Few hopes for latest peace deal between Sudan and Chad

Sudan and Chad are highly unstable neighbours, whose territorial integrity and national security are put at risk not only by internal feuding that spills over their common border but by direct hostility that drives them to support each other’s insurgents and at times to go to war. The two have, therefore, a strong interest in ending their confrontation and cooperating to find a solution for their internal conflicts, and put a stop to the destabilising intervention by the US-led ‘international community’, including the UN. The peace pact signed on March 13 in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, by the two neighbours’ presidents, appeared to be a good beginning. But as five pacts signed earlier all collapsed, few believe the current one will fare any better.

As some rebel groups immediately expressed their opposition and the two signatories blamed each other for the failures of the past agreements, it became clear that the widespread scepticism is justified. The UN’s repetition of its usual but dubious claim that the Sudanese government is responsible for the massacre of civilians in Darfur confirms the entrenched doubts about the latest accord. The US government and media also accuse Khartoum of breaking its peace deal in 2006 with the semi-autonomous southern Sudan, and advocate greater independence for and military assistance to the mainly Christian southerners. This clearly indicates that the US government, backed by neocons and hardline Christian groups, is sticking to its policy to break up Sudan as part of its war on Islam. And since the success of the Sudan-Chad peace deal depends, by common consent, on solving the Darfur issue and bringing peace to the region, Washington can safely be presumed to be against the deal.

Presidents Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan and Idriss Deby of Chad signed the non-aggression pact on March 13, the day the OIC summit opened in Dakar. The pact, brokered by president Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, who was presiding over the OIC summit, was also witnessed by Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, and representatives of the European Union and the African Union. Under the pact, Bashir and Deby pledged to ban the activities of all armed groups and to prevent the use of their respective territories be destabilise their neighbours.

The first to congratulate the two parties to the peace deal were Ki Moon and professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC secretary general (representing Turkey). Ki Moon expressed his optimism that the two sides would carry out their obligations under the pact and bring peace and stability to the region –” adding that the UN would work closely with both sides to make that objective a reality. Ekmeleddin in his turn praised president Wade for his great effort to bring the two sides together that led them to sign the pact.

The fact is that neither the UN nor the OIC is opposed to the US government’s disruptive policies in Sudan, or elsewhere, while both are widely believed to defer to its "war on terrorism" (the usual euphemism for the West’s war on Islam and Muslims). In fact, the OIC summit in Dakar was convened to condemn ‘Islamic terrorism’, and its draft resolution contained a strong condemnation of "terrorism by Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations." In clear support for the US invasion of Iraq, the draft resolution also urged Muslim countries to open embassies there.

The UN is also in open support of the US aggression not only in Iraq but also in Sudan. While its secretary general was praising the conclusion of the Sudan-Chad peace pact in Dakar, some of its other senior officials issued strong condemnations of Khartoum’s policies and military operations in Darfur. For example, a report issued by the UN High Commission for Refugees on March 19 accused the Sudanese air force of deliberately targeting civilians in January and February, killing women and children and destroying many properties in the process. The direct attack on civilians and property appeared to be part of the government’s military strategy, the report claimed. It added that the attacks in West Darfur by the air force were followed by others on villages by the Janjaweed militia. By referring to the Janjaweed (a militia that is said to be Arab and pro-government) the report is backing the claim that the war in Darfur is between Arabs and Africans on the one hand and Muslims and Christians on the other. If ever that were true, it is so no longer.

As Usman Mohammad Yusuf Kabir, governor of the north Darfur state, who is African and Muslim, told a columnist of the Independent on March 18, the situation in Darfur is totally chaotic and the fighting there is now even between African tribes that were united against the government, and that even militias like the Janjaweed, who were allied to the government are now fighting it. Saying that he was a Muslim and an African and could not therefore be fighting himself, Kabir told Simon Tisdall of the Independent, who visited him in Fashir, the capital of north Darfur, that there had been many conflicts in Darfur before the current one and that none of them had been between Arabs and Africans or between Muslims and Christians.

Finding Kabir’s argument "straightforward", Tisdall explained in his column on March 18 why he agreed with him. He wrote: "Firstly, there have been at least 25 similar conflicts in the region since 1966, and these have been essentially local, intertribal and inter-clan, rather than ethnic or racial in nature. Secondly, the current conflict, as with those preceding it, has three main causes: competition for land, for natural resources and a struggle for power. Poverty, lack of education, the breakdown of local government and [of] the rule of law, the easy availability of weapons, and open borders were all contributory factors." In these circumstances, Kabir argues (and Tisdall appears to agree) that Sudan needs external help but not dominating intervention by the international community –” as the case is now –” and that the solution to the Darfur problem should come about from within.

But far from accepting this reasonable analysis, the US government and media want the international intervention to be extended to southern Sudan. An editorial in the International Herald Tribune, has claimed that "a group of Arab nomads, the Misserya" is set to inflame the south. "Like the Janjaweed militias that unleashed Darfur’s horrors, the Misserya are armed and encouraged by Khartoum," it has asserted. If such intervention takes place, not only the South but the whole of Sudan and indeed the entire region might be inflamed. It is therefore useless to expect the Darfur conflict to be resolved and the confrontation between Sudan and Chad to end.

In fact, Chadian opposition groups are already exploiting the international community’s meddling in the affairs of the region and are on record as saying that they will ignore the Sudan-Chad pact and continue their opposition to president Deby until he is removed from office. The Chadian National Alliance, part of the rebel coalition that attacked Ndjamena, the capital, and surrounded the presidential palace in February, on March 15 declared their opposition to the peace deal. "It doesn’t concern us," said Ali Gadaye, an alliance spokesman. "If Deby doesn’t want dialogue, then we are going to chase him out by force," he said. "We are in our own national territory and we have a clear objective to liberate our people, who are being held hostage by a family clan," he added, referring to Deby and his supporters.

Clearly, it is the international intervention in the region, driven by the ‘war on terrorism’, and not the Sudanese government, that is responsible for the unrest in the region, and should therefore be blamed for the expected impending failure of the Dakar peace deal. Leading Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that could have helped to bring peace to the region but defer to Bush, must also accept a share of the blame.