. The ride is raising funds specifically for Aegis’ peace-building education programme in Rwanda, helping a new generation to learn about the dangers of prejudice and building trust between the children of survivors and perpetrators. “I’m supporting www.riding4charity.org because Aegis’ peace-building education programme in Rwanda is making a vital, unique contribution to that country’s future,” says Clive. “The World stood by when a million Rwandans were slaughtered in 1994, and the next generation deserve all the help we can give them to ensure history isn’t repeated. “About half of Rwanda’s people today are too young to remember the genocide for themselves, but I’ve seen for myself the impact of its legacy on the second generation,” says the actor, who visited Rwanda with the Aegis Trust in 2010. “How these young people deal with the weight of the past on their shoulders is critical,” he adds. “It’s going to determine whether Rwanda becomes increasingly stable, or increasingly at risk of renewed division and bloodshed in the future. Aegis is the only organisation providing peace-building education of this kind in Rwanda, so let’s give them all the help we can.” “Besides being a brilliant actor, Clive Owen is also a passionate humanitarian and we’re absolutely thrilled to have his support,” says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, and one of the cyclists taking part in the London-Paris ride. “I hope all those reading this will join Clive in lending us their backing.” Thanks to match-funding of up to US$100,000 for the Aegis Trust’s peace-building education programme from OneWorld Boston, a Cummings Foundation Affiliate in the United States, Aegis is now able to double every pound or dollar contributed through sponsorship for the London-Paris ride – making each donation worth twice as much. Recent independent analysis has found that not only is the education programme changing attitudes and behaviour among the students taking part, but also among the school communities from which they come – including fellow students who didn’t attend. “Before the workshop, I used to hear people saying that this student is a Tutsi and that one is a Hutu,” comments one student who took part. “So, according to what my parents had told me, I had to avoid any Tutsi student at all cost and I believed that they should also avoid me because I thought that their parents also briefed them about it. But I attended the workshop, and I have understood that we can socialize and help one another because any student is my colleague without discrimination.” “This visit changed something in our school,” comments a student among those who didn’t attend the workshop personally. “Some students could have bad attitudes like hating your colleague but with the discussions we had after the visit, this has changed.” To find out more about the London-Paris ride or to sponsor the team, visit www.riding4charity.org. You can also get live updates on the ride itself via facebook (www.facebook.com/Riding4Charity) or Twitter: @riding4aegis

Alarm over civilian plight in Blue Nile and South Kordofan

Wed, 05/30/2012 - 03:49
30 May 2012 - Even as the UN peacekeeping mission in Abyei confirms withdrawal of Sudanese troops from this disputed region, fears for the survival of civilians under Government attack in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile are growing. Dr Mukesh Kapila, Special Representative of the Aegis Trust and former head of the UN in Sudan, this week discussed the growing crisis with Lydia O'Kane, Vatican Radio. You can listen to the interview here.

Bombed, displaced, starving: rains about to cut off people of Blue Nile and South Kordofan from ...

Wed, 05/23/2012 - 21:53
24 May 2012 - International agencies last week raised the alarm that conditions for refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in Sudan and South Sudan – already inadequate – are about to get far worse with the onset of the rainy season. For refugees in South Sudan, there remains at least the possibility of international aid. For IDPs in Sudan itself, however – in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states – there is no international assistance because it has been blocked by the Sudanese Government. Meanwhile, systematic Government bombing of civilians in rebel-held areas is preventing agriculture, displacing growing numbers of people and increasing their risk of starvation. “Shoot to kill” anyone delivering food aid
In February, a proposal from the UN, AU and Arab League for international humanitarian assistance to war-affected areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile was welcomed by the armed opposition but not by the Khartoum Government. Earlier this month, UN Security Council Resolution 2046 urged acceptance of the proposal, but this too was rejected by Khartoum. Addressing Parliamentarians in Khartoum last month on the conflicts with South Sudan and with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha said, "We will not let anyone support the enemy with even half a date. Our instruction is clear: shoot to kill…. Shoot to kill. We cannot support the enemy with one hand and fight him with the other hand. We have to stop the smuggling of food to the enemy." An estimated 151,000 refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile are now in South Sudan and Ethiopia, with hundreds more crossing the borders daily – ‘visibly malnourished’, according to aid workers. New report on dangers for civilians in Blue Nile
Little concrete information has been emerging about conditions for IDPs in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. However, the latest assessment by the Blue Nile Humanitarian Team – a civil society organisation led by people from Blue Nile who are both in the region and abroad – paints a disturbing picture. The BNHT recorded 120,000 IDPs in April – 25% of whom are children – with another 15,000 people displaced in recent weeks. Stating that over 75% of farmland in Blue Nile is no longer being cultivated due to the war, the BNHT reports that since April, IDPs have been living off wild fruits and tree leaves. The BNHT also reports that on 11 May, IDPs concentrated in the Baw Mountains were shelled by Government forces from both east and west of their locality, causing around 3,000 to flee to the southwest of Baw. Some of those fleeing described the situation they left as “the worst they have ever seen in their life.” “In both words and actions the Sudanese Government has made its intentions towards the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile very clear: denial of food is being used as a weapon not only against the armed opposition but against an entire population,” says Aegis Special Representative Dr Mukesh Kapila, former head of the UN in Sudan. “Since repeated efforts to obtain humanitarian access through the Government of Sudan have failed – and are likely to continue to fail – the British Government and wider international community should be suitably flexible in considering supporting those organisations – including local community groups – that can facilitate assistance. This is not without risks.  However, time is at a premium with tens of thousands of lives under threat and, with every prospect of a human catastrophe, bolder-than-usual measures are justified,” says Dr Kapila. “The UK government should consider its own diplomatic relations with a regime which continues to abuse and terrorise its people,” says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust. To read the Blue Humanitarian Team assessment, click here. To download an excel spreadsheet containing raw data from the BNHT assessment, click here.

Large numbers of war crimes suspects in the UK – but no prosecutions in two years

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 04:56

9 May 2012 - Figures released by the UK Home Office following a Freedom Of Information request from the Yorkshire Post (see YP article here, quoting Michael McCann MP – Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Genocide Prevention) indicate large numbers of war crimes suspects continue to reside in the UK. It is not clear how many, if any, may currently be subject to police investigation with a view to prosecution, but none have been prosecuted since UK law on international crimes was strengthened in April 2010.

"Aegis successfully campaigned for a change in law to allow the prosecution of genocide and war crimes suspects residing in the UK, but unless that law is applied the UK will remain a safe haven for people responsible for the worst crimes known to humanity," says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, quoted in today’s Daily Mail on the issue. "The question is, how many of the suspects identified by UK Border Agency have been fully investigated by the police and how many investigations are currently in progress?

“If there's a significant disconnect between numbers of suspects identified by UKBA and numbers rigorously investigated with a view to prosecution or deportation, then procedures in UKBA and the police need to be re-examined.

"It's concerning that we have yet to see any prosecutions of war crimes suspects in the UK since the change in law two years ago."

Rwandan High Commission to UK backs London-Paris ride for Aegis

Mon, 05/07/2012 - 02:48
4 May 2012 - H.E. Ernest Rwamucyo, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to the UK, is urging Rwandans everywhere to visit www.riding4charity.org and join Rwandan Olympian Adrien Niyonshuti in backing the first-ever London-Paris ride raising funds for Aegis. The ride is raising funds specifically for Aegis’ peace-building education programme in Rwanda, helping a new generation to learn about the dangers of prejudice and building trust between the children of survivors and perpetrators. Meeting Rony Cohen, organizer of the London-Paris ride, Rwamucyo commented, “On behalf of the Rwandan people, thank you. The Aegis Trust’s unique peace-building education programme is making a vital contribution to the future of Rwanda and we enormously appreciate the support being provided by www.riding4charity.org. I’m delighted that our Olympic cyclist, Adrien Niyonshuti, has already met with you, and I would urge Rwandans everywhere to dig deep and strongly back your initiative.” Thanks to match-funding of up to US$100,000 for the Aegis Trust’s peace-building education programme from OneWorld Boston, a Cummings Foundation Affiliate in the United States, Aegis is now able to double every pound or dollar contributed through sponsorship for the London-Paris ride – making each donation worth twice as much. Recent independent analysis has found that not only is the education programme changing attitudes and behaviour among the students taking part, but also among the school communities from which they come – including fellow students who didn’t attend. “Before the workshop, I used to hear people saying that this student is a Tutsi and that one is a Hutu,” comments one student who took part in Aegis’ day-long programme, referring to ethnic divisions that helped trigger the 1994 genocide in which a million Tutsis were killed. “So, according to what my parents had told me, I had to avoid any Tutsi student at all cost and I believed that they should also avoid me because I thought that their parents also briefed them about it. But I attended the workshop, and I have understood that we can socialize and help one another because any student is my colleague without discrimination.” “This visit changed something in our school,” comments a student among those who didn’t attend the workshop personally. “Some students could have bad attitudes like hating your colleague but with the discussions we had after the visit, this has changed.” “We’re truly honoured to have your endorsement,”Rony Cohen told High Commissioner Rwamucyo. “Right now, we need all the support we can get. But if the sponsorship we secure through www.riding4charity.org towards the London-Paris ride can contribute even in a small way to education that helps ensure the future peace and prosperity of your amazing country, we will know it’s been worth all the effort and more.” To find out more about the London-Paris ride or to sponsor the team, visit www.riding4charity.org. You can also follow team training and then the ride itself via facebook (www.facebook.com/Riding4Charity) or get updates on Twitter: @riding4aegis. For live Twitter updates from Aegis itself, follow @Aegis_Trust

Royalty and celebs to attend Hagelou Ascot Prom in support of Aegis

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 13:58

1 May 2012 – Royalty and celebrities will be among those attending the Hagelou Ascot Prom in support of Aegis next week. To be held at Ascot Racecourse on Saturday 12 May from 11.30am, it promises to be the most glittering event in Ascot's social calendar.

VIP guests are set to include HH Princess Nauf Bint Bandar Al Saud and guests of honour, HH Prince Saleh bin Ghalib Al-Quaiti and Prince Lorenzo de Medici.

Featuring fine dining, riveting horse racing and outstanding entertainment, the prom is being hosted by Héloise Agelou, founder of Hagelou Horse Racing Ltd, working in partnership with I.T.C-International Thoroughbred Consultants and world class violinist Jenny Bae.

An original Salvador Dali Sculpture will be among the lots included in a live auction for Aegis during the event.

"We are thrilled that Héloise Agelou and her colleagues are organising such a fantastic event in support of Aegis' vital work," says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust. "Hagelou and ITC staged a brilliant fundraiser for Aegis at Windsor last year, and it's truly gratifying to see their commitment to the cause of genocide prevention."

A few places for the prom are still available. For more information, or to book tickets, visit http://www.hagelouproms.com or email mail@hagelouproms.com

Rwandan Olympian backs first London-Paris ride for Aegis

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 00:51

1 May 2012 - Adrien Niyonshuti, the only Rwandan cyclist to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games, has thrown his support behind the first-ever London-Paris ride raising funds for the Aegis Trust. Taking part in pre-Olympic training in the UK last month, Niyonshuti met Rony Cohen, organizer of The London to Paris ride www.riding4charity.org, and expressed warm support for the initiative.

The ride is raising funds specifically for Aegis’ unique peace-building education programme in Rwanda, helping a new generation to learn about the dangers of prejudice and building trust between the children of survivors and perpetrators.

Thanks to match-funding of up to US$100,000 for Aegis’ peace-building education from OneWorld Boston, a Cummings Foundation Affiliate in the United States, Aegis is now able to double every donation made in support of the programme – including all sponsorship for the London-Paris ride.

Recent independent analysis has found that not only is the education programme changing attitudes and behaviour among the students taking part, but also among the school communities from which they come – including fellow students who didn’t attend.

“Personally I find what Aegis does in Rwanda amazing – such as educating the youth on how to stop ethnic division or any other divisions which can lead to another genocide in Rwanda,” says Adrien, who is himself a survivor of the 1994 genocide, in which he lost six of his brothers.

Adrien’s own incredible journey – from survival of the genocide to competition in the 2012 Olympic Games – will feature in a documentary about Rwanda’s national cycling team to be released later this year. Aegis sourced and provided the historical archival material for the documentary. To follow the journey and find a screening near you, sign up for updates at www.risingfromashesthemovie.com.

“Adrien is an inspirational athlete and yet such a humble man,” says Rony Cohen. “I’m so proud to have met him, and I just hope that people reading this will join Adrien in supporting Aegis by sponsoring the London-Paris ride at www.riding4charity.org. We all wish him success in the Olympic games.”

For live news updates from the Aegis Trust, follow us on Twitter: @Aegis_Trust

Healing Broken Societies: Can development buy love and peace?

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:21
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Full text of the Valedictory Address by Dr Mukesh Kapila, Special Representative of the Aegis Trust and Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester, UK at the Fourth International Roundtable Conference at the Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, India, “Structuring Peace: the State and Conflict Transformation: prospects and challenges in South Asia”, 17-18 April 2012.

To make “peace”, we must understand “war”. Inevitably this is a complex subject and there are many theories of conflict analysis. So, it may be useful to identify some basic understandings that could be practically useful.

First, to recognise that all conflicts have logic. They are not random, irrational or unpredictable disturbances. Conflicts have winners and losers, the corollary being that it is essential to understand the interests and motivations of the stakeholders. We see this in every conflict around the world; for example, most notably at present in Syria and in Sudan.

Second, all conflicts have a “career”: they smoulder, flare up, die down, re-ignite, extinguish. But they always remain flammable. As suggested by Paul Collier’s work at the World Bank, the best predictor of future conflict is a past history of conflict. In that sense, a society that has once tasted conflict is always at risk of falling prey to it again. And memories of conflict get transmitted down from generation to generation – sometimes over hundreds of years as we saw in Serbia in relation to the Kosovo war. Conflicts come in cycles and can be perpetually recycled.

Third, it is vital to dissect the internal anatomy of a conflict. In doing so, it is useful to distinguish between the underlying vulnerabilities, the proximate triggers, and the perpetuating factors. The underlying vulnerabilities are the pre-disposing factors to a conflict that may often be very longstanding i.e., the “fuel”. The proximate triggers to violence are the immediate causes i.e. the “match that ignites the fuel”, and the factors that perpetuate the conflict are like the “oxygen that keeps the fire burning”. This helps us to decide on the optimal points for intervention to break the conflict cycle… or, at least, not to make it worse by careless meddling.

If it is most important to know where to intervene within a conflict, it is equally crucial to judge when to intervene. That is my fourth point: Conflicts have to be right for solving—and much effort and resources can be wasted unless there is clarity on where we are at in the “conflict cycle” and, therefore, what are the realistic objectives for influencing the “conflict dynamics”. In other words, the conflict-breakers have to decide whether they are aiming for resolution, mitigation, or only containment. In current international parlance, this is reflected in strategies for peace-making, peace-keeping, and peace-building.

The brute evidence of history suggests that most conflicts are ultimately resolved only when they hurt enough, and when one side or the other finally wins the argument through the application of physical force or equivalent coercion, even if dressed up in the face-saving compromise language of a peace agreement.

Finally, one could observe that conflict is not always bad—and trying to stop it prematurely, even if one succeeds, is not always a smart contribution to history. Arguably, this could be said for the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s; although armed hostilities eventually ceased after strong US-led international pressure, the result endorsed the outcome of the war; that is, an identity-based partition of the country and a possible freezing—but not resolution—of the conflict.

The painful real history of the world is that enlightened, fairer societies have often required forging in the crucible of conflict when the oppressed have had to fight for their rights against oppressors whose behaviour is beyond the pale and who will not be reasoned out of their aggression. Indeed, some would go as far as saying that no human rights have ever been gained by any group except through struggles that have required the forceful confrontation of vested interests. The genocidal wars in Darfur and now in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan are a tragic contemporary example. We have also learned, for example, that shabby deals for peace without justice and honour usually unravel sooner or later, as happened several times in Sierra Leone. This is implicitly understood in contemporary practice where the more common and realistic objective is the reduction of deadly or armed violence, as opposed to the resolution of the conflict itself; as, for example, in Palestine. But the logic of any conflicting side is to win and it is debatable whether or not it is possible to pursue a conflict effectively without engaging in some level of violence or aggressive coercion. This is exemplified by Afghanistan where sustainable peace is going to take time to emerge.

The theory I have just outlined emerges from empirical observations of past and current experience of the world we live in. How do we link that to the business of development, which is the core purpose of good governance and central to the social contract between citizens and state – at least in democratic societies?

We live in an increasingly rebellious world where the revolution in communications technologies and a globalising tendency mean that both dreams and discontents are rapidly transmitted across communities, continents and cultures. In such a world, development is no longer what someone – a benevolent patron or government – does to you but what you do to yourselves to liberate your own self to make your own choices, assert your rights and achieve your fullest potential as a human being.

Such an outlook is captured in the notion of human security as part of the larger freedom of people and societies. The concept signifies not only protection from violence but also the enjoyment of well-being and basic social, economic and political rights. The notion is attractive because of its comprehensiveness, inclusivity and, above all, the liberal world view and accompanying values system on which it is obviously predicated. But there are problems over the notion that building human security through development brings peace and security. Consider, for example, that many societies in history have turned the corner from war to peace before any wide-scale development—at least that benefited sufficient numbers of ordinary people. There is plenty of evidence that “poor people generally don’t rise up in revolt,” but have to be manipulated to do so, as perhaps happened earlier in Nepal’s unhappy recent past. Conversely, economic progress does not always insulate against conflict.

Here, it is useful to distinguish three different working approaches that may be called “working around, or in, or on conflict”.

The intention of working around conflict is to avoid the detrimental impact of the conflict on the achievement of the purposes for which development aid is being given.

The second approach of working in conflict is bolder: classically, this is what constitutes traditional humanitarian relief where attempt is made to reach innocent civilians while the conflict continues around them.

However, from the strategic peace and security angle, we are interested in working on conflict, that is, using development action to transform a conflict.

Let me use my personal experience in the health sector to outline what I mean. The health sector provides many examples of Track II or informal diplomacy, and the experience is generalizable to other sectors of human development. Using health as a bridge for peace, we have learned a great deal since the early experiences in Central America in the 1980s, the Balkans during the 1990s, and subsequently in Afghanistan and West Africa. In 1981 the World Health Assembly passed a resolution stating that “the role of physicians and other health workers in the preservation and promotion of peace is the most significant factor for the attainment of Health For All.”

However, what are the experiences and the evidence for effectiveness of a “health track to peace”? Work done by McMaster University in Canada and at the World Health Organization (WHO) has postulated several “peace-health linkage mechanisms”:

Pursuing common issues or interests brings protagonists together, such as when planning for recovery in Mozambique before the peace agreement was signed stimulated progress toward peace.

Evoking and extending altruism generates positive feelings among parties, such as in the polio vaccination days in Afghanistan and many other countries.

Identifying and replacing rumours with facts rebuilds mutual confidence, such as that created between Crimean and Ukrainian authorities regarding the cholera threat among displaced populations.

Redefining the prevalent norms changes the terms of the debate and opens new space for discussion, for example “war” may be seen as a test of manhood and adventure but can be redefined as a “disaster.”

Confronting demonized stereotypes can bring about psychological healing, such as when Sri Lankan trauma counselling centres were established for all sides.

Regenerating a sense of shared identity to keep basic human connections going across the conflict divide; for example, with the establishment of a public health surveillance reporting system in Northern Alliance health districts in Afghanistan where workers were willing to report to the Taliban-controlled Ministry of Health in Kabul.

Health access negotiation skills can mediate barriers to medical care distribution; for example, the mediation required between the two sides in the Sudan conflict to allow immunization teams to move about forged contacts that subsequently were able to be maintained through formal diplomacy.

Personal solidarity actions by healthcare professionals, especially respected doctors, can have a demonstrably powerful effect; for example, in the Malaccas, Indonesia, where “personal witnesses” accompanied the injured not just to provide care and protection but also to diffuse tensions.

Campaigning by healthcare professionals against “unjust” tactics in wars can have powerful moral and, eventually, political force to influence public and official opinion; such as when the documentation of the human impact of anti-personnel landmines led to the landmark Ottawa Treaty.

In summary, these mechanisms appear to seek one or more of the following:

 

  • to address differences or divisions, polarization or discrimination, as grievance factors in conflict;
  • to provide common neutral technical space for confidence building;
  • to appeal to common—even utilitarian—interests to solve a problem that cannot be easily tackled by one side alone;
  • to maintain connectivity (i.e., maintain humanity in a brutalized environment) between opposing sides so as to bring hope, and to build or rebuild human relationships and ethical values.

 

A balanced judgment on the impact of health-as-a-bridge-for-peace work would be that it can, under specific circumstances, reduce or mitigates levels of violence at the tactical level. It can also provide a useful channel or entry point for political peacemakers to come in. It can help to maintain or even consolidate peace once a fragile peace has been attained by political efforts. Finally, it could be useful for making an early start to addressing some of the original underlying factors to the conflict.

Thus, development-peace linkages (DPL) may be a useful “second track instrument” for peacemaking and peace building, and ought to be valued in that role. Much more could be done to maximize this stabilisation role, especially in fragile or transitional situations between conflict and peace, possibly by development and political practitioners working alongside one another more often. But aid is neither the panacea nor the magic pill for all the ailments of conflict situations. To get the best out of such linkage, it has to be part of wider and more serious peace and security processes.

With this realistic understanding of what development-peace linkages can achieve under the right conditions, several further questions arise. How can the best practices of DPL—both in relation to working in conflict, and working on conflict—be codified for systematic use, for example, through suitable guidelines and standards? What capacities should be developed to promote this as a practical approach, and can impact be measured with greater precision? Would it be appropriate to offer such development-peace linkages as a second track channel for peacemaking efforts, on a predictable basis in major conflicts?

The focus of practical action must be at the country and community level where precise context-specific analysis is essential to find the optimal entry points for the DPL approaches that are most likely to be effective. One prescription cannot suit all ailments. The creation of national DPL networks in war-torn countries could be a useful device to bring together interested stakeholders to expand access and allow assistance to reach people caught up in a conflict. This could go further by attempting, through practical example, to promote international humanitarian law and reduce levels of violence. DPL work could promote a wider understanding in conflict-riven societies about the underlying grievance factors that fuel the conflict, and could lobby for action to address them. More ambitiously, DPL could proactively seek to counter the culture of impunity where this is a particularly serious matter, as we have in Sudan today.

What can we conclude on the question: can development heal broken societies? The jury remains out on the question. In short, I am not convinced that economic or social development – by itself – buys peace. But is it possible to conduct such development in particular ways in the context of conflict so as to influence its dynamics? Quite possibly, yes, provided that there are acceptable terms of engagement between the political and security side, on one hand, and, on the other, development and humanitarian assistance efforts that will get to underlying roots of conflict to find sustained solutions.

Charles Taylor responsible for Sierra Leone crimes

Thu, 04/26/2012 - 04:04

26 April 2012 - LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands  — In a historic ruling, the Sierra Leone Special Court says former Liberian President Charles Taylor is criminally responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity for supporting notoriously brutal Sierra Leone rebels in return for blood diamonds.

Judges have not yet formally delivered verdicts against the 64-year-old warlord-turned-president, but Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said that prosecutors have proved beyond reasonable doubt that Taylor is "criminally responsible" for aiding and abetting crimes by rebels in Sierra Leone's brutal civil war. Taylor had pleaded not guilty to 11 counts, including murder, rape, terror and conscripting child soldiers.

Charles Taylor is the first head of state ever found guilty of international crimes.

Chance to hear Aegis' Special Representative speaking on Sudan in London Thursday

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 04:36

Aegis Trust Special Representative Dr Mukesh Kapila CBE is speaking in London on 26 April. Tickets are free and open to all. Book them here.

Dr Kapila will discuss the current crisis in the southern Sudanese states, providing a unique insight into the conflict and a detailed report on what he personally witnessed in the region. Join Aegis as we call on the UK Government to take urgent action to prevent further atrocities and protect innocent civilians.

As head of the UN in Sudan during the original Darfur crisis, Dr Kapila has compared the current crisis to Darfur. In a recent Al Jazeera interview he said: "The situation in Southern Kordofan, that I witnessed for myself last month, is even worse than Darfur."

Aegis is determined to shed light on the ongoing atrocities. While in the region, Aegis saw thousands of women and children living under boulders and in caves in an attempt to protect themselves and personally witnessed direct attacks on innocent communities, which may amount to breaches of international law.

To watch the full Al Jazeera report including an extended interview with Dr. Kapila, click here.

The event is being held jointly with the Royal Commonwealth Society and will take place at their central London venue - 25 Northumberland Avenue, London - at 6:30pm.  To find out more or to secure your place, click here.

If you are unable to attend on 26 April Dr Kapila will be speaking at the School of Oriental and African Studies on 10 May at 6pm.  For more information or to reserve your place, email rachel.cummings@aegistrust.org.

The Aegis Trust aims to prevent genocide worldwide.  By giving regularly you can help Aegis' important work continue. Click here to make a donation or here to find out more.

 

 

 

Aegis welcomes US Atrocities Prevention Board

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 02:26

23 April 2012 - The Aegis Trust warmly welcomes the US President's announcement of the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board, and a comprehensive strategy for the United States to make prevention of mass atrocities and genocide a key focus of US foreign policy.

For analysis of this hugely significant move, see (among others):

Madelaine Albright and William Cohen (Foreign Policy)

Sarah Margon (Think Progress)

Samantha Power - appointed chair of the new Board - wrote this article in the White House Blog when President Obama announced plans last year to set it up.


In-depth Al Jazeera Report on Nuba Mountains Violence featuring Aegis Trust Special ...

Mon, 04/09/2012 - 12:52

Following widespread news coverage of The Aegis Trust’s Special Representative, Dr Mukesh Kapila, discussing the emergency in Sudan’s Nuba Mountain region, this Al Jazeera report provides a deeper look at the ongoing violence.

Correspondent Peter Greste brings together footage from the region and a extended interview with Dr. Kapila, former UN representative in Sudan, who personally challenged Greste to report from the Nuba Mountains.

‘The situation in Southern Kordofan, that I witnessed for myself last month, is even worse than Darfur’ said Dr. Kapila.

Read more...

Rwanda remembers - 18 years since the 1994 genocide

Sat, 04/07/2012 - 05:25

Kigali, 7 April 2012 - After laying a wreath at mass graves in which some 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide lie buried, Rwanda’s President, H.E. Paul Kagame, lights the Memorial Flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, 7 April 2012, marking the 18th anniversary of the start of the genocide in which a million Tutsis were murdered. Established by the Aegis Trust in 2004 and opened on the 10th anniversary of the start of the genocide, the Memorial is run by Aegis in partnership with Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG).