Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What price the life of an African?

Today, the International Development Select Committee sits in Westminster to consider the UK’s handling of the Darfur crisis. I have left a comment at the blog Clive Soley MP asking for any news of the meeting, and pointed out the following:

The co-founder of the Aegis Trust (which works towards the prevention of genocide) has an article in today's Times saying the committee should ask itself if our response is determined by a view that the lives of black Africans in Sudan merit food but not protection. Here are a few excerpts from the piece, "What price the life of an African?" written by James Smith:

“The Sudanese Government knows it’s off the hook,” a representative of the rebels informs me. “Their officials told me ‘the international community is just not interested in Darfur any more’.”

Blaming the rebels for starting the crisis, as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is now doing, is like holding the Jews of Warsaw, who rose up against the Nazis, responsible for the Holocaust.

It takes the death of 3,000 Americans to start a war on terrorism. It takes the killing of nine French peacekeepers to destroy an air force. It is time we knew: how many black Africans must be killed before the UN will even enforce a no-fly zone or arms embargo? A hundred thousand, it seems, is not enough.

Why does the international community drag its feet so slowly and reluctantly over Darfur?
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Further reading:

Nov 30, 2004: Aegis published a new report on the situation in Darfur, titled ‘Blueprint for Genocide’. A summary of this report, ‘Darfur: management of a genocidal crisis’, can be read by clicking here.

Nov 29, 2004: An edited version of the article "What price the life of an African?" was published in The Times, Nov 29. Here is the full story.

Nov 19, 2004: The UN's incremental actions in Western Sudan amount to fiddling while the region burns. Something more radical must be done, but this will require a massive shift in political will. What is to be done? Find out in UN fiddles while Darfur burns.


Anonymous said...

I am fed up with fucking Africa. Why is it that they are unable to civilize themselves and figure out how to live. Is it really north america's job to fix their inability to care for themselves.

Maybe we should pull out of Africa 100% and let them find their own way.

Ingrid J. Jones said...

Hello Anonymous. Thank you for your comment. What a pity Blogger's new commenting system allows for anonymous comments. I have no idea if you are a blogger, and would have liked to visit your blog to get a clue as to where you might be coming from.

My father served 25 years in the British army. In the 1950's we were stationed in Nairobi, Kenya for three years because of the Mau Mau war. I clearly recall seeing atrocities back then. Sudan became independent from the British over 50 years ago so I can understand your sense of anger and frustration.

The people of Sudan have endured terrible violence for most of the past 50 years. But more so over the past 20 years. Ever since the present dictators in Khartoum staged a coup and stole power some 15 years ago, things have worsened and Sudan has become oil rich.

At least two million have been killed. Vast numbers have spent years imprisoned in refugee camps. It's not difficult to imagine how angry and fed up the locals are. It took years for the oil operations to be in place, and oil was not produced until several years ago. Now the oil revenues are rolling in but many Sudanese still remain dirt poor which is why they are resorting to taking up arms and rebelling against being marginalised and neglected.

Sudan's dictators respond so ruthlessly and viciously to the uprisings and rebellions it resorts to genocide: bombing, starving and killing off its people rather than dealing with root causes of the problems.

Of course both Arabs and Africans need shelter, food, water, medicine and healthcare. There are clashes. They want to work for their living and have their children educated. Arabs get preferential treatment. It's like Sudan is being Arabised and the black African tribes pushed around and out by the Arabs. But it is more complicated. The races are mixed. And some Arabs feel as badly treated as the Africans.

Arab tribal leaders lord it over large regions of Sudan. They rule the people of those regions through benevolance and fear but don't listen to the government in Khartoum. Khartoum leave them to it and don't interfere for fear of retribution. In fact the Arab leaders and Arab militias are supported by Khartoum as they more or less police the areas and have never heard of human rights. They go hand in hand with the government, use helicopters. Thousands of the Arab bandits who'd committed atrocities have been kitted out with new Sudanese police uniforms and assigned to providing security for the civilian population to satisfy pressure from the outside world.

It's a hellhole. Thousands of people from around the world are on the ground in Sudan helping to provide humanitarian relief. Scores of countries are involved in providing aid and diplomatic effort. The UN comprises 191 member states. UN World Food Program, US Aid and dozens of international aid agencies have managed to reach a large percentage of the population in Darfur with food, water, medicine and basic aid - and are gearing themselves up for providing basic aid to some 2 millions (may increase to 3 million) displaced people in Sudan. More than 200,000 fled over the border into Chad where they are sitting in camps waiting to return home to Darfur.

The people of Darfur need all the help and publicity they can get. Personally, I hope that certain countries within the international community are secretly behind the rebels supporting their attempts to overthrow the genocidal regime in Khartoum. There cannot be a future for such a regime. They are not to be trusted. Their word means nothing. A handful of men are getting away with war crimes on an unimagineable scale. I hope the perpetrators of atrocities end up being tried at The Hague for crimes against humanity. A UN Commission is currently investigating genocide in Darfur and will report in January. That may be the time when countries (North America have made it crystl clear they will not get involved) will move to intervene militarily under the auspices of the U.N. in support of African Union trooops. When genocide is declared, the peacekeeping troops will have a Chapter 7 mandate (armed and able to defend) - to enter Sudan against its will. Sudan has warned all along that if any troops other than observers enter Sudan they will take it as an invasion, a threat of war and will attack.

Many of the civilians are nomads and lead simple lives foraging for food and keeping on the move according to the weather. There are clashes between Arabs and Africans and tribes over land, watering holes and natural resources. Livestock gets stolen. And fights break out. Arab militias on horses ride in and destroy everything and everyone in their wake. They make their living through theft and looting. They are bandits. Khartoum doesn't rely on its army to take care of everything because many soldiers are from tribes where the rebellions taking place, and they can't be relied upon to fight unfairly against their kin.

Seems there is an "Arabisation" of Sudan going on. Although many Sudanese consider themselves Arab not African, black African tribes are treated less fairly and are dispensed with. Eliminated. Ethnic cleansed. Genocide. They've been kept down for so long, they want a share in the power and oil revenues so the regions within which they live can have things like education, healthcare and roads to help them take goods to market.

Sorry this is too simplistic (and thus unfair) explanation and therefore inaccurate because I cannot spend more time on this comment. At least it provides a rough picture. Trying to give a snapshot of the Sudan over the past 50 years - and what is happening in Darfur these past two years - is impossible within this comments box. I just wanted to try and answer your question why we should care. The people haven't actually been ever given a decent chance to take care of themselves and why the West must not turn its back on Africa. It is important for the security of the rest of the world. Africa could be a tinderbox. Failed states breed terrorist training camps (Bin Laden used to reside in Sudan). The Sudanese haven't failed, it's the dictatorship in Khartoum that has failed its people and the whole of Sudan. Please do visit again and catch up on the archives here where time and trouble has been spent on posts - and at Looking foward to hearing from you again. If you are reading this and you are a blogger, please do leave your blog URL. Thanks.

Mayflower said...

You can always get rid of Blogger comments and replace them with Haloscan or something.

Anonymous said...

How dare you blame it on them. You think that the child thats born into a family who's parents suffer from aids, that is likely to die before they reaches three and that, if she lives ,will have to face the likelehood that if she ever gets anything worth having will probably be stabbed and robbed for it, doesn't deserve help. Think of them as people. We are all under the same sky. Why should they suffer because of mistakes in the past or where they were born. If that child lived on your street and her family did too, and was dying in front of your eyes, would you keep your money. Just because ou can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't happen.Keep your money, that child dies. If you were the child, wouldn't you feel for the ameicans with there big cars that spend there money on funding mac donalds pockets.To make judgements like you have on what you haven't seen is unfair. If you have been to africa then your heartless and selfish and i hope you enjoy the extra money that you'l have to spend on your next big mac.