Business as Usual

February 17, 2012

Just over a year ago the African continent saw the birth of its newest country, South Sudan. Like many other African countries, its road to independence was marked by terrible violence and bloodshed.

According to the US Department of State Country report for human rights practices, the 22-year civil war that engulfed Sudan claimed an estimated 3 million lives and impacted tens million more. Like many other African states,  it gained independence with staggeringly little beyond the determination of the people of Southern Sudan and in the ground the blessing and curse of oil reserves.

What was and remains different is that unlike the other waves of independence, Southern Sudan has its former ruler and military adversary right on its borders and sadly what had been hoped to be the end of a terrible conflict only went underground and is now threatening to erupt fully in.

Since February 2011 the reports of attacks, killings, and destruction to people’s livelihoods have been consistently worsening and alarming. Amnesty International’s Science and Technology initiative has been using  satellite technology to document abuses and attacks as part of an effort to bring to justice the Sudanese Head of State Omar  Al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes before the International Criminal Court.

If this were not bad enough, Khartoum continues to purchase weapons which are being used not only to continue to destabilize Darfur but also obviously to support its actions against South Sudan. The icing on the cake is the Sudanese government’s hiring of powerful lobbyists in Washington, DC, to start to chip away at its pariah status and no doubt seek to lift U.S. economic sanctions as quickly as possible.

This sadly is business as usual. There was little evidence to indicate that Khartoum, which was dragged to acceptance on the independence of the south, would deviate from its pattern of egregious human rights abuses and destabilization, especially when oil is involved. For the countries supplying arms and weapons, with without even some semblance of oversight and accountability as is envisaged under a global Arms Trade Treaty anticipated to be adopted by the UN in July, there is no incentive to disturb such lucrative business. For the people now “advising” the Sudanese government on its activities in Washington, representing a regime that has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, there is clearly no misunderstanding about what is the bottom line.

It is therefore up to us to make sure that business as usual does not continue as usual.