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Darfur bloodshed: fuelled by land and oil grab
A CONSTRUCTION boom fuelled by oil revenues is sweeping through Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. A Libyan-financed five-star hotel is one of the most obvious signs of the boom but a further massive development of hotels, shops and offices is under construction.
The International Monetary Fund expects Sudan's economy to grow by 11% this year, one of the highest growth rates in Africa.
It's hard to believe this is the same country where at least 200,000 people have died in the conflict in Darfur, with at least another 2.5 million displaced. Many are now living and dying in camps - some over Sudan's western border in Chad.
The United Nations has recently agreed to send one of the world's biggest peacekeeping forces to Darfur. 26,000 UN and African Union (AU) troops are supposed to be in place by 2008. There are already 7,000 AU troops in the region, hopelessly outnumbered and subject to attack by the many militia groups active in the area.
At the end of September ten AU soldiers, seven of them from Nigeria, were killed in one such attack. This was followed by the razing of a small town in Darfur, Haskanita. Many of the 7,000 population had already fled after the attack on the AU base but many others were killed in Haskanita, during which most of the town was burned to the ground and looted. Rebel factions and the government are blaming each other for the attack.
There are now at least a dozen different rebel groups operating in Darfur, jockeying for territory prior to the next round of peace talks scheduled for the end of October in Tripoli.
The Sudanese government has reacted to any challenges to its power with extreme viciousness. In fact the whole history of the country has been one of rebellion against a brutal government.
When the imperialist powers handed the country over to the Khartoum elite in 1956, it set in train a further disaster for ordinary people. Almost immediately after 'independence' from British imperialism, the government fought a decades-long civil war with the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) in the south. During that war at least two million people died. Many were victims of the Sudan government's scorched-earth policies.
But a peace settlement with the SPLA, where some of their leaders were brought into the government and oil revenues were promised to the south, prompted the rebellion in Darfur in 2003. The militia leaders of Darfur saw the spoils being divided in the south and wanted some of the same for themselves.
This rebellion in Darfur was met with extreme, genocidal brutality – bombing by the Sudanese Air Force and the creation of the notorious Janjaweed militia, which has been responsible for some of the most horrific attacks on ordinary people in the villages and camps.
A ceasefire in 2006 did little to end the suffering. In fact the intervention of imperialist powers has just bolstered many of the self-appointed leaders and has led to a proliferation of militias, none of whom represent the majority of the population.
"The international community has acted rather irresponsibly on all this in the past by pampering a lot of these people around – not really wondering whether they really represented anybody and whether they were acting responsibly," said a UN envoy on a recent visit.
All the UN has to offer is the threat of war crimes trials and the intervention force, which the Sudan government is insisting should be composed of troops from Africa. But many are wondering where all these troops will come from, given the fact that there are already 17,000 deployed in Congo and 10,000 in southern Sudan.
Sudan now has the resources to begin to solve the problems of the people living off the land and the people who have been driven into the camps.
But the oil revenues are being shared out above the heads of the majority of the population. China buys 80$% of Sudan's oil and gas exports and most of the oil companies are in the hands of the ruling elite.
The Sudanese people need to find their own political voice. Immediately after the end of the Second World War the Sudanese Communist Party had an important base and appealed to all the various ethnic groups on the basis of class unity. This opportunity was lost when the CP succumbed to Arab nationalism. But new forces can be built by the workers and poor peasants across the religious and ethnic divide, struggling together against the vicious Sudanese regime and to defend themselves against the proliferation of militias which have developed.
The inspiration of the struggle of workers in the other countries in Africa, particularly where there is a big, organised working class, eg in Nigeria, will be key to this. As is the solidarity of workers internationally.
In The Socialist 11 October 2007:
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