By John Parker, Workers World, July 1, 2007
In spite of the current and historic role that imperialist forces have played in Sudan, the U.S. and European media almost exclusively blame the violence in the region on the government in Khartoum. This ignores the most important fact in its history: it was colonialism and imperialism that created the root cause of the economic crisis facing Sudan today.
The struggle in Sudan is, in fact, a struggle for basic necessities. They have been denied not by the Sudanese people, but by years of competing British, French and U.S. efforts to increase their exploitation of the region.
Instead of trying to solve this crisis, in 1998 President Bill Clinton sent 19 cruise missiles slamming into Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world, and destroyed its sole pharmaceutical plant—that provided over 50 percent of the medicine there.
Ever since Sudan opposed the first U.S.-led war against Iraq in 1991, U.S. policy—from both Democratic and Republican presidents—has been aimed at destabilizing the Sudanese government. In fact, Washington helped finance a secessionist civil war against the Khartoum government and imposed economic sanctions on the country.
The missile attack came soon after Sudan took steps to access a 300-million-barrel reservoir of crude oil in the country’s South. There is a clear relationship between U.S. oil policy and U.S. government hostility toward Sudan. Likewise, there is clear evidence of indirect U.S. arming and funding of the rebel forces in Darfur that initiated the violence back in 2003.
Darfur is known to have major yet untapped oil reserves, representing a vast amount of potential wealth. It is believed to have oil reserves rivaling those of Saudi Arabia. It has large deposits of natural gas. In addition, it has one of the three largest deposits of high-purity uranium in the world, along with the fourth-largest deposits of copper. Unlike Saudi Arabia, however, the Sudanese government has retained its independence of Washington.
Unable to control Sudan’s oil policy, the U.S. imperialist government has made every effort to stop its development of this valuable resource. However, China has helped Sudan, in spite of U.S. efforts, by providing the technology for exploration, drilling, pumping and the building of a pipeline. China buys about two-thirds of Sudan’s oil.
So, as it did in in Somalia, Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq and in the former Yugoslavia, Washington used its dominance over the United Nations to help justify the forced entry of troops across Sudan’s borders, with the false promise of bringing stability and ending bloodshed.
This is what is behind the U.S. calls a month ago for sanctions against Sudan, just four days after the government of Sudan agreed on May 25 to a joint African Union and United Nations (AU/UN) “hybrid peacekeeping force” assigned to Darfur to quell the violence in that region.
In an interview with Gulf News, Sudanese Foreign Minister Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin said: “The message we took from this act by the U.S. is that no matter how much the Sudanese government cooperates, the U.S. is going to go ahead with its plans. The sanctions were strange but it did not surprise us in Khartoum.”
This is not the first time that Sudan’s willingness to negotiate in order to calm U.S. aggression failed.
In July of 2004 the Sudanese government accommodated the U.S. by allowing small teams of U.S. soldiers to pass into the country as part of official visits and even allowed U.S. Special Forces to do weeklong patrols in its Kurush Mountains to look for alleged al Qaeda activity.
During this period Sudan was holding intense negotiations with warring parties in the Darfur region. In spite of these attempts at cooperation and moves towards negotiating a peace, the U.S. rushed through a resolution, adopted on July 30, 2004, imposing a timetable for sanctions-like measures against Sudan. Its U.N. ambassador, Elfatih Erwa, and its ambassador to the African Union, Osman al-Said, separately said Khartoum would comply. “We are not happy with the resolution, but we are going to implement it— we have no other option,” said al-Said.
The situation in Sudan is desperate. The U.N. estimates that 200,000 Sudanese have died from either drought or war-related causes. That war was started in 2003 by the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) over what they considered unjust resource distribution to a region where people depending on the land face scarcity of water, arable land and food.
This problem exists all over the south Sahara region, but it could be fixed through irrigation and the development of Sudan’s rich resources—a task easily achievable with just a portion of the resources squandered in Iraq by the U.S.
How U.S. undercut negotiations
Instead of the U.S. assisting in this way, however, it has been creating obstacles every time the Sudanese government makes efforts to negotiate with the various factions of the rebel forces who attacked them.
This is made clear in an eyewitness account of one of these negotiations by Alex de Waal, who was an adviser to the Organization of African Unity and participated in talks between rebel forces, the U.S. and the Sudanese government. He was quoted in AfricaFocus online (www.africafocus.org) on April 30. Although de Waal is not partisan toward the Sudanese government, his account exposes the U.S. role. He explains:
“Long neglected conflicts first exploded in February 2003, when the newly formed Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) launched guerrilla raids on government garrisons, and the government responded with its well-tested counter-insurgency tool of unleashing militia—in this case the Janjawiid. ... It was three years before a workable peace agreement was tabled. And it very nearly succeeded. Everything hinged on a few weeks this May , when the Darfur Peace Agreement was finalized and signed by the Sudan government and one of the rebel factions. Had the leader of the main part of the Sudan Liberation Movement also signed, the current crisis would not have happened.”
In the late afternoon of May 5, 2006, after a final 20-hour negotiating session, the Sudanese government and the SLM faction led by Minni Arkoy Minawi signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).
However, de Waal explains that not all of the SLM representatives signed. The founder of the SLM, Abdel Wahid, refused. After a British official worked into the night on the text to meet the objections of Wahid, he still did not sign and instead asked for more concessions.
De Waal asks: “Would those concessions have been enough? It’s not clear. In the early hours of 5 May Abdel Wahid told [U.S. deputy secretary of state] Zoellick and [Nigerian President] Obasanjo: ‘I need a guarantee for implementation like in Bosnia.’ The personal letter he had just received from President Bush wasn’t enough: what he wanted was international military intervention to deliver Darfur from the Khartoum government. ...”
It seems that Wahid had gotten a certain impression from the U.S. government, including President Bush, that he was entitled to much more.
Because Wahid did not sign, other SLM commanders also refused and instead gathered in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, to form the National Redemption Front (NRF) and continue the war with the Sudanese army.
De Waal continues: “As the Abuja negotiations drew to a close, the Congress Party [Sudan President Omar al Bashir’s political party—J.P.] launched an internal discussion on Sudanese-U.S. relations. The central question they asked was: ‘Given that we have made peace with the South and given them everything they asked for; given that we are co-operating in the war on terror; why are the Americans still determined to punish us?’ ...
“The worst fears of Khartoum’s conspiracy theorists had seemed to be justified when Zoellick arrived in Abuja and revised the security arrangements agenda of the DPA text, increasing the number of rebel combatants to be integrated into the army and security forces to 8,000 (80 percent of these positions, he indicated, would go to Minawi’s men [of the SLM]). As Zoellick argued and arm-twisted late into the night on 2 May, agitated Sudanese generals paced up and down in the hotel car park, calling their superiors in Khartoum on satellite phones. They buttonholed mediation team members—by now excluded from the action—to ask: ‘What is America’s real agenda?’”
U.S. intervention has been bloody and brutal
The history of U.S. involvement in Africa is one of brutal terror and colonial and neo-colonial plunder, using the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction against the poorest of countries—like the bombings of Somalia, Tanzania and Sudan. It includes the murders and assassinations of anti-imperialist independence leaders who, given the chance, could have helped solve the problems Africa faces today.
U.S. involvement in Africa should concern itself solely with the implementation of reparations to that continent. Any other form of involvement, particularly military intervention in any form, always means escalating death and chaos through their “humanitarian” claws. Yes, even more than would have died if not for its interventions.
Maximizing profits is expensive in terms of lives. In Iraq 1.5 million, close to half of them children, have died because of U.S. sanctions and military intervention—so far.
Shame on those who, to this day, still don’t understand this reality and are facilitating a new and real genocide against the people of Africa. It will echo the cries of torture and heartache heard today by the current victims of U.S. imperialism in Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Congo, Palestine, Lebanon and so many other countries.