Why have most African state policies failed

Genocide in Africa

Every conceivable political reaction from abroad - from staying away to massive interference - harbors great political risks for the actors and causes them high costs, without having any guarantees that, in the event of intervention, the suffering of the population in the crisis region of Darfur will be sustained and reduced Life could be protected in the future. But further waiting and hoping for a miracle that the crisis would somehow resolve itself is also an unbearable condition, because it means becoming guilty through failure to provide help to the weaker.

Why is? After the US government, numerous European politicians and also the UN Secretary General finally had to acknowledge that the smoldering crisis in western Sudan in the Darfur province between April and September 2004 had become an undeniable human catastrophe of the magnitude and severity After a genocide had escalated, the global public expected political decisions that would be “appropriate” to the gravity of the situation - thousands of civilians die (and die) every day by the Arab cavalry militias, the notorious “Janyawid”. The timing was also critical: Exactly ten years earlier, the United Nations had suffered its greatest moral defeat - the genocide in Rwanda - or brought it about itself by looking the other way and doing nothing. In the summer of 1994 around 800,000 people were slaughtered in just a few weeks without the UN intervening.

But what was “appropriate” in this delicate situation for the European Union or for the entire international community? In contrast to Rwanda, Sudan has a self-confident government capable of acting, which draws relatively high (and promisingly increasing) income from oil sales to Asia and Europe and, as a member of the Arab League, the African Union and the Organization of Islamic States, in the event of a conflict with the West could mobilize strong support from the third world. Any confrontation with the government in Khartoum was bound to provoke a negative reaction in the Muslim world and possibly fuel the anti-Americanism widespread in the region since the American war in Iraq.

In theory and in general, there are three possible political options for getting out of such a crisis: the option of legitimate action, the option of efficient action, and the option of pragmatic action. This should be understood here:

- Either the West (EU and USA) tries to obtain a mandate from the UN Security Council in accordance with international law in order to be able to legally end the war against the civilian population in Sudan by all suitable means. It is accepted that reaching a desired consensus between the Security Council members could take a very long time or - in view of the Islamic members of the Security Council Pakistan and Algeria - could not be achieved, which would result in the "worst case Rwanda II".

- Or the West will accept acting on the model of NATO's intervention in Kosovo without such a UN mandate; This would give him greater chances of protecting people as quickly as possible from the threat of annihilation by the marauders, in accordance with the international law standard "obligation to protect" (with reference to Chapter VII of the statutes, namely effective measures, including economic sanctions and military intervention, against the government of Sudan and its murderous gangs).

- Or you can conveniently transfer direct responsibility for humanitarian interventions to third parties involved - in this case to the African Union regional organization. International actions are supported with money, materials, logistics and human capital, but without their own troops, whereby the risk would be taken of having to use less experienced and less well-equipped soldiers, for example from Nigeria or Rwanda, to disarm combatants.

In the justification for one of the three options, the special character of the political opponent must be taken into account, because ultimately it must be a matter of showing the politicians responsible in Sudan the enormity of their actions up to the point of abandoning their violations of human rights violations on a large scale lead, if necessary under threat of sanctions. Their selection and use are based on two criteria: the anticipated learning ability of the disciplined regime on the one hand, and its vulnerability to external sanctions on the other. The government of General Omar al-Bashir in Sudan, who came to power in June 1989 at the head of a faction of Islamists (led by the now disgraced ideologist Hassan al-Turabi) and who "rules" the country to this day , can be sketched as follows:

Firstly, the political opponent is a racist military dictatorship that has been tyrannizing parts of the population, especially the Christians in the south of the country, as opponents of the war and the non-Arab Sudanese in the center and in the west as political opposition, from theirs for 15 years Bombs, persecutes and kills villages.

Second, we are dealing with a government which, despite tireless admonitions and verbal threats from international diplomacy, has not shown any willingness to cooperate to end the suffering of the population and the civil war since 1998. To do this, it would have to disarm the local perpetrators, the murderous cavalry hordes, which, however, contradicts the government's cardinal interest, namely the Arabization of the country. 200 years ago, Arabs persecuted the Africans in order to use and sell them as slaves, today they are persecuted in times of drought and war in order to be able to use their land by Arab settlers and nomads. The native people have become - horribile dictu - worthless for them: they are not viewed as compatriots, but are chased, persecuted, desecrated and killed across the borders as inferior creatures.

Thirdly, the government in Khartoum is the first Islamist government on African soil (referred to by some as Islamo-fascist), which fears the "clash of civilizations" in all contacts with the West and is accordingly suspicious of the human rights regime of the United Nations acts. Of the approximately 65 international aid organizations in Darfur - according to the Bashir regime - no fewer than 61 come from Western countries and aim to dissuade the Muslims in Darfur and Kordofan from their true faith as Christians. Such an absurd insinuation justifies the continuous, mostly passive resistance of the regime to the transnational network of humanitarian aid operations in front of its own clientele.

From this it can be concluded in advance that such an opponent could hardly be induced to change his mind or policy with the means of “soft power” - advice, resolutions, empty threats. But what could be of use?

The backgrounds

The current crisis in western Sudan - in the Darfur province with five million inhabitants - has to be seen in the context of the undesirable development of a post-colonial state whose political class has not managed to negotiate itself in the 50 years since independence (1956) to agree on a federal constitution in order to resolve once and for all the fundamental structural participation conflict between the Arab north of the country and its black African periphery in the south.1 This conflict, which has been smoldering since 1956, became the longest civil war in Africa with two to three so far Millions of deaths and seven million internally displaced people escalated, is not simply the result of state failure, but is to be seen in the genetic context of a state-building process that began in the 19th century as a rebellion of the Mahdists against the Egyptians and the English, in the British colonial period (1900 to 1955 ) by building a modern infrastructure r (but only in the north-eastern part around Khartoum / Omdurman) and was continued in the 50 years after independence, mainly through a war of subjugation against the rebellious Africans of the south, people of Christian faith and followers of natural religions. What is remarkable is the fact that all of Sudan's political regimes, whatever their color, have so far failed to solve this problem.

The dimension

The unresolved structural conflict over the extent and identity of this political territory has at least three causal dimensions: 2 1. The ethnic-racist dimension: The population of Sudan is extremely heterogeneous. There are 19 ethnic groups with around 600 subgroups and almost as many different languages. In Sudan the racism of the ruling "awlad al-bahar" (the people of the river) plays a decisive role. These are the descendants of the conquerors and immigrants since the Islamic invasion and proselytizing (since the 8th and 9th centuries), who settled in the Nile valley between Khartoum / Omdurman and Kosti and developed an urban culture. Ethnically speaking, they do not form the majority of today's state and, out of fear of having to share political power and privileges, pursue a policy of neglect and contempt for all those regions and people who do not belong to the Arab-Muslim core area.

In addition to the English-speaking Africans in the south, around 30% of the population, who have successfully defended themselves against Islamization for decades, the centralists now also target the Africans of non-Arab origin in western Sudan, such as the Fur tribes and the Nuba tribes advised - Muslims, but Africans who had formed an independent sultanate by 1916 (which was then destroyed by the British). In an emergency, state terror is used against such peripheral provinces, including the mass killing of civilians, "ethnic cleansing" and the mass expulsion of the natives.3 Local Arabized militias (ethnically speaking Arab-African mixed race), who live from nomadism and have farmed the land and farmers for centuries To dispute water sources - the often claimed peaceful coexistence of arable farmers and nomads is a myth! 4 - have been taken into service by the governments in Khartoum (since 1987) and equipped with modern rapid-fire rifles to do the "dirty work" on site.

2. The religious dimension: Since the 7th century CE, there has been an Islamization of the tribes in Sudan from the north. This process came to a standstill due to the geographical conditions at the 10th parallel. The subsequent southern areas, inhabited by the supposedly “uncivilized” Nilotic cattle nomads of the Dinka, Shilluk, Nuer and others, was the “land of the blacks” (in Arabic: “bilad al-sudan”). These territories were initially only of interest in the context of the slave trade. That changed with the achievement of independence, when all the governments in Khartoum started the policy of proselytizing South Sudan. In September 1983, for example, President Jaafar Mohammed Numeiri was seduced into introducing Sharia law, the Islamic criminal law, which contributed significantly to the founding of the South Sudanese rebel organization SPLA. Since then, the politicization of religion and ethnic groups has been part of everyday war life.

3. The economic dimension: Two things shape the economy in the Sahel region Sudan, which is one of the poorest in the world: on the one hand, the scarcity of arable land beyond the narrow Nile valley, which often triggered droughts and famine, and on the other hand, the wealth of oil reserves, which can only be realized from abroad using modern technology. Sudan has been one of the oil exporting countries in Africa since 1996, which influenced politics in contradicting ways. On the one hand, the state booty has now become even more attractive for the potential winner in the civil war and has further intensified the war (also through extensive arms purchases from oil revenues); On the other hand, the regime in Khartoum now needs political stability and security more urgently than ever before in order to be able to raise and use the new treasures undisturbed and inexpensively by means of transnational companies in the oil industry.

Neither reason of state nor humanitarian considerations, but primarily the prospect of the incumbent military junta in Khartoum of appropriating oil rents on a large scale could persuade them to conclude a ceasefire with the SPLA rebels in April 2004 after months of negotiations. With the support of Western diplomats, a verbal agreement was reached on the distribution of the expected high foreign exchange income from the state-controlled oil sales to China, Malaysia and other countries: the north and the south should share the net income from oil sales in the future. There was no mention of the barren west of the country with its five million citizens, who for decades had been ignored by the politics of the “peoples of the river” at best, which was all the worse as the area was under drought and population growth in recent years and worsening land conflicts.

This short-sighted ceasefire and peace policy had to provoke resistance from those who had passed over, for example the excluded Fur tribes from Darfur. The neglected provinces of the West and the East, at this historic moment, demanded that their interests be taken into account in the form of fair shares in the national pie, which would soon be so miraculously enlarged. To be heard at all, you had to take up arms. Even global society only takes you seriously if you hit the headlines with acts of violence. As recent events in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have shown, such atrocities are a prerequisite for being invited to national peace negotiations.

All the hitherto known evidence in the Darfur conflict suggests that the state policy of excluding all provinces that do not belong to the pension sharing agreement triggered the rebellion in Darfur against the center of power in Khartoum, which over the weal and woe of the allocation of financial resources, offices and Licensing arbitrarily decides. The rebels demanded the right to self-determination and a separation of politics and religion.

Since the beginning of 2003, the active armed resistance in Darfur has been formed in the form of two rebel organizations, which, as conflict-prone groups, cooperated poorly, but each attacked military posts and captured weapons. These were the "Sudan Liberation Army" (SLA), which articulated the protest of the Massalit people, and the "Justice and Equality Movement" (JEM), in which mainly young men with no perspective or job The Zaghawas had come together, probably supported by the president's internal adversary, the Islamist leader al-Turabi, who was under house arrest and who had lost the power struggle against Juntachef al-Bashir.

The Bashir regime used these incidents as an opportunity to launch a merciless war of annihilation against the region's rebellious population. The special thing about this war is that the war strategy on the part of the government is based on cooperation between the regular army and the riders of the Arab tribal militias, with the government troops being responsible for logistics, transport and arming, including the militias, while the "men on the Horses “to evict, rape and destroy the villages of the Fur farmers. Some rider groups were even integrated into the army as regular contingents. The common goal of the two unequal partners is the Islamization and Arabization of the regions that appear to be vital for the reproduction of the suffering nomads. The local nomads, whose living conditions have deteriorated dramatically in recent years, 5 are concerned with land, while the government elite in the distant capital is concerned with power, oil and securing power.


The international community, which for decades had shrugged the shoulders of the creeping but continuous persecution and impoverishment of the people in South Sudan as a result of a long-term civil war, now had to react to the acute Darfur crisis with its human rights violations on a large scale, which are reported daily in the mass media has been. Diplomats from the Foreign Office and the UN feared that the power conflict in Sudan could spill over into neighboring countries, especially Chad (where some interesting oil discoveries had just been made).This threatened to develop a huge crisis belt with various sources of fire in Central Africa with DR Congo, Rwanda / Burundi, northern Kenya, northern Uganda, Sudan, Chad and Somalia - a conflagration that would destroy the EU's goal of structural stabilization of the post-colonial states.

This time the western governments reacted in the face of the creeping genocide in the far west of Sudan, which, according to the humanitarian organizations active on the ground, has been going on since April 2004, initially insecure, indecisive, diplomatically cautious with admonitions and demands - mostly each for himself, like that seems to be the norm among EU politicians. The State Minister in the Foreign Office, Kerstin Müller, the Sudan Commissioner of the Federal Government, Holger Braun, the Chairwoman of Welthungerhilfe, Annemarie Schäuble, and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer were among the first to sound the alarm and speak out in favor of collective pressure on the government on the Nile . For a long time this forbade any interference in allegedly "internal affairs".

Since the killing in Darfur did not stop, the American government got involved. On June 30, 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to Khartoum and called on the al-Bashir government, which was keen to improve its relations with the United States, to take three measures: First, an immediate cessation of all attacks on civilians in Darfur, especially the "Ethnic cleansing". Secondly, the government must immediately start negotiations with the two rebel organizations, and thirdly, the aid organizations must finally be guaranteed free access to all refugee camps.

The government in Khartoum was not impressed by such wishes, insisted on its sovereignty and continued the genocide it tolerated and secretly promoted in Darfur. A resolution was therefore adopted in the UN Security Council on September 18, 2004 by eleven votes with four abstentions, in which the government in Khartoum was called on again to put a stop to the expulsions in the Darfur region and to enable the rapid return of the Chad refugees . “In due course” the Council would look at the matter again in order to possibly decide “additional steps” - meaning sanctions - 6 The resolution was tabled by the USA together with Great Britain, Romania, Spain and Germany; the two veto powers China and Russia, plus the two Muslim states Pakistan and Algeria, abstained.

Three weeks later, the UN's special envoy for Sudan, the Dutchman Jan Pronk, had no choice but to state in his report to the Security Council of October 6, 2004 that the government in Khartoum had made “no further progress” to address the problem Restore security in the Darfur region; the ceasefire agreed between the government and the two rebel organizations since April 2004 would not be observed. Now UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated ex officio that the killing in Darfur would have assumed the proportions of genocide - about seven months late! According to estimates by the world organization, "at least 50,000 people" died in the militant acts and 1.2 million people were on the run or were crammed into camps in neighboring Chad as refugees.

Pronk as well as the American UN Ambassador for Sudan, John C. Danforth, urged that the number of blue helmets stationed in Darfur, which are provided by the African Union as observers (without a robust mandate), should be multiplied - from the present 250 to approx. 3000 men. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who traveled to Sudan for “consultations” at the beginning of October, also spoke out in favor of increasing the African contingent of observation and control to several thousand soldiers. Nobody could decide on sanctions, let alone a military intervention like against the Miloöevib regime. Were the risks and costs too high or not calculable after all?


1 Cf. Tetzlaff, becoming a state in Sudan. A civil war state between democracy, ethnic conflicts and Islamization, Münster and Hamburg 1993.
2 On the various dimensions of the conflict, see Hanspeter Matthes, Sudan Summer 2004: Peace in the South, War in the West, Conflict with the Opposition, in: Nord-Süd aktuell, 2/2004, pp. 276–292.
3 Robert O. Collins, Disaster in Darfur, manuscript, September 11, 2004, via: .
4 Ibid.
5 Stefan Kröpelin, Sudan Report: The Mighty's Play Ball, in: Frankfurter Rundschau, October 14, 2004.
6 Cf. “Security Council threatens Sudan”, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 20, 2004.

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