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.

Thursday, June 21

Sudan roundup

The big news is that Sudan announced that it would accept a UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping force of around 20,000. Maybe. It's not clear how big of a role Khartoum will allow for non-African troops or UN command. The U.S. in particular has expressed concern - you can read a State Department statement here.

Despite the tough talk, the U.S. is still $1 billion short on its contributions to UN peacekeeping. The Guardian also explores the CIA's use of Sudanese citizens to infiltrate radical Islamist groups in the Middle East. Steve Fake and Kevin Funk discuss the contradictions in America's Sudan policy for Foreign Policy in Focus.

Eric Reeves, writing in The New Republic, was not impressed with Sudan's announcement, noting that there have been several previous "breakthroughs" that never panned out, and there is little to suggest that this time around will be any different. The L.A. Times expresses a similar sentiment. Rebel groups have also greeted the announcement with skepticism. John Prendergast and Colin Thomas-Jensen of the ENOUGH campaign are calling on China, France, and the U.S. to take advantage of a "perfect diplomatic storm" to unite in pressuring Khartoum. India, Pakistan and - interestingly - China, are considering the possibility of deploying troops for the force. Norway is also thinking about sending engineers. But as The Economist points out, there aren't likely to be any additional troops on the ground before next Spring.

In other news:

  • Sudan topped Foreign Policy's annual ranking of states most in danger of failing, beating out Iraq and Somalia. I'm not quite sure how Sudan is more at risk of failure than Somalia - unless being failed already reduces the "risk of failure". But it's certainly in bad shape. Sudan was dead last (or on top depending on how you look at it) in terms of refugees and IDPs, group grievance, delegitimization of the state, and human rights.
  • Scott Baldauf has an interesting profile of Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi in the Christian Science Monitor. Turabi was instrumental in bringing Omar al-Bashir to power, but has since become an outspoken critic of the regime and proponent of relative religious moderation. Genuine ideological conversion or opportunistic populist?
  • Southern Sudan's SPLM is delaying a conference to bring together Darfur rebel groups, as some key actors haven't yet come on board.
  • Oxfam is pulling out of the Gereida refugee camp, Darfur's largest, in a response to the increasing violence. Sixty-eight aid vehicles were ambushed from January to May of this year, a new high. Twenty-three of those attacks involved abductions. Another aid worker, with ACT-Caritas, was also recently killed.
  • In the latest well-intentioned-but dull op-eds: the idea of an oil-for-food program for Sudan keeps popping up; James Smith, in The Guardian, provides the latest call for divestment; and Jody Williams and Desmond Tutu urge the EU to take a more active role.
  • A new documentary on Darfur was screened at the SilverDocs film festival in Silver Spring, Maryland.
  • And In celebrity news, pop stars are teaming up with Amnesty International to release an album of John Lennon songs that will benefit Darfur. Contributors include U2, R.E.M., Green Day, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and Youssou N'Dour, the latter adding some African credibility. And The New Statesman has a story on George Cloony and his journalist dad's trip to Darfur.