The United States, which last September accused Sudan of committing genocide in the Western region of Darfur, is now charging it with “crimes against humanity” and has even dropped its usual assertion that the Sudanese government has the ability to control the so-called Arab Janjaweed militia, who had been accused of arming to kill Africans in Darfur. Washington now says that the peace agreement signed between Khartoum and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Front (the Christian rebel group in Southern Sudan, led by general John Garang) in January can be used as a basis for settling the war in the Western region. The US government asserts that generous aid to Sudan can strengthen the peace in the South and help to stabiliseDarfur. But Washington is maintaining its sanctions against the Muslim North, spending its aid only in the South, with a large part of it going to build up the SPLA (the military arm of the SPLF). This is an ill-disguised method of strengthening the North-South divide to facilitate the eventual secession, resulting in the establishment of a Christian-controlled state.
The US played a leading role in securing the recent pledge by the ‘international community’ of generous aid that even exceeded the combined amount ($3.6 billion for 2005–07) requested by the UN and the Sudanese government. Donors from more than 60 states meet in Oslo (Norway) on April 12, and pledged $4.5 billion to help Sudan recover from the long and costly civil war in the South. Aid is needed to stave off hunger, help refugees to return, and to build schools, roads and hospitals. Sudan, a poor country devastated by unrest and civil war, clearly cannot foot the bill by itself. However, it must be borne in mind that such pledges by governments and other western organisations are often not honoured, or the sums made over are smaller (sometimes much smaller) than the amounts originally pledged.
Robert Zoellick, US deputy secretary of state, announced a US commitment of $1.7 billion, intended to develop southern Sudan, although $900 million of the amount must be approved by Congress. Although the US has not expressly declared that its pledge depends on the resolution of the conflict in Darfur, he repeated his warning that the US and other governments would “not be able to sustain fully” the January peace accord that ended the north-south civil war if all the parties involved fail to end the conflict in Darfur. John Garang, who is expected to become vice-president in the transitional government to be set up on the basis of the peace accord, is naturally against any of the aid money going to help the Darfur region. He said that it would be a mistake to link implementation of the accord and ‘peace dividend’ to resolution of the Darfur crisis.
The conflicts in the two regions are in fact quite different. In Darfur, all the combatants are Muslim, albeit from different tribes and cultural groups. The term ‘Arab militias’ is used by those who want to weaken Sudan or divide it. The neo-cons and Christian zealots that drive the anti-Sudan campaign are not interested in bringing peace to a region whose entire population is Muslim. In southern Sudan, the animists comprise the greater part of the population. The US and its allies have always supported John Garang, enabling him to pull off the peace accord in January, which favours the SPLF. The situation in the south is complicated by the presence of oil-deposits in the region, which the US clearly does not want the government in Khartoum to control.
Under this peace deal, Khartoum and the SPLF will set up a coalition government, decentralise power, share oil-revenues and form joint military units. But the US will still not lift its sanctions on the north. It has made it clear that its aid will go directly to southern Sudan, and not through Khartoum, even after the formation of the central coalition.
Washington will clearly now use its aid to blackmail Khartoum or even divide Sudan. This explains, at least partly, why Zoellick visited Khartoum on April 13: the first visit by a senior USofficial since last September, when Congress was told that Sudan had been guilty of committing genocide in Darfur. He has refused to repeat the accusation, saying it was Colin Powell who had made the charge. Clearly he does not want to complicate his task of putting pressure on Khartoum to toe the US line; “I don’t want to get into a debate over terminology,” he said.
But such is Washington’s arrogance of power that Zoellick proceeded from Khartoum to Garang’s former rebel headquarters, which are the capital of the South, to declare that Washington would spend at least $20 million to equip and train the SPLA. This will clearly give Garang a better bargaining position, or even encourage eventual secession. For the time being a strongly-placed Garang in Khartoum could be in a position to force the Muslim president in the North to toe Washington’s line. This means that the government in Khartoum might adopt an anti-Islamic programme and become an ally of the US, even in its “war on terror”.
But for the neo-cons and anti-Islamic warlords in the White House and Congress even this may not be enough, and they will continue to seek the division of Sudan into separate states. Those Sudanese who support the US line should ask themselves why successive US administrations and their white supporters are not exercised about the poverty and racist-motivated discrimination that make the lives of most Black Americans in the US difficult to bear. Uncle Sam is definitely not targeting Sudan in order to bring peace and prosperity to its people.