Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Escalation

Oh dear. It looks as though the armies of Chad and Sudan have fought directly for the first time, in a remote bit of Sudan's western province of Darfur. The two governments have been accusing each other for quite a while of backing rebel forces in the other's country, and it seems this inevitable escalation has finally happened. Some people already refer to what's going on as the Central African War, and that seems a more accurate description as each month goes by.

The main immediate hope that things might get better is embodied by the not-always-particularly-effective UN. They've been trying to get into Darfur for ages to try to deal with the enormous humanitarian disaster, but the Sudanese government won't let them, because it's they who've pretty much caused it all. The African Union does have some people on the ground, but not enough, although it does claim it's close to finally getting Sudan to let those UN troops (somewhat laughably billed as 'peacekeepers') in to join them.

China is Sudan's biggest economic supporter, and has frustrated efforts at the UN to sort things out more quickly. But the focus on Beijing's attitude only hides the fact the eventual solution here will be an African solution. The African Union is clearly not strong enough on its own yet to do much to bring it about, so it's up to South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and others to apply more of a squeeze on Sudan, before fighting between Chad and Sudan starts to happen every day.

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