Jimmy Carter gets the kibosh in Darfur

AFP/Getty Images Jimmy Carter is in Darfur today as part of the awkwardly titled “Elders” delegation of elder statesman. The former U.S. president was forcibly barred from visiting with refugees in the town of Kabkabiya by his Sudanese minders. After being told his visit “wasn’t on the program,” Carter protested by yelling, “I’ll tell President ...

598910_071003_carter_05.jpg
598910_071003_carter_05.jpg

AFP/Getty Images

Jimmy Carter is in Darfur today as part of the awkwardly titled "Elders" delegation of elder statesman. The former U.S. president was forcibly barred from visiting with refugees in the town of Kabkabiya by his Sudanese minders. After being told his visit "wasn't on the program," Carter protested by yelling, "I'll tell President Bashir about this." 

...uh, which will be a lesson in futility, Jimmy. I seriously hope Carter doesn't actually think that complaining about lack of access to victims in Darfur will make a difference to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He presides over a government responsible for much of the violence and is expert at creating a news vacuum into which news about the horrific conditions in Darfur disappear. After all, why is there such a potent debate over the number of dead in Darfur? Because Bashir doesn't want the number to be established.

AFP/Getty Images

Jimmy Carter is in Darfur today as part of the awkwardly titled “Elders” delegation of elder statesman. The former U.S. president was forcibly barred from visiting with refugees in the town of Kabkabiya by his Sudanese minders. After being told his visit “wasn’t on the program,” Carter protested by yelling, “I’ll tell President Bashir about this.” 

…uh, which will be a lesson in futility, Jimmy. I seriously hope Carter doesn’t actually think that complaining about lack of access to victims in Darfur will make a difference to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He presides over a government responsible for much of the violence and is expert at creating a news vacuum into which news about the horrific conditions in Darfur disappear. After all, why is there such a potent debate over the number of dead in Darfur? Because Bashir doesn’t want the number to be established.

Carter’s toothless threat brings to mind an episode from The Confidante, Glenn Kessler’s recent book on Condi. When the U.S. Secretary of State traveled to Khartoum in July 2005 to meet with Bashir, there was nearly an international incident over the fact that Bashir’s thugs refused to allow either Rice’s aides or the press corps into the room where they were meeting. Eventually, after some shoving and yelling and impolite negotiations, press members made it into the room, but were told they couldn’t ask questions. Kessler describes the incident in his book:

The reporters awkwardly looked at each other, wondering who would speak first, when NBC’s Andrea Mitchell decided to take the plunge: “Mr. President, tell us why is the violence continuing?” One of the Sudanese officials started shouting, “No, no, no.” “Why should Americans believe your promises” regarding Darfur, she continued in her best shouted television voice, when “your government is still supporting the militias?”

Bashir, with a smile frozen on his face, snapped at the guards in Arabic, “Don’t let her.” Mitchell kept yelling her questions. Bashir, looking increasingly upset, gestured with his arms. “Finished,” he shouted.

The guards pounced, dragging Mitchell away by twisting her arms as [Rice aide Jim] Wilkinson shouted, “Get your hands off her!” When Mitchell started getting teary-eyed, one of the Sudanese officials smirked and loudly declared that she was drunk (which is how the official Sudanese news agency portrayed the incident). They hustled the rest of the reporters out of the room.

Watch Mitchell get hauled away here.

Perhaps Jimmy thinks that Bashir has had a change of heart based on the government’s pledge today to devote $300 million in order to “rebuild and repair” Darfur ($200 million of it, by the way, will be a loan from China). But it’s blood money. Four years in, and we’re still talking about a guy responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people donating a nominal sum from his oil revenues to cover up the rest of his crimes. It doesn’t sound like progress.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.
Tag: Sudan

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