Monday, April 23, 2007

Third draft.

This is the third draft of my Investigative Studies report for Year 12 i.e. South Australian matriculation (done at INTEC Shah Alam, Malaysia, 2004/05). It could help serve as a rough guide for students trying to pick a topic and/or write a report for their own Year 12 assignment.


On the 25th of April, 2003, a civil war that was mostly hidden from the rest of the world was brought into the limelight, with news of a successful attack on the el Fashar airport by insurgents in Sudan, namely the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) (Amnesty International 2004; Mamdani 2004). This was the climax of a 20-year civil war between the government of Sudan, known as the Khartoum administration, and the rebel groups that are fighting for the people of South Sudan. In response, the government allegedly funded an Arabic tribe called the Janjaweed to attack the people of the Western province of Darfur, who are purportedly the supporters of the SLA (Mamdani 2004). To date, the fighting has culminated into a humanitarian crisis of great proportions, with around 1.5 million people dead and 500,000 displaced from their homes, having to seek refuge in the neighbouring country of Chad, which is also not exempted from attacks by the Janjaweed (Stanton 2004).

In attempting to grasp a hold on the situation, human rights organizations, humanitarian aid agencies and governments throughout the world have singularly blamed Khartoum for the Darfur crisis, and demand that the government take responsibility and put an end to the fighting.

However, Mahmood Mamdani, Professor of Government and Director of the Institute of African Studies, University of Columbia, argues in his controversial paper, “How Can We Name the Darfur Crisis: Preliminary Thoughts on Darfur”, that Khartoum may not be the only party to blame. He also suggests that the crisis is the result of inaction of international bodies in preventing the situation and media bias that simplifies the war into a racial issue, among other things. This view is not held by many, and is not a popular one, as many claim that the current Sudan government is the primary reason for the mass killings and attacks that are occurring on a daily basis in Darfur and Chad.

Thus, this research will attempt to focus on the question:

“To what extent is the Sudan government culpable for the cause and continuation of the country’s humanitarian crisis?”

This issue, as stated above, will be examined under three main points:

a) The origin of the Sudanese civil war

b) The causes of the civil war

c) The continuation of Sudan’s crisis

This report is derived primarily from text sources, which are books, online encyclopaedias, and Internet articles.

1.0 The origin of the Sudanese civil war

In order to determine the role played by the government in bringing about the crisis, an examination of the events that escalated into a full-fledged assault on the people of Sudan, which is, in this case, the currently ongoing 20-year civil war, is necessary. This is the second civil war to have afflicted the nation, and it is also the longest in the history of this young nation. Ever since the country gained its independence from Egypt in 1956, it has experienced volatile politics, with a series of military coups and corrupt policies in the central government disrupting whatever democracy was supposed to exist.

In the first civil war in the south, President Colonel Ja’far Nimeiri, who came into power by launching a military coup against the previous government, was forced to sign a peace treaty with the people of Southern Sudan, called the Addis Ababa accord (March 1972) in an attempt to appease them (Domke 1997; Salih 1991). In it, he gave the southern states their freedom and relinquished central control over the region. This managed to end the war, as he had given in to the people’s demands (Domke 1997). However, the treaty proved to be futile, when Nimeiri himself broke the rules of the accord, causing dissatisfaction among the people. He then further aggravated the situation by redrawing the North-South border to accommodate the newly found oil reserves in Bentiu in 1983, causing further conflicts in the South (Domke 1997). This finally culminated in another civil war in the South, which continues up to this day.

Thus, it can be seen that mismanagement by the government early on (and which is still ongoing) was the starting point for the 2nd civil war and has encouraged its continuation.

2.0 Causes of the civil war

By reviewing the factors that contributed to the current civil war in Southern Sudan, the role of the government in the current crisis can be further scrutinized.

2.1 Mismanagement of the country by the government

By taking a look back in the political history of Sudan, it can be ascertained that unprofessional conduct of key government officials has played a huge part in the triggering of events leading to the current crisis. Throughout President Nimeiri’s reign, he introduced new policies, especially concerning agriculture, which has always been the main economy source of the country with the intention of overcoming the existing debts and increasing the productivity; unfortunately, these plans failed to achieve the desired results (Salih 1991). Instead, Sudan plunged even further into debt, with the economy on the verge of falling apart. This, in addition to the dirty politics assumed by many in office, and the inability of the government to provide proper infrastructure and resources for its people, brewed discontent in many of the poorer regions of the country.

An example of the unprofessional conduct of government officials were the plans to redivide the south into three separate territories of Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile, in accordance to the old domination of the land, in order to prevent continuous control by the Dinka tribe of the entire South region (Salih 1991). This divide-and-conquer technique did not sit well with the majority of the Southerners, who were ruled by the Dinka, and who also believed that the region deserved to deal with the government as a single state. As a result, several thousand people joined the growing number of mutineers, and in 1983, Dr. John Garang, a former lieutenant colonel of the Sudanese army, founded the Southern People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) (Salih 1991).

Another miscalculation on the government’s part is the implementation of the Sharia law, which was greatly protested by the people of the South, who were mainly Non-Muslims. This further deepened their discontent, and more of them joined the SPLA as guerrillas. In addition, the countless coups and power struggles that ensued throughout the history of Sudan since its independence meant that there was no democracy, with politicians running uncontested, such as Nimeiri, who won the presidency again in 1971 under such conditions. This pattern continued with the presidency of Omar el-Bashir from 1989 to this day, who overthrew the democratic system and banned all other parties except his own (National Islamic Front (NIF)) from contesting (Salih 1991). This disorderly system of government resulted in dissent amongst the Sudanese, especially the Southerners, leading them to continue the war.

2.2 Racial disputes

Racial discrimination has brewed discontent among the people of Sudan for centuries. Situated in what is called the ‘underbelly of Egypt’, its people can be primarily separated into Arabs and Africans. However, it is this very classification that fuels most of the conflict throughout the country. For hundreds of years, rivalries between what can be generally stated as the African sedentary farmers and the Arab nomadic herdsmen over important renewable resources, such as land and water, has been a major source of conflict amongst the two peoples (Wikipedia 2005). In addition to the existing conflict, el Bashir’s government has manipulated the issue into propaganda to benefit their own campaign against the rebel militias (Mamdani 2004). By defining Sudan as an Arab nation, they campaign for the superior rights of the Arabs, besides providing better facilities and infrastructures for the Arab communities. This has also been the main justification of the attacks on the people of Darfur and Chad by the Khartoum government’s proxy army, the Janjaweed tribe, who attack those who refuse to call themselves, ‘Black Arabs’ (Amnesty International 2004).

The rebel movements have responded to these provocations. The SPLA have declared war against the administration by announcing their movement under the banner of victory for the Africans (Mamdani 2004). According to Mamdani, this identity of ‘being African’ is new, and has only existed since the beginning of the rebellion in April of 2003. He also argues that the classification of Arabs and Africans are purely subjective, and does not hold any validation on lineage. For example, a Sudanese who comes from an Arabic-speaking background, or who conducts a similar way of life can claim to be Arab.

This racial bigotry has increased the rebel movement, and given them an excuse to continue their movement against Khartoum.

2.3 Rebel and militia groups

The presence of opposition against the Khartoum administration, as well as the government’s policy of launching militias in retaliation to rebel movements over the past two decades has also been a major cause of the current civil war taking part throughout Sudan. Several rebel movements have been key players in the current war against Khartoum, such as the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), which is linked to the SPLA (Centre for the Prevention of Genocide, 2004). The SLA fights primarily for the welfare of the people of Darfur, who claim that the region has been neglected by the government (Mamdani 2004). Another important rebel group is the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which is part of the Hassan Turabi faction of the Islamists (Mamdani 2004). The Islamists were once in government, and is championed on the political front by el-Bashir’s NIF. The JEM broke away from the mainstream Islamists, and their main goal is to regain the power they lost in government. They also claim to fight for the African Muslims of Sudan (Mamdani 2004).

In response, Khartoum has sponsored many local militias all over Sudan to fight the rebel movement, especially in Darfur in 1990 (Mamdani 2004). One such product of this action is the Janjaweed – the ‘Arab’ militia, who have committed countless crimes against the people of Darfur and neighbouring Chad, such as arson and rape. Collectively, the Janjaweed has effectively killed nearly 500,000 people since April 2003, other than pillaging the villages and terrorizing the lives of the refugees in Darfur and Chad. A general conclusion of the situation can be that the rebel movement and proxy armies have contributed largely to the start and prolonging of the civil war.

In summary, the government plays a key role in all of the causes of the war discussed here. Political unrest after Sudan’s independence and the government’s inefficiency, racial conflicts further perpetuated by el-Bashir as well as the anarchy caused by the countless coups, led to the civil war in the South.

3.0 Continuation of Sudan’s crisis

The prolonging of the civil war in Sudan is a main cause for the current humanitarian crisis afflicting the country, and to see the extent of the damage done by the parties involved, the role of each party in the protraction of the civil war, and ultimately, the country’s crisis has to be evaluated.

3.1 The role of the Khartoum government

Its involvement in the civil war, especially at a root cause, cannot be denied. However, the government’s contribution to the drawing out of the crisis, whether intentionally or unintentionally, must be scrutinized to produce a justified overview of its effect on the crisis thus far.

3.1.1 Funding of the Janjaweed and military offensive

There is clear evidence that the Khartoum government has been in cohorts with the Janjaweed militia, and has been supporting their attacks on the people of West Sudan. However, the JEM has allegedly procured evidence that the government has been funding the Arab militia in Darfur, alongside providing firearms and machinery for them to conduct their attacks (Amnesty International 2004). The government has also provided support for the Janjaweed in the form of abetting the militia with the Sudanese army, with random bombings occurring frequently in the Western region, and sightings of military aircraft and warfare by the public (Amnesty International 2004). Mamdani (2004) has suggested that Khartoum may, in fact, be unable to completely control the activities of the militia groups all over the country, due to the disorganization of the militia, and that efforts to control such a large number would be difficult. However, the fact that several ministers in office have affirmed the actions of the militia needs to be taken into consideration, as this open support of the mercenaries shows the degree of complicity of Khartoum in the militia movement.

3.1.2 Harassment of humanitarian aid agencies

Non-profit organizations trying to provide comfort and essentials for the victims of the crisis have found their efforts incessantly squandered by the Khartoum administration. In a blatant display of displeasure of the humanitarian aid that has been pouring into the country since the April 2003 insurgence, Khartoum has imposed high taxes against aid agencies in a strategy to discourage the influx of aid to the remote, conflicted areas of the war (Evans 2004). Besides that, the United Nations has also admitted a slowing down of the approval of visas by the government to non-government organizations (NGOs) requiring access into the country (Reeves 2004). In recent months, several major aid agencies have been ordered to leave Sudan, such as Save the Children (UK) and Oxfam International (Reeves 2004). These actions clearly express that the government intends to break down the rebel movement by preventing the areas concentrated with rebel groups from gaining basic needs to survive, such as food, water and shelter, besides the security needed by the refugees in Chad to continue their everyday lives. This is proven by the effects of Khartoum’s efforts in stalling humanitarian aid operations during the famine of 2002, where the administration banned flights operating for Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) (Reeves 2004). As a result, the people in affected areas suffered due to insufficient provisions, with an estimated death toll of 1.5 million.

Other forms of harassment towards the aid movement have also been committed by Khartoum. Other than reducing the reach of the NGOs, the government has also started openly attacking aid workers situated around the Darfur province, with militia attacks occurring frequently at villages where humanitarian efforts are concentrated. In a recent attack on Labado, on December 17, 2004, a worker for Doctors Without Borders/Medicins Sans Frontieres was killed (Reeves 2004). This intimidation technique has increased insecurity among the aid workers and has ultimately worked in preventing the aid agencies from diminishing the sufferings of the Sudanese.

3.1.3 An indignant and uncooperative government

The Khartoum administration has also held a defiant and defensive stand against accusations of their role in the attacks committed by the militias, and in continuing the anguish of the people. The government has continually maintained that the rebellion needs to be destroyed for the good of the country, and insist that they will do all in their power to fight them. This can be seen by a remark quoted to have been said by el-Bashir, “We will use the army, the police, the mujahideen, the horsemen to get rid of the rebellion.” (Amnesty International 2004)

Among the offences more easily linked to Khartoum is its refusal to end the militia activities that are allegedly under their command. As implied by Mamdani (see: 3.1.1), this may be beyond the power of the government, but its support of the militias’ actions plays a key role in the assaults committed by the militia. Signs of disagreement would effectively deter the proxy armies from further ravaging the refugee settlements, especially those centred in the neighbouring country of Chad.

Other than support for the militia movement, Khartoum has also challenged the rest of the world’s depiction of the situation in Sudan, and particularly of Darfur, claiming that the many reports by numerous news syndicates and networks are exaggerations of the true scenario. They have also challenged the United Nations’ reports on the situation, and have repeatedly refused help by the UN or other countries to initiate peace treaties between the government and the rebellion, up until the end of last year.

There are many examples of Khartoum’s defiance against resolving the crisis, such as the breaching of the cease-fire accord initiated by the government of the United States of America in April of 2004 (Temple-Raston 2004), as well as its refusal to co-operate with the UN’s orders for government to take action against the rebel and militia factions (Haley, Akukwe & Jammeh 2004). The government has also been attacking alleged supporters and sympathizers of the rebels, using their proxy armies and the Sudanese army.

3.2 Role of the United Nations

As the most powerful international governing body, the United Nations should have acted to subside the crisis in Sudan. Instead, it has showed examples of leadership that causes the world to question its authority.

3.2.1 Lax authority on Khartoum

In its attempts to cease the war raging on in Sudan, the UN has displayed an unusual amount of incompetence in exerting its authority on the Khartoum administration. The UN has, countless times, ordered Khartoum to act against the militia, but while saying so, did not indicate that any penalty would be implemented against them upon failure to comply (Haley, Akukwe & Jammeh 2004). This has been a major setback towards peace efforts, as without a proper threat, the government would not feel obliged to obey the UN (Omar 2004). Besides that, its refusal to impose sanctions on Sudan may be an attempt to reduce the sufferings of its people, but without any pressure placed on the government, they would feel no need to act against their benefit.

The reluctance of the UN itself to impose any such classification on the situation at Darfur as genocide is another example of the organization’s incompetence. Many see this as inevitable and obvious, due to the high death toll (an estimated 1.5 million people killed), with even former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, announcing it to be so. The UN argues that the conditions are not met, and that it cannot be declared as genocide. Instead, the UN has insisted on giving Khartoum more time to deal with the violence and instability of the nation (Stanton 2004).

3.2.2 Veto power in the Security Council

A careful analysis of the international political field clearly proves that the veto power held by the five permanent members of the Security Council. However, the veto system prevents action to be taken unless all permanent members of the council vote unanimously for it. In any politically motivated situation, this power is bound to be misused, as several permanent members of the council have. China, one of Sudan’s main oil importers, recently vowed in a press conference its determination to veto any proposed plan to place sanctions on Sudan (Evans 2004). Besides its obvious reasoning for declaring so, China is also a long-time supplier of firearms to the war-torn nation, just like another permanent member of the Security Council, Russia (Evans 2004). In the long-term, the prolonging of the war would actually benefit them. These vested interests of the Security Council’s member nations have thus prevented the UN from coming to any united resolve against the war in Sudan.

3.3 Role of Sudan oil exports

Countries that are dependant on Sudan’s oil exports are also reluctant to indict Sudan’s complicity in the crisis. As previously noted, the abundance of oil reserves, with new reserves being discovered nearly every month since 1999, has made Sudan a key exporter of oil for the world, with its customers varying from Malaysia to India. It is also this control over the fuel supply that prevents the members of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) – otherwise a staunch criticizer of un-Islamic policies in government – from speaking up against Khartoum. Many of its member countries have investments in Sudan’s oil industry, and are reluctant to provoke the government by demanding action against the militia.

3.4 The role of the international community

The international community has the responsibility to assure that human rights are upheld in Sudan. Their urgings will directly determine the future of Darfur


3.4.1 Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)

This organization, made up of Islamic nations all over the world, has not been a critic of the Khartoum government, although it is vocal in its criticisms of other violators of international law, particularly those involving members of the conference. This occurs despite Sudan being part of the OIC, and despite other member countries in the Middle East-Africa region also being affected by the crisis. Several nations have spoken against Khartoum, but actions of the Arab militia have not been openly protested. There seems to be reluctance by the OIC to condemn the authority of a fellow Islamic country (Omar 2004).

3.4.2 Other countries

Likewise, there has not been much done by other countries. Many have denounced Khartoum’s handling of the civil war and Darfur, but not many have taken measures to place pressure on Sudan’s administration to take action. The US, for instance, has readily declared the happenings in Darfur as ‘genocide’, but has not placed any pressure on the UN or Khartoum, other than threatening the latter to exert control over the militia. The United Kingdom has ordered that investigations be held by the UN on Darfur, but until today, immediate action has yet to be taken in reaction to the findings by the investigation.

Thus far, the African Union has been the most proactive of international bodies, by providing a small number of troops to monitor the situation at the Darfur-Chad border, and has played a key role in organizing the Naivasha peace talks that are ongoing.

Besides Khartoum’s reluctance to involve outside forces in the country’s crisis, the inability of the parties directly involved in the situation (the UN, OIC and African Union) to act fast and effectively have contributed to the prolonging of the crisis. The responsibility should be shared by the international bodies (such as stated above) that should have played a role in ending the crisis.


With a thorough examination of the role of the Khartoum administration, as well as the other factors contributing to the cause and the continuation of the crisis that is still happening all over Sudan, a neutral view on the proceedings that lead to the continual destruction of an otherwise promising nation can finally be obtained. External factors such as the control of oil exports over international opinion, as well as internal factors involving local government policies towards locals and foreigners alike, have all played a part in prolonging the suffering of the Sudanese.

As a whole, it can be seen that the Khartoum administration throughout the years is undoubtedly largely responsible for the crisis, with what can be summarized as a mishandling of the country since its independence in 1956. Introductions of ineffective policies, corrupt ethics, large debt and poor administration by the governments by Nimeiri and el-Bashir sparked the rebellion that took over the nation. The reaction by the government, which should have been to control the situation from escalating even further, caused the conditions to deteriorate instead. Fighting fire with fire, the government’s retaliation to guerrilla attacks by the rebels with indiscriminate bombings by the Sudanese army and sponsoring of ‘Arabic’ mercenaries deepened the crisis to the condition it is today.

However, this is not to say that the government is solely responsible for Sudan’s crisis. Other international bodies, and members of the world community as a whole, should have handled the situation more rigidly, with unbending policy and outlining clear consequences for Khartoum for failure to comply. Mere criticism will not do. It hardly needs reminding that the worrying human rights crisis, which might lead to the destruction of entire tribes and ethnic groups by the end of the decade, will not abate if swift, proactive action is not taken.

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