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The owl has landed in Darfur

By Abdalmohmood Abdalhaleem Mohammad

In mythology and culture, the owl is mostly regarded with awe and fear. In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the death of the emperor was predicted when "the bird of night did sit even at noonday, upon the market place, hooting and shrieking". For Robert Blair and William Wordsworth, it is the "bird of doom," the harbinger of pessimism and darkness. And when the CNN's Christiane Amanpour crossed the Chadian borders to Darfur a few weeks ago, it became apparent to the Sudanese people that the owl has landed in their backyard, and that they should be ready for yet another dramatization of which they are familiar with.

Since then the western media has been unleashing fierce campaigns on Sudan. The reason for such attention is not the remarkable achievement of the signing of the historic Peace Accord last June, ending the longest Southern Sudan problem. Neither is it because of the spectacular ability of Sudan to emerge as oil producing and exporting country, with a record of 7-8 percent GDP throughout the span of 1990-2004. Motivation is also not the ability of the country to constructively interact and live in peace with itself and with others in the world community. Rather, the media fever hides behind the determination of some warmongers and political adventurers on both sides of the Atlantic who are not yet deterred by the Iraqi quagmire, and who adamantly repeat the bloodbath, scenarios elsewhere, guided by their ambitions of dominating Sudan's resources, subjugating its will and independent national decision, and the realisation of their older designs and legacies of partitioning the country. It is a trademark that they left behind in many parts of Asia and the African continent. By the time the historic Peace Accord on the Southern Sudan question was signed in Kenya, the owl was made to travel from Lake Naivasha resort on the Equator to the poor Savannah belt in the Darfur region.

The African continent which suffered from past ills and evils of these same forces, including slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and apartheid, has to cope, once again, with a new version of divide-and-rule, an old wine in new glasses, as the social fabric of Africa's biggest nation is targeted, this time, on baseless allegations of a "genocide," just like the same lies of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Traditional clashes between farmers and nomads in the Darfur region that can be found any where in the world against the backdrop of decades of drought in the region, have been blown out of proportion and portrayed by those forces as "ethnic cleansing." This fabrication about conflicts between "Arabs" and "Africans" in the Sudan, not only misconception of Africa itself. Western analysts not only perceive Africa from an abhorrent racial perspective but also tend to ignore the fact that all Sudanese people are Africans; that two thirds of what is termed as the "Arab world" is in Africa and that the Arabic language along with Swahili and Hawsa. The situation was also dramatized by some other "beneficiaries" in tandem with those forces, mainly some NGOs and UN agencies to whom the creation of new victims means new resources and five-star hotel travels. And in a record time the issue was taken to the Security Council, ignoring that such practices and actions hurriedly rushed to like sanctions, have harmed many innocent people around the world, whose suffering are terraced back to underdevelopment, problem of external indebtedness, scarcity of resources and the insensitive attitudes towards their right to development by some international forces. The reluctance by the major donors to provide resources and humanitarian assistance to the needy and their slow response to the appeal made by the secretary general of the United Nations (response to the appeal is only 37%) unveil the fact that it is not the welfare of the people of Darfur that is the prime mover.

The initiatives and efforts of the Sudan government vis-à-vis the problem are clear as manifested in the nationwide mobilization for Darfur's relief and security; a commitment to address all grievances through a comprehensive conference on Darfur's development and stability; the elimination o fall hurdles or restriction to ensure speedy delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needy as well as its current campaign to disarm all militias and rebellious groups. The agreement of July 3 entered into by the Sudan government and the UN containing all these points is an example of how seriously the government is committed to the speedy normalization of the situation in that region. Propagandists cannot have it both ways by criticizing the government for inaction and then attacking it for responding firmly to terrorism and lawlessness.

In 310 BC, Agathocles of Syracuse (South Italy) captured the city of Carthage. In contrast to many traditions, he released owls over his troops' helmets signifying victory in the battle. Let us look with optimism this time, that the solidarity by the international community with the people and the government of the Sudan by way of augmenting the capabilities of the latter to deal with the situation, as it is its responsibility first and foremost, will change the turn of events in the fascinating region of Darfur.

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