Sudan is in need — why is the world silent yet again? 

Obsessive world attention has been directed toward the Hamas massacre of 1,200 Israelis, taking hostage of more than 200, and the subsequent war in Gaza that has resulted in the killing of thousands of Palestinians. The Israeli government estimates that more than 4,000 foreign journalists — 824 from the United States — have come to the country since Oct. 7. To put this into perspective, when millions of Americans were fighting in vast theaters across Europe and Asia during World War II, the U.S. had only about 1,600 war correspondents. 

However, Gaza is not the greatest humanitarian threat the world is facing at this moment. That unfortunate honor is probably bestowed upon the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing that the U.S. has formally declared to be occurring in Sudan.  

Since conflict erupted in April 2023, nearly 8 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, a number almost four times the entire population of Gaza. A shocking 18 million Sudanese are facing acute hunger, indicative of the widespread suffering gripping the nation. Thousands have been killed by the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The latter, which grew out of the infamous Janjaweed militias that perpetuated the genocide in Darfur 20 years ago, have returned to their brutal activities. According to Refugees International, the RSF conducts “house-to-house searches, looting and burning of villages, extrajudicial killings, mass graves, and widespread use of rape as a weapon of war, all targeting ‘Black African’ tribes.” 

Yet, little media attention (or that of anybody else) has been devoted to Sudan. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has bemoaned that the “international community and media outlets have been largely quiet” about what she calls the “living hell” of Sudan. 

Why are Sudanese lives seemingly unworthy of attention?  

Part of the reason is logistics — it is infinitely easier for journalists to travel to and operate in Israel than Sudan. 

The media is also following its market. There is no significant Sudanese diaspora in the U.S. – tied to their home country by religion and kinship — like American Jews to Israel. Muslims around the world who protest their fellow religionists being killed by Israelis do not go into the streets over the many Sudanese Muslims (who make up 91 percent of the country) who have been displaced or murdered. Those who protest Israeli actions because they (falsely) believe that it represents a white settler state oppressing people of color cannot use the same template to understand a conflict where Arabs are killing black non-Arabs. Although the Sudan conflict also destabilizes a region, the fact that neighboring Chad, one of the poorest countries in the world, hosts the most refugees per capita in Africa concerns few. 

At the same time, a great many media companies and journalists believe that part of their mission is exposing news and stories that are not of immediate interest and where there may be reasons for some to deliberately ignore what is happening.  

Imagine if the media devoted 10 percent of the resources it directs to the Israel/Gaza conflict to coverage of the mass ethnic killings in Sudan. Of course, the Sudanese deserve much more. However, even that formulation would be a radical change from our current state, where coverage of Sudan likely does not receive even 1 percent of the resources devoted to Israel/Gaza. 

This month, the world is commemorating the Rwanda genocide that began in April 1994. Those mass killings also did not receive significant attention, now a source of much regret. There were many reasons that Rwanda was ignored, but one was that the great drama of South Africa voting in the first non-racial elections — which allowed Nelson Mandela to complete his journey from political prisoner to president — was occurring in the same month. South Africa was also dramatic, also held the world’s attention after years of global protests against apartheid, and also was relatively easy to cover given the developed infrastructure of the country. It is imperative not to make the same mistake again. 

Jeffrey Herbst is president of American Jewish University. He is the former president and CEO of the Newseum and has been a professor of politics and director of the African Studies Program at Princeton University. 

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