Friday, March 13, 2009

Jumping the humanitarian shark

There's been an interesting, and by interesting I mean horrifying, new development in Darfur-land. Three MSF (that's Doctor's Without Borders) staff have been kidnapped at Saraf Umra, a very unstable town in North Darfur. This is unusual in and of itself, in Darfur until now the violence has been either random, targeted at peacekeepers or targeted at stuff (i.e. vehicles hijacked) as opposed to aid workers.

However, there is an even bigger twist. BBC is reporting that the kidnappers have asked for ransom for the release of the staff. This has, to my knowledge, not happened out there before.

There used to be a feeling in Darfur, totally unfounded but useful, that if you messed with a khawaja (whitey) you brought down the fury and the thunder upon you and yours. This feeling has been eroded away over the years for sure as the international community looked placidly on while cars were hijacked, staff kicked out by the government and programs summarily shut down without so much as a by-your-leave. However, this latest debacle, the 13 organizations being shoved out and all their assets seized, has really sent a message: It is open season on humanitarians, have fun.

I'm trying to get in touch with my Fasher friends to see how they are, but it is Friday, the day of rest. Inshallah they are getting out soon, I think we may be hitting the point where enough is enough, there is no longer going to be value for humanitarians to even be there.

Which is just about the most horrifying point I could ever imagine reaching.

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