Monday, April 16, 2007

Google Maps the Darfur Crisis

Great news! Now you can sit back in the comfort of your own home and actually see (provided you have access to high-speed internet) the physical results of genocide in Darfur! You don't even need to go to Washington D.C. to rally for the cause. The United States Holocaust Museum and have collaborated in adding satellite images and detailed information on 1,600 villages in the Darfur region to the already popular Google Earth program. Since the Sudanese government strictly controls access to the region, the new feature on Google Earth is thought by some to be a fascinating and groundbreaking tool "in terms of raising awareness and showing the scale and extent of what is happening in Darfur for people who are interested and who want to be involved," according to Bea Spadicini, a representative of an aid agency that works throughout Sudan. Others insist that the effects of the "cool" new images are nothing more than another way of "raising awareness" that will have no significant effect on the crisis. I think that Peter Kagwanja - a senior analyst at the Human Sciences Research Council in Tshwane, South Africa - sums up this argument, noting that "The problem in Darfur is not a lack of information, and it's not a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the problem,[The problem is] a lack of action by the international community." I know I am getting tired of the popularized catch-phrases from students and Amnesty International, among many others, to "Save Darfur" or "Make Some Noise For Darfur." The problem is no longer a lack of awareness, it is clearly lack of action on the part of the international community. The crisis has become such a mainstream rallying cry that while being able to view the catastrophic physical damages in Darfur will indeed be "cool," I doubt that any changes will come from it.

Ivory Coast to scrap Buffer Zone

Not only have the President of Cote d'Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo and New Forces rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, signed a peace accord, but the president has appointed Guillaume Soro as the new Prime Minister. Now today, the buffer zone has begun to be bulldozed by UN forces. WHAT IS GOING ON?! All of a sudden, Cote d'Ivoire has managed to ink out a 10 month plan to reunite the armies, the country and hold peaceful elections. This was all supported by the President of Burkina Faso. Since the civil war began, the country has been split in two, the north being controlled by the rebel forces and the south by the government. the buffer zone between them resembles that between North and South Korea. The 600km-long zone had previously been patrolled by 11,000 French and UN peacekeepers. Now, government trucks freely roll through the space to the sounds of cheers and hoorahs. Could the Ivory Coast become the next Ghana? Are they taking a hint from their neighbors? The political community holds its breath while the ivory coast takes another stab at democracy.