Darfur and eastern Chad are now in the throes of uncontrolled, cataclysmic violence. Anarchic conditions are expanding with terrifying speed, even as the international community gives no evidence that it is prepared to act in any meaningful fashion to stabilize the crisis or to halt rapidly accelerating, ethnically-targeted human destruction. Humanitarian relief efforts are daily more deeply imperiled by intolerable levels of insecurity; and as UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has very recently reported to the Security Council, Khartoum’s grim war of attrition against humanitarian operations in Darfur is relentlessly more successful. Moreover, the possible collapse of the Chadian government of Idriss Deby before growing military pressure from Chadian rebel groups, supported by Khartoum, could have potentially catastrophic implications for humanitarian operations in eastern Chad.
The events of recent weeks—in Addis Ababa, Tripoli, Khartoum, Beijing, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, and Washington—make all too clear that diplomatic paralysis has set in, and that the genocidal quo will prevail for months. Khartoum has made clear that it will accept no “hybrid” force in Darfur, one that includes UN peace support personnel as well as some form of UN command structure; this obduracy has effectively gutted UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006).
The point is highlighted in the UN’s daily Sudan Bulletin for November 19, 2006, which reports the assessment of Khartoum’s Foreign Minister Lam Akol following the Addis Ababa “High Level Consultation” convened by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and AU Commission Chair Alpha Oumar Konar: “UN Security Council Resolution 1706 ‘has been overtaken,’ [Lam Akol declared].” Khartoum’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Al-Wasila Al-Samani declared during a press conference at the regime’s embassy in Cairo that Resolution 1706 was “dead” (Kuwaiti News Agency [dateline: Cairo], November 20, 2006). National Islamic Front President Omar al-Bashir “stressed” in telephone calls with both Secretary-General Annan and British Prime Minister Blair “Sudan’s rejection of any UN forces or UN command for the African Union forces in Darfur” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Khartoum], citing the state-controlled Sudan News Agency [SUNA], November 20, 2006).
Kofi Annan had declared to reporters in Geneva (November 20, 2006) that the only issues outstanding following the “Conclusions” reached in the Addis Ababa “High Level Consultation” (November 16, 2006) were the size of the augmented force in Darfur and “how its commander would be appointed”:
“‘[Force size and command] were the only outstanding issues they were to consult on and come back as quickly as possible,’ Annan told reporters in Geneva [November 20, 2006). ‘We do expect them to come with an answer by today, or, latest, tomorrow [November 21, 2006].'” (Associated Press [dateline: Libya], November 20, 2006).
As of November 26, 2006, the only answers provided to Annan amount to a stunning repudiation not only of UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (reflecting the Secretary-General’s own July 2006 report on security requirements for a force in Darfur), but even the fig-leaf document “negotiated” in Addis Ababa. There is no “hybrid” UN/AU military force, despite disingenuous claims to the contrary by Annan: Khartoum insists it has agreed not to “hybrid force,” but a “hybrid mission,” which in fact is what the actual language of the Addis “Conclusions” document specifies.
Moreover, the Addis “Conclusions” document does not specify a mandate or rules of engagement for a civilian and humanitarian protection force. This is a critical issue for any effective deployment of force, given the current levels of violence, and what must be foreseen for many months to come. Khartoum also insists that the critical question of force size be determined later, even as it insists that the command structure will be essentially that of the African Union (a glaring weaknesses of the currently deployed AU force). And perhaps most disturbingly, the Addis “Conclusions” document established no discernible time-frame for deployment of whatever force may finally and formally be determined.
Of course Annan is not alone in his shamefully disingenuous overselling of the Addis “Conclusions” document: the US (in a State Department “editorial” [“Agreement on Darfur”], November 22, 2006) declared of the Addis “High Level Consultation”:
“The United States welcomes the successful outcome of this historic meeting.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined in the dishonest and conspicuously expedient celebration: “the agreement [sic] ‘is certainly a real opportunity to resolve an extremely difficult problem.'”
If the Bush administration and the UN political leadership are willing to indulge in such deeply misleading characterizations, at the very height of the Darfur crisis, it should be apparent to all that there is no will to respond meaningfully—only in ways that give the appearance of responding to catastrophic human destruction. This is the best context in which to understand the fatuously empty bluff on the part of US Special Envoy Andrew Natsios, who this week declared that if no agreement is reached on a UN force in Darfur by January 1 (five deadly weeks from now), then the US is prepared to move to “Plan B”:
“‘On January 1 , either we see change or we go to Plan B,’ Natsios told reporters at the State Department. When pressed what he meant by this, Natsios replied: ‘I am not going to get into that…. Plan B is a different approach to this.'” (Reuters [dateline: Washington, DC], November 21, 2006)
There is no “Plan B” and Khartoum quite well understands this. Moreover, the regime understands that if the US must resort to transparently empty bluffs—of a sort with which the National Islamic Front is all too familiar—then the gnocidaires have little to fear from current negotiations. No doubt come January 1 the US will look at whatever inadequate force Khartoum finally accedes to, and declare that “Plan B” isn’t really necessary after all. But the grim realities on the ground in Darfur and eastern Chad cannot be changed by such dishonest diplomatic stunts.
In assessing Darfur’s realities, we do have at least one source of relentless, searing honesty—that of retiring UN aid chief Jan Egeland, who this week made his last report on Darfur to the UN Security Council (November 22, 2006). The report, and its accompanying document (“Fact Sheet on Access Restrictions in Darfur and Other Areas of Sudan”), make clear how far genocidal destruction is from ending, and how little the international community is doing to halt the violence or provide security for the humanitarian organizations that struggle heroically, amidst intolerable levels of insecurity and harassment by Khartoum.
Egeland begins his report with the most fundamental truth about Darfur:
“I just concluded my 4th and final mission as Emergency Relief Coordinator to Darfur. I return with a plea from beleaguered Darfurians for immediate action to finally stop the atrocities against them. For more than a thousand days and a thousand nights, the defenseless civilians of Darfur have been living in fear for their lives, and the lives of their children. The Government’s failure to protect its own citizens, even in areas where there are no rebels, has been shameful, and continues. So does our own failure, more than a year after world leaders in this very building pledged their own responsibility to protect civilians where the government manifestly fails to do so.”
Egeland also adumbrated a shameful chronology of Khartoum-sponsored civilian destruction:
“When I went to Darfur on my first visit in late June 2004, accompanying the Secretary-General, we saw a civilian population under attack, prompting the displacement of one million people. When I returned to Darfur last week, four million people, two-thirds of Darfur’s population, were in need of emergency assistance. The number of internally displaced has risen to an unprecedented two million. The attacks on villages and the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians continue, reaching the horrific levels of early 2004.”
To this figure of 4 million must be added some 400,000 conflict-affected civilians in eastern Chad: Darfuri refugees (220,000); Chadian internally displaced persons (90,000 according to the latest figures from the UN High Commission for Refugees); and approaching 100,000 Chadian civilians affected in other ways by the conflict that continues its massive spill-over into eastern Chad.
And there is also the ghastly death toll to date: some 500,000 people have already died from violence, disease, malnutrition, and despair since the outbreak of major conflict in February 2003 (the most recent mortality assessment by this writer, surveying all extant global morality data, is April/May 2006 at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article102.html; no additional global mortality data have been published since the UN World Health Organization study of mortality rates in spring 2005).
Egeland rightly focuses specific attention on the atrocities recently committed in the village of Sirba (West Darfur), a now notorious and unusually well-investigated attack by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies on innocent civilians:
“Villages, camps and communities outside the urban centers of Darfur are again being burnt and looted. Women and children are abused, raped and killed with impunity. Just ten days ago the village of Sirba saw three attacks by government forces and Arab militia that resulted in innocent civilians, mainly women and children, killed and injured. I met some of the victims in the hospital of El Geneina. A mother told me how she held her two-year-old daughter in her arms as the child was willfully shot in the neck by an armed man, despite her repeated begging to spare her daughter. The wounded child did, as I could see, miraculously survive and now recovers in the good care of the Sudanese local doctors. Neither the Government [of Sudan] nor the African Union was able or willing to show presence or deploy proactively in Sirba before the massacre, despite repeated warnings by villagers and aid workers of the impending attacks.”
The refusal of the African Union to deploy to Sirba, despite the clearly impending, ethnically-motivated attack on its residents, highlights the issue of what mandate will guide any force that is to change the security dynamic in Darfur. Moreover, words alone do not constitute a mandate; there must be a willingness on the part of the deploying force to engage forcefully with the demands of the specified mandate. The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) nominally confers upon the AU responsibility to protect civilians from Janjaweed attacks. Under the heading “Compliance of the Ceasefire by Other Armed Groups and Militia that are Not Parties to This Agreement,” the DPA gives the AU authority to provide, “in addition to non-military means described,” military protection to civilians:
“[Among these military strategies for dealing with Other Armed Groups and militia not party to the Darfur Peace Agreement are] robust protection by the AU Mission of civilians, humanitarian organizations, and humanitarian supply routes.” (Paragraph 336, Darfur Peace Agreement, May 5, 2006)
In the refusal, or more accurately the inability of the AU to take advantage of this mandated authority, we see the most essential reason for Khartoum’s insistence that only a modestly augmented AU force will be accepted in Darfur. Moreover, Khartoum has sent strong signals that it will not allow for a mandate that extends beyond that governing the initial AU deployment of 2004, viz. monitoring a non-existent cease-fire. The Financial Times (London) reports:
“Lam Akol, Sudan’s foreign minister, told the Financial Times the [African Union mission] would continue to be led by the AU and suggested the mandate would not be altered.” (Financial Times [dateline: Nairobi], November 18, 2006)
“And [Lam Akol] suggested the mandate [i.e., cease-fire monitoring] would not be altered.” In short, the face-saving force now in the making will have as little a veneer of UN identity as Khartoum can negotiate, and will certainly bear no resemblance to the force authorized by the Security Council in August: 22,500 troops, civilians police, and Formed Police Units, with a robust mandate for civilian and humanitarian protection. Current AU weaknesses, and failures to protect even civilian populations clearly facing slaughter, provide our best guide to understanding the character of the force that will be the only international presence on the ground in Darfur months from now.
Egeland continued his unsparing narrative to the Security Council (November 22, 2006):
“Just as I left Sudan this Saturday [November 18, 2006], two massive military operations started in the Jebel Marra and Birmaza area in North Darfur. A dozen villages were attacked and looted, driving more than 8,000 more innocent men, women and children from their homes, and leaving many killed and injured. In the Birmaza area, huge amounts of livestock were stolen and houses burnt, deliberately depriving the population of their means of survival. In the Jebel Marra, up in the mountains, where the nights are freezing at this time of year, the attackers systematically looted food, clothing, and blankets. This means that babies and small children who survived the attacks might now freeze to death. Let us be clear: these acts are crimes of the most despicable kind. They are an affront to humanity.”
The refusal of the international community to be moved sufficiently by this “affront” is the obverse moral failure.
KHARTOUM’S WAR ON HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
Egeland goes to unusual lengths in his current report to make clear the multiple ways in which the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum has profoundly undermined the efficiency, even viability of many humanitarian organizations and operations. To be sure, it is insecurity that poses the greatest risk to aid for desperate Darfuris:
“If this trend [in deteriorating security for aid operations and personnel] continues and the world’s largest humanitarian operation falters, if the lifeline for millions of civilians collapses, the situation in Darfur will spiral out of control. We will see a dramatic escalation of human suffering and loss of life beyond anything we have witnessed so far.”
But Khartoum, besides its central role in deliberately orchestrating this insecurity, does much else besides to harass, obstruct, and threaten humanitarian aid. The aggregate effect of these efforts is to undercut in critical ways aid operations and the effectiveness of key personnel. Appropriately, in the “Fact Sheet on Access Restrictions in Darfur,” Egeland recalls the,
“Joint Communiqu, signed [by Secretary-General Annan and Khartoum] on 3 July 2004, [which] provides for a moratorium on restrictions for humanitarian work in Darfur, including visas and travel permits, and removed many obstacles to humanitarian work during the second half of 2004.”
“Unfortunately, however, the moratorium is being violated on a regular basis. Today, instead of a ‘notification’ system provided for in the moratorium there is an increasingly pervasive ‘permit’ system the moratorium was intended to remove. The many visas and other permits required for every single staff member are costing humanitarian organizations, and therefore donors, many hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees that otherwise could be spent on relief activities.”
Khartoum, which has devoted a contemptibly small amount of humanitarian assistance to Darfur, has worked instead in ways that deliberately consume “many hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees that otherwise could be spent on relief activities.” It is a scandal that this vicious and costly obstructionism goes without consequential rebuke from the Security Council, or the donor nations of Europe.
Egeland highlights in detail the obstruction that comes in the form of Khartoum’s manipulation of the issuance of work permits, travel permits, as well as entry and exit and re-entry visas for expatriate humanitarian workers. He also highlights Khartoum’s suspension of humanitarian operations:
“On several occasions, State authorities in Darfur have suspended [nongovernmental humanitarian organizations] for a period of time, often without a stated reason, but it seems clear that these suspensions are often linked to protection activities carried out by the [organizations].”
Khartoum also continues to obstruct the “importation and transport of humanitarian goods and related supplies”:
“The [July 3, 2004] Joint Communiqu calls for the ‘suspension of all restrictions for the importation and use of all humanitarian assistance materials, transport vehicles, aircraft and communications equipment.’ In spite of this, organizations are facing a number of restrictions on the importation and use of humanitarian equipment and goods. In the absence of clear and consistent procedures, different procedures are continuously being applied, rendering it virtually impossible to clear goods in a reasonable time-frame. As insecurity increases, humanitarians are more and more reliant upon UNHAS air assets to move supplies and staff. Contrary to the moratorium and a separate agreement with the Civilian Aviation Authority to grant free access to humanitarian air movements, very cumbersome restrictions are routinely though unevenly applied at all levels.”
Additionally, “the Government [of Sudan] is still randomly imposing permit requirements to transport fuel for the operation of water systems in Internally Displaced Persons camps and rebel-held locations in Darfur. Not only does this constrain the right to clean water for hundreds of thousands of people, but it also hampers humanitarian operations as a whole.”
Finally, Egeland highlights the acute restriction on US humanitarians:
“Limitations on the movement of US citizens: Despite the intention to limit only the movement of US nationals in the diplomatic corps, American citizens working for [nongovernmental humanitarian organizations] and the media are increasingly not allowed to carry out their duties. Of 46 US nationals working for [US] Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance-funded aid agencies in Darfur, 26 have been prevented from travelling outside the capital. Others are stuck in Darfur, unable to leave as programmes are running on skeleton crews, with most staff held up in Khartoum.”
Despite brandishing a contrived “Plan B,” the Bush administration cannot manage to compel Khartoum to grant access to a number of courageous American humanitarian workers.
DARFUR AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ACTORS
Although the Bush administration may be the most disingenuous of the various international actors claiming to respond to Darfur’s crisis, there is the stench of hypocrisy and moral complacency throughout Europe as well.
In September 2004, German Defense Minister Peter Strck declared that realities in Darfur were “genocide.” The German government and people were well represented that same month when the Parliament of the European Union voted 566 to 6 (with some abstentions) to declare realities in Darfur “tantamount to genocide,” a weasel phrase designed to ensure that there would be no legal entailments in the vote (per the obligations of Article 1 of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which all European nations are signatories).
Some in the German government still speak of genocide and a German obligation to respond:
“A German cabinet minister is calling on her government to join any UN peacekeeping action in the troubled Darfur region of Sudan. Economic Assistance Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul told the weekly ‘Bild am Sonntag’ that Germany could hardly refuse such a request should the United Nations decide to step into the crisis. [ ] ‘Deutsche Welle’ said Saturday that Wieczorek-Zeul called the current situation slow-motion genocide.” (United Press International [dateline: Berlin], November 25, 2006)
Here it is important to recall that UN efforts to secure commitments for the force contemplated in Security Council Resolution 1706 fell on deaf ears in Germany at the critical moment. UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown declared in a lecture at Yale University (New Haven, October 30, 2006) that commitments for a mere 400 personnel had at the time been secured by the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and from only four countries, which did not include Germany (Norway and Sweden each committed slightly more than 100 personnel). Just as it was easy for German representatives to vote to declare that realities in Darfur were “tantamount to genocide” in September 2004, so it is just as easy now to commit to a force that has no political chance of going forward. Khartoum’s success in Addis Ababa renders Wieczorek-Zeul’s commitment meaningless.
The European Union
Despite its description of Darfur’s realities as “tantamount to genocide,” the European Union has yet to impose any meaningful economic sanctions on Khartoum. Thus the companies that are targets of the American-led divestment campaign—e.g., Schlumberger and Alcatel of France, Siemens of Germany, ABB Ltd of non-EU Switzerland—are allowed by various European countries to do business as usual with a regime guilty of crimes that are “tantamount to genocide.”
It is in this context that we must hear last month’s call by the European Union for,
“Sudan to give its ‘unambiguous consent’ to a United Nations force in Darfur, saying such an operation was needed to bring peace to the war-racked region. A statement by EU foreign ministers issued in Luxembourg said a UN force was required to ensure the protection of Darfur’s civilian population and help implement a recent peace deal for the region. Involvement by the UN was the ‘only realistic option for a sustainable, long-term peacekeeping operation in Darfur,’ the statement added.” (Deutsche Presse Agentur [dateline Luxembourg], October 17, 2006)
More than a month later, the need for a robust UN force is more evident that ever, yet the EU has said nothing of consequence about the failure of Security Council Resolution 1706 to be implemented—or about the failure of the Addis Ababa “High Level Consultation” to ensure significant UN participation in a Darfur security force. The EU is finally just as hollow and expedient as the Bush administration on Darfur, both in its declaration of “genocide” and in its commitment to a meaningful peace support operation on the ground in Darfur.
Great Britain has been posturing on Darfur since summer 2004, when General Sir Mike Jackson declared that Britain could field a brigade (5,000 troops) to stop the ethnic carnage in Darfur, only to be undercut by officials in the Foreign Office. Subsequently, then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw declared on behalf of the British government, in April 2005, that realities in Darfur were genocide, although as in the case of the US genocide determination, nothing followed from this extraordinary judgment. Pressure mounted, then, for Tony Blair to declare following the Abuja agreement (May 5, 2006) that a non-existent peacemaking force should have “sufficient firepower” to guarantee the feeble accord, and that “Britain and the US, with other NATO partners, [are] looking at the issue urgently to see what more could be done.”
This amounted to mere saber-rattling.
More recently, Blair reportedly ordered plans drawn up for a force of “at least 1,000 troops to play a core role in an international protection force” in Darfur. “The Prime Minister has signalled his intention to back up his demands for international intervention to prevent ‘genocide’ in Darfur by sending a large British force to help protect the black African population” (Scotland on Sunday [UK], October 8, 2006).
There has been nothing to back up this tough talk.
And most recently, Blair warned (November 22, 2006) “that Sudan will face ‘tougher measures’ if it fails to act on an agreement calling for a United Nations-African peacekeeping force for war-torn Darfur. ‘The only solution is to make sure that the agreement [sic]…is implemented,’ Blair told the House of Commons during his weekly question-and-answer session. ‘If the government [of Sudan] does not seize this opportunity then we will have to look at tougher measures,’ Blair said.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: London], November 22, 2006)
Given its long history, British bluster about “tougher measures” barely registers with a brazen Khartoum regime. Moreover, Blair—like every other Western leader—refuses here to accept how very little was accomplished at the “High Level Consultation” in Addis Ababa, and how very little of significance is contained in the “Conclusions” document, which was in no meaningful sense an “agreement.”
With a ruthless indifference to Darfur’s agony, veto-wielding Security Council member Russia has, according to an October 19, 2006 dispatch from Kommersant (dateline: Moscow), recently hosted a delegation from Khartoum interested in additional profligate arms purchases:
“The Sudanese defense minister [Abdel Rahmin Hussein] held talks today here with [a] Russian official requesting [that] Moscow secure a US$1 billion loan to pay [for] more military airplanes, a Russian report said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Hussein on Thursday 19 October . The Sudanese official asked Russia to sell military jets and helicopters to his country.” (from The Sudan Tribune, October 19, 2006)
If true, these helicopters—undoubtedly HIND gunships—would be added to Khartoum’s fearsome arsenal. Further, Khartoum has already purchased at least a dozen MiG-29 jets, the most advanced in the Russian arsenal, at a cost of approximately $1billion for the entire contract. That Khartoum would be seeking a loan for these additional military purchases, given its massive external debt (over $25 billion), suggests gross mismanagement of the country’s oil revenues, and its ruthless arrogation of national wealth at the expense of marginalized populations everywhere in Sudan. A highly reliable source, familiar with Khartoum’s military purchasing practices, confirms the essence of the Kommersant dispatch.
In its own disingenuous way, France has managed to celebrate the November 16, 2006 Addis Ababa “Conclusions” document as a potential diplomatic breakthrough, despite its conspicuous limitations, indeterminacy, and a lack of commitment on Khartoum’s part:
“Efforts to end the conflict in the war-torn western Sudanese region of Darfur are at a key moment as the government no longer rules out accepting a foreign force, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a comment published Monday [November 20, 2006]. ‘Today everything leads us to believe we are at a key moment. For the first time since February 2003, the Sudanese government isn’t ruling out the possibility of accepting on its territory an international force,’ Douste-Blazy was quoted as saying in Le Figaro. An international force ‘is crucial if we want to avoid the violence spreading bit by bit to neighboring countries,’ he said.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Paris], November 20, 2006)
But of course we are no closer to this “crucial” “international force” than we were before the Addis “High Level Consultation.” Khartoum has not committed to the force size that the UN specified; has not agreed to the command principles the UN proposed; and has not agreed to a “hybrid” AU/UN force, merely a “hybrid operation,” with the UN performing only logistical, mechanical, and funding roles. Even the mandate is far from settled, as comments above from Foreign Minister Lam Akol to the Financial Times make clear.
We must wonder just how forcefully Paris is willing confront Khartoum, given the immense oil concession in southern Sudan controlled by France’s TotalFinaElf (the largest and potentially most lucrative of all the southern concessions)—particularly since TotalFinaElf is caught up in the White Nile controversy over rights to this concession area (involving TotalFina, Khartoum, the Government of South Sudan, and the British “White Nile” oil operation; see Reuters dispatch of October 30, 2006 [dateline: Khartoum], at http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article18413).
THE RAPIDLY ACCELERATING CRISIS IN CHAD
Certainly France has not pushed back against Khartoum’s peremptory rejection of a proposal to deploy a desperately needed international security force in eastern Chad. Such a force is widely supported: by the UN High Commission for Refugees, by the International Rescue Committee, by Human Rights Watch, by the International Crisis Group, by both Chad and the Central Africa Republic, as well as by African Union and Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso:
“Nguesso on Tuesday said he supports the deployment of UN peacekeepers along Sudan’s borders with Chad and the Central African Republic to prevent the Darfur conflict from spreading. Nguesso said he supported any means of getting UN troops to the border to guarantee security, in comments in Paris Tuesday [November 14, 2006] night.” (Deutsche Presse Agentur [dateline: Paris], November 15, 2006)
Although France seemed to commit to the idea, news reports subsequent to Nguesso’s proposal suggests that France has no real stomach for a confrontation with Khartoum, despite the inescapable need for French leadership in any Chadian peacekeeping effort, given France’s important military presence in eastern Chad and close relationship with the Chadian government:
“French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy originally proposed the UN force, but was met with resistance from Khartoum.” (Deutsche Presse Agentur [dateline: Paris], November 15, 2006)
At the same time, Agence France-Presse was reporting from Addis Ababa:
“Khartoum, which accuses Chad of supporting rebel groups inside Sudan, said on Wednesday [November 15, 2006] evening that it was in favour of deploying ‘an observer force [to the Chad/Darfur border].’ Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha dismissed France’s suggestion of deploying a United Nations force to the border, saying it would ‘interfere with the work of the African force’ in Darfur.” (AFP [dateline: Addis Ababa], November 15, 2006)
Following Taha’s contemptuous dismissal, there has been no further French discussion of a force to the Chad/Darfur border, and there seems little French willingness to push vigorously for this critical security measure, despite Douste-Blazy’s proposal. Moreover, the very idea may have been overtaken by events on the ground. Khartoum-supported rebel groups captured the key eastern Chadian town of Abeche on November 25, 2006. This prompted the French to close down its air base outside Abeche, including to humanitarian flights. There is extreme concern within the humanitarian community about the ability to provide relief for hundreds of thousands of people in this remote and bereft region. The situation on the ground is far from clear, but wire dispatches today (November 26, 2006) suggest that Chadian government troops have re-captured Abeche. On the other hand, Reuters reports that,
“A Chadian rebel column rumbled westwards towards the capital N’Djamena on Sunday [November 26, 2006] just hours after the army retook the eastern town of Abeche, a French diplomat said. The diplomat confirmed the French embassy in N’Djamena had issued a message informing its citizens that a rebel convoy was moving towards the city through Batha province—which would put the convoy at least 250 km (150 miles) from N’Djamena. ‘It’s difficult to tell how many (vehicles)…it could be anything from 10 to 60 to 80,’ the diplomat said.” (Reuters [dateline: N’Djamena], November 26, 2006)
Voice of America (dateline: Geneva) reports on the most immediate concern:
“UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres is warning that humanitarian aid for hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees from Darfur and displaced Chadians could be jeopardized by a fresh outbreak of fighting in remote eastern Chad. [ ] The UN refugee agency has its local headquarters in Abeche. Its staff of 300 cares for more than 200,000 refugees from Darfur, sheltered in 12 camps. It also assists many of the 90,000 Chadians who were displaced by unrest over the past year.”
“Spokesman Redmond says the fighting is putting humanitarian operations at risk. ‘High Commissioner Guterres is worried that, if this fighting spreads, or it continues, that that lifeline could be severed’ [ ]. [Redmond said] reports of military movements near the southeastern town of Goz Beida forced the UNHCR and other aid agencies on Friday to abandon plans to distribute humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced Chadians.”
“Redmond says there is also great concern among refugees from Darfur, who are living in nearby camps. ‘In some cases, they are quite frightened, because these are people who have already fled severe violence in Darfur,’ he said. ‘The last thing they need is more of that in Chad.'”
“Redmond says High Commissioner Guterres has been warning for months that the violence and conflict in Darfur could spill over into Chad and the Central African Republic. [Redmond] says Guterres supports a call for a multi-dimensional force to patrol the Chad-Sudan border.” (VOA [dateline: Geneva], November 25, 2006)
While there are no immediate plans to evacuate humanitarian personnel, much will depend upon entirely unpredictable military developments. If Deby’s government were to fall, the French military presence in eastern Chad would be challenged and the Chadian government’s invitation to send a UN peace support operation to eastern Chad might be withdrawn. There are reports that families of UN personnel are being evacuated to Cameroon from N’Djamena, the capital of Chad and clearly the primary target of the rebel groups. There is a further report than Sudanese Janjaweed militia forces are moving toward Abeche from Darfur, an extremely threatening development. The Chadian rebels apparently moved through the volatile Goz Beida area in southeast Chad (previous site of extremely violent targeting of non-Arab tribal groups); there are additional reports of fighting to the north, near Guereda.
The character of the violence in eastern Chad was captured in a recent (November 15, 2006) report from Human Rights Watch (“Chad/Sudan: End Militia Attacks on Civilians: UN-AU Summit Must Strengthen International Force in Darfur and Chad”):
“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.”
Such cross-border military attacks by Khartoum’s Antonov aircraft are consistent with the cross-border attacks on civilians involving the regime’s bombers and helicopter gunships, documented by Human Rights Watch in February 2006 (and based on a “Human Rights Watch research mission to eastern Chad in January-February 2006”):
“The government of Sudan is actively exporting the Darfur crisis to its neighbor by providing material support to Janjaweed militias [ ], by backing Chadian rebel groups that it allows to operate from bases in Darfur, and by deploying its own armed forces across the border into Chad. [ ] Attacks on Chadian civilians accelerated dramatically in the wake of a December 2005 assault on Adr, in eastern Chad, by Chadian rebels with bases in Darfur and supported by the government of Sudan.” [ ]
“On some occasions, the Janjaweed attacks [in Chad] appear to be coordinated with those of the Chadian rebels. On other occasions, Janjaweed militias have carried out attacks inside Chad accompanied by Sudanese army troops with helicopter gunship support.” (Human Rights Watch, “Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad,” February 2006, page 2).
Concerning the use of helicopter gunships and Antonov aircraft, Human Rights Watch found,
“evidence of apparent Sudanese government involvement in attacks against civilian populations in eastern Chad since early December 2005. Witness accounts and physical evidence indicated that government of Sudan troops and helicopter gunships participated directly in attacks, while many people reported seeing Antonov aircraft approach from Sudan, circle overhead, then return to Sudan in advance of Janjaweed raids; they believe spotters in these aircraft report concentrations of cattle to forces on the ground.” (page 11)
These are extremely provocative military actions, and hold the clear potential to exacerbate tensions in already explosive situation, and to heighten the potential for ethnic violence in Chad. In its November 15, 2006 report, Human Rights Watch indicates that it,
“has also collected dozens of accounts from survivors of a wave of militia attacks in Chad over the past few weeks. Victims of the militia attacks in southeastern Chad consistently state that groups of Chadian Arab nomads have been newly armed and are responsible for many of the attacks, which have killed and injured hundreds of civilians.”
These new arms certainly come from Khartoum’s military command and constitute further evidence of the regime’s determination to de-stabilize the eastern Chad region, both to counter Darfuri rebel presence, and to extend genocidal counter-insurgency warfare, including by way of “paying” Darfuri Janjaweed in the form of booty from raids against civilians in Chad.
“‘We’re seeing a regional war against civilians, with armed groups on both sides of the border actively supported or tolerated by the Sudanese and Chadian governments,’ said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. ‘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.'”
A sense of the scale of recent destruction is also offered in the recent Human Rights Watch report:
“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.'” (Human Rights Watch, “Chad/Sudan: End Militia Attacks on Civilians”
UN-AU Summit Must Strengthen International Force in Darfur and Chad,” November 15, 2006 at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/11/15/darfur14609.htm)
And the ethnic violence that has defined conflict in Darfur has the potential to move even further west in Chad. Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times reported from Djedidah, Chad (October 31, 2006):
“Arab men on horseback rode into her village, shouting racial epithets over the rat-tat-tat of Kalashnikov gunfire. ‘They shouted “zurga,”‘ [Halima Sherif] said, an Arabic word for black [*and also a derogatory racial epithet—ER*]. ‘They told us they would take our land. They shot many people and burned our houses. We all ran away.’ Scenes like this one have been unfolding in the war-ravaged Darfur region of western Sudan for more than three years, and since the beginning of this year Sudanese Arabs have also been attacking Chadian villages just across Sudan’s porous border.”
“But the attacks on Djedidah and nine villages around it in early October  took place not in Darfur, or even on Chad’s violent border with Sudan. It took place relatively deep inside Chad, about 95 kilometers, or 60 miles, from the border—a huge distance in a place with few roads and where most travel is by horse, donkey or on foot.”
“Beyond that, the attack was carried out not by Sudanese raiders from across the border but by Chadian Arabs, according to victims of the attack. ‘They were our neighbors,’ Sherif said, as she hurried to collect a few goats from the charred remains of her family compound. ‘We know them. They are Chadian.'”
“The violence in Darfur has been spilling over into Chad since at least early this year [but] the violence around one of the other interior villages that was attacked, Kou Kou, is different and ominous, aid workers and analysts say. It appears to have been done by Chadian Arabs against non-Arab villages in Chad, and was apparently inspired by similar campaigns of violence by Sudanese Arab militias in Sudan.”
“Racial and ethnic identity are complex concepts in this region. The terms Arab and African or black are often used to signify the deep tribal divisions that have marked the conflict in Darfur. Historically, the racial divisions had been largely meaningless in the arid scrublands of Darfur and eastern Chad, but racial ideology, stirred up among landless nomadic Arabs in Darfur against non-Arab farmers the 1980s, laid the groundwork for the present grim conflict over land, resources and identity in Darfur.”
“The ethnic makeup of eastern Chad is similar to that of Darfur. The border between Chad and Sudan has little practical meaning for the villagers who live, trade and marry across the border, and whose families and tribes often span both Chad and Darfur. The latest violence here raises fears that Darfur’s troubles could ignite a broader conflict between nomadic Arab tribes and mostly settled non-Arab tribes across this broad expanse of the sub-Saharan region.”
“If the racial and ethnic conflict that has infected Darfur is being copied by Chad’s Arabs, then the violence spreading beyond Darfur’s borders could presage even further regional conflict, said David Buchbinder, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who specializes in Chad. ‘The racial ideology is spreading, and that is very dangerous,’ Buchbinder said.”
None of this matters to the regime in Khartoum, which sees a destabilized eastern Chad as militarily advantageous, primarily because it works to deny Darfuri rebels a secure sanctuary and because it also brings additional pressure on the Deby government to stop supplying weapons to the Darfuri rebels. The exorbitant human costs of this brutal counter-insurgency warfare, based upon fueling ethnic hatred and violence, matter not in the least to the gnocidaires in Khartoum.
ACCELERATING VIOLENCE IN DARFUR
Amnesty International has just reported yet again on murderous, ethnically-targeted Janjaweed attacks in Darfur itself (“Sudan Government’s Solution: Janjawid Unleashed in Darfur,” November 24, 2006):
“Brutal attacks on civilians by Janjawid nomad militia are taking place in many parts of Darfur. The attacks, though targeted at civilians, serve the Sudan government’s strategic ends. A military offensive in August and September 2006 by government armed forces failed to crush the rebel groups not signed up to the Darfur Peace Agreement of May 2006. Now, during a new offensive in November , the government has unleashed the Janjawid, alone or accompanying the armed forces, to attack civilian populations near or around the bases of the non-signatory groups.” (Amnesty International Index: AFR 54/078/2006, at http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR540782006)
In understated but revealing fashion, Amnesty makes clear that the present African Union force is all too often incapable of investigating attacks on civilians, let alone halting them:
“The African Union Mission forces have investigated some but not all of these attacks. Their reports have not yet been formally submitted or made public. The African Union has taken no action against the perpetrators.”
And the ethnic motive in the attacks is yet again stressed by Amnesty:
“As in the mass forced displacements of 2003-4, the Janjawid invariably attack unarmed civilians believed to be supporters of armed groups. They do not usually engage the armed opposition groups, which have now seized large amounts of munitions from government forces. The inhabitants of the villages are almost without exception from ethnic groups identified as ‘African,’ their ethnicity linking them to the armed groups.”
Reports of violence from all three Darfur states makes clear that civilians are being killed and displaced at shockingly high rates A dispatch from Associated Press (dateline: Khartoum) recently reported:
“A large force of Sudanese soldiers backed by allied janjaweed militiamen is sweeping through North Darfur, killing civilians and looting and burning villages in violation of a cease-fire agreement, international observers and rebels said Sunday. [ ] A rebel field commander from a separate faction said seven villages were looted and burned to the ground around Birmaza on Sunday. Jar al-Naby said the renewed government offensive began earlier this week [ ].”
“Hundreds of heads of cattle have also been rounded and brought back to the Sudanese army headquarters in the North Darfur town of Mellit, he said by phone from Darfur. A senior UN official in North Darfur said Sunday international observers were receiving daily reports of raids and casualties throughout this vast area of semi-desert pastureland north of the regional capital of El Fasher. ‘The campaign is ongoing, and we are being given very limited access to investigate or treat casualties,’ the official said on the phone from North Darfur. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur said in a statement Saturday it had received reports that the Sudanese air force twice bombed Birmaza this week. The attacks, conducted jointly with armed militia groups, took a ‘heavy toll on the civilian population,’ the AU said.” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], November 20, 2006)
Even the rebel faction headed by Minni Minawi, which signed the Abuja agreement (May 5, 2006) with Khartoum, is finding itself militarily targeted, a development threatening to unleash even more violence. Of South Darfur, Reuters reports:
“A group of former rebels in Darfur accused the government on Tuesday [November 21, 2006] of threatening a fledgling peace deal by launching joint attacks with militia that killed up to 80 civilians in South Darfur. [ ] A spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), the only one of three rebel factions to sign a May peace accord with the government, warned Khartoum that if the attacks continued, their relations would return to ‘square one.’ ‘Yesterday (Monday [November 20, 2006]) Janjaweed militia supported by the government attacked Um Beyy in South Darfur killing 80 civilians,’ said Al-Tayyib Khamis, a SLM spokesman.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], November 21, 2006)
Today Reuters reports from Khartoum:
Darfur former rebel turned presidential adviser, Minni Arcua Minnawi, urged authorities on Sunday to disarm militias, saying attacks on civilians could break a peace deal. Under the May peace accord, which was signed by Minnawi’s group but rejected by two other rebel factions, the government undertook to disarm its proxy militias by October 22 . But African Union and UN officials report that more arms are being given to the militia.
“‘This is one of the most important parts of the agreement to disarm the Janjaweed,’ Minnawi told a news conference after a trip to Darfur. ‘It is a breaking point for the peace deal if the Janjaweed are not disarmed.’ ‘We know there is activity of the Janjaweed and the Janjaweed is active all over Darfur and we are totally against that,’ he said.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], November 26, 2006)
A REGIME THAT RULES ONLY BY VIOLENCE
Most ominously, there are increasingly disturbing reports that Khartoum is prepared to resume war with southern Sudan. Tensions are running extremely high in a number of regions that might serve as flash-points for renewed conflict, especially oil-rich Western Upper Nile. It is in this context that Salva Kiir—nominally First Vice-President of the “Government of National Unity” in Khartoum, and President of the Government of South Sudan—has broken fully with the National Islamic Front on deployment of a force to Darfur for civilian and humanitarian protection:
“The international community should send peacekeepers to Darfur with or without Khartoum’s approval, the Sudanese regime’s number two Salva Kiir has said. ‘My position has always been very clear…that international forces should come to save lives,’ the Sudanese first vice president told reporters in Cairo after meeting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Wednesday. Asked if the Sudanese government’s consent should be a prerequisite to any deployment, Kiir said: ‘It should not be a condition. There will be no reason, if people are dying…and it should not restrict the international community from coming in to save lives.'” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Cairo], November 22, 2006)
In the context of mounting tensions in southern Sudan, and a continuing refusal by the National Islamic Front to abide by key terms and benchmarks in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (January 2005), Salva Kiir’s remarks reflect just how explosive and regionally consequential Darfur’s conflict has become. It threatens not only some 4.5 million conflict-affected civilians, but stability in Chad and the Central African Republic, and may prove to be the catalyst for renewed north/south war in southern Sudan.
The stakes are enormously high for the entire region, and still the international community substitutes expediency and disingenuousness for serious policy decisions that might reverse the current momentum toward yet greater catastrophe. The Addis Ababa “Conclusions” document does not seriously address security issues in Darfur, and certainly not in Chad. The present African Union force is a self-described “laughing stock.” The Arab-African summit in Tripoli (November 21, 2006) did nothing but offer Khartoum further diplomatic and rhetorical support. And the US-brandished “Plan B” for Darfur, besides its dilatory January 1, 2007 time-frame for an (unspecified) decision by Khartoum, is vacuous—as vacuous as the various words from European nations.
The avalanche of human destruction has begun and cannot be stopped. We have watched as the last opportunities to mitigate what is already cataclysmic loss have disappeared. November 2006: the moment the world turned fully and finally from Darfur.