Darfur

Whist the by-elections play out on the political stage, long before they were called – I had arranged the inaugural meeting of my Haringey Local Darfur Action Group (HLDAG) today. (Read here for my earlier posting on why such a local group is needed).

I had been amazed by the response to my initial email – and to the number of people who wanted to join me in this pressure group. My idea is to set up an organising group to lobby and put pressure on the sensitive political spots that might prompt the Government of Sudan to stop the genocide and let the African Union / United Nations troops be deployed before 2008 – the current best estimate following President Bashir’s promise to finally allow them in.

But there are many other things that need doing – including the extension of the UN arms embargo across the whole of Sudan as weapons are coming into Darfur from there. The difficulty of getting the UN resolution through is I guess because China and Russia have a veto and they both earned well over £20 million each on arms sales to Sudan in 2005. So – an example of what I hope the group will do (and the group will grow in size) is to all send emails to the Chinese Ambassador asking him not to use the veto, for example – as it would be a shame if the Olympics in Beijing were to become a political football, etc etc.

I invited a Darfuri refugee to come and speak to the Group, and Ishmail Jarbo, whose parents were murdered and he himself injured before fleeing to this country, told us his tale. This was very powerful and brought home the reality of the genocide. My Lib Dem councillor colleague, Errol Reid (Hornsey ward), then spoke. Errol has long been involved with Sudan and is also the secretary for the International African Lawyers, fighting on human rights and anti-slavery.

We all then contributed a great range of ideas and a number of those attending stepped forward to take this campaign forward.

I know, I know – how can what we do in Haringey affect Darfur? Well – I totally believe in people power. I also believe, that at this particular juncture, China will be sensitive to world opinion and as China is the most influential foreign power in terms of Sudan – pressure on China is one way forward. And there is divestment – as we pressure groups not to invest in companies who are supporting the genocide. And, this is my pilot, and I will be trying to extend this nationwide in due course.

Being impotent and doing nothing is why dreadful things continue for decades in this world. This is a complex situation and in the end, only a negotiated peace will bring real peace to the area – and both Arabs and Black Darfuris will have to come around the table with all the groups and militias and rebel bands. But that cannot happen until the killing is stopped. So first deployment and stopping arms.

The communication for this group will be primarily by email – and if you live in Haringey and you want to join in what will be a relatively simple exercise in targeted lobbying – then let me know. You can also join the Facebook group.

The group will hopefully have its first organisational meeting to decide the action program in the next two weeks and then we will email out the first proposed action; after all – this is an action group!