The Avoidance Word Still Screams its Name

After more than nine years of overt violence and systematic cultural and economic dismemberment, Darfur remains in the grips of genocide, now in its attrition phase. The international community continues its unseemly acquiescence to the Khartoum regime’s travesty of governance.

Although billions of words have been written on this seemingly endless crisis, I never give up on the notion that change will come, that these afflicted people, not just Darfuris but all Sudanese, will yet enjoy the peace and prosperity denied them for generations.

The following is excerpted from a Lecture by Professor Wole Soyinka at the 50th Anniversary of the 1st International Conference of Black Writers & Artists, Paris, September 2006   Soyinka

As writers, we cannot cease to recognize and embrace our mission oftestifying and laying ambush for escapist minds. Those who are alive today to witness this renewed perfidy [in Darfur], and their successors living or yet unborn in the mission of warning and bearing witness, will not forget. Let words, at the very least, be mobilized towards the fulfillment of responsibilities by those who are charged with the protection of the weak and helpless, the temporarily disadvantaged, let them persist in saying to you, all who hold the primary controls of the direction of a continent’s future, that that future will not forget, nor will it forgive. As the armies of the Sudanese state mass for the final onslaught on its long determined design of race extermination, that future will stigmatise you one and all, will brand youcollaborators and accomplices if you abandon the people of Darfur to this awful fate, one that so blindingly scrawls its name across the supplicating sands and hills of Darfur– Genocide!”

Though I often wish it were possible to “un-know” this horror, I persist, in my own small ways, to work for the critical mass of awareness and commitment that will turn the tide. I believe empowering war-affected women is the key.

Kinshasa girls

An article posted on got me to thinking about the plight of teenagers in urban environments, and about a more expansive definition of the purpose of a Women’s Center.

The following are excerpts from the article:

KINSHASA, 8 May 2012

Sarah, 16, started sleeping on the streets of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC), when she was only eight years old. She doesn’t remember how she came to live on the streets, but thinks it was soon after her mother died.

Sarah is one of an estimated 20,000 children living rough on Kinshasa’s streets, many from homes too poor to feed them, some after being thrown out of their homes because they were accused of sorcery, while others end up on the streets as a result of the divorce and remarriage of a parent whose new partner won’t accept them. According to NGOs, about  one-third of these children are girls, and around 80 percent of girls on the street make a living from sex.

“Some men take you by force, and if you scream for help they beat you,” Sarah told IRIN/PlusNews. “Younger girls can be taken advantage of and get only about US$1 for sex, but if you negotiate, you can get $10 for one whole night… sometimes you go to a hotel, sometimes you just find a dark place to do it.”

Sarah’s face and arms are marked by scars from a fight with a group of girls who cut her with a razor. “When it’s night you have to find somewhere to sleep. If it rains, your usual place may be flooded, and we’re always running from the police,” she said. “If you have no money and have to borrow some to eat, you will pay forever, because a debt on the street is never finished.”

Girls regularly experience violence, but help for street children, particularly girls, is very limited….Many of these girls are raped as often as twice a week, so rape becomes the norm, and they survive by building a wall between themselves and their bodies. … Rape is one of the rituals girls go through when being initiated into sex work on the street, usually supervised by an older girl known as a ‘yaya’, or older sister.

And this telling comment from the director of one drop-in support center:  “We can’t tell them to stop sex work because we can’t give them an alternative [emphasis mine] – what we can do is give them condoms and contraception to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy, but we can’t judge or moralize about their situation.”   

 As Women’s Centers International grows beyond IDP camps into urban environments, it will champion and create options for girls who’ve been thrust into the most demeaning activity a woman can endure. A girl/ women earning money without abandoning her soul is the first step to unleashing her power. From this, the inherent genius of girls begins to flow through the community.

So much need. WCI needs funding to grow!

Definition of Terror

Recently I was researching the life of Herta Muller, the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature. Inspired by the excerpt below,  I have put her books at the top of my long reading list.

Though I was not a direct target of terror in Darfur, I felt, usually in retrospect (our minds do protect us when we focus on work) that I had been drenched in and shaken by the suffering and grief around me. I am reminded  that the struggle against state terror needs as many faces and voices as are able to muster. We can never be complacent, not here in our cradle of privilege, and especially not about the catastrophic rule of terror in Sudan.

“There is a Romantic misconception that terror has always to be impressive, fierce and appropriately Luciferian – in other words, that terror is nothing if it is not spectacular. However, that’s rarely the case in real life. As Czeslaw Milosz excellently put it in The Native Realm, “Terror is not … monumental; it is abject, it has a furtive glance, it destroys the fabric of human society and changes the relationships of millions of individuals into channels for blackmail.” Terror can be mediocre, even idiotic, yet omnipresent. Terror can be terribly banal, utterly un-Romantic, but never-ending. Terror is when the secret police persuade your best friend to inform on you; when objects start moving around your room in your absence; when the secret police interrogator tells you, right before you leave his office after a day-long interrogation, that “accidents do happen,” or when your friends start committing (poorly) staged suicides.”

FROM  The evil of banality  Reviewed by COSTICA BRADATAN