Peacekeeping: How Humanitarian Aid Supports The Killers in Darfur


April 15, 2007: Peacekeeping and humanitarian aid efforts often work against each other. Such is the case in central Africa, where ethnic and tribal violence in Sudan (Darfur), Chad and the Central African republic has killed several hundred thousand people, and created ten times as many refugees. The countries involved, especially Sudan, don't want foreign peacekeepers coming in to stop the violence. But humanitarian aid groups, and the massive amounts of food and other supplies they bring, are allowed. Many of the gunmen then live off the relief supplies, along with the refugees. The gunmen also prey on the refugees. The refugee camps also provide a place for some of the armed groups to hide out. These are usually rebel groups, whose families have been turned into refugees by pro-government militias.

The entire mess is centered in western Sudan (Darfur), where pro-government Arab tribes were fighting with black African tribes. The Arabs were herders, and they wanted the land worked by the black farmers. This has been going on for centuries, but became political when armed rebel organizations formed among the farming tribes and began attacking government officials. The Sudanese government is run by Arabs, so the government gave the Arab tribes weapons, uniforms and money, and permission to drive the black farmers off their land. This has largely been done. But similar ethnic tensions in neighboring Chad and Central African Republic, as well as problems with tribes straddling international borders, spread the fighting into those two countries.

Chad and Central African Republic are not able to muster sufficient military force to stop the fighting, and Sudan doesn't want to. Caught in the middle are the humanitarian aid groups, who must feed the fighters along with the refugees (or get killed for refusing). The foreign aid groups call for peacekeepers, but Sudan relies on other Arab nations to protect it from a "foreign invasion." Sudan has also brought in Chinese firms to operate the newly developed oil fields. Thus Sudan is assured that China will veto any UN attempt to impose peacekeepers.

Eventually, Sudan apparently hopes to force the two million black Sudanese in refugee camps to move to new camps outside of Sudan (most likely Chad.) That way, Sudan will have got rid of a "disloyal population" and rewarded the Arab tribes in Darfur. Most of this operation will have been paid for by foreign aid donors and the UN. And there's not much the aid donors or the UN can do about it.




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