Commentaries and Analyses Index

Why War And Peace In The Sudan Matter

AMSTERDAM, June 14 - In the midst of a long awaited peace settlement between the Muslim government of Sudan, and the southern rebel group, the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), another war is being waged in the western Darfur region. Civilians are being driven from there homes by the cruellest methods imaginable. The UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, described what is going on in Darfur, as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”. A sustainable peace in the Sudan is crucial, both for the UN’s legitimacy in Africa, as well as for the increasingly complicated war on terror.

The G8 this week called on the government of Sudan to immediately disarm the Janjawid militias ravaging the people of the Darfur region in the western Sudan, despite a ceasefire on the April 8th. ‘We call especially on the Sudanese government to disarm immediately the 'Janjawid' and other armed groups which are responsible for massive human rights violations in Darfur,’ said a joint statement issued on Thursday by the leaders of the G8.

Excessive pressure is however dangerous. With the North-South peace agreement barely two weeks old, the Sudanese government it seems is being allowed some international leverage on its ‘other war’. Although the leaders of the G8 did not make any suggestions that they would take action were the Janjawid not to stop their violations, the United Nations has a mandate. Under article 39 of its Charter, the UN Security Council is obliged to determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and make recommendations to maintain or restore international peace and security.

For the sake of UN credibility in Africa, peace needs to be ensured soon. If the situation is allowed to fully erupt, the ghosts of inaction in Rwanda a decade ago will certainly resurface. ‘Never again’ was the UN promise after Rwanda. With an estimated 1.2 million people having been displaced, and 350 000 deaths expected in the Sudan in the coming months, the UN’s legitimacy is certainly at stake. The G8 appealed to the UN to help prevent a catastrophe in the Sudan. With the Janjawid militia reportedly launching raids into Chad, it is difficult to deny that the situation in the Darfur is indeed a threat to international peace. Last month, a section of Chad’s presidential guard mutinied. Although the government denies such speculations, it is believed that the mutiny was an attempted coup, driven by the government’s complacency in dealing with the Darfur dilemma.

A coup in Chad would be a disaster. Chad is well known as a country which teams with terrorists. Although Chad’s Idriss Deby’s rule can hardly be described as democratic, good governance, the US regards Chad as an ally in the war on terror. American forces are training Chadian troops to catch terrorists. In March, Chadian troops killed 43 terrorists. Strategically, the US cannot afford to lose Chad as an ally in the war on terror.

Furthermore, the instability in the region also endangers a relapse of the recently reformed Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi. Libya borders both the Darfur region and Chad. Sensing a possible power vacuum in Chad, Qaddafi may become tempted to interfere. He is well known for helping out his African brothers in times of need. Both Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, have used Qaddafi’s generous offers to maintain the power of their respective regimes. Again, for the war on terror, the US cannot afford a Qadaffi relapse.

The G8 has proposed a plan to train 75 000 African peacekeeping troops, so that Africa may diffuse its own conflicts. It is suggested that the troops will be ready by 2010. Both for the war on terror, as well as UN legitimacy in Africa, that may be a little late. In the meantime, another solution needs to be found to create an important peace in the Sudan.

Sebastiaan Soeters
Zambezi Times, International Relations correspondent

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