September 21, 2006

Soyinka lashes Arab League over Darfur

International Affairs Editor

NOBEL prize winning author Wole Soyinka accuses the Arab League of "studied indifference" to the situation in Darfur, Sudan, in a speech to be delivered in Paris today.

In a text prepared for delivery he says the world community has not acted with enough speed and will to prevent atrocities in Darfur.

In the emotional text, he questions why the United Nations (UN) has been able to do nothing in Darfur when it reacted "with speed" to bring about a cease-fire in Lebanon.

Soyinka will make the remarks in an address to the 50th anniversary of the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists. The speech says "it is depressing to observe the studied indifference of the Arab family to the criminality of one of its members, a nation historically placed as a cultural bridge between two races".

"The Arab family," says Soyinka, "has steadfastly refused to call Sudan to order, indeed placed obstacles in the way of sanctions."

The writer says the Jajaweed, the militia accused of waging campaigns of ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region, are the "arrowhead of a state policy of ethnic cleansing," who have a "naked language of racial incitement" with "claims of race superiority, complemented by the language of contempt and disdain for the indigenous African".

Soyinka says should the African Union's (AU's) peacekeeping mission in Darfur depart, it would be "preparing to abandon the peoples of Darfur, leaving them to the mercy of murdering, raping and burning gospellers of race doctrine".

His speech comes on the eve of a meeting in New York of the AU's Peace and Security Council, which could pave the way for the AU's observer mandate in Sudan to be extended.

It may also provide for assistance for the force from the UN.

Sudan has resisted the conversion of the mission into a UN one, and China and Russia, which have veto rights, have refused to consider more effective action in the Sudan.

Soyinka also points to the ineffectiveness of the UN in the face of the crisis.

"When a deviant branch of that family of nations flouts, indeed revels in the abandonment of, the most basic norms of human decency, is there really justification in evoking the excuse that protocol requires the permission of that same arrogant and defiant entity?"

If the UN were to enter into Sudan, it would require the permission of the government in Khartoum.

Soyinka goes on to say that those who did not stand up against Khartoum would be stigmatised as collaborators.

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