On September 8th, Morroco was hit with a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that killed thousands, injuring and displacing many more. Only a few days later, Libya experienced a major flood with a current death toll of 11,300 and more than 10,000 civilians missing. With many students on campus grieving from recent events, it came as no surprise that Cornell chose to remain silent in the face of these catastrophes. No emails of condolences, seminars or support groups were provided. Yet, if these events happened to any country in Europe, Martha herself would send an email to console students and make a statement of Cornell’s support. For as long as I’ve been a student here, I’ve noticed that Cornell has only ever chosen to empathize with catastrophes that occur in the global north.
“I lost family members, including a younger sister … murdered in cold blood and my aunt [was] raped and murdered in cold blood … and three uncles … all murdered in cold blood.”
A stunned silence fell upon the mere nine audience members in Rockefeller Hall as Silvestro Akara Bakhiet, a Southern Sudanese refugee, recounted how he had witnessed the horrors surrounding the second Sudanese civil war in efforts to raise awareness and garner support to help rebuild the devastated Sudanese regions.
Regardless of how you respond to Emmanuel Jal’s documentary War Child, the truth of its footage destroys any debate over its political significance. Once a Sudanese child soldier, Jal has become a figurehead and spokesperson for genocide awareness by sharing his own story with the world. The film splits its time between Jal’s concert tours and seminars (he moonlights as a hip-hope with lyrics inspired by his childhood) and United Nations footage shot about 20-years earlier, prominently featuring a nine-year old Jal in the beginnings of his life as a child soldier.
This past week the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes committed in Darfur. Although surely motivated out of good intentions, this warrant will prove to be a test of the court’s legitimacy and strength. While looking at it that way, we are forced to ask, will the ICC be stronger for it or will it be shown to be another “paper dragon” institution of international governance?