At the centre of the debate on crisis-hit Darfur is the deployment of a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force of 20 000 troops to replace the current AU force of 7000 poorly financed and equipped soldiers who have proved unable to do the job.
The Sudanese president rejects the UN plan, which has says is a western Trojan horse to recolonise his country.
Sudan emerged from a 20-year civil war with southern rebels only, in 2003, to find its western province up in arms. It is often presented as an ethnic conflict between nomadic Arabs and African tribes, more sedentary and non-muslim.
However on the ground it is a clash between rebel forces from different African tribes, in two movements, the SLA and JEM, who want to establish a democratic Sudan and oppose the Arab and Muslim-dominated central government.
Their enemy is not just Khartoum’s army. The Janjaweed militia is an Arab force supported and armed by the government, although it denies this, and it has run amok. Western experts accuse Khartoum of applying a divide and rule policy, and President al-Bashir is now in Washington’s sights.
Humanitarian motives are less behind all this pressure than baser concerns; a new “scamble for Africa” appears underway. Sudan has discovered oil. and it is China the main beneficiary.
Chinese firms have tied up half of it, barging into the west’s monopoly of Africa’s riches. Khartoum is Beijing’s second most important economic partner on the continent. In this light, it is easier to understand the Chinese reluctance to use sanctions.
China’s special Darfur envoy, Liu Guijin;
“It’s a development problem. If the international community sincerely hopes to help resolve the issue the same as other African issues, it should provide more development assistance alongside humanitarian aid”.
It is the history of post-colonial Africa in miniature; independent, but torn by fratricidal conflict fuelled by economic concerns in which the international community intervenes only when big interests are at stake.
The long-suffering people are caught in the middle. Trapped in the crossfire, over 200 000 have already been butchered in Darfur.