For the NOT A Good Idea File: Scuffles during a US Secretary of State visit to Sudan
The Beeb: US fury as Sudan manhandles staff
The BBC’s Jonathan Beale, who is travelling with Ms Rice, says the row is very bad news for a new government which is trying to say that it is becoming more open and introducing press freedom.
Bad news, for sure; just look at what happened. The London Times: Condoleezza Rice today demanded a full apology from the Sudanese President after members of her entourage were allegedly roughed up by guards at a diplomatic meeting. (emphasis mine)
Jim Wilkinson, a senior adviser to the US Secretary of State, was grabbed and thrown against a wall at the entrance to President Omar al-Bashir’s palace in the capital Khartoum.
US officials said that the security guards elbowed and pushed them, barring advisers and the press from entering the meeting by slamming closed the residence’s wooden doors.
An attempt was also made to seize tapes from a National Public Radio reporter before Sean McKormack, Miss Rice’s spokesman, and others intervened.
A Sudanese official quickly came out to apologise to the second group of journalists, held back in the anteroom to the residence.
Later, when NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell tried to ask why Khartoum should be believed in its promises to crack down on militias in Darfur, she was cut off and pushed away by the Sudanese security.
The BBC article states that, while the head of the African Union peacekeeping force claims that security had improved in Darfur, with no major attacks since January and a decrease in low-level skirmishes, US aid official Andrew Natsios said: “The major reason for that, frankly, is there are not many villages left to burn down and destroy.” More on Sudan, Africa’s biggest country, at the NYT.
It is estimated that at least 180,000 people in Darfur have been killed since 2003 by the janjaweed — an Arab militia that kills for the Sudanese government.