Many observers are starting to question what seems to be the Bush administration’s contrasting policies on not providing direct military force in Sudan and other war-torn regions while U.S. troops have quietly been deployed in the name of counterterrorism in oil-rich African nations.
Washington, D.C.-based Africa Action, the nation’s oldest African advocacy group, is calling on the Bush administration to take decisive action in Darfur, the Western region of Sudan, where a civil war has taken the lives of more than 400,000 and displaced more than 2 million since 2003.
The fighting in Sudan erupted when black rebel groups accused the Sudanese government — a member of the League of Arab States — of favoring Arabs over non-Arabs. Sudan’s government then reportedly called upon the “Janjaweed” militia to wreak havoc on supporters of the rebels. This conflict has become one of the globe’s worst humanitarian crises, with President Bush calling the situation “genocide.”
Although the Sudanese government signed a peace deal in May with a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, the largest rebel group, the violence continues and civilian casualities mount. Inadequate supplies and insignificant numbers have hampered the efforts of a 7,000-member African Union force to stem the violence.
Marie Clarke Brill, Africa Action’s acting co-executive director, says the Bush administration needs to pressure the United Nations to immediately send in a sizeable number of troops. “We’re calling for the United Nations to boost the African Union forces with a multinational intervention with a mandate to protect civilians,” she says.
The U.S. and the U.K. have drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution that would send up to 17,000 troops to Darfur. However, Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, sent a letter to the United Nations opposing their presence.
The U.S. military has provided some support to the African Union troops stationed in the Darfur region in the form of planning, logistics, and intelligence. But some question if that’s enough, considering that there were at least 1,500 U.S. service members in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2005.
Observers following the Darfur conflict say the Bush administration’s inaction exposes America’s true intentions. “The United States is creating this buildup under the guise of counterterrorism,” says Maya Rockeymoore, a board member for the TransAfrica Forum, another Washington, D.C.-based think tank, and president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions. “The reality is they’re protecting oil resources from the encroachment of other nations that are also interested in the oil, such as China.”
Last year, the U.S. imported $40.1 billion in oil from sub-Saharan Africa. African oil accounts for an estimated 15% of America’s total yearly consumption. During the next 10 years, that amount is projected to jump to 25%.
Others defend the Bush administration’s military strategy, which includes the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative, launched to develop internal security forces to control borders and combat terrorism in African countries including Nigeria, the largest oil producer in Africa. Major Holly Silkman, a public affairs officer for the U.S. military’s European Command (EUCOMM), which oversees deployments in Africa, says, “There are terrorists who are operating in