Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 6 July 2004

What more are we waiting for before we act in Sudan


Editorial, The Daily Star

July 06, 2004 — Civil wars in Sudan have raged off and on for the past three decades, barely noticed by those outside the region, and with even less action to rectify the situation within the region. With the current crisis in Darfur reaching critical levels, external powers have finally decided to get involved, namely the US, the UN and, as of Monday, the African Union.

The missing element in finding a solution and credible peace has been the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), to both of which Sudan belongs.

There may be a lot on the League’s plate, but when over 2 million have been killed in a member country in the past 30 years, and with the situation in Darfur verging on genocide, how much violence needs to occur before the League gets involved? Sit around for another million to be slaughtered?

The Arab League has an obligation to one of their oldest members, not least because others are involved, but because massive ethnic cleansing is going on in our own backyard.

Shock therapy should not be required to awaken the League from its stupor: a sluggishness and ineffectiveness that only confirms even quixotic Libya’s decision in 2002 to withdraw if credible action is not taken.

The United States has been rightly criticized in the past for its reluctance to get involved in humanitarian crises - even on the political level, which involves no body bags being sent home - but with Darfur the US has made a greatly needed exception. The OIC would also do well to emulate this example. The organization is intended, after all, to promote Muslim solidarity in economic, social and political affairs - all of which Sudan desperately needs.

Even if the League carries out a symbolic act initially, such as throwing some diplomatic weight around and applying political pressure, this would be a step in the right direction. There are a whole number of options available to the League which could then be applied.

The next step should be less tentative, and involve financial assistance, medical aid, and peacekeeping troops, whether on a collective or individual state basis.

This an opportunity for the League to do something constructive and quit passing the buck. If the African Union, which is only two years old, is being put to the test in Darfur, then so should its older cousin, the Arab League.

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