Monday, March 19, 2012

“Darfur and the Diplomacy of Abandonment,” Dissent Magazine (on-line)

By Eric Reeves For more than a year and a half the Obama administration has been engaged in a callous and largely surreptitious disengagement from the ongoing human catastrophe in Darfur. This disengagement has taken many forms, and had various articulations. In August 2010 the phrase of choice was “de-emphasizing Darfur” in U.S. Sudan policy. In November 2010 a senior administration official spoke of “de-coupling Darfur” from considerations of whether Sudan should be on the State Department list of terrorism-sponsoring nations. Darfur, home to hundreds of thousands of in desperate need, now commands no significant policy attention in the Obama administration. For example, this week Dane Smith, Obama’s senior adviser for Darfur, declared in Pittsburgh that the Obama administration believed that “regime change” in Khartoum would be counterproductive. This message has been conveyed by the United States to the various rebels groups in Darfur and two other northern states currently under genocidal siege by Khartoum’s military forces, Blue Nile and South Kordofan. These rebel groups, united uneasily under the banner of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, include the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North as well as the most powerful Darfur rebels movements. They are politically and ideologically heterogeneous, but if militarily united have the power to bring down the tyranny in Khartoum that for twenty-three years has been responsible for massive ethnically targeted human destruction, wholesale denial of humanitarian assistance, and systematic displacement of nearly 10 million human beings. Why should these rebel groups forgo an opportunity—should it exist—to compel a change of regimes in Khartoum? Why are members of this ruthless security cabal no more in need of removal than Libya’s Qaddafi, Syria’s al-Assad, or Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership—all examples of regime change that the United States has supported or is working for? Does it not matter that Darfuris are being asked to negotiate with a regime whose president and defense minister are under indictment by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide? It has long been clear that only regime change offers the chance for true peace in Sudan: the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime is not a force for peace, but a potent catalyst for ongoing rebellion and military violence—and not just in Sudan. We need only look at the current widespread assaults on the civilian populations in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, conflict along the North/South border (including Khartoum’s bombing of a refugee campinside South Sudan with more than 20,000 civilians), the increasing likelihood of all-out war between Khartoum’s forces and those of the new Republic of South Sudan, long and bitter resentment of the regime in eastern Sudan and Nubia in the far north, and the continuing violence in Darfur. Why does Dane Smith counsel “engagement” with a regime that has never abided by a single agreement it has made with any Sudanese party? Why should rebel groups sit down with a regime that conducts indiscriminate aerial attacks on civilians while denying international humanitarian aid to many hundreds of thousands of desperate people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile? Because, Smith says, rebel efforts to overthrow the regime would “polarize the Arabs against everyone else, so they can say, ‘Arabs are under attack. Islam is under attack.’” And yet the entire population of Darfur is Muslim. How could Muslim Darfuri rebels create the impression that “Islam is under attack”? And more to the point, what in the broader insurgency—which includes a number of Arabs—could give the impression that “Arabs are under attack”? It is difficult to imagine an argument that could hold less force within the African ethnic groups that have been attacked on the basis of their ethnicity for the past twenty-three years—under the banner of an aggressively Islamist and Arabist ideology. The rebel groups, despite their many shortcomings and abuses in Darfur, arose precisely in response to the fact that “Africans were under attack” in the region, and had been since the NIF/NCP regime came to power by military coup in June 1989. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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