Sudan: Rebels responsible for violence (Seattle Post Intelligencer, Wednesday, April 28, 2004): Stung by charges that his government is fomenting ethnic cleansing in western Sudan, the humanitarian affairs minister came to see the evidence for himself - looted grain silos, scorched farmland, huts burned to heaps of black clay, and accounts of hundreds of thousands made homeless. But left unanswered was the question of who is to blame for the tragedy and looming famine in the Iraq-sized province of Darfur - the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, or the rebels it claims are threatening Sudan's stability with their campaign for autonomy?
The Darfur disaster has emerged as a delicate peace, brokered by Western and African diplomats, is taking root in another of Sudan's conflict zones - a 21-year civil war broadly defined as pitting the Muslim north against the Christian and animist south. In Darfur, which is almost completely Muslim, the division is between African and Arab. Human rights groups say the government is giving air support to the Arab tribal militias in Darfur. The government says the tribesmen are defending themselves against autonomy-seeking rebels, but denies aiding them....
The international media don't send reporters to cover genocides, it seems. They cover genocide anniversaries. We've just finished a spate of front-page stories, television docu-histories and somber panel discussions on "Why the Media Missed the Story" in Rwanda, pegged to the 10th anniversary of one of the most shocking tragedies of last century, or any century. More than 500,000 people were killed in a small African country in only 100 days, and the world turned away.
But even as the ink was drying on the latest round of mea culpas, another colossal disaster in Africa was already going uncovered. Nearly a million people have been displaced from their homes in western Sudan; many have fled into neighboring Chad. They report that militias working with the Sudanese government have been attacking villages, ransacking and torching homes, killing and raping civilians. These armed forces are supposedly cracking down on rebel groups based in the Darfur region, but in fact they are targeting the population. The rainy season comes to western Sudan in May. If farmers don't get back to their villages by then, the crops will not get planted this year — and that could mean mass starvation as well. But no one will go back as long as the janjaweed (literally, "armed horsemen") militias remain in the area.
So where are the journalists?
[...] But the fact is, with or without a war in Iraq, American journalists are generally slower to cover mass death if the victims are not white. The Rwandan genocide is a case in point.
Well, no ... I think you'd find that the Bosnians, Croatians and various groups in the former Yugoslavia are pretty certain that the American media tends not to cover "mass death", especially when it's on another continent, until it reaches a point where they can't avoid covering it. Relative whiteness has little to do with it. To be sure, Rwanda is a special disgrace -- although that's mostly governmental and political disgrace, rather than the press.
That said, there is truly an impressive lack of coverage of the situation in Sudan, if Google News Search is to be believed. Most of the articles seem to be coming from All-Africa.com; a few from Reuters, scattered sources here and there worldwide. It's worth noting that, according to various articles here and there, Africa seems to be having a spate of civil and other wars at the moment; figuring out which one, if any, to pay attention to is understandably difficult.
It looks like a lot of coverage above, yes, but except for the initial Seattle Post-Intelligencer link, it's almost all from African or UN sources.
Blame the US media for their particular blindness if you will. Blame the fact that with both a war in Iraq and an upcoming election, people in the US are, to put it mildly, severely distracted from anything else other than those and local affairs. However, the overwhelming evidence would be that nobody outside Africa is paying much attention to things going on there. I'm certainly not saying that should be the case; I'm merely stating that the blame should be spread around a bit more liberally.Posted by iain at April 28, 2004 03:29 PM