Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her delegation arrived in Sudan and experienced the kind of treatment that is not unfamiliar to ex-pat aid workers and journalists trying to work in Sudan these days. Sudanese security staff manhandled US officials and journalists. Some were prevented from entering a meeting room and some were later evicted for asking questions about the crisis in Darfur, according to a BBC journalist who is traveling with Ms. Rice.
Secretary Rice demanded and received an apology.
This is clearly a PR disaster for the new Sudanese government that is trying to appease the US and the UN after years of civil war and grave human rights abuses in the Darfur region of Western Sudan. Let us hope that their embarrassment results in some positive changes for the victims of the genocide in Darfur. Although the Sudanese Ambassador Khidair Haroun Ahmed declared: "this is not our policy," many can vouchsafe it is. Let us hope that Secretary Rice is allowed to walk and talk freely among the Darfurians she is slated to visit in a refugee camp later today. Let us hope that the victims of sexual gender-based violence she is supposed to talk to will feel safe to share their stories with Secretary Rice.
Although there has been some progress and commitment by this administration to help the victims of what the UN has called "the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today," more needs to be done if President Bush is to fulfill his promise (in his second inaugural address) to those who live in tyranny. He promised "the US will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors."
Much is needed to end this crisis in Darfur, here are some of the most pressing steps:
-full and open press coverage of what has occurred and is occurring;
-a full and proper mandate to the African Union to protect the citizens of Darfur;
-pressure on the UN Security Council to declare this disaster the genocide it is, so appropriate action can be taken;
-full support by the Bush Administration of the bipartisan Darfur Peace and Accountability Act;
-$200 million additional funding to the AU for more peacekeeping troops;
-economic and political support for the humanitarian groups and NGOs working to help the 2 million survivors of this genocide return to their homes.
Awareness, political pressure and money help. There are many excellent organizations working to end this crisis and help the victims of this genocide. The Save Darfur Coalition, Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, the Center for American Progress, the International Rescue Committee, International Medical Corps, and Medicins Sans Frontieres are all working tirelessly to help.