Thursday, October 15, 2009

De Waal "no sense" on Making Sense of Darfur

A discussion of debt relief for NCP regime provokes a response by Kevin Jon Heller, to which de Waal responds with this:

Is the international community “propping up” the Sudan government? I don’t think so. International players are relatively marginal in the overall Sudanese political scene. The Sudan government relies overwhelmingly on its internal base, which is a mixture of its financial/patronage power, and its security institutions, enormously assisted by the weakness and disarray of its adversaries. (And one reason, in my view, why the internal opposition is so weak is its tendency to look outside for its support.) The second point has nothing to do with blackmail. It’s not as though the Sudan government, or any other government, is a mega-version of an individual, controlled by a single will. As it happens, this government has never used this threat MK: turn to terrorism] and I don’t believe that it would do so. But what happens when the government is cut off from western and relatively transparent sources of funds? Inevitably, its institutions turn to different ways of obtaining funds. Another source, much more accessible and attractive at the moment, is Asia. (Recall that the late 1990s campaign to get Talisman Energy to withdraw from Sudan was successful, and Asian companies filled the gap.) As for “even more violent”: with the levels of violent fatalities in Darfur hovering around the 100/month mark, those of us who have seen wars rather more violent than this, are indeed worried that these are in prospect.
My comments would be that the response to Kevin makes no sense.  First de Waal says that the regime relies little on official transparent assistance, and then he says that if they are "cut off" from that assistance they may turn to Asia (is the implication that this will make them more terroristic?  Who cares if they "turn to Asia"?) and violence... huh?

More importantly, for someone to argument that human development in Sudan  (i.e. the well being of people in Darfur, Kordofan, and southern Sudan, outside of the Khartoum megalopilis) is dependent on unilateral creditor debt forgiveness, as the country continues to export several billion dollars a year of oil and spend (both sides) a big chunk of that on military-security apparatus and deny many basic freedoms and rights... well... I guess there is always room for wishful thinking.  Gee, maybe people in Nigeria will get ponies too.

Finally, irresistible snarky aside, classic De Waal..."those of us who have seen wars rather more violent than this, are indeed worried that these are in prospect"... IN YOUR FACE readers... how many wars have YOU seen?  Oh yeah, alright... Let's count... still waiting... NONE?  Come on readers... come on... have you seen maybe a little tiny lightly violent war?  No?  Heard gunfire?  SHUT UP then! 

I am curious in a serious way about why Gration and de Waal always seem to insist that it is the national government that needs cookies and carrot, and rarely argue with any vigor that more cookies and carrots for ordinary southern Sudanese and Darfuris are important.  Oh wait, I just remembered... if they did that, they'd have to be *angry* at Khartoum for expelling agencies doing precisely that in the IDP camps!!!!  But... not unless those IDP camp enablers were making poor people in Sudan worse off by making them lazy and dependent.  You see, debt relief doesn't do that, instead, it allows Coca Cola and Pepsico to invest in more bottling facilities in Khartoum, to sell more soft drinks, so that people will work harder to earn money to buy soft drinks.  And maybe by importing more "large equipment" from Caterpillar the Military industrial Corporation can make a bigger tank facility too.

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