ED DAMER, Sudan — Even as it receives a billion pounds of free food from international donors, Sudan is growing and selling vast quantities of its own crops to other countries, capitalizing on high global food prices at a time when millions of people in its war-riddled region of Darfur barely have enough to eat.
Why should we effectively subsidize a country that has decided to starve a portion of its population? I can think of other ways to deal with the situation. For example, Western diplomats could propose to spin off Darfur into a separate country with the argument that the Sudanese government has decided that it does not want the Darfur populace anyway.
This question is part of a bigger issue illustrated by Bosnia and Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia and South Ossetia in Georgia: should ethnic conflicts compel redrawing lines of sovereignty? The US government seems to oppose this when it sees advantage in opposing redrawn lines but at the same time it favors the redrawing when policy makers see some sort of advantage for perceived US interests. Though the policy makers are often not good at calculating US interests.
We send Sudan sorghum at considerable expense and they export a similar quanity of sorghum. Why not just buy the sorghum in Sudan and ship that sorghum into Darfur?
Take sorghum, a staple of the Sudanese diet, typically eaten in flat, spongy bread. Last year, the United States government, as part of its response to the emergency in Darfur, shipped in 283,000 tons of sorghum, at high cost, from as far away as Houston. Oddly enough, that is about the same amount that Sudan exported, according to United Nations officials. This year, Sudanese companies, including many that are linked to the government in Khartoum, are on track to ship out twice that amount, even as the United Nations is being forced to cut rations to Darfur.
The higher Sudanese sorghum output suggests they have plenty to sell to aid agencies. But the aid agencies say the Sudanese can make more money selling to Arab countries. The Arabs provide the money for agricultural investments to put more land under plow. The Nile provides the water. Does the US subsidize its sales of sorghum to aid agencies? I do not understand why US sorghum should be cheaper. Maybe the Sudanese quote a higher price to the aid agencies than what they sell for to Arab Muslim countries?
Getting aid through to the refugees is becoming more difficult.
That leaves the United Nations and Western aid groups feeding more than three million Darfurians. But the lifeline is fraying. Security is deteriorating. Aid trucks are getting hijacked nearly every day and deliveries are being made less and less frequently. The result: less food and soaring malnutrition rates, particularly among children.
Sudan's 40 million population is growing at over 2% per year. While 70% are Sunni Muslim the CIA World Factbook puts Sudan at only 39% Arab. So a substantial fraction of the blacks are Muslim as well. If we supplied and promoted birth control device usage in Sudan then we could reduce the hunger problem. Though that would probably not make the Sudanese government any more accepting of Christian and animist black Africans within the sovereign borders of Sudan.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2008 August 10 01:27 PM Ethnic Conflict|