The revolution is now

13 05 2010

The other day I watched Zeitgeist – The Movie and I was really moved by it. Some of the things weren’t new to me, as I am used to watching different types of critical movies and documentaries, but a lot of them were. My conclusion: everyone should watch this movie, so I decided to make my first post here in almost a year.

The reason for not updating this blog in a while is that my life right now is at a stand-still. I’m at the end of the first stage of my studies, and I have, unfortunately, spent this whole year basically in the same city, at the same library, without the same amount of new experiences as last year, when I was traveling the world. Yesterday, however, I went to a viewing of the movie The Human Experience (a movie about a few guys trying to find out if we’ve forgotten what it means to be human. They visit poor and sick children in Peru, homeless people in NYC and a leper colony in Ghana) and I actually talked to one of the guys who made the movie (he’s also one of the guys behind Grassroots Films) about life, about the happiness that people living in poor areas possess and how we all should pursue such a happiness instead of wanting to own a big house and a nice car. Possessions are nothing without happiness. And whatever anyone else may claim – money can’t buy you true happiness.

This year I’ve also been really frustrated over the fact that in order for me to pursue my dreams and goals, I have to succumb to this western, consumption-centered society. I have to finish my studies to be able to do what I want and work to protect children’s rights and human rights – that’s all good, I’m happy to do that. But I also have to live and work here, in an environment where I truly aren’t happy, to earn enough money to be able to afford e.g. volunteering somewhere in the world… It’s a paradox really. I have to live here and earn money in order for me to go to places where I’m reminded that money and possessions aren’t even nearly the most important things in life. I guess there’s some way around this, I just haven’t found it yet.

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Zeitgeist – The Movie is distributed on the web for free – watch or download it or the follow up movie Zeitgeist – Addendum at:

http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/

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More information about The Human Experience and Grassroots Films can be found at:

http://www.grassrootsfilms.com/

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World Malaria Day

9 05 2009

The 25th of April was World Malaria Day. Malaria is a vector-borne infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites. It is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, including parts of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. It’s one of the most common infectious diseases and an enormous public health problem.

Malaria has about 250 million cases every year and that yearly leads to nearly one million deaths. About 3.3 billion people – half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria. People living in the poorest countries are the most vulnerable.

Malaria is especially a serious problem in Africa, where one in every five (20%) childhood deaths is due to the effects of the disease. An African child has on average between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year. And every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.

Photo by Mariella Furrer for the New York Times

Read more about World Malaria Day.

Source: http://www.righthealth.com/Health/How%20To%20Treat%20Malaria-s?lid=yhoo-ads-sb-0032276518

Donate a 10 $ mosquito net here.

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Sources:

WHO – 10 facts on malaria

Further reading:

Help UNICEF fight malaria.
How to treat malaria.
Malaria Foundation International





Commemoration of the Rwandan genocide

15 04 2009

The 7th of April 2009, 15 years had gone by since the Rwandan genocide started in 1994. Everybody has probably heard about the genocide, but how many really know what happened, and how this could be allowed to happen?

Let’s start with a short background video, for those of you who need to freshen up their memory:

Please note that in this video there is shocking footage, and note also that the facts presented are simplified and not very detailed, but should give you a good enough background check.

The efforts of the UN during the genocide have been seriously debated. Could we, the rest of the world, have done more? Undoubtedly. But not a lot of us could understand the scope of the tragedy until afterwards, if then! Rwanda was a country with many tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi. The difficulties go way back, and it’s hard for an outsider to fully understand what this means. Former colonial powers (first Germany, whose rule was weak and didn’t imply many changes, and then Belgium, who were the first to introduce “Ethnic Identity Cards” dividing the population into Hutu, Tutsi or Twa (a smaller racial group who had occupied areas in Rwanda before the arrival of the Hutu and the Tutsi)) have been blamed for making matters worse, but who can tell how the story would’ve ended without their involvement?

Wyclef Jean – Million Voices:

Around 800 000 people were killed – mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus. We are still today trying to punish those guilty, and to figure out what really happened. Did the government really have full control of the Hutu militia (thereamong the interahamwe)? Who is really to blame? Can you blame a specific group or was the genocide just a wave of attacks, committed by individuals who were spurred on by earlier attacks? The UN Tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), situated in Arusha, Tanzania, has been given the difficult task of trying to “write an official version of the history” and to judge the guilty. As a law student I immediately see the conflict of interest that presents itself here. The tribunal runs a risk at being used more as a means to determining an official version of the history of the genocide and as a means to national reconciliation, rather than determining the guilt of one single individual, which should be the fundamental task for a court. Involving the element of trying the whole history might actually endanger the whole partiality of the court, since it can be hard to judge one single individual in an environment (the court) where the whole horrible history of the genocide is discussed. The two elements should simply be kept apart, but this is an issue that can be discussed for hours, so I’ll stop it right here ;)

rwanda1

In general, the ICTR is doing a good job. I’ve been there, working, so I was able to get a little insight in how the Tribunal worked. Sure, there are critical voices on how the prosecutor is doing his job, how easily the judges come to one conclusion in certain cases while not in others, the practical difficulties that are present at the court etc. There’s probably a lot to learn from this court as well, just as there has been from earlier similar tribunals, but at least they’re working on it. And it’s a difficult task, with witnesses and accused spread all over the world, different national praxises that make things even more difficult etc.

In addition to the ICTR, which is charged with judging the “big guys” = the main brains behind the genocide and the big perpetrators, there are numerous Gacaca courts in Rwanda, judging smaller perpetrators on a more local level. These Gacaca courts are lead by important individuals in society, not always educated in law, and are so-called “traditional courts”.

Source: http://www.martinjohnsoncommunications.com.au/pages/africa

Gacaca Court

The commemoration ceremony this year took place in Nyanza-Kicukiro, in the Kigali Ville province in Rwanda. The commemoration lasted one week, and ended yesterday. A program issued by the Rwandan National Commission for Fight against Genocide (NCFAG), said that President Kagame, among others, will light a candle in memory those who perished during the genocide. The Executive Secretary of Genocide Survivors Association (IBUKA), Bonoit Kaboyi, whose office is located at Nyanza-Kicukiro, said there was some light at the end of the tunnel, 15 years after genocide.”There is now more harmony, good co-habitation and reconciliation among Rwandans,” Kaboyi has stated. He said the fact that suspects confessed publicly and asked for forgiveness during gacaca proceedings has helped to reconcile the perpetrators and survivors, some of whom could not speak to each other previously.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame addresses attendants at the genocide mass-grave site in Kigali, April 7, 2009, during the 15th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide. REUTERS/Hereward Holland (RWANDA ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY CONFLICT)

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame addresses attendants at the genocide mass-grave site in Kigali, April 7, 2009, during the 15th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide.

“Genocide survivors must move forward with your lives…life must go on, we must continue to build for a better future,” Kagame told a large gathering, including members of diplomatic corps, ministers and politicians. He, however, said the post-genocide history can not easily be erased as more than a million people were brutally slaughtered during the April-July genocide. “Of course, it is not an easy task to build on the ashes of more than a million people,” he stated, adding that the future of Rwandans will be shaped by the Rwandans themselves.

President Kagame also took a swipe at the cowardice of the international community when thousands of innocent people were being butchered mercilessly. “They [international community] are part of that history. They are root causes of genocide,” he stressed, underscoring that they abandoned the people they had come to protect. “They left them [people] to be murdered, aren’t they guilty?’’, he asked.

The Rwandan President, however, noted that significant progress has been achieved in the post-genocide days and urged concerted efforts from Rwandans to propel the country towards further progress. ‘I can seat confidently, relaying on what I see,” President Kagame said.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and first lady Jeanette Kagame lay a wreath at a mass grave in the capital Kigali, April 7, 2009, during the 15th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide. REUTERS/Hereward Holland (RWANDA ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY CONFLICT)

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and first lady Jeanette Kagame lay a wreath at a mass grave in the capital Kigali, April 7, 2009, during the 15th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide.

The site of this year’s commemoration is also historic. During onslaught of the 1994 killings, thousands of refugees sought shelter at the United Nations Peace Keeping Force (UNAMIR) at the Technical School (ETO) near Nyanza-Kicukiro, hoping to get protection from the blue helmets, but to their dismay the peace keepers abandoned them and were subsequently killed by notorious Interehamwe militias and rampaging soldiers from the former Rwandan Armed forces (Ex-FAR). A survivor of Nyanza attack, Venuste Karasira, narrated to President Kagame how he escaped the death when Interahamwe started shooting and hurling grenades at them. He said that attackers thought he was dead when he was sleeping among dead bodies and covered by blood. “The killers thought I was dead and left the area,” he said. To read an article about this area, click here.

World eminent personalities such as the US President, Barack Obama, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, Tuesday paid tribute to the victims of the genocide. Obama in his message to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said that the tragedy in 1994 was so enormous, so daunting, that it ran the risk of becoming a statistic. “We must remember that each of the 800,000 individuals who died in 1994 had their own story, their own family, and their own dreams.” The US President, however, praised the Rwandan courageous men and women who survived the genocide and have since demonstrated remarkable strength and generosity in forgiving those who committed these heinous acts. “These individuals inspire us daily by working to restore trust and rebuild hope in Rwanda,‘’ he underscored. He added that by remembering these events deepened the world’s commitment to act when faced with genocide and to work with partners around the world to prevent future atrocities.

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Main source for this article: The Hirondelle News Agency, Arusha