June 7, 2004
International moral failure is now compounding rapidly, as the long-predicted effects of Khartoum’s genocidal war against the African peoples of Darfur have begun to take hold ever-more destructively. For despite the human suffering and destruction already authoritatively chronicled—reaching to the tens of thousands of deaths and more than 1.2 million displaced—acute malnutrition and mortality figures are now skyrocketing. In the ominous words of Ramiro Lopes da Silva, UN World Food Program Country Director for Sudan,
“‘The worst is still to come’ for the people of Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, where millions have been displaced by 15 months of rebellion, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned today. ‘The situation in Darfur is becoming more critical every day; the worst is still to come,’ WFP Country Director for Sudan, Ramiro Lopes da Silva.” (Agence France-Presse, June 7, 2004)
This comes on the heels of last week’s extraordinarily grim prediction by Andrew Natsios, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (US AID):
“‘We estimate right now if we get relief in, we’ll lose a third of a million people, and if we don’t the death rates could be dramatically higher, approaching a million people,’ said US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Andrew Natsios after a high-level UN aid meeting [in Geneva].” (Agence France-Presse, June 3, 2004)
Annette Weber, an Amnesty International Sudan researcher just back from the Chad/Darfur border, who also attended the Geneva donors meeting, echoed Natsios assessment:
“‘There are 350,000 people who are most likely to die in this period [the rainy season].'” (The Guardian, June 4, 2004)
The rainy season will run about another 120 days. These figures suggest that, on gruesome statistical average, 3,000 people will die every day during this time. And casualties from famine and disease may rise to even higher levels: nutritional analyses in Darfur by Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (Holland) actually suggest a steeper increase in Global Acute Malnutrition than is represented in the April 2004 US AID “Projected Mortality Rates in Darfur, Sudan 2004-2005” (see data at http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/cmr_darfur.pdf).
3,000 human beings dying every day, for 120 days.
Moreover, this figure may well continue indefinitely if the number of “war-affected” continues to rise as rapidly as it has in recent weeks and months, if humanitarian access continues to be impeded by Khartoum, and if the regime continues to create conditions of insecurity that prevent resumption of agricultural production.
For despite signing a cease-fire agreement, Khartoum continues to bomb civilian targets in Darfur. Agence France-Presse reported, citing Chadian diplomats, that on June 4, 2004 the town of Tabet was again bombed. In the same dispatch, a Chadian diplomat speaks of “‘inordinate Sudanese troop movements towards rebel positions’ [on June 4, 2004]” (Agence France-Presse, June 4, 2004). And there are many highly authoritative reports of the Janjaweed militia continuing their savage predations throughout Darfur, especially southeast of Nyala in South Darfur.
Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, also recently said that despite the ceasefire agreement to which Khartoum has nominally committed, the regime’s orchestrated violence was continuing 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)
The deployment of a ten-person monitoring team from the African Union, with no military protection, can do virtually nothing to enforce the April 8, 2004 cease-fire, even if augmented by another 100 or so unprotected monitors. Indeed, Khartoum will certainly test the viability of this monitoring force as soon as it is deployed. Access for investigating cease-fire violations will be restricted as fully as possible, with Khartoum granting only what is required to have this woefully inadequate force stand (at least for the expedient) as an “international response” to Darfur’s catastrophe.
However shocking Darfur’s casualty figures may be, there is nothing surprising about them. They have grown relentlessly, remorselessly, inexorably from Khartoum’s genocidal conduct of war over many months. There is nothing surprising about the US Agency for International Development figure of 2.2 million “war-affected” (the UN figure is now 2 million). The number has grown from the violent displacement of African civilian populations, primarily the Fur, the Massaleit, and the Zaghawa. Displacement has been engineered by the systematic, widespread destruction of African villages, water sources, foodstocks, seeds and agricultural implements. Mass executions of men and boys, the gang-raping of girls and women, and the use of torture have all contributed to the displacement of over 1.2 million people. Terrorized civilians have fled in ever-greater numbers into concentrations camps.
Of the more than 1 million internally displaced persons (another 200,000 have been displaced to Chad), more than half are in camps—most with no humanitarian access whatsoever. Conditions in these inaccessible camps are utterly appalling, with little food and water, and no sanitary facilities. Kailek, in South Darfur, offers a terrible example. This was the site of a camp assessed by a UN inter-agency investigative team in late April 2004. The team found “a strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation,” a policy of “imprisonment,” a “policy of forced starvation,” an unreported catastrophic “child mortality rate of 8-9 per day,” and the continued obstruction of humanitarian aid for this critically distressed, forcibly confined population. This assessment led these professional humanitarian aid workers to make explicit comparison to the Rwandan genocide.
And those camps to which there is humanitarian access are hardly havens of safety. UN officials report that, “In some refugee camps, the infant mortality rate is already 25 times the international average” (BBC, June 4, 2004). Doctors Without Borders/Mdecins Sans Frontires reports that a “recent nutritional survey shows dangerously high levels of malnutrition and mortality and a rapidly deteriorating food security situation. With already high levels of excess deaths and malnutrition, the whole population is teetering on the verge of mass starvation” (“On the Brink of Mass Starvation in Darfur” [New York], May 20, 2004).
UN World Health Organization Director-General Lee Jong-wook recently declared: “Death and disease spiral upwards when there is inadequate food, unsafe water, improper sanitation and shelter, widespread violence, lack of public health inputs like vaccinations and insufficient access to medical care. These are the realities of the current crisis in Darfur.” (CNN June 2, 2004)
And the seasonal rains have now begun. Road corridors are more frequently severed, and recent heavy rains in the southernmost part of the refugee-hosting area of Chad cut several transport roads. The rains began in Nyala, South Darfur, yesterday (June 6, 2004). Water-borne diseases are poised to explode, even as many lives are now being lost to disease and the effects of malnutrition. These deaths are in addition to the perhaps 40,000-60,000 who have already perished. Camp populations will be more and more vulnerable as the rainy season advances and humanitarian access from Chad is fully cut off. Violence continues to create insecurity that makes resumption of productive agricultural lives impossible to imagine for the foreseeable future.
Again, as UN World Food Program Country Director for Sudan, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, today warned: “The situation in Darfur is becoming more critical every day; the worst is still to come.”
Despite the urgency and moral clarity of the crisis in Darfur, there are too few voices calling for humanitarian intervention—and fewer still declaring their willingness to act without UN authorization. Since the UN Security Council gives every sign of acquiescing in Darfur’s genocide, it is no longer enough to speak simply of UN authorization of the sort that exists in Chapter VII of the UN Charter (Chapter VII permits the Security Council to take all actions necessary to “maintain or restore international peace and security,” clearly threatened on many counts in both Chad and Darfur).
It is certainly notable that Human Rights Watch has called for such UN action to halt Khartoum’s “campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing'” (Human Rights Watch press release, June 3, 2004), and that the International Crisis Group has called for even more robust UN actions, including enforcing a “no-fly zone” to prevent further attacks on civilians by Khartoum’s military aircraft (May 23, 2004 Darfur report at www.crisisweb.org).
But the likelihood of UN Security Council inaction is exceedingly high. This was highlighted in a comment today by US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. For even as the US and the UK are trying to pass a Security Council resolution on the Naivasha peace agreement, they are facing opposition over any mention Darfur: Ereli announced that “some council members are opposed to mentioning Darfur in the resolution. But we are pushing back strongly that not mentioning Darfur would be unconscionable” (State Department briefing, June 7, 2004). Security Council objection extended even to referring to the previous Council Presidential statement on Darfur.
If the Security Council is opposed even to mentioning Darfur, and in such a context, how likely is it to move beyond the generic expression of “grave concern” (May 25, 2004)? This in turn forces the critical question: what is the international community prepared to do in the absence of UN authorization? To be sure, Iraq has made such a question a great deal more difficult; but obligations incurred by the “contracting parties” to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide cannot be avoided simply because of difficult political circumstances. If the UN fails to respond adequately to human destruction in Darfur, destruction representing the ever-fuller accomplishment of Khartoum’s genocidal ambitions, obligations under the Genocide Convention remain fully exigent.
The US Congress, under the leadership of Congressman Frank Wolf, last week sent a bluntly worded letter to UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan, urging him to undertake high-profile and urgent action:
Co-signed by 44 other members of Congress, the bipartisan letter declares that:
“Urgent, immediate action is needed to prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. [ ] The international community must act swiftly. Failure to act will bring certain death to the thousands languishing in camps. The world will wake up 10 years from now and wonder why more was not done to protect humanity. The evidence is clear. We cannot say we did not know.” (Letter from Congressman Frank Wolf and 44 Congressional colleagues to Kofi Annan, Secretary-general of the United Nations, June 4, 2004)
Among the signatories to the letter are Congressmen Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos, Chair and Ranking Member respectively of the House International Relations Committee; also among the signatories are Congressmen Edward Royce and Donald Payne, Chair and Ranking Member respectively of the African Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee.
But the evidence available strongly suggests that Mr. Annan has decided not to take a leadership role in responding to the Darfur crisis. This is so despite his apparently tough-minded words of April 7, 2004, on the grim anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, when he explicitly invoked Darfur:
“U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Wednesday that outside military action may be needed in western Sudan to halt ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the strife-torn Darfur region. Annan said humanitarian workers and human rights experts needed to be given full access to Darfur to administer aid to hundreds of thousands of people driven from their homes, many into neighboring Chad.” (Reuters [Geneva], April 7, 2004)
The UN news service reported Annan as saying:
“It is vital that international humanitarian workers and human rights experts be given full access to [Darfur], and to the victims, without further delay. If that is denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action. By ‘action’ in such situations I mean a continuum of steps, which may include military action.
“Let us, Mr. Chairman, be serious about preventing genocide.”
(UN Press Release of statement by UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan, April 7, 2004)
Two months later, humanitarian access is still far from full, “ethnic cleansing,” indeed genocide continues unabated—and Annan has not once returned to Darfur with the urgency or “seriousness” of his April 7 words. The international community must, as a consequence, prepare for the moral failure of the UN Secretary-general and the UN Security Council. As Susan Rice and Gayle Smith wrote with courageous honesty in the Washington Post (May 30, 2004):
“The United States should press European and capable African countries to lead this humanitarian intervention with U.S. support. Given the demands on U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, it is reasonable to ask Europe and Africa to play a key role.”
“Finally, the United States should begin urgent military planning and preparation for the contingency that no other country will act to stop the dying in Darfur. The administration has worked hard to end Sudan’s long-running civil conflict. But this effort will have been wasted if we allow the Sudanese government to continue committing crimes against humanity. Not only will the international community have blood on its hands for failure to halt another genocide, but we will have demonstrated to Khartoum that it can continue to act with impunity against its own people. In that case, any hard-won peace agreement will not be worth the paper it’s signed on.”
(Washington Post, May 30, 2004 [Susan Rice is former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Gayle Smith is former Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council])
Again, the unforgivable numbers:
“We estimate right now if we get relief in, we’ll lose a third of a million people, and if we don’t the death rates could be dramatically higher, approaching a million people.” (Andrew Natsios, Administrator, US Agency for International Development, June 3, 2004)
“Recent nutritional survey shows dangerously high levels of malnutrition and mortality and a rapidly deteriorating food security situation. With already high levels of excess deaths and malnutrition, the whole population is teetering on the verge of mass starvation.” (“On the Brink of Mass Starvation in Darfur,” Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres [New York], May 20, 2004)
“There are 350,000 people who are most likely to die in this period [the rainy season].” (Annette Weber, Amnesty International Sudan researcher returning from the Chad/Darfur border, June 4, 2004)
Is the world prepared to allow 3,000 innocent civilians to die every day…for the foreseeable future? Has deliberate, genocidal destruction on a massive scale again been found acceptable in Africa?
Every day of inaction is another morally bankrupt answer in the affirmative.
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