July 1, 2004
For all the symbolic importance of trips by Kofi Annan and Colin Powell to Khartoum and Darfur over the past two days, there is only one way to measure the significance of these well-choreographed events: do they move the international community closer to the humanitarian intervention that alone can significantly mitigate massive genocidal destruction? Judging by the exceedingly weak resolution floated by the US in the United Nations Security Council, and by Kofi Annan’s relentlessly nebulous comments on a UN response to the Darfur crisis, the answer must be no.
PROPOSED U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION
The resolution proposed by the US would have the UN Security Council “impose an arms embargo and travel ban on Arab militias blamed for attacks on African villagers in Darfur” (Associated Press, July 1, 2004). The draft resolution requires that the Security Council “decide after 30 days whether the arms embargo and travel ban against the militias should be extended to others ‘responsible for the commission of atrocities in Darfur'” (BBC, July 1, 2004).
It is difficult to imagine a more inconsequential resolution. The Janjaweed militia have already been extremely heavily armed by Khartoum, and as Human Rights Watch has insistently pointed out, have increasingly been coordinating with and incorporated into Khartoum’s regular military forces. An “arms embargo” that does not include the Khartoum regime, that does not include those who supply arms to these brutal militia forces, is worse than useless. For this conveys a sense, through the authority of the Security Council, that something meaningful is being done when this is patently not true.
A travel ban on the Janjaweed militia leaders is even more pointless. Most of these men have no ambition to travel; many have already been moved within Sudan and if necessary can be given new identifications, and identity documents. These will be provided by the very security organs within the Khartoum regime that have overseen the Janjaweed’s destruction and atrocities in Darfur.
Moreover, the expansive 30-day time-frame for deciding whether further action should be taken makes a mockery of the urgency defining the unfolding catastrophe in Darfur. Recent data from Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres help to substantiate a gross mortality figure of over 100,000 for the past 16 months (see below). Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, reported recently that the “number of black Africans killed by Arab militias in the Darfur region of Sudan is ‘bound to be staggering'”:
“Ms. Jahangir said that during her visit, ‘nearly every third or fourth family’ she spoke to in the camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) within Darfur had lost a relative to the militias. ‘It’s very hard to say [accurately] how many people have been killed,’ she said, but interviews with IDPs indicated it would be ‘quite a large number. They are bound to be staggering.'” (UN News Centre, June 29, 2004)
It is indeed difficult to extrapolate from Jahangir’s statistical generalization about bereft families in Darfur, but it strongly suggests a number in excess of 100,000.
Mortality figures and projections from the US Agency for International Development continue to be ignored by most wire services and news media reports on Darfur, despite the authoritative research that lies behind them (at: www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/cmr_darfur.pdf). Assuming with the UN, the European Union, and the US a figure of 2.2 to 2.3 million “war-affected” persons in Darfur (see analysis by this writer, “Quantifying Genocide in Darfur,” June 28, 2004; available upon request), and assuming the current US AID Gross Mortality Rate (GMR) of 4 people per day per population of ten thousand, then the weekly mortality total is approximately 7,000. This suggests that even if a Security Council resolution were to pass within the week, more than 30,000 will have died before the Security Council considers follow-up action. By that time, US AID data indicate that the Crude Mortality Rate will be 10 persons per day per population of 10,000, or more than 15,000 people dying every week.
This will be the height of the rainy season (which has almost fully arrived); transport difficulties will be at their greatest; humanitarian intervention will then be most difficult.
COLIN POWELL AND U.S. POLICY ON DARFUR
What accounts for US willingness to support such an exceedingly weak resolution? Much of the answer apparently lies in the US understanding that no stronger resolution would have a chance in the Security Council. Indeed, it is reliably reported that Permanent Member China (with veto power) is unhappy with any resolution that is specific to Darfur. Russia is similarly disposed, as are Algeria and Pakistan. No one following the internal deliberations at the Security Council feels that any form of humanitarian intervention will be agreed to by China—certainly not for the foreseeable future.
Colin Powell may believe, as the Associated Press reports, that a Security Council resolution will get the attention of Khartoum’s leadership:
“As a stick, Powell warned that the United States might take the issue to the U.N. Security Council if Sudan ignored the problem. He believes that got [National Islamic Front President Omar] Bashir’s attention because no government wants the stigma of Security Council sanctions.” (Associated Press, July 1, 2004)
But this is merely wishful thinking. Khartoum has endured international opprobrium on many occasions, and has always outlasted all who have attempted to rebuke this evil. The regime, without international humanitarian intervention, will do what it has done for the past fifteen years of brutal tyranny, persisting in a ruthless and resourceful survivalism (the regime came to power by military coup exactly 15 years ago, June 30, 1989, deposing an elected government and aborting a promising peace process with southern Sudan).
In Darfur, Khartoum’s efforts will likely entail marginally improving some features of humanitarian access, and promising much more. But we should recall what NIF Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail declared on the eve of Colin Powell’s arrival: “‘there is no famine, no malnutrition and no disease [in Darfur]'” (Associated Press, June 29, 2004). Such gross and shameless dishonesty tells us all we need know about the worth of Khartoum’s promises. There may also be a few symbolic arrests of Janjaweed scapegoats or stage-managed “disarming” ceremonies. But again, we should recall that President Beshir promised on May 25, 2004 to rein in the Janjaweed; as numerous reports from the ground make clear this simply has not happened, and the massive violence that has claimed many tens of thousands of civilian lives (see below) continues remorselessly.
THE U.S. (NON)DETERMINATION OF GENOCIDE IN DARFUR
With the UN Security Council so exceedingly unlikely to provide the Chapter VII authority for such intervention, the only authority for international action comes in the form of the obligations deriving from the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It is of particular consequence, then, that Colin Powell offered such a deeply misleading and confusing explanation concerning a determination of genocide in Darfur (interview with National Public Radio, June 30, 2004, from Sudan):
“[There are] some indicators [of genocide in Darfur] but there was certainly no full accounting of all indicators that lead to a legal definition of genocide, in accordance with the terms of the genocidal [sic] treaties.” (NPR transcript, June 30, 2004)
This sentence is suspiciously opaque; listeners and readers may be forgiven for failing to understand what is meant by “full accounting of all indicators” or even “indicators.” There is in any event only one “genocidal treaty” to which the US is party, and crucially it demands that the US undertake to “prevent genocide.” It is not clear what other “genocidal treaties” Secretary Powell had in mind, but the language of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide includes “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” All available evidence, now voluminous, makes clear that this clause describes, with terrifying precision, Khartoum’s intention and relentless actions in Darfur.
It is thus incumbent upon the Bush administration State Department to answer much more clearly a series of questions that have grown steadily more exigent since the announcement on June 11, 2004 that a genocide determination had begun:
 When did the effort at a determination begin? When is it expected to be made? Is there any relation between the timing of this determination and actions at the UN Security Council? (Of course there should not be, but there is more than a whiff of expediency in the air.)
 What evidence is missing? What evidentiary threshold(s) has not been met?
 Is there doubt about Khartoum’s intent to “deliberately inflict on the African tribal groups of Darfur conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part”? What is any such skepticism based upon?
 Both the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and senior officials of the US Agency for International Development have described the human destruction in Darfur as “ethnic cleansing.” What is the difference between “ethnic cleansing” and genocide? What does the latter term comprise that the former term does not? Is there any reason to believe that the phrase “ethnic cleansing” is anything other than a “euphemistic halfway house” between crimes against humanity and genocide (as Samantha Power has put the issue)?
 US Ambassador at large Pierre-Richard Prosper has declared in Congressional testimony that: “We see indicators of genocide, and there is evidence that points in the direction [of genocide]” (Congressional testimony before the House International Relations Committee, June 25, 2004; at http://allafrica.com/stories/200406250749.html).
Why are such “indicators” and “evidence” of genocide not enough to obligate us (per Article 1 of the Genocide Convention) to “prevent genocide” now, rather than waiting for a full legal determination? How far short of the threshold for “prevention” are we? What further evidence or indicators are required to reach this threshold?
 Secretary Powell also declares in his interview with National Public Radio that:
“To spend a great deal of time arguing about the definition of what the situation is isn’t as important as identifying where the people are who are in need.” (NPR transcript, June 30, 2004)
But the argument isn’t over “definition” but whether the realities of Darfur match the definition offered in the Genocide Convention. And to suggest that such determination is unimportant or unrelated to the humanitarian task at hand is either ignorance or disingenuousness. Certainly Powell’s comment forces another question: Is there some basis for international humanitarian intervention in Darfur other than a Security Council resolution or fulfillment of obligations under the Genocide Convention?
SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN AND DARFUR
These questions require answers, and the urgency must be commensurate with the scale of human destruction—achieved and impending. That urgency is at least declared by Kofi Annan on the occasion of his own trip to Darfur: “UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Sudan’s government that he wants to see progress within 48 hours resolving a bitter conflict in the Darfur region” (Associated Press, July 1, 2004). But what does this mean? What are the consequences if there is no “progress” within the next 48 hours? And what constitutes “progress”? What are the benchmarks by which we can measure it?
Annan seems now to have determined upon a course of saying the right things, making the requisite appearance in Darfur—and then leaving the real work to others. While invoking again the threat of military force to protect the civilians of Darfur, this threat was first sounded on April 7, 2004 (on the grim anniversary of the Rwandan genocide). It has a conspicuously hollow sound when issued again only after three long months of a deepening crisis have passed. Informed sources at the UN in New York indicate that Annan has done none of the urgent lobbying of Security Council members that is dictated by the crisis.
Indeed, Annan still cannot bring himself to use the terms genocide or “ethnic cleansing” to describe Darfur’s realities, despite the emphatically repeated statements by Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland that Khartoum’s orchestrated violence continues to be directed against civilians in a “scorched-earth” campaign of “ethnic cleansing”:
“‘These are totally defenceless people,’ he said. ‘Women and children for the most part, and those who kill them are grown men with Kalashnikov automatic rifles.'” (BBC June 4, 2004)
MORTALITY FROM VIOLENT KILLINGS IN DARFUR
What is the scale of such violent destruction? As noted above, Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, reported recently that the “number of black Africans killed by Arab militias in the Darfur region of Sudan is ‘bound to be staggering'” (UN News Centre, June 29, 2004).
But Doctors Without Border/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has also recently released important epidemiological research on violence committed against the African populations of Darfur:
“A recent survey conducted by MSF and the epidemiological research center Epicentre in the town of Mornay, West Darfur State, where nearly 80,000 people have sought refuge, found that one in 20 people were killed in scorched earth attacks on 111 villages from September 2003 until February 2004. Adult men were the primary victims, but women and children were also killed. Today, one in five children in the camp are severely malnourished while irregular and insufficient food distributions do not come close to meeting the basic needs of people weakened by violence, displacement, and deprivation.” (Doctors Without Border/Medecins Sans Frontieres, “Emergency in Darfur, Sudan: No Relief in Sight,” June 21, 2004; release at http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/pr/2004/06-21-2004.shtml).)
If we make the very conservative assumption that the Mornay region has been especially violent, and that the 1 in 20 figure overstates by 50% the global death rate for armed killings in Darfur, this still implies (for a displaced population of 1.3 million) that over 40,000 people had been violently killed between September 2003 and February 2004 (this represents a weekly casualty figure of approximately 1,600). In the four months (15 weeks) since the end of February, violent killings have continued to be reported on a very wide-scale throughout Darfur, subsiding recently only because the destruction of African villages is now almost completed. Many people were of course killed violently before September 2003 (the insurgency conflict broke out in February 2003; Janjaweed attacks on civilians accelerated dramatically in the late spring of 2003). These data aggregated suggest a figure of 80,000 killed violently in the course of the war.
For the past two months, according to the US AID data, mortality from malnutrition and disease has been rising for the larger population of “war-affected” (2.2 to 2.3 million). The Global Mortality Rate has moved from 1 death per day per 100,000 (early May) to 3 per day per 10,000 (early June) to 4 deaths per day per 10,000 (currently). During these approximately nine weeks alone, morality from malnutrition and disease in the larger “war-affected” population has likely been approximately 40,000.
This yields a total civilian mortality figure to date of 120,000—growing at a rate of 7,000 per week.
THE STATUS QUO
Have the visits to Darfur by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary-general Colin Powell made any substantial headway in mitigating this genocidal destruction? The high profile of the visits ensures greater financial support for UN agencies and humanitarian organizations; it also increases the visibility of the Darfur catastrophe. But nothing has been done to address the gross mismatch between humanitarian need and current humanitarian capacity without military intervention. The UN’s World Food Program, for example, fell short of feeding half a million people in June: it claims to have provided food to 700,000, but the organization admits that 1.2 million are in need of food assistance. Transport access is diminishing because of the rains, and the number of people in need of food aid will (according to WFP) rise to 2 million in three months. (See World Food Program press release [Rome], June 29, 2004; at http://allafrica.com/stories/200406290566.html).
Just as significantly, nothing has been done that will provide security for the hundreds of thousands in camps for the displaced to which there is no meaningful humanitarian access (at least half the displaced population). These are desperate and weakened people, without food and water, without latrines or sanitary facilities of any kind. They are without medical assistance even as diseases like cholera, dysentery, and mosquito-borne malaria are beginning to explode with the rains. They are completely at the mercy of the brutal and heavily armed Janjaweed.
In short, despite the opportunities of the moment, and the significance of these high-profile visits, nothing has been done to give this cataclysm of human destruction its proper name—or to begin the actions that can mitigate vast human destruction. The descent into the abyss—the abyss of human suffering and death, the abyss of moral failure—continues to gather pace.
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