Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Darfur has millions murdered so let's dance our troubles away

When spring finally returned, it seemed like a good time to appreciate the nicer weather at an outdoor show. Columbia University was having a benefit show last Saturday so that seemed like one of the best ways to take advantage of some sun and warmth. I hadn't been there in a while and that seemed like another good excuse to go. The campus itself has a lovely outdoor area with classically designed buildings gracefully surrounding a large quad area with greeneries to lie on and long rows of steps to lounge on. The student body took advantage of this, showing up in force, with some even setting up hookas and sliding pools to celebrate the new season.

First up was The Dub Trio who nicely sum themselves up with their name and have a good feel for the music they play. Even live, they were able to mix the sound effects, drop-outs and echoes that makes up the style's richest music, even though they were compelled to start a few songs off with a blast of hardcore (to clear the decks maybe).

After their set was over, they started packing up and someone took the stage, presumably to make some sort of announcement about the show. Whatever mellow, spacey vibes that the band left, he was there for another reason. This was Simon Deng of American Anti-Slavery Group and he told the crowd about the situation in Darfur, Sudan today. It was a eye-opening, especially because most of the mainstream news outlets didn't cover this and didn't seem to care about this otherwise.

In my country, if you are not Muslim, you are not human... The ‘militias’ slaughter millions but we know they are just tools of the government there.... The United Nations does nothing about the torture, rape, crime happening there- they are guilty of silence and they condone what is taking place there.... Three and a half million people have been slaughtered now. The Arab world is part of the problem- Khartoum gets assistance from every single Arab country. They ask for resolutions
about Palestine all the time but they do nothing to stop this.

I am in a suit but I used to be a slave- I was owned by another human being. I am a victim... My young girl was raped right in front of my eyes. I am mad.

You couldn't listen to works like that and not be moved and horrified. I also felt cheated. I'm a news hawk but a lot of this was new to me: World News Tonight, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Chris Matthews Show, CNN were all telling me more than what I needed to know about Pope John Paul but nothing about this genocide. Is it not in their interest because this is Africa, which they probably consider a perpetual mess? Is it not in our (American) government's interest because there's no oil there?

Even before there was time to contemplate, Antibalas were ready to perform. The dozen or so members of this Brooklyn band play Fela Kuti's Afrobeat music better than anyone else today. Granted that's not a large field but they beat Fela's son Femi as well as Fela drummer Tony Allen's recent bands. Singer Abraham Amayo is a good ranter and the band had the extended jams down but what was missing was the ego and vision of a leader like Fela himself to make this good band into a great band.

Dozens of people were dancing up front during their set but I still couldn't get Deng's words out of my head. Antibalas were there for the express purpose of supporting his cause but could that be pushed aside so quickly to celebrate? Maybe this was the only rational way to deal with stories of such horror. Maybe it's best to think of it as a celebration of life against the death and depths of human cruelty that Deng spoke of. Organizers went around to collect donations for Deng's group and I was glad to donate. Other than dancing our troubles away, I hoped that they could make the rest of the world listen since too few people were speaking up about this.

If you'd like to do your part to help, one place to start is Modiba Production's fine benefit CD ASAP: the Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (which includes Antibalas and Tony Allen). Just like at the Columbia show, you can dance away your (and others') troubles away.


Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

"Is it not in our (American) government's interest because there's no oil there?"

Might be better phrased without the "no" -- there is oil in Sudan, the previous 20-year atrocity was over the control of the area they're in.


6:19 PM  
Blogger Perfect Sound Forever said...

"The civil war, which caused the deaths of 2 million people and forced 4 million to flee their homes, restricted appraisal of oil fields."

Sudan's Former Rebels 'Darlings' of Oil Business

10:15 PM  
Blogger Perfect Sound Forever said...

To expand on this a little, I should have said that Sudan doesn't have any EASILY EXPLOITABLE oil. It's probably seen by the U.S. State Department as another Somalia-type situation. The Reuters article was linked above to say that the oil companies are waiting for one side (either side) of the Sudan conflict to have the upper hand and then they can cynically business with them. That's real foreign policy for you.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Hello, nice to meet you. Interesting post. Thanks.
Thought you might like to know that almost unnoticed by the outside world, China has become the key player in Sudan's oil industry.

Here are some snippets from a Reuters report out today:

China is now dependent on Sudan for seven per cent of all its oil imports. CNPC's annual report discloses that about half of all its overseas oil comes from Sudan.

It deployed 10,000 Chinese workers to build a 900-mile pipeline, linking Heglig oilfield in Kordofan province with Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Hence Beijing has gone to great efforts to shield Mr Bashir.

A metallic maze of chimneys, pipes and vents glitters on the horizon in the desert outside Khartoum, dominating the landscape for miles around.

This new oil refinery is the jewel in the crown of Sudan's military regime. It forms the vital artery of a thriving oil industry that poured £1 billion into government coffers last year.

Without this windfall gain - likely to be far larger this year - President Omar al-Bashir could not maintain his military machine, let alone wage war against rebels in the western region of Darfur. Nor could he hope to withstand the international pressure that his bloody campaign in Darfur has brought upon him.

Moreover, the oil that started to flow as recently as 1999 has given President Bashir an indispensable international ally.

Beijing has invested £8 billion in Sudanese oil through the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), a state-owned monolith. The cost of Khartoum's new refinery alone was about £350 million.

Freshly painted billboards in Khartoum carry pictures of smiling Chinese oil workers and the slogan: "CNPC - Your close friend and faithful partner".

Beijing needs Sudan because its appetite for oil is insatiable. China's economic boom means that oil consumption is forecast to grow by at least 10 per cent every year for the foreseeable future. If so, China's domestic reserves will be depleted in the next two decades. So the quest for overseas oil is one of Beijing's central goals.

In its scramble for Africa, China portrays itself as a more benign partner than the colonial powers and the modern-day multinational companies.

President Hu Jintao told an Asia-Africa summit in Jakarta yesterday: "In pursuit of world peace and common development, China will always stand by, and work through thick and thin, with developing countries."

America has already snapped-up the world's largest reserves. Saudi Arabia and Iraq - with 370 billion barrels between them, 45 per cent of the world's total - are effectively closed to China.

Sudan, by contrast, is a no-go area for western oil companies. American investment was officially banned in 1997 and European multinationals steer clear of the avalanche of protest that would accompany any dealings with Mr al-Bashir's regime. China, however, has no such scruples.

So far, Sudan has only 563 million barrels of proven reserves, but the energy ministry estimates that at least five billion barrels lie beneath its deserts.

Sudan's few independent voices say this has brought disastrous consequences. "The crisis in Sudan is being fuelled by the issue of oil," said William Ezekiel, editor of the Khartoum Monitor. "The government is ready to ally with Satan if it can protect its own interests."
- - -

So you see, there is plenty of oil in Sudan. China depends on it. And it is China that is blocking the UN Security Council from taking action against and imposing sanctions on Sudan.

Please read my post at Sudan watch - or google in the search box for oil and you will find plenty of information on Sudan's oil.

Sudan Watch: Sudan: New oil field in Darfur expected to produce crude oil by August 2005 - Videocon White Nile update


11:36 AM  

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