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Renewed Violence in Darfur: An Unstable Sudan

In Middle East & North Africa, Current Events, Solidarity, Democracy, Conflict Resolution, The Search for Peace, Africa, United Nations, International Justice, World Law, Humanitarian Law, NGOs, Track II on May 16, 2022 at 7:00 AM

By René Wadlow

April 24, 2022 saw renewed violence in the Darfur Province of Sudan between Arab militias and the indigenous tribes of the area, the Masalit and the Fur. The violence began in 2003 and has caused some 300,000 deaths and some three million displaced. While most of the fighting was when General Omar al-Bashir was President, his overthrow by new military leadership has not fundamentally improved the situation.

Darfur is the western edge of Sudan. Its longest foreign frontier is with Chad, but communication with Libya is easy for camel herders and gunrunners. To the south lies the Central African Republic – a state with a very unstable government, which feels the fallout from the Darfur conflict. Darfur served as a buffer area between the French colony of Chad and the English-held Sudan until 1916 when French-English rivalry was overshadowed by the common enemy, Germany, in World War I. Darfur, which had been loosely part of the Ottoman Empire, was integrated into Sudan with no consultation either with the people of Darfur or with those in Sudan.

(C) Albert González Farran – UNAMID

Thus, Darfur was always the neglected child in Sudan – a child no one had asked to be there. Only after 1945 were some development projects undertaken, but basically Darfur remained an area of pastoralists – some tribes specializing in camels and others in cattle – and settled agriculturalists. Camel and cattle-raising tribes from Chad would move into Darfur and vice-versa. There were frontiers between tribes, but they did not correspond to state boundaries.

In May 2000, intellectuals and government civil servants from Darfur, calling themselves the Seekers of Truth and Justice, wrote The Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan. The study ended with specific recommendations for governmental and social action. While the book was widely read, it produced no new initiatives in sharing power or wealth. Some leaders in Darfur had the impression that the government was withdrawing services, especially in health and education. Schools were closed, and the number of children in school decreased.

After the failure of the intellectual efforts of The Black Book, the conviction that only violence was taken seriously started to grow among Darfur leaders. They started thinking about a strategy of a sharp and swift show of violent strength that would force the government to negotiate with Darfur. The insurgency in Darfur began in the Spring of 2003. As Julie Flint and Alex de Waal point out in their useful history of the start of the Darfur war “Darfur’s rebels are an awkward coalition of Fur and Masalet villagers, Zaghawa Bedouins out of patience with Khartoum, a handful of professionals who dared to take on leadership. Few of Darfur’s guerrillas had military experience or discipline before they took up arms. The two main rebel groups are united by deep resentment at the marginalization of Darfur, but are not natural bedfellows and could easily be split apart… In the first months of 2003, these half-formed and inexperienced rebel fronts were catapulted out of obscurity to face challenges for which they were totally unprepared.” (1)

(C) Stuart Price/UN Photo

The government in Khartoum was also unprepared for the Darfur insurgency. The government’s attention, as well as the bulk of the army, was turned toward the civil war in the south of Sudan. The government turned the fight against the Darfur movements to its security agencies – a narrow group of men uninterested in internal politics or external relations. They decided to use the air force to bomb villages and to use foreign troops to do the fighting on the ground. The foreign troops came from Libya. Colonel Gaddafi had created in the early 1980s an “Islamic Legion” and recruited militiamen from Mauritania, Chad, Mali in his efforts to create a union of Libya and Chad – or to annex part of northern Chad. When Gaddafi’s Chadian interests faded at the end of the 1980s, the Islamic Legion soldiers were left to look after themselves and so were ready to work for new paymasters.

The Sudanese security people brought the Islamic Legion soldiers to Darfur, gave them weapons but no pay. They were to pay themselves by taking what they could from the villages they attacked. In addition, prisoners from Darfur’s jails were released on condition of joining the militias. Rape of women and young girls was widely practiced both as a means of terror and as a “reward” for the fighters since they were not paid. These militias became known as the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”).

Although the Darfur conflict has largely faded from the media headlines, it continues producing many refugees, internally displaced persons, unused farmland, and political unrest. The conflicts in Darfur have destroyed many of the older patterns of dispute settlement among groups as well as much of the economic infrastructure. The social texture and trust among groups is likely to be more difficult to rebuild than homes, livestock, and water wells.

The joint African Union – United Nations peacekeeping force has not been able to produce peace. Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep, and while there have been lulls in fighting, there has been no peace to keep. Banditry, criminal activities, and periodic military action continues. It is impossible to know if the current outbreak of armed violence has local causes or if it is a reflection of instability at the central government level. The situation in Darfur remains critical and needs to be watched closely.

Note:

1) Julie Flint and Alex de Wall, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (London, Zed Books, 2005)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Kenneth Waltz: The Passing of the Second Generation of the Realists

In Conflict Resolution, The former Soviet Union, United States on May 16, 2022 at 7:00 AM

By René Wadlow

The death of Professor Kenneth Waltz on May 12, 2013 in New York City at the age of 88 marks the start of the passing of the second generation of the realist school in the study of international relations. The first generation was a trio marked by the politics of Europe between the two world wars: E. H. Carr (1), Frederick L. Schuman (2) and Hans Morgenthau (3). The second generation, also a trio, is marked by the start of the Cold War and a bi-polar balance-of-power: Kenneth Waltz (4), Henry Kissinger (5), and Stanley Hoffmann (6).

Waltz was often referred to as a “neorealist” to distinguish him from the writers of the first generation, especially from Hans Morgenthau, but the difference was more a question of age and formative experience than a real difference of approach, although Waltz was critical of Morgenthau’s ‘Germanic’ emphasis on ‘the will to power’ which motivates everyone but especially those in control of state policy.

Kenneth Waltz

Waltz called himself a “structural realist” — a better term for his emphasis on the behavior of states as determined by the structures of the world society rather than by domestic motivations or the personality of state leaders. Waltz attacks “reductionist theories” which explain the foreign policy behavior of states exclusively in terms of causes at the national level of analysis, for example, Lenin’s theory of imperialism because it explains expansionist behavior in terms of the accumulation dynamics of national capitalism.

Because structures change slowly and impose limits to choice, international relations are characterized by continuity. As he notes in the introduction to his Man, The State, and War, “Social scientists, realizing from their studies how firmly the present is tied to the past and how intimately the parts of a system depend upon each other, are inclined to be conservative in estimating the possibilities of achieving a radically better world.” By ‘social scientists’ he was referring particularly to himself. He was critical of those who were arguing that international relations were undergoing a radical transformation because of the growing interdependence of the international economy or the fear of a nuclear war. He maintained that states operate under severe constraints created by the position of a small number of “Great Powers” and thus a balance-of-power system.

Unlike his second-generation colleagues, Henry Kissinger who became an active political actor and Stanley Hoffmann who wrote extensively on current political events, Waltz was nearly exclusively concerned with working on the theoretical implications of the distribution of power and of the resulting balance-of-power. Waltz was critical of those who saw Soviet policy as motivated by Communist ideology or by the personality of its leaders. Waltz stressed that the requirements of state action are imposed by the circumstances in which all states exist. “A theory of international politics can leave aside variations in the composition of states and in the resources and technology they command because the logic of anarchy does not vary with its content.”

Nevertheless, Waltz held that world institutions and institutionalized methods of altering and adjusting interests are important. He placed an emphasis on the skills of diplomats, their ability to analyse situations and to propose adjustments.

For those like myself whose emphasis is on the emerging world society and a world citizen ideology, Waltz’s approach is a constant reminder of the importance of structures which determine processes, world politics as a “self-sustaining system.” I think that we are moving beyond the realpolitik so often linked to a balance-of-power approach. I believe that he underestimated the role of ideas and ideology in world politics and thus largely failed to see the importance of the growth of a cosmopolitan spirit as expressed by world citizens. Nevertheless, Waltz was an important voice during the Cold War years in which U. S. policy makers too often became the ideological mirrors of the Soviets, stressing the need to expand ‘democracy’ and ‘the free world’ as opposed to the Soviets’ ‘socialism’.

Notes

1) E. H. Carr’s most influential work is The Twenty Years’ Crisis (1939). For a good biography of Carr, his approach and also his later work on the history of the Soviet Union, see Charles Jones, E. H. Carr and International Relations (1998).

2) Frederick L. Schuman, International Politics, first published in 1933, with many later editions, constantly revised to take in current events, especially the start of World War II. For his analysis of the world citizen/world federalist movement see his The Commonwealth of Man.

3) Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, first published in 1948 also was revised to highlight events but the basic analysis remained the same. For a good biography with an emphasis on his early years in Germany and Switzerland before World War II, see Christoph Frei, Hans J. Morgenthau: An Intellectual Biography (2001).

4) Kenneth Waltz’s two major theoretical works, written 20 years apart are Man, The State and War (1959) and Theory of International Politics (1979).

5) Henry Kissinger’s theoretical writings are overshadowed by his political activities which he sets out in White House Years (1979) and Years of Upheaval (1982). For a combination of theory and analysis of then current world events, it would be worth reading the editorials in the 1950s that he wrote in Confluence published by Harvard University. It was as editor of Confluence that we exchanged correspondence. I have always thought that he was a first-rate editor.

6) Stanley Hoffmann’s most theoretical work is The State of War (1965). For his combination of theory and analysis of current policies see Gulliver’s Trouble or The Setting of American Foreign Policy (1968) and Dead Ends: American Foreign Policy in the New Cold War (1983).

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Dangers and Conflict Resolution Efforts in Moldova

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE on May 3, 2022 at 8:45 PM

By René Wadlow

Recent statements by Russian military authorities such as General Roustan Minnekaiev involved in the Ukraine conflict have drawn attention to what was often considered as a “frozen conflict” in Moldova. The situation of the Transnistrian region in Moldova has been considered as a frozen conflict due to its unresolved but static condition since the violent confrontation in June 1992.

Transnistria is de facto independent with many state-like attributes and calls itself officially the Moldovan Republic of Dniestr. However, no other state, including the Russian Federation, has recognized it as an independent state. There are, however, some 1,500 Russian military permanently present in Transnistria. Transnistria had some 706,000 inhabitants in 1991 at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Today, there are some 450,000 – probably less. Many, especially young people, have left to study or work abroad. Many in Transnistria have Russian passports in order to travel. The Transnistrian economy is in the hands of a small number of persons closely linked to the government.

There have been a number of negotiations between representatives of the government of Moldova and those of the government of Transnistria, but which have led to no agreement as to a possible reintegration of Transnistria. Official negotiations have been complemented by Track II efforts, informal discussions in which members of civil society also participated. The newly elected, in November 2020, President of Moldova, Ms. Maia Sandu, has been actively speaking of the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova. Her position has been strongly supported by the government of Ukraine which sees the parallel with their situation concerning the two People’s Republics – the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk.

Presidents Maia Sandu (left) and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (right)

There is a danger that the frozen conflict of Moldova begins to melt. Russian military authorities involved in the Ukraine conflict have spoken of a possible creation of a land route between Crimea and Transnistria. In addition, there have been recently a number of rocket attacks, possibly by Ukrainian forces, on to Transnistria damaging radio-TV towers used by Russian broadcasting. While it is unlikely that the fighting in Ukraine spreads to Transnistria and Moldova, the situation must be closely watched and preventive discussions put into place.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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