"Genocide in Slow Motion" Possible in Sudan, Say Two National Journalists Just Out of Africa
May 3, 2005
May 3, 2005, Greencastle, Ind. - Is what's happening in Darfur, by definition, genocide? [Download Audio: "Is It Genocide?" - 137kb] "I think it's a complicated question, more than you would think," Emily Wax, Africa Bureau Chief of the Washington Post, told an audience at DePauw University this afternoon. Just back from Sudan, Wax and her husband, Raymond Thibodeaux, who also covers the region for Cox News, Voice of America and the Boston Globe, were guests of The Gertrude and G.D. Crain Jr. Lecture Series.
The situation in Darfur "looks different from Rwanda, or World War II or Cambodia," Wax continued. [Download Audio: "Difficult to Gauge" - 204kb] "Because we're not sure, I don't think anyone is sure of the number of deaths quite yet because the area is so vast and so underdeveloped and you need permits to get into every little area. For instance, we still cannot get into certain areas; the government doesn't allow that kind of access. So no one is sure where the mass graves are. There are all kinds of rumors."
For more than two years, battles have raged in Darfur between African rebels and the Arab-led government. Wax and Thibodeaux arrived in the region in February 2003. Government-sponsored militiamen known as the Janjaweed have attacked villages, confiscating property, commiting crimes against African residents and forcing the villagers to flee. [Download Audio: "The Camps" - 123kb] "People have basically been corralled into camps," says Wax, who was just nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. "That's why I think specific people of specific ethnic groups who identify themselves as African are now off their land, [and have] lost all of their property. [Download Audio: "Genocide in Slow Motion" - 146kb] Because there are specific ethnic groups pushed off their land, that meets one of the definitions of a genocide. It's a genocide in slow-motion, some people believe. I'm not a lawyer or an expert, but that's what I think is happening."
Thibodeaux adds, [Download Audio: "A Different Scenario" - 281kb] "We weren't seeing what you would see in Rwanda, which was clearly a massacre -- you didn't have to look too hard for the forensic evidence to back that up, and other places in Bosnia where you had these mass graves that were uncovered. You're not finding that in Sudan just yet. Is that something that happens next? I'm not sure."
Today's New York Times carried an editorial by Nicholas D. Kristof, in which he writes, "The last time Bush let the word Darfur slip past his lips publicly (to offer a passing compliment to U.S. aid workers, rather than to denounce the killings) was Jan. 10. So Tuesday marks Day 114 of Bush's silence about the genocide unfolding on his watch." Kristof adds, "when historians look back on his presidency, they are going to focus on Bush's fiddling as hundreds of thousands of people were killed, raped or mutilated in Darfur -- and if the situation worsens, the final toll could reach a million dead. This Thursday marks Holocaust Remembrance Day. The best memorial would be for more Americans to protest about this administration's showing the same lack of interest in Darfur that Franklin Delano Roosevelt showed toward the genocide of Jews." Read the entire text by clicking here.
At today's Crain Lecture, moderator Ken Bode, Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw, asked Wax and Thibodeaux what they think would help the situation in Sudan. [Download Audio: "Threading the Needle" - 333kb] "The U.S. policy is trying to walk a fine line," Thibodeaux explained, "because on the one hand they've made the determination of genocide, which seems like it would require some type of action. And yet, on the other side, Sudan has been a willing participant in the war on terror and so I think the U.S. is trying to thread the needle, not to upset a key participant in the war on terror in that part of Africa, yet at the same time, try to punish that government for what it's doing in Darfur.
Wax believes the presence of more African Union monitors -- who, unlike the United Nations forces depicted in Hotel Rwanda are allowed to fire back when fired upon -- would bring needed stability to the region. [Download Audio: "Wax on the African Union" - 191kb] "Now there's a tiny force; it's not enough. So far, they've been pretty successful in the areas they've gone into," she stated.
The couple told the DePauw audience of how they've had to pay off guards at border crossings, of nervous moments meeting with a Janjaweed leader, and Wax spoke of how she trained for her dangerous yet exhilirating mission. [Download Audio: "The Work" - 110kb] "You just do the work. It's like anything else, it's a lot of work. And you have to be there [in the thick of things], you have to spend a lot of time there. And this is one of the best things, I think, about being a journalist, is just perservering and pushing and pushing and when you finally get the access you're asking for, it feels so good and you feel like you're entering a world that few people have been able to chronicle... [It's] an incredible feeling to see your story in the paper the next day."
Unfortunately, as Wax admits, there are only a handful of American news organizations with a presence in Sudan. Of the Post's commitment to the story, she says, [Download Audio: "The Post's Support" - 188kb] "I've written, like, I don't know, 30 stories about it... [and I'm] able to spend as much as I needed to, so they're positive about it. But, for instance, Iraq has how many reporters at every newspaper covering it? I'm one person. You know, I shouldn't even be here now, I should be there."
Endowed by Rance Crain, president of Crain Communications and a member of DePauw's Class of 1960, The Gertrude and G.D. Crain Jr. Lecture Series honors Mr. Crain's parents. Previous Crain Lecturers have included Father Richard P. McBrien, Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame and a consultant to ABC News for papal events; political analyst Charlie Cook (seen at left); FactCheck.org director Brooks Jackson; veteran political columnist Jack Germond; military sociologist Charles Moskos; historian Douglas Brinkley, author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War ; David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; and Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean's presidential campaign.Back