Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to Sudan yesterday where tens of thousands of black Africans have been killed in the western Darfur region and more than a million people displaced. We go to Sudan to speak with a University president and we speak with former Congressman Walter Fauntroy who was arrested for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington.[includes transcript]
Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday threatened Sudan with unspecified UN Security Council action if it failed to crack down on Arab militias that have killed tens of thousands of black Africans in the western Darfur region and made more than a million people homeless in the past 15 months alone.
Criticized for responding too slowly to the crisis and under pressure in Congress, Powell traveled to Khartoum yesterday in the highest-level visit to Sudan by the US for more than two decades. Powell met with President Omar Hassan Ahmed el-Bashir warning him to end attacks by the militias, provide full access for humanitarian aid, restart political talks with rebel groups and allow more international cease-fire monitors into the region.
The Sudanese government has repeatedly denied there is mass suffering in Darfur. The UN has described the situation as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. A senior U.S. official recently told Reuters that up to one million displaced Sudanese could die this year in Darfur refugee camps because government-backed Arab militias have razed villages, burned crops and destroyed water sources.
En route to Sudan, Powell told Reuters: "People are dying and the death rate is going to go up significantly ... we see indicators and elements that would start to move you toward a genocidal conclusion, but we’re not there yet."
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Khartoum as Powell left the Sudanses capital to visit Darfur for a few hours. U.S. officials and aid workers said they expected Sudanese authorities to try to mask the reality on the ground there where hundreds of thousands of people are malnourished and face spreading disease in many of the overcrowded camps.
- Gasim Badri, President of Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman, Sudan
- Rev. Walter Fauntroy, retired Congressman from Washington D.C. He was one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1961 Martin Luther King appointed him to be director of the Washington Bureau of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He then helped organize the 1963 March on Washington.
- David White, reporter for the Financial Times.
AMY GOODMAN: We are going to go to Sudan in a minute, but we’re joined on the phone by Reverend Walter Fauntroy. He is a former congress member from Washington, D.C., one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1961, the director of the Washington Bureau of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in the end he helped organize the 1963 march on Washington. Walter Fauntroy was arrested at the Sudanese Embassy yesterday in Washington. Why, Walter Fauntroy?
WALTER FAUNTROY: I was arrested for the purpose of raising public consciousness and pricking the conscience of enough people to force a change in public policy. I did it on Thanksgiving Eve in 1984 as a member of Congress, and we launched a free South Africa movement. We’re hoping that people of conscience all over the world will begin to assemble at Sudanese embassies in their countries, demanding that this lying, deceit and criminal genocide being visited upon the blacks of Sudan stop.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Walter Fauntroy, for those who are not familiar with the situation there, what are the contours of the conflict there, and how has it developed?
WALTER FAUNTROY: You need to understand three things about what’s going on the ground in Darfur. The first is you have to understand colonialism. Which has had as its purpose to drive native people off of valuable land. Land rich with diamonds and gold and manganese and precious metals and so forth, onto reservations where they maintain them in poverty as a source of cheap labor to bring over to extract the wealth. They did that in Africa 500 years ago, began doing it, when they discovered a new world, something called the Americas. They came over and drove the natives, red Indians, off the land. If they had not killed as many Indians as they did in this hemisphere, there would be more red Indians on this continent than in — there are Chinese in China. They did it, they drove them off. They put them on reservations, disorientation, and invited whites from Europe to come and gave them the land in something called the Homestead Act. They said, we’re not going to plow the ground and clear the woods and plant the crops, so, they had Arabs to go south in sub-Saharan Africa and take the blacks and sell them into slavery. So, you understand that’s what’s going on here, taking the land. 20 years ago, they discovered that there was under the ground where the blacks in southern Sudan live, an ocean of oil and under that an ocean of water, and Chevron began to explore for it, and people who use race and religion as an excuse to take land killed Chevron employees and Arab, Muslim companies were brought in, and had been extracting the wealth and driving the blacks, women, men and children off the land, killing the men, raping the women and taking them north and making them slaves and telling the blacks, you —- we are help you to become like us, lighter. Secondly, you need to understand racism itself, which simply puts, is the thesis that there are two groups of people in the world. White people who are obviously superior, and non-white people who are obviously inferior. They divide the non-whites into two groups. The wannabe whites and the blacks. And to them, they play a gang-countergang strategy. They say to the wannabes, you are different from them. Let’s you and them fight while we laugh all the way to the bank. And so the Arabs who are there killing blacks and driving them off the valuable land, first in southern Sudan and now in western Sudan are acting out that madness. Finally, the way to deal with it is the way Martin Luther King, Jr. and people of conscience and people who listen to Democracy Now! understand. That is that all life is precious, and we are all brothers and sisters and we have to act like it. We have to have people of every race, creed and color rise up and say, it’s wrong, it has to stop. That’s what we did yesterday. I wish you could have been in front of the Sudan Embassy yesterday afternoon, morning and afternoon, when there were Jews, Christians, Muslims, black and white together, young people, old people saying stop it. And we are saying to a deceitful, lying leadership in Khartoum—- what a fellow explained to me on the march that I was organizing in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery. We were walking along and the guy said, you know, the way the F.B.I. is treating us down here reminds me of this woman who caught her husband in the act of adultery, and man said to her, don’t you believe your lying eyes. Bottom line is, those cats, excuse me for that expression, over there have the nerve to be saying to a world that sees it, there’s no genocide. There’s no suffering. We have a problem with the rain. Lying. The only way they’re going to change is for us to keep on keeping on. They ignored the fact.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Walter Fauntroy. How many people were arrested in front of the Sudan Embassy?
WALTER FAUNTROY: Just two of us were arrested. Joe Madison, the Black Eagle here in Washington, and myself. We are implementing when we did in 1984. We are asking people to come every day, and therefore, Charlie Rangel will be there tomorrow to be arrested as he was right after I was arrested in 1984. We are going to get members of the Congress to come. We’ll get highly visible Christians, Jews, Muslims to come and present their bodies, and say stop it.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go now to Sudan to Omdurman, Sudan. Gasim Badri joins us now, president of Ahfad University for Women. Can you describe what is happening on the ground right now.
GASIM BADRI: Thank you. What’s happening is what’s happened before. This war in Darfur is a political as well as a social one. The Darfurians have been client for a long time of a development area. The area that I’m talking about is as big as France. So it’s not a small area. And it is composed of varied ethnic groups. All of these ethnic groups are indigenous population of Darfur and they have not been coming here in the last years or so. They have been living there for long periods of time, hundreds of years. There has been some problems between them, and the war there in Darfur now is a political part of it, which is what the government calls the rebel, and these arms are arms taken against the government. It seems that the government has neglected Darfur for a long time and they have been in— there has not been any kind of development.
AMY GOODMAN: We are speaking to Gasim Badri in Sudan, the president of Ahfad University for Women. I wanted to ask you about a piece in today’s Washington Post that talks about rape by the Arab militias. It’s being used as a weapon of ethnic cleansing, to quote, "we want to make a light baby." Can you respond to that?
GASIM BADRI: I don’t think it is like that. There is this kind of rape, yes. There is this kind of enslavement, yes. And this has been going on between the tribes for a long time. But it is not— now, people are talking about genocide because genocide took place in Africa. We have the example of the one in Burundi. People now are afraid that this may spill over to Darfur. And that’s why people are trying to say to the government, you better act quickly before things get out of hand completely. Our government, unfortunately, did not pay attention to areas like Darfur and they concentrated on the crisis in southern Sudan, but the way that the government went about solving the problem in the southern Sudan is talking to the rebels, so-called rebels, the FPLA, and neglecting all other parts. So, the example is— or the lesson that other people is that if you want to get your things in this country, if you want to get your life in this country, you have to take up arms. This is, I think, the mitt political mistake that was done by the government as well as by the way that the negotiations between the government and the FPLA took place, because they neglected all other, the Sudanese, in these negotiations.
AMY GOODMAN: Gasim Badri, we have to go to break. President of Afhad University for Women speaking to us from Omdurman, Sudan. When we come back, we will also be joined by a reporter for the Financial Times and we are going to look at U.S. policy towards Sudan.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we are talking about Sudan right now, and we are on the line from Sudan with Gasim Badry, president of Ahfad University for Women, Reverend Walter Fauntroy, who was just arrested in Washington D.C. in front of the Sudan embassy protesting the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, and we are joined on the line by David White of the Financial Times. I’d like to start with David White. Can you talk to us about the U.S. government’s role, vis-a-vis the Sudanese government and the role of the United States right now in that conflict?
DAVID WHITE: Well, what is strange about this particular conflict is it comes at a time when the U.S. was actually mending relations with Sudan six years ago. Sudan six years ago was considered a home of terrorists and the US actually bombed a factory outside the company — of Karthoum. Since then, things have really been getting better, especially with provisional peace accords and a long civil war with the south. Then Darfur erupts, partly to do with the war in the south, but this here was a group of people that were — that felt they were left out of the deal. They were rebel movements that came out, and there’s been this group repression and the failure of the Karthoum authorities to do anything about it. This puts the State Department in a bit after fix, because on the one hand it’s trying to — Sudan back into the mainstream, into the international mainstream dealing with the rest of the world, lifting sanctions, everything like that, and on the other hand you have a growing — somewhat belated, uproar about what’s happening in Darfur.
AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to ask, also, former Congressman Fauntroy, there’s an article in the "Christian Science Monitor" today which talks about other possible goals of the Bush Administration and of Colin Powell’s visit. It says, if the Bush team can bring Sudan back into the family of nations as it did this week with Libya, it would gain a diplomatic victory for the war on terror. It could also fire up its Christian conservative base by securing a peace deal in Sudan’s other war a 21-year-old conflict between the Muslims in the north and the largely Christian population in the south. Your view of the reasons why Colin Powell is there today and the new attention of the Bush Administration?
WALTER FAUNTROY: There’s oil under the ground in Sudan. We need it. You cannot understand what happened in the to youty-hutu gang-counter-gang strategy that’s happening here, and that is to get control of valuable land. The purpose of the dismantling of the Congo was it get controls for the mining interests, many of them based in England, sir, of the land there, particularly eastern Congo. The purpose is to give access, get access for the west to oil that has been primarily commandeered by the Muslim-Arab world. Those two factors dictate that we must, in order to avoid what Amy has called a "world on fire," we have got to get people with some good sense to resolve that conflict, share the wealth with the blacks of the south and the Arabs of the north in the Sudan in a faction that we deal with the poverty, which is always the cause of these kinds of gang-countergang strategies.
AMY GOODMAN: Also, the role of John Danforth, now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations who was the envoy to Sudan, and the forces that he represents, Reverend Fauntroy.
WALTER FAUNTROY: No question. First of all, he was appointed because we got — I got — I chained myself with Joe Madison to the door of the Sudan embassy two years ago. We raised enough —- we raised enough with people of conscience of people around the world conscience that the President appointed John Danforth, a former Senator work out the peace negotiation. They did that. As soon as we felt we were getting somewhere in the north-south thing, where the rationale was that they’re Christians and people down that there the infidels must teach them, and remove them, now they’re going after black Muslims in the west. There are black Muslims. They’re Muslim, fellow Muslims in Darfur. So, you strip these greedy, self—-seeking and hypocritical people of their rational. It’s religion. It’s race. It’s nothing. It’s money, it’s oil.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you all for being on the line with us. We have been speaking with reverend Walter Fauntroy, who was arrested outside the Sudan embassy, and calling on many others to protest there, such as Congressmember Charlie Rangel of New York who will be there tomorrow in a chain of protest as Colin Powell and — goes to the Sudan. We have also spoken with David White of the Financial Times, and Gasim Badry, president of the University for Women.