Sudan

2007 11 25
Recently watched: The Devil Came on Horseback


In 2004, ex-Marine Brian Steidle signed up for a stint as an African Union observer in the Darfur region of Sudan, where he ended up a first hand witness to the genocide there. When he left, he took with him a large number of photographs of victims of atrocities and a sense of enormous frustration at his inability to do anything more than document the devastation. A Nicholas Kristoff column about his work and his pictures catapulted him into national prominence, getting him into meetings with Condi Rice, Congressional hearings, and onto a host of television programs. Later, he returned to Chad to work on further documenting the plight of villagers displaced by the brutal campaign against them in Darfur. Back in the United States again, he toured the country trying to raise awareness of the issue.

The Devil Came on Horseback follows Steidle through all this, and it does a superb, if extremely upsetting, job of documenting the genocide. But in spite of Steidle’s relentless emphasis on what to do about Darfur, the documentary seems to me much weaker on larger questions about how outsiders can play a constructive role in Sudan. Steidle appears to have little doubt that a military intervention there to prevent further attacks is a moral imperative, at one point remarking that if his camera lens had been a scope he might have destroyed a jeep of fleeing soldiers and allowed terrorized villagers to return to their village. This is, I think, a very human and understandable response to the sort of brutality Steidle witnessed. But I am not convinced it is the wisest. I have no idea what to do about Darfur, just hard questions for anyone pushing military intervention as a solution there.


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2005 08 31
Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide, by Gerard Prunier


Posted by in: Books, Political issues, Sudan

Now this looks interesting. Prunier’s book on Rwanda was great (as far as this non-expert could tell). Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

In mid-2004 the Darfur crisis in Western Sudan forced itself onto the center stage of world affairs. Arab Janjaweed militias, who support the Khartoum government, have engaged in a campaign of violence against the residents of Western Sudan. A formerly obscure �tribal conflict� in the heart of Africa has escalated into the first genocide of the twenty-first century. In sharp contrast to official reaction to the Rwandan massacres, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the situation in Darfur a �genocide� in September 2004. Its characteristics�Arabism, Islamism, famine as a weapon of war, mass rape, international obfuscation, and a refusal to look evil squarely in the face�reflect many of the problems of the global South in general and of Africa in particular.

Journalistic explanations of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe have been given to hurried generalizations and inaccuracies: the genocide has been portrayed as an ethnic clash marked by Arab-on-African violence, with the Janjaweed militias under strict government control, but neither of these impressions is strictly true. Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide explains what lies behind the conflict, how it came about, why it should not be oversimplified, and why it is so relevant to the future of the continent.

G�rard Prunier sets out the ethnopolitical makeup of the Sudan and explains why the Darfur rebellion is regarded as a key threat to Arab power in the country�much more so than secessionism in the Christian South. This, he argues, accounts for the government�s deployment of �exemplary violence� by the Janjaweed militias in order to intimidate other African Muslims into subservience. As the world watches; governments decide if, when, and how to intervene; and international organizations struggle to distribute aid, the knowledge in Prunier�s book will provide crucial assistance.


Howls of outrage (6)

2005 01 16
Monday evening


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

First to this:

Candlelight Vigil for the Victims of Genocide in Sudan

Monday, Jan. 17 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
5:00 pm @ Dag Hammarskjold Park, UN Plaza
(47th St. and 1st Ave.)
Grand Central Station is nearest subway station (4,5,6,7,S)

+ Take a stand against the ongoing genocide in Sudan, where experts estimate that about 400,000 people have died.

+ Join us outside the Sudan Mission to the UN and send a strong message to the Sudanese government, to our own government, and to the international community demanding immediate intervention.

+ Light a candle to memorialize the tens of thousands of Sudanese who have already been murdered. Stand in solidarity with the over one million victims of rape, slavery, and displacement. Give meaning to “Never Again.”

Sign up and download posters at http://www.iabolish.com/nyc
Email rachel@iabolish.com or call 1-800-884-0719 for more information.

And then to this:

Blostein-Sperrazza Quartet
Smith’s Bar
8th Ave. at 44th St.
9-1pm, no cover.

Matt Blostein – Alto Sax
Danny Fox – Piano
Peter Brendler – Bass
Vinnie Sperrazza – Drums

The latter ought to be a less sombre affair than the former, but both events are worthwhile.


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2005 01 10
Darfur


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

This just in:

Candlelight Vigil for the Victims of Genocide in Sudan

Monday, Jan. 17 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
5:00 pm @ Dag Hammarskjold Park, UN Plaza
(47th St. and 1st Ave.)
Grand Central Station is nearest subway station (4,5,6,7,S)

+ Take a stand against the ongoing genocide in Sudan, where experts estimate that about 400,000 people have died.

+ Join us outside the Sudan Mission to the UN and send a strong message to the Sudanese government, to our own government, and to the international community demanding immediate intervention.

+ Light a candle to memorialize the tens of thousands of Sudanese who have already been murdered. Stand in solidarity with the over one million victims of rape, slavery, and displacement. Give meaning to “Never Again.”

Sign up and download posters at http://www.iabolish.com/nyc
Email rachel@iabolish.com or call 1-800-884-0719 for more information.


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2004 12 17
Darfur


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

The BBC has some alarming news:

Sudan ‘plans huge Darfur attack’

The Sudanese government is preparing a huge offensive in war-torn Darfur, the head of the African observer team says.

Following a “build-up of forces in the past two weeks”, Darfur is a “time-bomb which could explode at any moment,” said General Festus Okonkwo.

Peace talks between the government and rebels have broken down after the rebels accused the army of breaking a ceasefire agreed in April.

About 70,000 people have died in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.

More than 1.5 million have fled their homes, mostly black Africans being targeted by pro-government Arab militias.

Which would be very bad, I think.


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2004 12 16
Amnesty International on Darfur


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

Here’s Amnesty International on Darfur:

Sudan: Time running out for two million affected in Darfur

Amnesty International is calling for the rapid implementation of the enhanced African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS). The mission’s speedy deployment throughout Darfur will enable it to act more effectively in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians and investigate violations of the ceasefire and humanitarian law. Strong political support for AMIS is necessary to ensure that its reports on such violations are addressed.

“The AMIS monitors and troops are already said to be taking a more proactive role in protecting civilians, patrolling in areas where there have been clashes in order to try to build confidence,” Erwin van der Borght, deputy director of the Africa Program said. “But their deployment has been slow; their recommendations are not acted on; and, even their reports on ceasefire violations are usually blocked by the parties to the conflict. As a result, their presence has neither yielded improved security for civilians, nor has AMIS so far been functioning as a deterrent to attacks.”

The displaced, who have already fled several times, continue to be attacked where they have sought refuge and continue to flee from one place to another. Those in camps find that the government and police who should be protecting them are the ones who are bulldozing their shelters and expelling them. Most of the few who do dare to go home return to the camps for the displaced, feeling vulnerable and unprotected from the militias who attack them.

“The passivity of the UN Security Council with regard to Darfur, during its November session in Nairobi which prioritised the North-South peace process, has been interpreted by parties to the conflict as a signal that they can continue with their attacks”, Erwin van der Borght said.

[. . . ]

As of December 2004, 1.65 million people from Darfur are displaced within the region, more than 200,000 have fled to Chad and tens of thousand are displaced in Kordofan, Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan. Others have temporarily settled in towns or villages or eke a precarious existence in the bush eating wild seeds and fruit.

[. . . ]

Amnesty International is also calling for an increase in the numbers of UN human rights monitors. They have been able to follow up on many cases of arrests and rape, but now number only nine in the vast region of Darfur. The organization is also calling for the police component, set up in October by the African Union Peace and Security Council, to be attached to Sudanese police forces in every locality in order to assist, monitor and act as a visible presence to give confidence to the displaced.

“The people, who have suffered so much, distrust the government. The introduction of a new police force has not changed their attitude. New and old police are still seen as opposed to the people. Displaced people have been forcibly relocated, beaten up, and arrested by police forces which are still failing to investigate cases of women being raped,” Erwin van der Borght said.

No progress has been made on the disarming of the Janjawid militias. The African Union monitors should take seriously their mandate to monitor and verify efforts of the government of Sudan to disarm Government-controlled militias.

“Local communities in Darfur demand a foreign presence that would ensure their security. Only by listening to their concerns and involving them in decision-making will it be possible to build up the confidence of those in camps and villages,” Erwin van der Borght said.


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2004 11 28
Darfur


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

Getting worse, it seems:

While the world debates what to do, and attention is focused on various diplomatic discussions, the war in Darfur has sharply intensified in the past few days. Open fighting has broken out between rebels and government troops, with rebels apparently carrying out strategic attacks, and the government retaliating. It is the ordinary people who suffer the most from this new violence–which is not only a direct threat, but that is also stopping the provision of the food aid that is keeping thousands of Darfurians alive. This new warfare is overlaid upon the continuing Janjaweed militia violence that is aimed at undermining the lifelihood of Darurian villagers, and terrorising the “displaced” in camps.


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2004 11 19
Hari on Sudan


After dinging Johann Hari for a previous column on Darfur, I ought to acknowledge that this recent column is much more to my liking. Hari explores the complicity that various companies have with the regime in Khartoum and recommends a divestment movement as the best, last hope to pressure the regime to change.

Hari finishes his column by linking to Divest Sudan, an organization I hadn’t heard about before today. If you’ve got a blog of your own, you might consider linking to it too.


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2004 11 14
Divestment


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

A divestment campaign targeted at Sudan is gradually gathering momentum.

If you believe in peaceful alternatives to military humanitarian intervention, you’re really pinning a lot of your hopes on this kind of thing.


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2004 10 31
Russia and Sudan


Passion of the Present calls “bullshit” on Putin:

“Vladmir Putin has signed a decree banning the sale of all weapons to non-government bodies in Sudan, including the Janjaweed armed groups that have been accused by the international community of genocide in the southern province of Darfur.”

Now again, let’s get real. The problem is not that Russia sells small arms to Janjaweed–the problem is that Russia sells MIG jets and heavy arms as well as light to the Sudanese government, who in turn loans and gives them to the Janjaweed–who are in fact “itself” and based on its regular popular militia.

By making this announcement Putin looks like he is helping the crisis–when in fact he is doing nothing to help, and is continuing to keep as a client the genocidal governmenrt of Sudan.


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2004 09 25
China and the G7


Posted by in: China, Political issues, Sudan

This is exactly right. China’s meeting with the G7 next week is a perfect opportunity to pressure it on Sudan. China and Russia are the two most important outside players in all this mess, and along with the U.S. they probably have the greatest leverage with Sudan. Let’s see if anyone makes an issue of this. . .


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2004 09 15
Oil and Sudan


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

Via The Passion of the Present, comes this piece in Afrol news, which I excerpt below:

As the UN Security Council is debating a US draft resolution on the Sudan crisis, based on colliding views whether a genocide is or is not happening in Darfur, the issue of Sudan’s oil is becoming a key factor. If an oil export embargo is approved, China and India would lose their influence over Sudan’s vast oil reserves and a Khartoum regime change would open up these resources to the West. The US is in favour of sanctions, China is against.

The population of Darfur is presently, as the UN puts it, suffering from “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” It is well documented that the Khartoum government bares much of the responsibility for this immense suffering, which the UN calls “ethnic cleansing” and the US yesterday called “genocide”. It is however also well documented that the US through its closest African allies, helped train the SLA and JEM Darfuri rebels that initiated Khartoum’s violent reaction, as afrol News reported on Tuesday.

While the US and UK governments are urging the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Sudan due to Khartoum’s “acts of genocide” and to stop the humanitarian crisis, many Asian and African countries are sceptical to the sudden rush to condemn Khartoum. They suspect that the real interests behind the proposed sanctions and opening for the use of military force against Sudan is motivated by other than humanitarian motives to meet the Darfur crisis – a crisis which the West actually helped create.

After all, Sudan is believed to hold Africa’s greatest unexploited oil resources, even greater than those of the Gulf of Guinea. US oil companies are barred from operating in Sudan and other Western companies are chased from the country by the Washington administration. The Canadian oil company Talisman Energy is even facing charges of “complicity in genocide and war crimes” in a US court due to its past engagements in Sudan. At present, Asian oil companies dominate the field in Sudan.

For China, Sudan has become an important oil provider and an important country to build a national sector of internationally operating oil companies. The rapidly growing Asian economic giant has urgent strategic needs to secure its own oil sources – only during the first seven months of this year, Chinese oil imports had risen by 40 percent compared to the anterior year. An estimated six percent of China’s oil imports are from Sudan, a number that Beijing officials want to increase. Large investments are already made and others are planned.

China’s state-owned oil company China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) owns a 40 percent share of the local Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), which controls two of the most important oil fields in the Western Upper Nile Province. Starting in mid-2005, China’s CNPC is foreseen to produce oil in the Melut Basin east of River Nile. Other Chinese companies are involved in the construction of the 1,392 kilometre long pipeline from the Melut Basin to Port Sudan at the Red Sea and in the US$ 215 million project of constructing an oil export terminal port in this Sudanese city.

UPDATE: Oh yeah, and read this post about which well-known companies do lots and lots of business in Sudan. The piece calls for a divestment movement, which seems to me entirely appropriate.


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2004 09 13
Darfur


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

10,000 is a lot of people. The latest from Darfur:

Up to 10,000 people, many of them children, are dying each month from disease and the effects of violence in Darfur camps despite a big international aid effort, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

A study of settlements in the west and the north of the conflict ridden region, carried out by the United Nations health agency and the Sudanese government, pointed to a monthly toll of 6,000-10,000 out of a displaced population of 1.2 million.

“Thousands of these are children,” said David Nabarro, who heads the WHO’s health crisis action group.

“These mortality figures are of considerable concern … What is disturbing is that we are already six months into this crisis,” he said, adding that the rate was up to six times that of an African country facing no humanitarian crisis.

Via The Agonist.


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2004 09 03
How (not) to argue for military action in Sudan


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

That something awful is happening in Sudan is perfectly clear. It’s also clear that certain steps might well mitigate, or even stop, what is happening. Those steps include an international campaign to name and shame the perpetrators of the atrocities and those who have actively and passively supported them, stepped up humanitarian aid, (possibly) incentives for improvement, international mediation and monitoring, and so on.

What is less clear, to me at least, is whether to use force, if it is necessary to stop the killing, and how much force to use and against which parties, and also who exactly is to use the force. I am persuadable on this issue. War may be awful, but so is the prospect of standing by while tens of thousands of people are raped, murdered and forced from their destroyed homes and villages. But to be convinced about the use of force, I need to understand a lot more about the conflict itself, and the likely effects of the various proposals to use force. I need plausible answers to questions like these:
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Howls of outrage (2)

2004 09 01
Russia and China in Sudan


Both Russia and China are deeply involved in Sudan, as this piece in the CSM outlines.

I keep returning to the point that the name and shame campaign over Sudan needs to go beyond the Sudanese regime and the Janjaweed. It needs to target countries that are complicit, either actively or passively, in what is happening.

I think that a lot of what presents itself as anti-anti-Americanism is misguided. The U.S. has power and influence unrivalled in the world, is to a certain extent responsive to moral criticism, and is also engaged in some very shady behaviour. A lot of heated criticism is really in order here, especially considering how much good the U.S. also has within its power to bring about. But look, there are times when it is really important to broaden the targets of fierce criticism, and this seems to be one of them. I don’t say the left is silent on this issue, but I wouldn’t mind hearing a bit more noise all the same.

Russia and China are both deeply involved in Sudanese affairs, they both have a lot of leverage over the Sudanese regime, and they both appear ready to use their permanent positions on the Security Council to block serious international pressure on Sudan. They suck, and everyone should say so.


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