Africa

'Darfur Olympics' going out on webcast

Sarah El Deeb

As the Summer Games open in Beijing, actor and activist Mia Farrow is webcasting the "Darfur Olympics" from a refugee camp on the Sudan-Chad border.

As the Summer Games open in Beijing, actor and activist Mia Farrow is webcasting her own “Darfur Olympics” from a refugee camp on the barren Sudan-Chad border, aiming to shame China into using its influence with Khartoum to end the Darfur conflict.

Human rights groups have been using the Beijing Olympics to highlight accusations that China’s close ties to the Khartoum government are helping fuel the bloodshed in Darfur, where up to 300 000 people have been killed and 2,5-million people driven from their homes since 2003.

China buys nearly two-thirds of Sudan’s oil and is believed to provide the country with most of its small arms, many of which human rights groups say end up being used in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. Beijing, which has veto power at the United Nations, has resisted tough Security Council action against Sudan over the conflict.

At the same time as the opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday, Farrow will post footage on the web from one of a dozen camps in eastern Chad where Darfurians fleeing the conflict have taken refuge.

The webcast is to include refugee children playing sports and songs contributed by pop singers including R.E.M., Bette Midler and Taleb Kweli.

Each day for the first week of the Beijing Games, Farrow will post new webcasts with “voices from the camps”, including interviews with women and children.

The footage will provide viewers around the world a glimpse of the “deplorable” conditions in these camps, Farrow said on Thursday by satellite telephone from a camp in eastern Chad. She would not identify the camp for security reasons.

If people want to skip the “opening propaganda ceremony” in Beijing, they can “watch the opening ceremony we put together”, Farrow said.

“The Olympic Games should be cause for celebration ... the decision to hold the Games in Beijing is beyond comprehension,” she said. “With China underwriting the suffering in Darfur and hosting the Olympic Games at home, there is an incongruity that everyone attending the Games, participating in the Games and covering the Games can’t ignore.”

About 250 000 Darfurians live in the refugee camps in Chad. Another nearly 2,5-million people displaced by the fighting remain in Darfur, most in camps.

Farrow’s Dream for Darfur group has called the Olympics the “Genocide Games”. China barred from entering the country a Dream for Darfur member, Jill Savitt, who had planned to take the video made by Farrow to reporters in China, where the website has been blocked.

Indicted
Last month, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was indicted by the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide in Darfur. Khartoum is accused of unleashing the Arab militias known as the Janjaweed to put down ethnic African rebel groups that rose up in 2003.

The Janjaweed, in turn, are accused of carrying out a campaign of atrocities, killing and raping ethnic African civilians and burning their villages. Khartoum denies supporting the Janjaweed.

Jerry Fowler, the president of the New York-based Save Darfur Coalition, said that in light of the ICC charges of genocide, China must “stop being the enabler of genocide in Darfur and start putting pressure and using leverage on Khartoum to stop the violence, to protect civilians and to bring about a lasting peace”.

China says its arms sales to Sudan fall outside of the scope of a UN arms embargo on the provision of arms to Darfur, and that it is acting to bring peace to Darfur.

Sudanese officials decline to comment on the weapons sales, but say China has helped Sudan build roads, electricity grids, hospitals and other infrastructure.

“The Sudanese people view China as a friendly country,” said Mahjoub Faidul, a presidential spokesperson.

Al-Bashir is staying home for the Games, where Sudan has nine athletes competing. Sudanese officials say al-Bashir is too busy handling the aftermath of the indictment to attend.

In Khartoum, the capital’s Chinese residents as well as Sudanese were scrambling to find a way to watch the opening ceremony.

Al-Fateh Hassan (28), a Sudanese street vendor, said he would be watching the Olympics in cafés with subscription to the sole satellite station with broadcasting rights here.

“China is everywhere around here. Even the needle here is Chinese,” he said. “But to me as a citizen, I see little of China’s money.”—Sapa-AP

On the net
The site of Farrow’s webcast

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