April 14, 2007
Los Angeles Times

Darfur Needs Peace, Not Peacekeepers

Why sending foreign troops to stop genocide in Sudan won't save lives

by Robert Menard and Stephen Smith

DO YOU THINK the United States was wrong to invade Iraq even if it did so with the intention of bringing freedom to the victims of Saddam Hussein? Do you believe that long-standing conflicts in faraway countries cannot be solved with military solutions that fail to address the underlying causes of the crisis?

If so, how can you imagine that deploying thousands, or more likely tens of thousands, of foreign soldiers in Darfur, a Sudanese province bigger than Iraq, is all it would take to stop the massacre there? When we went to Darfur in March, we were as desperate as anybody about the killings - and we still are. But what we learned in Sudan makes us wary of do-gooders in body armor - and of the double-think of balkanized minds branding as disaster in Iraq what they recommend for Darfur's salvation. We ought to have serious doubts about this new mission to civilize, done up in the latest colors. Without a political solution brokered by the international community, there will be no peace to keep and even less to impose.

In Khartoum and in North Darfur, we met Sudanese who were traumatized by their country's tragedy, but also much better informed than us. Their views differed, but none of them perceived the conflict as one between "victims" and "butchers." Yet, Manichaeism prevails in the West, where the cause is assumed to be simple: An Islamist Arab regime has decided to exterminate Darfur's black population and is carrying out genocide with the help of the Riders of the Apocalypse, the infamous janjaweed militia. There is hardly any mention in the U.S. or European media of how humanitarian aid organizations - and Darfur's civilians - are also fleeing from atrocities committed by rebels in Darfur opposed to Khartoum.

For example, in Gereida, in South Darfur, more than 100,000 displaced people have been cut off from humanitarian aid since mid-December after a rebel attack on relief groups that still dare not return.

The simplistic narrative may make for a readable plot line to explain a confusing African country, but unfortunately most Americans are not informed that there are up to 15 rebel factions fighting the government - and increasingly, each other. . . .

Let's face facts: Going to war against the Sudanese would not save lives, it would cost lives. . . .


ROBERT MeNARD is secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, an organization that defends press freedoms. STEPHEN SMITH writes on African affairs from Paris.

"Darfur, Sudan: African Muslim vs. African Muslim," The Wisdom Fund, April 3, 2004

Enver Masud, "Sudan, Oil, and the Darfur Crisis," The Wisdom Fund, August 7, 2004

David Leigh and David Pallister, "The New Scramble For Africa," Guardian, June 1, 2005

Colum Lynch, "Sudan To Allow U.N. Force In Darfur: Peacekeepers Will Aid African Union," Washington Post, April 17, 2007

[If it was ever as simple to describe the conflict as a "genocide" of black Africans by an Arab government - and few analysts in Sudan believe it was - it certainly is not now.

Sudan's government is arming any group that is prepared to attack anyone connected with the rebels, be they African or Arab.--Steve Bloomfield in Jebel Marra, "Darfur: War without end," Independent, April 30, 2007]

[The reality is that the war in Darfur was begun, and is being continued, by some of Sudan's neighbours, and larger powers behind them, to maintain pressure on the Khartoum regime. It is not a coincidence that the Darfur conflict escalated as the conflict in the south of Sudan was settling down.--Iqbal Siddiqui, "Darfur: a by-word for tragedy and hypocrisy,", May 11, 2007]

[Messinger fundraises for lobbying-oriented humanitarian aid through the American Jewish World Service in New York, which is collecting money for "Save Darfur." Last year she raised approximately $31 million of which Darfur was to receive approximately $3 million. Most of the money donated for relief and development in Sudan was channeled back into Jewish lobbying efforts, Messinger admitted with very little shame, adding that AJWS has no real way to do anything for Sudan. She urged Jewish students to participate in "Save Darfur" as a way to get connected and create a "presence" in world "humanitarianism," which would engage in a coordinated Jewish effort of organizing, electing and legislating.--Tom True (UNVERIFIED SOURCE), "'Save Darfur' Warmongers Scam,", May 16, 2007]

Roger Howard, "Where anti-Arab prejudice and oil make the difference," Guardian, May 16, 2007

[VIDEO: The only group in a position to estimate how many people have died in Darfur is UNICEF, because UNICEF is the only one that did a comprehensive survey in 2005 in Darfur. Everybody else only knows the piece of ground on which they work and will then extrapolate from it, like any other NGO, like Oxfam or Medecins Sans Frontieres or World Food Program. The WFP estimate was 200,000. Out of these 200,000, the WPF report tells you that roughly about 20% died of actually being killed, of violence, and 80% died mainly from starvation and from diseases. . . .

Darfur is also the place which has been hit hard by global warming. The UN commission which sat on global warming very recently spoke of Darfur as the first major crisis of global warming. In other words, from the late 1970s you have had a significant desertification, and you've been having in the north of Darfur basically a situation where people's simply entire livelihoods are destroyed, and which has been one of the elements, because it has driven the nomadic population in the north down into the south. So how many people are dying from desertification? How many people are dying from the violence that has been unleashed through this civil war in Darfur?

Second element in this is that there's a civil war going on in Darfur. There are two rebel movements, and both rebel movements were born in the aftermath of the peace in the south.--Mahmood Mamdani, "The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency,", June 4, 2007]

"Climate change behind Darfur killing: UN's Ban," AFP, June 16, 2007

Lydia Polgreen, "Sudan and U.N. Reach New Peacekeeping Deal for Darfur," New York Times, June 18, 2007

[Sudan's President, Omar El-Bashir . . . said international coverage of the crisis in Darfur was oversimplifying the issue, which he said is largely driven by local conflicts over land and other resources. The Sudanese president also said the U.S. was behind much of the false information regarding the Sudanese government's role in Darfur and that it was supplying Darfurian rebels with arms, in addition to slowing Sudan's development through sanctions. "They [the Americans] want to make the same mistakes in Sudan as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan."--Robert Nolan, " Africa: Civil Society Groups Discuss Darfur, Zimbabwe at AU Summit,", July 2, 2007]

[Analysts say competition for resources between Darfur's Arab nomads and black African farmers is behind the conflict.

Last month, the UN Environmental Programme (Unep) said there was little prospect of peace in Darfur unless the issues of environmental destruction were addressed.--"Water find 'may end Darfur war'," BBC News, July 18, 2007]

[But it retained references to Chapter 7, under which the UN can authorise the use of force, for self-defence, to ensure the free movement of humanitarian workers and to protect civilians.--Mark Turner and Jean Eaglesham, "UN to send 26,000-strong force to Darfur," Financial Times, July 31, 2007]

Xan Rice, "Key Darfur rebel chief boycotts peace talks," Observer, August 5, 2007

Vijay Prashad, "Destination Darfur: A New Cold War Over Oil,", August 5, 2007

Jeffrey Gettleman, "Chaos in Darfur on Rise as Arabs Fight With Arabs," New York Times, September 3, 2007

[The Sudanese government declared a unilateral cease-fire at the opening ceremony of peace talks on Darfur on Saturday, but because crucial rebel leaders were boycotting, it was not clear if the talks would be a breakthrough moment to end the world's worst humanitarian crisis or yet another lost opportunity.--Jeffrey Gettleman, "Sudan Declares Cease-Fire at Darfur Peace Talks," New York Times, October 28, 2007]

[The so-called Save Darfur Coalition, which has gained prominence in the bourgeois media as the vanguard of a "humanitarian" movement, is in fact made up of right-wing U.S. Christian evangelicals and Zionists, such as the Christian National Association of Evangelicals and the American Jewish World Service. . . .

The same capitalist press that throws around numbers of "200,000 dead" and "2 million displaced" in Sudan ignores the fact that U.S. policies in Iraq have killed over 2 million Iraqis since 1990. Four million Iraqis are refugees due to the 2003 invasion alone.--David Feldman, "Congress signs Sudan divestment bill,", December 28, 2007]

[The offensives are aimed at retaking ground gained by a rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, which has been gathering strength and has close ties to the government of neighboring Chad.--Lydia Polgreen, "Scorched-earth strategy returns to Darfur," International Herald Tribune, March 2, 2008]

[French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday told the world's biggest carbon polluters that global warming was becoming a driver of hunger, unrest and conflict, with the war in Darfur a concrete example.--Jeffrey Gettleman, "France warns climate change driving war, hunger," AFP, April 18, 2008]

[Ninety per cent of the deaths occurred four to five years ago and the government and its militia proxies were the main culprits. . . .

The rebels started the recent offensives - notably the attack on the capital, Khartoum - some Arabs have switched sides, and Chadians have plunged in on both sides.--Alex de Waal, "Why Darfur intervention is a mistake," BBC News, May 21, 2008]

["The problem is between Darfurians and the government - this is not between Arabs and Africans," said Abdel Majid Ibrahim Mohamed, a prominent leader of the ethnically African Fur tribe, among the most heavily targeted by the government.--Stephanie McCrummen, "A Revival of Tribal Tradition to Help Repair Darfur," Washington Post, July 5, 2008]

[Save Darfur movement . . . spends its annual budget of $15 million not on assisting victims but on spreading the message.

. . . One part of the group emerged out of solidarity with the struggle in south Sudan and believes that Darfur is another version of south Sudan. Most have no idea of the difference between the two situations. Another wing is what I understand to be neoconservatives who want to incorporate Darfur into the war on terror. Both groups reinforce the racialization of the conflict and the demonization of the Arabs.--Anna Mundow, "Politics and humanitarianism,", March 22, 2009]

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