Dismantling of Camps for Displaced Persons in Darfur Has Begun: Khartoum’s “Final Solution”
Eric Reeves | November 6, 2018 | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2jo
Long promised by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, the dismantling of camps for displaced persons in Darfur has begun, unsurprisingly in North Darfur (see dispatch in Appendix A). Also unsurprising is the deployment of the savagely brutal Rapid Support Forces, Khartoum’s militia force of choice, to assist in the dismantling. For years the Khartoum regime has spoken of dismantling the camps, but the urgent insistence on this brutal “final solution” to the Darfur crisis was articulated by former Vice President Hassabo Mohamed Abdelrahman three years ago (December 2015):
In a speech delivered before the representatives of former rebel groups and IDPs in El-Fasher, North Darfur on Monday, [Second Vice-President Hassabo Mohamed Abdelrahman] said Darfur has “completely recovered from the war and is now looking forward to achieve a full peace, stability and development.”
“IDP camps represent a significant and unfortunate loss of dignity and rights of citizens in their country” he said and called on the displaced “to choose within no more than a month between resettlement or return to their original areas.”
He further reiterated his government’s commitment to take all the measures and do the needful to achieve this goal, stressing that “the year 2016 will see the end of displacement in Darfur.” Abdel Rahman told the meeting that he has just ended a visit to Karnoi and Tina areas in North Darfur, adding the two areas which were affected by the conflict have totally recovered. He said his visit with a big delegation to the two areas “is a message sceptics in the fact that security and stability are back in Darfur”… (Sudan Tribune, December 28, 2015 | El Fasher, North Darfur)
[For a brief bibliography of my earlier accounts of the threat of camp dismantlings, see Appendix A]
It would be impossible to tease out all the errors, untruths, and erroneous representations in Hassabo’s speech, but one thing is clear: the camps would not be allowed to continue as the sites of international humanitarian relief efforts. Instead, the dismantling of the camps will compel people to return despite intolerable insecurity—or live in “townships” that would inevitably become ghastly, slum-like suburbs of the major towns (El Fasher, Nyala, El Geneina, and perhaps a few others). Moreover, despite Khartoum’s claims (echoed by the UN), violence has of course not been eliminated; indeed, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies reports that that insecurity actually increased in 2017. Sexual violence, targeting non-Arab/African girls and young women, continues on an epidemic scale, and assaults on camps themselves remain commonplace.
This continuing, widespread violence is what makes today’s report by Radio Dabanga so ominous:
North Darfur Government, Rapid Support Forces launch camp dismantling | Radio Dabanga, November 6, 2018 | EL FASHER
The government of North Darfur officially launched the dismantling of Abu Shouk, El Salam and Zamzam camps on Monday. Camp residents would be granted ownership of land here or voluntarily return to their home areas. The Governor of North Darfur State, Sharif Samouh, and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan (also known as Hemeti), announced the start of the transformation of Zamzam, El Salam and Abu Shouk into fully serviced residential districts during their visit to the camps yesterday. (Complete dispatch is in Appendix A)
It is important to remember that displaced people in the camps—overwhelmingly from the non-Arab/African populations in Darfur—were forced to move into these camps by extreme ethnically-targeted violence or the threat of violence. The vast majority desperately want to return to their homes, their villages, their farmlands, but are too fearful, given the extremely insecure conditions prevailing in Darfur and the constant assaults on farmers attempting to return or work their lands from the camps, if their lands are nearby.
And yet, despite the fully justified fear of violence were they to return to their lands and villages—now in the main occupied or controlled by the heavily armed RSF or groups of armed Arab herders—“returns” are presented by Khartoum as a viable option. Notably, the fear of return is similarly great among the refugee population of Darfuris in eastern Chad, who face declining humanitarian services and resources and yet still refuse to return to their country and homes because they fear violence.
The UN and Khartoum regime frequently celebrate “returns” when they occur, but never report the frequent forced retreat back to the camps when these “returns” are met with intolerable violence, violence from which they are almost completely unprotected by the UN/African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) (see for example, Radio Dabanga, “Again voluntary returnees killed in South Darfur,” April 22, 2018).
Indeed, largely because it is so ineffective, even as it has been hugely expensive over its eleven years of deployment, the UN Security Council is rapidly drawing down UNAMID at the very moment in which it is most needed to protect those who might—in the face of camp dismantlings—try to return. A list of recent base closings by UNAMID, as well as the already achieved reduction of more than 50 percent of its personnel in the 2017 and 2018 Security Council re-authorizations, gives a sense of where insecurity is bound to increase:
• University of Zalingei to get UNAMID’s Central Darfur HQ | Radio Dabanga, November 5, 2018 | MUKJAR
On Sunday, UNAMID handed over its headquarters in the Mukjar area in Central Darfur to the Sudanese government. A local official in Mukjar said the state government, in turn, announced handing of the headquarters to the University of Zalingei to open one of its faculties.
• UNAMID hands two key Darfur sites to Sudan government | Radio Dabanga, October 11, 2018 | EL FASHER / NYALA
The UN-AU joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur (Unamid), has officially handed over its Community Policing Centre (CPC) in El Salam Camp, South Darfur, and El Sereif Team Site in North Darfur to the government of Sudan. The handovers occurred on October 4 and 8, and are in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2429 (2018), which has called for the closing of 10 Team Sites across Darfur as part of the Mission’s reconfiguration process.
• UNAMID hands over team site in East Darfur | Sudan Tribune, October 31, 2018 (KHARTOUM)
The hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said it has withdrawn from a team site in East Darfur State. “On 30 October 2018, UNAMID officially handed over the Mission’s team site in Shaeria, East Darfur, to the Government of Sudan,” said the Mission in a statement on Wednesday “The handover, attended by government officials and UNAMID representatives, is part of the Mission’s ongoing reconfiguration as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2429” it further pointed out.
Wholesale withdrawal from South Darfur is scheduled for January 2019, even as violence is continually reported in various parts of this state (see my September 19, 2018 compendium of reports of violence in Darfur):
• UNAMID to fully withdraw from South Darfur in January: official | Sudan Tribune, November 5, 2018 (KHARTOUM)
The Government of South Darfur said arrangements are underway to receive two sites from the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) next month pointing that the Mission’s main site in the state would be handed over in early January.
The semi-official Sudan Media Center (SMC) has quoted the presidential commissioner tasked with receiving UNAMID’s sites Issa Basi as saying the Mission would hand over its last site in South Darfur in January according to the agreed exit strategy. He pointed out that the Mission would hand over two sites at Graida [Gereida] and Buram next month, saying these sites will be used for community projects.
Claims by officials of the Khartoum regime that UNAMID bases will be used for civilian purposes are completely untrustworthy; they are much more likely to serve in at least some cases as bases for Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia personnel. The RSF is now the dominant armed force in Darfur, and doesn’t hesitate to assault local police or even other militia and regular forces in the region. The presence of the RSF in Darfur is Khartoum’s guarantee that the military victory in its genocidal counter-insurgency remains uncompromised.
An Unspeakably Grim Future
Despite the mendacious efforts by the UN, and in particular UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Gwi-Yeop Son, the displaced population in Darfur is largely unchanged in recent years: 2.7 million according to the UN last year, living in often terrible conditions and with no chance to prosper or live their former lives. Here it is important to recall that in 2017 the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) officially promulgated, if rather inconspicuously, a figure of 2.7 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur. Parenthetically it noted that the Khartoum regime was using a figure of 2 million IPDs—700,000 fewer IDPs. See the graphic below:
And yet during the tenure of Gwi-Yeop Son, UN OCHA has now begun using only Khartoum’s figure of 2 million IDPs, with no indication of how their own data justified a reduction of 700,000 in the number of IDPs: “[there are] some two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) [in Darfur]” (UN OCHA | Humanitarian Bulletin Sudan Issue 11 | 28 May 2018 – 10 June 2018 |https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHA_Sudan_Humanitarian_Bulletin_Issue_11_%2828_May_-_10_June_2018%29.pdf /).
This makes absolutely no sense: we have seen nothing that would justify the implicit claim that 700,000 people have returned to their homes and are no longer displaced. Had such a massive reduction in the number of displaced occurred—presumably returning or resettling somewhere else in Darfur—we surely would have heard a great deal about it. Instead, we hear from Gwi-Yeop Son and the UN only that the number of newly displaced persons has fallen significantly.
But given the realities of 2.7 million Internally Displaced Persons, as well as more than 300,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, there are simply fewer people to displace: we have reached—after 15 years of genocidal conflict—a cruel homeostasis. This is not peace or a situation in which security prevails: it is the consequence of a largely achieved military victory in the most brutal of counter-insurgencies. Khartoum-orchestrated violence has produced some 600,000 civilian deaths and a staggering population of displaced persons who have nowhere to go, and yet are being told to “return”—or “resettle” in the very camps where they presently dwell in misery in such large numbers.
[For a complete account of how the UN reduced the figure of displaced persons by 700,000—without any explanation or production of justifying data—see “The UN Solution to the Darfur Genocide? Lies…promulgate false or deeply distorted figures and characterizations,” October 2018 | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2iO ]
As the camps for displaced persons are dismantled, Khartoum will use the process to deny the need for any continuing international humanitarian relief aid. People having “returned” or been “re-settled” in the camps that are now described as “residential districts,” humanitarian assistance is simply not needed. UNAMID’s withdrawal means that security in the “residential districts” will be a function of how violent the Rapid Support Forces are—and recent brutal and undisciplined violent behavior is hardly encouraging. Returns remain as dauntingly dangerous as they have been for years, and fewer and fewer will have any chance to return; again, UNAMID’s abandonment of Darfur ensures that the RSF and armed Arab groups will control the farmland that has been so massively, violently expropriated.
This is indeed Khartoum’s “final solution” to its Darfur problem—and the international community is fully complicit.
• North Darfur Government, Rapid Support Forces launch camp dismantling | Radio Dabanga, November 6, 2018 | EL FASHER
The government of North Darfur officially launched the dismantling of Abu Shouk, El Salam and Zamzam camps on Monday. Camp residents would be granted ownership of land here or voluntarily return to their home areas. The Governor of North Darfur State, Sharif Samouh, and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan (also known as Hemeti), announced the start of the transformation of Zamzam, El Salam and Abu Shouk into fully serviced residential districts during their visit to the camps yesterday. The three camps will be transformed into urban housing schemes for El Fasher city. The officials directed the Ministry of Urban Planning to start distributing plots to ownership documents.
“The options are still open to the displaced people to return, resettle, or integrate into society,” Samouh said, reiterating his government’s support for all three options. Commander Hamdan pledged to the displaced people at Zamzam camp that the authorities will “pay for the planning fees.”
[The impossibility of returning because of intolerable levels of insecurity is never, in any way, acknowledged by Khartoum’s officials. The meaning of “integrate into society” is wholly unclear. Resettlement means accepting something like a 17 meter by 17 meter plot of land for “home,” in locations that offer no prospects for employment, and which will never enjoy the promised “services”—“services” that are mere propaganda claims for international consumption. The economy is collapsing and the Khartoum regime can’t even provide resources for the key agricultural sector, let alone the huge costs of making truly functioning “residential districts” in Darfur—ER]
The heads of the three camps have submitted a package of demands for the implementation of the new housing schemes. These include the construction of schools, mosques and Koran schools, and creating employment opportunities for youths – especially youths with special needs.
The governor announced that each family wishing to settle in the new plans would be granted a 300 square metre piece of land with an ownership certificate, this along with giving new names to the new housing schemes, linking them to an internal water network and providing services that would suit the population socially and environmentally.
In October, North Darfur state announced that the first phase includes the resettlement of 45,000 families – meaning at least 135,000 people.
[“Resettlement” is Khartoum’s euphemism for compelling people to live in whatever conditions and wherever the regime wishes, regardless of security issues or the absence of humanitarian assistance—ER]
Previous commentary on the threat of camp dismantling:
• “Is the Dismantling of Darfur’s IDP Camps Beginning Under Cover of ‘Arms Collection’”? October 23, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-27R
• “A Massive Catastrophe Looming in Darfur: Forcing displaced persons from camps in Darfur is a prelude to camp dismantling,” January 5, 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Qo
• “Assaults on Camps for the Displaced in Darfur: History Makes Clear They Will Increase,” August 27, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-25W