Sudan - Talking points that suggest a line of action (Passion of the Present)
Jim Moore on his (very useful) website, "Passion of the Present"
July 23, 2004
Talking points that suggest a line of action
Several people have suggested that we need to write clear talking points to share with others and to summarize what we are learning as a community. So I've taken a shot at it below. Your comments are encouraged--as well as alternative or improved versions. Thanks.
In Darfur, a region in western Sudan approximately the size of Texas, over a million people are threatened with torture and death at the hands of marauding militia and a genocidal government. We are bringing our creativity together and finding ways to help.
1. With the US Congress having declared the situation in Sudan a "genocide," action shifts full force to the United Nations Security Council.
2. What is needed by the UN Security Council is approval of an intervention that does not depend upon the cooperation of the Sudanese government, because the government of Sudan cannot be trusted. Sudan needs an action stronger than the sanctions resolution that the US is currently putting forward. UN sanctions could help pave the way for further action later, but are not likely to be adequate.
3. In the end, most observers believe that an independent peacekeeping force needs to be inserted into Darfur in order to protect the genocide victims and the aid workers--and stop the government of Sudan from continuing to wage the war against its people.
4. Both Nigeria and Rwanda have offered to staff such a force, under the auspices of the African Union. This force would be accepted by the people it needs to protect--and could be assembled soon. The peacekeepers could be funded by the industrialized countries that are already pouring in money for assistance, including the US, UK, Germany, France and others
5. The problem is the mandate, and the blocker of a mandate is China. Sudan is even more than a major source of oil for China. Sudan is the center and headquarters of China's oil activities in Africa. China has oil service staging areas in Sudan that serve operations in many other countries. China expects to expand its African operations dramatically. Indeed, one of the strange experiences of reading day after day about Sudan is seeing the size in dollars of the oil exploration and transport contracts that are being let. Literally hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in Sudanese oil.
One would hope China would put pressure on Sudan to stop the genocide and respect human rights. Unfortunately, China does not respect human rights for its own people, let along Sudan's. So it is not very plausible to imagine Chinese leaders risking their relationships with the leaders of the regime in Sudan, in order to stop a genocide designed to put down a rebellion and eliminate a troublesome population. China has done the same in its recent history.
China then, poses the central problem at the United Nations. And Kofi Annan and Colin Powell of course know this, but they are not talking about it. They are not publicly pressing hard on China, even though it is China that might have some leverage in Khartoum, and it is China that is funding the regime and the genocide.
In a very real sense, the stalemate in the UN is a result of a problem in US/Chinese relations. The US is a great help to the Chinese, and China is becoming the second superpower of the world economy. Unfortunately, the US has not made its relationship with China contingent on Chinese respect for human rights, and/or Chinese willingness to work with the US, the EU, and the UN to solve human rights issues.
This, again, is not so surprising because China is neither a democracy nor a human rights respecter. On the other hand, the weakness of the US' hand with China underscores a severe problem in our relationship with China. We are helping China become a world economic power, but we are not asking in return that it become a positive moral force.
6. A second player blocking action in the UN is Russia, which is the arms dealer to Sudan. The Chinese oil payments are funneled to Russia for aircraft, including helicopters, bombers, and MIG fighters--twelve of which were delivered to Sudan just this week--in a rush order that arrived five months early.
A number of us are working on tactical ideas. I invite you to join with us, by blog comments or email.
7. We need to find fast, effective ways to expose China's and Russia's root involvement in supporting this genocide. We need to band with others to put pressure on both to help stop the genocide rather than tacitly support it. Or at least China and Russia must step out of the way of other nations that want to help.
Update: one more talking point, after a day of conversations with people with knowledge of the UN Security Council situation:
8. There is strong case that as US President, George Bush needs to become even more personally involved in the next two weeks. This in turn suggests that we, as activists, need to keep our emails and calls coming, and direct them at the White House. Bush could, some feel, convince Putin and the Russians to join appropriate action against the Sudanese government, or at least--as indicated above--convince Russia to abstain from using its veto.
Similarly, it would help to have more administration focus on Pakistan--our erstwhile partner in the war on terror.
Russia and Pakistan are seen by some insiders as the most important swing votes. China, according to one source, does not like to use its veto and be seen as obstructing the international process. This, plus the specter of Russia abstaining, might cause China to allow a strong UN action plan to be passed.
Finally, there is work for Bush to do with the African leaders, helping them see that an intervention by the AU in Sudan would be an expression of their strength and political maturity as a group. It would reinforce their collective sovereignty--even as it demonstrates that the sovereignty of an individual government will be suspended when it acts criminally against its own people. This would be a very good precedent to set in within the African Union, and perhaps only Bush himself can sell this idea to the leaders involved.
Resource: excellent current summary from The Scotsman.
Update: strong, comprehensive CNN piece on Congress declaring a genocide in Darfur, Sudan.