Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Sudan/Darfur: Ryle & Powers take on the issue

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, John Ryle explores the connection between the coflicts in Darfur and the south. An excerpt ...
... the timing of the insurgency in Darfur is related to the Naivasha Agreement. Low-level fighting among communities in western Sudan (all of which are Muslim) has been endemic since the late 1980s, when a war broke out between the Arabs and the Fur, two of the ethnic groups involved in the present conflict. During the 1990s, the apparent impunity enjoyed by Arab militias in Darfur and the growth of their political influence confirmed anxieties on the part of the Fur and the other non-Arab groups that they were losing political ground. In particular, they feared that a peace agreement in the south would strengthen the government in Khartoum domestically and internationally and lock them out of the national political process altogether. In early 2003 two loosely allied armed groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM, not to be confused with the SPLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), mounted a series of attacks on government posts in Darfur. The government response was to rapidly escalate its support to the Arab militias —bands of horsemen known in Darfur Arabic as Janjawiid—with the results to be seen in Darfur today.
And Samantha Power writes in The New Yorker about the situation in Darfur. An excerpt ...
Although the A.U. [African Union] seems likely to expand its presence, almost all the displaced Africans I spoke with in Darfur said they would trust only Western forces to bring peace. African troops were too susceptible to bribes, they said, and African governments would end up siding with Khartoum, as they had in the past. “We will not return to our homes until the white people come and make us safe,” Abdum Shogar Adem, a thirty-two-year-old father of three, told me at the Kalma camp in July, soon after his village had been attacked by government helicopter gunships. The Western powers, however, are not likely to answer Adem’s call. The United States military is overstretched, given the occupation of Iraq, and it is unwilling to contribute troops for a peacekeeping mission. It has not even offered to equip or transport A.U. troops, which lack the logistical sophistication to deploy on their own.

The Bush Administration has been admirably willing to send relief to Sudan and to condemn the janjaweed. But, having alienated many of its U.N. allies with its unilateralism and perceived moralism, it has been unable to rally other nations to the cause. Countries like Russia and France have exploited the U.S.’s loss of standing internationally to justify their own inaction on Sudan. Meanwhile, the Administration, which views the International Criminal Court with contempt, has not urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the atrocities in Darfur to the court, although no other international institution is equipped to prosecute such crimes. In the end, the U.S. has applied just enough pressure to get humanitarian relief to many Darfurians, but not enough to persuade the perpetrators of violence to lay down their arms. Meanwhile, the seasonal rains have begun to fall, reducing the reach of international aid workers and substantially increasing the risk of cholera, dysentery, and mass death.
I would challenge some of the points Powers makes about the AU ... but more on that later (when I have time). In the meantime, check out the following ...

  • African Union: dealing with Darfur
  • Sudan/Darfur: AU considering "full-fledged peacekeeping mission"
  • Sudan/Darfur: AU asks for help airlifting troops
  • Sudan/Darfur: AU monitors say Janjaweed burned some people alive