Wednesday, October 31, 2007

China Responds to Attacks By British Lawmakers Over Sudanese Policy

BEIJING 30 October 2007 Sapa-AFP


China on Tuesday criticised a group of British politicians for linking Beijing's hosting of next year's Olympics with the violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

"This is not responsible at all, they disregard China's constructive efforts and role (in Sudan)," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said when asked to comment on the pressure from the British politicians.

In a letter sent to the Chinese embassy in London on Monday, 100 current and former British lawmakers urged Beijing to back a peacekeeping force for Darfur.

They also called on China to stop selling weapons to the Khartoum government that is accused of fanning the violence.

"The 2008 Olympics will celebrate the dramatic transformation
undergone by China," said former foreign minister David Owen as the letter was released.

"Over the coming months, China has a real opportunity to exert global leadership on Darfur.

"Beijing's active involvement in providing for an effective
peacekeeping force and bringing an end to the suffering would be the ideal prelude to a successful Games."

China, which is the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil, has consistently rejected accusations it is worsening Darfur's agony by supporting the Sudanese government.

Liu again defended the nation's Sudan policy.

"China plays a constructive role in the Darfur issue. The
constructive role of China can be seen by all," he said.

The violence in Darfur has led to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people in four years, with another two million displaced.


Pan-African News Wire said...

CAIRO 29 October 2007 Sapa-AFP


Egypt has deported Sudanese refugees who were returned from Israel on the understanding they would not be expelled to Sudan where they face torture or imprisonment, a security source said on Monday.

"Some of the refugees returned from Israel were expelled to Sudan," the source told AFP, referring to 48 Sudanese refugees that Israel sent back to Egypt in August after they illegally entered the Jewish state.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR in Cairo said they had been seeking information on the refugees' fate "at the highest level of the foreign ministry" since they were expelled but had heard nothing.

UNHCR spokeswoman Abeer Etafah said that if it were confirmed that Egypt had deported the refugees to Sudan "it would be a serious matter."

It is illegal under international law to deport a refugee to a
country where they face torture or arbitrary detention.

A spokeswoman at the Israeli embassy in Cairo said that there was an agreement between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the refugees would not be sent back to Sudan.

"The understanding was very clear that Egypt was going to look after these refugees and not send them back to Sudan and let the UNHCR look after them," Shani Cooper-Zubida told AFP.

Pan-African News Wire said...

Darfur, AU and global politics

By Reason Wafawarova

ONE reader who claims to be from the University of Zimbabwe challenged this writer to prove "Africa’s innocence on Darfur" and to show how the "West has imperialised that region." This writer has taken some time to dwell on the Darfur conflict as well as analysing what may be termed the major players in that conflict.

The Darfur crisis in Western Sudan is a tragedy that has courted global attention both for what it is and what it is not. Jess Worth, a journalist for the New Internationalist magazine, in the June 2007 edition sums up the current status of the crisis as a situation that "has become intractable and all players’ reputations are tarnished."

This writer will try to bring under scrutiny, the players involved in the crisis and it would hereby suffice to list them as the Sudanese government, the fractious rebel movements of Darfur, the African Union, China and the US-led Western alliance. Indeed, as Jess Worth notes all their reputations have been tarnished and it should be made clear that her own list is limited to the first three players and this writer has added the last two because they are not only key stakeholders but are major determinants on the direction the conflict has taken.

To many in Africa, the Darfur conflict is yet another senseless tribal war in the mould of the civil conflicts that have bedevilled the continent in places like Mozambique, Angola, Congo, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Rwanda, Eritrea, Nigeria just to name but a few of the 20th century internal conflicts in Africa. For many in the West, Darfur is a State-sponsored ethnic cleansing campaign by one of those corrupt, tribalistic and rogue African governments led by a notorious member of the "African Dictators’ Club."

For the Darfurian people, particularly the non-nomadic subsistence farmers, the conflict is an unacceptable tragedy that has claimed their own heritage, identity, lives as well as their future. For the nomadic Arab herders of Darfur, from whose communities the notorious Janjaweed militias hail, the conflict has offered an opportunity to take advantage of their traditional competitors for economic survival, the subsistence settler farmers; and to plunder their resources while displacing them from their lands for the benefit of their (nomads) animals.

For Khartoum, the conflict is often explained away as a spot of local brother competition for survival — all emanating from ancient rivalries motivated by competition for resources; now badly worsened by continuous droughts and famine, prompting Arab to drive black African farmers off their land. In the typical Western style of politics, the US and the UK have tactfully created shocking images of Darfur and there are the usual contested "statistics" about the atrocities committed and the usual disputed documentaries on the realities on the ground.

All culminating in the UN declaring Darfur "the world’s worst humanitarian crisis." Of course, this declaration has unsurprisingly strained relations between the UN and Khartoum, creating the undesired background of suspicion that has led Khartoum to be wary of any UN-led initiative in Darfur. While the crisis in Darfur is undeniably tragic and absolutely nonsensical and meaningless on the part of Khartoum’s role in it, it is the awarding of the wooden bowel as champions of brutality and primitive conduct that has made Omar al-Bashir and his government an extremely combative lot. They seem to take exception to being labelled presiding officers of the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster ahead of the Americans who have just increased their carnage in Iraq to over a million civilian deaths, not to mention Afghanistan where they have accounted for tens of thousands of civilians. Khartoum cannot comprehend why Iraq is not on the humanitarian crisis index so often touted by the West through their media mouthpieces and they wonder if the UN’s passion is only limited to Darfur, with no regard to Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, they want to know why Pakistan is portrayed as a normal democracy with its role in the US-led Afghanistan military adventure. The opposition in Ethiopia are crying that Meles Zenawi’s government should feature on the western humanitarian crisis index ahead of the likes of Zimbabwe after one post-election crackdown claimed 41 lives in Addis Ababa. But alas, the West won’t soil the name of an ally so useful in their horn of Africa interests.

Observers to the humanitarian crisis ratings have been taken for tennis ball match head switching moves as the bowel of dishonour is kept bouncing from one side of the court to the other. As the moment would suit, the US declares "the worst humanitarian crisis" as being North Korea, Burma, Darfur, Zimbabwe and soon it may be Iran.

Well, Iraq is not a humanitarian disaster since it’s actually the biggest ‘‘democratisation’’ project the world has at the moment.

This is the global political picture that makes the crisis in Darfur so complex and as promised this writer will now analyse the Darfur crisis as it obtains today. This is the crisis that now plays a central role in the fundraising departments of the billion-dollar charity industry where the grimmest and most shocking images of Darfur are thrown at donors and potential donors as a way of inspiring them to give.

This writer recently attended a fundraising function for Darfur where more than two speakers claimed that six million people have been displaced from Darfur while half a million have been killed since 2003; that despite the population of Darfur as at 2003 was just over 5 million. The government of Sudan puts the total number of deaths at approximately ten thousand for the same period while the UN has been insisting that 250 000 have been killed directly and indirectly by the conflict.

In reality, Darfur as the conflict is now commonly called, is no local ethnic conflagration. Indeed there are underlying historical tensions which traditionally have always been dealt with at community levels and these tensions have been worsened by climate change. The sad reality is that the tensions have been exaggerated, manipulated and abused by opportunists in the rebel movements, the Arab nomadic community, the Khartoum government and the West — all for selfish ends while the victim has been the ordinary villager of Darfur. A bit of Darfurian history might suffice.

Darfur is made up of almost 90 ethnic groups, largely of a mixture between Africans and Arabs, who came into Darfur in the 14th century. The Darfur religion is all Islam and this must be emphasised for those who keep claiming that Moslems from the North are descending on Christians in Darfur, an assertion quite appealing with fundraisers who find it convincing to the Western donor.

Identity in Darfur is based mainly on mixed ancestry but is also defined by race, speech, appearance and way of life.

Darfur existed as an independent kingdom for some centuries until the mid-19th century when it was defeated by the notorious Zubayr Rahma, the slave trader, who was in turn overpowered by the Ottoman Empire of which Egypt was part and the Islamists tried to shield Darfur from growing British influence. In 1916, the British and the French defeated Darfur leader Ali Dinar and annexed Darfur to Sudan — all for control and conquest purposes since the British had no economic interests in Darfur.

In 1956 the British granted independence to Sudan by way of clinching a deal with a minority of Arab elites in the North who have continued to take turns to rule Sudan ever since. The majority of Southerners responded to the British move by a mutiny in 1955 and war between the North and South erupted. A peace deal was secured in 1972 but the Sudanese government continually flouted the agreement in addition to radically embarking on imposing Islam on the largely animist and Christian South all with the tacit political and moral support of Islamic Darfur.

Many Darfurian recruits were trained and deployed to fight for the Khartoum government in the war against the South. Darfur also served as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s military base in his wars against Chad between 1987 and 1989. This was the Arab-Fur war that mainly sought to express Arab supremacy over its fellow African Islamists and other non-Islamic Africans.

General Omar al-Bashir seized power from the democratically elected government of Sadiq al-Mahdi in a bloodless military coup in 1989. He continued to recruit Darfurians for his conflagration with the South and embarked on an Arabisation programme spearheaded by several fundamentalist Islamic organisations but for all their co-operation in Khartoum’s endeavours Darfur continued to be marginalised economically and socially; vital as their political and military support for Khartoum was. Osama bin Laden was in Sudan between 1991 and 1996, when the US forced his expulsion; and Sudan was implicated in an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in June 1995.

Bill Clinton launched a cruise missile attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in 1998 as he accused Bashir of having nuclear ambitions and harbouring terrorists. The Janjaweed militias first came to prominence in the 1980s as they pushed forward their Arab supremacy philosophy by military means during the Arab-Fur war and Bashir’s government first engaged them against the Massalit people of Darfur in 1996.

The US continued to put Sudan under pressure under George W Bush in 2000 but Bush chose diplomatic pressure as opposed to confrontation. After September 11, Bashir was reported to have "fallen into line" through his declaration to co-operate with the US in the ‘‘anti-terror’’ campaign. The US put pressure on Khartoum to have the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Movement/Army ending 21 years of protracted war.

While the South and the government found the Agreement comprehensive, Darfurians did not because it carried no single clause for the fate of Darfur. In 2003 the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement were launched as armed rebel groups by troops of Darfurian origin from Sudan’s Defence Forces through yet another mutiny. The two groups jointly attacked garrisons and an air base in 2003, reducing a number of government military planes to shells. That was the beginning of the crisis now ordinarily called Darfur in many places.

The highlights of the conflict include the February 2003 rebel attacks on government targets in Darfur, the July 2003 Janjaweed offensive on villagers, and the December visit of UN envoy Jan Egeland who then declared the situation as the "worst humanitarian crisis".

In 2004 the highlights were the April AU-brokered ceasefire signed in N’djamena, Chad and hopelessly violated by both sides; the July UN Security Council 30-day deadline for the government of Sudan to disarm the Janjaweed and to try its leaders, a resolution also blatantly ignored by Khartoum; the declaration by Bush that what was happening in Darfur was a "genocide" and the October deployment of 7000 AU peacekeepers by the African Union.

For 2005, the highlights include the January decrease of Janjaweed attacks on villages, the March referral of crimes committed in Darfur to the ICC by the UN Security Council for investigation as well as the December declaration of war by Chad following systematic violent clashes along the Darfur-Chad border. For 2006, there was the May Darfur Peace Agreement, again brokered by the AU and signed in Abuja, Nigeria by only a faction of the SLA triggering further splinters between the rebels and inter-rebel attacks. There was also the August UN Security Council resolution 1706 calling for 23 000 UN peacekeeping troops by January 2007 and "inviting the consent" of Khartoum.

In September there was the "Global Darfur Day" held through campaigns around the world, November the Sudanese government agreed in principle for a "hybrid" AU-led peacekeeping force where the UN would provide assistance to the AU forces and in December there were counter accusations when Chad accused Sudan of supporting rebels fighting the government in Chad and Sudan equally accusing Chad of backing the Darfur rebels and the Janjaweed started to displace tens of thousands of Chadian villagers along the border.

For 2007, the ICC indicted two people, humanitarian affairs minister Ahmad Muhammad Harun and Janjaweed commander Ali Kushaybi and Khartoum refused to co-operate, arguing that it had enough capacity to try Kushaybi, in the process unsettling some Janjaweed leaders who began joining forces with the Darfur rebels in apparent fear of prosecution. In April, Khartoum agreed, with a bit of influence from China, to allow 3 000 UN peacekeepers into Darfur as part of the "hybrid’’ force.

With all this history it is clear how the Sudanese government has been tarnished by events in Darfur. Basically, here is a government that fails to contain a mutiny from its own army, knows pretty well that its past unjust actions towards a group it so much abused with impunity are catching up with events and decides to take advantage of deep-seated historical differences between its own peoples, going on to arm one side against the other. They also take advantage of the provocation by rebels as a legitimate excuse before the AU and "genuinely" ask what other governments would do if soldiers in their own countries ran away from the barracks with guns and started burning down air bases in military attacks. The Khartoum government has basically failed to protect the Darfur civilians from the rebels and the Janjaweed as well as to deal with the rebels in question, a basic mandate they cannot easily explain away.

In come the rebels. Like many other rebel organisations in Africa they have proved to be no more than a bunch of political opportunists whose major motivation is accessing power and ill-gotten wealth. The two original rebel groups have split into God knows how many factions just because they cannot agree on what exactly they want their war to achieve, a clear sign of power hungry opportunistic reactionaries running with neither vision nor mandate from the people of Darfur. Reports that the rebels are replenishing their arsenal at the grace of some western countries taints them more as poodles of foreign interests being used in settling scores between Khartoum and their foreign backers. Some of them have been reported to frequent Washington in private jets, which is not a positive sign.

Then we have the AU, all torn between its own Charter and the nonsense that Darfur has become. They do not know what to do with a member state "fighting" rebellion from within its own army. They are aware of the external politics and pressures being applied to them and they are too careful not to fall for decisions that may create a wrong precedence for the continent. Everyone knows that the AU needs material and moral support to keep peace in Darfur but no humanitarian organisation, the UN or Western government is prepared to extend such support. They all seem agreed that if the AU can’t stand the heat in Darfur then they must pave way for foreign intervention.

The AU is so cornered and pressured to do something so much that they have the naïveté to pretend that an Abuja Darfur Peace Agreement attended by the Khartoum government and the thin tall young man by the name Zenawi in his capacity as a faction leader of SLA is good enough to tell to the world. This is how the AU has been tarnished by events in Darfur but in all honesty the AU is just having to grapple with matters beyond its control and mandate as the other players are either dishonest or plain arrogant.

Fourth comes China, the country accused by the West of trading the veto for oil. The assertion is that China gets 10 percent of its oil from Sudan and the deal includes protection at the UN Security Council where China has been backed by Russia in ensuring that the Anglo-Saxon motions against Khartoum are effectively thwarted. It is a fact that China is doing good business in Sudan and it gets a substantial amount of oil from there.

It is also a fact that they have often abstained from the vote on issues involving Sudan and if those two aspects are put to the test one easy conclusion is that the people of Darfur are less important for the Chinese than the oil of South Sudan. That way, China as one of the five major players in Darfur is also tarnished in terms of its reputation.

Lastly there is Uncle Sam, the leading face of the all-powerful Western alliance. The US has pursued a sound behind-the-scenes relationship with Khartoum, all in the hope that they might be having useful information about terrorists.

In 2005, a year after Bush publicly accused Sudan of genocide, the US flew Sudan’s head of security and the supposed architect of the said genocide, Salah Abdallah Gosh to Washington in a luxurious private jet so that he could have an "incisive and informative" chat with the CIA about his former friend Osama bin Laden, and they flew him back.

The US is not so sure if they should totally destroy their relations with Bashir as their idea in masterminding the Comprehensive Peace Agreement involving Southern Sudan had all to do with the oil deposits in Sudan’s South, the oil that the Chinese have jumped in to exploit.

The US has decided to scare away the Chinese by promoting a smear campaign on Sudan while maintaining cordial relations with Khartoum — all for purposes of playing their increasing games of economic rivalry with China. One theory put forward is that the US may be after the potential oil reserves in Darfur hence their silent but apparent support for the rebels whom they hope might get autonomy or independence from Khartoum and subsequently deal more favourably with Washington. Both the US and the UK seem quite clear that direct military intervention in Darfur, essentially an invasion of Sudan; will be one too many and that’s why they want to front the UN for their own interests. This is the global political scenario our innocent mothers and fathers find themselves embroiled in Darfur, it is the political scenario that has taken away the future of our brothers and sisters from that part of Africa.

This writer is hopeful that one day; Africa will determine its own destiny and control its own resources. As it is we continue to ponder between our genuine friends and those shedding crocodile tears at the loss of our kith and kin’s lives. The Heavens know how many are indeed grieved by Darfur.

-Reason Wafawarova is a political writer and can be contacted on