darfur-2.jpg    darfur.jpgThe new satellite map of Darfur
The Holocaust Memorial Museum team up with Google to provide exclusive mapping coverage of the ongoing massacres

Amin George Forji 

     Although the ongoing humanitarian atrocities in Darfur, Sudan are variously described nowadays by some as the first genocide of the millennium, or better still, by others as the worst humanitarian disaster of our times, nevertheless these lavish condemnations have not gone beyond lip service. Although the doctrine of humanitarian intervention is now a sanctioned rule of international law, still, the United Nations, even after passing a resolution in August 2006 authorising the deployment of peacekeeper troops to work alongside the ill-manned African Union (AU) force, she has failed to translate this into concrete action. Instead, together with key players in international politics such as the USA, Britain, France, Russia and China, she continues to play hide and seek with the government of President Omar al  Bashir, which vehemently rejected the legislation, sadly negotiating for a way to go about that resolution, which if implemented would have dealt a serious blow to the government backed Janjaweed militia who constantly terrorise the region and the fleeing refugees.
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    But time is of the essence here. With new heart-breaking atrocities orchestrated but on daily basis, the hi-tech world, committed to make a difference has devised a new alternative of getting everyone in the world involved. In fact, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC  working in partnership with Google Earth has devised a new mapping service, fully loaded with regularly updated fresh images, as well as past shocking pictures, that the two organisations hope will call for attention and contribute in to creating a “community of conscience” among all internet users. Duped “Crisis in Darfur,” and said to be  a “global awareness layer,” the mapping serive , unveiled on Tuesday is  a revolutionary step expected to play the role of a two-edged sword: first sending a strong message to the Sudanese government that they are being watched the world-over, and secondly, it is aimed at showing online users the systematic destruction” occurring in Darfur, and prompting them to express their solidarity by pressurising their home governments and, or  international organisations to stop the ongoing violence.
 

    The mapping service works thus: Just by logging on to Google Earth, one can at once assess satellite images of the Darfur area, which is clearly highlighted. A zoom-in click then conducts the user either to watch a multimedia documented satellite images of tattered refugee camps, almost 1800 completely destroyed villages, tents on flames, remains of human bodies, displaced people, and so on and so forth. Most of the images are in the form of flame icons. By clicking on a flame icon, the surfer can immediately see the name and full details of the village, as well as the extent of destruction orchestrated.
 

There is another parallel link that connects the user to photos of testimonies of persons caught up in the conflict, or whose family members have been massacred. There are sub-links on every page that enables the surfer to browse for possible advice and solutions, or the things he or she can possibly do to help out. The organisers of the project believe that even the writing of petitions or mere letters to politicians will create an impact.
 

Explaining the reason behind this new alternative, Sara Bloomfield, Director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, said the initiative developed as a result of world negligence in cases of grave humanitarian crises.
“When it comes to responding to genocide, the world’s record is terrible,… This is like the world’s biggest bulletin board ” she said.
“This project will enable vast numbers of people worldwide to locate and visualize with great specificity both the events in Darfur and the millions of individual victims of those events,” She added.
 

The chief information officer of the museum, Lawrence Swiader, corroborated Bloomfield thus:
“It’s our hope that by combining this up-to-date satellite imagery with authoritative data and evidence from the ground in Google Earth we can make it harder for people to stand idly by when genocide happens,’ ” said Swiader.
 

The database images will mainly be gathered from US state department, the UN , government reports,and information furnished in by aid agencies that are currently operating in the area, and photographers.
 

An estimated 280,000 people have been killed since February 2003 in the war-torn Darfur region by the government-backed Janjaweed militia, and 2.7 million others displaced. Despite condemnation from the international community, the atrocities continue unabated. The government backed Janjaweed forces have throughout the crisis committed some of the worst atrocities in recent memory, including the burning of villages, aggravated massacre, and spontaneous rapes.
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The African Union (A.U.) currently has 7,000 troops in the region, but it has not been able to stop the massacres. The government of Omar al-Bashir has unfortunately consistently opposed any deployment of a larger contingent by the U.N.

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