Sudan, Darfur

Mandisi Majavu makes an argument for sanctions against Sudan for
its program of murderous ethnic cleansing in Darfur. Mandisi has been
following the situation there in his blog. Meanwhile, The Passion of the Present blog is
reproducing mainstream journals’ arguments for intervention. It quotes,
for example, a Washington Post Editorial that says the following:

“Sudan’s
government has attacked civilians with helicopter gunships. It has armed a militia that burns villages, slaughtering the men and raping the women. It has spent months obstructing humanitarian access to the resulting refugee camps, denying aid workers visas and impounding their equipment in customs, condemning tens of thousands of people to die for lack of food and medicine. Even the recent ramping up of diplomatic pressure, which has allowed relief to flow more freely, has not distracted Sudan’s government from its purpose. Its commandants have been closing down refugee camps and sending inhabitants off into the torched countryside, where there is no food, no protection and no
foreign witnesses.”

“Asking a government like this to provide security in Darfur is
like calling upon Slobodan Milosevic to protect Albanian Kosovars. The real solution is the reverse of the one Mr. Powell appears to believe in. Rather than summoning Sudan’s government into Darfur to protect refugees, the United States should be calling upon the government to pull back from the region. Just as was the case in Kosovo, security in Darfur is going to require a foreign presence, preferably an African one that builds on the small African Union observer mission that is already in the region. Mr. Powell may fear that calling for such a force is risky: What if no Africans come forward, and the job of peacekeeping falls to the United States? But the secretary must weigh that risk against the opposite one. What if Sudan’s government maintains control of Darfur and uses it to exterminate hundreds of thousands of people?”

This line: “Asking a government like this to provide security in Darfur is like calling upon Slobodan Milosevic to protect Albanian Kosovars.” Or, one could add, asking Israel to protect Palestinians, the US to protect Iraqis…

For the record, I think Mandisi is right. I believe the Sudanese regime is unleashing its militias on Darfur because it feels a free hand to do so after signing the separate peace with the SPLA, the main insurgency that was a real rival. The victims of the militias in Darfur have no such protection — but the Sudanese government could call the whole thing off in a second if it wanted to, if the international community said clearly that the game was up. Maybe a better analogy is Indonesia in East Timor in 1999, a slaughter and collective punishment that it wouldn’t have taken bombing to stop, just a word from the US to the Indonesian generals.

Author: Justin Podur

Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.