Friday, August 28, 2009

A little Solzhenitsyn this morning...

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of hearts, there remains… an unuprooted small corner of evil.

—Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I had a long argument with myself on the drive home today about humanitarian aid, and the international community, and a place called Ezo. Ezo is out on the border of Western Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic. It has the misfortune of being where the Lord’s Resistance Army, of Uganda civil war fame, have chosen to move in and wreak havoc. The long argument I was having was about the contents of an email I received which read:

I’ve just received the following from the ECS Development Officer in Ezo Diocese. The situation there is horrendous can you organise help?

I am hereby submitting this emergency need for help to people in Ezo. Just in the last month there have been about 13 attacks on people in Ezo. People around Ezo have been sqeezed to Ezo town but last week on August 12 & 13 Ezo town was seriously attacked at night by a very big groups of LRA. In which three people died on spot including one of our Lay Readers. Those who have been abducted, their number cannot be established because so many people are still missing. This attacks occured within Ezo town where there are already 17,000 thousand internal displaced persons and refugees from Congo have been settled.

Making it more worse the only hospital in Ezo town was targeted by the LRA and all the medicines and medical equipments were all taken and the remain one they could not carry were all burnt down. Three of the medical personnels were also taken.
During this attacks many people lost their properties more especially food items as it was the most targeted items by the LRA. The situation on the ground is terrible and need immediate attention.

The church itself have lost 2 of its Arch Deanries, four Deanries and 12 parishes. Four of our pastors and lay readers have been killed so far. As the church we are unable to react to people needs so we need help more especially medicine and food items so that we can be in possition to react to people's needs.

Ezo has been cut off from Tambura districts which is 54 miles from Ezo and Yambio which is 100 miles from Ezo. All the movement on the way has to be by the help of military. Now that most of those who can afford to travel have run to those two districts through the help of military escote. But those who can not afford to travel more especially the old one are still in Ezo waiting only for when they will be killed because the LRA attacks has just become a routine act.

So as a church we can not run way leaving people behind in such situation. So we need your help and all those who can be in positiuon to respond on this serious situation.


Diocesan Development Officer
ECS Diocese of Ezo.

Through the bumpy, watery ditches out to the Juba neighbourhood of Muniki where I live, following a painfully slow and overloaded minibus I had this debate. Past the trucks of SPLA soldiers headed to their barracks; past the huts of the squatters; past the motorcycle taxis stuck in the mud of the rainy season. The argument went a little something like this:

‘What sort of person can go home and make beans and rice and cut tomatoes and onions and sit down at the table when you know these things?’

‘How is my not eating going to stop something over which I have no control?’

‘Does it make you a hero or a horrible person that you can turn off your computer and sit down to dinner when there are people who will, only a couple hundred miles away, be kidnapped and killed throughout the night?’

‘Whether I eat dinner or not it doesn’t really matter. They’re going to die either way.’

‘Is it really enough that you are ‘here’ and ‘doing something’. It might be enough to get you to sleep but is it enough? Really?’

‘What are the options? Not being here? How is that better? What does that help – except that you don’t have to watch. It makes drinking your latte easier but it doesn’t change anything.’
‘And, how, exactly is your ‘being here’ changing things?’

That is a question I cannot answer. I should have learned by now to avoid having arguments with myself.

I think that there are all sorts of things that we tell ourselves – that I tell myself - to make myself feel better when confronted with the chasm between human need and our ability to address those needs. Everything that we say is right and true even if they’re not fully reconcilable. That there is value in being ‘here’; that you ‘have to be the change you want to see in the world’; that one person can make a difference; that doing something is, quite often, better than doing nothing. But it is also true that you cannot actually ever save the world – some days you can’t save anyone; that this is someone else’s war; that you are never going to be able to do enough.

And into this chasm you can slip in these arguments with yourself about whether ‘protection through presence’ is actually a valid argument. The argument that being around and watching might make ‘less horrible’ things happen because you’re watching. . Frankly, doing the watching sucks because you don’t feel much like a hero, or helpful, or even that you useful at all. All you are doing is watching people slide into an abyss and, as Neitchze said, ‘when you stare long into the abyss, the abyss also stares into you.’ All that you feel is small and helpless standing on the brink of the abyss with the power of tens of millions of dollars, the influence of the most powerful military powers on earth, and the sway of the entire international community behind you. You stand there knowing there is nothing that you can do for the people of Ezo tonight.


Whether you eat dinner or not. Whether you sleep or not. Whether you write a blog. There is nothing you can do.


Friday, August 14, 2009

New dangers everyday...

A lot of things can happen to you in Southern Sudan which you can avoid in most other places of the world. You could pick up any number of diseases - including ones that should be eradicated. You could get bit by a snake, scorpion or spider. You can get dropped off in some remote site and not get picked up for six months. But now, apparently, there's a new one to add to the list.

A security advisory has just been circulated - importance: high - subject line: Leopard around UNMIS Camp.

A leopard. Riiight. I can deal with a hijacking, hostages, road accidents, armed robberies, even aerial bombings but I have no training whatsoever to do in a leopard attack. This would all be less disconcerting if it weren't the very place where I go for a run a few times a week and I don't think I can outrun a leopard. But, let's return to the UN advisory because, surely, they must give some helpful advice...

And here it is: "Be extra vigilant and careful. Report to security immediately on spotting the leopard."

Huh. Well. That's, ummmm, not really helpful. So, I decided to take my security into my own hands and googled, 'what to do if being chased by a leopard.' After about a minute searching I came across actual advice...most of it slightly disconcerting so I will interject my thoughts and comments as we go along:

Leopards usually shy away from humans, and are normally not dangerous if you leave them alone. They are only likely to become aggressive when threatened or provoked. If wounded, cornered or suddenly disturbed, they can become exceedingly dangerous. [KH: great...avoid cornering, got it.].

In certain parts of Africa healthy Leopards have preyed on humans, usually killing women and children. [KH: That doesn't bode so well]. Such behaviour is, however, atypical of Leopards in the southern African subregion. Old and sick Leopards, unable to catch wild prey, may, however, very exceptionally attack humans.

Apparently one can pass close by a hiding Leopard and as long as your eyes don't meet, it will allow one to pass. But the moment it is aware that one has noticed it, it will flee, or if cornered, may attack. [KH: Let me get this straight...we're supposed to be watching for the leopard but, god forbid, you should see it - and it you - at the same time?!] !Xõ trackers maintain that you must never look a Leopard in the eyes when confronted by it, since you will infuriate it. By pretending to ignore it, it will most likely choose to avoid contact. [KH: Sounds like some people I know.]

If you see a Leopard and you are not walking towards it, continue walking and do not look at it or stand still. If it realises that it has been seen, it may feel threatened and attack. When you encounter a Leopard at close range, and if it warns you by roaring, retreat slowly, moving sideways away rather than directly backwards, and don't stare at it. [KH: Yeah, right. Like I'm going to remember that after I've made eye contact.] Try not to frighten the Leopard, and don't throw anything at it. Don't feed it as this is likely to make it bolder and possibly even aggressive.

Once committed to a full attack, only a fatal bullet will stop a charging Leopard. [KH: When did we start talking about 'commitment' to an attack? I'm only committed to getting the heck out of there.] It charges very fast and low on the ground. It embraces its victim, with claws extended, and full use is made of the powerful dew claws. The victim is mauled with teeth and all four clawed feet, and the killing bite is directed at the back of the head or neck or the throat, the victim being throttled or has the jugular vein severed. [KH: Gulp. Nice. Spare no details, guys, please!]

There have been cases where people successfully defended themselves against Leopards with knives and even used stones to hit them on the head. [KH: I can't even hit small flightless birds with stones. I'm not going to take out a charging leopard.] In some cases unarmed people have been able to choke the Leopard to death or make the Leopard retreat by punching it on the nose. [KH: Well, at least it's better advice than, 'be vigilant'] There are probably few people capable of such feats, but since one does not always carry firearms in many of the areas where Leopards are found, one might well keep in mind that in the extremely unlikely event of being attacked by a Leopard, it is possible to defend oneself.

There now, I feel better. You learn something new every day, don't you? Shout out to 'cybertracker' for the advice:

Monday, August 03, 2009

And more amusing emails...

I seem to be on a run of receiving amusing emails. Or, I'm losing it due to the sheer volume of emails I'm receiving. Either way, I just received an email which stated:

From: ngoforumSC2009 On Behalf Of [someone who shall remain nameless]
Sent: 03 August 2009 14:16
To: [other nameless individuals]
Subject: [SC NGO Forum] RE: EC

This was a meeting that we agreed to organize with the EC, and I have just sent a confirmation email. Obviously the original timing would have been best to organize at the same time as an existing SC meeting, however it seems that I had the dates a little confused and that this doesn’t actually correspond with an existing SC meeting – my apologies. If Jesus is still able to meet then perhaps it would be best to meet at his convenience. [emphasis mine] I think that the plan for the meeting with the EC was to just make an introduction of the SC and understand more about what the EC priorities etc are within Sudan and how the NGO community can best engage.
I always think it's best to meet Jesus at his convenience. Words to live by. But then I promptly received another email in response which is pasted below:


I have just talked to Jesus and he’s happy to come next week.

Some of us have a BSF meeting this evening so it would have clashed.


And MORE words to live by. I mean down through the ages there have been debates as to the second coming and the news comes to me by email just during the course of my day!

Of course, all of this should be less amusing given that our European Commission's rep's name is, obviously, hispanic and his name is: Jesus Orus-Baguena but that doesn't stop me from having a good chuckle.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


To quote from an email I just received:

Dear All,

Kindly refer to the attached detail budget breakdown Micro plan as per each State. However, EPI,MoH/GoSS has completed transfer of July, 20,2009, for routine EPI acceleration - GAVI funding. is for you to implement July acceleration.
NB; three whom we did not transfer it's fund are those whom we did not received their liqudation reports e.g E.EQ, W.EQ. and Jonglei.