During a televised discussion with students at Cambridge University, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said that the violence in Darfur was nothing more than a “quarrel over a camel.”
“You might laugh if I say that the main reason of this issue is a camel,” he said.
“Africa has thousands of issues – they are about water, about grass – and Africa is divided into 50 countries, and the tribes are divided amongst so many countries, although they belong to each other.
“The problem we are having now is that we politicise such problems between tribes.”
He said that in Darfur the issue had been politicised because “there are super powers who are interested in oil and other things”.
He also said that the crisis had been prolonged by international aid agencies because the local population increasingly depended on the support it received and, therefore, wanted the conflict to continue.
Ironically, there are a number of valid points in Gaddafi’s argument, despite the fact that he over-simplifies the entire conflict, and adds his own political spin to the issue. Nonetheless, he is correct in that these sorts of disputes used to be handled by local, tribal leaders before they were ever given a chance to escalate out of control.
Unfortunately, when the government of Sudan began arming forces to propagate the conflict, the violence turned from a local issue into a regional (and thus humanitarian) concern.