December 6, 2004
Though genocide by attrition daily claims over a thousand lives in Darfur, adding to a total mortality figure of approximately 350,000 human beings, the once austerely clear moral character of this human destruction is slowly dissipating. In its place, we are being encouraged in various quarters to believe that the non-Arab or African populations of Darfur are dying and suffering because of insecurity that is increasingly attributed to the Darfuri insurgency groups. The central role of the Janjaweed—Khartoum’s savage militia proxy—is highlighted less often, and is frequently conflated with an unspecified mlange of “armed militias.” The compelling underlying grievances that originally gave rise to the insurgency are also discussed less often, especially by Kofi Annan and his special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk. But neither is there much stomach for historical truths in Washington, European capitals, or in other quarters.
Much of this expedient change in subject is captured in the increasingly cited analogy to Somalia, symbol of an ungovernable land degenerating into chaos, uncontrollable violence, and “warlordism” (a term heard more often in connection with the insurgency leaders). But the differences are distinctly greater than the similarities, and the “Somalia analogy” ultimately obscures the essential agency, the animating genocidal evil, responsible for human destruction in Darfur.
The upshot is that Darfur is being transformed—from an episode in massive, ethnically targeted human destruction into an essentially humanitarian crisis that is being impeded by an impersonal, almost abstract “insecurity.” There are no longer non-Arab or African victims of genocide and Arab genocidaires, but rather generic “civilians at risk.” Correspondingly, in place of the clearly demanded humanitarian intervention, many in the international community are content to discuss political, diplomatic, and funding “challenges.” The focus is not on Khartoum’s past actions and serially broken agreements, but on present cease-fire violations and a perversely equitable distribution of responsibility for “insecurity.” Ultimately, the “moral equivalence” that has emerged from various pronouncements by Annan and Pronk is a sign of capitulation, a refusal to judge Khartoum’s actions or those of the Janjaweed except in the context of a morally bankrupt “neutrality” (see especially the December 3, 2004 “Report of the Secretary-General on the Sudan pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions, 1556, 1564, and 1574”).
This is the inevitable culmination of a steadily weakened series of UN Security Council resolutions, which collectively represent a policy of appeasement. Indeed, Resolution 1574 (November 18, 2004) was so utterly inconsequential in speaking of Darfur’s catastrophe that Khartoum publicly and enthusiastically welcomed this international “response.”
It has not always been so within the UN.
Mukesh Kapila, the outspoken former UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, declared as he approached the end of his tenure in March of this year:
“‘The only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved’ [said Kapila]. ‘This is more than just a conflict, it is an organised attempt to do away with a group of people.'” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, March 22, 2004)
“‘There are no secrets,’ U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Mukesh Kapila said. ‘The individuals who are doing this are known. We have their names. The individuals who are involved occupy senior positions [in the government of Sudan].'” (Reuters [Khartoum], March 26, 2004)
“The pattern of organised attacks on civilians and villages, abductions, killings and organised rapes by militias was getting worse by the day, [Kapila] said, and could deteriorate even further. ‘One can see how the situation might develop without prompt [action]…all the warning signs are there.'” (UN IRIN, March 22, 2004)
Over seven months later, Kapila’s words—which infuriated Khartoum—have proved all too prescient. 350,000 have died and another 30,000 die every month (see November 16, 2004 mortality analysis by this writer in The Sudan Tribune, at http://www.sudantribune.com/article.php3?id_article=6536). By the end of the year, Darfur’s genocide will have claimed half as many lives as Rwanda’s genocide in 1994. And there are no signs that this genocidal destruction will diminish.
On the contrary, forward-looking food assessments by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the US Agency for International Development, appalling conditions in the camps, huge numbers of people beyond all humanitarian access, and continuing insecurity deriving primarily from Khartoum’s refusal to disarm or militarily neutralize the Janjaweed—all suggest that mortality rates will continue to rise. Because the African tribal populations concentrated in camps cannot return to their villages, or the sites of their former villages, agricultural production remains at a standstill. Indeed, it has become increasingly difficult to see how the agricultural economy of Darfur can be revived. There is virtually no chance that there will be a meaningful spring 2005 planting, and thus no fall 2005 harvest. A huge food-dependent population (between 2 and 3 million human beings) will require humanitarian assistance for at least two years. During that time, the lands of Darfur will likely be distributed to those who have backed the Khartoum regime’s genocide (see below), and the camp populations will slowly die or migrate from the region. Many young men will join the insurgency movements, continuing a cycle of violence and retribution.
Here we must bear in mind how directly responsible Khartoum and the Janjaweed are for the current state of affairs, and how relatively little responsibility falls upon the insurgents. For the National Islamic Front regime’s counter-insurgency policy of systematically destroying the African villages throughout Darfur, as a means of eliminating the civilian base of support for the insurgents, has been in evidence for over a year. We know from a great many highly authoritative reports by Amnesty International, the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights investigations that Khartoum’s policy of comprehensive village destruction began in summer 2003, and has continued unabated, with the Janjaweed the primary instrument of civilian destruction.
Human Rights Watch obtained in July 2004 internal documents that reveal a “government [of Sudan] policy of militia recruitment, support and impunity that has been implemented from high levels of the civilian administration” (see http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/07/19/darfur9096.htm). Human Rights Watch also established in late August 2004 that:
“Despite repeated government [of Sudan] pledges to neutralize and disarm the Janjaweed, Human Rights Watch investigators in West and North Darfur were able to gather information on the militias’ extensive network of bases.
Five of the 16 camps, according to witnesses, are camps the Janjaweed share with the Sudanese government army. Even more ominous, the Sudanese government has incorporated members of the Janjaweed militia and its leaders into the police and the Sudanese army, including Islamist militia the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), which is under army jurisdiction.”
(Human Rights Watch, “Janjaweed Camps Still Active,” August 27, 2004, at http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/08/27/darfur9268.htm).
Clearly Khartoum has not disarmed the Janjaweed—as promised in the “Joint Communiqu” of July 3, 2004, and as “demanded” in UN Security Council Resolution 1556, July 30, 2004—and has not brought Janjaweed leaders to justice (as also “demanded” in Security Council Resolution 1556). Indeed, the regime has not even provided a list of Janjaweed leaders, per the terms of the August 5, 2004 “Plan of Action” negotiated by Kofi Annan’s special representative Pronk. Nor has Khartoum provided any information on its “arrest or disarmament of Janjaweed and other armed groups,” per the terms of Security Council Resolution 1564 (September 18, 2004). Such information was to have been provided to the African Union Ceasefire Commission, but even Kofi Annan acknowledged in his recent report to the Security Council that “no progress was made [in November]” on this score (Section III, paragraph 12).
And still the UN and the international community acquiesce before an ongoing policy of ethnic destruction that has been systematic (Arab villages, even when proximate to non-Arab villages, have typically been spared), has entailed consistently close military coordination between Khartoum’s regular military forces (ground and air) and the Janjaweed, and has been relentlessly thorough. People are killed, particularly men and women, children are abducted, and women are raped (see a highly authoritative recent study, “The Use of Rape as a Weapon of War in the Conflict in Darfur,” Jennifer Leaning, MD and Tara Gingerich, JD; at http://www.phrusa.org/research/sudan/pdf/report_rape-in-darfur.pdf). Dwellings and mosques are burned, Korans are desecrated; food- and seed-stocks are destroyed, along with fruit trees and agricultural implements; precious water wells are poisoned with human and animal corpses, and irrigation systems broken apart. Those who flee often die for lack of water and food in this harsh land.
These are the searing realities that are now increasingly obscured by an international community that has no means of responding effectively.
Even humanitarian organizations have become complicit. Doctors Without Borders/Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF), which has performed superbly in the field, has not only made extremely ill-considered public comments on the issue of ethnic crimes in Darfur, but continues to bleach out of its reports virtually all data and observations that reflect the ethnic character of human destruction. The exceedingly rare references to ethnicity are typically disingenuous. In an October 2004 study by MSF Holland (“Persecution, Intimidation and Failure of Assistance in Darfur”), the organization can bring itself to say only that “the majority of patients treated in MSF clinics and feeding centres are of Fur, Massaleit, and Zaghawa tribal origin” (page 7). But of course the truth is that the overwhelming majority of people seen by MSF are members of the targeted African tribal groups—certainly over 95%, and likely well over. This self-censorship is evidently the price MSF is willing to pay to retain humanitarian access, though this seems not to preclude ignorant and presumptuous statements about the issue of genocide. Comments by Pierre Herv Bradol, head of MSF-France, are a particular disgrace to an organization that was born out of a refusal to accept international protocols of “neutrality” during the genocide in Biafra (Nigeria) in the late 1960s.
THE OBFUSCATION OF GENOCIDE
The primary means by which the scale and nature of genocide in Darfur is obscured continue to be a refusal to acknowledge recent history. At the same time that Mukesh Kapila was declaring that “the only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved,” and that, “one can see how the situation might develop without prompt [action]…all the warning signs are there,” Amnesty International declared that:
“‘The government of Sudan has made no progress to ensure the protection of civilians caught up in the conflict in Darfur’ Amnesty International said today. ‘This is not a situation where the central government has lost control. Men, women and children are being killed and villages are burnt and looted because the central government is allowing militias aligned to it to pursue what amounts to a strategy of forced displacement through the destruction of homes and livelihood of the farming populations of the region,’ Amnesty International said.” (Amnesty International, Press Release, March 15, 2004)
In the more than eight months since this emphatic press release, nothing has changed. To be sure, many more hundreds of thousands of displaced people are now concentrated in camps characterized by appalling conditions, widespread shortages of clean water, shelter, sanitary facilities, and food. But even in these camps, the same ethnically targeted violence and destruction—rape, murder, torture, abduction—continue with full sanction by the Khartoum regime. Amnesty International recently published a new study of conditions in Darfur (“No one to complain to: No respite for the victims, impunity for the perpetrators,” December 2, 2004; at http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR541382004), and the all too familiar patterns are here articulated on the basis of current evidence. Indeed, in some ways conditions have deteriorated, and this is especially clear in the growing hesitation of displaced Darfuris to speak to members of the international community:
“While in June 2004 there was an urgency to speak to foreigners about the massive abuses committed in Darfur among the displaced community, it seems that since September the displaced have become afraid of talking. They are being watched by the security forces and the police within the camps for internally displaced persons, and fear being arrested after being seen speaking to foreigners.” (page 1)
The relentless failure of their stories to make a difference in camp conditions and the overall deterioration in the security situation has increasingly had the effect of silencing the voices of the victimized. And as these extremely vulnerable voices go silent, it becomes easier for their plight, and its causes, to be ignored by the international community, which is increasingly engaged in an expedient suggestion of moral equivalence between Khartoum and the insurgents, between the genocidaires and those resisting abusive tyranny.
Amnesty declares in its December 2 report that the Khartoum regimes “continues to undermine the rule of law and the very concept of justice” (page 2); in commenting on the “harassment and arrests of lawyers and human rights activists,” the organization notes that the detention and harassment of certain lawyers and activists “is a warning to the population that humanitarian, human rights and legal activities, particularly on behalf of the victims of the conflict in Darfur, are often considered subversive by the [regime’s] authorities” (page 2). During the Darfur conflict, “arbitrary arrests and prolonged incommunicado detention without charge or trial have increased” (page 6); “many arrests carried out by the security forces do not seem to be for any other reason than belonging to particular ethnic groups, usually those represented in the Darfur armed opposition groups (Zaghawa, Fur, Masalit, and other smaller groups)” (page 8); “persons arrested by the Sudanese security forces have been routinely tortured” (page 13); “sometimes torture by the security forces is so severe that it causes the death of detainees” (page 15); “torture is encouraged to continue because of the overwhelming impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators” (page 15).
Amnesty draws the appropriate conclusion—“an international presence in every district of Darfur is needed” (page 21)—but there is no chance that presently deploying or contemplated African Union force and international human rights monitors can possibly take up this task without an immense augmentation of personnel and resources. Moreover, Khartoum for its part continues to refuse to accept any presence other than the current very small contingent of UN human rights monitors and an African Union force that has as its only mandate monitoring a cease-fire that has been in tatters since first negotiated in early April 2004.
This is the context in which Secretary-General Annan devotes inordinately particular attention, in his most recent report to the Security Council, assessing very recent actions, with almost no attention to the historical context of the past 22 months of genocidal destruction. Indeed, Annan’s last explicit words on the issue of genocide (uttered months ago) were that he has “seen no reports that indicate ethnic cleansing or genocide” (June 17, 2004). Jan Pronk for his part declares simply that a genocide finding is “premature,” a year after evidence of the ultimate human crime became unignorable.
KOFI ANNAN AND THE LANGUAGE OF MORAL EQUIVALENCE
Annan, following his assertion that “the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army has aggressively violated its commitments to the Abuja protocols (November 9, 2004),” blandly observes that the recent fully established aerial bombing attacks by Khartoum “may mean that the bombing took place despite Government instructions to the contrary” (Section II, paragraph 11). Annan ignores both the context for the intense fighting in the Tawilla area of North Darfur (the primary focus of his comments) and ludicrously suggests that acts as consequential as aerial bombing attacks, in clear violation of a recently signed cease-fire agreement, might be the work of rogue elements within Khartoum’s military establishment. Whatever dissension among the NIF genocidaires in Khartoum, this notion of bombing taking place “despite Government instructions to the contrary” is simply not credible, and serves only as a means of asserting moral equivalence with the insurgents (who clearly do have both communications and command-and-control problems).
In Section III of his report Annan again blandly notes that:
“No progress was made with the disarmament of the Janjaweed in November. In accordance with paragraph 9 of Security Council Resolution 1564 (2004), any information on the arrest or disarmament of Janjaweed and other armed groups is to be provided by the Government [of Sudan] to the AU Ceasefire Commission (AUCFC). However, the AUCFC confirmed that it had not yet been invited to verify any disarmament activities by the government” (Section III, paragraph 12).
Annan goes on to remark, “there has also been no indication of the Government apprehending and bringing to justice Janjaweed leaders, which has been a central demand of the Security Council since its adoption of resolution 1556 (2004)” (Section IV, paragraph 16).
Honesty dictates that this deferential and disingenuous “diplomatese” be translated: Khartoum continues to flout—brazenly and contemptuously—clear international demands, demands that have taken many forms over the past five months. Instead of condemning this obduracy, instead of reiterating UN demands in more forceful terms, Annan’s simply registers the fact of Khartoum’s non-compliance. There is no judgment, no condemnation, and certainly no honest acknowledgement that any meaningful response to current insecurity and cease-fire violations must entail ending impunity for the Janjaweed. For ongoing Janjaweed predations provide the essential context in which to understand the fighting in Tawilla and surrounding villages in North Darfur, as well as the reported attacks on police in Kalma camp in South Darfur. The continuing recycling of Janjaweed into the ranks of police (see assessment from Human Rights Watch report above), and the close coordination between police and Khartoum’s brutally efficient security forces, are essential elements to any understanding of current violence in the camp environs, and yet Annan makes no mention of these key facts.
Finally, as if commenting on the mutual violation of rules at some sporting event, Annan makes the assertion of moral equivalence fully explicit in his concluding “Observations”:
“The rebel movements must realize that their recent aggression cannot be justified on the basis of self-defence or grievances that pre-date the 9 November [Abuja] agreement to cease hostile actions. For its part, the government should note that any military advantage it might reap from the use of aerial bombing is more than outweighed by the negative political consequences of breaking its commitments under the ceasefire agreement.” (paragraph 55)
It would be exceedingly difficult to parse fully the disingenuousness of these comments, or their deliberate omissions and highly partial nature. But the suggestion that Khartoum might fear “negative political consequences” as a result of violating the Abuja reiteration of previous ceasefire commitments is nothing short of shameless mendacity. Annan knows full well that Khartoum, on the contrary, has been considerably emboldened by the international community’s failure to hold the regime to numerous previous agreements. To suggest that there might now be some fear-inducing political fallout for Khartoum as a result of its continuing use of military resources is simply absurd. The regime will use, as circumstances permit, all its military resources; and it will certainly continue to accord full impunity to the brutally predatory Janjaweed.
Even in commenting on humanitarian issues, Annan’s inclination is to mislead. He declares, for example, that “[in November] the percentage of vulnerable persons accessible in Darfur as a whole fell from 90 to 80 percent” (Section VII, paragraph 26). But humanitarian access extended to nothing approaching 90% of the vulnerable populations in Darfur in October. Indeed, recent UN Darfur Humanitarian Profiles make clear that there is a huge conflict-affected population that is both inaccessible and unassessed. While in early October the UN claimed access to 87% of the estimated 2 million conflict-affected persons in known camps and communities, this did not include the more than 500,000 conflict-affected persons estimated to be surviving beyond the reach of any humanitarian agencies (this UN estimate comes from Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 6, September 2004). Counting both populations of conflict-affected persons yields a total of 2.5 million. The UN was able to reach only 1.8 million in October, and in many cases very superficially. But even using the figure of 1.8 million, this is only 72% of the total conflict-affected population.
And it is from this level that we saw a further 10% decline in November to approximately 62%. A more accurate census of conflict-affected persons beyond humanitarian reach may very well reduce the figure for those reached to approximately 50%, and in all too many cases those “reached” are provided with deeply inadequate supplies of food and critical non-food items (shelter, provision for clean water, sanitary facilities, basic medical care). A telling example appears in a recent study by the World Food Program and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“Emergency Nutrition Assessment of Crisis Affected Populations, Darfur Region,” based on data collected between September 2 and September 20, 2004):
“Of those households with a ration card [troublingly, only 78%—ER] that received a ration in September , more than half did not receive oil or pulses [leguminous foods] (64.5% and 72.8% respectively). [ ] More than half of households (57%) only received a cereal in the general ration in September.” (page 3)
This is simply not a diet that can sustain human beings for any extended period of time.
The National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum sees clearly the lack of resolve, the expediency, the disingenuousness that have consistently marked the international response to the regime’s bad faith. Certainly Khartoum welcomed the change of subject from Darfur to the north/south peace talks in the November meeting of the Security Council in Nairobi and the passage of resolution 1574 (November 19, 2004), a resolution so meaningless that Khartoum could do no less than welcome it. Nor was the shift in diplomatic strategy—from threats and demands to cynical financial inducements—lost on this group of ruthless survivalists.
This international encouragement of Khartoum’s current behavior no doubt lies behind the steadily more menacing threats to humanitarian organizations operating in Darfur. The expulsions of the country heads of operations for Oxfam International and Save the Children—for daring to criticize UN Security Council action and for reporting on Khartoum’s military bombing attacks—are only the first step. Though it was widely reported that the expulsion orders had been “suspended,” there can be little doubt about Khartoum’s determination to see its will done, if by more devious means. Associated Press reports on the de facto expulsion of the head of Oxfam’s operations:
“In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs told the Oxfam director that although his expulsion was postponed, he had to leave Sudan because he had applied for an exit visa. ‘You have to depart as soon as possible, so that you will not find yourself in breach of Sudanese immigration laws and procedures,’ the letter said.” (Associated Press, December 2, 2004)
Even Kofi Annan is obliged to note in his report to the Security Council that,
“during the last two weeks [of November], [Khartoum’s] process of issuing visas has slowed down for the nongovernmental organizations [NGOs] compared to previous months. In addition, some Government authorities seem to have hardened their position towards international NGOs in allowing them to continue their work unconditionally. The ability of NGOs to speak out about aspects of the crisis that affect their activities, as well as threats to the civilian populations from either side, should be preserved and fully respected” (Section VII, paragraph 28)
But there is no sign that Annan, the UN, or the international community is prepared to guarantee this “respect.” On the contrary, Khartoum seems to be gearing up for more expulsions and visa denials.
Moreover, there are strong signs that the regime may be on the verge of consolidating some of the geographic and demographic consequences of its genocidal assault on the African peoples of Darfur. The Washington Post recently reported [dateline Darfur]:
“More than a million Darfurians, driven from their ancestral homelands by government-backed Arab militias, could lose their land if authorities invoke a little-known law that allows the government to take over land abandoned for one year, relief officials and human rights groups said.”
“For centuries, Darfur residents have been allowed to own and distribute their land according to tribal customs. The rest of Sudan, however, is governed by the 1984 Sudan land tenure law. If imposed on Darfur, it would have dire implications for [ ] displaced inhabitants now living in squalid camps in Sudan or neighboring Chad. As tens of thousands of Darfurians approach the anniversary of fleeing their villages, there is growing suspicion among UN observers and international human rights groups that the Sudanese government plans to use the obscure law to keep the displaced—mostly African farmers—from reclaiming their land.”
“Tony Hall, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. World Food Program, who visited Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, last week. ‘The effects of this could be horrendous. Even if you get the displaced to go home, they would not own their land anymore. They might have to rent it or be forever homeless. I think we would then see a conflict and death toll that would be horrifying.'” (Washington Post, December 3, 2004)
The Post article provides appropriate historical context for those who are skeptical that Khartoum would proceed in such a fashion:
“Analysts said official efforts to move populations, part of a plan to solidify power and control resources, have been going on for decades. ‘Moving people off of land is part of a long pattern on the part of the government of Sudan,’ said John Prendergast of the nonprofit International Crisis Group. [ ] In the 1980s, the government forcibly moved the Dinka population from the Bahr al-Ghazal area of southwest Sudan, where slave raiding, mass displacement and bombings became the norm, he said. In the early 1990s, government-backed militias burned huts and seized fertile land in the central Nuba Mountains region. Later in the decade, longtime residents of the Upper Nile oil fields were trucked off their land when the government wanted to start drilling for oil, human rights groups have reported. Now, international observers say, the same thing could easily happen in Darfur.” (Washington Post, December 3, 2004)
These are historical facts that provide essential context for understanding present human destruction and displacement in Darfur. Those ignorant of Khartoum’s previous genocidal ambitions are likely to fail in recognizing those same ghastly ambitions in Darfur.
Kofi Annan and others wish to promulgate the notion of “moral equivalence” despite the genocidal realities so fully and authoritatively chronicled by human rights organizations and other reporting bodies. But recent evidence strongly suggests the terrible asymmetry in violence throughout Darfur. For example, the recent shooting of an African Union peacekeeper “occurred as a team of ceasefire monitors were travelling to the village of Adwah in north Nyala, to investigate an alleged bombing by the government in breach of a ceasefire agreement with rebels” (UN IRIN, December 3, 2004). Which party in the conflict has a motive for such an unprecedented shooting incident and the obstruction of this investigation?
In another incident, the role of the Janjaweed, though not explicitly stated, seems beyond doubt:
“On Tuesday [November 30, 2004], armed men had attacked a village in the western Sudanese state of North Darfur forcing about 2,000 internally displaced persons to flee from their homes, the medical charity Mdecins Sans Frontires reported. ‘We are not sure who was behind the attack,’ Wyger Wentholt, MSF regional information officer told IRIN. ‘What our people on the ground were told by the IDPs was that the attackers were suspected to be a pro-government militia.'” (UN IRIN, December 3, 2004)
It is simply impossible to account for such an attack except as another episode of Janjaweed destruction. The Sudan Organization Against Torture reports a very similar attack in North Darfur, explicitly attributed to the Janjaweed, in a press release of December 3, 2004:
“On 28 November 2004, a group of Janjaweed militia composed of 300 fighters on horse back allegedly launched an attack on Jenjanat village, 20 km east of Taweela [Tawilla] in Northern Darfur state and destroyed 200 houses and looted the villagers’ livestock. During the attack, around 17 people were killed and 3 wounded.” (SOAT human rights report, December 3, 2004)
Clearly Khartoum is continuing to use the Janjaweed as a military force, one not formally bound by any cease-fire agreement. And because there have been no consequences for its contemptuous refusal to respect international demands and agreements, the regime is now fully convinced that there will be no future consequences.
The movement toward “moral equivalence,” on the part of the UN, the US, and various other international actors is—in the context of ongoing genocide—the ultimate betrayal of justice and moral responsibility. Though some actions by the insurgents must be strongly criticized, there is nothing that can be measured against the massive, deliberate destruction of the African peoples of Darfur. They are the victims of genocide. A failure to acknowledge their suffering and terrible losses is the only betrayal left to the international community. This betrayal has begun.
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