US continuing to exploit Darfur tragedy for its own ends

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Jumada' al-Ula' 24, 1426 2005-07-01


by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 5, Jumada' al-Ula', 1426)

Anti-Sudan propaganda in the West has reached such a pitch that even a movie, Hotel Rwanda, a fictional account of the Rwandan genocide, is being used to create the impression that a similar genocide is being perpetrated in Darfur. Most people in the West would be hard pressed to find the place on a map, but that does not prevent them from organizing fund-raising campaigns and launching lobbying efforts, ostensibly to prevent the "genocide" of the "African" people of Darfur at the hands of "Muslim Arab" Sudanese. The sinister nature of such propaganda is obvious; how anyone can claim credibly that there are two distinct groups, one African and the other Arab, in Darfur when everyone there is Muslim and, because of inter-tribal marriages, there are no clear distinctions between different groups among the six million inhabitants, is not clear. Arabic is the first language of more than half of the population; the rest speak local dialects, but even they also speak Arabic.

True, there is a humanitarian crisis in Darfur, but there is no genocide and the Sudanese government is not alone responsible for the crisis. Nor was there any refugee problem until two rebel groups—the Sudan People's Army (SPA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)— attacked government forces, installations and civilians in February 2003. Despite such unprovoked attacks, the Khartoum government did not respond until two months later, when the well-armed rebels attacked an airport, destroying all aircraft and kidnapping a Sudanese air force general. Where the rebels got their heavy weapons from has never been discussed or answered; instead, Western governments have targeted Khartoum to force it to disarm only one militia—the Janjaweed—but not the rebels. Such emotionally loaded expressions as "ethnic cleansing" are used to describe the situation in Darfur, a designation rejected by the UN Special Rapporteur but conveniently ignored by the Western governments and their pliant media.

One must look beyond the propaganda to understand the nature of the problem and see how it can be resolved to prevent the suffering of people who are being used as pawns in a vicious game to destabilize and divide Sudan. There are several reasons why Sudan is targeted: it is a fertile country and if allowed to develop its agriculture, it can produce enough food for the whole of Africa. It also has large quantities of oil—Sudan produces 500,000 barrels per day—and has large deposits of copper and uranium. This last commodity has brought the Americans, British, French and the Israelis like vultures hovering over prey. Because it is the largest country in Africa, with a Muslim majority, the US and its allies also have plans to dismember Sudan into more "manageable" fragments in order to halt the spread of Islam in Africa.

Until two years ago there was no crisis in Darfur. In February 2003, when the Sudanese government signed a peace agreement with the Southern rebels, accepting humiliating conditions imposed by the US and such groups as Christian Solidarity International, Darfur suddenly hit international headlines. The US-trained, US-financed southern rebel leader, colonel John Garang, who has been appointed vice-president in the Federal government, continues to play his disruptive role. As recently as March 21 he was seen conferring with the Darfur rebels in the Jabal Marrah region, such duplicitous acts being his trademark since 1983, when the crisis in the South first arose. While the population of the South is mainly animists and Muslims outnumber the tiny Christian minority there, Western media reports constantly harp on the Christian-animist "majority" in the South, as if animists and Christians were one and the same.

During his rebellion against the Federal government, Garang tried to expand his operations to the north to exert pressure on Khartoum. His first attempt, in 1991, when he teamed up with Dawud Yahya Bulad, one of the scions of the sultans of al-Fur tribe, ended in disaster. A force of 10,000 rebels, moving north along the border with the Central African Republic and Chad in a drive to reach the Jabal Marrah area that is home to al-Fur, to establish bases and launch a guerrilla war from there, was intercepted by Sudanese forces in southern Darfur. In the ensuing battle the rebels were completely wiped out; their commander, Dawud Yahya Bulad, was killed. Garang, however, appears not to have given up his role as a western-zionist agent.

Darfur has been a favourite poaching-ground for other unsavoury characters as well, who are using the refugee crisis to undermine the authority of the government in Khartoum and advance their own nefarious agenda. Chad, which borders Sudan to the west, is actively instigating trouble in Darfur. Idriss Deby, the president of Chad, belongs to the Zaghawa tribe, one of the main tribes that straddles the Darfur-Chad border (the other being Al-Fur) and is actively involved in the crisis. Such interference, however, is not based entirely on tribal links. Throughout Chad's own tortuous history rebel groups have used Darfur as a staging-ground for attacks on Ndjemena. Deby himself mobilized his guerrillas in Darfur to overthrow Hissen Habre and seize power in Chad, and the latter had done exactly the same to his predecessor, Guokouni Oueddie. Deby continues to maintain close links with groups in Darfur to ensure that his opponents do not strike at him from there. Foreign military planes land there, disgorging military equipment without anyone asking under what authority such operations are being conducted on the soil of a sovereign country.

Despite a ceasefire that came into force in April 2004, the rebels continue to attack government forces, yet the UN (under pressure from the US) demands that only government forces must cease fighting and disarm the Janjaweed militia. The first contingent of international observers from the African Union to monitor the ceasefire comprised 300 Rwandan troops. Their original mandate was to protect UN observers, but now President Paul Kagame of Rwanda wants his men to be able to use force in order to "protect" civilians. This is not only an expansion of the UN's mandate but also, more critically, it would give the Rwandans the opportunity to meddle in the affairs of another country. Given their meddlesome history—the Rwandan army has invaded Congo twice since 1996, resulting in a humanitarian crisis causing more than two million deaths, according to the UN—Khartoum is naturally concerned about any expansion of their role.

Kagame has a dubious history too. Born in Rwanda but raised and trained in Uganda, where he rose to the rank of general in the army, he has used his position first to conspire in the murder of the Rwandan president in 1994 that led to the mayhem in the country, and then to grab power under the pretext of stopping the genocide. He has such close connections with the zionists that Israel was the first country he visited after he took power in Rwanda. Israeli military instructors train Darfur rebels in camps in Eritrea, the country whose rulers were for decades given sanctuary in Sudan as they struggled for independence from Ethiopia. Now the Eritreans have become Israel's best friends; such is the nature of politics in the world today.

Initially the UN was reluctant to go along with the Western plan for Sudan, but under pressure from the US it has expanded its involvement in Darfur. Last March, the UN Security Council called upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague to look into war crimes in Darfur. On June 6 the Court announced the names of 51 Sudanese it said it wants investigated for war crimes. Like the US, China and a number of other countries, Sudan does not recognize the authority of the ICC. Interestingly, the US rejects the court's jurisdiction over Americans but insists that the Sudanese must submit to it. In fact, the Rome Treaty of 1998 has an exemption clause that was inserted at Washington's insistence. It says that if a State fails to investigate and prosecute people accused of war crimes, then the court will intervene. Sudan has argued that since the Sudanese judicial system is sound and it has not had an opportunity to complete its investigations into the allegations against the suspects, the court has no legal right to interfere.

However, the issue is not one of legality but power. US and British war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan are well documented and Israeli crimes against the Palestinians have been documented for more than five decades; yet not one American, Briton or Israeli has been tried in any court of law for any of these crimes. George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney should be hauled before the ICC to face war-crimes charges, according to the UN charter and statements of UN secretary general Kofi Annan, yet it is Sudan that is being targeted. Even the Muslim world is silent in the face of these constant attacks on the integrity and independence of action of a fellow Muslim country. That is what happens when one is weak or is perceived to be weak.

Sudan is paying the price of the weakness of the Muslim world.

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