Darfur: What were the Americans visiting Sudan with Condoleezza Rice playing at?
Photo: In this frame from video, an unidentified Department of State official helps shield NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell after Sudanese security guards had grabbed her, pushing her towards the rear of the room where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir Thursday, July 21, 2005, in Khartoum, Sudan. All reporters and a camera crew were physically forced from the room as Rice and el-Bashir watched. (AP Photo/Network Pool via APTN)
Photo: In this frame from video, Andrea Mitchell, center, is escorted by Sudanese security guards after she and other reporters were forcibly ejected from the room where Condoleezza Rice was meeting with the Sudanese President Thursday, July 21, 2005, in Khartoum. (AP Photo/Network Pool via APTN)
No freedom of press
Since Thursday, instead of putting the spotlight on the humanitarian crisis in Niger the world's media had a field day with articles covering Condoleezza Rice's visit to Sudan and the scuffle and a row happening in Khartoum between Sudanese security staff and the American media and officials accompanying Dr Rice. Apologies were trotted out as usual by Sudanese Foreign Minister Ismail who is soon due to step down now that John Garang has taken over from Taha as Sudan's First Vice-President. By the way in Sudan, he is nicknamed "Smiley" - he trained to be a dentist.
China's News Agency Xinhua says FM Ismail stated he urged the US to review economic sanctions imposed on Sudan. He says the US no longer has reasons for the sanctions after the signing of the southern Sudan peace agreement and ongoing improvement in the situations of Darfur. He says he made the call in a press statement issued after his meeting with Condoleezza Rice.
Following the scuffle and row just prior to the meeting between Condoleezza Rice and President Bashir, reporters were only allowed to be present at the State Department's insistence, and were told not to ask any questions. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News' diplomatic correspondent - after being warned by a man in a military uniform not to ask any questions - asked President Bashir a question along the lines of" "How can we trust a rogue like you?"
Excerpt on the story from today's Sudan Tribune, entitled "NBC'S Mitchell says she's angry and embarrassed after Sudan incident":
Sudanese officials already didn't want her there. Mitchell said she was shoved as she entered a room where Rice and el-Bashir were posing for pictures. Reporters were only allowed in at the State Department's insistence, and were told not to ask questions.[I say, what a load of twaddle. Most Sudan watchers know there is no free speech or freedom of the press in the Sudan. It was made clear to Mitchell et al not to ask questions. I guess, being American Mitchell perceived herself as invincible, especially in the presence of Dr Rice and other US State Department officials. Mitchell's husband is U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. She came across (to me anyway) as looking to score points for personal gain but her big mouth ruined her plan that backfired and put the world's spotlight on her naivety and gullibility instead. Serves her right. She defiantly asked questions making it appear she cared more for her own career than she did about the Khartoum regime "living up to its promises" [as if they are going to listen to her anyway]. The questions she directed at the Sudanese president were a nonsense. If she had expected his response to be 'no comment' then why ask questions at all, especially considering one is a guest visitor and told by the host country not to ask any.]
Mitchell, in a telephone interview after leaving a Sudanese refugee camp and arriving in Israel, said that attitude emboldened her.
"It makes me even more determined when dictators and alleged war criminals are not held to account," she said. "If our government is going to establish a relationship and push for a new beginning as Sudan reforms itself, they have to live up to international standards. A free press is part of that process."
Although el-Bashir has denied government involvement, the U.S. and international organizations say his government has equipped militiamen to massacre villagers in the rural Darfur province.
"Can you tell us why the violence is continuing?" Mitchell asked, as a Sudanese official said "no, no, no, please."
"Can you tell us why the government is supporting the militias?" she asked.
After getting no reply from el-Bashir, she asked, "Why should Americans believe your promises?"
It was then that she was forcibly removed.
"It is our job to ask," she said later. "They can always say `no comment' ... but to drag a reporter out just for asking is inexcusable behavior."
Afterward, Mitchell said she was "angry, embarrassed, humiliated" and upset that she had become part of an attention-getting incident. "Reporters don't want to become part of the story," she said.
No freedom of speech
Rice and her entourage and press pack allowed themselves to be shown up and made fools of by a regime whose style and modus operandi is to retain power at any cost through intimidation and violence, even at a cost of two million lives. They played right into Khartoum's hands.
Americans do not seem able to see themselves and their culture the way the rest of the world does. Humility and stiff upper lip is not in their nature. When it comes to visiting outside of America, they think being an American gives them American rights to speak and behave the way they do in their own country.
The rest of the world is nothing like America and the six billion souls on this planet, with cultures and mentalities that go back to the year dot, are nothing like Americans.
Photo: Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (in white) looks on as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (not in photo) leaves the state House in the capital Khartoum July 21, 2005. Rice on Thursday told Sudan's president his government had a 'credibility problem' on the issue of Darfur and she wanted to see 'actions not words'. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin)
Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (L) meets Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (R) in Khartoum July 21, 2005. Rice on Thursday told Sudan's president his government had a 'credibility problem' on the issue of Darfur and she wanted to see 'actions not words'. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin)
Photo (July 21 BBC/AFP): Condoleezza Rice spent about an hour talking to people in Abu Shouk camp, Darfur. and spoke privately to women affected by ongoing sexual violence. According to an article in Womens.news, featuring blogers and entitled "Black Women Say Rice's Africa Trip Overdue", Rice reaffirmed the U.S. position on Darfur saying, 'The United States believes that by our accounts it was and is genocide.'"Rice reaffirmed the U.S. position on Darfur saying, "The United States believes that by our accounts it was and is genocide." Her visit follows First Lady Laura Bush's week long trip to Africa last week.
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Darfur's population to receive seeds, tools and livestock
AKI Rome July 20 reports the rainy season has just begun in North Darfur, and around 70 000 vulnerable rural families will be able to plant with seeds. Various news reports are circulating on this news but, unless I've missed something, none explain about the land these people are expected to farm. Who owns the land? What's the deal for the grazing and watering of livestock? What if bandits come along and steal the produce and livestock, like they did last time?
UN News Centre report July 20 says the UN's FAO will help Darfur's displaced families restart their farming activities but is unclear what it means by "households outside displacement camps and host communites encouraging people to stay on the land". Excerpt:
"FAO has already provided seeds and agricultural tools to some 70,000 vulnerable rural families in North Darfur, but has so far received only $7 million of the $15 million it has sought for 2005.Note, the UN says it is more cost effective to buy seeds for planting instead of aid - but if law and ordered is not installed, and the crops are stolen or destroyed, the UN will still have to raise funds for food aid to replace lost crops.
Some 550 tons of field crop seeds, including millet, sorghum and groundnut, and around 79,000 tools, including hand tools and donkey ploughs, were distributed outside displacement camps to households affected by the conflict as well as to host communities to encourage people to stay on the land. The assistance will help these families produce enough food to feed themselves for almost three months."
A handful of men in Khartoum and a hoard of uneducated lawless Sudanese bandits, thugs, rebels and murderers are lording it over the people of Sudan. Too many of them are without gainful employment and are putting food on their table by living off the proceeds of exploitation, intimidation, banditry, theft, looting, rape and murder. They are causing grief for millions of people - not to mention the cost in terms of lost lives and billions of dollars in aid from Western countries.
Up until recently, the same happened in southern Sudan for 20 years. They seem so far behind the Western world, it will take decades for peace to be restored.
With the start of the rainy season, around 70,000 families making a living from agricultural activities in the northern part of Sudan's conflict-struck Darfur region are set to receive seeds, tools and livestock from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The programme, which will assist households living in displacement camps and host communities, will allow the local population to restart farming and pastoral activities and guarantee its survival for the next three months. Full Story.
Sounds like a great idea but a recipe for disaster again if land/property ownership rights aren't settled beforehand. The above report says there has been tension in Darfur for many years over land and grazing rights. Conflict, drought and failed harvest has brought to a severe food shortage as well as a shortage in seeds' supplies.
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Peace is Possible...
Photo courtesy Darfur Relief blog post July 22, 2005 entitled "Peace is Possible ..." [a blog by Sarah who may still be in Darfur]
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Cooking Time in Darfur
Sarah at Darfur Relief blog says cooking in these stoves saves women hours of time and plenty of wood.
Photo courtesy Darfur Relief blog
Making Stoves in Darfur
Photo courtesy Darfur Relief blog
Read the story on above two photos here -- here and here at Darfur Relief blog, authored by Sarah who has been working in Darfur.
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NCC, NGOs call for Security Council action on Darfur
The National Council of Churches (NCC) is composed of 36 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and peace communions representing 45 million Christians in 100,000 local congregations in the United States.
NCC's call for UN Security Council action on Darfur is a complete waste of time but maybe it makes them feel better. They'd do better to pool their collective resources and focus on ensuring that all Sudanese children get a decent education, especially those living in refugee camps in Sudan and neigbouring countries.
Tags: Sudan Darfur Africa Condoleezza Rice