The pressure on the Sudanese government to allow a UN peace force into western Darfur to set the basis for a political settlement – similar to southern Sudan’s right to secede after a referendum – is intensifying. The latest push comes from the UN and from a joint effort by Britain and France. In their estimation, the charges of genocide and ethnic cleansing will make international action against Khartoum easier to take, should it resist their pressure. But, to his credit, president Omar al-Bashir continues to resist, even visiting Darfur on July 23 and declaring that “peace and tranquillity” have been fully restored.
The newest pressure came from the UN Human Rights Commission on July 27, when it issued a sharp rebuke to the Sudanese government, saying that it had failed to prosecute “militias that engage in ethnic cleansing” in Darfar. In its report, it said that “systematic serious human rights violations, including murder, rape, forced displacement and attacks against the civilian population, have been and continue to be committed with total impunity throughout Sudan and particularly in Darfur.” The committee called on the Khartoum government to “ensure that no financial support or material is channelled to militias that engage in ethnic cleansing.”
Only a week earlier, the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, and the French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, had met in Paris to announce a combined effort to compel Khartoum to accept a substantial peace force. They said that the UN must adopt a draft resolution authorising the swift dispatch of up to 26,000 troops and police to quell the violence in Darfur and pave the way for a peace process. Several days before, Ban Ki-mon, the UN secretary general, had said that he hoped that the UN resolution could be adopted “as early as this week”.
Sarkozy and Brown added that they would be prepared to provide substantial economic assistance to Darfur the moment the peace process was launched. They also promised to intervene personally to monitor progress. “Once the resolution is passed, we are prepared to go together to Darfur to make sure the peace process is moving forward,” Brown said. In his turn, Sarkozy said: “We cannot guarantee success. But what Gordon and I guarantee is that we are determined to shake up the system.” However, if success proves elusive and no resolution is passed, their countries will be prepared to act individually and increase the severity of their sanctions against Khartoum, Brown asserted. If no action is taken, “we will be prepared to consider as individual countries a toughening up of sanctions against the Sudanese regime,” he said.
There is hardly any doubt that the Western media, which describe the Bashir regime as “Islamic” and “terrorist”, will continue their pressure on Sarkozy and Brown to translate their words into actions. After all, they began to exert strong pressure on the French president as soon as he came to office in May, accusing him of ignoring the Darfur issue as Jacques Chirac, his predecessor, had done. But when he began to join the US war on Darfur in Paris on June 25, they began to congratulate him. The ecstatic editorial published by the Times of London the next day was a typical comment. Observing that his remarks were even stronger than those made by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, at the conference, the editorial congratulated him on “deserving credit, not only for recognising that France has, until now, been dragging its feet over Darfur, but for taking a lead in pressing for effective measures to halt the slaughter.”
In fact, the Western media’s stance on the Darfur issue is so unreasonable that even president George W. Bush is accused of being “spineless on Sudan”, as a comment in the International Herald Tribune on July 10 read. Charging Khartoum with genocide on the scale of the mass-murders in Rwanda and Bosnia, the comment accused Bush of abandoning his promise to the people of Darfur on May 26 that “America will not turn away from this tragedy.”
Clearly, Sarkozy and Brown are not likely to take the advice of the Sudanese interior minister, Zubair Bashir, and cease to be agents of the US. Zubair launched a strong attack on the two for their statements on Darfur and accused them of following the US line, which is “very hostile” to his country, he said. Making his remarks as president Omar al-Bashir wound up his visit to Darfur, the interior minister accused them of implementing US policy “like slaves”.
Obviously, neither the Sudanese government nor the Western leaders are prepared to abandon their positions, and are therefore set for collision at the UN security council, where a Western plan on Darfur will be debated at the end of July. In fact, it was announced in London on July 28 that Gordon Brown is to fly to New York to address the UN and meet Bush. The two will clearly try to secure a UN resolution to send large numbers of international peace-keepers, whose task is to end the war and pave the way for a peace deal similar to that granting southern Sudan its right to secede. It is interesting that while Sarkozy and Brown were at their summit, the government of southern Sudan carried out a reshuffle and appointed new officials to prepare for the referendum on self-determination.
Clearly the largest Muslim-controlled country in Africa is about to be dismantled, yet Muslim and African countries are clearly not concerned. Sudan is a member of the Arab League, the Islamic Conference and the African Union. The majority of the members of these organisations will not defy the West’s resolve to break up Sudan.