The Darfur Consortium

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Darfur in the News

U.S. and European Media

July 23, 2023

Los Angeles Times: Sudan's president takes a new tack on Darfur.

On the second day of a rare visit to Darfur, President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir unveiled several development projects meant to bolster the war-torn region, but he did not visit any of the camps filled with people displaced by years of systematic violence blamed on militias linked to his government. Instead he met with leaders from the refugee camps who said that 1,000 families were ready to return to their villages, even as officials from the United Nations complained about fresh attacks on civilians near El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur province, where Bashir will wind up his tour today..."We have lost the media war so far," said Interior Minister Zubeir Bashir Taha. "But we are not going to lose it forever." Taha said the government had greatly increased spending in Darfur in the last year. "Of course the government has responsibility for the people displaced, and we are spending a lot of money to show our responsibility," he said.

McClatchy: Darfur crisis devolves into ‘anarchy’.

As far as Osman Ahmed could tell, the clashes that forced his family from their home were no different from the attacks that have devastated Darfur for four years. “The village was totally burned and looted. It was the janjaweed,” said Ahmed, a tired-looking man in a long white gown, invoking the name of the government-sponsored Arab militias responsible for most of the recent carnage in western Sudan. But Ahmed, who fled immediately with his family to safety in a refugee camp at Nertiti, about seven miles away, wasn’t around to see what happened the following day. Darfur rebels retaliated by striking a nearby government security station, and their allies in the attack were also Arab janjaweed. The account of the clashes around Songa village on June 9 and 10, given by African Union peacekeepers manning a small mountain outpost here in central Darfur, illustrates part of an increasingly upside-down security picture in Darfur. With some janjaweed now fighting alongside rebels they once tried to kill — and with the rebels riven by disputes and attacking peacekeepers and aid workers — this is hardly the same conflict of four years ago. As desperate as life has become in Darfur, the new complications could make things worse...

Now there is a new set of problems: Few people know who is attacking or why. Armed groups are breaking off and recombining according to the tactical advantage that day. Aid agencies and peacekeepers are at greater risk than ever.

Reuters: Sudan Rejects Use Of Force By UN - AU Darfur Mission.    

Sudan on Sunday said it rejected part of a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would give joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping troops the right to use force in their Darfur mission. The draft resolution introduced by Britain and France is aimed at sending 26,000 troops to Sudan 's arid western region in a deal pressed on Khartoum after months of talks, threats and negotiations. Interior Minister Zubeir Bashir Taha said Western governments appeared to have misinterpreted Khartoum 's acceptance of the mission that would allow foreign troops into Sudan . The draft resolution for the mission includes the U.N.'s Chapter VII mandate which authorizes "all necessary means in the areas of deployment of its forces" to protect its troops, secure a peace agreement and seize arms. "We have reservations regarding interpretations made by other parties... regarding the hybrid operation," Taha told Reuters.

New York Times: A Godsend for Darfur, or a Curse?

The announcement by researchers at Boston University last week that a vast underground lake the size of Lake Erie had been discovered beneath the barren soil of northern Darfur, a blood-soaked but otherwise parched land racked by war for the past four years, was greeted by rapturous hopes. Could this, at last, bring deliverance from a cataclysmic conflict that has killed at least 200,000 people and pushed more than 2.5 million from their homes?... the history of Sudan, a grim chronicle of civil war, famine, coups and despotism, gives ample reason to be skeptical....

A vast new agricultural scheme in a largely uninhabited swath of northern Darfur is more likely to fit into this destructive pattern than not, said John Prendergast, a founder of the Enough Project, an initiative of the Center for American Progress and the International Crisis Group to abolish genocide and mass atrocities. "Climate change and the lack of rain are much less important than the land-use patterns promoted by the government of Sudan and the development policies of World Bank and I.M.F., which were focused on intensive agricultural expansion that really mined the soils and left a lot of land unusable,” said Mr. Prendergast, who has been studying Sudan for 20 years. “That was probably the principal impetus for a lot of intra-Darfur migration in the decades leading up to the conflict in Darfur.”

Christian Science Monitor: In Darfur, one husband sticks by his wife despite society's pressure.

Nobody would have blamed Omar Abdullah Al Bakar for divorcing his wife last year in his distant village in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. Mr. Bakar's own family was insisting on it, in fact, after his wife miscarried a child, and suffered a postnatal condition that left her unable to control her bladder. But Mr. Al Bakar – who is blind – took the cultural road less traveled. He took his wife, Mecca Mohammad Ibrahim, to get help, by donkey cart and car, across war zones, losing most of his possessions in the process, but keeping his small family unit intact. "This is my wife," he says, sitting on a cot under an acacia tree in the dusty back yard of the Saudi Maternity Hospital here in the town of Al-Fasher, where he and his wife and two sons have lived for almost a year awaiting treatment. "I've had a good life with her, and I need her so we can together raise my sons."

Stories like Omar Abdullah's are a rare exception to the rule in Darfur, where the interests of families and the production of heirs take precedence over those of women. Ostracism of sick women in Darfur is common.

Reuters: Darfur rebels call for equal representation at talks.

A newly formed Darfur rebel group on Monday said a meeting of rebel leaders in Tanzania next month must give "equal representation" to all insurgents in Sudan 's conflict-torn western region. The United Front for Liberation and Development (UFLD) -- formed in the Eritrean capital this month -- said it was prepared to attend the meeting in Tanzania aimed at starting peace talks to end the four-year conflict. "In an attempt to redefine the crisis and depart from the limited focus on individual leaders with their narrow self-interest, the UFLD insists on equal representation for all resistance movements," it said in a statement on Monday. "The Front is opposed to preconditions that exclude other forces and thereby create unnecessary complications; and, also condemns the wasteful tactics of showmanship and grandstanding.

" The following Op-Ed by By Jason Qian and Anne Wu  appeared in today's Boston Globe. China's delicate role on Darfur

SOME IN the West have recently begun referring to the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the "Genocide Olympics" because of China's continued business ties with Sudan and its reluctance to intervene decisively in the Darfur conflict. Is China really turning a cold shoulder to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, or has the explosive charge of complicity in genocide blinded observers to China's aid and quiet diplomacy in Sudan? Global outrage is growing over the massacre in Darfur; Beijing is not exempt from this feeling. But there is a significant difference between China and the West in approaching the issue. China's strategy is one of humanitarian and development aid plus influence without interference, in contrast to the West's coercive approach of sanctions plus military intervention.

Through high-level diplomacy -- such as Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Sudan in February and the dispatch of special envoys -- and multilateral platforms such as the United Nations and the China-Africa summit, China has been making tactical moves to press the Sudanese government to comply with the international community's requests. China deserves credit for securing Khartoum's agreement on allowing UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur. China's approach toward the Darfur crisis takes the long view. It perceives the root causes of the turmoil as poverty and a lack of resources, which have led to decades of fighting between local tribes and ethnic groups over basic necessities, such as water resources, land, and infrastructure. Therefore, China's approach to solve the long-lasting conflict in the Darfur region has been to provide comprehensive development assistance in addition to humanitarian aid.

Beijing has agreed to offer $10.4 million of humanitarian aid to Darfur and delivered half of the aid during its special envoy's trip to Sudan in May. Beijing also has invested $30 million in a dam project in the northern part of Darfur, as well as provided goods and materials for building more than 120 schools, facilities for transportation and electric generation, and other necessities for economic development. China also plans to send 275 military engineers to a UN force this month to implement initial stages of the Kofi Annan peace plan, which bolsters African Union peacekeeping forces in Darfur.

The lack of progress in stopping the massacre and the slow effect of the development aid has left China in an awkward position. On the one hand, due to its foreign policy principle of non interference, as well as its investment in Sudan, Beijing traditionally has been reluctant to put strong pressure on Khartoum, believing that wielding sticks would only prove counterproductive. On the other hand, outsiders assume that China's substantial interest in Sudanese oil gives it persuasive power over Khartoum. However, China's political influence in Darfur should not be overvalued. At the same time that Beijing's investment in Sudan provides economic leverage, it also makes Beijing a hostage. Consistent with its non interference foreign policy, China does not attach political conditions to its economic relationship with Khartoum, thus making it a more credible partner to Sudan.

When Western leaders press Beijing to flex its economic muscles in the Darfur crisis, they often underestimate the tendency of African countries -- including Sudan -- to resist influence from external forces. Beijing will lose its credibility and de facto influence if it overreaches its will politically. The effective influence that Beijing can exert over the Darfur crisis lies in its delicate balance between practicing an influence-without-interference strategy and maintaining the hard-won trust of the Sudanese government. Frankly, it seems more convenient for Western leaders to blame China than to face their own responsibilities for a humanitarian crisis that they could do far more to stop. Given Washington's oil-centered foreign policy throughout the past whole century and its previous record of violating the UN-sponsored sanctions against South Africa's apartheid government under the "Constructive Engagement" argument, it seems the current outcry against China is at least partially a tactic to divert public attention.

When judging China's Sudan policy, one must also bear in mind that this is an integral part of China's overall policy toward Africa. China no doubt has its own interests in Africa, but its engagement there equally and sincerely takes into account the interests of African countries -- and their desire to, foremost, promote economic development. China's investments in Africa have extended beyond just oil and other natural resources to other areas where infrastructure development is needed.

As Harry Broadman, an economic adviser to the World Bank's Africa Department, mentioned in an interview, "The Chinese are making investments in light manufacturing, water services, food processing, textiles, telecommunications and tourism, and in other kinds of noncommercial infrastructure . . . Regardless of whether it is equity or debt, they are filling gaps in investment in Africa which are needed.

" In response to the "new imperialism" charges against China's engagement with African countries, President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa of Zambia has said that China provides aid, offers loan deductions or exemptions, jointly develops resources, and invests in basic infrastructure, leaving the added value in Africa. It is hard for him to see these as "imperial" actions, since they contrast sharply with the actions of European imperialists in past centuries, who exploited Africa's rich natural resources and ran away, profiting at the expense of the poor local people. Beyond development cooperation, China's principle of exerting influence but not interfering and imposing is consistent with African practice, and the final political decision will have to be made by Africans.

In the face of increasing pressure from the international community, China may consider bolder options. However, the rest of the world should not simply play the blame China game. If there is a linkage between the Darfur crisis and Beijing Olympics, it should lie in the West and China together using the spirit of the Olympics -- mutual understanding, friendship, solidarity, and fair competition -- with their sympathetic hearts to collectively create a better future for Darfur.

Jason Qian is a fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School. Anne Wu is a research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.


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