Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 31 October 2007

Darfur: A Case of Diplomacy without Substance


By Anne Bartlett

October 31, 2007 — As if the people of Darfur needed further confirmation of the inefficacy of the international community, the peace talks in Sirte, Libya are set to provide it. Turned out in a show of strength, diplomats mill around Gadaafi’s grand table trying hard to give the impression that something meaningful is going on. Gadaafi in turn berates the West for meddling in the crisis which he argues does not constitute a threat to international security, preferring instead to label it a “tribal conflict”.

This carnival of stupidity and self-interest could almost be comical if it weren’t for the fact that the people of Darfur are suffering immensely. It might even be understandable if the international community hadn’t been warned repeatedly about the likely repercussions of staging the talks in Libya. Yet here we are, a few months further on, with little if any tangible progress. Far from any noticeable improvement in anticipation of the peace talks, violence is in fact spiraling. The Sudanese government - well versed in the discourse of international community inaction – now has the audacity to talk about exporting its ethics and morals elsewhere. Rightly unconcerned about the threat of sanctions, it goes about its daily business of murder, rape and pillage with an air of nonchalance and impunity, while making a mockery of the very peace process in which it claims to participate.

As the peace talks lumber along from one crisis to another, the security demanded by non-participant rebel groups continues to deteriorate. In the last few days, even in the shadow of the peace process, a government campaign to “resettle” the internally displaced has proceeded apace in Otash camp near Nyala, aided by the government soldiers, its trusty sidekicks the Janjawiid and the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC). This resettlement program has nothing of the feel of welfare to it; instead resettlement occurs in an involuntary manner while looking up the barrel of a gun. In Jebel Moon, aerial bombardment also continued over the weekend, to be met only by superficial denials by government ministers. Is the irony of this situation not apparent to those engaged in peace talks, or is the Government of Sudan’s participation in the “war on terror” intelligence too important to earn them anything more than a perfunctory slap on the wrist?

If the international community spent even a faction of the time it wastes on this sideshow trying to put together a realistic peace process, we may just see some progress. If it spent a little less time on labeling rebel groups “recalcitrant” and instead thought about their reasons for non-participation, we might be further along. If it put together a realistic pre-negotiations training program that supported SPLM efforts in the South, there may be a peace process to build on. But no, it is much easier to convey an impression of doing something, rather than engaging in the hard work of actually doing something.

With the fiasco of Libya clear for the whole world to see, the international community must now redouble its efforts to create a credible dynamic towards peace. If they are serious, this must mean that the talks are moved away from Libya – one of the perpetrators of this crisis – and re-situated in an African location such as Abuja. It should resist the temptation to stage the talks outside of the continent, since this will only give fuel to the Government of Sudan to allege colonial interference. Going back to the site of the original talks or to another African host nation will provide a solid base from which to try to reach common ground. It will also solidify the relationship between Africa and the UN as a precursor to a peace-keeping force.

At the present time the international community is on a road to nowhere where Darfur is concerned: a road that they themselves have built. If the current trend of diplomacy without substance is to be averted, this can only happen if grounded, substantive action is taken. For those now in Libya, this means a little less bullying and rhetoric, and a little more attention to crafting a framework onto which peace might eventually be built.

Dr. Anne Bartlett is a Director of the Darfur Centre for Human Rights and Development. She is also Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of San Francisco. She may be reached at dcfhr@dcfhr.org.

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  • 31 October 2007 18:34, by David Mayen Deng

    There are no morals, ethics or principles governing the community of nations anymore. If the Sudanese intelligence chief could come out openly to state that the US did not act with principles against Khartoum because they had something to gain, even after being the first country to call the spade with its true name, then something is wrong with our humanity. The only way out for our crises in Africa is to take charge of our economic and security destiny as a unified continent. Only Nigeria (ECOMOC) could stop chaos in West Africa, not the so called International Community. There is no such thing as International Community. Let everything of an international character be dissolved and we will see how fast will Africa develop in all fronts, including security.

    It was not a co-incidence when Salah Gush’s (Sudan’s intelligence boss) statement concurred with Bashir’s ethics crap- at the time when he is on a killing prey against his own people. The message from Gush and Bashir was the same, and one is now confused on who is supposed to be respected among Khartoum and Washington- I believe none.

    It is time for the Sudanese people to wake up and work toward full control of the destiny of the nation. First it was the British who separated us from pure African tribes with whom we were victims of slave trade and oppression- and we still are- like our Nuba neighbors; then the Pan-Arab expansionist support of the Jihad war right after independence; then the complaisance of a defunct International community whose thirst has always been governed by the search for markets not humanitarianism.

    The people of Darfur will continue to suffer murder and rape with impunity; The CPA could just be thrown in the Republican Palace’s garbage bin, for it is "neither the Koran nor the Bible" and the persecution of South Sudanese could resume once again with impunity. The few culprits of Khartoum will just have to dangle security information in the face of a paranoid America, and oil concessions on the face of an expanding China, before resuming a full-scale war of Jihad (with Support from the Arab world) again. Let’s stand together as Sudanese and transcend ethnicity and tribalism if the country should hold together. Otherwise, the coming round of war will not spare neither Arab nor African, while the International Community does not care if we have one strong Sudan or ten tiny land-locked countries.

    David Mayen, The Center for International Human Rights Law and Advocacy, The University of Denver

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