Prospects for peace in Sudan much better with Qaddafi gone

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The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution today, May 2, 2012, that gives both Sudan and South Sudan just 48 hours to stop fighting or face sanctions. The resolution got unanimous approval, even Russia and China, who generally oppose the institution of sanctions by the international body, gave their approval in this case. China buys oil from both Sudan and South Sudan.

In response to what he considered provocations from the newly independent South Sudan, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir declared a state of emergency in the border regions according to the Sudan Tribune Sunday, and on Monday the United Nations reported a sharp increase in the number of refugees fleeing the fighting from South Kordofan into South Sudan's Unity state. Ahram Online reported Monday, April 30, 2012:

A surging number of hungry refugees are fleeing fighting in Sudan where some are reduced to foraging in the wild, the UN said Monday as rebels said a Sudanese bomb killed a mother and two children.

There has been "a notable increase in the number of new arrivals" who have crossed the border from South Kordofan into South Sudan's Unity state, the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) said in its weekly bulletin.

The refugees are fleeing fighting between Sudanese troops and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), it said.

The plague of war is again visiting the people of the southern Sudan region as border clashes threaten to grow into a full blown war. A review of the history of the region shows that war is an unwelcome visitor that has practically made itself at home in the region.

It is hoped that the threat of UN sanctions, other pressures from the international community and most importantly, the requirements of their own people will encourage the political leaders of Sudan and South Sudan to settle their differences without resorting to violence.

As a direct result of the Libyan Revolution their chances of making a peace are much better now. With Mummar Qaddafi dead, a big obstacle to peace in Sudan and the whole region has been removed because he has been a major destabilizing influence in Sudan almost from the first moment he came to power in Libya. Of all the countries in Africa that Qaddafi toyed with, Sudan may have been his masterpiece. Below the fold I want to give a short summary of that history together with a bunch of links because the minutia of a 40 year relationship could cover many volumes and can only be touched upon in this diary.

April 29th Al Jazeera report on Sudan crisis

Mummar Qaddafi and Sudan

1969 was the year of the coup d'etat for both Sudan and Libya. May 1969 saw Gaadar an-Nimeiry come to power in Sudan and September brought Muammar Qaddafi to power in Libya. Initially Gaddafi sought to forge very close ties with Sudan. For the first two years after he came to power, Qaddafi promoted a federation between Libya, Egypt and Sudan.

In August 1971, Qaddafi help thwart a left wing coup attempt against President Nimeiry by diverting a British flight containing one of the coup leaders and then handing him over to Nimeiry to be hanged. Asteris Huliaras in African Affairs said:

“One of the main features of Libya’s policy towards Africa has been its sheer volatility. In Sudan, Libya initially supported President Jaafar Nimeiry against unsuccessful leftist coup attempted in 1971; however, in 1976 the Gaddafi regime backed a coup attempt against Nimeiry that left the Sudanese leader shaken and in-secure.”

After Qaddafi's attempts to replace Nimeiry in 1976, Sudan sought protection from Libya in an alliance with Egypt and in 1977 Sudan backed Egypt when Libya invaded Egypt after the latter made peace with Israel. Likewise he reversed his earlier friendly attitude towards Nimeiry after Sudan came out in support of the Camp David Accords.

From Wikipedia on the Libyan - Sudanese conflict:

Between 1978 and 1980 Gaddafi’s Islamic Legion of Arab and African “volunteers” trained in Libyan guerrilla camps. They supported the factional fighting in Chad and assassinated political leaders in Chad who contested Libya’s interference.[9] Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Qaddafi employed assassins to eradicate his enemies in Sudan, Niger, Senegal and Gambia. It is also alleged that his assassins unsuccessfully attempted to kill Hermann Eilts, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt.[9] Libya’s foreign policy in the area became apparent when in 1979, Libyan forces unsuccessfully invaded Chad, marking the beginning of the Chadian-Libyan conflict.[12] The Chadian affair crystallized African attitudes toward Libya. Sudan’s pro-Chadian stance during the conflict, would mark a significant point in the relations between Sudan and Libya.[5]

Qaddafi's Libya was driven by strong expansionist tendencies in sub-Saharan Africa. In January 1981 Radio Tripoli announced the intended merger of Chad and Libya after Qaddafi called Chad part of Libya's "vital living space." This attitude towards his neighbors made Qaddafi one of the most disruptive leaders in modern Africa. Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia all saw coup plots and assassination attempts organized in Tripoli after they rejected Qaddafi overtures for unification.

In 1983, Qaddafi supported anti-Nimeiry opposition and rebel groups with money and materials, including Anyanya II, the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement and its armed wing, the Sudanese People's Army.

In this period Qaddafi preached Arab Supremacy in Africa and he was all about building Arab unity and promoting Islam throughout Africa. In spite of this, he supported the primarily Christian Ethiopia in its struggle against Sudan under Nimeiry. In 1984, Nimeiry claimed that the Libyan Air Force, with its Soviet made war planes, killed five people when it bombed Omdurman, where Lord Kitchener won his decisive victory against the Mahdists in 1898. To continue from Wikipedia:

In reaction to the numerous coups in the region, in 1985, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was formed when all unions and political parties except the NIF signed the “Charter of the National Alliance” and the “Charter to Protect Democracy” in order to incite civil disobedience against future coups.[13] Following this, on 6 April 1985, a group of military officers, led by Lieutenant General Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab, overthrew Nimeiry. Following Nimeiry’s fall in 1985, Gaddafi immediately abandoned military support for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and provided his full support to Nimeiri’s former Muslim opponents in the North, namely Sadiq al-Mahdi’s Umma Party.[6]

With Qaddafi's support Sadig al-Mahdi became the Prime Minister of Sudan. Once in power, he allowed Libya to station military forces in Darfur. From there, they were able to better assist rebels carrying out raids in Chad.

In 1989 Colonel Omar al-Bashir overthrew Mahdi and raised his rank to Lieutenant General and he continues to run things in Sudan till this day. At first with Bashir, relations with Libya continued to improve. While they didn't move in the direction of political unification that Qaddafi wanted, the Libyan-Sudanese Joint General People’s Committee was formed and trade and development deals were signed.

Doug Lorimer, wrote in the Green Left Weekly in 2004:

The current government of Sudan, headed by General Omar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir, came to power in a military coup in 1989, and is based on an alliance between Sudan's military elite and the right-wing National Congress Party (formerly the National Islamic Front). After coming to power, Bashir quickly began implementing an International Monetary Fund restructuring program to privatise state enterprises and encourage new foreign investment.

However, Bashir's regime earned Washington's hostility by siding with Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War. In 1993, the Clinton administration branded Sudan a "terrorist state", claiming that the Bashir government had allowed Palestinian and Lebanese guerrillas to train on Sudanese soil, and in 1997 the US imposed a trade and investment embargo on Sudan.

The following year, Washington fired cruise missiles into what it alleged was a chemical weapons factory in Khartoum but which later proved to be a pharmaceuticals plant.

However, since 9/11, Bashir — like Libya's military ruler Colonel Gaddafi — has moved to "normalise" relations with Washington. According to the US State Department website, Sudan "has provided concrete cooperation against international terrorism" and "publicly supported the international coalition actions against the al Qaeda network and the Taliban in Afghanistan".

A major motivation for Washington to find a pretext to drop its trade and investment embargo against Sudan is the country's emergence as a potential major oil exporter.

When Lorimer wrote this the whole world was watching a preventable human tragedy unfold in Darfur and that was his lead:

The UN estimates at least 30,000 people have been killed and some 1.5 million made homeless in Sudan's thinly populated western Darfur region as a result of fighting between rebel organisations based among the region's black African villagers and Arab tribal militias, collectively known as the janjaweed.

The hated janjaweed is one of Muammar Qaddafi's most terrible creations. In 2009 Anders Hastrup published a paper on CUMINet appropriately titled "Thank you Qaddafi, for the Janjaweed" that gives us a little background:

The Chadian Arabs have for a long time formed the core of the opposition to successive Chadian presidents. Put simply, there is a dichotomy between the North and South in Chad that in some ways resembles the historical North-South divide of Sudan. In Chad, however, the roles are reversed: A poor marginalised Arab North revolt against the Christian South who has monopolized political power in the hands of a narrow elite.

As early as 1966, the Chadian opposition group National Liberation Front for Chad, FROLINAT, was formed in Nyala, capital of South Darfur State in Sudan, starting a long tradition of the use of Darfur as base for disgruntled Chadian Muslims and Arabs. The political mobilisation of the Arab tribes of Chad in the initial FROLINAT and subsequent Chadian rebel movements can to a large degree help explain the origin of the janjaweed militia, whose gang raping, horse-riding murderers hold the responsibility for the displacement of more than 3 million people and the disintegration of an area the size of France into impunity and chaos.

The role played by Libya is crucial in understanding the origin of the janjaweed phenomenon in the region. In 1969, Muammar Qaddafi took power in the country and promoted a series of grand schemes, not only for Libya, but for the entire continent. Initially inspired by the Arab socialism of Egyptian President Gamal Abd al Nasser, Qaddafi became a radical Arab nationalist and sought to export his radical ideas on the African continent. This meant creating a new sense of Arab/Muslim identity among many Bedouins of the Sahel region who received both ideological and military training for the creation of an Arab homeland, the “Arab Belt” across the region. The Christian government of Chad quickly became the focus for Qaddafi’s struggle for “Arab supremacy”. This struggle was one of Qaddafi’s many experiments, where ideologies are utilized as ad hoc creations for colonising and obtaining the raw political control over given areas. He armed the nomadic Arab tribes with weapons and a dangerous ideology of Arab supremacy in this ethnically diverse region. His short-sighted goal was the instability of the Chadian regime. Qaddafi wanted Chad. The long- term effect was a continuing culture of impunity for the region’s Arabs, now armed with modern weapons against the villages of the African populations of Darfur and Eastern Chad.

A look to the margins

In many ways, the origins of the janjaweed can be traced to the meeting of the Arab Chadian opposition, armed by Qaddafi, with the North Darfur Abbala Arabs: The Arab Chadian opposition had arms and moved across the border to their camel herding neighbours, themselves poor landless Arabs of Darfur who were desperately seeking recognition and triggered by a new found ideology where they were the master race.

Roughly speaking, the same dangerous alliance of weapons and an ideology of racial supremacy merged in Sudan’s Darfur region. The area of Darfur and Eastern Chad has historically been the same, the same tribes, Arab and African, live on both sides of the border. Like Qaddafi used the marginalised Arabs of Chad to create a loyal “Arab Belt”, the Khartoum government used the landless Arabs of North Darfur to crack down on the emergent violent opposition. The results of this meeting between these groups can be found in the fierce and ruthless militias unleashing an unprecedented mayhem in Darfur in the first years of the new Millennium.

March 29, 2011, West Darfur governor Al-Shertai Ga’far Abdel-Hakam who is also the TDRA head became the first high ranking Sudanese official to go on record with an allegation they have been making privately for years, that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was a top supporter of the Darfur rebels.

A failed by attempt by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in May 2008 to take over the capital was blamed on Libyan and French backing. [Sarkozy payback for Qaddafi 2007 election money? - Clay] Sudanese media quoted government sources at the time as saying that the financing of the operation was made through the Libyan Sahel-Saharan bank.

Libya is currently hosting JEM leader Ibrahim Khalil after being refused entry by the Chadian authorities last year where he was based. Sudan has sought without success to have Libya expel him.

According to the Sudan Tribune.

During the Libyan Revolution Sudan's Omar al-Bashir was able to return the favor by arming the Libyan rebels. This was revealed in statements he made last October:

"One part of the armament of the forces which entered Tripoli was 100% Sudanese," he said in the eastern city of Kassala where he was opening a new Qatari-funded road link to Eritrea.

"The Sudanese people gave its support, both humanitarian assistance and weapons, which were delivered to all the revolutionaries, in Misrata, in the western mountains, in Zawiyah and in all of Libya's regions," he said in a speech broadcast by state television.

Qaddafi opposed the independence of South Sudan. The BBC reported on an Arab-African Summit in Sirte in 2010:

Libya's leader told the same meeting that a vote for independence "could become a contagious disease that affects the whole of Africa", with various ethnic and linguistic groups also demanding independence.

"We must recognise that this event is dangerous," Col Gaddafi said.

These comments are in stark contrast to statements Libya's leader made after clashes between rival communities in Nigeria in March.

Then, he suggested that Nigeria should be divided into different states, sparking an angry reaction from Nigeria's government.

There is much, much more to be told on this topic but life is short and you should have a clue about this tumultuous relationship by now.

And of course Omar al-Bashir is every bit the war criminal that Muammar Qaddafi was and many, including me, hope he is the next to leave, but already with Qaddafi gone, and his meddling interference at an end, the prospects for a lasting peace in the region are better than ever.

Sudan adjusting to post-Gaddafi era

My other recent writings on Africa:
Charles Taylor, Qaddafi goon, found guilty of war crimes in Sierra Leone
BREAKING: Coup topples pro-Qaddafi Regime in Guinea BissauPost-Qaddafi Malawi gets new president
People flex power in three African Countries.
BREAKING: Wade defeated in Senegal & other Africa Updates
Mali Coup is latest post-Qaddafi fallout
What the PSL got right & wrong about KONY 2012
African Spring continues in Senegal
Occupy Nigeria - 1st African fruits of Qaddafi gone?
Racism in Libya
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure