Sudan’s President denies role in Darfur Violence

March 21, 2007

[Thanks to Eclecta for not letting me miss this.]

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir

This post might as well be called, “are you fucking kidding me?” In this remarkable MSNBC piece, Ann Curry interviews Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, which is widely viewed by the world to blame for the atrocities that are going on in Darfur.

Ms. Curry notes in her blog, “how does one interview a man accused of unleashing genocide?

Human Rights Watch says President al-Bashir should be prosecuted for war crimes in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has summoned one of the ministers in his government to face possible charges for crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir has just suspended cooperation with the ICC investigators and continues to publically state the situation in Darfur is exaggerated and solely a regional conflict . Now, in his first television interview to the west in four years, he will have a chance to answer these accusations.

So how exactly am I to face this man? How will I exact the truth, and at the same time keep the horror that I saw on the Darfur border from being revealed in my own eyes? I was never good at poker. I am gearing up for one of the greatest challenges of my career.

A challenge indeed. Omar al-Bashir is one piece of (rotten) work. Check out how the 2-hour interview came out:

Ann Curry: Mr. President, I have this map from the U.S. Department of State that shows more than a thousand villages in the Darfur region — more than a thousand burned.

And the question is, how can this be done by Arab militias without the support of the Sudanese government? This is shocking.

Omar al-Bashir: What do you think about the picture that Colin Powell presented before the national security that confirmed and illustrated the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What do you think about it?

Curry: You’re saying this is not true?

Al-Bashir: This picture is the same fabrication and the same picture as the ones Colin Powell presented about Iraq.

In other words, we have Ms. Curry, who to her credit seems genuinely concerned about the atrocities in Darfur, and this creep throws Iraq at her face, as if to say, you and your country have no credibility or moral standing to be asking these questions.

A bonafide war criminal is basically calling George W. Bush and his Iraq wet-dream a war crime. This is even embarassing to write, but it takes one to know one. We have no moral compass to guide us. Lord help us.


Borat vs Bill Gates – let the showdown begin!

January 30, 2007

Borat vs Bill Gates - let the showdown begin!

My country send me to United States to make movie-film. Please, come and see my film. And once you see movie, go save Darfur.

Ok, so the title of this post is a bit misleading – so sue me!

Actually, this is from an interview Larry Charles, the director of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) with Tim Ryan for Rotten Tomatoes, the movie rating website.

So what was so interesting about it that Truly Equal decided to write about it in a supposedly human rights blog? Larry Charles made an excellent point about Borat and some other movies and TV shows (emphasis is mine):

RT: You’ve worked with Borat, and before that, Bob Dylan in “Masked and Anonymous.” Both of them, in their own strange way, are sort of spokesmen, revealing some weird truths about America.

LC: Absolutely. The question I ask myself before I get involved in anything, be it TV or movies, is, “Does this need to be made? Does this need to be out there?” There’s so much s— out there that I can’t understand why people would spend tens of millions of dollars to make something that’s not going to come out good. So I ask myself, “Do we need this movie? Do we need this TV show? Will this somehow expand the dialogue, expand the discourse about the way we live and what’s important to us in out lives?” I felt in both the Bob Dylan movie and the Borat movie that these were urgent ideas and provocative ideas that might create interesting dialogue about ourselves, and about our world, about our lives, about philosophies, our beliefs. Also, they were low-budget movies, and I’m a big believer that we shouldn’t need to spend $100 million to make a great movie. If you have $100 million, you should probably be saving an African country. But for $4 million or $5 million or $10 million, you can make a great movie, and politically, you’re making a statement by making a low budget movie like that as well. On all those levels, it appeals to me.

Exactamente. Well said. Bravo Zulu.

We don’t need to see $100 million plus movies, regardless of how fantastic the idea or series is – Lord of the Rings fans, ya’ hear me? There are more important things in the world that need our attention. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the movies just like anyone else, and sometimes leave the theater in disbelief (which reminds me, more people need to see Children of Men), but you know how many lives we can help with $100 million? That’s 8 fucking zeros! You don’t need to be as rich as Bill Gates or as influential as Bill Clinton to help the world. But you do need to have some fucking common sense!

My only wish is that Borat would say so himself – maybe George W. Bush will listen to him instead.


Sudan, Darfur rebels agree 60-day ceasefire

January 11, 2007

Good news, but don’t get your hopes up:

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s government and Darfur rebels have agreed to a 60-day ceasefire and a peace summit sponsored by the African Union and the United Nations as steps toward stopping the violence in west Sudan, a visiting U.S. official said on Wednesday.

Sudan has also agreed to let foreign journalists visit Darfur after a two-month ban and to remove a requirement for exit visas for aid workers, one of the biggest bureaucratic obstacles to the world’s largest aid operation in Darfur.

By the way, it isn’t George W. Bush or Condi Rice that gets the credit for this – it is none other than U.S. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson:

Richardson said rebel commanders he had met in Darfur had also agreed to the ceasefire, which would begin on a date to be set by the United Nations and the African Union, which are jointly mediating Darfur peace efforts.

A joint statement by the Sudanese government and Richardson also said Sudan would not use military aircraft painted in white colors, usually reserved for humanitarians, and that Darfur rebel commanders could safely call a conference in the field monitored by the United Nations and the AU.

See, that wasn’t that hard. Just acknowledge the problem, go there and talk about it. Just like we wish had happened in Iraq.


2006: A Violent Year for Aid Workers

December 31, 2006

This is sort of a follow-up on a previous post of mine, “International aid work a deadly profession“. From Reuters’ AlertNet:

Violence against aid workers reached its highest level in a decade in 2006, as conflict escalated in Sudan’s western Darfur region, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, new figures show.

There were 90 major incidents in 2006, compared with 72 in 2005 and 66 in 2004, according to New York University’s Center on International Cooperation (CIC) and Britain’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI), which have measured violence directed at aid operations since 1997.

[…]Over the year, 83 aid workers were killed – the highest number since 2003 – 78 were wounded and 52 kidnapped. Afghanistan had the greatest number of aid worker deaths at 26, followed by Sri Lanka with 23 and Sudan with 15.

With what’s going on in the Middle East, folks would think that Iraq accounts for a large share of attacks, but this is incorrect:

Sudan accounted for over 40 percent of major attacks in 2006. Recent weeks have seen a spate of raids on aid agency compounds and vehicles in Darfur, where conflict has uprooted some 2.5 million people.


Darfur in Crisis, Still

December 28, 2006

I think it was Senator Russ Feingold that mentioned on Meet the Press that the while the U.S. pours billions into Iraq, Somalia receives around 1-2 million dollars a year in foreign aid. You just can’t ignore other crisis in the world while hoping that they go away. Darfur really, REALLY, needs a U.S. intervention:

Almost four years after conflict broke out in Darfur, calls are being made for greater efforts to resolve the predicament in this western region of Sudan.

During an event marking International Human Rights Day Dec. 8, outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated that the world can, and must intensify the drive to address violence in Darfur.

Renewed fighting has been taking place in the region over the past two months, and aid agencies warn that this is causing thousands of civilians to flee into mountainous areas where they are cut off from assistance. Sudan’s government has clashed with a coalition of rebels that failed to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja — the National Redemption Front.

Why does the world continue to ignore Darfur? The whole world has plenty of evidence of a genocide in Darfur, yet where are they? In Iraq. Talk about priorities. To put some of this in context, Osama bin Laden was LIVED and OPERATED in Somalia for years before 9/11.


Sudan’s “Lost Girls” still struggle in the U.S.

December 27, 2006

Sudan’s “Lost Girls” in the U.S. are overcoming their shyness and beginning to talk about the horrors they survived, problems adjusting to U.S. life and their worries about the women still in Sudan:

Veronica Abbas

At 24, Abbas has lived long enough to witness the greater part of the violent clashes in Sudan. She is a “Lost Girl” of Sudan–a genocide survivor–and was a part of the first group of female refugees granted U.S. asylum in 1999.

Her sad assessment of other Lost Girls was echoed in a 2003 congressional report by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which found the young women’s young male refugee counterparts–who outnumber them roughly by 38 to 1–faring much better. Sudanese “Lost Boys” were making substantial strides in achieving independence, the report found, with employment rates 18 percent higher than among male U.S. counterparts. Lost Girls, by contrast, lag U.S. female counterparts by 25 percent.

Go read the rest, it is a worthwhile read.


Displaced Women in Darfur Suffer Severe Depression

December 22, 2006

To say the least. This is not news to anyone that has been following the situation in Darfur, but the women in Darfur also have other necessities that are not being met.

A new study of internally displaced women in Sudan’s South Darfur illuminates the bleak status of women’s mental health in the volatile region. The study, which will be published in January by the International Medical Corps (IMC), found that although humanitarian aid helps meet women’s basic nutritional needs, the mental health of displaced women in Darfur is largely neglected.

Since the Darfur crisis began in 2003, more than 2 million people have been displaced internally within Sudan or have fled to nearby Chad. Though the region is difficult for aid workers and researchers to access, IMC was able to examine displaced women in refugee camps in South Darfur.

It gets worse. Read the rest of the article, and read the report from the International Medical Corps here.