Darfur Another View; the Americans Insist That Genocide Is Being Committed in the Darfur Region of Sudan. the African Union Says No. Here, Bob Astles, an Old African Hand, Supports the AU: "It Has Not Been Genocide but a Mass Movement to Safety Well Away from a Rebel War," He Writes

By Astles, Bob | New African, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Darfur Another View; the Americans Insist That Genocide Is Being Committed in the Darfur Region of Sudan. the African Union Says No. Here, Bob Astles, an Old African Hand, Supports the AU: "It Has Not Been Genocide but a Mass Movement to Safety Well Away from a Rebel War," He Writes


Astles, Bob, New African


Events in the western Sudanese province of Darfur have hit the headlines under US pressure for weeks now, although there are other explosive issues in Africa that are continuing to cost far more in terror and life agony but of which there is little mention. For instance, with 180,000 Angolan refugees camped in horrifying conditions in Zambia, the UN recently admitted it has not got the funds to repatriate them to their homeland.

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Of course, says the African press, it is a matter of oil, so why should the superpowers pay real attention to these countries? Maybe there is logic in this type of view, for oil has now become essential to any prosperous future life. Without it, even the superpowers will go back to the Stone Age, or so it seems. For now, we are hearing of plans in America, of all countries, and the birthplace of the automobile, that smaller cars should be the norm and that there have to be increases, or a doubling, in the cost of petrol to prevent cars guzzling up precious remaining reserves.

Darfur, and the build up of international pressure on the Sudanese government, is seen by many to be an excuse to allow a superpower to get its hands on the country's enormous oil resources. There could be some truth in this. If I were an American leader, I would be thinking of my nation's future and its dependence on oil--because there is no silver lining in the clouds as far as we know, without oil.

These are my thoughts, but let me leave them aside and look at Darfur. I have never set foot in this part of Sudan, but I have flown over it on many occasions. I well remember asking a Sudanese consul general how on earth the people survived in such a hash landscape. He just shrugged his shoulders.

Now this was in 1952 and I doubt if much has changed except for a population explosion and in consequence the present tragedy. And tragedy it is. Like many manmade flashpoints around the continent, it is seasonal and focused on hundreds of years of established nomadic migratory routes.

This, I can assure you, is not the case just in Darfur. To many Africans, money comes from the muzzle of a gun and I personally have seen the stockpiles of millions of weaponry stored in one country, a present from China in the 1950s, and know that these are on the open market.

No African government can control this arms trade, nor any Western power, but we are hearing threats from the US that rebels have to be contained in 30 days. Governments can only try but for Africa they need logistic help that, as we saw in Rwanda, never comes.

Is Darfur an excuse for otherwise internationally unacceptable interference by the US in yet another sovereign state? I know my American friends will be upset to think that their government could be interfering with the sovereignty of any African country, but to them I can say I have witnessed it.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As I write, Radio Ghana is announcing that the US Central Intelligence Agency's recent declassified files clearly admit the role America played in the 1966 coup and removal of Dr Kwame Nkrumah and--not to be forgotten by students of African history--the instruction of Allen Dulles, the then director of the CIA, to the Agency's Congo station chief, Lawrence Devlin, that Lumumba's "removal must be an urgent and prime objective".

As this still goes on, I have lost a lot of sleep over such actions, especially as from experience I know that a great deal of false information is passed by political dissidents to foreign governments in order to destabilise a situation in the hope of gaining power for themselves. We have seen it in Iraq.

However, after the Rwanda massacre when the free world stood by, I can appreciate that it must never happen again, but we have to be careful of the word "genocide". I do know, and have read, one thesis written at Dar es Salaam University that to gain power in Africa, one needs to get the masses on the run, and that to spread rumours of genocide brings both foreign powers and the Devil on your side.

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Darfur Another View; the Americans Insist That Genocide Is Being Committed in the Darfur Region of Sudan. the African Union Says No. Here, Bob Astles, an Old African Hand, Supports the AU: "It Has Not Been Genocide but a Mass Movement to Safety Well Away from a Rebel War," He Writes
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