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Jürgen Springer

Frayed Puzzle

Sudan and the International Community
in the Unresolved Darfur Conflict

 

From: Christ in der Gegenwart, 6/2007, S.43f.
webmaster's own, not authorized translation

 

"Africa, mon amour" - Africa my love. More frankly and clearly you can probably not declare your belief in a continent. Nearly ten million viewers wanted at the beginning of the year to see the three-part movie of the same name in the ZDF (Second Channel of German Television) with a star cast (among others with Iris Berben and Robert Atzorn) - a historical melodrama from the German empire's colonial age set in the region around today's Tanzania in the eve of the First World War. A television record. The film is a mixture of war events, thriller, romance and emancipation drama. It is carried by an Africa wave that moves people's hearts with similarly demanding pictures of dreams and longing. Whether "The White Massai", "Africa, Where My Heart Carries Me" or "Dream of Africa" (so the names of further TV-productions of the last weeks): Apparently the greatest challenges, the most imaginative scenes, the most exotic love stories take place at the foot of the Kilimandscharo or in the equatorial jungle.

Also the recent project of the Austrian artist André Heller "Africa! Africa!" (with two exclamation marks) wants to make the "fascinating continent" between Algiers and Johannesburg, between Accra and Antananarivo (Madagascar) accessible to us with a great squad of Moroccan jugglers, Kenyan illusionists and South African performers under a circus dome. It is a gigantic spectacle, with which nearly 170 co-workers and their Show equipment in 28 semi-trailers are driven through whole Europe. Heller, so the FAZ reported in a smug article, "wanted by his Africa tent to inspire the visitors to think differently about Africa": Not so many wars, poverty, hunger and other disasters; instead of it joy in dance, body art and acrobatics. The United Nations as well as the Goethe Institute support the project. One wanted - against a widespread resignation that is common among the rich nations in view of poor Africa - to pass on a "mood of awakening".

But can the other Africa really be represented in such a way? What about the real pictures of the present reaching us in our living rooms? For instance those of the state of war in Somalia, of the poison garbage scandal at Ivory Coast, of the fight for the so-called blood diamonds in Congo or of the sad decisions in Zimbabwe, where the former star "liberator" Robert Mugabe has led a whole country into misery, corruption, unemployment and chaos?

Of all the African conflicts Sudan stands out particularly brutally. Not only because it is the largest territorial state of the continent, with 2.5 million square kilometres actual seven times larger than Germany. Not only because Sudan always represented a kind of link between the Arab peoples in the north and Black Africa further south (Kenya, Uganda, the Congo). It is the old Nubia that was once known in the Orient as "gold country" (old-Egyptian nub = gold). Its northern regions were up to 14th century moulded by the Coptic Christianity.

 

Country of Hell, Dream of the White People

Today the image is different. The former UN Secretary-General, the Ghanaian Kofi Annan, spoke of the "Country of Hell". And the special representative for humanitarian help, Jan Egeland, put it in a nutshell: At present the world-wide worst humanitarian disaster takes place in Darfur. There are accommodated up to three million refugees in slum dwellings and up to 300.000 people died.

Certainly, the country experienced one - short - bright spot. The more than twenty-year war, led by the Islamic central government against the South moulded by Christianity and nature religion, could be ended in 2005 by a peace treaty. Estimations proceed from two million dead. The mutilated, handicapped, mentally traumatized are uncounted.

The Africa correspondent Thilo Thielke calls (in "Spiegel-on-line") the current Darfur conflict in the west of the country an unbelievable mass murder, "that is known in the whole world". It is a "Rwanda in slow motion", as the outstanding American crisis researcher John Prendergast once said. Thereby is meant that genocide that in 1994 marks a tragic failure of the West as well as of the African neighbours.

The situation in Sudan is comparatively complicated. The UN, which has an observer mission in the South and prepares a further one for Darfur, is not ready with practicable solutions, the Islamic regime in Khartum meanwhile regularly threatens with the "Holy War". Thielke's judgment on the soldiers of the African Union, in which the Libyan ex-revolution leader Muammar el-Gaddafi holds the reins, who exercise now in Darfur a - weak - monitoring mandate, brings us down to earth: This alliance were only after the money of the rich West, and not after making real peace between the opponents there. "Hence their representatives would always tell those things which the Ministers in the "doner countries" wanted to hear and for which they gladly paid."

 

Oil, Al Quaida and Thinking in Tribal Categories

These are only some puzzle parts belonging to the present frayed overall view of Sudan. The country is like a wild heap of such set pieces that can hardly be joined. The political, economical, military and religious face of the country is ambiguously splintered. Sometimes exact information is missing; large contradictions and gapes open up. The violence there has many causes and dynamics that often depend on each other: land disputes, banditry, ethnic tensions,

 


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lacking development, political struggles for power, Islamism of different coinage up to Al-Quaida's trainings and retreat camps. Besides, Sudan's different Islamic chief ideologists confuse the opinion with time and again surprising changes of alliance and opinion, and with intrigues against each other.

A view into recent history clarifies the complexity of this controlled-uncontrolled chaos. Soon after independence in 1956 the Arabian Muslim North began an embittered fight against the by Christianity and nature religions moulded South striving for autonomy. One background was and is still the economic interests. For the region is rich in sources of oil and other mineral resources. Besides, there are centuries-old cultural-ethnical conflicts between the North, rather tending to the Arab culture, and the South rather oriented towards Black Africa. The splitting was intensified by proclaiming Sudan "Islamic Republic" in 1983 as well as by the introduction of the Scharia, the Islamic jurisdiction. Almost exactly two years ago government and rebels agreed on a peace treaty. Hope began to grow. The agreement plans that the South stands under the leadership of the rebel movement up to an election, which is to take place presumably in 2009. Domestically a division of power between rebels and Khartoum was agreed upon. A UN observer mission supervises the keeping to the peace. But the former opponents distrust and watch each other with each opportunity.

Paradoxically the UN's noiseless peace mission in the South, that is seen as constructive by specialists, has intensified the conflict in West Sudan, i.e. in the other crisis region Darfur. For during this "Kampfpause" (break of fighting) Khartoum took off its military power from the South and concentrated it again. At the same time President Omar al-Bashir makes the most of any opportunity by accusing the "disbelieving West" to intervene in the sovereignty of an Islamic country. Any foreign interference is castigated by him as neo-colonial act.

 

Darfur: Kain and Abel in Sudan

How much of clever tactics and brutality are behind the Khartoum regime is revealed by other events. While one officially gave way to the UN's urging and agreed to the Blue Helmet Mission with soldiers from Africa and Asia in Darfur, two days later the west region of Sudan was covered with heavy bomb attacks by Mig-bombers. It is not forgotten that Sudan in the nineties granted a hide-out to the terrorist Osama Ben Laden. In 1998 at the same time the USA bombarded a medicine factory in Asch Shifa, in which the Americans suspected a secret poison gas production on behalf of the Al-Quaida. The suspicion that Sudan was involved into the bomb attacks on African US embassies could not be proven.

So far one did not succeed in condemning Sudan on UN level, and in imposing general sanctions. For in many attempts the veto powers Russia and China refused to agree in the Security Council. This is no accident. China's President Hu Jintao visits at present eight African countries, among them also Sudan. China is Khartoum's most important trade partner in the oil business. And Russia earns millions by selling weapons and military aircraft to Sudan.

On the other hand in the Darfur conflict the Khartum government fights against separatist movements there, which do their fighting for power just in the same way on the people's back as the central government. This formed an alliance with the regional so-called Dschandschawid rebels. These rider gangs of Arab origin lead a nomadic existence. Khartoum gives them a free hand to looting, pillaging and threatening to burn, driving out, raping, murdering. They terrorize the Black African population - Muslims against Muslims. The "Zeit" (a German periodical) called the brother murder between the Arab cattle breeders and the settled Black African farmers "Old-testamentary inevitability", comparably with the rivalry of Kain and Abel. "As long as anyone can remember the inhabitants of the meagre, scorching hot deserts and half deserts ... compete with each other for the meagre food, for water, pastures and plough land, firewood, building material and game ... The high increase in population, the spreading of the steppe and periodic droughts intensified the distribution conflicts, and since they are done meanwhile with in great quantities spread semi-automatic rifles, the blood tariff is so high that traditional means of reconciliation do no longer work." Add to it that for many decades the marginal regions have been culturally and economically neglected by the rulers. Poverty and anger of the disadvantaged Black African tribes in Darfur grew, and gave accordingly impetus to the separatist groupings which are similarly acting as those in the south of the country. In the meantime the war expanded into the poor neighbouring country Chad where many fled and are waiting for help in camps - under conditions which are beneath contempt. In May last year a peace agreement for Darfur has been negotiated between the central government and the largest group of rebels. But the violence did not stop. Although agreed, there was up to this day no disarmament of the rider militia. Besides, on both sides the leaders recruit children, and destroy so the future of human beings in a bestial way.

In the media little mention is given to the fact that up to the peace treaty in the previous conflict between North- and South Sudan above all the Christians became victims of the terror of the Islamic government. Relief organizations estimate that at least 100.000 Christians became - solely because of their faith - victims of torture, driving out and enslavement by Muslims. In Darfur now Muslims fight against Muslims.

Repeatedly the Vatican and the Protestant Churches stood up decidedly for the tormented people, no matter to which religion they belong. The UN is at long last to stop the genocide in Darfur. Only recently a high-ranking delegation of the Lutheran World League under Secretary-General Ishmael Noko visited Khartoum. ...

Also the members of Religious Orders in Sudan gave in the last year their view on the further on "difficult" situation in the South - despite all peace treaties. The population were deeply traumatized, and a frightening culture of violence had spread. Also simple people had heavy weapons. There were about 20.000 child soldiers in different armies. Besides, there were missing hygienic establishments. The Islam mission, which is offensively recruiting followers by building Islam schools and hospitals and which is paid by Khartoum, would push ahead Islam and Arab culture among the baptized Black Africans. What was missing totally is the spirit of reconciliation. The members of Religious Orders also emphasize that there was at present a lack of leading personalities in politics who were acting in this dialogical, prudent-responsible sense.

 

Who Hears the Voice of Those Who Are Without Voice?

Severe uneasiness was last also triggered by an assault during the service at the end of the year in the All Saint's Church in the capital, where many Christians from South Sudan found a new homeland. Policemen stated they had allegedly pursued a wanted knife-man. Thereby they threw tear-gas shells into the church crowed with people. Numerous faithful who wanted to leave the place of worship were beat thereupon with truncheons. From fear of disadvantages in the pastoral care the Catholics in the North are cautious in their critique on the government. Nevertheless a priest reported the incident to the police and complained to the Ministry of the Interior.

After recent reports there are positive hints that in the province Darfur an at least two-month armistice could be planned. Meanwhile the International Criminal Court in the Hague announced there were sufficient proofs for indictments against the Khartoum government.

The scientist Kirstin Platt from the Institute for Diaspora and Genocide research at the Bochum University takes the hesitating of the international community as an opportunity to analyze "the dealing with the memory". In the "Frankfurter Rundschau" she says: Despite all experiences of the 20th century politicians and specialists had not become "experts in recognizing genocide", and not at all a voice for those who are today without voice.

 

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