Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Does God work for the CIA? US Policy Toward Darfur And Sudan by Jean Damu
The war and suffering in Darfur will continue despite sanctions imposed by Congress and the recent appointment of the controversial Andrew Natsios as special envoy to Darfur.
Both actions leave unchanged Washington’s long standing policy of providing support to the military opponents of the Khartoum government; support camouflaged as “humanitarian aid.”
But it gets worse. Until one of the rebel organizations in Darfur went over to the government side earlier this summer, the scheme of the Bush Administration was to forge political and military unity among the main opposition organizations in order to weaken the Sudan government.
The ultimate objective of these policies is to cause, at some point, the dismantlement of Sudan as a nation.
In order to understand how this impacts Darfur , it is necessary to explain what happened during the civil war with southern Sudan that ended in early 2005.
“As relations with the Sudanese government deteriorated in the early 1990’s,” writes Severine Austesserre in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, “the relations between the US and the SPLM improved.” By 1997 the friendship between the US and the SPLM had improved to the point where Secretary of State Madeline Albright met with the John Garang in Kampala , Uganda to express her support for his objectives.
His objectives were to win either greater southern representation in the Khartoum government, regional autonomy, or political independence. By all accounts Garang was the leading spokesperson and leader of the Sudanese southern political and military opposition
Albright’s imprimatur of Garang only gave official approval to an already known reality, namely that the rebel forces only source of supplies was to rely on foreign aid. “Knowing that,” writes Austesserre, “the US strategy was to counter Khartoum ’s manipulation of humanitarian access and to ensure that the rebels have access to as much aid as possible.”
This process actually began in 1989 with the creation of the OLS (Operation Lifeline Sudan ), the umbrella operation for UN agencies and NGO’s working in Sudan . OLS was introduced as a unique formation that provided a “major diplomatic breakthrough” in which for the first time a government agreed to the violation of its own national sovereignty by allowing humanitarian organizations to aid rebel held areas.
Such “neutral” interventions are very useful in the political game, says Austesserre.
The best strategy for the US was to find a way to support the rebels enough to enable them to counter the government of Sudan, but not enough to help them win, and not too openly in order to preserve US economic and strategic interests which lie beneath Sudan’s surface in large commercially viable lakes of oil.
Humanitarian interventions, often carried out by evangelical organizations, can be used as substitutes and even forms of political intervention, if not outright low intensity destabilization.
The Sudan dialogue in Washington worsened when two familiar faces from the Iran-Contra scandal, Elliott Abrams and Nina Shea were put in charge of the religious freedom commission.
Abrams, who was convicted of money laundering during the Reagan Administration and Shea, who is alleged to have worked closely with the CIA to support the Nicaraguan Contras, served respectively as Chair and co-Chair of CIRF.
According to Human Rights Watch nearly 700 page report, “Sudan, Oil and Human Rights,” in 2000 the most controversial position of CIRF was to advocate that the US provide assistance to the military opposition to the Sudanese government, the armed wing of the SPLM. Several commissioners objected and in 2001 this proposal was scaled back to the recommendation that assistance go to just the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which the SPLM was by far the largest member.
President Clinton ultimately decided not to supply the SPLM because many NGO’s feared that if the US provided aid, it would make it appear as if they also were violating neutrality agreements.
But the Bush Administration had no such compunctions. Another $10 million for the NDA was inserted into the next appropriations bill for the fiscal year 2001 and that money ultimately found its way to the SPLM.
In September of 2001 former Missouri Senator John Danforth was assigned to lead an investigatory mission to Sudan to help, if possible, chart a path to peace between the Sudanese government and the SPLM. He visited the north and south portions of the country and was credited by Sudan for having provided a helpful methodology in charting a path toward peace.
CIRF members disagreed. In a statement that George Bush would echo five years later in reference to Darfur , commission members said neither the rebels nor the government should be forced to accept a cease fire agreement that would allow al-Bashir’s military to rearm itself.
The Sudan embassy in Washington replied saying, “What kind of logic is this? Similar specious statements are directly responsible for the continuation of this war for almost two decades now…This position means only prolongation of war and more killing and destruction. In fact it is a deliberate sabotage of Danforth’s noble mission.”
With the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between Khartoum and the SPLM in 2005 a rickety cease fire was negotiated that allows the SPLM to hold a referendum on independence from Khartoum in six years. Then an ominous gloom descended on the region when Garang was killed in a suspicious helicopter accident just several months later.
In the run up to the CPA between Sudan ’s North and South in 2003, war broke out on Sudan ’s western border with Chad , in Darfur . In many respects the war in Darfur is a replay of the war in the south of Sudan but with important differences.
The armed attacks against Khartoum controlled areas of Dafur by the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Equality and Justice Movement (EJM) have given the Khartoum government another civil war to deal with and a black eye. Baggara horsemen, who comprise part of the forces that are known as the Janjaweed, and who were used in the South, are active in Darfur as well. All this has been widely reported.
However, in 2003, as soon as fighting broke out in Darfur, the evangelical and Jewish communities in the US shifted their focus from southern Sudan, where they said Christians, who make up just 5 percent of Sudan’s population, were being persecuted by northern Arabs.
Elliott Abrams, who had already been re-assigned from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (CIRF) to the National Security Council, where he is said to be the liaison to the White House on Sudan, began to lobby Congress on the issue of “genocide” being committed by the al-Bashir forces in Darfur .
Just eleven months later, in June of 2004 both houses of Congress passed resolutions declaring Darfur to be an act of genocide; an amazing achievement for any issue having to do with Africa .
That’s just fine with the Bush Administration.
In a speech to Freedom House in March of this year, President Bush outlined his administrations’ position on Darfur .
“We [himself and Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo] talked about the need for a parallel track [a parallel track to the fighting in Darfur], a peace process that needs to go forward, that there needs to be unity amongst the rebel groups,” he said.
Bush’s “parallel track” is the same position CIRF had advocated five years earlier when it called for continued war and no cease fire and against which the Sudanese government argued so strenuously.
Now Andrew Natsios’ time has come again. He’s been in the African’s doghouse for once suggesting passing out anti-retroviral drugs to them to combat AIDs would be a waste of time and money because Africans can’t tell time and wouldn’t know when to take their dosages.
Now he’s back and with his long standing ties to the USAID, World Vision and other relief organizations, the fighting in Darfur is not likely to end anytime soon.
With a little more patience and perseverance Washington may be able to string out the crisis in Darfur until an international consensus can be built for a NATO military intervention, of which the US would dominate or until the South can finally be convinced to secede.
It’s just as Georgia Congress member Cynthia McKinney said early on, “It is as if we really don’t want the warring to end and that we are deliberately unwilling to fashion a policy that really will produce the stated desired results.”
Unless the “desired results” is the dismantlement of Sudan.
Jean Damu is the former West Coast Regional Coordinator for N’COBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America.). He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, October 3, 2006