When I think of the Arab League usually I think of Somalia. I recall the League's presence and involvement in the 2002-2004 Somali peace talks in Eldoret and Mbagathi, Kenya. If you have real access to BBC TV, and not what I can only regard as the mostly pandering, mind-numbing soap opera, real estate and auction fare still being passed off as BBC America, make sure you catch the Doha Debates' segment on Sudan's genocide in Darfur. This originally aired on BBC 26-27 January 2008. The segment focuses on the Arab world's relationship to the Government of Sudan and its genocide in Darfur. I'd never before seen this series. It was taped in Qatar with a studio audience of maybe sixty, several of whom also asked a few questions of the panel aloud. The motion debated was "This House believes Arab governments couldn't care less about Darfur."
... The panel consisted of the BBC's Tim Sebastien, original host of Hardtalk, another exceptional BBC interview show. He was joined by an all-Arab, all-male panel including two in favour of the motion and two against. Of the four Arab men, two were Black: Ahmed Diraige and Sudanese government spokesman Sirajuddin Hamid Yousuf ("No government kills its own people"; see below). Defending the motion were Diraige, interestingly enough former governor of Darfur and current Sudanese expat, and ICG Africa specialist Nadim Hasbani (ICG = International Crisis Group). Hasbani points out that Arab governments' apparent indifference to ongoing mass rape and murder - Muslim against Muslim - in Darfur is not to be equated as reaction of the Arab street, i.e., public. Arab publics, claims Hasbani, do care but their governmental bodies are not leading them to effectively intervene. Opposing the debate's motion were the Arab League's "African Affairs" division head, Zeid Al Sabban, and Sirajuddin Hamid Yousuf, head of the Sudanese Foreign Affairs Ministry's "Crisis Management" department.
As a Black American woman, in various parts of Africa and elsewhere, I've been mistaken for Somali, Ethiopian, Afro-Arab, etc. One morning in Zvornik, Bosnia a curious yet totally polite older fellow asked me if I were from India. That was a good one... On the street once in Zagreb, Croatia a local stranger taunted me rudely, telling me to go to Abu Dhabi; a place I've never been to so far. My Somali, Ethiopian and other friends know that where necessary I explain clearly how my family is African, American Indian and European, mixed over about 300 years. So on television I was fascinated to see two Black Arab men visually and philosophically framing the Doha set: Mr. Yousuf on the right of the screen, clad in striking white turban and Arab dress, and Ahmed Diraige on the left. At one point Yousuf actually states "no government kills its own people," as Ahmed Diraige, in western clothing, describes Darfur , the territory of which he once was Sudan's official governor, as a crisis of an Arab government's treatment of "Arabs" versus "non-Arabs." We aren't giving away the outcome of the debate yet it's also worth mentioning in this blog - again - that Sudan is Africa's largest country. This fact and its implications are virtually never discussed publicly, especially, like so many other critical issues, not in the United States.