Since its independence in 1956, the population of Sudan has known only war and poverty. But from 2003 on, the stench of blood and death has been hanging over Darfur as never before. This province of Sudan, almost as big as France, has only 200 kilometres of asphalt roads and virtually no infrastructure. But it does have oil! This whole region has been an immense killing ground, a theatre of atrocities: "the story of this man who fled the village of Kurma, 65 kilometres from El-Fasher, sums up everything about life in Darfur! In February 2004, the Janjaweed, these armed riders, descended on this village of farmers, burned the houses and raped the women" (Courier International, 24 June). The bourgeois press provides us with eye-witness accounts of massacres ad nauseam. No one with any human feeling could remain indifferent to such horrors. In four years, there have been 200,000 deaths and two million people have been displaced. More than 230,000 of them have fled to the other side of the border with Chad, living in camps devoid of any resources and subjected to daily violence from ruthless armed gangs.
And as usual, all the imperialist vultures are playing their part in this. The most repulsive thing about these ‘great democratic powers' is their endless humanitarian speeches, the indignant tone they use to cover up their barbaric policies. Humanitarianism is always the perfect alibi for war.
Darfur, battleground for imperialist rivalries
Even if the population is suffering on a local level, the Darfur conflict is not just a local or regional event. This is a drama being determined by imperialist interests on a planetary level.
For more than 50 years, Chad, Eritrea, Uganda, France, Israel and the US have all been hovering around the conflicts that have ravaged Sudan. This is a country which is close to the Arabian Peninsula; it's on the edge of the Red Sea and has a border with Egypt. Its position gives it a geo-strategic importance which has always attracted the interest of the imperialist powers. And today what has lit a new military conflagration is undoubtedly the arrival of a new power in the region, China. Taking advantage of the weakening of the US due to the fiasco in Iraq, China is pushing forward its pawns wherever it can. China cannot yet match the major powers and try to get a place in the Middle East. It thus has to get what it can from regions of secondary importance, notably in Africa. And here Sudan is a primordial strategic stake for the new imperialist giant. Sudan possesses the biggest unexploited resources of oil in the whole of Africa. The exploitation of black gold began there in 1960, but it wasn't until 1993 that production really got going. Today nearly 750,000 barrels a day are being produced. All the world's great powers need oil to make their economies function. But above all, today more than ever, oil is a strategic weapon.
For each one of the great powers, controlling the zones which supply oil means directly depriving your main rivals, undermining their imperialist, military potential. For France or the US, what can't be controlled must simply be destroyed. These are the hidden reasons behind the genocide in Darfur.
More precisely, China is today shamelessly protecting the Sudanese regime of Omar El-Bechir and the Janjaweed militia which were set up in 1989. This is why, since 1997 and the embargo decreed by the US against Sudan under the pretext of the struggle against terrorism, China has been opposing any measures aimed at Sudan. It is notorious that China is supplying weapons to the Khartoum regime. On 10 May last year Beijing was still promising to send 275 military engineers to Sudan. Meanwhile the USA is trying to undermine the Sudanese regime, which it can't control, by giving military support to all the armed movements which oppose the El-Bechir regime. As for France, it is already massively implanted in the vicinity of Sudan with 1200 troops in Chad and hundred of heavily armed men in the Central African Republic and Gabon. It is now trying to directly reinforce its role and presence in Darfur, while trying to prevent the chaos there from spreading to its surrounding zones of influence.
The hypocrisy of French and American imperialism
Humanitarian causes have always been the favourite choice by the imperialist powers for justifying their military interventions and covering up the massacres that follow.
To this end, the bourgeoisie has learned how to make the best use of all kinds of media ‘celebrities'.
Whether they are conscious of this or not, whether they are innocent dupes or cynical go-getters, actors, singers and others have been invading the TV screens to lament the fate of the most wretched populations and call for an international response. Let's recall the 1980s when American artists made a big show for Africa ("USA for Africa") and France reacted by doing the same thing for Ethiopia a few months later. Twenty years later we can measure the success of these campaigns against poverty - the continent is ravaged by it more than ever.
Today France and the US find themselves together for the moment, locked in a struggle with China in their efforts to get the ‘international community' to officially recognise that a genocide is going on in Darfur; such a recognition would pave the way for these scavengers to deploy their forces in the region and play their part in the general butchery.
In this battle, we've seen the likes of Julien Clerc, Samuel Bilian and Brad Pitt crying "Save Darfur". Even more directly, the actress Angelina Jolie, ambassador for the UN's High Commission on Refugees, when visiting Chad, was given the mandate of "alerting public opinion", quickly followed by George Clooney with his documentary Darfur Emergency. The Hollywood actor is very persuasive in this film: "make no mistake, this is the first genocide of the 21st century and if we allow it to continue, it won't be the last". Hence the necessity to send in the troops. In an even more official context, the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, a great specialist in humanitarianism, has made a tour of Mali and Chad, finishing up in Khartoum, in order to officially present what has been called the "French initiative". Under the cover of setting up humanitarian corridors in Darfur, he proposes to send, as part of an international force, a contingent of French troops, which will of course ensure a strong presence of French imperialism in this Sudanese province.
The last act to date in this revolting comedy was the international meeting in Paris on 25 June. Everyone there made a great show of their intention to provide the people of Darfur with all the necessary aid, but behind the diplomatic language lurked the real motive: defending their own imperialist interests tooth and nail. Thus, while Kouchner gave us the benefit of his usual humanitarian speeches after the conference, expressing great satisfaction with the results of the meeting, in reality it was clear that no common position and no peace agreement had come out of it. On the contrary, this summit only served to further exacerbate the tensions, with France in particular making clear its intention to get involved at the military level.
It is very obvious that no one is in a position to control Sudan today. The period of undisputed domination of the country by external powers is definitely over. In this region of Africa, as in the rest of the continent, there is an inexorable tendency towards instability and chaos. Ethiopia, Somalia, Zaire, the region of the Great Lakes, the list of massacres is becoming permanent and it is getting longer. For all the imperialist powers, including China, France and the US, the only durable policy in Africa is the policy of scorched earth - the policy of burning oil wells, of destruction and barbarism.