Jessica Pham, STAND’s Media Coordinator, attended Sunday’s "We Choose Peace" rally in Washington, D.C. The rally was a chance for Sudanese, South Sudanese, and advocates to come together to celebrate the independence of South Sudan and to reaffirm a commitment to choosing peace in Sudan and South Sudan.
The event featured dancing, singing, live music, speeches, and a vote. With two large ballot boxes on the stage, attendees were able to vote for either “War” or “Peace.” Can you guess which one won? Read on to find out in STAND’s first ever Storify!
As July 9, the first anniversary of South Sudan’s hard-fought independence approaches, there is cause for celebration, but also for somber reflection. Since independence, a number of issues have not yet been confronted by the Sudans, including the demarcation of the border, the status of each other’s citizens in the other’s country, and the sharing of oil revenues.
In northern Sudan, civilian populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states—states that aligned with the south during the civil war—are once again being targeted by the central government in Khartoum. As has been the norm with the regime, opposition leaders have been arbitrarily detained, beaten, and, in some circumstances, killed. Bombings have left towns and villages destroyed, further disempowering populations with little access to basic resources.
South Kordofan, the home of the Nuba Mountains, was the site of genocidal assaults by the Khartoum government in the 1990s. Now, again, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are asserting control over the oil in the state. Clashes have broken out between the SAF and the Southern People’s Liberation Army in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan. Human Rights Watch reports house-to-house searches and set up checkpoints, where civilians have been killed while trying to flee violence. Humanitarian assistance has been blocked, and the Kauda airstrip—whose only value is the transport of medical supplies and food rations—has been bombed relentlessly by Khartoum. As the New York Times reported last week, Sudan is experiencing a new wave of ‘Lost Boys’—and girls—orphaned and displaced from bombing and fighting.
Blue Nile, which borders South Sudan and Ethiopia, has also been the target of Khartoum’s bombs and troops. Khartoum has blocked journalists, peacekeeping, and humanitarian organizations from the region, although refugees in South Sudan and Ethiopia have been interviewed. 100,000 people are reported internally displaced, and 100,000 more have fled the country.
It should also be noted that the government of South Sudan is also far from innocent. Recently, President Salva Kiir admitted that the country’s political leadership has stolen $4 billion in funds that should have been used for infrastructure. For more on South Sudan’s leadership issues, see Howard French’s recent article and Human Rights Watch’s assessment.
Right now, the world is watching as Sudan revolts. The events in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and the civilian protection crisis that they have engendered, must also not be ignored.
Stefani Jones is a rising junior at Duke University, where Sanjay Kishore is also a rising senior. Stefani and Sanjay have spearheaded Duke’s Conflict-Free Campus Initiative. This post is a reflection on their experiences in Juba, South Sudan earlier last month.
We all know that the Fourth of July is a sacred day in America. It’s is our time to reflect on a revolutionary moment in history, when a group of individuals came together to dream of a nation founded upon the radical ideas of equality and freedom from persecution and oppression—a dream that actually changed the world. As we offer a tribute to the courage and idealism of our forefathers on our nation’s 236th birthday though, it’s important to recognize this quest for liberty isn’t just some romantic remnant of history. The themes underlying America’s historic struggle for freedom can be found in a series of contemporary movements for self-governance—and one need not look any further than the world’s newest nation on earth, South Sudan, for a striking example.
While we read about fighting for freedom in history textbooks, we rarely get a glimpse of what those struggles actually look like. After following South Sudan’s inspiring journey towards national sovereignty from afar though, the two of us set out to visit Juba earlier this summer. As a duo with diverse interests—one (Sanjay) an aspiring public health nerd, the other (Stefani) a politics wonk and human rights advocate—we wanted to engage with the revolutionary moment we never got a chance to live through in our own country. We were tired of being “armchair activists,” and we wanted to actually experience life in the country that we were advocating on behalf of.
Even before stepping foot in the country, we each independently "prioritized" South Sudan’s challenges according to our own worldview. One of us believed South Sudan needed to first address rising political tensions with the North over oil and ethnic violence in areas like the Jonglei state before other reforms could take place. For the other, addressing major discrepancies in access to quality healthcare and education through the creation of strong systems seemed the most important key to development.
After arriving in Juba, we were inspired by the energy of those facing monumental challenges with dogged persistence. We saw the hope of a nation reflected in all kinds of people—from the eldest of government officials to the youngest of elementary students, from the foreigner delivering aid to the entrepreneur catalyzing economic growth. But, as amazed as we were by those pushing for progress, we also quickly realized that these agents of change could only succeed in an environment positioned for success. South Sudan is still recovering from a long and tortuous history of violence. The prospect of conflict or suffering reappearing in the near future jeopardizes any chance of substantive progress.
Dr. Moses Ongom, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director of Health Systems in South Sudan, hammered that point home to us. In an interview with him, he broke down the strategy and methods that were necessary in addressing health disparities. He explained to us that with time, due diligence, and resources, the South Sudanese people can and will develop the capacity to effectively deliver health services across the nation. But, right now, they are overwhelmed with trying to heal preventable illnesses—malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, malnutrition, and others—that have festered because of decades of instability and war. Dr. Ongom said that there’s no way South Sudan has a shot at solving its health crises under the threat of renewed conflict. South Sudan needs stability and peace first so that it can move on to address other (equally pressing) problems.
Though we entered Juba as two students with different "lenses" through which we viewed the world, we left with the same conclusion that thousands have reached: we want peace. We were drawing a false dichotomy in development—that the public welfare of South Sudan could be addressed independent of conflict resolution. But the reality is that peace and prosperity are, and probably always be, intertwined. This is a revolutionary moment for South Sudan, just like it was for our country over two centuries ago. The country has already taken a major step through independence, allowing its people to dream of a better life and better world full of opportunity and justice. And now, the first step towards sustaining this change is clear: we not only choose peace, we need it.
On January 9, 2011, in a referendum provided for by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the people of southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly to secede from the north. The new nation of South Sudan attained its official independence on July 9 of that year. Unfortunately, violence in both countries has continued. In particular, the two countries’ militaries have clashed over disputed border regions, and fighting between the Sudanese government and rebel groups in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile has displaced thousands of civilians and caused a major humanitarian crisis. Although representatives of the two governments resumed negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 2012, little progress has been made thus far.
In light of ongoing threats to civilian security, South Sudanese musician and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal is organizing events around the world to mark the anniversary of his country’s independence with a simple but unambiguous message: "We Choose Peace.”
Together with We Want Peace 2012, United to End Genocide, Amnesty International, the Enough Project, Girifna, The South Sudanese Community, Darfur People’s Association of New York, and other diaspora community groups,STAND will respond to Emmanuel’s call by co-sponsoring a rally in Washington, DC on July 8. Members of the Sudanese and South Sudanese diaspora communities, and our own anti-genocide advocates, will come together in solidarity with those victimized by the violence. Along with participants in rallies in other cities around the world, we will show that the people of both Sudans want peace, not war. We will demand an end to all fighting in the region, as well as the lifting of all restrictions on humanitarian aid agencies’ access to conflict-affected areas.
If you are in DC in July 8, join us at Lafayette Park at 4 p.m. Can’t make it in person? Join us virtually! Simply go to www.wechoosepeace.org and follow the instructions to upload a picture of yourself holding a sign saying, “I choose peace in Sudan and South Sudan.” Thousands of people throughout the world will be doing the same between now and July 8, sending a powerful message to our governments that we, their constituents, expect them to do everything in their power to facilitate a peaceful solution to the crisis in Sudan.
In addition, over the next two weeks, watch this space for a series of posts discussing various aspects of the current civilian protection situation in Sudan and South Sudan in greater detail. In the next post, we’ll cover the ongoing anti-government protests in Khartoum, and the government’s violent response. Subsequent posts will focus on the latest news from Darfur, the clashes in the border states, perspectives from two Duke University students who recently returned from South Sudan, and a follow-up report from the event in DC. Feel free to send any questions or suggested topics for posts to Mac Hamilton, our new Education Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We like to take ourselves seriously. Really seriously. We like to wear suits and suitpants, write letters to our congressmembers, use acronyms like GenPrev or R2P, and write legislation that divests our government from black-listed oil companies.
But we can have fun too.
Get a peak into our fun side at our new tumblr: #WhatShouldSTANDCallMe. Feel free to ask us any questions there and even submit your own posts or ideas. We’d love to hear from you and feature your ideas!
A quick sample:
When people tell me the STAND MC has #Swag
On the outside, I’m like:
But, on the inside I’m like duhh
Over the next couple of months, you’re going to see some big changes around STAND. So, stay tuned for more STAND swag and don’t forget to apply for our leadership team!
Only moments after STAND’s Student Director Daniel Solomon spoke earlier today, George Clooney, UEG President Tom Andrews, Enough Project’s John Prendergast, NAACP President Ben Jealous, and U.S. Repesentative McGovern (D-MA) were arrested for crossing a police line outside of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington D.C.
This coalition joined together for a National Day of Action to protest an impending humanitarian disaster in Sudan. Clooney and others broke the police line to symbolize the need for the United States government and the international community to break the blockade that Sudan has placed on humanitarian aid to the country.
Speaking shortly before his arrest, Clooney said, "Immediately, we need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world."
Only hours later, Twitter and Facebook have exploded with news of the arrest. Both George Clooney and #freeclooney are trending topics on Twitter.
Today, we made some noise for Sudan. Help us amplify Clooney’s message and make some more noise.
UPDATE:Visit our Facebook page to see a video of George and his father being arrested and join in the conversation.
Two days ago we landed in Bangkok, jetlagged but unbelievably excited and ready for an amazing trip to the Thai-Burma border to learn more about the conflict in Burma and the effects on the communities in these border towns.
We spent our first day in Bangkok wandering the city and checking out the beautiful Grand Palace and giant reclining Buddha. The next day, we met with Alt-SEAN, an NGO which trains ethnic minority women in advocacy and organizing skills. We met six amazing interns who are all doing unique and inspiring work, especially regarding women’s rights, within their home communities. These women are returning with the skills from Alt-SEAN to train fellow activists to create a network and create political change that fits their cultural needs, while also uniting various ethnic groups that otherwise held tensions between each other.
Last night, we took a night bus from Bangkok to the border town of Mae Sot (and managed not to kill each other on the ten-hour ride.) Today was jam-packed but mind blowing! First we met with the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, founded and run by people who have been held as political prisoners within Burma to help current political prisoners or previous political prisoners now living in exile. We were struck by their optimism and resolve even in the face of the horrific things they have endured at the hands of the Burmese military regime, simply for seeking human rights.
Next, we got the chance to hang out with the famous Generation Wave, a hip hop group doubling as underground political activists. Using music, graffiti, and technology, these young activists have kept the democracy movement alive amongst the youth of Burma. They were incredibly cool and, beyond just chatting about their experiences and jamming to an acoustic Burmese version of "I’ll Be Missing You," they made us lunch – traditional home-cooked Burmese style! It was awesome to hear ideas to create change in Burma from their perspective. Like the members of AAPP, they can’t reveal their identities, so unfortunately we couldn’t take videos or pictures of them for you.
Last but not least, we met with Yuang Chi Oo Workers Association, an NGO that deals with the issues Burmese migrant workers face in Thailand. There are hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrant workers struggling to support their families back home while struggling to protect their own rights. All the people we spoke with today told us that above all, though they value the safety of living and working in Thailand, they miss their families and their lives in their home country and long to return home.
Today was amazing, and offered us a view we don’t normally receive as activists in the U.S. It is rare to see the situation from the perspective of Burmese people and to have the opportunity to see and discuss their tools and tactics as activists. The rest of our week will only get better, so keep checking back for more video and blog content!
Peace, love, STAND,
Morgan, Nikki, and Matthew
(Burma Education Coordinator, MA State Outreach Coordinator, Online Strategies Coordinator)
Today, we kicked off the Pledge2Protect canvass. In cooperation with the Genocide Intervention Network and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we are asking people across the country to take the pledge to prevent genocide.
To do this, chapters are holding awesome events throughout this week to educate about the ongoing conflicts and motivate people to take action. Not only this, but they are using these events as a chance to collect pledges from the attendees.
One such school is the University of Central Florida. Tomorrow, their chapter is hosting a screening of “Darfur Now” on their campus in an effort to bring a more personalized account of the conflict in Darfur to their student body and collect 1,000 pledges.
This newly formed chapter (they only joined STAND earlier this semester after the Pledge2Protect conference) is, in the words of vice-president Brittany Duhrkoff, committed to taking a STAND against genocide because they realize that “once you allow yourself to feel what these people are feeling and hurt like they’re hurting, you really can’t turn back.”
Join Brittany, the student of University of Central Florida, and over 34,000 other people across the country in taking the Pledge2Protect by either hosting your own event or taking the pledge now! A few minutes of your time could make a world of difference.
Is your chapter holding an event? E-mail email@example.com about it and you could be featured on our blog!
On the final day of my 7th grade class on the Holocaust, our religious school teacher unexpectedly announced that we would be taking a final exam. As he passed out the exam face down, I became nervous that I would be unable to conjure up all of the information that we had learned throughout the year. However, when I turned over single sheet of paper, I realized with relief that it was not a typical final exam. Instead, it consisted of a single paragraph we had to read that simply stated: Your final exam in how you conduct the rest of your lives. Can it happen again? The answer is up to YOU and to YOUR CHOICES. Will YOU CHOOSE to get involved or will you be a bystander?
It was on that day that I promised never to by a bystander to injustice. Five years later, I continue to use those words as a reminder of my responsibility to stand against human rights atrocities.
In December of 2007, I discussed with Judd Holzman of Facing History and Ourselves, an organization dedicated to using examples from history to change the future, the need to unite student actions against genocide in the Chicago-area.Although dozens of student groups were taking action within their own schools and communities, coordination among all of these student groups would raise the volume of our voices and increase the effectiveness of our actions.
Soon after that discussion, I reached out to several student groups in the northern suburbs of Chicago and quickly formed a coalition consisting of 10 students groups who were all excited to become part of a larger community of student activists in Chicago.We then proceeded to plan our first event called the Youth United for Darfur Conference, which aimed to educate students about the genoicde in Darfur and how to effectively take action against it.After numerous conference calls, several meetings with the Sudanese community, hundreds of phone calls and many more emails, 150 students attended the conference in a demonstration of youth solidarity against genocide.Professional activists, Lost Boys of Sudan, and even state legislators spoke, and the event concluded with a press conference for Illinois’ new Sudanese Community Center.
After successfully organizing the conference, Youth United for Darfur participants decided that Chicago youth should organize a large-scale rally in a display of solidarity against genocide.In January of 2009, our group of 10 high schools quickly mobilized and began reaching out to high schools, colleges, youth groups, popular musicians, and influential political figures.In just weeks, we became a coalition of over 40 student groups, all of whom were excited to both plan and participate in the Youth United for Darfur Rally.We also reached out to national organizations for help and support – official sponsors now include the Save Darfur Coalition, the ENOUGH Project, STAND, Amnesty International, American Jewish World Service, Darfur Dream Team, and the Sudanese Community Association of Illinois.Through the hard work of so many Chicago students, Youth United for Darfur has spread the word to thousands of Chicago citizens and created an event that cannot be ignored by our legislators.
The Youth United for Darfur Rally has several goals.First, student groups involved aim to collectively raise $15,000 to support schools attended by Darfuri refugees in the Djebal refugee camp and the Sudanese Community Center in Illinois.In addition, the rally aims to unite thousands of Chicago activists, especially youth, against the genocide and to show President Obama that Chicago demands swift and sustained action to promote peace in Darfur.As youth in president Obama’s home city, we believe that our voices can be especially powerful in shaping U.S. foreign policy in Sudan.
The rally will take place on April 19th at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago at .Participants will hear speeches by U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky and State Representative Andre Thapedi, and musical performances by Company of Thieves and the Hood Internet.The full list of speakers and musicians can be found on our website at YouthUnitedforDarfur.org.
Over the last four months, I have been inspired by the dedication of so many students to ending the genocide in Darfur.Within school walls and beyond, student activists have effectively voiced their concern for the ongoing atrocities in Dafur and advocated for swift action from legislators, including the Obama administration.It is through the efforts of local citizens, especially youth, that the international community can slowly move Sudan towards long-lasting peace and stability.And, if we are to ever truly make “Never Again a reality, then we must all be upstanders for humanity by acting NOW against ongoing genocide in Darfur.
Sixteen humanitarian agencies have been kicked out of Darfur by the Government of Sudan. This action by Sudan will leave about 1 million Darfuris without food, water, or medical aid.
Call your Representative on Genocide Intervention Network’s hotline, 1-800-GENOCIDE (1-800-436-6243) and urge them to sign onto Congressman Capuano’s letter to President Hu of China, Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa and African Union Chairman Muammar Qadhafi. These are Sudanese allies that must be urged to tell Sudan that its action against these humanitarian aid organizations is unacceptable.
Visit 1800Genocide.org to read more about the situation, and call your Representative today.