June 25, 2004
With so much conspicuous and compelling evidence of genocide in Darfur, with impending visits to the region by US Secretary of State Colin Powell (scheduled for June 29, 2004) and by UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan, with a powerful and growing chorus of voices declaring that the vast human destruction in Darfur is in fact genocide, why does the National Islamic Front regime continue to impede humanitarian access? Why does the regime refuse to rein in the Janjaweed militias that have been allies in so much genocidal destruction? Why does the regime continue with its preposterous claims and denials? (A small sampling of the regime’s recent brazen remarks and actions:
“Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir has accused unnamed ‘foreigners’ of trying to take advantage of the crisis in the western region of Darfur to intervene in Sudan’s affairs, an Egyptian daily reported Thursday. ‘Foreign circles, conscious that a new phase has begun concerning the problem of south (Sudan) in a healthy way, are trying to find a substitute gate in Darfur to intervene in Sudanese affairs.'” (Agence France-Presse, June 24, 2004)
“The United Nations has confirmed that humanitarian conditions in the Darfur states have improved and that difficulties encountered in delivering aid have been reduced,” declares the regime-controlled Al Sahafa [Khartoum] newspaper. (UN Daily Press Review, May 30, 2004)
“The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Ibrahim Mahmood Hamid described the report by the United Nations Human Rights Envoy [Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions] Asma Jahangir as inaccurate and based on information she received without ascertaining its validity.
(UN Daily Press Review, June 15, 2004, Sudan Vision [Khartoum])
“[NIF First Vice President] Taha accused the international media of deliberately magnifying the scale of the humanitarian problem in the region. He also claimed that the conflict was fabricated by the West.” (Agence France-Presse [Cairo], June 16, 2004)]
“[NIF President Omer Beshir] directed relevant ministries to distribute seeds to Internally Displaced persons to make ‘a success [of] the current agricultural season.'”
(UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [IRIN], June 24, 2004)
But of course the planting season has already been missed for Darfur, and Beshir’s Janjaweed militia allies are responsible for burning and destroying nearly all seed stocks.
Whence this shameless mendacity on the part of Khartoum? How can it remain for US Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios to declare yesterday of humanitarian access in Darfur:
“Despite frequent Sudanese government announcements about ‘all the things they’ve done to improve things,’ virtually nothing has changed on the ground. ‘They’ve got to stop stonewalling the relief effort,’ Natsios said of the government.” (Associated Press, June 24, 2004)
But this of course raises the essential question: why has the regime “got to” stop stonewalling humanitarian efforts? This “stonewalling” has been going on for months without consequence or punitive actions. Indeed, Tom Eric Vraalsen, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs for Sudan made the point with emphasis over half a year ago in December 2003, at a time when forceful and determined international demands for humanitarian access could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives now destined to be lost:
“Delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations in need is hampered mostly by *systematically denied access* [latter phrase emphasized in text]. While [Khartoum’s] authorities claim unimpeded access, they greatly restrict access to the areas under their control, while imposing blanket denial to all rebel-held areas.”
(Tom Vraalsen, Note to the Emergency Relief Coordinator; “Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis in Darfur,” December 8, 2003)
More than half a year later the situation is fundamentally unchanged. Indeed, despite a ramping up of humanitarian relief efforts, the situation is in many ways worse. Reserve foodstocks have been depleted in the intervening months, even as the international community has failed to pre-position remotely adequate foodstocks in anticipation of the current rainy season. Huge populations of Internally Displaced Persons have been forced into concentration camps with no humanitarian access, and are utterly at the mercy of the Janjaweed. The rains have now begun even in North Darfur state, and roads are becoming impassable. Not only is there not nearly enough pre-positioned food or medical supplies, but humanitarian access reaches fewer than 50% of those in need—and this percentage appears set to decline with the rains. These are the factors that will produce casualties in the hundreds of thousands; this is how Khartoum’s engineered genocide will accomplish itself.
Indeed, the US Agency for International Development has recently released an extraordinarily important map that is in effect a guide to the path of genocidal destruction (available at: http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/darfur.html; discussed below). The map, representing cartographically the data presented yesterday by Andrew Natsios to Kofi Annan, shows both villages destroyed as well as the relative accessibility of known camps for the internally displaced during the current rainy season. A terrifyingly large number of the camps are designated as: “Internally Displaced Persons camp not accessible during the rainy season, June to September.” The vulnerability of these people is total. For not only is there no overland access, the areas are in many cases too insecure for a humanitarian presence.
Khartoum remorselessly calculates that these people will die invisibly, and that the bodies will be scattered or obscured by weather, remoteness, and desperate flight For we must understand that not only is no one coming to help these people, they have nowhere to go: their villages have been destroyed. Eltigani Ateem, former governor of Darfur, estimates that of the roughly three thousand villages [“it is difficult to give an accurate count”] in all of Darfur: “To my knowledge villages which have not been torched so far are a handful to the North East of Zalingi [West Darfur] and some villages around Nyala [South Darfur]; otherwise virtually all Fur villages have been torched. In North Darfur all the villages of the indigenous populations have been torched” (assessment received by e-mail, June 25, 2004).
Another assessment, from a Darfurian who works in a professional international human rights capacity, reported the following details of current levels of destruction:
“There are at least a couple of thousand villages in Western Darfur (an area I am fully familiar with). This area has only four urban centers, Geniena, Kass, Zalingie and Garsila. It is densely populated compared to Northern Darfur. [ ] All the villages between Morni and Zalingie (more than 60) have been wiped out during the last six months. Likewise, over one hundred villages between Garsila and Zalingie no longer exist.
“The far western part of the region is known as Dar-Masalit (Homeland of the Masalit). Most of the inhabitants of this part have long been forced to flee to Chad (even before the advent of the SLA and JEM).
“[In South Darfur] almost all the Fur villages have been razed to the ground, including some big one such as Shataya, Um-Labbasa and Mokjar.
“In Northern Darfur there are also over a thousand villages. [ ] In this region over 300 villages have been torched this last year alone. These are the Fur and Zaghawa villages.” (received by e-mail June 25, 2004)
This is the context in which to understand the much-reported data on village destruction released yesterday by US Agency for International Development Administrator Natsios:
“US AID released updated figures Thursday saying satellite photos of 578 villages in the Darfur region found that 301 were destroyed, 76 damaged and 199 intact. Two were determined to be old ruins. The U.S. agency also obtained photographs of 87 villages in neighboring Chad, in the area bordering Darfur, and reported that eight were destroyed, 24 damaged and 55 not damaged. More than 100,000 refugees from western Sudan have fled across the border into Chad.”
“Satellite photos show that about 56,000 houses have been destroyed in nearly 400 villages in fighting in the Darfur region of western Sudan and the destruction has spread into neighboring Chad.”
“[Natsios] blamed the devastation on Arab militias known as the Janjaweed which have killed and routed local Africans and are linked to the Sudanese government. U.S. experts estimate that about 400,000 people once lived in the 56,000 mud brick houses with conical-shaped roofs known as tukels that were destroyed in Darfur, he said. Thousands more lived in 32 villages across the border in Chad that have been destroyed or damaged.”
As important as these data are, they are clearly only partial; they by no means represent complete census or assessment of the villages destroyed. Moreover, we must also understand the significance of the villages that have not been destroyed. In an inset to the US AID map, one of the findings of a UN assessment team is reported:
“The 23 villages in the Shattaya Administrative Unit have been completely depopulated, looted and burnt to the ground (the team observed several such sites driving through the area for days. Meanwhile, dotted alongside these charred locations are unharmed, populated and functioning ‘Arab’ settlements. In some locations, the distance between a destroyed Fur village and an ‘Arab’ village is less than 500 meters.” (United Nations Interagency Fact Finding and Rapid Assessment Mission, UN Resident Coordinator, April 25, 2004)
This is further confirmation of the evidence of genocide, the systematic and deliberate destruction of the African tribal groups, their villages, and their means of living. It comports precisely with what was reported by the International Crisis Group in December, and by many others subsequently.
“Government-supported militias deliberately target civilians from the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massalit groups, who are viewed as ‘Africans’ in Darfur and form the bulk of the Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality ethnic base. [ ] The latest attacks [by the government-supported Arab militias] occurred deep inside the Fur tribal domain, against unprotected villages with *no apparent link to the rebels other than their ethnic profile* [emphasis added].” (International Crisis Group, “Sudan: towards an Incomplete Peace,” December 11, 2003; available at http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=2416)
Until very recently, the world has refused to hear the voices that have carried the message of genocide. The simple declaration of an African tribal leader last December (2003), saying so much, went largely unheeded:
“‘I believe this is an elimination of the black race,’ one [African] tribal leader told IRIN” (UN IRIN, Junaynah [Darfur], December 11, 2003)
But there have been many other voices, and many reports recording these testimonies of genocide. Amnesty International heard many of these voices in its January 2003 research—numerous testimonies giving terrible authority to the conviction of genocide (the report was published on February 3, 2004; available at http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR540082004):
“A refugee farmer from the village of Kishkish reported the words used by the militia: ‘You are Black and you are opponents. You are our slaves, the Darfur region is in our hands and you are our herders.'”(Amnesty International Report, page 28)
“A civilian from Jafal confirmed [he was] told by the Janjawid: ‘You are opponents to the regime, we must crush you. As you are Black, you are like slaves. Then all the Darfur region will be in our hands. The government is on our side. The government plane is on our side to give us ammunition and food.'” (Amnesty International Report, page 28)
“A local chief in the Abu Gamra area, between Tina and Kornoy, painted the extent of the destruction in his village. [ ] The Arabs burnt all our houses, took all the goods from the market. A bulldozer destroyed houses. [The Arabs] said the wanted to conquer the whole territory and that the Blacks did not have a right to remain in the region.” (Amnesty International Report, page 20)
More recently (March 25, 2004) a “Briefing Paper on the Darfur Crisis” was prepared by a group of concerned humanitarian workers in Darfur who requested that the UN Humanitarian Coordinator bring their findings to the attention of the international community. Among these findings:
“In spite of attempts made to negotiate, [the Janjaweed] make it clear that the Government of Sudan has now given them a mandate to make these areas ‘Zurga free’ (Zurga is a derogatory term for Black) and that they represent the Government of Sudan in the area. Violence is systematically reported, people killed (especially males), goods including cattle looted, and houses burned. If people do not move immediately, a second more deadly attack is launched, and civilians are left with no option but to move away to the nearest ‘safe haven,’ which is usually also attacked within the next few days.” (March 25, 2004; full report in original format available upon request)
Must not the idea of “Zurga free” areas remind us, with relentless historical force, of the Nazi notion of a “Judenfrei Europe”? But indecision remains on the part of the Bush administration, as testimony yesterday by Pierre-Richard Prosper, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, indicates:
“The United States sees ‘indicators of genocide’ in Darfur, Sudan, but Darfur must be ‘opened up’ to the international community before that can be confirmed, Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, told the U.S. Congress June 23, 2004.” (US State Department document, at http://allafrica.com/stories/200406250141.html)
But what could be more perversely foolish than expecting that the Khartoum regime, knowing of its own genocidal actions and knowing that the US State Department has “indicators of genocide,” will “open up” Darfur? On the contrary, Khartoum is doing all it can to obstruct investigations into war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. As Ambassador Prosper well knows, Khartoum has continuously deployed substantial military assets, including aerial assets, to remove evidence at various sites of atrocities, has removed bodies, has obscured mass graves (the rains will help immensely in this effort), has re-located various of the more notorious Janjaweed commanders to elsewhere in Sudan, and has increasingly incorporated the Janjaweed into the regular army forces. And certainly Ambassador Prosper must be aware of Khartoum’s continued obstruction of a UN human rights investigating team in April 2004. Khartoum’s “opening up” Darfur for a genocide investigation? This is beyond foolishness; this is moral betrayal.
Not everyone requires more than the massive evidence that has already come in the form of countless reports from within Darfur and the Chad/Darfur border area. In the words of the distinguished Justice Richard Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, having reviewed the findings of a June 23, 2004 assessment report from Physicians for Human Rights:
“After all that we know and have learned from the last decade’s genocides and mass atrocities, it is unconscionable for the world to witness these crimes [in Darfur] and fail to take steps to protect and save the lives of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. We owe it to the victims of Darfur and potential victims to do everything we can to prevent and account for what the PHR report establishes is genocide and reverse the intolerable acts of forcing entire populations from their land, destroying their livelihood and making it virtually impossible to return.'”
(“Physicians for Human Rights Calls for Intervention to Save Lives in Sudan: Field Team Compiles Indicators of Genocide,” June 23, 2004; at http://www.phrusa.org/research/sudan/)
The Physicians for Human Rights report declares:
“Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has gathered compelling information that a genocidal process is unfolding in Darfur, Sudan. The terms of the Genocide Convention commit parties to the Convention to act to prevent when there are indicators that there is intent to destroy, physically or mentally, in whole or in part, a group on the basis of ethnicity, language, religion, or race [PHR here references the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide].”
(“Physicians for Human Rights Calls for Intervention to Save Lives in Sudan: Field Team Compiles Indicators of Genocide,” June 23, 2004)
The US Committee for Refugees declared on June 14, 2004:
“Khartoum continues its genocide in Darfur. The U.S. Committee for Refugees again urges President Bush to exercise decisive political will to stop the genocide and save hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.
“[USCR Executive Director Lavinia Limon declared]: ‘The failure of President Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead the world to stop the genocide is shameful and indefensible. It is not too late for the President to act to save hundreds of thousands of lives, but time is running out.'” (US Committee for Refugees Press Release, June 14, 2004)
At yesterday’s extraordinary event in the Hall of Witness at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (“Bearing Witness for Darfur: Can We Prevent Genocide in Sudan?”), Jerry Fowler, Staff Director for the Museum’s Committee on Conscience, noted:
“It’s extraordinary that we’re bringing to a halt the normal activities of the Holocaust Museum to stress the danger of genocide today.”
Fowler, who recently returned from an assessment trip to the Chad/Darfur border, concluded by saying:
“The time to act in Darfur is now. It’s now. The obligation to prevent genocide is a legal one and a moral one. Too often in the past, as this Museum starkly illustrates, warnings have been received and ignored and the result has been death and suffering on a massive scale. It’s time for us to stop saying ‘never again,’ and start saying, ‘not this time.’ Not this time.”
(transcript of remarks by Jerry Fowler, Staff Director, Committee on Conscience, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, June 24, 2004)
Representing the International Crisis Group (Brussels) in testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (June 15, 2004), John Prendergast spoke of unfolding “evidence of conditions of genocide,” and then declared that “in the International Crisis Group’s judgment, the situation in Darfur more than satisfies the Genocide Convention’s conditions for multilateral preventive action” (testimony at: http://allafrica.com/stories/200406160578.html).
Africa Action launched a petition drive concerning genocide in Darfur by declaring that, “the term ‘genocide’ [ ] captures the fundamental characteristics of the Khartoum government’s intent and actions in western Sudan” (Africa Action Press Release, June 15, 2004). The petition (accessible at www.africaaction.org/) now has over 15,000 signatures.
In speaking on June 18, 2004 to the question of whether Khartoum’s conduct of war in Darfur constitutes genocide, the highly authoritative researchers of Justice Africa declared unambiguously, explicitly referencing the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, “there is no doubt that the answer is yes” (“Sudan: Justice Africa Analysis,” http://allafrica.com/stories/200406180714.html).
In March 2004, then UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan Mukesh Kapila declared:
“‘The only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved’ [said Kapila]. ‘[The slaughter in Darfur] 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)
“‘I was present in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, and I’ve seen many other situations around the world and I am totally shocked at what is going on in Darfur.” (BBC, March 19, 2004)
[Of the ethnic slaughter Kapila declared:] “‘Under those circumstances one can only conclude that it is state-sanctioned,'” and that “war crimes tribunals must be held to try those responsible for raping, looting and killing in African villages in Sudan’s western Darfur region. [ ] ‘The individuals who are doing this are known. We have their names. The individuals who are involved occupy senior positions.'” (Reuters [Khartoum], March 26, 2004)
What more can Ambassador Prosper and the Bush administration State Department require in making a determination of genocide, or—more to the point—deciding on a course of action governed by Prosper’s declaration that “we see indicators of genocide, and there is evidence that points in that direction [of genocide]” (fuller quote from the Washington Post, June 25, 2004)? Even finding “indicators of genocide,” and “evidence that points in that direction”—with so many hundreds of thousands of lives clearly at risk—obliges US preventative action as a contracting party to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide (Article 1).
Such action must not consist of another UN resolution that fails to include clear means for securing full and immediate humanitarian access:
“U.S. officials disclosed that the Bush administration was drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution that would sharply criticize Sudan for failing to halt the violence and demand that it grant broader access for humanitarian relief workers.” (Washington Post, June 25, 2004)
The last months have proved definitively that Khartoum will not respond merely to criticism, and that any promises the regime might make about improving humanitarian access are both meaningless and now woefully belated and inadequate. The brazenness of the regime’s comments on Darfur (see above) have been fully matched by its obduracy in impeding humanitarian access. As violence continues throughout Darfur, as huge populations remain trapped in camps to which there is diminishing (or no) access and within which there is exploding morbidity, as mass executions and gang-rapes continue, as foodstocks become ever more depleted, humanitarian intervention is urgently required.
Such intervention must both stop current violence against civilians by bringing the camps under full military control, and reverse the effects of months of genocidal efforts (“deliberately inflicting on the African groups of Darfur conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction”). Ultimately the international community must oversee the disarming of the Janjaweed or security will never return to the rural areas, and agricultural production will not resume.
The US should, with as many allies as possible but alone if necessary, introduce a UN Security Council resolution authorizing immediate humanitarian intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. If this resolution fails, or is stalled, the US should seek to create as broad a coalition as possible to mount a humanitarian intervention without UN authorization, invoking its contractual obligations under the Genocide Convention. A final State Department determination concerning genocide need not be made; a finding of “indicators of genocide” and “evidence that points in that direction [of genocide]” is sufficient under the Genocide Convention (Article 1) to obligate the US to “prevent genocide.”
The time-frame should be days, not weeks. The past months of delay, acquiescence, confusion, and moral weakness must be brought precipitously to an end. The current mortality data indicate that 5,000 human beings are dying every week, and that number is set to rise precipitously. We must act with an urgency commensurate with the crisis. Virtually all the deaths to date (pushing rapidly toward 100,000) are the direct result of a genocide that could have been prevented; these alone should be enough to justify the most urgent action.
But to our shame—again—we are already too late to save additional hundreds of thousands doomed to perish from famine and disease no matter what action is taken. It is our grim obligation to accept that even in the face of such vast failure, we must act rapidly or additional hundreds of thousands of lives will be lost to genocide.
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