Wednesday, May 03, 2006

5 truths about Darfur

One danger of using Google to do research is that you end up reading stuff that is interesting but not actually what you were looking for. Anyway I came across this eminently sensible article on Darfur from a week ago in the Washington Post. Well worth a read.

Their five truths about Darfur are:
1 Nearly everyone is Muslim
2 Everyone is black
3 It's all about politics
4 This conflict is international
5 The "genocide" label made it worse

You could maybe argue the toss over the last one, but otherwise its spot on.


Pekka said...

6 The collateral damage is huge
7 Deep down we really don't give a

helsinkian said...

"1 Nearly everyone is Muslim"

If there would be no non-Muslims at all involved, the interest for this conflict in Western media would be even less. So any Christian anywhere near the conflict site is of great media significance and shouldn't be underestimated. And it doesn't really matter that Muslims are fighting Muslims, they're still partly fighting about religion and that perspective is of utmost importance to this conflict.

"2 Everyone is black"

Arab vs. African doesn't refer to a racial theory on the darkness of skin color. It's all about ethnic identities. It doesn't make any difference on the ground that Americans have a problem in making up their minds on which inhabitant of Sudan has darker skin than the other one.

"3 It's all about politics"

Of course it's about politics but not politics as usual. Factors such as ethnicity and religion are important, it can still be called ethnic politics and religious politics etc. but it's about more than mere power.

"4 This conflict is international"

This is a very good point that is often forgotten. But civil wars tend to be international conflicts to some extent. This is not so surprising although it is a truth that is not usually mentioned.

"5 The 'genocide' label made it worse"

Now was it the label that made it worse or the lack of action that followed the famous "genocide" statement?

KGS said...

"Nearly everyone is Muslim" is due to the fact that world sat on their thumbs, while the Islamist government of Sudan massacred its Christian and animist populations.

If the UN security council had not been continually subverted by the Chinese (who buy Sudanese oil), and had chapter 7 resolutions passed against it, maybe, just maybe genocide would not have occured.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with the topic here, sorry. I was just wondering where you work exactly and how did you get your jobs, if you don't mind me asking. 'Cos that sounds like something I'd like to do... Thanks for the interesting posts :)

helsinkian said...

I had some protests about five truths: 1) there are Muslims and Muslims; 2) that everyone is black according to standard American criteria doesn't mean that locals do not perceive ethnic or racial differences; 3) politics can also be about religion (these two do not have to be separate, neither for the Sudanese nor for the Western observers interpreting the conflict) and while the my comments on 1, 2 and 3 are plain nitpicking, number five sounds strange to me. That one I simply don't believe.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

It's fair nit-picking although I think the point about no.2 is about western reporting rather than perceptions within the region. Much reporting uses the short-hand "Arab tribes" versus "African tribes", or even worse "Arabs" versus "Africans". It's not well known or widely discussed, but the experts on the region say that the 'Arabism' of the "Arab tribes" is a constructed product of Gaddafi's meddling and arming proxy forces to weaken his neighbours in the 1980s. Of course now, ironically, Gaddafi has re-invented himself as African nationalists rather than an Arab supremicist.