Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sudanese make their move
It's dangerous times in Darfur at the moment, as Khartoum tries to keep the UN forces out of Sudan. With conflicting headlines that bring a homogeneous message, the Mail & Guardian reports that Khartoum will accept the AU force's presence in lieu of a UN force, whilst the UK's Independent reports that Khartoum has ordered the AU out of Darfur to be replaced by its own 10 000 strong army force.

Either one of these endgames is bad news for the long-suffering people of Darfur. The AU has proved itself to be a pretty useless force for keeping any real peace in the area, and the militias have been able to continue tormenting Darfur. A Sudanese military force would be even worse, as these soldiers have largely been those inflicting supportive oppression with the militias.

The UN force needs to be sent in, but it has been rejected by the Sudanese government, as well as with tacit rejection of a number of international players. Three countries abstained on the recent UN resolution - China, Russia and Qatar. The Independent reports:
The abstentions indicated the types of support Sudan can rely on. Qatar, the only Arab nation currently sitting on the UN Security Council, did not wish to be seen supporting an international force entering another Arab country. The Arab League asked the UN to postpone the vote and refused to send their observers to the Security Council session.

For Russia and China, the motives are economic. Both have close economic ties with al-Bashir's regime, in particular China which has big oil interests in the country. There is another crucial pillar of support which Khartoum can lean on. Osama bin Laden has backed al-Bashir's decision to refuse a UN presence in Darfur, and al-Bashir has in turn borrowed rhetoric from al-Qa'ida's leader, likening any UN force to "western colonisation".

This presents a really tough situation for a world trying to prevent genocidal acts. Without a UN force, there are few countries willing to intervene. Any singular military force will be seen as an imperialist attack on an Arab state, which in the current global climate can do serious harm. And if a "regime change" operation would occur, what would replace it in Sudan? It would be easy to see Sudan descend into a modern-day Somalia very quickly. Without easy solutions, it seems like the Darfurians will be facing further oppression for a while to come.