Is climate change the culprit for the disaster in Darfur? The answer is not simple. In this posting I argue that climatic and environmental factors have compelled Darfurians to adapt their livelihoods and migrate southwards. These changes have been going on for centuries, but over the last thirty years, they have occurred at a faster pace and on a larger scale. But depleted natural resources and livelihood transformations cannot on their own account for conflict, let alone armed conflict. The most important culprit for violence in Darfur is government, which not only failed to utilize local and central institutions to address the problems of environmental stress in Darfur, but actually worsened the situation through its militarized, crisis management interventions whenever political disputes have arisen. In turn, violent conflict has worsened Darfur’s ecological crisis. For many reasons, Darfur cannot now be reconstituted the way it was. What’s needed is a new governance of Darfur that takes account of the challenges of the coming century—including the impact of future climate change. In an article published on June 15, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon provocatively identified climate change as an underlying cause of the disaster in Darfur. The UN Environment Programme’s assessment (published […]
(posted on behalf of Angela R. Swayze, who recently served as an election observer in Nigeria with the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs)
I’d like to hear more discussion about how traditional and community level methods of mediation are currently faring given the history of government undermining these practices. In response to Martha Bixby’s question on the role American activists should play in the peace process, Alex de Waal cited a recent Washington Post op-ed by Julie Flint maintaining that [...]
by Alex de Waal and Sam Rosmarin
Every month, we hear advocates and humanitarian organizations saying that the situation in Darfur is once again deteriorating. The Sudan government says the opposite. It is unusual for an independent observer such as Gerbert van der Aa to make the case that things are not as bad as they are painted. What is the basis for these claims and counter-claims? Is it violent deaths, overall mortality and malnutrition, levels of displacement, security incidents affecting humanitarian agencies, or some other indicator? [...]
(posted on behalf of Gerbert van der Aa, a Dutch historian and journalist who specializes in Africa north of the equator. Van der Aa has been visiting Sudan regularly since 1994 and is currently writing a book on the country.)
I was in Darfur in May to work on a book. I was really shocked to see that the situation on the ground is much better than what we are made to believe by aid organizations and many Western media. According to the UN, malnutrition rates are half of what they were in 2003 and most people in Darfur now have access to clean drinking water. Also, violence is much less than three years ago. [...]
I’m not sure whether this kind of thing is on the radar screen of most Darfur watchers; but as this blog’s only non-expert contributor, I thought I’d point out that Vanity Fair has just now published its “historic” Africa issue, guest-edited by U2 frontman Bono. [...]
The agreement between the UN, AU and Sudan Government in Addis Ababa today (June 12) on the AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping force for Darfur might—just might—be a breakthrough. Ambiguity lurks in the text. Problems will multiply with actually making it happen. But the progress made today should be an opportunity to refocus attention on the real center of gravity of the problem: peace and democracy. In Addis Ababa, the Sudan government signed up to the proposals put forward jointly by the AU and UN, namely a 20,000-strong force, mainly composed of African troops, with a strong mandate and a protection capability, whose commander reports through a special envoy to both the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council. There are plenty of ambiguities still in the agreement and some loopholes that could be exploited to hinder its implementation. Khartoum didn’t agree to the full text of the AU-UN joint report, just to the presentation made in the meeting; how the force commander will work under the joint authority of two separate institutions isn’t yet clear; there are questions over how the Chad border is to be monitored; and mechanisms for reviewing the agreement remain to be worked out. […]
What motivates the Sudan government? This conundrum faces activists and policymakers as they grapple with Darfur.
One view is that the government’s agenda is primarily ideological—to impose a monolithic Arab and Islamic identity on a diverse country—and that it pursues this agenda with ruthless consistency.
A second view is that it’s only interested in power. The Islamists who were purged from the government in 1999-2000 argue this. One of them said, if the Prophet Mohammed turned up on the streets of Khartoum today, the government would send him away saying he has no business being there.
And there’s a third view, which is that the government consists of multiple competing power centers, and that most of its policies are incoherent or dysfunctional.