September 3, 2004
No voice, no individual has yet spoken more authoritatively of the terrible connections between genocides in Rwanda and Darfur than Romeo Dallaire, the heroically courageous Canadian lieutenant-general who headed the UN peacekeeping operation during the Rwandan genocide (for which Kofi Annan, then head of UN peacekeeping operations, bears significant responsibility). Dallaire has lashed out at the international community, with a searing honesty, declaring that he is “‘just disgusted with the lame and obtuse responses coming from Canada and the western world.'” —
“‘It makes me sick,’ said retired lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire, 10 years after he led the ill-fated UN peacekeeping mission during the Rwandan massacre. ‘It burns inside and the sentiments or the feelings that I had of abandonment in Rwanda are exactly the same that I feel today in regards to the Sudan.'” (Canadian Press wire service, September 2, 2004)
Dallaire is right on more counts than can easily be rendered in light of the dismal performance this week of Kofi Annan, Jan Pronk (Annan’s special representative to Sudan), and various members of the Security Council, including the US. With peace talks in Abuja (Nigeria) predictably stalemated over security issues, with Khartoum refusing to accept a larger contingent of African Union forces backed by a peacekeeping mandate, with the gap between humanitarian need and capacity growing steadily wider and more deadly, with Khartoum’s regular and Janjaweed militia allies continuing to attack civilians and civilian villages, one might have thought that things could get no worse.
But in fact, UN leadership—specifically that of Pronk and Annan—has now managed to put in place a scheme for creating so-called “safe areas” in Darfur that works both to consolidate the effects of ethnic/racial clearances and genocidal destruction, as well as to provide Khartoum an opportunity to press its offensive military advantage in precisely these “safe areas” (see below). This is a major development that has to date received far too little attention.
It is against this backdrop that the African tribal peoples of Darfur continue their relentless descent into a terrible abyss of ever-greater suffering and genocidal destruction. Moral weakness and errors of judgment continue to compound themselves, with the people of Darfur paying the terrible price. Dallaire is certainly right in his further assessment, which must include the UN leadership:
‘The Americans and the international community did absolutely nothing to stop the genocide in 1994 and are certainly not proving themselves effective today,’ [Dallaire] said.” (Canadian Press wire service, September 2, 2004)
THE RESPONSE OF THE U.S.
The response of the US this week has been helpful on a few counts, but is more largely revealing of an absence of any real willingness to lead, either at the UN or within the international community. Secretary of State Colin Powell, “asked whether he thought the time had come to impose sanctions, [ ] said it was too early to make such a decision and sanctions were not the only option. He cited a UN proposal for more African troops in the region” (Reuters, September 2, 2004)
This is disingenuous on two counts. First, Powell knows that there is no chance whatsoever that the UN Security Council will impose sanctions of any sort, even highly targeted sanctions, against Khartoum. Indeed, the US was unable, as co-sponsor of the flaccid July 30, 2004 Security Council Resolution 1556, to find sufficient support to include even the word “sanctions” in the serially weakened draft of the resolution. It is not a matter of Powell somehow deciding that it is “too early to make such a decision”: the UN Security Council clearly would not follow US leadership in any event.
Second, while a good deal of international hope has come to rest by default on the African Union and its military capacity, the truth remains as stark today as it was a month ago: Khartoum is adamantly refusing to accept any AU troops with a peacekeeping mandate. This refusal was reiterated yet again yesterday by Elfitah Erwa, Khartoum’s ambassador to the UN, who said Sudan didn’t object to additional troops so long as they had no peacekeeping mandate. “Security,” all members of the National Islamic Front regime have continuously and uniformly insisted, is the exclusive province of the regime.
Moreover, the present contingent of 80 AU observers and 305 protection troops has pitifully inadequate logistics, transport capacity, and communications gear. Morale is reportedly declining, and Khartoum has made the securing of adequate amounts of fuel a growing problem, further exacerbating the problem of insufficient transport capacity. (See an excellent Associated Press dispatch at: (http://www.sudantribune.com/article.php3?id_article=5072)
PRONK AND ANNAN: A TAG-TEAM OF DISINGENUOUSNESS
In New York, the only significant points made in the reports to the Security Council by Pronk and Annan were that insecurity continues to be extremely acute throughout Darfur, that Khartoum has not disarmed the Janjaweed militia, and that the regime has done nothing by way of identifying Janjaweed leaders or bringing them to justice. In short, the singular “demand” of Security Council Resolution 1556 has gone completely unfulfilled. But despite this, both reports work to suggest that there has been “progress,” even as neither is honest enough to note what Human Rights Watch has authoritatively established:
“The government of Sudan is permitting abusive Janjaweed militia to maintain at least 16 camps in the western region of Darfur” and “five of the 16 camps, according to witnesses, are camps the Janjaweed share with the Sudanese government army.” (“Sudan: Janjaweed Camps Still Active,” Human Rights Watch [New York], August 27, 2004; report available at: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/08/27/darfur9268.htm)
Instead, Annan and Pronk disingenuously suggest that perhaps Khartoum needs assistance in diminishing insecurity and the threat to civilians. They thereby deliberately skirt entirely the essential point: Khartoum has no intention of doing what is necessary to create a secure environment, preeminently to disarm the Janjaweed. Indeed, as Human Rights Watch declared in a more recent press release, it is “startling” that Kofi Annan’s report:
“fails to acknowledge what several UN agencies and scores of independent reports have documented: the government of Sudan is responsible for these attacks against civilians, directly and through the Janjaweed militias it supports.” (“UN Darfur Deadline Expires: Security Council Must Act,” September 3, 2004 [New York])
“Startling,” perhaps, though increasingly part of a pattern of accommodating Khartoum in ways that betray weakness, lack of political resolve, and poor judgment. For of course Khartoum well understands that it has been freed from responsibility for its clearly deliberate attacks on civilians. This in turn will only encourage the regime to believe that for all the bluster in New York, at the end of the day nothing will be done, and there will be no price to pay for continuing a policy of genocide by attrition.
What was truly “startling,” indeed shocking, was Jan Pronk’s refusal to acknowledge very recent attacks, confirmed by the African Union observer mission, on civilians in various villages in Darfur. But this was entirely in keeping with a report that is consistently disingenuous, indeed in places characterized by outright mendacity. In Section 2 of his “Oral Briefing to the UN Security Council” (September 2, 2004), Pronk lists ten areas of supposed “improvement” on the part of Khartoum in responding to the August 5, 2004 “Plan of Action” (which essentially redefined Security Council Resolution 1556, July 30, 2004). Some of these points of “progress” noted by Pronk are couched in language that suggests the most minimal achievement or statement counts as favorable “evidence”; other of Pronk’s claims of “progress” are simply false.
In item  Pronk says the Khartoum regime has “ceased all offensive military operations in these areas [where IDP populations are concentrated].” This is a lie and Pronk knows as much. There is ample evidence, from multiple sources, including the African Union observer team, that such offensive military operations have continued to within the past month, indeed the past week. The attack on Yassin (August 26, 2004) is a particular case in point (see analysis by the writer, “The Dead of Yassin,” August 31, 2004; available upon request).
In item  Pronk refers baldly to “deploy additional police” (this is all of his language on this critical issue). But of course as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many humanitarian organizations working in Darfur have made clear, these new additions are typically Janjaweed cynically incorporated into the “police.” More ominously, many “police” are in fact militarily trained personnel being deployed not for civilian protection but for offensive military purposes (see discussion of “safe areas” below).
In item  Pronk again declares baldly, “lift all access restrictions for humanitarian relief.” Without qualification, crediting the regime for this “improvement” is again deeply disingenuous. Many new restrictions continue to appear and have been chronicled regularly by this writer: since passage of Resolution 1556, they include grounding World Food Program planes for patently contrived reasons (August 3 and 4, 2004); denying a UN transport plane entry because it is more than 20 years old; refusal to release vehicles to aid organizations; the gratuitous requirement that Khartoum’s Humanitarian Aid Commission personnel travel on all WFP passenger flights (often delaying flights by up to two hours); the gratuitous and onerous requirement for 2-day advance notice of WFP flight manifests.
A recent US Agency for International Development “fact sheet” also chronicles clear “restrictions for humanitarian relief” of the sort Pronk evidently dismisses:
“A non-governmental organization already working in Darfur reported that one of its vehicles was denied customs clearance by the GOS Humanitarian Aid Commission. Other nongovernmental organizations reported restrictions on the hiring of national medical staff and additional delays in customs clearance for essential equipment.” (US AID, fact sheet #19, “Darfur—Humanitarian Emergency, August 20, 2004)
In item  Pronk says in a particularly cynical bit of disingenuousness simply: “[Khartoum should] announce a policy of voluntary returns only.” As even Pronk must have learned, Khartoum is willing to announce anything. But “announcements” are meaningless; implementation is all that matters, and there continues to be substantial evidence that forced returns remain Khartoum’s official policy, as previously announced by NIF Interior Minister Hussein. For Pronk to credit Khartoum with “progress” on this score is a measure of how cynical his report is.
PRONK’S OBSCENE ELISION
It is this cynicism that we must see animating Pronk’s, “urging the Government of Sudan, if it is unable to protect its civilians by itself, to seek, request, and accept assistance from the international community” (Section 6 of the report).
“If the Government of Sudan is unable to protect its civilians…”: what can this bizarre conditional statement imply but that Pronk thinks, or finds it expedient to suggest, that Khartoum is somehow interested in doing so? This assumption that Khartoum is interested in “protecting its civilians” is made despite the fact that all evidence, from all quarters, including UN agencies, makes fully clear that it is the “Government of Sudan” that is directly responsible for attacks on “its civilians”—as recently as this past week (confirmed publicly by the African Union monitoring team in Darfur).
What are we to believe Pronk makes of the countless reports, some extremely recent, by civilians who have fled their villages after being attacked by Khartoum’s Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships? Does he think that these deadly aerial assets have some independent authority? That they are being flown by the Janjaweed? Does he think that these attacks are not ordered by the military and political leaders in Khartoum?
These are innocent civilians, overwhelmingly of the African tribal groups of Darfur, who have told they same story thousands and thousands of times to all who will listen: “We were attacked from the air and then on the ground; the Janjaweed were accompanied by regular army forces; our villages were burned, our men and boys were killed; our women and girls were raped; our food and water were destroyed, and our cattle taken.”
The US ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, must at least be credited here with taking to task Pronk’s report for its obscene eliding of the fundamental reality defining war in Darfur:
“U.S. Ambassador John Danforth said evidence provided by the African Union showed that Khartoum carried out a recent helicopter attack on two villages, which he said was confirmed by USAID officials on the ground in Darfur. ‘The government of Sudan was directly involved in the military operation against civilians in Darfur within last week,’ Danforth said after listening to Jan Pronk, the U.N. special envoy for Sudan, who made the first 30-day assessment of the situation in that region to the U.N. Security Council.” (Deutsche Presse Agentur, September 2, 2004)
Indeed, Danforth noted some of the findings of the State Department/US Agency for International Development authoritative assessment of evidence of genocide in Darfur, growing out of 1,200 randomized interviews with refugees along the Chad/Darfur border, including the findings that:
“25 percent of the refugees survey recently by US officials in Chad reported that they had been ‘attacked exclusively’ by the Sudanese military. Another 50 percent said the attacks came from the government working with the militia.” (Reuters, September 2, 2004)
As disturbing as Pronk’s and Annan’s refusal to speak honestly about the nature of human destruction in Darfur may be in itself, it has led to other serious miscalculations and efforts of appeasement; these work only to ensure that Khartoum—safe from UN sanctions—feels no real pressure to respond beyond offering more “commitments” and “announcement,” as deemed necessary. The consequences of this UN disingenuousness and expediency are most conspicuous in the so-called “safe areas” Pronk negotiated on behalf of Annan on August 5, 2004.
THE PRONK/ANNAN PLAN FOR “SAFE AREAS” IN DARFUR
In a “Joint Communiqu”—signed by Kofi Annan for the UN and by the Khartoum regime on July 3, 2004—the groundwork was laid for what has developed into an extremely unfortunate plan to create so-called “safe areas” in Darfur. The idea, broached in general terms in the Joint Communiqu, was formalized in the August 5, 2004 “Plan of Action,” signed again by the Khartoum regime and by Jan Pronk, representing Kofi Annan. This is a matter of some geographic and military complexity, so it is important to look at the precise language used (as well as to emphasize how great the differences are from the April 8, 2004 cease-fire agreement signed in N’Djamena [Chad] by Khartoum and representatives of the two insurgency groups (the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement [SLA/M] and the Justice and Equality Movement [JEM]).
The Joint Communiqu speaks of the Khartoum regime “committing itself” to “deploy a strong, credible, and respected police force in all Internally Displaced Persons areas as well as in areas susceptible to attacks” (Section 3, July 3, 2004 Joint Communiqu [Khartoum]). This “police” force was to “ensure that no militias are present in all areas surrounding Internally Displaced Persons camps.”
In the exceedingly brief, but immensely destructive “Plan of Action for Darfur,” signed over a month later (and after the July 30, 2004 passage of Security Council Resolution 1556), the language had changed. Under this “Plan,”
“the Government of Sudan would identify parts of Darfur that can be made secure and safe within 30 days. This would include existing IDP camps, and areas around certain towns and villages with a high concentration of local population. The Government of Sudan would then provide secure routes to and between these areas. These tasks should be carried out by Sudan police forces to maintain confidence already created by redeployment of the Government of Sudan armed forces” (text from “Plan of Action for Darfur,” August 5, 2004 [Khartoum]).
And finally, as has become clear only with Secretary-general Annan’s report to the UN Security Council on Darfur, the “safe areas” in the “Plan of Action” were conceived as entailing “the securing and protection of villages within a 20-kilometer radius around the major towns identified” (“Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to [ ] Security Council Resolution 1556,” August 30, 2004).
What does this evolving language mean on the ground in Darfur?
We should note first Khartoum’s gross failure to “ensure that no militias are present in all areas surrounding Internally Displaced Persons camps” (Joint Communiqu). There are continuous reports, including from the UN, of an extremely ominous Janjaweed militia presence around and even inside the camps. Indeed, a confidential communication from a UN source to this writer indicates that there are so many militia attacks on civilians in the camps, that the African Union monitors are not reporting them all, fearing that UN workers might as a result become targets of these brutal militias. Nor, we should note again, has there been any effort to “immediately start to disarm the Janjaweed and other armed outlaw groups” (Joint Communiqu and part of the only “demand” of Resolution 1556). On the contrary, the Janjaweed and Khartoum’s regular military are quartered in a number of the same bases (see above).
But most ominously, the creation of “safe areas” not only threatens to consolidate, indeed institutionalize the effects of Khartoum’s campaign of ethnic clearances and genocidal destruction, but it is being deliberately manipulated by Khartoum for offensive military advantage. Human Rights Watch notes that, “These safe areas could become a form of ‘human shield.’ This would allow the government to secure zones around the major towns and confine a civilian population that it considers to be supporting the rebels” (“Darfur: UN ‘Safe Areas’ offer no Real Security,” Human Rights Watch, September 1, 2004).
These “safe areas” are, as Human Rights Watch has also reported, “only a slightly revised version of the Sudanese government proposal in early July  to create 18 ‘resettlement sites’ for the more than 1.2 million displaced Darfurian civilians” (“Darfur: UN ‘Safe Areas’ offer no Real Security,” Human Rights Watch, September 1, 2004). We should be especially suspicious of any such plan emanating originally from the Khartoum regime. And we should be especially concerned about the nature of the security that underlies “resettlement sites” or “safe areas.”
For in fact, the “police” that have been deployed to the “safe areas,” nominally to replace redeployed regular military forces of the regime, are not the “credible and respected police force” the Joint Communiqu stipulates: they are soldiers and other militarily trained personnel in the uniforms of “police.” And given the geographic latitude provided by the 20-mile radius stipulated in the Plan of Action, these “police”/paramilitary forces have been extremely active: not in securing the areas and protecting civilians but in consolidating and expanding areas under Khartoum’s military control.
For the camps for the displaced and the towns contemplated under the Joint Communiqu and the Plan of Action lie in and around insurgency-controlled areas (especially those of the SLA). It is, then, no accident that recent fighting, instigated by Khartoum, has been concentrated in villages within the radius of “safe areas”; this is especially true of Nyala town and el-Fasher.
It is difficult to conceive of a more misguided plan to improve security for the people of Darfur. Khartoum—which has yet to demonstrate its ability to keep a single agreement related to security in Darfur—has been put in charge of huge areas, and huge numbers of extremely vulnerable people. And those in charge are “police” with military training, or Janjaweed, or others with military backgrounds entirely unrelated to “law enforcement.”
UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw has recently spoken of a “culture of impunity” that Khartoum has fostered in Darfur. This now extends even to the “safe areas” that are supposedly a measure of Khartoum’s compliance with the demands of Security Council Resolution 1556; in fact, these “safe areas” not only consolidate the effects of ethnic/racial clearances and genocide, but leave people within these areas vulnerable to violence from military confrontations (this was the situation, for example, in Yassin near Nyala, the site of military atrocities against civilians that African Union observers have now confirmed).
Reports from the ground, including those of the African Union, confirm that the “police” were coordinating with Khartoum’s regular military forces, including Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships.
Civilians, already vulnerable to the ongoing predations of Janjaweed militia forces, have now—by virtue of these various UN negotiations—been made even more vulnerable to violence from those “policing” the “safe areas.” It is a ghastly error in judgment, deriving from a wholly unjustified willingness to believe that by demanding a “credible and respected police force,” Khartoum will somehow feel obliged to provide one. The fact that they are little different from what Khartoum originally called “resettlement sites” suggests that what Khartoum is “enforcing” is a permanent displacement and destruction of the agricultural way of life of these African tribal peoples.
Put another way, the “safe areas” and the camps which define so many of them are in danger of becoming what UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland recently referred to “as concentration-camp like areas” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, September 1, 2004). In fact, we must see this ghastly reality as already too fully realized. This assessment has been echoed by Andrew Natsios, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, who has declared: “The displaced people in Darfur told us repeatedly [ ] that the cities and displaced camps have become prisons, concentration camps.”
NO RELIEF IN SIGHT
The humanitarian situation in Darfur, which is finally inseparable from issues of security, presents a relentlessly grimmer picture. Reuters reported yesterday that:
“The United Nations and lead aid groups said on Thursday the world community must act quickly in Sudan’s Darfur region to stop food, water and medicines from running out in the next few months. ‘If there is not a major increase of food, clean water and medicine, the October, November, and December look very dire indeed,’ said Charles MacCormack, president of Save the Children.” (Reuters, September 2, 2004)
In fact, the implication here that food, medicine, and water are somehow presently adequate to all those in need in Darfur and Chad is deeply misleading. There continue to be enormous shortfalls in many key areas (food, water, sanitation), as a number of humanitarian organizations continue to stress. Moreover, there are also many hundreds of thousands of people who are beyond all humanitarian access.
Of the present situation, Simon Pluess of the UN World Food Program offers this recent assessment:
“‘The humanitarian situation in Darfur continues to worsen, with ongoing violations and the rainy season at its peak which is hampering and disrupting the flow of international aid very often,’ Simon Pluess, spokesman for the UN World Food Program, told a news briefing in Geneva.” (Reuters, August 31, 2004)
Still, there have been too few prospective views of the crisis in Darfur, and too little willingness to speak about the duration of the present catastrophe. Much more attention needs to be paid not to the next month but to the next six to twelve months. For there is presently almost no agricultural production in Darfur; huge grain- and other food-stocks have been destroyed by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia; countless thousands of cattle and other livestock have been looted or destroyed or died for lack of water and food. How will the people who have lost everything be fed and supported over this period of time?
If, as this write has argued, we must assume a war-affected population of 2.3 to 2.5 million presently in need (and this number could grow very rapidly in the months ahead), calculations should be based on a global need of over 40,000 metric tons of food and non-food items per month (medical supplies, water purification, shelter, cooking fuel). There is nothing like this capacity, in sustainable form, presently in place or remotely in prospect, absent the humanitarian intervention that the UN refuses even to discuss.
Moreover, the resumption of agricultural production is also nowhere in sight. The African peoples of Darfur were largely self-sufficient in food before the genocide began; now there is no indication of when they will be able to escape Khartoum’s remorseless effort at “deliberately inflicting on [the African tribal groups of Sudan] conditions of life calculated to bring about [their] physical destruction in whole of in part” (Genocide Convention, Article 2, clause [c]).
[It should be noted that the predictions of Save the Children’s MacCormack for October, November, and December of this year comport all too well with the projections of the US Agency for International Development (“Projected Mortality Rates in Darfur, 2004-2005” (http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/cmr_darfur.pdf).]
There are other very significant threats in the humanitarian theater. The recent shooting of a humanitarian aid worker in Darfur has been little reported, but in all likelihood represents what many aid workers, organizations, and humanitarian specialists have long feared: that Khartoum would have the Janjaweed or other military elements deliberately shoot humanitarian aid workers to force an exodus of the now rapidly growing international presence in Darfur:
“A Catholic relief worker has been shot and wounded in the devastated Darfur region of western Sudan, The Fides news service reports. The aid worker was in stable conditions after being shot by a lone sniper on the road in Darfur. The Caritas International volunteer had been delivering medical supplies to a refugee camp. Humanitarian workers in the Darfur region have now been advised not to ravel until their security is assured. Aid organizations have charged that the Sudanese government is not protecting either relief workers or civilians in the refugee camps. If aid is cut off, many thousands of displaced families from Darfur will be in greater danger from famine and disease.” (Fides/CWNews.com [Khartoum], September 2, 2004)
While it is extremely unlikely that the perpetrator of this attack on a humanitarian aid worker will ever be apprehended, we must ask who among the armed parties in Darfur has a motive for such action. The answer is clearly, unambiguously Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia; such an attack could in no way serve the cause of the insurgents.
In another ominous development, close to 3,000 case of cholera have recently been reported in western Chad. While there are no reports yet of cholera in eastern Chad or Darfur, the explosively destructive possibility is clearly present. The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reports “more than 120 people have died of cholera in western Chad and nearly 3,000 case of the water-borne disease have been reported since an epidemic broke out at the start of the rainy season in mid-June,” and that a coordinator in the cholera unit expressed his fear that “we are only in the middle of the epidemic, which might last until October, when the rains stop” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, September 2, 2004).
An outbreak of cholera in the larger camps in Chad and Darfur could claim many tens of thousands of lives in a short period of time, given prevailing conditions, especially the lack of clean water and sanitary facilities.
Despite the glaring failure of the international community and the United Nations in particular, there are voices speaking truthfully about Darfur, and it is important to acknowledge the importance of their work—if only so that history will not record this as a moment of utter moral blindness in all quarters. Romeo Dallaire’s voice this week is of real significance. Human Rights Watch has been especially distinguished with its many timely reports and assessments. The voices of Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group have been consistently forceful and insightful from the very beginning of the crisis. And the distinguished Physicians for Human Rights has also become an extremely important voice, and that importance has only increased with a recent press release:
“The Government of Sudan has failed on virtually every count to comply with a Security Council resolution demanding it disarm its militias and assure humanitarian access to the over one million displaced Sudanese, says Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The medical organization which listed indicators of genocide following a field investigation to the Chad/Sudan border in June/July, calls upon the Secretary General and members of the Security Council to urgently confront the continuing atrocities and humanitarian crisis in Darfur with a new resolution. In the face of overwhelming evidence that Sudan has no intent of complying fully with the current resolution, PHR strongly urges the Security Council not to extend the already expired 30-day deadline, and instead impose sanctions and invoke humanitarian intervention under UN Chapter VII in order to save lives.” (“Physicians for Human Rights Calls for New UN Resolution Demanding Sanctions, Swift Intervention to Save Live and Investigation of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity,” September 2, 2004; available at: http://www.phrusa.org/research/sudan/release09012004.html)
Whatever the unlikelihood of such action, it is critically important that the politically possible not dictate the meaning of the morally intelligible.
In the midst of so much abysmal moral failure, we must take note of those organizations and groups that refuse to be drawn into this abyss, and that continue to speak the truth amidst the shabby disingenuousness now passing as an international political response to Darfur’s catastrophe.
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