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July 26, 2005

Darfur disowned

A year ago Congress unanimously declared that the mass killings in Darfur, Sudan amounted to genocide. So what has the U.S. done since then to actually save lives in the region? Not a whole lot, according to Salih Brooker, executive director of Africa Action, quoted on Common Dreams:

“Congress has focused on sanctions and divestment, which are insufficient to stop genocide, and it has let the [U.S.] administration off the hook for its appalling apathy on this crisis,” said Booker. His organization has led calls for urgent multinational intervention to quell fighting that has killed some 400,000 and driven more than half the region’s 5.5 million people from their homes and villages over the past three years, according to estimates from U.N. agencies and advocacy groups.
On Sunday, Sudan’s army and rebels accused each other of fresh attacks on villages and convoys starting last Friday. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to Sudan last week, urged the government to end the violence.
… Many U.S. lawmakers have traveled to Darfur over the past year and congressional appropriations have yielded ‘‘important humanitarian assistance and financial support’’ for African peacekeepers deployed in the western Sudanese region.
But “congressional leadership has failed to exert strong pressure on the Bush administration to take urgent action at the international level on the most immediate priority—protecting the people of Darfur,” Africa Action said in a statement.
… The group now is gathering signatures on a message to President George W. Bush demanding urgent action to stop the genocide. It plans to submit the new petition to the White House on Sep. 9, one year after the administration officially recognized as genocide what was happening in Darfur.
The death toll will exceed one million people by the end of the year unless bold steps are taken to rein in the conflict between rebel groups of African descent and Arab militias that the regime in Khartoum stands accused of arming and abetting, Africa Action warned. It has urged Washington to push for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force and has demanded that Africa Union peacekeep-ers be given a political mandate to intervene in the fighting to protect civilians.

Unsurprisingly, the American public isn’t learning much about the genocide from its favorite source of “news”—the TV networks. Condi’s little Sudanese scuffle last week got way more airtime than hundreds of thousands of slaughtered innocents. During June 2005, for example, CNN, FOX News, NBC/MSNBC, ABC and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they did about Darfur. At the last count, it was more than 70 days since CBS ran a story on the tragedy. In fact, for much of the time, Darfur has trouble getting any airtime at all:

Last year, the ABC, CBS, and NBC network nightly newscasts aired a total of only 26 minutes on genocide and fighting in Sudan, the Tyndall Report found. ABC devoted 18 minutes to Darfur coverage, NBC five and CBS only three. By contrast, lifestyle doyenne Martha Stewart’s legal woes received 130 minutes of nightly news coverage.

If all this angers you as much as it does me, visit BeAWitness.org and tell the networks how you feel.

Posted by Stephen at 12:54 AM in War | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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