International powers intertwined in Sudan's Darfur conflict

Oct 16, 2004 02:00 AM

A five-way African summit is scheduled to open in Libya in a bid to find a peaceful solution to the 20-month Darfur conflict raging in the western region of Sudan in face of West interference in the crisis.
Under the auspices of Nigeria, the current rotating presidency of the African Union (AU), leaders from Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria and Chad are coming to Libya for the summit, trying to fend off possible UN sanctions against Sudan and achieve a lasting solution to the Darfur issue within the AU framework.

Clashes in Sudan's Darfur flared up in February 2003 when local black African farmers took up arms to fight horse-mounted Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, who were accused of large-scales of killing, rape, looting and burning. The conflict has so far caused many deaths and sent thousands of others fleeing to neighbouring Chad or internally displaced.
Under a UN Security Council resolution in September, the Sudanese government was urged to rein in militia, protect local people, prosecute those responsible for killings and allow more AU monitoring troops into the conflicting region.

Although the Darfur crisis was virtually an internal affair, which should demand mainly the efforts by the Sudanese government, yet there were international powers wielding significant influence upon the issue, which made the issue become ever more complicating and its prospects were never further from being certain.
The United States was one of the driving forces behind the UN Security Council 1564 Resolution approved by 11 votes on Sept. 18, with China, Russia, Algeria and Pakistan abstaining. It criticized Khartoum for failing to rein in marauding militia, and threatened to slap sanctions on its vital oil sector.

As the former colonizer of Sudan, Britain was involved from the very beginning in the crisis. After a UN resolution on July 30, Britain said it was ready to dispatch a 5,000-strong force to be rapidly deployed in Sudan.
British Prime Minister Tony Blare visited Khartoum and held talks with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed el-Bashir on Oct. 6, demanding that the AU troop contingent be boosted, Khartoum pull government troops back in conjunction with a rebel withdrawal, commit to an overall peace agreement for Sudan by the end of 2004 and abide by signed UN humanitarian protocols. Meanwhile, France went one step further, sending 200 soldiers to the borderlines between Chad and Sudan under the pretext of protecting local residents there.

The 20-month conflicts sent thousands of Darfuris into neighbouring Chad, which brought a heavy burden to this African country. France, the former patronage country of Chad, was sure to step in to safeguard its interests in the area. Observers and media reports said that the United States and the West showed such interests in Darfur because they has set sights on the rich oil reserves in the country.
Sudan, the largest country in the African continent with a known 700 mm barrels of oil reserves, has become an oil exporter since 1999. Althoughits current production capacity was a mere 250,000 bpd, it still presented as an inviting potential oil supplier to the world market.

Apart from its economic interests, the United States also intended to bring Sudan into its anti-terror fold. Washington listed Sudan in 2002 among seven countries who it said supported terror. With anti-terror an unrelenting pursuit of the incumbent US administration, the Sudan issue would by all means remain among priorities in the US war on terror.
On the other side, the Darfur crisis has also deserved attentions from the 53-member AU. While helping Khartoum and Darfur rebel groups reached a ceasefire in April, the AU has deployed some 300 soldiers to the Darfur region to protect about 150 observers who are monitoring the ceasefire.

With the help from the international community, especially the AU, the Sudanese government has taken various measures to decrease the tension situation in Darfur while persisting in peace negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria, with the rebel groups under the AU auspices. However, the European Union (EU) issued a renewed sanctions threat against Khartoum over the Darfur crisis, saying it would impose sanctions if security in the conflict-torn Darfur region did not improve within two months.
An EU Troika delegation led by Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, arrived in Khartoum to signal fresh warning against Sudan. Bot welcomed Sudan's acceptance of up to 4,000 African monitors and a promise of cooperation with a UN investigation into whether genocide has taken place, but said more action was needed on disarming militias, bringing human rights abusers to justice and returning home an estimated 1.5 mm people driven from their villages.

After talks with the EU delegation, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail told that any plan or threat to impose sanctions on Sudan reflected "a colonialist mentality", which "should be imposed on countries that refuse to comply with resolutions of the UN Security Council."
The AU role comes when the disarmament of both the armed rebels and the Janjaweed militias in Darfur takes place, he said, adding the increase of the AU forces has an external dimension besides rebuilding the affected villages in Darfur whereas the Sudanese government started that in cooperation with world organizations.

The AU's Peace and Security Council is due to make a final decision on the duties and numbers of its force which will monitor a shaky ceasefire in Darfur.
While affirming to support the political settlement to the Darfur issue by working it out with the local administration, Khartoum has repeatedly stressed that it "is dealing through the open-door policy without neglecting the Sudanese homeland's sovereignty and security."

Source: Xinhua
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