April 13, 2006

Save Sudan (& Chad)

SudanThe regular foot-dragging with regards to action in Africa has not been interrupted this year. While the UN continues to "agree to discuss agreements to consider possible sanctions on Sudan" or something of the sort, almost 400,000 people have been killed in Darfur region – about 35 times the number of people killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict over 50 years.

This conflict is between non-Arab black tribes (like Fur and Masalit), and tribes known collectively as Baggara. Both these groups are, by international standards, black people and Muslims. However, this has not stopped conflict between them, caused by competition in the slave trade and differing economic needs. Access to land and surface water have frequently become warring issues. Unfortunately, this conflict is part of the amorphous history of violence in Sudan and this conflict occurred alongside the second civil war (1983–2005). Meanwhile the Sudanese government blames rebels for killing more than 3000 soldiers and destroying 80 police stations.

Almost 6 million people have been displaced, many of them across the border to Chad. The American government, uncharacteristically, has pushed hard for intervention but not enough to take unilateral action, as in, say, Iraq. And now the war is spilling into Chad – another dirt poor country with few paved roads and little oil. The plot has thickened, however – the Sudanese government, which was for UN intervention, has now started to lobby against it.

Sudan was already one of Africa's poorest countries and with more than half of the state budget devoted to the war effort, economic development is inhibited by the country's security concerns, the severe shortage of foreign exchange, inadequate infrastructure and exorbitant debt. The national economy has, however, begun recovery – Sudan 's GDP grew by 6% in 1999 and inflation dropped sharply to 8.8% in 2004 after peaking at 166% in 1996. The GDP real growth rate for 2004 was 5.9% – growth attributed to oil these days. Nevertheless, oil exports that now account for about some 70% of export earnings (77% in the first quarter of 2001), are unlikely to boost the economy significantly unless the civil war can be ended.

History Lesson

The First Sudanese Civil War occurred between 1955 and 1972 between the northern part of Sudan and the south, which demanded more regional autonomy. Half a million people died over the 17 years of war – an agreement was signed in 1972 which addressed some but not all concerns. These crucial failings then led to the Second Sudanese Civil War (19832005). The period between 1955 and 2005 is sometimes considered a single conflict with a ceasefire in between.

Looking ahead

There is a 6000-strong AU force present – but is widely held to be incompetent, as most AU efforts are. The peacekeeping force needs to be multiplied considerably – remember that the region of Darfur alone is the size of France and Sudan bigger than Western Europe. The fighting must be choked off once and for all using a large contingent of soldiers, about 30,000. This seems fantasy at the moment due to the lack of peacekeepers worldwide. As the Economist says, the force must have a 'Muslim face' – but as it points out, Pakistan, Nigeria, et al are busy.

There are deep economic and social structural problems in Sudan – a promised referendum in 6 years for Southern Independence is one step towards unity of a sort. The United States should use its influence with more vigour because this is a case where few would not follow the USA in a concerted attack and few would damn it for going it alone.

- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Of course such a thing would never happen, not until oil is discovered in Sudan! You say no-one would damn a coalition in Sudan, but many on the continent would prefer the AU to be in control, although they are massively underfunded and too small to make a difference, as you mentioned.

    I would add that the western media are in part to blame for what has so far been poor coverage of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time; there is really little realisation of what has been happening and little pressure on governments.

    13 Apr 2006, 11:46

  2. It is important that the AU be given management of the task to unite Africa as well as encourage it to save its own continent. Yes the U.S. is not funding the initiative enough and probably never will, but I hope the U.N. manages to get it together.

    I cannot believe how bad the situation is, its beyond any concievable hope how the continent of Africa will get itself out of poverty, civil wars, wars in general and the AIDS crisis. South Africa seems keen to help and as the best economy there it should lead the way, its time for Africa to take the initiative

    15 Apr 2006, 00:12

  3. Unfortunately the same old rivalries, fighting and lack of objectivity are dragging it down. Rich countries are not helping either, especially when they debate stupid things like should the England cricket team go to Zimbabwe or not…

    15 Apr 2006, 15:17

  4. Cricket is the least of anyone's worries.

    16 Apr 2006, 13:48

  5. delayed comment here but just thought i'd mention that most of sudan is desert and this in its own right provides difficulty in establishing any form of infrastructure – that means the media has no access into the region… and they do know the oil is there, just can't bribe the right people yet.

    the south is receiving semi–permanent development through the efforts by unsung ngo's near the borders with kenya and uganda. progress is slow but sure.

    khartoum is apparently one of the best cities to invest in currently – recent bbc article (april, 2006). this is of course due to peace agreements and the imminent infrastructural development boom…

    24 May 2006, 01:08

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