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a great challenge in sudan

Sudan_099How does one interview a man accused of unleashing genocide?

Flying now to Sudan, in a matter of hours I am to come face to face with President Omar al-Bashir, whom the world lays most of the blame for the atrocities in Darfur.


Ann Curry and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir
Photo by Antoine Sanfuentes, NBC News

It was al-Bashir, international observers say, who armed Arab militias to put down a rebellion among the black African tribes in Sudan's Darfur region, encouraging old racial hatreds to burn out of control across the region.  The toll is estimated at more than a thousand villages burned, more than 200,000 people killed and 2.5 million others displaced.  The violence has bled across Sudan's western border into Chad, and it's southern border into the Central African Republic, theatening an entire region.

It is a war now complicated by rebels on all sides, and even global warming, as the drying of lands in the north drives Arabs south into African tribal territories.

But to the African tribespeople, it is very simple.  Men on horseback, called Janjaweed, set fire to their homes, and shoot, yelling "zurga" and "abid" meaning black slaves.  Women are targeted with rape, and are marked with knife wounds, so they are not able to marry. One 17-year-old girl told me she was asked which tribe she belonged to before she was raped. They wanted to make sure they got the right one.

Human Rights Watch says President al-Bashir should be prosecuted  for war crimes in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has summoned one of the ministers in his government to face possible charges for crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir has just suspended cooperation with the ICC investigators and continues to publically state the situation in Darfur is exaggerated and solely a regional conflict . Now, in his first television interview to the west in four years, he will have a chance to answer these accusations. 

So how exactly am I to face this man? How will I exact the truth, and at the same time keep the horror that I saw on the Darfur border from being revealed in my own eyes? I was never good at poker. I am gearing up for one of the greatest challenges of my career.

11:37 a.m. EDT update: We just finished an unprecedented two-hour, no-holds-barred interview with President al-Bashir. He was emphatic that the world misunderstands what is happening in Darfur. We will air this interview on Nightly News, TODAY and Dateline this week, and will post it as soon as we can here on MSNBC.com.

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COMMENTS

Ann, thank you so much, people like you are what this world need these days.
I myself I'm from Sudan, Southern sudan, which went through the same thing with Khartom Gorvernment for years. I haven't seen sudan since I left in 1989 when I was only five year old without parent or an adult. living as refugee in two different countries of eastern africa til Unite State help us out. My point is, I'm not suprise Al Bashir denies the genocide in darfur, that what happen in Sudan, they do things and denied them. Al Bashir knows how fool the international leaders. but not this time Bashir, the world has its eyes on you, you had fool them about the south but you are not getting away with Darfur this time. I'm so upset with the fact that he call rape, killings and burning people homes "just alligations". this not "just alligations Mr president, they are true and they happen in every day lives of those inocent girls, women and elderly women. men and young boys being shot for what they don't even know. they never happen to you, your daughter or any close family of yours, but they did and do happen to the people of Southern sudan and now they are happening to the people of Darfur. be a leader to all people of sudan instead of being triblist mr president. Ann, Bashir knows how to use people Against each other then tell the world that he is not involve. that is not true I know it becuase I went through it. the world have to wake up. Bashir is more worst than Sadam Hussein. again thank you so much for your excellent job.

Ann you are truly (besides being absolutely attractive) a hero you and people and like you are the reason I watch NBC

Ann, you truly are amazing and have a big heart. It was so gut-renching to listen to that criminal speak those lies! It had to have been hard not to want to slap him, I imagine. You are a hero! Keep reporting on Darfur!

Thank you Ann. I hope your great personal efforts will help to awake some Politician.
Keep up the good work.

Ann, I watched your interview with President al-Bashir and it was frightening on several levels. The obvious being the ongoing genocide. Another, the comment from the president when shown the photos of the burned villages. He said that Colin Powell also showed photos of WMD and there were none therefore your photos were discounted as untrue. WOW! I'm sure he isn't the only person that is of this opinion. The U.S. has certainly damaged its global credibility. It makes me even more angry that we are wasting American lives and resources in one foreign land when we could be and should be able to help out in another like Sudan.

Dear Ann,

My husband and I pray for you as you travel in the Darfur region of Sudan. We applaud your courage and hope that those who see this story are moved to help in some way. We all forget how the scars of WWII touched the children and now I see the same scars on the little ones in Darfur. Please let the people that you meet know that we will not forget.

More needs to be done, please tell us what we here in the USA, who can not travel abroad do.

Thank you for bringing us this story.

Ann, as I read through your contributions I am left asking myself this question...how will this scar you? How will you look at the world, our country, our leaders, people, even yourself having seen and experienced the total inhumanity man has for his own species. I cry for the children of Darfur, I cry for the mothers and fathers of Darfur. I cry for you as well, Ann for you will live with these images and smells, tasts and sounds for the rest of your life. For much of the rest of us...the images will disappear. Please, for the people of Darfur...don't let these emages fade from our view for if they do, Darfur will surely follow.

I, too, say a BIG Thanks to You for bringing us news like this...this is something we all need to be concerned about and alert all the "powers that be" to bring this to the attention of everybody so that we can together accomplish something to help these people..I grow weary hearing about celebrities and who might be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby or stuff of that genre..Please keep the TODAY show focused on what is important in today's world..
Thanks for your concern and compassion, Ann.

Ann,
You are my personal hero. Thank you for having the courage to follow your conscience. You've got the will to overcome all barriers to make your goal a reality. AND THANK YOU to your boss, Jim Bell. (Mr. Bell, CAN YOU HEAR ME???) Mr. Bell, you are taking a business risk to follow your conscience, too. We need more people like you in business and in the media. This is the news I want to watch on TODAY. All the other stuff is fluff, and if I could hop off the treadmill to change the channel when the feature stories are about Martha Stewart, botox, weight loss, and the little white dress I would.

Thank God for you, Ann Curry, and NBC Today show producers for bringing this genocide to center stage in the media. I've been a faithful Today show watcher for many years, and I am so proud that Ann is bringing attention to the situation in Darfur. We must urge our US leaders (through phone calls, letters and public events) to help create a real UN peacekeeping force in Sudan to stop this genocide. Our country can use this opportunity to change history and stand up against the innocent killing of millions. What if it were us? How would we want the world to respond?

Ann, Thank you so much for what you are doing to expose the atrocities that are occurring in Darfur. I am a senior at the University of California, San Diego. This week I have been consumed with writing my thesis, which I completed on Tuesday. My thesis is about Genocide in Africa, I will not go into all the details. I have been working on this thesis for the past year, including interning at the Save Darfur Coalition and so many times I have been close to giving up hope, however I always find a way to keep fighting genocide and to keep shedding light on the horrors that are occurring everyday in Darfur. Seeing your passion about Darfur has been a large factor in keeping me going. You are in my thoughts as you travel through Sudan and Darfur, along with the people of Darfur. And THANK YOU again.

Ann,

Thank you so much for your reporting on Sudan/Darfur. This is such a huge international crisis and there are still so many Americans who haven't heard of Darfur. I hope that you and the Today crew keep up the reporting on this issue! When so much news today is centered around celebrities, this was great and puts the Today Show right where it should be with international coverage!!

It's shameful to argue involvement when the innocent are dying and being degrated daily on a massive scale. Countries of the world should consider what they help they would need if these horrific events happened within their borders.

Dear Ann,
After attending your speaking engagement on March 14th, I could not stop thinking about all you said. Thank you for a truly eye opening experience. Your extraordinary passion and committment for these important causes are so inspiring.

Good luck...

Thank you to you, your family and NBC (and advertisers) for covering this genocide as it is happening. It is upseting to see, but it is more upsetting to think that we could "look the other way" during yet another genocide.
Is there a way to find out which advertisers supported the time during your segments? I would like to in return support them.

Ann, you are doing a wonderful job, as usual, you are a very caring, and compationate lady, you go to great lengths to bring the truth, and facts to us, and I thank you for that. It is a terrible situation there, and I pray to God to keep you safe, Take care of yourself, and I look forward to seeing back on the Today Show as soon as possible.

THANK YOU ANN!! I returned from Sudan in November where I was part of a Medical Missions team intending to go to Darfur to set up a free medical clinic for the people there. 2 days before our arrival president Al-Bashir cancelled any humanitarian teams from entering Darfur [strictly political] and so we were forced to stay in Khartoum. However, we were allowed to travel to two different camps outside of Khartoum and provided medical care for a week in each camp. You do not really know what these people have gone through unless you hear their stories and see their pain. Your courageousness will have a definite impact on American ears that hear it. I am hoping to be part of another team traveling to Darfur in November 2007

Ann, We have been following your work all week. Thank you for having the courage to speak the truth and for taking the time to inspire 250 future student leaders last week. Safe travels home. We have sent you something special that we hope will inspire you.

Ann, I've been following this story since you began reporting it last year. Thank you so much for returning to this region, and I do hope that you continue to report this horrible genocide occuring in the 21st Century.

The intelligence gathered on these atrocities by the State Dept. is unassailable. By the way, even though Bashir tries to bash it by pointing out that former Sec. of State Colin Powell presented the case for WMDs at the UN, citing US intelligence, he may be interested to know that the only intelligence agency in the US government that refused to go along with that assessment was Powell's own group in the State Dept. That is the very same group that has done the work on the ground in Darfur and produced fantastic maps and reports, laying it all out for the world to see.

Ann, thank you for staying committed to this issue even though most of our American media is not covering it. It is very frustrating to see people connecting this with the war in Iraq because we are not asking for the U.S. to go to war. We are asking that the international community (i.e. NATO, the U.N., the E.U. and maybe a few Arab countries) stand true to the promise of "Never Again." Genocide is different than civil war and we can see that clearly in Darfur - it is NOT a civil war, it is innocent people, without guns, being raped and murdered while the rest of the world watches and does nothing. I am the education director at a small Holocaust Museum in FL and a student asked at a recent program, "Why isn't the UN doing anything? Don't they understand that these are just people and they need our help?" It's not about oil, which is mostly in south Sudan, it's about people. And we need to help them.

Ann,
Thank you very much for doing this important story.
I have a hunch that the US and our European allies have been ignoring Darfur because of involvement in the Middle East and the oil fields of the former Soviet Union states. We owe China a lot of money. They take the oil in Africa by aiding the governments to clear their lands of tribal people by using genocide and China looks the other way while the US and it's "allies" raid the Middle East. Is this the next story a new type of cold war standoff?

Dear Ann, Thank you for bringing this tragic situation to the American public. You have been amazing for some time now when most TV anchors, etc. won't go near a topic that should be brought up daily. Thank you Ann! I have watched you for years on the Today Show and thank you for being so courageous by bringing this story to us (several times). All the best. Jessica S. New York, NY

Why are we all so angry. There is no reason for our troops to have to go anywhere but where they are (Iraq)or home. We should all be placing pressure on our elected officials to put pressure on the UN. It is an international responsibility that needs to be delt with using international resources, peacekeeping and aid. There are a ton more military forces in the world besides ours. They are perfectly capable of standing firm and saying no more, not these women, not these children and not in this place. Pack up your weapons and go home. That is all that needs to be done. If it were us we would want the same. I hope we are not so naive to think that impossible.

Ann, I watched your interview with the president of Darfur. How do you keep your cool when I am sure you have done your homework and know the facts and truth on what is happenning in Darfur, and the president
denies all. God Bless.
(see u soon on the TODAY Show)
Sonia Villa (your photographer friend)

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Tough questions for Sudan's president By Ann Curry, NBC News Correspondent Anchor How does one interview a man accused of unleashing...

Posted on Mar 19, 2007 1:55:38 PM at: WorldBlog