February 5, 2004
Statements over the last two days from the US Agency for International Development, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister (all appended below) have signaled a dramatically heightened sense of urgency about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, urgency that has appropriately led to initial articulation of the need for an emergency humanitarian intervention.
But planning for such an intervention must begin immediately, given the stark evidence that the Khartoum regime is willing to countenance unlimited human destruction and displacement in its genocidal conduct of the war in Darfur. A highly informed and authoritative Sudan monthly analysis has in the last week reported evidence indicating that more than 30,000 people may already have died in Darfur. Figures used internally by UN staff working on the Darfur crisis have been increased to 1 million displaced persons and more than 3 million “war-affected” civilians. Agricultural production is coming to a halt, a disastrous development that suggests the catastrophe will deepen for the foreseeable future.
Emergency planning and deployment of the required assets—food, medical, logistical and, if necessary, military—must begin immediately. The alternative is countenancing the inevitable destruction of many more tens of thousands of innocent human beings from starvation, exposure, disease, and the ongoing predations of Khartoum’s regular army and Arab militia forces (the Janjaweed).
To be sure, there is reason to believe that because of the connections between Idris Deby, President of Chad, and the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum, Deby may object to even the most urgently dictated humanitarian intervention being mounted from Chad, even as this is likely the only logistically viable location. Here the good offices of France, which has enormous diplomatic leverage with Deby, as well as other elements of a weak and divided Chadian government, would be of critical importance. The presence and blunt reports of the medical relief organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on the Chad-Sudan border should provide the French government with an appropriate sense of urgency.
For the moment, it is important to note that the US, Canadian, and Norwegian governments have finally found an appropriate register in speaking of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Andrew Natsios, Administrator for the US Agency for International Development and Special Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, declared in a statement of February 3, 2004:
“The United States reaffirms its commitment to addressing the immediate protection and assistance needs of those in Darfur, as well as throughout Sudan, including humanitarian cross border operations if assistance cannot be provided through Sudan.” (Press Release, US Agency for International Development, February 3, 2004)
Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Petersen declared yesterday that, “”Norway will together with other donors ***do what is necessary to provide humanitarian relief and protection*** for the population of Darfur [emphasis added].”
(Norwegian Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release, February 4, 2004 [No.: 9/04])
Bill Graham, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, declared this afternoon that, “It is imperative that agencies providing humanitarian assistance have immediate, safe and unhindered access to Darfur.”
(Statement by Bill Graham, Foreign Affairs Minister, Ottawa [Canada], February 5, 2004)
Despite the forcefulness of these statements, their belatedness and lack of additional support from other Western governments (as well as the silence of the US State Department) make it almost certain that Khartoum will remain intransigent, simply refusing either to provide unfettered humanitarian access or to halt the savage war tactics recently chronicled so authoritatively by Amnesty International (see http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR540082004).
Khartoum’s willingness to remain intransigent, even in the face of overwhelming and desperate human need, should be ascertained by means of an immediate set of concrete tests. The regime’s failure to respond satisfactorily to these tests should in turn immediately put in motion full-scale, urgent planning for a robust and fully secured humanitarian intervention, with initial deployment of logistical and material resources as soon as is practicable. Again, the alternative is to countenance the gruesome deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Darfur.
At the same time, we must ask why Khartoum has continued to accelerate its campaign of civilian destruction and displacement in Darfur. And what relation does this genocidal ambition have to the peace talks between Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Naivasha, Kenya (set to resume on February 17, 2004)?
There are at least two (related) explanations:  fearing that any immunity for war crimes negotiated at Naivasha will not include actions that occur after a peace signing, Khartoum is attempting to make the most of, and indeed expand, the present window of criminal “opportunity” in dealing with its “western problem” (Darfur); and  the regime senses that as long as a peace agreement in Naivasha seems imminent, it will receive no real pressure or threats of meaningful action from Western diplomats, whatever it may do in Darfur. This latter point is emphasized today by John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group:
“‘There is a big problem right now. The [Khartoum] government wants to delay the talks for as long as it can in order to continue its offensive in the western part of the country,’ Prendergast told IRIN. ‘The government is trying to buy time.’ He criticised the international community’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ in the context of the crisis in Darfur, and urged both the British and United States governments to ‘make it clear to both parties that many of the incentives on the table would be taken away.'”
Prendergast rightly concludes:
“At a time when additional pressure was needed to ensure that the parties made the final push towards a peace agreement, the international community had decided to engage in quiet diplomacy’ without criticising the government’s deliberate attempt to delay the talks, or its abuses on the Darfur battlefront. ‘The government is happy so long as they are not under pressure,’ [Prendergast] said. ‘The current policy of quiet diplomacy is not working. We have empirical evidence that the regime responds to pressure.'”
(UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, February 5, 2004)
But instead of applying effective pressure on Khartoum to halt the massive carnage in Darfur, Western “quiet diplomacy” is only working to give a free hand to the regime, indeed is actually creating an incentive for accelerating human destruction. For there is considerable evidence that senior members of the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum expect to be able to negotiate immunity from liability for war crimes, not only for their prosecution of the war in southern Sudan for the past fifteen years, but for present activities in Darfur. Certainly given the regime’s ghastly record of war crimes, such a desire for immunity is not hard to understand.
But there must be a clear international declaration in response to this vicious expediency on Khartoum’s part, the regime’s effort to finish its genocidal business in Darfur before an “immunity” deal is included in a final peace agreement at Naivasha: “There will be no immunity for any party, for any actions, anywhere in Sudan from this day forward. All present and future war crimes, in Darfur or any other region, will be referred to the International Criminal Court, without exception.” (Such an argument should not be construed as support by this writer for the negotiation of an immunity agreement concerning past criminal actions.)
Most fundamentally, if the Khartoum regimes refuses to halt the slaughter and displacement in Darfur, if it continues to arrogate to itself the right to pursue a policy of genocidal destruction, then it should be clear to all, even the most diplomatically expedient in London and Washington, that no signature at Naivasha will ever have any real meaning. The terrible irony of Western diplomatic silence on the realities of Darfur, especially the silence of the UK and the US State Department, is that it makes a meaningful peace agreement less, not more, likely. Trapped in the logic of diplomatic expediency, the two most powerful members of the Western “troika” in Naivasha have become ever more willful in their disregard for the horrific realities of Darfur. In turn, this is more and more encouraging of Khartoum’s present conduct of the war, as well as its corresponding diplomatic bad faith in Naivasha.
Certainly not a day now goes by without a fuller sense of what the realities of Darfur are. To be sure, the Amnesty International report (February 3, 2004) has made impossible any reasonable skepticism about the scale of the conflict or its decisive racial and ethnic animus. But just yesterday we received an extensive and telling account from the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (February 4, 2004; dateline Korbileke [Eastern Chad, 2km from the Darfur border]). The stories recorded are almost indistinguishable from the scores that Amnesty included in its report, and have the same terrifying consistency found by Amnesty:
“All of the refugees—as well as the over 600,000 displaced within Darfur–tell similar stories. Rumours and inaccuracies about dates or numbers are frequent, but the substance remains the same: The ‘Arab’ militias and the army attack villages together or successively, burning them to the ground and randomly killing their inhabitants.”
Like the Amnesty International report, the IRIN reportage/analysis also deals with the complex issues of race and ethnicity in Darfur, reaching a remarkably similar conclusion:
“In Darfur, where the vast majority of people are Muslims, Arabic-speaking and share a mixed gene pool, the distinction between ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ is more cultural than racial. But for the victims of the conflict, the ‘racial’ aspect to the attacks is a constant theme.”
This is the insistent refrain from all who are now reporting on Darfur: “for the victims of the conflict, the ‘racial’ aspect to the attacks is a constant theme.” This must be said; it cannot be finessed or simply ignored, as it was in the US State Department statement on Darfur (December 16, 2004)—a statement at once thoroughly dated by more recent events and revelations, and also marked by an expedient refusal to talk about issues of race or ethnicity. Instead we were given only a euphemistic distinction between “indigenous opposition groups and the Sudanese Armed Forces and its allied militias” (Statement on Darfur, Office of the US State Department Spokesman, December 16, 2004).
But even the more encouraging statements of the last few days from Norway, Canada, and the US Agency for International Development do not speak directly to this central feature of the conflict. Why this silence? Why this moral indecision? Why is the world refusing to hear and credit the voices of those fleeing the savage violence of Khartoum’s regular forces and it Arab militias?
“‘It’s a tribal problem. Black with black, Arab with Arab,’ says Muhammad Husayn. ‘There are no rebels in Habilah. It’s a black population, that’s why they came and bombed,’ he said. ‘All the blacks they find they kill.’ Government bombs and attacks are indiscriminately killing both armed rebels and innocent civilians, who are all tarnished with the same ‘black’ brush, say the refugees.”
(UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (February 4, 2004; dateline Korbileke [Eastern Chad, 2km from the Darfur border]).
The voices of Norway, Canada, and the US Agency for International Development are of course still important, and still speak—at least in the cases of Norway and USAID—decisively to the humanitarian imperative of the moment. But the planning for a humanitarian intervention must begin, not merely be signaled. The UN Security Council should be urgently pressed to take up the matter. French diplomatic support, and pressure on President Deby of Chad, should be sought. And critically, the US State Department must find its voice, as must the UK government. Continued silence will only be construed by Khartoum as acquiescence.
The National Islamic Front will not respond to anything but the most concrete and credible threat of such robust humanitarian intervention in Darfur. The regime’s willingness to enter into serious peace negotiations with the insurgency groups and halt its genocidal conduct of the war in Darfur must be tested rigorously and immediately. Any continuation of the present massive campaign of human rights violations, violations of international law, and crimes against humanity must result unconditionally in war crimes trials.
An international commitment to anything less is an invitation for the genocide to continue.
Northampton, MA 01063
Press release: Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 4, 2004 No.: 9/04
Norway seriously concerned about the situation in Darfur
“Norway is extremely concerned about the further deterioration of the already dramatic humanitarian situation in Darfur province in western Sudan in the last few days. Norway deplores the recent bombing of the town of Tine, which continues the pattern of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and the serious breaches of human rights that are constantly being reported,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Petersen.
Norway has discussed the situation in Darfur with the Sudanese authorities on several occasions, and has also raised the issue with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Norway also took part in talks on possible measures to alleviate the situation in Geneva last week. In addition to Norway, the talks were attended by other like-minded countries and UN agencies.
“Norway urges the parties to the conflict to enter into an immediate ceasefire, provide unimpeded humanitarian access to the population and comply with international humanitarian law. We also call on the parties to agree on independent monitoring of an agreement on cessation of hostilities,” said Mr Petersen.
“Norway will together with other donors do what is necessary to provide humanitarian relief and protection for the population of Darfur, and has urgently requested the UN to take a leading role in these efforts. We also urge the parties to find a solution to the conflict at the negotiating table. Since September 2003, Norway has contributed NOK 23 million to humanitarian efforts in Darfur,” concluded Mr Petersen.
Statement by Andrew S. Natsios
USAID Administrator and Special Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan
WASHINGTON, DC 20523
Press: (202) 712-4320
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2004
WASHINGTON, DC—The United States government expresses grave concern over the recent escalation of the already dramatic humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Western Sudan. The United Nations estimates that 20,000 new refugees have arrived in neighboring Chad in the past two weeks, and another 30,000 crossed the border during December. There are now more than 100,000 refugees from Darfur in Chad. The conflict has displaced an estimated 600,000 people within Darfur and affected another three million. There is no humanitarian access to most of the affected population in Darfur. Significant hunger is reported, raising the prospect of a looming human catastrophe.
The United States deplores the recent bombing in Tine that continues the pattern of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and the gross abuses of human rights that are widely reported, such as torture and rape. The United States calls upon all parties to the conflict in Darfur to facilitate immediate, safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations to all in need and to abide by international humanitarian law. The United States strongly urges the parties to agree immediately to an independently-monitored humanitarian ceasefire that covers all armed groups. The United States reaffirms its commitment to addressing the immediate protection and assistance needs of those in Darfur, as well as throughout Sudan, including humanitarian cross border operations if assistance cannot be provided through Sudan. The United States looks to the United Nations to
lead this humanitarian effort in Darfur, and urges the parties to the Darfur conflict to resolve their issues peacefully.
Department of Foreign Affairs (Canada)
February 5, 2004 No. 18
GRAHAM EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER DETERIORATING SITUATION IN DARFUR, SUDAN
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham today expressed deep concern over the deteriorating situation in Sudan’s western Darfur region, as fighting and the displacement of civilians have intensified. The United Nations estimates that there are now more than 700,000 persons displaced from their homes, either within Sudan or in neighbouring Chad.
“I join Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan in urging all parties to the conflict to put an immediate stop to the violence, to respect human rights and international humanitarian law and, in particular, to ensure the protection of civilians,” said Minister Graham. “It is imperative that agencies providing humanitarian assistance have immediate, safe and unhindered access to Darfur.”
Graham further urged all involved parties to agree immediately to the UN’s call for an independently monitored humanitarian cease-fire that would cover all armed groups. The Minister emphasized that, with peace so close in the civil war in the south, the international community and the parties to the Darfur conflict must redouble their efforts to find a rapid and peaceful solution to save lives and prevent broader destabilization.