Monday, 24 August 2009

Useless victims

A few months back the US administration was still adamant on its diagnosis of the Darfur crisis as an unfolding "genocide" along a racial divide, and the worst humanitarian crisis that disturbs the conscience of the civilised world. On the agenda of American action was the proposal of a NATO orchestrated intervention in the region coupled with enforcement of a no-fly zone and tightening of sanctions. In the imperial imagination Darfur's wars were a single event of reckoning between good and evil, and the US was entitled to save the day. Images of American actors/activists flooded the media, busy saving Darfur in the company of the self styled "Internationalist" John Prendergast booting his way through the dry terrain of eastern Chad. In the American dream of Darfur the populations "in action" were reduced to iconic victims and perpetrators, not more differentiated, and for that matter not more human, than figures of a video-game. In actual fact the "Save Darfur Coalition" featured a video-game on its website where the sympathetic user could identify with the plight of displaced women venturing outside the camps in search of firewood to be attacked by the bad bad Janjaweed. Darfuris were still "useful victims" in the imperial rationale of the US, a card to play on the table of geo-strategy. Those days are effectively over. Even Prendergast has given up on the cause and is now under commission to stage yet another saviour's mission in the Congo. Twisting the logic of Abdel Wahid's angry description of Gen. Gration, Obama's envoy to Sudan, as being an obstacle to peace, it seems today that Darfur as such is an obstacle to the machinations of imperial "peace and stability" in the Sudan. The American rationale, for those who do grasp it, remains however the same. It was never about Darfur, as it is today not about Darfur.

As "useless victims" the new instructions to the Darfuris are: "get yourself together and sign an agreement, and if you don't we will sign one for you." Over the weekend Gen. Gration met in Cairo with NCP's Ghazi Salah Eldin, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abu al Ghait, Egypt's spy chief Omer Suleiman, and Libya's foreign minister Mohamed al Sayala. The announced objective of the meeting was simply the dubious phrase "to prop us peace and stability" in the Sudan, of course in the absence of all but the regional powers and the newly celebrated US allies in Khartoum. Before arriving in Cairo he had toyed 4 factions of the disintegrated Darfuri rebellion into a "unity road map" after days of "efficient" talks in Addis Ababa. Abdel Wahid after a drama of stubborn refusal acquitted and joined the train. The four factions, SLM-Unity, SLM-Abdelwahid, SLM-Abdelshafi, and the United Resistance Front, agreed to hold a meeting inside Darfur within sixty days to achieve unity "in disintegration" and to engage in negotiations with the government without preconditions. On the surface of things, and in Gen. Gration's words, it is indeed a remarkable achievement. In a statement to Radio Dabanga Scott Gration explained his view of the adventure in the following benevolent terms: "this is about rebels from all different factions unifying to help and ensure that the will of the people of Darfur is carried out in a process that can make a difference."

Now, what is missing from the process is exactly this will of the people of Darfur, victims this time of the direct designs of Empire; the will that expressed itself in the long and tedious but truly constructive meetings with the African Union High Level Panel on Darfur. The will that speaks of land tenure, livelihoods, environmental degradation, evolution of local authority and democracy, and yes justice!

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Creative Commons Licence
This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.