By Ramzy Baroud
08 May, 2007
Darfur crisis in Sudan is perhaps the most politically convoluted conflict
in the world today. Its underpinnings involve local, regional and international
players, all selfishly vying for power and economic interests. Alliances
shift like quicksand, reminiscent of Lebanon. Neither the interest of
the people of Darfur, nor the sovereignty of Sudan seem to be a major
concern to any of those involved: a regime fighting for survival, rebel
groups readily playing into the hands of foreign powers, a superpower
eager to create distraction from its blunders elsewhere, European players
coveting the region's oil wealth with growing keenness, and so forth.
Meanwhile, the refugees continue to perish, dying at so alarming a speed,
often in the most inhumane ways imaginable. What is to be done?
A crowd of a few thousand
gathered at Downing Street for Global Day for Darfur, on April 29. They
were largely Sudanese, mostly from Darfur. They gathered in London's
hotspot for protests with a seemingly decisive and uncompromising demand:
intervention. They called on Britain--as tens of thousands rallying
simultaneously in 36 cities called on their respective governments and
the international community--to intervene to end the effective 'genocide'
in Sudan's Eastern province. Though a UN investigative team denied that
the killings there were being carried out with genocidal intent, the
fact is, an uncountable number of people are unnecessarily dying, mostly
due to starvation and disease, but also murdered with impunity. Two
million live in refugee camps, still targeted mostly by Janjaweed militias
but also rebel fighters. Even those who cross into Chad--200,000 refugees
are now living along the 600 kilometre stretch that separates Sudan
from its neighbour to the West--are not safe. The ethnic profile that
makes Darfur a testing place for social and national cohesion, also
exists in eastern Chad, thus similar feuds are carried out across the
The Darfur crisis is not
that of black and white, Arabs and Africans. This is nonsense. They
are all Africans. They are all Muslims, almost to the last one. Reductions
and oversimplification might be useful to the media and short-sighted
or self-serving politicians and governments, but deceptive and simply
inaccurate. Even the two main rebel groups--The Sudan Liberation Army
(SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem)--are now fighting
one another following the mid 2006 Abuja agreement. Chad is arming Sudan's
rebels and Sudan is doing the same.
But considering that the
victims and the aggressors are all Muslim, what have Muslim countries
and organizations done to bring the crisis to a halt? As the United
States is keenly interested in hyping the tragedy and exploiting it
for its own purposes, Muslim institutions in the West appear disinterested
in the whole affair, merely paying lip service to fend off accusations.
At least this is how I felt when I caught up with Dr. Daud Abdullah,
the Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB),
the largest umbrella Muslim group--representing over 400 Muslim organizations
in the country.
Abdullah spoke at the Darfur
rally with unequalled passion, a quality known of this man, a Jamaican-British
Muslim who has obtained his Ph.D. in modern Sudanese history from the
University of Khartoum. He lived in the war torn country for seven years.
He seemed neither apologetic nor bashful to lay the blame where it deserves
to be laid; but he was clearly fearful of misguided military adventures
like those of the United States in the Middle East.
"Muslims learned bitter
lessons from the Kuwait episode when foreigners invaded Muslim lands,"
he told me, proposing "an internal political settlement within
Sudan using African and Muslim resources." When I suggested to
Abdullah that such a proposal is useless considering its repeated failures,
and considering the urgency of the situation in Sudan, he responded:
"failure of the part of Muslims on more than one occasion shouldn't
negate the notion that Muslims must not to try to resolve the situation
internally and present their own alternatives."
Dr. Abdullah knows more than
anyone else I know how Sudan "is prone to fragmentation."
He said the country "was put together in the 19th century (in a
political concoction) that has left it in constant struggle and civil
war. The country is hardly in need for further fragmentation."
"This conflict will
be resolved at the negotiation table," according to Abduallah,
who is also one of the most well known Muslim rights advocates in the
country, if not in all of Europe. "There can be no military solution.
Muslim countries, civil societies and other parties must strive to bring
conflicting parties to talk on the basis of sharing wealth and creating
equality and ending the marginalization that has defined Darfur for
Rights groups however, suggest
that the intensity of the violence has increased since the peace agreement
signed last year between the government and the rebels. The rebels'
split lead to an internal clash and the killings are no longer defined
according to the simplified media line: Janjaweeds vs. Africans.
Dr. Abdullah defended the
MCB against my suggestion that some Muslim groups seem little interested
in direct involvement, and that Darfur has been dropped out of their
political sphere for it simply involves no other party other than Muslims.
"The MCB has been involved in efforts to support political settlement
in Sudan. We are in direct contact with Khartoum and are exploring ways
to ensure that the central government honours its responsibilities toward
the people of that region." He spoke of "some progress"
on that front, and insisted that the powerful Muslim organization fully
supports the Abuja Agreement. According to Abdullah, MCB continues to
exert all efforts to help bring an end to the conflict.
In such conflicts, when regional
control, political interests and economic booty are all at stake, human
lives, especially those of these least importance - peasants, nomads
and defenceless innocents with little clout - become a pawn in the hands
of those who wish for conflict to perpetuate, so long as there is a
good reason for its continuation. As I left the Darfur rally, the echo
of an angry speaker, demanding intervention and justice and all the
rest followed me a long distance from the crowd. My mind was totally
consumed with the most expressive hourglass of blood. It was still streaming
as people continue to die.
Ramzy Baroud teaches
mass communication at Curtin University of Technology and is the author
of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle.
He is also the editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com. He can be
contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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