Darfur: Radio Dabanga, News Digest Number 9 | 26 April 2015

This is the ninth installment of a digest containing what I believe to be the most important stories reported by Radio Dabanga in the previous week. Radio Dabanga continues to be by far our most important and reliable source of information about what is occurring in Darfur, and provides a great deal more than the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the largely worthless quarterly reports of the UN Secretary-General.

In the wake of Sudan’s electoral travesty, however, this week has been particularly dense with news about Darfur. Important stories also appeared in Sudan Tribune, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse (AFP); all are included here at the end of the digest. Additionally, a new report was released by the International Crisis Croup (“The Chaos in Darfur”), and part of the Executive Summary appears at the very end of this compilation.

This week the digest looks at an unusually wide range of stories revealing the dangers confronting Darfur, and there are a number of reports in a subsidiary position under the most important version of these key threats. While I have limited myself to the usual ten primary stories, this is still perforce highly selective.

All dispatches have been edited to some degree for length; any editorial comments on my part—which are particularly heavy today—appear italicized in [brackets] and in blue; all emphases within the cited texts have been added.

I have particularly emphasized in this digest that what is now called “Central Darfur” was formerly part of West Darfur (and to a lesser extent South Darfur). The further division of Darfur by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime in 2012 was arbitrary and entirely politically motivated, and it has worked to encourage geographical confusion (the western part of “Central Darfur,” for example, borders eastern Chad). Similarly, “East Darfur” was also created arbitrarily in 2012 from parts of South Darfur. Geographically, it designates the southeastern region of Darfur.

This emphasis on geographical clarification derives from the fact that while North Darfur and eastern Jebel Marra continue to be the site of the greatest violence in Darfur, reports from West Darfur (including what is now “Central Darfur”) are increasingly alarming.

Eric Reeves, 26 April 2015

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 1 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1CD

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 2 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1De

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 3 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Dt

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 4 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ei

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 5 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1EL

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 6 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Fp

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 7 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1FL

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 8 | http://wp.me/s45rOG-6452

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 9 | below and  http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Gi

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•  Woman gang-raped for three hours in North Darfur

April 20, 2015 | Tawila Locality

Militiamen gang raped a 17 year-old woman near Katur village in Tawila locality, traditionally belonging to East Jebel Marra, today. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, a cousin of the victim reported that two militiamen wearing military uniforms and riding on camels attacked the woman, when she was collecting firewood north of the village at 2pm this (Monday) afternoon. “They alternately raped her until about 5pm. When she did not return home, we formed a rescue team, who found her, heavily bleeding, in one of the creeks. “She was taken home in a very bad mental and physical state, to be treated with traditional medicines,” she said, explaining that there are no medical doctors or health facilities in the area.

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Targets for rape

[Without seeing clearly that rape is epidemic in Darfur, we cannot understand the brutality of violence that has dominated this region for more than twelve years; we cannot understand the future of Darfur unless we face squarely the implications of the complete impunity enjoyed by militia forces in their sexual assaults, or and the desperation that drives women and girls to collect firewood knowing that they may well be targets of these vicious predators. There are no voices other than those reported by Radio Dabanga speaking out about these terrible crimes—which in aggregate are crimes against humanity, as rape continues to be used as a systematic weapon of war by Khartoum’s regular and militia proxies.]

•  Sudanese militia missiles kill three in East Jebel Marra

April 26, 2015 | Fanga

Three people were killed in an artillery attack on a water well in the area of Fanga, East Jebel Marra, on Friday. Members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces began shelling a well, located 1.5km north of Fanga at about 8am, a relative of one of the victims reported to Radio Dabanga. “They fired seven missiles in total. Four of them hit the well, killing Teiba Saleh Yahya (40), Maryam Yousef Adam (35), and Um El Kheir Eisa Yagoub (12), besides eight donkeys. The tree other missiles fell not far from the well,” he said. [There are few acts in Darfur as destructive as attacks on wells and water points; they are heavily used by civilians and artillery shelling of this sort is inherently indiscriminate, even as it is purposeful in making the water well a site of danger.]

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People in North Darfur who have fled violence, in the form of ground assaults, aerial bombardment—or artillery shelling

•  Sudanese NGOs to stop health services in South Darfur

April 23, 2015 | Khartoum

A number of national organisations providing health services in the South Darfur camps for the displaced will be forced to halt their services because of financial constraints. Next month, the Rufaida Health Organisation (RHF) will be unable to continue providing health services in Otash camp for the displaced and in the area of Um Dafug, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in its latest weekly bulletin. The NGO reportedly did not receive funding from the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) this year, and they have no other source of funding. RHF is one of three organisations, along with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society and World Vision International (WVI), which provide health services to the 90,500 residents of Otash camp.

RHF is the only health service provider for some 7,000 displaced people, and 9,300 returnees in the area of Um Dafug.

In Dereig camp, the Sudanese Patient Helping Fund (PHF) and the National Initiative for Development Organisation (NIDO) also report that a lack of funding will force them to close health operations in the camp after April, OCHA reports. The NGOs are the only health service providers to the estimated 36,700 displaced in the camp, as well as to some residents of Nyala town.

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These displaced people may soon have even less security and less in the way of relief assistance

[This may be the most important, or at least revealing story of the week. It highlights two rapidly unfolding developments: the increasing difficulty of finding funding for humanitarian efforts in Darfur when violence has continued so many years and there is a broad perception that we have very little to show for it—other than the survival of hundreds of thousands of people who would otherwise have died without the assistance received in camps. Secondly, the day of reckoning for UNAMID is rapidly approaching: its authorization expires on June 30 and Khartoum has made clear it wants an aggressive exit strategy implemented per UN Security Council Resolution 2173 (August 27, 2014). UNAMID reported last month:

Khartoum, 17 March 2015 – A joint working group composed of 16 Sudanese Government officials, 13 United Nations/UNAMID officials and 8 African Union officials met today to start preparations for drawing out a common strategy for UNAMID’s eventual exit from Darfur. The meeting, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Khartoum, was inaugurated by Acting Undersecretary for Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sana Hamad, AU Ambassador in Sudan Mahmoud Kane and General Adrian Foster, Deputy Military Adviser at UN Headquarters, who heads the UN team in the Joint Working Group.

This group is established in line with the UN Security Council resolution 2173 of 27 August 2014 that requested “the Secretary-General, in close coordination with the African Union, and seeking perspective from all relevant parties, to prepare recommendations for the future mandate, composition, configuration and exit strategy of UNAMID, as well as for its relationship with other UN actors in the Sudan.”

What is well known beyond what UNAMID says here is that Khartoum is impatient with the pace of withdrawal that the UN has spoken of and is likely to be aggressive in its demands. Since re-authorization of UNAMID requires a Security Council resolution, without substantial pressure on Khartoum to yield on key issues of civilian and humanitarian security, Russia (or perhaps China) will veto the resolution, precipitating and immediate crisis and the possibility of confrontation between “un-authorized” UNAMID forces and Khartoum’s various military actors in Darfur. The story immediately below from Sudan Tribune gives some sense of what these confrontations might look like.

The central issue confronting the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations  has been and should continue to be the protection of civilians and humanitarian operations. As relief efforts become more dangerous and more vulnerable to funding shortfalls, as several important relief organizations move closer to withdrawal, the risk of cataclysmic destruction rises accordingly. Unfortunately, the political leadership at the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, especially Hervé Ladsous, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have demonstrated an ominous capacity for disingenuousness concerning realities in Darfur and the performance of UNAMID. The critical reality is that the Khartoum regime is determined to rid Darfur of UNAMID—and if the regime has its way, what is being called an “exit strategy is likely to be little more than diplomatic cover as the UN accedes to Khartoum’s demands with as little embarrassment as possible. Given the scale of failure represented by UNAMID from the very beginning of its deployment, and its growing irrelevance in responding to the massive security crisis in Darfur, avoiding embarrassment will be exceedingly difficult.]

•  Tribal militia besiege UNAMID camp in South Darfur

SUDAN TRIBUNE | April 24, 2015 | Nyala

The joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) sent military enforcements to its camp in Kass, 86km west of South Darfur state capital of Nyala, on Friday to protect it against militiamen seeking revenge for the killing of their fellow tribesmen. Four people were killed and six others injured from the “Zaghawa Um-Kmelty” tribe in South Darfur on Thursday at the hands of peacekeepers UNAMID on the road between Kass and Shangita. Sudan Tribune’s correspondent in South Darfur cited UNAMID patrol soldiers yesterday as saying that a group of gunmen tried to steal the vehicle they were riding on thus forcing the unit to engage them using firepower. Tribal leaders in Kass insist that the armed group was going after stolen cattle when they encountered the patrol stressing that it was not their intention to attack the peacekeepers.

A UNAMID source told Sudan Tribune today that the mission’s headquarters in Nyala dispatched Nigerian, Pakistani and Nepalese troops backed by armed vehicles to Kass in anticipation of an attack by tribal militia, saying troops were deployed around the camp once [they] arrived there. The source claimed five soldiers from UNAMID were injured in Thursday’s clashes.

UNAMID “clashes” with tribesmen in insecure South Darfur

SUDAN TRIBUNE | April 24, 2015 | South Darfur

Peacekeepers of the UNAMID reportedly killed a number of armed tribesmen in South Darfur on Thursday… Six people were killed and five others injured from the Zaghawa Um-Kmelty tribe by forces of the joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID), a correspondent told Sudan Tribune. The incident took place on the road between Kass and Shangita, just 86 km west of the state capital city of Nyala.

•  Cooking gas and bread crises continue in Sudan

April 23, 2015 | New Halfa / Kurti / Khartoum

The people in eastern and northern Sudan continue to suffer from a shortage of wheat flour. The Ministry of Agriculture plans to reach “wheat self-sufficiency” by 2019. In the area of New Halfa, eastern Sudan, the shortage of bread is accompanied by a lack of cooking gas since two months. “In particular the people in villages located between New Halfa and Khashm El Girba have to exert tremendous efforts to obtain flour and gas,” a resident of New Halfa reported to Radio Dabanga. He said that the flour crisis has led to the closure of most of the bakeries, while the prices of cooking gas are skyrocketing. “The price of a gas cylinder at the black market has risen to SDG100 ($17).” [“Wheat self-sufficiency by 2019” is pure political propaganda, meant to deal with the immediate political crisis resulting from bread lines and lack of bread (wheat imports) and cooking fuel (also imported). There are, and have been, no indications that such a plan actually exists.]

In Marawi locality, Northern State, people complain about a severe shortage of flour since early March…  On 25 March, Radio Dabanga reported that the main flour mills in the country had reduced the distribution of the basic commodity by 50 to 75 percent two weeks before, because of the scarcity of foreign currency needed for the import of wheat.

[This story is also of immense importance in revealing just how badly the Sudanese economy continues to perform, and the consequent lack of foreign exchange currency (Forex) required to purchase essential commodities from abroad. Sudan, which should be more than agriculturally self-sufficient, imports almost US$1 billion worth of wheat per year; this ground into the flour that becomes bread, central in the diet of a great many in Sudan. The “US$4 billion” that Saudi Arabia reportedly deposited in the Central Bank of Sudan turned out to be another hoax by Khartoum, trying desperately to spook the currency black market, where the Sudanese Pound is now trading at almost 10 to the dollar—far above the official exchange rate. After years of running the Sudanese economy into the ground, and the agricultural sector in particular. These are the inevitable consequences of turning over the agricultural sector to political cronies. Such a massively irresponsible policy continues even as the regime continues to import large quantities of weapons from abroad: 

Between 2004 – 2008 and 2009 – 2013 imports by Sudan increased by 35 percent. Deliveries included 44 Mi-24 combat helicopters from Russia, 4 Su-25 and 12 Su-24 combat aircraft from Belarus, and 170 T-72 and T-55 tanks from Ukraine, some of which have been used in the border conflict with South Sudan and—despite a United Nations embargo on arms for use in Darfur—in the conflict in Darfur. (SIPRI fact sheet, “Trends in Arms Transfers,” 2014)

In addition to being one of the largest arms importers in Africa, the NIF/NCP regime has also made Sudan into one of Africa’s largest arms manufacturers and exporters. This adds nothing to the economy except debt and the diversion of capital away from critical projects benefitting ordinary Sudanese—such as “wheat self-sufficiency.”]

“Technical issues, flour crisis resolved”: Sudan’s bakery union

April 24, 2015 | Khartoum

The Sudanese Union of Bakeries said that technical problems at one of the major mills caused the flour gap throughout the country [this claim is simply ludicrous on any number of grounds], which greatly affected bread production and prices. The head of the union, Badreldin Jalad, confirmed in a press statement on Thursday that the operations of flour distribution to all bakeries will resume after the mills of the Sayga company, owned by businessman Osama Dawud, run again. The mills, that cover more than half of Sudan’s consumption need, were stopped for a short period for technical reasons, Jalad said.

[An increasingly scarce but vital commodity almost always results in price distortion—rapid inflation—and corruption on the part of those with access to the scarce commodity. This is especially true in Sudan, consistently ranked one of the very most corrupt countries in the world. Transparency International’s most recent ranking of Sudan is 173rd out of 175 countries assessed.]

•  “Collapse of security situation in Darfur”: Umma Party, ICG

April 23, 2015 | Khartoum / Nairobi-Brussels

[The following dispatches all give evidence of the complete lack of security anywhere in Darfur, and present a compelling picture of human suffering and destruction that obliges a stronger peacekeeping/security force in Darfur, not a gutted UNAMID.]  The National Umma Party (NUP) has warned for a complete collapse of the security situation in Sudan’s western region. In its latest report on Darfur, the International Crisis Group (ICG) calls on the Sudanese government to address the “concerns of all Darfur communities on issues such as security, land ownership, services and development.” In the absence of the rule of law and state institutions, militias are controlling the war-torn western region, and can do as they like, the NUP said in a statement on Wednesday. The NUP pointed to the killing of Abdallah Younes Adam, Director of Expenses at the South Darfur Ministry of Finance, in Nyala on Tuesday. “The security situation has collapsed completely. Citizens do not dare to leave their houses anymore after 6pm.”

The statement…also referred to the upsurge of tribal conflicts in the region. “The most recent conflict erupted between Berti and Ziyadiya tribes in North Darfur, in which state vehicles and weapons were used by militiamen wearing military uniforms.” She accused government agencies of fuelling the tribal conflict, and called on the warring tribes to “listen to the voice of reason, and give no opportunity to those wishing us evil”.

In “The Chaos in Darfur,” a 19-page briefing released on Wednesday [see below—ER], the ICG urges the Sudanese government to disarm the militiamen, provide incentives to them and bring others to justice, and support communal dialogue and traditional reconciliation mechanisms. They call on the authorities and the armed movements to reach a ceasefire, “synchronized with a similar one in the Two Areas [South Kordofan and the Blue Nile], including provisions for unfettered humanitarian access in both”, and to develop proposals to address the “concerns of all Darfur communities on issues such as security, land ownership, services and development.”

The UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council should “agree on a Sudan strategy and then properly support it with political backing and appropriate resources.”

[Given the record of both the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN in Darfur, it is highly unlikely that there will be the requisite “political backing” for any meaningful “Sudan strategy” that may be devised. Instead, we may expect expediency, disingenuousness, and bad faith—of the sort that created UNAMID in the first place, a mission that Khartoum had almost completely compromised before it officially deployed. The complete compromising of the mission was evident soon after official deployment on January 1, 2008. Neither the AU or the UN can bring themselves to speak honestly about Darfur or UNAMID, and this augurs poorly for any “Sudan strategy.” ICG here is offering a “policy place-holder,” not a realistic analysis of what will be required for the security of civilians and humanitarians in Darfur.]

People killed, injured in attacks across Darfur

April 22, 2015 | Darfur

A firewood collector of Abyad camp for the displaced in West Darfur’s Gireida locality was found killed on Tuesday. Displaced in Shangil Tobaya, North Darfur, complain about attacks by armed herders, especially when they go out to collect firewood and straw. In [formerly West] Darfur, a robber was shot dead and three people wounded in an attack on a vehicle of the state’s Ministry of Health. On Monday, militiamen shot two displaced students in North Darfur

During the past few days, a number of displaced of Shangil Tobaya camp in Dar El Salam locality, North Darfur, were beaten, whipped, and robbed by armed herders and other gunmen. “In particular, when we leave the camp to collect firewood and straw, we are prone to attacks,” a resident of Shangil Tobaya camp told Radio Dabanga.

In [formerly West] Darfur’s Deleig locality, armed robbers opened fire on a vehicle belonging to the Ministry of Health in the area of Bergi, on the Deleig-Zalingei road. “Three passengers were seriously wounded. The former director general of the Central Darfur Ministry of Health, Dr El Sanousi Mohamed El Sanousi miraculously survived the incident,” an eyewitness said. He added that the vehicle’s guards exchanged fire with the attackers, and killed one of the gunmen.

A Hai El Salam camp elder informed Radio Dabanga that about 9 pm on Monday, three government-backed militiamen suddenly opened fire on students Mohamed Abakar Adam and Adam Ahmed Osman, while they were on their way home. “Osman was critically hit, and Adam’s leg was broken.

Militiamen kill security officer in El Fasher, North Darfur

April 24, 2015 | El Fasher

Militiamen stabbed a Central Reserve Forces member to death northeast of El Fasher, North Darfur, on Wednesday. One of his colleagues was wounded in the same incident. One of the perpetrators was recognised by witnesses who found his mobile phone. A relative of the deceased soldier, named Ismail Abdallah Adam Dardog, told Radio Dabanga that two pro-government militiamen attacked Dardog and his colleague Abdallah Eisa Shaibu in El Ghaba district in the state capital. The two were on their way home from the market.

[There is no safe place in Darfur—not even in the capital of North Darfur, where UNAMID headquarters are located.]

Darfur’s militiamen beat women, shoot man near camps

April 21, 2015 | Kabkabiya / Kendebe / Nyala

Separate armed attacks in the Darfur region on Sunday and Monday have caused the injuries of at least three people, along with the theft of another vehicle in Nyala. Militiamen attacked thirteen displaced women, 10 km north of Kabkabiya in North Darfur, and subjected them to severe whipping on Sunday. One of the women in Sorondi area is in serious condition. A sheikh in El Salam camp for the internally displaced people told Radio Dabanga that the women were collecting firewood when the militiamen, riding on camels, attacked. They carried whips, which they used for beating them. Maryam Mohamed Adam was taken in a coma to the UNAMID clinic in Kabkabiya

One of the pro-government militia members near Kendebe in West Darfur shot and seriously wounded a displaced man on Monday. The coordinator of the Sirba camps told Radio Dabanga that Abakar Mohamed Ibrahim was shot while he was debating on one of the squares next to the camp, about the boycott of the election.

Militiamen in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, hijacked a vehicle that belongs to the electricity corporation. One employee was injured.

[Daily life in Darfur.]

 West Darfur displaced tortured by military intelligence
April 22, 2015 | Sirba Locality

A resident of Sirba camp for the displaced in West Darfur was detained by members of the Military Intelligence last Thursday. “They seized Mustafa Hussein Shareef at the Sirba bus station upon his return from El Geneina,” the coordinator of the Sirba camps told Radio Dabanga. “He was taken to their office in the area, where they beat him severely, and shaved his head with glass shards.” [This is entirely characteristic of Military Intelligence in Darfur, which has long been the primary representative of the regime on the ground in the region.]

One wounded in robberies by militiamen in North Darfur

April 24, 2015 | Kutum / Kabkabiya / Saraf Umra

Militiamen broke into shops and stole goods in Kutum, North Darfur, on Wednesday evening. In Kabkabiya a man was shot by robbers inside his house. Militia members stole vehicles and money from residents in Birkat Seira. Merchants in the town northwest of El Fasher city reported that pro-government militiamen broke into the stores of two merchants to steal various goods, and eight tins of oil and five sugar sacks.

Three pro-government militants wearing military uniforms also threatened a motorcycle driver in the street at gunpoint to disembark. They took his motorcycle and fled. On Wednesday night, two militiamen on a motorcycle attacked Terab Abdallah Moaj inside his house in El Safa district in Kabkabiya, in an attempt to rob him. Moaj was shot by the gunmen, and later transferred to a local hospital in critical condition. A number of residents of Birkat Seira in Saraf Umra locality were attacked by militia members in a Land Cruiser on Wednesday night. They robbed three vehicles, money and other properties at gunpoint.

[The militia forces Khartoum uses as its military proxies in Darfur have in many cases become little more than opportunistic bandits and extortionists.]

Child killed, three wounded in South Darfur grenade blast

April 26, 2015 | El Salam Locality

An eight year-old boy was killed, and three others were injured, when a hand grenade detonated in Habaniya village in El Salam locality on Thursday. A relative told Radio Dabanga that the children went to play at the outskirts of the village, “just one day after they had been circumcised.” “They found the grenade, and began playing with it. When it detonated, Khidir Yahya Abakar (8) died instantly. El Zaki Ishag Omar (13), Younes Ishag Omar Abakar (11), and Suleiman Omar Abakar (10) were seriously injured.”

[Khartoum’s indiscriminate flooding of Darfur with ordnance of all kinds ensures that such deadly accidents will continue for many years to come.]

[Formerly West] Darfur village sheikhs abducted for “blood money”

April 26, 2015 | Deleig, formerly West Darfur

A group of militiamen abducted the sheikhs of Waro, Deidama, and Gio villages, east of Deleig, on Thursday. Speaking to Radio Dabanga from Waro, a villager said that the kidnappers demand payment of SDG180,000 ($30,000) as blood money for the killing of a militiaman in an attempted hijack of a vehicle belonging to the … Ministry of Health on the Deleig-Zalingei road last week [formerly West Darfur]. “They threatened to kill the sheikhs and destroy the villages. We are terrified as a large group of them came in vehicles and on camels and horses on Thursday and Friday, and surrounded the villages.”

[Such extortion rackets are increasingly common, draining villages and camps of what few remaining resources people have.]

Passengers stripped of their money, clothes in Central Darfur

April 26, 2015 | Zalingei, formerly West Darfur

A group of gunmen ambushed a passenger lorry in the area of Taringa, [formerly West] Darfur, on Thursday. One of the passengers told Radio Dabanga that the vehicle was on its way from Nierteti to Zalingei [formerly West Darfur]. Seven Janjaweed in military uniforms suddenly opened fire at the lorry, forcing the driver to stop. “They ordered us to disembark, and beat all of us severely with their whips, before they stripped us of our money, totaling SDG710 ($120), our cell phones, belongings, and our clothes.” [Such banditry is rampant and growing everywhere in Darfur—and completely uncontrolled by UNAMID.]

•  No visa for Western diplomats intending to visit Darfur

April 22, 2015 | Washington, DC [See also the two Reuters dispatches below.]

Khartoum has declined to issue visas for senior US, British, and French diplomats planning to conduct a fact-finding mission in Darfur. UN diplomatic sources told Reuters on Tuesday that Deputy UN Ambassadors Peter Wilson of Britain, David Pressman of the USA, and Alexis Lamek of France intended to visit Darfur in January. They said that Sudan’s failure to grant visas to the diplomats was a further sign of Khartoum’s increasingly confrontational approach to the UN and the West concerning the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in the war-torn region of Darfur.

A British diplomat confirmed that Wilson had planned to lead the trip, and said that Britain is interested in improving UNAMID, and gauging the conditions for the mission’s roughly 19,000 peacekeepers. Khartoum is demanding that 15,000 UNAMID troops be withdrawn by the end of 2015 [The source for this figure is the April 21 Reuters dispatch from the UN—see below]. Yet, Max Gleischman, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the UN, said that UNAMID still has important role to play in protecting civilians in the war-torn western region of Sudan. “We vehemently oppose any effort to draw down or close the mission prematurely,” he said. “We have seen more displacement in Darfur in the last year than in the history of the decade-long conflict.”

[The struggle will be fierce between those who wish to offer adequate protection to Darfur’s civilians and humanitarians and a Khartoum regime bent on gutting UNAMID. Not all in the UN are prepared to make this struggle, and Khartoum has powerful allies in Russia and China when a new authorizing resolution comes before the Security Council.]

Sudan’s FA Ministry “exchanges views” with EU Ambassador

April 22, 2015 | Khartoum

The Delegation of the European Union to Sudan confirmed that the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs held an “exchange of views” with EU Ambassador Tomas Ulicny on Tuesday about the EU position on the election. In the meeting, Ambassador Tomas Ulicny referred to the statement of EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on the election, issued on 9 April, four days before the general election would commence…

The statement was issued on behalf of the twenty-eight EU member states, “as an expression of a unified and common position of the EU and its member states on the Sudanese election, the need for resumption of the national dialogue, and respect for human rights. With the EU commitment to the people of Sudan unwavering [we will soon see how “unwavering” the EU commitment to the Sudanese people of Darfur really is—there are no encouraging signs, nothing that would suggest a move beyond cost-free rhetoric], the EU Ambassador is confident that the EU statement will not significantly impact relations with Sudan.

[This is a revealing point of view and suggests that “unwavering EU commitment” to the Sudanese people of Darfur does not extend to offending the Khartoum regime in any serious way.]

The Ambassador reiterated his readiness and personal commitment to continue in a spirit of constructive dialogue,” the press release reads.

EU Foreign Affairs Chief Mogherini on 9 April announced that the EU has chosen not to engage in support of the elections. “When dialogue is bypassed, some groups are excluded and civil and political rights are infringed, the upcoming elections cannot produce a credible result with legitimacy throughout the country,” she stated on behalf of the 28 EU member states…

[The required consensus necessary for even such an obvious statement can be extremely difficult to obtain among the often fractious EU politicians—not so on the eve of Khartoum’s farcical elections.]

“The failure to initiate a genuine national dialogue one year after it was announced by the Government of Sudan is a setback for the welfare of the people of Sudan.” […] They “deserve better.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Ambassador Ulicny the next day, as it considered Mogherini’s statement, a “deliberate distortion” of the facts.

On Tuesday too, the ambassadors of the USA, UK, and Norway, constituting the Sudan Troika, were summoned by the Ministry. The Troika countries had issued a joint statement on Monday, expressing their “regret” about “the Government of Sudan’s failure to create a free, fair, and conducive election environment.” They also condemned “the acts of violence during the election period,” citing restrictions on political rights and freedoms and “the lack of a credible national dialogue and the continuation of armed conflict in Sudan’s peripheries” as reasons for what they called a very low voter turnout.

•  Nearly 8 million children in Sudan to be vaccinated against measles

April 23, 2015 | Khartoum / Geneva / Nairobi

Sudan has one of the highest levels of malnutrition in Africa. 36 percent of the children are stunted, which is a primary manifestation of under-nutrition. For malnourished children, measles can cause serious complications, including blindness, ear infections, pneumonia, and severe diarrhoea. [It is outrageous that Khartoum has not devoted more national resources to alleviate chronic and acute malnutrition in many locations, or to mounting such vaccination programs. The regime has also impeded vaccination programs in various locations in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile.  On malnutrition in Sudan, see an internal UNICEF document from last year; it is disgraceful that the UN refuses to promulgate these deeply disturbing figures.]

•  “Sudan’s low voter turnout means a vote for change”: rebel leader

April 20, 2015 | Addis Ababa

The 2015 general election has brought about “new political realities,” says Yasir Arman, External Relations Officer of the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance and Secretary-General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. In a statement released today, Arman lauds the “15 percent voter turnout,” saying that the boycott of the election by the majority of the Sudanese represents “a vote of no confidence in the regime, and it is, indeed, a vote for change.”

“The Sudanese people understand clearly that the only way out of economic misery and to address economic hardship is through ending wars and corruption through democratic transformation, especially as more than 70 percent of the budget is being used for war and security, and less than two percent is being used for health and education….

[Given the regime’s budgetary opacity, we can’t be sure about these percentages, but the figures Arman presents comport with assessments of many others, including Sudanese economists.]

According to the rebel leader, the failure of the second dry season offensive is also having a negative impact on the government.

[This statement is importantly true: the regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), even as augmented by the Rapid Security Forces (RSF) militias, have not been able to make real progress against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N). Instead of the sweeping victory, the “final campaign,” that President al-Bashir promised last dry (fighting) season, this dry season has again seen fierce resistance from the Nuba people led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu. The SAF has also suffered recent and significant defeats in Blue Nile. Although military progress has been made against rebel forces in Darfur, there too many defeats have been suffered. Morale generally within the SAF continues to decline, as the current dry season is on the verge of ending without any real success. This is especially true of the middle officer ranks (colonels and majors) who have been responsible for conducts of the three-front war. In the event of a major civil uprising, it is quite possible that many in these ranks will join, fighting against the regime.]

Sudan Appeal forces will not recognise election results

April 20, 2015 | Khartoum

The Sudan Appeal [also known as “Sudan Call”] signatories will not recognise the outcome of the election, nor the government that will be based on it. The allied opposition forces, who signed the Sudan Appeal, a political communiqué calling for regime change, in December last year, have held meetings with US, European, and African officials. They informed them that the Sudanese ruling party needs to be pressured to accept a transitional government, and a no-fly zone in the war-torn regions of Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile.

Siddig Yousef, prominent leader of the Sudanese Communist Party, told Radio Dabanga that the Sudan Appeal forces will not accept the results of the presidential and parliamentary election that took place last week. “Though the National Election Commission announced that the voter turnout was more than 30 percent, we all know that it was less than 10 percent in reality…”

He stressed that the opposition forces will not recognise the new government. “We will continue with the Leave! campaign until the Khartoum regime is toppled.”

West Darfur security agents beat up electoral candidate

April 20, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur

The candidate of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for the Abu Suruj constituency in West Darfur was detained and beaten by security agents from Thursday to Sunday. Speaking to Radio Dabanga from Sirba locality, several listeners reported that DUP candidate Mubarak Abdallah Adam was held by security agents at the Abu Suruj polling centre on Thursday morning. “They took him to the office of the security apparatus, where they severely beat and whipped him on his hands and feet, until they released him on Sunday morning.”

[This is how the political opposition can be expected to be treated so long as the current regime remains in power.]

•  Newspaper confiscated by Sudan security

April 21, 2015 | Khartoum

Another newspaper in Sudan was confiscated on Monday for unknown reasons. The editor of El Sudani believes the security service seized the paper for writing about the abduction of activist Dr Sandra Faroug Kadouda on 12 April. The newspaper’s editor said in an interview that El Youm El Tali newspaper was confiscated for the same reason on Saturday. The confiscations happen against the backdrop of the electoral process, during which the security apparatus carried out a crackdown on the freedom of expression and press. Sudanile and Hurriyat websites reported to have been subjected to hacking last Sunday, while the Ayin website was hacked on Wednesday. [I can testify from personal experience that the regime’s ability to hack news and opinion websites is highly sophisticated.] The situation of the media in Sudan is “the worst of the worst,” according to the USA-based Freedom House in its newest press freedom report. [Controlling the press and commanding a monopoly on broadcast media, the Khartoum regime has over the past twenty-five years squeezed almost all life out of the political opposition.  But after years of near dormancy, the political culture of Sudan is again coming to life, united through efforts like the “Sudan Call” (or “Sudan Appeal”). That both civil society, through peaceful means, and rebel military forces using all necessary means, are both committed to regime change in Sudan should galvanize international support.  And yet far too many important actors are quietly—or openly–opposed to regime change.  But without such change, things will only continue to get worse for the people of Sudan, and remote Darfur will suffer most from a continuation of 26 years of tyranny and ideological extremism.]

OTHER NEWS SOURCES

•  Proposed U.S., UK, French visit to Darfur was “odd”: Sudan

(Reuters [UN/New York] April 22, 2015)

Sudan’s UN mission on Wednesday criticized a proposed visit to its conflict-torn Darfur region earlier this year by senior U.S., British and French diplomats, describing the plan that Khartoum never approved as “odd.” Reuters reported on Tuesday that Khartoum has declined to issue visas to the three deputy ambassadors, who were hoping to conduct a fact-finding mission. Ambassador Hassan Hamid Hassan, deputy head of Sudan’s UN mission, told Reuters the request for visas in January was strange because it was not for a visit by the entire 15-nation Security Council or by the five permanent members, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. “Thus, the entire proposed visit was odd and under question because of the unclarity and the contradictions related to both the purpose and format,” the Sudanese mission said in a statement. It added that visa questions are the “ultimate sovereign right for every country.”

UN envoys said Sudan’s failure to grant visas to the deputy ambassadors of the three veto-wielding Western powers was a further sign of Khartoum’s increasingly confrontational approach to the United Nations and the West over the UN-African Union mission to Darfur (UNAMID), which Khartoum wants shut. The envoys said the diplomats wanted to visit Darfur in January, and that British Deputy UN Ambassador Peter Wilson was intending to lead the trip. At that time UNAMID was under fire for its poor performance and for withholding of information about violence against civilians and peacekeepers in Darfur. Khartoum was obstructing a UN investigation of an alleged mass rape in Darfur and had expelled several senior UN officials from Sudan.

•  Sudan won’t give visas to US, British, French envoys: diplomat

(Reuters [United Nations/New York] April 21, 2015)

Khartoum has so far declined to issue visas for senior U.S., British and French diplomats hoping to conduct a fact-finding mission in Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region, UN diplomatic sources told Reuters on Tuesday. They said Sudan’s failure to grant visas to the deputy UN ambassadors of the three veto-wielding Western powers was a further sign of Khartoum’s increasingly confrontational approach to the United Nations and the West over the UN-African Union mission to Darfur (UNAMID), which Khartoum wants shut.

The sources said the diplomats wanted to visit Darfur in January, and that British Deputy UN Ambassador Peter Wilson was intending to lead the trip. At that time UNAMID was under fire for its poor performance and withholding of information about violence against civilians and peacekeepers in Darfur. Khartoum was obstructing a UN investigation of an alleged mass rape in Darfur and had expelled several senior UN officials from Sudan.

[NB:]   “Not permitting ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France to go to Darfur shows how uncooperative the government of Sudan has become,” a diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity. “Khartoum wants UNAMID out of Sudan.”

The trio still hopes the visit will occur, diplomats say, as violence in Darfur increases and Khartoum demands UNAMID’s withdrawal. Sudan’s UN mission did not respond to requests for comment. A British diplomat confirmed Wilson had planned to lead the trip and said Britain had a strong interest in improving UNAMID and gauging the conditions for the mission’s roughly 19,000 peacekeepers. Diplomats said that in negotiations with the United Nations on an exit strategy for UNAMID, Khartoum is demanding that 15,000 blue-helmeted peacekeepers be withdrawn by the end of 2015. Washington rejects that demand. Max Gleischman, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said UNAMID still has important role to play in protecting civilians.

“We vehemently oppose any effort to draw down or close the mission prematurely,” he said. “We have seen more displacement in Darfur in the last year than in the history of the decade-long conflict.” He added that Khartoum continued to obstruct UNAMID’s work on a daily basis.

[There has been precious little “vehemence” of any kind on the issue of Darfur under the Obama administration.]

•  International Crisis Group, “The Chaos in Darfur,” Africa Briefing No. 110, 22 April 2015, Nairobi/Brussels

Violence in the Darfur region of Sudan’s far west continues unabated. Some 450,000 persons were displaced in 2014 and another 100,000 in January 2015 alone, adding to some two million long-term internally displaced persons (IDPs) since fighting erupted in 2003. The government remains wedded to a military approach and reluctant to pursue a negotiated national solution that would address all Sudan’s conflicts at once and put the country on the path of a democratic transition. Khartoum’s reliance on a militia-centred counter-insurgency strategy is increasingly counter-productive – not least because it stokes and spreads communal violence. Ending Darfur’s violence will require – beyond countrywide negotiations between Khartoum, the rebel Sudanese [sic] Revolutionary Front (SRF) coalition and unarmed players – addressing its local dimensions, within both national talks and parallel local processes.

Darfur’s complex and multiplying local conflicts are increasingly ill-understood, due to lack of information and the limitations of reporting from the hybrid UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Intensification of combat with rebel factions prompted the government in 2014 to fall back again upon notorious military auxiliaries, this time its new Rapid Support Forces (RSF), thus worsening violence and displacements. Arab militias and paramilitary forces like the RSF attacked non-Arab communities accused of being pro-rebel, fought each other, took part in communal conflicts and even hit at regular government troops.

Increasingly divided over Sudan, the UN Security Council has been unable to develop consensus around a new peace strategy and largely supports the untenable status quo. Discussions are now underway with the government about a possible UNAMID drawdown. Without strong support from New York and the African Union (AU) when the government obstructs it, the mission has been too deferential to Khartoum and systematically presented a narrative of an improving situation divorced from reality. It has also frequently failed to intervene and protect civilians, leading the UN to acknowledge “record levels of civilian displacement not seen since 2004.”

Peace in Darfur is unlikely separate from a solution to Sudan’s wider national problems, for which a number of processes need to be revived, modified or initiated, including an effort, especially in the UN Security Council, to review and rethink policy on Darfur and toward Khartoum generally. This briefing has a more limited purpose. It concentrates on Darfur dynamics, in particular a mapping of the complex conflict lines between and among communities and armed groups and militias, some sponsored by the government.

Suffering from a weak economy and without a military breakthrough, Khartoum appeared more open in 2014 to the inclusion of armed opposition in an AU-facilitated national dialogue. [This is doubtful.] The AU mediation hoped to obtain separate ceasefires for Darfur and the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) in a “synchronized” way, paving the way for SRF inclusion in the dialogue. However, the process stalled, largely over Khartoum’s reluctance to negotiate with Darfur rebels on a basis other than the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). [And over the regime’s resolute determination not to synchronize peace talks or cease-fires; this is made emphatically clear in minutes of meetings of the most senior regime military and security officials on July 1, 2014, August 31, 2014, and September 10, 2014; President al-Bashir attended two of these meetings and his views on this issue are very clear from the minutes.] While this may suit the government in the short term, the region’s continued fragmentation into competing armed communities will become increasingly difficult to arrest and reverse. [It is not at all clear that the Khartoum regime cares about ending the conflict that disables the rebel forces as well as subjecting civilians to ever-greater hardships and threats. As Human Rights Watch put it in the title of their major report of 2008, this is “Chaos By Design.”]

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“The victims [of the Holocaust] perished not only because of the killers, but also because of the apathy of the bystanders. What astonished us after the torment, after the tempest, was not that so many killers killed so many victims, but that so few cared about us at all.” 

[Elie Wiesel, “Why were there so few?”]