Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir
and his ruling clique have murdered hundreds of thousands of indigenous
black African residents in Darfur and other parts of Sudan. They
have caused millions more to suffer needless famine, disease and broken
families as a result of forced displacements. Al-Bashir’s supporters
within the Arab League, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas deny the gravity
of the crimes being committed by Sudan’s Arab Muslim rulers and militia
against these defenseless Muslims of another race. Instead, they
do everything they can to deflect the United Nations’ attention toward
their customary bogeymen - Western racism, neo-colonialism and Zionism.
Some African regimes have turned a deaf ear to the cries of Sudan’s
suffering black population and have bought into this anti-Western line.
China, Sudan’s leading financial partner, has watched out for its
own interests in the UN Security Council by protecting the Sudanese
regime from any harsh economic measures.
The result is the near paralysis
of the United Nations in dealing with the Sudanese problem. Security
Council sanctions have been too weak to have any positive effect.
The UN Human Rights Council has played down the Sudanese government’s
mass murder of its own civilians, while continuing to single out Israel
for defending its civilians against terrorist attacks. A joint
African Union-UN peacekeeping mission, UNAMID, which took over from
an African-only peace force last year, is at slightly more than half
strength and has done little to stem the violence.
The only thing that the UN
has been able to do effectively in Sudan is to organize a network for
getting food, water and medical supplies to the people who desperately
need them. Now even those programs are in serious jeopardy.
The latest outrage from the
Sudanese government, which is stymieing the United Nations’ humanitarian
programs in the country, erupted in the aftermath of the International
Criminal Court (ICC) announcement, on March 4, 2009, that it had finally
decided to issue a warrant for al-Bashir’s arrest. He was indicted
on five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, forcible
transfer, torture and rape) and two counts of war crimes (intentionally
directing attacks against civilian population and pillaging).
Al-Bashir’s brazen response
to the ICC’s decision compounded the very crimes of which he has already
been accused. He immediately ordered the expulsion of 13
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) relied upon by UN humanitarian
agencies to deliver vital humanitarian aid to al-Bashir’s innocent
victims. And his usual apologists lined up to support him.
Senior leaders of Iran, Hamas
and Hezbollah even rushed to Sudan’s capital to stand in solidarity
with al-Bashir. They lashed out at the ICC decision, calling
it another Western attempt to undermine the sovereignty of a Muslim
state. Back in Teheran, the hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami
used his Friday prayers to absolve the Sudanese government of doing
anything wrong and to praise it for standing up against the transgressions
of Western colonialists. For good measure, he added that the ICC
should judge the heads of the Zionist regime and “execute them because
they are seditious on the land and are fighting against God and the
These death cultists do not
care that at least 300,000 civilians have died in Darfur alone from
the combined effects of war, famine and disease since 2004, according
to the UN’s most recent tally. They do not care that this death
toll will go much higher if al-Bashir’s arbitrary expulsion order
is not immediately reversed. The non-governmental organizations
being expelled, such as CARE, the International Rescue Committee, Doctors
Without Borders and Save the Children, have the most reliable infrastructure
for distributing the food, medicines and water that have been gathered
by UN humanitarian agencies to all parts of the country where they are
needed. “It was as if their arms and legs were cut off to the
extent that they cannot reach the people,” said the UN Secretary General’s
With the loss of these non-governmental
organizations, 1.1 million people will go without food aid, 1.5 million
will be deprived of any health care and more than 1 million will have
no access to water – some within a matter of a few days.
A closed consultative session
of the UN Security Council was called on March 6th to hear
a detailed report of this humanitarian crisis by UN Deputy Emergency
Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg. According to Ms. Bragg, 40
per cent of the aid workers in Darfur - roughly 6,500 personnel - would
be departing in the wake of al-Bahshir’s decision. Some of the
NGOs had to turn over a list of their assets and banking details, while
others had their computers, communications equipment and vehicles confiscated.
There have also been reports of arrests and harassment of aid workers.
In a press briefing attended
by FrontPage Magazine at UN headquarters in New York, Sudan’s United
Nations ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad dismissed the Security
Council meeting and concerns about the looming humanitarian catastrophe
in his country as a mere “storm in a tea cup”. He blamed
the whole thing on the NGOs’ “fabrications that were polluting the
atmosphere” against the Sudanese government, although he presented
no proof of these absurd allegations to either the Security Council
or to the assembled press which repeatedly requested hard evidence of
his accusations against the NGOs.
As it turned out, the Sudanese
ambassador had little to worry about as far as the Security Council
was concerned. The French and British UN ambassadors informed
the press, during a break in the meeting, that the Council members could
not all agree on a written statement condemning al-Bashir’s expulsion
order. China and Libya (which occupies the presidency of the Council
this month) were the leading obstructionists. The result was another
stalemate at the United Nations.
In addition to his own public
statements requesting a reversal of the expulsion order that have been
ignored to date, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reportedly asked the
Arab League to intercede with the Sudanese government to this same end.
That is likely to get nowhere either, since the Arab League supports
al-Bashir and has sharply criticized the International Criminal Court’s
decision. They are sending a high level delegation to New York
to pressure the UN Security Council into suspending the ICC decision
for at least one year, which China and Libya had already insisted on
as a condition for supporting any sort of written statement by the Security
Council condemning al-Bashir’s expulsion order.
While diplomats dither and
Arab and Iranian leaders make apologies for Arab racism against fellow
Muslims who happen to be black, the United Nations Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs, ably led by John Holmes, is at least doing
what it can to fill the aid gap. It is working with other United
Nations agencies, such as the World Food Programme and the Office of
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to try and replace
the expelled humanitarian workers with more UN staff. Hopefully,
some lives will be saved as a result.
Humanitarian relief efforts
like this show the United Nations at its best. The stalemate at
the Security Council and the continuing farce of the Human Rights Council
show the United Nations at its worst.