Sudan: August 4, 2004

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The battle for Darfur continues. However, the combat is largely fought with words. The UN has threatened Sudan with some vague punishments if the government does not halt the Arab versus African violence in the west Sudanese region of Darfur. The government is waging a propaganda campaign to shift the blame for the Darfur violence to the Darfur rebels. This is difficult, because now that the media is in Darfur, many refugees are testifying to the raids and murders. Moreover, reporters, aid workers and UN officials are seeing some of the mass graves containing people killed by the government backed Arab militias. But the governments denials are mainly directed at the Arab world, because as long as the Arab countries back Sudan, the UN won't be able to do anything. Sending any foreign troops into western Sudan will be considered an act of war by the Sudanese government. At the moment, this would put Arab governments in a difficult spot, as there would be popular pressure to give military aid to Sudan. But this might be a bit much. After all, the Arab governments know what's going on in Darfur. It's very simple. The Sudanese government is dealing with rebellious black African tribes by arming more loyal Arab tribes to drive the rebel tribesmen off their land. As a reward, the Arab tribes get to keep thousands of square miles pf land for their herds. Most of the farmers would be eventually allowed to return to their burned out villages, while those permanently ejected from their lands can go live off foreign aid, provided by the UN or NGOs.

While politicians and journalists go on about Darfur being another Rwanda, this is not the case. A decade ago, nearly a million Rwandan's were murdered by their neighbors in a few months. In Darfur, the Arabs have, over a year, driven some 1.2 million black African farmers from their homes. Most are now refugees within Sudan, with a few hundred thousand across the border in Chad. No one has an accurate count of the dead, but NGOs, journalists and pundits estimate that 10,000 to 30,000 people have been killed. More have been raped and abused physically. Darfur is a major crime, but it's not Rwanda. It's not genocide, because the government is not trying to kill off the rebellious tribes. The government is punishing the tribes for their rebellious behavior, sending a message, as it were, that better behavior would result in better treatment by the government. 

Darfur is a region that has been  "owned" by the government of Sudan for centuries, but never really controlled. It's a remote, poor, and thinly populated area that has never been worth fighting over. That's why the government seeks to pacify the region on the cheap. Rather than sending in troops, the government pays nearby loyal Arab tribes to do what they have done before, raid the rebel tribes. By giving the Arab tribesmen more weapons, and some help from the army and air force, the raids become much more powerful than in the past.

African nations are offering to send several thousand peacekeepers to Darfur, but the government is reluctant to allow even that. The government believes that predictions of several hundred thousand refugees dying from starvation and disease are unlikely. The government insists that sufficient food is available to prevent a large number of deaths. If this proves to be false, the government will blame the UN and aid organizations. 

The situation in Darfur is nothing new, nor unique. The world's nations stood by during the mass murder of Rwandan's a decade a go, and for decades of mass murders by Saddam Hussein. It's easier, and safer, to talk about it than to do anything about it. 

 

 

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