Samstag, August 30, 2008

speeches at democratic convention... very american

I like a big part of it. the american dream, the standing up together, the appreciation of history and remarkable persons as well as the little person from the street...

but somehow, when you read all the speeches in one go - Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden - it makes you want to puke that apparently all that human beings achieve in their life, the most important thing, is to reproduce yourself and watch your kids reproduce again, repeating the same woes and worries and conflicts all along.

is that it?

then it would not be a big loss to extinct mankind from this planet.

Freitag, August 22, 2008

more on facebook

am based in zugdidi, western georgia - i stopped calling it zucchini in the meanwhile, but I still get most of the names around here wrong. enjoying the field, looking for husband material, and having a fantastic time for my little (well not that minor) fetish for uniforms.

pix are available on facebook. hafez, open up a facebook account....

Freitag, August 15, 2008

cluster munition - Oslo process vs reality in Georgia vs propaganda

I like the Georgian writing.

(what, is that not the main issue of the pix?)

Lufthansa business

a thousand impressions already, before I even leave New York for Tbilisi.

very different reactions from friends and colleagues. some envy me, some are happy for me, some are proud to see that I succeed, others are concerned, some are downright scared.

preparations are more or less done, I don't know how much money to take with me, but I've been to the dentist and got two things fixed (last minute, right - when did I ever go to the dentist without being forced?!?), also medical checks and just packing.

packing for one to three months. not easy, but not hard either. after all I'm going to the field. jeans and t-shirt. and I fly business, for a horrendous price. but am so much looking forward to a beautiful relaxed pampered flight over the atlantic.

otherwise, I've been impressed by myself. my director came back from leave and "picked my brain" on Georgia - and I came up with some answers, analysis and comments that were actually really good (I realised when listening to me ;-)

not sure how often I have time in Tbilisi for the blog. I commit to be on facebook, but hope to have time to write a little as well. of course - security permitting. welcome back to the real world.

gosh I'm so happy!

Montag, August 11, 2008

I'M GOING TO GEORGIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

as part of UNHCR emergency team, will be going to Georgia :-))))))))


Monty Python's guide to the Darfur conflict
Publisher: The Spectator
Author: Justin Marozzi
Story date: 10/08/2008
Language: English

The genocide publicised by movie stars is over, says Justin Marozzi. What must now be resolved is a civil war with unlimited breakaway factions — and Hollywood cannot help

It wasn't the gleaming black helicopter parked on Second Avenue that raised eyebrows. New Yorkers barely blink at such a routine form of transport.

No, passersby were more taken by the improbable banner hanging from its tail: 'SEND ME TO DARFUR'.

Last week's publicity stunt in Manhattan, in which a Robinson R44 helicopter was symbolically presented to the United Nations, was organised by the Save Darfur Coalition, the organisation that has done more than any other to keep the issue of Darfur alive. The event marked the first anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1769, which created the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission Unamid, and coincided with a report revealing how the international community has betrayed it by failing to provide the manpower and materiel it needs.

The Darfur lobby has heavyweight support.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel, among others, have all supported this latest report, endorsed by more than 30 human rights groups, think tanks and NGOs, including the ubiquitous Save Darfur Coalition.

George Clooney, the most bankable Hollywood star of his generation, is also big on Darfur. 'Many governments have offered expressions of concern, but few have offered the most basic tools necessary to keep civilians safe and for peacekeepers to do their job, ' he says. 'It is time for governments to put their helicopters where their mouths are.' He's quite right. Unamid needs helicopters, not to mention another 16,000 peacekeepers.

The failure of the international community to live up to its promises is shameful. The problem is, Darfur has become an emotive campaign in which awkward truths — not least that the genocide is over — have become hostage to a more superficially exciting story.

There are few causes more hip than Darfur these days. Darfur is to the Noughties what HIV was to the Eighties and rainforests were to the Nineties. Inevitably, Hollywood is in on the act, adding its inimitable mélange of glamour, outrage and oversimplification.

Earlier this year, Steven Spielberg, having warned the Chinese president of his concern over the government of Sudan's policy in Darfur 'which is best described as genocide', withdrew as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics. Apart from Clooney, other stars such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon, Bono and Mia Farrow have all made commendable efforts to draw the world's attention to Darfur, publicising a stark and heart-rending narrative. The problem is, the narrative they are peddling is five years old.

The conflict has moved on.

The mass slaughter took place in 2003–2004, when the conflict was superficially explained as Arab nomad versus black African farmer, a fight for land and water. This was when we first heard about the Janjaweed, the governmentsupported assassins on horseback responsible for the killings, burnings and rapes. The UN has estimated that 300,000 Darfurians may have died as a result of the conflict. Khartoum claims an implausible 10,000.

The relative simplicity of those days has long gone. In 2006, there were two main rebel movements sitting at the negotiating table in Abuja: the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM). Today, in a development wearily familiar to Monty Python fans (think all-out fight between the People's Front of Judea, the Judean People's Front, the Judean Popular People's Front and the Romans), they have split into as many as 30.

Take your pick from SLM-Minni, SLMUnity, SLM-Mother, SLM-Free Will, SLMPeace, the United Revolutionary Front, JEM, JEM-Peace, JEM-Unity, to name only the better known. Apart from government versus rebels, the conflict now pits Arab versus Arab, African versus African, rebel versus rebel, bandits versus civilians and aid workers, Janjaweed versus peacekeepers, Sudan versus Chad. In short, the rebels have become a major part of the problem, but Hollywood and the Darfur lobby don't seem to have caught on. Their story is a lot simpler: nasty government versus good-guy rebels.

Given that we live in an age when information has never been so readily and widely available, the level of misinformation about Darfur in 2008 is little short of extraordinary. When I met the correspondent of a highly respected American newspaper during a three-month stint in Khartoum and Darfur this summer, I was amazed when he told me his editor had asked him blithely to 'Give us an update on how the genocide is going'. The Save Darfur Coalition homepage includes a button asking 'Is your mutual fund funding genocide?' The question is posed by Divest for Darfur, a campaign targeting 'companies that help fund genocide in Darfur'. No one appears to have told any of these people that the genocide is over. What remains is a highly complicated, extremely brutal, low-intensity civil war.

It is arguable that rather than help end this hideous conflict, groups like the Save Darfur Coalition and GenocideInDarfur. net ('Learn How YOU Can STOP the Violence Complete Anti-Genocide Directory') have unwittingly helped prolong it.

The exclusive focus on bashing the government has emboldened the rebels, encouraging them to keep up the fight and shun the negotiating table. The peace process, as a result, has collapsed. Though uncontroversial among seasoned Sudan watchers, such a view is politically incorrect in the West, where the debate has been held in the shadows of a glossy campaign long on sentiment and outrage, short on measured analysis.

As Julie Flint, co-author of Darfur: A New History of a Long War, writes on the excellent blog Making Sense of Darfur, 'In the current hyper-moralized debate over Sudan, anyone who questions Sudan's critics risks being called an apologist for Khartoum.' You don't have to be a fan of Khartoum to ask whether Hollywood has got it wrong.

Personally, I think the government of President Omar al Bashir stinks. I watched a Sudanese official from the infamous Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) respond to charges that rape has been used as official policy by saying that rape was a Western concept. HAC falls under the brief of Ahmed Harun, minister of state for humanitarian affairs. Last year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Harun on 42 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In June, I listened to the straight-faced governor of North Darfur tell a visiting Security Council delegation to Al Fasher that the humanitarian situation was 'very stable'. Never mind about the additional 150,000 refugees created in the first four months of 2008. Forget the World Food Programme having to cut by 50 per cent its food distribution to refugees because of the deteriorating security situation. It was all a Western conspiracy against Sudan.

Although the Darfur lobby has run one of the slickest media campaigns of modern times, there is a chance, however slim, that the ICC prosecutor's move last month to indict the Sudanese president for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide will succeed where several years of Hollywood-led advocacy has failed. Reports from Khartoum indicate that with his back to the wall, the president may throw himself into finding a solution to this intractable conflict to stave off a full-blown indictment. Weirdly, against all the odds, it may yet be Bashir, the would-be war criminal, who brings peace to Darfur.

Incidentally, the Robinson R44 helicopter would be completely useless in Darfur.

Unamid needs gunships, not four-seater civilian runarounds, but don't let the facts spoil a good Hollywood drama

Freitag, August 08, 2008

good old days....... coup d'etats, and Russia at war.

and it is not even easy to blame anyone. as usual, things are complex. but one is left at awe how quickly still TODAY a tense situation can develop into war. bombing, tanks, like in the good old days - the only difference is, that all sides (yes, there is more than one party to the is conflict) have websites.

trying not to get caught up in propaganda.... never has been easy, never will. I heard two different but both valid opinions already about the happenings in Georgia.

one says, now we will see who runs Russia, Medvedev or Putin (though I'm not exactly sure how we are supposed to see that). it talks about Russia making a power play.

the other opinion said, hey, when Serbia sent troops into Kosovo (a somewhat similar situation with a breakaway region who wants to be independent), people congratulated the US for liberating them. why not congratulating the Russians, then?

there will be more voices and opinions, I'm sure. in the meanwhile, I think of my colleagues in Georgia. Four of them I know very well, and two of those four are Georgians, with family and friends. One is from South Ossetia. She is safe in Tbilisi for the time being, but her family is in the midst of war. And well, how long Tbilisi is safe in the era of planes and bombs and attractive targets such as international airports, on verra. :-(

Mittwoch, August 06, 2008

aha, here we go - another opportunity for sarcasm. MAURITANIA

in case you have not heard it yet (kinda likely, I don't think it will make big headlines) - there was a coup in Mauretania, some sacked military officers took revenge. the whole thing happened in a non-bloody way fortunately, but well, it speaks volumes about democratic elections.

it makes you laugh, though, to read statements of UN, AU, African government officials. The best is the following, I think:
"Previous coups in Mauritania have been bloodless although this is against a democratically elected government... It may have more impact on the security environment than previous ones. In terms of economic policy, while it is too early to say anything definitive, I can't see it leading to a major reorientation. Foreign investment there is mainly oil and mining companies and a lot of them have seen this before. But it is disappointing and will not help sentiment towards Mauritania, which had been pretty positive up until around half way through last year. In terms of aid, it may imperil aid from foreign institutions at least in the short term. I can't see this going down very well with the European Union. It will depend in part on if and how quickly civilian power is restored. In terms of democratization in the region it is disappointing but I can't see it making much difference in terms of sentiment towards other countries. There were rumors about two weeks ago that might be a coup in the offing. It was a bit of an open secret that two senior military commanders were fanning this split within the ruling party. In the last few days there had been rumors they had decided to pull back but the president's decision to dismiss two senior generals appears to have prompted the coup."
Nicely put, Ruairi Patterson, Analyst, of the Control Risks Group. Somehow I just wonder, did you have a late night last night or are you always that dry? or maybe you've just been watching this world for too long - same old story, really :-)

"die Hunde bellen, aber die Karawane zieht weiter...."

life. field. intensity. desert. real people. real problems.
sometimes even problems that could be solved.

isn't it amazing how pictures create a bond to some news that otherwise would just be some news?

thank you Hafez, I appreciate :-)

and thanks to all the others thinking of me caringly on my birthday. it was a lovely feeling, realising how many friends and great people there are in my life. all over the world. in real world, from work, from travel, from blogosphere. thanks to everyone!

and now enough shmooze. gotta work on my sarcasm again, before I lose it completely!

Sonntag, August 03, 2008

birthday girl

yes, 4th of August is my b-day!!

and can you imagine? it looks like I'm gonna spend the evening with a guy who has boyfriend potential!! not the usual hook-up and man-hunt thing (which I truly enjoy, and I'm good at playin' the game)... but this one is more serious and mature and everything. the downside is the 23 years age difference. given that I'm 32, maybe that's rather just potential for a great summer....

now should one or should one not analyze and think about things like this at that stage? or at what stage, then?