Summary of US role in Darfur

The Janjaweed, a group of government backed Arab militia has been setting villages ablaze and carrying out massacres in the Darfur region of Sudan. Three years later and there seems that no lasting solution is forthcoming.

The Sudanese government and the rebel forces seem not to be keen to bring peace to the region fast. Two million people have been displaced and many more dead in what the United States terms as genocide, with the Sudanese government and the militia to blame. The US has been involved in Darfur, pressuring for a greater role of the UN in the crisis.

Concurrently, it has also been taking part in peace negotiations, for instance, in Abuja where it was in support of the AU negotiations. President Bush had on a separate occasion met with the Darfur advocates where he called for the peace keeping forces under the leadership of the UN to be expanded. While the US has been calling for the end of the genocide it is important to note that no American forces have been sent or deployed in Darfur.

The Darfur conflict does not seem to be a US policy priority. The US does not want to involve itself in Darfur citing the reason that it is already involved in one other Muslim country, namely Iraq. Apparently, the US would not want to spite the Muslim world by getting involved in Darfur.

However, in the end it appeared that Bush was only involved in double speak, because his administration later gave the real reason why the US is not all that keen on Darfur. Sudan and by extension Darfur does not present strategic interest to the US. 1

The US presence is needed in Darfur. Participating in the peace talks and pressuring for more UN involvement is just not enough. The UN is short on troops to send to Darfur. This is the case when Iraq has more troops than is necessary.

The US could also borrow at least one third of funds from the kitty that is used to finance military operations in Iraq and use the same to boost the UN activities. This would be enough to get things moving with a view to ending the crisis. Not only is this a humane approach but it will also receive the support of the American public.

It will be good to see the US involved in some kind of activity that aims at ending human suffering and that does not have to translate to immediate gains. US presence in Darfur should begin with providing troops for the UN missions to protect the people of Darfur.

The US may then put pressure on the Darfur government and the rebels into some kind of power and wealth sharing deal. Establishing a government that upholds democracy and the rule of law is a political consideration that would result in the end of the conflict. The formulation and implementation of a ceasefire that will result in the disbandment of the Janjaweed is vital.2

As is the proper recognition of the factors that have resulted in the Darfur crisis so that a workable solution can be found. Darfur should not be left out of the billions of dollars provided by the Bush administration to fight poverty, hunger and disease.3 Ending the suffering of the Darfur people is an important moral consideration.

Recommendation and analysis

The US role in Sudan can be traced back to the period after the 9/11 attacks as it began its war on terror. A relationship already exists between the US and Sudan which can be used as a stepping stone to end the crisis in Darfur.4

  • America should be ready to commit military peacekeeping forces. There is a need to support African Union troops who are under-armed and under-trained thus cannot provide the much needed protective force. Without this the situation will only get worse.
  • There is also need for the infusion of economic aid as well as pressure on both the Sudanese government and the rebels to end the conflict. Economic aid should go hand in hand with relief groups that offer support. The use of sanctions is one way through which the pressure can be mounted.5 Those accused of supporting the genocide in Darfur should have their assets frozen.
  • The United States should formulate foreign policy on genocide that is based on past experiences and lessons learnt.
  • Cooperate with the Sudanese government in order to improve the security and the living condition of the people of Darfur. This also requires that the US troops and officials sustain contact with the rebel groups encouraging talks between them and the Sudanese government with an aim to ending the conflict.6

The United States spends a massive 400 000 dollars per individual troop in Iraq and 12.5 billion dollars in one month alone. All that money is enough to end the Darfur crisis.7 A third of 12.5 billion dollars only translates to 4.2 billion dollars.

This could be added to the 4 billion dollars set aside to be shared between Sudan and Chad. Well worth to end the crisis in Darfur as well as fighting global terrorism. This will cater for the troops as well as the aid. The Darfur issue needs to be dealt with comperensively so as to sustain peace efforts while also addressing the human element of this issue.

However, this will only work if the US is committed. While the Sudan may not be of strategic interest to the US, it still directly affects national security of the US with regards to the global fight with terrorism. Sudan provides an ideal breeding environment for terrorist’s activities and exacerbates issues of thousands of refugees in the unified world.

The more reason why the US should make the Darfur crisis a policy priority. If nothing is done now, it is going to get much worse. The crisis is already of genocide proportions. There is a need to act now and avoid the Rwanda scenario for which the international community has been blamed for ignoring despite it being a serious issue.

The US withdrew it troops from Rwanda when things got out of hand. The US should immediately send troops to Darfur to end the crisis and prove to the world it is the caring super power that all people think it is. Acting later will be too late. The situation will only get worse and the last thing that the United States needs are casualties.

Footnotes

1 Zissis, Carin. 2006. Darfur: Crisis continues. Council on Foreign relations.

2 Save Darfur.org. 2008. US knocks Russian sale of MiGs to Sudan.

3 Blackwell Publishing. 2008. Africa research bulletin: Political, cultural and social series 45, no. 2

4 Democracy now. 2005. Bush administration allied with Sudan despite role in Darfur genocide.

5 Sudan Tribune. 2008. World must end Darfur conflict.

6 US Department of State. 2007. Working for peace in Darfur: US Engagement.

7 Stiglitz, Joseph & Bilmes, Linda. 2008. The three trillion dollar war: The cost of the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts has grown to staggering proportions. The Times.

Policy memo 1: US role in Darfur 12/27/2019

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