Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Sudan and the European Union 

I've posted before (here and here) about the ongoing catastrophe in the Darfur region of Sudan. Despite some promising signs, the situation seems still to be pretty terrible, with continuing militia attacks on civilian populations and a looming refugee crisis of massive proportions. I noted earlier that Explananda had called out the Europeans on this one, saying that this would be a great way to prove that their talk about the proper use of force in the world was more than hot air. Today, there may be some developments on that front.

According to the BBC,
The ceasefire in Sudan's Darfur region has had little effect on the ground, the United States has said.

Government-backed Arab militias are reported to be continuing their attacks, a spokesman said...

"We do still have reports that the government-supported Arab militias are attacking parts of western and southern Darfur," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

"There are also reports of continuing aerial bombardments, such as at Anka... north-west of Khartoum this [Monday] morning.

"In addition, we understand the militias remain in the vicinity of the internally displaced persons camps, occupying land that they had claimed from Africans, and effectively preventing (people) from returning to their homes," he said.

However, the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said that the ceasefire was being respected.

"The fighting has stopped entirely," Abu Bakr Hamid al-Nur told Reuters news agency...

Sudan analyst Eva Dadrian from the Africa Analysis newsletter says it will be hard for the government to reign in the Arab militia - the Janjaweed - which have been leading the attacks on black African civilians in Darfur.

"Darfur is a very vast region and the government will have difficulty to control these people. The Janjaweed are everywhere. They hide in the mountains," she told the BBC Network Africa programme.

The fighting in Darfur has been raging for more than a year, with rebels claiming that the Arab-dominated government is ignoring the region.

The refugees say that attacks on their villages by helicopter gunships are followed up the Janjaweed on horses and camels, who rape, kill and loot.

The Sudanese government has denied the allegations.
An article in today's NY Times also suggests that UN refugee assistance has been far too little, far too late, and that refugees are in imminent danger of famine.
Aid agencies have set up camps in this remote, impoverished corner of Africa to provide medical care and food in what officials call one of the world's worst disasters affecting civilian populations.

Behind the refugee agency's office in Iriba, a small administrative settlement 38 miles from the contested border town of Tine, stand 14 open-back Red Cross trucks. The vehicles are meant to travel to the frontier to carry refugees still fleeing from Sudan across the empty savannah, but the trucks are stranded without fuel.

Across the compound, a warehouse meant to hold cereal, sorghum and oil to supply a camp of 6,000 for a month holds less than half that amount because the contractor organizing the transportation has run out of money to pay the drivers.

"You can't keep bringing people in and dumping them and not giving them anything to eat," said Dave Coddington, a team leader at Catholic Relief Services, an aid group that is helping to distribute food in the refugee camps. "It's an embarrassment for the U.N."
So what, besides failing to provide sufficient material resources to aid efforts, is the international community doing? It's too soon to say how much credence to lend to this, but the Financial Times reports today that
The European Union's top military official says EU-led forces could intervene in Sudan, where more than 670,000 people have fled the western region of Dafur following weeks of killings, rape and looting by Arab militias...

The surprise comments by Gustav Hägglund, who ends his three-year stint as the first chairman of the EU's military committee this month, coincide with fresh efforts by Brussels to strengthen its defence capabilities.

In an interview with the Financial Times, General Hägglund said the possibility of the EU sending a force to Sudan had been raised by Louise Fréchette, the United Nations deputy secretary-general. "Sudan is on the list of the UN [for some form of peacekeeping mission]," Gen Hägglund added. The 65-year-old Finnish general was appointed Europe's top military chief three years ago, when the EU had a fledgling military staff, no idea which military missions it would undertake and persistent ambiguities between Britain and France over the future role of European defence.

Since then, the EU has taken over a small Nato-led mission in Macedonia, quickly deployed a 1,500-strong military force to Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo, last summer and will take over this year from Nato the large mission in Bosnia. The Congo mission last year was the EU's first military mission outside Europe.

"There is no reason why the EU could not go to, for instance, Sudan. I see it to be very possible. It would be mandated by the UN. It is part of the battlegroup concept," said Gen Hägglund.
The FT article goes on to speculate about future EU military capabilities and the likelihood of an effective common EU defense structure. But to me, the real question of interest here (beyond the basic issue of helping other human beings in danger) is whether anyone will actually lead a Western intervention into an Arab-ruled country, and how this will be portrayed in the world press. If I recall correctly, Osama bin Laden has somehow portrayed both the slowness of the Western reaction to the plight of the Bosnians and the fact of Western intervention in Kosovo and East Timor as attacks on Islam. Clearly we have to do something about the situation in Sudan (despite at least one commentator's skepticism), but there are other issues to consider here as well.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Referrers: