DARFUR: NOT A "CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS"
Global Capital Connives with African Genocide
by Ba Karang, The Hobgoblin, UK
Going by the most recent estimates, in Darfur more than 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced as refugees. But, despite rhetorical pronouncements against the genocide, the world seems to be more preoccupied with other business and "values" (sic) than the lives of Black Africans dying in the desert.
This is not a clash of civilizations; it is common in war that oppression creates and mixes with racial arrogance. Yes, it is the Arab ruling class of Sudan who have unleashed the Janjaweed militia against poor Black Africans. But the brutality is not fundamentally about ideology—control of resources and the interests of global capital lie in the background.
The poverty, decadence, and oppression in Darfur is the result of many years of marginalization—first by the colonial masters, Britain; and then by Arabs. Darfur was effectively an independent state after 1898 following the British war against the Mahdi [Sufi anti-colonial rebel Mohammed Ahmed]. During World War I, the British invaded Darfur to prevent Turkish influence and in 1916 incorporated Darfur into Sudan.
In Darfur's total estimated population of 7.4 million, largely engaged in subsistence farming and cattle rearing, the semi-nomadic and mainly pastoralist Bedouin Arabs have established themselves in a relatively privileged position through access to grazing lands. In 1980 they established the Tajamu al-Arabi in Darfur, a Pan-Arab Nationalist movement, inspired by Libyan strongman Mommar Qadaffi. Their main political message was nothing other than Arab supremacy. At the time of the war in neighboring Chad, a back yard was created in Darfur for the Libya-supported Chadian rebel movement. The Arab vigilante group now known as the Janjaweed was born out of the Tajamu al-Arabi as a rearguard support network allied with the Chadian rebels.
In 1989, the Sudanese Islamists lunched a military coup and established the present Islamic state of Sudan. The Islamist government started rearming the Janjaweed, who wasted no time in unleashing their terror against the already marginalized Black population. The Janjaweed, by now very powerful, and winning greater state recognition, was assigned to deal with the Black population who had been in constant confrontation with Arab nomads over pastoral land. By this time, the war in Southern Sudan was the preoccupation of the Sudanese government, which was very confident that the low-scale peasant revolt against Arab racism and brutality in Darfur could easily be put under control by the vigilante groups.
In Southern Sudan, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) was delighted by the news of the emerging Darfur resistance movement in 2003, when a military assault was launched against government targets by the newly formed rebel groups.
Land grabs, the drought, hunger and increasing brutality from the Janjaweed forced the villagers of Darfur to form the Sudan Liberation Army (SLM). Another rebel movement, the JEM (Justice and Equality Movement), led by Khalid Ibrahim, also joined the armed struggle as an independent group.
While the SLM was eventually brought to the negotiating table, the JEM was marginalized in the internationally-brokered Darfur peace process. Last year, the JEM and a hold-out faction of the SLM brought together other groups and individuals involved in the armed struggle at Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, to form the National Redemption Front. This organization consists of people who never recognized the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), which was negotiated by the African Union, EU and the USA and signed in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 5, 2006 by the Sudanese government and SLM.
The National Redemption Front's founding document says the group seeks to "Uphold Sudan as multicultural, multi-religious and multiethnic country where diversity constitutes the basis of citizenship for individuals, and unity of our nation." For now, an independent Darfur is not on either the agenda of the rebel movements. The genocide is a result of the demand of the Black African Darfurians for their rights to the land to be recognized, and to be rid of Arab racism.
Despite the 2005 peace accords with the SPLM, the conflict in Southern Sudan is not yet truly over, and Darfur poses an interesting puzzle in that conflict. By 2009 there will be an election in Sudan as part of the 2005 peace plan, and the SPLM is without doubt going to control the South. Darfur consists of almost a quarter of the Sudanese electorate, so the votes from Darfur will play an important role in the composition of the parliament. More importantly still, by 2011 there is to be a referendum (also mandated by the 2005 peace plan) on the question of an independent Southern Sudan—and as things stand now, there is no doubt that the Southern Sudanese will vote for an independent state. This would put more pressure on the Darfur rebel movements to move towards independence—potentially opening a new round of bloody conflict.
Any thing more genuine than the periodic pronouncements against the genocide by European and American leaders will have to come to a direct confrontation with the interests of global capital. Sudan is the backyard of Chinese and Russian capital, and Western Europe and America are very much sensitive to this fact. They have Iraq and Iran to contain and rely greatly on the support of both China and Russia In the so-called war against terrorism.
Recently, Amnesty International accused China and Russia for selling arms to Sudan, and there is no secret in the military cooperation between China and the Sudanese government. As always, arms follow oil investments. China, through the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), is planning an investment of $1 billion to create Africa's largest refinery, which will expand the Khartoum refinery from 50,000 barrels a day to 90,000 barrels a day. Oil revenue has contributed about $2 billion to the racist Sudanese state's coffers. Thus the oil in Sudan, which the Chinese are confident of controlling and which the Russians are sniffing at, will determine to what extend capitalism values human life.
China met with 48 African states in November 2006 to form a new strategic partnership, with trade deals worth of $1.9 billion and plans to increase it to $100 billion in four years. There can be no serious discussion on Darfur while Chinese-made bullets are killing Dafurians and AU members struggling to make a difference. When Amnesty International accused the Chinese government of supplying arms to the racist Sudanese government, Lord David Triesman, British minister for African affairs, insisted that China is doing all it can to help resolve the crisis in Dafur.
The stance of the USA is also hypocritical in this conflict. The periodic threats and hand-wringing about Sudan by the US administration and in the media do give the impression that they are very concerned. But it is time to ask why is it that US sanctions against Sudan are not effective—and even if they are meant to be. If the US is serious about sanctioning Sudan, sanctions against the oil industry alone will be enough to bring the Khartoum government to its knees. But the USA has never made any serious attempt to hurt the oil industry in Sudan, because of US industrial interests.
Take gum Arabic, a substance used in the production of soft drinks and other consumer products; the company that produces this product was "mistakenly" put on the US sanction list in 1997 only to be removed from the list after a protest from American industries who depend on the supply of this product from Sudan. While sanctions have effectively barred US oil companies from Sudan, Western companies that operate in the US also invest in the CNPC. And Washington realizes that any serious move against this will antagonize sectors of US capital as well as leading to a direct confrontation with China.
Sudan has now agreed to a peacekeeping force of 20,000, which will be comprised of both UN and AU forces. However, the newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy organized a conference in Paris on the way forward for Darfur June 25—without a single African nation or even the AU invited to attend. What is actually known to have come out of that meeting is nothing new—just another statement from the West intended for public consumption, while the terrible condition of millions of Black people remains the same. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the end of the meeting declared in a press conference that the world is failing Darfur. But it is not the world that is failing the people of Darfur—it is those Great Powers who have a direct interest in Sudan who are failing the Dafurians.
This story first appeared, in slightly different form, in The Hobgoblin, British journal of Marxism-Humanism
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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Nov. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution