The Sudanese Manhandlers


This is just plain outrageous:

KHARTOUM, SUDAN – Security forces in the Sudanese capital manhandled U.S. officials and reporters traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, marring her round of congratulatory meetings with leaders of the new unified government. Rice demanded an apology, and got it.

“It makes me very angry to be sitting there with their president and have this happen,” she said. “They have no right to push and shove.”

Rice made her remarks to reporters after she and her entourage boarded an airplane to fly from the capital to a refugee camp in the Darfur region. At the camp, she said the United States would hold the Sudanese government to account if it fails to end the refugee crisis.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Sudanese foreign minister responded to Rice’s demand for an apology by telephoning her aboard the plane to express regret for the incidents at the ultra-high-security residence of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir.

Twice, Sudanese guards’ hostility toward members of Rice’s entourage devolved into shouts and shoving.

As Rice’s motorcade arrived at the residence, armed guards slammed the gate shut before three vehicles could get in, including those carrying Rice’s interpreter and other State Department officials who were supposed to attend her meeting with el-Bashir.

After protests, the officials were eventually allowed in. But guards repeatedly pushed and pulled Rice senior adviser Jim Wilkinson, and at one point he was shoved into a wall.

“Diplomacy 101 says you don’t rough your guests up,” Wilkinson said later.

Once Rice’s traveling group was inside, the guards tried to keep reporters out of a planned photo shoot of Rice’s meeting.

When reporters were finally allowed in, they were elbowed and guards repeatedly tried to rip a microphone away from a U.S. reporter. They were ordered not to ask questions, over State Department objections.

When NBC diplomatic reporter Andrea Mitchell tried to ask el-Bashir a question about his involvement with alleged atrocities, a scuffle broke out.

Guards grabbed the reporter and muscled her toward the rear of the room as State Department officials shouted at the guards to leave her alone. “Get your hands off her!” Wilkinson demanded. But all the reporters and a camera crew were physically forced out.

Ambassador Khidair Haroun Ahmed, head of the Sudanese mission in Washington, attempted to smooth over the situation on the spot. “Please accept our apologies,” he told the reporters and aides. “This is not our policy.”

Later, describing Rice’s meeting with el-Bashir, Wilkinson said, “She was very direct about the skepticism of the international community about their ability to improve Darfur.”

Rice put it this way: “I said action, not words.”

Rice’s visit to the sprawling Abu Shouk refugee camp, the second-largest in the region, went more according to form and plan.

After a bumpy and dusty ride from the airport, she was surrounded by children reaching for her hand and chanting: “Welcome, Welcome Condoleezza.”

In the area she toured, some of the 55,000 displaced Darfur villagers had tried to add cheer to the hot, sandy expanse by planting pink and magenta flowers outside the doorways of their plywood and canvass huts.

Rice said that her hour and a half visiting the camp, meeting with humanitarian workers and women who described their fear of rape and violence by government forces, put the crisis in stark relief.

“I think people have known this is a devastating crisis for so many people and the United States has called it by name, that is that a genocide was committed here,” she said.

But not surprising, what do expect from the Sudanese Government?

Austin Bay, LGF, & The Strata-Sphere are also blogging about it.

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