By Cathy Nugent
THE Islamist military dictatorship in Sudan has launched the second stage of the civil war in Darfur. They want to put down the groups which refused to sign a ceasefire and political agreement in May of this year. If they do not stop this assault, thousands of civilians will be persecuted and killed. In mid-September the UN reported government arial bombardments in the north of the region. They expect thousands of people to be displaced. Those people fear the campaign of terror which has always followed such bombardments, when government-backed militia has gone into villages to raze them to the ground and sexually assault the women there.
The Darfur Peace Agreement was signed by only one of Darfur’s political groups — the Sudan Liberation Army. Those who opposed it are now organised under the banner of the National Redemption Front.
This is the immediate background to the UN resolution to send peace keeping troops — up to 17,500 — into Darfur, to replace a smaller African Union force which was due to leave at the end of September. A high profile international campaign has accompanied the political pressure. But what would be the role of UN troops?
The Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir says the UN is acting for imperialism, wants to overthrow him, wants to plunder Sudan and is on a mission to re-colonise. The UN cannot act without the consent of the big powers and Sudan does have rich mineral and oil resources. But UN intervention is not about “recolonising”! The big powers security and stability. That is why the UN has remained “diplomatic” throughout, ludicrously refusing to call genocide — the killing of hundreds of thousands in Darfur — genocide. That is why they have never operated sanctions against the genocidal Sudanese government.
Maybe there will now be a compromise. There is for instance now talk of expanding the AU force and extending its stay.
The Sudanese government may help the UN in its mission and pretend to back off, while continuing to help militias in Darfur. The regime wants a free hand to kill off any opposition. If it cannot do that openly, it will do it covertly.
No one should have any confidence in the UN’s ability to play a positive role in war-torn countries, nor would advocate their involvement as effective “peace keepers” in Darfur. But if there is to a deployment of UN troops, with or without the “permission” of the Sudanese government — although as we have said it is not clear that there will be such a deployment — in the name of what alternative could socialists object to it? The “anti-imperialist” status quo?
If there is any chance that UN troops will facilitate the distribution of aid (and there the governments of the richer capitalist countries really fall down); if there is any chance that some of the people in some of the refugee camps will be made safer by UN troops… why should we protest?
If UN troops save the lives of some people in Darfur who might otherwise die helplessly or horribly at the hands of the genocidal militia that would of course be a good thing. Reflex, brain-dead “anti-imperialism” here would only be a way of expressing indifference to the fate of the people of Darfur.