By Erin Simpson
Mia Farrow’s comment that ‘working for peace is not a passive process’ rang true today during our Addis press conference. Seated in Committee Room 1 of the African Union’s modern Addis headquarters building, Prof Maathai, Mia Farrow and Prof Jody Williams made brief remarks about the delegation’s issues and goals and then opened the floor to questions.
Not surprisingly, many journalists were concerned with the ICC’s recent decision (and Nobel Women’s Initiative’s response) to indict Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes. The global debate about whether the ICC’s actions could do more harm than good for peace in Sudan has been fast and furious.
“What do you think the people in the camps think about the ICC’s decision—why don’t you ask THEM,” was Mia’s unexpected response to a journalist sitting pen in hand in a bright blue chair.
Many Africans take issue with indicting a sitting African president. Some stress that national solutions be found for national problems.
Nobel Women’s Initiative Delegates were pleased to have a chance to respond to these and other questions and to footnote fact vs. fiction.
The Delegation is travelling precisely to listen to the voices of the women we meet, and Mia aptly reminded us that in this ‘vacuum of justice’ that is Darfur, any action that halts the impunity and slaughter will provide some semblance of justice to the women of Darfur. “Listen to the people in the camps,” implored Mia.
One journalist wondered if the ICC’s decision wouldn’t jeopardize peace in Darfur. Could it even unleash a ‘Pandora’s box’ of uncertainty and chaos?
“There is no on-going peace process in Darfur,” quipped Jody, adding, “Anyone who thinks there is a peace process for Darfur is misinformed. “
Delegates concurred that too many continue to construe Darfur as exclusively an African problem.
The violence and atrocities have spilled well beyond one country’s borders, and the drivers, the arms suppliers, and the money to wage the war is also international. The onus is on the entire international community to bring an end to the horrors in Darfur.
Wangari cautioned against criticizing the ICC for seeking its approach to solving the crisis in Darfur. She also posed rhetorically to those sitting before her, “What’s the alternative—do we sit back and watch?”
Wangari went on to describe the bloodshed that recently engulfed her own country. Kenya’s violence was only arrested through outside mediation. Without it, she intoned, ‘We would still be killing ourselves.’
Sometimes, outside mediation and intervention IS called for, even within one’s national boundaries. Sometimes, having a third party intervene can increase chances for peace and reconciliation.
Wangari acknowledged that the African Union has made some steps toward increasing dialogue on Darfur. More though, must be done. The African Union must take up with increased commitment and international cooperation a dialogue to end the bloodshed in Darfur. The African Union has a special responsibility to end this regional crisis.
Speaking of China’s sale of weapons to Sudan one journalist invoked the issue of terrorism, wondering, “Shouldn’t African countries defend themselves against terrorism?”
“Not a good argument,” warned Jody. “The United States doubled its arms purchases since 9/11 (and to what end?!). An arms build-up will not promote progress let alone peace in Africa.”
Wangari concurred, lamenting that while Africa is one of the richest continents, Africans engage in exploitative relationships—allowing natural resources to be extracted and exploited, often in return for arms that “we then use to destroy ourselves.”