back to index
Daily Hampshire Gazette
15 September 2006
Keeping "Peacekeepers" Out of Darfur. (Submitted Title was changed)
by keith harmon snow & Dimitri Oram
The humanitarian tragedy in the Darfur region of Sudan revolves around
natural resources. Such struggles in Sudan began in the days when a
budding journalist passed through Khartoum and reported on the British
victory at the Battle of Omdurman. "The weapons, the methods and the
fanaticism of the Middle Ages," reported Winston Churchill, "were
brought by an extraordinary anachronism into dire collision with the
organization and inventions of the 19th century. The result was not
surprising." The gattling gun silenced some 60,000 Sudanese tribesmen
armed only with spears, bows and arrows.
While colonialism died a hard death in Sudan, during the Cold War the
control of the Sudan remained central to the U.S. and its
anti-communist allies throughout the 1970's and 1980's. War began in
the early 1980's, and after 1990 the U.S. supported the southern
Christian rebels, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, for over a
decade, until a peace deal was struck in 2003.
In the 1990's an Islamic government came to power, and tensions
escalated (1998) when the Clinton Administration bombed the Al Shifta
pharmaceutical factory, the country's only producer of medical
supplies. After 9/11 the Bush Administration warmed to the Government
of Sudan, and today Sudan is both credited as a pivotal ally in the
"War on Terror" and castigated as "a rogue Arab government committing
genocide against black Africans in Darfur."
Darfur is now the flashpoint for the international geopolitical
chess-game to control Sudan and its resources. For example, the U.S.
Sugar industry notes that Sudan is a major sugar producer, and the
American Botanical Council credits Darfur with supplying two-thirds of
world-supply of high-quality gum Arabic - an ingredient in soft drinks
and pharmaceutical products. USAID funded Gum Arabic projects
throughout the 1980's, but suspended them with the ascension of the
Islamic government in the 1990's. And, as noted by Khalil Ibrahim, the
leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, one of mysterious
factions fighting in Darfur, "oil is everywhere in Sudan." Darfur is
rich in uranium, copper, gold and petroleum.
Combatants in Darfur not only arrive on camels and horses - the infamous
"janjaweed" ever credited with genocide - but also in C-130 aircraft,
with logistical and strategic support provided by U.S. Air Forces in
Europe, under U.S. Marine General James Jones. Backed by the U.S.
and NATO, the 7000 troops of the African Union (AU) "peacekeeping"
force have only deepened the quagmire: the AU force is accused of
taking sides and there are calls for withdrawal. Rwandan troops with
the AU mission in Darfur are themselves accused of having committed
atrocities in the Congo. The U.S. and its allies, including Britain,
Israel and Taiwan, continue to press their interests in the region:
both the U.S. and Israel today support combatants in Chad, Sudan and
U.S. taxpayers also support the operations of U.S. troops in Uganda,
Chad, and Ethiopia - three states embroiled in humanitarian crises and
war. Acts of genocide and war crimes proliferate in each, but no one
is calling for "peacekeeping" missions here. International aid and
human rights organizations widely acknowledge that the crises in
northern Uganda is the worst in the world, yet the least talked about.
Atrocities routinely occur in Ethiopia, and Ethiopian military leaders
defected to Eritrea last month in protest of the government's role.
Meanwhile, the attention of the U.S. public has been narrowly focused
on the "moral necessity" of intervention to "stop genocide" in Darfur.
While spending two billion dollars a year on the world's most
neglected emergency, the United Nations Observers Mission in Congo
(M.O.N.U.C.), partially funded by the U.S. public, was unable to stem
the mortalities: some 30,000 Congolese have died monthly (1000 people
a day) from violence, disease and malnutrition. The situation in
Congo remains dire, more deadly than Darfur. M.O.N.U.C. "peacekeepers"
have committed atrocities against civilians. Weapons and minerals
continue to flow across Congo's borders routinely, and recent news
reports claim that uranium from Congo has appeared in Iran. War in
Those in the U.S. who call for intervention in Darfur fail to
understand the greater geopolitical context. Given current realities
in Sudan, no intervention in Darfur will proceed, and if it did it
would fail. U.S. citizens should support the ongoing peace process
mediated by the Eritreans, involving the Sudanese government and the
Darfur resistance, which seeks to find a permanent solution to the
Darfur crisis. The saying in the Horn is "all roads to peace in the
Horn of Africa run through Asmara," the Eritrean capital, and this is
where the winds of change are blowing.
In every case, intervention in the Horn of Africa has only worsened
the crises. The promise of the United Nations "peacekeeping" missions
has been compromised, and attention needs to shift to reforming
"peacekeeping" and "humanitarian" agendas and addressing the root
causes. Sending more armed forces from outside Sudan will destroy all
hope of peaceful resolution, and the people of the Horn of
Africa - given their awareness of Sudan's vast petroleum and uranium
reserves, and war in Lebanon and Iraq - are deeply cynical of the
motivations of Westerners who call for "peacekeeping" and
At the Smith College Panel on Intervention in Darfur (6 July 2006),
organizers, panelists and sponsors called on Mayor Claire Higgins - a
signatory to the Darfur Action Group campaign of the Congregation Bnai
Israel - and the Northampton City Council to hold a public hearing to
explore the geopolitical realities of this conflict, in hopes to
educate and inspire the public to take appropriate action. This call
is repeated here, and the public is urged to support it.
Concerned citizens should ask for  transparency of U.S. foreign
policy and involvement in Sudan;  good faith negotiations and
diplomacy offering concessions and support from the U.S. and its
allies;  respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of the
people of Sudan;  accountability from all factions, and their
backers, involved in the conflict; and  a withdrawal of all foreign
troops from Sudanese soil.
War does not occur in a vacuum, and Americans will pay a high price
for misguided action. We need only recall the "humanitarian" failure
of the U.S. military in Somalia, and the ridicule and humiliation
served to the American people as young American soldiers were dragged
through the streets of that far off place. ~
A native of Williamsburg, MA, keith harmon snow has worked on the Horn
of Africa as a consultant on genocide and humanitarian aid for the
United Nations (2005), and he worked in Ethiopia, Sudan and the Congo
as a human rights researcher and genocide investigator for Genocide
Watch (2004-2005) and Survivors Rights International (2004, 2005).
Also an award-winning journalist, he has worked extensively
(2004-2006) with the multinational peacekeeping forces of the United
Nations Observers Mission for Congo (M.O.N.U.C.). In 2001 he reported
from the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, and he has worked
or reported from 17 countries in Africa. In 2006 he has been working
in Congo and Afghanistan. Dimitri Oram is a human rights and genocide
researcher, and writer, based in Northampton, MA.
back to index
© keith is an INDEPENDENT freelance journalist and investigator entirely dependent on individual donations and voluntary contributions. He has lived under the poverty line for over a decade, and he has continues to work as a volunteer for three non-profit humanitarian organizations. Without your support, he cannot continue to do this important and insightful work.
||Your support makes this work possible!