Tri-Valley CAREs Sues to Compel Open Government Litigation to have National Impact, Charges Energy Dept. “Pattern & Practice” of Abuse
(December 28, 2010) — This morning, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) filed major litigation in the federal court for the Northern District of California against the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for numerous failures to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires federal agencies to respond to public requests for information within 20 days.
According to the lawsuit, in seven separate instances the DOE and NNSA failed to provide responsive, unclassified documents regarding operations at the agencies’ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as required by law. The information that is the subject of the litigation is overdue by time periods ranging from six months to more than three years.
“The DOE and NNSA are egregiously out of compliance with the law,” noted Tri-Valley CAREs’ Staff Attorney, Scott Yundt. “This frustrates the public’s basic right to know. The information is of urgent importance to the community, and involves Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plutonium transport, bio-warfare agent experiments, hazardous materials usage, worker exposures, financial irregularities involving Lab management, start up plans for the “Tritium Facility Modernization Project,” and a proposal for future research and development.”
“As a ‘watchdog’ organization, Tri-Valley CAREs relies on open government laws like the FOIA to do its work and inform the community,” stated attorney Iti Talwar, a member of Tri-Valley CAREs’ Board of Directors who helped prepare the litigation filed today.
“By dragging its feet for up to three years and more, and not providing the requested information, the government has not only violated the law but has potentially degraded the value of the information sought, which is often time-sensitive,” Talwar added. “In some cases, public comment timeframes have elapsed and projects have gone forward while the group’s information requests went unanswered.”
“Many of the documents Tri-Valley CAREs requested contain information about the dangers faced by our community from spills, accidents, releases and potential acts of terrorism. Keeping this information hidden does nothing to protect the public,” charged Marylia Kelley, the group’s Executive Director. “Instead, it robs the community of the opportunity to press for changes that would better safeguard worker and public health and the environment.”
Kelley continued, “Moreover, DOE and NNSA are illegally withholding detailed information we requested about costs incurred by LLNL programs, like the National Ignition Facility, and the Lab management’s practice of shifting the burden to other projects.”
“The DOE and NNSA have exhibited a ‘pattern and practice’ of not responding to FOIA requests in the manner prescribed by statute,” Staff Attorney Yundt stated. “Routinely, these federal agencies have failed to fulfill Tri-Valley CAREs’ FOIA requests within the allotted timeframe.”
The group’s lawsuit asks the judge to issue a court order appointing a Special Counsel to investigate the pattern of abuse wherein DOE and NNSA fail to comply with the law. The Special Counsel would then determine whether disciplinary action is warranted and against whom. “A positive ruling could set a precedent with national implications,” said Yundt.
Tri-Valley CAREs was forced to bring similar FOIA litigation in 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2008. “We should not have to file lawsuits in order to obtain public information,” said Talwar. “Congress enacted the FOIA specifically so that organizations like Tri-Valley CAREs would have free access to unclassified, non-exempt records that disclose the operation of the government.”
“We are prosecuting this lawsuit in order to hold the DOE and NNSA accountable and to vindicate the public’s right to be informed and to knowledgeably and democratically influence LLNL projects and the nation’s nuclear weapons policies,” concluded Kelley. “The information we seek impacts our lives and our future.”
Tri-Valley CAREs was founded in 1983 in Livermore, CA by neighbors of the Dept. of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of two locations where all US nuclear weapons are designed. The LLNL Main Site in Livermore was placed on the federal Superfund list of most contaminated sites in the country in 1987. LLNL’s Site 300, located between Livermore and Tracy, was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1990. Tri-Valley CAREs represents 5,600 members, most of whom live and/or work in the shadow of LLNL.
A PDF of the Complaint filed today will be available on our web site at www.trivalleycares.org. We can also email or fax it upon request. Call us at (925) 443-7148.
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, 2582 Old First Street, Livermore, CA, USA 94550
Ph: (925) 443-7148
Fx: (925) 443-0177
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (June 21, 2010) — An organization looking to help with world peace wants to recruit some special people. The Nonviolent Peace Force was co-founded by a Minnesota man in the early 1990’s. There are peacekeepers in Sri Lanka, the South Philippines and the Sudan. The peacekeepers are unarmed and only go to places where they are invited.
The Sudan is expected to possibly have violent outbreaks before a January vote to for independence between Northern and Southern Sudan.
Just the presence of an international Nonviolent peacekeeper can stop violence. The peacekeepers go through three weeks of training to learn cross-cultural communication, team building and self-care.
They do have an interpreter, but don’t have weapons. Then they train over seas and can help mothers get back their kidnapped children, or help villages under siege.
Mel Duncan, the co-founder of the Nonviolent Peace Force says, “they will be working in dangerous areas and there is the likelihood they will face violence. Having said that, we’re meticulous about our security because we’re not doing this to create martyrs, we’re doing it because its an effective way to deal with violent conflict.”
Peacekeepers commit to at least two years and all expenses are paid, plus they get a $1500 monthly stipend and insurance. It cost the peace force 65 thousand dollars a per person per year to train and have a peacekeeper work.
No one has died while working with the group, but one person was injured with shrapnel from a grenade and another jailed for more than 100 days. If you’d like to learn more visit www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org
(November 29, 2010) — When the US surrounded Iraq at the start of the second Iraq war, I imagined that if our military forces just remained at the Kuwait border long enough, they would be welcomed with no bullets fired. But news reports at the time indicated that waiting for Saddam to retire was too expensive. And the soldiers might get bored. I guess these were practical considerations. But everyone has the same hope: to see wars thwarted or ended by peaceful, nonviolent means.
What would it take to make this happen?
A few months ago, I discovered a small NGO with a simple vision that can be applied to many conflict zones. On the face of it, their idea seems so simple that I feared they were suicidal.
So, during the flurry of meetings at the recent UN General Assembly in New York, I sat down with Mel Duncan, Founder and Special Projects Director of Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP). Counterbalance to his gentle Midwestern demeanor, Mel brought along Rolf Carriere, a seasoned NP advisor from the Netherlands who recently retired from UNICEF with executive experience all over Asia.
Nonviolent Peaceforce is a group of civilian, unarmed peacekeepers who are dedicated to protect threatened people, reduce violence in conflict areas and improve human rights situations through negotiation. Invited by all aggrieved parties, and working with specific and approved plans, the peacekeepers can understand local conflicts and diffuse them before they become national emergencies.
They call themselves a force. A force expends energy to make change. On the ground, NP members are conscious eyes and ears and tasked with nonpartisanship.
Mel and Rolf believe the very presence of witnesses builds peacemaking and peace-building into a moral force that can extend the life of treaties. These witnesses are also negotiators working through agreements that already exist or need to be implemented on by locals on the ground.
One of Rolf’s main contentions is that a majority of peace treaties fail within five years because of lack of follow-up. NP currently has operations in Sri Lanka and the Philippines and a small contingent in Sudan. Early next year, South Sudan is expected to vote for a split from the North, which will result in two countries six months later. Anticipating even further degradation of their quality of life, Southerners living in the North are already heading back to their ancestral homelands, where there are no jobs and little food.
It is estimated that more than 20% of the population of the South are already living on starvation diets. This will inevitably create tension. It’s easy to see how some peacekeepers might be able to help South Sudan mitigate conflict.
In Sudan, NP is positioned in three counties in Western Equatoria and in Greater Mundri. Tiffany Eashom, NP in-country Director write to me, “We are told repeatedly by civilians that… while peace agreements, boundary issues, resource use are being negotiated in capitals — civilians bear the brunt of the impact. Families, homes, crops are destroyed because most resources go high level issues.”
In 2009, violence in the South resulted in nearly 2000 deaths, mostly caused by increasingly violent cattle raids that seem to occur most often during the dry season — exactly when the country can be mobile and vote.
NP hopes to stand between the parties, continue to monitor Referendum-related activities and promote nonviolent response to conflict as well as work with schools that have had violence sufficiently intense enough to result in closure.
According to Easthom, “We have had direct requests from three other states — Northern Bahr El Gahzal,Unity State and Jonglei — all flashpoints for return to conflict scenarios and places where violent conflict occurs on multiple levels regularly — to deploy civilian peacekeeping teams and repeated requests to increase our presence in Western Equatoria.”
In the future, Peaceforce could operate as an option when treaties are being negotiated or as an alternative to underfunded yet expensive UN military operations that are often ineffective because they are seen as an outside military force preying on local populations.
Even when conflict zones are in poverty, the local and international costs of any war can rise to billions of dollars and create inflation. Once treaties are in place, unarmed peacekeepers may be better developing the peace and keeping it.
Would you like to join Nonviolent Peaceforce? About three-quarters of their complement are individuals recruited from local ethnic groups. They, and their international coworkers, go through a three-week educational screening period, after which everyone is paid to complete a two-month training course in peaceful, nonpartisan, conflict resolution. Each peacekeeper makes a two-year commitment. â€¨â€¨Despite his denial, Mel Duncan is raising an army.
Mel Duncan: My name is Mel Duncan and I am the founding director of Nonviolent Peaceforce. I was inspired to help create Nonviolent Peaceforce through a number of encounters, especially living in a monastery with a Vietnamese monk. It was upon leaving there that I wrote a thought-piece about civilian peacekeeping.
About six months later I found myself at The Hague Appeal for Peace in May 1999 where 9000 people had come together to put together an agenda to do away with war over the next century. And it was there that I found a number of people who had been working on the same concept of nonviolent peacekeeping.
We decided to put our resources together — our intellects, our spirits, our finances, our lives — to increase the scale, the scope and the professionalism in the international nature of civilian peacekeeping.
So we created a proposal and spent the next two years visiting with people in some of the most violent places in the world, learning from them what they were doing that was working and what, if anything, they could need from a group of well-trained unarmed civilians. We also conducted an academic research analysis of this work.
In late 2002, we convened organizations from around the world who were interested in creating Nonviolent Peaceforce and we officially began in December 2002.
MK: So before then, what were you doing?
MD: I’ve been an organizer all my life. I’ve been an organizer around issues of peace, justice, and sustainability since I was 16 years old.
MK: So where did you grow up?
MD: I grew up in Iowa and went to college in Minnesota.
MK: What were the hallmarks of your previous activism?
MD: I started organizing with people with disabilities in the early 1970s. That led to the first of many statewide statutes to protect people with disabilities. And that, along, with the work of a lot of other people around the country led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the early 1990s. [I organized] a variety of a other human rights initiatives. I also worked with a coalition of labor unions and peace organizations on Peace Conversion- â€¨â€¨MK: What is that?
MD: The conversion of military dependent industries to socially useful production.
MK: And when you worked on nuclear waste, what was that about?
MD: That was trying to stop the building of a high-level radioactive nuclear waste dump on banks of the Mississippi river a few meters away from a Native American reservation. That was an 18-month struggle and we lost, and the nuclear waste dump was built on Prairie Island and is still there.
MK: So, 2002 was the beginning. Rolf, were you involved?
Rolf Carriere: I was there at the Hague, but there were over 9,000 people there and that was not the time for us to meet. But in 1999, I had been to the meeting at the Parliament of the World Religions, in Capetown, South Africa. It was the second such meeting. I presented some papers there to about 15,000 people including the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I talked there about child survival and the kind of issues I was dealing with as a UNICEF country director in several countries — Bhutan, Burma, and Bangladesh and later Indonesia. And I came across someone who sat down for lunch who had a bunch of stencils which asked, “Do You Want to Create a Nonviolent Peaceforce?” So, I said to this guy, ‘can I have a copy?’ So I read it, and I thought, “Shit, why didn’t I think of that idea? This is actually a good idea. Why hasn’t The World come up with such an idea?” So I came back to Washington, and I called David Hartsough, whose name was on the card, and I said, “I’d be interested in helping you with this idea.”
And we did some brainstorming about what country would be the first for such a deployment. The places where it is not happening is all the conflict zones in the world so let’s go there and accompany health teams into those conflict zones and have “Zones of Peace” or “Corridors of Tranquility” and see if they could take place.
Soon thereafter, I was UNICEF representative for Indonesia. I could see violence happening in Papua New Guinea. And so I invited David Branch, someone who was already working with Mel, to come as a consultant for three months.
In 2005, I retired from the UN. Mel said, “Why don’t you become an advisor and let’s find a strategy to work with the UN?” It’s entirely clear that this idea needs the imprimatur, endorsement and even the active support of the UN even though we are not aiming to be a UN agency and even though we are not looking to work under the aegis of the UN. We are a global civil society organization made up from people all over the world. And responding to requests from people and organizations in the global south, people who are living in conflict zones and are threatened. So it is a transnational solidarity effort. And so I’ve been working as a pro bono advisor for the last five years. Averaging a day or day and a half a week. Sometimes a lot more.
MD: What Rolf is illustrating is a dynamic we have found over and over again. When we would lay out this vision of unarmed civilian Peaceforce, there will often be an air of recognition from people. People would say, “We did that in our village” or “I wrote a paper about this in university” or “My whole life has prepared me to do this.” And while David Hartsough and I are credited with starting the organization, we much more held the focus for a recurring vision that had occurred and recurred to enough people around the world that there was a critical mass of people who stepped forward and said, “Let’s do this.”
RC: What really interested me in the vision they had was to go to scale. In my 34 years at the UN almost entirely in Asian countries, I’d seen lots of well-intentioned small-scale activities that should be supported for sure but were never going to make a dent to meet the enormous needs that were there. So you need to think at a different scale. You need to really scale up in a quantum kind of way to begin to do that. So with regard to protection of civilians who are under threat, we have 115,000 blue helmets from the United Nations in 17 conflicts deployed right now. If you ask how many unarmed civilian peacekeepers there are out there — it’s just a few hundred. There is not even a thousand.
So the idea that Mel had was — let’s go for 2,000 to start, then we’ll be noticed. Because if you have 2,000 courageous people in conflict zones who are willing to stick their necks out, who are professionals, smart and well-trained and understand the conflict dynamic and who is in charge [on the ground] and how the chain of command works and if you will monitor and record all that is happening — then the next phase will be one of recognition of the concept. And our organization called Nonviolent Peaceforce will also be recognized. And people like yourself will come and record this and take this to a new level. The idea that you called didn’t surprise me.
MK: (laughs) You guys called me. â€¨â€¨RC: That surprises me even less.
MK: But that’s OK. Because even when we talked on the phone, you didn’t tell me anything about co-founder David Hartsough. But I made my first film about Iraq war conscientious objectors and guys who were in combat with enemies they could not see or meet. Now, if I am correct, he was a conscientious objector in 1959?
MD: David Hartsough is a lifelong Quaker. In 1955, as a young teenager, his father took him to Montgomery Alabama to take part in Church action to support the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He met a young, recently graduated Rev. Martin Luther King.
MK: So David is white and his father took him to support the black bus boycott?
MD: Which is the spark of the Civil Rights movement. Then David went on to Howard University and in 1960 took part with his classmates in the lunch counter sit-ins. As soon as exams were over, they went to Virginia where they had just made it a felony to sit at a segregated lunch counter. And as so often happened at that time, the police were not called, but the thugs were allowed in and attacked them at the counter. He’s organizing a trip to Iran right now.
MK: Good luck with that.
MD: It’s his second one…
MK: Is he your mentor?
MD: My associate, my collaborator. Really the way things broke down, he was much more the nonviolent theorist, and I am much more the implementer. So, together, we can get some things done.
MK: So what ideas did he have that were specifics you could apply yourself to?
MD: He had been advocating for large-scale civilian peacekeeping for quite a while. I was at the Hague, feeling rather discouraged, crammed into a room, and I hear this guy lay out the same vision I had — but his was explained as a question. I grabbed him by the arm and I said, “If you’re serious we have to start organizing right now.”
MK: So how did September 11th affect what you’re doing?
MD: On September 11th, 2001, I was actually at the European Parliament with a man who is now the Executive Director, Tim Wallis. I was located at our Brussels Office. And I was evacuated; everyone was evacuated because they thought that might be another target. And what we found was that there was a recognition on the part of many people that you could not deal with these kinds of acts within all the looming violence in the world by introducing more violence. That it didn’t make sense to invade Afghanistan or Iraq.
MK: But they didn’t realize that immediately.
MD: A lot of people did.
MK: On that day?
MD: Maybe not on that day, but soon afterwards. And certainly by the time of the proposals for those invasions.
MK: So you were automatically against the proposal to go to Afghanistan.
MK: Why?â€¨â€¨MD: Because it made no sense to me to invade a country to go after a lawless element that could easily transfer from one country to another.
MD: Who had been in Saudi Arabia, who’d been in Somalia. Now they happen to be in Afghanistan.
MK: Sudan, too.
MD: Secondly, I knew enough about history to know that nobody’s going to subdue Afghanistan. You can go back to Genghis Khan. Talk to the Soviets. The British. It just made no sense. It was a police action. And to deal with it with a military invasion makes no sense now, and made no sense then.
MK: So, when it happened, what were you thinking? “OK, this is bad.” But if you were President of the United States, what would you do? Assuming you got elected for your ideas, and then you were president, what would you have done?â€¨â€¨MD: I would have engaged with the international community about engaging in a police action that would have gone directly after the people responsible and held them accountable.
MK: But would you have used a military force with guns?
MD: I would have used a police force, yes.
MK: With guns.
MD: But not military. There’s a difference between police and military.
MD: There is.
MK: But I’m not sure in Afghanistan what the difference is.
MD: Well, it’s more precise. It doesn’t involve occupying territory. It doesn’t involve overthrowing governments. It involves pursuing and bringing to justice criminals.
MK: So, maybe a special forces operation from the military with the intent to apprehend and remove.
RC: But a global one, not a US.
MD:Not a unilateral.
RC: This was not an attack on the US only. This was an attack on civilization, full stop. So therefore, I think this merited an approach through the UN, not a single country.
MK: Does the UN have the ability of apprehending a person with the intent of a terrorist?
RC: That’s perhaps something that needs to be set up and this could have been an opportunity to set it up. The charter of the UN always foresaw that the UN would have a standing military force. It’s one of the first articles of the charter. It’s never been acted upon because clearly the US was the victor of the Second World War, with the Soviet Union an important second. But it was clear that the US was not going to cede to the UN its prominence due to the maintenance of peace and security. That it was going to be that power. And that to this day, is the big weakness of the UN. The UN then created the idea of peacekeepers. They were not mentioned in the charter of the UN. It was a Canadian proposal. The first deployment was between Israel and Egypt. But there’s never been a serious attempt to create a standing force that was ready to go. It takes months, sometimes years, before you have the full complement of the military peacekeepers in place. And at a very, very, high cost.
MK: So, then the next logical question is: would there have been a place, in fall 2001, for Nonviolent Peaceforce in Afghanistan?
MD: Probably not. We have a set of criteria that we look at and that we analyze very carefully before we go in. We have to be invited by local civil society. And we have to be in a place where we are able to protect. In the fall of 2001, there was not a war going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those had not been initiated. There were governments we disagreed with that were clearly repressive. I mean, I was in Iraq in 1999. I saw exactly what was happening. But we don’t invade countries because we disagree with them.
MK: So Peaceforce is a job, like any other job. It’s an army without weapons.
RC: It’s a force more than an army.
MD: It’s a moral force.
RC: Because it takes a lot of conviction, and courage to go in there and to do this. I mean people are damn conscious. This is not just a 9 to 5 kind of job. In fact, quite often it is a 24-7 job. Particularly when you are doing the direct bodyguarding of someone who is under threat of assassination. So it is, this tough work. It’s not something you can fall asleep over. â€¨â€¨MD: This isn’t just where you sit around and sing Kumbaya.
MD: As to our basic ability to protect — one of the primary sources is relationship. And building trust in relationship on the local levels. And that doesn’t come quick.
RC: With all the conflict parties.
MK: So you need to build the force, you need to build the people in the force. You are building an army. You are building an army.
MD: They are a force of… nonviolent peacekeepers.
MK:I never went to bootcamp. So you guys seem to have actual bootcamp. What do you call it?
MD: We call it Mission Preparedness Training.
MK: You need a cool name.
MD: That’s not very cool, is it? That’s the first three weeks. It focuses on three primary concepts. One: The primacy of local actors. Two: nonpartisanship. And Three: nonviolence. So people come out of there knowledgeable about how nonviolent peacekeeping works. This also serves as a protracted screening, so not everybody makes it out of this. If they do, then they go on to in-country training, which typically takes 6 to 8 weeks.
MK: It seems to me that if I was in the military in the past, and I wanted to keep doing the things I was doing in the military, but not do them in a military way, I would seek you out.
MD: (shows a photograph): This guy right here is a veteran of the Irish military and was on UN armed peacekeeping missions. And now he’s our security coordinator. We do have a number of military veterans who have served with us.
MK: And it seems like if you ever needed to recruit, they would be perfect. After all, they’re doing Blackwater things, but you’re doing the things they thought they would be doing when they first joined the military.
MD: There’s a little bit of a pay disparity between Blackwater and us. â€¨â€¨MK: Oh, come on. You’re just starting out. (Laughs). Would you try to form a Peaceforce and place it somewhere where there are two factions you equally, strongly, dislike? Where both sides have committed reprehensible acts?
MD: We’re totally nonpartisan, and lots of times, it’s pretty damn easy.
RC: There’s not really a question of “liking a party.” By being there, by being proactively present, you are able to deter violence and human rights violations because these people understand that you represent the eyes and the ears of the world. You’re witnessing, you’re monitoring what’s going on. And people don’t like to be seen, they all have their vulnerabilities. They all would like to be Prime Minister. They don’t want to go to The Hague or the I.C.C. for being the perpetrators of some act. So that is how you function in a conflict situation where all the parties are perpetrators.
MD: Even in the perpetrator, it’s important to recognize the humanity in that person. And I can remember spending one night, early on in the Sri Lanka project with one of the leaders of the Tamil Tigers. Clearly a group that executed — and that’s the proper verb — some very brutal acts, for a long time. And this fellow was killed a year and a half ago. And at the end of spending the evening with him, he had been a child soldier himself, he walked with a limp because he’d been shot. By the end of the evening, he was sharing with me his deep sorrow that he and his wife were unable to conceive children. So, there’s humanity in all of us, and it’s up to us to recognize it.
MK: But do you try to use that? Is it a ploy?
MD: A ploy?
RC: You appeal to their humanity. You appeal to that sensitivity, to that vulnerability. Because that’s the only way you can dissuade people from doing what they might have been planning to do. There is no other way. And just by being there, and being in a relationship with these people — no matter all the reprehensible things they may have been doing — that helps at least for now — here and now — to not kill someone.
Even if there were individuals who felt under threat, maybe they were running for political office. And they felt under threat. They could turn to us and ask for protection. And we individualize our protective accompaniment, is what we call it. And it can be for a week, maybe for a month. And the same with communities, they may feel under threat and they may ask us to stay with them because the argument is that if there are eyes and ears, the perpetrators will not create any acts of violence.
MK: When you stage a Peaceforce, it’s a combination of nationals and foreigners?
RC: It’s very important because the people from the global level bring a certain strength and independence. And the people from the local level, they know the culture, they know the language — they know what to do, what not to do. And it’s the combination — the Glocal combination — that actually provides you with the formula where you can get the best of both worlds. If it were only international, we would be making many mistakes. If there’s only nationals, particularly people from the ethnic groups for example, the religious groups that are at war against one another, it’s not going to work. The combination is vital.
MK: Talk about Sudan. Why are you there?
MD: We were invited by two civil society groups. SONAD — the Student Organization for Nonviolence and Development and the Institute for the Promotion of Civil Society. They actually took buses to come to our International Assembly in Nairobi and presented this proposal. We reviewed it and looked at it according to criteria. Based on that, our governing council, which is elected by our member organizations, green signaled it. So we sent an exploratory team for three months to work with our local partners. That was November 2009 through February 2010. Based on that, they put together another proposal, which the governing council accepted. And so we started raising money and doing the training. So our first team hit the ground in late May early June. We’ve been invited because of the Referendum. Both to protect civilians and prevent violence in the run up to the Referendum. And then also, [we will] do the same in the post Referendum period. So we anticipate we will be there at least two years. â€¨â€¨MK: Why are you in Western Equatoria?
MD: There’s the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army, a terrorist group once based in Uganda now spread in small amounts throughout South Sudan). There’s other more historical points of violence between the herders and the farmers, and different South-South tribal potentials. And all of that is happening right now in a tinderbox that could explode into a war that nobody wants, like prior to 2005. So if we can help in a little way to prevent violence and prevent those sparks from starting a fire, then that’s been a good day’s work. We have a provable, workable method that will protect civilians and prevent violence. We shouldn’t have to scrape to send more peacekeepers.
(December 28, 2010) — “As the only organization focused solely on the direct protection of civilians…, there is both a moral imperative and a strategic opening for NP to take a lead role in [Sudan’s north-south borderlands].” Tiffany Easthom, Country Director.
In November, Nonviolent Peaceforce conducted two assessment missions along the tense border dividing north and south Sudan, one in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and one in Unity state, areas selected for their strategic significance, conflict dynamics, and importance as sites of return for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Sudan’s North-South Border: A Role For Civilian Peacekeepers?
In November 2010, Nonviolent Peaceforce conducted two assessment missions along the tense border dividing north and south Sudan. Country Director Tiffany Easthom and Program Officer Anna Stein were invited by AECOM, a US contractor, to visit Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Unity State, areas selected for their strategic significance, conflict dynamics, and importance as sites of return for internall displaced persons (IDPs).
The mission team met with a broad spectrum of actors from state level government, county level government, civil society and international organizations, and surveyed the situation on the ground first-hand. The purpose was to assess the current and projected conflict dynamics, operating environment, existing protection and prevention mechanisms, and entry points for unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
Northern Bahr El Ghazal
Only 30% of the villages in Northern Bahr el Ghazal have access to improved drinking water and and 93% of villages have no access to health services. Approximately 140 000 people are considered severely food insecure, and an additional 309 000 people are moderately food insecure. Conflict between the pastoralist Dinka and Arab nomadic Misseriya and Rezeigat communities increases during the dry season migrations, resulting in abductions, cattle rustling, and burning of homes. The state is also exposed to violence spilling over from the conflict in Darfur: in November, the Sudanese military conducted four separate aerial bombardments inside Northern Bahr el Ghazal, pursuing rebels from Darfur.
NP had the chance to attend a reconciliation workshop facilitated by the US Institute of Peace in Wara Wara. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together Dinka and Misseriya for dialogue regarding migration-conflict.The common message from both sides was a shared interest in mutual coexistence coupled with a mutual frustration regarding broken or unimplemented agreements.
Since 2008, there have been many workshops and many conferences, but little ground-level support for stabilization and violence reduction. The mission team assessed this as an obvious entry point for unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
In Unity State, the humanitarian situation is no less dire: despite the fact that it contains much of Sudanâ€™s oil reserves, the benefits of resource extraction have not trickled down to the state’s citizens. Half of the households in Unity State are food insecure, one-fifth of them severely so; 42% of villages use untreated river water as the main source of water. Only 19% of villages have a school of any kind, and fewer than one in three girls are enrolled in formal education.
As the site of a disputed border and rich oilfields, and the battleground for recent political and militia conflicts, Unity State regularly experiences localized medium- to high-intensity violence. Cattle, land-use and migratory conflicts are particularly acute along the state’s borders. As observed by the assessment team, these issues are virtually identical to those in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. In recent months, rumors circulated that a troop build-up is occurring on both sides of the north-south border; NP was only able to verify a build-up on the south side.
NP met Mayom County Commissioner John Madeng, who identified a number of key conflict drivers in the county. In March of this year, an estimated one thousand heavily armed Dinka civilians carried out an attack in an area inhabited by Nuer, in which over 1800 cattle were stolen and ten people killed, including children. Commissioner Madeng said there have been 123 incidents of “revenge killings” in Mayom in 2010, and attributed these to citizens engaging in vigilante justice. The Commissioner has formed fledgling committees intended to deal with issues of conflict resolution, peace-building and security and expressed great concern that without technical support and security, these communities would not become effective. Providing protection, de-escalating violent conflict and supporting the implementation of these committees are key entry points for unarmed civilian peacekeeping in the county.
Unity State has also received over 27 000 IDP returnees since October; IDPs are returning from the north due to concerns about their status and security if the January 2011 referendum results in South Sudanâ€™s secession. Many IDPs are now living in schools in the state capital, Bentiu, waiting to return to home villages; displaced women and children are at heightened risk of sexual- and gender-based violence and abuse. NP met with the South Sudan General Women’s Association, whose members highlighted the need for civilian mechanisms designed to monitor the security of vulnerable IDP returnees.
Urgent Need, Urgent Response
NP has had significant success in its efforts to protect civilians and reduce violence in Western Equatoria State (WES) since establishing a field presence there in mid-2010. With support from the Government of Belgium, our work in WES will continue into 2011, with a particular focus on averting and de-escalating violence resulting from the January 2011 referendum on South Sudanâ€™s independence.
But last month’s mission made clear that the needs are equally urgent on the north-south border, and NP is expoloring a possible response. According to Country Director Tiffany Easthom, “Our strategy would be to position civilian peacekeeping teams at flash points along the north-south border area. As the only organization focused solely on the direct protection of civilians from physical violence, there is both a moral imperative and a strategic opening for NP to take a lead role in this region.”
If activated, the short- to medium-term impact of this strategy would be violence reduction, stabilization and direct civilian protection in a vulnerable, under-served area. The longer-term impact would be civilian peacekeeping teams able to take on a potential lead role in the civilian component of border monitoring, should next year’s referendum create a new international frontier.
Due to the strategic relevance of the border area, donor interest in stabilization and security programming is high. Given the prevalence of oil, the heavily-disputed border demarcation process, and the large-scale influx of returning IDPs there is particular donor and political interest in Unity State. Multiple organizations are conducting assessment missions in the area and donors can expect a barrage of proposals in the immediate future.
There is significant and vocal interest and support from county, state and regional government officials for an international civilian peacekeeping presence, and NP will seek to leverage that support if expansion to the borderlands takes place.
For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about NP in Sudan, click here:
As 2010 draws to a close, we are delighted to share with you what a difference your support has made in the lives of civilians in urgent need of protection. With deepest thanks for the lives you help save:
2010 Accomplishments And Moving Forward:
Goals for 2011
Created Peace Committees in schools. A school was so wracked by fighting that it became impossible for students to attend classes. NP worked with teachers and students to develop a peace committee, providing a forum for students to proactively address conflict triggers. The school has re-opened and students are continuing their educations.
Prevented cattle raiding violence. Conflict between migratory cattle-herders and farmers often escalates to violence, kidnapping and death. Stolen cattle and kidnapped children were returned after NP brought community leaders together to discuss the raids and alternatives to violence. Today the two communities continue to coexist peacefully.
Encouraged leaders to see eye-to-eye. Friction between a new governor and his predecessor caused regional instability soon after the 2010 election. At a conference in the state capital, NP facilitated a face-to-face meeting between the leaders, which resulted in a cooling of tension.
Sri Lanka Accomplishments
Protected and trained election monitors. During tense January 2010 presidential elections, NP accompanied, protected, and trained 60 Sri Lankan election monitors. As a result, the vote was conducted freely and fairly at 79 polling stations across the country.
Trained over 200 people in unarmed civilian peacekeeping. NP pioneered workshops and mentoring in Sri Lanka to help vulnerable communities address their security challenges. More than two-thirds of participants were women, and NP continues to showcase the value of women’s engagement and leadership on security and protection issues.
Protected children and prevented disappearances.
NP is now the only international organization doing civilian protection work in Sri Lanka. Our work was officially approved by the Presidential Task Force. NP continues to work closely with local groups and state partners like the Human Rights Commission on child protection, disappearances, and security issues.
Accepted an official role on the International Monitoring Team. NP is now protecting civilians and encouraging confidence in the peace process alongside the International Red Cross and the Mindanao People’s Caucus. This official role is an extraordinary honor and a testament to the confidence invested in NP by stakeholders.
Protected people who were forced by violence to flee their homes. NP made hundreds of visits to evacuation centers and private homes in the most vulnerable communities. And when a local feud erupted, peacekeepers ensured the safety of displaced people by repeatedly visiting an elementary school that had been turned into an evacuation center.
Facilitated dialogue between Catholics and Muslims. North Cotabato has been hard-hit by armed violence involving members of Catholic and Muslim communities, and between ethnic Moros and the non-Moro population. NP dialogues have helped local leaders to de-escalate tension and create long-term solutions.
Presented at the prestigious Caux Forum on Human Security in Switzerland. NP was invited to present unarmed civilian peacekeeping to an audience of 250 peace-building professionals from 41 countries, including ambassadors, academics, imams, bishops and a king.
Met with UN and international partners in New York City and Geneva. NP made the case for unarmed civilian peacekeeping as an effective alternative to military peacemaking to UN peacekeeping veterans, senior humanitarians, and other key policymakers.
Presented at the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists in Qatar. NP brought unarmed civilian peacekeeping to a new audience, and several individuals from both state and non-state institutions approached NP for further consultation and engagement.
Moving Forward: Goals For 2011
Implement an effective, comprehensive civilian protection scheme in Mindanao that creates space for the renewed peace process to move forward.
Open a new office in Mvolo County in Western Equatoria. Establish an international protective presence in volatile Unity State along the border between north and south Sudan.
Lauch NP’s first European project in the South Caucasus and provide nonpartisan, third-party intervention to help ease the conflict between Georgia and the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Shift from a focus on protective accompaniment of threatened individuals in Sri Lanka toward strengthening development of community-based protection and violence reduction mechanisms.
NP is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Nonviolent Peaceforce USA, 425 Oak Grove St. Minneapolis Minnesota 55403. 612.871.0005.
US Navy Displacing Heartbroken South Korean Villagers Guest post by Bruce Gagnon & Sung-Hee Choi / All Voices.com
HAENAM, South Korea (December 27, 2010) — As I write this, the people of the Gangjeong village on Jeju Island in South Korea are in the midst of the fight of their lives. It is today that they face down the Navy and the plans to destroy their sacred coastline for the Navy base where US Aegis destroyers (built here in Bath, Maine) will be ported.
As I write this they might be sitting in the road trying to block the construction machinery from beginning work. They might be getting arrested in large numbers. They are so isolated and few around the world know anything of their struggle to save the rocks, the water, the coral, the fish and their way of life.
On Christmas day a Catholic mass was held for the villagers along the rocky coastline by the Bishop of Jeju Island. Below is the latest report we got from Global Network board member Sung-Hee Choi who has been at the village for the last couple of weeks standing with the people and helping to spread word about their fight to others in Korea and around the world:
In the Joongduk coast – the planned naval base area – snowflakes fell onto the beautiful coast rocks and sea, as well, displaying a mysterious view as the sea horizon became clouded. It was a terrible feeling to think that the most beautiful rocks and sea in the Jeju Island might be covered with concrete if the naval base construction is enforced.
At 3:00 pm, there was a peace mass, called, â€˜the Christmas missal to save life and peace of the Jeju Island,â€™ lead by Fr. Kang Woo-Il, Chairman of the Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Conference of Korea & the Bishop of the Catholic Jeju district, along with many fathers and nuns in the Jeju island. The event was hosted by the Special Committee for the Island of Peace, Catholic Jeju district. About 400~500 followers and Gangjeong villagers gathered and represented their will to save the Jeju island of Peace from the naval base construction.
Bishop Kang Woo-Il led the mass and said, “Military base cannot save peace and life” and that he “would be together with the lonely and oppressed Gangjeong villagers.”
The least we can do is to let others know about this terrible moment so that the valiant struggle of the Gangjeong villagers is not done without the world knowing about it. Please pass on word about this and also call the South Korean embassy in your country and protest the construction of the Navy base for US warships on Jeju Island.
As you can see in the small yellow signs being held by the people in the crowd that read “No War” the villagers understand that construction of this Navy base, so close to China’s coastline, is a wildly provocative move in the US military strategy to surround China. It will only bring more conflict to their part of the world.
Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, published this today (12/27/2010) on his blog Organizing Notes. His first person opinion column is reprinted with his permission.
Resistance Begins on Jeju Island Bruce Gagnon / Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
(December 27, 2010) — I’ve not yet heard from Sung-Hee Choi yet, she might have been arrested for all I know.
It is obvious that the Navy has pushed through with their cement trucks and will now begin to pour concrete over the sea life that lives among the rocks along the coastline of the Gangjeong village.
All of this in order to build a Navy base that is needed as the US Navy builds more ships and deploys them in the region. Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snowe (Republican) has said over and over again to the media in our state that more Navy ships are needed to “protect” against China’s expanding power. There can be now doubt that this base has nothing to do with North Korea.
It is all about projecting power toward China in order to block their ability to import oil on ships along the waterway between Jeju Island and mainland China. The Chinese import 80% of their oil via this sea route and if the US can successfully “choke off” their ability to transport oil then the US, who can’t compete with China’s growing economy, would be able to still hold the “keys” to their economic engine.
It is hardball politics that the US is playing here in this expensive and dangerous game. The people on Jeju Island, sadly enough, are just pawns in the way of imperial designs.
(December 28, 2010) — The protests against the Navy base on Jeju Island (in the Gangjeong village) moved to the biggest city on the island today — Jeju City — as activists attempted to set up an encampment vigil outside the Island assembly building. (You should remember that Korea is about 13 hours ahead of us in time.)
Sung-Hee Choi reports from Jeju Island:
Yesterday, while I was in the village, the Pan Island Committeee Against the Military Base confronted the Jeju City authorities and police as the city did not allow the activists’ tent vigil in front of the Island assembly. One member was arrested and two women — of whom, one was greatly wounded in her face — were carried to the hospital.
Otherwise, the Lee Myung bak [right-wing] national government announced on Dec. 27 that it would manage 10 ports as the governmental management port including Gangjeong (Civilian-military complex), Hwasoon (maritime police port) in the Jeju island, and Chuja Island in the southern part, near the Jeju Island. The other two ports will be in the East Sea (Japan Sea) while five ports will be in the western sea. People say the plan must be against China.
Bruce K. Gagnon is Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652, Brunswick, ME 04011. (207) 443-9502