Tuesday, November 01, 2005

ACTIVISTS 'OUTRAGED' OVER UPGRADING STATUS OF SUDAN

WEEK OF OCTOBER 27-DECEMBER 2, 2005
by HAZEL EDNEY, TRICE
The Wilmington Journal
Originally posted 10/31/2005

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Bush Administration has upgraded the status of a slavery-watch in Sudan, enraging activists enough to demand that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reverse the status until enslavement and abuses against women and children comes to an end.

“We’re now going to have to put the pressure on Madam Secretary of State.

Everyone, everyone on both the left and the right are outraged about this.

We’re going to have to put the pressure on the State Department,” says radio talk show host Joe “The Black Eagle” Madison. “Human rights violations are still happening. Slavery is still happening. We all know that abuses against women and children are still going on.”

Madison, president of the Sudan Campaign coalition, says he will use his talk show on WOL-AM 1450 and XM Radio, “The Power” Black talk radio, to help start a campaign this week to encourage people to call the State Department, 202-647-4000, and ask that Sudan be reinstated to Tier 3, the lowest slavery watch ranking.

The State Department, headed by Rice, has upgraded Sudan’s slavery watch status from Tier 3 to Tier 2, meaning the problems with enslavement in the country will be monitored on the same scale as Switzerland, Israel, Chile, Hungary and Greece. The upgrading came as a result of the nation’s promise to end aspects of slavery, according to a Sept. 21 State Department memorandum explaining the president’s determination.

“On the basis of positive actions undertaken by the Government of Sudan since the end of the 2005 reporting period, the Secretary of State has determined that the Government of Sudan does not yet fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance,” states the memo, posted on the State Department Web site.

“This is the standard for placement on Tier 2 of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report. The Secretary of State has placed Sudan on the Special Watch List because the determination that the Government of Sudan is making significant efforts is based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year. Sudan will remain on Tier 2 only as long as it continues to act on these commitments.”

The memorandum further explains that in June 2005, the State Department presented the Sudanese government with an action plan that outlined steps to combat trafficking. It gives a list of commitments and mandates that the Sudanese government has stated, including eradicating sexual violence against women, removing the legal requirement for rape victims to file a criminal report before receiving medical treatment and requiring that victims of sexual violence receive priority over other patients. But the memo also admits, “Violence against women remains a serious problem in the Darfur region.”

The continued atrocities is part of the reason that Madison, a long-time activist against the genocide and tortures in Sudan, says the Sudan status change is an outrage – especially when it is supported by a high government official who is an African-American.

“What good is it to be one of the most powerful Black women in the United States and then put Sudan on equal par with Switzerland when Black women are being raped every time they leave a refugee camp in Sudan, when genocide is being committed against Black people?” he asks. “Don’t throw up in my face that you’ve integrated your administration just because you’ve got a Black person in a certain position.

The question is: What is that Black person doing with that power? …The secretary of state should be ashamed of herself.”

The Sudan Campaign has also sent a memo to Rice calling the status change “fundamentally flawed” and asking her to reverse it and establish a task force to monitor the abolition of Sudanese slavery.

“The government of Sudan is directly linked to an unprecedented revival of slavery in modern times, as confirmed by the U. S. government-sponsored ‘International Eminent Persons Group on Slavery, Abduction and Southern Sudan to Darfur,’” the group writes to Rice. “As the focus of the Sudanese government’s war policy shifted two years ago from Southern Sudan to Darfur, it continued to provide support for the militia that enslave Black women and children.”

Sudan is a Muslim nation with a long history of ethnic strife. The most recent bloodbaths date back to early 2003 when two non-Muslim rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, attacked government military installations in protest of raids by the government-backed Janjaweed (armed men on horses). An army of 20,000, Janjaweed is known for its attacking, raping and killing non-Muslim civilians in the Darfur region.

Madison says the American public must be made aware of the suffering in Sudan and, he says, Black leaders are guilty of not talking enough about it. “I’m not saying it’s not on the page. But it’s in the margin. It’s not essential focus.”

The State Department memo states that it will be monitoring the situation in Sudan closely, and will reassess the government’s performance for the February 2006 report to the Congress on the Special Watch List countries.

But activists say the placement of Sudan alongside nations such as Israel and Switzerland is unjustified.

“We have a great many complaints from official sources that the situation continues to get worse,” says former Congressman Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.), honorary chairman of the Sudan Campaign. “We feel that the decision to elevate Sudan from Tier III to Tier II is just grotesque in light of reports of continuing widespread murder and rape and slavery and displacement of people in Darfur right now.”

The Sudan Campaign was formed in 2001 by Madison, Fauntroy, and a group called the Christian Solidarity International, who were so outraged after a visit to Sudan that they chained themselves to the Sudanese embassy in Washington and were arrested.

The group has since led a number of campaigns, including last year’s string of arrests of approximately 70 high profile activists, including Madison, Fauntroy, Congressmen Charles Rangel of New York, Bobby Rush of Illinois, and actor Danny Glover.

Campaigns to divest the $91 billion of U. S. pension funds from Sudanese government interests are also underway, says Fauntroy.

Globalsecurity.org reports that more than 2 million people have died either by violence, disease or other war-related impacts over the past decade.

Amnesty International, which estimated that at least 1.2 million persons had been displaced and more than 170,000 had taken refuge across the border in the summer of last year, reports continued atrocities. In April, Amnesty reported that civilians in Darfur were still being targeted by militias supported or condoned by the government and “Notwithstanding all the pressure, the government of Sudan has still not stopped carrying out serious and sometimes flagrant human rights violations in many parts of the country.”

Early this month, Amnesty reported that the Sudanese Government has launched legal proceedings against one of Sudan’s leading human rights groups, Sudan Organization Against Torture. The proceedings are an apparent attempt to silence the organization, Amnesty reports.

A Sudanese Peace Accord, signed Jan. 9 this year has given the false impression that the situation is better, activists say. But Fauntroy disagrees.

“Nothing is like what is allowed to happen in Black Africa,” he says. “Nowhere in the world, in Sweden or Israel or anything else are people being openly massacred and raped and killed and driven off of land than in Sudan today. There’s no comparison.”

African-Americans can continue to influence change, says Madison.

“When African-Americans, in particular, were involved in direct action and protests against Sudan, that really changed the momentum to get the Peace Accord signed. It kept the pressure on,” says Madison. “Black people have a tremendous amount of influence, more than they realize.”

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