Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Darfur: The silence massacre

Darfur's crisis
The situation in Darfur, Sudan, has drawn much attention in the last few months. For an African country it has surprisingly received much widespread coverage in the Western media. Significantly it has been the focus of attention for many western politicians, particularly George Bush and Tony Blair, a focus perhaps only second to Iraq when it comes to foreign affairs. The fact that leaders such as Tony Blair and George Bush are raising apparent concern for Darfur and it’s people is enough to raise suspicions in itself. The rather simplistic view presented by the western media has been one of the Sudanese regime arming ‘Arab’ militias, the Janjaweed, to attack the native 'Black African' population in Darfur. The US regime has gone as far as calling the actions 'genocide' on the part of the Sudanese regime. However, after witnessing the aggressive, violent and illegitimate occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan it is only right that one examine the situation in Darfur very closely rather than taking these statements at face value. Certainly it is true that fighting is and has been taking place in Darfur. In fact many aid agencies estimate that hundreds of thousands may have been killed, with estimates varying from 50,000 up to half a million, with 200,000 being the most likely figure. Another 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes as refugees. Yet much of the western media and International community have chosen to ignore many of the facts surrounding this conflict in yet another strategically positioned Muslim country in the world. It is important to recognise that the Sudanese regime, Janjaweed or Arab militia and the rebels in Darfur are all Muslims. The Janjaweed are drawn from the Baggra (‘Baqqarah’ in Arabic) tribes, mainly Bedouin herders whilst the rebels come from the Fur, Zaghawa and Massaleit tribes, mainly land tillers. The Sudanese regime has been fighting several rebel groups drawn from these tribes opposed to it’s rule. The conflict started in 2003 when a rebel group started attacking Sudanese regime targets after accusing Khartoum of neglecting the area. There are two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The conflict has also spilled over into Chad, which is fighting it’s own civil war with both the Sudanese and Chad regimes accusing each other of supporting their respective opposing rebel forces.The Darfur rebels themselves have internal differences. The SLA and the JEM have merged into the National Redemption Front lead by a former Darfur governor after the SLA split, with the larger faction lead by Minni Minnawi agreeing to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) with the Sudanese regime in May 2006. Unlike the civil war in Sudan, which was fought by the primarily Muslim north against the minority Christian South, all parties in this conflict are Muslim. Thus the presentation of the conflict as one of 'Arabs' against 'Africans' is not accurate and is deliberately misleading. All of the people are black African, indigenous and Muslim. Sudan is a country of more than 40 million people, 70% of whom are Muslim, made up of more than 80 different ethnic groups and tribes, speaking many different languages including Arabic. Of these, nearly 8 million live in Darfur, an area the size of France. Studying Sudan's past history gives an understanding as to the basis of Darfur and the whole of Sudan's current problems. Sudan is a country that only achieved independence from British rule in 1956. Prior to that it was captured by a proxy Anglo-Egyptian force in 1899 following the defeat of the Mahdist forces, with Egypt itself being part of the British Empire at that time. Darfur itself was actually captured by the British in 1916, after which financial support from Khartoum for the outer regions such as Darfur ebbed away creating wealth inequalities in Sudan as a whole. The British implemented a number of polices to ensure their continued colonial rule. They divided Sudan into north and south, developing the north whilst isolating the south from northern Sudan. They prevented people from the north entering the south. They actively discouraged the spread of Islam, the practice of Islamic customs and introduced Christian missionaries and sought to reintroduce what they called the indigenous ‘African’ identity. Most important of all during the 1920s and 1930s the British sought to rule indirectly by strengthening pliant village sheikhs in the north and tribal leaders in the south, helping to create a fractured and weak ruling system in Sudan.As in other similar conflicts, poverty is one of the issues fuelling the current conflict today, compounded by nationalistic and tribal rivalries between the people in Darfur. After it's independence Sudan struggled with it’s first civil war before in the 1970s it overcame this and adopted policies more independent from the West. However peace was not permanent and in 1983 the civil war in Sudan restarted which eventually came to an end again in 2003. The Americans supported the Christian rebels during this conflict. No sooner had a peace agreement been agreed to end the second civil War, the Darfur conflict had started. Sudan's short history of sovereignty has seen little peace with outside forces playing a major part in helping to destabilise a resource rich and strategically important country. The other point of fact that is not widely reported is that Darfur is rich with oil, as is the rest of southern Sudan. The oil from Darfur accounts for $4 billion of revenue for the Sudanese regime, over half of the regime's income. Most importantly the current Sudanese regime has close ties with China, which has strong oil interests in Darfur, with Sudan supplying up to 10% of China’s oil imports. America has oil interests in neighbouring Chad but has been shut out of Sudan. It is remarkable that despite apparent concerns for the people of Darfur, issues such as oil and rivalry between powers such as China and America are largely overlooked in the international western media. Indeed towards the south in neighbouring Uganda there is also internal strife, led by the Christian Lord's Resistance Army, where similar ethnic killings are taking place, with rebels operating from southern Sudan, yet very few people would even be aware of this. As with other developing countries, countries such as Sudan are vulnerable to external forces that covertly exploit local problems and help foster opposition to the central regime depending upon their particular interest. Little wonder then that the Darfur rebels seem surprisingly well armed and funded. If America chose to launch an illegal war and invasion of oil rich Iraq, how can one reasonably expect America not to be motivated by the same in Darfur again?This is why calls for outside intervention by western powers need to be viewed in this context. The UN resolution 1706 passed in August 2006 calling for the deployment of up to 20,000 UN peacekeepers - to replace the current 7000 African Union force- only creates an avenue for foreign intervention in Sudan as a first step towards loosening control over Darfur from the Sudanese regime. As with other Muslim lands, this is another opportunity for colonialists to gain a foothold in this resource rich land by seeking to somehow legitimise their intervention under the guise of the UN, which is simply nothing more than a tool for predatory colonial powers that are locked in their never ending rivalry for resources. In this case if America cannot gain access to the oil, than at the very least it will seek to deny China being able to access oil in the region by helping to create and perpetuate the conflict. The other assertion often portrayed in the western media is that Sudan's regime is 'Islamic'. This is not true. Like all other Muslim countries it implements some aspects of Shari’ah along side many other non-Islamic laws and does not fulfil the conditions of a true Islamic State which can only be on the method of Allah’s messenger (saw), the Khilafah. Moreover the spilling of innocent Muslim blood such as that in Darfur, in which the regime has clearly played a role, is not permitted and is a severe crime under the Shari’ah and the Sudanese regime is a transgressor like many other regimes plaguing the Muslim world today. Sudan's regime is oppressive towards it's own people having illegitimately seized power. It came to power via a military coup prolonged by the facade of rigged elections, whilst being courted by outside nations such as China, who have their own interests at heart and continue to provide diplomatic and military support. Just recently China agreed to increase military support. By looking further back at Sudan's history one can see the inspiration for a real solution to the problems at hand. Islam was introduced into North Africa hundreds of years ago, with Islam entering much of the Darfur region as well as other parts of Sudan in the 14th century. Most of the Muslim rulers modelled their ruling on the Khilafah, although the Funj Sultanate of Sinnar was not directly under the control of the Uthmani Khilafah at the time until 1821. Yet this still brought together people irrespective of ethnicity and prosperity ensued. This is because the people put aside their petty rivalries and were united on the basis of Islam. Today the only way out of Sudan’s internal fighting is to unify the people around Islam leaving aside all ethnic and tribal affinities, which can only come with the proper implementation of Islam. Only the establishment of the Khilafah in the Muslim lands will remove corrupt regimes such as the Sudanese regime and safeguard the Muslims in Sudan from greedy colonial powers. It will look after the affairs of all the Muslims not only in Darfur but in the rest of Sudan and beyond and help heal ethnic divisions between the many different tribes. We know that Islam took the divided Arabs during the time of the Messenger of Allah (saw) from a pathetic divided lot to a position of great power as Islam ruled from the west coast of Africa to the Indus Valley in the Indian sub-continent within 100 years under the Khilafah. As Sudan’s history shows, any externally enforced solutions can only serve predatory colonial powers at the expense of the Muslims in Darfur. Once again it is being proven that because of the weakness of the Muslims, because of the absence of the Khilafah, Muslim blood is now also being spilt with impunity in Sudan as well.

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