Press Coverage of Darfur Crisis Increases, Raises ‘Genocide’ Charge

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By: Brian Orloff

International pressure on the United States to refer the murders and violence in Darfur, Sudan, to the International Criminal Court has produced little action so far. But the American press has remained active in its coverage of what some are calling genocide in Sudan.

The wires, especially Reuters, have continued to break news from the region on nearly a daily basis, but daily newspapers are also continuing to regularly cover Sudan, with many stories lately probing the genocide question.

Coverage includes a Los Angeles Times story today about a videotaped interview with Sudanese militia leader Musa Hilal, in which he denies involvement in violence against Darfur denizens. The Associated Press reported the same story Wednesday. An AP story today looks at proposed additional U.S. spending on the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan at the expense of many programs, including food aid to Darfur.

Some of the recent Sudan coverage may be attributed to the film ?Hotel Rwanda,? which was nominated for several Academy Awards. Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved the lives of more than 1,200 in Rwanda, and on whom the film was based, has spoken out about the need for more international action in Darfur, as has film star Don Cheadle.

A story in today’s Boston Globe by Stephanie V. Siek, headlined “Rwanda hotel manager issues a plea,” profiles Rusesabagina, links what happened in Rwanda with the violence in Sudan, and strongly connects the violence to genocide. Siek wrote: “He says that Americans should mobilize much as they did in the 1980s protests against apartheid in South Africa.”

The Oregonian in Portland today covered Rusesabagina’s appearance at a local college.

Rusesabagina’s call-to-arms is specifically targeted at young people, whom he calls “tomorrow’s leaders.” A related feature in today edition of the Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan by Courtney Lingle illustrates activism in action. It profiles local high school students so inspired by the film Hotel Rwanda that they are collecting donations for a rummage sale to raise money for aid efforts in Darfur.

Another Boston Globe feature, from Feb. 25, interviewed three Boston women who visited Darfur refugee camps. The story profiled in gritty detail the women’s visit and their attempts to lobby legislators and inspire the government to take more action.

Columnists and opinion writers are also weighing in. Pius Kamau, a columnist for The Denver Post, penned a piece for today’s paper headlined “Help for Sudan not done yet.” In it, the Kenyan-born writer discusses the lifestyles of African immigrants in the United States and focuses on ways in which Colorado residents can help Sudanese citizens.

But what is genocide? New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof worried about the definition of the word in a Wednesday column titled “The American Witness.” In it, he interviewed Brian Steidle, a former Marine and a military adviser for the African Union monitoring team in Darfur. Steidle expressed frustration at what he saw as inaction, and at a lack of resources devoted to stopping the genocide. Kristof advocated the passage of the Darfur Accountability Act but expressed frustration, writing: “If American voters cared about Darfur’s genocide as much as about, say, the Michael Jackson trial, then our political system would respond.”

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