Friday, December 31, 2004

For over twenty years southern Sudan has been at war with the government in Khartoum. But, for the most part, you never heard about it in the news. Every tiny skirmish in Israel and Palestine gets covered in detail in the press, but this is Africa and nobody cares. Now that it looks like there might actually be peace in southern Sudan the media has decided to cover it.

Meanwhile, the fighting in Sudan is not over. The situation in Darfur is getting worse every day. Aid agencies are now saying that they are not going to be able to get those in desperate need because it is too dangerous. People have no real understanding of what is really going on in Darfur, because we are woefully uninformed about governments in Africa.

The end of the war in the south and the start of the violence in Darfur are not unrelated. But because we are so insistant on seeing every problem in Africa as tribal squabbles rather than political disputes, we don't see the connection. It is not just a matter of getting the government in Khartoum to pull back the jangaweed. The rebellion started in Darfur because of legitimate concerns about how people are treated by their government. The fact that the government reacted by unleashing an armed militia says about everything that needs to be said. Even if the violence stops and the government strikes a deal with the rebels in Darfur, this is not going to resolve the underlying problems of Sudan.

Democracy is possible in Africa, just as it is possible everywhere else on Earth. Legimitate functioning democracy, where the government represents all of the people is the only way to prevent future wars from occuring. If we don't put our energies into helping countries like Sudan make the transition, we are going to be putting it into cleaning up the mess of wars and genocides forever.

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