For over three weeks the Khartoum regime has denied flight access to the US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team based in Khartoum; the regime has also denied flight access to the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) in Rumbek for over two weeks. These are clear and flagrant violations of obligations incurred by Khartoum under both the March 2002 agreement that created the CPMT and the February 4, 2003 cease-fire “Addendum” that created a Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT), whose mandates have been folded into those of the CPMT. Perversely, these violations of agreements designed to protect southern civilians from the worst human rights abuses committed by Khartoum come just as France and other European countries, especially Sweden, are working in Geneva to eliminate human rights scrutiny in Sudan by doing away with the mandate for the UN Special Rapporteur. For the people of Sudan, this is a tragic, if all too telling a match of European hypocrisy with US ineptitude and indifference.
Eric Reeves [April 4, 2003]
Smith College email@example.com
Northampton, MA 01063 413-585-3326
France has loudly trumpeted its “principled” opposition to the war in Iraq, and the need to use international mechanisms to address serious human rights issues. But evidently French “principles” don’t include a willingness to insure that the denial of humanitarian aid won’t be used as a weapon of war by Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime. There seems no “principle” requiring that Khartoum be held accountable for deliberate helicopter gunship attacks on civilians and civilian livelihood. French “principles” don’t entail insuring that a UN Special Rapporteur will scrutinize the savagery that has defined Khartoum’s continuing scorched-earth clearances in the oil regions of southern Sudan, where France’s TotalFinaElf has enormous concession rights.
Sweden, of course, is home to Lundin Petroleum, which has recently resumed operations amidst the carnage in Western Upper Nile, south of Bentiu. This shameless hypocrisy on the part of France and Sweden—and other European countries that see Sudan primarily in terms of oil wealth—comes even as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Sudan Human Rights Organization (Cairo), the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Regional Conference, a consortium of Canadian human rights and church groups, and many others have strenuously called for maintaining a UN Special Rapporteur for Sudan. But without dramatic changes, neither the UN Special Rapporteur nor the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team will be able to bear witness to Khartoum’s ongoing savagery in southern Sudan.
There has been as yet no public response from the US State Department’s Africa Bureau to Khartoum’s brazen violation of the terms of deployment for the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team: “unhindered flight access” and presenting “no obstacle to [CPMT] visits taking place as soon as possible after the report of the alleged incident has been received” (page 4, “Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to Protect Non-Combatant Civilians and Civilian Facilities from Military Attack,” Article 2). These words, and Khartoum’s formal ratification of them in March 2002, are now meaningless—like so many other words, and so many other agreements Khartoum has signed. Serious reports of attacks by Khartoum’s regular and militia forces are presently going without investigation, and this will be the case for the foreseeable future.
It also becomes clearer that no serious diplomatic groundwork has been undertaken by the US State Department’s Africa Bureau in anticipation of European expediency at the UN Human Rights Commission, meeting now in Geneva. Nor have there been meaningful diplomatic efforts to secure help from the African nations represented in Geneva. This is yet another example of the State Department’s Africa Bureau, and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner, failing to respond to the moral urgency of Sudan’s catastrophe. This is especially dismaying since the UN Special Rapporteur for Sudan has been so explicit about the need for his mandate to be renewed. The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reports:
“On 28 March, Special Rapporteur Baum told a briefing at the UN Human Rights Commission that he had seen ‘no fundamental change’ since his last visit to the country, in spite of further commitments by the government. ‘The country remains under the iron-tight grip of the omnipresent security apparatus, which continues to enjoy virtual impunity,’ he added.” (IRIN, April 4, 2003)
In short, a mixture of expediency, incompetence, cynicism, and indifference has exposed all those Sudanese who oppose Khartoum’s tyranny to much greater danger of suffering serious human rights abuses. Declarations of “principle” on the international stage by nations such as France seem especially hypocritical in these circumstances, and immensely destructive of efforts to use international mechanisms to address situations of conflict.
For there can be no doubt about how the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum assesses its prospective victory in Geneva, and the lack of a forceful US response to the grounding of the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team. Yet again, Khartoum has neither abided by signed agreements nor improved its abominable human rights record—and yet its international rehabilitation proceeds apace. Under such circumstances, there is simply no imperative for the regime to negotiate a just peace with the people of southern Sudan and other marginalized areas of the country. The failure to see the nexus between the prospects for peace and the imperatives of human rights observance has evidently become endemic to the Machakos process.
How else to explain the bizarre disconnection between international assessments of success at Machakos and the realities on the ground in southern Sudan? For example, Jim Lobe, a distinguished journalist writing for OneWorld US, has recently reported:
“More than half a million Sudanese, most from oil-producing regions in the southern part of the country, were forced to flee government forces and government-backed militias during the past year, according to a report released Monday in Geneva by the Global IDP [Internally Displaced Persons] Project” (WASHINGTON, DC, April 1, 2003, OneWorld).
This brings the total in Sudan to an estimated 4.5 million—far and away the largest population of its kind in the world, and certainly one of the most vulnerable, especially to human rights abuses. Without a consistently viable Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, and without a renewed mandate for the UN Special Rapporteur, these people—disproportionately women and children—will be all the more vulnerable. One needs no rhetorically inflated “principles” to know that this is profoundly wrong, and that indifference to such wrongs makes a mockery of the very idea of an “international community.”
Below is a roster of countries that will play a determining role in assessing Khartoum’s human rights record in Geneva (all can be contacted, either in their embassies abroad or in their foreign ministries; particular contact information can be obtained at www.google.com [enter the name of the country, the words “embassy” or “foreign ministry” and the city in which the embassy or foreign minister is located: e.g., France+government+”foreign ministry”+ Paris]):
United States, France, United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Greece, and Holland;
African countries, evidently committed to an “African unity” that abandons the African people of southern Sudan to Khartoum’s tyranny, include:
Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe;
The UN Human Rights Commission is chaired, absurdly, by Libya.