By John Parker
In 1999, the European Sudanese Public Affairs Council published an article by David Hoile entitled “Farce Majeure: The Clinton Administration’s Sudan Policy 1993-2000.” This is a thorough documentation of the contradictory policies of President Bill Clinton’s administration, desperate to control the resources and set the political agenda of the Sudanese government, as the administration of George H.W. Bush had previously tried to do.
Clinton used the excuse of Sudan’s so-called sponsorship of terrorism to justify U.S. military support of opposition groups, and general support to both political and military groupings in oil-rich southern Sudan.
Clinton’s terrorism charges against Sudan were never backed up with any verifiable evidence. The administration was forced to admit this, even to former President Jimmy Carter.
It’s also important to understand that starting earlier, under Bush the elder, the main charges against Sudan followed President Omar al-Bashir’s refusal to join the U.S. Gulf War coalition against Iraq, and his continued support of Palestinian organizations.
But, in spite of a lack of evidence, the devastating economic sanctions would not be denied.
Writes Hoile: “The 1993 listing of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism ended any prospect of bilateral American aid and related assistance as well as restricting American economic investment in Sudan.”
By 1998, this included comprehensive trade and economic sanctions blocking “all property and interests in property of the Sudanese government, its agencies, instrumentalities and controlled entities, including the Bank of Sudan, that were in the United States.” Pressure was also put on private banks to discourage loans to Sudan.
Any goods or services of Sudanese origin and the exportation or re-exportation of goods, technology, or services to Sudan or its government, along with any grants or extension of credits or loans by any U.S. citizen, were banned, including any transactions relating to the transportation of cargo — all amounting to a secure economic cage around one of the poorest countries in the world, a definite act of genocide.
Propping up allies of convenience
By the early 1990s, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) had lost its major support from Ethiopia due to a change in government there. That, however, did not change its posture toward the Sudanese government.
Hoile writes: “By 1994, while the Administration’s propaganda campaign against Sudan was intensifying, things within Sudan had settled down markedly from a political and a security point of view. The military situation was better than it had been for many years and the Sudanese Government’s attempts to secure ‘peace from within’ were gaining momentum.
“It became increasingly evident that the SPLA, weakened by splits and expelled from Ethiopia following the fall of the Mengistu regime, was very unlikely to bring any further significant military pressure to bear on the Sudanese government.
“It is a matter of record that from 1994 until the present, the Clinton Administration has followed a policy of assisting the SPLA militarily and politically, actively encouraging the rebels to continue, and intensify, their involvement in what is clearly a no-win war.”
Keep in mind that the developments described below also reflect the political confusion and contradictions resulting from the then-recent collapse of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and its repercussions in North Africa and throughout the world.
According to Hoile, the U.S. united the various opposition parties in the south, along with northern opposition groups like the Umma Party, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Sudanese Communist Party, together with the SPLA under John Garang, under the umbrella of the newly established National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The NDA was founded in Eritrea in June 1995.
Hoile writes: “The National Democratic Alliance established a political-military committee, committing the organisation to the violent overthrow of the Sudanese government. The American ambassador was, in the words of the London-based newsletter, Africa Confidential, ‘conspicuous by his presence.’
“The Clinton Administration,” he continues, “in 1996, openly and unambiguously encouraged the governments of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda not only to afford the SPLA safe rear bases, but also to both spearhead and support rebel military incursions into Sudan. This led to attacks into border regions of southern and eastern Sudan by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Ugandan military forces, often in brigade strength.”
Yet no charges were brought by the International Criminal Court against former presidents Clinton, Bush I and Bush II, Obama or any of those U.S. officials who continued the genocidal sanctions and military destabilization campaigns, causing the deaths of many hundreds of thousands during Sudan’s long civil wars.
The economic and political foundations of the crisis in Darfur, established by former colonial rulers Britain and France, are telling.
Darfur and Sudan’s colonial legacy
After 1916, when Britain militarily gained full control over the Sudan as its colony, British rule depended on creating conflict and dividing the primarily Muslim north from the Christian and animist south. It left isolated and unnourished what were then thought to be unprofitable regions like Darfur.
In other words, the British Empire did not allow the creation of an infrastructure facilitating government assistance to the region. These regions contained people who were all Muslim and possibly harder to divide.
In 2007, the George W. Bush-endorsed Save Darfur Coalition, a grouping led by Christian and Zionist organizations along with some Hollywood celebrities, promoted U.S. military intervention and sanctions against the government of Sudan.
But the crisis in Darfur preceded Omar al-Bashir’s consolidation of power in 1989 and his 1996 election as president, when Sudan began holding regular elections up until the military takeover in April 2019.
According to “Sudan, A Country Study,” published by the Library of Congress: “At the time of the Bashir coup in June 1989, western Darfur was being used as a battleground by troops loyal to the Chadian government of Hissein Habre and rebels organized by Idris Deby and supported by Libya.”
During the civil war in the former French colony Chad in the 1980s, both France and the U.S. sent hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid annually to prop up Hissein Habre, including fighter planes and troops.
The CIA’s covert military aid to assist Hissein Habre’s “Army of the North” consolidate power in Chad began in 1981, according to David Isenberg’s article, “The Pitfalls of U.S. Covert Operations,” published by the Cato Institute.
By the late 1980s, those weapons — and the fighting — spilled over into Darfur and into the hands of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Says the “Country Study”: “In May 1990, Chadian soldiers invaded the provincial capital of Al Fashir. … During the summer, Chadian forces burned eighteen Sudanese villages and abducted 100 civilians.
“Deby’s Patriotic Movement for Salvation (Mouvement Patriotique du Salut) provided arms to Sudanese Zaghawa and Arab militias, ostensibly so that they could protect themselves from Chadian forces. The militias, however, used the weapons against their own rivals, principally the ethnic Fur, and several hundred civilians were killed in civil strife during 1990.”
Rarely is any blame attributed to France or the U.S. for inflaming the sectarian violence and exploiting the desperation in Darfur.
‘IMF will arrive at the doors’
In his March 2019 article for the Review of African Political Economy, Magdi el Gizouli correctly points out that whichever entity takes control of the Sudanese government, “the IMF men will arrive at the doors of the finance ministry the day after the regime is toppled, with their infamous prescription, ‘your subsidies or your loan!’”
Whatever agents of imperialism may arrive at the doors of oppressed nations pushing austerity and poverty, a thorough understanding that the greatest threat to humanity today and to the sovereignty of any people is Western imperialism, especially U.S. imperialism, cannot be hidden or denied. Only through understanding this truth can we find solutions.
Most importantly, it is up to all of us living in the Western imperialist countries, especially the U.S., to build the necessary solidarity with those oppressed countries forced into making deals with the devils of capitalism, who use the starvation and desperation they create as weapons to ensure the continuous flow of profits into imperialist banks.
The greater our fight to defend our international family against the ruling-class weapons of sanctions, war and poverty, the more options our international working class and oppressed peoples in the targeted countries will have in their fight for self-determination.
Here in the belly of the beast, our demands should be to turn those IMF loans and World Bank austerity plans into IMF and World Bank reparations, especially in relation to the continent of Africa.
Let’s fight the terrorist and genocidal ideology of sanctions. Let’s no longer tolerate any U.S. attempts at denying people their right to self-determination and unhindered development of their economies and infrastructure.
U.S. hands off Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan — and the world!
Imperialism and Sudan
Writer for Struggle - La Lucha and former candidate for the US Senate