This is why there is slaughter in Darfur
By Charles Moore
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Both Tony Blair and David Cameron tell us from time to time that we ought to care about Darfur. Mr Blair is leading a new drive to bring peace there. Mr Cameron says it is the sort of thing "modern, compassionate Conservatives" should worry about.
They are right to worry, since genocide is taking place. The reputation of what people call "the international community" is at stake. But what is perplexing is that our leaders, and most of the media, do not really explain why Darfur is as it is.
As soon as Israel attacked Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, everyone was ready with a political explanation and a finger of blame (usually pointed at Israel). The war in Lebanon went on for 34 days, and killed about 1,300 people. The fighting in Darfur has continued since February 2003 and has cost, at the lowest reputable estimate, 180,000 lives. So Darfur hits the Lebanon total of death every 10 days.
Yet even now, the thing is presented almost as a natural disaster. It is seen as a humanitarian crisis, and reports focus on how aid can get through. Of course it is a humanitarian crisis, but not a natural disaster.
It is not even one of those uncontrollable, anarchic situations in which rival factions of bandits charge round killing one another (though there certainly are plenty of such groups). The death in Darfur is the result of a policy.
The policy is that of the Sudan government, which is now, in effect, the government of northern Sudan. That government is Islamist and Arab. It used to harbour Osama bin Laden until bombed by Bill Clinton. Even before the Islamists came to power in 1989, the north imposed sharia everywhere.
In 1990, it declared jihad against the south. It seeks to dispossess Christians and to assert Arab dominance of the north over the black population of the whole country. In Darfur, it destroys black villages through the Janjaweed and other militias.
As with Slobodan Milosevic's Greater Serbia, Khartoum's power grab is presented in the guise of restoring national unity. In reality, Khartoum wants to kill or expel as many blacks as possible while the rest of the world wonders what to do.
This week, Omar al-Bashir, the president of the Sudan, returned from the United Nations in New York pretty well pleased. The inadequate African Union force in Darfur is extending its stay, and the UN force which has been formally resolved on is nowhere to be seen. That is how he wants it. There will be a good few more "Lebanons" before anything starts.
Last week, I was in southern Sudan. Although desperately poor, with 95 per cent illiteracy, and some armed groups still roaming the bush, the place is more or less at peace.
This is because, at the start of last year, international pressure forced a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between north and south. The largely Christian south now has a great measure of self-rule, and will be allowed to vote, in 2011, as to whether it wants to secede from the Sudan. It is certain, if it ever gets its promised chance, that it will vote to break away.
A UN force of 7,000 is in the south, trying to see that the CPA becomes a reality. The north drags its feet on key provisions – most notably the settling of the borders.
It knows that if the borders are agreed, this will show clearly that most of the oilfields which earn the country large amounts of hard currency are in the south.
The north is supposed to give half of the revenue from the southern oilfields to the southern government, but there is no independent audit of what that revenue is, so the south is being short-changed. This suits China, which is in the country, helping itself to Sudanese oil at good rates.
The leaders of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement who run the south, told me that half their budget is spent on the army, and that this is what people want. They think the way to avoid war is to be strong enough to fight it.
Southern Sudan is all but unique in the modern world in having recently overthrown sharia rule. After years of officially imposed Islam, in schools, the civil service and preferences for jobs, Christians no longer have to live in daily fear. I visited towns where mosques and churches now coexist peacefully.
Yet one Anglican prelate I met, who said that he survived 20 years of persecution because "it is not so easy to kill a bishop", told me that "the Arab Muslim is not a giving-up sort of person".
The blow to Arab pride if the south became independent would be tremendous. The threat to the south is, therefore, huge. "We are the wall to the penetration of the Islamic religion to the whole of Africa," Bishop Micah said.
What occurs in Darfur concerns not only the fate of its refugee, raped, hungry, dispossessed people. The outcome will also tell the north whether it can get away with what it wants. If it discovers that it can, it will start again on the much bigger prize of the south.
As they trained for their jihad against the south, the soldiers of Khartoum used to gather to hear verses telling them that Allah would make sure that the very birds in the trees directed them to the enemy camps: "And when the monkeys on the tree-tops see that the Mujahideen are coming to attack the rebels, they will swoop down upon the roads and sweep the mines. The Mujahideen will then march without difficulty until they reach the rebel camps which they will devastate… God is great. God is great."
There are reasons of high politics, to do with the influence of Egypt, and our Foreign Office's obsession with hunting for non-existent "moderates" among extreme Muslim governments, which stop the West taking a clear stand on the Sudan.
So expect more expressions of concern, little action and more deaths – well beyond the borders of Darfur.
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