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.

Friday, July 13

Sudan roundup

In his New York Times column on Monday, Nicholas Kristof returns to the topic of Darfur, describing Khartoum's campaign to change the demographics of Darfur by encouraging Arabs from other African countries to settle in areas where non-Arabs have been driven out, and criticizing Bush for not putting enough pressure on Khartoum by, say, delivering a prime-time speech on the subject. He also acknowledges a link between Darfur and the North-South conflict, warning that impunity in Darfur might make Khartoum more likely to renew the war with the South.

An angle Kristof doesn't mention is the impact of the Darfur conflict on national elections scheduled for 2009. Alex De Waal, of the Social Science Research Council, has argued that the elections are the international community's best chance to change the government in Sudan. The BBC examines the prospects of an electoral victory for the Southern SPLM. If the NCP regime's potential opponents in Darfur are all displaced or in refugee camps, this decreases the chances for an electoral alliance with the SPLM that could defeat the NCP. And as the Darfur crisis hogs the attention of the international community, less energy is spent on the many preparations that are needed for these elections to actually take place.

In other news:

  • Hillary Clinton endorsed the idea of a NATO-enforced no-fly zone for Darfur. Julie Flint, writing in The New York Times, says that's a terrible idea. Alex De Waal, co-author with Flint on a book on Darfur, agrees. Michael Jacobson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says the new US sanctions on Khartoum (remember those?) could have some meaningful impact. Meanwhile, U.S. Darfur envoy Andrew Natsios is currently visiting the country.
  • A resolution for a joint UN-AU force of up to 26,000 is being prepared in the Security Council. France's new foreign minister suggested that French troops might make up a large part of the planned UN force for Darfur. But MSF president Jean-Herve Bradol thinks that sending foreign troops would be counterproductive. In the meantime, Nigeria's Rodolphe Adada has taken over as the head of the AU mission. And Eric Reeves blasts UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's optimistic public statements on Darfur.
  • Majzoub al-Khalifa, an advisor to President al-Bashir and the government's chief negotiator on Darfur, was killed in a car crash late last month. Alex De Waal, who negotiated with al-Khalifa, pays critical but respectful tribute. Bashir has also replaced the governor of South Darfur state.
  • A meeting in Libya with AU and UN representatives will try to unite the various rebel factions in Darfur. But the Christian Science Monitor describes the challenge of achieving cooperation between the numerous factions, even as more and more turn against Khartoum. Meanwhile, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) removed the rebel group's top military commander.
  • Southern Sudan's President, Salva Kiir, has reshuffled the cabinet of the southern government. The Sudan Tribune provides some reactions. Reuters takes a look too. The BBC also looks at the challenge of establishing an education system in the South.
  • A deadline for Northern and Southern troops to redeploy from contested areas has passed, with troops from both sides still remaining. One-third of Northern troops have yet to be withdrawn, most of whom are in oil regions.
  • The Christian Science Monitor examines China's participation in UN peacekeeping in Sudan. China also has a new ambassador to Sudan.
  • An IRIN story takes a critical look at the claim that climate change is driving the Darfur conflict. Alex De Waal also provides a thorough discussion of the question.


Aaron said...

I’m not sure about the logic of Kristof’s assertion that impunity in Darfur could lead Khartoum to resume fighting in the south. Since the peace there, the South Sudanese, I would think, have only become a more formidable opponent to Khartoum—this is presumably the main impetus for its violence in Darfur: South Sudan, in tandem with the Darfuri rebels, could pose an existential threat to Bashir’s regime, hence its interest in suppressing the rebels, or, via ethnic cleansing, taking away their raison d’être altogether. So I don’t think it follows that the government would want to reignite the war in the south simply because it could get away with it, unless there was a sense that doing so would be the only way to forestall an imminent revolution or secession—which is possible, I suppose, but probably a huge gamble. My impression from talking to people who work in South Sudan is that people there are basically biding their time and building their strength, with the assumption that they will eventually go back to war with Khartoum—I suppose after the referendum. I’d be surprised if you could say the south has the upper hand now, but with the current international (if ultimately insufficient) scrutiny on Darfur, it seems highly unlikely that Khartoum would restart hostilities in the south in the very near future, but with the south’s increasing strength, it also seems unlikely that this would happen in the longer term, unless it’s much more on southerners’ terms.

I’m no expert, though—is that completely off-base?

Derek said...

No, I don't think it's off base. In fact, I was a little surprised by Kristof's point, too - it's not a concern I've really heard raised before. I suppose Khartoum might factor in the West's tepid response to Darfur when weighing future action with regard to North-South disputes, but I agree that I don't think Khartoum would provoke a fight with the South unless they feel they have to. And I'm not sure the West would be as passive if they did (though it's possible). The Darfur conflict broke out when the US was pushing hard to nail down the peace agreement between the North and South, and the US didn't want to jeopardize this hard-won peace by pushing Khartoum on Darfur. While Khartoum's role in the "War on terror" may be a bigger factor for Washington not taking a harder line, concern over derailing the CPA I think still plays a role. If Khartoum clearly violated the agreement by attacking the South, the US would probably be less hesitant to respond.

Anyway, I thought I'd give Kristof credit for acknowledging that the conflicts are related, since I was so critical in my last post.

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