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Monday, December 12

O Bumba, Great God of Vomit, please stop the bad things in Darfur!

"Death toll now stands at 400,000 and rising -- half the number of Rwanda's genocide ten years ago when the world said "Never Again". Darfur is Rwanda in slow motion. But after 20 months of blogging Darfur, still not many people, including Africans and Arabs, are interested -- even when given today's technology and free blogging tools. It's a funny old world. What's different this time though is you can turn the other cheek but cannot say you did not know about the hellhole of Darfur."
-- Ingrid Jones,
Sudan Watch

"Dear Pundita,
Just to say thank you for listing Sudan Watch in Pundita's 2005 Weblog Awards.

It was a lovely surprise, I enjoyed your well written piece and chuckled at your insightful comments about Instapundit et al - and the dog vomit!

Thought your awards list was so well thought out, you ought to make it an annual event! (I'm serious -- you are a great blogger with an incisive mind).

Guess what -- congratulations from human rights activists in Boston Mass. and around the US and UK are pouring in here!

They've read my latest post at Sudan Watch. I've just received four emails congratulating me on my award -- a few of them were cc'd to several other people!

Best wishes and thanks again for the very kind mention.

It's pretty gruelling blogging African humanitarian crises and genocide and an emotionally draining lonely solitary task, so your post comes as a breath of fresh air to have a bit of light hearted fun.

I have linked to Pundita at:

http://sudanwatch.blogspot.com
http://meandophelia.blogspot.com

also in the sidebars of my other blogs:

http://ugandawatch.blogspot.com
http://congowatch.blogspot.com
http://ethiopiawatch.blogspot.com
http://nigerwatch.blogspot.com

Kindest regards,
Ingrid Jones
England, UK"

Dear Ingrid:
I did quite a lot of thinking about the Darfur situation after reading your letter. Pundita learned the hard way to be very careful about giving advice. But after thinking it over for days I can't conceive of any great harm coming to them, provided your human rights activist friends don't embellish on the plan I suggest.

But first, I think we can agree that the situation for the Darfur refugees is desperate. The African Union peacekeeping forces don't have enough of a mandate to make a dent and there's no peace to keep.(1) And even in the unlikely event that the Sudanese goverment agrees to allow it, the earliest the UN could deploy troops to the region would be September 2006. So we're looking at maybe another 100,000 dead and just that many starving in refugee camps within a year.

Meanwhile, routes to the refugee camps have recently been cut off by fighting so aid can't get through. (1, 2)

Meanwhile, the combined efforts of the African Union, European Union, United Nations, Arab League, US government, and many score humanitarian and religious organizations have failed to stop the mass murder and crisis for Darfur's refugees.

This while diplomats continue to nitpick over whether mass murder in Darfur is technically genocide and officials haggle over which version of the death count is accurate. And while Kofi Annan seizes on yet another plan to squeeze more money out of the West to pour into the African Union's bottomless pit and the International Criminal Court clucks, "Tsk tsk" at war crimes.

It's not a war going on in Darfur; it's slaughter carried out under the noses of Canadian, Swedish and Chinese energy companies.

In short everyone is finding their own cause to pursue in the Darfur massacres and doing an excellent job of saving Face in the process. That's one way to describe a practiced hypocrite. The reaction by the aid agencies has been programmatic and thus, easy for hypocrites to work around. Let's see them work around this:

> Target sites: Vatican mission offices, largest mosques and Christian churches. (Focus on churches with big missions to convert Africans to Christianity.)

> Gather, raise arms and eyes to heaven and call out, "O Bumba, please stop the bad things in Darfur!"

If you have African friends who can teach you to correctly pronounce Bumba's other names, by all means. And if you take a liking to other African gods, by all means yell out the names when you get tired of "Bumba!"

> Don't be a martyr; if you get surrounded by a nasty crowd run like hell and go to another mosque or church.

> When asked by onlookers what you're doing, reply something like this: "We prayed for years to Jesus Christ and Allah to stop the bad things in Darfur but they have turned a deaf ear. So we're hoping the old gods of Africa will show mercy to our prayers."

> If onlookers try to drown you out by calling at the top of their lungs to Jesus Christ and Allah, that's great. Leave them praying at the top of their lungs and proceed to the next mosque and church on the list. Parting shot: "Let's hope you're still out here praying 15 minutes from now."

> DO NOT REPEAT DO NOT make this into a Million Man March. Five or ten people standing at a respectful distance from a church or mosque is not threatening. No showy demonstrations that cost a mint to mobilize.

> If you can reasonably dedicate only two hours a week to the prayer calling, do just that much with all your heart. Just don't think of giving up. Don't think about the results. Just keep calling to Africa's gods.

> Do not bring rum or other alcohol as offering to the gods when you stand outside mosques.

> If you are accosted by Africans who lecture that you're not going about praying in the right way, by all means invite them to call in their way and just keep calling in yours. Be very sincere. I recall being told that the African gods have a sense of humor and love nothing more than pricking hypocrites, but don't push your luck.

Now, why Bumba? It's not easy to explain. One of blogger (The Glittering Eye) Dave Schuler's relatives was a card-carrying Christian saint who went to live in a cave with a bear. [Update 2010: I think it might have been a St. Bernard dog, not a bear, but I'll have to ask Dave.] (Actually, he's got more than one saint in his family -- on his father's side, I think. His mother's side is vaudeville, he wrote recently, if my memory serves.)

Dave's hilarious essay on dog vomit inspired Pundita's 2005 Weblog Awards, which inspired your letter of thanks, which prompted me to think hard on the Darfur crisis. My reflections on Darfur caused me to look up names of African gods. The second name on the website's Current Top Ten of African Gods is Bumba -- who is, and I am not making this up, the God of Vomit.

Bumba is a Congolese creator god. He vomited up the universe including living creatures and a pile of diced carrots.

I'm not sure whether to read all this as a message from God but that's how I conceived the plan and stumbled across Bumba, the Great God of Vomit.

Bumba doesn't seem a terribly accessible god from the description but the way I figure it the buck always stops at the desk of the god of creation.

Okay; that's my advice, which I hope you share with every activist and humanitarian organization around the world. They've got nothing to lose by trying the plan, seeing how nothing else has worked.

Thank you for your letter and the praise and the links. I have been hinting to my readers for months that I would be suspending the Pundita blog depending on circumstances. Events have caught up with me, so after publishing this essay and my correspondence last week with Peter Lavelle at Untimely Thoughts, I am departing the blogosphere, at least for the foreseeable future.

That means it's unlikely there will be a 2006 version of Pundita's 2005 Weblog Awards. Also, I published a version of the 2005 awards post that simply lists the awards: Pundita's 2005 Weblog Awards: the polite version. More suitable for framing than the original, don't you think?

1) December 12, 2005 Christian Science Monitor: The African Union struggles to calm Darfur.

See November 14, 2005 Christian Science Monitor: Sudan falters as US House rethinks aid for more background.

2) December 10, 2005 newswire report:
"Aid flights grounded as Darfur violence worsens
Aid flights have been grounded in West Darfur as violence escalates despite hopes for a peace deal before the end of the year.

There have been high hopes for the seventh round of Darfur peace talks because the two key rebel groups are presenting a united position for the first time.

However, the talks have been complicated by a demand that a representative from Darfur be appointed Sudan's vice-president.

They have also been overshadowed again by renewed fighting, particularly around el-Geneina in West Darfur state.

All roads have been closed to United Nations traffic and some aid flights have been grounded due to threats to planes from militia groups.

Aid workers say humanitarian access to West Darfur is the worst it has ever been.

The worsening situation again coincides with peace talks being held in Nigeria.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has urged the Security Council to strengthen the African Union peacekeeping mission in the region."

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