The Overlooked War
Khartoum! The term rings with the reverberations of a history of desert conflict, of the clash of scimitars, of the westward sweep of the Ottomans in their conquering race to Spain—of visions of Lawrence of Arabia, of camel trains, desert horses with nostrils flaring at the full gallop as Arabian and black African clash through the centuries. Was there ever a name written amid blood and flame as was Khartoum?
But, if our perspective on this exotic place of legend, mystery, intrigue and bloody history is fixed in the past, or in the movie sequences of the 1966 film to which this expanse of largely desert land gave its name, then we need to be jolted into an awareness of the reality that is today’s Khartoum!
Though much hope has been pinned on the signing last month of a peace accord between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (splm/a) of the south, the war in Darfur rages on. This little-known war, greatly overshadowed by the continuing conflict in Iraq, has witnessed tens of thousands more casualties in battle and massive numbers of displaced persons, compared to the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. Reports of ethnic cleansing on a scale far greater than anything observed during the Balkan wars have filtered through to the press. The United States Congress has leveled accusations that the government in Khartoum is tolerating genocide within the borders of Sudan. Around 200,000 people have crossed into neighboring Chad to seek refuge. An estimated 2.2 million people remain in urgent need of food or medical attention. United Nations estimates indicate that more than 70,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been left homeless due to Khartoum’s war against its own Muslim citizens in Darfur.
Simply put, “a conglomeration of factors, including religious bigotry, racial and ethnic hatred, has combined with greed and foreign multinational oil interests to create the world’s greatest humanitarian emergency” (Africa News, Nov. 5, 2004; emphasis mine throughout).
You need to understand the truth behind “the world’s greatest humanitarian emergency.”
Some have termed Sudan “the Balkans of northern Africa,” and not without cause.
Akin to the Balkan Peninsula in southern Europe, Sudan is comprised of a multifarious mix of peoples. As the Balkans is a virtual crossroads for all points of the compass in Europe, so the Sudan is where the cultures of northern Africa meet those of the south, the west and the east. Most essentially, it is where Arab and black African meet. It is the crossroads of Islam to the north and animist (nature worshiping) African tradition to the south, with Christian influence in the south adding to this volatile mix.
Historically, conflicts in Sudan have been stimulated by successive governments in Khartoum seeking to impose their influence on the south, in the process creating a real divide between north and south. Akin to the Balkans situation of the past decade, self-serving powers in Khartoum, intent on consolidating and extending their own power base since Sudan’s independence was granted 49 years ago, have seized upon ethnic, cultural and religious differences to inflame division and dissension between the north and the south. And, similar to the Balkans, a self-interested outside power seeks control of Sudan’s major resources and strategic location.
In 1983, the south rebelled against Khartoum’s repression. The intervening years have resulted in the slaughter of an estimated 2½ million Sudanese and the displacement of 4 million, with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing into neighboring countries.
The collapse of social infrastructure in the south has been all but complete. Author and journalist Blaine Harden lists the following tragic results of Khartoum’s succession of cruel administrations and civil war: “… the total collapse of education, of child immunization programs, and of drilling schemes for fresh water. Cattle inoculation programs ended as epidemics of livestock disease spread unchecked. Land mines were sewn under fruit trees and beside wells, killing and crippling thousands of civilians, most of them children” (Africa: Dispatches From a Fragile Continent).
Sudan’s present leader, President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, took over the presidency when a coup toppled the elected parliamentary government in 1989. His style of leadership can be measured by his response to Sudan’s worst natural disaster of the 20th century. In 1998, massive floods wiped out the homes of around a million people. Bashir called an all-night emergency session of his parliament. But what did they discuss? Was it emergency relief for the devastated masses, their meager possessions washed away in one massive deluge? Believe it or not, Bashir and his cruel minions spent the entire session arguing the point of Islamic law reform that mandated crucifixion among other unsavory punishments!
But this is the cold, hard reality of the type of mind that too often is tolerated by politicians on the world scene due to political convenience—far too often neglected by a United Nations, which is proven time and again in the face of such cruel administrations to be but a paper tiger with the roar of a mouse!
Of all the misery that has been the lot of the Sudanese, it is in the west, in the province of Darfur, that the most suffering has occurred.
Darfur Historically there has always been tension between two rival groups in western Sudan: the settled farming folk (the Fur), and the nomadic herders who wreak a certain seasonal havoc on the Fur’s farmlands by moving cattle periodically for feed and water. But this has gone on for centuries. It is patently not the root cause of the genocide being presently endorsed by Sudan’s government.
Why then has Khartoum recently seen fit to purge Darfur of its traditional inhabitants? After all, the Fur were in western Sudan long before the Arab incursion into Sudan from the north. The very name the Arabs gave to the western provinces, Darfur, means the land of the Fur.
The conflict in Darfur was sparked in early 2003, when rebel groups challenged the government in an attempt to have a say in the administration of their region and the control of resources. In response, the Janjaweed militia group, comprising Arabs primarily of Baggara tribal connection, armed and backed with air support by Khartoum, consequently mounted a wave of raids on Darfur, pitting Muslim Arab against Muslim black African. The results have been horrific, raising accusations of deliberate genocide by President Bashir’s government.
The last thing the peacekeeping West wants on its hands at this moment is another Afghanistan, yet western Sudan has the potential to devolve into such a quagmire. Why would any government encourage such a scenario? Well, as is the case with so much of northern Africa and the Middle East, it all centers around black gold—oil!
The Oriental Connection
Just over five years ago, Sudan began exporting crude oil. This brought about, in the final quarter of 1999, the country’s first ever trade surplus. Finally there were hopes that Sudan could drag itself out of generations of economic deprivation into reasonable economic stability. Trouble is, the oil is located in the south—including southern Darfur. Obviously, Khartoum needed control over these areas in order to guarantee a regular supply from the oil fields via pipeline to the country’s Red Sea terminal at Port Sudan.
And who is the main beneficiary of this oil? Sudan’s major trading partner, China. At this point things get interesting.
Coincident with the development of their oil interests in Sudan, the Chinese have built armaments factories for Khartoum in the north. In fact, Beijing is supplying Sudan with the very ammunition to perpetrate its genocide. “Over the past decade, China has … emerged as the principal supplier of heavy and light artillery and arms to Sudan. Weapon supplies have included ammunition, tanks, helicopters, antipersonnel and antitank mines and fighter aircraft—armaments that have been used in the genocide in Darfur” (Africa News, op. cit.).
Why? The scarcer the world’s major source of energy, the higher the cost—both in money and, if necessary, in human lives! It just so happens that the concessions for Block 6, a major oil field in the south of Darfur (and extending into the neighboring region), are reserved to the China National Petroleum Corporation. This Oriental entity is the largest foreign investor in the Sudanese oil industry.
There’s a long-term strategy at play here. “Ports in Sudan are looking forward to an increase in business as a direct consequence of oil discoveries in the country. But this won’t happen overnight, says Hamza Osman, general manager of the Sea Ports Corporation. ‘We have a 20-year plan, drawn up by Chinese consultants, to develop Port Sudan …’ he says” (www.worldreport-ind.com/sudan).
Take a look at a world map.
China is a significant customer of Middle Eastern oil, much of which is shipped via tanker through the Persian Gulf, south through the Strait of Malacca, then via the South China Sea to mainland China. In March 2002, the Chinese broke ground on development of a huge new port facility on the Pakistan coast at Gwadar, near the entrance to the Persian Gulf.
The Chinese, renowned for long-term thinking, are simply sewing up their major sources of supply, plus the terminals and major ports necessary to fill their continuing—and drastically increasing—thirst for oil. Port Sudan and Gwadar give them twin facilities on the most strategic sea routes for shipping oil from North Africa and the Middle East: the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf! China’s long-term strategy is to link with trans-Caucasus pipelines to pipe Middle Eastern oil via Russia to tank farms in China. That’s what will have the greatest impact on Sudan’s future! Black gold! That’s what’s at the crux of the genocide in Darfur!
Sudan needs armaments to supply Khartoum’s loyalist forces and to arm Muslim militia who are sympathetic to Khartoum’s government in order to police—and where necessary either forcibly remove or annihilate—any group that stands in the way of guaranteeing the Chinese reasonable security of Sudan’s oil fields and its pipeline to Port Sudan. Hence the construction by China of armaments factories in Sudan’s north. Again, Russia sorely needs the cash, so it is willing to provide fighter aircraft to Sudan, bought by Sudan’s oil revenues from China. The fighters are used to give added security to the oil resources and infrastructure. Finally, Iran enters the picture, simply because any pipeline to the east from the Persian Gulf must cross Iranian territory. Hence Khartoum’s cozy relationship with the radical Islamic camp.
Intensifying the Slaughter
Analysts say that 15,000 to 20,000 troops would be needed to secure Darfur. No one, least of all the thinly spread U.S., is going to commit such numbers. Meanwhile the UN Security Council, despite its rhetoric, is hamstrung by the veto-wielding China. This fast-growing, oil-starved country is not about to put in jeopardy its cozy relationship with Khartoum in order to put an end to a humanitarian catastrophe. “If sanctions were to block oil from … Sudan, China would be forced to scramble to find other sources, which could be difficult” (International Herald Tribune, January 18). It is little wonder then that China is blocking any attempt to impose economic sanctions on the government of Sudan.
In the Balkans, the German-inspired European Union got the U.S.-led forces to do its dirty work so as to secure the first colonies of the Euro-monolith and hand over the strategic crossroads of Europe on a silver platter, albeit garnished with Serbian blood. In Sudan the situation is slightly different: China, the major beneficiary of the country’s only significantly saleable asset, is content to make the guns and bullets which keep the Sudanese busy slaughtering each other as the Chinese go about securing the energy lifeblood to drive their own expanding economy. Such is the cruel nature of power politics in the 21st century.
Though much is being made of the cease-fire agreement promising an end to hostilities between the north and south, there is reason to believe this will only intensify the slaughter in the west, because the government “can now concentrate its military power and other force on the Darfur region in its continuing efforts to crush not only the rebels, but the civilian communities,” in the words of Salih Booker of Africa Action (National Public Radio, January 12). Moreover, the political capital Sudan has gained by its apparent success in the south will mean Khartoum “likely will be given some slack in resolving the Darfur crisis,” as far as the international community is concerned (Stratfor, January 12). Additionally, by bringing the splm/a into a power-sharing government, Khartoum would be gaining a potential ally, “as al-Bashir and [splm/a leader John] Garang now have a similar stake in the outcome of the Darfur crisis” (ibid.). Besides, at the end of the day, peace accords in this, the longest-running civil war in the world, have a history of failure.
Those Who Weep
So the women and children of Darfur continue to weep in their great trauma and suffering, as Sudanese have wept for generations under Khartoum’s cruel rule as it continues to perpetrate scenes such as the following: “[T]ear gas was fired at people, mostly women and children, queuing at a … medical clinic. We witnessed harrowing scenes. One woman was crying hysterically because her baby son had been lost in the panic” (bbc News, Nov. 10, 2004).
But it ought to make us weep—and cry out for whatever it takes to wipe the blight of man’s inhumanity to man from all time and existence—not just from the one running sore that is Darfur, but from this whole wretched planet.
Aid programs are but a drop in the bucket. The institutions that this world has set up in its futile efforts to bring peace are exposed for the sham that they are.
The bbc dispatch from Darfur continued, “Police fired tear gas and assaulted residents at El-Geer camp near Nyala, hours before the UN’s Sudan envoy was due to arrive, witnesses said. The UN and African Union are seeing the assault as a calculated affront …. Government officials in the area knew the UN secretary general’s representative would shortly arrive at the camp …. In spite of this, government forces staged two assaults on displaced people, and would not desist from bulldozing their camp, despite the presence of UN representatives, the African Union and international aid agencies. … The raid took place a day after the government and the rebels signed what has been described as a breakthrough agreement aimed at ending the crisis” (ibid.).
Is it any wonder, when the very institutions that the world has created to solve its humanitarian problems are treated with such disdain, that the masses lose heart?
“The police showed open contempt for United Nations officials when they arrived …. The population is terrorized and bewildered, with little faith in the power of the international community” (ibid.).
Plainly, deeply embedded inhumane treatment of one’s fellow human beings such as witnessed in Sudan—aided and abetted by foreign nations intent on filling their own wish list for raw materials—is a problem way beyond the very best efforts of man to solve.
A few realists who recognize the cause of this world’s ills also recognize that there can be only one solution. Political philosopher Leo Strauss was such a one: “[N]o bloody or unbloody change of society can eradicate the evil in man,” he wrote. “As long as there will be men, there will be malice, envy and hatred, and hence there cannot be a society which does not have to employ coercive restraint” (The City and Man).
Surely 6,000 years of the documented history of man ought to be sufficient to demonstrate that man, of and by himself, does not have the capacity to employ “coercive restraint” in a caring, balanced, selfless and loving manner such as works to the total benefit of mankind. Self-interest is always present in the mind of man.
Truly, if there is to be an ultimate solution to mankind’s ills, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said, “It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”
This then demands help from a higher source than man, from beyond planet Earth—from man’s Maker!
There are those who are being prepared for such a task, at this very moment, under the direction of their Maker. In fact, over the centuries, Almighty God has been preparing a select group of people to support Him in this very task. They are those spoken of in Paul’s epistle to the Romans: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:22-23).
God will harvest those who genuinely sigh and cry over the evils of this world, and whom He leads to deeply understand the only way to solve those problems. Perhaps you are such a one. Perhaps you see! (Revelation 3:18). Perhaps you are one to whom God is reaching out to select, to train and prepare to be part of the great solution to the overwhelming problems of mankind.
If this is so, you need to immediately request your own free copy of our book The Incredible Human Potential and deepen your understanding of the great vision that Almighty God is intent on fulfilling through humankind! Fulfillment of that vision will, ultimately, bring not just the oppressed of Darfur, not the Sudanese alone, not only poor, blighted Africa, but all of humankind out of this world’s misery, to a full realization of its incredible, God-given, human potential!