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The humanitarian crisis in Darfur shows no signs of abating at the same time as the national, regional and international politics of the conflict take on new dimensions.
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

Last week the UN finally agreed to a watered down resolution requiring the Government of Sudan to disarm and bring to justice the leaders of the Janjaweed militia that have been killing, maiming, raping and destroying the peoples of western Sudan. There is a deadline of 30 days. A stronger version of the UN resolution including the threat of imposition of sanctions had to be modified thanks to the combined opposition of China and Russia at the Security Council and also other dubious allies of the Sudan government in the General Assembly, principally Arab and Muslim states and their fellow travellers.

China's interest is quite clear. Its national oil company is the largest foreign investor in the new oil industry of Sudan. Russia is always cautious about UN intervention and censure against governments maltreating their own peoples. The Russian army has been committing atrocities in Chechnya for years without many cries from the UN or the usual self-appointed global policemen and guarantors of international peace and security.

The position of the Arab and Muslim countries is one informed by a herd instinct and a long historical misunderstanding of the basis of conflict in the Sudan. The herd instinct is further enhanced by the current global Islamophobia consequent to 9/11 and the criminalisation of every Muslim as an Al Qaeda suspect. The War against Afghanistan/ Iraq and the continuing tragedy of Iraq under the Anglo-American occupation has underpinned this 'need' for Muslims to stick together. Since Sudan is considered a Muslim country, therefore it must be supported against its enemies even if those 'enemies' happen to be the majority of her own citizens.

The racialist aspect of the Sudan conflict is one that sees the country as an Arab country therefore both North African and Middle East Arab states must express solidarity with it, right or wrong.

Both the religious and racial allies of Khartoum are wrong. Any Muslim should be outraged at what the NIF government has been doing in Sudan since 1989 when it came to power. Muslims must stop associating Islam with dictatorial regimes. In Darfur the Arab Militia, aided and abetted by the Khartoum government marauding through villages and towns and destroying people and property is supposedly Muslim. The peoples of Western Sudan that are victims of Khartoum and the Janjaweed are all Muslims too. So which kind of Islamism is this that kills fellow Muslims?

The Arabist view of Sudan is the most ridiculous. How many of these so-called Sudanese Arabs are really Arabs? The name of the country itself is a good give away: Balad al Sud. It means Land of the Blacks. Many are Arabised but not really Arabs and have taken to that identity as part of the power politics in the country and its unequal historical ties with Egypt and other Arab countries. In Darfur you will even find a significant part of the population to be of West African origin.

While identity, religion, race and other social factors may be part of the conflagration, the centre of it is power - unaccountable and illegitimate power exercised by a tiny oligarchy in the military, merchant families, hegemonic Muslim sects and clergy and their political infrastructure and
networks. Darfur is for instance a victim of the split within the National Islamic Front personified by detained former spiritual leader of the organisation, Dr Hassan Al Turabi and his former protégé, General Omar Al Bashir, the President. Al Turabi's support is very strong in Darfur and
because of that Darfur is enemy territory for the government.

What kind of intervention will work in Darfur? The American poodle in Britain, Mr. Tory Blair, is already talking about moral obligation to intervene and is reportedly considering sending British troops. This will not help in any way. Any direct British or American military intervention will not be helpful because it will muddy the waters given their bad record in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Supposedly Christian crusaders against allegedly Muslim soldiers again? Whose interest will this serve?

The Darfur crisis is a great opportunity for the new AU to show that it is really different from the old OAU. The Chairperson, Konare, has been upfront on the Darfur situation and he needs the support of Africa's leaders and the rest of the international community. The peace monitor group the AU has sent into Darfur is too small. And even smaller still are the 300 member troops
that are supposed to guard them and also protect civilian victims. The mandate needs to be expanded to include peace keeping and peace enforcement including disarming, arresting and bringing to trial the perpetrators of the killings. The UN and other members of the international community who want to help should back the AU effort not to set up parallel initiatives.

Darfur is Africa's problem and the AU must show the leadership. One symbolic action that will show Khartoum that Africa means 'Never again' to genocide is to stop Khartoum from hosting the next AU summit as planned. How can we confer such diplomatic and political legitimacy on a government that is killing its own citizens? (Source: Pambazuka, A Weekly Electronic Forum For Social Justice In Africa,

Notes: * Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is General-Secretary of the Pan African Movement, Kampala (Uganda) and Co-Director of Justice Africa ( or )

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