No Simple Solutions in Sudan
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th July, 2007
Anyone who imagined that the humanitarian crisis in Darfur ought to be easy to resolve would quickly have been disabused of that notion at a packed meeting at the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce in Mayfair earlier tonight, organised by Arab Media Watch and the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). The Sudanese Ambassador in London, Omer Siddig, put up a spirited defence of his government’s record, while the Independent’s Africa correspondent Steve Bloomfield gave his more critical, non-partisan view, based on several visits to Sudan. One thing they were both agreed on was that the situation is Darfur is extremely complex, and has got more so recently. It is by no means as simple as the ethnic cleansing of Africans by government-backed Arab militia, as is sometimes simplisticly argued. Moreover, the fragmentation of various rebel forces in Darfur, and the seemingly unending flow of weapons into the region, have made matters much more difficult. And as several members of the audience, from different regions of Sudan, with various political affiliations, stressed, Darfur is but one of a number of regions in conflict in the country, despite several peace agreements supposedly finalised or else on the table.
Ambassador Siddig characterised Sudan’s relations with the United States as being ‘between scepticism and hostility’ — which concurs what I found when I was in Khartoum a couple of years ago and visited the pharaceutical factory that the Americans had bombed to smithereens. The Chinese are far more in favour in Africa’s largest nation, not least because of their investment in Sudan’s oil industry and other sectors of the economy. I asked both speakers what they thought the EU could and should be doing. Not surprisingly, the Ambassador hoped that the suspension of EU aid agreements because of Darfur can be overcome. Steve Bloomfeld argued that the EU could usefully formulate a genuinely common policy relating to Sudan, and he chided the Union for failing to come up with all of the resources it promised for the African Union’s military mission to Darfur.