Despite four years of international posturing and kvetching, the Sudan national government's genocidal war in Darfur continues.
As bloodbaths go, Khartoum's Darfur script is as common a sub-Saharan African orchestrated crime as it is deadly.
Darfur is a war of displacement. Sudanese Air Force bombers and Khartoum-backed horse- and jeep-mounted militias start the process of displacement by attacking defenseless villages and turning their residents into refugees. Yes, they kill a few people with their bombs and small arms, but the big killers in Darfur are exposure, starvation and disease.
Displace people from their homes, and they die from exposure to the elements. Separate farmers from their farms and food stocks, and they begin to starve. When people starve, they weaken -- and disease strikes more easily. Corpses turn up along the roads and trails. Refugee camps in the region overflow with those fortunate enough to survive the death march. Then the militias and bandits attack and loot the refugee camps.
That's the evil plan. And up to now it's worked, despite the peace agreement of May 2006 that supposedly brought Darfur rebels a means of reaching a political accommodation with Khartoum.
Oil and weapons are the main reasons that plan has been successful. In 2006, Sudan produced approximately 320,000 barrels a day. China bought 30 percent of that production; Japan 38 percent. Sudan also buys weapons from China. China wields a veto in the U.N. Security Council, and Sudan thought its oil sales and weapons purchases ensured a high degree of Chinese protection from U.N. threats to put a large peacekeeping force into Darfur. Khartoum regards delay as a victory. Delay long enough, and the rebels will either die or be driven off the land.
Three converging, long-term efforts are putting unexpected pressure on the Sudanese government, however. Individually, they are not decisive -- but in combination they are creating political and economic problems for Khartoum.
Sudan is losing the war of words and images.
In April, the United States and Great Britain accused Sudan of violating U.N. restrictions on weapons shipments into Darfur. Sudan was caught red-handed. U.N. photos leaked to the press showed Russian-made turboprop transports painted white and marked "UN." Sudan suffered a huge political setback -- a real information victory for the United Nations and Sudan's critics.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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