Monday, November 05, 2007

The Problem with “Save Darfur”

Is calling for a military invasion the answer to civil war in Darfur?

In July, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved what is expected to be the largest Peace-keeping Mission in the world. The 26,000-strong United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, or UNAMID force will be deployed to the western region of Sudan next year, the region infamous for violence between government and rebel forces which has killed and displaced thousands since 2003. Cheering on the resolution are the US and Canadian governments, the mainstream media and the vocal Save Darfur movement - a massive and well-funded campaign with such notable celebrity public faces as George Clooney and Kanye West. The Save Darfur movement goes even further and calls for the direct military intervention into the Sudan - up to and including invasion and occupation by American, Canadian and European troops.

However, the analysis of the Save Darfur campaign contains a number of gaping holes because it refuses to acknowledge a number of hugely important questions. Does the “official version” of the Sudan story relect reality? Are we witnessing a desire to stop “genocide” in Darfur or, as other African and Arab countries have put it, yet another attempted invasion of a Muslim country? And, with the UN’s history throughout the world, and on the African continent in particular, is Peacekeeping the solution to the conlict in Sudan?

Sudan is Africa’s largest country, with a population of around 40 million, 70% of whom are Muslim. The current Islamic government of Sudan, under President Omar Al-Bashir has been in power since 1989 and has been on the US ‘hit list’ for overthrow since the Clinton presidency. The Americans bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant in 1998 - destroying the country’s major source of desperately needed medicine. The US has also been pumping money into countries bordering Sudan since the 1980s in order to destabilize the government.

The US also financed and armed rebels fighting against the government in the second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). The Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the main faction in the conlict, was headed by John Garang who was trained for many years in a US military base at Fort Benning Georgia. The Save Darfur movement makes little attempt to remind us of these important historical facts.

Currently, the two main rebel factions fighting the government in Darfur are the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA). US-allies in the region, particularly Uganda and Chad, are providing these and other rebels with weapons, equipment, money and bases - some rebel factions are actually better armed than the Sudanese army.

Any look at a natural resource map of Africa should immediately give the answer to why the US is interested in the Sudan: the region is swimming in oil and other resources that American, Canadian and British companies cannot currently access. The contracts are held mainly by Chinese and European companies. Sudan and Darfur also contain a number of other resources, including uranium (reserves coveted by Israel, another loud voice for intervention in Darfur).

Save Darfur claims that what is happening in Darfur is a “genocide” in which over 400,000 innocent men, women and children have been killed. To date however, only the Bush regime has made the same charge of “genocide” and the figure of 400,000 deaths has been exposed as being a deliberate exaggeration. The igure the US General Accountability Office has found to be most un-biased is 120,000 dead and includes those who died of illness and starvation as well as fighters from all sides killed in combat.

It is important to recall the history of peacekeeping in other parts of Africa to judge what kind of role such a force would play in Darfur. Somali Canadians remember the “peacekeeping” mission
to Somalia (1993-95), during which Canadian soldiers murdered at least 6 innocent Somalis and whose participation prolonged and aggravated the conlict. Currently, the UN General Assembly has given its full support to the hated warlord government in Somalia that was installed by the US and Ethiopia after the overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union. Meanwhile, in the Congo, just south of Sudan, the UN force has allowed and sometimes assisted American proxy forces in the killing of an estimated 10 million people!

Clearly, foreign troops cannot be trusted to put the interests of local people irst. The civil wars in Africa will end when Western governments stop using Africa as their plaything. People in Canada must call on their government to respect the sovereignty of poor countries and stop interfering in Africa!