Africa Theater

Papal link seen to Somalia violence

Now that's the way to prove the Pope is wrong and Islam is a religion of peace! Way to go, guys! From Reuters, Sept. 17:

Gunmen killed an Italian nun at a children's hospital in Mogadishu on Sunday in an attack that drew immediate speculation of links to Muslim anger over the Pope's recent remarks on Islam.

Darfur: 200,000 dead?

US researchers writing in the peer-reviewed journal Science maintain that more than 200,000 people have died in Sudan's Darfur conflict, much higher than most previous estimates. Says Dr. John Hagan of Northwestern University: "We've tried to find a way of working between those overestimations and underestimations. We believe the procedures we have used have allowed us to come to very conservative and cautious conclusions which we used to try to identify a floor to these estimates—a floor figure of 200,000. We do not believe it is possible or defensible to go below in estimating the scale of this genocide."

Darfur: US "dealing with the Devil"

Another New York Times op-ed piece, "Dealing With the Devil in Darfur" by Julie Flint (IHT, June 17), warns of US support for Minni Arcua Minnawi, leader of the ethnic Zaghawa faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), who seems bent on his own campaign of ethnic cleansing. Minnawi's SLA faction even has its own imprisoned dissident, Suliman Gamous. It is predictable that the US has wound up backing the most reactionary faction of the SLA. But Flint, calling for a seat at the peace table for Darfur's Arabs (now officially represented by Sudan's government), has nothing to say about Darfur's majority Fur ethnicity, the Black African people who have now apparently been betrayed by the dominant faction of the SLA. There is the Fur-led SLA faction, as well as the rival (and smaller) Justice & Equality Movement (JEM). But do they speak for the Fur any more than Khartuom speaks for the Darfur Arabs?

Somalia: Afghanistan redux?

Talk about deja vu all over again. The US secretly backs a loose alliance of lawless warlords it had previously fought because they are now opposing an ultra-fundamentalist cleric-led militia with supposed links to al-Qaeda. The clerical militia has just taken the capital and seems set to bring the whole country under its control. It wins support by pledging to bring stability to a war-weary populace long brutalized by the warlords. But Washinghton fears a new regional beachhead for Islamic terrorism. The warlords get hip to this angle, and start spouting "anti-terrorist" rhetoric. Sound familiar? Only this time instead of the Northern Alliance it's the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism, and instead of the Taliban it's the Islamic Courts Union. After a four-month siege of Mogadishu, claiming hundreds of lives, the Islamic Courts Union took the capital city June 5. The next to fall may be Baidoa, the inland city where Somalia's recently-assembled (and still largely fictional) official government is based. (Newsday, June 6)

Darfur: NY Times op-ed blames the victims

Alan J. Kuperman, author of Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention: Moral Hazard, Rebellion and Civil War, has a positively ghastly op-ed in the New York Times May 31, blaming the Darfur guerillas for sparking the genocide--as if they had taken up arms arbitrarily and not because Darfur's Black Africans were already second-class citizens in their own land before the war began, as if the Fur had not been deported as slaves and usurped of their lands for generations, as if the iniquities of the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime had not been recognized by the world in the peace accord that ended the war in southern Sudan last year, as if the betrayal of the Black Africans of Darfur by their non-inclusion in those accords was not a key factor in the decision to take up arms. Worse than a Pilate-like washing of the hands, Kuperman actually advocates giving Khartoum a free hand to crush the guerillas (what, have they been restraining themselves thus far?). The fact that this noxious piece of propaganda is given such good billing (the lead op-ed) is the clearest evidence yet that US elites are divided on how to handle Sudan, with a significant faction opting for wooing the genocidal Khartoum regime as GWOT allies (or proxies). Hell, why not? It isn't like the US didn't do essentially the same thing in Guatemala a generation ago... Some excerpts, for those with strong stomachs:

HRW: Janjaweed raid Chad

Revelations by Human Rights Watch May 26 that Darfur's Janjaweed have overrun villages in Chad. The rapidly shifting alliances are dizzying here. On the face of it, this is simple: Chad's government has backed the Darfur guerillas and this is simple retaliation by Khartoum's proxy force. Except (as we have noted), Chad's government is now divided, with rival factions of the ruling Zaghawa tribe in a violent struggle for power. The faction around President Idriss Deby accuses Sudan of supporting his enemies and is demonizing Sudanese refugees in Chad as subversives—even though they were cleansed from their lands by the Janjaweed, Sudan's proxy force. Meanwhile (as we have also noted), the Darfur rebels have also split, between factions led by the Fur and Zaghawa ethnicities. The Zaghawa-led faction is presumably closer to Chad—but to which faction in Chad? And does the report of "Chadian recruits" working with the Janjaweed indicate that Khartoum and its proxy force have made an alliance with the Zaghawa-led guerillas in both Darfur and Chad against the Fur and the rival (ruling) Chadian Zaghawa faction? HRW duly notes the claim—universal throughout the Darfur crisis—that this is just tit-for-tat violence over stolen cattle. This may, in fact, be the immediate and ostensible spark for the attacks. But, especially given the oil stakes in Chad, it is pretty disingenuous to argue that this war is about cattle-rustling.

Darfur: rebel alliance splits

A front-page story in today's New York Times paints an even more desperate picture of the deteriorating situation in Darfur than usual. Lydia Polgreen reports from Tina, a village that was overrun April 19 and the residents forced to flee to the overstretched and over-crowded refugee camp at Tawila. Only this time the armed horsemen who swept through, burning, looting, shooting and raping, were not Janjaweed, but a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, the major guerilla group resisting the Sudanese pro-government forces. The SLA has splintered, with the faction that signed the recent peace accord turning against the more intransigent faction which has held out, calling the accords a sham. The ostensibly pro-peace faction is now attacking civilian villages, mimicking the tactics of their Janjaweed enemies. Again, there is an ethnic dimension: the supposedly pro-peace faction is led by ethnic Zaghawa, who are traditionally semi-nomadic herdsmen, while the hold-out faction is led by sedentary, agricultural Fur, who are the big majority in Darfur ("Land of the Fur"). "It was the Zaghawa who did this," a Tina sheikh told Polgreen. "We used to fear the Arab janjaweed. Now we have another janjaweed."

Rebels or government behind Ethiopia terror blasts?

Nine bombs exploded across Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa May 12, killing four people and wounding dozens. (AP, May 13) The Oromi separatists deny involvement. But Ethiopia has no shortage of ethnic separatist struggles, as we have noted. And also no shortage of reasons to suspect its own government. From the Sudan Tribune, May 13:

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