Daily Archives: 28 June 2006

Darfur and Loss Compensation

Although territorial loss in war with its seemingly irreversible quality tends to be decisive, the expectation of such loss, if uncompensated, can also have horrific consequences. In the Darfur region of western Sudan we may have an illustration of just such a consequence as a form of loss compensation by means of self-help, in contrast to compensation that could be offered by the international community.

As a result of protocols signed on May 26, 2004, between southern Sudanese leaders of the black, predominantly Christian Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Arabized Muslim leaders of the north, a six-year interim period would be specified, after which a referendum would take place allowing for the possibility of independence for the oil-rich south. This outcome would lead to the loss of approximately one-third of Sudanese territory including its oil. The possible presence of oil in the Darfur region as well makes this territory potentially as valuable economically as the oil-rich south. If Darfur were to be Arabized through the massacre and ethnic cleansing of its black population, then it could serve as compensation for losses in the south, especially in the face of an incipient rebellion by the black Africans in Darfur.

Encouraged by the success of the black southern rebels both on the battlefield and at the conference table, two groups of black Muslims from Darfur rebelled, apparently representing black populations persecuted through raids and other violence by nomadic Arabized tribes. Confronted by another separatist rebellion like that of the SPLA, ethnic cleansing of another black population was unleashed, with a possible genocidal component of tens of thousands dead. One purpose of this effort has been to compensate for the potential losses in the south by ensuring that another potentially valuable territory, Darfur, remains within an Arab-dominated Sudan.

As in the Rwandan case, the international community was intensely concerned that a settlement between the Khartoum government and the SPLA be reached. Colin Powell, then the US secretary or state, visited the negotiations between the SPLA and Khartoum leaders in October 2003 and Darfur itself in June 2004. The United Nations has also taken an active role. And like Arusha in the Rwandan case, an international agreement implying heavy losses in the future, whether in political power (Rwanda, territory already having been lost to the RPF) or valuable territory (Sudan), may have spurred this effort at loss compensation. Also like the Interahamwe in Rwanda, much of the killing and ethnic cleansing has been carried out by a government-supported militia, the Janjaweed, an Arabized military group.

These considerations suggest that even more active intervention is required to stem these massacres and ethnic cleansing. A pairing of the two regions of Sudan, Darfur and the south, should be the focus of international diplomacy, without forsaking one region for the other. Unfortunately, just the opposite appears to have occurred. According to John Prendergast, a former African affairs director at the National Security Council under President Clinton, “When the secretary [Colin Powell] was in Naivasha [location of the negotiations between the Khartoum government and the SPLA], and a major problem was getting worse in Darfur, everyone agreed to deal with the southern problem first and with Darfur later. That was a monumental diplomatic error.”

SOURCE: The Killing Trap: Genocide in the Twentieth Century, by Manus I. Midlarsky (Cambridge U. Press, 2005), pp. 386-387

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