Monday, 6 September 2010

African realpolitik

The East African published an article discussing the background to Kenya’s hospitality towards Bashir despite ICC arrest warrant and the surely well expected fuss resulting from Bashir’s attendance of the inauguration of Kenya’s landmark constitution. The central point made in the article is the imperative of East African interests in the matter. Kenya, which stands to gain ever more economically from sustenance of peace, considering the volume of trade and services it already exports to its neighbour Southern Sudan, and which stand to lose from a resumption of war, not least the flux of refugees into its territory, made a choice congruent with its interests irrespective of Western disdain.

On the other hand, Western countries, by far the US, have maintained an amazing record of doublespeak in regards to the regime in Khartoum. The latest news reports of intimate intelligence cooperation between the spy agencies in the countries, CIA and NISS, complement earlier leaks. This pattern is not particularly novel, it seems an ashamed copy of the US Cold War havoc in Africa, reminiscent for instance of the White House-Mobutu love affair. This time around though, the US self-suffocated with its ‘democratise the World’ campaign, cannot entertain Bashir in the White House, but can somehow fly his spy chief over for business dinners.

Gration, the envoy, and welcome arbitrator in SPLM-NCP feuds, has shifted the weight of US policy towards Sudan from punish to appease, in the face of distraught criticism from the remnants of the Save Darfur Campaign and a considerable bloc in the administration itself. The same anti-Grationites however went hush with regards to spy-spy games; those of course are transcendentally beyond reprimand since they serve the much higher cause of the ‘war on terror’.

Kenya, driven by realpolitik, needs Bashir at the regional table. The same realpolitik however demands from Sudan’s neighbours a consistent policy that goes beyond the referendum and the ICC. The African Union Panel led by Thabo Mbeki already suggested lines of African engagement including ones pertaining to the question of justice. The current focus on the South has robbed Darfur of the media buzz and, consequently of heated diplomatic interest. Nevertheless, Darfur remains paradigmatic for African entrapments, settlers versus migrants, peasants versus pastoralists, Africans versus Arabs; in the words of Adam Azzain, a Sudanese scholar of Darfur, an open wound that attracts all sorts of bacteria. Africa, 50 years into its independence, needs to generate the political will that translates into actual African solutions for African problems. The fate of Darfur in the international conundrum of interests is certainly a test ground for this will. 

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