Friday, August 28, 2009

Ending War and Political Agendas in Sudan

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

The war in Darfur is now, essentially over.

The person making this assessment is no less an authority on the subject than General Martin Agwai, who commands a multinational peacekeeping force in Sudan composed of United Nations and African Union military personnel.

General Agwai, who is leaving his command position in a few days, did not, of course, say that all the violence in Darfur has ended.

The territory remains under the threat of bandit attacks and attacks by so-called 'rebel' groups against civilians and other targets of convenience.

There is still hunger and suffering in Darfur, and throughout much of the continent of Africa.

There remain enormous political divides that must be bridged, and deep wounds to heal.

But the war, as we define war, has ended.

Much of the attention directed to Darfur, at least in the United States, has come from anti-Khartoum political elements and Darfur 'activists' who have collected millions of dollars for the humanitarian cause of helping the Darfurese – the majority of which has never reached the people who are suffering – despite the moralization and pontification of many within the 'Save Darfur' movement.

Make no mistake – there have been violent atrocities committed in this horrible tragedy, and some of the blame for the situation does indeed rest with the actions of the government of Sudan - but the issue of Darfur has never been one of 'Arabs'' on a murderous rampage against 'Africans', or one of unilateral malfeasance on the part of a single belligerent party.

The 'Africans' and the 'Arabs' in the region are hardly distinguishable in phenotype, language, and culture.

Much of the framing and analysis of the Darfur issue is developed, packaged, and sold to the U.S. Congress and the American corporate media by individuals and groups with both anti-Sudan and anti-Muslim agendas. Some of these groups have been transparently evangelical pro-Christian with a history of involvement in the Sudanese civil war (while promoting the bogus 'buy a slave and set him free travesty'.

Others are backers of the foreign policy of one particular nation-state, not even in the region, that actually supplied weapons and material support to anti-government rebels in the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (in South Sudan) and, very likely, the two main Darfur rebel groups as well.

Still other geo-political interests seek to isolate and possibly balkanize Sudan as a precondition for gaining U.S. corporate access to that most precious of global commodities; oil (and at the same time, cutting of the supply of this petroleum to a major U.S. economic rival, China).

None of these factors make the Krartoum government blamless in this mess. But all of these factors must be taken into account in understanding how the issue of Darfur is both perceived, and distorted.

What remains for those of us in this country to do, I believe, is to support both ongoing reconciliation and peacekeeping work in Sudan, and the sending of material aid that actually reaches the people most in need in the region.

The belligerent parties in Darfur must be part of these efforts, as well as the government currently in power in Khartoum.

When I visited Sudan in 1995 as part of an interfaith MAS Freedom delegation led by Imam Mahdi Bray, I was convinced that, tragic though the situation was (and is), the real solution could only lie in actions taken by the people of Sudan themselves, with the honest collaboration and assistance of the pan-Islamic world.

We called for then, and now, an end to the multilateral violence and war that has creates massive dislocation and suffering in Darfur.

But I am equally clear that the economic and political agendas of outside actors must not become factored into the solution that the people of Darfur, and all of Sudan, must work out for themselves.

I am truly happy with General Agwai's assessment about the end of the war. And now, I am hopeful that this situation will evolve into both peace and justice for the region, orchestrated by the people of Sudan themselves with the support of the international humanitarian community.

This, in the final analysis, is the only way that lasting and legitimate peace can be built and sustained.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward M. Kennedy: A Few Reflections on a Splendid Life

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

As I join the untold millions of people here in the United States and around the world in mourning the passing today of Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, I pause to reflect on his life and the significance of his great contributions to human rights and justice in our world.

Born into a life of privilege and blessed with the mantle of an enormously powerful family name, Edward Kennedy followed in the footsteps of his assassinated elder brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. His tireless advocacy of "liberal" political positions put him at odds with his conservative counterparts in the U.S. Senate, and contributed to his anathema within the right wing and reactionary political elements in the society.

But with grace, wit, and tireless political energy, Ted Kennedy fought the good fight for civil rights, workers' justice and peace. At the end of his life, he took on one last battle: the gargantuan struggle for health care reform.

Among Senator Kennedy's most memorable advocacy campaigns was his enthusiastic endorsement of the candidacy of Senator Barack H. Obama in the midst of a ferocious Democratic Party campaign fight in 2008. It would be no exaggeration to say that his support was crucial for then Senator Obama, being the key political act that opened the door to the election of the nation's first African-American president.

There will be those in the body politic who will focus on the memory of not-so-tidy aspects of Ted Kennedy's personal life, especially the incident at Chappaquiddick which resulted in the death of a young woman in his company; however, his ferocious and uncompromising stand for democracy and inclusion – even where it concerned counting the Muslim community as a part of the tapestry of the American political and cultural mosaic – was undeniable.

A true giant in the political life of America has passed away. He was a man who struggled for principles that, in the final analysis, uplifted millions of oppressed and marginalized people in this society.

For this, and for many other things, I add my small voice to the choir of millions in saying, simply, "Thank-you Senator Kennedy. You will be greatly missed."