SUDAN WATCH: Darfur Attracting 'Undue' Attention - The Scotsman praised as media urged to keep Dafur in spotlight

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Darfur Attracting 'Undue' Attention - The Scotsman praised as media urged to keep Dafur in spotlight

Here is a copy of a report for future reference. It is an opinion piece by Peter Mwaura in Nairobi posted to the web at all africa on November 18, 2004

As the Security Council meets in Nairobi for the second and final day today over the problems in Sudan and Somalia, one thing that has emerged is that Darfur is attracting more attention than the other problem areas.

That may be because of the nature of the Darfur conflict, which lends itself well to dramatisation. The fear-inspiring militia named Janjaweed, accusations of genocide, war crimes, atrocities, rape, murder and displacement of tens of thousands of people attract more media attention - and possibly donor-attention - than the more pedestrian issues of reconstruction, such as de-mining, building roads, bridges, schools and hospitals in the southern Sudan.

Mr Jan Pronk, the Special Representative of the UN secretary general, has also been very eloquent about the situation in Darfur, which he has recently characterised as devolving into anarchy and where parties must be held accountable and a sizeable force deployed. But while Darfur and Somalia have their share of problems, southern Sudan has the "mother of all problems", as Unicef says in a recent publication.

Darfur flared into conflict in February 2003 as a peace and wealth-sharing deal was being worked out for southern Sudan between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) rebels and the Khartoum government. The Darfur rebels, in turn, clearly saw an opportunity to get for themselves what the southern Sudanese were getting for themselves.

But the importance of the problems of southern Sudan go beyond the issue of mothering problems elsewhere. Southern Sudan, an area far much bigger than Kenya, has been a battleground for two civil wars since the independence of Sudan in 1956. In terms of almost all social and economic indicators, it is the most devastated and underdeveloped region in the world, perhaps only second to Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Southern Sudan merits the greatest attention of the Security Council and the donor community in terms of post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation if peace in Sudan is going to be meaningful. But even for immediate needs, Darfur is attracting more donor aid than southern Sudan. For the period between April and December this year, Darfur has (comparatively) attracted confirmed contributions of $178 million and has only a shortfall of 13 per cent while for the same period southern Sudan has attracted only $368 million and has a shortfall of 35 per cent according figures provided by the World Food Programme.

It is clear from these figures that Darfur is the darling of the donor community, with the United States leading with contributions amounting to $115.6 million, followed by the European Community with $41.6 million. Yet southern Sudan's problems, even immediate ones, are far greater. For example, while the signing of a comprehensive agreement between the government of Sudan and the SPLM has yet to be finalised, nearly half a million returnees are back in the south from northern Sudan and from neighbouring countries. As many as half a million Sudanese internally displaced persons and refugees may also return to their places of origin or choice in 2005 if a comprehensive peace is signed.

For the returnees to resume normal lives in their villages, roads will have to be rehabilitated and mines cleared. In the meantime, the returnees will need emergency food. The mine clearance alone is expected to cost at least $32 million, but to date only $10 million has been obtained from the US.

The settlement of the refugees and displaced persons in southern Sudan should be a priority. And the time for the ground work is now, even as work remains to be done for the peace agreement between Khartoum and the SPLM to hold.

The southern Sudan is on the threshold of a new era if a comprehensive peace agreement is signed. The region, with a population estimated to be 7.5 million in 2003, needs massively increased aid if it is ever going to pull itself up from more 20 years of civil war.

The children of southern Sudan, for example, have the least access to primary education in the world, with a net enrolment ratio in primary school of 20 per cent. Equally, it has the lowest ratio of female to male enrolment of about 35 per cent. And most teachers in southern Sudan are untrained volunteers. Less than 10 per cent have received any type of formal training.

The economy of southern Sudan is one of the least developed in the world. The gross national income per capita is around $100 per year. But this is an overestimate as it takes into account oil revenues, which do not benefit the population in the south. Poverty in Sudan is absolute. The international poverty line, defined as "per cent of population with income below one dollar per day", is more than 90 per cent.

Southern Sudan's prospect for peace will be wasted if the international community cannot find sufficient aid to help the war-affected communities to reinvent their lives. This will be the real test in the post-conflict period, long after the extraordinary Security Council meeting in Nairobi is gone.
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The Scotsman praised as media urged to keep Dafur in spotlight

Report by James Kirkup

POLITICIANS and aid agencies yesterday stressed the importance of the media in keeping the spotlight on the appalling human rights abuses taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said it was vital people were made aware of what was happening elsewhere in the world, and Oxfam - one of the aid agencies at the forefront of efforts to help victims of the genocide - said pressure had to be kept up on the United Nations Security Council.

The Scotsman has led the way in highlighting the crisis in Darfur and there was praise yesterday for the way in which this newspaper has refused to allow the issue to slip from the headlines.

Speaking at a press conference in London, the Prime Minister said: "The thing about human rights abuses is that unless there’s coverage of them, people don’t think they’re happening."

Brendan Cox, a spokesman for Oxfam, said it was vital that newspapers such as The Scotsman kept up pressure on the international community. He said: "It is massively important that the situation in Darfur is not allowed to slip from the public eye and it is up to the international media to ensure that this does not happen. Newspapers like The Scotsman are doing good work in ensuring that the world does not forget about Darfur and that the pressure is maintained on the Security Council."

George Foulkes, the Labour MP and former development minister who is lobbying for the UK to take a bigger role in alleviating the crisis, said he hoped that other news organisations would find room amid their coverage of Iraq to look at what was happening in Darfur.

"Because politicians and the media have been pre- occupied with Iraq, the enormity of what is happening in Darfur has been lost," he said.

"I would certainly commend The Scotsman for highlighting this issue. If other media outlets would do the same, we might get swifter government action.

"The international community needs to get serious about what is happening in Darfur and call it what is: genocide."

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for international development, said it was important that people were made aware of what was happening.

"I would commend The Scotsman for the way you have worked to keep this in the public eye," he said.

Tony Baldry, the Conservative MP who chairs the House of Commons international development committee, was also impressed with the coverage. "It is a very difficult story to report - you have done your best to get this very serious issue across," he said.

Angus Robertson, SNP International Development spokesman, said: "The Scotsman is to be commended for its tenacious reporting of one of the most important issues of the day. The humanitarian catastrophe deserves the attention of everyone in Scotland and the world."


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