by Jim Boyle
“In nearly all cases of the moral desecration found in corrupted governments, one or both of two factors is prominent — bigotry and greed.
“This sobering reality can be witnessed by examining the regrettable cases Sudan and Rwanda, two nations overwrought at some point by gross injustices to humanity.
“Sudan, still in the midst of conflict, is struggling to refrain from being completely overrun by the despotic hands that currently control it.
“With all the knowledge and evidence history has accumulated regarding corruption, one would assume the global nation has recognized the cruciality of intervening in societies where malice flies rampant.
“However, judging by the lack of sufficient foreign intervention in Darfur and other areas of concern, it would appear these crises are of only slight importance.
“To prevent the further spread of corruption, heightened international awareness and the dismantlement of crooked governmental regimes is imperative.”
It is with these words Katelyn Hennessey began her award-winning Chase Korte Peace Essay.
The Elk River High School junior was one of Denise Eidem’s 11th grade AP language and composition students to enter the contest, for which honors were handed out March 18 at Zabee Theater.
The students entered the writing challenge sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and answered the question, “For those who hope to prevent violent conflict, how can there be efforts to reduce, if not eliminate, corruption best to contribute to building sustainable peace?”
The Bank of Elk River sponsors the local level of the USIP contest, and the ceremony was held to award savings bonds to the local winners. Hennessey took home a $500 savings bond for her first-place finish. (To see her full essay, read below.)
Kelsey Rausch was second in the contest and Tori Herrmann was third. Receiving honorable mention were Kristin Rokke, Sunshine Thao, Dylan Berger, Amy Honek and Gretchen Brown.
It took students countless hours to complete their essays. They wrote numberous drafts. Hennessey cited 18 sources in her end notes, not including the references to 22 print and electronic sources in her bibliographies.
The guest speaker at the awards ceremony was Katie Becklin-Atkinson, Ph.D, who is an Elk River class of 2000 graduate and a local winner of the Peace Essay contest in 1999 as well as receiving state honorable mention for her essay.
Becklin-Atkinson is currently doing post-doctoral work at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. Her message to students was to “… be present in the moment.”
She encouraged students not worry that they must decide today what they want to do with their lives, but should stay open to change directions when they truly discover their passion.
The former Elk had aspirations of being a doctor. While she earned her doctorate, her line of work is far different from what she expected.
She changed course while on an undergraduate research project studying a beautiful wildflower in the Washington Cascade Mountains.
Also speaking at the event were Eidem; Stewart Wilson, the executive vice president of The Bank of Elk River; and Tom Fuller, the coordinator of the Gifted and Talented program at ERHS.
Pat and Linda Korte, the parents of Chase Korte, were also present.
The local first-place award was named in honor of Chase in 2007. Chase was the local winner of the contest in 2000 and was completing a film project entitled “The Peace Walker” when he was killed by a drunk driver in an automobile accident.
Winning 2011 Chase Korte Peace Essay contest entry
by Katelynn Hennessey
In nearly all cases of the moral desecration found in corrupted governments, one or both of two factors is prominent — bigotry and greed. This sobering reality can be witnessed by examining the regrettable cases Sudan and Rwanda, two nations overwrought at some point by gross injustices to humanity. Sudan, still in the midst of conflict, is struggling to refrain from being completely overrun by the despotic hands that currently control it. With all the knowledge and evidence history has accumulated regarding corruption, one would assume the global nation has recognized the cruciality of intervening in societies where malice flies rampant. However, judging by the lack of sufficient foreign intervention in Darfur and other areas of concern, it would appear these crises are of only slight importance. To prevent the further spread of corruption, heightened international awareness and the dismantlement of crooked governmental regimes is imperative.
Since early 2003, it is estimated between 200,000 and 400,000 non-combatants have been systematically murdered in raids throughout the western Sudanese area of Darfur. Nearly 2.7 million have been displaced, brutally forced from the lands of their upbringing and culture. The main group responsible for the violence is the Janjaweed, an Arab militia group, well-equipped and well-safeguarded by the Khartoum government in Sudan. Various tactics — torture, village plundering, slaughter, and rape — have been utilized by the Janjaweed to successfully create a state of devastation in the Darfur region.
Over recent years, desertification (the gradual deterioration of natural resources in an area as it becomes a desert) has become a growing problem for the Sudanese economy and, consequently, a serious factor concerning the political instability of Darfur. Centuries of over-grazing and cultivation have resulted in land infertility and subsequent clashes between Arab nomad groups (particularly the Janjaweed) and Darfur’s farming community. As land resources for food production become more scarce, conflict over competition arises. For years, the government-bolstered Janjaweed militia has repeatedly harassed the predominately “dark-skinned” farmers. Finally, in February 2003, after unsuccessful complaints to Khartoum officials failed to provide any fruition, two Darfur rebel groups — the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) — responded in arms. The rebels’ accusations of ethnic partiality and moral aloofness on the part of the Khartoum government, administered by then newly elected President Omar Bashir, were met with biting consequences. A campaign of violence — led mainly by the Sudanese military and Janjaweed unit — was enforced, determined to quell the uprising by any means necessary. Since then, the amount of desecration done to Darfurian people and its culture is staggering. According to the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, roughly 800 villages have been destroyed, burned to the ground by hands fueled by hatred.
Bullets and knives are not the only weapons wreaking havoc on the lives of Darfur victims. Thousands of civilians are suffering every day at the hands of famine and disease, dangerous fallout linked to the ongoing genocide. Current research claims over 80% of the fatalities amounted as yet during the conflict can be traced to sickness, and, as stated by John Prendergast, senior advisor at the International Crisis Group in Washington, D.C., “All the indicators of mortality and illness as a result from displacement are spiking.” Correspondents in the UN are addressing the malnutrition and disease epidemic in Darfur as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Contaminated water and malaria-carrying mosquitoes are main contributing factors to health abasement in fetid refugee camps, some housing as many as 35,000 individuals. Unfortunately, as monetary resources in these camps diminish, so does sufficient medical attention. While concerned aid coalitions are striving to provide relief for the refugees, the numbers willing to stay involved are decreasing.
With international activism in the Darfur conflict being reasonably tepid, the unrelenting force of terror in Sudan has not yet been halted. The growing deterioration of the region’s humanitarian condition reflects the urgency for increased and stricter global involvement. In a 2009 statement on peace strategy in Darfur, President Barack Obama claimed, “Our conscience and our interests in peace and security call upon the United States and the international community to act with a sense of urgency and purpose.”10 Mere worldwide acknowledgment of the Darfur conflict is not enough to squelch the atrocities; earnest activism of all third-party actors is needed, before other steps can be taken to create sustainable peace in Sudan. Moreover, based on the disturbing amount of disappearances of concerned aid-providers and peace organization members, relief coalitions need to be more heavily protected. Government officials in Sudan must not avert their eyes when these sordid acts are being committed within their jurisdiction.
To achieve lasting peace in Darfur, the United States and United Nations (UN) must first make gradual disarmament of the Janjaweed and Sudanese military a top priority, while being wary not to evoke war. The US military is “currently spread thin with its earlier commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq.” (Barack Obama) By removing their weapons, their force of intimidation, and the backbones of these terror groups are destroyed. No power can remain in the hands of an unguarded force. Second, a military coup is needed to remove Omar Al-Bashir from his corrupt presidency. Based on the history of the Rwandan conflict, it is clear that benevolent and intelligent governing is crucial to the overturn of conflict.
Not far from Sudan on the African continent rests the diverse nation of Rwanda, a country familiar with the type of depravity now being faced by Darfur’s victims. April 1994 marked the beginning of a four-month incursion of terror and carnage on the Rwandan stage, after years of cultural unrest between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups finally reached its boiling point.
It was evident from the onset of his presidency, the interests of Juvénal Habyarimana lied mainly with those of his own ethnic group — the Hutu. Tutsi people, meanwhile, were subjected to political and economic discrimination, causing an array of angry sentiment and animosity towards the president. On April 6, 1994, an unknown Tutsi rebel group acted on these feelings by carrying out the assassination of Habyarimana during a private jet flight. Violent Hutu outcry over the homicide ignited immediately, not relenting until well into July 1994. In the span of 100 days, figures estimate a total of 800,000 dead, viciously slaughtered in horrifying displays of cruelty. Even infants and children were not granted protection from atrocities; schools were common sites of mass killings. CBS News reports, “Tutsis were slaughtered in their tracks, wherever they were found. The killing fields were everywhere … when it was over, three out of every four Tutsis in Rwanda had been killed.” Systematic rape of Tutsi women and girls was also employed by Hutu extremists — such as the Interahamwe — as a main tactic for fear and devastation. US news media puts the amount of sexually assaulted at between 250,000 and 500,000 by the time of the conflict’s end. Ordinary civilians were urged by police and government officials to participate in eradicating those opposing the extremist Hutus regime. Incompliant persons were forced to endure the same gruesome treatment as their Tutsi contemporaries.
Due to exceedingly hazardous conditions on the Rwandan front, outside nations were hesitant to become involved. Eventually, however, the UN conceded to send 5,000 troops into Rwanda — by this time the death toll had already exceeded 500,000. Denying the existence of a genocide in Rwanda until well after the conflict, the United States refrained from intervening. The terror finally came to a shaky halt in July of 1994, when the Rwandan Patriot Front (RPF) was able to usurp power over the Hutu forces and assign Tutsi leader Paul Kagame the presidency. The remarkable transition from disaster to peace proves the efficiency of Kagame, and attests to the benefits of a well-constructed government.
Before warring nations of today are able to mirror Rwanda’s example, heightened awareness to the afflictions of these places is imperative. If international apathy regarding Sudan and similar countries currently rooted in conflict persists, the plights of these nations are doomed to remain issues throughout history. The global community must rally behind the humanitarian cause and not allow for the continuation of treachery to further plague victims trapped by the manacles of a corrupted society. When total awareness is achieved, steps to attaining a lasting peace in conflicted nations can be made. First, it is imperative that relevant leaders near or in the combatant areas are in compliance with aid coalitions; without total support from these people, no progression in reconciliation can be made. Third party actors must next aid in the seizure of all weapons being used as forces of coercion or destruction, to halt further acts of violence on civilians. Finally, the overthrow of tyrannical dictators must take place, allowing for the arrival of new leaders, well-equipped to handle a nation still simmering with ethnic tension. After these measures are abided by, the dismal state of affairs in corrupted nations — engulfing the innocent far too long — may brighten.