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April 24, 2008

Darfur, the other five year war.
Posted by Anita Sharma

The other five year war, Darfur, may receive less attention than Iraq but that doesn’t mean that the level of suffering is less horrific, or the path to peace any easier. In fact the situation is actually worsening: more people are dying and being displaced, food rations to the needy are about to be cut in half, the full deployment of a new peacekeeping force has been delayed until 2009 and the Sudanese government and rebel groups are resisting new peace negotiations.

"We continue to see the goal posts receding, to the point where peace in Darfur seems further away today than ever," said John Holmes, under secretary general for humanitarian affairs at the UN. In his report to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Holmes said of Darfur's estimated 6 million people, some 4.27 million have now been seriously affected by the conflict and perhaps as many as 300,000 have been killed.

Although the needs continue to be great, the World Food Program recently announced it was cutting food rations in half because attacks on its trucks have reduced stocks. Today the WFP said that one of its drivers was killed when his truck broke down during a police escorted aid convoy, further illustrating the perils.

UNAMID, the a joint U.N.-African Union force agreed to by Sudan, was supposed to be deployed to offer protection to convoys like these. But so far only about 9,000 of the authorized 26,000 peacekeepers have been deployed. Yesterday, Jane Holl Lute, a senior U.N. official who overseas the organization's field operations, (and my former boss at the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict), briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and said that the mission lacks still lacks five critical capabilities to become operational – attack helicopters, surveillance aircraft, transport helicopters, military engineers and logistical support, not to mention the other soldiers to fulfill the mission.

During the same hearing the U.S. Envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson defended the U.S. decision to meet recently with Sudan's government about the possibility of better ties, and said that concrete progress toward ending the "slow-moving genocide" in Sudan's Darfur region must take place before the United States will improve relations with Khartoum.

So what needs to happen?

First: give the UN the equipment is so desperately needs. According to Lute there are 4,000 helicopters currently in NATO countries. This mission requires 24.

Second: according to Ken Bacon, the President of Refugees International, the international community needs to pressure both the government of Sudan and the fractious rebel groups to get to the peace table.

The U.S. and its European and Middle Eastern allies should impose strict travel sanction on Sudanese government and rebel leaders until they reach a peace agreement. In addition, arms embargos on both the government and rebel groups should be closely enforced.

Third: keep up the pressure on China. Although recent events in Tibet have over-shadowed Darfur in terms of Beijing's human rights record, the issue remains the same. China is the top arms supplier to Sudan and a major investor in Africa's largest country, particularly in its oil industry. It has tremendous influence on Khartoum’s decisions. While not calling for a boycott or the Olympics, on Wednesday Dream for Darfur released report cards of the top Olympic sponsors and said 16 out of 19 top Olympic sponsors it had contacted had failed to speak out against the genocide out of fear of offending China. It said it would target corporate headquarters for protests, starting with Coca-Cola.

All three presidential candidates say that President Bush should skip the opening ceremonies if China does not improve its human rights record in Tibet and Darfur. Thus far the leaders of Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Poland, Estonia and the Czech Republic have said they will not attend the opening ceremonies.

Senator Barack Obama, D-Presidential Candidate: "If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the president should boycott the opening ceremonies.”

Senator Hillary Clinton, D-Presidential Candidate: “At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government."

Senator John McCain, R-Presidential Candidate: "Unless they change something pretty quickly, I would not go to the opening ceremonies.”

However, President Bush says he will attend the Games.

"I don't view the Olympics as a political event. I view it as a sporting event," he said.


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It appears that Bush wants to have have democracy promotion as long as it benefits his cooperate sponsers as in the Middle East. But Bush allows China to do what it wants in Tibet , because if he boycotted the games that would make all the Amrican companies, whose factories are in China, upset that he disrepecting their source of cheap labor. I beliveve that those in the foreign policy establishment got us into this Olympic mess by telling the IOC that China is somehow a normal westernized power even though it has committed human rights abuses against its own people and supports the Sudenese government.

Under the circumstances, this is a remarkably even-handed treatment of the subject.

The circumstances are that genocide in Darfur was something the government of Sudan wanted to happen, and humanitarian intervention to prevent a larger region from sliding further into catastrophe is something the government of Sudan does not want to happen. Governments of countries in Africa lack the capacity for an effective relief presence, and governments of countries outside Africa are unwilling to push things to the point at which the Khartoum regime would have to choose to let them into Darfur or fight to keep them out.

China's policy in Sudan, and across Africa generally, is not admirable, but quarrels over affairs in Africa are not the grounds on which the United States needs to engage the Chinese. In any event, China would risk little on behalf of one Arab government standing by itself. The fact is, as it has been for years, that the government in Khartoum does not stand by itself. It has the full support of all other Arab governments, as well it might, having upheld Arab dignity in the way other Arabs are most likely to approve -- by having its non-Arab enemies slaughtered and subjugated.

The best information out of the region suggests that a substantial worsening of the displaced Darfuris' plight is a strong possibility in the coming months. Efforts of the international community appear to me likely to center, quite rightly, on providing short-term relief to that part of the displaced population it can reach, in eastern Chad. With the governments and non-governmental organizations concerned about Darfur evidently determined to regard what has been called "genocide by attrition" there more as a product of Chinese foreign policy than as the authentic reflection of Arab political culture it has always been, the general public can relax its concentration on the politics of the Darfur issue. Nothing will be done about them. Next year at this time, all other things being equal, we'll be right where we are now, wringing our hands and saying "never again" about something that has already happened.

What's most egregious about Bush's Darfur policy is the rank hypocrisy with which he chides the UN for its inaction. As I argue at UN Dispatch here (, Bush is consistently setting up a false dichotomy: U.S. unilateral invention, which he supposedly came to the tough decision to eschew, versus UN inaction. The problem, of course, is that the first was never on the table, and the second is largely a product of the U.S.'s own insufficient investment in pressuring Sudan. Yet Bush is getting away with scapegoating the UN, even as his administration does not back up its rhetorical concern with concrete action and funding.

There is a long history of anti-Chinese racism in the U.S. and here it surfaces again. The US has created human rights tragedies for millions of people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, to name three countries, so it has no business criticizing China for putting down an internal revolt. Did China aid the North vs. the South in the US civil war? Would the US brook any interference in its own sovereignty, ever?

Accept it, folks, China is a reality. It will never be "a normal westernized power" nor should it be. It is what it is, a five thousand year old country with ancient traditions, new economic power and internal problems, hardly unique in these respects.

To Don Bacon

Tibet only part a full part of China in 1949 when it was taken over by the PLA. Since have liberals and progressives have defended the harsh repression of the Tibetan people, whose culture is vastly differents from the Chinese. But the Chinese not only crack down on the Tibetans thay also imprison and torture Chinese dissidents. I really don not get the fact that some progressives are willing to condone the horrible enviromental record of the Chinese or their bad labor practices. China is way more backwards than other countries in Asia such Japan, South Korea, and even India, who has high tech industry and also a democracy. If there is going to be an "Asian," century, it will be dominated by these three countries and not China.

The posts here are no scientific sample, but do suggest how and why Darfur easily slips off the radar screen. If the situation there is cannot be immediately related to American domestic politics, many Americans lose interest; if another foreign crisis, especially one with a colorful and sympathetic figure at its center, like the Dalai Lama, happens to pop into the news, many other Americans lose interest.

As the Sudanese government well understands, limiting access to media able to take pictures in Darfur is well more than half the battle, as far as ensuring fitful. intermittent attention to the situation in America and Europe are concerned.

The history of Tibet is much more complicated than you indicate, involving the Mongols, Ghurkas, British and Ch'ing Dynasty. In any case there was a Tibetan-Chinese agreement in 1951 that formally put Tibet under Chinese control. My National Geographic globe and the CIA Factbook both have Tibet as a part of China; that's good enough for me. By the way, the Dalai Lama is not claiming or seeking Tibet independence but autonomy.

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