Thursday, November 27, 2008

Am I Not Human? (Nov 2008)

We truly appreciate all bloggers and blog readers who support our monthly 'Am I Not Human?' campaign on the 27th of each month. Here is a list of blogs (human rights abuser in parenthesis) supporting the blogging campaign this month:
  1. A Slant Truth (United States)
  2. Eddie G. Griffin, BASG (United States)
  3. Electronic Village (Multiple Countries)
  4. From My Brown Eyed View (Multiple Countries)
  5. Hagar's Daughter (Multiple Countries)
  6. Living Life Abundantly (Haiti)
  7. On The Black Hand Side (United States)
  8. Sojourner's Place (Multiple Countries)
  9. The Jose Vilson (United States)
  10. Thinkbridge (Multiple Countries)
  11. Ultraviolet Underground (Congo)
  12. Why Am I Not Surprised? (United States)

Please let us know if we've missed any blog posts from this month's campaign!

Am I Not Human: Congo

It wasn't until Congo week that I realized people are dying in the Congo for the shiny wireless devices that have made our lives convenient. The coltan used in wireless devices like cell phones and laptops is a product of the Congo, but the Congolese do not benefit from the sale of it, nor do they even enjoy safety or basic resource needs despite the wealth of their land which is raped savagely by Western interests, while stirred up wars have continued in their region, which act as a convenient diversion for those interested in the valuable resources of the Congo, as is usually the case in similar conflicts.

The Sudan, for instance, is rich in oil, and savage depopulation posed as war becomes a distraction while it is procured and distributed. The list goes on. Track a war between rebels and government and look more closely to see which resources are being lifted by the greedy hands of soulless commerce.

On behalf of the people barred from communication whether by denied technology, their governments or both, we ask:

"Africa is suffering because of the West's policy of "divide and rule""

Please help to raise awareness for the Congo:

crossposted at Ultraviolet Underground.

War will never be the seed of peace
-Angela Morelli, Italy

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Am I Not Human? Child Soldiers

The following is cross-posted from the Electronic Village.

I encourage all villagers to find a way to support this blogging campaign held on the 27th of each month. We use this monthly blogging campaign to shine a light on human rights abuses taking place all over the world.

My submission this month was inspired by a television show. I watched the season premiere of "24" a few days ago. I was struck by the use of children as soldiers for the rebels in this show. In fact, the rebels were actually kidnapping children from homes, soccer fields and schools.
The fantasy of television is born from the reality of our world.

It turns out that child soldiers are fighting in at least 17 countries including Angola, Burma, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Lebanon, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.

Boys and girls alike are forced into combat, exploited for their labor, and subjected to unspeakable violence. A UN treaty prohibits the participation of children under the age of 18 in hostilities. But too often, it is not enforced.

Physically vulnerable and easily intimidated, children typically make obedient soldiers. Many are abducted or recruited by force, and often compelled to follow orders under threat of death. Others join armed groups out of desperation. As society breaks down during conflict, leaving children no access to school, driving them from their homes, or separating them from family members, many children perceive armed groups as their best chance for survival. Others seek escape from poverty or join military forces to avenge family members who have been killed.

I rarely compliment President Bush ... but, I'm proud to know that he signed a new law last month that calls for the arrest and prosecution of leaders of military forces and armed groups who have recruited child soldiers.

I encourage all villagers to visit the Red Hand Day website. The folks on that website want us to urge the United Nations to take stronger action to end the use of child soldiers.

The aim of the Red Hand Day campaign is to gather one million “red hands” — the symbol of the global campaign against the use of child soldiers — and present them to UN officials in New York on February 12, 2009, the anniversary of the day the treaty banning the use of child soldiers took effect.

Participating in the campaign is easy:
  1. Use red paint to make a handprint on a sheet of paper, and add a personal message about your desire to end the use of child soldiers; organize others at your school or in your community to do the same;

  2. Upload photos or videos of your event to;

  3. Send your red hands by February 2009 to Human Rights Watch, 350 5th Ave, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10118

Will you join this effort? What are your thoughts about using children as soldiers?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Case Study: The Death of Darryl Turner

Amnesty International is tracking taser abuse as a human rights abuse issue in the United States. Since June 2001, more than 320 individuals in the United States have died after being shocked by police TASERs. Most of those individuals were not carrying a weapon. Amnesty International is concerned that TASERs are being used as tools of routine force -- rather than as an alternative to firearms.

They recently posted a case study about the taser-related death of Darryl Turner.

Darryl Turner, age 17, died in March 2008 after he was shocked by an officer from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina. Turner, who worked in a grocery store, reportedly went home for lunch with two snacks for which he had not paid. His mother told him to return to the store and admit what he had done.

When he returned to work he got into an argument with the store manager. A store video recording of the incident shows that Turner entered the store's customer service area and pushed an object off the counter. He walked out but came back into the room and pointed at the manager. A police officer entered the room with his TASER, which he immediately fired at Turner, who was standing behind the counter with his hands at his side. There was no visible attempt by the officer to talk to the teenager or calm the situation. With the TASER probes in his chest, Turner moved past the officer, after which he reportedly collapsed out of view of the camera.

Downloaded data from the officer's TASER shows that he held the trigger down for 37 continuous seconds until Turner collapsed -- and shocked him again when he was on the floor. Attempts to revive Turner were unsuccessful. The coroner later ruled cause of death to be a fatal disturbance of the heart rhythm due to stress and the TASER shocks. A police investigation subsequently ruled that the officer's initial decision to use the TASER was within departmental procedures, but that holding down the trigger was not justified. The officer was suspended for five days.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Front Opened In Congo

KINSHASA (AFP) — Fighting between rebels and pro-government forces opened up on new front in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as southern African nations said they were ready to send in peacekeepers.

As Kinshasa warned it may deploy Angolan troops, raising fears of igniting the volatile Great Lakes region, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said it was prepared to provide assistance to the DRC armed forces.

The clashes on the borders of the two provinces of Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu started before dawn on Sunday and prompted thousands of people to flee, the United Nations said.

The fighting that has erupted in August with rebels led by renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda, in violation of a January ceasefire, had so far been limited to Nord-Kivu.

Tomaz Salomao, the head of SADC, told reporters after a summit meeting in Johannesburg that the region backed calls for a ceasefire and the creation of a humanitarian corridor.

"SADC should immediately provide assistance to the armed forces of DRC," he said, reading out the summit's communique.

"SADC will not stand by and witness any destructive acts of violence by any armed groups... and if necessary will send peacekeeping forces," he said.

Salomao said a military advisory team would be deployed immediately to lend advice to the DRC's armed forces, while another team would be sent to evaluate the situation on the ground to determine what other help might be needed.

A military monitoring commission will also be dispatched to monitor DR Congo's border with Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, he added.

Salomao said the DRC armed forces needed help to protect the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

(Read More)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Amnesty International Executive Director Larry Cox sent us a message earlier today that we thought our Roots of Humanity blog readers would want to see:

UN peacekeepers remain the last hope for hundrds of thousands of affected civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly women and children. The current force is thinly stretched and cannot effectively enforce its mandate of stopping attacks against civilians and protecting humanitarian operations.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the spiraling crisis in the Congo. (...) We urge the Congolese Government, rebel leadership and the neighboring governments to take all possible measures to prevent human rights abuses by troops under their command. We condemn all attacks on innocent civilians and urge all parties to the conflict to ensure that such attacks cease. The cycle of violence and impunity must be stopped."

Powerful statement. The U.S. State Department issued it more than 10 years ago, in August 1998. It did not prevent what became known as “Africa’s first world war” (1998-2003), which was centered in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and involved several neighboring countries.

Today, the humanitarian and human rights crisis in eastern DRC will again spiral out of control – if we do not act now.

At least 250,000 civilians have been displaced by the recent fighting, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from this and previous rounds of conflict to well over one million. Many IDPs remain out of the reach of aid workers, and some humanitarian operations have been suspended because of the fragile security situation. There is a high risk that the situation will escalate into a regional conflict.

Amnesty International works continuously on addressing the underlying causes of conflict, trying to end impunity for perpetrators of the most egregious human rights violations. But, our priority now is to protect civilians through reinforcing the capacity of the UN’s peacekeeping mission (Mission des Nationa Unies en République Démocratique du Congo, MONUC).

A few hours ago, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, briefed the Security Council and stressed the difficulties facing the UN peacekeepers. Now, members of the Security Council must act to strengthen the peacekeepers’ capacity.

We must act to guarantee that hope for civilians becomes a reality, not a sound bite. Ask Secretary Condoleezza Rice for her support to strengthen UN peacekeepers in the
Democratic Republic of Congo.

What are your thoughts about the crisis in the DRC?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Amnesty International Issues 100-Day Human Rights Challenge to Barack Obama

Many of you know that this blog participates in a human rights campaign on the 27th of each month. As such, I read with interest the recent efforts of Amnesty International to urge U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to make human rights central to his new administration. The organization is calling for certain concrete steps in his first 100 days in office that would demonstrate a genuine commitment to bringing the United States into line with its international obligations.

Specifically, they want the new administration to:
  1. Announce a plan and date to close Guantanamo

  2. Issue an executive order to ban torture and other ill-treatment, as defined under international law

  3. Ensure that an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the U.S. government in its "war on terror" is set up.

These demands are part of a "checklist" of actions Amnesty International is asking the new U.S. President to take during the first 100 days in office.

Personally, I'm in agreement with all three requests ('demands') being made by Amnesty International. As such, I plan to sign their online petition. I invite villagers to click here to learn more.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bloggers Unite For Refugees

There is hope.
Enjoy this inspirational video displaying one of the ways hope is being cultivated for Darfur refugees.

Tents:The Patches Project
on Vimeo.

Learn More here:

Crossposted at Ultraviolet Underground

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dying For Western Creature Comforts

The Independent via Liberator Mag writes:

How we fuel Africa's bloodiest war; What is rarely mentioned is the great global heist of Congo's resources: The deadliest war since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe is starting again – and you are almost certainly carrying a blood-soaked chunk of the slaughter in your pocket. When we glance at the holocaust in Congo, with 5.4 million dead, the clichés of Africa reporting tumble out: this is a "tribal conflict" in "the Heart of Darkness". It isn't. The United Nations investigation found it was a war led by "armies of business" to seize the metals that make our 21st-century society zing and bling. The war in Congo is a war about you.

Every day I think about the people I met in the war zones of eastern Congo when I reported from there. The wards were filled with women who had been gang-raped by the militias and shot in the vagina. The battalions of child soldiers – drugged, dazed 13-year-olds who had been made to kill members of their own families so they couldn't try to escape and go home. But oddly, as I watch the war starting again on CNN, I find myself thinking about a woman I met who had, by Congolese standards, not suffered in extremis.

I was driving back to Goma from a diamond mine one day when my car got a puncture. As I waited for it to be fixed, I stood by the roadside and watched the great trails of women who stagger along every road in eastern Congo, carrying all their belongings on their backs in mighty crippling heaps. I stopped a 27 -year-old woman called Marie-Jean Bisimwa, who had four little children toddling along beside her. She told me she was lucky. Yes, her village had been burned out. Yes, she had lost her husband somewhere in the chaos. Yes, her sister had been raped and gone insane. But she and her kids were alive.

I gave her a lift, and it was only after a few hours of chat along on cratered roads that I noticed there was something strange about Marie-Jean's children. They were slumped forward, their gazes fixed in front of them. They didn't look around, or speak, or smile. "I haven't ever been able to feed them," she said. "Because of the war."

Their brains hadn't developed; they never would now. "Will they get better?" she asked. I left her in a village on the outskirts of Goma, and her kids stumbled after her, expressionless.

(Read More)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The UN urges end to the conflict in the Congo

BBC writes:

The United Nations Security Council has condemned fighting by Congolese rebels, calling on the governments of DR Congo and Rwanda to work to defuse tensions.

An emergency session of the council expressed concern over the humanitarian consequences of the fighting.

Earlier UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to the fighting, which he said was creating a "humanitarian catastrophe".

Thousands of people have been fleeing a recent upsurge in fighting in the east.

Earlier, the Tutsi rebel leader whose forces are threatening the city of Goma declared a ceasefire and urged others to do the same.

Read More