Darfur: damned if you do, damned if you don't [essay]
Earlier, I condemned the UN Security Council's decision to remove the mere threat of sanctions against the Sudanese regime of Gen. Omar al Bashir if they failed to stop helping the genocide in their eastern region of Darfur. The resolution would've imposed sanctions only after giving Khartoum a full month to act. A full month to act on the promises they made a full month before that to visiting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
It's hardly surprising that the tighly controlled media in Sudan was able to whip up nationalistic fervor. State TV urged people to come out to a demonstration to protest against western intervention in Darfur. Despite the fact that the resolution that was approved didn't even threaten sanctions, let alone military intervention.
Yet even a letter writer to the BBC World Service's Focus on Africa program, a Ghanaian living in Nigeria, found the modest expression of concern by the Security Council to be too much. He writes:
I am not happy with the Security Council's decision to 'sanction' the Sudanese government if it fails to act 'quickly' within 30 days.
Sanction!Sanction!!Sanction!!! Why economic sanctions? This is not the way out, it is a hasty and unwise decision.
The people are hungry, and sanctions will make everything so much worse.
This is a classic example of how, when it comes to Africa, the west is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. The US was widely criticized for NOT intervening in the Liberian conflict last year, despite being begged to do so both by the former Liberian dictator and indicted war criminal Charles Taylor AND by the rebels.
Many Africans were furious at what they saw as a double standard: invading Iraq allegedly to "liberate" Iraqis from the nightmare of Saddam Hussein, but refusing to intervene in Liberia, at a tiny fraction of committment, in a place where they were invited by all sides. Yet when the US was pushing a more modest course of action in Sudan, sanctions, it's too much. Even amongst ordinary citizens in sub-Saharan Africa.
I understand why the apologists-for-autocrats crowd in Africa loves Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. But why the affection for the Sudanese dictatorship that has not only supported genocidal militias killing black Africans, but countenanced Arab slavery of black Africans in the south of the country. Maybe it's less about Mugabe and Bashir and more about George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Maybe
Maybe the African intelligentsia is so blinded by their reflexive hatred of anything done by London or Washington (or Paris), that they'll tolerate horrific atrocities. I guess massacres of black Africans are ok so long as the US or British governments aren't involved.