“The Devil on Horseback”.
This is the title of the documentary presented last week at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It documents the suffering of the people of Darfur, through a collection of terrifying photos from the province and E-mails sent by Brian Steidle, an observer affiliated to the peacekeeping force that spent six months in the area in 2004.
The film features, in addition to Steidle’s photos, rare shots taken by a small number of people who managed to enter the Darfur Province and film some of the horrors its people went through. Steidle says that if the people saw what he has seen, foreign forces would intervene within days to stop the genocide that has claimed nearly half a million people and displaced millions of others.
The Janjawid militias that are affiliated with the Sudanese Government have probably been involved. The title of the film alludes to the Arab name of the Janjwaid militia, which stands for jinnis on horseback.
Once again, it appears that the continued deterioration of the crisis in the province is due to the blackout imposed on it and that no one has seen what has happened and what is happening in Darfur, or that we have seen but decided to turn a blind eye because we are preoccupied with more important issues. It is true that the humanitarian crisis in Darfur has occupied the top of international concern for the past three years, on the basis that what is happening in that province is worse than the Rwanda massacres. But for close follow-up to remain lacking and to compare this with the concern demonstrated on other issues shows the injustice that is manifest in a horrifying tragedy that has hit Africa in its core.
The conflict has not receded, despite numerous agreements reached. We often hear reports on revival of fighting and continuation of the human suffering that has driven more than 80,000 to migrate from their villages during the months of January and February 2007. It thus appears that the weakness of media coverage for this major tragedy is something into which Western media has fallen just as the Arab media have; not forgetting that coverage in Arab media is merely one fifth of the coverage provided by Western media, according to published figures.
The Arabs and their media are split over Darfur. There are people who see the issue as “a grand conspiracy”. Others tend to hold the view that it contains clear bias against non-Arabs, considering that the Darfur issue involves African tribes. This view holds that the accusations are made against some Arab tribes in Darfur, so the Arab media have not been concerned with the issue of human rights of the Africans there. It is then a problem of identity in a multi-ethnic and mutli-cultural society. This is one approach in interpreting the civil conflicts that spread in Sudan since the 1950s of the last century. It is an attempt to reach into the deeper roots of war in Sudan which have to do with ethnic identity as well as political, economic, and developmental considerations. It is sad to see the frightening extent which our lack of humanity has reached.