The Hue and Cry Over Darfur:
Imperialists Attempt to Extend War and Occupation to Africa
By Thomas Davies
A slightly critical mind should be forgiven for exploring a definite “déjà vu” when confronted with the current onslaught of media coverage and government statements regarding the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region. Who wouldn’t? Headlines and UN resolutions scream of a ruthless regime, the complete humanitarian catastrophe of civil strife, and the apparently obvious need for tens of thousands of foreign troops and sanctions to solve it all. The similarities between the pre-invasion propaganda for the invasions and occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti are endless. There are very good reasons to be critical of the hype and intentions surrounding imperialism’s new favorite catastrophe – starting only with the last five years.
The Era of War & Occupation
We live in an era characterized by wars and occupations waged by profit-driven imperialist countries like the United States, England, Canada and France against the third world. They’re competing with each other for land, resources, and strategic areas with which to gain more land and more resources.
Starting in 2001, the US, Canada, and NATO carpet bombed Afghanistan, apparently to rid the world of terrorism, bring freedom to women, and “reconstruction” for all. Five years later and the life expectancy in Afghanistan has dropped 4 years to 42 years of age, the literacy rate of women remains at a pitiful 9%, and you’d be hard pressed to find even a photo of any of the great humanitarian projects promised anywhere.
Iraq is a similar success story. Since the 2003 US/UK invasion, 655,000 Iraqis have been killed according to the Lancet Medical Journal, child malnutrition is up from 4% in 2002 to 25% in 2006, and inflation is soaring at 32%.
Move on to Haiti where, after at US, France and Canada invaded in 2004, the United Nations took over the occupation of the poorest country in the Caribbean and the forced removal of its first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The UN forces have been consistently reported as training and participating in death squads targeting Haiti’s poorest slums, and continue to target opposition political organizers. Is 80% unemployment and the new Canadian sweat-shops there a success story for the Haitian people?
So why would we then expect these self-named benevolent invaders to improve even one aspect of the lives of ordinary Sudanese people?
It would be ridiculous to deny that there exists an incredibly grave situation in Darfur. Since 2003 there has been increased fighting between the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) against the Sudanese government. The African News Agency claims the US has, “through its closest allies helped trained the SLA and JEM Darfuri rebels”, while links between the Janjaweed militias that are responsible for horrific atrocities and the Sudanese government are not hard to find.
However, Sudan is unfortunately not the only country in the world, and certainly not in Africa, to deal with internal conflict and strife. The Washington Post reported last year that 3.5 million people were killed in the last four years in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and more than 1.4 million Somalis are suffering today in one of the worst famines to hit that region. It’s only the tip of the iceberg, and if the imperialists were so concerned about genocide, you’d think they would have stopped their own in Iraq and Afghanistan by now.
Where is their urgent concern about the AIDS pandemic in Africa? According to UNAIDS, Africa had 2.4 million (out of 3.1 million worldwide) AIDS deaths in 2005, with 25.8 million people living with HIV. This didn’t pop up overnight; it’s been well established. These imperialist governments and their allies have kept the drugs and resources necessary to save lives and minimize infections out of reach of millions of dying Africans, and now we are supposed to trust them in Sudan?
There are currently 7,000 African Union troops stationed under a “peacekeeping” banner in Darfur. They have extended their mission by six months with some sort of UN participation. The UN’s role is hotly contested by the Sudanese government.
The UN Security Council passed resolution 1706 in April of this year, calling for a 20,000-troop UN force to take over the operations in Darfur. In theory, the motion does need Sudanese ratification to be initiated. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan took it upon himself to announce Sudanese acceptance, but was quickly rebutted by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who said, "It is clear that any forces coming to Sudan under resolution 1706 are colonizing forces."
The Security Council is trying to force al-Bashir to accept the UN forces by backing him into a corner with their current propaganda and isolation campaign. This is their best shot to legitimize their invasion and smother opposition. Why else would they be pushing so hard through the UN and for Sudanese acceptance when it is clear internal support is not something they ever cared about in the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, or Haiti?
The Growing Campaign
Tony Blair has already said that Britain would send 5,000 troops to Darfur, and the European Union has issued joint statements alongside the US to condemn the Sudanese government. Canada supports UN Resolution 1706 and has, according to the Canadian government’s website, “played an important advocacy role with [Security] Council members, including the development of a targeted sanction regime”. Canada also admits to already engaging a multi-pronged intervention force in Sudan through other missions, involving Foreign Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, the Canadian International Development Agency, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The word “genocide” is constantly splashed across TV screens and used liberally by all of these imperialist governments and huge numbers of NGOs in reference to Darfur. This is despite the fact that last June, a UN commission determined that what has been taking place in Darfur, however awful, does not constitute a genocidal policy by the Sudanese government.
Well-funded rallies took place across North America this April calling for an “End to Genocide!” and for foreign intervention in Darfur. Organizers in Washington D.C. were even granted a personal appointment with George W. Bush prior to the rally, where he declared that, "Those of you who are going out to march for justice, you represent the best of our country." Sound suspicious?
Why was it that major news media gave the “Save Darfur” rallies more prominence than either the anti-war rally of 300,000 in New York City the day before, or the millions of people demonstrating across the U.S. for immigrant rights the day after?
The Bridge to Africa
To understand this current campaign we need to understand that imperialists see that Darfur is to Africa what Afghanistan was to the Middle East – a resource rich and vulnerable opening to the rest of the continent.
Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is believed to have oil reserves rivalling those of Saudi Arabia, and large deposits of natural gas. In addition, it has one of the three largest deposits of high-purity uranium in the world, along with the fourth-largest deposits of copper. It’s obvious these resources are coveted by Western powers, especially since China is currently Sudan’s largest trading partner and has significant control over oil resources there. China abstained along with Russia and Qatar on the Security Council resolution 1706, and obviously understands the motion’s intent as well.
Sudan also borders nine other African countries (Afghanistan borders six in the Middle East) and has access to the Red Sea and the Middle East beyond it, unlike many land-locked African countries. Conquering Sudan would mean the best head start for any foreign power wishing to expand across Africa. If we see that they are interested in doing this in the Middle East, why would it be any different in Africa?
But What Next?
“You don’t send in killers to stop the killing”
- Dennis Brutus, anti-Apartheid activist formerly imprisoned with Nelson Mandela, when asked about the proposed foreign intervention in Sudan
Having all the facts laid before them regarding foreign intentions for the invasion of Sudan, many still support the invasion, invoking some unsubstantiated hope that “things will be different this time”. Sudan is a country with huge civil unrest, an obvious target for imperialist intervention. Supporting the invasion of Sudan would be the same as declaring that when a pack of lions chases after the sickest or the slowest antelope that they are really planning on helping it across the savannah. It defies sanity.
But wouldn’t a United Nations mandate make everything “okay” somehow? Look at the history: The 1990 UN resolution used to justify bombing attacks that destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure. The 13 years of UN sanctions on Iraq that resulted in the deaths of more than 1.5 million Iraqis. The US occupation of South Korea for more than 50 years under a UN Security Council resolution, and the more than 4 million Koreans who died in the 1950-53 Korean War, which was fought under a UN flag. The UN ripped apart Palestine to create Israel in 1948, and has shown itself to be completely complicit in creation of the largest refugee crisis in the world. Over 6 million Palestinians are refugees thanks to a UN mandate. Now they will solve Darfur’s refugee’s problems?
Most importantly though: Do we think that Sudanese people are completely ignorant to of all of these international manoeuvrings? That they don’t understand their own resources, or their country’s position? That they’ve been walking around with their eyes and ears closed to all of these invasions and occupations the entire time? Sudanese people are aware of what these foreign forces desire, and have staged consistent demonstrations against foreign intervention in their internal affairs.
Do we also see the Sudanese people as completely helpless? We must remember that these are the people who not so long ago overthrew British imperialism and became an independent country in 1956, overcoming Britain’s attempt to essentially divide them into two separate North and South colonies. In 1985, they also staged a general strike in the capital of Khartoum which paralyzed the country and brought an end to the US sponsored dictatorship of Colonel Jaafar Nimeiri. They are not foreign to fighting for their rights.
Sudan is an independent and sovereign nation, and its internal issues are the property of the capable hands of its residents. People around the world must trust in the people of Sudan and undertake the vital and important task of exposing these pro-invasion campaigns for what they are: an extension of war and occupation to Africa. If our concern is really that of humanity, we will undertake to fight alongside oppressed people from Kabul to Khartoum against what is obviously the largest “humanitarian disaster” we face today: imperialist war
Imperialists Hands Off Sudan!
Imperialists Hands Off Darfur!
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