Reading Frenzy ~ An Independent Press Emporium

Ten Things You Can Do For Sudan

January 12, 2007: We were very honored to host Valentino Achak Deng, the subject of Dave Eggers' latest book What is the What, at a recent Reading Frenzy event. The crowd poured out onto the sidewalk and I'm sorry we couldn't accomodate everyone, but considering the fact that we were all gathered there to listen to the story of a man who's epic journey took him on a trek from Southern Sudan to Ethiopia on foot and brought him into contact with enemy soldiers, liberation rebels, hyenas and lions, and disease and starvation, I don't think anyone has room to complain -- read the book for Christ's sake! Anyhow, I ran off a few dozen copies of this list that Valentino and Dave created and promised to post it when we ran out. Here you go!

1. WRITE A LETTER TO YOUR SENATOR OR REPRESENTATIVE: Every time Valentino and Dave talk to experts on U.S. policy on Sudan, they ask what citizens can do to help. They always insist that one of the best things is to write a letter -- an actual, personalized letter -- insisting that this representative or senator do something about the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and about the gross misconduct of the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Remember that in 2005, the U.S. brought to bear great influence in brokering the peace between the north (Khartoum) and the south (the Sudan People's Liberation Army). When the U.S. wants to influence the Sudanese government, they surely have the power to do so. For some ideas of what to say to your elected officials, read on. 


2. TELL WASHINGTON THAT TRADING INFORMATION FOR DARFURIANS IS UNACCEPTABLE: Many experts believe that one of the primary reasons Washington is dragging their feet in doing much about Darfur is due to Khartoum's help in their War on Terror. To back up: In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden spent six years in Khartoum. Sudan is where he built his network of terror. While being hosted by the Sudanese government, he provided Khartoum with millions of dollars. In the late 1990s, after the bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the U.S. exerted great pressure on Sudan to expel bin Laden. They did so. (Again, the U.S. can have great influence in Sudan when they want to.) After 9-11, the Khartoum government became a very cooperative partner in the War on Terror. The U.S. could count on Sudan's intelligence community to provide information about any suspected terrorists who had worked with bin Laden in Sudan. Now, because the Sudanese have proven themselves useful in Washington's terrorist hunts, many experts believe that the Bush administration is loathe to push Sudan too hard on the genocide in Darfur, lest Khartoum cease to be helpful in the War on Terror. These same experts believe strongly that the U.S. need not be so timid. The U.S. can still exert pressure on Khartoum without fear of losing a partner in intelligence-gathering. And even if they do lose this partner, we believe that trading the lives of hundreds of thousands of Darfurians is not worth whatever bits of information we're able to glean from Khartoum's intelligence. 


3. SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUPPORT SUDAN: A number of nonprofits are aiding refugees and are working for peace in Sudan. Among them Save the Children: When Valentino and Dave traveled to Sudan in 2003, they stayed in the compound of Save the Children's base in Marial Bai. Save the Children is involved in many efforts to aid the Sudanese who have suffered as a result of civil war, and has been instrumental in bringing former slaves and abductees back to their villages of origin. Concern: Valentino and Dave flew on a Concern cargo flight back to Marial Bai. Concern brings food and supplies to war-ravaged areas. Their work in Sudan now focuses on nutrition, water sanitation, and shelter for people affected by the war.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):maintained the refugee camps at Pinyudo and Kakuma mentioned in What is the What. The agency is now working to help refugees return to their communities in southern Sudan, and to make the reintegration process a safe and sustainable one. International Crisis Group: This is a worldwide think tank that monitors, analyzes, and suggests solutions to conflicts and humanitarian crises around the world. Home of John Prendergast, one of the foremost American experts on Sudan — and the expert on whom Valentino and Dave continually rely. We believe that their work in Sudan, and on U.S. policy toward Sudan, is crucial. Note: This list is far from complete. 

4. SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS LOBBYING FOR AN END TO GENOCIDE IN SUDAN: Examples: The Save Darfur Coalition: The SDC includes more than 170 organizations working toward more international involvement in combating the killing in Darfur. Contributions allow them to continue raising awareness in the media and directing pressure toward policymakers. Genocide Intervention Network: GI-Net supports African Union peacekeepers currently on the ground in Sudan by channeling private donations into the resources they need and catalyzing government support for the peacekeepers.  

5. SUPPORT THE VALENTINO ACHAK DENG FOUNDATION: Valentino is the director of a new foundation which will direct all the income from What Is the What. The funds will go to the following: 

  • The educations of other Lost Boys in America: As can be seen in Valentino's life, even with support networks, it's very difficult for Sudanese in America to attain college educations. Valentino intends to give as many college scholarships as his foundation can sustain. 
  • The Literacy Center of Marial Bai: in the summer of 2007, Valentino will travel back to Marial Bai and will begin work on a large complex in Marial Bai which will feature a library (the first-ever in the region, where any books at all are scarce); a women's education center (in a region where school for girls and women is discouraged); and a youth activity center (where youth can learn leadership and conflict resolution skills, while also enjoying sports and crafts and other constructive activities). 
  • To learn more, visit www.valentinoachakdeng.com. To donate, send your tax-deductible donation to The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, 849 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. You will be sent a notice confirming the donation and its tax deductibility. 

6. SUPPORT SUDANESE COMMUNITIES IN YOUR REGION: There are Sudanese all over the United States, and it doesn't take long to find a community near you. Rest assured that communities of exiles and refugees near you can use your help — financially, logistically, and with the myriad other adjustments to life in the United States. 

7. SUPPORT DIVESTMENT EFFORTS: The Sudan Divestment Task Force is coordinating dozens of “targeted divestment” campaigns around the world. Their approach focuses on maximizing impact on the Sudanese government while protecting Sudanese civilians and the organizations that provide for them. Since U.S.-based pension funds have more than $90 billion invested in Sudan-related holdings, the potential impact is significant. California has already adopted the targeted divestment model, and legislation is pending in several other states. You can help by examining your own investments (the task force provides a screening tool on its website-- www.sudandivestment.org, and by getting involved in campaigns in your area—in your city, your state, your school, or your company. www.sudandivestment.org

8. SUPPORT THE PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT OF SOUTHERN SUDAN: According to the peace agreement signed between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, in 2011 the south will be able to vote on whether or not they want to secede from the north and become their own autonomous country. This is the course favored by Valentino Deng and most southern Sudanese. But in order for this to happen, the international community needs to maintain pressure on Khartoum. If the current course continues, whereby the world stands idly by and watches Khartoum annihilate its own people in Darfur, there will be little chance that the Sudanese government will honor their agreement to allow the secession of southern Sudan. Already the southern Sudanese are preparing for another civil war. But it doesn't have to be this way. If the world supports the southern Sudanese financially and politically, the nascent government of southern Sudan will grow stronger, and Khartoum will find it more difficult to violate their agreement. 

9) PRESS FOR PUNITIVE MEASURES AGAINST THE REGIME: The same government prosecuting the genocide in Sudan is the one that was primarily responsible for 2 million deaths in southern Sudan. How long are we going to allow this to occur without imposing some kind of cost? In your letters to members of Congress, you should demand that they support UN sanctions on responsible Sudanese officials and their businesses, and demand that the U.S. declassifies and shares its considerable intelligence with the International Criminal Court to accelerate indictments against those officials. 

10) WORK THROUGH YOUR PLACE OF WORSHIP: If you belong to a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, get your community involved in Sudan advocacy. Many national religious organizations have taken up the cause, but it is more meaningful when a local group contacts their Congressperson or Senator and tells them that this issue is important to them as voters and as people of faith.