Newsmakers: Debating Darfur

By Reuters Staff
May 18, 2007

Darfur.jpgAs security deteriorates, violence grows, resources dwindle and concerns mount over the effectiveness of peacekeepers and aid workers in Darfur, questions abound as to what the future holds for Western Sudan.

Reuters and Reuters AlertNet have invited a panel of experts to debate the issues raised by the crisis in Darfur on May 24 at an event in New York City. Follow the event here

Topics include the international community’s responsibilities in the region and why Darfur has sparked more international attention than other African conflicts.

Our panelists:

  • Hedi Annabi, Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, U.N.
  • Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, Sudanese Ambassador to the U.N.
  • John Prendergast, International Crisis Group
  • Mia Farrow, Actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
  • Lauren Landis, Senior Representative to Sudan, U.S. Department of State
  • Ann Curry, NBC News

Send any questions or comments to our panel with the comment link below and we’ll give them to the panelists. Meanwhile, follow news and market information from Africa on our Africa site, launched this year.

 Ed’s note: This post was updated to reflect Hedi Annabi has replaced Jean-Marie Guehenno, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, on the panel.


As we approach year 5 of this genocide I find it deflating and disheartening that the Media has not made this issue a consistent focal point. Far too many people still have not even heard of Darfur. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in the aftrermath of natural disasters such as the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina substantial and just coverage was affored. Yet, here we have a manmade tragedy of epic proportions and the coverage (on the whole both visual and print) has been deplorable. This is a genocide! Shouldn’t the media be focusing on the plight of all of the innocent civilians to depict the immediacy of much needed intervention? Is applicable coverage designated by assumed viewer interest and what role does race play into lacking coverage?


The response to this issue by the UN and the world community is a joke. The time for negotiating with the Khartoum government is well past. They have proven to be disingenuous and are, obviously, hiding behind the renegade Muslim militia to do their dirty work for them. Why do we not take charge as we did in Kosovo? Is it because the Darfurians are black and the those in the Balkans are white? If this happened anywhere else in the world the repsonse would be swift and decisive. The AU has done little to protect the people of Darfur (as a matter of fact, reports of abuse have come out the region). Sudan has abused those in the south to pave the way for Canadien and Chinese firms to exploit the oil reserves under these unfortunate people. The only solution, as teh U.S. is focused in Iraq, is to send in a strong U.N. Peacekeeper force, impose strict sanctions on the Khartoum government and set up relief/support efforts which enable these people to re-acquire their dignity and self rule.

Posted by Darryl Malcolm | Report as abusive

Looking at the past I believe that unless there is some economic gain for the western “GOOD or AXIS of GOOD” countries, they are not going to help a war-torn, farming poor country like Sudan. And the media, well I am sure the big corporations that own the media have no interest any more in real news and primarily work to distract public attention away from serious issues one would imagine shouldnt be issues in the 20th century.
I just want to know how long we are going to have these little debates while hundreds of thousands of poor people are raped, murdered and displaced from their homes, made to face poverty and famine.
The US and Britain went to Iraq in less than a few months – This has been going on for 5 years. I hope members of this respected Panel understand that though there is no oil in Sudan, there are human beings suffering.

Posted by terence | Report as abusive

What happened to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

From Gareth Evans: “It has taken the world an insanely long time to come to terms conceptually with the idea that state sovereignty is not a license to kill that there is something fundamentally and intolerably wrong about states murdering or forcibly displacing large numbers of their own citizens, or standing by when others do so.”

Do private citizens have to form their own peacekeeping force to protect the people of Darfur? Is that the only they are going to be protected?

Posted by Nancy Okie | Report as abusive

Ambassador Abdalhaleem,

What does Khartoum want?

Posted by Nancy Okie | Report as abusive

This country (led by the media) is consistently chilled and outraged by school shootings and natural disasters. And so we should be: so we should be. Yet these horrors practically define every day life in Darfur, and what do we do?

It is evident that sustained pressure is required: “ordinary” people must continue to speak relentlessly about Darfur – the media will catch on if we are persistent enough. And if the media truly catches on, the world will follow. Sustained efforts to keep Darfur in the news are required on all of our parts: individual calls for China to pressure Khartoum and for a cohesive peace process (see International Crisis Group’s report on Darfur from late April) add up to a powerful voice which will be heard if only we sustain it.


Question for Mr. Guehenno: What do you see as the MOST LIKELY situation in Darfur in a year’s time? Note: Please press him on this because he is a brilliant diplomat but frank when pressured. Thank you.

Also, I very much want to go to this panel but I don’t see the location listed on the website. Could you please post it more prominently? (My apologies if I simply missed it)


I have some questions and statements that I’d like to address to the panelists

To the media:

There has been a lot of talk recently about China being “the enabler of genocide” due to their support of the Khartoum government. Why hasn’t there been talk or focus about who the enablers of the rebels are? The rebels receive support from certain groups whether directly or indirectly. Shouldn’t those groups be scrutinized too for playing an enabling role in the conflict and dragging it further?

To intervention supporters:

The goal of intervention supporters is to help ease Darfur’s pain. Do pro-interventionists truly believe that intervention is going to make things better? Jihad is inevitable. That certainly ought to make the war messier and more violent. What will UN troops do then?

To the Sudanese Ambassador to the UN:

The Darfur conflict generally hasn’t been portrayed accurately in the Western media. However on the other hand, don’t you believe the way the conflict is being downlplayed by the Sudanese government shows a lack of respect for Sudanese lives especially when statements like “only 9,000 have died” are stated openly?


This is / gives rise to a question not only the UN participant(s) on the panel (what happened to Hedi Annabi?), but also, with all due respect, to Reuters, to clarify how much contact Ban Ki-moon has had with President Bashir (nothing since Doha in April, one of your panelists told us at the UN, despite the Washington Post report over past weekend). Rather than re-write it up, here’s some pertinent paragraphs that form these question(s) —

On Darfur, Questions of Ban’s Calls and Kazakh Plane Allegations

By: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press, News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 18 — About Darfur, the UN says many things.

But which of them are true?

On May 16, Ban Ki-moon gave an interview to Reuters television, which Reuters online the next day reported:

“Ban, in an interview with Reuters television on Wednesday, said, ‘We have a firm agreement in principle between the Sudanese government and United Nations and African Union that there will be a hybrid operation, so therefore it is a matter of implementing this commitment. It is very important for Sudanese government to keep their commitment,’ he said, after having conducted a series of telephone calls with Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.”

But Al Rayyam newspaper in Khartoum on May 18 quoted a Sudanese official who “denied any contact with the UN Secretary General on the AU-UN hybrid operation in Darfur” and who said that “the last phone call between Ban and the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was ‘three weeks ago.'”

Which is it? The Al Rayyam report was picked up the same day by the Sudan Tribune, which is an English-language publication which is included in the Ban’s spokesperson’s “morning headlines. But this Sudan Tribune report, with the headline ” Sudan denies discussing hybrid force with UN Secretary General,” was not included, only another story not directly contradicting the Reuters piece which, whether accurate or not, made Ban look relatively strong and effective.

The Reuters piece went on to quote unnamed Ban “aides” directing the press and public to a speech Ban made to a by-invitation-only event at the Korea Society:

“Aides describe Ban as persistent in pursuing agreement on the force, noting that he told the Korea Society earlier this week that Darfur put to the test ‘the authority of the Security Council, the image of the United Nations in the Arab world and the credibility of the United Nations.'”

The UN’s credibility is not only put to the test by the presence or absence of violence in Sudan, but by statements made right at its headquarters in New York. Did Ban’s office seek any correction from Al Rayyat? UN envoy Jan Eliasson, presented to the select(ed) press Friday by Ban’s Spokesperson, said that Sudanese “civil society” must be engaged. So one would think the UN would repudiate false reports in the Sudanese press, if they were false.

Or perhaps Reuters mistakenly tied Ban’s boasts on Wednesday to the “series of calls” with Bashir which Reuters only surmised. But then it would have been important for the UN to seek clarification and amendment by Reuters. Because the result is Ban’s claims about conversations with Bashir being directly denied in the Sudanese press, to the Sudanese civil society than Mr. Eliasson says is so crucial is peace is to be restored, by the UN or anyone else.

con’t at 07.html


Far too many aid agencies are pushing the United Nations to pass sanctions in Sudan? I personally don’t see that helping or changing the situation for the better.

Would sanctions work to end the genocide or are they absolutely pointless?


So the media has determined in the best interest of Dufar is to have a discussion. So lets all sit down and have an intellectual debate about murder, rape, and the destruction of a people. As I sit here in my safe environment I have to wonder if I can do anything. Maybe I should just debate the wall in front of me, because that would be just as affective as this panel will be in helping Dufar.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

There is nothing to debate. We’ve been debating for years now. Action is needed. GET ON IT!

Posted by Khaled Dajani | Report as abusive

The UN has always been useless except in a belated effort of “meals on wheels”. Debate is equally useless. The only thing these governments understand is raw military force – but after seeing how that turned out in Iraq I for one don’t want to see another US soldier sent to any other country on the face of the earth. You can point to Kosovo if you want, but US soldiers are still there 10 years later. Some problems can’t be fixed, and it’s high time we understand that.

Posted by Tommy Boy | Report as abusive