Darfur Tragedy: Opportunism and Hypocrisy
The conflict pits farming communities against nomads who have aligned themselves with the militia groups .
Africa, Articles, PoliticsTopics Discussed:
Darfur •  Hypocrisy •  Sudan
By Crescent International, Crescent International -- August 11, 2004
However, at the same time, it is worth contextualizing the situation and clarifying some misunderstandings about it. The first point to make is that this is not, as many seem to think, the result of ethnic or religious conflict between 'Arabs' and 'Africans'. There is, as some commentators have attempted to point out, little or no ethnic, religious, linguistic or cultural difference between the groups involved, all of whom are Arabic-speaking African Muslims. The phrase 'Arab militias' is a gross misnomer based on the attempts by some Sudanese political groups to misrepresent the situation in the same Arab (and therefore Muslim) vs. African terms that they have imposed on problems elsewhere in Sudan. This misrepresentation of the situation is, of course, one that appeals to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias in the West. Instead the essence of the conflict is a tribal one, between different tribal groups, on the traditional issues of control of land and other resources, particularly water. In a relatively objective analysis published in October last year, before the issue became politicized, the UN media services characterized the problem in the following terms:
"The conflict pits farming communities against nomads who have aligned themselves with the militia groups -- for whom the raids are a way of life -- in stiff competition for land and resources. The militias, known as the Janjaweed, attack in large numbers on horseback and camels, and are driving the farmers from their land, often pushing them towards town centers."
This traditional-style African conflict has been exacerbated by the growing armed conflict between two local armed groups and the Sudanese government. This broke out early last year, when the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched attacks on military bases and government installations in the region. The SLA claimed to be responding to the government's neglect of the region, an allegation not borne out by the facts. Since the Bashir government came to power in 1989, the number of schools in the region has risen from 16 to over 250, and the number of school students from 27,000 to 440,000. Three new airports have been built, and the road network has been expanded threefold.
In fact, the SLA, whose support is based largely on the Zaghawa tribe that straddles the Sudan-Chad border, has clear links with outside powers, who are arming and equipping it to undermine Khartoum. Although much has been made of the Sudanese government's alleged links with the Janjaweed, UN observers have noted that the SLA have better weapons than the Sudanese army, and have been receiving supplies by air, indicating the sort of backing that can only come from states. SLA gunmen are reported to be operating in groups of up to 1,000 men in four-wheel-drive vehicles: very different from the horses and camels reportedly used by the Janjaweed.
That the SLA should receive outside support to fight the Khartoum government is hardly surprising. Sudan's long-running and devastating civil war has long been sustained by support for anti-government forces from neighboring regimes, including Chad, encouraged and supported by Western states seeking to destabilize what is seen as an Islamic regime. The conflict in Darfur is clearly part of this pattern, raising questions about who should really be held responsible for the undeniable suffering of the Sudanese people: the outside powers deliberately stoking war for their own political agendas, or the government trying to defend itself?
The West's involvement in Darfur, despite the suffering caused to thousands of people, should come as no surprise. They demonstrated in Iraq in the 1990s their willingness to inflict massive suffering on civilians through economic warfare in pursuit of their political goals. Even more hypocritical, however, is their attempt now to step forward as champions of the oppressed, talking of possible humanitarian intervention to save the starving people of Darfur. Given their record elsewhere, no-one can take seriously their claims of humanitarian concern. At a time when the US's reputation is in tatters and the Bush regime is facing political crisis at home, the sudden concern for Darfur can only be seen as another opportunistic political ruse; the tragedy is that the political impact of their interference can only encourage those genuinely responsible for the problems in Darfur, and make the situation even worse for Sudan's long-suffering people.
Source: Crescent International
Filed under Africa, Articles, PoliticsTopics Discussed: Darfur •  Hypocrisy •  Sudan