Friday, September 29, 2006
Mission Darfur, job one: part the red tape
We almost failed to make our flight out of Johannesburg, on our way to Darfur as '360' focuses next week on the humanitarian crisis in Africa.

The booking was fine for the first sector to Nairobi, Kenya, but it was the continuing sector to Sudan that was 'choc-a-bloc'. We did the only thing journalists do in that kind of situation; we begged and begged and begged the airline officials like our lives depended on this 'mission'. They must have seen our sincerity (or is it desperation?) that finally they checked us all the way, complete with 18 pieces of baggage, digital news gathering gear, laptops, satellite phones, bottles of water, clothes, everything we would need for about a week in what's been described as THE world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Both sectors of the flight were uneventful and we finally landed in Sudan later that night. Clearing immigration proved easier than expected and our luggage made it, believe it or not. We were ecstatic as we wheeled our FIVE carts towards the customs officials and the first of what was going to be a lesson in patience and tolerance. We showed our paperwork to one of the officials who barely glanced at it before handing it over to his colleague and on it went until the fifth customs officer took a quick look and yelled something back in Arabic to our fixer who'd met us at the airport. 'He has to call his superior,' Akram told us. 'Ok,' we replied. Five minutes, ten, twenty, half-an-hour. 'What's the delay,' we aseked? 'It's Ramadan,' was the answer, the fasting just ended for the day and no-one's available.' This was understandable given the timing of the flight and the Muslim Holy month. 'How long do we wait?' we asked 'He'll soon come,' the official responded.

Two hours later, we'd finally gotten the necessary paperwork sorted we were walking out of the now deserted airport, humbled but happy to have all our gear with us. We eventually got to the hotel, checked-in and crashed for the night.

The next morning we were up early. Copies of passports were made, photographs taken, ID at the ready. First we had to register with the authorities, let them know we're in town. Then to the Ministry of External Affairs to get accredited and receive permission to film, then to the Internal Ministry to get permission to fly to Darfur, then to the police to make sure they know we can film in the streets of the capital. In a word, Sudan is a bureaucrat's dream, paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork.

Two days later, we just about have everything in hand, except the all-important permission to fly to Darfur. That's been promised by Saturday and we plan to be 'wheels-up' Sunday to a place called El Fasher in Northern Darfur, a region as large as Texas or France. From there it's a helicopter ride to a camp that was the recent scene of bloody clashes. Fingers crossed until we actually set foot in one of the world's most wretched locations.
Posted By Jeff Koinange, CNN Africa Correspondent: 11:46 AM ET
  14 Comments
Jeff--

Thanks for the update. I'm sorry that you had to go through all that red tape. However, I know it will be worth it in the end. Congratulations on the Emmy win, and I'll be glued to the TV next week as you all broadcast from the Congo and Darfur. Best wishes, and STAY SAFE!
Posted By Anonymous Mandy, Boston, MA : 1:04 PM ET
I hope you make it without anymore "red tape". It is so important that you guys are there to report the story in lenght. I think that most people don't really know what is going on there. I mean, how it started. I've been reading and watching everything I can on the subject. I even wrote to our Prime Minister.

It is more than just a political issue. It is a moral issue. It is up to us, citizens, to put more pressure on our officials so that they find a way to enter Sudan with or without the consent of their leader. We need to talk about it until we are blue in the face! My son talked about it in class two weeks ago. Children talked about it with their parents after that.

I am sure you are going to do great reporting but I hope you will do a piece on the humanitarian workers. How they are reacting to the fact that at the end of the year, if the U.N. can't find a way to enter the country and the african armies leave, they will find themselves in a vaccumm.

To me, it is unacceptable that children are killed in front of their parents, that women and girls are raped and brutalized(it's that or the men are killed!). It is our duty, as human beings to make sure that our voices are heard.

"If you want to do something, you find a way. If you don't want to do something, you make up an excuse".
Let's find a way to end the suffering.

Joanne Ranzell
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne Ranzell Laval Quebec : 1:15 PM ET
I just want to say thank you for not giving up. Its people like you who bring hope to the people of Sudan. Now their voices can be heard around the world and they can tell their stories otherwise no one would ever know. I think the world needs to stop asking and start doing. No one needs permission to lend a helping hand.If you know you can do something do it just dont sit their and talk, support the organizations that are already trying. In one part of the world billions of dollars are being used in the destruction of life in war and in another part of the world life is destroyed due to lack of money for food ,water,medicine and security. What a shame.AC360 you have 2 hours of airtime 5 days a week dont stop telling the stories of the people who are really suffering around the world especially the children who are the future of this world.They need to know that there is someone out their trying to make a difference, they need hope.
Posted By Anonymous Valerie , Hesston KS : 1:31 PM ET
Thanks for always bringing light to stories others shy away from. Now, of course we hear a lot about Darfur, but you guys exposed it first. Keep up the good work! It's easy for people to be immune to what's not happening directly to them. When you go to these places we can no longer deny it's existence. I'll be praying for you guys. Stay Safe!
Posted By Anonymous Janda, Seattle, WA : 1:39 PM ET
So who gets to make the first joke about you guys packing like a bunch of girls?

Good luck, stay safe and sharpen those pencils, sounds like you'll need them.
Posted By Anonymous Liz, San Francisco, CA : 2:06 PM ET
I'm glad that you guys made it through all the "hoops" you needed to to get this far.I'm scared to think of all of you traveling to "one of the worlds most wretched locations" but I'll be praying that you stay safe as you travel and work.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, Durham NC : 2:10 PM ET
Funny, a word search of this "news" article does not yield Islam even once. Like most wars, bombings, and genocides occuring this decade, Darfur is also a war with Islamic fundamentalists. I'm sure my comment will not be posted because it contains the word Islam.
Posted By Anonymous Gary Plyler, Seattle Washington : 3:05 PM ET
You all are absolutely amazing! As horrendous as the images are sure to be, they need to be seen. This genocide has gone on long enough and I'm glad that '360' will be spending so much time covering the crisis next week. It's because of stories and coverage like this that I absolutely love the show. I look forward to seeing your reports next week and I hope you have a safe journey. I will be praying for the safety of the CNN staff, as well as a speedy end to this genocide. Thank you again for your wonderful reporting.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly Miller, Hiram, OH : 3:07 PM ET
Jeff and Crew...
First and foremost, STAY SAFE... Second, Thank you Thank you... Thank you for being patient, for having the guts to travel there, for making it seem like we are there with you... I was starting to feel the excitment of far away travel until you reminded us of the where you are actually going to be... Please Please stay out of harms way but thanks for being there to report on the atrocities that are happening right now so that maybe we can all be of some help to these poor helpless human beings... God help them all...
Posted By Anonymous Sherry Sarasota Fl : 3:19 PM ET
Big deal! So you had to sit and wait around for awhile. It's about time you actually went there to report on the atrocities that have been plaguing the region for quite some time now. I suppose now that George Clooney talked about it, it's finally time to take the story seriously.
Where was CNN for the past few years? Oh yeah, that's right, covering more pressing issues like Jon Benet Ramsey, Iraq and Afghanistan, and how FEMA trailers are utilized. I guess mass Genocide just doesn't rank nearly as high up the ratings charts.
Just think, If CNN gave the type of coverage to Darfur that has been given to Iraq, how many people may have been saved, not to mention how the world now views the U.S. as a bunch of thugs? Who brings the stories to the world? That's right. You do. Thanks for being so responsible.
Posted By Anonymous Bill Appleton, Wisconsin : 4:08 PM ET
Jeff, please tell us all about the food they eat there. What are the meals like?? The cow's blood, and grains are their "staples", right?? Do they eat meat?? Or, is meat scarce, a luxury?? Tell us about the food, thanks.
Posted By Anonymous Mark, Sacramento, CA : 4:28 PM ET
It's about time you reported on Darfur! Thanks Jeff and Anderson for reporting on the impending disater!
Posted By Anonymous Ruth Miami, Florida : 3:17 PM ET
I have lived in Sudan, Khartoum for the last three years, and this is the first time someone is telling the story as it really is. The reality of the situation in Darfur is beyound human imagination. Jeff keep doing what you doing. The suffering people are going through in Darfur can be stopped and it should be STOPPED. Thank you for bringing the story to the world.
Posted By Anonymous Blueroses, Johanesburg. South Africa : 3:41 AM ET
I for one, am so glad to finally see a major network send it high profile reporters to report on the crisis in Darfur. Whenever I see or hear of these reports, reporting on such grave acts of inhumanity, I wish that I had the means and resources to go over there and help myself. If there are heroes in this world, it is those men and women who go over there and actually do something! It is time for all of us to earn the right of being called - human beings!
Posted By Anonymous Jeremy Lambert, Woodstock ON., Canada : 11:06 AM ET
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