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Introduction „This famine museum reminds us that mass hunger, disease and famine were once part of our shared history, as they are now part of people‟s daily experience in some parts of the world. The memory of the Famine inspires us to be more active in international efforts to combat hunger in today‟s world.‟
David Andrews (Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs), speaking in Strokestown Museum, May 1998.1
Irish government policy in relation to development and humanitarian response has traditionally been presented as sympathetic to developing countries and devoid of strategic self interest. Outside of its bilateral aid programme, Ireland has traditionally had only minor diplomatic relations with most developing countries, including Sudan. The events of 1998 in Sudan and Ireland's response to them represent a rare situation where Irish sympathy for developing countries, its commitment to famine relief and strategic self interest collided. This paper will examine the Irish government's response to the 1998 famine in Bahr El Ghazal, southern Sudan, both prior to and subsequent to the US bombing of the El Shifa pharmaceuticals plant in Khartoum. It will also draw conclusions with relevance to the future conduct of Irish foreign and aid policy towards states suffering endemic political and military crises given the increasing number of non- UN Security Council mandated interventions in both developed and developing countries by powerful western states.
Background to the famine Ireland has committed itself to respond quickly and effectively to humanitarian emergencies as one of it‟s foreign policy objectives for the period 1998 to 2000. 2 In this respect, the events of early 1998 in southern Sudan represent a first test case of this Irish commitment. Southern Sudan has been subjected to repeated famine throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Suffering from a combination of poor rains and
Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998a: Andrews praises twinning of Strokestown museum and Canadian famine site, Press release, DFA 27 May 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980727c.htm [24 January 1999]. 2 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1997: Promoting Ireland‟s Interests: Strategy Statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998-2000, Dublin: DFA, 1997, 33.
dislocation due to the on-going conflict, populations in the south are particularly vulnerable. In recognition of the on-going difficulties of meeting emergency needs in such an environment, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS, a UN mandated humanitarian relief operation) was established in 1989 to provide neutral humanitarian relief to the needy on both sides of the conflict.3
The immediate circumstances leading to the humanitarian crisis of 1998 are complex. Poor rains meant that populations in Bahr El Ghazal province were due to face a difficult harvest year in 1998. 4 The dry season in southern Sudan, which stretches from January to June also heralds a time of traditional conflict between Government forces and the rebel SPLA in the south. The situation in Bahr El Ghazal state, the epicentre of the 1998 famine, is complicated by Government use of ethnic Arab Murahileen militia from neighbouring Kordofan state to harass civilian populations seen to be sympathetic to the rebels and the varying loyalties of other local warlords in the area. 5
In relation to the emerging crisis in Bahr El Ghazal in early 1998, the role of one such warlord, Kerubino Bol, was crucial. Formerly an Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) commander, and of Dinka extraction, Kerubino split with John Garang‟s mainstream SPLA in 1994, and aligned himself with the Government through the signing of a peace agreement in April 1997. Post April 1997, Sudanese government strategy was characterised by the deliberate and systematic raiding of civilian (predominantly Dinka) targets, in collaboration with Kerubino‟s forces and the Murahileen. In the course of these raids, thousands of civilians were arbitrarily killed. Many more were displaced from their homes. Villages were burnt and looted, cattle stolen and thousands of civilians, mostly women and children, abducted for forced labour purposes to Arab areas. 6 As a consequence agricultural production was disrupted, exacerbating an already precarious food security situation.
Burr, M.J. & Collins, R.O., 1995: Requiem for Sudan: War, Drought and Famine Relief on the Nile. Oxford: Westview Press. 4 Santoro, L., 1998: „Hunger fight takes modern twist in Sudan‟, Christian Science Monitor, 4 June 1998, available at http//:wwwnotes.reliefweb.int/files…/e7c922028f6fff34c125661a00387f16?OpenDocumen [20 March 1999]. 5 Rone, J., 1999: „Sudan famine could recur: Militias must be restrained and cease-fire extended‟, Human Rights Watch, 18 March 1999, available at http//:wwwnotes.reliefweb.int/fil…/671f05ee0a1842f5c125673800407134?openDocumen [20 March 1999].
This combination of drought, sporadic flooding and the hostilities described above led to a weakening of community structures and traditional coping mechanisms, and to population movements. At the end of January 1998, fighting erupted in Wau, Awiel and Gogrial (three major government held towns in Bahr El Ghazal) between Sudanese government forces and those of Kerubino, who had re-defected to the SPLA. Within a ten day period, more than 110,000 people fled the area, crossing combat lines into SPLA controlled regions. This massive influx of people under strain further eroded humanitarian conditions.7 The humanitarian situation worsened from February through to early April, due to the refusal of the Sudanese government to grant access to humanitarian agencies or relief flights under OLS auspices.8 May saw further disruption in Bahr El Ghazal, with militias and other irregular forces continuing their campaign of rural destabilisation and pillage.9
Irish Government response The Irish government response can be analysed into three distinct phases: The first two are directly concerned with reacting to the famine itself, the third is driven by Irish self interest.
The first phase of the Irish Government's response addressed both political and humanitarian issues, seeking to push for a solution to the underlying problem of the ongoing war in Sudan while supporting the response of humanitarian agencies. This commenced with the announcement of an action plan in early May 1998. While the time lapse between the events of January and May may appear excessively long, it corresponded with overall international concern regarding the humanitarian situation, with large tranches of additional funding generally becoming available from April onwards, despite early crop warnings from September of the previous year10 and the outbreak of hostilities described above in January.
Amnesty International, 1999: „Sudan: serious risk of human rights abuses after ceasefire ends‟, 9 Jan 1999, available at http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int/files…/5cea1f3af78166c12566f6003761f1?OpenDocumen [20 March 1999]. 7 Operation Lifeline Sudan, 1998: „An OLS position paper: The Humanitarian Emergency in Sudan‟, 31 July 1998.available at http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int/fil…/75976246c542eadc8525665500649939?Open Documen [20 March 1999]. 8 Department for International Development, 1998: People of Sudan should not be forgotten, says Short, news release of UK development agency, available at http://www.dfid.gov.uk/public/news/releases/news3898.html [14 February 1998]. 9 Op. Cit. OLS.
The Irish government and in particular the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights, were also actively involved in the Northern Ireland peace process negotiations until the 10th April (Good Friday), which may have delayed a timely response further.
Nevertheless, the initial thrust of Irish policy was relatively proactive. Contact was made with the Italian facilitator of peace talks between parties to the conflict and more dramatically, the Irish Ambassador accredited to Sudan (who is based in Cairo) was despatched to Khartoum. There, the ambassador made a demarche to the Sudanese authorities, stressing the need for a ceasefire and a positive approach to peace talks.11 The Irish government also began to release funds for emergency relief purposes, making Ir£884,000 available for various emergency assistance projects in Sudan through UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in May alone. Simultaneously, both the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights met with representatives of Irish NGOs to discuss the situation in Sudan. Subsequent to this meeting, the government committed itself to raising Sudan at EU level, with a view to a more concerted, results oriented EU approach.12
Sudan was subsequently raised by the Minister of State at a meeting of Development Ministers on the 18 May 13 and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the EU General Affairs Council on the 26 May. 14 At the former meeting of Development Ministers, the Irish government pushed for continued international pressure on the Khartoum government to maintain co-operation and access to effected areas. The initial focus of the first phase Irish initiative at the EU level was therefore on humanitarian response. This was consistent with the forum used – an EU meeting of Development ministers. The Foreign Ministers meeting saw a broadening of Irish policy, with the Government pushing for EU
Op. Cit. Santoro. Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998b: Sudan Emergency, Press release of DFA 01 May 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980501b.htm [24 Jan. 1999]. 12 Ibid. 13 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998c : Minister O‟Donnell raises Sudan at Development Council, Press release, DFA 18 May 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980518d.htm [24 Jan. 1999]. 14 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998d : Andrews urges EU Ministers to press for an early political settlement in Sudan, Press release, DFA 26 May 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980526.htm [24 Jan. 1999].
support for a political settlement and stressing the importance of political action to complement humanitarian assistance.
The following month saw a further step up of Irish diplomatic activity, with the Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights visiting Khartoum on the 7th June. It was envisaged that the Minister would raise a number of issues with representatives of the Sudanese government during her visit, including concerns regarding the „unacceptable‟ treatment of civilians by all sides to the conflict, the focus being on the manipulation of humanitarian aid distribution as an instrument of war. Furthermore, the Minister intended to press for „concrete engagement‟ by both the rebel side and the Sudanese government in ongoing peace talks and to encourage Sudanese government co-operation with the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Sudan. Keeping Sudan high on the EU agenda was also expressed as a reason for the visit, with the Irish Minister indicating she was in contact with Claire Short, the UK Minister for Overseas Development (the UK being holders of the EU Presidency at that time), regarding the visit.15
A post visit press release
confirmed that humanitarian access, human rights (focused on the use of
food as a weapon of war) and a furtherance of a political settlement through the East African International Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace process were raised. It was noted that the Minister made a concrete recommendation for an improved peace process through the suggestion that a permanent secretariat dedicated to the IGAD talks be established. The Sudanese were quoted as expressing interest in the frameworks that facilitated the agreement in Northern Ireland, in particular the appointment of independent talks facilitator, George Mitchell.17 The Irish Government also indicated its full support for the on-going IGAD sponsored negotiations between the Sudanese government and the SPLA and of its intention to attend an IGAD Partners forum in The Hague in mid June.
Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998e : Minister O‟Donnell to press Sudanese Government on food crisis there, Press release, DFA 02 June 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980602.htm [24 Jan. 1999]. 16 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998f : Minister O‟Donnell completes humanitarian and peace mission to Sudan, Press release, DFA 08 June 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980608.htm [24 Jan. 1999].
Of final note was that the Minister raised the issue of humanitarian access to another famine affected region with the Sudanese authorities – the Nuba mountains in central Sudan. The Nuba mountains are to the north of the 1956 boundary demarcating north and south Sudan and are home to the largest indigenous non-Arab population in the north.18 Ethnically different from the dominant Arab population of the north, they comprise of about 50 different language groups, and have historically demonstrated a high degree of tolerance amongst themselves for divergent religious beliefs. The estimated total Nuba ethnic population of 350,000 to 500,000 are a mixture of Muslims, Christians and those who follow traditional religions.19 The Sudanese government has consistently denied OLS access to the Nuba mountains since its set up in 1989.20 The Sudanese Government continued this strategy in 1998, denying humanitarian access to people in rebel controlled areas of these mountains in an effort to force these populations to move to government controlled „peace camps‟ where some relief assistance is available. Shortly after the Minister's visit, the Sudanese government did promise to allow an OLS assessment mission to go to the Nuba mountains, but ultimately no assessment mission went ahead in 1998.21 A UN assessment mission finally took place in September 1999 as a result of extended international pressure.
The IGAD Partners‟ forum meeting in the Hague in mid-June saw renewed offers by the EU of technical and administrative assistance for the IGAD peace process, and a call for continued humanitarian access.22
O‟ Donnell, L., 1998: „Political push can end crisis in Sudan‟. Irish Times 13 June 1998 available at [ 17 Jan. 1999]. 18 Taban, 1998: „Three aid workers shot dead during Sudan mission‟, Reuters, 10 June 1998, available at http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int/fil…/2dd710b50bc9b9ca8525661f00608ef2?pen Documen [20 March 1999]. 19 Africa News Service, 1998a: „A rare pip into Nubaland‟, Africa News Service, 16 June 1998, available at http://www.notes.reliefweb.int/fil…/3dle7d89bc2245dac1256643004739d9?OpenDocumen [20 March 1999]. 20 Africa News Service, 1998b: „Sudan: a chat with Yusuf Kuwa‟, Africa News Service, 16 June 1998, available at http://www.notes.reliefweb.int/fil…/ffc4bc3508616669c1256625004771d7?OpenDocumen [20 March 1999]. 21 Op. Cit. Rone. 22 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998g : Response to famine in Sudan must include Peace Brokering O‟Donnell, Press release, DFA 19 June 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980619.htm [24 Jan. 1999].
Irish diplomatic attempts to keep Sudan to the fore of the EU foreign policy agenda continued through late June to August. Sudan was raised at the EU Foreign Ministers meeting held in Luxembourg on 29 th June by the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs. Arising from the meeting, the EU gave its backing to a proposed IGAD Partners forum initiative, involving a visit by a delegation, including the Irish Minister for State for Overseas Development and Human Rights, to Sudan in mid-July. The objective of the delegation was to be to secure safe havens for humanitarian purposes in famine hit communities in Southern Sudan. A further delegation was to travel to Nairobi to seek the advancement of the next round of peace negotiations. David Andrews expressed his satisfaction at the prospects for progress on the political front and pledged continued pressure from the Irish government on the EU to keep Sudan on its agenda.23
Further emergency assistance to Sudan from the Irish Government was announced in July. 24 The Irish commitment to continuing pressure within the EU saw David Andrews call on the Austrian Government, who just took over the revolving EU Presidency from the British, to back an urgent ministerial mission to Sudan. Andrews pushed for a mission composed of one or more EU Foreign Ministers to visit the „heart of the famine‟ in order to see the situation first hand. The Minister volunteered to take part in any such mission.25 The previously agreed IGAD Partners mission, including the Irish Minister for State, did not go ahead.
Mid July saw a glimmer of hope on the ground in Sudan, with the SPLA declaring a unilateral ceasefire on the 15th of July in Bahr El Ghazal in order to allow humanitarian access. The Irish government welcomed the ceasefire declaration, called on the Sudanese government to do likewise and re-iterated its commitment to EU action, including a high level EU visit to the famine area in Southern Sudan.26
Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998h : Andrews raises Sudan crisis at EU Foreign Ministers meeting, Press release, DFA 29 June 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980629.htm [24 Jan. 1999]. 24 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998i : Minister O‟Donnell calls for urgent action on Third World debt, Press release, DFA 10 July 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980710b.htm [24 Jan. 1999]. 25 Smyth, P., 1998a: „Ministers support to relieve famine in Sudan‟. Irish Times 30 June 1998 available at http//:www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0630/ [ 17 Jan. 1999]. . 26 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998j : Ceasefire in Sudan, Press release, DFA 15 July 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/foreignaffairs/press/980714.htm [24 Jan. 1999].
The Sudanese government subsequently declared its own three month ceasefire in all operational areas of the south.
There then occurred a hiatus in (at least public) Irish initiatives until mid-August. Then, following on from Irish efforts to push for a high level EU delegation to travel to Sudan, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs himself travelled there on the 13th August.
The failure of the Irish government to receive backing for either an IGAD Partners forum initiative or an EU delegation to visit Sudan signals an end to the first phase of Irish government response. The two track approach of seeking a political solution and assisting in humanitarian response failed because Ireland was clearly unable to muster sufficient support either in the IGAD Partners Forum or the EU for such a political initiative. This points to a weakness in Ireland's position as a small state seeking to influence the co-ordinated policy of international groupings. Ireland's ability to mount an effective unilateral initiative is obviously limited.
Leaving aside the obvious lack of military capability, Ireland's influence even in aid terms to Sudan is insignificant. Irish government financial contributions to the humanitarian response in Sudan for 1998 totalled approximately Ir£2million (approx. US$ 3.5m)
of a total from the international community
for 1998 of approximately US$300m.28 This corresponds to approximately 1% of total humanitarian assistance for 1998. Total EU humanitarian relief to Sudan for the same period came to US$62m, or 20% of total humanitarian assistance to Sudan, second only to US humanitarian relief. The IGAD Partners Forum includes the US and many EU states. Clearly, the Minister would have been in a much stronger position with an IGAD Partners Forum or EU delegation.
The second phase of the government's response therefore focuses purely on humanitarian issues. In this respect, Andrews officially travelled to Sudan at the request of Irish NGOs working there. 29 Unilateral
Andrews, D., 1998: „Sudan humanitarian disaster is intolerable‟, Irish Times 01 September 1998 available at http//:www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0901/ [17 Jan. 1999]. 28 United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 1999: ' Total Humanitarian Assistance for Sudan 1998', OCHA (IASB/FTS) Database-Sudan 1998, available at http://www.reliefweb.int/fts/1998/sud98/sud98-51.html [20 March 1999]. 29 Op. Cit. Andrews.
action, certainly, but limited in scope. Andrews nonetheless sought to draw on Irelands relationships with the international community generally in his pre departure comments, noting that he intended to report back to his colleagues in the EU and UN regarding his first hand experience of the situation on the ground, in effect appointing himself as an international rapporteur on the crisis.
The humanitarian focus of his visit is confirmed by further comments pre-departure, where Andrews specifically mentions the need for continued humanitarian support for the victims of the crisis and improvement in the effectiveness of that relief,30 and not initiatives towards a political settlement.31 This call is consistent with the nature of the visit (at the request of Irish NGOs), but also signifies the limitations of Irish unilateralism. The shift to this second phase is particularly striking, given that previous calls for a high powered delegation included plans to negotiate safe havens, a term which might imply international military involvement. Such a military commitment was something that had been called for by some observers, including one leading Irish NGO operational in Sudan. 32
Given the paucity of international backing for the initiative, it is significant that Andrews visited rebel controlled areas of the South in his visits to Irish NGO operations there. 33 The Irish Foreign Minister therefore visited areas of Sudan not under the effective jurisdiction of the internationally recognised government based in Khartoum. A symbolically significant step, which could be interpreted as a violation of the Sudanese sovereignty. Indeed, Andrews was the first EU Foreign Minister to visit any part of the country during the crisis34, illustrating the degree to which this was a unilateral Irish initiative. Andrews went on to meet the deputy leader of the SPLA, Salva Kiir, before travelling to Khartoum.35
Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998k : NGOs doing heroic work - Andrews, Press release, DFA 12 August 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/mediacentre/display.asp?ID=89 [14 March 1999]. 31 Hayes, R., 1998a: „Irish Foreign Affairs Minister A Voice for Sudan‟, Ireland Today, Vol.03, No. 251, 13 August 1998, available at: http//:www.ireland-today.ie/it_today/v02_98/08_aug/n251_13/03_politik.html [30 Jan. 1999]. 32 O‟Shea, J., 1998: „Air-drops no solution for Sudan‟s starving‟. Irish Times 8 August 1998 available at http//:www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0808/ [ 17 Jan. 1999]. 33 Op. Cit. Andrews. 34 Op. Cit. Hayes 1998a. 35 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1998l : An affront to humanity - Andrews, Press release, DFA 16 August 1998, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/mediacentre/display.asp?ID=87 [14 March 1999].
In discussions with both the SPLA and the Khartoum government, Andrews raised the issue of humanitarian supplies being manipulated as part of the conflict and the necessity of humanitarian access to effected areas. Continued Government blocking of access by a UN assessment team to the Nuba mountains was specifically raised.36 While he publicly stated that a humanitarian response cannot be a substitute for political action at the conclusion of his visit,37 there is no specific mention of political issues in discussions with either side (either in press statements or Andrews later account of the visit in the Irish Times38). A much later statement in late 1999 states that the Irish Minister raised the importance of a political solution to the conflict with both sides39, however, the delay in stating this publicly implies either an element of revisionism or that the Minister did not deem it appropriate to highlight any (apparently minor) political aspects of his visit in it‟s immediate aftermath in light of subsequent events. The public emphasis of the visit was at all times strictly humanitarian.
Irish Reaction to the US Bombing of Sudan Thus far, one could fairly depict the Irish initiative regarding Sudan as commendable, though not particularly successful. A genuine attempt was made by the Irish government to push for a political settlement and humanitarian access in Sudan. The limited ceasefire called in August 1998 (and subsequently extended through to 1999), while not apparently the result of Irish, does appear to have been the result of sustained international pressure. Ireland can make reasonable claims to have contributed to the generation of this pressure.
Broader Irish attempts to push for political progress through IGAD Partners Forum or EU influence did not meet with any success. The emerging crisis in Kosovo may have been a contributory factor to EU inattention towards Sudan in this respect.40
Op. Cit. Andrews. Op. Cit. DFA 1998p. 38 Op. Cit. Andrews. 39 Mr Andrews stated, in response to a question in the Dail that “during my visit to the country last year, I urged the Government of Sudan and the representative of the SPLA/M to resolve their differences and come to a peaceful solution‟ available at www.irlgov.ie/debate-99/2nov99/sect10.htm [23 April 2000]. This is the first time, over 1 year after his visit, that any political aspect to his trip has been referred to in official statements. 40 Smith, P. 1998b: „Andrews urges EU to send mission to Sudan‟. Irish Times 14 July 1998 available at http//:www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0714/ [ 17 Jan. 1999].
However, on the 20th of August an unexpected event occurred which, through a combination of circumstances, brought Irish interests directly into the frame of continued high profile diplomatic engagement in the Sudan. The result was a transformation of Irish policy from one of continued engagement in first and second phases to a third phase response focussed entirely on ignoring the issue.
In response to the bombing of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the US targeted an alleged chemical warfare plant in Khartoum and other targets in Afghanistan. President Clinton, announcing the attacks in a televised address stated that „there have been and will be times when law enforcement and diplomatic tools are simply not enough. When our national security is challenged, we must take extraordinary steps to protect the safety of our citizens‟.41 The US justified the attacks as part of a preemptive strike to defend US citizens around the globe from terrorist attack, rather than simply a direct retaliation for the embassy bombings.42 The attack occurred only 4 days after Andrews left Khartoum. It occurred a week after the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland, and 2 weeks before Clinton‟s arrival in Ireland on an official visit on the 3rd of September. The timing of the bombing, from an Irish point of view, could not have been worse.
Official Irish government reaction to the attacks was that the Government agreed with the US on the need to intensify the fight against terrorism, but declined to comment on whether it believed the attacks to be justified.43 Elaborating on Government policy, the Minister for State, Liz O‟ Donnell stated that there was a “general understanding” of what led the US to act as it did, but that did not constitute support for the action from the Irish Government. Comments made on the same occasion by the Minister indicating support for the Sudanese call for a UN international enquiry were subsequently toned down considerably a few days later.44
Irish Times, 1998a: „ “I decided America must act” – Clinton‟, Irish Times, 20 August 1998, available at http//:www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0820/ [17 January 1999]. 42 Carroll, J., 1998: „Retaliation was planned as the bodies came home‟, Irish Times, 21 August 1998, available at http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0821/ [17 January 1999]. 43 O‟Morain, P., and Brennock, M., 1998: „Government declines to say if attacks were justified‟, Irish Times 22 August 1998, available at http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0822/ [17 January 1999]. 44 NcNally, F., 1998: „O‟Donnell reins in support for Sudan‟s UN call‟, Irish Times, 31 August 1998, available at http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0831/ [17 January 1999].
Despite some negative media comment45 46, on the issue and limited protests, notably from the Green Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the Irish Republican Socialist Party and independent socialists, there was little domestic political pressure for a firmer government stance on the issue. Some 250 demonstrators protested outside of government buildings on the day of Clinton‟s arrival in the largest of a number of nationwide demonstrations.47
48 49 50
General public sympathy for the US action can be
gauged by an apparent fall off in public donations to the Concern Sudan appeal in the wake of the bombing.51
Internationally, Ireland‟s policy occupied the middle ground. Britain, Japan, 52 Germany
Holland54 backed the US action unequivocally. Belgium 55, Norway 56 and Austria 57 (who held the EU Presidency at the time of the bombing) expressed „understanding‟ in similar terms to the Irish. The
Marlowe L., 1998: „Bin Laden gets holy war he wants‟, Irish Times, 22 August 1998, available at [17 January 1999]. 46 Browne, V., 1998: „Should McKevitt and Clinton buddy up?‟, Irish Times, 26 August 1998, available at http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0826 [17 January 1999]. 47 Hayes, R., 1998b: „Hypocrisy of Ireland‟s Deafening Silence on American Missile Strike‟, Ireland Today, Vol.03, No. 260, 25 August 1998, available at: http//:www.irelandtoday.ie/it_today/v02_98/08_aug/n260_25/02_hot3.html [30 Jan. 1999]. 48 Cullen, P., 1998: „Anger as Clinton disrupts college‟, Irish Times, 01 September 1998, available at http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0901/ [17 January 1999]. 49 Brennock, M. 1998: „Protests over Sudan attack to mark Clinton visit‟, Irish Times, 2 September 1998, available at www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0902/ [17 January 1998] and „Mayor of Limerick criticises US policy‟, Irish Times, 3 September 1998, available at www.irish-times.com/irishtimes/paper/1998/0903/ [17 January 1998]. 50 Irish Times, 1998b: „Protests take place in cities over US attacks‟, Irish Times, 04 September 1998, available at http//:www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0904/ [23 January 1999]. 51 Irish Times, 1998c: „Clinton in Ireland‟, Irish Times, 04 September 1998, letter to the editor, cosigned by representatives of the Kurdistan Support Group, Irish CND, Cuba Support Group, Catalyst Collective, Comhlamh, AfrI, Colombia Radical Action Campaign and Earthwatch. 52 Irish Times, 1998d: „US allies back strikes, Yeltsin sides with Muslims‟, Irish Times, 22 August 1998, available at http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0822/ [17 January 1999]. 53 German Foreign Ministry, 1998: „Chancellor Kohl issued the following statement regarding the American strikes on targets in Afghanistan and Sudan‟, Press release 21 August 1998, available at www.bundesregierung.de/english/01/newsf.html [06 February 1999]. 54 De Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken, 1998: „Amerikaanse militaire acties in Afganisatan en Soedan‟, reply by the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs to a parliamentary question, 21 August 1998, (as translated by Ubaldus De Vries, 8 February 1999). Available at: http://www.minibuza.nl/actualitet/kamervragen/archief/389DPZ.html [06 February 1999]. 55 Le Soir, 1998: „Les frappes antiterroristes font se dresser deux mondes‟, Le Soir, 22 August, 1998 ,p 1, 6-7, available at http://www.lesoir.be/220.127.116.11/scripts/$CSHtml.exe?TO_PADE=lesoir\Reserch…:@handle=12352600 [06 February 1999]. 56 Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo Press Division, 1998: „Vollebaek understands US reaction‟, Press release No. 159/98, 21 August 1998, available at: http://odin.dep.no/daily/1998/08/daily159.html [06 February 1999]. 57 Austrian Foreign Ministry, 1998: „Foreign Minister Schussel‟s response to US action against terrorist bases‟, Press release, 21 August 1998, available at: http://www.bmaa.gv.at/presseservice/presseaussendungen/presse203.html.en [06 February 1999].
French were more guarded, simply „taking note‟ of the strike (and recognising the necessity for a continued struggle against terrorism).58 The Russian government expressed „deep concern‟ but toned down an initially „outraged‟ hostile reaction by Yeltsin. China took a more cautious line, saying the US embassy bombings which spurred the retaliatory strikes, “should be dealt with in conformity with the UN charter and the principles of international law” and went on to condemn terrorism of all kinds. Predictably, Iraq condemned the attacks, while Pakistan protested to the US over the violation of its airspace (in the bombing of Afghanistan). Equally predictably given it's long running antagonistic relationship with Sudan, Uganda expressed its gratitude to the US for the attacks. 59
The Irish Government's reaction, then, could be portrayed as a relatively balanced response which reflected the position of like minded European countries and was certainly not inconsistent with Irish public opinion. Such a discrete approach was also no doubt influenced by the impending Clinton visit, and the continuing importance of the US to the success of the Northern Ireland peace process.
The importance of keeping the US on board cannot be overstated. While the US claimed to the UN Security Council that it had exercised its legal right to self-defence under the UN Charter,60 one finds it difficult to believe that the unilateral bombing of a medicine plant (based on evidence that looked increasingly dubious the closer it is scrutinised), can be in conformance with international law. However, difficulties in trying to encourage the US (or any other great power for that matter) to abide by international law, given their power in the international system, are not new. The lack of any mechanism of enforcement of international law other than the UN Security Council made any attempt at an investigation of the Khartoum bombing impossible, something that was admitted by the Irish Minister for State Liz O‟Donnell in a radio interview.61 Continued US engagement in Northern Ireland was no doubt an overriding imperative for the Irish government. Any excessive criticism of unilateral US action in such circumstances would not be in Ireland‟s best interests.
Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres de la France, 1998: „Frappes Americaines en Afghanistan et au Soudan, Communique des Authorites Francaises‟, available at http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/cgi/nphbwcgis/BASIS/epic/www/doc/DDW?M…/Descen [06 February 1999]. 59 Ob. Cit. Irish Times, 1998d. 60 Irish Times, 1998e: „US tells UN action was taken in self-defence‟, Irish Times, 21 September 1998, available at http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0921/ [23 January 1999].
Impact on Irish famine initiative Post August, Sudan appears to simply drop off the Irish foreign policy agenda. From the publication of 15 press releases directly concerned with Sudan during the period May to August, together with visits to the country by both the Minister of State and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, no further Sudan specific press releases were issued in 1998. The last reference to Sudan in 1998 emanating from the DFA is an article written by David Andrews, published in the Irish Times on the 1 st of September immediately prior to the Clinton visit. No mention is made of the US bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan in that article, despite reference to the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi. While Andrews does commit himself and the Minister of State to maintaining their efforts to keep Sudan on the international agenda, the subsequent paucity of concrete action belies that commitment.
One can only speculate as to other possible reasons for the drop off in interest from September to December 1998. One possible explanation could be based on the observations of Holmes, Rees and Whelan.62 These authors considered public reaction to the initiatives of David Andrews in Bosnia and Somalia in the early 1990s, noting that reaction to his Bosnia initiative was largely negative, whereas he received a much more positive response to his visits to Somalia. The conclusion of the authors was that the Irish public remains interested in the development of the Third World, and that Ireland‟s continued policy of arguing for a balanced and progressive approach to the Third World would be likely to depend on favourable domestic public opinion. In this context, the fall off in public donations noted above in the aftermath of the US bombing may indicate a degree of public hostility towards Sudan at that time. The observations of Holmes, Rees and Whelan noted above would seem to suggest strong domestic reasons for a sudden downplaying of Sudan on the part of the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Another possible reason may be more prosaic – after such a sustained spurt of interest and activity on the part of both Ministers, perhaps little more could have been done unilaterally. The entire thrust of the international community is towards supporting the existing mechanism for conflict resolution – the
Ob. Cit. McNally. Holmes, M., Rees, N., and Whelan, B. (1993): „For better or worse? The impact of EC membership on Ireland‟s foreign policy towards the third world‟, a paper prepared for presentation at the
IGAD peace negotiations. Fleeting suggestions for a more interventionist approach, such as setting up safe havens quickly disappeared. Given the international consensus on the issue, any further role for Ireland other than through the IGAD Partners‟ forum seems to have been closed off. Additionally, the famine itself was being responded to by the end of August. International relief organisations were given access to Bahr El Ghazal and the cease fire in place allowed them to operate. The initial three month cease fire was extended several times, into early 1999. However, access to the Nuba mountains was not granted in 1998 and other severely effected areas outside of the Bahr El Ghazal ceasefire area could not be accessed due to insecurity, particularly Western Upper Nile. 63
It is fair to suggest that all of the above were contributory factors in the Irish policy change. However, the sudden unwanted attention that further Irish initiatives with regard to Sudan might attract in the immediate aftermath of the US bombing, both domestically and potentially in the US must be considered the decisive factor influencing the change. Clearly, Irish national interest currently lies in maintaining existing excellent relations with the US government. Leaving aside the importance of US economic investment in Ireland, the role of the US to date and their continued engagement in the Northern Ireland peace process must remain a „first principle‟ of Irish foreign policy (Fanning, 1999). 64 The intimate political relationship forged by successive Irish governments with the American government and Bill Clinton in particular, has been of crucial importance in the peace process. Ireland in late August 1998 found itself between a rock and a hard place - a position to be repeated in 1999 with the unilateral NATO bombing of Kosovo. Irish government reaction to the US bombing of Sudan both in terms of its public pronouncements on the issue and its step back from further unilateral engagement for the remainder of 1998 illustrate the continuing importance of raison d‟etat in Irish foreign policy, even in the context of humanitarian initiatives.
Conclusions The sequence of events described, from first phase twin track political and humanitarian response, to second phase single track humanitarian response to the third and final phase no track/no response
IEA/Trocaire seminar on “Ireland, the EC and the Developing Countries: what difference does Ireland‟s membership make?”, Institute for European Affairs, Dublin, 05 March 1993. 63 Ob. Cit. Rone. 64 Fanning, R. 1999:„We‟ve finally taken our heads out of the sand‟, Sunday Independent,11.07.99, p15.
clearly demonstrates the limitations faced by the Irish Government in the international arena and the role that self interest can play even in relation to humanitarian initiatives. While a humanitarian response appears to be well within the Government‟s scope, more ambitious political initiatives remain considerably more difficult. Clearly, the EU represents a potentially powerful forum. In the absence of EU support, the Irish government's role can at most be that of a rapporteur, seeking to draw international attention to a particular issue, rather than directly influencing its resolution. The impact of such once off visits can at best be limited to the short duration of the trip and its immediate aftermath – the Minister for Foreign Affairs' first visit in April 1999 to Indonesia / East Timor is another example of this and stands in contrast to his second intervention in August 1999 as the Special Representative of the EU Presidency. Ad hoc initiatives require EU backing to have any teeth, otherwise Ireland is simply too small in both diplomatic and aid terms to have any significant impact on outcomes within the particular country itself or on international opinion externally.
While such ad hoc initiatives are clearly better than standing idly by, longer term engagement in such intractable issues requires, at the very least, some form of permanent Irish diplomatic representation in the country concerned and ongoing engagement with the issues by the Government at a number of levels – bilaterally, as an honest broker, and multilaterally at the EU, UN and other ad hoc interntional groupings in order to build Irish credibility on each particular issue. Andrews' first visit to Indonesia 1999 undoubtedly gave him credibility with regard to East Timor. However, how many times a year can a foreign minister go hopping off to the nearest conflict zone to see the situation for him / herself? Long term engagement must lie in the hands of the civil servants who work in the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Irish foreign service, given its existing size and responsibilities, is not equipped for such an undertaking. Ireland is represented in Sudan by the Irish embassy in Cairo, which in 1998 was also responsible for Irish diplomatic relations with Egypt, Jordan, the West Bank/Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon.65 Permanent engagement in Sudan is simply not feasible in this context given existing resources.
Irish government behaviour towards Sudan in 1998 is contradictory in this respect. At the very time when Irish political interest in Sudan was at its highest, decisions were being taken to close down the
Irish Bilateral Aid programme in Sudan due to the application of political conditionality to development assistance (because of long running concerns regarding widespread violations of human rights by the Sudanese government). The Ministerial visits to Sudan did not determine the shut down decision 66. It would therefore appear that Irish aid and foreign policies operated in parallel to each other - one moving towards a conclusion in the development aid relationship and the quasi diplomatic presence that this programme afforded, the other moving towards an increased diplomatic interest. The degree to which the former decision has reduced the possibilities future effective involvement in political issues through removing the remaining permanent Irish government presence in Sudan is significant as it indicates that aid and foreign policy were not, in this instance, integrated into a cohesive whole.
The transition from second to third phase response demonstrates the limitations placed on Irish foreign relations because of US involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process, something repeated in relation to unilateral NATO action in Kosovo in 1999. While future US direct involvement may decline in the context of the devolved government in the North being re-established and/or a change of a personnel in the White House, Ireland has in the last number of years become increasingly integrated into the foreign policy positions of developed states towards developing states and as a consequence now has possibly more power to influence policy but less freedom of action. Given the clear failure of Ireland to influence policy in relation to Sudan in 1998, the value of this trade off needs to be considered by Irish policy makers.
The most depressing point regarding the events of 1998 in Sudan is that they will probably be repeated. The reality is that no political settlement is in place, and in the absence of a settlement, the threat of renewed famine looms large. The eruption of fighting since late 1999 around the newly opened oil fields in Western Upper Nile may soon precipitate a repeat of the 1998 famine in Bahr El Ghazal. This ongoing threat of renewed famine in Sudan was acknowledged in 1999 by the Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights after a meeting with an Executive Director of the WFP. 67
Ob. Cit. Department of Foreign Affairs, 1997. Per conversation with Minister of State for Human Rights and Overseas Development, Liz O Donnell. 67 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1999a: „Liz O‟Donnell TD, meets with Ms Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of World Food Programme‟. Press release, DFA 24 May 1999, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/mediacentre/display.asp?ID=445 [14 March 1999].
The Irish government was correct in its analysis of the situation in Sudan – a political resolution is required, but it was ineffective in its efforts to seek to push such a process forward. A long term engagement with the problem is required if the Irish Government is serious about this issue. This will require the allocation of additional resources. Indeed, a cynical observer might see Ireland‟s current attempts to secure a seat on the Security Council as the real spur to Irish initiatives in countries such as Sudan (and more recently Indonesia), rather than a long term commitment to future peaceful development in these states.
More generally, the sequence of events above clearly illustrates the limited power small states have in agenda setting in larger international bodies. Strenuous Irish efforts to encourage a political solution to the 16 year old struggle in Sudan failed to receive international backing, despite the favourable international attention the Irish government received as a peace broker as a result of the Good Friday agreement. However, the potential of the Good Friday paradigm of conflict resolution was recognised by the Irish government in it's first phase engagement in Sudan and to a certain degree has been replicated through international support for the IGAD secretariat.
Future Irish Initiatives It is clear from Sudanese interest in the Irish peace process that the Irish government has gained international prestige from the Good Friday agreement. It has also gained a certain expertise in conflict resolution. This expertise should be built upon and made available to parties involved in endemic conflict, such as Sudan. Programmes designed around conflict prevention and conflict resolution take time however. The on-going problems in Northern Ireland clearly show that conflicts are not solved overnight, even with agreements signed. If Ireland is serious about it's contributing to the prevention and mitigation of humanitarian crises a focus on conflict resolution is essential. Reacting with the sticking plaster of humanitarian assistance, however quickly, will not solve the underlying causes. In order to do this effectively a long term diplomatic/aid presence is required in states under-going long term complex emergencies, including, amongst others, Sudan, Angola, Indonesia, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and North Korea. Such a presence could act as a focal point for Irish aid and foreign policy initiatives. Programmes funded under Human Rights and democratisation funds could also be part of Irish involvement where possible. Links with Irish academic institutions and
organisations involved in conflict resolution could be developed. Ireland's recognised experience in peace keeping might also provide opportunities for assistance. Such an expansion of activities could be funded through Ireland's rapidly growing aid budget, as such work certainly comes within the humanitarian ambit.
Developing a comprehensive strategy focussed around a distinctive competence in conflict resolution processes offers much in terms of international prestige and recognition for a small state such as Ireland. It offers more than the current short term, rather well meaning, but ultimately ad hoc and limited diplomatic initiatives. It also offers an approach that is more robust to unexpected events in the international system that may effect the Irish national interest and curtail more fragile initiatives such as that embarked upon in Sudan in 1998.
Post script – Irish activity regarding Sudan: 1999 Despite the hiatus in Irish interest for the remainder of 1998, 1999 signalled a limited revival of Irish government interest in Sudan, though not on the same scale as 1998. In January 1999 Sudan was raised in discussions with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, during his visit to Ireland. However, given the fact that Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Libya, Iraq, Congo, East Timor and Angola were also raised, 68 discussions on the subject cannot have been extensive. Additionally, an Irish Aid assessment mission went out to Sudan in early 1999 and following their report and a UN needs assessment report, the Government committed Ir£200,000 to Operation Lifeline Sudan in February. 69 At least the wheels of humanitarianism continue to turn.
More positively, perhaps, traces of Ireland‟s early political initiatives can perhaps be picked up in the emphasis on a permanent Nairobi based secretariat for the IGAD peace talks coming from the IGAD
Department of Foreign Affairs, 1999b: Press release, DFA 21 January 1999, available at [14 March 1999]. 69 Department of Foreign Affairs, 1999c: „Liz O‟Donnell announces £1.7million package for emergency humanitarian aid‟. Press release, DFA 25 February 1999, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/iveagh/mediacentre/display.asp?ID=176 [14 March 1999].
Partners‟ forum meeting in Oslo, March 1999,70 and subsequent funding of the secretariat in September / October 1999, something suggested by Liz O Donnell in her visit to Sudan in May 1998.
Bilaterally, the Minister for External Affairs of Sudan, Dr. Mustafa Ismail Osman, visited Ireland in April 1999. In his meeting with the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Andrews emphasised Irish support for the peace process in Sudan, raised concerns about the humanitarian situation and highlighted the urgent need to resolve the human rights situation as a means of creating the necessary conditions for an inclusive and lasting peace71. He reiterated this message in a follow up meeting with the Sudanese Foreign minister at the time of UN General Assembly meeting in September 1999. 72 Multilaterally, Ireland supported an EU sponsored resolution that was adopted by the UN General Assembly on human rights in Sudan73.
Finally, in early 2000, the incoming Minister of Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, re-iterated the Irish government‟s analysis of the situation in Sudan. „We fully recognise that humanitarian assistance cannot be a substitute for a meaningful and inclusive political solution. Such a solution will require full observance of the principles of democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law throughout Sudan regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion‟74.
To date, no moves towards the re-establishment of a permanent aid/diplomatic presence in Sudan have yet been made by the Irish government.
CNN, 1999: „Donors say Sudan aid may dry up without peace steps‟, 11 March, 1999, available at [13 March 1999]. 71 Reply of Minister for Foreign Affairs in Dail Eireann, Dail Debates Official Report, 11 May 99, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/debates-99/11may99/sect9.htm [31 May 1999]. 72 Reply of Minister for Foreign Affairs in Dail Eireann, Dail Debates Official Report, 2 Nov 1999, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/debates-99/2nov99/sect10.htm [23 April 2000]. 73 Reply of Minister for Foreign Affairs in Dail Eireann, Dail Debates Official Report, 2 Dec 1999, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/debates-99/2dec99/sect9.htm [23 April 2000]. 74 Reply of Minister for Foreign Affairs in Dail Eireann, Dail Debates Official Report, 23 March 2000, available at http://www.irlgov.ie/debates-00/23March/sect7.htm [23 April 2000].
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