SUDAN WATCH: Sudan describes actors Mia Farrow, Clooney as ‘ignorant’

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sudan describes actors Mia Farrow, Clooney as ‘ignorant’

From Sudan Tribune Thursday 7 May 2009

May 6, 2009 (PARIS) – The Sudanese government dismissed a hunger strike staged by US actress Mia Farrow in protest of Khartoum’s decision to expel more than a dozen aid groups describing her as ignorant.

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US actress Mia Farrow (left) and US actor George Clooney (right)

The UN goodwill ambassador announced last month that she will begin fasting in a show of solidarity as a show of solidarity with the people of Darfur.

“On April 27 I will begin a fast of water only in solidarity with the people of Darfur and as a personal expression of outrage at a world that is somehow able to stand by and watch innocent men, women and children needlessly die of starvation, thirst and disease” Farrow said in a statement.

But the spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London, Khalid Al-Mubarak told the British Guardian newspaper suggested that the move is unwarranted.

The Sudanese official said that the US actress is unaware of Khartoum’s pledge to allow new aid agencies into Darfur including Western ones.

“Oxfam US can operate in the Sudan but not Oxfam UK, for example… ensures that there will be no gaps in the distribution of food” he said.

Sudan accused the expelled agencies of passing information to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which in March issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

The move stirred criticism by the international community including some of Sudan’s allies. However Khartoum said the decision is irreversible.

Al-Mubarak also criticized stances by some Western celebrities on the issue of Darfur.

“We appreciate Mia Farrow’s intentions and we respect her for her interest in the welfare of the Sudanese people” he said.

“She is a good actress and a good human being, but as a politician she is only a beginner. She is like George Clooney, who has also got involved in the Darfur question. He is good looking but ignorant. She is ignorant too” Al-Mubarak added.

Farrow travelled to Darfur three times and has been one of strongest advocates of the refugees in IDP camps and voiced criticism of countries like China which emerged as the strongest backers of Sudan in the UN Security Council (UNSC).

In a recent interview she also criticized US president Barack Obama suggesting that he and Vice President Joe Biden have backpedalled on his Darfur campaign promises.

US actor George Clooney has also travelled to Darfur and campaigned on the issue “using his star power” as the TIME magazine described it.

UN officials say as many as 300,000 people have died and more than 2.7 million driven from their homes since 2003.

The US administration under Bush labeled the Darfur conflict as genocide.

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From New York Times 06 May 2009 - Mia Farrow Blogs Her Hunger Strike - copy of comment by James O’Donnell III:
While I respect Ms. Farrow’s motives and the sincerity that moves her and most SAVE DARFUR advocates to action, I have to point readers to recent scholarship by University of Columbia professor Mahmood Mamdani, whose work on Darfur is absolutely essential. I refer others concerned about this disturbing matter to Mr. Mamdani’s recent talk at Howard University (

After an absolutely remarkable 3-hour discussion, featuring some pretty rough Q&A which the author/scholar handles both gracefully and authoritatively, it is absolutely clear that there has been NO GENOCIDE in Darfur and that the conflict has been grossly politicized in America, in the interests of furthering America’s military ambitions in the Horn of Africa.

While there have certainly been atrocities, they have been committed by BOTH sides, the nomads and the agriculturalists, Arab and non-Arab alike, and it is the West, including movements like Save Darfur, that currently are preventing reconciliation between the factions, for geopolitical reasons.

The worst period of the fighting was 2003-04, and the TOTAL death toll, going back to 2001, is somewhere around 70,000 — far different from the 400,000 number asserted by Save Darfur — and most have died not as the result of direct violence, but in connection with the desertification and drought that has been devastating Darfur since the 1980s.

While 70,000 dead represents an enormous tragedy, Professor Mamdani explains — clearly citing his sources (WHO, GAO, the State Department) — that since January 2005, the killings have gone down to a relative handful: less than 135 per month in 2008.

More significantly, he explains that the violence has been framed INCORRECTLY here as an Arab-Muslim vs. African “genocide.” This is absolutely and demonstrably untrue, per Mamdani, who makes his case with conviction and a wealth of facts (personally, I don’t know how anyone could hear his arguments and not be convinced, at least of his sincerity, but certainly of his authority). Mamdani is originally from Uganda and spent a year in Sudan, reading the reports of virtually every party in the country: IDPs, academics, NGOs, etc. (including Save Darfur representatives). He is a scholar and a humanitarian, with no grudge or bias, but an eye for injustice and a keen understanding of the modern history of conflict.

The people pulling the strings behind Save Darfur have had an easy time manipulating American public opinion — all too ready to believe the “bloodthirsty Arab” stereotype AND the “weak, victim” African one — despite the fact that the ARABS vs. AFRICANS Darfur paradigm is an outright falsehood, and a rather insidious one. While the whole truth is too nuanced to repeat in this comment, I again refer you to Professor Mamdani’s talk at Howard (and his recent book on the subject). He encapsulates the entire history of the region and the current conflict, dispelling that notion (Arabs vs. Africans), and lays bare the role of colonialism and Western manipulation and geopolitics in the tragedy of Darfur.

LEDE BLOG RESPONSE: Mr. Mamdani also made this same, controversial argument in an article in the London Review of Books in 2007. — RM

— James O’Donnell III


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