Sep 26, 2006

PostGlobal, Discussion on Darfur

Another question was posted on PostGlobla few days regarding Darfur, here is the question and my rather lengthy response:
Topic: The UN recently authorized a peacekeeping force to Darfur but the Sudanese government, led by President Omar al-Bashir, is not allowing it in. The Arab League and others are bolstering the Sudanese regime, forming a regional political bloc which refuses to admit the UN force.
Question: Should regional solidarity be allowed to trump human rights needs? What could be done to pull away support from the Sudanese regime and enable UN troops to enter?

The Arab League is a weak, incompetent and morally bankrupt organization that doesn't represent the views of the Arab people. This was demonstrated repeatedly but more recently in Israeli’s destruction of Lebanon and in Darfur . You can broadly divide Arab countries into stateless/occupied countries and those run by dictators/absolute monarchs, the latter group having the full support of the United States. The stateless/occupied group such as Lebanon, Palestine and Somalia have enough problems to deal with. The second group (with authoritarian rulers) can't open the door for such "dangerous" ideas like human rights; most of these regimes are reported for major human rights violations on a yearly basis. Besides they can’t take the moral high ground when talking to Sudan, they’re all in it together.

In fairness though, the Arab League is not the only ones to give human rights a back seat. East Asian countries have been criticized for not pointing out the human rights abuses in Burma and the US has always overlooked (and defends) human rights abuses by Israel (the latest being in Lebanon).

The West isn’t entirely honest in its motives, it seem they only act on human rights issues if and when their interest is affected. Next door to Sudan is Uganda were the Acholi people have been facing genocide for the last 10 years from the Lord's Resistance Army on one side and the government’s concentration camps on the other (an issue repeatedly raised by people like Olara Otunnu ) but it seems the Sudanese oil and resource is at least part of the motive to act on Darfur .

The African Union (AU) on the hand played a positive role, I felt optimistic for the future of this organization. It seems Africa has finally recognized that conflicts more than anything else is the cause of the poverty and backwardness in Africa. The organization should continue to point out and intervene in conflicts and human rights abuses quicker. However the deployment of the African troops in Darfur showed the AU’s short comings in the lack of experience and - more importantly - funds.

Early this month I attended a discussion on Darfur in Aljazeera Center for Studies . You could see that many Arabs (and intellectuals at that) are unfortunately in denial and often confuse their suspicion of the United State’s motives with the continuing suffering of the people of Darfur. I was infuriated to hear some talk about useless conspiracy theories without a single condemnation of what the Sudanese government is doing there. At the end of the session I spoke to a man from Darfur who spoke earlier and I asked him if he can give me a prove of the government's support for the Janjaweed . He said that the Arabs (of whom the Janjaweed belong) and the people of Darfur lived along side for centuries and they frequently fought and then reconciled, but now the Darfur people can no longer defend themselves against the Janjaweed only because the government's support for them. I also got a taste of the deep rooted racism in the Sudanese society when I saw the Sudanese (Northerners and Darfurians) referring to each other as "Arabs" and "Zurq" (literally meaning blue in Arabic but used to refer to a black person). The Arabs overwhelmingly supported the government’s refusal of foreign troops while the Darfurians were all for foreign troops.

I feel nothing but contempt for the Sudanese government for its incompetence and racism. How could a government take part in killing and displacing its own people to the extent where the rest of the world has to come in and do its job and how could such a government be allowed to rule over people it’s intent on killing and driving out. I also blame the Sudanese people for being in denial of the genocide in Darfur. A case can be made for people being misinformed but that’s not a good enough excuse when the government is doing this in their name.

Many people don’t know much about the proud history and heritage of the people of Darfur, the fact that it was one of the strongest kingdoms in region for centuries. It’s a disgrace that the world has allowed this genocide and continues. The Acholi people in Uganda are also systematically being rooted out by the government and the rebels, let us not forget them too.

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Black River Eagle said...

I appreciate your honest and straightforward views on the crisis in Darfur, and would suggest that you follow the dialogue on Darfur at the Atlantic Review blog. The Atlantic Review is a blog authored by 3 German Fulbright alumni focusing on the transatlantic relationships between the U.S., Germany, and Europe as well as global issues. I have provided a link to their latest post on Darfur below which includes a link to your blog in the comments thread.

You give an example of Arab countries that includes Somalia with Palestine and Lebanon. Isn't Somalia an African country with a predominately Muslim population, and not an Arab country? The same would be true for the Sudan, wouldn't it?

Of course I disagree with you on the statement, "You can broadly divide Arab countries into stateless/occupied countries and those run by dictators/absolute monarchs, the latter group having the full support of the United States."

Is the U.S.A. alone in providing financial and military support to monarchies and dictatorships in the Middle East? And isn't it the government of the United States of America that is spearheading initiatives and programs and unfortuantely sometimes war (Iraq) to encourage more democracy in the Middle East?

I can only hope that many U.S. politicians and government officials have come to realize that the support of dictators in the Middle East and elsewhere is not helping anyone, least of all the people of the United States. It will be interesting to see what follows the fall of all of these dictators and monarchs and how prepared the world will be to deal with those changes. If Sudan and Somalia and yes Iraq are good examples of what to expect, then I am afraid we are all in for several more decades of bloody conflicts and suffering.

Lastly, it is a pity that the Aljazeera Center for Research Studies conference on Darfur is only available in the original Arabic language. Please notify us if that institute decides to publish any summaries from that conference in English.

Remember always that "Zurq is Beautiful!" So are the skin colors black and brown and...

Atlantic Review post Sep 26, 2006
A NATO Response to Darfur?
Also see related Darfur posts at the end of the AR article.

Abdurahman Warsame said...

Somalia and Sudan are both in the Arab league, though I don't want to delve into the subject of Arabism, let me explain quickly why. People think that there's a collective ethnic group that's called Arab with the same looks, religion and culture which isn't true. After Islam came to all these countries and with intermarriage they all - somewhat recently - declared that they're Arabs. But before Islam there were people called Egyptian, Palestinian ...etc where did they go? Arabs don't look the same so an Egyptian doesn't look the same as Somali or Yemani or Algerian. Arabs don't have the same culture or religion either. So it's more or less a political pact (i know this will offend many Arabs but that's true) - that's enough on the subject.

I know about what's happening in Darfur, and I know the Sudanese gov. is responsible for it. I don't I can take any other position. It's a shame on Africa to still have such a thing happening, Africa needs to get it's act together, Arabs are useless here.

the US is unfortunately only promotes whatever serves its needs be it democracy or dictatorship. The US supported the Shah (hardly a democracy) and continues to support the regimes in Jordan, Egypt and others. In fact, the US often sends prisoners to some of these countries to be tortured.

Though the US isn't the only supporting these regimes, it's the biggest player here - virtually no one else can match it.

Aljazeera Center has a monthly panel on various issues, it's still under development. Eventually it will have English (and a website too). In the next 2-3 month Aljazeera English will - hopefully - launch as well.