YOUNG WOMAN SPEAKS TO CROWD OF PROTESTERS IN KHARTOUM, SUDAN./ COPIED FROM NEWS FOOTAGE BY LYDIA ROSENBERG.
By Mary Dawn Edwards
The Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition (PDEC) will hold its Seventh Annual Forum on the problems of Sudan and South Sudan, underwritten by the International Partnership of the Pittsburgh Presbytery, on Sunday, October 13, 1:30-4:30 p.m., at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, starting with a luncheon prepared by members of the Pittsburgh area’s Sudanese and South Sudanese community. The group will honor Congressman Mike Doyle, Sudan Unlimited founder Esther Sprague, and the ENOUGH Project for their activism on behalf of the Sudanese and South Sudanese people. Speakers will include Ms. Sprague; Abd Alla Bakhit, President, Darfurian Congress Council of Canada; Ian Schwab, Director of Advocacy and Impact Strategy, ENOUGH Project; and a representative of the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, US State Department.
We will also mark the entry of our records into the PDEC Collection at the University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center. PDEC was founded in 2004 as news reached the outside world that the government response to a rebellion in the western Sudanese region of Darfur was to commit atrocities against civilians, with 300,000 people killed and over 2,000,000 displaced from their homes. One of the founders, Dr. David Rosenberg, has been the coordinator of the group since then.
We have continued our advocacy, bringing public attention to the ongoing human rights violations against the citizens of Sudan (and South Sudan) by their government, and petitioning US, UN, and other world leaders to intervene. We have organized local marches and rallies, organized delegations to national rallies in Washington and New York City, and collected signatures for numerous petitions. Signs with the names of over 600 destroyed villages in Darfur (and later in South Sudan) have been displayed as part of our activities since 2008. Pittsburgh City Council has issued six proclamations honoring our efforts.
We organized the Pittsburgh Conference on the Way Forward in Darfur and South Sudan, held at Carnegie Mellon University in March, 2010, with speakers from the US State Department, Save Darfur, and the government of the autonomous region South Sudan (which gained independence in 2011 under the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005). Since 2013, we have held an annual forum on the problems in Sudan and South Sudan, featuring speakers from the Sudanese and South Sudanese diaspora communities, representatives of human rights organizations and other activists, and representatives of the US government.
Congressman Doyle has long supported our efforts and those of the Congressional Sudan Caucus, which has conducted investigations into the conflicts and humanitarian crises in the region and made recommendations and introduced legislation to mitigate these problems. Esther Sprague, through her leadership of Sudan Unlimited and her work as a co-founder of Act for Sudan, has steadfastly petitioned for the rights of the Sudanese and South Sudanese people to live in peace and security, free from abuse by their corrupt governments. The ENOUGH Project, with the resources of policy experts and prominent activists, has conducted extensive investigations into the abuses by the kleptocratic Sudanese and South Sudanese governments, exposing their looting of the resources of their countries as well as their murderous repression of their people, and made policy recommendations to US government bodies and international organizations on ways to counter these abuses.
We have persisted in our efforts for fifteen years, while conflicts and humanitarian crises have simmered and flared, international efforts to negotiate peaceful and just solutions have met with little success, and crises in other parts of the world have demanded attention. We were disappointed to see the hopes for a new, independent South Sudan disintegrate, as the leaders of rival factions in the new government set up a kleptocratic system and plunged their people into near famine conditions in their conflicts over control; a fragile cease-fire is in danger of collapsing.
There have been recent hopeful developments in Sudan, where massive peaceful demonstrations by a united opposition since December, 2018, despite brutal government suppression, led to the ouster of the long term president, Omar Bashir, and some of his deputies. Unfortunately, members of the military who had long supported Bashir set up a Transitional Military Council to rule the country while negotiating with opposition leaders to form an elected civilian government; they staged a brutal crackdown on demonstrators in June, 2019, when negotiations faltered. Subsequently, the military council members have ceded a greater role in the transition to opposition leaders, but international pressure is needed to insure that a transparent and representative government is formed.
Please join us; everyone is welcome. There is no charge to attend the forum; donations and advance registration are appreciated. For further information and to pre-register, please go to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pittsburghdarfur or contact Dr. David Rosenberg at jumphook@gmail. com.
Mary Dawn Edwards has been a member of PDEC for 14 years.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 49 No. 8. October, 2019. All rights reserved.