Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 17 June 2004

A word on Darfur for the Arab body politic

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Editorial, the Daily Star

BEIRUT, June 17, 2004 — There are a number of festering wounds marking the collective body of the Arab world, and not all of them can conveniently be attributed to the aggression of outsiders. Thus, while the ongoing tragedy and disgrace of Palestine and the humiliation of Iraq are well-known international issues and do indeed owe much to foreign interference, there are other sores that are at least as bad and that are entirely homegrown. One of these sores is Darfur in western Sudan.

Mass displacements and killings have been carried out there against the indigenous African population by proxy tribal militias allied to Khartoum. At least 200,000 people have fled to neighboring Chad, and around 30,000 have been killed in what amounts to an unofficial but systematic program of ethnic cleansing.

International neglect led to near-genocide a decade ago in Rwanda, while NATO went to war in Kosovo in 1999 for the sake of a few hundred thousand refugees. While the United States is considering formally labeling the Darfur crisis as a genocide in progress, the world - the world beyond the Arab world that is - is justified in asking the following question: "What are the Arabs doing about this atrocity in their own back yard?"

The answer, of course - as usual - is nothing. At the conclusion of this year’s annual Arab League summit just a few short weeks ago, a statement was issued. On Sudan, the statement "reaffirm(ed) ... the Arab states’ solidarity with the sisterly Republic of Sudan and their keenness to preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty and reinforce all peace initiatives started by the Sudanese government with the international and regional parties." Many fine words on "human rights" were also committed to paper in the summit statement.

It is time for a word of advice for the Arab League: We are sick of vacuous statements - the time for action is now. In fact, the time for action was yesterday, last week, last month, last year, last decade.

It is also time for the wealthy Arab oil-producing states to contribute to a solution to Darfur in the interests of regional stability.

While Arab leaders and governments do nothing, Israel will remain in Palestine, predatory super-states will always seize an opportunity to further their interests at Arab expense, and there will always be tyrants like Saddam Hussein terrorizing their own people.



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