I just got tipped off to this rock-the-vote song and video by New York-based Sudanese artist Alsarah. The Sudanese elections are definitely a complicated issue. But whether, like Mia Farrow, you think that the elections are bad for the Sudanese people, or on the other hand if you think they are an important opportunity for Sudan to change from within, the excitement about the possibilities of the democratic process are palpable in this great clip featuring Oddisee.
Also, check out that link to Alsarah’s MySpace page — she’s an up-and-coming singer with a great sound whom I would be highlighting here even if she wasn’t a friend of a friend. She combines old Sudanese melodies with a contemporary, often Hip Hop feel in a way that’s part Fairouz, part Hashim Mirghani and part K’naan. Have a listen.
Hat Tip ST.
I’ve been reading some interesting stuff on a mini-scandal involving a guy who was quoted in several news reports as being a spokesperson for Darfur refugees. Turns out the man, who went by the name Abu Sharati (clearly a nickname, though never noted as such in the stories), was actually probably a spokesperson for a rebel group. Read the whole discussion through these posts and their links (I’m pasting straight from my Twitter feed because I’m writing this from a net cafe): via @SBengali http://bit.ly/GPQOY & @robcrilly http://tinyurl.com/y8rhy9h.
Now, I’m truly sympathetic to the pressures that international journalists are under, their limited resources and their need to rely on sources like “Abu Sharati” because there is no time and no way to look for anyone better. In my brief foray into journalism, one thing I’ve immediately seen is that it is vastly easier to criticize media than it is to report. But the fact that this error was caught is really important. Some hedging language should have been used in the original reports. The revelation will, I hope, promote more caution in the future.
But there is a deeper issue that this discussion points to: reporting about people who will not read your work and do not pay for your stories (indirectly or directly) means there are fewer incentives for good fact-checking. There is a structural paradox at the core of international journalism, especially in Africa: our American audience’s preceived lack of proximity to the stories we produce makes it (that audience) passive about the information it receives. Continue reading
Al Jazeera English reported a few days ago that “a group of former Sudanese activists” had called a press conference to admit that they had exaggerated their claims of deaths and violence in the Darfur war.
A group of former Sudanese activists says some of the figures of those reported dead and displaced in the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region were exaggerated. The former Darfur rebel activists told Al Jazeera that they increased tolls and gave false evidence during investigations conducted by delegates from foreign organisations into the conflict.
“We used to exaggerate the numbers of murders and rapes,” Salah al Din Mansour, a former translator with World NGOs in Darfur, said
“Darfur groups ‘padded’ death tolls, Al Jazeera English, September 10, 2009
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have frequently criticized the distortions of the Save Darfur Coalition, which has sloppily exaggerated or misconstrued the scope, causes and duration of the conflict, not to mention advocating a military solution that I disagree with. Continue reading
As an eighth-grader learning about American slavery, I had a fantasy. I imagined that some elite Marines and I could outfit ourselves in the latest combat gear and travel back in time to the year 1820. Once we arrived in the heart of the slavery era, we’d storm the plantations with superior weaponry and free the slaves. Problem solved. It would be awesome, and I’d be a hero.
Of course, as I learned in later study, the abolition of one of history’s most monstrous atrocities was not such a simple matter. Dismantling slavery meant the splitting of a nation, a civil war that sacrificed 600,000 lives, and a burning of the South that – while possibly justified – entailed extreme and morally repugnant violence. And of course, war was only part of the solution. There were the complex political negotiations, the recalibration of society that, 150 years later, is still incomplete.
I kept thinking of these episodes in my education as I read Richard Just’s August 27 take-down of Mahmood Mamdani in The New Republic. The article – a review of Mamdani’s Saviors and Survivors and Gareth Evans’s The Responsibility to Protect – concludes that Mamdani’s book is a paranoid failure, but that Evans proposes a refreshing idealism (though Just finds that the R2P proponent is a little too conservative in promoting his doctrine).
During my daily perusing of the Save Darfur Accountability Project (a funny, irreverent and important blog that I urge you to add to your RSS feeds), I saw this graphic of the top world aid donors and recipients. SDAP’s post is intended to show that, contrary to Save Darfur’s arguments that the United States is neglecting Sudan, Washington actually gives more aid to Sudan than any country besides Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s the image, originally from visualeconomics.com:
Point well taken. But what also caught my eye is that peaceful and stable Tanzania receives, according to this graphic, more development aid than any at-peace country in the world.
Without discounting the basic lacks that lie behind the build up in aid, I have to wonder what that does to an economy and to a society. (Why do I keep having images of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “First of the Month” video, about minute 2:30, flash through my head?) I also have to wonder how much of that money goes to buy these NGO-logo-emblazoned Landcruisers tooling around Dar es Salaam and depositing people at fancy hotels for overpriced drinks.
Anyone know where I can get copies of Dead Aid and The White Man’s Burden in TZ?
Let no one say that the debate around the U.S. response to Darfur is purely an academic exercise. I have no idea if Sudan Special Envoy Scott Gration has been reading Alex de Waal’s blog at the Social Science Research Council (he should be), but in the congressional hearings last week, we saw the issues haggled over and analyzed to the minutest detail on the SSRC blog start to take on the dimensions of real life consequences.
Check out the Enough blog for its painstaking chronicling of the mainstream response to Gration’s comments that Sudan’s listing as a state sponsor of terrorism is a “political decision” and that the designation of genocide may no longer be relevant. (Enough’s coverage is of course decidedly skewed against Gration. I’m pretty impressed. Until countries like Israel and Saudia Arabia — heck, even us — are listed as state sponsors of terrorism, any such designation is purely political.)
Here’s the short clip of Gration’s comments.
In a recent post, the Enough blog discussed a poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org that showed there is much popularity for the indictment of Omar al-Bashir among the populations of some African countries — contrary to the position of the AU, which has rejected the ICC’s move.
Maybe African leaders are “out of step” with their populaces, Enough suggested. And in another post, the group questioned the judgment of those leaders for other reasons. An excerpt:
The AU includes a fair number of leaders with a lot of blood on their hands, so it’s no surprise that they would seek to shield themselves from individual prosecution. But for the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the institutionalization within the AU of impunity for the likes of Bashir, Mugabe, Deby, Meles, Issayas, Kagame, and Gaddafi is deeply troubling.
Guess I wasn’t the only one who noticed the political minefield into which a Ugandan junior minister stepped when he suggested Kampala might arrest Bashir during an upcoming visit. Read the Daily Nation article here.
An article in Uganda’s Independent yesterday suggested that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir could face arrest if he visits Kampala for the 2009 Smart Partnership Dialogue. (This happened while International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo was in town, so maybe it’s just lip service.) What I found interesting, though, is that a country that has beef with Sudan over matters totally unrelated to the charges agains Bashir–charges over his involvement in the Darfur conflict–might be in a position of arresting the Sudanese leader. As the article puts it rather innocently: Continue reading
In August 2007, at the commencement of the Dream for Darfur torch relay, Mia Farrow and an 8 year old Darfurian refugee walk into a sandstorm near the Sudan-Chad border. By the Genocide Intervention Network, used with a Creative Commons license via flickr. (See my comments on this photo at the end of the post!)
Visit the Save Darfur website these days and it’s hard to tell what the coalition thinks of Obama’s approach to Sudan. The news stories the site highlights on the left seem to be chosen to show the president’s inaction; the blog posts that the SDC folks author seem to cautiously praise him. Overall, I’ve sensed frustration with Obama emanating from the SDC camp — despite Obama’s appointment of Scott Gration as special envoy to Sudan, per the coalition’s request to appoint an envoy. It seems like the coalition doesn’t think he’s been bold enough.