Jan 292010

“These people do this from time to time”
Samantha Power, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of, “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”, in an interview with me in October, 2006. Ms. Power currently serves as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

“These people do this from time to time” – was the response from higher-ups in the U.S. State Department to the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State as she managed American evacuations from Rwanda during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

Power explains the importance that the genocide designation bears in holding accountable not only the perpetrators, but also outside actors, both international actors and foreign governmental actors, by their action or inaction.

In an interview with me in December 2006, Darfuri rebel leader Abdelwahid Mohammed Al-Nur pointedly stated, “We are not just black boys killing each other.”

The Forgotten People:
Mayom Angok “IDP Camp”, March 2007 – just south of the border with Darfur, is a “camp” for people displaced by the violence in Darfur. Once native to this land – having fled to Darfur during the years of the North-South civil war – they return now to the South to find their communities utterly destroyed.

The Government of South Sudan is meant to provide food and shelter to returnees and those fleeing the violence in Darfur, but here there is no sign of aid forthcoming. The blue UN tarps that provide meagre shelter from the elements are what little they managed to take with them from Darfur.

As the evening approached storm clouds gathered on the horizon, marking the onset of the rainy season, promising to cut these people off from all contact with the outside world as roads become impassable, and planes cannot land on the drenched ground.

Jan 292010

American activism to end the violence in Darfur culminated with a rally on the Nation’s Mall in Washington D.C. in April, 2006. * It was a beautiful spring day. We see Barack Obama and George Clooney, Elie Wiesel, Al Sharpton, Garth Brooks, rabbis and imams and preachers, politicians from both sides of the aisle, Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews, Muslim Darfuris and Christian Southern Sudanese immigrants, all come together in the cause to “end genocide”.

It was the first time in history that a social movement developed in response to an ongoing genocide, and the crowd there on the Mall that day felt empowered and hopeful that their efforts would bring results.

But over the course of the summer and fall, events in and revolving around Sudan began to overshadow that idealism. And so we begin to witness how that conviction and that idealism are pitted against the growing realization that there are geo-political and economic forces at play in Sudan’s complex story that will prove to be the country’s making or its undoing.

With the help of experts on Sudan, voices from within Sudan, and humanitarians and activists in the West, this film looks more closely at the wider context out of which the present crisis in Darfur was born, and the reasons behind the international community’s failure to stop what many call, “the first genocide of the 21st century”.

Throughout the film we see vignettes of everyday life in Sudan today, some hopeful in the sweetness of daily ritual and traditional family life, but we also witness the devastating effects that the ongoing conflicts within Sudan and the conflicts of interest on the part of outside actors on the world stage have on the day-to-day lives of the Sudanese people – we see a people struggling to feed their children despite the billions of dollars worth of oil that is extracted and sold from their ancestral lands.

Sudan is a theatre in which some of the most critical conflicts of the new millennium are being played out: Most notably the race for oil, which provides the Government of Sudan (GoS) with the motive and the means to carry out its genocidal policies; and the former Bush administration’s so-called “War on Terror”, which had made the GoS an ally in that war as Islamic extremists and terrorist organizations manoeuvre through Africa’s largest country. Indeed, Sudan is a battleground for militant Christianity and militant Islam.

“Darfur is a frontline now between cultures, like Somalia…” Jan Pronk, UN Special Representative to Sudan (2004 – 2006)

* The history of American activism for Sudan: Leading up to the 2004 US Presidential elections, evangelical groups and the Black Caucus were putting pressure on the White House to speak out on the violence in Darfur. The same groups had lobbied the White House to help broker a peace to end the civil war between North and South Sudan. Indeed evangelical groups have had a long presence in South Sudan, going back the days when Sudan was a British Colony. The Southern Sudanese are black and mostly Christian, as opposed to North Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim and Arab. Darfuris by contrast are mostly black and Muslim. It’s an important distinction to be aware of when attempting to understand the various elements that are at play in Sudan’s conflicts.