October 12, 2004
CONTINUING INTERNATIONAL PARALYSIS
Though nominally speaking for the US government, Secretary of State Colin Powell has come to represent the international community with his declaration in Congressional testimony of September 9, 2004 that, “In fact, no new action is dictated by this determination [of genocide in Darfur]” (Powell testimony, September 9, 2004, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). Consensus has grown dramatically in recent months that military actions by Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime and its Janjaweed militia allies in Darfur constitute genocide—the deliberate and widespread destruction of the African tribal populations of the region, “as such.” But the current international response lacks both sufficient urgency and truly robust commitment.
The primary efforts have been to engage in futile diplomacy with Khartoum, to pass largely meaningless UN resolutions, to issue vague threats of sanctions, and more recently, to place the burden of responding to Darfur’s critical security issues on a woefully inadequate African Union force. This force has been unable to secure from Khartoum a peacekeeping mandate—and may not deploy until early 2005. And while there have been significant increases in international relief efforts in the region, these are sufficient for less than half the conflict-affected population; in the coming months, without a forceful humanitarian intervention, the mismatch between humanitarian capacity and humanitarian need ensures that many tens of thousands of innocent civilians will die.
In short, none of the present actions defining an international response can possibly stem the ongoing flood of human suffering and destruction. None can address in serious ways the fundamental security issues defining the crisis in Darfur. None offers hope for a reconstruction of Darfur’s agricultural economy. None provides a means of changing the grim future of camps for the displaced, which loom increasingly as human warehouses for the survivors of genocide.
And none convinces Khartoum that it must respond in meaningful ways to various international urgings and “demands.”
Over the past seven months Khartoum has repeatedly and flagrantly violated a cease-fire agreement for Darfur (signed in N’Djamena [Chad], April 8, 2004); the regime has refused to honor commitments made to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (July 3, 2004); and the regime has defied the demands of two UN Security Council resolutions (No. 1556, July 30, 2004 and No. 1564, September 18, 2004). Most recently British Prime Minister Tony Blair reiterated several of these demands while in Khartoum (October 6, 2004). There is no reason to expect that Khartoum will respond any more seriously to Blair’s demands than it has to those of the international community, and comments in the Arabic press suggest that the regime is already hedging and trimming.
This is so even as the regime stands in continuing violation of many international laws and Geneva Conventions. It is guilty of genocide that has resulted in the deaths of as many as 300,000 human beings (see October 8, 2004 mortality assessment by this writer; available upon request). The further consequences of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the violation of various Geneva Conventions will ultimately be measured in terms of many tens of thousands of additional deaths. The UN’s World Health Organization currently estimates that between 6,000 and 10,000 people are dying monthly in accessible camps, in large measure because of Khartoum’s previous deliberate and systematic obstruction of humanitarian relief. The US Agency for International Development has indicated that the food crisis in coming months is so dire that there will be many additional tens of thousands of deaths from malnutrition and related diseases in all regions of Darfur.
A UN spokesman for the UN World Food Program recently had the honesty to declare that the crisis in Darfur will continue through 2005:
“‘The aid crisis is going to continue at least until the end of next year ,’ [WFP spokesman Greg] Barrow said on Wednesday in a briefing for reporters accompanying British Prime Minister Tony Blair to Sudan. This year’s intense media focus on Darfur and a stream of high-level foreign visitors had helped, but the world must not forget the crisis when attention fades, he added. ‘This is a very, very precarious situation. The levels of humanitarian aid will need to be sustained at or above the same level as this year.'” (Reuters, October 6, 2004)
The insecurity that has brought agricultural production largely to a halt in Darfur continues to prevail in the rural areas, making a significant fall planting impossible, and already compromising the chances for a successful planting in spring 2005. Insecurity in the camps continues to put women and girls seeking firewood (essential for cooking raw grains and flour) at risk of rape at the hands of Khartoum’s Janjaweed militia, now increasingly recycled into the ranks of camp “police.” Men who leave the camps face summary execution. These desperate people are living in what UN High Commissioner for Human Right Louise Arbour describes as “prisons without walls” (UN News Centre, September 27, 2004).
A recent press release by the UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women, following her assessment mission to Darfur, comports all too fully with reports by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations:
“Women and girls have suffered multiple forms of violence during attacks on their villages, including rape, killings, the burning of homes and pillage of livestock. Women have also been tortured during interrogation by security forces for being relatives of suspected rebels. I heard numerous accounts of continuing violence against the displaced women and girls allegedly by government-backed militia and security forces.”
“In particular, rape and beatings take place when women and girls leave the IDP camps to fetch wood or other necessities. Consequently, many women and girls endure the trauma of rape and loss, health problems and heightened risk of HIV/AIDS infection, as well as domestic violence and poverty. The fact that women head the majority of the households in the camps [exacerbates] their vulnerability to violence and exploitation.” (UN press statement [Geneva] by Yakin Ertrk, UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women, October 11, 2004)
AFRICAN UNION FORCES: FAR FROM ADEQUATE OR READY
For lack of a willingness to contemplate alternatives, the international community has placed inordinate hopes in an expansion of the present small African Union contingent in Darfur. This will apparently entail supplementing the current 100 monitors (and 300 troops protecting the monitors) by as many as 4,000 additional AU troops and military police. But there has been no progress in securing from Khartoum an agreement to expand the mandate of these forces to include peacekeeping. While accepting the number of monitors proposed, Khartoum’s view of the governing mandate was again made clear in very recent comments by Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail:
“‘We have no problem with the numbers. Till now the African Union (AU) are talking about 3,500 to 4,000. It’s up to them,’ Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said in Khartoum. ‘They said they want to bring monitors, they want to bring some police, civilians, protection for forces, we have no problem,’ he told reporters.” (Reuters, October 10, 2004)
The clear implication of Ismail’s comments is that the AU force will have no mandate to separate, engage, or disarm combatants—it will, in other words, have no mandate to enforce the only meaningful demand of the first UN Security Council resolution (No. 1556, July 30, 2004), which essentially reiterated the demand made by Kofi Annan in Khartoum on July 3, 2004 (in a “Joint Communiqu”):
“6. [The UN Security Council] demands that the government of Sudan fulfill its commitments to disarm the Janjaweed militias and apprehend and bring to justice Janjaweed leaders and their associates….” (Security Council Resolution No. 1556, July 30, 2004)
The AU force will have no mandate to protect civilians caught up in violence, and will be able to use weapons only in cases of clear self-defense. To be sure, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has previously declared that Rwandan troops will not watch idly as genocidal destruction occurs before their very eyes. But Kagame’s comments earned a swift and angry response from Khartoum, with the clearly implied threat that any attempt by Rwanda or other AU countries to change the deployment mandate unilaterally would result in expulsion.
Given the size of Darfur, the very large number of camps with extremely vulnerable populations, the need to increase security for humanitarian aid personnel, and the extremely difficult transport and logistical demands posed by this region, it is doubtful that an expanded AU force can do more than increase camp security and create a watchful presence in some areas. Such a force is an important initial step, but by itself is completely inadequate to the needs of Darfur—especially in light of Khartoum’s energetic efforts to impede the operations of presently deployed monitors. With additional transport and logistical capacity, the AU force can do a better job of monitoring a meaningful cease-fire; but there is no evidence that the present cease-fire has any real force.
In the case of ongoing atrocities by the Janjaweed, it is certainly important that these be reported by the AU. But reports that have no consequences, that bring about no substantial changes on the ground, are irrelevant to the task of halting civilian destruction undertaken by Khartoum and its militia allies. It is worth noting in this context that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, in her report to the UN Security Council (September 30, 2004), declared that her mission “received no credible reports of rebel attacks on civilians” (Statement to the Security Council on Darfur [New York], September 30, 2004).
Given these prevailing conditions and Khartoum’s larger genocidal ambitions, it is hardly surprising that the regime is opposed to any deployment of an AU force that has a civilian protection mandate that extends beyond the camp areas, where the AU will seek to protect a vast population of displaced persons now utterly food-dependent. Moreover, Khartoum is well aware that deployment of the AU force is likely to take a number of months. As the Associated Press recently reported:
“The United Nations and the United States expressed concern that it could take until early next year to deploy a 4,000-strong African Union force to Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur region and called for much speedier action.”
“UN envoy Jan Pronk said he was pressing Sudan and the 53-nation African group to take a quick decision on an expanded mandate for the beefed-up force, but he said even then the deployment could be delayed for several critical months. With ceasefire violations continuing and no improvement in security for the embattled civilians in Darfur, [Pronk] said the expanded AU force should be on the ground in October. ‘If we wait another month before AU forces would start to come, you risk increasing insecurity.'” (Associated Press, October 6, 2004)
But the evidence strongly suggests that full deployment will not be in October or November, and may very well reach to January or even February 2005. The AU has virtually no transport or logistical capacity for its peacekeeping forces, and despite promises from the US and other militarily capable countries, there is no progress toward a rapid deployment. Lack of transport capacity and equipment (especially communications gear) will also constrain the AU force once deployed. General Romeo Dallaire, who commanded UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994, recently noted that “moral condemnation, trade penalties and military efforts by African countries are simply not going to be enough to stop the killing—not nearly enough. I know because I’ve seen it all happen before [in Rwanda].” (International Herald Tribune, October 5, 2004)
As an appropriate military response, which must supplement a vast increase in humanitarian capacity, Dallaire proposes that,
“a mixture of mobile African Union troops supported by NATO soldiers equipped with helicopters, remotely piloted vehicles, night-vision devices and long-range special forces could protect Darfur’s displaced people in their camps and remaining villages, and eliminate or incarcerate the Janjaweed.”
Reasonable differences may exist among military experts about the necessary size and goals of the force Dallaire proposes. The role of military transport and logistics in increasing humanitarian capacity must also be considered in any organized effort. But there are presently no evident discussions of such issues, leaving the African Union force as the default response to a crisis vastly in excess of its capacity. The status quo prevails.
THE STATUS QUO
The number of displaced persons continues to rise, as violence persists throughout Darfur. There is a terribly unchanging quality to news reports:
“Attacks by armed gangs on internally displaced persons and clashes between armed groups have continued in the troubled Sudanese state of North Darfur, creating ‘a fragile security situation’ and widespread fear among civilians living in camps within the region, humanitarian sources said on Thursday [September 30, 2004].”
“According to another source, another group of 3,000 IDPs who had fled their villages in early September and camped in El Bisharia, 2.5 km south of El Fasher, had reportedly been forced to return to their villages about 10 days ago. But after they arrived at their homes, many of them were attacked forcing some to flee into the bushes or to El Fasher.”
“[Humanitarian organizations] operating in South Darfur reported that on Tuesday that renewed fighting had driven at least 5,000 people from their homes within three days.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [Nairobi] October 1, 2004)
Though over 2,000 villages have now been destroyed, Janjaweed attacks continue remorselessly:
“Thousands of terrified Sudanese are again straggling into refugee camps in the Darfur region, driven from their villages by fresh violence that illustrates the challenges of ending the conflict here. UN and relief officials said Thursday that there’d been an upsurge in violence this week in southern Darfur. Hege Ospeth, a spokesperson for Norwegian Church Aid, which runs a refugee camp in Bashom, said 5,000 new refugees had arrived from 10 villages that had been attacked by government-backed militias in the past week.” (Knight Ridder news [Ishma, Darfur], October 1, 2004)
The effects of such continued violence and displacement have led one UN official to declare recently that “Darfur could continue to mushroom out of control because of ongoing insecurities”:
“Arab militiamen attacked villages in Sudan’s North Darfur state as recently as last month, according to residents who fled the attacks to camps for displaced people. [ ] Residents of Abu Delig, about 50 km south of El-Fasher, capital of North Darfur state, said their village was attacked by 150 military personnel and aerial bombardment in late August to early September, said the official who declined to be named. [ ] The residents described the attackers as heavily-armed men wearing camouflage-style uniforms, a common description for the Janjaweed militia.” (Reuters, October 7, 2004)
“The [UN] official said she heard first-hand reports from residents of tens of thousands of new displaced persons in government and rebel territory in North and South Darfur state. The new figures have yet to be included in UN estimates that 1.5 million people have been displaced by the conflict that erupted in 2003, she said. ‘Darfur could continue to mushroom out of control because of ongoing insecurities.'” (Reuters, October 7, 2004)
Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the UN advance mission in Sudan, has recently indicated that the number of displaced persons could increase by 500,000—this in addition to those poised to flee to Chad (Reuters, October 6, 2004). Indeed, tens of thousands of people within 50 kilometers of the Chad/Darfur border are reported by UN and humanitarian sources to be on the verge of flight into Chad if security does not improve. For example, the highly vulnerable population in the Masteri area of West Darfur was reported in late August to be poised to flee into Chad to escape continuing predations by the Janjaweed:
“The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned Friday [August 20, 2004] that a further 30,000 displaced people were poised to flee over the border into neighboring Chad, joining 200,000 refugees already there, because of the continuing depredations by the militias.” (Agence France-Presse, August 21, 2004)
More recently, officials of the UN High Commission for Refugees have offered an even more dire prediction:
“The UN’s co-ordinator for Chad, Kingsley Amaning, agreed with the prognosis [about massive displacement into Chad]. But he also stressed that [a figure of 100,000] was the best-case scenario. ‘100,000 is the figure we think we will reach before the next rainy season, that is to say, May. And that’s on the optimistic side, it could be as many as 150,000,’ he told IRIN in an interview in his office in the Chadian capital N’djamena.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, September 27, 2004)
Kofi Annan’s recent report to the UN Security Council may disingenuously obscure the culpability of the Khartoum regime, but it cannot conceal the realities of suffering and violence in the region:
“Today, still increasing numbers of the population of Darfur are exposed, without any protection from their Government [the Khartoum regime], to hunger, fear, and violence. The numbers affected by the conflict are growing and their suffering is being prolonged by inaction. In a significant proportion of the territory security conditions have worsened. In the month of September the Government has not been able to fulfill its responsibilities and commitments to protect the people of Darfur.” (Report of the Secretary-General to the UN Security Council, pursuant to Resolutions 1556 and 1564; October 4, 2004)
A recent article in The Lancet, Britain’s premier medical journal, highlights not only important issues in mortality rates for Darfur (what is referred to as a “demographic catastrophe”), but the psychological consequences of relentless violence on civilians:
“One of the most serious and long-lasting consequences of [massive attacks against life and property] may be widespread mental trauma among survivors and witnesses.” (The Lancet, October 1, 2004, “Violence and mortality in West Darfur, Sudan (2003-04): epidemiological evidence from four surveys” (available online at: http://www.thelancet.com/journal [requires (free) registration]).
The mental health of the displaced populations in Darfur is certainly one of the most pressing issues, and must figure in any plan to restore Darfur’s traditional society and efforts to allow displaced persons to resume agriculturally productive lives. In addition to the 300,000 people who have died in the genocide, many hundreds of thousands of people bear the terrible scars of having seen family members killed, dismembered, tortured, raped, and humiliated. Parents have seen their children hurled alive into raging fires; fathers have been force to witness brutal gang-rapes of their daughters; schools and educated civilians have been deliberately targeted by Khartoum and the Janjaweed; mosques and Korans have been deliberately desecrated as a means of impugning the religious devotion of “African” Muslims. The possessions and savings of lifetimes, indeed generations, have been systematically destroyed or looted.
It is not enough to speak of returning people safely to their villages: these terrible emotional and mental burdens must be recognized and accepted as creating problems that will continue far into the future. But there is little evidence that the international humanitarian response extends even to providing adequate food, clean water, shelter and medical treatment. UN humanitarian organizations are sending urgent signals to precisely this effect:
“‘If the situation continues like this we cannot keep up with this. We cannot keep up with the level of needs,’ [UN spokeswoman Radhia Achouri] told reporters in Khartoum. The UN has said it has received just a little over half the required funds to meet the needs of the 1.5 million displaced in Darfur. More than 200,000 have also fled to neighboring Chad, encamped in the desolate eastern desert.” (Reuters, “UN Warns Cannot Cope if Darfur Violence Continues,” October 6, 2004)
If we look at the most recent humanitarian assessment from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA; assessment report released September 16, 2004), it is clear that despite heroic efforts on the part of many organizations, the percentages of Darfuris in need of food, shelter, primary medical care, and clean water have remained essentially static (“Darfur Humanitarian Profile,” No. 6, September 16, 2004, pages 10-13). The percentage of those receiving shelter has remained at just over 50% since June 2004; the percentages of those with access to clean water and primary medical care are also unchanged since June (approximately 40% and 50% respectively).
Though it is likely that the World Food Program’s delivery of food to 1.3 million people in September will reverse the July to August decline in the percentage of the needy population served (from 62% to 51%), this figure still represents only about half the total of a rapidly increasing food-dependent population in Darfur (in camps, in urban areas, and in inaccessible rural areas). As people are increasingly driven by hunger to the camps, the percentage of registered displaced persons who are provided adequate food rations will very likely again decline. This is the import of recent comments by a senior official of the US Agency for International Development in speaking of increasing mortality from disease and malnutrition (and excluding mortality from violence):
“‘The crisis in Darfur has not yet peaked. We have not yet seen the worst.’ Earlier this year, US AID predicted that between 80,000 and 300,000 people could die if the situation failed to improve in Darfur. ‘We’re now coming to the high side of that range,’ Garvelink told reporters. After months of relying on scarce food handouts—when aid agencies have been able to reach refugee settlements—more than a million people in Darfur face severe malnutrition, Garvelink [said]. ‘We’re going to see a tipping point in December, January or February.'” (Associated Press, October 4, 2004)
“People were already weak from struggling through the early part of the summer with little international help, and women and children would be particularly vulnerable to food shortages. ‘Woman and children will die at a much higher rate than they are now,’ Garvelink said.” (Reuters, October 4, 2004)
[This is perhaps the best context in which to assess recent comments by Khartoum’s State Minister for Agriculture Al Sadig Amara, who recently declared that because of regime policies, “no food gap will take place in Sudan” (Sudan Vision Paper [Khartoum], from the October 11, 2004 UN Daily Press Review).]
Disease remains a major concern in the camps, with the malaria “high season” underway and relentlessly claiming more lives. The spread of Hepatitis E seems to have slowed, but the risk of explosive cholera and dysentery outbreaks remains frighteningly high. October is also “high season” for polio, and with a dozen confirmed cases in Darfur, there is considerable risk that despite the current effort at Africa-wide polio vaccination, there could still be a large outbreak of the crippling disease in rural and urban areas of Darfur.
WHAT DARFUR OBSCURES
International attention to Darfur, while ineffectual in addressing the engine of genocidal destruction, must be wholly welcome. Partly as a result of this increased attention, humanitarian capacity continues to increase, though only incrementally and not nearly rapidly enough to forestall huge numbers of casualties in the coming months. The more than 40,000 metric tons of humanitarian transport capacity required monthly for food and critical non-food items—into and within Darfur—are nowhere in evidence. Indeed, international contributions to UN and other humanitarian organizations operating in Darfur are not half of what is required to sustain present efforts. If we look at this is an ongoing crisis, extending to the end of 2005, the task is even more daunting.
But despite the inadequacy of the international response, current attention to Darfur seems to be at the expense of other sites of great human need in Africa, and nowhere more dramatically than in northern Uganda. Here the consequences of Khartoum’s many years of support for the maniacal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are painfully evident. UN Under-secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, whose voice within the UN has been strongest and most courageous over the past year in speaking of Darfur, very recently highlighted the ghastly consequences of human suffering and destruction wrought by the LRA:
“‘The two million in northern Uganda live in sub-human conditions,’ said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland. ‘If they go out, they are killed as much, or raped as much or worse, as in Darfur by the Lord’s Resistance Army and others.’ ‘The attention that I was very happy to see on Darfur we should be able to raise equally with northern Uganda,’ [Egeland] told reporters.” (Reuters, October 7, 2004)
But the distance between Egeland’s “should” and the likely response of the international community is immense, again in part because the UN and other international actors are unwilling to bring sufficient pressure to bear on Khartoum to halt its arms transfers, material support, and the offering of sanctuary (including in Juba town) to Joseph Kony and the vicious thugs who make up the LRA. The National Islamic front continues to use the LRA as a proxy military force to destabilize southern Sudan, and as a point of diplomatic leverage in dealing with the government in Kampala. Thus Khartoum’s recent accusation of Ugandan military aid to the SPLA and ultimately the Darfur insurgents must be of concern not because it is true, but because it creates an ominous pretext for “preemptive” military action at the same time that Khartoum’s own military preparations in the south have increased very significantly. Khartoum’s propaganda organ, the “Sudan Media Center” (SMC), declared recently:
“In a surprise and serious development, the Ugandan government last Monday relocated heavy weapons to Sudan. Informed sources told SMC that relocation of weapons was begun since two weeks across the region of Kaggum, to be relocated to SPLM/A controlled areas. According to same sources, the weapons were provided by Kampala to SPLM/A to launch military attacks against Sudanese armed forces, to be concurrent with military operations in Darfur by Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement.” (Akhbar Al-Youm and Sudan Vision Paper [Khartoum], UN Daily Press Review, October 11, 200
Such propaganda augurs poorly for the Naivasha talks and strongly suggests that the LRA will be assisted by Khartoum in continuing its reign of terror. So long as this is the case, northern Uganda will remain the site of unspeakable atrocities and civilians will be forced to remain—as in Darfur—in camps characterized by appalling conditions.
There are no reasons for optimism in surveying the current situation in Darfur. The international community, in deferring to Khartoum’s claim of “national sovereignty,” cannot provide either adequate humanitarian transport capacity or a meaningful response to continuing levels of extreme insecurity. There is no long-term planning for either the very high levels of humanitarian assistance that will be required through 2005, or the significant resources that will be required to allow agricultural production to resume in Darfur. The UN Security Council is paralyzed by China’s explicit threat to veto any further resolution that would impose sanctions on the regime. The very substantial and unconstrained European and Asian economic interests in Sudan ensure that talk of non-UN economic sanctions rings hollow.
Weapons continue to flow into Khartoum—bankrolled by oil revenues that the regime seems increasingly unwilling to share with the people of southern Sudan. There are few signs that the National Islamic Front is genuinely committed to a final peace agreement with the SPLM in Naivasha (Kenya), and fewer yet that the international community is prepared to commit the critical resources that might allow any peace agreement to survive the first year of implementation. Military redeployments by Khartoum’s forces in southern Sudan, along with large convoys and barge shipments of weapons and military supplies, are ominous in the extreme.
Similarly, the prospects seem very slight for meaningful negotiations in Abuja (Nigeria) with the Darfur insurgents. Khartoum has peremptorily ruled out meaningful political discussions, and seems concerned only to negotiate the disarmament and “cantonment” of the insurgents. This remains a formula for diplomatic stalemate, one that benefits only the regime.
Conditions in northern Uganda cannot improve meaningfully until the LRA is destroyed, and this is unlikely to occur without Khartoum’s ending all support for this terrorist organization. The Ugandan military has recently made significant progress, but this has happened previously and the LRA has been able to slip away and reconstitute itself with Khartoum’s assistance.
The fundamental requirement for peace in Sudan is a completed agreement in Naivasha, and the opening up of the government to participation by not only the SPLM but other southern parties, as well as the parties of the primarily National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Khartoum well realizes that such political pluralism spells the end of its current genocidal policies in Darfur, its support for the LRA, and the regime’s tyrannical control of wealth and power in Sudan. For precisely these reasons, the final peace talks have been postponed as long as possible, with the governing assumption that even if a peace agreement is reached, Khartoum’s opportunities for abrogating its terms will be many and without international consequence.
Absent an international resolve to use coercive diplomacy to force a fundamental change of governance in Khartoum, the vast human suffering and destruction in Darfur, southern Sudan, northern Uganda, and elsewhere in Sudan will continue indefinitely.
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