Target Sudan: What’s Really Behind the Crisis in Darfur

Once again, the facts that we unveiled in our book published a year and a half ago – in the month of Ramadan 1425 AH (November 2004 AD) – have been affirmed by a non-Muslim, non-Sudanese source. An insightful commentary appeared in last Sunday’s Outlook Section of the Washington Post newspaper (4/23/06), titled “5 Truths About Darfur,” by Emily Wax. (The Washington Post’s East Africa bureau chief)

She began her article with a provocative question:

“Heard all you need to know about Darfur? Think again. Three years after a government-backed militia began fighting rebels and residents in this region of western Sudan, much of the conventional wisdom surrounding the conflict – including the religious, ethnic and economic factors that drive it – fails to match the realities on the ground. Tens of thousands have died and some 2.5 million have been displaced, with no end to the conflict in sight. Here are five truths to challenge the most common misconceptions about Darfur.”

Ms. Wax then proceeded to outline her truths as follows: (1) Nearly everyone is Muslim; (2) Everyone is black; (3) It’s all about politics; (4) This conflict is international; (5) The “genocide” label made it worse.

In a country that is said to be 65 percent Muslim, Wax correctly notes, “Darfur is home to some of Sudan’s most devout Muslims.” The Darfur region of Sudan has historically been almost 100 percent Muslim, and thus, the Sudanese protagonists on all sides of this intractable conflict profess Islam.

On point # 2: Wax correctly notes, “The true division in Darfur is between ethnic groups, split between herders and farmers. Each tribe gives itself the label of ‘African’ or ‘Arab’ based on what language its members speak and whether they work the soil or herd livestock. Also, if they attain a certain level of wealth, they call themselves Arab.” She then quotes Mahjoub Mohamed Saleh, editor of Sudan’s independent Al-Ayam newspaper: “Black Americans who come to Darfur always say, ‘So where are the Arabs? Why do all these people look black?’”

On point # 3: Wax notes, “Although analysts have emphasized the racial and ethnic aspects of the conflict in Darfur, a long-running political battle between Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir and radical Islamic cleric Hassan al-Turabi may be more relevant.” She references Turabian backing of “one of Darfur’s key rebel groups,” the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – and proceeds to quote a Sudanese human rights lawyer, Ghazi Suleiman, who states, “Darfur is simply the battlefield for a power struggle over Khartoum.” (It is also worth noting that Hassan al-Turabi is widely viewed as an “African Arab.”)

On point #4: Wax comments on the impact that Chad has had on the conflict; most significantly, the fact that Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, hails from the large Zaghawa tribe. (The Zaghawas were one of the three tribes that in February 2003 initiated the conflict in Darfur). It is a documented fact that the Sudanese rebels have bases in Chad, and (although not mentioned in Wax’s article) in Eritrea, which is also said to be one of the primary bases for covert Israeli operations in Africa.

On point #5: Wax references former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s September 2004 political decision to label the conflict in Darfur, “genocide.” She then correctly notes:

“Rather than spurring greater international action, that label only seems to have strengthened Sudanese rebels; they believe they don’t need to negotiate with the government and think they will have U.S. support when they commit attacks. Peace talks have broken down seven times, partly because the rebel groups have walked out of negotiations.”

The shortcomings in Emily Wax’s article revolve around her failure to disclose the outside actors in the Sudan’s ongoing, multi-pronged crisis; i.e., Christian fundamentalists from America and Europe, Israel, conservative neo-cons focused on the Sudan’s strategic value in the “New World Order,” and multinational business interests looking to exploit Sudan’s enormous natural wealth.

She also fails to accurately identify the true nature and sponsorship, or lack thereof, of the so-called “government backed militias” operating in the Darfur region. This writer accepts the probability that some militias operating in Darfur are backed by Khartoum; but without empirical evidence to prove otherwise, it defies both logic and fairness to suggest that all non-rebel militias are being backed by the Sudanese government.

The fact is, Darfur has become a lawless wasteland, where the Janjaweed run wild – a term used in that region of Africa to describe anyone who rides a horse or camel, carries a gun, and robs (or assaults) people on the highway. Darfur, like other parts of the Sudan, has very porous borders. (No doubt, criminals in neighboring countries are taking full advantage of this unfortunate reality.)

This fact, coupled with the types of crimes that have been committed in Darfur (“Home to some of Sudan’s most devout Muslims.”) – i.e., rape, and the wholesale destruction of crops and villages – suggest to this writer that much (if not most) of the murder and mayhem that has visited Darfur over the past three years, has been instigated from the outside! (A fact that the international community refuses to acknowledge.)

These deficiencies aside, this is a well written, and long overdue article on the truths about Darfur. Emily Wax and the Washington Post are to be commended, particularly when the drumbeat is getting louder for yet another western-led military misadventure.