Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 17 April 2009

Who has the responsibility to bring peace to Darfur?


By Justin Ambago Ramba.

April 16, 2009 — Many of the so called experts on the Sudan still naively think that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of the defiant President al Bashir can be trusted to bring peace to Darfur and this obviously reflects their shallow understanding of the political agenda of the Arab dominated, Khartoum based successive governments of the Sudan in dealing with the rest of the black African citizens in the country’s periphery over the five decades that followed the Sudanese independence.

The western province of Darfur is a beautiful part of the Sudan just as much as many parts of the country are. And like the other various parts of the Sudan that have for a long period of time gone through different types of detrimental political, social, economic and environmental problems , Darfur is also no exception.

Had there been fairer and more nationalistic central governments in the Sudan, this western province of Darfur would have seen more development, even far more than the northern and the central provinces given its (Darfur’) natural resources and the diverse environmental conditions as compared to the extremely harsh conditions of the Northern Provinces( home to the successive rulers in Khartoum including al Bashir) . It is here that all the major multi –national investments are being directed especially under the current al Bashir’s rule.

In the mid 1950’s the successive Khartoum based central governments in their calculated move to economically empower the Arabs in the Sudan adopted relentless policies of institutionalized racism. The state apparatus was actively involved in supporting the northerners in their search of accumulating wealth and they were allowed to engage freely in all kinds of business and trade.

The northern Sudanese travelled wide in different parts of the Sudan trading in places as far as Darfur and as deep as the southern Sudan. They roamed the country from north to south, from east to west and they traded in all kinds of items ranging from gold, elephant tasks, sheep, goats, camels, cattle, cash crops (hibiscus, sesame, groundnuts), locally made Darfuri shoes – Markub, and the list extended to even include human trafficking.

it was also the northern Sudanese who served and travelled all over the country as senior government officials, teachers, police officers, traders, Islamic clergies, while at the same time they also monopolized these same key posts in the north, and the centre (where the biggest irrigated agricultural scheme in the Sudan was located) and not sparing a square millimetre in the whole of the Eastern Sudan.

Once more, and as soon as the Gulf States struck oil, it was again the same favoured Arab riverans who made it first to work in these countries and earned the huge all Arab petro-dollars at a time that the rest of the Sudanese were left to languish in the impoverished underpaid jobs in the Sudan with poor people of Darfur and Kordufan being used as fuel and fodder in the North – South five decades civil war under the banner of Islamic Holy War, the “Jihad”.

Parallel to all the above economic and political domination of the country by the riverans, there started to appear a clear pattern of marginalization and exclusion of the rest of the Sudanese citizens (southerners, Nuba, the Beja, and the Ingasana).

Then came the dirty manipulative wickedness of the self proclaimed Arab masters by playing one marginalized black African group against the other usually in the name of Islam as mentioned earlier, and this gave the Arabs of the north and centre the glorious opportunity to grow richer and richer as they tightened their grips on the riches, wealth and politics in the Sudan.

It may be a good reminder to the reader that President Al Bashir came to power in June 1989 at a time when the Sudan was already known to be floating on a huge oil reserve, while Darfur had hardly recovered from the effects of the nasty drought that devastated the province and the southern Sudan right in the middle of a protracted civil war.

Unfortunately instead of using the oil money to settle the problems in the south by finding a peaceful solution to it as well as addressing the underdevelopment in Darfur and the rest of the marginalized areas of the country, al Bashir’s contribution in the south was to buy more tanks, weapons, jetfighters, antinov planes, deadly bombs and more warfare thus killing 2.7 million while displacing 4.5 millions.

On the western front of Darfur, al Bashir’s government reduced the people to mere beggars in the streets of the capital city and later went to pit the Darfuri Arab tribes against the black Africans in a scorch earth policy. Now it is Darfur under the tyrant rule that is making the headlines in the world news and its name has come to be synonymous with genocide, make shift camps, hunger, poverty, insecurity, displacement and institutionalized mass rapes over a long period of time.

Al Bashir as we all know didn’t voluntarily sign the peace deal with the southern rebels, but it was a tactical manoeuvre to buy time in the face of the war against terror following the 9/11, and the falling off with his ex- mentor, sheik al Turabi, who is also a mentor to Dr. Khalil Ibrahim leader of the Darfuri Justice and Equality Movement JEM, adding a clear element of a obvious power struggle to the conflict. But using his natural instinct for survival, al Bashir went for a new alliance with the US, the West and subsequently of course with the SPLM/A.

Now that the JEM has become the strongest of the Darfuri factions signifies that the NCP government in Khartoum from its records of negotiating only with those enemies who hit the hardest, will obviously prefer to reach another tactful and survival deal with the it more so than with any of the other rebel groups.

Though given the fact that both the NCP of al Bashir and the JEM of Khalil Ibrahim derive their inspirations and strategies from the Islamic supremacy ideology of the Islamic scholar Dr. Hassan Abdulla Al Turabi, however the road ahead for the two groups to reach an agreement without the blessing of the Sheikh is not going to be a straight one, especially as one of them (NCP) has already fallen off with the mentor , thus allowing the spirit of rivalry to continue and will no doubt dominate the relationship between the two Islamic camps.

JEM/ NIF may not easily reach a deal with the NIF/NCP as can be seen from its clear preference for a regime change, and as such both sides are not in any way seriously seeking any peaceful negotiations.

On the other hand, the JEM due to its Islamic agenda and possibly planning to revert the whole country back to Turabi’s Sharia era and to revitalize the sheikh’s unfinished dream to Islamize and Arabize the whole of the sub Saharan African, would want to renegotiate the CPA that stopped the North – South war and it continues to distance itself from the SPLM which is a more secular movement.

And leaving the search for the Darfur peace process to the Arab tyrants, kings and Princes of the hypocritical Arab League alone means that no peace will ever be realized in Darfur, because what is said by Arabs in the open is always reverted in the private and they are better known for hypocrisy than any thing else. They will never invest nor offer any of their petro-dollars to bring about development in areas like Darfur; a thing if done may increase the chances for a sustainable peace. And had the League and its reach member countries been up to their words, they might in fact have saved the region from the current conflict.

It is no secret that since the birth of this Arab League, the member countries have always paid lip serves to investing in the Sudan and the hope of turning it into the world’s food basket. This has always been on the Arabs agenda, but the aim is to keep the poor black Africans of the Sudan hostages to this fairy tales while their wealth and land is being gradually stolen from under their feet.

The African Union (AU) on the other hand has so far failed to tackle most of the continents conflicts. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) , Darfur and south Sudan are and will continue to be areas of International peacekeepers.

Now that the Darfur AU panel has been formed and mandated to start work immediately in finding solutions for the conflict at hand, the obstacle ahead of it remains to be the lack of the political will, a commodity extremely rare in today’s conflict resolution in the African continent.

Without much support from the international community, a politician like Thabo Mbeki, the ex-President of the Republic of South African may end up travelling between Khartoum, Darfur and Addis Ababa for as long as he is budgeted to do so and if he is not careful, he may even be forced to terminate this role either because of the usual financial constrains which chronically cripples this organisation or from mere diplomatic fatigue which usually crops in when one stalemate follows the other with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Nevertheless, speaking at the AU Headquarters’ after accepting his new role, Thabo Mbeki made several references to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 21 years war between the north and the south.

Mbeki went at length to remind his audience that the CPA was meant right from the date of its conception, to be a model that could be used to solve the conflicts in the eastern Sudan as well as Darfur

But if the CPA is that wonderful a document meant to solve all of the Sudan’s conflicts using the wealth and power sharing mechanism, then Chief Mbeki should have as well volunteered to tell his audience, why is it then still difficult even to implement it (CPA) between the two Sudanese peace partners, let alone the delay in selling it to the rebel groups in Darfur and the East Sudan knowing well that it is the CPA partners who are the ones now in power in the government of national unity in Khartoum (GoNU)?

What Mbeki failed to see is that CPA’s success is yet to be appreciated by the Sudanese masses. And those regional and international groups that helped in forging the CPA, has failed to sustain enough pressure on the NCP in order to help with the implementation of this very fragile agreement.

The ruling NCP party and its boss the defiant Sudanese President al Bashir were allowed at length to drag their feet on the implementation of the agreement. On one hand even when the CPA succeeded in stopping the war between the north and the south, it has failed to bring about the security that is badly needed in the post war south Sudan.

Up till now civilians continue to be killed in hundreds every now and then by all kinds of out law groups be them locals or others who spill from across the boarders e.g. the Lords resistance Army (LRA) , and neither the staggering four year old GOSS nor the multi-national UN peacekeeper are able to do anything about it. These are all lessons to be taken on board by the AU in its attempt to bring peace to Darfur and beyond.

Now that the NCP has reacted to the issuance of al Bashir’s arrest warrant by expelling 16 NGO’s from Darfur, many are worried that this move by the government in Khartoum can only complicate matters for them on the ground and at the international arena. The other move that didn’t go well with the international community is the threats on the persecutor Ocampo’s life and the 11/9 replication in the countries that support the ICC decision. This if anything puts the Sudanese government in the fore front of countries propagating a worldwide terrorism and at the same time holding the international community hostage in its attempt to deny justice for the people of Darfur.

While the joint AU, Arab League, and the Islamic countries Organisation committee is still struggling to argue the application of the article 16, for the deferral of the ICC’s arrest warrant, its chance of success is too bleak as the motion may not get the required number of votes at the UNSC in the first place. The other issue at hand is that these very countries and their communist major allies (Russia and China) were at the UNSC when the Darfur case was referred to the ICC. None of these countries protested at the time, but even surprisingly they all without exceptions approved the move. This was the only time that the article 16 would have been used, but now it is too late and al Bashir himself knows it.

Al Bashir is just an individual, but in reality it takes a whole government to commit such a vast list of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide as presented in the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo Prosecutors report who should continue his hunt for the rest of perpetuators of the crimes committed in Darfur and may God help him in his endeavour to bring about this badly needed justice.

The fact that it may not be easy to arrest the defiant al Bashir and his collaborators shouldn’t be taken to mean that none of them will ever stand before the ICC. It may take time, but the day shall come. Muamar Ghadafi of Libya and his security men ran Libya as a rogue state culminating in the sad Lockerbie disaster. Though the perpetuators got their government’s protection and remained at large for quite along time, yet in the end they were turned in and did face justice.

All this rhetoric in Khartoum will come to stop sooner or later, and those who are now on the ICC arrest list and those to follow shall find themselves face to face with the ICC.

Though in 2006 Washington Post published an article that exposed five crucial facts about the Darfur conflict that have been mostly ignored by the Western media: 1) Everyone in Darfur is Muslim, 2) Everyone is black, 3) It’s all political, rather than racial or ethnic, 4) the conflict is international, with both Chad and China playing key roles, and 5) the US "genocide" label made it worse, as it emboldened the rebels who believed they could depend on US backing rather than engaging in serious negotiations with the Sudanese government.

My own view would be that while the five points hold some truth only that the Khartoum government in its attempt to fight the insurgency resorted to the same policy of divide and rule that it used in its war against the south , thus recruiting the so-called Arab tribes as its militias and directed them to commit all the atrocities against those known as the Zurga (Black Africans) tribes of the Fur, Massalit and the Zaghawa as the great majority of the insurgents are drawn from these tribes and this is how the crisis became racially perceived by both locals and outsiders alike.

The Obama administration on the other hand took too long to appoint its envoy to the Sudan, and seems the new US government prefers to deal with an indicted and fugitive al Bashir than otherwise.

In the past all three top leaders of this new US administration have been outspoken over Darfur and they all had visited it. Now it is time for them to transfer their previous words into action.

On the appointment of the envoy, President Obama reaffirmed that the Sudan is on the top of his administration’s priority, as this African country is literally crying for peace. The whole world is waiting for the big world power to come in and put its weight behind the efforts of the other groups in order to bring real peace to the Sudan with al Bashir in Khartoum or The Hague.

I strongly believe that the International community has a moral duty towards Darfur as it has done with south Sudan. And if we are wondering as to who will bring peace to the Sudan and specifically Darfur, then obviously it is not the Arabs whether individuals, governments or regional organisations.

The negative role played by the Arab countries, scholars, organisations and journalists during the Sudanese civil wars between the northern and southern parts of the country is a clear indication that the Arab communities and organisations are too naïve and completely intoxicated with Arab supremacy and biasness that they can never critical analyse any ills committed by their fellow Arabs towards the indigenous black African people of the Sudan, and Darfur is no exception.

An Arab intellectual or even a professional journalist for that matter is bound to and will thus do everything it takes to report on the Israel versus Palestinians conflict. All of them without exception can talk about the humanitarian situations in Gaza, BUT no more than a hand full will ever come openly to talk for Darfuris who though not Arabs by race but are still 100% Muslims.

The Arab media is now condemning the use of phosphorus by the Israelis in Gaza, but none has been reported in the Arab media when Saddam’s Iraq regime helped al Bashir to use the mustard gas in south Sudan.

When al Bashir was issued the arrest warrant over war crimes and crimes against humanity that he committed in Darfur, the Arab world in its entirety condemned the warrant and called it racial and colonially motivated. If this ever reflects anything at all, it only shows the world how racist Arabs indeed are.

They can not even see the plight of their fellow Muslims in Darfur whose women are being raped on daily basis, a thing we have never heard happening in the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, and worse still they are damp and mute on the racially motivated killings which are the direct policies of their Arab government in Khartoum. With all these taken into consideration, no Arab should be expected to contribute any positive solution in Darfur and on top of them the defiant al Bashir, his fellow supporters of Arab scorch earth policy in Darfur be them in Khartoum or the other capital cities of the Arab and Islamic countries, because they are non , but direct players in the mess.

The search for a peaceful solution tor the Darfur’s crisis can only come from sound and sober leaders and powerful backed regional and international mediation team which should be able to use the arrest warrants deferral as a means to bring al Bashir to the negotiating table and be made to swallow the bitter fact by bringing an end to the bombings of civilians and think of a genuine peace for Darfur, otherwise much will only be wasted awaiting any initiatives from rebels or the government.

The International community at this stage remains divided over how to deal with the Darfur crisis a fact that will definitely prolong the sufferings of the people there. Many have been awaiting the Obama administration to move in quickly to rescue the situation on the ground. However the soft approach preferred by this administration in dealing with the Sudan will need much time if it is to strike any progress in mediating peace. I hope that none of us should be so naïve to expect the USA to do anything that is contrary to its national interest.

At the end of the day the situation in Darfur will never be the same again, even if a peace deal is to be reached tomorrow. If the region was poor before the insurgency, now it is even poorer and in the lack of a political will to bring about a democratic transformation in the Sudan, the immediate future remains gloomy.

On the other hand the JEM is now gaining momentum following the ICC arrest warrant issuance to the Sudanese president. And as the other smaller factions join its ranks , the Darfuris will hopefully one day be in a position to negotiate as one united group, however till then the Khartoum government will stubbornly continue to down play any such deals.

But in the southern Sudan, Darfur sounds very far a place though they share common bounders which have always seen insecurity caused by the Darfuri Arab nomads, and of course the JEM leader Dr. Khalil Ibrahim also has a hand in reducing the southern sympathy for the Darfuri case as he has gone on record when under Al Turabi and al Bashir the current rebel leader led a group of Darfuri Islamic fanatics who fought as Muslim Jihadists against the people of south Sudan during the South – North war.

And now that there is nothing to show that the JEM’s leader Dr. Khalil is still another radical Islamic fanatic plus the group’s undoubted relationship with Sheikh Hassan al Turabi a name many southerners wouldn’t mention without bitter undertones, the people in south Sudan are more contented with the CPA which promises them the right to self determination in an internationally monitored referendum in 2011, more than ever meddling in the current crisis in Darfur.

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