June 1, 2004
Continued expressions of doubt about the reality of genocide in Darfur are now little more than ignorance, factitious maneuvers of moral self-defense, or a desperate desire not to honor the obligations for international action that are part of Article 1 of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:
“The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.”
That the intention of the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum to destroy the African peoples of Darfur—“as such,” in the key phrase of the Genocide Convention—can no longer be doubted, nor can the catastrophic consequences of this animating intention be denied by anyone who will only look at the overwhelming body of evidence now clearly before us. In addition to very substantial regional investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and various UN teams, there is now virtually daily confirming evidence coming in the form of news dispatches from Darfur. And there is remarkable, and chilling, congruence and similarity between all these accounts.
[Recent authoritative reportage and analyses can be found at:
What these and scores of other dispatches and reports reveal is unambiguous evidence of genocide. Indeed, we can do no better by way of summarizing the intent and effects of Khartoum’s regular military and Arab militia (Janjaweed) attacks on the African peoples of Darfur than to recall a key clause from Article 2 of the Genocide Convention:
“deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (clause [c])
In the case of Darfur, the African tribal groups of the region have had their foodstocks destroyed, their cattle looted, their villages burned, their wells dynamited, bulldozed, or poisoned, their seeds and agricultural implements destroyed. Women and girls are gang-raped and branded, often before their families; men and boys are rounded up for mass executions. Moreover, Khartoum has “systematically” (the characterization is that of senior UN officials) denied humanitarian access to these terribly distressed peoples.
Those who survive are forced to flee into the desert to escape further attacks by the Janjaweed and Khartoum’s regular military forces—or vainly to seek refuge in camps like that at Kailek in southern Darfur, where a UN inter-agency investigative team found in late April 2004 “a strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation,” a policy of “imprisonment,” a “policy of forced starvation,” an unreported catastrophic “child mortality rate of 8-9 per day,” and the continued obstruction of humanitarian aid for this critically distressed, forcibly confined population. This assessment led these professional humanitarian aid workers to make explicit comparison to the Rwandan genocide.
(“Report: A United Nations Inter-Agency fact-finding and humanitarian needs assessment mission, Kailek, South Darfur, 24 April 2004”)
Can there be a shred of intellectually respectable doubt that such actions do not have as their intention “deliberately inflicting on these groups conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part”? We should bear in mind here that the targeted African tribal groups include—in addition to the more often cited Fur, Massaleit, and Zaghawa—a number of smaller African groups. The Minority Rights Group (UK) rightly reminds us in a May 19, 2004 report that this list includes, for example, the Kietinga, the Dajo, the Medoob (also Midob and Midop), and the Tungor. These groups are also “victims of the current atrocities.”
Some perhaps demand even more explicit evidence of genocidal “intention” than Darfur so abundantly offers. Such a perverse evidentiary standard substitutes an impossible (and thus useless) legal requirement for common sense. In dealing with questions of “intention” to commit genocide in Darfur, we are hardly confronted with any complex legal issues, or philosophical questions about states of mind. For the purposes of moral judgment and political action, we must do what we always do when there are no explicit declarations of intent—no text, for example, in which Khartoum makes explicit its plans for a “final solution” to its “African problem” in Darfur. We infer intent from actions; the more actions, the more evidence of intent. The more relentlessly and exclusively the African tribal groups in Darfur are targeted for destruction, the more reasonable the inference that this destruction is intended to destroy them—“as such.”
We have enough such evidence; we have more than enough.
Why should it be necessary to belabor the issue of whether or not the destruction of the African peoples of Darfur is genocide? Why shouldn’t it be enough that senior UN officials, the US State Department and Agency for International Development, Human Rights Watch, and many, many others have found that what is occurring in Darfur is “ethnic cleansing”? Why shouldn’t it be enough that the International Crisis Group has found that as a result of ethnic cleansing,
“in the best-case scenario, ‘only’ 100,000 people are expected to die in Darfur from disease and malnutrition in the coming months; sadly, there is little reason for even this desperate optimism” (“End the slaughter and starvation in western Sudan,” May 16, 2004).
Why shouldn’t it be enough that recently updated data from the UN on the number of “war-affected,” along with data on morality rates from the US Agency for International Development, suggest that as many as 500,000 people will be die from engineered famine and epidemics in the coming months? For what none can possibly deny is that the impending cataclysm of human destruction is no natural disaster, but derives directly from the way in which Khartoum has chosen to wage war against the insurgency in Darfur, viz. destroying the entire civilian base that might provide support for the groups comprising the insurgency forces.
Why isn’t all this enough, even without a finding of genocide?
The answer lies in the shameful acquiescence within the international community that is now all too evident. Darfur, so long as it doesn’t reach the perverse “gold standard” of genocide, does not oblige the “contracting parties” of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide. Since the “contracting parties” include the US, Canada, the countries of the European Union, and most countries in the Arab League and the African Union, none of these is obliged to act under the Genocide Convention. Rather, they can continue to speak of Darfur as if it were a purely humanitarian crisis, rather than a massive reflection of the consequences of genocidal warfare. Or if shame obliges some response, Khartoum will be subject to a further parade of comments “deploring,” “urging,” “condemning,” “requesting” and “calling on.”
Of course none of this matters now. Moreover, such moral self-congratulation only encourages expediency and disingenuous of a sort embodied in Alan Goulty, Britain’s special envoy for Sudan. Goulty is one of those most responsible for muting international criticism of the Darfur catastrophe in the interests of getting a deal done in Naivasha between Khartoum and the SPLM/A. This expedient diplomatic strategy of course back-fired, disastrously, giving Khartoum powerful incentive to delay for months final conclusion of an agreement with the south. For as long as Khartoum was able to make it appear that a deal in Naivasha was imminent, the regime felt confident that it could continue its genocidal campaign in Darfur without any robust international criticism from the UK or the US. This accounts for a shamefully great deal of international belatedness in responding to Darfur.
But Goulty even now is determined to accommodate Khartoum’s genocidaires rather than move aggressively to save the hundreds of thousands of lives at risk. The Telegraph (UK) yesterday reported Goulty as dismissing efforts to impose targeted sanctions against Khartoum’s leadership as “dithering”; but he casts his reasoning in bizarrely incongruous terms:
“‘In the long term, threats of sanctions don’t seem likely to produce immediate action and immediate action is what we need,’ Goulty said.”
(The Telegraph [UK], May 31, 2004)
“Immediate action” is indeed what is needed, but that hardly means that the present, credible threat of targeted UN sanctions against senior National Islamic Front leaders (directed at overseas travel and overseas assets) would not have immediate effects. Goulty here is either not thinking or has become too careless in his expediency.
Even more disturbing is Goulty’s dismissal of humanitarian intervention to ensure the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Darfur and the creation of safe havens for the more than 1 million internally displaced persons presently at extremely acute risk:
“[Humanitarian intervention] would be very expensive, fraught with difficulties and hard to set up in a hurry.” (The Telegraph [UK], May 31, 2004)
Yes, humanitarian intervention to save hundreds of thousands of lives would be “very expensive, fraught with difficulties and hard to set up in a hurry,” as this writer has repeatedly stressed in calling for humanitarian intervention. But is the “difficulty” of such intervention reason for not attempting what alone will provide the food, medical supplies, and security necessary to save hundred of thousands of lives from genocidal destruction? What moral universe does Mr. Goulty inhabit that such “difficulties” become insuperable obstacles?
And to be sure, intervention will be very expensive (though likely no more expensive than piece-meal efforts to provide humanitarian aid for so many people over such a large area for over a year without efficient access): how much are African lives worth, Mr. Goulty? Perhaps a budget, or moral calculus of “dollars per life,” can be provided so that the world knows how much is too much for people who have the misfortune of being the victims of genocide in Africa.
And yes, such a humanitarian intervention will be very difficult to set up in a hurry—the more so because of callous comments such as those by Mr. Goulty.
If we wish to understand the importance of declaring the realities of Darfur by their appropriate name—genocide—we can do no better than to examine closely what lies behind Mr. Goulty’s refusal to work for or support humanitarian intervention, or threaten sanctions against the genocidaires in Khartoum.
But temporizing by Goulty and his ilk within the international community can do nothing to halt the relentless movement of the seasonal rains toward Darfur and the Chad/Darfur border, or to halt the continuing brutal predations of the Janjaweed, or to obscure Khartoum’s recent aerial attacks against villagers in flagrant violation of the terms of the April 8, 2004 cease-fire, or to retard spiking mortality rates in the concentration camps, or to improve humanitarian access in Darfur, which Khartoum is now restricting by new means. Darfur’s catastrophe continues to accelerate, and an abyss of human suffering and destruction opens ever more widely, despite all efforts to temporize.
Of extremely urgent concern is the impending loss of road corridors from Chad to Darfur because of the rains that have now begun. The consequences of this seasonal development are captured in a dispatch from the UN News Centre of several days ago (“Rains in Chad interrupt refugee transfers from Darfur, Sudan, UN agency says,” May 28, 2004):
“The United Nations refugee agency got the first indication of how the rainy season could block the transfer of thousands of Sudanese refugees from the insecure Chadian border when two of its teams had to stop driving their vehicles for safety’s sake after downpours lasting less than an hour.
Heavy rain fell for just 45 minutes yesterday in the Abeche area of eastern Chad and one UNHCR team had to stop travelling on one side of a seasonally dry riverbed, or ‘wadi,’ because of the sudden rushing waters.
The team was soon joined by other UNHCR staff members, returning to Abeche from Farchana camp, who walked from the other side of the wadi after abandoning their vehicle to avoid having it sink into mud and water.
‘This signals the sort of challenges we’re going to face as the rainy season sets in,’ said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis at a news briefing in Geneva.” (UN News Center, May 28, 2004)
The dispatch continued by noting that “the situation is especially urgent as the cross-border attacks [by Khartoum’s Janjaweed militia] have continued, UNHCR [UN High Commission for Refugees] said” (UN News Centre, May 28, 2004).
The Guardian (UK) also reports today on the threat posed by the seasonal rains that have now arrived and are slowly encompassing more of the regions affected by war in Darfur and Chad:
“An ominous blue bubble on an aid agency map, for a remote conflict in an even remoter part of Africa, could mean mass starvation before June is out. The map, published on the web by the Famine Early Warning System Network, shows the ‘rain timeline’ for the seasonal monsoon now moving northwards into eastern Chad and the Darfur region of western Sudan. Day by day more territory now suffering from hot winds and blowing dust will bear the even heavier burden of rainstorms which turn roads into swamps and wadis into torrents.” (The Guardian, June 1, 2004)
As overland corridors from Chad are severed by these rains, the necessity of finding alternative land routes into Darfur becomes ever more urgent. For there is not nearly enough food, or medical supplies, pre-positioned for distribution by the humanitarian personnel that Khartoum is only now gradually and partially allowing into the region. These aid workers will arrive and almost immediately begin overseeing what The Guardian correctly reports as the high likelihood that there will be “mass starvation before June is out.”
Moreover, since there has been no spring planting, and thus no fall harvest, famine affecting a huge percentage of Darfur’s total population will continue into 2005. This catastrophe, so clearly and remorselessly advancing, can be mitigated only by the most robust and urgent humanitarian intervention—one that in the next few weeks internationalizes the rail line running from Port Sudan through Khartoum and El Obeid and on to Nyala (South Darfur, but strategically located for distribution to many key areas).
Security for the more than 1 million internally displaced persons, many in highly threatening concentration camps, must also be a key part of any humanitarian intervention. For even as Khartoum’s “systematic” denial of humanitarian access has done so much to prevent food and medicine from reaching the displaced African populations of Darfur, the regime continues to give free rein to its Janjaweed militias in attacking these same populations—producing yet greater displacement and subsequent swelling of camp populations. The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks reports today:
“[The US Agency for International Development] said that armed Janjawid militia were continuing to attack civilians in all three states of Darfur and that killings, rapes, beatings, looting and burning of homes were still being reported. In Northern Darfur State, attacks on villages had only decreased because ‘a significant number’ of villages had already been destroyed, while attacks on camps for internally displaced persons were continuing.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, June 1, 2004)
Khartoum is also continuing with its aerial attacks on civilian targets. One such attack was widely reported several days ago by various wire services, and additional details of the attack were forwarded to this writer by Eltigani Ateem Seisi, former governor of Darfur. Reuters reports:
“The witnesses [from a village in West Sudan] told Reuters by mobile and satellite telephone from the area that an Antonov plane and helicopters bombed the village of Tabit, about 25 miles southwest of al-Fashir, the capital of Northern Darfur state. [ ] ‘There were two helicopters and one Antonov and they started bombarding the market,’ said one witness, asking not to be identified.” (Reuters, May 28, 2004)
Agence France-Presse provided additional detail:
“Government air strikes on a market near Al-Fasher, capital of west Sudan’s war-torn North Darfur State, left 20 people dead and 17 wounded. An Antonov jet and two helicopter gunships were used in Friday’s attack on the market in the town of Tabet, said Muhammad Mersal, who heads the office of SLM secretary general Mani Minaoui, in a telephone call from Darfur.” (Agence France-Presse, May 28, 2004)
Eltigani Ateem Seisi has provided yet further information on the basis of contacts on the ground in Darfur, indicating that “22 villagers will killed in the market place” as they prepared for Friday evening prayers; the names of many of the civilians killed in the attack were also provided (e-mail, received May 29, 2004).
Humanitarian access continues to be impeded in highly consequential ways, despite Khartoum’s promise of a week ago to expedite visas for humanitarian personnel. Though partially fulfilling this particular pledge, and though the UN is obviously trying to encourage Khartoum to provide more access by celebrating very limited achievements, another report today from the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) makes clear that Khartoum has simply resorted to other means in restricting humanitarian access and the delivery of food and medicine to those most critically in need. A good example of the regime’s ongoing intent to deny humanitarian supplies to the population is the contrivance of various bureaucratic obstacles:
“The advocacy group Refugees International (RI) said last week that ‘Khartoum was continuing to place obstacles’ in the way of agencies seeking to respond to the Darfur crisis by requiring relief supplies to be transported on Sudanese trucks and distributed by Sudanese agencies.
“[This obstruction occurs even as Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres] warned last month that the entire population of Darfur, numbering several million, was ‘teetering on the verge of mass starvation’ as a direct result of the conflict.”
“A further problem was Khartoum’s insistence that all medical supplies being shipped into Sudan needed to be tested before they were used, Refugees International added.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, June 1, 2004)
Nothing could better indicate Khartoum’s unfathomable callousness than the “insistence that all medical supplies being shipped into Sudan needed to be tested before they were used.” Children are dying in numbers that constitute “catastrophic mortality rates,” according to MSF, and dying often from lack of medical supplies, including inoculations, antibiotics, and surgical kits and supplies. This is the context in which Khartoum is insisting that all medical supplies be tested, with delays of unforgivable length.
IRIN also reports:
“A more serious impediment to the delivery of aid was the reported ‘requirement’ by Khartoum that agencies only use local NGOs to deliver aid, he told IRIN. The new policy had ‘hampered effective distribution of assistance, including food,’ the UN reported last week, stating that the existing local NGOs were limited in number and lacked the necessary capacity.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, June 1, 2004)
Khartoum is of course well aware of how severely its insistence on “local” nongovernmental organizations will adversely affect efficient food delivery; indeed, this is precisely the point. The tactful words of the UN obscure how this deliberate inefficiency is, in effect, the continuation of genocide by other means.
Today’s IRIN report also gives a synopsis of a recent US Agency for International Development Assessment:
“The US Agency for International Development (USAID) reported last week that Khartoum was ‘interfering’ in humanitarian aid efforts. Government officials had questioned relief workers on their reporting of human rights abuses, told agencies not to carry out protection activities, and threatened to expel organisations failing to comply with restrictions. Khartoum also required 72-hour advance notification for passengers travelling on UN flights to Darfur, which was ‘an impediment to the rapid deployment of emergency staff and equipment,’ USAID added.”
(UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, June 1, 2004)
All this is in addition to the continued denial of access to some aid workers from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; the deliberate “[delaying of] some relief assistance, equipment and vehicles essential to the delivery of aid”; and the requirement that all “staff already in Darfur still had to give the local humanitarian aid commissioners 24-hour notice when they were travelling outside the three main towns of Nyala, Al-Junaynah and Al-Fashir” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, June 1, 2004). This latter policy ensures that there is no real independence of movement, even as it is part of Khartoum’s larger policy—still in effect—of denying all humanitarian access to the very large areas of rural Darfur controlled by the insurgency groups (the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement).
What is the international response to genocide in Darfur? What means are being contemplated to provide humanitarian assistance that can truly respond to the needs of the 2 million the UN now estimates are “war-affected” and at acute risk? What is the world prepared to do to save hundreds of thousands of lives at risk because of another African genocide?
The UN Security Council has registered its “grave concern.”
The African Union will be deploying all of 10 cease-fire monitors to Darfur this Wednesday (June 2, 2004), with vague possibilities of expansion. (Darfur is an area roughly the size of France, and the cease-fire nominally to be monitored has largely collapsed.)
Germany and France seem to be doing their best to offer nothing more than unctuous hand-wringing, and are finding plenty of company in the EU.
Canada continues to mouth the platitudes of “soft power,” which for Darfur amounts to little more than vague moral drooling.
The UK as represented by Alan Goulty is committed to a “quiet diplomacy” with Khartoum’s genocidaires that will certainly work to convince the regime that it has nothing to fear from continuing its violent and intransigent ways.
The US, for all its commitment to Sudan, is yet to determine upon a well-articulated course of fully adequate humanitarian response—and has yet to explain why such a response will not inevitably entail humanitarian intervention.
And the Arab League seemed content in its recent Tunis summit to do nothing meaningful to stop the slaughter of Muslims in Darfur, though there has been some belated public recognition that something quite terrible is happening in the western part of Arab-League member Sudan.
But the rains have arrived; the aggregate mortality rates from camps and a compilation of statistics from various humanitarian assessments suggest that the weekly civilian death toll is well above 2,000 human beings, primarily children; there is not nearly enough food or medicine in place or moving along a corridor that will remain open once the rains begin in earnest. And the grim mortality projections from the US Agency for International Development make clear that hundreds of thousands will die if more is not done in the very near future.
If we wish to quantify the “slow-motion” Darfur genocide of 2003-2005, we may at present either look back to the 40,000 to 60,000 who have already died—or ahead to the 300,000 to 500,000 who will die without humanitarian intervention.
There can be no forgiveness for the acquiescence that has already seen tens of thousands die. There can be no moral comprehension of the refusal to act when hundreds of thousands may yet be saved.
In the end, it appears that the only lesson of the grim 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide is that the world has learned no lesson about genocide in Africa.
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