Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A breath of fresh air

As I traveled across Darfur and Eastern Chad, I would stay in friends' houses along the way. There was one particular house that I especially enjoyed stopping at, for it was located on a large hill. In the morning, with the rooster still crowing and smoke from the morning fires just beginning to trickle into the air, I would climb the rocky hill and stand on a large rock overlooking the village beneath me. I would spread my arms wide and inhale deeply. I loved the fresh, cool morning air filling my lungs. It was such a nice difference from the hot, dusty air I would breathe all day in the car.

I had a similar experience today as I read an article in the St. Pete Times. I read about a group of Tampa Bay teenagers getting passionate about Darfur and raising awareness and money to help save my friends. Hearing that a least a few of America's youth found a place in their hearts for someone other than themselves is so refreshing. This extraordinary group of high school graduates have attacked the notion that 400,000 people don't matter if they don't start with the letters M-E. They have given me hope that my friends can be saved if more people accept their role as global citizens.

These teens have banded together to host a benefit concert on July 9. It is called the Sudan Relief Jam and is going to be an awesome eight-hour concert event featuring all sorts of different music. They are just getting started, but have already organized, rounded up sponsors, and are working hard at getting an official t-shirt made, TicketMaster account set up and spreading the word.

Where: Skipper's Smokehouse - Phone: (813) 971-0666
When: July 9th from 2:00pm - 10:00pm
How much: $15.00 in advance/$20.00 at the door

I will post as much information about this event as I can, but you can also check out their website: www.sudanreliefjam.org. I believe strongly in what they are trying to accomplish and know firsthand the difficulty of motivating people to care about anything, much less Africa.

To read the article about the teens, click here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Continuing janjaweed attacks in eastern Chad

UNHCR fears further displacement
Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Date: 06 Jun 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond –
to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 6
June 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is extremely concerned about continuing attacks by janjaweed
militia in eastern Chad and the potential for more internal
displacement of local Chadians. This ongoing insecurity also poses a
threat to 213,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur in a dozen
UNHCR-administered camps in this remote region along the border with
Sudan. On Saturday, armed militiamen stole 350 head of cattle from a
village 20 km west of Koukou Angarana, in the Goz Beida region of
eastern Chad. No casualties were reported, but this is just one recent
example of escalating violence which is causing increasing
displacement and sometimes death.

The janjaweed attacks against Chadians appear to have become more
systematic and deadly over the past three months and there is no sign
that this pattern will stop.

There are presently an estimated 50,000 displaced people in eastern
Chad who have fled their homes in recent months following dozens of
attacks by janjaweed. In some cases, people flee out of fear of
impending attacks, and many have been displaced several times. A major
attack near Modeyna on March 3-4 led to the displacement of thousands
of villagers to Koloye, 15 km away. Dozens of local inhabitants were
reportedly killed during that attack. Militia later attacked Koloye
and the displaced from Modeyna once again had to flee, this time to
Gouroukoun, a village near Goz Beida, which presently hosts some
11,000 displaced people.

On April 13, hundreds of janjaweed attacked the village of Djawara,
massacring over 100 men and stealing hundreds of cattle. Djawara, 60
km from the Sudan border, and other surrounding villages are now
deserted. Most of the inhabitants fled north-east to Dogdore to join
others recently displaced. Dogdore now hosts an estimated 9,000
displaced Chadians.

UNHCR teams have interviewed many displaced in spontaneous
settlements. They say attacks are being perpetrated by janjaweed
militia coming from Sudan. They also said that on several occasions,
they recognized Chadians from other tribes taking part in attacks
together with the Sudanese janjaweed militia, alleging that those
Chadians had concluded agreements with the militia to avoid attacks on
their own properties and livestock.

On May 1, a group of 150 janjaweed attacked cattle herders near
Koukou, stealing 2,000 head of cattle and killing five people.
Repeated attacks early April at the border, especially on the village
of Singitao, caused more displacement near Goz Amir refugee camp. UN
agencies and NGOs were able to relocate some 1,300 displaced persons
to the village of Habile near Koukou.

The arrival of additional displaced persons in Chadian villages and
towns often strains already limited resources, including water. The
town of Goz Beida, with 6,000 local inhabitants, hosts 14,000 Sudanese
refugees in Djabal camp and is now trying to cope with an additional
11,000 displaced Chadians the outlying village of Gouroukoun. Because
of the limited water resources, we have started to relocate some of
these people to other villages around Goz Beida. So far, we have moved
2,000 people in UNHCR trucks.

These relocations are part of an inter-agency 'cluster approach'
toward IDP issues in eastern Chad. UNHCR is responsible for protection
and shelter; UNICEF for health and water; and WFP for food security. A
few non-governmental organizations are also working with us.

Again, we urge authorities in Chad and Sudan to reinforce security in
border regions to prevent further attacks and displacement, and call
for more international engagement in dealing with the very serious
issue of spreading instability and insecurity.

In all, there are 213,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad as well as
50,000 displaced persons. There are also 47,000 refugees from the
Central African Republic in southern Chad.