It updated on the conflict there with a montage of a dazed toddler with flies in her eyes and a crowd scrambling for food dropped off a plane on a field.
A Ugandan journalist watching the telecast slapped his knee and guffawed: "Oiyy! That was south Sudan!" His peers from other African countries broke into cynical smiles or shook their heads in disbelief.
A stream of curses in Swahili, English and Arabic flowed into the hotel lobby, discrediting the popular news channel watched by millions world over.
At 4pm on the same day, at the Afra shopping mall in Khartoum, sales assistant Aina stormed off after watching TV coverage of the International Criminal Court issuing a warrant of arrest on Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir. Ethiopian co-worker Julius called out to her in Arabic: "Ma musykil (it was nothing). They can't do anything to him."
Aina retorted: "What do you care, huh? This is my country!"
Gobsmacked Julius knew, as a migrant, that his family back home depended on the salary he earned in Khartoum. A politically stable Sudan ensured comfort and food for him and thousands of others like him.
Bashir was not without motive when his government flew in 70 journalists from Arab League countries, the African Union, Japan, China and Malaysia to witness the inauguration of Merowe Dam just a day before the ICC announcement.
The foreign journalists were unwittingly thrown into a whirlpool of unfolding events and street protests, from Bashir's nationwide rally from the President's Palace to North Darfur, to a live 90-minute unedited nationwide broadcast of a press conference at which vice-president Ali Othman Muhammad Taha said the country had had enough of the Western media's "distortions" of the Darfur situation.
The ICC was condemned as "a tool of the West" intent on removing the elected president and installing a puppet leader so as to have unlimited access to mineral-rich Sudan.
Ali said Sudan would "stop at nothing to fend off the neo-colonialist exploit", with the support of its allies.
In Khartoum's Friendship Hall, some 300 journalists, mostly from African and Middle Eastern countries, hurled torrents of questions while six interpreters translated the proceedings into English, French and Arabic.
The air smelled of fear. All the questions could be summed up in one intense note: What is to become of us?
Three days later, tens of thousands thronged the streets of Al-Fasher on foot, donkeys, horses and camels, and in vans, buses and trucks, to catch the president at the town's square.
One the way back to the airport, the president made a stop at the camps of displaced people. The residents lined the streets to shake hands with him. Genocide? War Crimes? Would the victims offer politeness in exchange for atrocities committed by their own leader?
Millenniums ago, Darfur was an important link between Africa and the Middle East. The arrival of Khalid Al-Walid's armies during the Ar-Rashidin Caliphate marked the dawn of Islam here.
As the Darfur sultanate embraced the religion, Arabic became the official language and the Quran the essential academic and holy text. The Darfur sultans offered silk and gold kiswah (cloth) to cover the Ka'aba during Haj seasons, and trade flourished in the region.
Darfur, an area about the size of France occupying a fifth of Sudan, had observed zakat and haj centuries before Parameswara repeated the shahadah in Malacca. To describe Darfur as lawless and tribal, therefore, was quite ignorant.
Contrary to the common perception that the Darfur people were helpless, if not doomed, without the help of charity organisations, the region is actually self-sustaining. Three months of rain a year is enough to irrigate the fertile land to supply Sudan with grain, vegetables, fruit and livestock.
The 250,000 displaced people living in Nyala and Al-Fasher camps are not immobile mannequins but human beings with the will and means to live. They get fresh unchlorinated water from the wells, as they had in their home villages, and the children had white teeth, taut skin and healthy nails.
Darfur in conflict is "a big pot of money" to many, as a Tunisian journalist said: "People do charity to make themselves feel good."
How much exactly poured into the funds of the 117 international charity organisations in Darfur since 2003?
Multiple millions, perhaps, but why was the International Rescue Committee health centre so basic that it did not even have proper mud brick walls, let alone clean sheets?
One of these organisations had admitted to Sudan's government that they had made a pact with the ICC to provide information and witnesses to prosecute the president. For this, they had apologised.
Others had sold distorted images of Darfur people to raise more funds for their organisations.
As we invited journalists watched the newscaster wrap up the "Horror In Darfur" broadcast, a Kenyan journalist remarked: "A minute more on Darfur, a minute less on Gaza."
New Straits Times, March 22, 2009