Articles and Analysies
Stop the Witch-hunt in Khartoum by Anne Bartlett
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May 14, 2008 - 7:13:44 PM

Stop the Witch-hunt in Khartoum



There is a certain irony to the fact that 200 dead in Khartoum can bring international condemnation, calls for rebel groups to be placed on the terrorist list and the rounding up of anyone suspected of having links to the uprising in Darfur. Ironic when one considers that 500,000 are likely to have died in Darfur, the Sudanese government has murdered in excess of 3 million of its own people and they have, for years, run ghost houses and other forms of torture. It also ignores the central role of Sudan as a terrorist state, generating Al-Qaeda, supporting and facilitating Osama bin Laden and other jihadists worldwide.


This is not a call to support the program of JEM, neither is it a call to support gratuitous violence, extrajudicial killings or anything else for that matter. But letís get a reality check here. Today the Sudanese regime is painting itself as a legitimate government under attack by militants. Legitimate to whom exactly? To the millions they have murdered, tortured and abused? To the women that they have used their proxies to rape and genitally mutilate? To the scores of families that have been thrown into fires, slaughtered and maimed? To the millions of democratic people whose country was taken away from them by force in 1989? I think not.


The international community must stop supporting the witch-hunt in Khartoum immediately. What is going on today in Omdurman and Khartoum has nothing to do with finding terrorists and almost everything to do with the Government of Sudan rounding up their opposition and silencing dissent. Al-Turabi as the architect of fundamentalism in Sudan has nothing to shout about since he brought the current junta to power. Neither do his followers, who have thought little about the plight of those who have been marginalized over the years, while enjoying the fruits of power themselves. But giving the green light to Al-Bashir and the security apparatus to round up anyone they donít like the look of is a disaster. This will only serve to strengthen Al-Bashirís fundamentalist grip on Sudan: it is a choice opportunity for the Government of Sudan to arrest and torture many innocent people with absolute impunity.


Today the BBC reports that hundreds of Darfuris are being rounded up and will be given a fair military trial. They report that thousands of Khartoumites are demonstrating on the street, accusing France, Israel and others of involvement in the attack. This is nothing more than an attempt by the government of Sudan to demonstrate their legitimacy in front of the international community and the Arab world by accusing tried and tested stereotypes of complicity. Rounding up a few thousand supporters and paying them to wave flags is hardly legitimate protest. The AU and Western governments must not involve themselves in this political grandstanding, since it will have extremely deleterious consequences.


What is deeply disturbing about this whole episode is that it gives a chance for the Darfur crisis to be recast yet again. The international community can stand by, criticize the Darfur movements and take one step back when the intelligence and security apparatus perpetrate yet more abuse on those who have already suffered enough. This government apparatus now has the ultimate justification for torture and abuse Ė they have been sanctioned by a lame and apathetic international community. When is the world going to learn about the Government of Sudan and its tactics of denial? When, one might ask, will lives in Darfur be worth the same as those in the center of Sudan?



Anne Bartlett is a Professor of Sociology at the University of San Francisco. She is also a director of the Darfur Centre for Human Rights and Development in London. She may be reached at [email protected]  

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