Eric Reeves, 5 May 2004
Disturbingly expedient skepticism about genocide in Darfur has begun to emerge in some quarters, even as evidence for this ultimate crime increases daily. Indeed, all available evidence—from both human rights and humanitarian organizations—clearly points to a policy by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies of “deliberately inflicting on the African groups of Darfur conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction.”
The evidence in aggregate—coming from the UN (which speaks of “ethnic cleansing” and “crimes against humanity”), the US government (which also speaks of “ethnic cleansing”), Human Rights Watch (which speaks of “ethnic-based murder”), Amnesty International (which has continually highlighted the racial/ethnic animus in the human destruction and displacement), and the International Crisis Group (which has highlighted the same racial/ethnic animus)—is simply overwhelming, both in authority and unanimity.
But today, this writer has received from a confidential source an utterly extraordinary document, in which a UN inter-agency team, very recently investigating conditions in the already infamous Kailek concentration camp (south of Kass in South Darfur), makes unambiguously clear the reality of genocide in Darfur. The UN inter-agency team declares the following:
“We are sure that the team would have learned more about the crimes committed against civilians in the region had it been granted wider access to the areas of conflict. The stories that we have received from the survivors of the acts of mass murder are very painful for us and they remind us of the brutalities of the Rwanda genocide.” (full reference and extended excerpt at conclusion of this analysis)
The team further found that “the circumstances of the internally displaced persons in Kailek [must] be described as imprisonment.”
The team further found that, “with a under five child mortality rate of 8-9 children per day due to malnutrition, and with the Government of Sudan security representatives permanently located in the town without having reported this phenomena to the UN, despite it having taken place for several weeks, [this] also indicates a local policy of forced starvation.”
The team further found that, “the numerous testimonies collected by the team, substantiated by the actual observations on the ground, particularly the longstanding prevention of access to food, alludes to a strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation being enforced by the Government of Sudan and its security forces on the ground.”
The team further found that, “the Government of Sudan has deliberately deceived the United Nations by repeatedly refuting claims to the seriousness of the situation in Kailek as well as having actively resisted the need for intervention by preventing the UN access to the area.”
And the team also found that, “despite having been directly informed of the grave findings made by the UN mission in Kailek, the Government of Sudan continues to stall any concrete actions related to this urgent relocation.”
“Strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation,” “imprisonment,” a “policy of forced starvation,” an unreported “child mortality rate of 8-9 per day,” and the continued obstruction of humanitarian aid for this critically distressed, forcibly confined population.
This is genocide. Let those who would deny explain why it is not.
These are not second-hand reports or “allegations.” These are first-hand observations by self-described “experienced experts in humanitarian affairs,” working for various agencies of the United Nations. We must hear, then, with the utmost seriousness their terrifying words: “The stories that we have received from the survivors of the acts of mass murder are very painful for us and they remind us of the brutalities of the Rwanda genocide.”
This full and fully professional account should incinerate all agnosticism about what is happening in Darfur, and all doubt about whether this is genocide. For we know that Kailek is but one of many concentration camps. It happens to have gained a particular profile by virtue of a truly courageous first-hand account from a Darfurian of Arab tribal background, forwarded to this writer from Eltigani Ateem, former governor of Darfur (see March 31, 2004 analysis by this writer; available upon request).
But it is only one place; there are many, many such places—far too many.
For just this reason, Khartoum has begun a concerted campaign that intends to obscure both the scale of destruction in Darfur and the regime’s own responsibility for genocide (thus a professionally distributed propaganda release of May 4, 2004). As part of this grotesque public relations effort, we have heard Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail recently declare:
“‘I would like to assure you that all those who have been killed in Darfur from the militia, from the rebels, from the government soldiers, from civilians who’ve been caught in fighting—it will not reach one thousand, [said National Islamic Front Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail]” (Voice of America, April 28, 2004)
And as recently as March 31, 2004, National Islamic Front regime officials spoke of the situation in Darfur as “improving”:
“Officials at the Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi told IRIN on Wednesday that they had no information about the continuing attacks. On the contrary, they said, the situation in Darfur region was ‘actually improving.'” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, March 31, 2004)
So we must choose—between this vicious mendacity and the assessment of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Mdecins Sans Frontires, very recently offered in a public release:
“Because of the lack of appropriate, urgently needed aid, the health of displaced people in Sudan’s Darfur region—particularly children—is radically worsening.” (Press Release [New York], Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontiéres, April 28, 2004)
We must expect mendacity, obfuscation, deceit, and bad faith from Khartoum: these are the regime’s primary weapons, both in the present campaign to diminish the significance of Darfur and in waging war on various peoples of Sudan over the entire 15 years of its tyrannical existence. But what is disturbing is the growing evidence of wider complicity in Khartoum’s lies, and the consequent refusal to acknowledge genocide.
Some, both in the UN and in the world of nongovernmental organizations, are reluctant to offend this brutal regime, and thus they expediently acquiesce in various of its lies. The effort is either to improve humanitarian access or to avoid political confrontation with a regime that continues to enjoy strong support from both the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Countries. But either way, such expediency is a deal with genocidaires.
We caught a glimpse of this disgraceful expediency in the recent annual meeting in Geneva of the UN Commission on Human Rights. As a powerful and all too insightful Washington Post editorial emphasized, this particular travesty,
“will stand out for another reason as well: Perhaps for the first time, the commission has suppressed one of its own reports. The report, written by a team of UN human rights investigators, was based on interviews with Sudanese refugees who had escaped across the border from Darfur, into Chad. Leaked versions of the report show that the authors did not mince words. They write of Khartoum’s ‘reign of terror’ in Darfur and speak of rape, torture, and arson. But just before the report was due to be released and discussed in Geneva, Sudan suddenly announced that it would allow the team into the country. The acting high commissioner on human rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, immediately agreed to suspend publication of the report, which he (and official U.N. Web sites) have said contains only ‘allegations’ of human rights abuse.” (Washington Post, April 26, 2004)
But of course the report contains far more than “allegations.” For example, in finding that in some places 80% of the refugee population in Chad was women or children (Paragraph 13 of “Report of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights mission to Chad, April 5-15, 2004”), this was no “allegation,” but rather the chilling context in which the report also found “frequent reports of killings [with] men, and even boys, particular targets” (Paragraph 19).
Nor, for example, was it an “allegation” that meningitis “above the epidemic threshold” had been found into the terribly overcrowded camp in Tine (Chad) where refugees had been driven by the attacks of Khartoum’s regular and Janjaweed militia forces.
To be sure, the team members were not eyewitnesses to mass murder, to the bombings and aerial attacks, the burning and destruction of many hundreds of villages; they did not see the rapes, the torture, the theft of cattle, and the systematic destruction of water wells and agricultural resources.
But they did find, not “allege,” that “there was a remarkable consistency in the witness testimony received” (Paragraph 15). The team found, not “alleged,” that reports on aerial attacks and ground attacks had an “invariable” quality (Paragraph 17). The team found, not “alleged,” that “refugees interviewed invariably described the Janjaweed as being exclusively ‘Arab,’ as opposed to ‘black’ or ‘African'” (Paragraph 21). The team also found, not “alleged,” that “all reports indicated that such bombardments [by Khartoum’s military aircraft] indicated that such bombardments are indiscriminate,” and that “it is clear that these attacks fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants and are disproportionate in nature” (Paragraph 32). “All reports….”
These are findings; they are described only disingenuously by UN acting high commissioner on human rights Bertrand Ramcharan as mere “allegations.”
The same UN human rights investigating team has now returned from its brief assessment inside Darfur. It has tersely suggested that its findings in the previous report had been confirmed. But notably the UN team did not brief humanitarian organizations on exiting Darfur, a disturbing sign that the results will be politically tailored. Even more disturbing are the highly authoritative reports from within Darfur that the team was denied access to many of the places where investigation was most obviously warranted. Instead, the team traveled only to the areas of the larger towns, where people are fully under the control of an ever-watchful Khartoum military intelligence and clearly can speak only at exceedingly great risk.
Representatives of the Massaleit Community in Exile accurately reports in a dispatch today (May 5, 2004) that:
“the team visited only Al Fashir, Geneina and a few other areas; but not places containing mass graves such as Koca, Kodomi, Gondorong Menmery, Berty, Jabel, Hashaba, Wadanala, Sanidada, Gergira, Sera-omra, Habeela-Kjengessy, Omtandelti, Omderebirro, Salaa, Beida Kaino, Tulos, Solu, Morny, Habeela-Kanari, Mejmejy, Mully, Tory, Damkoro, Gokar, Habeela-Beida, Jabbon and others.”
The above assessment has been confirmed to this writer by other Darfurians in exile who have contacts inside Darfur.
Perhaps most scandalously, the UN team interviewed a survivor of a previously reported mass execution, was given the precise coordinates for the mass execution—and yet did not travel to this location to confirm the atrocity. This writer spoke with the survivor (via translator) in Darfur, and is completely confident on the basis of extensive subsequent communications that the UN team was provided with his location, and was able to interview him at great length. Still the team did not go to the site specified.
Though the UN team has not yet spoken to the issue of whether or not it was given “unimpeded access” in Darfur, a disingenuous answer seems all too likely, given the increasingly political nature of the UN response to Khartoum’s obvious campaign of intimidation: “if you tell the truth about what you know of Darfur, then we will deny you access for humanitarian aid.” A more vicious form of blackmail can hardly be imagined, and yet it is succeeding.
So how will the denial of access to the UN human rights team be explained? Because Khartoum preemptively denied access to the area of this atrocity as the team was entering Darfur, and to those areas specified in the dispatch from the Representatives of the Massaleit Community in Exile, the UN team never formally requested access. Thus the team will say it was never actually denied access. What it will not say, but what is critically true, is that it knew such a request for access would be denied, and for that reason did not make the request.
This is the very embodiment of disingenuousness.
For the moment we have only the statement of UN human rights spokesman Jose Diaz in Geneva: “‘Following this latest mission, the [UN human rights investigating] team confirmed the assessment it made after its visit to refugee camps in Chad from 5 to 14 April” (Agence France-Presse [Geneva], May 4, 2004).
The assessment referred to is suggested only very partially by the excerpts above. But what is essential in this assessment is its conclusion:
“The [UN human rights investigative] mission was able to identify disturbing patterns of massive human rights violations in Darfur, many of which may constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.” (Paragraph 54)
Any subsequent conclusions, based solely on interviews with witnesses speaking without the freedom enjoyed by refugees in Chad—i.e., evidently all the people the UN team interviewed—should fully incorporate these previous findings. If the new report ends up expediently “editing” previous findings or exculpating Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies on the basis of such interviews, the corruption of the investigative process will be palpable, even as the motives for such corruption will be deeply disturbing.
But there is additional evidence of a policy of expediency, disingenuousness, and a patent desire to appease Khartoum’s international sensibilities, now thoroughly offended by the growing attention Darfur has at last garnered. For example, the recently concluded UN humanitarian assessment mission (entirely different from the UN human rights assessment mission) also recently returned from Darfur. This team was led by James Morris, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program. In a “question and answer” session yesterday in London, the following exchange occurred:
“QUESTION: I’m somewhat puzzled that you say the ceasefire is holding, when there are still reports of attacks and fighting?
“JAMES MORRIS: Well, the Janjaweed is not party to the ceasefire agreement. The ceasefire is between the rebels in the south and the government, and that’s a big piece of the problem, that they’re not bound by the same agreement.
“QUESTION: I’m interested to know what the government people accompanying you told you about why the villages were burnt out. Did you meet any militia? And did you see any sign that the government is controlling the militias?
“JAMES MORRIS: We were there for just a short period of time. We had extensive conversations about the protection and the security issue. Ultimately, the responsibility for the people at risk, is the responsibility of the Government of Sudan. All the UN community or the NGO community can do is to help, and to respond to humanitarian issues.”
(Transcript of London news conference by James Morris, Executive Director, UN World Food Program, MAY 4, 2004 http://www.un.org/News/dh/sudan/wfp-morris-press-conf.htm)
But Morris is simply in error here, and suspiciously in error. For one of the clauses of the April 8, 2004 cease-fire agreement (which wire reports today suggest has largely collapsed) was that Khartoum’s regular military forces disarm the Janjaweed militias. To declare that “the Janjaweed is not party to the cease-fire” is nonsense. They are “bound” because Khartoum nominally “bound” itself to disarm and control the Janjaweed. Of course we should not be surprised that the National Islamic Front regime has violated this agreement—as it has every other agreement it has ever signed.
But it is suspiciously inaccurate to suggest as a “problem” in the cease-fire agreement that the central issue of the Janjaweed has been left unaddressed. Since so much of the physical insecurity that is fueling the genocide in Darfur derives from the continuing and unconstrained predations of the Janjaweed, in concert with Khartoum’s regular forces, Morris is either culpably ignorant—or trying, for expedient reasons, to mitigate the significance of Khartoum’s violation of the terms of the cease-fire agreement.
[Morris’ puzzling reference to the “rebels in the south” suggests a possible conflation of the April 8, 2004 cease-fire (N’Djamena, Chad) and the October 15, 2002 cessation of offensive hostilities agreement (Nairobi, Kenya) between Khartoum and the southern SPLM/A.]
When Morris was asked the appropriate follow-up question—“And did you see any sign that the government is controlling the militias?”—his conspicuous failure to answer the question directly was deeply telling, and clearly suggestive of the “political” considerations that Khartoum’s present campaign has managed to intrude upon UN thinking and pronouncements. This is despicable disingenuousness.
For a true account of the relationship between the Janjaweed and Khartoum’s regular forces, we must turn to another UN investigative team and its confidential assessment of one of the most notorious concentration camps, that at Kailek. It is here that Khartoum’s genocidal ambitions are most conspicuously on display, albeit in only one ghastly example. But Kailek is not an isolated instance; it is what all accounts from Darfur suggest is the case in areas throughout the region, especially South Darfur and West Darfur. This extensive excerpt comes from the conclusion of the single most revealing account of realities in Darfur to have emerged in recent months (the entire report is available upon request).
From: “A United Nations Inter-Agency fact-finding and humanitarian needs assessment mission was carried out to the town of Kailek in South Darfur on Sunday 24 April 2004.” The mission team consisted of technical staff from UNICEF, WHO [World Health Organization], FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] (lead):
“We are sure that the team would have learned more about the crimes committed against civilians in the region had it been granted wider access to the areas of conflict. The stories that we have received from the survivors of the acts of mass murder are very painful for us and they remind us of the brutalities of the Rwanda genocide.”
“The team members, all of whom are experienced experts in humanitarian affairs were visibly shaken by the humanitarian state and conditions in which we found the caseload of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in Kailek.”
“The clear presence of the Jenjaweed, and the inability to distinguish between them and the GoS [Government of Sudan] police officers when carrying out their ‘duties’ in town call for the circumstances of the IDPs in Kailek to be described as imprisonment. With a under five child mortality rate of 8-9 children per day due to malnutrition, and with the GoS security representatives permanently located in the town without having reported this phenomena to the UN despite it having taken place for several weeks also indicate a local policy of forced starvation.”
“The team members, all of whom are experienced experts in humanitarian affairs were visibly shaken by the humanitarian state and conditions in which we found the caseload of IDPs in Kailek.”
“The team unilaterally recommends the immediate relocation of the IDP caseload to a location of their choosing, primarily Nayla or Kass, for the instant release from their current ordeal.”
“Furthermore, and in accordance with the explicit and informed advice of the IDPs themselves, the team recommends that neither food nor any other hard assistance are provided to the caseload in their current circumstances due to the complete lack of protection mechanisms.”
“The team does recommend that an emergency team of health/nutrition experts is being dispatched to the location for the urgent stabilization of the group of severely malnourished children, thereby ensuring their survival during the transport away from Kailek.”
“In addition to this, the UN team wishes to raise its concern regarding the following:
“The numerous testimonies collected by the team, substantiated by the actual observations on the ground, particularly the longstanding prevention of access to food, alludes to a strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation being enforced by the GoS and its security forces on the ground.”
“Information and findings obtained from Kailek IDPs in Kass and Kalma, as well a CARE International assessment report from early April 2004 all contain information which confirms the findings in the present report have been persistently refuted by the GoS when presented by the UN Nyala team for clarification.”
“Following the CARE report, the UN continued to press the GoS for clearance to visit Kailek town and to follow up on the findings from the CARE report but to no avail. UNSECOORD was only allowed access on 17 April after having been ‘advised’ not to visit the area after the ceasefire, while the GoS has consistently informed that there were no problems of security and assistance in Kailek and that the IDPs in the location were free to go.”
“Therefore, in light of this, a first conclusion by the mission team is that the GoS has deliberately deceived the United Nations by repeatedly refuting claims to the seriousness of the situation in Kailek as well as having actively resisted the need for intervention by preventing the UN access to the area. The fact that GoS’ own security forces have monitored the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Kailek due to their constant presence on the ground only helps to underscore this fact.”
“Secondly, numerous, independent references have been made by both IDPs and security forces to a decree issued by the Commissioner of Kass which explicitly instructs GoS security forces to prohibit, by any means necessary, any civilian movement out of Kailek town.”
“If this is the case, the GoS has willfully breached its responsibilities as signatory to the Geneva Convention and additional protocols, International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law, by, amongst other things, deliberately preventing human beings their right to life, liberty and security of person and the freedom of movement, directly resulting in the preventable deaths and suffering of highly vulnerable persons in need of explicit protection under these legal instruments.”
“As this report is being prepared, the United Nations in Nyala is working with the GoS to secure the immediate relocation of the IDPs in Kailek. However, despite having been directly informed of the grave findings made by the UN mission in Kailek, the GoS continues to stall any concrete actions related to this urgent relocation. Thus, the UN continues to await confirmation that the rapid relocation of the IDPs will commence, having in the meantime dispatched a joint WHO/MSF-H team to Kailek to commence the emergency stabilization of the severely malnourished children in the location.”
“It is a grave concern to the United Nations team in Nyala that Kailek is but one of several locations where civilians are living under similar conditions without having been able to communicate their ordeal to the humanitarian community.”
Will we hear the voices of Kailek? The starving, brutalized occupants of this concentration camp are crying out with a terrified urgency no less than that which filled the voices of those who cried in vain from Dachau, Treblinka, Auschwitz.
Expediency here is a crime against humanity.
Northampton, MA 01063