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June 5, 2006

The many layers of the Darfur situation

I had always thought Darfur was a pretty simple case of genocide of a Christian minority. Alan Kuperman explains why it isn't that simple:

Darfur was never the simplistic morality tale purveyed by the news media and humanitarian organizations. The region's blacks, painted as long-suffering victims, actually were the oppressors less than two decades ago — denying Arab nomads access to grazing areas essential to their survival. Violence was initiated not by Arab militias but by the black rebels who in 2003 attacked police and military installations. The most extreme Islamists are not in the government but in a faction of the rebels sponsored by former Deputy Prime Minister Hassan al-Turabi, after he was expelled from the regime. Cease-fires often have been violated first by the rebels, not the government, which has pledged repeatedly to admit international peacekeepers if the rebels halt their attacks.This reality has been obscured by Sudan's criminally irresponsible reaction to the rebellion: arming militias to carry out a scorched-earth counterinsurgency. These Arab forces, who already resented the black tribes over past land disputes and recent attacks, were only too happy to rape and pillage any village suspected of supporting the rebels.In light of janjaweed atrocities, it is natural to romanticize the other side as freedom fighters. But Darfur's rebels do not deserve that title. They took up arms not to stop genocide — which erupted only after they rebelled — but to gain tribal domination. [Emphasis added]
Kuperman thinks this explains the recent rejection of a ceasefire by rebels representing the minority Christians (although eventually the largest group agreed to a ceasefire, although this hasn't achieved much). But Kuperman goes further, arguing that the rejection of the peace deal was a result of perverse incentives reinforced by the American government and Save Darfur activists:
The rebels, much weaker than the government, would logically have sued for peace long ago. Because of the Save Darfur movement, however, the rebels believe that the longer they provoke genocidal retaliation, the more the West will pressure Sudan to hand them control of the region. Sadly, this message was reinforced when the rebels' initial rejection of peace last month was rewarded by American officials' extracting further concessions from Khartoum.The key to rescuing Darfur is to reverse these perverse incentives. Spoiler rebels should be told that the game is over, and that further resistance will no longer be rewarded but punished by the loss of posts reserved for them in the peace agreement.
Kuperman's basically utilitarian argument is pretty appealing, reinforced by the impact the recent rejection of the peace deal has had in Darfur:
[L]ast week...the rebels viciously turned on each other. As this newspaper reported, "The rebels have unleashed a tide of violence against the very civilians they once joined forces to protect."Seemingly bizarre, this rejection of peace by factions claiming to seek it is actually revelatory.
Nearly everything Kuperman has to say is worrying, especially his solution to the problem, which is to let the Sudanese take care of business, in so far as they don't commit war crimes (something we can definatley trust them with). At OxBlog David Adesnik attacks this proposed solution likening Kuperman's solution to proposing that we should have let Slobodan Milocevic implement the Dayton Accords just because he signed them.But unlike Adesnik, learning this does force me to reconsider the once seemingly clear-cut case for intervention in Sudan. Is it more like the situation in Israel? Is there any good conclusion?I don't know, but I certainly hadn't even contemplated the possibility of it being this complicated until I read Kuperman's editorial.