At approximately 10pm on January 7, 2008 Khartoum’s regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) attacked, deliberately and with premeditation, a convoy belonging to the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The convoy, comprising more than 20 cargo trucks and armored personnel carriers (APC’s), came under heavy, sustained fire near Tine, West Darfur. One truck was destroyed, an APC was damaged, and a driver was critically wounded with numerous bullet wounds. The SAF assault on the convoy lasted 10-12 minutes, during which time UNAMID military personnel did not return fire. The motive for the attack, certainly ordered by senior SAF military commanders, was to inhibit the movement of UNAMID ground and air forces during night hours. In other words, the attack was meant to serve warning that UNAMID would be restricted in the same ways that the impotent African Union mission in Darfur (AMIS) was restricted from the time of its initial deployment in 2004.
Evidence that the SAF attack was deliberate and premeditated is overwhelming, a conclusion shared by the head of UN peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and many others within the UN, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in particular. In his Wednesday (January 9, 2007) briefing of the UN Security Council, Guhenno offered a number of compelling details, details amplified in confidential interviews conducted by this writer. The most basic facts of the attack and its circumstances make unambiguously clear that Khartoum has lied at every step of the way in its account of events over the past week, including initially denying that its forces were in any way involved in the attack on the UNAMID convoy:
 The transport trucks and APCs were painted in UN white, with clear UN markings on the vehicles. Even at night it is impossible to mistake UN white for the camouflage green used by rebels, who do not travel with either the configuration or the makeup of the UNAMID convoy. Rebel groups typically move using 4×4 Landcruisers and pick-up trucks, and at high speed. The UNAMID convoy, with heavy transport vehicles and APCs, was moving very slowly to allow the APCs to pick their way in the dark. There was simply no ambiguity as to the identity of the convoy vehicles.
 Critically, UNAMID had carefully notified all relevant SAF commanders, including the general at the base near Tine (West Darfur) where the attack occurred (the convoy was on its way from Umm Baru to Tine). Redundant notification of the SAF by the UN was designed to forestall precisely any misunderstanding about the nature, location, and timing of this convoy mission, one of UNAMID’s very first.
 The convoy did not return fire during the entire 10-12 minute assault by SAF forces, an extraordinary and revealing act of restraint given the length of time the firing continued. Moreover, the commanding SAF officer who accepted responsibility for the attack (responsibility initially denied by senior officials in Khartoum and the regime’s ambassador to the UN) had the rank of general: in other words, he was no junior or inexperienced officer, and would not have ordered the attack on his own authority—nor would he have countenanced such an attack by young or frightened soldiers. Senior SAF military officials ordered the attack, even if the specifics of duration and degree of firepower were left discretionary (both automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades were used).
In the absence of a seized cable or other intercepted communication, there can of course be no definitive proof that Khartoum ordered what has all the hallmarks of a deliberate and premeditated attack. But the likelihood that this was an independent military action, given the political and diplomatic stakes, is vanishingly small. This is certainly the conclusion of Jean-Marie Guhenno and other informed officials at the UN in New York. UN career officers understand full well that Khartoum is engaged in a relentless war of obstruction in opposing the effective deployment of UNAMID, and equally well understand that this convoy attack is part of the regime’s larger campaign.
Khartoum’s goals in ordering the attack can be readily discerned by noting the issues that remain outstanding in the deployment of UNAMID:
 The regime refuses to grant night flight rights to UNAMID except for medevac purposes. But as UN and African Union peacekeeping officials continually emphasize, the mandate to protect civilians and humanitarians does not and cannot be allowed to end at sunset. Khartoum was able to impose curfews, flight restrictions, onerous aircraft re-certification requirements, and a host of other crippling measures on AMIS. These extended to the brazen commandeering of AMIS aviation fuel supplies for use by Khartoum’s helicopter gunships in attacks on civilians. The attack on the convoy near Tine was a way of signaling that UNAMID will face the clear prospect of attack, harassment, and obstruction if it persists in traveling at night. Again, with precisely this threat in mind, UNAMID authorities provided redundant notifications of the convoy movement, including to the commander of the SAF base that was responsible for the actual attack and to el-Fasher, headquarters for the SAF in Darfur. Khartoum officials deny that such notification was made; they are lying.
 The regime refuses to grant landing rights to heavy transport aircraft, the sort that can move large quantities of logistical supplies, as well as heavy vehicles. Initially Khartoum insisted that the runways at el-Fasher and Nyala—the two key destinations—could not handle such heavy aircraft. This is patently false. Subsequently the regime insisted that aircraft could not land at night because of a lack of lights—an easily remedied engineering problem. Currently there is no cogent explanation offered for the refusal to grant landing rights to heavy transport aircraft, a state of affairs that defines negotiations between the UN and Khartoum over most outstanding issues.
 Khartoum also refuses to allow for the deployment of helicopters—or the construction of critically necessary maintenance hangars—until UNAMID completes an upgrading of the runways at el-Fasher and Nyala. Although there are no helicopters to deploy, and none in prospect—a disgraceful betrayal of Darfur by militarily capable UN member states—there is no way that they would be allowed to deploy under current circumstances. Nor is there any evidence that Khartoum is closer to yielding on these key issues. This is likely to delay for an extended period of time deployment of any helicopters that may be committed to UNAMID, since the construction of maintenance hangars is required before deployment. Of the importance of helicopters in Darfur, particularly in the face of attack by combatants, Undersecretary Guhenno declared at his Wednesday briefing of the Security Council:
“‘If we had had helicopters capable of flying at night and quickly reinforcing a convoy under attack, of course we would have been in a position to deter, probably the attack [near Tine] would never have occurred,’ Guehenno said.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: UN/New York], January 9, 2008)
The most basic fact about Khartoum’s obstruction of UNAMID is that it reflects a clear political decision, and cannot possibly be construed as disagreement over “technical issues,” no matter how widely this rubric is stretched. This fundamental reality was belatedly but explicitly acknowledged by the British ambassador to the UN this past Wednesday after the Security Council briefing by Guhenno (Deutsche Presse Agentur [dateline: UN/New York], January 9, 2008).
 On the eve of the turnover of authority from the African Union mission in Darfur to UNAMID, Khartoum again raised the issue of whether UNAMID forces would wear the distinctive blue helmets and berets of the UN—or the green of the African Union. Although this issue had been raised and apparently resolved months ago—the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations was adamant about this mission wearing UN blue helmets/berets and insignia—Khartoum chose to raise the issue again at the last possible moment. The issue remains outstanding, another key sign that the regime has made the fundamental political decision to refuse UN authority, insisting instead that the mission is still essentially an African Union effort.
This in turn explains why there is still no progress on securing from Khartoum final acceptance of a roster of troop-contributing countries. Khartoum remains insistent that these countries all be African, with the exception of close allies China and Pakistan. Khartoum has formally rejected contributions from Sweden and Norway, which have now withdrawn their offer to deploy a highly sophisticated military engineering battalion, urgently needed for a range of challenging tasks in the difficult terrain of Darfur:
“Sweden and Norway said on Wednesday they had withdrawn a plan to send about 400 troops to Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region because of opposition from the Sudanese government. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a joint statement that their countries were being prevented from contributing to an effort to create safety. ‘Sudan must bear the full responsibility which has now arisen,’ the statement said. A Swedish Foreign Ministry official said both countries regretted the Sudanese position. ‘We’ve been preparing this for a long time,’ the official said. ‘We regret this.'” (Reuters [dateline: Stockholm], January 9, 2008)
Two Nepalese first-response units have also been refused by Khartoum: these are the forces whose task it is to respond when UNAMID military elements face superior forces or threats to their operations. Had the Nepalese forces been deployed in late September, the deadly attack on African Union forces at Haskanita in North Darfur could have been repulsed and lives saved. As the January 7 attack on the UNAMID convoy again demonstrates, the Nepalese forces (units of which have performed well in the Democratic Republic of Congo) are an essential part of the overall plan for UNAMID deployment.
The UNAMID operation entails far more than simply depositing the authorized 20,000 troops and 6,000 civilian police in Darfur; a clear sequencing of forces, resources, and abilities required. Well aware of this sequencing requirement, Khartoum has refused to accept a final roster of troop- and police-contributing countries in an effort to deal a potentially crippling blow to the mission.
 Khartoum has refused to enter into a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the UN and African Union. This is the agreement that is supposed to govern the mutual understanding between Khartoum and the UN/African Union about the mandate, actions, and prerogatives of UNAMID. Well-placed UN officials indicate that the issues holding up conclusion of a SOFA are various and continually changing: Khartoum will relent in one area, only to raise a new issue in another area. There is a continuous and debilitating changing of the terms of negotiations; the continual switching, shuffling, and disingenuousness on the part of the regime is clearly designed to forestall completion of the SOFA for as long as possible.
As a result, issues such as night flights, night movement of resources and personnel, land rights for bases (an acute problem in West Darfur), adequate access at Port Sudan—all remain unresolved. Khartoum has also demanded that it be notified of all UNAMID movements and actions beforehand, and that UNAMID accept Khartoum’s right to suspend all communications within UNAMID while the regime is conducting military operations. These conditions are completely unacceptable to the UN. The overall effect is to create a crisis that was outlined in the direst possible terms by Undersecretary Guhenno:
“The top United Nations peacekeeping official today [January 9, 2008] warned the Security Council that the new, critically under-manned and under-equipped mission in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region faced ‘probably the greatest risk’ to a UN operation in more than a decade. [ ] ‘Today we have the convergence of three factors which put UNAMID at great risk, probably the greatest risk since the 1990s,’ he said after briefing the Council, citing the ongoing war in Darfur, the lack of a clear signal from the parties that they want a robust mission, and the mission’s own ‘tragic’ lack of essential resources. Under-manned UN missions in the 1990s were unable to prevent the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the massacre of Bosnian Moslems in Srebrenica in 1995.” [ ]
“‘Five months after the adoption of Resolution 1769 (setting up UNAMID), we do not yet have guarantee or agreements from the Government [of Sudan] on the basic technical issues,’ [Guhenno said]. ‘And finally, the mission itself will not have the personnel or assets in place to implement its mandate for many months even in the best case scenario,’ he added, noting that no offers for essential transportation and aviation assets had been made, including 24 helicopters.”
“‘When you combine those factors you see that you have the possibility of failure unless the political situation is rectified, unless the war situation is ended and a strategic choice is made by all the parties that is not by military action that peace will be brought to Darfur but by negotiation, and unless there is a decisive reinforcement of the mission,’ he told journalists after the Council session.” (UN News Center [dateline: UN/New York], January 9, 2008)
UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESPONSE TO KHARTOUM’S DEFIANCE
Despite Khartoum’s military attack on the UNAMID convoy, the UN Security Council has continued in its ineffectual ways, either indifferent to or insufficiently concerned by the consequences of UNAMID’s potential failure. In a non-binding statement concerning Khartoum’s military attack on an authorized peace support operation, Security Council members could not agree to speak even the truth clearly in evidence. The statement “dropped an earlier reference to the attack having targeted ‘a clearly marked UNAMID’ convoy” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: UN/New York], January 11, 2008). But of course the convoy was “clearly marked,” and notification had been provided redundantly to Khartoum’s armed forces. The Security Council weakened its statement yet further, according to the Associated Press:
“According to [US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay] Khalilzad and other diplomats, [Khartoum’s UN ambassador Abdelmahmood Abdalhaleem] had tried unsuccessfully to remove a reference to the attack having been carried out by Sudanese armed forces. The council finally agreed to include in its statement qualifying language that the attack was carried out ‘by elements of the Sudanese armed forces, as confirmed by the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur.'” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York), January 11, 2008)
But such vague language—referring only to “elements of the Sudanese armed forces”—works to exonerate those who in fact ordered the attacks. As the absurdly and shamelessly mendacious Abdelmahmood Abdalhaleem declared gleefully:
“‘We don’t think that there is condemnation against our government. The text itself is speaking about “elements”—“elements” can mean anything.'” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York), January 11, 2008)
All too true, and the unwillingness to assign responsibility where it belongs continues a pattern of deference and dishonesty on the part of the Security Council. The same Security Council that authorized UNAMID has now adopted a conciliatory statement concerning those who deliberately and with premeditation attacked a UNAMID convoy.
This also is the same Security Council that in a March 2005 resolution (1593) referred massive “crimes against humanity” in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but now refuses to offer even rhetorical support to lead ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in his efforts to compel Khartoum to cooperate with international justice efforts. Of course central to this shameful acquiescence is China’s perpetually wielded threat of a Security Council veto (see a full and excellent analysis [January 11, 2008] by Katy Glassborow of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, at http://www.iwpr.net/?p=acr&s=f&o=341898&apc_state=henh).
Nothing does as much to explain Khartoum’s posture of defiance and its relentless obstructionism than the monumental failure of the Security Council to show a willingness to impose any sanctions measure on the regime, no matter how outrageously it flouts Security Council resolutions and demands. Confident that China will veto any sanctions or punitive measure, Khartoum has yet to suffer any consequences for its continued obstruction of both UNAMID and ICC investigations of atrocity crimes in Darfur—even as the Security Council authorized both.
The context for understanding the consequences of this deep hypocrisy on the part of the Security Council includes a security environment in Darfur that, almost inconceivably, continues to deteriorate. In his Wednesday briefing of the Security Council, Guhenno declared that “there has been ‘a grave deterioration of the security situation’ [in Darfur] since his last briefing to the council a month ago [December 2007]” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], January 9, 2008). Secretary Ban Ki-moon has also spoken recently of “‘the ongoing deteriorating situation in Darfur'” (Reuters [dateline: UN/New York], January 7, 2008).
The continuing deterioration in security and the obstruction of UNAMID threatens millions of Darfuris as well as the humanitarian operations upon which so many of these people depend. And yet the Security Council continues to accept Khartoum’s refusal to renew the “Moratorium” on restrictions governing nongovernmental humanitarian workers in Darfur. In just over two weeks (January 31, 2008) the Moratorium expires, and Khartoum will be able to resume fully its campaign of delaying visas, travel permits, and other documents required for work in Darfur. The campaign of harassment never ceased, but a failure to secure renewal of the Moratorium ensures a bureaucratic chaos that will bring humanitarian operations in Darfur to a grinding halt. Although this issue has been brought forcefully to the attention of Security Council members, there is as yet no indication that the grave consequences of a lapse in the “Moratorium” have been appreciated.
Humanitarian indicators continue to show alarming developments, and one major relief organization has recently recorded significant increases in the Global Acute Malnutrition rates for children under five, the most sensitive barometer of overall human health and nutrition. Another aid worker was killed in Fur Buranga two weeks ago, and morale continues to plummet among these courageous workers who have been betrayed by Security Council cowardice and callousness. China in particular continues to distinguish itself by its adamant refusal to characterize Darfur’s realities honestly—and by offering unflinching support to the Khartoum regime within the Security Council.
Liu Guijin, Beijing’s public relations appointment for the Darfur crisis, continues to weigh in with a series of shamefully disingenuous representations. Most recently,
“Liu denied that Beijing was complicit in allowing atrocities that have included razed villages and rapes. ‘China’s government has never supported a massacre of Sudanese citizens by their government. Of course, we acknowledge that because of conflict and war and because of reasons related to both the government and rebels, there has been unnecessary deaths and a humanitarian crisis.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Beijing], January 10, 2008)
Characteristically, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians from Khartoum-orchestrated violence, disease, and malnutrition have been reduced to vague and indeterminate “unnecessary deaths.” Moreover, China’s vast provision of weapons and weapons technology over more than a decade has indeed given Khartoum the military power to conduct “massacres.” Chinese military trucks, for example, have been implicated by Amnesty International in some of Darfur’s worst ethnic massacres, including the infamous slaughter of Fur men and boys at Wadi Saleh, West Darfur. Chinese weapons continue to be transported into Darfur by Khartoum in violation of the arms embargo imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005). These violations have been authoritatively documented by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, also appointed by the Security Council.
Further, many billions of dollars of Chinese commercial and capital investments in the Khartoum-dominated economy have insulated the regime from the consequences of presiding over a disastrous accumulation of more than $25 billion in external debt—debt which could not be serviced without Chinese investments. The overall effect of Chinese investment is to consolidate Khartoum’s stranglehold on Sudanese national wealth and power. It is preposterous for Liu to claim that “‘China is helping Sudan’s development and creating wealth for Sudan’s people'” (“China Defends Role in Sudan Against Olympic Critics,” Reuters [dateline: Beijing], January 10, 2008). The people of Darfur and other marginalized areas, Sudan’s poorest people, have never seen the benefits of Chinese investments. Even oil revenues finally making their way to the Government of South Sudan are far from adequate to compensate the people of the South for years of scorched-earth clearances in the oil regions—clearances that killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians and have destroyed the agricultural economy of much of Upper Nile Province. China was present and actively supporting the Khartoum military during the brutal years of the “oil wars” (1997-2004).
Liu is equally disingenuous in claiming that the “heart of the problems in Darfur is lack of development,” an argument made just as speciously by Jeffrey Sachs, special economic advisor to Ban Ki-moon. Such arguments would have us ignore the political and ethnic history of Darfur, ignore the ways in which Khartoum has fanned ethnic hatred, ignore the genocidal use of Janjaweed militias to destroy the perceived civilian base of support for the insurgency that emerged fully in 2003, and ignore the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian relief as an extension of genocidal policies.
And yet it is the threat of a Chinese veto at the Security Council that has done so much to paralyze the international response to unfathomable human suffering and destruction. In response to the plea for a Security Council Presidential Statement in support of ICC investigations of atrocity crimes in Darfur, China insisted that the language of such a Statement be rendered toothless. Indeed, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, John Sawyers, declared bluntly that he was, “‘confident that if the Chinese had not taken such a firm line against the statement, it would have been adopted'” (African Report, Institute for War and Peace Reporting [dateline: The Hague], January 11, 2008).
The current implications of China’s refusal to see international justice done were laid out by lead ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo:
“In his report [to the UN Security Council], Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo spoke of a ‘calculated, organised campaign by Sudanese officials to attack individuals and further destroy the social fabric of entire communities,’ as well as an increasing number of attacks against humanitarian personnel and peace keepers. He gave examples of the joint attack on the town of Muhajiriya by allied Government of Sudan and Janjaweed forces on October 8, 2007 in which 48 civilians praying in a mosque were rounded up and slaughtered, as well as a Sudanese airforce bombing of Adilla in August  which displaced a further 20,000 people.” (African Report, Institute for War and Peace Reporting [dateline: The Hague], January 11, 2008)
But China’s threat to use its veto in defense of Khartoum’s gnocidaires has evidently paralyzed most members of the Security Council in responding to Moreno-Ocampo’s urgent appeal for support:
“At the time [of debate about the Presidential Statement concerning the ICC and Darfur], the then president of the UN Security Council, Italy’s ambassador Marcello Spatafora, described the contents of Moreno-Ocampo’s report as ‘very disturbing.’ Following the prosecutor’s briefing, he said a UN Security Council declaration should be drafted. ‘We cannot stay silent, and have to send a strong message [to the Sudanese authorities] so we propose this to the members and ask the countries to circulate a draft. It is now under consideration,’ he said. Slovakia, Italy, UK, France, and Belgium then proposed a statement, citing the ICC arrest warrants for [Janjaweed leader Ali] Kushyb and [former junior interior minister and current minister for humanitarian affairs Ahmed] Harun, and urged Khartoum to cooperate with the ICC ‘in respect of these individuals.'”
“However, on December 7, 2007, after two days of discussions between the 15 members of the UN Security Council, the statement was suddenly abandoned. In an apparent about-turn, Spatafora told journalists that a statement was ‘not needed’ because UN Security Council members had already been ‘loud and clear’ about their views that the Government of Sudan should cooperate with the ICC.” (African Report, Institute for War and Peace Reporting [dateline: The Hague], January 11, 2008)
Of course this is shameful disingenuousness on the part of Spatafora and Italy: a Security Council Presidential Statement could not be more urgently needed, given Khartoum’s refusal to cooperate in any fashion with the ICC. Instead, Moreno-Ocampo and the ICC must continue to struggle without any clear indication that their efforts are supported by the very body that referred to them Darfur’s atrocity crimes. The suggestion that the Security Council has spoken “loudly and clearly” about the role of the ICC in serving justice in Darfur is pure mendacity. Indeed, the demise of the proposed Presidential Statement received only the scantest of news coverage. The current dangers in Darfur articulated by Moreno-Ocampo were barely reflected in contemporaneous news coverage, even as ICC indictee Ahmed Haroun is Khartoum’s liaison for UNAMID as well as minister for humanitarian affairs.
The history of UN Security Council failure in responding to the Darfur genocide cannot easily be summarized. But there are many moments of egregious failure that give a sense of why the Khartoum regime treats the ICC and UNAMID with such contempt. We may go back to 2003, a time during which there was no response to desperate accounts of Khartoum’s systematic denial of humanitarian access or to what the UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan reported as “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur. But it is the serial failure of the UN Security Council to ensure compliance with its own demands and measures that provides the basis for a grim synoptic history:
Resolution 1556 (July 2004) “demanded” that Khartoum disarm the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice. This “demand” has been contemptuously ignored for three and a half years, including during some of the most violent months of the genocide. No action has been taken by the Security Council.
Resolution 1591 (March 2005) imposed an arms embargo on Darfur, requiring that Khartoum apply to UN authorities for any movement of weapons or military supplies into Darfur. As the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur has repeatedly reported, Khartoum has in almost three years not made a single application per the terms of the Security Council resolution, even as it has transported large quantities of military weapons, equipment, and supplies into Darfur during the entire time of the arms embargo. No action has been taken by the Security Council.
Resolution 1593 (March 2005) referred to the International Criminal Court massive evidence of “crimes against humanity” in Darfur, charging the ICC to investigate and bring charges against those in violation of international law. Last month, the Security Council failed to muster the strength to pass a non-binding Presidential Statement supporting the efforts of the ICC in pursuing justice for Darfur.
Resolution 1706 (August 2006) authorized a robust UN peace support operation to protect civilians and humanitarians in Darfur, and to staunch the flow of genocidal violence from Darfur into Eastern Chad and Central African Republic. Khartoum, supported by China, refused to accept the UN mission, creating a terrible precedent: for the first time in UN peacekeeping history, an authorized mission did not deploy because of objections from the nominal “government” of the country in which large-scale civilian destruction was ongoing.
Resolution 1769 (July 2007) authorized UNAMID, though only after its mandate had been weakened by China. The evidence to date (see above) strongly suggests that Khartoum’s obstructionist tactics will ultimately lead to a fatally compromised mission.
Ultimate responsibility for the fact that the Darfur genocide is entering its sixth year lies squarely with the UN Security Council, and particularly China, which has continually compromised or eviscerated efforts to halt the violence. By relentlessly threatening to use its veto to block a meaningful international response, China has provided ample diplomatic protection for Khartoum’s flagrant and contemptuous flouting of Security Council resolutions.
CHAD AND THE CHAD/DARFUR BORDER REGION
Evidently destined to take perpetual second-billing to the massive crisis in neighboring Darfur, the human catastrophe in Eastern Chad now clearly threatens many tens of thousands of lives as well as long-term disruption of the agricultural economy of the region. As in Darfur, the greatest threat to much of the civilian population is withdrawal by humanitarian organizations, which daily looms closer. Fighting on both sides of the Chad/Darfur border continues to increase, with a complex mix of combatants that rivals that of Darfur. Insecurity has increased dramatically with the onset of the dry season in October, and a true “hot war” between the forces of N’Djamena and Khartoum seems imminent. Both have backed as military proxies the rebel groups threatening the two regimes. Chadian president Idriss Dby has recently ordered the sustained bombing of Khartoum-backed Chadian rebels in far western Darfur, near el-Geneina, and Khartoum is preparing retaliatory measures. Khartoum is also reported today (January 14, 2007) to be bombing civilian targets in West Darfur near el-Geneina, clearly in retaliation for recent military advances by the forces of the Justice and Equality Movement. The impact on humanitarian operations is all too predictable:
“‘West Darfur has been much worse over the past couple of weeks,’ said a worker for an aid group that operates in [West Darfur state]. ‘Because of the (Chadian) bombing and the Justice and Equality Movement offensive, everything is pretty much on hold at the moment.’ ‘All the roads around el Geneina are no-go areas right now,’ said Emilia Casella, spokeswoman for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). ‘The humanitarian community in general is being prevented from doing its job.'” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 14, 2008)
Reports from the region (a number have come to this writer in recent weeks) paint a complex and uncertain picture of future violence. But there can be little doubt that a major escalation in fighting will precede deployment of the long-delayed European Union force to Eastern Chad known as EUFOR, which is unlikely to make a significant difference on the ground before March, if then. EUFOR has a complex mandate that cannot be understood apart from that of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), a UN operation designed to bolster the police presence and training levels in Eastern Chad, as well as the Central African Republic. The authorizing UN Security Council Resolution (September 2007) specified that MINCURAT was to “enhance the capabilities of Chadian police and gendarmes to provide effective police service to the population in eastern Chad affected by the Darfur crisis, including refugees, Internally Displaced Persons, and humanitarian workers.” The same UN Security Resolution authorized EUFOR, both to protect MINCURAT operations and personnel and to secure rural areas in which violence threatens civilians and humanitarians. The goal of MINCURAT is to train and deploy to Eastern Chad some 850 police officers.
An informed overview of the relation between MINCURAT and EUFOR is offered by the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks ([dateline: N’Djamena, Chad], January 11, 2008):
“The EUFOR and MINURCAT are two separate bodies, both mandated by the same Security Council resolution, marking the first time in the world that an EU military force and a UN mission are combined in a single UN mandate, [acting head of MINURCAT Ousseni] Compaor said. MINURCAT is charged with training police and reinforcing judicial infrastructure, such as prisons and courts, so that local police are able to deal with ‘daily life.’ It will deploy inside camps for refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan and sites for displaced Chadians in the east, and offer police escorts for aid agencies working in the region. It will complement the work of Chadian police and troops that have largely failed to prevent the camps from sometimes being militarised by rebels from Sudan, or to keep aid workers safe. Aid agencies in Chad have been plagued by insecurity, including frequent hijackings, shootings and kidnappings of national and international staff. In December 2007 alone six attacks on UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were recorded.”
“EUFOR is expected to provide general security for civilians whilst MINURCAT will provide security in the eastern zone outside the refugee and displaced people’s camps. EUFOR is authorised to use military force. Part of its mandate, for example, is to prevent incursions into the area, Compaor said. According to the UN Security Council resolution which created the dual-mission system, EUFOR and the UN mission are broadly meant to stabilise the volatile region so that the over 175,000 Chadians who have fled from their homes over the last three years can return home.” [This is in addition to the approximately 240,000 Darfuri refugees.]
To be sure, there has yet to be a sufficiently well articulated mission concept formulated by EUFOR, including the critical “rules of engagement.” As EUFOR has struggled to find the resources for deployment (originally scheduled for late October 2007, the beginning of the “dry season”), it has become ever more French-dominated, which will create the potential for Chadian rebel groups to see the diverse European force as nonetheless allied with the regime of Idriss Dby, which these groups seek to overthrow. Chad is a former French colony; France also has a permanent military presence in Chad, and actively opposed the rebel assault on N’Djamena in November 2006. But the greatest concern among humanitarians presently is not Chadian rebel groups but banditry and uncontrolled violence by opportunistic armed elements in the region. A range of highly authoritative reports, both public and confidential, depict a rapidly declining security environment for aid workers, with an immense contraction of humanitarian reach. Active planning for evacuation to Abch, and even N’Djamena continues.
Even though EUFOR is, in the eyes of UN peacekeeping analysts, only about a quarter the size it should be for the immense task along the Chad/Darfur border, and despite the dangers from a perceived lack of neutrality, it is clear that without a dramatic improvement in the security situation, both civilians and humanitarians will face intolerable risks. Facile sniping from Doctors Without Borders/Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF) seems entirely inappropriate, particularly since the organization disingenuously claims to be neutral with respect to political and military decisions about security operations in Darfur and Eastern Chad:
“‘We have our questions about the deployment,’ said Guinlhelm Molinie, head of Mdecins Sans Frontires Luxembourg, which works in northeastern Chad. ‘We don’t know if it’s to protect humanitarians, refugees, the areas of return, the east of Chad. The official line varies.’ ‘We are waiting to see how this force will act on the ground and whether it will do any good. We have some doubts about it, that’s for sure.'” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: N’Djamena, Chad], January 11, 2008)
We should recall that it was MSF that previously arrogantly chided other nongovernmental humanitarian organizations for not moving aggressively enough into insecure areas of Eastern Chad. But if security from EUFOR and MINCURAT will permit other humanitarian organizations to deploy, or stay, in the region, then MSF’s argument about these security forces seems incoherent—the more so since on several occasions MSF has had to withdraw personnel and suspend operations in Eastern Chad because insecurity became intolerable. Not for the first time, MSF would have us believe that they are strictly neutral in theater, focused only on the delivery of humanitarian aid and taking no position on issues such as the wisdom of particular force deployments or the realities of ethnically-targeted destruction. In fact, a shameful hypocrisy emerges again and again.
To be sure, the identities of various security and humanitarian personnel will be difficult for the civilian populations to discriminate between, particularly involving French nationals. But it is hardly a problem that is insurmountable, and both MINCURAT and EUFOR are making significant efforts to clarify their respective roles. But we should be clear about the alternative to the deployment of the these two UN-authorized missions: rapidly declining security that will create intolerable conditions for humanitarian operations—including those of MSF—and wholesale withdrawal that could come very rapidly.
CURRENT AND PROSPECTIVE VIOLENCE IN EASTERN CHAD AND ALONG THE CHAD/DARFUR BORDER
Chadian rebel groups pose a clear threat to the corrupt and tyrannical regime of Idriss Dby. But the rebel groups have never been able to articulate a clear set of political goals, and are held together only by hatred of Dby and a lust for power. For just this reason they have long been actively and substantially supported by the Khartoum regime, in ways that have included both material support and the provision of rear bases inside Darfur. In recent weeks, Dby has decided to take the fight to rebel camps in Darfur. This follows the predicted fighting the emerged in November 2007 with the collapse of a meaningless cease-fire cobbled together by Libya. But by bombing Chadian rebel strongholds in Darfur, Dby has brought about the very real prospect of a “hot war” with Khartoum. Both the National Islamic Front leadership and Libyan President Muamar Gaddafi have made clear their deep opposition to EUFOR, and behind the scenes have threatened to support the Chadian rebels even more substantially as EUFOR actually deploys. It is this turn of events that Dby is currently attempting to forestall by hurting the rebels as badly as possible before they mount another offensive inside Chad.
The language from N’Djamena could not be more blunt:
“Chad’s government said on Tuesday [January 8, 2007] its armed forces were ready to carry out further bombing raids over the border in Sudan’s Darfur region on Chadian rebels. The United Nations said on Monday that Chadian planes had bombed rebel positions near el-Geneina, the capital of Sudan’s western Darfur state, on Sunday, adding to tensions between the two countries. ‘If that’s the case, it means there were rebels in those localities which were bombed,’ Chad’s Communication Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor told French radio RFI when asked about the reported strikes on the villages of Goker and Wadi Radi. Asked if there would be further air strikes, he said: ‘We will continue as long as there is a threat of attack coming from Sudan.'” (Reuters [dateline: N’Djamena], January 8, 2008)
The threat represented by these attacks could affect not only EUFOR and MINCURAT, but UNAMID in Darfur:
“Chadian planes have bombed Chadian rebel positions near the capital of Sudan’s Western Darfur state, a UN report said of the second reported cross-border incursion in two weeks. Six Chadian ‘opposition members’ were killed in the attacks on villages in Darfur early Sunday, said the report seen by Reuters on Monday. Rodolphe Adada, head of the African Union-United Nations force for Darfur, said he was watching growing tensions along the Chad-Sudan border with deep concern and said they could negatively affect the deployment of the long-awaited joint Darfur peacekeeping mission. In a statement, Adada said he was ‘concerned that if the situation is not immediately brought under control, great numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees will likely be the first victims of any further escalations.'” [ ]
“Chad’s government issued a statement saying that Chadian ‘mercenaries’ were integrated into the ranks of the Sudanese army. It said it viewed any attack from Sudanese territory as an attack by the Sudanese army and reserved the right to respond. ‘All our air and ground forces are mobilised to guarantee the security of our national territory with the aim of blocking any mercenary presence or bases on either side of the border with Sudan,’ the statement said. [ ] Sunday’s [January 6, 2008] reported strikes came a day after Chadian President Idriss Dby threatened to send his armed forces into Sudan to destroy rebel fighters he accuses Khartoum of supporting. [ ] The air strikes are likely to enrage Sudan, which has repeatedly denied supporting Chadian rebels and warned Chad not to take military action.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 7, 2008)
Although Khartoum does in fact “deny supporting Chadian rebels,” Agence France-Presse reports:
“The head of one group in the [Chadian rebel] Alliance, the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development-Fundamental (UFDD-F), acknowledged his base in Sudan was hit on Sunday. ‘I was bombed on December 28  and yesterday (Sunday [January 6, 2008]) by Chadian aircraft inside Sudan,” Abdelwahid Aboud Makaye said, reached by satellite telephone from Libreville, admitting his headquarters are on the Sudanese side of the border. Chadian military sources told AFP Monday [January 8, 2008] that the air force had bombed several rebel bases south of El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) across the desert from Abeche, the main town in eastern Chad. They also said the same area was hit on Sunday [January 6, 2008].” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: N’Djamena], January 8, 2008)
It should be noted that some humanitarians in West Darfur are concerned that Dby might eventually direct bombing attacks against el-Geneina itself, on the pretext of a Chadian rebel presence. Even more worrisome are the reports of a Chadian build-up of forces on the ground just to the west and southwest of el-Geneina. For its part, Khartoum is reportedly building up its military assets in el-Geneina in preparation for possible attack, and in an aggressive effort to re-arm Chadian rebels as heavily as possible before they re-enter Chad.
Even as the threats posed by Chadian rebel groups—and military responses by N’Djamena—grow more ominous, recent military actions by the Justice and Equality Movement in far western West Darfur, again near the state capital of el-Geneina, raise a series of difficult questions about the fate of security in this most remote part of Darfur. This is partly a reflection of the changing role of Arab groups in the Darfur conflict and the growing tendency of these groups to abandon Khartoum, which has failed to honor its various commitments to its Arab militia allies. Indeed, Khartoum looms as an ever more destructive threat to the lives of all Darfuris, African and Arab.
Khartoum has long depended on its Arab militia allies, the Janjaweed (including in their various paramilitary guises); its own military forces are poorly trained, often poorly equipped, and typically badly demoralized, without any belief in the genocidal war they are being forced to prosecute. But Arab dissidents are growing in number, attempting to work across tribal lines, and militarily aligning themselves with various of the rebel groups long associated almost exclusively with the Fur, Massaleit, and Zaghawa. This latter phenomenon may be in evidence in a recent impassioned press release from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which is bearing down on el-Geneina from the North:
“December 25, 2007: In a breathtaking development in Darfur, numerous Arab groups have visited JEM headquarters in the past week and officially joined JEM. The groups included seven Arab Emirs (princes) and 22 top Arab commanders. It is to be noted that each Emir presides over around five Umdas (Mayors) while each Mayor has numerous village and hamlet sheikhs under his jurisdiction.”
“The 22 Arab military commanders include some who previously acted as Janjaweed leaders or enlisted under the infamous Border Guards. Arab members of the State of Western Darfur were particularly forceful in their allegiance to JEM. That, they have communicated very succinctly to Sudan’s Chief Intelligence [official] Salah Gosh and Interior Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed [Hussein]. These two were on a desperate tour to West Darfur with the mandate for revamping government support among the Arabs of Darfur. To their dismay, they have counted no less 23 Arabs ethnic groups in the State of Western Darfur alone who regard themselves as official members of JEM.”
The evidence suggests that el-Geneina faces military threats deriving from the presence of Khartoum’s regular forces, the proximity of Chadian rebels, the ominous cross-border concentration of Chad’s ground and air forces, and the enclosing presence of JEM forces. It is a new and highly combustible mixture of military actors, with the potential for a massive explosion, one that would compel the emergency evacuation of humanitarian personnel and put hundreds of thousands of highly vulnerable Darfuri civilians at the greatest possible risk.
The Security Council long ago abandoned any real commitment to the Darfur crisis, and for this reason—a year and a half after the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations proposed the essential elements of a peace support operation for Darfur—a vast cataclysm of human suffering and destruction seems virtually inevitable. The slim chance to mitigate this impending catastrophe—urgent deployment of UNAMID, with particular emphasis on civilian police—has been squandered in the face of Khartoum’s intransigent obstruction of UNAMID deployment and, most recently, the regime’s deliberate and premeditated attack on a UNAMID convoy. Assured by China that it will suffer no consequences, National Islamic Front tyranny sees that the genocidal status quo works to its advantage, eliminating a vast and growing part of Darfur’s population that might support rebellion.
This occurs before the very eyes of every member, past and present, of the UN Security Council. There has been no lack of detailed accounts of precisely what was being done; there has been ample time to respond. Current and past failures define, in the profoundest of ways, what the Security Council is and represents.