Preliminary news reports on the “Conclusions” from what was convened as a “High Level Consultation on the Situation in Darfur” (Addis Ababa, November 16, 2006) were remarkably misleading. Far from being the diplomatic “breakthrough” reported, the document that emerged from this “consultation” handed the Khartoum regime a number of highly valued determinations, even as it did nothing concretely to improve the prospects for greater security in Darfur and eastern Chad. Violence continues to escalate in terrifying fashion; new, large-scale attacks on civilians are reported daily in all three Darfur states, with children now the particular targets of ethnic destruction. (Reuters’ Opheera McDoom files from el-Geneina [West Darfur] a horrific dispatch: “Darfur’s children targeted in upsurge of attacks” [November 17, 2006], at http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/CrisesArticle.aspx?storyId=L16927226&WTmodLoc=World-R5-Alertnet-6).
Humanitarian organizations continue to operate amidst intolerable insecurity. The German aid group Welthungerhilfe (“World Hunger Assistance”) became the latest organization to announce its withdrawal this week, declaring “we can no longer leave our colleagues in this danger [in West Darfur]” (Welthungerhilfe press release [Berlin], November 17, 2006). Last week, the Norwegian Refugee Council, which served some 300,000 civilians in South Darfur, was also forced to withdraw because of harassment and obstruction on the part of the Khartoum regime (see my analysis at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article134.html). Reuters also reports, citing Khartoum’s state media, that the International Organization for Migration has been expelled from South Darfur state ([dateline: Khartoum], November 15, 2006). (This expulsion has evidently not yet taken place.)
This is the context for the diplomatic “consultation” at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, co-chaired by the UN Secretary-General and the Chairman of the African Union. This “consultation” resulted in no formal agreement; it did not create a “hybrid” UN/AU force; it did not specify a mandate for a civilian and humanitarian protection force; it left undecided the critical questions of troop size and command structure; and it established no discernible time-frame for deployment of whatever force may finally and formally be determined. This was the outcome of a meeting that had earlier in the week been defined by decisive words from Kofi Annan’s office:
“‘It’s a crucial moment in the discussion of what to do in Darfur, mainly because the African Union mandate is coming to an end and the situation in Darfur is clearly not improving. The time has come to decide how to move the peace process forward,’ said Yves Sorokobi, associate spokesman for the secretary-general.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], November 13, 2006)
WHAT WAS SAID, AND BY WHOM
To be sure, the Addis Ababa document (officially, “High Level Consultation on the Situation in Darfur: Conclusions”) declares, “A hybrid operation (Phase 3 [of the UN ‘support package’]) is also agreed in principle, pending clarification of the size of the force” (paragraph 28). But in fact Khartoum has yet to agree to the force size specified in the document, and shows clear signs of resistance. Paragraph 32 of the document specifies 17,000 peacekeepers and 3,000 police, but also is obliged to note that “the Government of Sudan representative indicated that he would need to consult with his government on this figure.” Reuters reports from Addis Ababa that Khartoum’s ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, “expressed disagreement over the size of the force. ‘The UN says 17,000 (troops); that figure is very high. We think 11,000 to 12,000′” (November 17, 2006). Significantly, this is approximately the size of the peacekeeping force the African Union proposed last spring (2006) to deploy by spring 2007, in the event peace had been secured. Of course, peace today is further away than ever in Darfur.
Khartoum has also made clear that this will not in fact be a “hybrid” force of AU and UN peace support personnel. From Addis Ababa, Khartoum’s UN ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad declared emphatically, “‘Peacekeepers will be African, the UN will give logistical support.'” Following UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s expedient and disingenuous claim that a “compromise had been reached for a hybrid UN-AU force in Sudan’s western [Darfur] region,” Khartoum’s Foreign Minister Lam Akol said that “there should be ‘no talk about a mixed force’ and that there would be no UN troops in Darfur. Mr Akol said that the UN would simply provide technical support” (BBC, November 19, 2006).
Associated Press reports on comments by Lam Akol in similar terms:
“‘What we have agreed upon is that the force should remain African and it be assisted by the United Nations,’ Akol told reporters on Saturday [November 19, 2006]. ‘There is no way the main fighting force would be a mixed one.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], November 19, 2006)
The Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA), usually accurate in its quotes, reports Akol as declaring:
“‘We have only agreed that the African force would be supported by the UN. There is no [reason] for the basic fighting force to be mixed.’ [Foreign Minister Lam Akol] added, ‘We have agreed that the UN would provide the African force with technical units, but we have opposed the principle of a joint command and the proposed number of forces. It is the AU force which is tasked with helping in implementing security measures enshrined in [the] Darfur peace deal. There is no way to talk about a joint command.'” (KUNA [dateline: Khartoum], November 19, 2006)
For his part, National Islamic Front President Omar al-Bashir has made clear that Khartoum is prepared to make the “symbolic” into the substantive; speaking of the few UN personnel who are currently contemplated for (largely advisory) duty in Darfur,
“[President al-Bashir] insisted that UN military and police personnel deployed in support of the AU force wear green AU berets—not the distinctive UN blue berets, [UN head of peacekeeping operations Jean-Marie Guehenno] said. This ‘will not be acceptable for the United Nations,’ Guehenno said. ‘To this end, the government [in Khartoum] remains adamant that the African Union must remain in charge of any future peacekeeping arrangement in Darfur,’ [Guehenno] said.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], November 14, 2006)
While Kofi Annan may not attend to such distinctions in speaking with Khartoum’s experienced and ruthless negotiators, the reverse is certainly not the case. Lam Akol clarified the implications of al-Bashir’s words in comments to the state-controlled Sudan News Agency (SUNA) radio:
“Sudan’s Foreign Minister Lam Akol denied any agreement had been reached on such a [hybrid] force. ‘A hybrid operation was agreed, not a hybrid force,’ state news agency SUNA quoted him as saying on Saturday [November 18, 2006].” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], November 18, 2006)
Of course a “hybrid operation” (this is the phrase that actually appears in the “Conclusions” document, paragraph 28), as opposed to a “hybrid force,” ensures that only African Union personnel will augment the woefully inadequate, under-equipped, under-trained, badly disorganized, and demoralized African Union troops presently on the ground in Darfur.
Agence France-Presse reports in even more explicit terms:
“[Foreign Minister] Akol, who attended Thursday’s [November 16, 2006] talks in the Ethiopian capital, said the Sudanese delegation agreed only on UN technical units to back up the AU forces in Darfur. ‘We agreed that the AU forces carry on with their mission and receive support from UN technical units,’ Akol said. ‘We also rejected a proposal for a combined AU-UN command, as well as the proposed number of troops.'”
“He said Khartoum still has reservations about the figure of 17,300 troops proposed by the United Nations, and added that talk about troop numbers in Darfur was premature. ‘We think it appropriate to leave it to Sudanese, UN and AU military experts to determine the number of the troops required,’ he said.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Addis Ababa], November 18, 2006)
Similarly, the issue of force commander(s) is not addressed in ways that inspire any confidence. The “Conclusions” document (paragraph 28) speaks of Khartoum’s delegation “further requesting that they be given time to consult on the appointment of the [UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan] and the Force Commander.” Paragraph 31 asserts nebulously that “backstopping and command and control structures will be provided by the UN.” But Khartoum has already been fully explicit on the issue of the Force Commander for any mission in Darfur; powerful Second Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, one of the primary architects of the Darfur genocide, made the regime’s views clear earlier in the week:
“Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha told reporters in Khartoum on Wednesday [November 15, 2006] that Sudan had not ruled out the possibility of a beefed-up AU force operating with UN logistical support. ‘In relation to the proposal made by the UN Secretary General, this confirms the fact that all people are looking for a new alternative [to UN Security Council Resolution 1706],’ Taha said, adding that Sudan is aware the AU needs ‘technical support.’ But Taha added that the AU must remain in command in the region.” (Deutsche Presse Agentur [dateline: Addis Ababa], November 17, 2006)
Khartoum’s Foreign Ministry spokesman today underscored the regime’s insistence that there is no role for UN command of any force:
“Sudanese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ali Al-Sadiq told Voice of America that the UN and Sudan disagree over who should command the force. ‘We differ over two issues: the number of the proposed forces in Darfur and the leadership, the command of these forces,’ he said. ‘Since the African Union is entrusted with the agreement, and the majority of the forces on the ground are Africans, there is no room for speaking about a joint command.'” (Voice of America [dateline: Khartoum], November 19, 2006)
Vice-President Taha also spoke to the issue of “international troops” in Darfur:
“‘In relation to the proposal made by the UN Secretary-General, this confirms the fact that all people are looking for a new alternative,’ Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha told reporters in the capital, Khartoum, late on Wednesday [November 16, 2006]. Sudan, he added, was aware that the AU needed ‘technical support’ but would ‘not accept any international troops under the leadership of the UN.'” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: Khartoum], November 16, 2006)
What Taha refers to in these reports as “a new alternative” reflects all too clearly Khartoum’s determination to end permanently any further discussion of implementing the UN force contemplated in Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006), which calls for an international force of 22,500 troops, civilians police, and auxiliary security personnel. Again, Lam Akol has also made Khartoum’s views explicitly clear:
“[Foreign Minister Lam Akol] regarded that the outcomes of the extended meeting on Darfur in Addis Ababa skipped the UNSC Resolution 1706, which provides for sending UN peacekeeping forces to Darfur, saying ‘we have skipped the resolution, and an appropriate and acceptable alternative is now under consideration.'” (KUNA [dateline: Khartoum], November 19, 2006)
KHARTOUM GOT WHAT IT WANTED
In addition to ensuring the demise of Resolution 1706, the Addis “Conclusions” document also hands Khartoum a number of prized diplomatic concessions. In speaking of the deeply flawed Darfur Peace Agreement (signed on May 5, 2006 in Abuja, Nigeria), paragraph 2 of the “Conclusions” document declares: “The Darfur Peace Agreement is the only basis for [the political process to resolve the Darfur conflict], and should not be re-negotiated.” Khartoum signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) primarily because it provided for no meaningful international guarantors of the elaborate and challenging security provisions of the agreement, and because the total compensation figure, for over three years of genocidal destruction throughout Darfur, was a paltry $30 million—less than $8 per conflict-affected person in a region that has seen devastating losses of life and livelihoods. Khartoum also signed the agreement because it provided no effective power-sharing with Darfuris.
Those Darfuri rebel factions that did not sign the DPA objected to all these shortcomings, as have the people of Darfur, who are scandalously condescended to in the “Conclusions” document:
“For various reasons, the Darfur Peace Agreement has not been sufficiently popularized in Darfur, and that has led to opposition to the Agreement amongst Darfurians.” (paragraph 10)
One must wonder just what sorts of “popularization” techniques are favored in this perverse document: more torture of the sort that has been the fate of many non-signatories or those who express opposition to the DPA? More destruction of entire villages perceived, on an ethnic basis, to be supporting non-signatory rebel groups? The detailed and highly complex agreement is not well understood in Darfur, to be sure. But people certainly understand that there is no provision for meaningful compensation in the agreement, and they well understand that entrusting disarmament of the Janjaweed militia to Khartoum and the inept African Union is suicidal.
Moreover, the “Conclusions” document contains no time-frame for deployment of significant new military and protection resources to Darfur, nor even a firm deadline for resolution of the critical issues that remain undetermined (force size and force commander, as well as the role of UN personnel). In response to Khartoum’s demand for more time to make its final positions known, the “Conclusions” document merely says, “The [intra-regime] consultations would be undertaken to inform the African Union Peace and Security Council meeting of 24 November ” (paragraph 28). The non-signatory rebel groups understandably believe that the entire exercise in Addis Ababa was a means for Khartoum to buy more time to secure military victory. And in fact Reuters today reports on a major new offensive in North Darfur:
“The Sudanese government has begun a major offensive in North Darfur despite an agreement to restart a peace process and allow international peacekeeping troops into the region, Darfur rebels said Sunday [November 19, 2006]. The African Union monitoring mission confirmed that fighting was continuing in the area, but the Sudanese Army denied that it was attacking. [ ] The AU confirmed the continued fighting. ‘It’s an open secret,’ said one AU official.”
“In Ethiopia, Sudan agreed Thursday [November 16, 2006] to reopen political talks with Darfur rebels who had not signed the peace agreement [*although not to “renegotiate” the Darfur Peace Agreement—ER*]. The rebels said the government was merely trying to buy time to press on with its military operations.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], November 19, 2006)
Georgette Gagnon, deputy director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, concurred with this assessment:
“‘Sudan probably wants to take as much ground as possible [during any negotiating process],’ said Georgette Gagnon [ ]. ‘If there is any way to delay or obstruct [a negotiated solution] then that’s what the Sudanese government is going to do,’ she said yesterday in a telephone interview from Toronto.” (Globe and Mail [dateline: Washington, DC], November 18, 2006)
On the question of rapidly deteriorating security in eastern Chad, and increasing cross-border violence involving Khartoum’s Janjaweed militia proxies, the document declares only that there was agreement on “the need to take into account the security situation along the Chad-Sudan and Central African Republic borders” (paragraph 34). Beyond a vague gesture towards the utterly meaningless “Tripoli mechanism” (paragraph 23), the “Conclusions” document offers nothing specific to address this dramatically escalating crisis.
Khartoum has made minimal commitments in allowing for augmenting of the African Union force in Darfur, even as it has effectively rendered Security Council Resolution 1706 meaningless. Khartoum has also secured a major diplomatic victory with the UN acceding to the regime’s demand that the Darfur Peace Agreement “should not be re-negotiated.” Indeed, the “Conclusions” document declares that the purpose of UN support “is to assist the African Union [mission in Darfur] in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement” (paragraph 27).
This concession will have the effect of making a meaningful peace harder, not easier to negotiate with non-signatory rebel groups, who represent the overwhelming majority of Darfuris. Indeed, we must recall that the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed only by the ruthless and ethnically parochial rebel leader Minni Minawi, a Zaghawa, and the military leader least representative of the people in whose name he was nominally negotiating. All this highlights yet again the disastrous effects of hasty US, European, and UN efforts to ram through the deeply inadequate Darfur Peace Agreement of last May. In the end, the expediency of the DPA, and its failure to provide meaningful UN or international guarantors of the agreement, has encouraged the regime to issue the most brazen of threats:
“Sudanese Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein said Darfur would become an ‘invaders’ graveyard’ if a UN peacekeeping force was sent there.” (BBC November 17, 2006)
Finally, we should see that Khartoum’s stunning diplomatic victory in the Addis Ababa “Conclusions” document comes even as the regime has refused to abide by any of the key terms of the security protocols in the Darfur Peace Agreement, in particular the disarming of the Janjaweed militias. On the contrary, all reports—from the UN, from human rights organizations, from journalists, and from humanitarian workers on the ground—make clear that there has been a massive re-mobilizing and re-arming of the Janjaweed forces.
If we look at all the ways in which Khartoum is consequentially reneging on the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with southern Sudan (January 2005), including security issues (preeminently the failure to disarm its militia proxies in the oil regions), it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the DPA is but another in a very long list of agreements that Khartoum has expediently signed and then abrogated, reneged upon, or simply ignored. In the case of the “Conclusions” document signed this week in Addis Ababa, not even specific or firm commitments were required to satisfy the international community.
Civilians and humanitarian operations face dramatically increasing violence in many parts of Darfur, but West Darfur state and eastern Chad have seen levels of violence that are extraordinary even by the terrifying standards of the past three and a half years. We catch a powerful glimpse of the rapidly escalating crisis, and the consequences of international diffidence and inaction, in the parting words of UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland, who was denied access to four locations in Darfur by Khartoum’s gnocidaires and consequently ended his assessment mission two days early. The heroically honest and outspoken Egeland will leave office in a month, and these comments must serve as a tragic valedictory for Darfur:
“Spiraling violence in the conflict-wracked region of western Sudan is reaching its worst level since fighting erupted more than three years ago, Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs said. ‘The government and its militias are conducting inexplicable terror against civilians,’ he said in an Associated Press interview just after returning from his final trip to the area before his term as UN humanitarian chief ends in December. ‘The government is arming Arab militias more than ever before…the angst is that we may be reverting to the same level of violence’ as in 2003, he said.”
“‘Civilians are being killed as we speak,’ Egeland said, warning that the crisis ‘still has the potential of becoming infinitely worse [if an international force is not quickly sent to Darfur].’ At a separate news conference, Egeland said aid workers’ ability to carry out their humanitarian mission was ‘crumbling’ because of the violence.” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], November 18, 2006)
And Egeland highlighted in particular the newest feature of Janjaweed savagery, the deliberate targeting of children of non-Arab or African ethnic groups:
“‘I saw a 2-year-old-girl who was shot in the neck at point blank by a janjaweed,’ Egeland said. ‘This is an act of terror.’ The baby’s mother and several witnesses confirmed the attack was jointly conducted by the army and militias, he said. [Egeland also] said a similar raid in Jebel Moon last month showed that the children were not accidental casualties. ‘It is not so-called collateral damage,’ Egeland said. ‘It is the intentional killing of children.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], November 18, 2006)
Perhaps only now, with “the intentional killing of children” on an ethnic basis, has the fullest horror of Darfur’s genocide become clear. But this searing truth cannot be avoided—even as genocidal destruction will not be diminished by any commitments made in Addis Ababa this past week.
The brutal continuity of violence was recently reported authoritatively by correspondent Katharine Houreld for The Christian Science Monitor, even as she highlighted Khartoum’s growing efforts to “close off Darfur to the outside world”:
“The African Union patrol was only seven miles from Sirba [West Darfur], the site of one of the latest Darfur massacres, when they were forced to turn back. Nearly 400 Arab militiamen in Sudanese government uniforms, with new Land Cruisers and weapons, blocked the dusty track. Tuesday’s [November 14, 2006] incident was only the latest in a crackdown on access for international observers, journalists, and humanitarian organizations—a pattern that is becoming wearily familiar to those working in Darfur. ‘The timing is no coincidence,’ says Leslie Lefkow of Human Rights Watch. ‘[Sudan is] stemming the flow of information from Darfur while it continues to commit massive crimes and run a military campaign.'”
The implication is of course that in a region much larger than France (if we consider the increasingly violent regions of eastern Chad), we are receiving only very partial and fragmentary reports of the overall violence: a tremendous amount of ethnically-targeted human destruction is not being reporting by any source.
Houreld, who recently reported from the Chad/Darfur border, continued in her most current dispatch:
“Thirty villagers were reported killed this week in Sirba, but no outside investigators have been able to enter the town to confirm the reports. Sudanese rebels accused government troops and militias Thursday [November 16, 2006] of killing more than 50 people in another attack. Two weeks ago, 63 people were reported killed in Jebel Moon, and their bodies buried in the desert.”
“In that case, investigators were able to access the massacre site, and found that more than 20 of the victims were children. Some of them had been shot through the head. Survivors described Arab men in uniforms, with Thuraya satellite phones, new vehicles, and animals, similar to the group seen only a few miles away barring the road to Sirba.”
The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks provides additional detail on the Sirba attack, including the fact that the assault again targeted a camp for internally displaced persons:
“The African Union is to investigate the killing of at least 30 civilians on 11 November  by hundreds of armed militiamen, who attacked a camp for internally displaced people at Sirba near Kulbus in the Sudanese state of West Darfur, a source said. The militiamen, supported by 18 military vehicles, injured scores more, including women and children. They also burned down almost 100 houses. ‘The assailants were said to be on camels and horses, and the village was razed,’ [said] the AU official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” (UN IRIN [dateline: Khartoum], November 14, 2006)
Much recent reporting on violence by Khartoum, its Janjaweed militia allies, and by the Chadian rebel groups supported by Khartoum has focused on eastern Chad. In particular, according to a number of informed observers, southeastern Chad has come to resemble Darfur at the height of genocidal violence in 2003-2004. The UN News Center recently reported the broader assessment of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour:
“‘I am deeply concerned that the horrendous violence that has been wracking Darfur is affecting Chad. Action must be taken immediately to stop a full-blown human rights crisis in south-eastern Chad.'” (UN News Center [UN/New York], November 17, 2006)
We might certainly wish that Ms. Arbour could be more explicit in defining the “action” she has in mind. The UN High Commission for Refugees has also reported with increasing urgency on the crisis:
“Armed men on horseback have attacked 23 villages in south-eastern Chad since the start of this month, and at least 20 others have been abandoned by residents who feared attacks were imminent, the UN refugee agency said today [November 17, 2006].”
“‘Altogether, we estimate some 75,000 Chadians have been forced to flee their villages over the past year—12,000 of them since the latest series of attacks began on November 4, ,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. ‘Information from survivors of the recent attacks south of Goz Beida show a pattern over the past 12 days in which villages were surrounded by armed men—some in military uniforms—on horses and camels. In some cases, the attackers also used rocket propelled grenades, witnesses said.'”
“‘Survivors describe their attackers as Arab nomad tribes, both Chadians and Sudanese. The testimonies are harrowing, including reports of babies, children, the elderly and infirm being burned alive in their houses because they were unable to flee.'” (UN News Center [UN/New York], November 17, 2006)
The same day Doctors Without Borders/Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF) reported a devastating attack on the site of internally displaced Chadian civilians concentrated at Koloye:
“The town of Koloye, in eastern Chad close to the Sudanese border, was attacked on November 15, , looted, and emptied of inhabitants, according to the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF). The 5,000 previously displaced Chadians in Koloye fled the area and are now missing, and MSF also has no news of the whereabouts of 37 staff members. This situation comes in the midst of several weeks of violence against populations that is expanding throughout the region.”
“A team from MSF went to Koloye yesterday morning and found only two people who had returned to collect a few items. They reported that the assailants had threatened them and ordered them not to return, forcing the people to flee once more.”
“‘The area around Koloye is completely deserted,’ said Filipe Ribeiro, MSF’s head of mission. ‘The villages 20-30 kilometers before Koloye are partially burned and abandoned. Ten kilometers before Koloye, there are visible signs of people in flight. There is nothing left except shoes and gourds abandoned at the side of the road. In Koloye, the dwellings at the entrance of the village have been burned. MSF’s clinic was looted and we found bloody compresses there, a clear sign that people were wounded in the confrontation. The pharmacy was destroyed. The tents and water tanks have disappeared or were destroyed. The drugs and supplies are gone.'”
“MSF has no news about the displaced people or about the Chadian members of its team who were managing the program to deliver potable water in the area. MSF is particularly concerned because of the high level of insecurity as attacks and looting of villages are increasing.” (MSF press release, Paris, November 17, 2006)
UN High Commission for Refugees spokesman Matthew Conway spoke recently about his extended survey of conditions along the Chad/Darfur border:
“Conway says the violence occurs along most, if not all, of the Chad/Sudan border. In recent days, he visited a number of the villages that had been attacked by armed men on camel and horseback. ‘I was quite shocked by what I saw and the degree to which the situation had deteriorated. It was already difficult to begin with. But the extent of the burning and pillaging of villages and the amount of people who have been killed, wounded and displaced is really quite dramatic.'”
“Conway visited a hospital in Goz Beda when he met a man whose eyes had been gouged out. He says gunmen became angry when they tried to kill the man and their weapons jammed, so they gouged out his eyes with a bayonet.” (Voice of America, speaking with UNHCR’s Matthew Conway in Abeche, Chad, November 17, 2006)
In fact, there are increasing numbers of reports of eye gougings; one observer on the ground recently reported three such gruesome victims in one hospital.
Conway’s most important point is the critical need for immediate protection:
“‘The need for some kind of international presences here in eastern Chad is absolutely imperative. These people are so vulnerable to attack and there is really no mechanism in place to protect these people.'”
Here we should recall that all the “High Level Consultation on the Situation in Darfur” offers is a vague reference to “the need to take into account the security situation along the Chad-Sudan and Central African Republic border” (paragraph 33). The only measure contemplated, without specific reference to Chad, is a “reinvigorating” of “regional instruments such as the Tripoli mechanism” (paragraph 23). The “Tripoli Agreement,” signed on February 8, 2006 by National Islamic Front President Omar al-Bashir and Chadian President Idriss Deby, nominally obliged an end to all support for military activities in neighboring countries. The agreement specifically obliged Khartoum to halt all support for Janjaweed cross-border attacks in eastern Chad and to halt all aid to Chadian rebel groups.
The agreement was transparently without substance from the moment it was signed: it contained no monitoring measures or resources, and was promptly ignored by both sides. A number of substantial reports on the crisis in eastern Chad, coming from human rights groups subsequent to the signing of the “Tripoli Agreement,” also make clear that this document had no effect whatsoever. For the international community as represented at Addis Ababa (including representatives of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, in addition to the Secretary-General and the Chairman of the Africa Union) to speak of “reinvigorating” the “Tripoli mechanism” is the height of diplomatic disingenuousness, and a despicable refusal to acknowledge that such a suggestion does nothing to address the massive human destruction proceeding directly from Khartoum-supported violence in eastern Chad.
In contrast, others in the international community speak bluntly of what is truly needed:
“The UN High Commission for Refugees urges the international community to quickly mobilise a multi-dimensional presence in Chad to help protect hundreds of thousands of Chadian civilians and Sudanese refugees, as well as aid workers trying to help them. In August, UN Security Council Resolution 1706 called for the deployment of a multi-dimensional United Nations presence to Chad and the neighbouring Central African Republic.” (Statement of the office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, November 14, 2006)
It is a cruel irony that UNHCR should invoke Security Council Resolution 1706 just as it was in the process of being traded away in the Addis Ababa “Consultation.” Kofi Annan is reported on November 15, 2006 (the day before the Addis meeting) to have “called for an international presence on Sudan’s border with Chad to prevent the Darfur conflict from spreading” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: N’Djamena, Chad], November 17, 2006). This “call” was obviously not compelling enough to produce any meaningful international commitment in Addis Ababa.
Reuters reports (dateline: Seneit, Chad/Sudan border) that African Union chairman Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of Congo Republic, “on Tuesday [November 14, 2006] joined demands for a UN force to protect civilians in Chad and Central Africa, saying the spillover from Darfur was a threat to the whole region” (November 15, 2006). But Nguesso is a weak and largely powerless chair of the African Union, and he had no influence on the AU meeting in Addis.
We may thus expect to see a great more of what Human Rights Watch recently reported (November 15, 2006):
“Chadian militia groups have attacked dozens of villages in southeastern Chad over the last 10 days, killing several hundred civilians, injuring scores of people and driving at least 10,000 people from their homes. In a wave of violence that is sweeping through rural areas, villagers are defending themselves with spears and poisoned arrows against militia groups of Arab nomads armed with automatic weapons. A clear pattern has emerged in which Chadian Arab militia groups are targeting non-Arab villages in southeastern Chad.”
“Militia groups attacked as many as 60 Chadian villages separated by several hundred kilometers of rugged terrain on November 4-5  and in the week that followed. The militias then loot the villages that have been cleared of civilians. In some instances, villages are attacked or destroyed but not looted, suggesting the motive is not robbery, and the level of brutality is rising. Human Rights Watch documented several attacks where militia members mutilated men in their custody and deliberately burned women to death.”
“‘Political and military incursions from Darfur are inflaming underlying ethnic tensions in Chad,’ Takirambudde said. ‘The widespread attacks in Chad suggest that these are not merely instances of localized, spontaneous conflict, but may be part of a coordinated campaign by Chadian militias to remove civilians from key areas.'”
The organization also reported that,
“Since late October , Human Rights Watch has documented several incidents of indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilians in northwestern Darfur and Chad by Sudanese government forces.”
(“Chad/Sudan: End Militia Attacks on Civilians; UN-AU Summit Must Strengthen International Force in Darfur and Chad,” New York, November 15, 2006, at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/11/15/darfur14609.htm)
With respect to advocacy, the Human Rights Watch report emphasized that,
“‘A strengthened international force in Darfur and Chad is an essential first step to stopping the violence,’ said [director of the African Division Peter] Takirambudde. ‘But to be effective, the force must have strong international backing and be accompanied by sustained pressure on Khartoum to reverse its support for the militias.'”
“The high-level meetings in [Addis Ababa] Ethiopia must produce a clear plan for immediate deployment of international troops to protect civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad. The force should also monitor and enforce the arms embargo in Darfur.”
Of course no such plan emerged from the “High Level Consultation” in Addis.
The International Rescue Committee, following the November 11, 2006 shooting and critical wounding of one of its aid workers in the Bahai region of eastern Chad—part of a pattern of attacks “that have multiplied in recent months and now occur almost daily along the 600-kilometer border area”—made an urgent plea:
“The International Rescue Committee today [November 16, 2006] urged the international community to deploy an effective monitoring and protection force to ensure security for civilians and humanitarian operations in eastern Chad, along the Sudanese border.” (IRC press release, Bahai [Chad], November 16, 2006)
But the international community as a whole remains unwilling to commit to this critical task with any urgency or indeed conviction. UN Under-Secretary for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno would say to the BBC only that, “We are convinced that the deterioration in the situation in Chad and in Central African Republic could require the deployment of a peacekeeping mission'” (Reuters [dateline Seneit, Chad/Darfur border], November 15, 2006). “Could require”—but then, perhaps, might not—an obscene agnosticism.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy—who several weeks ago referred to realities in Darfur as “genocide,” and who broached the issue of non-consensual deployment of a force to protect civilians and humanitarians—recently “proposed a UN force” for eastern Chad, but evidently backed off when this “met with resistance from Khartoum” (Deutsche Presse Agentur [dateline: Paris], November 15, 2006). Agence France-Presse reports from Addis Ababa (November 15, 2006):
“Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha dismissed France’s suggestion of deploying a United Nations force to the border [region of Darfur/Chad], saying it would ‘interfere with the work of the African force’ in Darfur.”
If France is to be put off by such a contemptuous dismissal from one of Khartoum’s most conspicuous gnocidaires, the prospects for meaningful international protection in eastern Chad seem exceedingly remote. France has a powerful military presence in Chad, as well as close ties to the Chadian government. If France will not lead the push to deploy military forces and observers that might increase security for civilians and humanitarians in eastern Chad (there is a French military air base in the major eastern town of Abeche), then no other country will step forward.
The ability of the current humanitarian operations in Darfur and eastern Chad to respond to this massive upsurge in violence and displacement is doubtful. Jan Egeland, during his truncated tour of West Darfur, was still able to characterize the effects of violence, and Khartoum’s campaign of obstruction, upon humanitarian access:
“Sudan has signed agreements with aid agencies to allow free access but each week layers of new bureaucracy are added which hinder travel in the vast region the size of France. Egeland said after meetings with non-governmental organisations that access and protection of civilians was at its worst since the conflict began in early 2003. ‘It is an unacceptable situation,’ he said. ‘Here in West Darfur it has gone from bad to really catastrophic in terms of lack of access to civilians and lack of protection of civilians.'” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], November 17, 2006)
Some humanitarian organizations operate in situations, both in eastern Chad and West Darfur, that present intolerable risks and stark choices:
“The German relief organisation Welthungerhilfe said on Friday it was pulling its staff out of Sudan’s Darfur region for safety reasons as fighting flared along the country’s border with Chad. Eighteen Welthungerhilfe workers have been running a feeding scheme for 300,000 refugees in Birmaza near the border. ‘Renewed cross-border fighting is threatening to destabilize the whole region,’ Joerg Heinrich, the organisation’s project leader for Sudan, said. ‘We can no longer leave our colleagues in this danger.'” (Welthungerhilfe [literally, “World Hunger Assistance”], Berlin, November 17, 2006)
Other organizations find themselves overwhelmed by the consequences of violent displacement. Oxfam, for example, reports on a rapidly growing water crisis in southeastern Chad:
“Emergency water supplies in eastern Chad are overstretched and may not be able to meet the needs of thousands of people fleeing fighting in the area, international agency Oxfam International warned today [November 16, 2006]. Oxfam may have to cut the daily rations allotted to the tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in camps in southeastern Chad, which currently adhere to international standards of 15 litres per person per day.”
“Hundreds of displaced Chadians have been arriving daily to safe areas near the refugee camps following a week of attacks on villages that has left dozens of casualties. ‘Our biggest concern is that our pumping station in Goz Beida, where many displaced people are arriving, is already working at full capacity to provide 350,000 litres of water to the camp and the community every day. If more people arrive, we may find it difficult to help them,’ said Roland Van Hauwermeiren, the head of Oxfam’s operations in eastern Chad, after a visit Tuesday to the southeastern town, where more than 4,000 Chadians have arrived since last week.”
“‘Our pumps and generators are working at full capacity to fulfill existing needs, but if there is no more water in the ground, there is nothing we can do. As we cannot deprive these new arrivals of water, we will have to find other solutions, such as reducing the water available every day or trucking in water, until the security situation stabilizes [ ].'” (Oxfam America press release, November 16, 2006)
Trucking water for thousands of people, over increasingly insecure transport corridors in this arid land, is not a sustainable alternative; reducing water rations over the longer term has serious health implications; security is nowhere close to stabilizing, indeed is rapidly deteriorating. And yet more displaced persons are moving toward the camps.
Oxfam offers grim insight into the psychology of terror that has been precipitated by growing ethnic violence:
“‘People have fled their homes even without coming under attack, which shows how tense the situation really is and how important it is for security to stabilize. Many have arrived with nothing, and are camping under trees in a state of shock,’ said Van Hauwermeiren. ‘People I have spoken with say that in all of their years, they cannot remember things being this bad, with such hatred and destruction choking them out of their homes,’ said Van Hauwermeiren. ‘Everyone wants to go home to their crops and to their regular lives but are too afraid to even consider it. The feelings of desperation among the people are overwhelming.'”
These are the people to whom the “High Level Consultation” in Addis Ababa has offered only a “reinvigorated Tripoli mechanism.”
VIOLENCE ESCALATING ELSEWHERE IN DARFUR
One of the great dangers of diminishing humanitarian access, along with Khartoum’s severe clampdown on news reporting, is that our view of genocidal destruction in Darfur and eastern Chad will become increasingly partial, reflecting only the limited observational capacity remaining on the ground. As Katharine Houreld recently reported for the Christian Science Monitor:
“Accurate reporting of militia movements, and alleged massacres, is becoming increasingly difficult. Journalists able to secure a visa face a bewildering array of permits and paperwork; the Sudanese government must be informed in advance of any travel in Darfur. Officials insist on listening to interviews; they intimidate interviewees, and have attempted to confiscate notebooks. ‘I can take any of [your permits] I want…you’re going to hell,’ one official hissed at this reporter. ‘Do you think this is a free country?'”
“Last week, all permits for journalists to travel to the region were being denied.” (Christian Science Monitor [dateline: el-Fasher], November 17, 2006: “Sudan closing off Darfur to outside world”)
Nonetheless, we continue to receive reports that allow for reasonable, if terrifying, extrapolations. Today, for example, the African Union reports on the heavy offensive in North Darfur noted above:
“The African Union on Saturday [November 18, 2006] reported a ‘heavy’ civilian toll after Sudanese forces and allied militia this week conducted raids in the war-ravaged western region of Darfur. The AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) reported a ‘heavy toll on the civilian population after the army, backed by Janjaweed militia, carried out aerial bombardments in Birmaza [North Darfur on Wednesday [November 15, 2006] and Thursday [November 16, 2006]. ‘These attacks are a flagrant violation of the security provisions of the DPA [Darfur Peace Agreement],’ said a statement from the AU, whose mission is to monitor Darfur’s often-violated peace deal.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Addis Ababa], November 19, 2006)
The UN’s Children Fund (UNICEF) reports from South Darfur:
“Thousands of women and children have taken shelter at a camp in south Darfur after a sudden surge in fighting forced them to flee their homes. An estimated 11,000 people arrived at the Ottash Camp near Nyala in October alone. Many were wounded and undernourished, and UNICEF and its partners have stepped up emergency assistance to meet their urgent needs. ‘Most of them were mothers and children in dire need of shelter, food and water,’ says UNICEF Programme Officer Narinder Sharma. ‘Some of them had been hiding in the bushes since September when the trouble started, and they arrived at Ottash in a very bad way.'” (UNICEF release, November 16, 2006)
Too many countries and organizations have waited far too long to advocate for the force necessary to protect civilians and humanitarians in Darfur, as well as eastern Chad—and now their voices are lost in the whirlwind of rapidly unfolding violence. What does it mean that Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema only now declares, in Beijing, that with respect to Darfur “the international community has the ‘right and the duty’ to intervene”? —
“‘When a government violates the principle of responsibility, with regard to its internal affairs and external relations, the international community has the right and the duty to intervene, naturally in accordance with the United Nations Millennium Goals,’ said D’Alema referring to the commitment by UN members to eradicate poverty and hunger and social injustice.” (AKI [dateline: Beijing], November 14, 2006)
D’Alema comes across here not as morally outraged but as tepidly “politically correct” with his invocation of the “UN Millennium Goals,” rather than of the more explicitly relevant articles of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide—or the international “responsibility to protect” civilians attacked by their own government (per the UN World Summit “Outcome Document,” September 2005, paragraph 139, formally incorporated into UN Security Council Resolution 1674). Where was Italy’s voice when UN Security Council Resolution 1706 was in desperate need of support, before expiring completely this week? Why hasn’t Italy offered any troops or resources for the force contemplated in Resolution 1706?
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that many international actors—Italy, the UN Secretary-General, the US, various other countries of Europe, Japan, Canada, and others—are now attempting, in speaking about Darfur, to “put themselves on historical record,” this as a means of future self-exculpation as genocidal destruction currently gathers irresistible pace. But such efforts are not only viciously expedient, they are transparently so; history has already recorded far too much of the acquiescence and weakness and cowardice that have left Darfuris like al-Zein Eid Abdel Banaat to beg in vain for their lives and safety:
“‘We beg you to take us out of here to any other country, any other place,’ elderly Darfuri al-Zein Eid Abdel Banaat told [UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan] Egeland after trekking to [el-Geneina, West Darfur] from the camp where he lives. ‘I plead with you for your help—we want our lives back.'” (Reuters [dateline: el-Geneina, West Darfur], November 16, 2006)
Al-Zein Eid Abdel Banaat begs in vain as the world watches inertly while his land and his people are destroyed.