THE BLOG

How Much Longer Should Sudan's People Suffer?

20/03/2013 12:05 GMT | Updated 19/05/2013 10:12 BST

For the last ten years the government of Sudan has been ethnically cleansing Darfur of its non-Arab population. Although a battle for scarce resources and climate change are important factors, at the heart of the conflict is the Khartoum regime's vision of a Sudan that excludes non-Arabs and non-Muslims. Centuries of intermarriage between various Sudanese ethnicities does not deter the ideologues in the National Islamic Front regime, diplomatically re-branded the National Congress Party after 9/11.

Given the dearth of media attention given to Darfur these days, observers could be forgiven for thinking the bombing, looting and raping is over. Yet, the aerial bombardment continues, as does the systematic rape of girls and women, and the destruction of villages seen by the regime as non-Arab. All this has occurred despite the presence of an ineffectual UN multinational peacekeeping force that costs $ 1billion a year.

The Khartoum regime has expelled journalists and human rights groups, as well as any humanitarian agencies who objected to its tactics. Hence wide scale atrocities continue in a media vacuum. Aid groups remaining there are continually harassed and threatened by security forces, ensuring their silence about who bears responsibility for the vast majority of the suffering.

The fractious Darfur rebel groups, originally motivated by the region's economic and political marginalised status, have split into factions, some of whom have been bought off by the regime or are feuding amongst themselves. The millions who have lost their homes eke out an existence in refugee camps where no one consults them about their future. The last UN fatality figures -300,000 dead - were produced eight years ago and are thought to seriously underestimate the true situation.

While the misery has dragged on for a decade in Darfur there have been interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. The UK is even considering helping to arm the rebels in Syria. Yet the UN Security Council has shied away from enforcing its own resolutions on Sudan, . It is as if the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, guaranteeing Sudan the sovereignty to do whatever it wishes to its own people, still supersedes any subsequent international human rights conventions, including Sudan's own domestic laws.

Running parallel to Darfur's extended nightmare has been a massive diplomatic effort to win independence for the long-persecuted non-Arab population of south Sudan, now a separate nation. The international community made the mistake of focusing all its attention on the South's secession, allowing Khartoum to continue its killing in Darfur with diplomatic eyes averted. .

Even now that the independent Republic of South Sudan exists, regional and international players offer only stale and formulaic words of condemnation for continuing atrocities perpetrated by Khartoum. Why? Some suggest the world's powers are having second thoughts about the wind of change sweeping the region. They prefer the monsters in power they know, rather than a new set of rulers who may not take their phone calls and whose actions may threaten the safety of Western nations.

There are also theories that Sudan has convinced Western intelligence agencies that, despite its close relationship with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, it is "on our side" in the war on terror. According to the Open Society Justice Initiative, terrorist suspects were rendered to Khartoum for interrogation, but there is no evidence the Sudanese produced any actionable intelligence for use by the CIA or MI6.

The regime has been skillful at keeping regional groups on side, suggesting that any criticism of its behaviour comes from Zionists and imperialists, and that the USA is looking for an excuse to invade Sudan as it did Iraq. Time and again the Africa Union and the Arab League have refrained from criticising Khartoum's ethnic cleansing of its citizens.

Perhaps the people of Darfur, facing their tenth year in refugee camps, are simply victims of no importance. Strategically, their war does not endanger the West as there is no perceived threat from Islamic militants. Ditto the collective shrug of bewilderment that greets the continuing horrors in the DRC. Or the silence accompanying news emerging from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, where an estimated million non-Arab people face 300 Sudan Armed Forces bombing raids a month, and thus starvation because they cannot get to their fields.

Khartoum is emboldened by our continuing lack of resolve to stop these atrocities. Several UN resolutions calling for a no-fly zone and smart sanctions targeted on the architects of the slaughter remain unenforced. Sudan is never held to fulfil its promises given in numerous treaties and peace deals. Intervention is not necessary, desirable or feasible while so many points of financial leverage have yet to be tried. The regime is in a desperate economic situation, yet we lack the political will or interest to hold it to its word. How many more years must the Sudanese suffer?