Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sudan: Endgame in Darfur? Not Yet

It's not 'endgame' yet for Darfur per Molara Wood's blog posting. The African Union (A.U) peacekeeping tenure has been extended till the end of the year.

Many have mused, ranted and opined over the Darfur crisis, and there are certain patterns/themes to the commentaries: There is profound displeasure over the crisis and claims by some that the West hasn't done enough; some have labeled the crisis an Arab-African conflict; some have questioned the indifference of the Northern African and Middle Eastern nations over the killings and humanitarian crisis; and many have called for more actions from the blogosphere and general citizens. These will be the framework for this post.

Would this crisis have lingered this long if Sudan were in Central Europe or a next-door neighbor to United States? No. But it's always easy to put the blame on the West; too easy for that matter.

Take a look at the A.U, and its action so far in the crisis. What can 7,000 poorly supported peacekeepers do? And I don't want to hear the usual excuse of the A.U being a broke-ass. Being an ass I can live with, but not broke! There are 7,000 troops mainly from Nigeria and Rwanda. None from the Northern African nations!
"In October 2005, four Nigerian soldiers and two contractors were killed in an ambush. The very next day, 38 AU soldiers were taken hostage without a shot being fired..."
If the ever-flamboyant Gaddafi of Libya, who opposes a U.N peacekeeping force in Darfur, could give a fraction of the funds he uses to maintain his retinue of body-guards and attendants, and throw in a couple oil barrels to the AU peacekeeping effort, things will surely run better.

Then there is South Africa.
"At its birth, postapartheid South Africa was a beacon of hope for human rights movement and oppressed groups all around the world. The perception that South Africa was going to be a new and different kind of nation gave it a special status in the world. Today, barely a decade later, South Africa appears to be abandoning the principles that gave it power and is in danger of becoming just another ordinary, middleweight regional actor."
South Africa has become a middleweight, even regionally. Although it is the economic African powerhouse, this hasn't yet manifested in its financial commitment to the A.U. I must say Mr. Mbeki, though a fine gentleman, has failed woefully in his African foreign policies; in fact he has no initiatives. And this is particularly painful and selfish given the fact other African nations pulled their weight against apartheid regimes some decdes back. The point is, South Africa should be at the forefront of the fight against Darfur genocide and other human right fights on the continent.

If the west has been slow in reacting, then what would one say of China?
"Sudan is China's largest overseas oil project. China is Sudan's largest supplier of arms, according to a former Sudan government minister. Chinese-made tanks, fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades have intensified Sudan's two-decade-old north-south civil war..."
Anothers governemt official also notes that the Chinese are very nice don't have anything to do with any politics or problems. Despite China's lack of interest in the internal politics of their trading partners, I strongly believe that the A.U, particularly the nations that have established strong trading bonds with the Chineses, can force Beijing to postively influence Khartoum.

How? African nations could suspend all trade agreements with China for starters. Though a tough and painful decision with grave financial implications, but a necessary means if the A.U member nations believe in their mantra of being an "effective and efficient African Union for a new Africa" - which can only come through sacrifice and shifts in paradigms.

Though America may not be doing what it should have done long ago, the recent call for Sudan divestments (pdf file) is a step in the right direct.
"Most of the companies that are being targeted for divestment are in the oil and energy sector and have contributed heavily to government revenue that, in turn, funds the genocide..."
So if American citizens and some politicians are pushing Washington to take action against corporations that do business with Sudan, then Africans must be ready to do the same. Not b emaking silly statements like this:
"African security analysts blasted the West yesterday for ignoring conflicts on the continent, especially the continuing crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, to focus on the war on terror..."
Still on Africa; I'm wont to ask what role the media plays in raising the ante and generating public awareness of the crisis? If the findings of 2005 World Public Opinion survey is generalizable and projected to 2006, not much! Check this out:
"Awareness of the situation in Darfur is fairly low. Just over one-third of Africans interviewed (36%) say they have heard or read a great deal or a fair amount about the conflict in the Sudan region called Darfur."
This is a knock on the head for African mainstream media. It wouldn't be inappropriate if major newspapers on the continent have daily/weekly front-page features on the Darfur crisis. More action can be orchestrated on the blogosphere as well; particularly the Global Voice Online - the Harvard-Reuter sponsored non-profit global citizens' media project - could leverage its influence in the mainstream better. Winning the Grand Prize at the 2006 Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism comes with greater responsibilty I think. For starters, a "free Hao-like" campaign won't be out of place.

Finally, I close with this excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle:
"It is morally reprehensible to seek the permission of the perpetrators to protect the victims of their crimes. Instead of seeking their consent, we should be neutralizing them.... In 1999, Europeans and Americans stopped a genocide-in-the-making in Kosovo despite the refusal of the United Nations to authorize the intervention"
And if you feel this is overly out of place and constitutes an infringement on Sudan's sovereignty, see the World Public Opinion site, again:
"While African support for intervention is much higher with UN authorization when it comes to severe human rights abuses such as genocide, Africans do not reject the idea of a country being able to intervene even when it does not have UN approval. In such cases, half (51%) say a country should have the right to intervene even without UN authorization, while three in ten (28%) disagree."
This is the opinion of Africans; maybe the time is right to pull off the gloves and start examining other strategies, a political/military solution is my preference, after all, we will be faced with another expiration in three months time, when the current lease of the AU peacekeepers expires in Darfur. Then that will the real endgame.