With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?
Imperialists Push for “Humanitarian Invasion” of Sudan at Paris Conference
By Thomas Davies
On June 25th, a conference called by France's new President Nicolas Sarkozy and his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, brought together the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations as well as an assortment of other countries. The pretext? Solving the volatile and dangerous situation in Sudan’s Western Darfur region. Noticeably absent from the conference was the Sudanese government itself, which was not welcome to the discussions on what they planned to inflict within its borders. So the long saga continues, with the so-called friends of the Sudanese people gathering at high tables to cry crocodile tears over catastrophes and plan invasions. These dozens of “peace” conferences have been happening for years, with divisions between their imperialist attendees and continued opposition to invasion by the Sudanese stalling plan after plan for invasion.
Business as Usual
Ahead of the hastily called conference, Sarkozy and United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met behind closed doors. Sarkozy's spokesman, David Martinon, was vague in saying the two discussed 'high-priority issues,' such as Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iran and Darfur. Rice was surprisingly tight-lipped about the meetings, making no official comments. The US, which has been the major backer for a foreign invasion of Sudan, could likely have received a “friendly reminder” from the French government that if they wish for an international force in Sudan, that they had better be willing to share in the spoils of the oil and resource rich nation.
The France Total company is currently in a bitter dispute with British company White Nile over oil rights in the lucrative “Block B” in Southern Sudan, while there continues to be fierce competition between the US and France over new oil and mineral drilling rights in Sudan and neighbouring Chad.
So what did the June 25th conference with all the important representatives of the G8, Arab League, United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) accomplish? There were the usual promises of millions of dollars for pending missions, with the EU pledging to spend $42Million in addition to its current commitments in Darfur, and France offering to contribute $13.5Million to help finance any peacekeeping force. No conference would be complete with the usual quotes by Condoleeza Rice about being “firm,” that we must “redouble our efforts”, and that, "The international community simply cannot continue to sit by."
All in all, the conference was business as usual, with countries jockeying for position and still no signs of concrete measures they have been desperately trying to impose.
The conference came on the heels of a June 12th deal reached between the Sudanese government, the UN and the African Union (AU) on a hybrid military operation. The US and UN had been trying to force 23,000 troops into Sudan to replace the 7,000 AU troops currently stationed in Darfur, and have met with stiff resistance from the Sudanese government. Like the dozens of conferences, this is not the first time an agreement has been announced. Despite the agreement, the AU still decided to extend its mission in Darfur until December 31st, and the UN has already announced “delays” and “difficulties” in meeting the logistics of the first part of the plan. The Sudanese government has said October would be the earliest the troops would set foot in Sudan, while a senior UN official was more optimistic in his assessment of at least 6 months.
Continued Growth in Sudan, Worries West
President George W. Bush has increased US sanctions against Sudan, barring 31 companies, including oil exporters from trade and financial dealings with the US. The newly sanctioned companies join 132 other Sudanese firms already banned from doing business with any US company or bank. Despite this, and to the intense concern of countries like the US, UK, and France - China continues to do booming business with Sudan.
US and many Western companies fled their oil interests in the mid 1980’s and 1990’s during a time of high civil strife in Sudan. China was happy to move in. Sudan’s oil production due to stability and Chinese technological assistance now averages 536,000 barrels a day, according to estimates by the Paris-based International Energy Agency, and 64% is imported by China.
Chinese investments in Sudan’s oil sector now exceed $6Billion US, recently announced Prof. Ahmed Magzoub, the Sudanese Minister of State for Finance and National Economy. The Sudanese government has continually praised China’s role in development and infrastructure projects within the country. Chinese direct non-petroleum investments in the industrial and agricultural fields and in economic services amounted to another $300Million US, with 50 existing and new projects with Chinese investment.
The US and its “Save Darfur” campaign allies have been spending more and more time denouncing the Chinese government for continuing to have business relations with a government they accuse of mass murder. Their hypocrisy is thicker than blood or oil. Iraq has seen itself almost completely privatized under US occupation, and the agreements between the US government and the Iraqi government it imposes with over 150,000 troops are more like agreements between the US’ right hand and its left. The relationship between the government of China and the government of Sudan remain those of two sovereign countries, which respect each other’s sovereignty. Would the US be happier if China just went ahead and invaded Sudan like US did in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti?
Has anyone seen any articles in the New York Times about the women’s conference taking place at the Juba University in Sudan? It’s called “Participation and Empowerment” and is an attempt to increase women’s role in the political life of the country. Did you see anything on CNN about the strike in May at the University of Kharthoum? They were protesting the administration’s dismissal of several of "the youngest, most giving, and most qualified” professors. Was there any CBC coverage about one of Sudan’s most popular bands “Iged Al Jalad” most recent benefit concert for the homeless in Kharthoum? In a country supposedly as “divided” as Sudan, the band contains members from all over Sudan and reflects it musically as well.
The point is this: In all the peace conferences, celebrity concern, and “investigative reports” which surround Sudan now, the simple most fundamental aspect is left out. Sudan is a country of over 40 million people with its own cultural and political process and developments. Like the people of any other oppressed nation, the population is able to grow and address its own challenges and necessities. Foreign invasion and occupation only sets the clock back in this process, as all energies and political organization must then address this injustice. Especially in the context of the recent brutal examples of this happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti – our demand should be clear and simple. We must demand self-determination for the people of Sudan and all of Africa. We must protest and fight against the alternative of war and occupation that imperialists are trying to impose.
US/UN/EU HANDS OFF SUDAN!
US/UN HANDS OFF AFRICA!
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