Re: Good guys and bad guys in Darfur

As long as we’re having a discussion about Darfur, I thought it would be a nice time to bring up this definitive interview from last year with Mahmood Mamdani on Democracy Now! (Sorry to overload on Mamdani inteviews from this particular show, but these clips are too good to pass up.) Below is part 1 of 3. I recommend watching them all.

The Darfur issue continues to be very relevant: VP-elect Joe Biden is a pro-interventionist who thinks the United States should enforce a no-fly zone in Darfur. (Sorry to subject you to more Palin in that link — you can skip her part, which begins at 2:03!)

This is worrying to me. I think Washington looks for military solutions because our military is so big, not because it is the best way to deal with things. Even pro-ICC, pro-interventionists like International Crisis Group president Gareth Evans say that military action in Sudan makes no sense. Read his objections (starting page 6 of the linked doc); they could apply to a lot of other places, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the idea of stepped-up intervention has been tossed around.

Good Guys and Bad Guys in Sudan

LGD note: I recently wrote this essay looking at New York Times reporting in Darfur  for a class on conflict and reporting. I thought it would be interesting to post here. Some of the footnotes I couldn’t include as links, so if for some reason you need a fully annotated version, please comment.

The biggest news story about conflict in Africa in the last five years has undoubtedly been the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, which has often been called genocide. The current violence in Sudan’s western state emerged in 2003 just as peace agreements were finally being made to end the 20-year civil war between Sudan’s north and south.  The conflict propelled a region that had once been regarded as a backwater onto the forefront of the international stage.

As reporting picked up steam in 2004, a story emerged about Darfur that was replayed in various forms: Nomadic Arab tribes, in league with Sudan’s nefarious government, were attempting to exterminate the black Africans of Darfur through a campaign of terror, rape and fire.

But scholars, Darfur experts and some aid groups have questioned the accuracy of this mainstream reporting on Darfur. In the last two years, this has coincided with a waning interest in the Darfur conflict among the American public.

In this essay, I follow the reporting on Darfur through the course of four years and several articles in the United States’ most influential newspaper, The New York Times. Through the evolution of the reporting, I show the ways in which the Times constructed an over-arching narrative about Darfur, why the story was relevant and popular, and why myths came to influence the reporting.

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