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As a consequence of Darfur conflict, a longstanding civil war in Sudan for 21 years, nearly 1.2 million people have been displaced and at least other 30,000 have died. The conflict not only involves disputes between the government and rebels, but also a number of militias wrongly identified which have different interests. Regional organizations like the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) suggested to mediate and created an embryo for mediation. However, the progress made is still very insufficient for the killings have continued [1] .

In this context, the United States has launched a tremendous communication campaign to make the international community aware of this drama. But its analysis on the conflict differs substantially from that of the regional organizations. Washington submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Jartum government if the crisis did not come to an end. The text was rejected by Russia and China who challenged the analysis on the conflict and adoption of sanctions.

The American Lawyers Association (under Freedom House [2]) and the Coalition for International Justice (associated to George Soros [3] surveyed Chad refugees. According to them, the conflict is just an attempt to wipe out the non-Arab people by the Arabs (Government of Jartum and militias). The Department of State disseminated the findings and Colin Powell used them as documentation to characterize the situation as “genocide” to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the US Senate.

Powel strove to create a consensus politically correct about the need to intervene in Sudan and stressed that it was in essence genocide by the Arabs against the blacks. The Secretary of State, who had the support of the majority of the Congress, where it was totally ignored that it was possible to be culturally Arab but black at the same time [4], introduced then his draft resolution in the UN with a view to adopt sanctions. In this case, he was planning to impose an embargo on Sudan’s oil to the detriment of the Chinese and Indian companies which are involved in its production.

While the US maneuvers are easy to interpret, it is difficult to have a precise idea of the reality of the present powers since only the point of view of the big powers is disseminated in the Western media. We would like to know the point of view of Sudan’s Government and that of the rebels, which we were unable to get. Notwithstanding the above, the reader could have already a more balanced opinion on the developments.

Interview with Dr. Fodel Tijani, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sudan

Voltaire: What is the history of the conflict in Darfur region?

Dr. Fodel Tijani: First of all, allow me to say that I am originally from Darfur as well as other 7 ministers. The situation of the conflict that currently prevails in Darfur has its origin in the traditional rivalry which has degenerated into a deadly conflict under the influence of new aggravating factors.

In Darfur, as in other regions of the world, there is a traditional rivalry between sedentary and nomadic population for the control of access to water and pastures. These situations were usually handled by traditional chiefs who acted as referees, but they realized that due to the effect of the improvement of social relations, their influence decreased, and prevented them from imposing an acceptable agreement for both sides.

In addition, Darfur region is facing serious problems with the spread of the desert. Hence, competition to get access to pastures and water increasingly becomes more acute, and the population growth has also a negative impact on this spiral. In the past, tensions were not that deadly since silent weapons were used, but today, as a result of the civil wars that have taken place in Chad and Central Africa Republic in the past, it is possible to obtain automatic weapons without paying a high price, therefore the number of killings in every fight multiplies. Since the number of deaths increases, it is impossible to handle things as customary. In the first serious incident that caused the current problems, 50 people from “Zagawoua” tribe and around 15 “Arabs” died.

In other times, to solve a similar incident, the price had to be paid with your own “blood”, but with such amount of deaths, it has been impossible to pay the price and the Zagawouas have requested the Jartum government to pay such price with blood. However, such requested was declined since it would only worsen the situation. The response given by the authorities was used by the rebels as an excuse to accuse the Government for siding their enemy.

There are also political manipulations, such as the role played by Hassan El Tourabi, former Sudanese leader known for his extreme Islamic position and who broke relations with Jartum Government in 1999. Since then, he has tried to influence on the political life by supporting a military uprising in South Sudan and assisting today a rebel movement of Darfur, the Movement of Justice and Equality. On the other hand, we just found in Jartum itself, weapon hideouts made by the members of the Tourabi party.

Also, the conflict in Darfur is of the interest of the South rebel leader John Garang, who despite the peace agreements recently signed, is trying to weaken the position of the Sudanese Government. And finally, there is the role of the tribal solidarity which means that some groups benefit from the complicities outside Sudanese borders.

What was the local authorities’ reaction at the beginning of the conflict?

Sudan is a federal State and the Governors of the three provinces of Darfur region, who are originally from there, requested at the beginning the central Government not to send troops to the region but to let the local authorities to solve the problems. The rebels thought then that they could increase the armed pressure to establish a balance of forces that would favor them. They attacked police stations, killed 408 policemen and 22 officers to obtain the weapons that allowed them to challenge the authorities.

Where does the name “Janjawids” come from? Is the conflict a war between blacks and Arabs?

Traditionally, there was in the region the “Janjawids”, that is, groups of bandits that would recruit people from all tribes of the region, but when the rebellion started, the Government refused to send the army and turned to volunteers to form the local militias. They are made up by all ethnic groups but the rebels called them “Janjawids” to confuse them.

However, it has to be said that the militias used the term “Tora-Bora” (to make reference to the Afghan shelter of Bin Laden in Afghanistan) to call the rebel groups. These pro-government militias have never been made up of any tribe or ethnic group nor the Government has ever armed any of them based on ethnic groups. The notion that there may be a conflict between the “Blacks” and the “Arabs” has no sense, since the majority of the people in Darfur is Sunni Muslim and their marriages have led the local population to mix completely. Therefore, there are neither Arabs on one hand nor Blacks on the other hand. There are sedentary and nomadic populations, all of them ethnically mixed. The tribe in Darfur is a social reality but not an ethnic one.

What are the political objectives of the rebels?

Actually, their political objectives are not very precise and limited to vague demands, generally very exaggerated about division of power and wealth with the central Government. Nevertheless, as a whole, the rebellion is a local phenomenon; it has no program, is not at a national level and is not separatist. Rather, it is trying to become a pressure means taking advantage, through the humanitarian crisis, of the support given by the foreign powers to negotiate subsidies and posts in the administration for their members.

For its part, the Sudanese Government has entered into negotiations, according to the UN, with the rebels. However, the sanctions declared by the US against Sudan are taking the rebels not to negotiate to increase the escalation.

What are the agencies that are trying to help in finding a peaceful solution?

First and foremost the Organization of African Unity, which through the Security Council, is in charge of the problem and has worked out a number of initiatives for peace that have come up against the US maneuvers, whose objectives in Sudan do not seem to be specific at the moment. This situation could also tempt some leaders from the south of the country to question the peace agreements recently signed to obtain more than what they have been able to get from an extremely long and very difficult process of negotiations and commitment.

How does the Government of Sudan plan to restore peace in Darfur?

The Government has sent 12 000 policemen to that region. It is trying to disarm its militias and station the rebel forces in specific places, which will allow putting an end to the conflict and negotiating a peaceful solution. But the rebels demand to disarm the militias and at the same time to move freely across the territory to control it. The African Unity has supported Jartum’s stance in favor of a simultaneous disarmament of the two contenders.

What is the situation of the displaced persons?

Some have found shelter in Chad, others in different regions of Darfur, others in the cities. It has to be pointed out that despite the accusations of genocide, many displaced persons have gone to find shelter in the areas controlled by the Government, which clearly shows that these people do not see the Government as a genocide power but rather a protective power. According to UN figures, out of a total population of 5 million residents, there are today a million people from Darfur displaced.

Why do Washington authorities seem to stir up the conflict?

First of all, the elections. In the current situation, it is all about showing to some voters that the US is very anti-Arab and at the same time, to create the notion to the voters of the African American community that Bush administration is interested in defending the blacks in the world. Washington needs also to draw world opinion’s attention off the conflicts in Iraq and Palestine and return to the US the image of a “country defender of human rights”.

And then, there is the oil in Chad and Libya, two neighboring countries, and everything indicates that there is also oil in Darfur, even though no exploration has been undertaken. It could also be assumed that American satellites have discovered the said oil. At the moment, oil production in Sudan is through sharing contracts with China, Malaysia and a Sudanese corporation. A Canadian company was also involved but had to withdraw due to the pressures of the United States. It is known that the US wants to control oil production and transportation in all parts of the world.

The American companies were the first to discover oil in our country, but since they assumed they had no competitors, demanded from us unacceptable conditions for its production. Therefore, we had to find and finally sign a sharing-contract with China, something that the United States does not like. Besides, our pharmaceutical company in Jartum was bombed by the US aviation in 1998 with the excuse that even Washington has acknowledged it was false.

The Sudanese army has been accused of bombarding villages of Darfur.

There are no forests in Darfur and obviously the rebels are grouped around the existing villages. When the Sudanese aviation bombs their position, they look for shelters in villages where the slightest incident triggers a general fire since they are made of thatches.

Didn’t the Sudanese Government widely affected Darfur in the past, and caused the rebellion?

As it has been said, in the heart of the Government, there are 8 ministers from Darfur. Besides, some rebels have also been posted in the Government. However, there is a serious problem of underdevelopment which has not been solved due to the long war in the South that has affected the State budget and as a result of that, due to the economic sanctions imposed by Washington, Sudan has not been able to have access for 10 years to the different aids for development. Hence, Sudan has been a constant victim of the unilateral policy of a big power.

Until what extend the stance of the Sudanese Government is corroborated by neutral institutions?

The Un High Commissioner for Human Rights performed an investigation in Darfur and refugee camps in Chad. The report of this mission indicated that violence in Darfur could not be considered as an attempt of ethnic cleansing. Likewise, the Arab League, Doctors without Frontiers, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African Unity have also produced reports to refute there was genocide currently in Sudan.

Even the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, admitted that the Sudanese Government was making commendable efforts to try to find a solution to the problem. But the pressure from the extremists, especially from the US Senate, made him to make statements using the term «genocide» to describe the chaos and violence that prevail in the region. The Federal Government of Sudan will continue implementing its policy to find peace, independence, national unity and goodwill among the citizens and its regions, and bears in mind the authors of violence against civilians regardless their place of origin.

[1] «Cessez-le-feu au Sudan» (Cease Fire in Sudan) text in French, Voltaire, April 12, 2004

[2] «Freedom House: when “freedom” is just an excuse», Voltaire, January 3rd, 2005

[3] «George Soros, speculator and philanthropist», Voltaire, February 15, 2004

[4] The Arabs’ mother tongue is Arabic. The blacks are the people with a black skin. When they became Islamic, the blacks learned Arabic. Besides, the Islam favored marriages between Semitic Arabs and blacks. In summary, the racial analysis does not take into account human reality, but reveals the ideology of those who make reference to it