30 Aug 2006
President Omar Hassan al Bashir of Sudan tried to avoid the visiting American assistant secretary of state for African affairs during her trip to Khartoum Monday. Jendayi Frazer had to extend her stay in Sudan for another day before Bashir could meet with her on Tuesday. Her arrival in Sudan was greeted with hostile demonstrators.
The diplomat was in Sudan to persuade al Bashir to accept the United Nation’s Peace-keeping force in the troubled West Sudan region of Darfur. A British and US sponsored resolution to deploy UN troops in Darfur is currently before the UN Security Council for consideration. The proposal aims to replace the current 7000 man under-equipped and under-funded African Union force with a more robust UN force comprising 17000 troops and about 3000 police officers. For unexplained reasons, the Sudanese government is opposed to the stationing of UN troops in the region even as the security and humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate on a daily basis.
The Darfur region has been in the news since 2004 when unprecedented violence broke out between rebels representing the marginalized black African tribes of Darfur and the Sudanese government backed by the Janjaweed Arab militia. Within two years the Janjaweed (with apparent government support) have killed over 200,000 people, displaced two million others, burnt more than 300 villages and have raped countless number of women. A peace treaty signed between the Sudanese government and a faction of the Darfur rebels to end the conflict a few months back seems to be unraveling. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland has warned that “insecurity in [in Darfur] is at its highest level since 2004”. Egeland was speaking during a UN Security Council meeting that Sudan boycotted. He warned of looming all out war.
The inhabitants of the Darfur are fellow Muslims but are not Arabs while the Janjaweed are Arab Muslims as well as the rulers of Sudan. The government in Khartoum is proposing to station troops to keep peace in the Darfur but such a proposal can hardly be accepted because the government has never practically demonstrated that she is neutral in the conflict.
The objection by Sudan and most of her Arab League Friends to the stationing of UN troops is certainly a worrying development. The Sudanese have gone to the extent of misrepresenting the United Nations and giving the impression that the West wants to occupy their land. Al Qaeda has cashed on that and issued a statement threatening any future UN troops deployed in Sudan. Some observers see the crisis in the Darfur as the preparation by Al Qaeda to open another front of her war against the West in the heart of Africa. Given that Sudan has hosted Bin Ladin before, the Americans have reason to worry about the security situation in Darfur.
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Njei Moses Timah