The Magazine

Rumble in the Desert

From the August 1, 2005 issue: Sudan's Darfur-style diplomacy.

Aug 1, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 43 • By JONATHAN KARL
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Garang may be the most fascinating political figure in Africa today. A 1969 graduate of Grinnell College, Garang has a Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University. He was part of Sudan's government until 1983, when he was dispatched to quell a rebel insurgency in the mostly Christian and animist south. Instead of fighting the rebels, he joined them, organizing a more formidable force to challenge Khartoum. In the 1980s, he allied himself with Ethiopia's Communist government, but for the last decade and a half, he has had strong support from the United States. Garang is now the first vice president of Sudan, a shift in power the United States believes offers the best chance to end the killing in Darfur.

But Rice's ill-fated meeting with Bashir shows the "changing regime" isn't changing too fast. At the end of the meeting, President Bashir's security detail agreed to let American reporters in for a quick photo opportunity with a strict "no questions" rule. When Andrea Mitchell tried to ask a question, she got roughed up and Bashir got a lesson in Public Relations 101: Don't go pushing around a high-profile correspondent when the television cameras are rolling.

Rice, with a look of stunned disbelief on her face, watched Bashir's men push the American reporters out of the room. As she was leaving for Darfur, she told the senior American diplomat in Sudan, "I want an apology by the time I land in Darfur."

The diplomat, John Limbert, is one of the 52 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days in Tehran. He passed on the message and, sure enough, a call came to Rice on her airplane 15 minutes before she landed in Darfur. It was Sudan's foreign minister calling to say sorry--something no Sudanese official has ever said about the killing in Darfur.

Jonathan Karl is senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News.