Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 4 August 2004

Darfur ? Where To?!


By Prince Al Hassan Bin Talal, Al-Hayat

August 04, 2004 — Aren’t we supposed to be positive and optimistic when we notice the concentrated international concern about Darfur’s cause?

In fact, Darfur is witnessing a human disaster and the news say that over one million people were obliged to leave their homes, and that ethnic cleansing, even genocide operations occurred. News reports of all forms of sufferings and the official Sudanese negligence to bring this disaster to an end obliged the United Nations to intervene robustly.

Such an intervention should be one of the UN’s core missions that were established in order to guarantee the sovereignty, security, and peace around the world. One of its missions is to deploy all possible efforts to save the oppressed, who are subjected to attacks, harm and scattering, like in Darfur. It seems that the UN, in accordance with its Charter and the principles it should apply, did so. In fact, the UN Secretary General has expressed his worry about the situation, on more than an occasion, negotiated with the Sudanese government, concluded agreements to settle the situation and kept following up on the daily developments. While writing this article, the news reported that the Security Council adopted Resolution 1556, which gives the Sudanese government one month only to execute the required measures it committed to by virtue of its former agreement with the UN. Else, it will be subject to sanctions. In order for this urgent humanitarian cause not to be forgotten, the Resolution requested that the UN Secretary General submit monthly reports to keep the UNSC up to date, and enable it to impose gradual sanctions in the event of non-compliance of the Sudanese government.

Truth and responsibility oblige us to admit the positive aspect of these efforts. Isn’t it what we are asking the UN to do in the other urgent causes?

Yes, this is what we want the UN to do. And here is the problem. Before continuing, I would like to make it clear that I am not judging or making any opinion about the situation in Darfur, for I have no tangible evidence to do that. All I can do is join my voice and effort to any other to settle any cause like that of Darfur. The principles that should be reinforced, and I am the first one to stick to them, are: refusing oppression, ethnic cleansing, depopulation and genocide in addition to refusing silence and negligence toward every person who abused his power to achieve internal or regional advantages at the expense of others.

The best, shortest, and safest path is to carry out an objective and impartial international investigation in Darfur, under the supervision of the UN, with the total cooperation of the Sudanese government and full respect of its sovereignty. Then, draft the adequate solutions according to international law. In case of non-compliance to the law and failure to execute the objective and credible solutions, resorting to sanctions would be an alternative.

There is another way to deal with this issue: the Islamic movement to either support the UN task or to represent it. Ever since this conflict escalated, I always felt sorry for the total absence of the Islamic role; a role that would have prevented the aggravation of the situation.

Until when would negligence be the cause of missed opportunities? I do not forget that the Islamic decision not to intervene to save the Bamiyan statutes in Afghanistan a few years ago, led to their destruction and considering Islam as responsible for this barbaric act.

I say this because Darfur is not as clear to deal with. The near and distant past experiences taught us that such dealing always brings negative consequences. The truth is that we should not be adding more complicated and dangerous consequences to our causes in the region.

We know that the Darfur region was subject to tribal, ethnic, social and economic conflicts ever since the beginning of the past century. It seems that the conflict has religious dimensions as well, and that it escalated lately into shifting into a political movement with objectives that put it in direct confrontation with the government. No dealing of this crisis should be allowed to overlook these considerations.

I would probably say that the responsibility is that of several parties, and that of the difficult economic and living conditions that pushed Darfurians to despair and fighting. The international community and civil society organizations should have taken the initiative and anticipated measures, rather than waiting for the eruption of the crisis.

In this regard, I will mention that I had the honor to head a Jordanian humanitarian relief campaign that headed to Sudan in the mid-1980s. Shortly after the visit, the Jordanian national committee was set in solidarity with Sudan. The target was to settle the situation in Darfur in order to lighten the burden of the sufferings and difficult living conditions, hoping that the living, human and social situation will not deteriorate to the point that leads to explosion.

Hence, the Jordanian committee established electricity and water projects in Kas region, near Neyala. It also rehabilitated a German hospital and provided it with a medical team that treated over a million cases in five years. The committee launched children vaccination and water sanitization campaigns.

Back to my previous question about the UN role to deploy every possible effort to settle the human disaster in Darfur, I say: yes, this is the UN and the Secretary General’s duty.

However, what is terrible for me is that international law is applied in a haphazard manner and that those responsible for it deal with the people’s causes, not according to their content, justice and urgent aspect, but according to political objectives, which renders the peoples’ sufferings subject to serve momentary objectives that have nothing to do with humanity, justice, noble principles or the new human order.

No one has the right to doubt any effort the UN or the superpowers deploy in order to settle the situation in Darfur. However, on the other hand, everyone has the right to claim a similar concern to the other causes. In order to clear any ambiguity, I say that people have the right to wonder why the UN remains silent toward not applying its resolutions in the Greater Middle East and failing to define who is responsible for hindering the peace process and the Roadmap, in addition to dozens of initiatives. The situation in the region is still swaying in violence, blood and destruction. Innocent people, Arabs and Jews, are still paying the price.

Some people repeatedly tell me, and I am quite unable to ease their anger or remove their doubts or even answer their question, "The UN and the Security Council react strongly and categorically when the "guilty" is Arab, while they remain silent when the Arab or Muslim is the victim."

Isn’t it time for this equation to fall?

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