DARFUR: POWER POLITICS TRUMP GENOCIDE CONVENTION
by Wynde Priddy
It appears that the emotional "Never Again" of the United Nations on the ongoing specter of genocide in Sudan's western Darfur region has been trumped by the oil interests and military contracts represented among the Security Council members. Despite threats of action if Sudan failed to meet an Aug. 30 deadline to disarm the mounted militias terrorizing Darfur, China especially threatened to use its veto power to block sanctions. The China National Petroleum Company is the biggest foreign investor in Sudan's oil industry, and China is also Sudan's top trading partner and major weapons supplier. On Sept. 18, the Security Council passed a watered-down resolution imposing no sanctions against the Sudan regime. The resolution "Demands all armed groups, including rebel forces, cease all violence."
The problem, say human rights organizations and columnist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, is that the cease-and-desist demand has been made before, and nothing has changed. The UN estimated in mid-October that the death toll had reached 70,000--up from 50,000 before the Aug. 30 deadline. The government in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, has allowed 3,500 African Union troops into Darfur, up from 300, to provide what security is possible to displaced people in the refugee camps. But as recently as Nov. 2, Sudanese troops began forcibly relocating two refugee camps in Southern Darfur, and used tear gas against those who resisted. Rights groups raised fears that the refugees would be forcibly repatriated by the government, in violation of international law. The refugees say they would have no security at their home villages from the so-called "Janjaweed" militias, which launched their campaign of terror in the region last year in response to the emergence of guerilla movements seeking independence or autonomy for Darfur.
The African Union is brokering talks in Nigeria between the Khartoum regime and the Darfur guerillas. But the two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice & Equality Movement (JEM), threatened to pull out of the talks Oct. 31, accusing the government of ongoing air raids against civilian villages. Further complicating matters is the emergence of a new rebel group, the National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD), which attacked a government convoy on Oct. 6. Ongoing violence has made much of Darfur a no-go zone for aid groups, augmenting suffering from hunger and disease.
Discussions about Darfur and the genocide question have gained volume, and predictably, the violence is being exploited by everyone from George W Bush to the Sudanese government. President Bush has now joined the US Congress in calling the Darfur violence "genocide"--while not pledging to actually do anything about it, as the international community would be mandated to by the Genocide Convention once a determination is made that genocide is actually under way.
The Sudan regime, meanwhile, portrayed the genocide accusation as a part of the Bush design to both re-shape the Islamic world and hold on to the White House. Najib el-Kheir Abdelwahab, Sudan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told the New York Times Sept. 28: "They would like to use the suffering of the people of Darfur as a smoke screen to conduct certain partisan operations. One of them is the overthrow of the government in Khartoum." He added that Bush's brief remarks on the Darfur crisis in his Sept. 21 address to the UN General Assembly were crafted to garner the African-American and Jewish votes, saying these constituencies are "duty bound to support black Africans in Sudan against Arab hegemony."
Most say that Sudan's Islamist regime is not willing to disarm the Janjaweed militias. But some say Khartoum is not even able to. At a recent UN-hosted discussion on the issue at New York's Columbia University, speaker Mahmood Mamdani, a professor of anthropology at Columbia, said: "The militias are not monolithic and they are not centrally controlled... The Sudan government can and should be held accountable for providing resources to the Janjaweed militias, but the Sudan government cannot be expected to demobilize the militias with the ease with which it has resourced them."
He also asserted that the conflict could not yet be defined as genocide and that the western resistance movements of Darfur were born out of the rebel movements of Sudan's south.
John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group, a rights advocacy organization, had a different opinion. At the same panel discussion, he asserted that this supposed disconnect between the regime and the militias has been an historical hall pass for government-sponsored ethnic cleansing--and, as in the case of Rwanda, genocide. He portrayed the harsh words at the UN as empty and propagandistic: "The most recent United Nations Secretary General report does not clearly assign culpability for the actions of these killer Janjaweed militias to their government sponsors, providing a degree of comforting separation between the militias and the Khartoum regime. It reinforces impunity."
Sudan Tribune (France-based opposition publication) on the "Politics of
Slaughter" in Darfur, from Middle East Report
Mahmood Mamdani on the Darfur Crisis and the "genocide" question, from the
See also WW3 REPORT #101
Compiled by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 5, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution