Thousands of Southern Sudanese refugees have recently been returning to their homeland encouraged by stability brought on by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the possibility of elections later this year. But like most returning refugees anywhere, the Southern Sudanese refugees are returning to homes that were destroyed from decades of war.
Now, a delegation of American radio talk show personalities led by African American radio talk show host Joe Madison, left Washington Monday to deliver tens of thousands of “Sacks of Hope” for returning Southern Sudanese refugees. Madison told VOA each of the “Sacks of Hope” contains much needed supplies.
“In the “Sacks of Hope” consists of mosquito nets because that would certainly eliminate of help to curtail the problem of malaria, fish hooks because at least they can fish to feed themselves. There are seeds so that can plant during the planting season, blankets to help keep them warm during the night, plastic tops to help put over the huts. There are five-gallon water jugs and also cooking pots. Each of these sacks would hold for a family of six and would help them to survive for at lease six months,” he said.
Madison said his radio audience helped raised thousands of dollars to purchase the materials for the “Sacks of Hope”.
“We put the call out and listeners and callers began contributing $50 to purchase a sack of hope. Some people purchased more. Some people purchased in the names of their church; some people purchased in the names of their families, or their children. And this is their way of trying to contribute to the cause that we’ve been involved in down through the years,” Madison said.
Madison said the “Sacks of Hope” is a continuation of his years of involvement with Sudan. He has participated in numerous non-violent protests in the United States to demand an end to genocide in Sudan and even gone to jail. He has also traveled to Sudan and participated in the campaign to free women and children who had been enslaved there.
Madison said as much as the delegation would have liked to travel to Western Durfur, it would not because of continuing violence there.
“As you know, you can’t get into Darfur without government permission. And as you also may know there’s a possibility of renewed conflict in the south because the northern Sudanese are violating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” he said.
Madison accused the Khartoum government of not cooperating by allowing the deployment of the UN-African Union hybrid peacekeepers in Darfur.
“I really don’t think we are making progress, and I think that the problem has been with the Bashir government. They just simply refused to cooperate with the international peacekeeping troops. And now of course, they are buying off and financing and co-opting many other rebel groups that are splinter away. And observers on the ground in southern Sudan are saying that the next round of violence could even be worse than what’s going in Darfur now,” Madison said.
He called on the United States to do more in raising awareness about what he called China’s role in perpetuating the violence in Darfur by its backing of the Sudanese government.
“The United States has got to do more. And I’m going to say this right here on this program. I think it is absolutely shameful that the President of the United States would still consider going to the Beijing Olympics given the culpability of China in the Sudan, both Darfur and the South.
During his visit to Sudan and Chad last week, China’s Sudan envoy Liu Guijin said China was actively working to resolve delays in establishing the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur.
But Madison said China was doing a double speak.
“All I’m saying is that China is not doing enough. On one hand the envoy to Sudan say that they are doing everything possible. On the other hand they are building a presidential palace for Bashir. On one hand they want people to come to the peace table, on the other hand they are providing weapons to the northern regime. They gave with one take with the other and all the time they are drilling and exploring for oil. So I think, as we say in this country, they speak with fork tongue, and they can have far more influence on the Bashir regime than they have, and quite candidly so could the United States,” Madison said.