Further marginalizing the already marginalized

“’Sanctions are never far from our mind,’ said Al-Amin Dafa Allah, chairman of [Sudan’s] National Assembly’s agricultural committee” in a New York Times story contrasting Sudanese food exports with a United Nations scramble to find food for people in Darfur. “’Sudan could be self-sufficient,’ said Kenro Oshidari, the director of the United Nations World Food Program in Sudan. ‘It does have the potential to be the breadbasket of Africa.’” Meanwhile, Darfur refugees face “less food and soaring malnutrition rates, particularly among children.”[1]

Meanwhile, “the military commander of the UN-African Union mission in Darfur [UNAMID] . . . urged the world community to put as much pressure on the fragmented insurgency in the war-torn Sudanese region as it does on the Khartoum government,” complaining about “the reluctance of Darfur rebels to negotiate,”[2] The next day, Darfur rebels “accused the Sudan government of mounting a massive attack to wipe out their strongholds in the far north of Darfur where they are losing ground for the first time.” Apparently, only rebels would confirm the attack; they said “that Chinese oil workers had arrived in the desert area of North Darfur to begin oil exploration.”[3] Chinese engineers had previously arrived in South Darfur as part of UNAMID,[4] where Chinese companies also explore for oil. Two-thirds of Sudan’s oil production goes to China[5] and China supported the African Union’s criticism of the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.[6] This suggests that China masks its dealings with Sudan’s government by sending a token force to join U.N. peacekeepers (mostly from the African Union), who themselves appear at least as concerned for Sudan’s government as they are for the people of Darfur.

The complicity of the African Union, as a regional international organization running peacekeeping operations in Darfur, criticizing Darfur’s rebels, and opposing Bashir’s indictment—its “Commission [chairman] Jean Ping accused the ICC of ‘pouring oil on the fire’”[7]—is striking. To credit these positions as legitimate, one must ignore, or assume that African Union leaders are ignorant of the Sudanese government’s history of employing starvation and exploiting peace negotiations to prolong genocide against its own people, while ethnically cleansing areas for oil extraction.[8]

From a Google News search, it does not appear that any other major news organization has picked up the New York Times story about Sudan’s food exports. But Agence-France Presse reported in July that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries were investing in Sudanese agriculture because “amid surging food prices and a fear of shortages caused by export bans from major crop-producing countries, GCC states now want food lifelines.”[9] A lifeline for Darfur’s long-suffering and already hungry people is apparently less compelling, less compelling than food for the already rich, less compelling than oil for the already powerful, and less compelling than the relationships among the ruling class.

[1] Gettleman, Jeffrey, “Darfur Withers as Sudan Sells Food,” New York Times, August 9, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/world/africa/10sudan.html?em (accessed August 15, 2008).
[2] Agence-France Presse, “Darfur rebels are no saints, says UN-AU military chief,” August 12, 2008, http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5ic_U4H9PXaSSgPDSDde4fvVx34ZQ (accessed August 15, 2008).
[3] Agence-France Presse, “Darfur rebels accuse Sudan of mounting major attack,” August 13, 2008, http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i3X1vk3Vznks_TkeKetEkwJUf4eg (accessed August 15, 2008); see also The Times (London), “Darfur onslaught ‘to clear way for Chinese oil hunt’,” August 14, 2008, Lexis-Nexis (accessed August 15, 2008).
[4] Agence-France Presse, “China boosts peacekeepers in Darfur,” July 17, 2008, http://afp.google.com/article/ ALeqM5jxVo9_9z2jJm2wxZW65dyP8CflEw (accessed August 15, 2008)
[5] The Times (London).
[6] Xinhua, “China urges Security Council to suspend ICC indictment of Sudanese leader,” August 1, 2008, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-08/01/content_8891113.htm (accessed August 15, 2008).
[7] Sudan Tribune, “Deferral of indictment for Sudan president not on UNSC August agenda,” August 5, 2008, http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article28156 (accessed August 15, 2008).
[8] Cheadle, Don and John Prendergast, Not on our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond (New York: Hyperion, 2007), 75, 82-83; and Morse, David, “War of the Future: Oil Drives the Genocide in Darfur,” TomDispatch.com, August 19, 2005, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/14239/david_morse_on_darfur_as_a_resource_war (accessed August 15, 2008).
[9] Agence-France Presse, “Gulf states look to harvest food from foreign investment,” July 20, 2008, http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iodC-YqeQO0l4kw9v8bEw5r4B8SA (accessed August 15, 2008).

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