The ongoing crisis in Darfur, Sudan, has received much coverage in the media in recent weeks. Significantly it has been the focus of attention for many Western politicians, particularly George Bush and Tony Blair, a focus perhaps only second to Iraq when it comes to foreign affairs. The coverage presented has reported that the ruling 'Islamic' government has helped arm Arab militias, the Janjaweed, which the government has been using to attack the native 'African Black' populations in Darfur as it seeks to suppress these people. The US government has gone as far as calling the actions 'genocide' on the part of the Sudanese government.
Certainly it is true that fighting is taking place in Darfur. In fact many aid agencies estimate that hundreds of thousands may have been killed, with estimates varying from 50,000 up to half a million, with up to another 2.5 million people being displaced. Yet much of the media and more importantly, many Western politicians, have chosen to ignore many of the facts surrounding this conflict.
It is important to recognise that the Government, Janjaweed and the rebels in Darfur are Muslim. Unlike the civil war in Sudan which ended in 2003 which was fought by the primarily Muslim north against the predominantly Christian South, all parties in this conflict are Muslim. Thus the presentation of the conflict as one of 'Arabs' against 'Africans' is not accurate and at worst misleading. All of the people are black, indigenous and Muslim. Sudan is a country of more than 40 million people, 70% of whom are Muslim, made up of more than 80 different ethnic groups and tribes, speaking many different languages including Arabic. Of these nearly 8 million live in Darfur, an area roughly the size of France.
Studying Sudan's past history gives pointers to the basis of Darfur and the whole of Sudan's current problems. Sudan is a country that only achieved independence from British rule in 1956. Prior to that it was captured by a proxy Anglo-Egyptian force, with Egypt itself part of the British Empire. Darfur was captured in 1916, after which financial support from Khartoum for outer regions such as Darfur ebbed away creating wealth disparities. As in other similar conflicts, poverty is one of the issues fueling the current conflict today. After it's independence it struggled with internal conflict before in the 1970s it overcame this and adopted policies more independent from the West. In 1983 the civil war in Sudan restarted which finally came to an end in 2003, in which the Americans supported the rebels. No sooner had a peace agreement been agreed, the Darfur conflict had started. Sudan's short history of sovereignty has seen little peace.
The other point of fact which is not widely reported is that Darfur is rich with oil and gas, as is the rest of Southern Sudan. The oil from Darfur accounts for $4 billion of revenue for the Sudanese government, over half the government's income. Most importantly the current Sudanese regime has close ties with China, which has strong oil interests in Darfur. America has oil interests in neighboring Chad but has been shut out of Sudan.
It is remarkable that despite all apparent concerns for the people of Darfur, issues such as oil and rivalry between powers such as China and America are conveniently largely overlooked in the mainstream Western media. Indeed towards the South in neighbouring Uganda there is also internal strife, lead by the Lord's Resistance Army, where similar ethnic killings are taking place, with rebels operating from Southern Sudan, yet very few people would even be aware of this. As with other developing countries, countries such as Sudan are vulnerable to external forces that, in pursuit of their interests, covertly exploit local problems and help foster opposition to the central government. Little wonder then that the Darfur rebels seem surprisingly well armed and funded. If America chose to launch an illegal war and invasion of oil rich Iraq, how can one reasonably expect America not to be motivated by the same in Darfur again?
The assertion that Sudan's government is 'Islamic' is equally not true. Superficial bits and pieces from Islamic law do not constitute an Islamic state or a Caliphate; an Islamic state can only be comprehensive in all aspects including legislative and ruling systems, not piecemeal. Moreover the spilling of innocent Muslim blood such as that in Darfur, in which the government has clearly played a role, is not allowed and is a severe crime under the Shariah. Sudan's government is like most others in the Muslim world, oppressive towards it's own people having illegitimately seized power. In this case it was by a military coup prolonged by the facade of rigged elections, whilst being courted by outside powers such as China, who having their own interests at heart provide diplomatic and military support. How many other such Muslim regimes in the world do we not see in similar situations today?
The UN resolution passed, supported by Britain and America, calling for the deployment of up to 20,000 UN peacekeepers to replace the current 7000 African Union force only seeks to create an avenue for foreign powers in Sudan as a first step towards loosening control over Darfur by the Sudanese government.
By looking further back at Sudan's history again, one can see the inspiration for a real solution to the problems at hand. Islam was introduced into North Africa hundreds of years ago, with Islam entering much of the Darfur region as well as other parts of Sudan in the 14th century . Most of the Muslim rulers modelled their ruling on a Sultanate system of governance, although not directly under the control of the Caliphate. This brought together people of irrespective of ethnicity and prosperity ensued. Today the way forward must be the reestablishment of an Islamic political system, the Caliphate that will look after the affairs of all the Muslims in Darfur and help heal the ethnic divisions. Any outside enforced solutions can only serve predatory interests at the expense of the Muslims in Darfur.