Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Friday, July 26, 2013

Debate on Darfur

Seven UN peacekeepers in Darfur were killed recently. The peacekeeping force there is called 'Unamid'.
The government says that the rebels in Darfur did it; the rebels say the government did it.

Fida Bassil was doing the moderating honors. 

She started by asking the guy representing Sudan’s government: this isn’t the first time Unamid (the name of the UN peacekeepers) have been attacked and killed in Darfur. Every time it happens, the government says it’s going to investigate the true cause, and then it never does. Why?

Government guy: how are we supposed to do an investigation if the rebels are running amok and we can’t even track them down fast enough to pin the blame on them?
Fida: okay then, if the government has found itself incapable of carrying out an investigation, why do you promise each time that you’re going to carry one out, anyways?
Government guy: stutters. Then repeats what he already said: "we go to the place of attack, we try to save whoever was hurt; we try to catch up with the rebel groups running around, but they all flee to the mountains, so what are we to do?"
Fida: so, in other words, your promise of an investigation is just manipulation, an empty maneuver.
Government guy: "no! It’s not a maneuver!" Then he repeats himself all over again.
Fida: alright then, even if the government can’t get all the information, then it should at least publish what it does get. For example, all the circumstances, all the results, and all the evidence that the government is able to gather.
Government guy: yet again, he repeats himself! “We go to the site of the attack! We help the wounded! The rebels flee to the mountains, they live in the mountains (those backwards people) …”
Fida (speaking really slowly to help him out): I’m not talking about the groups who are fleeing, I am talking about the government publishing all the material that it can gather and that sheds light, transparently, on who exactly is responsible for all these attacks.
Government guy: oh, that’s what you meant! Yes, indeed, we’ve determined that the blame is all due to the rebel groups, we’ve already published and advertised that, and why won’t the international community cooperate with the Sudanese government (to help us annihilate the nasty rebels)? I mean, to bring them to justice. And to top it all off, the international community knows where the leaders of these groups live!

Fida gives up on the government guy, and turns to the guy sitting right next to him, with a completely opposite opinion. This guy is part of the rebels. It’s amazing to see him and the government guy sitting side by side.

Rebel guy: it’s the government’s fault the UN peacekeepers were killed.
Fida: but Sudan’s government allowed these peacekeepers into its territory. Why would Sudan attack peacekeepers that it’s invited?
Rebel guy: I’m not sure how his response answered Fida’s question; all I caught is that he accused Sudan’s government of having kidnapped an Italian, a Norwegian, and a Bulgarian. They’re probably aid workers. Now, that ain’t right.

Then the third guest, a former UN spokesman, got into it. He was very critical of Sudan’s government. Woah. How’s the Government Guy going to react now??

The former UN spokesman said: Sudan’s government only allowed UN peacekeepers into the country after 3 years of dragging their feet. They did it under pressure, and put a bunch of conditions as obstacles to their work. For example, Ethiopia sent 5 armed helicopters to the peacekeepers that the government objected to, were never used, and were eventually sent back to Ethiopia.

He said further: the UN peacekeepers are being attacked by three sides: the government militias, rebel groups, and other random armed groups and thugs. (I don’t know why everyone would do that when the UN peacekeepers are just trying to help out and keep the peace, but if you watch the news at all, then you know by now that when it comes to Muslims and Arabs, this is just what we like to do. It’s our favorite pastime. We just can’t help ourselves.)

The former spokesman concluded by saying: every time there is an attack, each of the three sides just blames the other. And he ended by mentioning that the UN had come out with a report recounting all the attacks against the peacekeepers since they got on the ground in 2007. They put down all the details and known facts as far as they could, and Sudan’s government is found to have a large share of the responsibility for many of the attacks.

Of course, when Fida put all this to the government guy, he objected. "No! It’s all lies! They’re making it up. Everything he said is false! And by the way, how dare a UN spokesman attack Sudan! I’m surprised!"
Fida: he’s a journalist now, he doesn’t work there anymore.
Government guy: stutters. 
Fida: tell me exactly what was wrong about the specific examples of Sudanese obstruction you just heard. 
Government guy:  (being very exact) it was all lies! We had no pressure. We didn’t buckle under pressure. We weren’t forced into allowing international peacekeepers. We just had to study the position first.
Fida: Why did you put conditions, like you didn’t allow them to have heavy weapons? What about those Ethiopian helicopters?
Government guy: No! We have put no conditions! We expect Unamid to defend itself! The rebel groups are attacking Unamid and we, the government, are very surprised: why doesn’t it defend itself?!

Fida turns back to the former UN spokesman turned journalist: how can Unamid protect civilians if it can’t protect itself?
UN journalist: yes, Unamid can’t protect itself because it was never allowed to use the strong weapons, technology, communications equipment, etc, that would help. Also, between January and May of this year, 300,000 people in Darfur were kicked out of their homes. This was not covered on the Arab news, nor was it brought to discussion on the Security Council. So Unamid also doesn’t want to broadcast this because it would be broadcasting its own failure, and it is unable to protect anyone; and the Security Council really needs to sit down and make a new resolution that really gives the peacekeepers the tools to protect people in Darfur.

I’m putting the picture of this guy in here. It is good to highlight Arabs willing to speak out about Darfur, since they seem so few and far between.

The former UN spokesman continued: the only action about Darfur that the Security Council has recently taken is that the number of peacekeepers was reduced from 19,000 to 14,000, and the international police force was reduced from 6000 to 4000, as if to show that there has been improvement on the ground, and progress in negotiations between the government and the rebels.

Then another guy spoke via video link-up. He lives in Darfur right now. He said how horrible it was for the peacekeepers to be attacked. I couldn’t really hear all else that he said, the sound was pretty bad.

Then Fida asked the government guy a new question, but he quickly thwarted her. He was still thinking about the UN journalist and how he needed to refute him. He said: no, no, the peacekeeping troops do have the full potential to defend themselves, but they just don’t do it!!! And we are all so surprised about it.
Fida: so, logically, is there anyone who just allows someone to kill them without trying to defend themselves? 
Government guy: stutters. Then: "I’ve been to Darfur myself and I saw for myself all the arms and weapons they have. So why don’t they use them? Unamid will have to answer to that!" Then he goes on to say that the situation in Darfur is getting more and more stable. 
Fida: how? When you have 300,000 people displaced in the last few months? There’s apparently also been assassinations, and now the latest attack on Unamid. And the UN’s humanitarian operations have announced that they will be scaling back their work because it is so unsafe. So how can you say the situation is stable? 
Government guy: I’m going to reply to all this! Those 300,000 you keeping bringing up, part of them fled because of attacks that the rebel groups are responsible for! Another part fled because of tribal fighting that has been going on since before the government rampaged in. And by the way (pointing at the Rebel guy) the reason the tribes are fighting each other now is all because of the actions of the rebel groups, who have allowed weapons to flow to all the tribes so that now everyone has a weapon.
Fida turns to the Rebel guy: aren’t the armed rebel groups partly responsible for some of the devastation you say is going on in Darfur today?
Rebel guy: wheels and deals away from answering the question. Didn’t catch how, or if, he finally answered.

Well, honestly, it just got really boring from there. You got the impression that no one was answering any question, they were just propagandizing. But I still liked the former UN spokesman; his name is Abdel-Hamid Siyam. So I skipped ahead of all the other blabbers to listen to him towards the end. He said that part of the problem in the Security Council is that China gets so much oil from Sudan. So China is loath to put any real pressure on Sudan’s government to cooperate with Unamid (but I thought that the new country of South Sudan, and not Sudan, had most of the oil). And in answer to the Government Guy who had accused him of being unbiased, Mr. Siyam answered, “no, I am not biased towards any side, it’s just that I happen to follow very closely what happens in Darfur, I probably know more about what is happening in Darfur than most people in Sudan.” A good man. Here is his picture again.

Then the government guy got to talk again. Fida brought up a human rights report from a group in Geneva that was rather negative about Sudan’s government. The government guy got quite feisty. “We are so tired of hearing that Geneva, and Kampala, and who knows what other cities, all have it in for Sudan. Sudan, Sudan, Sudan. Doesn’t Sudan have the right to hear its name called without fifty accusations tacked on?”

This guy says so many spectacular things, we really should take a look at his picture:

Fida reminded him that although Sudan dismisses all those other cities, that it was cooperating with Qatar.
Government guy: ah! Well, we trust Qatar. 
Fida: but not Geneva? 
The Government guy waves his arms wildly. “No, no, we don’t trust Geneva! And by the way, the real problem in Sudan is the West. It’s all the West’s fault that we went around killing people in Darfur, FYI.”
Rebel guy: We’ve been hearing this kind of talk, and the perpetual blaming of everyone else, from Sudan’s government for a long time, what is there left to say in response?
After that it was a lot of trading insults. Says the Rebel Guy: Sudan’s government thinks it has been sent down from Heaven, they want all the power, everything.

Fida: Yes, it sounds like Sudan’s government believes everything is a conspiracy, but don’t they have a legitimate concern when there are rebel groups with weapons running around?

Oh, dear, it just goes on and on and on.

This debate happened at some point between July 17 and July 23, 2013.
Disclaimer: I don't mean to attribute any of these words to any one; everything was said in Arabic, I am not an official Arabic-English translator, and I am paraphrasing (and in the case of the Government guy, I added some sarcastic comments, but in parenthesis. Basically, he himself said most of the stupid stuff he said.)

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