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.

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Apocalypse of Unending African Wars

I spent the last few days reading a lot of material on U.S intervention in foreign wars, humanitarian intervention, and genocide in different parts of the world. Presently, I am researching the unending conflict in the Horn of Africa; these conflicts are mostly between Ethiopia–Eritrea and Somalia–Ethiopia. Off course, Sudan, Djibouti, and Kenya are regional players in these conflicts wittingly or otherwise, and the complex array of militias or rebel groups make things that much more complex. We have to spend some separate time on Sudan because we are witnessing genocide in progress in the Darfur region in Western Sudan, and the world is sitting and watching the systematic extermination of ethnic Sudanese by the Arab majority.

Now returning to our focus on Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia are in one of the most famine and conflict prone regions in the world. The question before us is this: do militarized conflicts cause famine or does famine and drought lead to militarized conflict? This question is not trivial and it is not necessarily a chicken and egg problem. There are definite causal chains that produce wars, famines, and large-scale social destabilization. For instance, Somalia has been in near continuous state of conflict since the late 1980s and Ethiopia has experienced famines and drought of Biblical proportions.

I am not even going to pose the question is there hope for these countries, but instead ask how do we break the continual cycle of conflict, destabilization, and famines. Second, what should be the role of international relief and various UN agencies, and what role should the UN member nations play in intervening in these types of complex humanitarian crisis?  Something we will ponder in the remaining few weeks of this semester.

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.

What I Saw in Darfur: Untangling the Knots of a Complex Crisis-Ban Ki Moon

The current UN Sec-General, Ban-ki-Moon has filed a report on the Darfur Crisis after his recent visit in today’s Washington Post.  It is gut-wrenching stuff; simply amazing that even the UN Sec-Gen is not able to do anything about this crisis and its complexity.

The Sec-Gen Ban laments that the “rebels battle the government; the government battles the rebels. Yet the reality is more complicated. Lately, the fighting often as not pits tribe against tribe, warlord against warlord. Nor is the crisis confined to Darfur. It has spilled over borders, destabilizing the region. Darfur is also an environmental crisis–a conflict that grew at least in part from desertification, ecological degradation and a scarcity of resources, foremost among them water.” He argues that “there can be no single solution to this crisis. Darfur is a case study in complexity. If peace is to come, it must take into account all the elements that gave rise to the conflict.”

On the UN efforts, the Secretary General argues that the UN has “made a good start,” and the “UNSC has authorized the deployment of 26,000 multinational peacekeepers, jointly conducted by the United Nations and the African Union (AU).”Secretary Ban further argues that “no peacekeeping mission can succeed without a peace to keep,” and that we also need to look urgently “for a political settlement.” Moreover, he also assures the world that the “Khartoum government of President Omar al-Bashir” has indeed “renewed its unqualified commitment to support the peacekeeping mission ” and “comprehensive peace talks.” The next round of political negotiations is going to take place of all places in Libya on Oct. 27, under the joint A.U.-U.N. leadership.Most importantly, Ban concludes his article, by identifying the need for comprehensive political and economic development solutions by arguing that “we must deal with all of them-security, politics, resources, water, and humanitarian and development issues.”

Security Council Reform

The notion of UN Security Council (UNSC) reforms has been bandied about for many years. The objective really is to make the Security Council truly representative of the current global power configurations and incorporate newly emerging powers into the UNSC such as, (1) Brazil and Argentina from South America; (2) Germany and even possibly Italy from Europe; (3) Japan and India from Asia, and (3) South Africa from the African Subcontinent and maybe even a Middle East country. Naturally, these suggestions are rife with controversy and mutual suspicion and competition among states, and they have NOT produced any results.  It is my humble view that nothing much is likely to happen in this regard within the next five years or so. Because as I have said many times, it would require enormous adjustment on the part of the P5 to let new states in, especially with veto power. Off course, given the structural configurations of global power arrangements, expansion by itself is unlikely to produce any meaningful outcomes.

Here are the various suggestions from the Global Policy Forum and the December 2004, the Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change report and the March 2005 Secretary General’s report titled “Enlarging Freedom.”