Despite desperate pleas from both civilians and aid organizations, in Darfur as well as in eastern Chad, security continues to deteriorate badly in the greater humanitarian theater—threatening lives, livelihoods, and all humanitarian operations. Nor is there any prospect of an adequate or timely international protection response to these deepening, inter-related security crises. Ethnically-targeted violence on both sides of the Chad/Darfur border, growing directly out of the Khartoum regime’s genocidal counterinsurgency war, has created a conflict-affected population of over 4.5 million human beings. Hundreds of thousands of these people will die in the coming months and years. A cataclysm of human destruction has begun that simply cannot be halted, though of course it might still be substantially mitigated. But the approximately 500,000 people who have already died from violence, disease, and malnutrition over the past four years of conflict provide a ghastly metric for future human destruction (see my two-part mortality assessment of April/May 2006 at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article102.html and http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article104.html).
Humanitarian access to these desperate populations is contracting at an alarming rate. One has only to see the terrifying contrast between a UN map of humanitarian accessibility for May 2006 and a similar map for January 2007. These maps are juxtaposed on page 2 of the UN’s “Sudan Humanitarian Overview” (Volume 3, Issue 1, January 31, 2007), available as a PDF at www.unsudanig.org/docs/Sudan%20Humanitarian%20Overview%20Vol3%20Iss1%20January%2007.pdf .
All this is put starkly in the headline of the first issue (March 2007) of a new UN publication:
“The humanitarian crisis in the Darfur-Chad-Central African Republic triangle has deteriorated to unprecedented levels in recent months, with increasing spillover from the conflict in Darfur to Chad and CAR.” (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Regional Office for Central and East Africa, “Humanitarian Newsmaker,” Volume 1, Issue 1, March 2007)
This deterioration is a direct result of what is now uncontrolled violence on the part of all combatants, but most conspicuously Khartoum’s regular military forces and its brutal Janjaweed militia allies. The desperate nature of the security issues facing humanitarians received some fleeting notice in January 2007 when 14 operational UN humanitarian organizations, as well as six prominent international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), made two compelling collective statements about how close they are to withdrawing from Darfur. The UN organizations declared bluntly:
“In the face of growing insecurity and danger to communities and aid workers, the UN and its humanitarian partners have effectively been holding the line for the survival and protection of millions.”
“That line cannot be held much longer. Access to people in need in December 2006 was the worst since April 2004. The repeated military attacks, shifting frontlines, and fragmentation of armed groups compromise safe humanitarian access and further victimize civilians who have borne the brunt of this protracted conflict. In the last six months alone, more than 250,000 people have been displaced by fighting, many of them fleeing for the second or third time. Villages have been burnt, looted and arbitrarily bombed and crops and livestock destroyed. Sexual violence against women is occurring at alarming rates. This situation is unacceptable.”
The concluding statement by these UN organizations was equally emphatic:
“The humanitarian community cannot indefinitely assure the survival of the population in Darfur if insecurity continues. [ ] Solid guarantees for the safety of civilians and humanitarian workers is urgently needed. At the same time, those who have committed attacks, harassment, abduction, intimidation, robbery and injury to civilians, including Internally Displaced Persons, humanitarian workers and other non-combatants, must be held accountable. If not, the UN humanitarian agencies and nongovernmental humanitarian organizations will not be able to hold the fragile line that to date has provided relief and a measure of protection to some four million people in Darfur affected by this tragic conflict.”
“This statement has been endorsed by the following members of the UN Country Team in Sudan:
International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
United Nations Joint Logistics Centre (UNJLC)
United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)
United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
World Food Programme (WFP)
World Health Organisation (WHO)
(Joint Statement on Darfur, January 18, 2007; source: UN High Commission for Refugees)
And yet almost two months later security continues to deteriorate, even as the enfeebled and demoralized African Union force in Darfur remains the only source of protection for civilians and humanitarians. And the AU force itself faces daily greater threats from combatants on all sides, further attenuating its highly limited capacity (see below).
Shortly after this unprecedented UN organizational statement on security in Darfur, six international nongovernmental humanitarian aid organizations, operating or formerly operating in Darfur, issued their own extraordinarily dire warning (January 30, 2007), declaring that the “enormous humanitarian response in Darfur will soon be paralysed unless African and global leaders at the AU Summit [January 29-30, 2007] take urgent action to end rising violence against civilians and aid workers.” Of course no such action was taken at the AU Summit—instead, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was reduced to urging “patience.” Such counsel came in the immediate wake of a failed effort by Ban to persuade National Islamic Front President Omar al-Bashir to accept a greater UN role in providing security for Darfur.
The six distinguished nongovernmental humanitarian organizations—Save the Children, Action Against Hunger, CARE International, Oxfam International, Norwegian Refugee Council, and World Vision—declared that,
“African Heads of State and the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will fail the people of Darfur if they do not take concrete steps to herald the start of a new chapter in the region and ensure an immediate ceasefire is both agreed and adhered to.”
But no “concrete steps” of any sort were taken in Addis Ababa, and in the second week of March 2007, Secretary-General Ban still awaits a response from Khartoum about the nature of its commitment to the second phase of a UN assistance package to the AU. Indeed, in his February 26, 2007 Report to the Security Council, Ban was obliged to note that the entire UN contribution to date comprises “a total of 81 military and police officers deployed to Darfur,” this as part of the first or “light” phase of UN assistance to the AU. In other words, fewer than half of the mere 186 personnel called for under this initial part of the so-called “UN/AU hybrid operation” have actually been deployed. This comes more than half a year after the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1706, authorizing deployment of 22,500 troops, civilian police, and Formed Police Units. This force was to have deployed under Chapter VII auspices of the UN Charter, which would have conferred enforcement authority. This authority would have guided the force in taking up the primary mandate specified in the Resolution, civilian and humanitarian protection, as well as sealing Darfur’s borders with Chad and Central African Republic.
Instead, half a year later, these courageous independent humanitarian groups were left to echo the grim assessment of UN organizations:
“The six agencies—Action Against Hunger, CARE International, Oxfam International, Norwegian Refugee Council, World Vision and Save the Children—said aid workers are facing violence on a scale not seen before in Darfur, leaving access to people in need at the conflict’s lowest point at a time when the humanitarian need is greater than ever. Attacks on civilians are again rising and forcing even more people to flee their homes, and a breakdown of the aid response will leave millions in even greater danger. The worsening four-year-old crisis must not be allowed to deteriorate any further.” [ ]
“More than a month after an attack on aid workers in Gereida—the most violent of the conflict so far, which saw staff raped, beaten and subjected to mock executions—it is still far too dangerous for agencies to return to the camp, the world’s largest for displaced people, where 130,000 have sought refuge from attacks on their villages.”
“Temporary evacuations of staff from other locations across Darfur have continued, with nearly 500 aid workers withdrawn since the start of December. In early January, the UN warned that malnutrition rates are again rising close to emergency levels. Progress made in stabilizing conditions over the past four years is in serious danger of being reversed.” (allAfrica.com, January 30, 2007, at http://allafrica.com/stories/200701300918.html)
There could be no greater cry of distress, unless it comes from the desperate civilian population that depends upon these aid organizations for their very lives.
In a further international disgrace, Khartoum continues to escape significant consequences for its obstruction of humanitarian operations. Examples of the regime’s barbaric war of attrition against the desperate international efforts to save Sudanese lives go back to the very beginning of National Islamic Front rule, following the military coup of June 1989. In his February 26, 2007 Report to the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban reports that “[Khartoum] government authorities continued to restrict freedom of movement of UN personnel” (paragraph 14); that “UN staff also continued to be hindered in their work by restrictions imposed by government authorities, in violation of the Status-of-Forces Agreement” (paragraph 18). The examples are countless, and Ban notes only a few in this Report:
“On 16 November , upon landing in Kornoi (North Darfur), a group of UN staff were searched and questioned by [Khartoum’s] Sudan Armed Forces soldiers. On 13 December , a UN Agency team was prevented from traveling to the Zam Zam IDP camp without a Humanitarian Assistance Coordination travel permit, and on 20 December , National Security officials prevented a UN vehicle, with UN Mission in Sudan personnel, from proceeding from El Fasher to Mallit on the same grounds. Again on 20 December , a UN helicopter flight that was scheduled to transport people from El Fasher to Fanga (North Darfur) was refused permission because the aircraft was based in Kadugli, not in El Fasher.” (paragraph 18)
Such examples could be multiplied indefinitely. The UN Mission in Sudan Bulletin for February 28, 2007 (two days after the nominal date of Ban’s Report to the Security Council) reports:
“On 27 February , a high level delegation comprising a UN Agency, a foreign governmental organization and an INGO were refused entry into Kutum township and the Kassab IDP camp by the Kutum military authorities, despite the fact that the delegation had [Khartoum’s] Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) clearance. The military authorities argued that they were not notified on the visit and insisted on refusing access to the delegation even after HAC in Al Fasher confirmed to them by phone that the delegation had travel clearance. The delegation had to return to Al Fasher without conducting its mission.”
The next week, the UN Mission in Sudan Bulletin for March 5, 2007 reported:
“On 4 March , the Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) in North Darfur denied travel clearance to a joint UN-INGO assessment team headed to the Hashaba area (45km North-East of Kutum). No reason was given for HAC decision.”
In assessing the cumulative effective of countless such acts, US Special Envoy Andrew Natsios, who has previously had trouble speaking fully honestly about Darfur, offers us the unvarnished truth in a statement from Khartoum:
“Sudan’s government is paralyzing the humanitarian operation in Darfur with a complex web of bureaucratic obstructions which could cause massive loss of life, US envoy Andrew Natsios said on Wednesday [March 7, 2007].” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 7, 2007)
After failing to secure any agreement from Khartoum’s gnocidaires on increasing the international security presence in Darfur, Natsios was also obliged to acknowledge that,
“the most immediate worry was the restrictions and threats facing aid workers in Darfur, where the world’s largest humanitarian effort is under way. ‘The greatest immediate threat to the people on the ground is the deteriorating humanitarian space in Darfur,’ he told reporters at the end of his trip [to Sudan]. The government has constructed a very onerous set of bureaucratic requirements which are essentially paralyzing the relief effort,’ [Natsios] said. The government is slow and difficult on visa and travel permits, imposes high customs and delays shipments of equipment at Port Sudan, he added.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 7, 2007)
The most egregious instances of humanitarian obstruction come in the form of physical intimidation, threats, and even assaults. The international community has still been unable to secure from Khartoum any acceptable explanation for the vicious assault by “police” thugs in Nyala (South Darfur) on January 27, 2007:
“Aid workers have described how they watched helplessly as Sudanese police officers dragged a female United Nations worker from an aid agency compound in Darfur and subjected her to a vicious sexual attack. Staff say they feared for their lives when armed police raided their compound in Nyala, dragging one European woman out into the street by her hair and savagely beating several other international staff before arresting a total of 20 UN, aid agency, and African Union staff. [ ] Workers at the party said the attacks were part of a campaign of harassment. ‘It seemed as if they had been waiting for an excuse to get stuck into some foreign aid workers, and this was their chance,’ said one.”
(The Telegraph [UK] [dateline: Darfur], January 28, 2007)
Humanitarian obstructionism in the context of the desperate human conditions prevailing in Darfur is simply genocide by other means. For over three years, Khartoum has deployed this savage weapon of mass destruction, and is still unconstrained. In December 2003, UN Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs Tom Vraalsen wrote to Mukesh Kapila, UN emergency relief coordinator for Sudan, declaring:
“Delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations in need is hampered mostly by *systematically denied access* [latter phrase emphasized in text]. While [Khartoum’s] authorities claim unimpeded access, they greatly restrict access to the areas under their control, while imposing blanket denial to all rebel-held areas.” (Tom Vraalsen, Note to the Emergency Relief Coordinator, “Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis in Darfur,” December 8, 2003)
It was of course UN coordinator Kapila who would declare the bluntest truths about Darfur several months later, in March 2004 (a full three years ago):
“‘The only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved. [The conflict in Darfur] is more than just a conflict, it is an organised attempt to do away with a group of people. [ ] I was present in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, and I’ve seen many other situations around the world and I am totally shocked at what is going on in Darfur.”
And despite mendacious claims by Khartoum in early February 2004 to have brought the situation in Darfur under “total military control,” Kapila insisted that:
“The pattern of organised attacks on civilians and villages, abductions, killings and organised rapes by militias is getting worse by the day and could deteriorate even further. One can see how the situation might develop without prompt [action]…all the warning signs are there.”
Three years later, Kapila’s ominous premonition about what “might develop” has come fully to pass—and on a scale that increasingly does bear comparison to Rwanda. Moreover, in arguing for the importance of a Darfur war-crimes tribunal, Kapila declared: “There are no secrets. The individuals who are doing this are known. We have their names. The individuals who are involved occupy senior positions [in the Government of Sudan].” To date, the International Criminal Court has made no “application” for warrants for these same ruthless men who “occupy senior positions” in the NIF junta. Two years after receiving a referral from the UN Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor has made “application” for warrants for only one mid-level official, Ahmed Haroun (previously the junior minister of the interior and—shockingly–currently Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs), and the Janjaweed leader known as Ali Kushayb. Khartoum has utterly dismissed the ICC actions, and has made clear it will not extradite any Sudanese witness or accused person.
KHARTOUM’S CONTEMPT FOR THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ONLY GROWS: Consequences for southern Sudan
There are various ways in which to understand the intertwining of the crisis in Darfur and the far-from-settled peace in southern Sudan. As an increasing number of international observers are remarking, Khartoum is flagrantly reneging on the terms of the January 9, 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended 22 years of north/south civil war. Not only has the regime refused to allow for real power-sharing in the merely notional “Government of National Unity,” but it has failed to disarm the highly destabilizing militia forces operating in the oil regions of Upper Nile Province. These militias—armed and supported by Khartoum, with a number of militia commanders enjoying senior ranks in the Sudan Armed Forces—were to have been absorbed into either the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army or Khartoum’s own Sudan Armed Forces by January 1, 2006. Well over a year later, many of these dangerous militias forces remain fully constituted and the most likely catalyst for renewed fighting in the south.
At the same time, Khartoum refuses to abide by the findings of the distinguished international panel that made up the Abyei Boundary Commission, as the regime was bound to by the terms of the CPA. The findings of the July 2005 report from the Commission continue to be openly flouted, as the National Islamic Front media organ (“Sudan Vision”) has very recently reported, here with singular authority: “President al-Bashir affirmed the government rejection to the report of experts on Abyei area, adding that the next year will witness demarcation of the borders” (“Sudan Vision,” March 5, 2007). Of course “government rejection” means only National Islamic Front “rejection”: the people of southern Sudan, including First Vice-President Salva Kiir, completely support the findings of the Abyei Boundary Commission.
We catch another glimpse of how Khartoum means to undermine the terms of the CPA in its refusal to fund the urgently required census in southern Sudan, a prerequisite to any meaningful elections. Reuters reports ([dateline: Juba, South Sudan], March 5, 2007):
“A census in south Sudan that is vital to the success of elections [ ] may be delayed 6 months to January 2008, a census official said on Monday [March 5, 2007]. Delays in receiving funds from the Sudanese government are jeopardising the timely implementation of the national census in the semi-autonomous south, the official said.” [ ]
“Preparations have been slow for a census, key to successful parliamentary and presidential elections foreseen by the end of 2009 and the [2011 self-determination] referendum. The census official said a planned June 30,  start date for the census was now unworkable. ‘In my personal opinion a realistic start would be January 2008,’ said Isaiah Chol Aruai, head of the Southern Sudan Commission for Census, Statistics and Evaluation. ‘We have not received any money for 2007 yet,’ he said.”
It is certainly not the case that Khartoum, flush from massive oil revenues, cannot find the money for this essential census; rather, the denial of funds is a deliberate effort by the regime, one of many, to sabotage any truly democratic process in Sudan. This important Reuters dispatch continued:
“Aruai said the southern census office was still waiting for about $600,000 from the 2006 budget. Sudan has budgeted $73.7 million for the national census, of which $30 million should come in 2007. A north-south boundary commission was supposed to have demarcated the frontier between north and south, but delays in forming and funding this commission have further complicated the southern census bureau’s work, Aruai said.”
Khartoum’s obdurate refusal to create a working north-south boundary commission is another long-running violation of the terms of the CPA, and allows the regime to commandeer revenues from oil production deriving from southern oil reserves. The struggling Government of South Sudan is entitled to approximately 50% of revenues from southern oil production, and has to date been denied hundreds of millions of dollars in critically needed revenue because of Khartoum’s manipulation of the north/south border.
Current evidence strongly suggests that Khartoum has no intention of allowing for either the 2009 elections or the 2011 referendum on southern self-determination, with secession as an option. Delaying the 2009 elections is the first step; but whenever the moment seems right, Khartoum will move even more decisively. The regime would prefer to do so while international attention is not focused, however ineffectually, on Darfur. We should recall that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was in many ways a product of Khartoum’s conclusion that it could not fight both in southern Sudan and in Darfur, as well as deal with the international consequences of its intransigence in both arenas. But the grim implication of this calculation by the regime is that when the Darfur conflict is extinguished, one way or another, it will set its sights on the oil regions of the south.
The large UN peace support operation currently deployed in southern Sudan has proved thoroughly ineffectual in responding to the crisis posed by militia groups in Upper Nile, and has no mandate or ability to halt a large-scale resumption of hostilities. At the same time, the military equities are continually shifting in favor of Khartoum, which is acquiring large quantities of sophisticated weapons and weapons systems. Khartoum also benefits from the continuing development of elevated, all-weather oil roads in Upper Nile Province—roads that accelerate oil development, but which would also allow for the rapid and unprecedented projection of mechanized military power southward by Khartoum.
For its part, the southern military—the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)—is still struggling to convert to a peace-time force capable of shouldering the essential task of guaranteeing the security provisions of the CPA. Without meaningful international guarantors of these critical security protocols, the SPLA must become the military deterrent in the face of Khartoum’s rapidly growing threat to seize the oil reserves as far toward the Equatorian Provinces as possible, and as far west into Bahr el-Ghazal Province as possible. The US and other countries that invested so much in the north/south peace agreement are squandering a very significant diplomatic achievement by failing to invest adequately in the peace process. This requires much greater and more focused support for the fledgling Government of South Sudan, as well as for an SPLA that is almost certainly weaker today than it was a year ago.
KHARTOUM CONTINUES TO STONEWALL ON INTERNATIONAL FORCES TO DARFUR
Even as the humanitarian situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate rapidly because of insecurity, Khartoum refuses to accept any significant augmentation of the desperately inadequate African Union force. US Special Envoy Natsios was compelled by circumstances to offer a blunt assessment following his much-heralded trip to Sudan and Khartoum:
“After meeting President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Natsios said there was still no agreement on allowing non-African peacekeeping troops to assist a cash-strapped and inexperienced African Union mission in Darfur.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 8, 2007)
As of Secretary-General Ban’s February 26, 2007 Report to the Security Council, the US and its allies within the world community had succeeded in deploying a mere 81 technical experts to a badly under-manned, under-equipped, and deeply demoralized AU force…a force now on the verge of collapse.
The desperate weakness of the AU force is captured all too well in a vignette from the outskirts of Kutum (North Darfur):
“On February 1,  an unarmed African Union civilian police officer was shot dead and his vehicle stolen while on a routine patrol at Kassab IDP camp–home to 30,000 people. The AU immediately ceased patrols to the camp, fearing for the lives of other unarmed officers. Three weeks later, with the AU still unwilling to patrol, two Darfuri girls, ages eight and 10, were collecting firewood when they were abducted by three armed men who took them to an abandoned hut, made them remove their clothes and raped them.” (Voice of America [dateline: Kutum, North Darfur], March 7, 2007)
Attacks on the AU have recently increased sharply and there is clear risk of dramatic attenuation rather than augmentation of this force:
“Two African Union peacekeepers were killed and one was seriously wounded in Sudan’s violent west when former Darfur rebel troops opened fire on them, an AU statement said on Tuesday [March 6, 2007]. The death tally brought to 11 the number of AU personnel killed since it started its mission in Darfur in 2004. ‘Two AU Protection Force soldiers were abducted and subsequently killed. A third soldier was critically injured,’ the statement said. ‘This deplorable and condemnable act was perpetrated by gunmen believed to be elements belonging to SLM (Minni), which is in full control of Gereida [South Darfur].'” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 6, 2007)
We learn all too much from these actions by forces associated with Minni Minawi about the price of diplomatic expediency in forcing through the ill-conceived Darfur Peace Agreement (Abuja, May 2006). No agreement signed only by Khartoum and the ruthless Minawi could possibly bring peace to Darfur. And as Reuters reports all too accurately:
“Minni Arcua Minnawi, leader of the only faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement to sign a peace deal in May last year, has since lost much ground in Darfur and been sidelined in Khartoum.”
Minawi’s commanders have turned into bandits or warlords, sided with Khartoum militarily, or in some cases joined with non-signatory rebel groups. But the disaster of the Abuja signing cannot be undone, and unsurprisingly Khartoum continues to insist in every document, in every forum, that the Darfur Peace Agreement is the only point of diplomatic departure. This adamant insistence creates a stalemate in trying to create a negotiating process attractive to the non-signatory rebel groups.
The lack of diplomatic progress, despite disingenuous words to the contrary from UN officials, and the ongoing collapse of the African Union as a minimal security presence in Darfur, portend even greater catastrophe. The UN News Center reports (March 8, 2007) on what could easily become the scenario for future massacres in camps for displaced persons:
“Hundreds of Arab militia in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region recently surrounded a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) after abducting two civilians from inside the camp, forcing the temporary suspension of humanitarian work there, the United Nations mission to the impoverished country said today.”
“On Wednesday [March 7, 2007], Arab militiamen swept through Ardamata IDP camp in West Darfur, capturing two civilians in connection with the killing of one of their relatives, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said in a press release, adding the two suspects had then been taken to the Government police station but the militia refused to allow the officers to investigate.”
This explosive confrontation gives us a terrifying glimpse of horrors that now seem inevitable, and which could propel rapid humanitarian withdrawal. Associated Press reports ([dateline: Khartoum], March 7, 2007) another recent and extremely ominous development:
“On Monday [March 5, 2007], about 30 gunmen of groups that have signed the May  accord [i.e., those of Minni Minawi] surrounded an office for the implementation of the peace agreement in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, and ‘threatened the [AU] officer-in-charge,’ the [AU] statement said.”
Minni Minawi’s forces have always been the most brutal in their treatment of civilians, and it is hardly surprising that this threatening action against the AU should come from the men who are part of his former cohort.
If Minawi has lost political and military control, his cruel and ungoverned ways live on in the men guilty of this dangerously consequential provocation. These “signatory” rebel forces are guilty of many attacks on civilians and humanitarians in various parts of South Darfur and North Darfur south and west of el-Fasher. Most notably, Minawi’s men were responsible for the savage attack on humanitarian workers in Gereida (December 2006) that precipitated the withdrawal of the aid organizations Oxfam and Action Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger). Neither organization has returned to Gereida, leaving the world largest concentration of Internally Displaced Persons (130,000) with the resources of only the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Why does the African Union remain, with full knowledge by the entire world community, the only source of security on the ground in Darfur? Why has no international force deployed to eastern Chad? There are finally as many answers as there are international actors of consequence, but all take final form in the unrelenting defiance on the part of Khartoum’s gnocidaires. And why should these moral barbarians relent? They have felt no consequences for their actions, and there are no consequences in prospect. Indeed, the regime’s defiance, despite its conspicuous nature, is not honestly acknowledged: an international charade persists in which Khartoum is simply not credited for meaning what it says, even when those words are fully borne out by actions.
Most conspicuously, various international actors pretend that Khartoum has agreed to a UN/AU “hybrid force.” But at every turn since the “High Level Consultation on Darfur” (November 16, 2006) convened by the UN and AU in Addis Ababa, Khartoum has insisted that it agreed only to a UN/AU “hybrid operation.” And the essential difference between a “force” and an “operation” has been just as insistently asserted: the latter, all that has been agreed to, does not include international or non-AU troops, a point just reiterated to US Special Envoy Natsios. The disconnect in basic assumptions is at times so striking that it is impossible not to believe that a willful ignorance is at work. The UN News Service (March 7, 2007) declares that,
“[Secretary General] Ban has already written to Mr. Bashir on the second phase, which includes the provision of additional personnel and equipment, but has not yet received a reply. Ban’s Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson noted to reporters yesterday that the Sudanese had accepted in principle the hybrid force.”
But this is wishful thinking on the slippery Eliasson’s part, as is Eliasson’s assertion that Khartoum has halted “aerial bombings of rebel positions since February 11, 2007” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: UN/New York], March 6, 2007). There has been no such cessation, and an extremely reliable regional source reports to this writer (March 8, 2007):
[edited for clarity] “Antonov was over the area of North Darfur on March 6 and 7 . It was hovering over its targets—Berdi, el-Hosh, Wadi Hawar, and el-Wakhaim—for two days. We reported this to the UN Mission in el-Fasher, security department.”
There have been other highly credible reports of bombing subsequent to Eliasson’s February 11, 2007 “cessation” date.
Of the supposed “agreement in principle” to a “hybrid force,” Eliasson is simply in error. While Secretary-General Ban and Security Council members continue their lengthy wait for a letter from Khartoum concerning UN augmenting of the AU, one that Khartoum claims was signed and sent by President al-Bashir many days ago, the Sudan Media Center, represents the views of the regime fully explicitly:
“Presidency of the Republic confirms that implementation of the last phase of three packages support for AU forces in Darfur should be determined according to requirements of AU forces. Presidential press advisor Mahjoub Fadul Badri told [the Sudan Media Center] that government has agreed on hybrid operations with UN and AU in Darfur and not hybrid forces. That means that there is possibility of international technicians, experts and instructors without deployment of armed troops.” (Sudan Media Center, March 4, 2007)
Precisely this claim has been made repeatedly, over many months now, by a range of senior NIF officials. Majzoub al-Khalifa, who negotiated the Darfur Peace Agreement for Khartoum, declared (January 29, 2007) that, “‘We have agreed on a hybrid [AU/UN] operation not a hybrid force'” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 29, 2007). The February 1, 2007 UN Bulletin for Sudan reports that,
“On 31 January , local media reported that Presidential Assistant Nafie [Ali Nafie] reiterated Government of Sudan rejection of any form of what he described as ‘evil’ colonization, saying that the Government of Sudan will categorically refuse deployment of foreign troops regardless of the helmet they wear. The statement was made during his visit to Kabkabiya, North Darfur.”
These two comments, one for international the other for domestic consumption, are entirely consistent with many other remarks coming from the most senior members of the National Islamic Front for months now, including from President al-Bashir. There has been no wavering, and certainly nothing that amounts to what Eliasson calls an acceptance “in principle [of] the hybrid force.” Almost as if to ensure that such fabrication as Eliasson has offered is simply not credible, Agence France-Presse reports on the words of Khartoum’s UN ambassador concerning the long-awaited letter from al-Bashir:
“France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere meanwhile expressed disappointment that Beshir had not yet replied to a letter from UN chief Ban Ki-moon on a proposed joint UN-AU peacekeeping operation in Darfur. ‘I am disappointed that we have not yet received the letter… We have been told for days that this letter was about to come,’ he noted. ‘If it does not come, then we’ll have to see what to do and there are some delegations on the council thinking about taking measures (sanctions).’ [Meanwhile,] Sudan’s UN envoy Abdalmahmood Mohamad indicated that the letter was on its way but ‘will not contain anything new.'” (AFP [dateline: UN/New York], March 6, 2007)
The letter “will not contain anything new”—i.e., it will contain no further concessions on either the nature of the so-called “heavy package” of UN support for the AU, or on the “third phase,” the actual force that will provide security in Darfur. Associated Press had four days earlier reported developments concerning the al-Bashir letter from a slightly different perspective:
“Al-Bashir’s letter expresses his commitment but also raises ‘issues of operational, technical and legal aspects’ of the proposal, Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem told The Associated Press. He declined to elaborate on those concerns.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], March 2, 2007)
But of course such “issues of operational, technical and legal aspects” of the proposal have been retarding all progress on actual deployment since the Addis Ababa “High Level Consultation on Darfur” of November 16, 2006—almost four months ago. This is why several days later Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem attempted to deflate expectations by declaring that al-Bashir’s letter “will not contain anything new.” In fact, there is every reason to believe that the distance between professed UN and Western expectations and what Khartoum intends to accede to is unbridgeably great. Associated Press reports from the UN (March 7, 2007) that the “second phase” of UN assistance to the AU will consist of the deployment of “more than 3,000 UN military, police and civilian personnel, along with substantial aviation and logistical assets.”
But this “second phase” is reported in very different, indeed almost unrecognizable form by The Sudan Tribune ([dateline: Khartoum], February 25, 2007):
“Sudan said that negotiations are going on with the African Union and the UN to implement the second phase of the UN support to the African troops in Darfur, the foreign ministry said that this phase includes between 400 to 500 experts and technicians.”
“The spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs, Ali al-Sadiq, said in press statements yesterday that the three sides would implement the second package after it was approved. He said the second package would cost 45m dollars which the UN had pledged to provide. Al-Sadiq said the second package involved between 400 and 500 experts and technicians and would take between two to three months to implement.”
Those wondering why the letter from Khartoum is taking so very long to arrive at UN headquarters should reflect on these completely different understandings of “phase two” of the UN assistance package to the AU. And this leaves entirely aside the actual force, of approximately 20,000 total troops and civilian police, that the UN and Western countries have been assuming. The issue is not yet to the point of meaningful negotiation, even as this is a force that Khartoum has adamantly insisted comprise only AU troops. Further, the size and mandate of the force are still matters completely undecided, particularly since Khartoum insists that the issues will be decided by an assessment of security needs conducted by the “Tripartite Commission” of which it is a member, and with what is in effect veto power.
[This writer received at 3:30pm EST today (March 9, 2007) an unofficial translation of the letter from al-Bashir to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, though not the 14-page technical annex to the letter. Unsurprisingly, despite professed hopes by UN officials and Western nations, this document is but another epistolary straight-arming of the international community, of a piece with al-Bashir’s previous letter (December 23, 2007) to then-Secretary General Kofi Annan. The present letter declares that features of the second, “heavy” support package to the AU “need to be clarified.” It continually, insistently cleaves to the Darfur Peace Agreement as the only basis for discussion of the crisis in Darfur. Indeed, the letter argues that “some paragraphs of the Final Report [on the AU/UN Consultations on the UN Proposed Heavy Support Package to the AU Mission in Darfur] contravene many paragraphs of the DPA.” This leads to the inevitable and paralyzing conclusion: “Therefore, proposals that tend to amend, nullify or suspend any article of the Darfur Peace Agreement will not be acceptable.”
Furthermore, al-Bashir insists that “our understanding of the UN support packages is that the UN will provide technical, logistical, financial expertise, and civil and military consultants with ranks below that of the military commander appointed by the African Union. In phase three, the AU forces implementing that phase, in terms of control or command, must remain forces of the African Union, supported by the UN as per the two [initial support] packages.”
This is no more than has been previously re-cycled by al-Bashir and other National Islamic Front leaders over the past four months. It creates ambiguity where there was to be clarity; it arrogates to Khartoum’s gnocidaires veto power through the “Tripartite Mechanism” (invoked in the concluding paragraph of the letter). The regime’s UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem is entirely accurate in having declared that al-Bashir’s letter “will not contain anything new.” Nothing new at all, and thus a preservation of the genocidal status quo.
Al-Bashir also declares of humanitarian operations in Darfur: “My government is committed to continue supporting the humanitarian efforts and to extend all necessary and possible facilitations through an energized fast track.”
This long-awaited letter is a nauseating exercise in mendacity and a compelling exemplar of human evil.]
SECURITY DETERIORATING RAPIDLY IN EASTERN CHAD AS WELL
What must not be lost sight of amidst the overwhelming security crisis in Darfur is the equally dire situation for humanitarians working in eastern Chad. Moreover, President Idriss Dby has for political reasons reneged on an earlier commitment to allow an international military force to deploy to the Chad/Darfur border; he is now insisting that this be simply a police operation. Dby has also “refused to allow an advance team of military, police and civilian peacekeepers to visit the country,” according to UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi (Reuters [dateline: UN/New York], March 6, 2007).
A purely policing presence is not a tenable alternative and ensures that no force will be deploying without robust international pressure on Dby to accept the force outlined in February 2007 by Secretary-General Ban (approximately 11,000 troops and police). As Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Annabi recently emphasized: “‘We need a military force that creates an environment in which the police can do their work'” (Reuters [dateline: UN/New York], March 6, 2007).
The need for such a military and policing force could not be greater. The BBC reported (February 16, 2007) from eastern Chad:
“The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says the killing tactics from neighbouring Darfur in Sudan have been transported to eastern Chad in full. [ ] The BBC’s Orla Guerin, in eastern Chad, says at first the Janjaweed came from Sudan; later, locals joined in—neighbour killing neighbour. ‘We are seeing elements that closely resemble what we saw in Rwanda in the genocide in 1994 and I think we have an opportunity here to avoid such a tragedy from occurring again,’ UNHCR’s Matthew Conway said.”
But the only way to avert the escalating violence and disruption of humanitarian aid is by enhancing security, and such security is nowhere in sight. From eastern Chad, The Telegraph (UK) reports:
“Aid agencies work under constant threat. The United Nations has evacuated all but a handful of essential staff from eastern Chad and declared a ‘Phase Four’ alert in the region. The next stage is ‘Phase Five’—a total evacuation of staff and the effective end of the relief effort.”
Nicolas de Torrente of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) recently declared:
“‘We have had to pull international teams out of places that are too dangerous and move them back into camps and cities,’ said Nicolas de Torrente, [MSF’s] director in the United States.” (One World [dateline: UN/New York], February 16, 2007)
This provides a rather peculiar context for the chiding press release from MSF of March 2, 2007 (“Insecurity is No Alibi for Inaction in Chad—MSF”):
“A number of relief agencies are claiming that insecurity is preventing them from carrying out their humanitarian activities in Chad. ‘The security situation in eastern Chad is indeed volatile,’ says Martin Braaksma, MSF head of mission in Chad. ‘But balanced against the huge humanitarian needs, we have no option but to continue to work here.'” (MSF press release, March 2, 2007)
Even as the executive director of MSF/USA is declaring that “We have had to pull international teams out of places that are too dangerous and move them back into camps and cities,” MSF arrogantly presumes to judge the courage of other humanitarian organizations by labeling their decisions concerning security for their personnel in eastern Chad mere “claims” and “alibis” for not working in this exceedingly dangerous environment. MSF is certainly widely respected for being among the most courageous of humanitarian organizations; but the organization discredits itself by casting aspersions on the motives and decisions of others in making decisions about what constitutes unacceptable levels of insecurity.
“‘The shortfalls are obvious and immediate, which is why people require more aid organizations to respond quickly,’ says [MSF’s head of Chad programs] Braaksma. ‘We can’t understand why the response has been so slow.'” (MSF press release, March 2, 2007)
Again, this implicit challenging of the courage of other humanitarian organizations is arrogant and offensive. Let the French-based MSF make its own decisions, and do what it can to provide reliable security information to other organizations contemplating expanding their operations in eastern Chad. But all humanitarian organizations have security thresholds that they will not cross, risks they will not ask their workers to incur. As MSF’s Torrente declared, the organization itself has such a threshold: “We have had to pull [MSF’s] international teams out of places that are too dangerous and move them back into camps and cities.” This is no time for an aid organization to indulge in “machismo”—the risks to lives, civilian and humanitarian, are far too great for such behavior. Just today (March 9, 2007) the UN News Center reports:
“The security situation in eastern Chad has deteriorated during the past week, hampering efforts by United Nations humanitarian agencies to help up to 105,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more that 230,000 refugees who have fled the fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region. Inter-ethnic violence continues to be reported, leading to the cancellation of humanitarian activities in one refugee camp, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said in its latest update.”
“Earlier this week a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff member and a security guard were kidnapped in the Guereda region, and WFP, UNHCR and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) decided to reduce their presence, relocating 22 national staff to the town of Abeche.”
MSF should spend more of its energies calling vigorously for security to protect its operations rather than challenging the courage of organizations that may have a different threshold defining unacceptable security risks for its personnel.
CHINA AND DARFUR
The US administration has expediently attempted to make much of a recent Chinese foreign investment decision:
“Beijing has left Iran, Sudan, and Nigeria off its latest list of resource-rich countries for which it will provide financial incentives to Chinese companies to invest in. [ ] It is not clear whether the exclusion of Iran, Sudan and Nigeria came because Chinese companies have no short-term investment plans in the three countries, or for more political reasons.” (Financial Times [UK] [dateline: Beijing], March 2, 2007)
The Bush administration quickly attempted to take credit for this decision:
“Beijing’s recent decision to remove Sudan off its list of countries for which it will provide financial incentives to Chinese companies to invest in was aimed to press Khartoum to accept the hybrid UN-AU force in Darfur, the State Department revealed Monday. US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the move by Beijing ‘sends a very strong signal to the Sudanese Government that the Chinese Government wants to see this AU-UN hybrid force get into Darfur.'” (Sudan Tribune, March 5, 2007)
But what sort of “signal” was sent by the almost simultaneous announcement that China and Sudan had agreed to a huge capital investment project by Beijing? —
“Sudan and China signed 28 February,  a 1.15 bln USD contract to construct a railway line to link the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, with Port Sudan in the east of the country. China Railway Engineering Group Co Ltd and China Railway Erju Co Ltd unit Transtech Engineering Corp have jointly won a 1.15 bln USD construction contract in Sudan, according to a statement on the Sichuan province Department of Commerce’s website. China Railway Engineering Group indirectly controls China Railway Erju Co Ltd.”
“Inked after two years of negotiations, this contract is considered as the biggest construction contract in the field of the railways ever signed between China and Sudan. The total length of the railway line is 762 kilometres.” (The Sudan Tribune, March 4, 2007)
Notably, this capital investment yet again was negotiated exclusively by Khartoum…for Khartoum. Railway transportation is desperately needed throughout Sudan, geographically Africa’s largest country, and yet this project will inevitably work almost exclusively to the economic advantage of Khartoum and its immediate environs; the marginalized people and regions of the country will see almost no benefit.
For those looking for signs that such investment comes with any scruples about providing what is essential economic support for a genocidal regime, it may be a good time to hear the official word from Beijing about Darfur (via Xinhua, [dateline: Beijing], March 6, 2007):
“President Hu Jintao had clarified the Chinese government’s stance on the Darfur issue in Sudan, one of the eight African countries he visited earlier this year, [Foreign Minister] Li [Zhaoxing] said on the sidelines of the parliamentary annual session. The stance was welcomed by the people of Sudan and its neighbouring countries and by the people of all peace-loving countries in support of justice, Li said.”
“The Chinese government has always maintained that different countries can have friendly negotiations on an equal footing, and China is willing to hold such dialogues with African countries and all the other countries, he said. [ ] China, apart from seeking self-development, has tried to assist other countries to the best of its capability. ‘Our assistance is free of any political pressure and helps resolve specific problems, a good demonstration of China’s peaceful development road and constructive role in the world,’ Li said.”
“While differentiating dialogue from interference, he cited the UN charter, which clearly stipulates a principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. ‘It’s hard to imagine the world can maintain harmony and peaceful development if any country or international organization intends to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs,’ the minister said.”
The distinction between “dialogue” and “interference” is, of course, one that permits China to do as little as it wishes in responding to Khartoum’s ongoing genocidal counterinsurgency in Darfur. This miasma of specious language about “peace” and “harmony” finally does little to obscure the underlying Realpolitik, a brutal and ruthless geostrategic economic calculus. And as this huge capital commitment in a new rail-line demonstrates, there is as yet no pressure great enough to move Beijing to see its investments in Sudan in any but the most self-serving of ways.
But the host country of the 2008 Olympic Games is about to discover just how potent international advocacy can be when the issue is complicity in genocide. The Olympic Games, the premier international event, cannot be legitimately hosted by a country that sees no obligation to halt the ultimate violation of international law. The feckless response of Western nations, the dithering and diffidence of the UN, the indifference of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference—all are a disgrace to international ideals. But it is China, which wields such enormous leverage over the Khartoum government, that must be put to the ultimate test: just how much shame and international opprobrium is Beijing willing endure? Will the Chinese regime continue in its refusal to address its enabling complicity in genocidal destruction? Will these calculating men risk seeing these Olympic Games become the ultimate international political platform—one relentlessly, ubiquitously, energetically highlighting precisely this complicity?
This test is even now in the making and will if necessary run through to the Opening Ceremonies of the summer 2008 Games unless Beijing uses its influence to secure access for an adequate international peace support operation in Darfur.