Sunday, May 14, 2006

Darfur, Eritrea and "the road to peace in the Horn of Africa runs through Asmara..."

A letter by Thomas C. Mountain in Hawaii to the Editor of The Arab American News (in response to a piece entitled "The danger of misunderstanding Islam," Issue 1056, May 5-12, 2006) is copied here in full. Note, Asmara is the capital city of Eritrea.

General public knows nothing of Sudanese conflict

To the editor:

I specialize in the Horn of Africa, as part of my 25 plus years of work on black and African history. I am married to an Eritrean ex-fighter and have a home in Asmara, where we will be retiring soon.

While I appreciate your expose of the Zionist role in the Darfur demonstration ("The danger of misunderstanding Islam," Issue 1056, May 5-12, 2006), I found serious problems with the list of demands included in the piece.

You need to stop telling the people of the Horn of Africa what is best for them and start talking with the leadership of the peace movement in the Horn. The saying in the Horn is "the road to peace in the Horn of Africa runs through Asmara...", and I doubt you were aware of this fact.

You actually called for Eritrea to stop supporting the Darfur people. If you mean militarily, you have been misinformed. If you have any evidence to support this charge, I urge you to provide it, for my investigation, including interviews with the Darfur leadership over the last 3 years, shows this is a complete fabrication. Logistically, claiming that a small, very poor country like Eritrea is able to ship tons of arms over a thousand miles across Sudanese territory controlled by the Bashir regime is very difficult to swallow.

The only support the Darfur fighters receive from Eritrea is diplomatic and publicity wise. Your call for Eritrea to stop supporting the Darfur fighters if they don't accept a "peace treaty" rammed down their throats by Western and AU pressure really smacks of paternalism and outright ignorance of the situation on the ground in Sudan.

Your naive call to basically trust the Bashir regime, who has broken/ violated all the "peace" agreements it has entered into, which is what accepting this latest "agreement" amounts to, is dangerous and badly misguided. The NIF government led by Bashir is violating the present CPA just signed last year, i.e. refusing to accept the "final and binding" demarcation decision between north and south Sudan, along with other major violations and failures to implement their promises.

The Bashir regime knows that if it loses a mere 2% of its representation in the Sudanese national assembly its days in power are over. The Darfur fighters are calling for a share of power in the government. This would have to come from the NIF/ Bashir regime's portion. Do you think Bashir is ready to give up his power without a fight?

Talk to the other Sudanese resistance organizations, i.e. the SPLA, the National Democratic Alliance, the Beja resistance in the east, the Darfur leadership and last but certainly not least, the Eritreans. With a more informed and balanced viewpoint you may have second thoughts on some of the demands you have listed.

Thomas C. Mountain

Editorial response: The list of demands the writer refers to are a list of suggestions put forward not by The Arab American News, but by a coalition of Muslim organizations in the U.S., as reported in the article.


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