Genocide continues, people continue to be murdered, lives continue to be lost. The next month will mark the anniversary of the Darfur Peace Agreement. The crisis in Sudan’s western region of Darfur is only getting worse. The Sudanese government claims to be making it easier for aid groups to provide humanitarian support, yet aid groups are at times allowed to work and later denied. Under-staffed and under-supported African Union troops are being threatened and killed. The US deputy secretary, John Negroponte, sees this as the last opportunity to bring in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force as hope seems to be running out for a solution. As Negroponte travels to Sudan he will be bringing the message that Washington’s patience has run out. Ban Ki-moon says that he thinks a misunderstanding with the Sudanese government is holding up the peacekeeping force.
The Sudanese economy has boomed with the backing of China, but now China is knocking. China has strengthened military ties with Sudan and so far has been behind the blockage of a peacekeeping force in Sudan. As a permanent member on the Security Council, China has vetoed previous efforts to put peacekeepers in Darfur. Currently there is a 7000 troop AU force trying to secure an area the size of France with limited supplies and no mandate. However, China is now urging Sudan to accept a peacekeeping force. For the past two years China has vetoed sanctions and peacekeeping forces for Sudan. Now as the 2008 Bejing Olympics are fast approaching more pressure has been placed on China to resolve the Darfur crisis. From the New York Times article: “But in the past week, strange things have happened. A senior Chinese official, Zhai Jun, traveled to Sudan to push the Sudanese government to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force. Mr. Zhai even went all the way to Darfur and toured three refugee camps, a rare event for a high-ranking official from China, which has extensive business and oil ties to Sudan and generally avoids telling other countries how to conduct their internal affairs.”
Pressure from the Olympics has been the tipping point for Chinese authorities. There are efforts to call the 2008 Olympics the ‘Genocide Olympics’ from prominent advisors to the Chinese goverment dealing with the Olympics. The Olympics are a great source of pride for the Chinese people. The growing pressure over Darfur has made the Chinese worry that the crisis is hurting their image. This large push is coming from the activist community and hollywood, where people are saying that China needs to be a responsible partner in the Olympic Games. There is still plenty of time before the 2008 Olympics for China to persuade Sudan or accept sanctions.
I was going to be done for the year with the annual report, but recent events do not allow me to leave this year with something unsaid.
Today I had a dentist appointment. My teeth were first checked out and cleaned by the dentist’s assistant and as you all know, while they have those metal tools and the nifty little mirror in your mouth, they ask you questions and try to hold a conversation with you. You, the one with everything in your mouth. It started out normally – I was wearing my Michigan State University sweatshirt so I was first asked about college, how it was going, and then my major – International Relations and Global Area Studies: Africa specializing in International Development. Well now that changes the conversation to Africa. “Wow Africa, so what do you plan to do with that degree after college?” I said I was planning on doing the Peace Corps for two years and then whatever comes after. (most likely the Master International Program with the Peace Corps)
The assistant then told me some very interesting stories about people she knew who did related work in Africa. She talked about a co-worker who was a photographer and was about to go on safari in Africa to take pictures of wildlife, ‘wouldn’t that be fun?’ Then she noted with a degree of disdain in her voice that she would never go to such a dirty, sticky, tropical place with a bunch of mosquitoes and stuff. All I could think was ‘you have got to be kidding me!’ Is this still how most people think of Africa? I could not say much because of the tools occupying my mouth. Then she said something to the effect of ‘well whatever you want to do.’ To be honest I could not believe it and I was slightly taken aback by her perceptions of Africa. Thanks so much American mass media! That is a topic for another time, but this event has given me a sense that more people need to travel to Africa and see first hand the wonder and beauty and people. More people need to understand that actual people like you and me live in Africa everyday – they may not have as much ‘stuff’ as we do, but nevertheless they live incredible lives in that dirty, sticky, mosquito filled tropical wonder land that I have come to love.
On a more up-beat note, UN personnel arrived in the Darfur region of Sudan to support the African Union force, which is attempting to keep the peace as government backed militias spread destruction and terror with ‘rebel’ groups battling to keep the people safe. This is a large step towards a much debated hybrid UN force, backed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, being sent to the region to keep the peace. The African Union troops are under equipped and understaffed in this conflict. With the UN personnel also came equipment, including night vision goggles and armored personnel carriers. The goal is to eventually move to a hybrid UN-AU force of roughly 20,000 personnel. I believe that a positive step has been made here and it gives me hope for a future resolution of the Darfur conflict and the lives of those affected.
Have a Happy New Year everyone!