Completing the Darfur Genocide: Tens of thousands in Khartoum’s death grip; the killing has begun in earnest
Eric Reeves | 6 January 2015 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1yb
A large-scale mobilization of the “new Janjaweed“—the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—has marked the beginning of an ongoing campaign of killing and starvation that may claim tens of thousands of lives in the very near future. Ultimately we may be compelled (again) to measure deaths in the hundreds of thousands. The massing of RSF militia, now concentrated in North Darfur, has been reported for weeks now by Radio Dabanga, and figures prominently in my recent timeline for the major events and developments in Darfur in 2014 (Part one: http://wp.me/p45rOG-1y6 | Part two: http://wp.me/p45rOG-1y3 ). A great many villages have already been destroyed, with civilians—virtually all African/non-Arab farmers—killed and displaced in large numbers; the violence is reminiscent of the worst attacks in the the early years of the genocide. Certainly North Darfur is not the only target of the RSF and Khartoum’s regular military forces, as we have seen in both South Darfur and West Darfur; moreover, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) is now again working in concert in attacks against civilian villages and populations that are overwhelmingly African/non-Arab.
The “new Janjaweed“–the Rapid Support Forces used relentlessly by Khartoum
Two dispatches noted at the very end of my timeline for 2014 have become only more alarming in the first days of 2015:
29 December 2014: Radio Dabanga reports a further build-up of Rapid Support Forces in the area between Shangil Tobay [South Darfur] and Tabit. This is the route taken by UN during its attempt to investigate the mass sexual assaults on girls and women in Tabit (October 31 – November 1, 2014).
30 December 2014: Radio Dabanga reports that Rapid Support Forces, in a growing pattern of violence, kidnapped some 60 Darfuris:
Elements of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) ambushed a commercial convoy of three lorries in Tawila locality, North Darfur, on Monday. They seized two of the vehicles, and took 60 passengers with them to an unknown destination. A passenger of the third vehicle expressed his concern about the fate of the kidnapped people, fearing that they may be subjected to maltreatment and torture. “The convoy was transporting a number of passengers and commodities to the market of Fanga, when these Janjaweed intercepted us in the area of Terbo, 10 km south of Dubo El Omda,” he told Radio Dabanga.
The real violence and killing in North Darfur will predominate in eastern Jebel Marra and areas to the east; humanitarian assistance has been halted to much of Jebel Marra for almost five years. Recent military movements and village destruction by the RSF have left some 20,000 without food or water; they are mainly children, women, and the elderly—those most vulnerable to both violence and utter deprivation—and the number of newly displaced and those beyond humanitarian reach continues to grow rapidly . Men are being shot on sight. Radio Dabanga today reports on this extraordinarily threatening development:
Thousands hiding in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra without water, food | January 6, 2015 | EAST JEBEL MARRA / TAWILA
About 20,000 people hiding in the mountains in East Jebel Marra, North Darfur, are in urgent need of assistance. They are unable to search for food and water, or leave for the nearest camps for the displaced, as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have tightened their control in the area. Villagers are unable to bury their dead because of the rampant insecurity. Multiple sources reported that about 20,000 people, mostly women, children, and elderly, are hiding in the mountains between Deribat and Fanga from the RSF militias who started attacking their villages on Friday [2 January 2014].
“In particular the people who sought refuge in the areas west of Fanga, Kolokata, Soni El Arous, and El Sawani, are stranded, without any access to water, food, or shelter to protect them from the cold at night,” one of them told Radio Dabanga. “They cannot leave their hiding places because the militia forces are surrounding the area.” In the area of Fanga, about 30 km northwest of Shangil Tobaya (South Darfur), people attempted to bury some of the bodies of villagers lying in the open.
“Yet, militia troops shot at us, killing two men instantly,” a survivor from the attacks reported. “The bodies of Ismail Musa Adam, Zakaria Yahya Saleh, Abdelshakour Saleh, Abdelmajid Yagoub, Abdelrahman Musa, and Abdelkarim Adam, are lying in the open at about 1 km north of Fanga,” according to the villager. “The dead found south of Fanga are Osman Haroun, Ayman Saleh, Shogara Mohamed, Abdellatif Yagoub, Zakariya Mahjoub, Maryam Younes (11) and Aisha Mahjoub (7). “Haroun Juma, Noureldin Ishag, Maryam Ishag Yahya, Adam Ishag Yahya, Jarelnabi Suleiman, Jaber Musa Hamed, and Mustafa Yahya (5) were killed in the area west of the village,” he said.
Scenes such as this are again part of a genocidal onslaught
This murderous campaign strongly suggests Khartoum’s determination to exterminate all resistance to the will of the regime. What follows in the main in this brief are dispatches—in their entirety—from Radio Dabanga, detailing the extraordinary violence and destruction and displacement that is occurring at this very moment. These dispatches are simply indispensible if we wish to know what is occurring in Darfur; the reporting by the UN/African Union “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a failure in many ways, but no more conspicuously than in its failure to report what it sees or hears from its numerous bases—or what it simply doesn’t investigate. The upshot of what Radio Dabanga presents us, in utterly compelling detail, could not be clearer: Without urgent international intervention, Khartoum will at last realize its genocidal ambitions.
Six die in raid on North Darfur village | January 5, 2015 | KUTUM LOCALITY
Six people were shot dead in an attack by militiamen on Shagar Gei village in Kutum locality, North Darfur, today. “At about 10 am, dozens of government-backed militiamen stormed the village, north of Kutum town,” a listener from the area told Dabanga. “They fired at the villagers, killing Idris Adam Khater, Jamal Hamed Adoma, Babiker Adam Sakouta, Yousuf Omar, Bahar Azu, and the little girl. Siddig Adam Sakouta and Babiker Adam Khater sustained injuries.” The attackers then plundered the village and took more than a thousand head of livestock,” he said.
Residents of Kutum town reported to Dabanga that a militia convoy of about 120 vehicles and gunmen on horses and camels left Damra El Guba today, moving towards the north, in the direction of *Ain Siro* [on Ain Siro, see “Concluding Note” below], Amarei, Hashaba, and Furugat.
[Although many of the names in Radio Dabanga dispatches are not to be found on any available map, many can be found in what is still the most important cartographic resource for Darfur, the 2005 UN “Darfur Field Atlases,” one for each of the administrative divisions at the time, and which I continue to use: South Darfur (capital is Nyala), North Darfur (capital is El Fasher), and West Darfur (capital is El Geneina). The atlases may be found here. Further, Radio Dabanga has begun to try to identify locations by giving distances from towns and cities that do appear in the atlases.
The contested land: Jebel Marra
Even those who escape the violence and make it to the major camp for the displaced in this region—the already vast and hugely overcrowded ZamZam camp outside El Fasher (which is also UNAMID headquarters for Darfur)—face tremendous overcrowding and a widespread, severe humanitarian crisis that Khartoum has deliberately exacerbated:
New wave of displaced swells Zamzam camp in North Darfur | January 5, 2015 | ZAMZAM CAMP
Hundreds of people arrived at Zamzam camp for the displaced near El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, today, fleeing militia attacks on their villages in East Jebel Marra and Tawila locality. A sheikh reported that about 180 families reached camp at about 10 am. They fled the widespread raids on their villages launched by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, on Friday morning. “The villagers arrived on horseback and on foot from the northern part of East Jebel Marra and the area east of Tawila town,” he said. “They told us that they had left hundreds more families behind, most of them on foot, without water or food. They predicted that already weak people and children may die of hunger, thirst, and the extreme cold at night.”
The camp sheikh appealed to relief organisations and UNAMID to provide assistance to the newly displaced as soon as possible. “Already weak people and children may die of hunger, thirst, and the extreme cold at night.” People who fled from the areas of Dubo El Omda, Dubo El Madrasa, Fanga, and Tamarawa towards the mountains west of Fanga, told Dabanga that they passed dozens of bodies lying in the open. “Nobody had time to bury them,” one of them said.
“Many children started coughing,” he added. “Others are suffering from diarrhoea.” He also pointed to the fierce cold at night, “in particular this high in the mountains,” saying that they are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
The life led by millions of Darfuris
Much of this is all too familiar: on September 21, 2009 I received from a distinguished and extremely well-informed member of the Darfuri diaspora an email that provided a clear overview of the larger military offensive and its implications for civilians:
“There are air and ground attacks to various areas in Darfur, mostly all around Jebel Marra—my own area. This started on last Thursday [September 17, 2009]. There is an ongoing attack through the axis of eastern Jebel Marra in the area of Kidineir [southeast of Nyertiti]. The second axis is around the southern Jebel Marra: Nyertiti, Kass, Juldo. The third [axis] is eastern Jebel Marra: Korma, Tawila, extending to Ain Siro.”
The same general strategy guides current efforts by the RSF. But this is a militia force that is larger, more cohesive, better armed, and openly embraced by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime. This extension of the genocide is part of the “mechanism” alluded to by Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh in the leaked minutes of an extraordinary secret meeting (31 August 2014) of the most senior security and military officials in the regime (the entire Arabic text—28 photographed pages of the original document—is available here).
Connecting the dots
In many ways, the dispatches from Radio Dabanga provide a series of locations, which if linked show very clearly the strategic ambitions of both the RSF and Khartoum’s regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), again working in concert, one of the hallmarks of the most destructive early years of the genocide:
“Scorched earth” in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra | January 5, 2015 | EAST JEBEL MARRA / TAWILA
Militia troops of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and militiamen on camels and horses have begun “cleansing” villages and water resources in the areas north of East Jebel Marra after government forces gained control over the area of Fanga, about 30 km northwest of Shangil Tobaya, North Darfur. The sweep, which began on Thursday evening, was backed by fighter jets of the Sudanese Air Force.
“The operations are taking the shape of a scorched earth policy,” multiple sources told Dabanga. “They are removing the entire population of East Jebel Marra, Tawila locality, extended to parts of Kutum, Kabkabiya, and Saraf Umra localities in North Darfur,” one of them said. “This is one of the fiercest attacks and largest organised robbery in the recent history of Darfur.” The “cleansing operations” have led to the displacement of thousands of villagers. They sought refuge in the area of Tabit in Tawila locality, after they were robbed of all their belongings and their livestock, the sources reported.
The sources described how a large group of RSF militia arrived in the area of Abu Zerega, south of El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on Friday and Saturday. “They came in groups in a total of 90 vehicles, and began ravaging and plundering 37 villages,” they reported. “About 3,700 villagers fled towards Zamzam camp for the displaced near El Fasher, while 11 herders and five women are missing.”
“Some 3,460 camels, 1,780 cows, and 3,460 sheep and goats were stolen,” one of them reported. “We saw the militia convoy leaving from a distance. They were slowed-down by the livestock.” “This is one of the fiercest attacks and largest organised robbery in the recent history of Darfur.”
In the village of Tamarawa, 3 km south of Fanga, nine women were killed by bullets from a 50-calibre Dushka machine-gun. They attempted to prevent the attackers from taking 4,000 cows belonging to the villagers. “They are Hawa Idris Musa, Dar Naim Yahya Saleh, Om Kalsoum Adam Musa, Saadia and Kubra Yagoub Haroun, Maryam Yousef Omar, Aisha Yousef Suleiman, and Zahra Abdallah,” a source from Tamarawa mentioned.
Militiamen led by Badur Abu Kineish raided and pillaged a number of other villages in Tawila locality. “They have been pillaging the houses since Friday. They stole thousands of livestock, including the donkeys,” a villager told Radio Dabanga from Rwanda camp in Tawila, where he arrived with his family on Saturday. “Most of the people fled to the three camps for the displaced near Tawila town.” Omda Mukhtar Bosh, coordinator of the Tawila camps, reported that the people who arrived at the camps are in a dire humanitarian condition. “They have not only lost all they owned, but they were beaten, assaulted, and raped. “Two young women aged 15 and 18 were gang-raped. They were transferred to a hospital in El Fasher for treatment. “The situation at the camps is not very secure either. The militias are coming closer, as they attack nearby villages.”
He added that a group of militiamen raided the market of Tawila on Saturday afternoon [3 January 2014]. “Fortunately, army forces prevented them from plundering the market. But some 10,000 people fled the town and sought refuge at the nearby UNAMID base.”
Residents of Kutum locality reported that they saw a convoy of about 20 Land Cruisers with RSF militiamen, and 60 gunmen on camels and horses, passing with about 3,000 head of cattle. “They came from the south, and went into the direction of the El Guba military garrison.” Hussein Abu Sharati, chairman of the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association, stated to Radio Dabanga that the attacks on civilians in East Jebel Marra “constitute a war crime, and a crime against humanity.” He confirmed that “at least 45 villages in East Jebel Marra have been pillaged and emptied of their residents. Another 15 villages burned down to ashes. Tens of thousands of people have fled towards the north, to the camps near Tawila and Tabit, or are hiding in the mountains and valleys.”
Abu Sharati demanded from “the UN, UN Security Council, UNAMID, and human rights organisations to take immediate action to protect the civilians in Darfur.” “The international community should also establish a fact-finding mission to investigate the range of the attacks.” He urged the UN and relief organisations to provide emergency aid to the newly displaced “as soon as possible.”
The notorious Antonov “bomber”–in reality, a highly inaccurate retrofitted cargo plane, capable of attacking only civilian targets.
An earlier dispatch from Radio Dabanga indicates that the military advantage clearly lies with Khartoum’s forces, in particular its militia allies and aerial military assets.
Rebels, militia forces clash, villages raided and bombed in North Darfur | January 1, 2015 | EAST JEBEL MARRA / TAWILA
Fierce clashes between joint rebel forces and troops of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted in Tawila locality, North Darfur, popularly known as East Jebel Marra, this morning. The Sudanese Air Force backed the militiamen with heavy bombardments, killing at least seven civilians. On Wednesday, RSF militia troops pillaged several villages in the area.
“The fighting concentrated near Mashrou Abu Zeid, over an area stretching between El Aradeib El Ashara, Goz Dor, Argatello, and the area west of Khazan Tunjur,” a resident told Radio Dabanga from the area. “We saw dozens of dead militia members, and a number of demolished cars.” “The people in the area got stuck between the fighting between the rebels and the militias, and the heaviest bombing we witnessed in a long time,” others reported to Radio Dabanga late this afternoon. “Antonovs started targeting the area west of Tabit, south of Tawila, and Mashrou Abu Zeid at about 11 am this morning, and continued, with intervals, the whole day,” one of them said. [The coordinated use of SAF aerial military assets in conjunction with ground attacks by allied militia forces also harkens back to the earlier years of the genocide—ER]
“At least seven villagers were killed, and others wounded. Dozens of livestock were also killed, and the wells near Mashrou Abu Zeid were demolished.” [The destruction of wells, common in the early years of the genocide, is an enormously destructive act in this arid land; the water is critical for human and animal consumption as well as for irrigation—ER]
“There may be more casualties and fatalities,” he stressed. “We fled to a nearby valley, and are attempting to get more information. We retrieved the names of six people killed by the bombs: the sisters Shadia (36) and Hanan Musa Ahmed (25), killed in the area of Sorre, Idris Abakar Haroun (46), and Mohamed Kheir Mekki, in Argatello, and Amin Saleh Omar (60) and Mahjoub Juma, killed in one of the nomad’s settlements, located north of Mashrou Abu Zeid.”
He reported that on Wednesday, militia forces, in vast numbers, raided several villages in the area. “They beat the residents, and stripped them of all their belongings.”
The Rapid Response Forces appear much better armed and outfitted than the Janjaweed of previous years.
This assault on the eastern Jebel Marra area and surrounding villages began in 2014, and follows serious militia assaults on many villages in South Darfur and West Darfur. The detail with which Radio Dabanga has recorded the events in Darfur, and particularly North Darfur over the past weeks, ensures that the international community will never be able to say it wasn’t aware of how ferociously the genocide was again being pursued:
Renewed bombing in Tawila, RSF militia arrive in Kabkabiya, North Darfur | December 30, 2014 | TAWILA / KABKABIYA
The residents of Tawila locality, popularly known as East Jebel Marra, and Kabkabiya town in North Darfur are living in great fear, as large groups of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) settled in the neighbourhood. The Sudanese Air Force continues bombing the area between Tabit and Shangil Tobaya. “Government jets started bombing the areas again near the villages of Dady, Khor Mali, Sabi, and Fanga at 1:15 pm on Tuesday [December 30, 2014],” a villager reported to Radio Dabanga from Dady. “The bombs killed more than 40 cows, and ignited a number of fires, but we did not receive reports about fatalities among the villagers,” he said.
The source noted that the ongoing bombardments and the proliferation of troops of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the area are terrifying the people. “Many have fled their villages, and have become newly displaced.” He urged the UN Security Council and the international community to intervene, stop the bombardments, and protect the people in the region. On Friday, 19 December, the first contingent of RSF troops in more than 100 armoured vehicles arrived at Wadi Marra, south of Tabit. Their arrival was accompanied by air raids. The following days, more militia troops arrived in the area.
“The arrival of the militia forces has led to a mass displacement of people in the area,” a villager told Radio Dabanga a week ago. The residents of 11 villages fled towards Tabit, Shangil Tobaya, and Zamzam camp near El Fasher. “Many people in Kabkabiya do not dare to leave their homes anymore to collect firewood and water.” The residents of Kabkabiya, northeast of Tawila locality, are also living in terror since Sunday evening, when a large group of RSF militia troops in 25 armoured vehicles, loaded with heavy weapons, settled in the area of El Hara, east of the town. [This represents an extraordinary expansion of the RSF’s military capabilities, which are much greater that those of the “Janjaweed” of earlier years. Recruitment and heavy arming of the RSF is a subject to which the participants in the August 31, 2014 meeting of senior military and security officials repeatedly recur—ER.]
A listener told Radio Dabanga from Kabkabiya that the roaming of the militiamen at the town market, and in the residential areas sparked great fear among the population. “Many do not dare to leave their homes anymore to collect firewood and water.” On Thursday, a RSF militia contingent in more than 125 Land Cruisers arrived at Kutum town, north of Kabkabiya.
There simply cannot be doubt about the larger strategic goal of this combined military assault, targeting one of the last areas of rebel resistance in Darfur. By destroying the non-Arab/African populations and their means of livelihood, the Khartoum regime again hopes to make life impossible for all: civilians and rebels alike:
Nine villages attacked by Sudan’s militias, air force in North Darfur | December 31, 2014 | TAWILA LOCALITY
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began their offensive in North Darfur’s Tawila locality, popularly known as East Jebel Marra, this morning. An Antonov of the Sudan Air Force bombarded the area from 8 am until 12 am. Two children were killed. Several villagers related to Radio Dabanga from their refuge in the mountains, how a large group of RSF militia troops moved from Wadi Marra at about 10 am this morning towards the villages of Sharafa, Um Beji, Dolma, Diwa, Koto, Daly, and Nemra. “They assaulted and beat those who had not already fled with batons and whips, and pillaged the villages. They took everything with them, even beds the poultry,” one of them said.
Others reported that an Antonov dropped 17 bombs in the vicinity of Tokomari and Hillet Wad Kireikeri villages, near Tabit, and in the area of Mashrou Abu Zeid. “Hamoudi Mahmoud Adam (5) and Adam Yagoub (4) were fatally hit. Wells and other water resources were destroyed, and many cows were killed.”
“We urgently request the UN Security Council and the international community to intervene, and protect the people in East Jebel Marra.” The villagers, hiding in the nearby mountains and valleys, said that the destruction of the wells “by the militia troops [see my comment interpolated into the previous dispatch—ER] as well,” is aggravating their situation.
Omda Ahmed Ateem, the coordinator of the North Darfur camps, strongly condemned the “attacks on civilians in East Jebel Marra”. He expressed his fear that the Rapid Support Forces, since a few days stationed in the areas around Kutum and Kabkabiya, will start their offensive soon too. Ateem appealed through Radio Dabanga to UNAMID to provide protection to the people against the frequent attacks by government militias. “If the peacekeepers came to Darfur to protect the civilians, they should do their part. If they came to collect dollars, we will lose our lives.”
Other parts of Darfur are also under assault, and there seems no end to the present dry season campaign other than a complete destruction of the civilian population and infrastructure that Khartoum sees as supporting rebel groups.
“Government militiamen” attack displaced in West Darfur | January 4, 2015 | KEREINIK
A number of displaced were wounded in an armed robbery in Kereinik locality, West Darfur, on Thursday. The police refused to act, saying they do not have the power to persecute “government militia troops.” A group of government-backed militiamen attacked the displaced on Thursday night, while they were sleeping at their farmlands in Momo, 5 km east of Murnei. They beat them with their whips and riffles, four of them seriously, after which they robbed them of their belongings. One of the victims told Radio Dabanga that they reported the attack to the police of Momo. “They, however, refused to act, saying that they do not have the competence to persecute elements of government militias.”
Military assaults on camps for the displaced are becoming more common, as are denials of access to these overcrowded, poorly served, and demoralized populations:
Sudan security denies UNAMID, USAID access to Zamzam camm | 31 December 2014 | ZAMZAM CAMP
Security agents have prevented representatives of UNAMID and USAID from entering Zamzam camp for the displaced in El Fasher locality, North Darfur. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, a camp elder said that UNAMID officers were stopped by the security when they wanted to visit the camp on Monday. “They would meet with the camp administration to discuss the deteriorating security situation,” he explained. “The next morning, they denied access to USAID representatives, who were going to meet with the camp administration and the health, education, and water committee, for an assessment of the current humanitarian situation, and the planning of their interventions for 2015.”
“The real problem is that the government is beating its war drums continuously”
Responding to recent announcements by the Sudanese authorities that Sudan does not need international aid, the Zamzam camp elder stressed that this is “unbelievable.” “It is the government that is responsible for the rampant insecurity and the vast displacement in the region. The authorities have never provided us with the slightest humanitarian aid, such as food, clean drinking water, or medicines. They say they will support us, while at the same time they prevent organisations to provide relief.”
“During the past weeks, large groups of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by the security apparatus, arrived in the neighbourhood. They are stationed in Tawila, Kutum, and Kabkabiya localities.” “We all expect renewed mass displacements in the near future, so even more people will be forced to survive on humanitarian aid.”
The Present and the Future
Nothing has changed to alter my recent characterization of current realities in Darfur or the implications of the expiration of UNAMID’s Security Council authorization in Darfur (June 30, 2015):
• Almost 3 million people cannot return to their homes—displaced into IDP camps (2.4 million), living at non-UN sites (with family and friends in nearby villages, or simply under trees as they move toward what they hope is safety), an uncounted number displaced in Jebel Marra(which remains under humanitarian embargo, including for assessment missions), and more than 360,000refugees in eastern Chad.
• Efforts by civilians to return to their lands and villages—the so-called “voluntary return villages”—have proved no safer than other villages: few in number, they too have been attacked by the Rapid Response Forces. As Radio Dabanga reports (December 14, 2014):
On Saturday, nine villagers were killed, and their homes burned to ashes in an attack by militiamen on Abu Jabra in Gireida locality, South Darfur. “About five weeks ago, the people of Abu Jabra had returned to their village, in the voluntary return programme organised by the Darfur Regional Authority,” an eyewitness from a neighbouring village told Radio Dabanga. “The formerly displaced had begun to settle themselves again at the place, located 20 km north of Gireida town. However, on Saturday afternoon, a large group of about 100 militiamen on camels and horses attacked the village, without any warning or clear reason. They fired at the people, killing nine instantly. After pillaging the entire village, they set it ablaze” …
As recent events demonstrate all too dramatically, violent attacks against villages by the RSF and other militia forces—often entailing wholesale destruction, pillaging, rape, and murder—have been escalating throughout 2014 and show no sign of diminishing.
• Land continues to be appropriated from African farmers by armed Arab groups on a large scale; this makes peace and reconciliation continually more difficult, and will likely be the primary obstacle in any peace settlement acceptable to Darfuri civil society.
• Radio Dabanga continues to report the unrelenting aerial bombardment of civilian targetsin Jebel Marra and other regions of Darfur. The attacks are often deadly and immensely destructive, prompting significant human displacement. UNAMID fails to investigate or report these attacks.
• An epidemic of sexual violence against girlsand women continues to be reported, primarily by Radio Dabanga, on a regular basis. (See extended overview of this grim reality | http://sudanreeves.org/2012/03/04/rape-as-a-continuing-weapon-of-war-in-darfur-reports-bibliography-of-studies-a-compendium-of-incidents/)
• Severe humanitarian shortcomings in camps for the displaced are also reported on a virtually daily basis by Radio Dabanga. Morbidity and morality ratescontinue to climb, even if not reported by the UN (and as a consequence, by operational INGOs). For example, on December 28, 2014, Radio Dabanga reported that there are no doctors or medicines in Mukjar (formerly West Darfur).
• The death toll from the consequences of violence and violent displacement continues to rise; extant data as well as reports from the ground strongly suggest that the figure is now above 500,000. An increasing percentage of deaths are the direct result of violence.
• The UN, the United States, the European Union, as well as theAfrican Union, continue to support the peace agreement known as the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur(July 2011). This is so despite the fact that all know the agreement is a dead letter within Darfuri civil society and the major rebel groups; the Darfur Regional Authority created by the DDPD is a conspicuous failure after three and a half years of ineffective and finally inconsequential changes on the ground in Darfur.
• The U.S. position on the Doha document has been muddied by contradictory public comments coming from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powerand U.S. deputy charge d’affaires in Sudan, Christopher Rowan. On March 12, 2014, Power is reported by the Sudan Tribune as,
…call[ing] on members of the African Union Peace and Security Council to find an alternative forum to resolve the Darfur crisis, saying the DDPD has become outdated and cannot be relied on.
Sudan Tribune was also the source for Khartoum’s criticism of Power’s remarks:
The Sudanese government Tuesday criticised a statement by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, [which called] on the AUPSC so support the holistic approach and to merge the two peace processes for Darfur and the Two Areas. (March 12, 2014)
The United States deputy charge d’affaires in Sudan Christopher Rowan affirmed that the solution to the Darfur conflict could only come through dialogue and negotiations and not through arms, stressing his country’s support for the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).
Very recently, a State Department official informed me that the DDPD is regarded as untenable within the Obama administration, but that there is hesitation in declaring as much without a willingness to provide a serious diplomatic alternative. In short, the position of the Obama administration is expediently muddled.
Within Sudan, the DDPD is supported only by the Khartoum regime and for predictable reasons: any life remaining in the DDPD, even if entirely artificial, gives the regime an excuse for not engaging in further, meaningful diplomacy about how to bring peace, security, and justice to Darfur. Since so many high-ranking officials in the regime are responsible for massive atrocity crimes in Darfur, indeed genocide, there is simply no discussion of justice for those who have violated international law in Darfur.
• Brutal military campaigns in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nilestates continue to target civilians and civilian food supplies and agricultural production. A humanitarian embargoplaced on rebel-controlled regions by Khartoum in 2011 continues, with no signs of its being lifted. Bombing attacks—including attacks on hospitals, mosques, churches, schools, and grain storage sites—continue relentlessly with virtually no international condemnation, and certainly none of consequence. The burning of this year’s abundant sorghum crop, stipulated as a goal in the August 31 minutes, has begun.
• A severe political and news media crackdown continues to intensify in the run-up to the April 2015 presidential election. Darfuris are particular victims of the extreme political repression in Khartoum and at universities in other major cities. Despite this, there is growing evidence of political opposition united at many points. This opposition is strengthened by the continuing collapse of the Sudanese economy. One Sudanese economist, based in Egypt, claims that the country’s economy has already collapsed, and the current budget if entirely contrived. The IMF issupposedly monitoring the economy but contents itself with figures that come from the regime’s Central Bureau of Statistics, repeatedly cited without qualification in IMF reports.
• Increasingly close relations between Khartoum and Moscow suggest that the regime desires another key ally on the UN Security Council to block any further authorization of UNAMID. Humanitarian organizations are even now making contingency plans for withdrawing from Darfur if there is not even a nominal protection force on the ground. This is precisely what Khartoum wishes, indeed is central to its ghastly program to “Sudanize” humanitarian operation throughout Sudan.
• As is the case in so many regions of the world in which the U.S. has extended its “war on terror,” Sudan continues to be the beneficiary of policies that are governed not by the judgment of the State Department or concern for human rights and democratic development, but rather by the narrow interests of the multifarious U.S. intelligence community. This tendency has increased dramatically during the Obama administration, particularly in Sudan. Again and again, in countries around the world, we find examples of this deeply disturbing re-orientation within U.S. foreign policy.
June 30, 2015 continues to loom as the date on which Khartoum expects UNAMID to be out of Darfur. The UN Security Council will not have renewed the Mission’s authorization, and despite disingenuous words to the contrary from UN DPKO chief Hervé Ladsous, it won’t matter to either Russia or China what humanitarian and security conditions prevail in the region at that time. No humanitarian organizations will be able to remain in Darfur without at least nominal international protection.
A Concluding Note: How was Darfur so badly understood and so terribly managed by the international community?
In surveying the current destruction and suffering in Darfur it is worth pausing on one location, Ain Siro (highlighted in the January 5 dispatch from Radio Dabanga above); for it has been celebrated in the past as an example of Darfur “putting itself together again”—and on its own. Former U.S. special envoy for Sudan Scott Gration placed Ain Siro on his itinerary for one of his few visits to Darfur because if offered “hope.” Most telling, however, is the assessment offered by Alex de Waal writing in May 2009:
A few days in Ain Siro is a reminder of what life used to be like in Darfur. The village is nestled in the spine of hills that runs due north from Jebel Marra into the desert. Protected by the mountains, the SLA has controlled the area for the last four years, and for many of the people in the vicinity, allowed an element of normality to return. Villages have been rebuilt, a rudimentary health service set up—and the school re-opened. (May 29, 2009 at SSRC blog: perhaps understandably, the link to de Waal’s piece on the Social Science Research Center has gone “dead”: http://blogs.ssrc.org/darfur/2009/05/28/a-taste-of-normality-in-ain-siro/).
From the example of Ain Siro, de Waal draws a conclusion that shows finally just how shameless his accommodation of Khartoum’s ambitions has been over the years:
Ain Siro shows how people on all sides are tired of war and, when given the chance, can make their own small but significant steps towards peace and normality. When Julie Flint first wrote about Ain Siro “saving itself” in 2007, most were sceptical that it represented anything significant. Two years on, not only has Ain Siro survived, but its model of self-help is less exceptional than it was.
Given what we are seeing more than five years later—the destruction of the very villages de Waal invokes, the complete lack of normality, the overrunning of Ain Siro by the RSF, the burning of schools and clinics—his assessment of what the future held was spectacularly erroneous, even as it was belied by a great deal of evidence in much of Darfur at the time.
But de Waal is not just any commentator: he has been used extensively as a regional expert by the UN, the U.S., and the African Union. As part of his self-description, de Waal notes of himself in an author bio:
During 2005-06, de Waal was seconded to the African Union mediation team for Darfur and from 2009-11 served as senior adviser to the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan.
This represents participation in a long and dismal record of failure: the utter failure of the Darfur Peace Agreement negotiated in Abuja, Nigeria (May 2006), which de Waal pushed so hard and defended so long after its failure was manifest. As a senior advisor to Thabo Mbeki and the feckless “African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan,” he participated in failures not only in Darfur, but in the run-up to the self-determination referendum for South Sudan and Abyei. Mbeki, along with senior U.S. officials Gration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Senator (now Secretary of State) John Kerry, pushed Juba to “compromise” on a further truncating of Abyei. Khartoum seeing this, saw calculated that it would pay no price for the military annexation of all of Abyei, even that part delineated in a July 2009 by the International Court of Arbitration. The annexation, which began with military seizure in late May 2011, is now virtually complete and Khartoum has begun to extend northern infrastructure into the lands that historically are those of the Dinka Ngok. There has been no international objection.
And what to make of the “Implementation” in the title for Mbeki’s ongoing, and fruitless, diplomatic roadtrip? What is being “implemented”? “Implementation” was to have been of the “Roadmap for Peace in Darfur,” which de Waal played a large part in assembling—and which led nowhere. This failure in turn opened the diplomatic door to the Qataris, who were happy to provide diplomatic auspices negotiators from Khartoum and a small, patched together group of minor splinter rebel factions (with, incredibly, the assistance of Libya’s Muamar Gadhafi). The “Liberation and Justice Movement” was entirely contrived and represented no one—not the militarily consequential rebel movements or Darfuri civil society. The document that was eventually signed in July 2011—the “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur” (DDPD)—had no chance of success, as was immediately evident to anyone who had followed the negotiations and understood the complete lack of support for the process by the overwhelming majority of Darfuris (one participant, who had also advised in the Abuja talks that produced the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, described the Doha negotiations as “Abuja replayed as farce”). Today the DDPD has been revealed again as a total failure, and the Darfur Regional Authority it created has proved ineffective, corrupt, and widely disliked, if not hated as a betrayal of legitimate aspirations for these long marginalized people.
We would have learned much more in 2009 by reading the dispatches of Radio Dabanga than de Waal’s blog, as remains the case today. Expediency of the sort represented by de Waal has no place in any genuine effort to bring peace to Darfur. This is a lesson no one seems willing to learn: not the African Union, not the UN, not the European Union, not the United States. None will clearly and soberly assess the catastrophe that is impending, or declare what must be done to halt it.