Sudanese Intransigence, Unabated Genocide, UN Impotence, and American Silence

A beacon of human rights in the world, obviously I am talking about the Islamic Republic of Sudan, which has arrested a mild-mannered British schoolteacher, Ms. Gillian Gibbons. Her blasphemous sin was that she created a class exercise in which young children came up with a favorite name for a teddy bear. Collectively everyone came up with the name Mohammed. Viola! Wow! You have seriously committed a sin. Because, you see god needs to be protected by us human beings. The Sudanese government pounced on this hapless schoolteacher and charged her with defaming the prophet and inciting religious hatred. She now faces 6 months jail sentence, 40 lashes, and a substantial fine.

Now, this bizarre move is particularly concerning when the Sudanese are demonstrating extraordinary intransigence in allowing the United Nations Security Council sanctioned 26,000 peacekeepers into Darfur to prevent the further extermination of the Fur people and other non-Arab minorities. Sudan has already eliminated Scandinavian countries, particularly Netherlands from the list, for their role in publishing the high controversial cartoons depicting Islam in a poor light. The various efforts made by Sudan to block the non-African countries from actively participating the peace mission is a complete reversal of the agreement that Sudan made with the UN Secretary-General earlier this year.

Obviously, Sudan is making every effort to block the scheduled start of the UN Peacekeeping on Jan 1, 2008. Maybe they can wipe out few thousand more in the interim.

It is really galling about the whole thing is that the United States and the United Nations are dancing to the highly unpredictable beats of the Sudanese government; they are dilly-dallying by making vacuous and empty threats. Where are the F-16s, F-18s, and F-22s when we need them most? What Sudan badly needs is some serious Shock and Awe or a kick in the shins. Unfortunately, gutless Washington politicians seem to be stuck in Groundhog Day mentality and the toothless UN does not have the moral courage or the necessary authority to stop the ongoing genocide.

And for the record, the United States official deemed what is happening in Sudan as “Acts of Genocide,” according to the statement made by US President on Sept. 9th, 2004.

Genocide and Complex Humanitarian Emergency

The UN brokered peace deal, which would bring in 27,000 UN peacekeepers into the conflict-riven country of Sudan, especially to its western province of Darfur can’t come any sooner. Since the conflict began in the early part of this decade at a minimum 200,000 people have died and at least 2 million have been displaced and according Jan Egeland of the United Nations, a monumental humanitarian problem is growing that is affecting more than 4 million people in the middle of resource-rich North-Central Africa. 

Recently, African Union troops who were maintaining a very fragile peace came under fire and 10 African Union troops were killed by none other than Darfurian rebel forces. In a sustained attack the AU camp was completely overrun and the weapons cache was looted by the rebel forces. The AU troops are there to protect the Darfurian people (or the ethnic Fur group), but with the attacks the AU troops have vacated their base camp. This does not augur well for refugees and other unarmed civilians; they are likely to bear the brunt of the violence and catastrophic human rights violations. With the Darfurian rebel groups, the Sudanese military, the Sudanese government backed Janjaweed militia, and the African Union troops, the situation on the ground is extremely volatile.  Many states may now develop cold feet and fear sending their troops into harms way.

If this tells us anything, it tells us that humanitarian interventions are complex and costly. But, more importantly, it indicates that more than 50 years after independence, Sub-Saharan African states are struggling to construct a viable and functional nation-state that can offer a modicum of basic security that would allow the people to go about their daily business without being killed or maimed. If the UN is to successfully implement its ambitious Millennium Development Goals, it has to definitely start with the very basic, but extraordinarily complex task of building peace from the bottom up. In this case, the presence of UN troops is a short-term solution, in the long-run the African states have to figure out how to divide their wealth, compromise and live peacefully, instead of playing out their ethnic hatreds. However, this is easier said than done.