Saturday, September 30, 2006
So close, yet so far
It doesn't get more IRONIC than this.

We thought we were almost there, travel permits sitting in the Ministry of the Interior in Sudan for us to go to Darfur have just been approved, but with one slight HICCUP. Two of our crew members, Dutch producer, Kim Norgaard and South African cameraman, Chevan Rayson, are good to go. But guess what, for yours truly, of Kenyan descent but holding a US passport, there's a problem.

You see, at the recent UN General Assembly meeting in New York, the US State Department decided to restrict the travel requests of certain Sudanese officials. Now it seems like a tit-for-tat scenario. Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir has said he too will restrict the movements of US citizens wishing to travel outside Khartoum. 'But I'm actually Kenyan,' I insist. 'They don't come more AFRICAN than me,' I argue. 'But you have an American passport,' say the officials here, 'That makes you one of them.'

Is this what you call a diplomatic 'stand-off?' Will the travel restrictions also be applied to journalists and more importantly, much-needed Aid workers wishing to ease the misery of the desperate and downtrodden in Darfur?

Even as I write this, we're in a 'holding pattern'. We're trying to get on a flight early Sunday morning to El-Fasher, capital of Northern Darfur. We're so close and yet so far, the next few hours are critical, and the proverbial ball is back in the court of the Sudanese Government.
Posted By Jeff Koinange, CNN Africa Correspondent: 11:25 AM ET
  27 Comments
Obviously the Sudanese gov't doesn't want you there. And even if you succeed in gaining a visa, won't it be impossible to film what's really going on? Isn't the gov't themselves backing the Islam-led slaughter of the poorest Africans?
Posted By Anonymous xtina - Chicago IL : 12:58 PM ET
Jeff,

What do they mean by "one of them". An American! An American who goes around the world and sheds light on the suffering and hurt that others are experiencing on a daily basis. An American who reaches out and tries to make a difference by enlightening and educating. "One of them", isn't it amazing that being American lately is like being diseased. Sometimes I wonder what people around the world would do if all of us "Americans" got up one morning and just decided to stay in America and close our hearts, minds, doors, bank accounts and stopped reaching out to help those we see in need.
Posted By Anonymous Zann Vickers Easterwood Martin, TN : 1:04 PM ET
Hi Jeff,
In a strange way, your experience exposes even more of the problem..And I believe the more the world hears of the insanity going on there, the more attention it gets..More attention means more help..Good luck and keep telling us the facts on the ground. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 3:01 PM ET
Jeff, Oh no! Sounds like you're stuck. You know, I just recently read about Al-Bashir's new restrictions, but I guess I really didn't think much of it. One thing's for sure, they don't want witnesses to what's going on there, so they'll do everything they can to keep you out. If you can't get into Darfur could you at least go to the camps in Chad? Good luck.
Posted By Anonymous Stacy, St. Louis, MO : 3:08 PM ET
Jeff, you are a strong and committed person. I believe that God puts us on earth for specific purposes. We don't all learn that purpose or fulfill it, but you definitely have. You are a true humanitarian with a conscience. I believe that everything will work out so that you can do what you were meant to do. Tell the story, we're listening and hopefully more will act.
Posted By Anonymous Paige B., Alexandria, VA : 3:14 PM ET
It is too bad that this is all getting in the way of CNN covering the horror in Darfur first hand. The political posteuring on part of the Sudanese government is a convenient excuse so they don't have to let anyone in that may be able to get the message to a huge audience.
On another note, I'd like to point out that the genodice in Darfur is not, in fact, Islam-led. It is ethnically based off of territorial disputes between the Arab and African tribes in the area. It is the Arab-led government and janjaweed that is causing this atrocity, not Islam. Islam has a bad enough wrap as it is, no need to make it worse through misinformation.
Posted By Anonymous Chelsea, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada : 5:49 PM ET
The arrogance and cowardice of the arab-led sudanese government is just plain disturbing. It is a testament of it's new found patnership with China, who right now is profiting from the oil deals it has with al-bashir's regime. I think the only reason progress has been slow in instituting far reaching sanctions against the sudanese government is because of a refusal by China and russia to co-operate with the international community in the U.N. Keep going a good but tough job Jeff!
Posted By Anonymous Simon - Chicago, IL : 12:19 AM ET
Didn't Mohammar Qaddafi start the "Islamic Legion" in Libya - aren't these the Janjaweed "militants" now who are terrorizing Africans? Maybe you can relate a bit of the history
of this conflict in your reports. Thanks.
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago : 3:27 AM ET
Jeff,

Keep trying! I'll be praying for you!!! As an African American living in USA, these are the stories that make CNN the best. Every strip of information I can get on my brothers & sisters in the Diaspora, I watch over and over! Share with friends, family.
Don't give up, they need your voice and we need to hear it!
Posted By Anonymous Teresa Farris, Minneapolis, Minnesota : 7:03 AM ET
Jeff, this is such an important story and I hope someone will open a door for you. We are homeschoolers and pay close attention to current events - we started following the Darfur story only to be disappointed that something this horrific is not getting more coverage. George Clooney brought some attention to Darfur but there needs to be more. My daughter has started asking and telling people about Darfur and has found that few people know anything about it! So we're pulling for you to get in - Americans need to know about Darfur, and the Congo. We'll be watching every night. Good Luck to you and the whole crew.
Posted By Anonymous Anna Rochelle, Worthington, Indiana : 10:36 AM ET
If you want to claim being African, then use your Kenyan Passport. Holding an American passport and claiming being African is kind of dumb to me.
Posted By Anonymous E-man, Williamsville, NY : 11:31 AM ET
I don't think you should pray to Jesus to get out of this situation. Allah seems to have the upper hand in the Sudan. Perhaps a prayer to Allah will help get you out of limbo!
Posted By Anonymous Sean, Torrington, CT : 12:48 PM ET
I am an American living in Sudan, and loving my "adopted" culture.
Living in Khartoum makes it terribly hard to believe all the reports that the world hears about these horrible events in Darfur. Sudanese people in general are wonderful, simple minded and peaceful, loving and compassionate. At least this is my experience among the northerns where I live! In every country, and among every religion there have been extremists all through history, who love power, and are out of control in their endeavors to rule an area, or people! For those who are praying for Darfur, for Sudan in general, keep praying! thanks A.C. for coming to our country! Wish I knew where you were staying while here in Kht.
nancy e.
Posted By Anonymous nancy e. Khartoum, Sudan : 2:46 PM ET
Why do americans think that they can insult, offend and hurt people but heaven forbid that somebody fight back. Didn't america just restrict sudanese officials? why do you expect that it wont come back to you?
Yes sometimes you help people but never without a financial gain. Im from Kuwait and i grew up thinking how amazing the americans are to just to come in and help us when saddam invaded, then i found out that we still pay america for that 'help'. Im sure now that if we didnt have oil we would be under saddams rule. In no way am i saying that there arent FANTASTIC americans, people who put thier lives on the line for other people of the world BUT never has america, the country, ever helped just to help. if thiers no money involved america doesnt care. I guarantee that Darfur will not be helped (like Rwanda wasnt helped, America even asked that it not be called a genocide) by america because they cant profit from it. I hope the american people speak out against thier government (like they ask so many muslims to speak out against terrorism) and make this a better world because essentially we are all the same.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah Al-Rukhais, Kuwait : 5:30 PM ET
Jeff,
I have been researching the Darfur crisis for a school project. I came across an article on the National Holucost memorial web cite from a washington post reporter who already went to Darfur. He reported that the Sundanesse soliders somewhat hampered what he was able to report. One example the he gave was, when he was schedueled to fly to a certain area, there would be a sudden fuel shortage, so he would not be able to fly. I really hope that you have more luck than the post reporter, everyone needs to tune in and become educated about this immense crisis, best of luck!
Posted By Anonymous Natale, Englishtown, NJ : 5:54 PM ET
I'm really hoping that you can go into Darfur. My sister is in there and I'd like to check out the news everyday. I her weekly email is not enough.
Posted By Anonymous Tina, Baltimore MD : 5:55 PM ET
Isn't bureaucracy wonderful. They confiscated my breath spray while going through security. Im not sure what kind of bomb they think I could have made. At least in your situation they should spend more time trying to help people ,which is what you want to do. This red tape just wastes time and money. I'm looking forward to your reports-if you ever do get there! Thanks for all of your hard work and be safe.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 9:17 PM ET
Jeff, Good Luck... It's funny isn't that what the US tells some Africans when they want to come??? Too bad... I hope you make it!
Posted By Anonymous Josette Diakite, Cincinnati, Ohio : 9:32 PM ET
Jeff -

If you are a Proud American, you should not try and claim to be African just to be able to interview anyone, YOU ARE American because you hold an American passport they are right, do not try to disconnect your (hopefully) proud American citizenship status because of ANYTHING in the world, if they dont let you expose what is going on there, then maybe someone else will, or maybe they dont deserve being helped, they said you were "one of them" they are right, you are "ONE OF US" and you should be proud of that
Posted By Anonymous matt, seattle, wa : 11:58 PM ET
One of them. If you say you are Kenyan, then why do you have an American passport? Is it you want the rights and advantages of U.S. citizenship, but only when it's convenient? I appreciate your work, be proud to be an American also.
Posted By Anonymous Mark, Denver, CO : 5:23 AM ET
Hey Jeff,

Hope you made it. So, President al-Bashir is playing with the US citizens.
Forbidding help to come to his country. How wonderful!!!He really is thinking of his population who is dying and who suffers every minute.

But who cares!! As long as his personnal agenda is taking care of. It is time for the U.N. to find a way to enter one way or the other!.

Take care, good luck.
Joanne Ranzell
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne Ranzell Laval Quebec : 9:55 AM ET
Hi Jeff,
Being someone of African descent, I want to applaud your effort, alongside those of Anderson and Sanjay in bringing to the attention of the world the tradegies that have plaqued the continent that has been historically adjudged the cradle of civilization.

Keep up the good job and maybe, you need to keep a Kenyan passport for back up. It must howvere be noted that the Sudanese government's reason for denying you access is just a testament to how Sudanese (Muslims & Christians) live their lives on a daily basis.

Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Victor Olapojoye, Waukegan, IL : 11:07 AM ET
To: Sarah Al-Rukhais, Kuwait
You bash Americans (which by the way is ALWAYS spelled with a capital A) and yet this country provides you with CNN.com where you have the ability to openly critizes. Do you have the same ability in Kuwait? Would you have that same ability under Saddam? Please think about that.

America is constantly opening its hearts, minds, and wallets to people around the world despite whether a "profit" (as you state) can be made. And why do we do this? Because we enjoy a freedom that unfortunately no one else in the world does and we want everyone to have this freedom. Yet shallow comments such as yours make me wonder sometimes why we do not just stay within our borders and care for our own poor and troubled and let the world solve its own problems.

Sincerely,
Kevin Knight
St. Louis, MO
Posted By Anonymous Kevin Knight St. Louis, MO : 4:25 PM ET
You say you are "actually Kenyan." Please pick a country.

It appears you have a strong sense of yourself as being "of Kenyan descent but holding a US passport." That is unfortunate.
Posted By Anonymous Craig Barrett, Los Angeles, CA : 3:44 AM ET
Sometimes appearances are deceiving but in your case ironical. I'm sure everyone knows you now by sight Jeff and in any case your complexion should work for you. But such are the times that we live in, America is vilified and every small opportunity that some people can get to harass 'America' they do so with a lot of glee. Sadly Africans are the ones to suffer because of this. Do not lose hope, be the voice of the oppressed brothers and sisters in Darfur.I wish you all the best and God speed.
Posted By Anonymous Sonia, Nairobi, Kenya : 6:02 AM ET
Hi Jeff,
Thanks for bringing attention to the situation in many african countries.
I am a Us citizen too, but from Congolese parents and I just want to say that even though you are a Us citizen , the fact that your roots are in Kenya makes you a citizen of that country as well, but in regard of what goes on around the world, that perception is not necessarily accpeted.
Obviously you have heart for what goes on in Africa, so keep up the good work, just remember to give a full picture of what goes on, wheter it's in Sudan, in Congo, in Liberia or somewhwere else. Sometimes, I feel that African head of states and their counterparts in developped countries aren't challenged and hold accountable for their behaviors. As you know wherever people are suffering, the story needs to be told, wheter it's in the Middle East or in another continent.
Africa is forgotten most of the time and it's seems so convenient for everybody.To me that's double standard, no country should get more attention than others. Keep telling the stories and I pray that one day Africa will really get the leadership it needs.
God bless!
Zola
Posted By Anonymous Zola, Atlanta,Ga : 11:11 AM ET
As an African, I find it hard to express my appreciation to all Good Samaritans who, not only give all they can, but risk their lives to save those who are helpless. It is hard to believe what we have seen. It is so painful to see how much innocent people suffer. How much they starve with all riches and good climate. Actress Angelina asked one question; ( until when?) As an African, this is my answer: Until Africans have asked the same question. Until we have seriously said that "enough is enough". Until we have acknowledged that we are the cause of every pain and misery, and determe to tackle the root causes of every problem that surrounds that continent, there may never be any solution. My cry to all Africans is to face the truth for we hold the master key that will save our continent. Let us accept that good morals and family values no longer exist and as a result everything is destroyed. As our friends continue to help us, let us also fight as much as we can to retain our morals and values for this is the only key. Youths are pillars and I believe that if Africa youths are helped today, tomorrow we can have a stronger continent with a shining glory again.
Posted By Anonymous Phoebe Kabarangye, Roxbury, Massachusetts : 4:05 AM ET
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