Council on Foreign Relations
New York, N.Y.
PRINCETON LYMAN: Welcome and thank you very much for being here this evening. I'm Princeton Lyman, senior fellow and director of Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Let me just do a couple of quick housekeeping things: Please turn off your cell phones, BlackBerries, and all similar devices for the balance of the program. Second, I just want to mention that this meeting is on the record, so that people can quote from who they hear tonight, et cetera. We've just seen an extraordinary film, and those of you who know the work of [filmmaker] Sorious Samura know that he continues to do this extraordinary work, bringing stories to us in incredible fashion.
And we are dealing with a crisis that is, in fact, 2 years old just about now. It began in February of 2003 and we are still dealing with this major crisis today not only in Darfur, but in the plight of people who are refugees and who are displaced. Just a moment to bring up the numbers, because although Sorious mentioned in the film that 70,000 people have died; in fact, we now believe the figure is much higher, perhaps closer to 300,000 people have died and more than 2 million displaced. We're going to have a conversation here for about 30 minutes, and then we're going to throw it open for questions and comments from the group here.
I'm very, very pleased to introduce our panel. We have with us Christiane Amanpour, CNN international correspondent, a winner of many Emmys, George Polk awards, and many, many other awards, who has been on the frontlines of stories around the world: the Balkans, Iraq, Jordan, and virtually every major international area. Christiane, we're very happy to have you with us. You all have these bios, so I'm going to make very short introductions.
We also have John Prendergast, who is senior adviser to the president of the International Crisis Group. I don't know anyone who plunges into issues across Africa with more earnestness and, at the same time, more intellectual depth than John. He's written extensively, not only on this crisis, but on Uganda, Zimbabwe, and many, many others. Thank you.
And we also have a secret guest. We're very delighted to have with us this evening [journalist] Dele Olojede— a friend of long-standing, but most important, a man— great journalist, and who has just received the Pulitzer Prize for his series on Rwanda for Newsday. Congratulations, Dele, and thank you so much for being here. [Applause]
If I can start with you, Christiane. Sorious put this plight out there and trying to answer the question [of] why the world hasn't responded. As a correspondent who has gone to see these stories, how have you found it, trying to get to the story in the first place, and then to cover it and project it back to the world?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, I think that one of the things that stands out about Sorious' film is that it wasn't done in Sudan. And that's probably because he couldn't get into Sudan. And we do find an incredible difficulty in actually getting into these places and trying to report these stories. My first trip out there was, in fact, last May. And I went to Chad, like Sorious has done, spent a week or 10 days there doing similar— I mean, not walking for 21 days and spending time with the refugees as he's done, but reporting on the issue from the Chad side of the story, waiting to try to get into Sudan.
Now, people have snuck over the border, I think you did, with various crews, but it's more difficult when you're trying to do it in real time and when you're CNN and you've got satellite gear and you want to perhaps get into the situation more in-depth. And we waited, and we did actually get a visa to get into Darfur. And it was last August, and again we spent a week to 10 days and we did quite a lot of programming from there.
But we have not been able to get a visa since. We've been trying really ever since, actually from the early fall to now. And we thought we would get one this month in April. I thought I'd be there around now. Now we're hoping to be there in May, and we'll hope to be in there in June and et cetera. So in short, it's an extremely difficult story to cover, which is why not enough of it is getting out.
I think Sorious's style is extremely effective. I wish I had done what he just did. And I think that he was being modest in sort of perhaps suggesting some of the criticism people had of it. What he said was a new catch phrase that I hadn't heard, "make the important interesting." And that is the challenge for all of us, whose mission really is to tell these kinds of stories, whether they're in Africa or
Middle East or Latin America, wherever we might find these kinds of stories, and actually particularly Africa.
We can't divorce ourselves from the fact that in the West, Africa is a forgotten story, and with often disastrous consequences, which Dele will talk about later. I mean, you know, one of the reasons why we're so desperate to get to Sudan and tell this story is because we remember our collective failure 10, 11 years ago in Rwanda. And there it wasn't because we couldn't get there. We didn't go. And that was a bad thing. And so we're extremely conscious of the need to go to these places.
At the same time, it's extremely difficult. Even though we got there, I had a small team, we had a small satellite dish, and we were able to do programming, we nearly killed ourselves doing it. I mean, we all got sick. I mean, the living conditions were very basic. We had, you know, support from the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] who we stayed with, but it was very difficult.
And one of the things that angered me deeply was the inability to get it very high up in the programming. And I am CNN's chief international correspondent, I do carry some weight at CNN, and I had producers in Atlanta and New York, through my IFB [interruptible feedback], complaining that I was complaining about not being higher up in the program, saying, you know, "Well, do people really care about this? Do people really want to know about this?" And my point is that that's not our job, to decide whether people care. We need to identify important stories, make them interesting, as Sorious said, and perhaps encourage people to care. And I actually think that we can do that. I believe that our experience in the Balkans showed that, that you can do these kinds of important stories and make them stories that people will listen to and watch and take notice and perhaps react to.
For me, one of the tragedies is that news organizations are not as committed to doing that anymore, and in fact, it's getting less and less. And I believe it's criminal negligence in our profession. If there is a crime in our profession, it is the negligence of important stories.
LYMAN: You know, one of the things that comes so clear in the film is the extraordinary dignity and the courage and the strength and generosity of the people who are going through this experience. I mean, Sorious himself gets so sick he can hardly stand. They're chopping wood, sharing meager resources. And so many people are going through this, in the hundreds of thousands, and inside Darfur in the millions. It's extraordinary.
John, this is a complicated story, Darfur; the origins of it, the rebellion, the resolutions, the ceasefires, the on-and-off negotiations. Can you bring us up to date on where we stand in the diplomatic side of trying to bring this under control; what's done, what's being done, what's more current?I realize we don't have time to give it justice, but if you could sort of bring everybody up to date on this crisis.
JOHN PRENDERGAST: It's hard to explain, you know, how 100,000 people could have died since this film was actually shot. And for all intents and purposes, the aggregate sum of the international response has been largely in the form of a few resolutions, a few speeches, some very bold words. We of course heard the Bush administration invoke the term "genocide" just around the time this film was being made in September. So in the six or seven months since that film has occurred and what— and you've given us the updated numbers – I mean, 300,000 dead— up to 300,000 dead. Two and a half million are now displaced because the attacks continue on the ground, so people continue to be displaced. So we've gone from 2 million at that time to 2-1/2 million at present. The incidence of rape, of course, on the ground is something that has increased as well since September. So the situation is deteriorating.
I went about, oh, some weeks ago now to the border and then across into Darfur, into the rebel-held zones, with [actor] Don Cheadle and Paul Rusesabagina, the character upon whom— upon which [the movie] Hotel Rwanda was based. And we've seen a definitive slide in the conditions on the ground.
The response, the international response, has been very, very weak. Since September, about 2,000 African Union forces have been deployed as basically the sole representation of international interest and will on the ground in Darfur. It's so similar to the situation in Rwanda, hauntingly similar to Rwanda in ‘94, where you have this token force on the ground and we say we're doing all we can.
So that force is on the ground, doing very little, observing a ceasefire, rather than protecting civilians.
And just now, just the last couple of weeks, we finally saw the first action by the international community. We finally had resolutions in the Security Council that now authorize targeted sanctions against those that commit atrocities in Darfur, that authorize the imposition of an arms embargo on the Sudanese government. Can you imagine? After two years of this, of what we're calling "genocide," we hadn't moved and hadn't even tried to impose an arms embargo, at least to stop the arms sales to this government. So the response has been shockingly inadequate and almost more shocking than ‘94, because the situation has taken so much longer to unfold, and we've used the terms that the Clinton administration was afraid to use in ‘94.
LYMAN: The international response, with all the attention it has gotten— and it hasn't gotten as much nearly as it should – but we just had a report from the United Nations, from [U.N. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator] Jan Egeland, which I find very surprising: that of the amount pledged for relief for Darfur and related to refugees, of $690 million, that only about $270 million has been received. So we're dealing with a situation in which— and we see this so often— you get pledges, and you don't get the actual transfer of resources on the ground. People remember the pledges and forget what happens later. It's a complicated political situation. I want to come back to it.
But Dele, let me ask you this. John has put his finger on something. When we went through the Rwanda tragedy, there was a reluctance to use the word "genocide," because people said: "Well, you know, once you cross that line, then something big's got to happen." And nobody was prepared to do something big.
Here, first the Congress and then the administration in the fall said this is genocide. Then the United Nations sends out a team. They come back, and they say: "Well, you can't quite say it's genocide, but it's certainly crimes against humanity and war crimes and acts of genocide." Is the word "genocide" no longer carrying that power anymore?
DELE OLOJEDE: It's— let me throw something out here. It's not meant to be excessively cynical. I think what underlies everything in the way the world responds to this kind of crisis is that the people are at the bottom of the world. They are not important to the international community. This is just the fact. If they were important enough, somebody would do something to try to help them. So it's not that the word "genocide" has lost its meaning or its power. It's because, you know, if these people are immaterial, essentially, and they just depend on the goodwill of those who have the means to rescue them, it's never going to work.
In 10 or 15 years' time we're going to be sitting here talking about the same thing. People were saying never again, in the 1940s, and, you know, almost a million people were hacked to death in broad daylight in 1994 and nothing happened. So I think what probably we need to devote our energies toward is something that's more long term and probably more difficult, which is to try to build capacities in these regions of the world for them to be able to run their own societies a little bit more efficiently and perhaps to prevent these sorts of things from happening. No one is really going to ride to the rescue. And, you know, I've been in all these places, as Christiane has been. We were in Somalia, we were in Rwanda, we were in Burundi, Indonesia, and a lot of these places. If they don't have, you know, 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, fundamentally nobody cares, and I think that's the reason. It's not because intervention wasn't possible. There is no kind of intervention for which you can presume success, you just try first anyway and you hope that you will be successful in stopping genocide or some other egregious crimes against humanity. But when people don't make any effort or make so little effort that failure is guaranteed, there is something far more fundamental there, and 300,000 may die or maybe half a million, and it wouldn't mean very much.
I have people in my own newsroom who have come to me since the series ran last year and said, "Well, I never knew all these things happened there." In 1994. I mean, so people have other things that preoccupy them. And perhaps we just need to be realistic about how to try to attack these problems.
LYMAN: Well, that raises some very, very serious issues about the ability of the international community. You talk about strengthening the capacity on the ground. John has mentioned the African Union, which is the only force on the ground, but very small. But there's another aspect to this of politics that gets in the way as well. And John mentioned that there were a number of resolutions passed in the United Nations, but no sanctions until this very last one. And then we found that there was a lot of big-power politics going on; that oil was at stake, and the Chinese get 6 percent of their oil from Sudan; Russia is selling arms to Sudan, and "sanctions" was a bad word in the U.N. So it seems to me that on the one hand there wasn't the caring, as you talk about, and not enough caring to deal with these serious politics—
OLOJEDE: I mean, not enough caring to overcome the vested interests that are there.
LYMAN: The vested—
OLOJEDE: Because, I mean, again, speaking realistically, because of the threats to the world's oil supply from various regions, probably governments are a little bit more cautious sort of moving in and taking out some of these rogue regimes. I don't think by any shred of imagination can we define the Sudanese regime other than as a rogue regime. Well, they're sitting on oil. The same thing happened in Nigeria during the [General Sani] Abacha years [1993-98], and everybody was kind of embarrassed, but there was 2 million barrels of oil a day. I mean, these are important things that one has to face. I mean, it's sort of cynical and perhaps one wouldn't like to discuss it in different company. But they affect every decision made, whether it's to intervene or to sort of step aside and kind of manage it; perhaps prevent 5 million from being killed, but maybe a million is OK.
AMANPOUR: Can I just pick up on that? First of all, I'd like to clarify, of course I did not mean criminal negligence but professional negligence when it comes to our journalistic duties, which we often don't meet on these situations. But—
PRENDERGAST: The lawyers are [inaudible].
AMANPOUR: Yes. But I will say that, for instance, when I first started covering the Balkans and it seemed like the world didn't care, the world wasn't motivated to intervene, genocide was clearly was taking place, the U.N. had basically just about admitted it, a lot of the people there were complaining to me, "Oh, if only we had oil, the world would intervene, et cetera."
But I do think on the positive side, I think what we did as a profession, us journalists, keeping, for instance, Bosnia in the spotlight day after day, week after week, months, year after year, we did, I think, help in the end spur intervention, which was, actually, purely humanitarian intervention. There were no overt national or economic interests in the Balkans.
LYMAN: I agree with that, yes.
AMANPOUR: I think it was purely that finally, you know, for decent countries and decent people to see that kind of slaughter on their screens every single day, for democracies, for the leaders of democracies, in the end it was too much. And, of course, the massacre at Srebrenica was the last straw.
So I think that our power is very real, and if we wield our power in terms of journalism that we can, in some cases, effect change for the good. And that's why I get so upset when we don't do the kinds of things that we should be doing in terms of covering places like Rwanda or, now, Darfur. I mean, we certainly try. I think [New York Times columnist] Nicholas Kristof is perhaps being single-handedly heroic in keeping the Darfur issue alive, and in just going on, and on, and on, and never letting it fall from the public eye.
For us, it's more difficult, because we actually have to be there on the ground and be able to take the pictures and broadcast the pictures and as he says again, Sorious, make the important interesting.
OLOJEDE: I actually do agree with you, though, because to me, my colleague [inaudible]--my former colleague, now— was one of those, who, like you and many other people who were in Bosnia and were able to, really, sort of pound into everyone's homes every morning and evening to make sure that people paid attention. So there was a dramatic impact that the press had in Bosnia, but also a little bit of luck. It was coming off the embarrassment of Rwanda, and people didn't want to be caught not doing anything the way Rwanda had occurred. I mean, Rwanda, of course, was also a case of bad luck to some degree, because it was coming just off the fiasco in Somalia. So people were a little bit gun-shy.
So again, what I'm saying is there isn't a systematic attempt or a structure in place internationally to really, effectively deal with these problems, and it depends too much on so many extraneous things and happenstance. That's my problem.
LYMAN: And in Bosnia, you did eventually have both – not only the nearness of European and the better logistics, you had NATO.
LYMAN: Which we have not had any involvement.
AMANPOUR: And by the way, Bosnia and the initial failure and slowness to react in Bosnia, in my opinion—
PRENDERGAST: Was European, primarily.
AMANPOUR: Yeah, but also, you know, the Americans were also involved in being slow. But I think— what I was going to say was that I think the disaster of seeing a Bosnia for all those years propelled them to act faster in Kosovo. So I think we had a double effect. You know, they simply did not want to see in Kosovo what they had seen in Bosnia, and wouldn't be able to tolerate it for all those years again. So that was good. I'm actually proud of what the journalistic profession did in the Balkans.
LYMAN: But I think the Somalia legacy still exists for Africa. There is still this great reluctance— with some exception— to get as engaged in a country and a complex country like Sudan.
Let me ask you, John, given all that we've talked about here and what you know about the complex negotiations— the north-south civil war in Sudan we haven't talked about, but it has a bearing on this. What do you see as next? And what would the— what should be done from here on in, not to be sitting here six or 12 months later and seeing the same thing?
PRENDERGAST: I think there are three overwhelming priorities that need to be pursued. And this could be replicated in almost every major emergency around the world of this nature, in which crimes against humanity are being committed on a large basis— large-scale basis.
First, civilian protection. The fact that after two years we have just this pathetic little force, this token force of 2,000 people, who are observing a ceasefire and not mandated to protect people— you know, what we saw here today are the lucky people that got out of Sudan. We haven't— we can't see, because, as Christiane said, it's very, very hard to get a visa, get in to cover what's going on in the internally displaced camps, where, you all know by now, women have to face a choice every day: Do they feed their family by going out, finding firewood and cooking, or— and if they do, then they have to face the likelihood now, not just the possibility, that they'll be raped. Why can't we as an international community create a force to protect these women to go out to get the firewood? We haven't done that. Two years have gone by. So civilian protection is the overwhelming priority now that needs to be pursued, and the United Nations Security Council still has not addressed that.
Secondly, I think accountability for crimes against humanity is imperative. And we have now started moving along that track, finally. But it's the same kind of thing in Rwanda in ‘94 and in the Balkans. While things are happening, there is no accountability. There are total states of impunity.
So the actions that the Security Council took a week and a half ago are very important in beginning to address that cycle of impunity, first by imposing the targeted sanctions, and second by referring the case of Darfur to the International Criminal Court— begins that process of accountability.
And then third, of course, not to get too complicated, but there has to be some kind of a meaningful peace process to deal with the root causes of problems there. Can you imagine if one person in this room, while there might be an odd U.N. official— but I would be shocked if anyone in this room could name the special envoy, the lead negotiator in the conflict in Darfur. There's nobody there. There's no one home. The lights aren't even on. This is a conflict that has raged on and on, that we are simply not addressing. There's some very, very low-priority process that occasionally meets in either Chad or Nigeria, and we're not there. So we need a Danforth-type special envoy that brings the heft of the United States government to support the African Union efforts. They need to step up. They haven't.
And I think— so between those three things, civilian protection, accountability and the building of a peace process, none of which we really have a great deal of forward movement on, with the exception of accountability, I think we'll get— we will avoid having to sit here in 12 months.
LYMAN: And that peace process that you mentioned requires a negotiation between the government and rebel forces that are themselves now split and which are getting some outside support but do not seem to themselves be in a position to negotiate very effectively. Is that something that the international community can do something about as well?
PRENDERGAST: Yeah. I mean, they're riven by divisions. The Khartoum government is fantastic at what it does, and one of the best things it does is to divide and conquer. And so I think they've been able to— they've managed to tear those rebel groups to shreds. The command and control has been absolutely emasculated.
Let's just say, for 10 seconds, genocide, as we call it now, has occurred in Darfur not just because it was a random policy choice that the Sudan government decided to unveil two years ago, but rather because they wanted to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy that would absolutely decimate the connection between the people of Darfur, who were unhappy with this government, and the rebel groups that were fighting against it. It was a genocidal counterinsurgency campaign, using the oldest trick in the book: drain the water to catch the fish. So that resulted in a tattering, a destruction of the rebels' ability to have safe haven and mobility inside Darfur. So it was a very effective military strategy. The rebels are a decimated force, and therefore, as they've splintered, their ability to sit at a peace table and actually negotiate is quite undermined.
However, that's not the only reason we're not seeing forward movement in the peace process. The government of Sudan has no interest in making a peace deal with rebel groups that are divided and weakened in this. They want to defeat them completely and militarily. They want to wipe them off the face of the Earth to demonstrate to anyone else in Sudan that if they have any interest in rebelling against this minority military clique, this is the fate that they will get.
LYMAN: That's a heavy, heavy assessment that doesn't open us up very much for action, except, as you mentioned, the beginning of sanctions, the beginning of accountability, the beginning of what I would call the "bad cop" side of the process and the Africa Union trying to put together a negotiating situation— and complicated, as we haven't got into, by the north-south civil war agreements, and that makes it even more complicated.
I'm going to open it up now. We have until 8:15 for this discussion. And I would ask that you stand and you give your name and affiliation. But I want to ask just for a minute Michelle Brown— is Michelle Brown here? Michelle, are you there? Where's Michelle? Just back from the camps in Chad. I wonder if you can just give us a minute or two on what you found, since we were watching the condition in camp. Michelle Brown is with Refugees International, just back from the camps in Chad. We have a microphone right there for you.
MICHELLE BROWN: Thanks, Princeton. And thanks to the panelists for the good overview of why the international community has been so slow to respond to the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur.
I just wanted to make a couple of points about the situation in Chad. I was in Chad from the 8th of March, spent roughly half the time that Sorious spent in the camps. I managed to travel to about eight of the camps, including Breidjing, where he spent 21 days. But overall, the situation in the camps has improved since this was filmed in September. UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] has strengthened its response. They've gotten good staff on the ground. NGOs have strengthened their response as well, although a lot still needs to be done. Basic needs are being met. Kids are in school. We hear between 40 to 65 percent of the kids are enrolled in school, equal enrollment between girls and boys. WFP [World Food Program] has managed to get the pipeline in order so refugees are receiving more or less full rations now. You saw what the logistical constraints are, and they have gotten the transport route from Libya, which has really improved things.
Right now the U.N. is switching from an emergency response to more care and maintenance, but care and maintenance is a lot more expensive. They need psycho-social programs for the people who have experienced violence. They need special programs for women who have been raped. They need special programs for children. And again, they're very, very expensive. And as John mentioned, the political process is nowhere near fruition. Refugees are not going home any time soon. So it's crucial that funders fund programs for the long term. We are estimating that they'll be there for at least another two years.
And in terms of just the overall environment in which the refugees are living, the tension with the host community is really on the increase. As you saw, eastern Chad is incredibly poor. It's the poorest region of one of the poorest countries in Africa. And when the refugees came into Chad, the local populations opened up their hearts, opened up their homes and provided a lot of assistance, but now the refugees are receiving assistance and the host communities aren't. The rainfall was very poor and the local populations have no food. So you saw the quest for firewood is a daily struggle that the refugees face, daily struggle that the host communities face, too. So competition is increasing. Women are more at risk.
On a more disturbing note, the situation that Adam faced, waiting for three weeks before he was registered, that's still happening. There are small members of new arrivals trickling into the camps. You can see them at the outskirts of the camps. And UNHCR is still very slow to register them. But overall, we are happy to see that the situation is much, much better than what we saw in the film. Thank you.
LYMAN: Michelle, thanks. I saw a lady in the back. It's very hard to see there. Yes? Your name and affiliation.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Hi. Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch. I'm very grateful to Christiane and to Dele for— Hi there – for outlining the challenges of getting these stories on the air. It's something we've experienced at Human Rights Watch. And part of the reason is that a lot of major news organizations have a single correspondent for all of Africa. During 2003 and 2004, a lot of them were actually off covering the war in Iraq, so there was no one to tell the story.
What is your advice for how to get the resources of major news organizations focused on these crises, focused on them faster? And right now, we're in a situation where a lot of the news organizations feel like they've told the story, they feel like they've described the massive killing campaign, and now, actually, that's not enough. So what do we do when the worst-case scenario, namely, genocide or a massive killing campaign, carried out over a period of years, is simply not enough anymore? How do we turn the spotlight back on Sudan?
AMANPOUR: Well, speaking personally, I think it's going to be extremely difficult. If you remember, the head of USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] said that they expect perhaps a million deaths, a million casualties by the end— that was by the end of 2004. It didn't happen, but that is a huge number. And I didn't see any mass reaction by the mass media, and that's a huge number for an official of the United States government to put out there.
You know, I will say for CNN that we have more than one correspondent in Africa. We have several bureaus in Africa, and I'm proud of that at a time when news networks are cutting back. But it's still not enough, and it's still not enough focus. And I think part of the problem is that it's expensive, difficult; difficult to get in. And unless it's easier, you know, we're just not going to get— we're just not going to get it covered, and that's the sad reality. And as I say, I try to use whatever influence I have to try to cover things that I think are important and that need covering. But it's a dying trend in the news business right now. You do get exceptions, like 60 Minutes, orNightline— I don't know what the future ofNightline is now that Ted's [Koppel] gone, butNightline was very responsible in its news coverage. And we try to be, too, but it's a very difficult, uphill challenge for us now.
OLOJEDE: You find that Africa, as you said, Minky, has the fewest correspondents of any region in the world, and that already creates a structural problem in telling the stories of people's daily lives before things even explode into a major international crisis. And a lot of news organizations are cutting back, and the trend is accelerating.
I was able to spend three months in Rwanda last year simply because I had some standing in the paper; I was the foreign editor and I assigned myself. [Laughter] So it's not that easy for any large news organization these days to— because everybody is now part of some kind of a chain, the Tribune Company, which is a fine company, all the newspapers in the group are now being mashed into one bureau in Washington. Everybody reassures you that this doesn't really mean anything, but you've got to be foolish to think that that is correct. The same is true even amongst— at almost every large news organization. So the trend is that we're going to have fewer and fewer people covering the rest of the world until we have September 11, and everybody's scrambling for some Arabic-speaking reporter from, you know, the interns desk to lead our efforts somewhere.
This is just— this is the trend. I don't see where the solution is, other than if people were committed, as generally had been the tradition in Europe, where even the smallest newspapers tend to have a lot of foreign correspondents. Perhaps this is a function in part of their colonial history, where they've always had to go to these places anyway. This is not true here. And it's late—
AMANPOUR: I'm all for a people's revolution. [Laughter] I think the citizens of the United States should demand of their news organizations more coverage of places that are interesting. But the citizens of the United States have to be interested and have to care.
UNKNOWN: Yeah. Yeah.
AMANPOUR: And sadly, too often, that's not the case.
PRENDERGAST: Can I just break in for 30 seconds on this?
LYMAN: Thirty seconds is all—
PRENDERGAST: Thirty seconds— is that the incredible exception to the rule of the usual sort of— it's not apathy so much as just ignorance when there isn't the kind of coverage that they're talking about— is happening now on Darfur, for whatever reason. All over the United States, student groups, Christian groups, Jewish-American groups, a number of different organizations are undertaking grassroots initiatives under the theme of "Never again." And it's a remarkable thing. And I think it had a decisive impact on— it has had a decisive impact on U.S. policy and its shift now to be more action-oriented. And I think we'll only see an increase in that.
PRENDERGAST: Not going— can't rely on that very often. We're going to need you most of—
LYMAN: Citizen action.
PRENDERGAST: Citizen action.
AMANPOUR: But that's great.
LYMAN: But it is very true.
AMANPOUR: That's really encouraging.
LYMAN: The gentleman right here.
QUESTIONER: Yeah. Steve Mukamal with Barst & Mukamal. The question that I have to ask you is, assuming that this rogue administration that's running the country relies on two things, arms from Russia and oil to China, why can't we go to the heart of the issue here and see if we can get China and Russia to cooperate to twist some arms, so that you can get them to heed— into some kind of program? You want to comment?
UNKNOWN: Ambassador Lyman? [Laughter]
LYMAN: You guys— well, you know, I shouldn't be commenting, but— because I'm [laughter]--what I mean to say is I think that there are two aspects of it. One, I think, at this point in time, neither China nor Russia feels that kind of pressure. Second, it isn't the policy of the Chinese— and I'll qualify that in a moment— to employ the same kinds of conditions and leverage that we might want. Remember that Western companies were pressured to leave Sudan because of human rights problems, and China and Malaysia went in— and the arms thing.
Now the one exception to that is that the Chinese don't like to be isolated so much. And the kinds of pressures that John talked about, the U.N. report on crimes against humanity— in this last resolution, for the first time, with China and Russian abstaining, if I recall, sanctions were put on. What I don't think has happened, unless I just don't know it, is whether we've gone at the highest levels to those governments to say, "Look, this is very important to us." And I'm not sure if that's been done, and maybe that's why it's taken so long.
AMANPOUR: And don't you think, for post-9/11 support in the war on terrorism, for instance, certainly with Russia, it gets perhaps a freer hand, whether it be in Chechnya or in Sudan, from the United States government?
PRENDERGAST: There's no question. We're not taking it— we occasionally do a "demarche-mallow" to these guys. But we're not doing—
PRENDERGAST: Sorry. [Laughter] That's kind of— but we're not going at the highest levels. We're not making it, as you're suggesting, something that says we're going to work together, and let's get [inaudible].
LYMAN: This is the high priority—
LYMAN: The woman right— yes, right there. And then I'll come back. There we go. Thanks. And I'm sorry. Because the light is so hot, it's hard to—
QUESTIONER: Charlotte Morgan with the Charlie Rose Show. Smaller news organization. I have a question for John and then a sort of question/comment for Christiane. To what do you attribute the U.S.'s recent decision to abstain on the decision to refer to the— Darfur to the ICC [International Criminal Court]? Some of the factors that you were talking about may be student activism.
And what revolutionary forces for you, Christiane, will it take to get someone like Lou Dobbs to stop talking about outsourcing and perhaps take up the Sudan? [Laughter]
PRENDERGAST: Yeah. I think it's very exciting, actually, to many of us who have campaigned for so long— and there are people in this room— to try to get some kind of accountability for Darfur— that the U.S. abstained. I really thought they would veto going right into the thing.
But I think two things happened. One is that we did see this citizen action; the volumes of letters that were pouring into congressional offices and the push to do something came at this opportune moment when the vote was put forward. But I think also the U.S. got what it wanted on the exemption for U.S. personnel. So I think that was—
LYMAN: The resolution provides exemption for all U.S. personnel in Sudan from the court, a precedent that I'm sure the administration's going to use elsewhere.
AMANPOUR: I think I'll have to put a little potion in his nighttime beverage: "Sudan, Sudan, Sudan." [Laughter]
LYMAN: The gentleman right over there, and then I'll come back to you, sir. Right— yeah, right there.
QUESTIONER: Lionel Beehner. I'm a staff writer with the Council. I'm wondering about the correlation between coverage and aid. And I believe there is a correlation. After the tsunami, which was widely covered— which is maybe, you could say, more black and white in the sense of it was clear what the response should have been— but there was a lot of aid, there was an outpouring of aid. I guess— do you think that the issue in Sudan, even if they open it up and there was cameras on all the time, that it's such a— it's a much more complex issue. I mean it's not— or do you—
AMANPOUR: No, it's a direct correlation. Cameras equals aid. And I think all the aid organizations will say so.
OLOJEDE: In Somalia, it started the same way. Traditionally, Nairobi, in Kenya, was a pretty big base for foreign correspondents. And a lot of them were going systematically to Somalia for several years. And all of a sudden this thing builds to a crescendo, and finally the Bush administration— the first Bush administration— decided to go in.
There is a direct correlation between coverage. I mean, it's either you expose something or people are worrying about their daily lives. If you put something in front of them at the breakfast table, they're more likely to react to it. There is no substitute for, you know, saturated coverage of these kinds of things, for example. And it's no more complicated than Rwanda, or Somalia, or any other place, really, because essentially you have a group of people being wiped out by a more powerful group, basically, now, that's it.
AMANPOUR: That's it.
LYMAN: I'm going to come back to you with a question on that, because I have a slightly different perspective that I want to raise. But I'm going to take one more question, and then come back to the panel. The gentleman right— I'm sorry, no the lady right there. Yes. I'm sorry. I promised her the last question.
QUESTIONER: I'm Irene Meister, and I'd like to come just for a moment back to the coverage, the news coverage. And that is that, large as the United States is, it's still only one country. What's happening in Europe in terms of increased coverage? What is the story in other countries? Because, again, if we're to do anything in this field, it will require a community of different countries. Could you comment on that, please?
AMANPOUR: Yes. Number one, there's much more coverage in other countries. In Europe, for instance, they have much more commitment to covering foreign news. Although, even there it's beginning to have what I call the U.S. effect. They're beginning to cut back. But there's still more coverage. And I don't agree with your point that the U.S. is large, but just one country. The U.S.--what the U.S. says, goes. Where the U.S. leads, others follow— except for things like Iraq, et cetera. But in terms of [laughter]--in terms of showing the kind of leadership that's necessary on a situation like Somalia, whether it would be the Balkans, whether it be Sudan now, I think the U.S. has a huge role to play.
And I do believe it's actually indispensable; that without that kind of U.S. leadership, whether it be in the Security Council, whether it be pressuring NATO or the African Union or the Chinese or the Russians or whoever it is, I'm very sorry, but the United States cannot think that it's just one country amongst others. It is the most powerful country in the world. What it says goes.
AMANPOUR: Right. To lead. Precisely.
LYMAN: Right. I'm going to let you each have a point, a last moment to comment before we break up, but I want to just come back to one issue and then have you include it in your comment. I wonder if there isn't a difference in the way people respond to a natural disaster than they respond to a problem that has so much complexities, who's doing what to whom. Maybe that isn't different, but I just throw that out there. But Dele, why don't I let you and John and then let Christiane have the last word.
OLOJEDE: Again I want to go back to what I said initially, that while all these things we do are absolutely necessary because you can't see a lot of people die and not do anything, I think more long term there's got to be a structure developed internationally to isolate regimes that are perpetrating these sort of crimes, and that should trump all other considerations. I mean, whether this is realistically done or not, I don't know. It's not something I've totally thought through. It just seems to me that we're going to keep going back to the same thing.
The other thing is that a lot of these countries have proved incapable of reasonably running their own affairs. And there's got to be a way that vast resources are devoted to helping a lot of countries develop the capacity to run reasonably efficient societies, because it is the chaos and weaknesses of these countries that eventually lead to a lot of these things happening. A lot of West African countries fall into that category, and certainly Sudan does fall into that category.
When a country has undergone war for 25, 30 years, you've got one, two generations of people developing in a system that doesn't experience anything other than chaos and violence and disaster. So there has to be a way for more direct intervention through an international body that has consensus, like the United Nations, in some of these societies to make sure that we don't constantly have to deal with mass killings all over the place.
LYMAN: Thank you, Dele. John?
PRENDERGAST: Forgive me, Princeton. I've been traveling around the country for the last couple months, just getting back, just talking to college students, so they want to know: What do we do now? So if I can have my 30 seconds on what do we do now.
PRENDERGAST: I think that I've never seen anything like it before, except during the anti-apartheid movement, where you have citizen action having the potential to make a difference on a fairly large U.S. foreign policy issue. And therefore, the actions that are being taken now are having at this juncture a very direct influence.
And what I think needs to happen now, very briefly, is that civilian protection needs to become the priority. That the force that's sitting out in Darfur now of 2,000 needs to be buttressed by at least a factor of five. We need at least 10,000 forces on the ground with a mandate to protect civilians.
And we're not going to get there if we're only simply relying on African Union forces. This whole adage of African solutions for African problems is an important starting point. Of course we want Africa to take the lead. But crimes against humanity and genocide are not African problems, they're global ones.
And so we need to step up. The United Nations needs to co-deploy forces directly with the African Union so that there can be a real force on the ground that allows those women to go out and get their firewood, that stops villages from being attacked and burned, that allows people to go home and plant and rebuild their lives. That's the urgent priority. For all of you that walk out of this place and say, "What do we do now?" that's what we need to do now.
AMANPOUR: I'm really encouraged, because I hadn't known about these citizen action groups. And I think that's fantastic and I— you know, my pie in the sky, but my real feeling is that if people care, they need to demand of their purveyors of news and information to address what they care about. These groups need to tell my company, all the big companies, that we want more information about Sudan, Darfur, et cetera.
And I truly do believe that people need to step up to reject this what I call seriousness vacuum, this lack of knowledge, this lack of information that I think, you know, exists in our mass media right now. And I think people should just refuse to accept it anymore, and demand better quality and more quality.
I think one of the hopeful things to address a question about what is the rest of the world doing, the British government, Tony Blair now has both the head of the EU [European Union] presidency and the G-8 [Group of Eight] and will host the conferences, and Africa is at the top of the agenda and coupled with some very high-profile celebrities like [musicians and humanitarian activists] Bono and Bob Geldof. These people are bringing this issue on to the top of the agenda and doing it very effectively. It's still not enough, but it is gaining traction in Europe, it is in England right now. The very powerful chancellor of the exchequer [Gordon Brown] made a very big and important visit to Africa recently.
And they're really trying, you know, to do something about— confront their moral duty to alleviate poverty and to try to get Africa somehow be able to help itself and introduce good governance and all the other things that Africa needs. And that's a hopeful sign to me.
LYMAN: Thank you. I want to thank the panel for your wonderful comments and insights into this very difficult problem.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. A great film.
LYMAN: And again, thanks to Discovery and New York Times for the film. And thank you. I believe there's a reception outside.
(C) COPYRIGHT 2005, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE. NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT
AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.