Sudan is genuine in its efforts for peace in Darfur

By Khalid al-Mubarak, media counsellor at the Sudan embassy, London. Response to Khartoum is no friend of this fresh resolve on Darfur (THE GUARDIAN, 07/08/07):

David Clark makes some very harsh and biased judgments on Sudan (Khartoum is no friend of this fresh resolve on Darfur, August 2). He describes the Sudanese government as “a recalcitrant, criminal enterprise that will only yield when it is given no other choice”. He does not like the new UN resolution, which Sudan has accepted without reservations, because it contains the words “determination to work with the government of Sudan, in full respect of its sovereignty”. He also calls for the imposition of a no-fly zone.

Far from being recalcitrant, the Sudanese government signed the comprehensive peace agreement with the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Authority in 2005, demonstrating real maturity in readiness to share power and wealth.

The status of English was restored in education, government and business. The diversity of Sudan’s cultures was recognised. There is now a road map leading to elections and a referendum. The former British ambassador to Sudan has praised press freedom. What is criminal or recalcitrant about that?

Moreover, the government has signed the Abuja agreement on Darfur. The rebel groups which refused the (UK- and US-brokered) peace continued to fight. In June Margaret Beckett, then foreign secretary, told the House of Commons: “It is fair to say that the Sudanese government does not take the sole blame for this appalling situation.” When he was appointed by President Bush as an envoy in February, Andrew Natsios told Georgetown University students that the situation in Darfur was “no longer a genocide situation”. He underlined the necessity of a political situation.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, writing in the Washington Post, said: “Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.”

As for the no-fly zone which David Clark called for, Julie Flint – an expert on Darfur who is no defender of Sudan’s government – says that NGOs oppose it because the roads are not safe for their humanitarian convoys. What is really surprising is Clark’s objection to the reference to Sudan’s sovereignty. What is criminal or recalcitrant about that? Sudan and its allies were right to insist on this and other amendments to the original draft resolution.

Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has stated on more than one occasion that only a political settlement will guarantee peace in Darfur. He has visited Darfur recently and addressed the masses who greeted him. He did not wear a bullet-proof vest. His National Unity cabinet accompanied him and held a meeting there. Many development projects were inaugurated.

The government has established three universities and hundreds of schools in Darfur. The three governors of Darfur’s states are from Darfur. So is the fourth-ranked man in the central government as well as several ministers.

A government, which works for peace, development and political reconciliation, deserves better adjectives than the ones unfairly chosen by Clark.