Darfur Panel Illustrates Region
Brian Steidle, a former U.S. Marine who witnessed the effects of genocide on the people in Darfur, speaks at a Darfur Action Committee panel Wednesday. (Photo by Simon Lau of the Daily Bruin.)

Darfur Panel Illustrates Region's Suffering

Speakers criticize international community's apathy toward Sudan.

This article first appeared in the Daily Bruin.

Robert Faturechi, Daily Bruin reporter

The image, projected onto a giant white screen in Moore Hall, silenced the crowd of nearly 200.
A black Sudanese baby, back turned to the camera, with a bright pink gunshot wound to the back.

This image and others – swollen-bellied babies, men with guns, widowed woman – took center stage Wednesday night, when the Darfur Action Committee, with the sponsorship of 20 student groups, held a presentation featuring a journalist, documentary filmmaker, U.S. Marine and activist discussing the genocide in the African nation.

The conflict was sparked after a rebel group of non-Arab Sudanese from the Darfur region attacked Arab-dominated government forces. Since that February 2003 rebellion, the Sudanese government and government-aided Muslim militias have killed thousands of non-Arabs, burned villages and raped women in the Darfur region.

Ken Silverstein, a Los Angeles Times journalist who has covered the genocide in Darfur extensively, told the crowd of the "strange alliance" between American intelligence agencies and the Sudanese government, a relationship that has grown since the attacks of Sept. 11.

The Sudanese government's willingness to share intelligence has impacted U.S. foreign policy towards the African nation, Silverstein said. "It's indisputable."

The United States has done little to push sanctions against the African nation at the United Nations, even though Osama bin Laden called Sudan home for nearly a decade and the State Department placed the African Nation on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Silverstein attributed this lack of action to the Sudanese government's role as "the eyes and ears" of the American intelligence community in the region.

"If you're a C.I.A. officer from Indiana, you're going to stick out like a sore thumb in Somalia," he said.

Sudan, at the fault line separating black Africa from Arab Africa, is surrounded by nations that have been called breeding grounds for terrorists.

The Sudanese government has cracked down on al-Qaeda groups within its borders and provided the Central Intelligence Agency with intelligence beneficial to the Bush administration's "War on Terror," Silverstein said.

The night's speakers sharply attacked the ongoing genocide and the global community's failure to intervene.

Some attributed the lack of global attention to the skin color of those being killed.

"There's no question that we don't pay the same attention to Africa as we do in other parts of the world, particularly Europe because it looks like us," Silverstein said.

Mohamed Yahya, a Darfur native, brought a personal touch to the night's presentation.

Yahya, now chairman of a Sudanese activist group, first heard word of the genocide while studying in Cairo.

He said his village was burned to the ground by Muslim militias, killing nearly 20 of his relatives.

Yahya often shouted at the crowd in Moore 100, calling for immediate intervention in thickly accented English.

"Five-year-old girls get raped. It is better for them to be killed," he said.

Like most of the night's speakers, Yahya was disappointed with the American response to the killings.

"Colin Powell went there. Condoleeza Rice went there. But what has happened?" Yahya said.

"Only words, only promises."

Silverstein said the media's foreign coverage is dependent on the White House and until the Bush administration directs more attention to the genocide in Sudan, already-lacking media coverage of the killings would not improve.

"When the White House points the finger, we look," Silverstein said.

Turnout at Moore Hall was high, as nearly 200 people, mostly students.

Second-year international development studies and anthropology student Connie Ng said she's discouraged that genocide has found its place in the 21st century.

"I think there will never be a solution because this happens all the time," Ng said.

Published: Thursday, November 10, 2005