A brief look at Alex de Waal’s dismissive account of leaked minutes from the 10 September 2014 meeting of the most senior military and security officials of the Khartoum regime
Eric Reeves, 27 May 2015
A dispatch by Radio France Internationale (8 April 2015) covered some of the critical issues that emerged following my release of the leaked minutes of a September 10, 2014 meeting of the most senior military and security officials. The dispatch remains relevant in light of the very recent leaking of an additional set of minutes for a more broadly attended, but still highly confidential meeting of regime officials in Khartoum on 3 June 2014.
[Speaking of the third set of released minutes, those of September 10, 2014, Radio France Internationale (RFI) notes:
It is the third time Reeves has published allegedly leaked documents and perhaps the most controversial given the disclosures they make about Khartoum’s attitude towards African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) chair Thabo Mbeki, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, former head of the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and Haile Menkerios, the head of the UN Office to the African Union (UNOAU).
In September, Mbeki, Chambas and Menkerios were leading discussions between the Sudanese government and Sudanese rebel groups, as well as leading dialogue between Sudan and South Sudan over outstanding issues of contention following the independence of South Sudan in 2011.
However, according to the allegedly leaked minutes from the same period, the mediators have been doing “exactly what Khartoum wants.” Reeves, who has worked on Sudan for the past 15 years, told RFI.
“They are now under our control,” Sudan Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, says of Mbeki, Chambas and Menkerios, in Reeves’ translation of the Arabic text. “These are the ones we use to dismantle the rebellion,” Hussein says, [referring to] the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of Sudan’s main rebellion groups.
The mediators will “subjugate the South to our will and implement the agreement the way we want,” he says of negotiations with South Sudan over border security, border demarcation and the final status the disputed region of Abyei.
“All of these envoys promised to submit to the African Union and the United Nations positive reports on Sudan records on human rights and freedoms,” says Hussein, according to Reeves’ documents. Hussein himself is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes in Darfur, alongside Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
[These are massive crimes against humanity, according to the ICC arrest warrant; in the case of al-Bashir, the arrest warrant contains multiple charges of genocide—ER]
Besides the claim in Reeves’ documents that the African mediators sided with Khartoum, there are also comments from General Ismat Abdel-Rahman, the Under-Secretary for Presidential Affairs, stating that Mbeki and Chambas should be awarded for their support with “money of the [Sudanese] Islamic Movement that is deposited abroad.”
So does Reeves think the mediators were given kickbacks?
“I did not say they’d been paid off,” he says. “I did not directly accuse them of being bribed, I only put in context the statement by Khartoum that they really felt deeply grateful and obliged to pay.”
Reeves stands squarely behind the authenticity of his documents. He will not disclose the source but admits that it is the same source that has given him two other sets of high-level documents allegedly leaked from the Sudanese government. The Massachusetts-based professor, who has been highly critical of the Sudanese authorities, says a source within South Sudan’s government has also confirmed to him that the documents are authentic.
Not everyone agrees. Alex de Waal, Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation, dismisses Reeves’ documents as a fraud. “Anyone familiar with the government of Sudan knew instantly that this document was a forgery,” de Waal told RFI in an email.
Alex de Waal
This dismissive, indeed contemptuous assessment ignores the fact that a great many people, including many people intimately “familiar with the government of Sudan,” have concluded that the minutes are indeed authentic. This is true of all native Arabic-speaking Sudanese with whom I have communicated about the minutes. It is also the case that some of the most astute non-Sudanese Sudan specialists have had no hesitation in declaring (many publicly) that the documents are authentic. De Waal’s statement—“Anyone familiar with the government of Sudan knew instantly that this document was a forgery”—is thus factually in error. See: http://wp.me/p45rOG-1w5 | and | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ca .
Radio France Internationale goes on to note that, “De Waal was previously a member of the African Union mediation team for Darfur 2005-2006 and served as a senior advisor to the African Union High Level Implementation Panel 2009-2011.” This puts de Waal in the position of being an exceedingly interested party in the debate about authenticity: for if Mbeki is as corrupt as the minutes suggest, then de Waal was either a fool for not seeing as much or complicit himself in the corruption of the negotiating process.
Radio France International also notes an assessment of particular importance:
Other experts have gone to considerable lengths to verify Reeves’ documents. Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, a Sudan specialist at Yale University, spent several weeks analysing one of Reeves’ leaked documents. He draws attention to the translations and whether inaccuracies could have been introduced. He bases his analysis on the language used, idiosyncrasies in the text, spelling mistakes, the length of the documents, the detail contained within them and the timeline of events described corresponding to actual events.
Gallopin, who previously worked for rights group Amnesty International and a political risk consultancy firm, says a forgery of this scale would require “huge resources and a deep knowledge” of the Sudanese government. This kind of forgery, he says, is “not entirely out of the reach of some intelligence services but I think that’s pretty unlikely.”
The Frenchman highlights a pattern in the alleged leaks and how Reeves’ various documents cover a specific timeframe. Gallopin concludes that the leaked documents as a whole are “very credible” and specifically on Reeves’ latest document can “find no element that would suggest that it’s forged.”
[It is of this particular document that de Waal declares: “Anyone familiar with the government of Sudan knew instantly that this document was a forgery.”]
South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told RFI that he had not seen the documents. But he told RFI that Reeves is a “very respected intellectual” and a “knowledgeable professor” who was “concerned about the issues of Sudan and South Sudan.”
Benjamin requested that a copy of the documents be sent to his ambassador in Paris.
Notably, RFI was unable to secure more than the brief, dismissive email from de Waal. Other inquiries proved to be dead-ends:
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti was not reachable by telephone for reaction.
Thabo Mbeki did not respond to a request for comment via the communications team of African Union High Level Implementation Panel.
Contacted by RFI, the chief of communications for the UN Office for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, previously of UNAMID, declined comment.
Haile Menkerios was not reachable by telephone or email for reaction.
Cui bono? Who benefits from the perception that de Waal wishes to cultivate, that these leaked documents are obvious “forgeries”? Among the most prominent is Alex de Waal himself….
[On Alex de Waal’s account of Darfur, see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1yk ]