Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Monday, June 4

Darfur roundup

The big story on Darfur this week has been the Bush Administration's announcement of new sanctions on Khartoum, which Aaron and Lawrence have already mentioned here. The State Department's John Negroponte outlined the five things the US is trying to get Khartoum to do: 1) Stop bombing; 2) accept the UN-AU hybrid peace force; 3) cooperate on the peace process; 4) provide more space for humanitarian operations; and 5) disarm the janjaweed militias.

The Economist provides an overview of the targeted companies and individuals, doubting whether the new measures will have much of an effect. Since the mid-90s, the US has maintained fairly extensive sanctions on Sudan. But Sudan has had little trouble selling its oil and developing strong commercial ties with Arab countries and, especially, China, and has recently maintained one of the highest growth rates in Africa. According to the magazine, getting the Europeans on board might help a little, but without the support of China, Khartoum won't feel much pressure.

Britain strongly
supports the new sanctions. France and the EU are both open to discussion on adopting the measures. But China, along with Russia and South Africa, have been cool to the announcement. Salva Kiir, president of Southern Sudan and a former rebel who has been supportive of international pressure on Khartoum over Darfur, has also spoken out against the sanctions. The Government of Southern Sudan plans to hold a conference in Juba in mid-June to bring together the different rebel factions.

Eric Reeves, a professor of literature at Smith College and a prolific Darfur commentator, released a barrage of articles blasting the timidity of the new sanctions. In The Guardian, he writes that the announcement signals to Khartoum that the Bush Administration is not willing to do anything more serious. Noting US envoy Andrew Natsios's admission that the sanctions are largely symbolic, Reeves argues that the US has already gotten its view across, and it needs to start acting on that view by doing something that actually punishes Khartoum. Reeves makes a similar argument in The New Republic. In a Washington Post op-ed, he provides a more emotional and personal plea for action.

Donald Payne, chairman of the House Subcomittee on Africa said the sanctions were "a small step in the right direction but a far cry from what's needed."

The Sudanese government criticized the new sanctions, but said they wouldn't have much
effect. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank provides a pretty amusing look at the press conference given by the Sudanese Ambassador to Washington, who said the situation in Darfur is rosy and threatened to cut off the world's cola supply.

In the Washington Post, Julie Flint warns of the

dangers inherent in much of the uninformed comment on Darfur that emenates from the United States - driven, very often by activists who have never been there and who perceive the war as a simple morality tale in which the forces of 'evil' can be defeated only by outside saviors.
She describes how rebel-controlled areas of Darfur are rebuilding without international assistance, and rebukes Bush for criticizing the rebel groups that haven't signed the flawed Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). And Democracy Now features an interview with Columbia professor Mahmood Mamdani, who is similarly critical of Western portrayals of the conflict.

Conor Foley, writing in The Guardian, rebuts the charge that humanitarian organizations in Darfur aren't speaking out against the actions of the Khartoum government. He notes that most aid organizations have refrained from calling for Western military intervention not because they're afraid to but because they think it's a bad idea. But as a recent Reuters poll shows most humanitarian agencies operating in Darfur do not feel that they can speak out openly.

The tension between
aid groups on the ground and advocacy groups in the US is also discussed in a New York Times piece on the recent leadership shake-up at the Save Darfur Coalition. The Washington Post also profiles the group and its success in mobilizing support on the Darfur issue.

The Hudson Institute's Nina Shea, has a tirade against Sudan's President Bashir in National Review. While Bashir is surely worthy of the condemnation, this piece doesn't contribute a whole lot of value to the debate.

Nick Donovan in the London Times, along with
Human Rights Watch, have suggested creating a trust fund for oil revenues currently going to the Khartoum government. The money would pay for aid and development in Darfur until Khartoum cleans up its act. File under not going to happen.

An Egyptian soldier, who was part of the first deployment of a UN contingent, was killed last week. Egypt, though, went ahead and sent 78 more troops. Nigerian newspapers also reported that six Nigerian soldiers were killed. An AU officer said that the the full UN support package would likely take four months to deploy. In the meantime, the EU gave an additional $54 million to the AU mission. The African Union hasn't approved the proposed UN-AU peacekeeping force, objecting to the control the UN would have over the mission. AU troops clashed with former rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), after a road accident. Three AU troops were injured and SLM gunmen reportedly seized 13 vehicles.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed Francis Deng
as his special adviser for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. Deng is a former Sudanese diplomat who was Kofi Annan's special representative on IDPs from 1992 to 2004. He is currently the director of the Sudan Peace Project at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

A new UN report says over 110,000 people were displaced in Darfur from January to March.

The stars of Ocean's 13 are campaigning for Darfur.

And finally, Arab Media and Society features an interesting critique of the coverage of the Darfur conflict in the Arab press.