Friday, June 18, 2004

Ominous Developments in Darfur

Jonathan Edelstein alerts us to disturbing developments underway in the crisis in Darfur.

The Darfur conflict has taken another disturbing turn with the recruitment of Chadian Arabs by the Sudanese Janjawid militias. In an additional threat to regional stability, some of these Chadian Arabs reportedly have ties to rebel movements in northern Chad ... This has the potential to disrupt an already-fragile cease-fire as well as further internationalizing the conflict and, in a worst-case scenario, turning it into a regional ethnic war. Allami expressed the fear that the conflict could "degenerat[e] into an inter-ethnic war between a coalition of Arabs and other ethnic groups in the region," which would bring in the Chadian army and rebel groups as full combatants. Chad has historically supported the Sudanese government in Darfur even while claiming a role as mediator, but is increasingly viewing Khartoum as an enemy; Chadian troops are mobilized along the border and politicians in Ndjamena are increasingly talking about supporting the Darfur rebels. The situation may be one clash away from turning into a Chadian-Sudanese war or even one involving Libya, and if that happens, then the humanitarian catastrophe that has occurred to date may only be the beginning.
If events are allowed to spiral out of control, things may end up being even worse than Jonathan fears they'll become; there's no guarantee that the other black states close to Chad, most of whom have their own Arab populations, will quietly sit by as Arab forces are seen to be ganging up on black Africans. Let us hope things don't come to such a pass, though a more resolute stance from the usual talking shops would be helpful in making sure that they don't.