Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Chronicle article about me

Reprinted here with the permission of the Citrus County Chronicle.
Local man urges pressure for international action

By Jim Hunter
Citrus resident Scott Sutton has fond memories of growing up along the Chadian border next to the Darfur region of Sudan in Africa. It was a desolate landscape, but the people of the region were what make his memories so fond.

They were generous, caring people who had little but who needed little, he said, and they lived life with an infectious joy.

That’s why he is so shocked when he sees the lifeless faces staring back at him from the TV reports of the refugee camps there now.

He remembers a wonderful people, full of life; people, he said, who have “a remarkable ability to survive in a wasteland.”

They live in a harsh, arid land that sees rain but three months of the year — and not a drop the rest of the year, he said. They live very essentially, though still have a joy for life.

Sutton’s father was a missionary doctor for the nondenominational WEC International mission in Chad and was the only doctor in his whole province. Even back in the early 1990s, because of the centuries-old cultural, religious and tribal strife in the region, his father worked with refugees from neighboring Sudan, Sutton said.

But things slowly got worse. His family had to evacuate once, though the situation was never as bad as it has become now. “They’re dotted all over the landscape now,” he said of the refugee camps.

When he reached his middle teens, the young Sutton went to a boarding school in Germany for high school and subsequently went to the University of North Carolina for his degree in journalism, but he routinely went back to Africa.

As the situation deteriorated, his family had to leave. Sutton was last there in 2002. He still corresponds with friends and is appalled by what he hears.

What he reads and sees on TV has him very dismayed. The longstanding conflict in Sudan that has driven refugees from Darfur into camps in Chad has turned into a dire situation, he said.

The Sudanese government had turned a blind eye to what amounts to genocide by Arab tribal militia forces on indigenous African civilians. The raids on camps and raping and killing by the militias was widespread. That ultimately sparked a rebel uprising.

Since early 2003, about 2 million have been driven from their homes in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

There is a recent glimmer of hope. The largest of three rebel groups fighting the government late last week agreed to a truce, but it’s unclear if all the rebel groups will do so. The peace deal would disband the government-backed Arab “janjaweed” militias.

But even as the possibility of a peace deal unfolds, Sutton said, there is another long running problem about to turn disastrous. The United Nations estimates that about 180,000 people have already died from illness and malnutrition since 2003.

Just last week, the United Nations said it was cutting in half the daily food rations it gives to about 3 million people in the war-torn Darfur region. There are another 3 million displaced persons in neighboring areas of Sudan who also depend on the food to survive.

The World Food Bank said it had gotten only about a third of the funds necessary from the international community to feed the people this year. About 79 percent of that has come from the United States.

Sutton said the three-month wet season is approaching, when it’s almost impossible to truck in supplies.

He has watched the situation get worse and worse, and now he feels he has to speak out in his own community and to urge citizens to speak up to get the United States to force the United Nations and international community to act. He has put up a Web site to draw attention to the situation.

He said he doesn’t expect the United States to send troops, but that all self-respecting citizens of the world have a moral obligation to speak out and demand intervention before Darfur becomes another Rwanda. (See his column in today’s Commentary section).

Sutton is now a communications specialist for Progress Energy in Crystal River, but if his heart could have its way, he said, he would be handing out water and supplies to the refugees in Darfur and playing with the lovely children he remembers.

He is fluent in Chadian Arabic and French and knows the culture. But since it’s not possible for him to be there at the moment, he figures the next best thing is to do what he can to get U.S. citizens to understand what is happening.

To read Sutton’s stories of Africa and see more of his personal commentary, visit his blog at: www.dyinginthedust .blogspot.com.


Toniyah Tonijah said...

I have an authoritative eye-witness in Darfur who gives me daily reports and he is working on a book on Darfur.

If you wish to communicate with him, let me know.

God bless.

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