Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sudan and Darfur - time to act

The shame of Nations!

Why aren’t we all making more noise and pushing our governments and the UN to act decisively? Where are the demonstrations on behalf of the innocent children? Where has the Middle East type/level of coverage in the media been, are they asleep? Why aren’t the press more aggressively asking hard questions on the lack of humanity being shown by those in our governments that have the power to act?

The Economist reports Sept 9th

“Resoundingly silent about the fighting in Darfur, the Arab League presumably considers mass murder committed by fellow Arabs to be outside its moral remit. China is a glutton for Sudan’s oil and along with Malaysia and India, is eagerly developing the countries oil industry. Russia has a flourishing arms trade with Sudan. Both China and Russia say “in principle” they support the sending of UN peacekeepers to Darfur, yet both abstained from voting for last week’s UN resolution for fear of offending [the Trog as***le] Mr al-Bashir”. (1)

No wonder the infamous and much disliked “West” has to intervene in the world so often. When will the Arab League become something more that an embarrassing joke? When will the Arabs do something about their own (anti-world) problems and act as adults rather than immature narrow minded spoilt little rich kids. When will China’s communist party wake up to the fact that if you want to benefit from participation in the world community it comes with some heavy responsibility? Russian leadership, what can you say, with their attitude one could be forgiven in thinking that they just may still be a corrupt and immature scourge on the world? Malaysia and India one would and should expect a more responsible attitude to the world’s citizens, particularly from India a country seeking special exemptions and deals on Nuclear energy.

Quick History of Sudan

During the ancient period, the area that today is northern Sudan was known as Nubia. The ancestors of the Kemites (ancient Egyptians) are thought to have originally lived in Nubia well before the time of the First dynasty of Egypt (3100-2890 BC). The later Kushite (or Cushite) culture is also said to greatly influenced Ancient Egypt. The area of the Nile valley that lies within present day Sudan was home to three Kushite kingdoms: the first with its capital at Kerma (2400 – 1500 BCE), another that centred on Napata (1000 – 300 BCE) and, finally, that of Meroë (Meroitic) (300 BCE – 300 CE). (2&3)

The Meroitic Empire disappeared by the fourth century AD. By the sixth century a group of three Christian states had arisen in Nubia. The northernmost of these was Nobatia, south of the First Cataract of the Nile. Makuria was situated at Old Dongola, and the kingdom of Alodia was around Soba on the Blue Nile. Nobatia eventually merged into Makuria leaving two kingdoms. (2)

Islam came to Egypt in the 640s and pressed southward; around 651 the governor of Egypt raided as far south as Dongola. The Egyptians met with stiff resistance and found little wealth worth capturing. They thus ceased their offensive and a treaty known as the “baqt” was signed between the Arabs and Makuria. This treaty held for some seven hundred years. The area between the Nile and the Red Sea was a source of gold and emeralds and Arab miners gradually moved in. Despite the baqt northern Sudan became steadily Islamicized and Arabized; Makuria collapsed in the fourteenth century with Alodia disappearing somewhat later. Far less is known about the history of southern Sudan. It seems as though it was home to a variety of semi-nomadic tribes. In the 16th century one of these tribes, known as the Funj, moved north and united Nubia forming the Kingdom of Sennar. The Funj sultans quickly converted to Islam and that religion steadily became more entrenched. At the same time, the Darfur Sultanate arose in the west. Between them, the Taqali established a state in the Nuba Hills. (1)


Darfur covers an area of some 493,180 km² (196,555 miles²), about three-quarters the size of Texas, or slightly smaller than France. It is largely an arid plateau with the Marrah Mountains (Jebel Marra), a range of volcanic peaks rising up to 3,000 m (10,100 ft), in the centre of the region. (3) Darfur is roughly in the central west of Sudan and borders Libya to the northwest, Chad in the west and the Central African Republic to the southwest.

Darfur has an estimated population of 7.4 million people and its economy is primarily based on subsistence agriculture. The main ethnic groups are the Fur (after whom the region is named), speaking a Nilo-Saharan language and the Arab Baggara. Others include the non-Arab Zaghawa, Masalit, and Midob. Many of these ethnic groups also have significant populations in neighboring Chad, particularly the Zaghawa and Baggara. Relations between Arab and non-Arab inhabitants have been tense during much of Darfur's history. It was a centre of slave trade when the Fur kingdom exported Africans from other parts of Sudan as slaves to the Arab world. Local Arab and non-Arab inhabitants have differing economic needs: the non-Arab peoples are primarily sedentary farmers, while the local Arabs are primarily nomadic herdsmen; this brought them into conflict over access to land and water. (4)

Conflict timeline

February 2003 - Two rebel groups rise up, saying government neglects the region and arms Arab militia against civilians. April 2, 2004 -Jan Egeland, UN aid chief, says "scorched-earth tactics" trigger "one of the world's worst humanitarian crises". April 8 - Government, SLA and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels agree 45-day ceasefire. May 7 2004 - UN human rights report says Sudanese troops and [Arab] militia [Janjaweed] may be guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. May 28 2004 - Government, rebels agree to African, EU ceasefire monitors. June 19 2004 – Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, orders "complete mobilisation" to disarm all armed groups in Darfur. October 15 2005 - The UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) says that a total of 70,000 are estimated to have died in the region. October 30 2004 – Lightly equipped Rwandan troops arrive in the Darfur region to join Nigerian soldiers monitoring a shaky cease-fire. November 9 2004 - Sudan signs two landmark peace deals with rebels for a ban on military flights over Darfur and covering security and humanitarian access to Darfur. March 16, 2005 - The UN withdraws all international staff in areas of western Sudan after Arab militias said they would target foreigners and UN convoys. March 31 2004 - The US abstains as the UN vote to refer war crimes suspects in Darfur to the International Criminal Court. The ICC launches its formal investigations in June. March 10, 2006 - The African Union extends its mission in Darfur until September 30 to buy time to break an impasse over the transfer of peacekeeping duties in Darfur to UN forces. (5) September 2006 president Omar al-Bashir appears to be preparing for full-scale war. As he tells the African Union to take its 7000 peacekeepers home, it appears approximately 10,000 Sudanese troops are massing for a major military campaign.

The current situation

U.N. officials (World Food Program) have spoken of a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur if the violence does not stop. More than 350,000 Darfuris have been cut off from food aid for three months because of intensified fighting since another peace deal was signed in May. Khartoum has rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last month to deploy more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops and police in Sudan's remote west. In three and a half years of fighting tens of thousands have been killed with estimates up to 300,000 so far and 2.5 million forced from their homes. (6) Accounts of beatings, rapes and other abuses of women and children are chilling.

It’s time to act - NOW


“The Economist” Sept 9th 2006 Leaders page 11 (1)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sudan (2)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kushite (3)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darfur (4)
4095-8C30-757A719292F7.htm (5)
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N11228199.htm (6)

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