Friday, October 01, 2010

profit before people

The UK daily newspaper , the Independent , exposes the cant and hypocrisy of the British foreign policy. The UK Government is courting the regime of the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir by declaring that relations with Sudan have entered a "new epoch". Britain welcomed a trade delegation from the country which has near pariah status, for the first time since warrants for President Bashir's arrest were issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, over atrocities in Darfur. Khartoum's high-level delegation met British government officials and business leaders to encourage investment in a country still targeted by US sanctions. The change has already seen complaints that UK diplomatic missions have been reduced to commercial agencies to drum up business.It comes after a visit by Henry Bellingham, the new minister for Africa, to Khartoum in July to boost trade and business ties. He told reporters there that Britain would be a "candid friend" to the regime in Sudan.

The "Opportunities in Sudan" networking event brought a delegation including senior members of Mr Bashir's NCP party together with British counterparts including the UK ambassador to Sudan, Nicholas Kay. Representatives of major British oil, engineering, agriculture and banking companies who attended this event were told that Sudan was full of "untapped natural resources" and that there was "a lot of money to be made". A brochure for the meeting and "networking reception" said Sudan is "endowed with rich natural resources, including oil, and has been emerging as a major oil producer". Those listed as attending on a document handed out at the event included mining companies, investment banks and security firms.

While in opposition the Tory party called Darfur the "world's worst humanitarian crisis" and senior officials including Mr Hague, the current Foreign Secretary, and Andrew Mitchell, now the International Development Secretary, backed the campaign to get UK companies to disinvest from Sudan. In a foreign policy advisory in 2007 Mr Mitchell wrote of the need to "change national and international business behaviour in the face of manifest gross violations of human rights".But now a Foreign Office spokesman insisted that British companies were "free to pursue legitimate commercial opportunities in Sudan" The British Government's new commercial priorities have outraged human rights groups. The ongoing crisis in Darfur which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more as well as the North-South arms race ahead of a vote on secession are summed up in the investment booklet as small "exceptions" in "peripheral regions". Evidently we are happy to work with Sudan's Islamist regime as long as it restricts itself to killing its own people. Many Sudanese are risking their lives to create a pluralist society, but the international community is sanctioning the actions of Bashir's genocidal government.

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