The New Republic on-line, July 21 – 22, 2005
Eric Reeves, July 21, 2005
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth part of a weeklong crash-course on Darfur by Smith College Professor Eric Reeves. Monday: how the genocide started. Tuesday: what motivates the Sudanese government. Yesterday: why the genocide is not abating–and may, in fact, be getting worse. Today: the feckless international response.
U.S. POLICY TOWARD THE DARFUR GENOCIDE: The U.S. response to Darfur must be understood in the context of Bush-administration efforts to end Sudan’s north-south war–as well as the administration’s attempt to secure intelligence from Khartoum on international terrorism. (The National Islamic Front hosted Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda from 1991 to 1996, and retained strong connections even when bin Laden moved to Afghanistan.) These have been policy priorities despite the administration’s explicit conclusion, first announced by former Secretary of State Colin Powell last September, that genocide was taking place in Darfur and that the Khartoum government was playing a role.
The Bush administration invested heavily in negotiating an end to the north-south war; and the signing earlier this year of a formal peace agreement–however limited and flawed–must be recognized as a major foreign policy achievement. But precisely because of the administration’s investment in a north-south agreement, including the appointment of former Senator John Danforth as special envoy to Sudan, there was widespread reluctance within the State Department to hold Khartoum accountable for the genocide that was clearly unfolding in early 2004, when north-south peace negotiations had entered their final phase.
The thinking by U.S. officials involved in the negotiations, and their British and Norwegian counterparts, was that pressing the National Islamic Front regime too hard on Darfur would undermine the chances of consummating the north-south agreement. But this diplomatic strategy was of course transparent to Khartoum and thus perversely provided an incentive for the regime to extend negotiations as long as possible–always promising a light at the end of the diplomatic tunnel.
The last issue of substance between Khartoum and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement was resolved in a protocol signed by all parties in late May 2004; two weeks later, following months of terrifying reports from human rights groups, the State Department announced that it would begin an investigation to determine whether Khartoum was guilty of genocide in Darfur. The close sequence of dates was not a coincidence.
But a tremendous amount of the violent destruction in Darfur had already been accomplished by June 2004; indeed, this marks the approximate point in the conflict at which deaths from malnutrition and disease began to exceed those from violence. Moreover, Khartoum continued to use the north-south peace agreement as a threat, declaring with brazen confidence that if it were pushed too hard on Darfur, the negotiated agreement might be endangered. The agreement’s final signing ceremony occurred in Nairobi on January 9, 2005; the inauguration of a new government took place six months later, on July 9, 2005; the killing in Darfur, of course, continues.
OTHER INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES TO DARFUR: U.S. belatedness in responding with appropriate determination to genocide was mirrored in the flaccid responses of European countries, individually and through the European Union; Canada, Japan, the Arab League, and the African Union were no better. America has been the most generous nation in providing humanitarian assistance to Darfur, reflecting chiefly the determination of officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Meanwhile, the commitments of other countries to relief efforts have been less than stellar; indeed, the financial responses of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and the oil-rich Arab countries have been scandalously laggard.
As further context in assessing international response to Darfur, we should bear in mind that U.N. officials determined in early December 2003 that Khartoum was systematically denying humanitarian access to areas where African tribal populations were concentrated. Around the same time Jan Egeland, U.N. Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, declared that Darfur was probably the world’s “greatest humanitarian crisis.” In March 2004, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, went much further in characterizing the deliberate nature of human destruction he was witnessing in Darfur: “The only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved. [The slaughter in Darfur] is more than just a conflict, it is an organized attempt to do away with a group of people.” All too presciently, Kapila went on to say: “The pattern of organized attacks on civilians and villages, abductions, killings, and organized rapes by militias is getting worse by the day and could deteriorate even further. One can see how the situation might develop without prompt [action] … all the warning signs are there.” Shortly after Kapila made these statements, Khartoum forced his resignation.
The above declarations prompted no meaningful discussion of international humanitarian intervention–a task that was left to the African Union.
THE AFRICAN UNION IN DARFUR: The A.U. began to deploy a small number of monitors to Darfur following a ceasefire signed in April 2004 in N’Djamena, Chad. A commitment in late summer 2004 to increase the monitoring force to approximately 3,500 went unfulfilled for over half a year, and during this time the A.U. was unable to secure from Khartoum a mandate for civilian protection–only a mandate to monitor the largely non-existent ceasefire. Recently, the A.U. has said it will increase its force to 7,700 by September, and possibly 12,000 by spring 2006.
As many have recognized, the A.U. is quite unable to deploy to this force-level with its own resources; and NATO as a consequence has very recently agreed to provide logistics and transport capacity. The bigger problem, however, is that even with NATO helping in this way, the nascent A.U. Peace and Security Commission is simply not up to this mission if the goal for Darfur is adequate protection for civilians and humanitarian operations. The A.U. does not have the troops, the equipment, or the essential interoperability of forces that are necessary given the scale of the crisis. Those paying the price for disingenuous suggestions to the contrary are vulnerable civilian populations and humanitarian aid workers.
Wednesday, Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio of Senegal refused to accept any longer what has become the mantra of “African solutions for African problems.” Gadio declared, on the occasion of a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that his government was “totally dissatisfied” with the hollowness of A.U. claims to be able to stop genocide in Darfur. Calling the situation “totally unacceptable,” he continued: “We don’t like the fact that the African Union has asked the international community to allow us to bring an African solution to an African problem and unfortunately the logistics from our own governments do not follow.”
This is remarkable honesty, the more so since Nigeria–current chair of the African Union–has declared at various points that the situation is fully in hand and actually improving. Comments to this effect have come from both President Obasanjo and General Festus Okonkwo, the Nigerian commander of A.U. forces in Darfur. Nigeria has strong-armed into silence many African nations. The country, which wants to maintain good relations with the Muslim world even as it confronts militant Islam in northern Nigerian states, has yielded to pressure from the Arab League–especially Libya and Egypt–to define the Darfur genocide as an African problem rather than an international one.
THE A.U. AS A DEFAULT RESPONSE: Any honest assessment of security needs on the ground in Darfur must accept that even the optimistically proposed A.U. force of 7,700 personnel requires very significant assistance from the Western democracies, ideally NATO troops, as the International Crisis Group (ICG) has recently argued. Protecting the camps and their environs so that girls and women no longer face rape when they collect firewood and water; protecting humanitarian corridors that are increasingly vulnerable; providing safe passage for vulnerable and inaccessible rural populations; assisting with the overwhelming logistical and transport needs of aid groups; disarming the Janjaweed (the only long-term solution to the security crisis); and providing security for the first intrepid civilians returning to their villages (or their burned out remains) in an attempt to resume agriculturally productive lives–these are tasks requiring at the very least the 12,000 to 15,000 troops the ICG argues are needed in the next 45 days.
The larger point here is that A.U. troops alone are both insufficient and merely a default policy–one that frees the Bush administration and its feckless European allies from the need to contemplate humanitarian intervention on an appropriate scale. Our response to the crisis has been defined not by security needs in Darfur but by the capacity of the African Union. Human rights groups have, in the main, refused to articulate this difficult truth, and an under-manned, under-equipped A.U. deployment to Darfur remains the unchallenged policy of the international community.
Tomorrow: what should be done.
July 22, 2005
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final part of a weeklong crash-course on Darfur by Smith College Professor Eric Reeves. Monday: how the genocide started. Tuesday: what motivates the Sudanese government. Wednesday: why the genocide is not abating–and may, in fact, be getting worse. Yesterday: the feckless international response. Today: the case for NATO intervention. For more information and continuing updates on the Darfur genocide, see Reeves’s website at www.sudanreeves.org.
THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE: Genocidal destruction in Darfur will continue for the foreseeable future. The resources to halt massive, ethnically targeted destruction–of lives and livelihoods–are nowhere in sight. The consequences of this destruction, now extending over almost two and a half years, will be evident for years–in villages that have been burned to the ground, in poisoned water sources, in the cruel impoverishment of people who have lost everything, in deaths that will continue to mount relentlessly.
There is currently no evidence that the international community is prepared to deploy adequate protection for either Darfur’s vulnerable civilian populations or endangered humanitarian operations. August, traditionally the month of heaviest rains, will see a further attenuation of relief efforts as transport of food and other critical supplies becomes mired in flooded river beds and blocked by severed road arteries. At the same time, water-borne diseases, along with malaria and a wide range of communicable diseases, will take huge numbers of lives. These diseases will be particularly potent killers because so much of the civilian population of Darfur has been seriously weakened by malnutrition. Famine conditions have already been identified in parts of Darfur, and the U.N.’s World Food Program estimates that 3.5 million people will need food assistance in the near future.
We have failed in Darfur. The only question now is the ultimate moral scale of our failure.
THE CASE FOR NATO INTERVENTION: To mitigate this failure, NATO should plan to deploy at least 15,000 troops to supplement the current African Union force now deployed under a weak mandate that extends only to ceasefire monitoring. This force should deploy in close consultation with the A.U. and in particular with neighboring countries, especially Egypt and Chad. There must be a clear civilian protection mandate. NATO political leadership should indicate unambiguously that it is prepared to expand the force if Khartoum’s National Islamic Front seeks to create a non-permissive environment for deployment. Vigorous economic sanctions against northern Sudan should also be prepared by all NATO countries in the event of obstruction by Khartoum.
Those who would object to such a NATO deployment must answer, clearly and honestly, a fundamental question: Who besides NATO has the requisite size of forces, the logistical and transport capacity, the essential interoperability, and the experience to mount such a protection operation? The answer is certainly not the A.U., as recent months and any unbiased survey of potential A.U. capacity will indicate. The A.U. must be commended for its efforts to date; it must be encouraged to take upon itself as much of the military obligation as possible; NATO countries must accelerate the training of African military personnel and provide necessary logistics and transport on a highly expedited basis. But the A.U. cannot, in the end, be the organization to answer the desperate call of Darfur.
As I suggested yesterday, a successful intervention would need to undertake a number of tasks. A full list of these makes clear the need for NATO intervention and the inadequacy of the A.U.
The more than 150 camps for displaced persons, with at least 2 million registered and unregistered people, must be fully secured. That means replacing the Sudanese police and security forces with A.U. and NATO military police, including a substantial complement of female officers experienced in responding to sexual violence. The camp surroundings must also be secured, as women and girls are forced to venture further and further to find firewood for cooking, water, and animal fodder. Humanitarian corridors must be fully secured so that drivers for the U.N.’s World Food Program and other agencies no longer face deadly assault. Civilians in inaccessible rural areas must be provided safe passage, or large numbers will slowly starve. Those civilians attempting to return to their villages–especially the early contingents–must be afforded security: If they return and are again attacked by Janjaweed or other lawless forces, it will become impossible to persuade others to risk returning.
Perhaps the largest challenge will be to disarm and neutralize the Janjaweed, an increasingly diffuse force. Many Janjaweed members have been removed to other parts of Sudan; many others have been incorporated into the police, security forces, or paramilitary organizations such as the notorious Popular Defense Force. Disarming the Janjaweed must be done in a head-on manner by NATO troops, for the militias are not a true military force and would be overwhelmed quickly if they resisted in the face of well-trained, well-armed NATO forces operating with robust rules of engagement.
The two major insurgency movements–the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement–must be put on forceful notice that to the extent they interfere with the establishment of secure conditions or humanitarian operations, they will also be militarily targeted.
Given what happened in Iraq, where a long-oppressed people did not receive Western troops as warmly as the Bush administration had predicted, it may seem presumptuous to say NATO forces would be welcomed by the African populations of Darfur. Nonetheless, countless conversations with Darfuris have convinced me that Western intervention would in fact be welcomed with enthusiasm, especially given growing disaffection with the performance of A.U. forces.
QUESTIONS OF JUSTICE: Beyond the provision of security, any truly adequate response to genocide in Darfur requires that we attend to various issues of justice. Certainly if Darfuri society is to be reconstructed out of the ashes of ethnic hatred and violence, compensation must be provided to those who have lost all amidst the burning, looting, and dispossession. The government in Khartoum, which has orchestrated the violence and destruction, must be made to provide direct compensation as well as adequate financial support for local mechanisms that will adjudicate the hundreds of thousands of claims that will be made.
The deep loss of trust between African and Arab tribal groups is one of the conflict’s most tragic consequences; restoration of this trust will be a painfully arduous and lengthy process. It cannot proceed if one part of the population perceives itself as dispossessed, even as it perceives the other part of the population as victimizers and the beneficiaries of the spoils of war.
More broadly, the international community cannot allow the present “climate of impunity” (as many have described it) to prevail indefinitely. Genocide must be punished or the force of international law will be seriously compromised. Future genocidaires will be guided by the vigor and timeliness with which justice is meted out.
It should deeply trouble all who value international law that the proceedings of the International Criminal Court have been greeted with such contempt by the most senior members of the National Islamic Front. These officials have repeatedly and insistently declared that no Sudanese citizen will be extradited to The Hague or allowed to participate in the ICC proceedings. Reliable reports from sources on the ground in Sudan strongly suggest that the ICC is also is being stymied by the NIF in its efforts to collect evidence and interview witnesses and victims.
This is hardly surprising, since it has been so well established that senior members of the NIF are the inevitable targets of ICC prosecutions. As the outspoken former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Mukesh Kapila said in March 2004 before being forced from his position by NIF officials: “There are no secrets. The individuals who are doing this are known. We have their names. The individuals who are involved occupy senior positions in the government of Sudan.”
Justice, however, can only follow the establishment of secure conditions in Darfur; it cannot precede it. In the absence of security, we will see no meaningful compensation to those who have suffered the most grievous losses; and there will be no satisfactory gathering of evidence that might allow for the full prosecution of those guilty of violating international law. For now, then, human security is the only issue we should be discussing–and only NATO can provide it.
OUR MORAL CHOICE: The plan I have laid out above for NATO intervention is unlikely to be implemented. Even so, it is important that the stark moral choice confronting the international community be absolutely clear. History must not record this moment as one in which our decision was uninformed by either the scale of the human catastrophe or an understanding of what is required to stop genocidal destruction.
And so, despite the long odds against an intervention actually taking place, it is our obligation to say with conviction and understanding the most urgent truth: In the absence of humanitarian intervention Darfur’s civilian population, as well as humanitarian workers, will be consigned to pervasive, deadly insecurity; displaced persons will remain trapped in camps that are hotbeds of disease; agricultural production will remain at a standstill, leaving millions of people dependent on international food assistance for the foreseeable future; aid workers will continue to fall prey to targeted and opportunistic violence.
In other words, the genocide in Darfur will continue. We could stop it. We have simply chosen not to.