Still no serious response to insecurity facing civilians, humanitarian workers
May 7, 2005
Despite recent announcements that the AU will seek NATO logistical help in augmenting its woefully under-sized and under-equipped monitoring force in Darfur, there is no sign that the international community is serious about addressing the acute insecurity threatening civilian populations and humanitarian operations in Darfur. On the contrary, the force size and mandate of the international presence in Darfur continue to be defined by AU capacity and the lowest common political denominator at the UN. Instead of asking seriously what force could address the multiple, urgent security needs in Darfur, the international community is content to ask what the AU can muster, and what will escape a Chinese veto in the UN Security Council.
If we want to understand the meaning of the proposed increase in the AU force—to 7,500 by August 2005 and possibly 12,300 by spring 2006—we must see that these numbers represent the maximum the AU political leadership believes may be effectively promulgated. They are certainly not defined by a credible assessment of security needs in Darfur (see below). Moreover, to anyone who has watched the painfully slow and frequently inept deployment of the current AU force over the past half year, these proposed timetables for augmentation will seem disingenuously optimistic, even with NATO logistical help. The August target date itself bespeaks the dubious prospects for completed deployment to create a 7,500-man force: this is the height of the rainy season in Darfur, when transportation is most difficult.
The willingness to allow the security presence in Darfur to be determined by AU capacity rather than by actual security needs extends to others in the international community. Both Jan Pronk, Kofi Annan’s special representative for Sudan, and Jan Egeland, UN Under-secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, have recently promulgated figures in the range of 8,000-11,000. The relation of these proposals to the new AU proposals (again, 7,300 by August and 12,300 by spring 2006) is hardly a coincidence: it reflects a willingness to defer to AU definition of security requirements for Darfur. Nor has there been any Western government that has dared to say what is obvious to all: truly effective security measures for civilians and humanitarian operations will require in the range of 30,000-50,000 well-trained troops and personnel on the ground in Darfur.
Why such a large force, several times what the AU proposes as adequate for a year from now? If we assess Darfur’s needs, rather than AU capacity or UN political practicability, the following tasks must be fulfilled by any force that truly intends halt genocidal destruction and the vast attrition that will occur if humanitarian capacity is not increased, and Darfur’s agricultural economy is not re-started:
CIVILIAN AND HUMANITARIAN PROTECTION
 The more than 150 camps scattered throughout Darfur, some with huge populations (Kalma camp near Nyala may house as many as 150,000 displaced persons), desperately require internal security as well as secure perimeter areas. This demands a very substantial international police presence, replacing Khartoum’s current security apparatus for the camps (which includes many Janjaweed who have been recycled into the ranks of regime’s “police” force). There must be significant patrols of the camp perimeters and extended environs so that women and children can gather firewood for cooking, animal fodder, and water. Presently, leaving the camps exposes women and girls to the risk of brutal rape by marauding Janjaweed forces and increasingly numerous lawless elements; men and boys leaving the camps face execution. Securing the camps and camp perimeters, and thus protecting the almost 2 million people populating them, is a huge policing and military task unto itself.
 There are large populations of people in rural Darfur—certainly numbering in the hundreds of thousands—presently beyond the reach of humanitarian organizations; in many cases they are unable to reach camps or secure locations. The international force in Darfur must have a mandate that includes creating secure corridors for these people, allowing them to reach safety and the balm of humanitarian relief.
 Humanitarian convoys, including contracting drivers for organizations such as the UN’s World Food Program, must be afforded full security, and all humanitarian routes must be vigorously patrolled as a means of controlling growing lawlessness and anarchy. While the Janjaweed and the insurgency groups are responsible for most threats to humanitarian convoys and transport, opportunistic banditry is rapidly increasing throughout Darfur as conflict grinds on for a third year. Such paralyzing violence will continue unless the larger climate of impunity in Darfur is reversed; this cannot be achieved by the AU, even operating at the contemplated higher force levels.
 Security must be provided to displaced persons wishing to return to their villages, or the sites of their former villages, and resume agriculturally productive lives. Though all camp residents are desperate to begin such returns, a recent survey by an inter-agency survey in North Darfur made clear that “98% of the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) households surveyed are currently unwilling to return to their villages of origin, mainly due to insecurity, lack of housing and land” (UN Sudan “sit-rep,” April 26, 2005). These people simply do not feel secure enough to leave the camps, despite their frequently appalling conditions, including increasingly acute water shortages.
Critically, such returns must not be enforced; it is thus of particular significance that there continues to be evidence that forced returns remain a key part of Khartoum’s genocidal policy in Darfur (see below). Initial returnees to villages must have especially high levels of security, as they will serve as the means by which larger populations judge the safety of return.
 In order to ensure that Khartoum does not resume full-scale use of its military aircraft to attack civilians, the international force in Darfur should operate with a mandate that requires the regime to permit an observer on all aircraft flying over Darfur. This must include helicopter gunships, Antonov aircraft (whether designated for military or humanitarian transport purposes), and jet fighters. Any aircraft that are observed to attack civilian targets should be mechanically disabled or destroyed on the ground.
 The key UN Security Council “demand” of Khartoum—that it disarm the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice (UN Security Council Resolution 1556, July 30, 2004)—must finally be enforced. This will require initial geographic relocation and confinement of the Janjaweed away from civilian concentrations, and the eventual stripping of heavier weaponry. Former Janjaweed elements (often re-cycled into Khartoum’s paramilitary Popular Defense Forces and police) must be identified and removed from any security role. Those known to have committed serious violations of international law must be arrested.
At the same time, the insurgency forces must be put on notice that any efforts to take military advantage of the intervention will be met forcefully if they in any way interfere with humanitarian operations or civilian protection measures. Those insurgents known to have committed serious violations of international law must also be arrested.
Khartoum’s continued flouting, over the course of more than nine months, of the only significant “demand” made by the UN should give us ample evidence that the regime has no intention of complying with this demand—and that the UN has no intention of confessing its impotence or addressing the consequences of that impotence. Of course the largest of these consequences is to encourage Khartoum in its unchallenged belief that it operates throughout Darfur amidst what various UN officials, including UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, have described for months as a “climate of impunity.”
These six measures all represent difficult challenges; and yet none can be ignored if we are serious about human security and the “obligation to protect” civilians and humanitarian operations in Darfur. We certainly know the consequences of failing to accept these obligations: the ongoing deterioration of security in Darfur with the prospect of accelerating human suffering and destruction.
Current monthly mortality is approximately 10,000-15,000 in the greater Darfur humanitarian theater (see April 30, 2005 morality assessment by this writer at: http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=51&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0). Jan Egeland has predicted that as many as 100,000 people might die every month if insecurity forces humanitarian organizations to suspend operations (Financial Times, December 15, 2004). There continues to be a stream of news from the humanitarian theater in Darfur that suggests just how difficult the coming rainy season will be. Moreover, insecurity ensures that Darfur will again not see a significant spring planting (this is the major planting season in the agricultural calendar), and thus there will be no major harvest until fall of 2006, at the earliest At the height of the impending rainy season, the UN is currently planning for 3.5 million aid recipients (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, April 27, 2005); Egeland has indicated the number could exceed 4 million.
These numbers will overwhelm current humanitarian capacity unless there is a major improvement in security as well as transport resources. Humanitarian logisticians calculate that 17,000 metric tons (MT) of food are required per million persons per month. Ideally, the food will be a mixture of cereal (approximately 90%), pulses (leguminous foods), and oil. (This ideal has been very far from consistently realized to date, and a major break in the pulses food pipe-line was only very narrowly averted by the US Agency for International Development emergency re-designation of a food delivery already in transit.) 3.5 million people requiring food assistance would dictate that there be 60,000 MT of capacity—for food alone. This does not include the significant monthly tonnage for critical non-food items (medical supplies, shelter, water purification and supply equipment, sanitary equipment, disinfectants, etc.).
If we are to judge by present efforts and deliveries (on the part of the UN’s World Food Program, its implementing partners, and other humanitarian organizations), current capacity is approximately 25,000-30,000 MT/month. This capacity has seen no significant recent increases, nor has the pre-positioning of food (in anticipation of the rainy season) been nearly adequate. With current resources, it is quite impossible to see where an additional 30,000+ MT of capacity will come from without humanitarian intervention that also provides significant transport and logistical capacity.
While a press release today (May 7, 2005) from the UN’s World Food Program offers welcome news of some prospective increase in capacity, it is still far short of what is required and comes in the form of exceedingly expensive airlift transport from Libya (see below plans for airlifting humanitarian supplies to eastern Chad):
“The United Nations World Food Programme began airlifting food today from a Libyan airport directly into western Sudan’s Darfur region, pioneering a new route to move as much food aid as possible to nearly two million people during the rainy season. Using this new air corridor, WFP will be able to deliver an extra 5,000 metric tons of food each month to Darfur over the next three months in preparation for the rainy season—a period when many roads become impassable in Darfur and food needs peak.” (News Release, UN World Food Program, May 7, 2005)
It is a scandal that 27 months after the outbreak of major violence, and nine months after the international community identifies and demands the disarmament of the key source of insecurity in Darfur, such insecurity on the ground still requires international humanitarian efforts to resort to such expensive airlift measures.
Certainly as the June start to the rainy season moves inexorably closer, these multiple failings of the past should make clear that anything other than the most urgent efforts in the present represents an acquiescence before the genocidally destructive effects of Khartoum’s engineered catastrophe. We should note in this context that the regime has again begun to create significant bureaucratic obstacles for humanitarian workers on the ground in Darfur, especially in the issuance of visas [reports from many humanitarian organizations; see also The Telegraph (dateline: Otash camp, South Darfur), April 27, 2005]).
The international community may chose to accept the African Union as the sole guarantor of human security in Darfur, with a current deployment of 2,300 personnel and no civilian protection mandate. It may chose to indulge the fiction that the AU, even with NATO logistical help, can address the essential civilian and humanitarian protection tasks adumbrated above, if only its numbers rise to 7,500 by August. It may chose to indulge the comparable fiction that a time-frame that includes spring 2006 as a target for yet further deployment is somehow adequate as response to current, ongoing genocidal destruction.
Some countries may chose to believe that small-scale, largely symbolic deployments of non-AU personnel from their military ranks will provide absolution from responsibility for inaction to date (Canada’s evident strategy with today’s report that 150 Canadian military personnel will deploy to Darfur). And other countries may chose to diminish the crisis altogether—the recent US strategy evident in various statements by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, as well as in President Bush’s continuing silence on what he had previously described as genocide in Darfur—what he early in his first term had declared would “never occur on my watch.”
But all of these represent, most essentially, choices not to confront the real challenges of providing the security that Darfur so desperately needs if additional hundreds of thousands of lives are not to be lost in coming months and years.
CONTEXT FOR CHOICE
The deepening security crisis in Darfur is everywhere evident, despite the recent reduction in major conflict. In particular, there are military build-ups in several areas that portend renewed violence on a large scale. The May 4, 2005 UN Sudan “sit rep” reports:
“The build-up of militias south of Thur and in Abu Jabra/Tege (west and east Jebel Marra, respectively, South Darfur), and especially the increased aggressive behavior of [Arab] militias in Abu Jabra/Tege is disconcerting. Rumors of an attack on the Jebel continue, and fears of violence, fueled by past incidents are keeping agencies from accessing these areas.”
“Reports indicate that a military build-up appears to be taking place in the Wadi Seleh (West Darfur) locality with increased military patrolling, movement and tension in the communities. In Mukjar, trenches are being constructed and military presence has increased. In the same locality, nomads are moving closer to the village of Dambar, displaying aggressive attitudes despite the deployment of Government of Sudan police in the area.” (UN Sudan “sit rep,” May 4, 2005):
Moreover, despite a diminished level of armed conflict, there is still a great deal of fighting, with direct implications for civilians. With a dateline of Iriba, Darfur, the BBC reports:
“Fighting around the rebel stronghold in the Marra mountain is intense with almost daily clashes. There are tens of thousands of refugees in the area but it is too dangerous for the UN to work in the area.” (BBC, April 22, 2005)
Within the camps and the urban areas to which they are frequently adjacent, insecurity continues to be a matter of life and death for too many civilians. The Sudan Organization Against Torture (SOAT) has provided a continuous stream of highly authoritative reports on torture, abduction, extra-judicial execution, and other human rights abuses. Several releases appeared this week, all too well represented by the following:
“On 20 April 2005, armed men in military uniform stopped a passenger bus travelling from Belail Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp to Nyala and boarded the bus. The armed men selected three male passengers belonging to the Zaghawa tribe and ordered them off the bus. According to eyewitness accounts, the armed men beat the three passengers with the butt of their guns before taking them away in a Land Rover. The Omda (Mayor) of the Zaghawa group has visited the police stations and security offices in Nyala but the whereabouts of the three men are unknown.” (SOAT Press Release, May 3, 2005)
A recent UN report notes very high levels of tension between Khartoum’s security forces in the camps and displaced persons, especially the huge Kalma camp near Nyala. The report notes in particular that:
“One camp resident was shot dead at close range when he was stopped at a police checkpoint and fuel demanded from him on April 21, . [The report] outlined another incident where police first fired over the camp, causing people to flee for their lives, and said police began firing directly into the camp on April 23, .” (Reuters, April 27, 2005)
The brutality of the camps is difficult to render, but an interview with Wendy Chamberlin, UN High Commissioner for Refugees gives us a shockingly revealing example of what she encountered during her recent tour of Darfur and eastern Chad: “[Chamberlin] described the case on an eight-year-old Internally Displaced girl in one camp near El Geneina, Darfur. ‘This girl had been repeatedly raped, night after night'” (Press Release, UN High Commission for Refugees, April 25, 2005).
What does this obscene example say of our willingness to provide “human security”? of our willingness to undertake the “responsibility to protect”? If we consider the reality of an eight-year-old girl living without protection and subject to serial rape by the Janjaweed—a trauma beyond comprehension or adequate treatment—we have the distilled measure of our failure in Darfur.
Still, those within the camps have been given good reason for not leaving. A statement by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Chamberlin offers a bleak view of the violence and hostility that still reign unchecked:
“UNHCR is alarmed by the fact that abandoned villages in West Darfur are once again being burned to discourage the people who once lived there from returning home. At the end of last week, a resident of Seraf Village (12 kms south of Masteri, which itself is 50 kms south of El Geneina, capital of West Darfur) took our staff inspect the village, which he said had been burned the previous Monday (April 18). This man told us the 200 families of Seraf had fled attacks by Janjaweed militias a year ago. Then on Monday last week, they saw smoke and feared their village was being burned. All that remains now are broken grain storage jars and blackened mud-brick shells of houses, the thatching having turned to ashes.”
“This gratuitous act is clearly a message to the former residents not to return home. We are concerned because acts like this—on top of the displacement of some 2 million people from their homes—threaten to change the social and demographic structure of Darfur irrevocably.” (UN High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], in a statement designated for attribution to UNCHR Chamberlin; April 26, 2005)
Just as significant are recent reports of closed overland corridors and delivery routes. There are continuous reports now of attacks on humanitarian convoys, hired drivers, and aid personnel, both national and expatriate. A recent “security” note in the UN Joint Logistics Center Bulletin #56 (April 27, 2005) reports ominously:
“Security concerns continue to hinder transport in South Darfur, closing three of the most frequently travelled corridors out of Nyala (Zalingei, Menawashi/el-Fasher, and Ed Daen).”
The following Bulletin (#57, May 3, 2005) again reported:
“Security concerns in South Darfur continue to hinder transport in the state. Due to sporadic outbreaks of fighting and attacks on humanitarian vehicles, three of the most frequently travelled corridors out of Nyala (Zalingei, Menawashi/el-Fasher, and Ed Daen) remained closed to UN traffic.”
This represents a major constriction of transport ability in the greater Darfur theater: Nyala is the capital of South Darfur and a major crossroads for all of Darfur. And such constriction will not end until the Janjaweed are disarmed, until the international community finds a way to make good on the “demand” of UN Security Council Resolution 1556 (July 30, 2004).
A recent BBC interview with an AU officer provides a current view from the ground in Darfur:
“Colonel Anthony Mwandobi from Zambia, sector commander for the Zalingei area, said his forces are ‘understrength.’ ‘I need to have enough troops, I need to have communications equipment, I need to have transport–they are all in short supply,’ he said. More than two years after the conflict began in Sudan’s Darfur region, there are still only about 2,000 peacekeeping troops with a limited mandate, trying to keep tabs on an area the size of France.”
Colonel Mwandobi went on in the interview to say it is “very clear” that Khartoum continues to support the Janjaweed:
“He said that Janjaweed fighters wore military uniforms, which they said had been given to them by the Sudanese army. The Janjaweed also say they have been trained by the army. ‘The training is done for one month and thereafter, they are let go,’ Colonel Mwandobi said. He said there are frequent clashes in his sector, which includes the Marra mountains, where the Sudan Liberation Army rebels have bases.”
Colonel Mwandobi’s most ominous report comes last:
“‘There has been a sudden influx of [pro-government] Arab militias attacking civilians this month,’ he said, adding that aid workers in the region have also been targeted.” (BBC, April 28, 2005)
Various highly alarming security incidents punctuate UN “sit reps”:
“On 25 April , four commercial trucks were stopped by suspected Arab militia near the village of Juruf; two were used to barricade the Nyala-El Fasher route while two trucks escaped to Duma alerting the [Government of Sudan] police. When a World Vision [humanitarian organization] vehicle travelling from Manawashi to Duma arrived at the scene it was fired while reversing to escape the road-block.” (UN Sudan sit-rep, April 27, 2005)
For those human rights groups that argued a UN referral of crimes to the International Criminal Court would produce security in Darfur, that it would have a deterrent effect on Khartoum’s genocidaires and its Janjaweed proxies, the evidence continues to mount that such arguments were so much tendentiousness:
“[The UN’s referral to the ICC] has added to the insecurity in the region and is blamed for an upsurge of attacks on food convoys and aid workers. ‘The ICC list has increased insecurity in that people, local Janjaweed and even government officials, are frightened of being picked up. They make no distinction between aid workers and UN international staff. It has increased hostility towards us all,’ a senior UN official said.” (The Times of London [dateline: Darfur], April 23, 2005)
While the ICC referral was just and appropriate as a response to genocide in Darfur, and to the massive “crimes against humanity” found by the UN’s Commission of Inquiry, there should have been no glib (or disingenuous) assumption that this would somehow increase security in Darfur. As Refugees International reported in March 2005:
“Sudanese officials greet the ICC recommendation [by the UN Commission of Inquiry] with a combination of annoyance and arrogance. Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail recently threatened the 800 to 1,000 international humanitarian workers in Darfur by warning that referrals to a criminal court could lead to ‘a direct threat to the foreign presence… Darfur may become another Iraq in terms of arrests and abductions.’ A [paramilitary Popular Defense Force] official told Refugees International that ‘if the wanted on the list are penalized, it will not solve the problem. It will start war again.’ His colleague added, ‘There will be an explosion.'” (Refugees International, “Sudan: A Climate of Impunity in Darfur,” March 2, 2005)
Ismail’s threat was very recently reiterated:
“Mustapha Osman Ismail, Sudan’s foreign minister, has already hinted of what could follow [an ICC referral]. ‘A foreign trial will lead to devastating effects on the security front in Darfur,’ he said. ‘This may cause us to face some disturbing scenarios, such as the abduction of non-Sudanese workers.'” (The Telegraph (UK), [dateline: Otash camp, outside Nyala, South Darfur] April 27, 2005)
Humanitarian conditions are perhaps best summarized in a recent release by Oxfam International: “the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is set to continue until late 2006,” and though “the huge international humanitarian response has already saved many lives, it falls far short of what is needed” (Press Release [Boston], May 2, 2005).
Capacity issues are still not receiving the attention and resources they deserve, and over-dependence on exceedingly expensive air transport during the impending rainy season is already clearly a reality (the costs will of course diminish the ability of the UN to respond not only in Darfur but other crisis areas in Africa and around the world):
“[UN High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin indicated during her recent tour of Chad and Darfur that] the next major challenge will come in six weeks time when the rainy season arrives. Unless the UN has pre-positioned food and fuel to keep the camps running, 200,000 people will be cut off with air drops left as the last resort for keeping them supplied.” (BBC, April 22, 2005)
And the rainy season approaches inexorably.
KHARTOUM’S VIEW OF THE FUTURE
Though Khartoum is aware that Darfur has gained far more of an international profile than the regime had thought at all likely, there has been no change of strategy, merely tactics. We may expect to see as a consequence many more contrived diplomatic gestures and factitious efforts at “reconciliation.” The UN Sudan “sit rep” of April 30, 2005 gives us an especially good example:
“On 28 April 2005, the Civil Affairs team in El Fasher met with Fur, Zaghawa, Tunjor and Berti tribal leaders in Abushouk IDP camp to follow-up on reconciliation and return issues. The tribal leaders stressed that current government reconciliation efforts are for propaganda purposes only, and that tribal leaders who signed the agreements are not representative. The tribal leaders reiterated that no returns should take place unless the perpetrators of the crimes in Darfur have been tried internationally, security is provided, and the Janjaweed are disarmed, Furthermore, they requested that the AU role be extended to the protection of IDP camps and villages.” (UN Sudan “sit rep,” April 30, 2005)
Notably, the AU has still not been able to secure a date for reconvening the parties at peace talks. This reflects poorly on the insurgency movements in some respects, but Khartoum is certainly more than content to allow diplomatic activities to be frozen, thus preserving the current genocidal status quo. Indeed, in addition to resuming its former practices of obstructing the entry and movement of humanitarian aid workers, the regime remains committed to its policy of forcibly returning civilians to areas too insecure for agriculture, or to distant camps:
“According to the UN, on April 29,  the Government of Sudan transported 78 families, comprising 233 people, from Otash and Kalma camps in South Darfur to Garsilla in West Darfur. The relocation was not done with verification from International Organization for Migration, and no assistance was available for the Internally Displaced Persons upon arrival. Reportedly, 102 IDPs immediately departed Garsilla, 82 returning to Nyala and the remainder going to villages surrounding Garsilla.” (US Agency for International Development “sit rep,” May 6, 2005)
This is a deportation, in effect, of almost 200 kilometers. There are a great many other reports of Khartoum’s forced movements of displaced persons.
Khartoum has also moved aggressively to forestall an expansion of the mandate guiding AU deployment and augmentation. Foreign Minister Mustapha Osman Ismail declared recently that:
“‘The UN Security Council asked the government of Sudan to be fully responsible for the protection of civilians,’ Ismail said. If any AU resolution contradicted this, ‘then definitely we need to remove this contradiction.’ He added that any AU resolution giving full powers to protect civilians would need to be backed up by a UN Security Council resolution to be acceptable to Khartoum.” (Reuters, April 28, 2005)
In other words, the Khartoum regime expects to be allowed to preserve full “responsibility” for civilian protection, even as its own militia proxy (the Janjaweed) is the primary instrument of civilian destruction. Even though the UN Security Council has “demanded” that the Janjaweed be disarmed and brought to justice, Khartoum cleaves only to the UN language of responsibility that offers the National Islamic Front full prerogative to continues its genocidal ways, including deployment of the Janjaweed. Confident that China will protect its key African proxy state from any further UN Security Council resolutions, the regime is equally confident that any humanitarian intervention will indeed be defined both by AU lack of capacity and by the very lowest common political denominator at the UN.
Without much more commitment than has yet to be demonstrated by the various Western democracies, Khartoum will fully prevail in its genocidal ambitions and the African peoples of Darfur will face ongoing destruction.
Northampton, MA 01063