Almost as if to mirror Darfur itself, news reporting and other accounts of the vast crisis in western Sudan and eastern Chad have become less and less coherent. Attempts at synthesizing what we know, from the broadest range of sources, are virtually non-existent, particularly in assessing the key issues of civilian and humanitarian protection. As a consequence, global assessments continue to be presented primarily in the form of almost incomprehensibly large statistics coming from the UN and humanitarian organizations: a staggering 4.7 million conflicted-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad; more than 2.5 million displaced from their homes, most losing everything, with no prospect of return in sight; a million human beings beyond all reach of humanitarian assistance; and hundreds of thousands who have already perished. Ominously, the hunger season began early this year; UNICEF and others report malnutrition rates in Darfur that are of concern; and Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) reports highly alarming malnutrition rates from eastern Chad and a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Even as the catastrophe grows in scale, threats to humanitarian workers are greater than ever, at the very moment in which their continued presence is most essential for the survival of a huge percentage of those affected by the conflict. Global assessments of security from senior UN officials could not be more dire. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres declared in early May:
“If there has been a very important success in humanitarian relief [in Darfur], I think there has been a total failure in relation to protection and security.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], May 1, 2007)
Departing UN humanitarian aid chief for Sudan Manuel Aranda Da Silva declared bluntly that “security is worse today than it has ever been” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 8, 2007)
And Nobel laureate Jody Williams, having been denied access to Darfur by the Khartoum regime, was able to gather a great deal of evidence from populations in eastern Chad:
“No matter who I talked to, what everyone wanted most was ‘protection’ and ‘security.’ More than food, more than water, more than going home. And when asked who could protect them, the overwhelming majority responded, ‘The United Nations.'” (The Independent [dateline: eastern Chad] March 24, 2007)
But instead of detailed and comprehensive assessments of the scale of the security crisis, and an overview of particular threats to civilians and humanitarians, we are much more likely to encounter very partial reportage, or credulous accounts of progress in sending a UN/African Union “hybrid force” to Darfur.
NO PROGRESS ON A PROTECTION FORCE FOR DARFUR OR CHAD
Here the largest truth is that there has been virtually no progress toward actual assembly and deployment of a meaningful international protection force to Darfur. The so-called “heavy support package” (“phase two”) of the three-part “hybrid operation” mooted in Addis Ababa in November 2006 has yet to materialize in any significant way, despite nominal “agreement” by the Khartoum regime in mid-April. Moreover, the “heavy support package” makes sense only in the context of a very large follow-on force.
Seven months after the Addis “High Level Consultation on Darfur,” even the initial UN “light support package” to the African Union has not fully deployed. Most significantly, the large protection force (“phase three”), now discussed as comprising some 23,000 troops and civilian police, is held fully hostage to Khartoum’s intransigent refusal even to discuss a force of this size and an equally intransigent refusal to accept non-AU military or police personnel. This refusal was unambiguously reiterated yet again by National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) President Omar al-Bashir just two days ago (June 9, 2007, in the “Sudan Media Center,” a highly revealing propaganda organ for NIF announcements).
The UN “heavy support package” to the AU has been continuously misrepresented, often disingenuously, as an addition of “3,000 UN troops” to the currently crumbling and badly demoralized force from the African Union (approximately 5,000 troops and 2,000 support personnel). It is nothing of the kind: rather, this “support package” consists almost entirely of elements that make sense chiefly in the context of a very large follow-on force. As the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (dateline: UN/New York) reported in detail (April 20, 2007):
“The [heavy support] package will include a signals unit, communications unit, and logistics staff who will be deployed as part of the 2,250 military personnel. No infantry will be deployed, but the personnel include helicopter pilots, and military tactical staff, among others. Currently, the UN is holding meetings with troop-contributing countries to determine who would be willing to send personnel to Darfur.”
“‘The troops should be predominantly African,’ said [AU Commissioner Alpha Oumar] Konare. ‘If this is not possible, we will look—with the approval of the Sudanese government—outside the continent.’ A contingent of 301 police officers will be deployed, along with 1,136 civilian personnel to work on human rights issues, humanitarian affairs and civilian logistics, among other proposals. But only 150 civilian workers will be international staff.”
As the disingenuous Konar well knows, Khartoum adamantly refuses to provide the “approval” for forces from “outside the continent.” Thus to date there is no indication of where the personnel for this “heavy support package” will come from (see my analysis of Khartoum’s merely notional agreement to the “heavy support package,” April 18, 2007, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article162.html). Non-African Union specialists will be difficult to attract because of continuing ambiguity over command-and-control, even as the personnel specified are in exceedingly short supply within AU force-contributing countries. Moreover, the insistence on AU command for any eventual protection force may well prevent countries such as Norway and Sweden from providing elements already promised. The Washington Post reported last month:
“The deteriorating situation [following Rwandan and Senegalese threats to withdraw from the AU mission in Darfur] has aggravated a dispute between Khartoum, the African Union and the United Nations over who would lead and fund the expanded peacekeeping mission. The groups reached a compromise last month that provides for UN command of the overall UN mission in Sudan, with the African Union commanding operations in Darfur. But Norway and Sweden, the only European nations that have expressed interest in participating in the Darfur mission, have rejected the accord. ‘We are not members of the African Union; we are members of the United Nations,’ said Raymond Johansen, Norway’s deputy foreign minister. ‘It will not be easy for our troops to report to an African Union commander.'” ([dateline: UN/New York], May 13, 2007)
Dismayingly AU Commissioner Konar has sided decisively with Khartoum, even as this ensures that timely deployment of anything resembling the “heavy support package” or the large follow-on force will be impossible:
“Konare, after talks with [NIF President Omar] al-Bashir on Saturday [April 7, 2007], said there had been clear agreement in Addis Ababa on a hybrid force consisting of African troops under AU command with logistical, financial and administrative assistance from the United Nations.” (Reuters [dateline: Addis Ababa], April 9, 2007)
Discussions of both the “heavy support package” as well as the eventual “hybrid force” have fallen victim to the same prideful AU insistence concerning command-and-control of this mission. The unprecedented and already problematic “hybridization” of UN and AU forces looks more and more confused, even incoherent. As a number of news reports have indicated, the critical issue of command structure was recently resolved only on the basis of a deliberate vagueness in the UN document that will be presented to the canny gnocidaires of the Khartoum regime:
“The United Nations and the African Union reached tentative agreement on Wednesday [June 6, 2007] on a 23,000-strong peacekeeping force for Darfur by glossing over a dispute on who controls the operation.” [ ]
“While the United Nations has chosen African commanders, its revised proposal said more clarity was needed on command and control, as demanded by troop contributing bodies and UN financial bodies. But the original proposal also said some UN control was required ‘given the Security Council’s primary responsibility for authorizing, and the UN’s direct responsibility for implementing the mandate.’ This sentence has now been deleted at the request of the African Union, diplomats said.” (Reuters [dateline: UN/New York], June 6, 2007)
The New York Times cogently assessed the thinking behind this expedient deletion:
“The original accord, which had been endorsed by the Security Council, gave clear ultimate command to the United Nations. But the African Union raised objections and asked for ‘clarifications’ in the text. The new language, in a revised version delivered to the Security Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, eliminates the reference and leaves vague how power will be divided.”
“A senior United Nations official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said the indeterminate phrasing was aimed at satisfying the Security Council that there was enough United Nations leadership to persuade troop-contributing countries to provide the necessary soldiers and equipment, and to convince the African Union and Sudan that there was enough African input at the top.” (New York Times [dateline: UN/New York], June 6, 2007)
“Glossing over a dispute on who controls the operation” and strategic “vagueness” ensure that Khartoum will exploit relentlessly this lack of a specific and forceful UN command-and-control.
These grim realities lead to even grimmer conclusions. The African Union forces on the ground continue to loose effectiveness, even as the task of protecting its own members becomes more difficult. Morale has plummeted, with many soldiers openly expressing contempt for the mission as currently undertaken. Senegal, which lost five of its troops in a single attack in April 2007, has pointedly threatened to withdraw its highly regarded forces (Reuters [dateline: Dakar], May 25, 2007). Rwanda, whose troops are the backbone of the AU mission in Darfur, has also threatened to withdraw its troops. There is still no clear source of personnel for the “heavy support package,” nor clear and decisive agreement from Khartoum on the terms of its deployment. No one at the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations believes this “support package” could deploy sooner than three to four months from now—in other words, after the current rainy season and “hunger gap.”
And most significantly, Khartoum has not agreed to negotiate anything resembling a large AU/UN “hybrid force.” Commitments of resources on the scale necessary are nowhere in evidence. As a consequence, since the “heavy support package” is not a source of AU “reinforcement” but rather a deployment of personnel and resources necessary for eventual deployment of a large follow-on force, the security status quo will continue for many months, perhaps a year.
It is sheer political expediency for the G-8 to “welcome acceptance by the Government of Sudan of the UN heavy support package” for the African Union, given the real purpose of this “support.” It is even more disgracefully expedient for the G-8 nations to speak of their support for the African Union in “the rapid transition to the AU/UN hybrid mission” (Final G-8 Statement, Heiligendamm, Germany, June 8, 2007). Again, meaningful negotiations with Khartoum on this “AU/UN hybrid mission” have not yet begun. It must also be stressed again that the UN “heavy support package” has been configured not as a reinforcement mission, but primarily as preparation for the large follow-on force that currently lacks both Khartoum’s consent as well as explicit commitments of military troops and civilian police forces.
A useful overview of the contemplated functions of the “heavy support package” was provided today by Refugees International:
“The heavy support package is designed to support [African Union mission in Darfur] in a range of areas, including civil affairs, humanitarian liaison, public information, mine action and support for the Darfur political process. The package thus includes 1,136 civilian personnel, as well as 301 police officers and three formed police units. 2,250 military personnel are to be deployed to provide military transport, engineering, signals and logistics, surveillance, aviation and medical services. To implement the heavy support package, the UN requires urgent Member State contributions of specialist troops and police, the agreement of the Government of the Sudan on land and water drilling in Darfur, and the restructuring of [the AU mission] from the current eight deployment sectors into three comprehensive sectors. (Refugees International, “Sudan: Seven months and counting for the Darfur hybrid force,” June 11, 2007)
Notably, there are no infantry forces, a very limited number of civilian police, but a raft of key tasks for specialists that alone will enable effective deployment of a large follow-on force. None of this has been secured or is in sight, including agreement from the Khartoum regime. Indeed, in the absence of a decisive change in the diplomatic climate, and a much greater sense of international urgency concerning deployment of protection forces to Darfur and eastern Chad, nothing on the horizon gives promise of changing what we now see.
What, then, is visible if we choose to look closely?
IMPLICATIONS OF INSECURITY FOR THE COMING “HUNGER GAP”
The traditional “hunger gap” in Darfur—the period between spring planting and fall harvest—largely coincides with the rainy season, the period during which transportation through most of Darfur is severely compromised by flooding, washed out roads, and torrents of water coursing through wadis (normally dry river beds). This year, the US Agency for International Development (“Sudan: Complex Emergency” situation report, June 6, 2007) reports that,
“The poor harvest in 2006 resulted in an early onset of the hunger season in 2007, which began in March/April rather than May.” It was for this reason that by early May, UNICEF reported that:
“Malnutrition is on the rise again in Darfur [ ] the UN’s children fund said Wednesday [May 2, 2007]. ‘We need to raise the alarm bell,’ said Ted Chaiban, head of UNICEF’s mission to Sudan. ‘We’re losing ground. We need to stop this deterioration.”
While food supplies in most camps remain largely adequate, it is important to bear in mind that approximately 1 million people in Darfur are beyond all humanitarian reach. Many are self-sufficient, but certainly hundreds of thousands are not. As always, children under five are particularly vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition. Further compromising of humanitarian access because of insecurity, as well as transportation difficulties that will become acute within the month, make it highly likely that malnutrition rates will rise significantly, particularly in South Darfur (home to half Darfur’s population), West Darfur, and southern North Darfur. Part Two of this analysis will develop these grim themes much more fully.
In neighboring Chad, where Darfur’s ethnic violence continues to bleed out massively, malnutrition already poses a grave and badly under-reported threat. Indeed, in many ways the security crisis and humanitarian conditions in eastern Chad are worse than in Darfur. There are presently approximately half a million conflict-affected persons in eastern Chad: 240,000 Darfuri refugees; 150,000 Chadian Internally Displaced Persons; and over 100,000 conflict-affected people clinging desperately to their homes and villages. Repeated incursions by Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militia forces have become the catalyst for growing indigenous ethnic violence (see reports below). Khartoum’s support for both the Janjaweed and Chadian rebels seeking to overthrow President Idriss Dby has led to a highly destabilized situation that extends ever more deeply into eastern Chad.
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) recently issued a particularly dire warning (“While attention is focused on Darfur, an emergency situation is unfolding in eastern Chad,” June 8, 2007):
“In [eastern] Chad 150,000 IDPs are caught up in a growing humanitarian crisis. Although an MSF survey has confirmed the emergency situation, assistance is still largely insufficient and MSF is coming up against numerous obstacles to increasing its activities. In eastern Chad, repeated deadly attacks on villages over the past 18 months have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Grouped together in camps where security is not always guaranteed, they live in basic huts and lack food, water and access to medical care.”
“Epicentre, MSF’s research and epidemiological survey centre, carried out a survey at the end of May in the camps around Goz Beida. This survey revealed that one child in five was suffering from acute malnutrition and that the mortality rates from March 30 to May 20, 2007, were catastrophic.”
“Mortality rates from March 30 to May 20, 2007 were catastrophic.” To those questioning whether there really is any longer significant mortality in Darfur and eastern Chad, these findings should be sobering. MSF continued:
“Until recently, the assistance provided by many organisations in Chad was focused on the refugees arriving from Darfur and neglected the IDP population. In April  the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) finally launched a three month emergency plan, but its objectives in terms of food, water and shelter are inadequate. ‘In Goz Beida, the IDPs receive three to eight litres of water per person per day, whereas they should have 20 litres. Only around 100 malnourished children are receiving treatment, but our survey estimated at least 2,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition,’ explained Franck Joncret, MSF Head of Mission in Chad. ‘This policy of rationed aid for IDPs is unacceptable.'”
Oxfam has also spoken out forcefully about the consequences of Darfur’s ethnic violence spreading rapidly into Chad:
“‘The humanitarian crisis is quickly deteriorating with increased needs because of the recent numbers of people forced to flee the fighting,’ Oxfam said, pointing out that since last May , ‘the numbers of Chadians forced to flee the fighting in the eastern part of the country has more than quadrupled, from 30,000 to 140,000.'” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: N’Djamena, Chad], May 3, 2007)
MSF has previously self-righteously criticized other aid organizations for not working more aggressively to provide humanitarian assistance in eastern Chad. But the terrible reality is that insecurity is simply intolerably great in many areas of the very long border region with Darfur, even for MSF. For example, workers for the UN’s World Food Program recently came under violent attack near Iriba, far to the north of the Goz Beida region on which MSF reported:
“The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily suspended operations in an area of eastern Chad bordering Sudan’s Darfur after attackers beat up two local employees, a WFP spokesman said on Friday. The attack took place on Thursday [May 24, 2007] in Chad’s Biltine district at the town of Iriba, from where WFP supplies food to three UN-run camps sheltering 56,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled fighting in Darfur.” [ ]
“‘We feel threatened and targeted and we really want to know that the security situation will improve before we can become fully operational again,’ [WFP spokesman Marcus] Prior said. UN relief agencies were waiting for Chadian army reinforcements to arrive in Iriba.” (Reuters [dateline: N’Djamena], May 25, 2007)
So great is insecurity that many Chadians have actually fled to Darfur:
“Some 20,000 Chadians already have crossed to Darfur [from eastern Chad] since the end of 2005, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said. The migration has occurred despite unabated violence and human rights abuses committed in Darfur by government-backed janjaweed militias and rebels. [ ] The Chadians were fleeing ‘janjaweed-style attacks, some of them by domestic groups, some of them believed to have come across the border from Darfur,’ [UNHCR spokesman Ron] Redmond said.” (Associated Press [dateline: Geneva], March 20, 2007)
The views of those Chadians most directly threatened have been rendered with stark clarity:
“Chadian civilians displaced by violence in the east appealed for United Nations military protection on Wednesday [March 26, 2007], but a top UN official said political solutions were need to make peacekeeping effective.” [ ]
“‘There is no security and we live in constant fear,’ Abderamane Adam Issa, a displaced villager living in a camp at Gouroukoum near Goz Beida in southeastern Chad, told Reuters during a visit by UN humanitarian chief John Holmes. [ ] ‘If the Chadian government refuses to send a force we will be killed. It’s that simple,’ Issa said, adding he and many others would flee to other countries if violence did not end.” (Reuters [dateline: Gouroukoum, eastern Chad], March 28, 2007).
Shortly after the visit by UN humanitarian aid chief Holmes, word emerged of an especially violent, and terribly revealing, attack on civilians. The Los Angeles Times reported (April 11, 2007):
“In the latest sign that violence plaguing Darfur is spilling into neighboring Chad, more than 200 Chadians were feared dead in an attack against two remote farming villages near the Sudanese border, the UN’s refugee agency said Tuesday [April 10, 2007]. Humanitarian workers who reached the villages of Tiero and Marena on Sunday [April 8, 2007] found mass graves, decomposing bodies, scores of dead livestock and hundreds of torched huts, some still smoldering from the March 31,  attack.”
“‘The scale is mind-boggling,’ said Matthew Conway, Chad spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who visited the site. ‘Complete desolation and destruction. And the stench, my God, the stench.'”
“The attacks were among the deadliest to hit southeastern Chad in 18 months, when violence from the Darfur region of western Sudan began spilling over the border. The death toll is estimated between 200 and 400. Officials said exact figures are unclear because many victims had been buried in common graves by the time humanitarian workers arrived.”
Commenting on the spreading ethnically-targeted violence even before the terrible events at Tiero and Marena, Matthew Conway of UNHCR declared: “‘We are seeing elements that closely resemble what we saw in Rwanda in the genocide of 1994.'” (The Observer [UK] [dateline: Chad/Darfur], March 4, 2007).
In its 2007 Annual Report on Human Rights (May 2007), Amnesty International declares in its Darfur section:
“The government [of Sudan] took no action to halt cross-border Janjawid attacks against targeted ethnic groups in Chad, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and tens of thousands of displacements during the first half of the year. Attacks across the border resumed in October, in which some 500 civilians were unlawfully killed, many more were raped, thousands were driven from their homes, and villages were destroyed.”
[For a series of detailed human rights reports on ethnic violence in eastern Chad, and the role of the Khartoum regime—including significant military attacks inside Chad—see especially:
“Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad,” Human Rights Watch, February 2006, at http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/chad0206/
“Violence Beyond Borders: The Human Rights Crisis in Eastern Chad,” Human Rights Watch, June 2006, at http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/chad0606/
“‘They Came Here to Kill Us’: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern Chad,” Human Rights Watch, January 2007, at http://hrw.org/reports/2007/chad0107/index.htm
“Chad/Sudan: Sowing the seeds of Darfur: Ethnic targeting in Chad by Janjawid militias from Sudan,” Amnesty International, June 28, 2006, at http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGAFR200062006]
DARFUR: LARGE-SCALE VIOLENCE CONTINUES
Although current violence in Darfur does not match the scale or destructiveness of the massive genocidal counter-insurgency directed by Khartoum against non-Arab/African tribal populations in 2003-2004, there continue to be very significant military actions that are directed against civilians on an ethnic basis. If violence has become much more chaotic and often ill-defined, it is also true that we continue to learn more about the nature of violence that defined the most active phase of the genocide, as well as the clear warning signs that such violence may resume. Associated Press correspondent Alfred de Montesquiou filed from Mukjar, West Darfur (May 26, 2007) one of the most compelling accounts to date of past genocidal violence; his lengthy and singularly important reportage should be read in its entirety (at http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6662973,00.html):
“Uncovered by a restless wind, skulls and bones poke above the thin dirt in this corner of Darfur, lying surrounded by half-buried, rotting clothes. A short, bearded man named Ibrahim, 42, scratches through the sand. He is a quiet and serious, close to tears. There are other, bigger grave sites elsewhere, he says, but the bones he is looking at are those of 25 people who he is sure are his friends and fellow villagers. Some of them were dragged from the prison where he was held and were axed to death, he says.”
“Ibrahim is showing the burial ground to an Associated Press reporter and photographer, the first Western journalists to visit this remote town in more than a year. The western Sudan is about to enter a new phase in its four-year-old conflict—one that villagers fear may encourage more killing.”
“Sudan’s government recently agreed to let in 3,000 UN peacekeepers, a fraction of the 22,000 mandated by the Security Council last August. The deployment could still take months and villagers here fear the government will want to get rid of all witnesses to atrocities before peacekeepers move in. ‘We need them to come as fast as possible, because we’re all in danger,’ said Ibrahim.”
“Aid workers and UN personnel say the burial site is just one of three dozen mass graves around Mukjar, a town at ground zero of the Darfur calamity, holding evidence at the heart of the international community’s case against Sudanese leaders for war atrocities. Ibrahim and others interviewed insisted their full names be withheld because they fear reprisals.”
Ibrahim’s desperate plea—“We need [the UN forces] to come as fast as possible, because we’re all in danger”—has been greeted only with the dilatory and inconclusive international response detailed in the introduction to this analysis. There will be no international security force to protect Ibrahim or his fellow civilians in the Mukjar area from reprisals. Their tenuous security and precarious grip on life are powerfully described by Associated Press’s de Montesquiou:
“Mukjar offers a sobering look at the results of a government victory: impoverished and frightened ethnic Africans huddle in refugee camps where they survive on humanitarian aid, while Arab nomads control the hinterland, threatening any farmer who tries to return. ‘[The Janjaweed] did such a good job at cleansing the region in 2003 that there’s not much left to fight over,’ said an aid worker, who like all others interviewed insisted on not being quoted by name for fear of being expelled by the government.”
“Aid workers say the town is like ‘a security bubble,’ where refugees can live in relative safety as long as they don’t venture more than a mile or so into the countryside. Janjaweed fighters still stroll through the marketplace, automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.”
The nature of what these people endured during “cleansing” by the Janjaweed and Khartoum’s army “cleansing” is made clear by Ibrahim, and gives us as well yet more important anecdotal evidence about the scale of violent human mortality during these terrible years of the genocide:
“In February 2004, he said, his father, a sister, three brothers and five nephews were slain during an army-janjaweed raid on his village, Trindi. He said it was targeted because it is inhabited by people of the same tribe as that of a rebel group.”
Notably, the two men who have been recently indicted by the International Criminal Court figure prominently in Ibrahim’s account:
“Ibrahim recalled watching from his jail cell when about 1,000 janjaweed gathered in front of the prison to receive their share of looted cattle. ‘The minister [Ahmed Harun, Khartoum’s State Minister of the Interior and head of the regime’s ‘Darfur Task Force’] told them their mission was to burn all the region down,’ he said. Next, he said, [Janjaweed leader Ali] Kushayb ordered his men to ‘get rid of every Fur’ and turn their territory into Dar al-Arab, meaning ‘Land of the Arabs.’ Fur are the main tribesmen of this region, hence the name Darfur.”
“Kushayb then opened the cell’s barred door, pulled out a prisoner and split his head open with an ax, Ibrahim said. He said he witnessed the killing. Ibrahim said Kushayb then axed two more prisoners to death while his men shook their right fists and shouted ‘janjaweed, janjaweed.’ As for Harun, Kushayb’s boss, ‘The minister was sitting under the shade, and he was also cheering,’ Ibrahim said.”
Ibrahim’s account is confirmed in another interview conducted by de Montesquiou, who concludes this unspeakably grim dispatch with words the international community seems determined not to hear:
“Most rebels are gone from the Mukjar area, nearly all the villages have been burned to the ground and the Sudanese government considers the zone peaceful by Darfur standards. But some 14,000 refugees have moved into Mukjar. ‘We’re always frightened,’ said Ibrahim. ‘We live in Mukjar like in a prison without walls. … We’re not safe, but we can’t leave.'”
Of course the people of Mukjar are far from alone in what they face. Elsewhere in West Darfur Associated Press reported in late April:
“Residents and international workers in the area [of el-Geneina] estimated that over half of government forces here are now infiltrated by [Janjaweed] militiamen. The Khartoum government denies supporting the janjaweed and calls them bandits they cannot control.” ([dateline: el-Geneina], April 24, 2007)
The next day (April 25, 2007), Reuters reported (again with an el-Geneina dateline) the assessment of a Rwandan officer with the AU in West Darfur:
“The African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in West Darfur told the United Nations on Wednesday [April 25, 2007] that Arab militias were killing and pillaging in the region without arrests by the Sudanese authorities. [ ] ‘Arab militias believed to be employed by the (Sudanese government)…roam freely in our area of responsibility, threatening and killing anybody against the interests of the government,’ [Major Harry Soko] told Antonio Guterres, the visiting UN High Commissioner for Refugees.”
There are scores and scores of recent reports of violence against civilians by Janjaweed forces, coming from UN and nongovernmental aid organizations, as well as journalists. (Many specific Janjaweed attacks can be tracked in the regular News Bulletins published on-line by the UN Mission in Sudan, available at http://www.unmis.org/english/UNMISnewsBulletin.htm)
MILITARY ACTIONS BY KHARTOUM’S REGULAR FORCES
Khartoum’s regular military forces (the Sudan Armed Forces [SAF]) are also constantly reported as attacking civilian targets, both on the ground and from the air. It is impossible to provide a full accounting of these attacks, and the regime calculates that their sheer number, geographic range, along with limitations to on-the-ground reporting will prevent a clear picture from emerging. Such calculation has been largely accurate, but a compendium below of specific attacks gives some sense of how violent and threatening Darfur remains because of Khartoum’s continued deployment of its regular ground and aerial military forces. This account of course is far from comprehensive and is meant only to suggest the nature, range, and something of the frequency of attacks:
“On 11 May,  the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that it received reports on a series of aerial bombardments in North Darfur, carried out by the Government forces between 19 and 29 April . According to the OHCHR, the bombardments appear to have been indiscriminate and disproportionate. ‘Failing to distinguish between military and civilian objectives and the disproportionate use of force constitute violations of international humanitarian and human rights law,’ the OHCHR said.”
“According to OHCHR, the attacks were reportedly carried out with helicopter gunships and Antonov aircraft. They resulted in numerous civilian casualties and destruction of property, school buildings and livestock. In one incident cited by the UN Secretary-General in his statement dated 9 May , the school in the village of Um Rai was struck by rockets fired from a Government helicopter.”
“Some of the 170 pupils in the school at the time were injured in that particular attack. Two civilians were killed in the attack on the village. Some of the other villages attacked in the 10-day period include Al Jira, Anka, Birmaza and Hashaba. The OHCHR said that it was seeking to gather more information from the area on the attacks and their results, and that these attacks have contributed to an already critical humanitarian situation, causing renewed displacement and spreading terror among the civilian population.” (UN Mission in Sudan, Bulletin for May 13, 2007)
“On 22 May , Government of Sudan forces reportedly launched an attack on Leiba (110 km northwest of Nyala) and Fugoly against positions of SLA/Abduwahid Nour faction. Two Sudan Armed Forces [SAF] companies reportedly carried out the attack using eighteen Land Cruisers and four trucks. The attackers looted the market at Fugoly and attacked the water point. Eighteen pupils were wounded and two adult civilians killed. Some cattle were also killed and some looted. The Government of Sudan had reportedly mobilized its forces from El Malam, 95 km North of Nyala.”
“On 23 May , the presence of Government of Sudan ground forces with Land Cruisers and armed militia on camels and horses at Nyama (28 km northwest of Kass [South Darfur]) was reported. The presence of SLA/Abduwahid Nour faction was also reported in the area. Reports indicate that mobilization of Government of Sudan forces started from Zalingei [West Darfur] two days earlier.” (UN Mission in Sudan, Bulletin for May 24, 2007)
“Recent UN and [nongovernmental aid organization] reports indicate that Sudan Armed Forces [SAF] bombings in Dafak, Radum area of Buram locality, located approximately 250 km southwest of Nyala in South Darfur, displaced thousands of people in May . The Al Salam IDP camp population is now estimated to be 22,000, including more than 6,500 people who have arrived in may. The majority of new arrivals have come from Antikanya, Seissabane, and other areas south of Nyala and have fled fighting in Dafak.” (US Agency for International Development, “Sudan: Complex Emergency” fact sheet, June 6, 2007)
“The sound of aircraft can only mean two things for the people of this isolated Darfur mountain village [of Deribat]. Either it’s Sudanese government bombers or the rare arrival of helicopters carrying humanitarian supplies. Government [of Sudan] forces closed off the main supply route to rebel-held Deribat five months ago, residents say, isolating an area vulnerable to multiple front lines that have driven away humanitarian organisations.” [ ]
“[On the occasion of a symbolic visit by UN aid chief John Holmes], mothers with infants in their arms cried out for medicine. Others feared their children would be robbed of an education. Holmes was shown water pumps in the village, which could dry up if maintenance supplies were not flown in.”
“But aid groups say it is too dangerous to operate in Jebel Marra, where humanitarian workers have been targeted by militias, including an incident last year in which uniformed Arab militias beat four NGO workers while their international female colleague was sexually assaulted. The last two remaining aid groups left the area in August. ‘You can’t just drop medicine from the air,’ said an aid worker, who asked not to be named. ‘We look for windows of opportunity to help out. Many humanitarian agencies have fled rural areas and this has severe consequences.'”
“Deribat’s fate depends on orders given to [Government of Sudan] soldiers manning a checkpoint on the main road to the village once used to deliver medicine and other vital goods. ‘We hope the government will open the road, we can’t survive like this.'” (Reuters [dateline: Deribat, Jebel Marra], March 26, 2007)
“In a statement issued on 24 April , the Chairman of the [Darfur] Ceasefire Commission said that Government [of Sudan] forces carried out aerial bombings in Jira and Amry villages in North Darfur on 10 and 21 April  respectively. He condemned the ‘unprovoked attack’ as it happened at a time ‘when the Sudan Liberation Army-Non Signatory factions (SLA-NSF) had extended invitations to the International Community to attend a planned Commanders’ Conference.’ The Statement says the Government of Sudan authorities were duly informed of this event and their commitment was secured for the Conference to be held as scheduled.” (UN Mission in Sudan, Bulletin for May 13, 2007)
This was of course far from the first time that Khartoum had deliberately bombed the sites of efforts by rebel leaders to forge a common negotiating position—the key to any effective peace talks, which Khartoum seems bent on obstructing:
“Sudanese forces bombed two rebel locations in Darfur just days after the head of the African Union’s peacekeeping force visited the area to urge the rebels to join a cease-fire agreement, the AU said yesterday [December 30, 2006]. A Sudanese government aircraft on Friday [December 29, 2006] bombed Anka and Um Rai in North Darfur province where Gen. Luke Aprezi had met on Wednesday [December 27, 2006] with rebels, an AU statement said. ‘When a bombing is made after I have visited an area, my credibility is involved,’ Aprezi told The Associated Press by telephone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. ‘To that group, I don’t have any credibility anymore.'”
“The incident jeopardizes efforts to bring additional groups into the cease-fire that a single rebel faction and the government signed in May 2006, the AU said. [ ] The AU obtained consent from Sudanese officials in Darfur and the capital ahead of meeting the rebels, it said in the statement. It called Friday’s [December 29, 2006] attack ‘a seriously disturbing development.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], December 31, 2006)
Nothing could be more revealing of Khartoum’s attitudes towards the resumption of meaningful peace negotiations with rebel groups that did not sign the ill-conceived and terribly ill-fated Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) (May 5, 2006; Abuja, Nigeria). Khartoum insists on the DPA as the only basis for negotiations precisely because it contains no provision for UN peace support personnel, a point made repeatedly and insistently by the National Islamic Front leadership in Khartoum, including President Omar al-Bashir in his communications with the UN Secretariat. Content with a brutal genocide by attrition, the regime intends to forestall both meaningful peace talks as well as deployment of any peacekeeping force that might actually change the security dynamic on the ground in Darfur.
At the same time, eastern Chad is increasingly viewed by Khartoum as a source of support for the non-signatory rebel groups, and for this reason we should not be surprised that the regime’s Antonov “bombers,” even its helicopter gunships (according to Human Rights Watch), have also targeted civilians in Chad:
“Last Thursday [March 22, 2007], a plane described by witnesses as a Sudanese Antonov, bombed areas north and south of the northeastern Chadian town of Bahai. The air strikes included the area around Lake Cariari, several kilometres from the Oure Cassoni refugee camp. Oure Cassoni hosts nearly 27,000 Sudanese refugees. While no refugees were injured, several Chadian civilians and two humanitarian workers from an international NGO were wounded.”
“This is not the first time that air strikes have occurred near Oure Cassoni, which is only 5 km from the Sudanese border. Air strikes were reported over a two-day period in early January 2007 and in October 2006. UNHCR has been seeking agreement from the refugees and Chadian authorities to move the camp further from the border. These two recent incidents again highlight the precariousness of the security situation in the region for refugees, for displaced Chadians, for the local population and for humanitarian workers.” (Press release by the UN High Commission for Refugees [Geneva], March 27, 2007)
There is no end in sight to ethnically-targeted violence in Darfur, nor indeed to its spread into eastern Chad and Central African Republic.
PART TWO OF THIS ANALYSIS
Part Two of this analysis will examine in detail the humanitarian implications of the violence outlined above. Particular attention will be accorded issues of access, threats to civilians within the camps, Khartoum’s continued obstruction of humanitarian operations, threats to humanitarian workers, and available humanitarian indicators for the vast and acutely threatened civilian population in Darfur and eastern Chad.