Sudan’s “rules of the game”

Roland Marchal brought fresh criticism against the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) during his lecture at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) workshop on Friday at Concordia.

Marchal, who has a master’s in Social Sciences from the University of Paris VI, has worked in Somalia and Sudan for 20 years and disagrees with UN peacekeeping troops entering Sudan.

“Who is asking for political settlement in Darfur ?” he asked. “Which state, except for those who are renting their armies, are going to allow good troops to go to Darfur – with no rules of the game and [not] knowing the enemy?”

Condemning the UN’s “failure to learn from history,” Marchal said that without a political agreement, the UN troops are “just one more military actor.”

According to Marchal, the UN has failed to develop a safe game plan before considering entry into a war-torn state and it is wavering under international pressure for action.

“I agree that the UN is not doing much,” he said, “but we shouldn’t put the UN in a situation where their only chance to achieve something is to fail,” said Marchal.

Quick historical recap

Military unrest that had been building in Darfur since the 1980s erupted in 2003 into full-scale armed conflict. Two separate rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice for Equality Movement (JEM), began fighting the Sudan government and the Arab Janjaweed militia in the name of underdevelopment and political marginalization.

Darfuri families, accused by the government of supporting the rebel forces, have been slaughtered by the hundreds. According to, 400,000 people are estimated dead, two million people displaced from their homes and 3.5 million are reliant on international aid.

The peace agreement

Recently signed between the Sudanese government and the SLM, the peace movement stalled after this initial step and the development of new military factions is a rising threat.

Marchal believes that the stalled peace process can be blamed on a lack of firm political and social objectives, which he coined “the rules of the game.”

“Nothing was done by the international community to help those organizations bring about some kind of cultural, political and internal revolution so people could discuss issues and come up with a clear political agenda,” said Marchal. “I’d want to witness a peace process started by the Darfurian people to resolve these issues.

The International Criminal Court

Marchal, a strong believer in justice, finds the application of the ICC in condemning war criminals inadequate.

“In many situations, an international court can be useful to make a peace settlement. but [the international communities] have used the ICC as a tactical tool in order to put pressure on the government.”

Marchal is concerned that the ICC’s accusations of war criminals would bring little peaceful resolution.

Marchal also finds inconsistency in the ICC’s involvement across Africa. “I see [that] suddenly, we are pushing for the ICC in Darfur,” he said, “but I haven’t heard anyone pushing for the ICC in Angola, [whose] president has 2-3 million of his own population starving.”

He also implied that countries with oil reserves were safe from accusation by the ICC.

The situation in Darfur was recently labeled as genocide, a movement pushed by the international community. But Marchal said he refuses to take sides: “Don’t expect me to say there is or there isn’t genocide in Darfur. It’s not the way I’m going to look at this situation.”


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