4 Apr 2006
The United Nation’s under-secretary for humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland has complained that the Sudanese government is preventing him from visiting the Darfur region. He added that the government was keen to prevent him from witnessing the present round of “ethnic cleansing”. He was scheduled to visit the region March 3rd but was not permitted to do so as the Sudanese government gave an excuse that the day was an Islamic holiday.
There seems to be no love lost between Egeland and the Sudanese government. This is a country he had once accused of hosting “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.
After signing a shaky peace treaty with rebels in the south to end decades old bloody war that claimed more than two million lives, the Sudanese government apparently backed the Janjaweed militia to start another war in the Western region of Darfur. In two years, over 180,000 people have been killed, two million others displaced, and more than 300 villages burnt and countless number of women raped.
The Arab regime in Khartoum has been wary of any involvement of the UN in resolving the crisis. When there was suggestion that a UN peace-keeping force take over from the African Union force at the end of their mandate, there was strong opposition from the Sudanese government. It is curious to note that Sudan is claiming not to be backing the genocidal Janjaweed but is at the same time opposing a more robust UN force that can put a stop to their atrocities. The regime in Khartoum has gone as far as mobilizing her Arab friends to come and pledge funding for the under-achieving A.U force. Maybe the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed prefer an A.U. force that will permit lapses for them to continue their ethnic cleansing exercise. Already the conflict is stealthily engulfing Eastern Chad and the Central African Republic as rebels from both countries take advantage of the chaos along the frontier to start their own wars. The prospects of a larger regional conflict are real.
While the war waged against the South had religious undertones, that against the people of Darfur can not be viewed from this angle. The non-Arab people of Darfur are predominantly Muslims as well as the Arab rulers and their allied Janjaweed militia. Race is therefore a dominant factor to consider. This is what Makau Mutua (law professor, State University of New York at Buffalo) wrote in the Christian Science Monitor on the issue; “The Darfur pogrom is part of a historic continuum in which successive Arab governments have sought to entirely destroy black Africans in this biracial nation.”
The Darfur crisis is more complicated than ethnic cleansing if one puts it into the historical context of the region. The enslavement of black Africans by Arabs dates back to about 1400 years and vestiges of that practice still exist today in Sudan and Mauritania.
Copyrightã2006 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah