On January 1st, 1959 Sudan finally became its own independent country, and it looked as if it’s history of conflict would soon come to an end. But this was not to be, throughout most of Sudan’s independent status as a country it has been in constant turmoil. For the first thirteen years, 1959-1969, an elected government ran Sudan, but in that year, 1969, the elected government would be toppled by a military coup. Ever since this incident, Sudan has been in a civil war almost indefinitely.
This rule would last for about 20 when a leader in that government rose up against them. In 1989 Lieutenant-General Omar al-Bashir took power through another coup. Shortly afterwards al-Bashir would make a decision that many people look back on and wonder why he did, this decision was al-Bashir’s shocking alliance with a man named Hassam al-Turabi. This occurred in the early 1990’s and many people knew of the close ties that al-Turabi had with Islamic Terrorist groups. He was also the Muslim cleric that was the head of the ruling party in the country, the National Congress Party (Sodaro 2008, 154). Subsequently in 1991, Osama bin Laden, was granted residence in Sudan under the protection of the National Congress Party and more specifically al-Turabi himself. Bin Laden was known for having ties with terrorist groups but was still allowed to stay in the country until 1996. During this time period a rivalry that intensified every year bin Laden stayed formed between al-Bashir and al-Turabi. This would ultimately lead to al-Bashir taking powers away from al-Turabi that had been granted to him in the years past. War was narrowly adverted shortly after this happened when al-Bashir had al-Turabi arrested, for trying to start an uprising against the government. Al-Bashir tried to show the United States that he was changing when in 2001 the attacks on the World Trade Centers occurred. After the 9/11 attacks and George Bush’s ensuing War on Terrorism, al-Bashir pledged that he would help the U.S by aiding them in the war.Order now
Although thankful for the help from al-Bashir, the United States was still concerned with what was going on inside the borders of Sudan. For many years the elitist Muslim dominated government of Sudan had been treating the blacks in the south unfairly. These events holding the blacks back had lasted much longer than just under the al-Bashir rule. A civil war that lasted from the years of 1956 to 1972, or the Anyanya War, had led to the South’s first autonomic government. This however did not end the conflict between the two groups in Sudan. Just twelve years later with the passing of the Islamic Law in the south, a new war was sparked. This war has been credited with over 2 Million deaths and the displacement of up to 4 Million People (Sodaro 2008, 154). In 2005 another deal was struck which gave the South another autonomous government and removed the imposing Islamic Law from the south.
In 2003 though another conflict had begun. In this year a few rebel groups, the JEM (Justice and Equality Movement) and the SLA ( The Sudan Liberation Army), took up arms against the Sudanese government. These groups were demanding better representation and infrastructure for the western region of Sudan, which many people know as Darfur (Noueihed 2009). This conflict, which still goes on today, is thought to have been the cause for the death of as many as “450,000 lives and the displacement of nearly 2 Million people” (Sodaro 2008, 153). In 2009 though this brought about the ICC charging al-Bashir with war crimes. The ICC’s decision did not come without controversy though. Since 2004 many people have been calling for genocide charges including the United States. Almost every possible charge except for genocide has been called against the president of Sudan, al-Bashir. These charges include intentionally directing attacks on the civilian population in Darfur, Sudan, murdering, exterminating, raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians, and pillaging their property (Associated Press 2009).
Recently in the capitol city of Qatar, Doha, peace talks have been going on between the Sudanese government and the JEM(The Justice and Equality Movement). The JEM is one of Darfur’s major rebel groups and hopefully these talks could help bring a lasting peace to the area. Qatar believes that this is a big step and that Chad and Libya would be a huge part in starting a peace that could last longer than anything in this countries history. The JEM has decided that the first part of the peace agreement should be a prisoner swap. They also stated that they would release Sudanese government prisoners as a sign of good faith. The peace talks also include an agreement to aid and protect refugees in Darfur. Negotiations in Doha must be continued, it is stated, in order for all of these promises to be upheld. Other rebel groups think that these promises mean nothing because the JEM is the only rebel signatory on the peace agreement. They believe that the only reason the JEM is signing this peace agreement is so that the leader of the JEM’s half brother would be released from custody of the Sudanese government. The SLA and the United Resistance Front have stated that at this time they are not open to negotiations.
I believe that in order to have a lasting peace the Sudanese government will have to do something to prove that they really want the peace. I do not think that they would have to do something outrageous like ousting the leader of the government from within. This has been done before and I believe that it does not mean that true change is coming. If al-Bashir decided to do something drastic to prove that he really wants peace one way of showing this would be to cut the ties with the Janjaweed. If this relationship was cut I believe that the Sudanese government would have a good chance to start peace negotiations with the JEM, SLA, and the United Resistance Front. This would happen because these rebel groups have a personal interest invested against the Janjaweed a group that has ravaged their area for years.
As far as the question of whether this is international relations or comparative politics is I believe an argument can be made for both sides.
There are many ongoing topics that could be considered international relations going on in this conflict. Hilary Andersson published an article in 2008 about how China was helping the Sudanese government out in the war in Darfur. This article brings about international relations topics that cannot be ignored. She states in her article that the BBC and Panorama T.V have found evidence that China is ignoring an U.N Arms Embargo put in place in 2005 and this is a serious World matter. Countries will have to decide how they will respond to these accusations. One of the questions is how are China and Sudan economically connected and is China trying to force its government on Sudan, a comparative politics question, by helping them out in Darfur. Publically China has denied all accusations about Sudan and insists it abides by all U.N Arms Embargoes around the world including the one in Sudan. Clare de Silva, an international lawyer, believes otherwise. He states, in Anderson’s article, that “China’s point that it has taken measures in line with arms embargo’s requirements to stop it’s weapons from going to (Sudan’s Military) Darfur is meaningless (Andersson 2009). He also states “The BBC’s evidence does in fact put China in violation of the arms embargo (Andersson 2009). In April of last year the world received shocking information that China would not stop but strengthen its cooperation with Sudan. This could bring serious repercussions to the international community that is trying to broker peace not only in Sudan, but in all of Africa.
In conclusion it comes down to where do the lines between comparative politics and international relations end. On one had comparative politics academics would like to study the situation and find out governmental reasons why those events are occurring in Sudan and more importantly Darfur. On the other hand you have governments around the world concerned with how this international relations problem will adversely affect the world and how they should deal with China.
Andersson, Hillary. 2009. China “is fueling war in Darfur”. BBC News.
Associated Press. 2009. Sudan leader faces war-crime charges. MSNBC.com.
Noueihed Lin. 2009. Sudan, Darfur rebels agree to hold peace talks. Reuters.
Sodaro, Michael J. 2008. Comparative Politics: A Global Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.