Thursday, September 07, 2006

Why Darfur was left to its pitiful fate (Gulf News)

This article from Gulf News (in the United Arab Emirates) provides a good overview of the process by which the Khartoum government's genocidal strategy in Darfur has been triumphantly successful (and now seems to be on the verge of ultimate success) while the response of the so-called "international community" has so far been a catastrophic failure--morally, politically, and in the most basic humanitarian terms. [Thanks to Ami Isseroff of MidEastWeb for alerting me to this piece.]

The main exception I would note is the writer's gullible acceptance of the argument that the Khartoum government's counter-insurgency campaign of mass murder and ethnic cleansing does not technically constitute "genocide" according the the formal terms of the Genocide Convention. This judgment is incorrect, and is supported here by an incorrect citation of the terms of the Genocide Convention. But terminology and legalisms are secondary considerations in this matter, as the writer himself recognizes.

=> At one level, I'm pleased to see this analysis published somewhere in the Arab world, even in English, since Arab governments and public opinion have special reasons to be ashamed about their role in supporting, protecting, and enabling the genocidal Khartoum regime. (For some details, see here and here and here and here and here.) On the other hand, one reason this article was published in the UAE is probably that it says nothing at all about culpability of governments and public opinion in the Arab world, giving them (as usual) a moral free ride. As I pointed out a few weeks ago [in Darfur - It's now or never (Eric Reeves)], this pattern is all too boringly predictable--which doesn't make it less pernicious in its effects.
And while most of the world essentially ignores the ongoing genocide in Darfur, the genocidal regime in Khartoum is being actively supported and protected in the arena of international diplomacy by the governments of China and Russia and the other Arab League countries, which have consistently helped to block any international efforts to end the carnage. Furthermore, international public opinion is mostly giving these governments a free ride. For example, every time an official from an Arab government travels abroad and holds a press conference on any subject, he should be pressed to explain why his government is actively serving as an accomplice in the largest mass murder of Muslims anywhere in the world. The appalling reality is that, in practice, this never happens.
Instead, this article focuses exclusively on the failures, miscalculations, and misdeeds of western governments. Well, there's plenty of blame to be spread around there, and understanding why is important.
As helicopter gunships and Antonov bombers sweep across the rugged plains of Darfur, striking villages at will, Sudan's emboldened regime must scent victory.
When it comes to spurning international pressure and exposing the vacuity of western rhetoric, President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan has proved himself a master.
More than two years after Colin Powell, then America's secretary of state, declared the civil war in western Sudan a "genocide'' and after the passage of no fewer than 11 UN resolutions on Darfur Bashir feels confident enough to launch yet another offensive. At this moment, his forces are laying waste to villages and forcing more families into squalid refugee camps.
Bashir has made a fool of the West. [....]

In the summer of 2004, one Western foreign minister after another visited Darfur and spoke words of grave concern. Powell went so far as to accuse Khartoum of carrying out a genocidal campaign, targeted largely on the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit tribes. [....]
[F]or a few months in 2004, Sudan felt the full glare of international scrutiny and a succession of UN resolutions followed. Resolution 1556 demanded that Sudan disarm the Janjaweed by August 30, 2004. Bashir solemnly pledged to do so. Four months earlier, Sudan had signed a ceasefire agreement. In December 2004, it promised to ground its warplanes.
It scarcely needs to be said that Khartoum ignored each of these deals. But Bashir never felt strong enough to reject them out of hand.
The unpalatable fact is that Bashir has been watching the West since the onset of Darfur's agony and believes he can get away with almost anything. [....]

In fact, the miscalculations of western governments have actually strengthened him. Instead of placing pressure on Khartoum, they chose to sponsor a wholly ineffective African Union force of 5,000 troops and 2,000 civilians to Darfur which made no impact.
The West also backed an endless round of peace talks between Khartoum and Darfur's rebels in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. In retrospect, this was probably the most disastrous move of all. The outcome of the talks was a half-baked peace agreement concluded in May. [....]
So Bashir's enemies tore themselves to bits, thanks largely to a peace deal mediated by Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, and Robert Zoellick, then America's deputy secretary of state. [....]

What should have been done? Instead of waiting until last Thursday, a resolution calling for peacekeepers should have been passed in 2004. That was the moment to call for an international force, backed by a robust mandate allowing the protection of civilians.
Instead of using Sudan's moment of maximum weakness, the West dithered for two years. Bashir weighed his opponents in the balance and found them wanting. Tragically, the resolution [which was still inadequate, to the extent of being phony --JW] was eventually passed at the hour of his greatest strength and the people of Darfur are paying the price.
=>Read the whole thing (below). And please also read the powerful and urgent recent report by Eric Reeves, "The genocidal end-game has begun in Darfur" as well as Howard Dean's cogent appeal from back in August 2004, which remains all too pertinent today: Europe should act on Darfur
Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize. [….]
My challenge to the U.N. and Europe is simple: if you don't like American diplomacy under George Bush, then do something to show those of us in opposition here in the U.S. that you can behave in such a way that unilateralism is not necessary.
Unless the outside world (finally) begins to wake up and do something serious, the surviving victims of the Darfur atrocity--over two million people--are almost certainly doomed. So what, if anything, will those of us in the "international community" actually do to try to prevent this gigantic crime from being completed?

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
September 7, 2006
Why Darfur was left to its pitiful fate
By David Blair, The Telegraph Group Limited

The fighting now raging in North Darfur province, near the local capital of Al Fasher, compares with the heaviest since the war began in 2003. (Reuters)

As helicopter gunships and Antonov bombers sweep across the rugged plains of Darfur, striking villages at will, Sudan's emboldened regime must scent victory.

When it comes to spurning international pressure and exposing the vacuity of western rhetoric, President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan has proved himself a master.

More than two years after Colin Powell, then America's secretary of state, declared the civil war in western Sudan a "genocide'' and after the passage of no fewer than 11 UN resolutions on Darfur Bashir feels confident enough to launch yet another offensive. At this moment, his forces are laying waste to villages and forcing more families into squalid refugee camps.

Bashir has made a fool of the West. The fighting now raging in North Darfur province, near the local capital of Al Fasher, compares with the heaviest since the war began in 2003. UN officials expect it to escalate, for Khartoum is pouring more troops into the area. Bashir, a dour, harsh and unscrupulous general who seized power in a coup 17 years ago, must scarcely believe his good fortune.

How has he managed it?

First, a brief look at how we reached this juncture. When Darfur's war broke out, Bashir's Arab-dominated regime faced a grave threat from black African rebels. He could not trust his regular army to suppress this challenge, because most of its rank-and-file were recruited in Darfur and hailed from the same tribes as the insurgents.

So he relied on the notorious Janjaweed militias. These mounted gunmen, drawn from Khartoum's traditional allies among Darfur's Arab tribes, were given carte blanche to pillage the regime's enemies. This dealt the rebels a heavy blow but also forced two million into refugee camps. The result was an avalanche of international condemnation.

In the summer of 2004, one Western foreign minister after another visited Darfur and spoke words of grave concern. Powell went so far as to accuse Khartoum of carrying out a genocidal campaign, targeted largely on the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit tribes.

He was probably wrong: a UN investigation later ruled that genocide had not taken place. There is no evidence that Bashir intended to eradicate these tribes and proving genocide turns on whether one party intended to destroy a specific ethnic group.

[JW: This is a common misunderstanding, but factually incorrect. The technical definition of "genocide" under the terms of the Genocide Convention does not require the intent to exterminate a targeted group COMPLETELY.]

Yet for a few months in 2004, Sudan felt the full glare of international scrutiny and a succession of UN resolutions followed. Resolution 1556 demanded that Sudan disarm the Janjaweed by August 30, 2004. Bashir solemnly pledged to do so. Four months earlier, Sudan had signed a ceasefire agreement. In December 2004, it promised to ground its warplanes.

It scarcely needs to be said that Khartoum ignored each of these deals. But Bashir never felt strong enough to reject them out of hand.

The unpalatable fact is that Bashir has been watching the West since the onset of Darfur's agony and believes he can get away with almost anything.

Miscalculations

In fact, the miscalculations of western governments have actually strengthened him. Instead of placing pressure on Khartoum, they chose to sponsor a wholly ineffective African Union force of 5,000 troops and 2,000 civilians to Darfur which made no impact.

The West also backed an endless round of peace talks between Khartoum and Darfur's rebels in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. In retrospect, this was probably the most disastrous move of all. The outcome of the talks was a half-baked peace agreement concluded in May.

Bashir's regime signed the deal but the rebel movement split over whether to follow suit. One faction of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), dominated by the minority Zaghawa tribe, signed up. But another SLA group, drawn from the much larger Fur tribe, refused to follow.

So Bashir's enemies tore themselves to bits, thanks largely to a peace deal mediated by Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, and Robert Zoellick, then America's deputy secretary of state.

This deeply flawed agreement also gave the regime an opening to buy off Minni Minawi, the Zaghawa leader, making him "special adviser'' on Darfur affairs.

Minawi's rebels, now allied with the Khartoum regime, will fight alongside Bashir's army in the offensive against their former comrades. This has given Khartoum the confidence to launch the new offensive. Having withstood the pressure of 2004 and seen his rebel enemies obligingly fall apart, Bashir feels under no pressure from the West.

What should have been done? Instead of waiting until last Thursday, a resolution calling for peacekeepers should have been passed in 2004. That was the moment to call for an international force, backed by a robust mandate allowing the protection of civilians.

Instead of using Sudan's moment of maximum weakness, the West dithered for two years. Bashir weighed his opponents in the balance and found them wanting. Tragically, the resolution [which was still inadequate, to the extent of being phony --JW] was eventually passed at the hour of his greatest strength and the people of Darfur are paying the price.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home