August 2006

The Darfur Peace Agreement has not brought more security to Darfur. It was signed on 5 May. It was expected that the clashes would continue for some time, until the news about the agreement had reached the commanders on the ground. Indeed, after some weeks violence decreased. The month of June was rather calm. However, in July the situation changed again. Here is the picture.

The ceasefire between the Minawi faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Government of Sudan held throughout the whole period. However, this came at the expense of escalating violence between these two new allies and parties who had not signed the agreement. Early July the Minawi faction captured the town of Korma aligned with the SLA Abdul Wahid faction and attacked his stronghold at Tina. For the rest of the month SLA Minawi elements, often accompanied by armed tribesmen, looted villages and livestock in SLA Abdul Wahid territory around these two places, killing more than hundred civilians. About twenty thousand displaced people arrived in camps, reporting indiscriminate killing, rape and abduction in their villages.

A second wave of violence began with a surprise attack by a new movement, the National Redemption Front, on the town of Hamrath al Sheikh, in North Kordofan, outside Darfur. About twenty people were killed. The NRF declared itself fully against the government as well as against the DPA. The movement seems to be an offspring of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), bringing together quite a few other opponents. The NRF seems to have ample access to finance and weapons and has gained strength as well as territory, in particular in North Darfur. A third wave consists of clashes between the forces of Minawi and a group of commanders, known as the G19, who have split off from both the Minawi faction as well as the Abdul Wahid faction of the SLA. Since mid-July the Minawi faction has clashed repeatedly with G19, attacking their strongholds in Birmaza and Umm Sidir, all in North Darfur. Counter attacks by the G19, in particular around Donkey Hosh, were successful. The Minawi faction, though still controling Musbath, is losing some territory and there are reports about deserters to the G19. There were also reports that the Minawi forces received support from their former enemy, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The G19, on its side, seems to have received support from Chadian military, but it is not clear whether these fighters were sent by the Chadian government or acted on their own initiative. It goes without saying that all reports about new alliances and new atrocities are being denied by the various parties. However, there is enough evidence that all these clashes have resulted in many casualties amongst the fighters and in many human rights violations against unarmed civilians who are accused of supporting ‘the other side’.

The military situation on the ground is volatile. In West Darfur the SAF, apparently assisted by Janjaweed militia, clashed with non-signatory forces in the Jebel Moon, a strategically important mountainous area close to the border with Chad. Since a couple of years the population in that area has been forced to cooperate with various alternating occupying forces. They are fed up with the war and want to support the DPA, but risk reprisal. Around Kulkul, in North Darfur, the SAF seems to have severely clashed with the NRF. There are (unconfirmed) reports about Antonov airplanes used by the SAF, bombing opposite forces and even villages. There is a credible report about the NRF, which in North Darfur has shown its strength by using a SAM 7, a man-portable, shoulder-fired low-altitude surface-to-air missile, claiming to have hit one of these Antonovs. Presently in El Fashr there is a build up of SAF forces, probably preparing themselves for a new confrontation.

Click to enlarge
Partial wreckage of an aircraft engine with propellor, hit by a SAM-7 in Darfur.
The Government and the Minawi faction have declared all parties that have refused to sign the DPA ‘terrorists’. They have refused to talk with them and feel justified to attack not only the NRF - which more or less started a new civil war - but also the G19. We have tried to convince them that this is not a wise strategy, but, so far, without success. The G19 is basically anti-Minawi, while the NRF is basically anti-Government. It should not be too difficult to start talks with the G19 and bring them on board. However, the G19, under attack, feels compelled to seek support from wherever, be it NRF, JEM or Chad. Treating all non-signatories as terrorists brings them together and renders it impossible to talk. The Government and the Minawi faction, taking this position, feel themselves backed by statements made by Western diplomats and politicians who, shortly after the signing of the peace agreement, blamed all non-signatories and spoke about terrorists, who should be sanctioned. The Government and the Minawi faction have even denied the other parties access to meetings of the Ceasefire Commission (CFC). The message is: first you should sign and then you get access. This may seem logical, but it implies that none of the clashes, violations or atrocities, carried out by any party, can be addressed. The non-signatories are bound to earlier ceasefire agreements (such as the N’Djamena agreement of 2004) and protocols, which they violate when attacking the SAF or Minawi’s forces. They could be held accountable in the CFC, but neither the Government nor the Minawi action seems to be interested in doing so. The latter appear to prefer to continue military activities - justified in their view, because directed against non-signatories - with the objective to strengthen and expand the territory which they control, without accounting for this conduct in the CFC. The African Union, chairing the CFC, has accepted this. A couple of days ago the AU decided to suspend the non-signatories from this commission, ‘following the paralysis of this mechanism’. This decision will paralyse the mechanism further. The AU has declared that the decision was taken after consultation with international partners in the CFC. UNMIS is one of those partners. We have strongly argued against such an approach and have suggested a number of workable alternatives. All of them have been rejected.

Not only the non-signatories which are fighting, but also those who refrain from military action, have been denied access to the CFC. One of those is the Abdul Wahid faction of the SLA. Abdul Wahid has rejected the formation of the NRF and condemned the attacks launched by the new Front. Here again is a potential partner for an enriched Darfur Peace Agreement, but so far the Government and the Minawi faction have refused to respond to Abdul Wahid’s demands. There is no pressure from the international community to begin new talks. On the contrary, Abdul Wahid is seen as a spoiler. Instead, efforts have been made to approach possible dissenters in his movement and to further split his faction. As a result last month a new faction was established: “SLA Classic’, the supporters of which are considered more reasonable than Abdul Wahid. It is the classical approach of weakening an opponent by seduction, always successful in the short tem, never in the long run. What is ultimately decisive is popular support: amongst the commanders and fighters in the field, the displaced persons in the camps and the people in the villages and in the mountains. Overall popular support cannot be guaranteed by divide and rule tactics.

A fourth wave of violence consists of traditional tribal fighting. Tribes clash with each other because of disputes about land and water. Last month around Gereida in South Darfur a quarrel between nomads and herders about grazing land for camels led to a clash between two tribes, the Reizegat and the Habaniya, resulting in 150 deaths. The figure is high, but the phenomenon as such is no exception. Though these disputes are not directly related to the DPA, their root causes can only be addressed in the framework of tribal reconciliation in combination with a programme of reconstruction of resources of water and land. This should be guaranteed by political, legal and social institutions whose functioning requires the implementation of the peace agreement.

A fifth wave of violence concerns villagers and displaced people. Militia groups continue to operate with impunity throughout Darfur, attacking villages, killing villagers, raping women, stealing livestock and harassing IDPs in and around the camps. Some militias have settled in cleared villages in West Darfur and are cultivating the land. In some places they are keeping the people in virtual slavery, preventing them from leaving and regularly assaulting women. Elsewhere they beat up displaced persons who try to return to their own village in order to cultivate their land and tell them to stay away and never to come back, if they don’t want to be killed.

A sixth wave of violence consists of increased banditry. Around El Geneina in West Darfur, between Nyala and El Fashr and in quite a few other areas in all three Darfurs bandits are looting and killing. Attacks on convoys have grown increasingly brazen. Together with the clashes between the parties this has resulted in stalling a considerable part of our humanitarian operations. These operations are also affected by polarization in the camps. Groups against the DPA oppose those who are in favour. In a number of camps this is resulting in tribal fights, in particular between Fur and Zaghawa. In the camps there are plenty of weapons. They are used to deter possible attackers - Janjaweed are still roaming around camps and continue to harass and rape women and girls - , but also to raid cattle, risking retaliation. In the camps law and order gradually dissolve. Elder traditional leaders are losing their authority. Youth groups are becoming more and more violent. The environment is rife with rumors. Recently humanitarian workers were accused of poisoning drinking water, food and even plastic sheeting and of spying for the Government. In July six Sudanese staff members working for aid agencies were killed.

Aid agencies, in particular non-governmental organisations, are vulnerable. Cars are hijacked, drivers are killed. So far, UN agencies have not been attacked in Darfur. However, the African Union is under attack. In the first seven months of 2006 the number of security incidents affecting the NGO’s increased with 75% in comparison with the first seven months of last year. Violent activities targeting the African Union increased even more: with 900%! Not only bandits, youth gangs and militia have clashed with AMIS military and police units, but also rebel SLA troops, accusing AMIS of partiality.

Three months after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement the picture is bleak. Nobody expected that security would be restored at once. But presently the situation is worse than in the last three months before the signing of the agreement and it is deteriorating. There is fragmentation of parties. There is complete denial of ceasefire violations as well as of human rights violations. They are not addressed, let alone sanctioned. The agreement was meant to cement the parties together, but it has become a source of further disruption.

The solution of this crisis should be found, first, by enforcing the implementation of what has been agreed, rather than allowing the Government and the Minawi faction to disregard their commitments. Second, by getting all parties on board (instead of alienating dissenters and attacking non-signatories) and inviting them to participate in all inclusive Darfurian institutions, whether they have signed the agreement or not (yet). Third, by starting an all inclusive Darfur-Darfur dialogue as soon as possible and by linking this dialogue with reconstruction, return and reconciliation programmes, irrespective of the political stance of the groups concerned. Last but not least, by establishing a robust international peace force, capable to deter and contain old and new assailants, Janjaweed as well as NRF, bandits as well as warlords. The DPA is more than a security arrangement. However, without an improving security situation all other elements of the DPA are bound to fail.
A year ago Sudan lost a great son: John Garang, Vice President of Sudan and President of Southern Sudan since only three weeks. He died in a helicopter accident, flying from Uganda, where he had met President Museveni, to Rumbek, at that time still the capital of Southern Sudan. He had led the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement through a long and arduous war. He had called the shots during the peace negotiations in Naivasha and Nairobi, which had lasted more than three years. He had signed the peace agreement on 8 January 2005, after having sat together with the main negotiator sent by Khartoum, Vice President Taha, in the final phase of these negotiations. No single paragraph of the agreement had been concluded without these two agreeing. The two opponents had started to understand and trust each other. They had shared a common vision: peace in a New Sudan, one country, two systems. Both were ahead of their constituencies, which themselves had been internally divided. On both sides some groups had wanted to continue the armed struggle. On both sides there were groups in favor of secession. On either side there were people in favor of the unity of Sudan, but often on different terms. The solution had been to postpone a definitive decision and to hold a referendum, six years after the signing of a peace agreement.

Both leaders had had their difficulties to convince their constituencies. Garang had traveled trough his Southern Sudan, from village to village, from town to town, in order to explain to his people that there was no other option than peace, unity and a two systems approach, leaving a great deal of autonomy to the South. The South would not be granted full autonomy, but Sudan wide decisions would have to be taken by a Government of National Unity in which the Southerners would participate, although on a minority basis. However, if after a couple of years the Southerners would come to the conclusion that this was not a good deal, they would be free to decide by referendum in favor of secession. North Sudan would commit itself to respect such an outcome. The international community would see to it that the agreement would be kept. To this end the UN would send an international peace keeping force, while the Security Council would regularly review and assess the implementation of the agreement and eventually sanction violation or non-implementation of the agreement. Garang was proud that he had been able to convince his people. They saw in him a hero, a unique person, the only one who would be able to guide the country towards a sustainable peace. Not only had his followers in the South been convinced. Also the nearly millions Southerners who had lived for two decades as displaced people around Khartoum and elsewhere in the North, or as refugees across the border in Kenia and Uganda. But many Northerners had the same opinion: whether there would be peace in Sudan would be dependent on one person: John Garang.

When he died also many Northerners mourned. In one night, many Sudanese, throughout the country, lost their hope and confidence in a better future. In Khartoum people reacted by rioting. The capital had always been an oasis of calm, despite decades of war. The street fighting between Africans and Arabs that erupted after Garangs death seemed to bring, for the first time in the recent history of Sudan, the war to the capital. Over hundred people were killed. There after Khartoum has changed. Many people remained cautious or fearful, many others became suspicious or cynical or even desperate, because the only person who, as they had believed would have been able to improve their lot had died.

Had he died in an accident or had he been murdered? Many still believe that the latter is the case, despite a convincing report of an expert investigation which had been called for by the governments of Sudan, Southern Sudan and Uganda. However, at the commemorative ceremony in Juba, last weekend, one year after the death of Garang, his widow Rebecca demanded the continuation of the investigation, casting doubt upon the way in which it had been conducted so far. Others, including Pagan Amun, the Secretary-General of the SPLM, had made similar statements. In Sudan the death of John Garang will get the same status as the death of John Kennedy in the US: an explanation convincing everybody will never be found.

Rebecca Garang is very popular in Southern Sudan. Since the death of her husband she shares in his wide popularity. She is a strong personality, and has been able to attract support from many people who have invested all their hope in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which had brought an end to the war. In her speech at the funeral, one year ago, Rebecca had said this herself in unmistakable terms: my husband has not died, he is still alive and lives with us though his legacy, the CPA. She had called for implementation of the CPA, in letter and spirit and in full. She had spoken about the values underlying peace, paid tribute to the warriors who had fought for victory and given their lives for freedom, she had praised the common people who had suffered during the war, she had called for development and poverty eradication and she had warned against creeping corruption of leaders attracted by power and greed, betraying their people. In short: she had spoken as earlier John Garang himself.

Garang was a ‘vision man’. I remember how, in a discussion which I had with him in the early ninety- nineties, he enthusiastically sketched his ideas concerning the future governance system of Sudan and illustrated his views by presenting some drawings. I was rather skeptical, but I must admit that fifteen years later he was able to translate these drawings into the principles underlying the CPA. During these years he led the discussions on the ‘New Sudan’. His posture was that of a man who did not doubt that the negotiations, yet far from completed, would result in peace and who was more interested in a debate about what would have to be done thereafter. Months before the signing of the peace agreement he focused on the need to make peace sustainable, to develop his country and to abate poverty. He had seen how in many African countries urban development had resulted in a lack of balance between the modern big cities with huge shantytowns and a deficient rural economy in a neglected country side. “Do not bring the people to the towns, but bring the towns to the people”, was his favorite theme. He advocated economic and social development of existing small towns, well connected by rural roads, sustaining a broad domestic market characterized by a steady increase of purchasing power, evenly spread throughout the country.

So far, reality is different. The CPA has been signed, but its implementation is going slow. Reconstruction is hardly taking place, economic development has yet to take off and poverty is blatant and widely spread. Three days ago, traveling from Torit to Juba we spoke to a group of several hundreds of villagers. They complained: “There is a no school, no water, no food and no hospital”. It was heart breaking. On the market in Torit itself, a small town which has been occupied several times by different armies, we saw only few products and a meager assortment of foodstuffs. The town of Nassir, which I visited a month earlier, is nothing more than a large village slump. In nearly every town scars of the war are visible. Nowhere demolished buildings or infrastructure are reconstructed. Rural development and food security are impeded by a lack of water points, lots of mines, too much cattle and multiple violence.

Yet the people of Southern Sudan dream about progress, based on peace. The ceremony to commemorate Garang was turned into a call for a full and speedy implementation of the CPA and an outcry against obstruction by Khartoum. The bishops referred to this in their sermon and their prayers, Rebecca Garang, Abel Alier and Salve Kiir in their speeches. There was no better occasion to renew the claim for unity - not between the North and the South, but within the South itself - than this memorial. The people of Juba, Malakal, Torit, Nassir, Bor and all other towns and villages in Southern Sudan and the three areas Abyei, Blue Nile and South Kordofan know: Garang was the CPA, the CPA is Garang. At the memorial which was held at the same day in Khartoum the same feeling was expressed: Garang’s heritage has to be kept, guarded and executed.

That can be done only in cooperation with the North. However, more and more Northern opinion leaders and policy makers seem to distance themselves from a full and speedy implementation of the comprehensive agreement which brought peace to their country. As Alfred Taban recently wrote in his newspaper, the Khartoum Times, “the spirit of the CPA is unity in equality, not the unity between the rider and his horse”. Many Northerners want to ride the Southern horse, to manipulate its course, to destabilize its trek and to exploit its riches. In meetings of institutions with a political mandate to solve political problems concerning the implementation of the CPA a legalistic attitude prevails: how to defend the status quo rather than how to achieve a common objective.

Garang and Taha had defined a common objective. They came from a different background. Both were restrained by their own political class and their own constituency, with such diverging views on the future of the Sudanese society. However, both were willing to take a political risk, show leadership, cross frontiers and confront opposition within their own circles. In the end they were rewarded because they had convincingly made clear: ‘all of us in Sudan, we are in the same boat; there is no alternative’.

The power of this message seems to fade away. That is only natural in politics. Those who gave birth to something new and believe in their creation gradually have to give way to others: a new elite, a new generation, a new administration, people who witnessed the new beginning without owning it. Such an attitude is bound to generate distance, to slow the pace, to lessen ambition, to divert attention and to lose drive.

The memorial ceremonies in Juba and Khartoum were meant to counter this. The message was: reconfirm the common objective of all Sudanese, unite in peace, strengthen the vigor of a common endeavor, speed up the implementation of what has been agreed and meet the aspirations of the people. In short: live up to the teachings of Garang: have a dream, stay with the people, see to it that they stay with you and don’t give up.
This weekend the Government of Kassala State organized a farewell party for UNMIS in Kassala. Starting on 1 August we will gradually withdraw our personnel from this region, both the military and the civilian staff. Our objective is to close the office and the military camp end September.

The farewell party took place in a very friendly atmosphere. We enjoyed music and dance groups from the Beja, the Rashaida and the Hausa tribes. The Beja are the most autochthonous tribe in the region. The Rashaida came from Saudi Arabia, more than hundred fifty years ago. They are nomads, with large camel herds. Gradually they are trying to settle down. The Hausa came from West Africa. Kassala is multicultural, with self-respecting people, who try to keep some distance from the ruling class in Khartoum. The area is beautiful, with well shaped mountains prominently rising in the desert. The soil is fertile, with a lot of green along the river and a relatively thriving agriculture. I came here for the first time about thirty years ago in a different situation, before the region became affected by the war. At the time already Kassala showed a certain economic differentiation, with small scale manufacturing next to a horticulture (fruits in particular), large herds and much trade.

The war between North and South brought the SPLA troops also to the East. Many stayed here for a long time. This year they left. UN military observers, supported by a Nepalese contingent, have monitored the withdrawal. When that was completed our task ended.

Peace in this region is not only dependent on the implementation of the agreement to end the North-South conflict, but also on the solution of the conflict between the Eastern rebel movements and the Government of Sudan. I wrote about this earlier (see in particular my weblogs nr 8 and nr 28). The latest information about the talks in Asmara concerning a possible Eastern Peace Agreement is rather promising. Parties have agreed on a number of principles and have committed themselves to end hostilities and to exchange prisoners. Last month I wrote that if parties think that they can reach a solution without the assistance of the international community, they deserve a chance to do so. Facilitation of peace talks by the UN is not the only way. Mediation by a whole group of countries, each of them guided by its own national interest, is certainly not the best way. Mediation by one country is another option. In the case of the East this is Eritrea, a country with very specific national interests which might jeopardize its pretense to act as a neutral mediator. However, so far the Eritrean mediation seems to have functioned rather evenly.

So, the UN should not promote itself as the only option, neither in peace keeping nor in peace mediation. And after having finished the job in peace keeping, the United Nations should leave the scene. Only when and as long as the parties concerned fully agree, there is a role for the UN.

In quite a few situations distrusts in the UN prevails. Will the UN after having come ever leave or always stay? Is the UN neutral and independent, or is the organization an instrument in the hand of the big powers? Such distrust is dominating the debate in Sudan. About two years ago, in the same hall in Kassala where we enjoyed our farewell ceremony this weekend, hundreds of angry political, tribal and civilian leaders urged the UN not to come to Kassala: “Don't harm our culture. Stay away from our women. Respect our traditions. Stay away!” My response that the UN had been invited by the Government and the SPLM met a deaf ear: “You may have an agreement with Khartoum, but not with us!” I promised that the UN would be a good guest and that we would respect the culture. Nobody would have to be afraid that the UN troops, once having come, would not leave anymore. At the farewell party the Wali and other representatives of the people in Kassala admitted: we had kept our promise. There had not been any incident. On the contrary, the relations between the Nepalese military UN contingent and the local population had been quite good.

After the farewell ceremony we went to the mountain of Kassala and drank water from the spring. Drinking water from the mountain spring signifies a promise to return to Kassala. We certainly will, but in a personal capacity, not as peace keepers.

Not only for the people in Kassala, but also for many others in Khartoum, in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan is it important that the UN kept this promise. The fear of the Sudanese, often openly expressed, is that the UN has a second agenda. Many opinion leaders, admitting that the UN, as an organization of many different countries, cannot have a hidden agenda of its own, fear that this organization will pave the way for the US. Many suspect that the objective of the West is to re-colonize Sudan. They simply cannot understand that the aim is to protect people against violence and that the Security Council is motivated by an international outrage about the massacre of tens of thousands of people. They disregard the fact that nearly all victims and all refugees and displaced persons, waiting protection, are Muslims. In their view Western countries use peace keeping as a pretext: their real objective is to wage a war against Islam. They close their eyes for the fact that most victims are Africans, pursued and killed by Arab militia and Arab Janjaweed and are enraged about what they perceive as a conspiracy against Arabs.

In that political climate about two months ago a high level delegation, sent jointly by the African Union and the United Nations, came to Sudan to consult the Government about a transition from the present AU peace keeping force towards a UN force. As I wrote in one of my earlier weblogs (see nr 26) President Bashir's response could not be misunderstood: “We are against such a transition. This is our final answer”. Several weeks later, at the Summit meeting of the African Union in Banjul, Gambia, he did not change his position. He promised the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, that the Sudanese Government would submit its ideas on a possible role for the United Nations in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. Whether such a role would imply more than humanitarian assistance and support for reconstruction and development remained unclear.

The uncertainty necessitated the UN and the AU to hold an international meeting in order to request donor countries to pledge finance for a continuation of the African Union peace force in Darfur. The meeting took place in Brussels, mid July. The AU had informed the UN that it could finance the troops in Darfur only until the end of the month and that for that reason the mandate of the AU, which lasted until October, could not be extended. Donors pledged enough financial resources to enable the AU to continue until the end of the year. The idea was that the UN could take over on 1 January 2007. The delegations left Brussels with the idea that such a transition was indeed possible, because the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lam Akol, had declared that Khartoum had not yet taken a decision. This was understood as a tiny opening: as against what had been said by President Bashir, it seemed that the Government of Sudan had not yet decided against a transition. That the Government had not yet decided in favor of the transition was taken for granted: a few months time had been gained.

The optimism does not seem to be justified. First: close scrutiny of the financial commitments by the donors reveals that less money has been pledged than had been assumed. So-called 'new money' had been mixed with reconfirmation of pledges which had already been made earlier and had already been taken into account. Whether the African Union is indeed capable to continue after September is not yet certain.

Second, it seems that the tiny opening indicated by Lam Akol does not exist. Soon after the Brussels conference Sudanese politicians, addressing domestic audiences, declared that a transition towards a UN force is out of the question. There was no sign whatsoever the government was considering a u-turn or that an effort was made to prepare the population for a 'yes' instead of the repeatedly declared 'no' to the UN. On the contrary: President Bashir himself was quoted today as telling a rally in north Kordofan: “We shall never hand Darfur over to international forces which will never enjoy being in the region that will become their graveyard'. And he cited Iraq, where despite the presence of international forces there is “destruction, damage and sedition between the Sunnis and Shiites instigated by Western intelligence, in addition to torture and killing of inmates in Abu Ghirab and other prisons”.

It is a preposterous statement, but all over Sudan the audiences swallow such tirades. The opposition, including both the parties led by such different ideologues as Turabi and El Mahdi, has declared to be in favor of a UN peace keeping force in Darfur. But the NCP assumes that they s only say so because they are against the Government. Minnie Minawi has said to welcome the UN. However, since he has signed the DPA he does not carry much weight anymore in the eyes of the hard core NCP. Vice President Kiir and other SPLM politicians have publicly taken distance from the NCP: “Why is the UN welcome in Southern Sudan but not in Darfur. What makes Darfur so different from us in the South?” However, they know that in the eyes of the Northern politicians the South may be a protectorate which they may let go, Darfur is theirs. It is their un-alienable property; it is part of their history, part of the very existence of Sudan. That Darfurians think differently is for them another reason to reject a role for the UN: the international community might eventually take sides against the regime in Khartoum. The NCP politicians have not forgotten that only two years ago Western countries were considering 'regime change' in Sudan.

No wonder that in this situation President, instead of mellowing his stance, has taken a hard line. In doing so he does not risk his domestic political position. His regime is based on a number of groups with different interests, but united in their aspiration to cling to the power in the country. He has skillfully carried out several balancing acts to stay at the top. His strong stance against foreign intervention has reaffirmed his position. Since a couple of months the President himself has taken the lead in the debate. He was the first to link the situation in Lebanon with the one in Darfur: “If they (i.e. the UN) really want to protect the people of Darfur, what are they doing about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Palestine and the killing of women, children and innocents there?” This statement is no less preposterous as the one quoted above. After all, the killing of innocent citizens in Darfur was done by Sudanese themselves. The Sudanese Government bears a heavy responsibility for those atrocities. However, nobody can deny that the Israeli attacks in response to the provocation by Hezbollah, the fate of the women and children in South Lebanon, the destruction of the civilian infrastructure in Beirut and the US rejection of an immediate cease fire has reaffirmed the belief of many in the Arab and Muslim world that the Western countries see them as dispensable. In their view the UN is part of a Western conspiracy. They are wrong. However, they believe that they are right and they can point at many facts which reinforce their opinion. The fact that the UN kept its promise in Kassala and withdrew when the job was finished, does not carry much weight in comparison with its inability to halt attacks and to protect the people in Lebanon.

Soon the Security Council will have to take a decision about a UN peace keeping force in Darfur. Will the resolution containing that decision have a better fate than its resolutions concerning Lebanon and the Palestinians? Or is there a Plan B?