August 19, 2004
PROSPECTS AT THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL
Darfur’s bleak future is coming more fully into focus ten days before the UN Security Council returns to SC Resolution 1556, which demands that the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum “disarm the Janjaweed militias” and bring to justice those guilty of “human rights and international law violations.” It has been clear from the date of the resolution’s passage on July 30, 2004 that Khartoum had no intention of complying with this singular demand.
More disturbingly, it was clear within days following the resolution’s formal adoption that the UN political leadership in New York had no intention of holding Khartoum to this demand. Jan Pronk, Kofi Annan’s newly appointed special representative in Sudan, first commended Khartoum for its good faith in responding to Darfur, and for “improving security” in the camps for displaced persons; he then re-negotiated the Security Council resolution in a way that substitutes for a clear demand that the Janjaweed be disarmed a series of vague benchmarks and commitments.
On the basis of these various benchmarks, and Kofi Annan’s assessment of Khartoum’s performance in meeting them, the Security Council will on August 29, 2004 almost certainly renew the 30-day “deadline” originally set on July 30, 2004. There will be much rhetorical bombast about continued Security Council concern for the people of Darfur, and whatever language emerges will again be stuffed with various “welcomings,” “reiteratings,” “stressings,” expressings,” “recallings,” “urgings,” “emphasizing,” “condemnings,” “notings,” “determinings.” But there will no clear “demands,” beyond some muffled reiteration of what was contained in the original resolution. Kofi Annan has decided that Darfur and the genocide destroying the African tribal groups of the region must not be allowed to reveal the Security Council as hopelessly incapable of responding meaningfully to the crisis.
Annan’s present strategy for Darfur is governed by the calculation that since the Security Council, and in particular veto-wielding China, will never move effectively on Darfur, it is better that the key issues of security and humanitarian intervention simply not arise in meaningful fashion. Nor will there be further discussion that spells out the vague “other measures” threatened in the original resolution (the US was forced to withdraw language threatening “sanctions” because the resolution would have failed in a vote).
The only political uncertainty at the Security Council is whether the US and the other sponsors of the original resolution decide to force the issue and reveal that what is nominally the world’s most powerful political body cannot respond in any effective way to the world’s greatest and most urgent humanitarian crisis—a humanitarian crisis that grows directly out of Khartoum’s genocidal conduct of war. John Danforth, US Ambassador to the UN, talked tough following the passage of Resolution 1556 on July 30th: will there be any stomach for a politically futile effort on the part of the US come August 29th?
There may indeed be, if only because the Bush administration has no plan of its own for humanitarian intervention. Mid-level officials from various parts of the executive branch admit as much privately. Perhaps by way of deflecting blame from its own inability to stop genocide and respond to massive humanitarian need, the Bush administration will introduce a new resolution, or resume a call for “sanctions” that are finally useless in the critical near term, knowing perfectly well the futility of such efforts.
But nothing changes the political bottom-line: there will be no help for Darfur from the Security Council. China is the preeminent spoiler, both because of concern for its oil investments in Sudan and because of concern over setting any precedent for humanitarian intervention that claims an authority greater than national sovereignty. China will receive all the political help it needs from Russia (which also wields a veto in the Security Council), Pakistan, Algeria, and Brazil—as well as external diplomatic support from the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
But if not the UN Security Council, where will help for Darfur come from? There seems to be no willingness on the part of nations that are signatories to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to accept obligations under Article 1 to “prevent” genocide. Though all the current members of the Security Council are signatories to the Genocide Convention, this only makes more conspicuous the growing danger that the Genocide Convention has become irrelevant. Those countries most obligated under the Convention (because most capable of prevention)—in particular the US—seem willing to forego a timely determination of genocide; and in the case of the US, the State Department is going to considerable lengths to insist that a genocide determination would have no meaning in any event.
In a State Department press briefing of July 20, 2004, an official who refused to be identified by name declared, quite extraordinarily, that the only “firm US obligation” under the Genocide Convention would be to arrest a perpetrator of genocide who ventured onto US soil. More recent comments have been no more encouraging of a belief that the State Department is seeking anything but the narrowest possible construal of obligations under the Genocide Convention.
For this and other reasons, Darfur may mark the demise of the Genocide Convention as a basis for international action. 10 years after Rwanda, 56 years after the Convention came into existence and almost 60 years since the end of the Holocaust, the Convention has evidently become a relic except in international tribunals—a guide for sentencing and determining the degree of opprobrium after the genocidal facts.
PROSPECTS OF INTERVENTION BY THE AFRICAN UNION
The African Union (AU), which presently has roughly 120 “cease-fire” observers in Darfur and a very recently deployed contingent of 155 Rwandan soldiers to protect them, holds out the tenuous possibility for a modest intervention—and perhaps international efforts can be built on this AU bridgehead (another 150 Nigerian soldiers are to be deployed shortly). But precisely because of this possibility, Khartoum has resolutely refused to countenance any deployment of AU troops that has a peacekeeping mandate. Unless this changes, international intervention in Darfur has no obviously viable form.
Insofar as there is presently a practical test of international resolve, it takes the form of a willingness to support the African Union, both financially and diplomatically. All necessary equipment and transport must be supplied; all possible diplomatic pressure must be brought to bear on Khartoum to accept the AU forces, with a peacekeeping mandate. The principle of international peacekeeping as critical to Darfur’s security is either established in the very near term, or there will be nothing to halt the current genocidal free-fall.
Comments from Khartoum’s master of mendacity, Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail, have in recent days sounded slightly more accommodating of an African Union peacekeeping force:
“Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said his government might agree ‘if the African Union convinces us of the importance of a peacekeeping force.'” (Agence France-Presse, August 18, 2004)
But these comments are in all likelihood a disingenuous effort to avoid even greater international pressure on the regime over the issue of peacekeeping forces, and at the very least represent an effort to ensure that only African peacekeepers are deployed in Darfur. They are also dramatically at odds with statements from other senior Khartoum officials (see below).
Though potentially of considerable value, a purely African Union force—given its lack of logistical and transport capacity–could not possibly change the fundamental dynamic of diminishing humanitarian capacity in Darfur (as measured in terms of humanitarian need). Such increased logistical and transport capacity is the fundamental requirement of any humanitarian intervention that is to respond adequately to the acute threat to more than 2 million civilians. It is essential that we not lose sight of this fundamental reality in the crisis Khartoum has deliberately precipitated, exacerbated, and sustained.
KOFI ANNAN’S CALCULATION
It is in the prospect of an African Union peacekeeping force that Kofi Annan sees his only opportunity to forestall criticism over UN Security Council inaction. Though he knows full well that such a force cannot possibly answer to the desperate humanitarian needs of Darfur, he is evidently calculating that deployment of AU forces may diminish international pressure sufficiently that the inevitably dysfunctional response of the Security Council will not translate into a perceived UN failure. This is certainly what lies behind the remarks earlier this week by Jan Pronk, Annan’s special representative for Darfur. Pronk declared (August 16, 2004) that the present number of military observers deployed in the Darfur is not nearly sufficient to monitor whether Khartoum is fulfilling its negotiated pledges to the UN:
“Jan Pronk, the UN secretary general’s special representative to Sudan, told the Financial Times on Monday [August 16, 2004] that there needs to be ‘thousands’ of observers and supporting forces in Darfur if human rights violations and a ceasefire are to be effectively monitored throughout the region.” (The Financial Times, August 18, 2004)
Noting the current force of about 120 observers and 155 Rwandan soldiers, as well as the impending deployment of another 150 Nigerian soldiers, Pronk declared further:
“It will need a far bigger mission to adequately ensure the government is taking the necessary steps to protect civilians, Mr Pronk said. ‘What has been decided now on the basis of the action plan in all these areas cannot be monitored effectively with the present African Union force,’ Mr Pronk said. ‘We have to test lots on the ground, we can test with our own people, but we do not have enough. We need many more observers.'” (Financial Times, August 18, 2004)
Mr. Pronk here sounds a good deal less like the man who only a couple of weeks ago was quoted as declaring that security in Darfur’s camps for the displaced had “generally improved,” that there had already been “positive progress in implementing last month’s agreement between the UN and Sudan on improving security in Darfur” (BBC, August 3, 2004), and who erroneously asserted that the “Sudanese military was no longer conducting activities against civilians” and that “the government has lifted all restrictions on humanitarian assistance, as it promised to do” (Voice of America, August 5, 2004). Indeed just last week Pronk declared that, “so far in all my talks I am meeting a government [i.e., the Khartoum regime—ER] that is seriously trying to keep the promises made” (Reuters, August 11, 2004).
Perhaps Darfur’s ghastly realities, and Khartoum’s chronic bad faith, have had a sobering effect on Mr. Pronk; perhaps he has simply started to read the numerous reports from various UN agencies that reveal how absurdly disingenuous or ignorant his earlier assessments have been. But it is clear in any event that Pronk (and Annan) are trying now to do by way of the African Union what can’t be done by way of the Security Council.
The danger in such a strategy is obvious: Khartoum sees clearly that this is the plan and is energetically engaged in creating the impression that no sizeable peacekeeping force is necessary. This is what lies behind the preposterous declaration by Mustafa Ismail that 20,000 additional “police” will be deployed to Darfur:
“Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said in Nigeria on Tuesday Sudan planned to double to 20,000 the number of police in Darfur to provide security.” (Reuters, August 18, 2004)
This is an utterly meaningless promise: Khartoum doesn’t begin to have the manpower, resources, or means of supporting such a deployment of new “police.” Indeed, we should recall that Khartoum originally promised an equally untenable 6,000 additional “police”; reports from the ground in Darfur made clear that this “addition” consisted mainly of incorporating the Janjaweed militia and other paramilitary forces into the “police.” In turn, as this was deemed an insufficient commitment, Ismail and others started speaking of 10,000 additional “police”; now the number is 20,000. The easy numerical augmentation is possible because there is simply no commitment behind it. The whole point, as a Reuters dispatch makes clear, is to diminish the size of any African Union deployment:
“‘The African Union, whatever number is going to come, they are going to be for building confidence to encourage people to go to their homes,’ [Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said. ‘We are going to increase the number of police to maybe 20,000 police in Darfur.'” (Reuters, August 17, 2004)
This is no accidental conjunction of statements but a clear indication of how Khartoum plans to keep the African Union deployment as small as possible–“for building confidence,” not providing security.
But of course, as all evidence indicates, Khartoum has made no effort to improve security. On the contrary, a series of recent reports from various UN organizations reveal a continuing situation of extreme insecurity, and undiminished threats to civilian populations within and outside the camps (see below, as well as the analysis by this writer of August 6, 2004; available upon request).
This is the context in which to assess Khartoum’s strenuous, even bizarre resistance to an African Union deployment, reflected today in a government-controlled newspaper:
“Writing in the daily newspaper Al-Rai Al-Am, Rashed Abderrahim warned against the spread of the HIV virus which the Rwandan soldiers could be carrying and considered the troops could ‘carry on in Sudan their experience of ethnic cleansing.'” (Agence France-Presse, August 19, 2004)
Such “domestic concerns” will be marshaled in increasing number to slow any further deployment, especially from Rwanda in light of President Paul Kagame’s forthright declaration of the rules of engagement for Rwandan troops (see below).
NEAR-TERM PROSPECTS AND POSSIBILITIES
Despite Khartoum’s predictable resistance, indeed precisely because of it, all possible pressure must be brought to bear to create a large and robust African Union peacekeeping force. It must have the rules of engagement articulated by Rwandan President Paul Kagame:
“‘Our forces will not stand by and watch innocent civilians being hacked to death like the case was here in 1994,’ Mr Kagame said, referring to UN troops who did not intervene to prevent the Rwanda genocide. ‘If it was established that the civilians are in danger, then our forces would certainly intervene and use force to protect civilians.'” (Associated Press, August 17, 2004)
These and previous comments have provoked, of course, ominous threats from Khartoum, suggesting that Rwanda’s presence would no longer be accepted if its forces were actually guided by these rules of engagement:
“The Sudanese army spokesman, Gen Mohamed Bashir Suleiman, in a statement issued from the capital, Khartoum said the task of the AU force would be ‘confined to the protection of the 80-man African cease-fire monitoring team, currently deployed in the states of Darfur and Ndjamena,’ Sudan News Agency reported. The task of the 300-strong force, he added, would ‘not include conducting any military action against any of the conflict parties in the case of ceasefire violations, contrary to reports which were published in some media.'” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [Nairobi], August 16, 2004)
This assertion was amplified in another statement from a senior member of the National Islamic Front:
“Sudan’s state minister for foreign affairs, Abdelwahad Najeb, says that as far as Khartoum is concerned, the protection force in Darfur has only one purpose. ‘The mission for those forces is very clear; protection for the monitors. As far as the civilians, this is the responsibility of the government of Sudan, and this is very clearly stipulated in the resolution of the African Union in its meeting on the 8th of July in Addis Ababa. I think the president of Rwanda was there in the summit of the AU, and he knows what is the mandate of the Rwandan troops.'” (Voice of America [Nairobi], August 16, 2004)
But as Human Rights Watch has rightly declared:
“The Rwandan government deserves praise for deploying troops to Darfur and pledging to protect civilians. Now the international community should increase pressure on Sudan to accept peacekeepers with a mandate for protecting civilians, and it should provide the support that’s urgently needed for this mission.” (Human Rights Watch statement [New York], August 17, 2004)
Such support—from most European countries, the US, Canada, Japan, and many other international actors—is presently inadequate, even as there is no willingness to contemplate or propose alternatives. If this does not change, especially with greatly heightened near-term diplomatic efforts, Khartoum will calculate that a larger deployment, with a fully established peacekeeping mandate, can be avoided. Over the near- to medium-term, the international community must make available all necessary transport and communications equipment to AU forces. Such significantly increased support looks only vaguely possible, and Khartoum is calculating accordingly. The most likely prospect is that even as the UN Security Council proves useless, the African Union initiative—unprecedented on the continent—will wither for lack of sufficient support, another casualty of the Darfur conflict.
INSECURITY IN DARFUR AND CHAD
Insecurity remains the greatest part of the threat now facing over 2 million people in Darfur and in refugee camps in Chad. The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks reported earlier this week that more than 500 new refugees had fled from Darfur into Chad this past weekend—a sharp uptick—and that humanitarian workers are reporting “cross-border raids by pro-government Janjawid militias were increasing again and [they] expressed fears that the Sudanese government was trying to prevent many more refugees from crossing the border” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, August 16, 2004).
Voice of America reports from Chad the following statement by UN High Commission for Refugees spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey:
“‘We have seen some people who have tried to go home to their villages, but when they go home, they said the security was very bad and they either flee to be displaced once more inside Darfur or they cross over into Chad.'” (Voice of America, August 17, 2004)
The UN is reported by Reuters (August 18, 2004) as “concerned by Sudan’s lack of progress in bringing security to Darfur,” noting insecurity in the camps for the displaced in particular:
“‘We are still concerned, very much so, by the lack of progress on the ground,’ [UN] spokeswoman Radhia Achouria told reporters in Khartoum, referring to camp security.” (August 18, 2004)
This hardly comports well with Jan Pronk’s comments of “generally improved security” in the camps.
Other ominous reports of insecurity from the UN make clear that the Janjaweed continues to be unconstrained, and that there is no functioning “police,” despite Khartoum’s claim to be in the process of massively augmenting this force:
“‘Protection and security remain of paramount concern to Internally Displaced Persons,’ [UN spokeswoman Jennifer] Abrahamson noted. ‘General insecurity persists on the ground with continued violence carried out by various armed groups in addition to incidents of banditry and ongoing lawlessness,’ she added. She quoted Internally Displaced Persons as telling a UN team that visited Zam Zam camp [North Darfur] on 16 August , that Janjawid militias had moved closer to El Fasher town and were hiding at Jamena village, 4 km south of the town.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, August 18, 2004).
Another UN report speaks to the continuing threat of rape and violence against women in the camps, particularly by the “police” officers touted by Foreign Minister Ismail:
“‘Internally Displaced Persons report increasing incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation in Abu Shouk Camp near El Fashir committed by police officers,’ said a UN weekly update on the humanitarian situation in North Darfur.” (Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2004)
Perhaps most troubling is a report from the Sudan Organization Against Torture (SOAT) on the arrest and torture of Internally Displaced Persons at the Kalma camp (near Nyala, South Darfur) for refusing to assist Khartoum in its new policy of forcing displaced persons from the camps (Khartoum very recently denied all humanitarian aid workers access to the huge Kalma Camp for several days):
“On 15 August 2004, the police forces, security forces and armed forces, arrested 50 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Kalma IDP camp, 17 kilometres east of Nyala, southern Darfur state. The men were detained by the military for one day. On 16 August 2004, the IDP’s were transferred to Nyala Wasat (central) police station. The 50 IDPs alleged that they were tortured by the armed forces during their arrest from camp. The were beaten with sticks and hands on all over their bodies and flogged on their backs and shoulders to extract their confession that the men encouraged and abetted the IDPs in the camp to refuse to return back to their village.”
(Sudan Organisation Against Torture press release,17 August 2004
[“Arrest and torture of IDP’s from Kalma Camp”])
This policy of violently enforced expulsions from camps for the displaced poses the greatest threat to these desperate people: if they are forced from the camps, most have no villages to return to (these have been destroyed by Khartoum’s regular and Janjaweed proxy militia forces). They are also at acute risk of attack by the Janjaweed, with no means of protection.
There are countless other reports indicating extreme insecurity throughout Darfur. This level of insecurity ensures that there is no possibility of agricultural production resuming for the foreseeable future: Darfur’s people, overwhelmingly the African tribal populations of the region, have become utterly dependent on international food aid. Available and foreseeable food aid is dramatically inadequate to present and prospective need; those dying invisibly from the effects of malnutrition are growing in number at a terrible rate, and will continue to do so in the absence of a vast increase in transport and logistical capacity—an increase that cannot come from any deployment by the African Union, no matter how large or robust.
POLITICAL FAILURE ENSURES HUMANITARIAN SHORTFALL
Human destruction in Darfur has become genocide by attrition: the heaviest seasonal rains have arrived and it is only a matter of time before there are huge explosions of cholera and other water-borne disease. Food deliveries throughout Darfur are woefully inadequate and may not reach 40% of those in need this month (August). Huge numbers of people have no humanitarian access and no prospect of access. Conditions in the camps in Chad, swollen with still-arriving Darfurian refugees, are a horror along the border, especially the northern sector.
An outbreak of Hepatitis E (unprecedented for Darfur) is an extremely ominous harbinger of cholera and dysentery (over a thousand cases of Hepatitis E have been reported this week, as opposed to 625 last week—an increase of over 60% in a disease for which there is no cure or vaccination). The same contaminated water that spreads Hepatitis E can spread much more potent and explosive diseases, especially cholera. Moreover, malaria is starting to accelerate as mosquito hatches have increased dramatically; the World Health Organization has reported almost 20,000 cases, and this greatly understates even current prevalence.
Compounding purely medical concerns is the fear, already being expressed by humanitarian organizations, that the outbreak of Hepatitis E (or some other outbreak in other camps) may provide Khartoum with a pretext for emptying the camps of displaced persons, even as they clearly have no place to which they might return. This comports all too well with other evidence of Khartoum’s intention of emptying the camps for the displaced, forcibly or otherwise (see SOAT account of Kalma Camp above).
Humanitarian conditions in some camps are improving slowly because of valiant efforts by overwhelmed aid organizations; but camp numbers continue to grow ominously and far outstrip humanitarian capacity. Moreover, there are a growing number of camps, spontaneously created by the most bereft of the displaced, to which no humanitarian organizations are permitted. There will be more of these camps as Khartoum continues with its announced policy of forcing displaced persons to return to their burned-out villages. Spontaneous encampments like Otash and Siref, near Nyala (South Darfur), are “unauthorized,” according to Khartoum, and the regime’s “Humanitarian Affairs Commission” has,
“refused permission for the international agencies to operate [in these camps]. That decision is being partly modified, but apart from the charity CARE putting in water at Otash, there has been no change to the appalling conditions.” (The Independent (UK), [dateline Nyala], August 14, 2004)
There are of course a great many camps like Otash and Siref, invisible to humanitarian organizations and certainly not figuring in mortality assessments (a new mortality assessment by this writer will be forthcoming August 27, 2004, and will speak to recent UN figures and a recent UN World Health Organization mortality estimate).
All too predictably, transport and logistics have become a “nightmare” at the height of Darfur’s rainy season; various excessively optimistic estimates of food deliveries and other relief efforts will continue to be trimmed as seasonal realities continue to make themselves felt (see yesterday’s gloomy account from the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks at http://allafrica.com/stories/200408180398.html). The UN’s World Food Program (WFP), having failed terribly in the effort to pre-position food in Darfur, is increasingly relying on highly expensive airlifts and airdrops. In short, humanitarian costs are rising even as deliveries are falling. And WFP, presently struggling to reach 1 million people for August, is now estimating that the number of people in need of food aid will rise to 2 million in September (Voice of America, August 18, 2004). And this is just in areas to which there is humanitarian access: the number in need for all of Darfur is much greater.
Given the failure of the international community to respond adequately to funding appeals, something must give—and it will all too clearly be the lives of the people of Darfur. It is perversely obvious, though not for that reason sufficiently compelling: people simply cannot survive without food, especially when because of insecurity there is no opportunity for them to use their superb foraging abilities and coping skills.
One of the most compelling recent dispatches on the Darfur crisis was filed yesterday (August 18, 2004) by the Washington Post correspondent in
Oure Cassoni on the Chad/Darfur border (based on interviews with surviving refugees from the African tribal groups that have been targeted by Khartoum’s genocide, as well as interviews with human rights investigators). The picture that emerges is of the regime’s concerted effort to kill teachers and the educated among the Fur, Massaleit, and Zaghawa:
“Human rights investigators have called the assault on the educated an attempt to silence the residents of Darfur and a way to erase the community’s collective memory and destroy its political strength. ‘If you are a farmer, they will take your crops and kill you. If you are a woman, they will rape you. But if you are a teacher, then you have to run,’ said Sharif Ishag, who once taught geography and now helps run the camp’s food distribution center for the International Rescue Committee. ‘They think anyone who can read and write and who can organize people and inspire minds are rebels.'”
“Schools have been burned, desks broken and books shredded. In some areas, children have not been able to attend classes for nearly two years. Olivier Bercault, a Human Rights Watch team member who spent three weeks touring Darfur, called the targeting of teachers and schools ‘a nasty way to stop a culture and prevent people from being educated.'” (Washington Post, August 18, 2004)
Do we require more evidence of genocidal intent than this barbaric effort “to erase the community’s collective memory and destroy its political strength”? To be sure, we need only look honestly at the relentless, systematic, and widespread destruction of all means of agricultural production—destruction that has overwhelmingly targeted the African tribal groups of Darfur—to see that these efforts have been deliberate, have been intentional. But Khartoum is clearly bent on destroying not only African people and livelihoods, but the means of cultural self-preservation.
International inaction and indifference toward Darfur seem destined to prevail; genocide, even such comprehensive genocide, seems incapable of galvanizing a meaningful response. We are left only with the tenuous hopes sustained by an African Union force of 300 soldiers, in an area the size of France, without a peacekeeping mandate. A response adequate to the genocidal destruction that has occurred in Darfur, and is so clearly in prospect, seems nowhere in sight.
This is “darkness visible.”
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