Monday, March 16, 2009

Misguided Protests on Sudan

Last week, demonstrations in Sudan, Washington and elsewhere accused the United States and other Western nations of being behind the arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir. Their claim, which echoed that of the Government of Sudan, is that the International Criminal Court is pursuing an agenda of “imperialist domination” and that nations such as the United States are interested in regime change in Sudan “because the country has vast lands and resources they are loathe to let out of their control.”

If these uninformed sentiments weren’t so destructive to efforts to bring to account those responsible for the death or displacement of millions of Sudanese, it might be amusing. However, covering up for genocidal dictators is not in the least funny, and those who make these claims while defending the Khartoum regime are willfully ignorant of the facts and have no interest in helping the people of Sudan.

The defenders of Khartoum are some of the same people who claimed there was no slavery driven by that government involved in the long North-South civil war despite abundant evidence that the government so devalued the life of non-Arab Sudanese that they set Arab Sudanese militias loose on them to do as they will. There is no doubt that the government aided and abetted these slave raids, even if their soldiers did not take direct part in them.

It has become obvious that the Sudanese government also has had an active role in Arab militia attacks on Darfur residents. There have been too many people who have traveled to Darfur to see for themselves the devastation of these attacks. So many of these defenders of Bashir’s government have taken trips sponsored by that government and have spoken only to those who support the government’s line of defense. Not only have I traveled to all three Darfur provinces in Sudan, but I also have spoken with Darfur residents now in America.

The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation sponsored a forum on Darfur in Philadelphia in 2007 during which Darfurians themselves got to speak with representatives of the government of Sudan, the Government of the People’s Republic of China (a major investor in Sudan’s economy) and the United States government. These same arguments against action to safeguard the people of Darfur were made, but didn’t stand up to the testimony of dozens present who had to leave their homeland because of attacks by government-supported militias. The arguments still don’t stand up today.

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