a great challenge in sudan
How 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.
Read more from Ann Curry
Sudan's president speaks
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