Darfur Betrayed


On August 1, Agence France Press in Paris reflected the international acclaim for a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution aimed at finally
doing something about the genocide in Darfur:

“UN resolution on Darfur wins global applause.”

Even China—Sudan’s closest and most mutually profitable ally—joined the long-debated resolution to send 26,000 predominantly African UN troops and police to deal with what British prime minister Gordon Brown told the UN general assembly is “the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today.”

But in the not-so-fine print are the results of China’s significant behind-the-scenes weakening of the resolution. (As a member of the Security Council, China has veto power over language that impedes its imperious designs.) Stripped from the original language was a threat by the UN to enact sanctions on General Omar al-Bashir’s Khartoum government if it doesn’t comply with the now largely toothless UN resolution 1769.

Also tossed out was a condemnation of Sudan’s persistent harassment and endangering of UN and other humanitarian operations.

Interestingly, given Prime Minister Brown’s statement regarding the horrors of the ongoing genocide, China was joined by Britain and France during the Security Council’s negotiations to remove any mention of punishing Sudan if it chooses not to enforce any part of the resolution.

This hidden-ball trick engineered by China led Democratic Senator Russell Feingold to protest that Sudan can accordingly, and without consequences, do what it wills in Darfur. (The United States refused to co-sponsor this slippery resolution, but did sign it.)

Nowhere in the resolution is there a mention of insisting that Sudan disarm its horrifying Janjaweed militia, responsible for many of the 450,000 deaths of black Africans in Darfur (and now Chad)—as well as an untold number of gang rapes of Darfur women.

It is hardly surprising that, after the resolution passed, Sudan’s ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohammad, felt free to make clear the Khartoum government’s interpretation of a key part of the resolution, which allows the combined mission to use force to protect itself, civilians, and humanitarian workers. As the August 1 Washington Post reported, Mohammad insisted that the “resolution would require the mission to respect Sudan’s ultimate responsibility to provide security for its people. ‘No blank check is there,’ he said.” Ultimately, Sudan can obstruct the use of force by the UN.

Among those people living under the “security” provided by Sudan are the survivors of the black Africans murdered by al-Bashir’s army and the Janjaweed. The general is already close to holding the world record for heads of state who break all the agreements they have signed, and he sees room in this celebrated resolution to become the winner of that competition.

In none of the American coverage of this UN Security Council action—which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls “historic and unprecedented”—have I seen mentioned what even Agence France Press notes is missing from the resolution: “It does not authorize foreign troops to pursue alleged war criminals sought by the International Criminal Court—an omission that drew a sharp warning from the tribunal based in the Hague.” As I’ve reported here, the ICO, in May of this year, issued warrants for the arrests of Ahmed Haroun (who—I kid you not—is the Sudanese secretary of state for humanitarian affairs), and Ali Kosheib, a leader of the dread Janjaweed militia.

Hearing the hosannas for what the UN Security Council has so proudly accomplished, the International Criminal Court reminded the world, including Ban Ki-moon: “We want to recall that the international community has called for these two arrests. This issue should not be ignored.” Want to bet?

General al-Bashir must have chuckled at that warning from the ICO—as if he has ever had anything personally to fear from the international community and its courts.

Another dark cloud over the resolution is the fact that these far less than fully empowered troops will not be on the ground in Darfur, even preliminarily, until December 31—and the full force will not be deployed until the end of 2008.

With the Janjaweed still killing and raping, and the humanitarian workers continually in such peril that some have already left the country, Reuters reported on August 1 that at least four million of the temporary survivors in Darfur are living on food aid—when and if it comes.

Meanwhile, as The New York Times‘s Nicholas Kristof has revealed, General al-Bashir’s government has encouraged more than 30,000 Arabs from Niger, Chad, and other countries to move into the burned-out villages that black Africans in Darfur have fled. To make it highly unlikely that any of the original residents will return, these new occupiers have generously been given weapons and citizen papers by Sudan’s government.

The UN resolution takes no notice of this characteristically repellent maneuver by General al-Bashir to change the demographic map of Darfur.

One vital lesson of this UN shadow play is clear: China will heartily applaud the UN resolution, because it feels that much of the world has now been conned into believing that the genocide is going to come to an end—thanks in considerable part to the cooperation of China! So, the Chinese leaders hope, the international campaign to shame China—marring its self-glorification as host of the 2008 Olympics—will fade.

This is why Eric Reeves—an originator of the shaming campaign—makes the essential point that China must not be left off the hook. “It will require,” Reeves says, “tremendous advocacy efforts to secure [real] Chinese support for civilian protection in Darfur. Particularly if Khartoum continues its [chronic] defiance of international will . . . .

“Beijing . . . must use its unmatched leverage with Khartoum to forestall the tactics of obstructionism and harassment that have so deeply compromised the work of the current [small and continually endangered] African Union mission on Darfur.”

The shaming campaign, therefore, is continuing—as are the efforts of others around the world who see through the holes in this UN resolution and are working to organize a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. I will continue to report on these insistent pressures on China to compel its partner, Sudan, to put a real-time stop to the mass murders and rapes in Darfur.

Keep watching to see, for openers, if the barbarous Janjaweed militia is disarmed—and if one of its leaders is turned over to the International Criminal Courts sometime in this century.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 7, 2007

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