“What does Sudan want?” “Who do you think are arming the rebels?” These deceptively simple questions were posed to the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations by members of the panel at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York on 24 May, 2007. His answers were evasive, and the debate was full of awkward moments. The ambassador even blamed the violent conflict in Darfur on climate change at one point. The other panelists disagreed.
There was a quiet gasp from the audience of journalists and opinion-makers when they heard where the questions were coming from. New York is very, very far away from Darfur. Somehow it brought the room closer to the tragedy to know someone in the region was listening.
Here is the second question Ndesanjo asked, right before the end:
At the last Reuters Newsmaker event there was a live webcast which made it easier for bloggers to listen and ask questions while it was happening. This time, the full audio recording of the event has been added to the Reuters website later (here) and video clip (here). Just click to see how depressingly far from any resolution the conflict is.
The speakers represented the US Department of State (Lauren Landis), the United Nations (Mia Farrow), the International Crisis Group (John Prendergast), and NBC News (Ann Curry).
“Will you say yes to peacekeepers?” asked the moderator. The ambassador hesitated. “Yes, for African Union peacekeepers supported by the United Nations,” but it was a conditional response. He said he only wanted peacekeepers, after durable peace was established (good luck).
“It’s their policy to destroy that rebellion by killing the supporters. They don’t want witnesses. They don’t want an effective peacekeeping force,” said Prendergast. He called for sanctions against individual senior leaders. And he called them war criminals. “Until there is a cost for continuing to arm militias they will continue the killing in the villages. They will continue bombing civilian targets,” he said.