Eye on Africa: Elusive Peace in Sudan

Posted in Africa | 18-Mar-05 | Author: Mvemba Dizolele

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar 14, 2005 (UPI) -- "Out of our memory ... of the Holocaust, we must forge an unshakable oath with all civilized people that never again will the world stand silent, never again will the world ... fail to act in time to prevent this terrible crime of genocide."

I read those words on the wall of the United States Holocaust Museum a few months ago as I waited in line for my turn to be cleared at the security desk. I had come for a panel discussion on Sudan and to hear Samantha Powers and other pundits of mass killing talk about Darfur. Never again.

President Jimmy Carter uttered those powerful words in 1979. As he voiced his indignation, the "civilized" people passively watched as Pol Pot killed as many as 2 million of his fellow Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge purification campaign.

Never again. Those words sounded hollow as they ricocheted against the sturdy memorial walls of the museum. Never again. Bosnia, Serbia, Chechnya, Rwanda and Congo. Never again? Think again. As I quietly read those words, they screeched like graffiti on a mausoleum.

"We must harness the outrage of our own memories to stamp out oppression wherever it exists," the quote continued. "We must understand that human rights and human dignity are indivisible."

In the context of Sudan, Carter's words were empty, and resonated like obscenities. Never again. No political leader worth his morals should ever repeat those words. Slogans have yet to stop mass killings anywhere. We need action.

As happened many times before, the "civilized" world is failing in Sudan.

Sudan's troubles lie in the determination of the government in Khartoum to marginalize the rest of the country. The Arabs, who have controlled the government for most of the country's post-independence history, have promoted discriminatory policies that deny their countrymen access to wealth, education, and power. They have effectively reduced their fellow Sudanese to second- and third-class citizenship.

Ethnicity and religion fuel the conflict. However, the sad irony of the Sudanese self-identity crisis is that both Arabs and Africans are black, often with little phenotypic difference.

The discrimination has created zones of conflict in Beja (east), Nuba Mountains (north), Darfur (west) and the southern area as the disenfranchised fight for their rights as full citizens.

For over 21 years, the government of Sudan has waged a war against Sudanese Christians in the south, a struggle that has claimed more than 2.2 million lives. In Darfur, the same government has engaged in ethnic cleansing of native African groups in an effort to further deny them access to resources.

In addition, the Sudanese armed forces have provided logistical and air support to the Jinjaweed. The Jinjaweed, which means evil on horseback, are Arab militiamen who have killed thousands of Sudanese, raping women, and burning and looting villages and towns.

Half a million Darfurians have fled into neighboring Chad, and 2 million others are internally displaced. As for the dead, their number remains elusive, estimated between 70,000 and 300,000, depending on the source. The killing continues.

Under pressure from the Christian Coalition, the United States government brokered a peace accord between the Christian Sudanese People Liberation Movement and the Khartoum government in January in Nairobi, Kenya.

"What the accord does, essentially, is share power in a federal system for the first time in Sudan in which wealth as well as power is deliberately subdivided," said Charles Snyder, U.S. Senior Representative on Sudan. "The deal is that the south will get 50 percent of the oil revenues in addition to 50 percent of the general governmental revenues."

Among other arrangements, the south will get 30 percent of the seats in the national legislature. In six years, the south will hold a referendum to decide whether to secede or remain part of Sudan.

"We are hopeful that this historic peace agreement may be the nugget of the solution in Darfur," Snyder explained.

Stefanie Frease, director of programs at the Coalition for International Justice, disagreed. "My impression is, and this is borne out by the facts, that Sudan does not behave in good faith with regards to the implementation phase of the south agreement," she said. "Deadlines are slipping. A few days ago, pro-government militias were still attacking the Sudanese People Liberation Army positions."

The international community must send a clear message to the government of Sudan that it must stop its aggressive actions now.

Frease continued: "I think you have to take a stand and try to anchor Darfur first, and from there secure the peace in the south. The idea that you can go from a rather tenuous peace in the south to having a solution in Darfur, when Darfur is still burning, is a difficult argument to accept."

Every weak United Nations resolution on Darfur emboldens the government of Sudan to continue the atrocities. Some members of the Security Council, like China, resist strong condemnation of Sudan in order to protect their economic interests. China has $15 billion worth of oil business investment in Sudan. Both China and Russia provide arms to the Sudanese government.

The crisis in Sudan requires a stronger commitment from the so-called civilized world to defend the U.N. Charter and hold the Sudanese government to its obligations.

The United Nations must establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur to protect vulnerable civilians from the Sudanese Air Force. The Security Council must initiate a series of credible sanctions targeted directly at the Sudanese leadership to ensure accountability through a referral to the International Criminal Court and provide enforceable mechanisms to protect the people of Darfur.

As the only Western power that has unambiguously recognized the genocide in Sudan, the United States must exert greater pressure on the Security Council to implement these measures.

Bold and effective U.N. resolutions will increase pressure on Khartoum to honor its obligations and bring Darfur and the rest of the country closer to a solution.

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