US Targetting Sudan for War & Occupation
By Thomas Davies
On January 2nd, 2007, Ban Ki-Moon stepped to the microphone to give his first statements as the new Secretary General of the United Nations. With his first words he laid his priorities on the table, and at the same time laid to rest any remaining doubts that a forceful intervention in Sudan’s Darfur region will not happen soon. He stated:
"I start my duties at a daunting time in international affairs, starting from Darfur to the Middle East, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and many other crises that trouble our world.”
Not just including, but starting from Darfur. To be clear, competition between countries like the United States, France, and Canada for Sudan is certainly not just starting in 2007. Being a strategic position as an entry point to Africa and a link to the Middle East, Sudan, with its vast resources, has been the site of increasing confrontation and competition between these countries. What is emerging is a new phase of heightened competition and fighting, which will mirror what we’ve seen in the Middle East since 2001.
Their justification for intervention is always the current internal conflict and fighting occurring in Darfur between the Sudanese government and rebel groups. US support of these rebel groups is common knowledge within the African press. In 2006 George W. Bush even said publicly he had met with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to push “that there needs to be unity among the rebel groups.” This is never mentioned by the “Save Darfur” campaigns.
Another overlooked fact is that the situation began with a drought that lasted more than a decade across Northern Africa. The struggle for scarce water supplies has pitted subsistence farmers against subsistence nomadic herders. This is an environmental fact. The origin, contrary to so many news reports, is not an evil “Arab” government targeting the “African” population of Darfur.
Trying to impose these false divisions on a native population is common method used by colonizers around the world. From 1924 until they were forced out in 1956, the British attempted to divide Sudan into two essentially separate colonies, the south and the north.
The UN’s current proposal for Darfur is an invasion force of 17,300 troops and 3,300 police officers. Since the UN Security Council passed the resolution 1706 in April of 2006 they have been attempting to isolate and pressure the Sudanese government to accept the forces. The US even delivered an ultimatum for the Sudanese government, stating that, "On January 1st, either we see a change or we go to Plan B."
Andrew Natsios, the US special envoy to Sudan who made the statements, refused to specify what “Plan B” is, but given Condoleezza Rice’s earlier comments that Sudan faces "a choice between cooperation and confrontation", it’s clear where they are headed.
January 1st has come and gone, but the threat of a “confrontation” against Sudan has not. Mr. “Plan B” Natsios, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, and Ban-Ki Moon’s special envoy to Sudan Jan Eliasson have all made very publicized trips to Sudan in this New Year. They have all also made announcements of “ceasefires” and agreements, stating that they have even been able to pressure the Sudanese government into accepting a “hybrid” force in Darfur. Reports say that the government will allow UN technical support personal and goods to join the 7,700 strong African Union troops currently in the region. The rest is all speculation.
While we will never know what is being said behind closed doors, we can be sure that the recent US-supported Ethiopian invasion of nearby Somalia must have been pointed out to the Sudanese government. That Ethiopia also happens to border Sudan, and that the US warplanes that attacked Somalia could also attack Sudan could have very easily been a “friendly reminder” given to the Sudanese government at the same time.
With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?
While the US and United Nations are happy to push the crisis Sudan and Darfur in the over airwaves and across newspapers, there is one news story they would rather bury.
An internal UNICEF report has surfaced containing interviews with 20 children, documenting cases of rape and sexual abuse by UN forces stationed in Southern Sudan. The UN has more than 10,000 police, peacekeepers and staffers from over 70 countries in the region.
The United Nations and its “peacekeepers” are no strangers to sexual assault and degradation in the countries they operate in. The assistant secretary-general for UN peacekeeping operations, Jane Holl Lute, was forced to admit that, "My operating presumption that this is either an ongoing or potential problem in every single one of our missions."
In 2006, the BBC reported systematic abuse in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, involving food being given out by UN peacekeepers to children in return for sex. In 2005, two United Nations peacekeepers in Burundi were sacked after having sex with prostitutes and minors. In Haiti, BBC also uncovered sex crimes against children as young as eleven, with chilling direct testimonies:
"When I found her I didn't recognize my own child. She had the face of a dead person - I started to cry out, she couldn't tell me what had happened."
- Mother of a 16 year old Haitian girl raped by a UN peacekeeper
Almost half of the complaints against peacekeeping troops involved sex with a minor and 15% involved rape or sexual assault.
Peacekeepers have immunity from the domestic laws of the country they are in, and the UN admits that in cannot discipline at least 80% of the troops either. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, was also forced to admit in 2005 that, "Although allegations have doubled since 2003, the Secretariat is aware that the data may still not reflect the true extent of these deplorable incidents."
Great! Let’s send over more than 20,000 more of them to Sudan where they are already abusing and raping the population! Let’s “Save Darfur” that way!
Amidst all the international maneuvers around Sudan, the Chief of the Sudanese Bank announced that the Sudanese economy would grow by at least 10 percent in 2007. Its average growth rate over the past 10 years has been 7 percent in real terms. Sudan also now produces 330,000 barrels a day of oil. It has also begun implementing a new currency in the entire country, replacing the old Dinar with the Sudanese pound in a move to speed up the national economy. Could the growing economy in Sudan have anything to do with a growing interest by outside forces in the country?
As reported in the last issue of Fire This Time, Sudan 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. Those national resources still exist, are still owned in the majority by Chinese institutions and French corporations, and are still hugely sought after.
As the pro-intervention campaign pushed by large profit driven countries marches on, other organizations and individuals attempt to justify it on a “humanitarian” basis. They plead that foreign military intervention “will be different this time.”
Unfortunately, every single indicator that the only way it would be different this time is that it would be worse. The Lancet Medical Journal reported that the number of Iraqis dying under U.S. occupation has risen every year since March 2003 to 655,000. The invasion of Afghanistan that was to bring freedom and equality to women has resulted in a report by the UN stating that hospitals in Kabul treated 3 times more cases of self immolation – women burning themselves – than in 2002.
We don’t even have to dig very deep for another reminder of foreign intervention in Sudan itself. Many Sudanese have died of completely preventable diseases as a result of a US cruise missile attack on August 20th, 1998.It destroyed the El Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum. This plant, which had produced cheap medications for treating malaria and tuberculosis, provided 60 percent of the available medicine in Sudan.
It’s the Same Thing
However you want to justify, ignore, or plead it, this impending foreign intervention is to be completely controlled by the same powers which have desecrated and dehumanized people across the world. Look no further than the state of the world since September 11, 2001. Look no further than UN abuses in Sudan itself! The question of supporting or opposing foreign intervention in Sudan really is the measure for how much we’ve learned since 2001.
Imperialists didn’t stop their campaign in the Middle East after invading Afghanistan, and they certainly won’t stop their campaign in Africa after invading Sudan.
No one is denying very real problems in the Darfur region. We do, however, point to the ever-growing evidence of suffering misery and humiliation as a result of imperialist intervention, whether named “peacekeeping” or not. Foreign invasion and occupation will never be a solution for anyone in Sudan or elsewhere. If anyone’s interest is solving humanity’s problems, they should look no further than opposing these invasions and occupations alongside millions of people in Sudan and around the world.
US/UN HANDS OF SUDAN!
Thomas Davies is a young journalist and social justice activist in Vancouver. He is also an organizer with the Free the Cuban 5 Committee - Vancouver and a member of the United Association of Plumbing and Piping Trades Workers Local 170.
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