Friday, May 05, 2006

Strongman in the Sudan

While the world is buzzing about the humanitarian nightmare in the Darfur region of Sudan, one man has curiously escaped much of the attention and scrutiny being paid to events in a nation suddenly thrust into the spotlight: Sudan's military dictator, Field Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir.

Since Bashir got the best of Sudan's former ideologue strongman (and Osama bin Laden backer) Hasan al-Turabi in 2000 power struggle, the Khartoum government has ended one genocidal conflict and begun another in Darfur. While the world's great powers have made indignant noises about the enormous scale of suffering inflicted in Darfur, none of them have mentioned the man who's responsible for waging a proxy war against his own people, or where he gets his support from. Having shrugged off the civilized world's attempts at avoiding solving the crisis without military intervention, al-Bashir dismissed foreign sanctions by saying, "we have learned to rely on ourselves".

Cynically (if masterfully), al-Bashir is playing coy with foreign powers by halfheartedly committing to talks on Darfur. It's not rocket science - as al-Bashir has long realized that the glacial pace of international diplomacy gives him all the time he needs to finish the job in Darfur, and insuring that he will still be in power long after his genocidal victory at home.