A harbinger of accelerating human destruction throughout Darfur
October 16, 2005
The decision by the UN to evacuate all non-essential humanitarian personnel from West Darfur should not be surprising, even as hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians are affected by this move. In fact, humanitarian operations were largely at a standstill even before the evacuation. The roads out of el-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, have been “red no-go” for weeks, and the general security situation for humanitarian organizations has been steadily deteriorating for months. What is important in the present moment is that we see the developments in West Darfur as broadly symptomatic of a security crisis throughout Darfur. Indeed, in ordering the evacuation, UN officials in Khartoum “warned of a grave deterioration in security throughout Darfur.” We are not looking at a localized security issue; we are seeing the most conspicuous sign of a wholesale collapse in security that might prompt much wider humanitarian evacuations.
In withdrawing all “non-essential staff” from West Darfur, the UN has left “only core staff at the UN’s local headquarters in West Darfur” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, October 14, 2005). This comes in the wake of a shutdown of all the transport routes out of el-Geneina:
“The UN has declared all roads leading out of [el-Geneina] to be restricted in view of armed clashes in the north, west, and south of the town, and increased banditry along all roads.” (UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs update, October 12, 2005)
The catch-all term “banditry” here deserves particular scrutiny in light of a recent report by Juan Mendez, UN special advisor on the prevention of genocide, following his recent trip to Darfur (September 19-26, 2005). There has long been speculation among humanitarian workers that the “banditry” in many parts of Darfur is not simply violent opportunism by men with guns, but politically and militarily purposeful. In particular, there has been a strong suggestion that the nature of the attacks, including the apparent knowledge of the timing and routes of humanitarian convoys, reflects the use of information originating within Khartoum’s very active intelligence service. In speaking of the many attacks in West Darfur over the past two months, attacks that have also been frequent in South Darfur, and to a lesser extent North Darfur, Mendez says:
“Though government [National Islamic Front] officials attribute these attacks to banditry and common crime, their coordinated planning and apparent use of intelligence to prepare the attacks suggest a decree of organization and fire-power that is consistent with Janjaweed activity, albeit under a different name.” (“Report of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide: Visit to Darfur, Sudan,” [UN, New York] October 4, 2005, Paragraph 19)
The Janjaweed, of course, have been repeatedly proven to operate in coordination with Khartoum’s regular military forces and military intelligence (most recently in an extensive indictment issued by the Africa Union on October 1, 2005). Mendez continues:
“With regard to the selection of targets and the time and location of attacks, attackers may have informants within Government of Sudan authorities on the movement of the nongovernmental [humanitarian] organizations.” (Paragraph 23)
Though the language here is exceedingly cautious, there can be no denying that Khartoum’s well-known desire to see international humanitarian organizations exit Darfur is obviously served by the orchestrated “banditry” that Mendez describes.
KHARTOUM’S WAR ON HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS
In fact, evidence continues to mount in other forms that the National Islamic Front is accelerating its war on humanitarian operations in Darfur. In addition to an increasing harassment of aid workers, Khartoum’s “Sudan Petroleum Corporation” (SPC) has indicated it will stop supplying the jet fuel required by the UN’s World Food Program for its aircraft; this comes shortly after operations resumed in Khartoum’s refineries following an annual maintenance shutdown (which contributed to an extremely severe fuel crisis at the most difficult period of the past rainy season). Notably, the SPC did not notify WFP directly, but rather simply informed Malaysia’s Petronas, the conduit for fuel deliveries; SPC indicated it would supply only an additional 1,500 metric tons of jet fuel—enough for perhaps a week of WFP operations (many details here are provided in a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs update, October 12, 2005).
This abrupt one-week deadline ensures that there will be a significant interruption in the supply of jet fuel, and thus in the flights carrying food to all areas supplied out of the major air base at El Obeid (Kordofan Province). This will directly affect Bahr el-Ghazal in southern Sudan, which currently has very high rates of malnutrition—and Darfur, which is ever more dependent on air supply, given the lack of security on the ground. If not reversed under international pressure, this act of logistical sabotage by Khartoum will likely force an extremely disruptive move of WFP operations to locations outside Sudan.
But no matter what the disposition of this extraordinarily important humanitarian issue, the decision by Khartoum to refuse to provide jet fuel for the delivery of humanitarian food aid in Darfur speaks volumes about the utter contempt of the National Islamic Front for the people of Darfur and international efforts to assist them.
And this effort is far from singular. As Kofi Annan noted in his July 2005 report to the UN Security Council,
“the humanitarian community continues to face numerous obstacles in discharging their duties, including difficulties for international nongovernmental organizations to obtain visas for new staff (particularly of African nationalities) as well as multi-entry visas; the length of time in processing visas; inconsistency in applying/interpreting procedures.” (July 2005 Monthly Report of the Secretary-General on Darfur to the Security Council, Annex).
Mendez also reports numerous examples of the National Islamic Front’s deliberate effort to compromise humanitarian efforts and efficiency:
“Many humanitarian nongovernmental organizations reported ongoing administrative difficulties to obtain visas and import equipment. Often, they are threatened by the Government [the National Islamic Front] with the suspension of their operations. The hiring of national staff [90% of all humanitarian workers in Darfur—ER] is apparently very difficult. The Government of Sudan Humanitarian Aid Commission has established administrative hurdles to the work of humanitarian organizations and their partners, including delays in the renewal of the expired agreement designating a coordinator for Kalma camp in South Sudan.” (Paragraph 25)
This is nothing less than a comprehensive assault on humanitarian aid efforts, with the clear goal of sustaining current genocide by attrition, and with the ultimate goal of changing fundamentally the economic, political, and demographic realities of Darfur—a process already far along.
KHARTOUM AND THE JANJAWEED
Khartoum’s primary instrument in this genocidal assault remains the Janjaweed Arab militia forces, in their now various forms and guises. As Kofi Annan notes in his most recent report to the UN Security Council (September 20, 2005): “There has been no visible effort by the Government of Sudan to disarm the [Janjaweed] militia or hold them to account in accordance with past agreements, including the N’djamena Agreement, the Abuja Protocols, and Security Council resolutions.” For its part, the UN Security Council dutifully expressed “concern” (in an October 13, 2005 statement) about Khartoum’s continuing brazen contempt for the only meaningful “demand” made by the world body (UN Security Council Resolution 1556, July 30, 2004).
Mendez was also explicit in an earlier press conference about the ongoing relationship between the National Islamic Front military forces in Darfur and the Janjaweed—a relationship that has been conspicuously in evidence during many of the attacks on African tribal populations in Darfur over the past month, including Khartoum’s resumed use of helicopter gunships (as reported, with photographic evidence, by the African Union):
“‘We heard credible reports that, not only are the Janjaweed still very highly organized, but that they may be able to obtain cards assimilating them into the security forces, so that they will be treated as security forces, official security forces, and thereby escape serious investigation,’ [Mendez said].” (Voice of America, September 26, 2005)
And even as Mendez found a rapidly deteriorating security situation in Darfur—“I found the situation much more dangerous and worrisome than I expected” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [IRIN], October 13, 2005)—he pointedly reiterated what has been clear for almost two years:
“‘Without disarmament of the Janjaweed, there is no possibility of reaching a positive solution to the Darfur crisis,’ Mendez said. According to the [Internally Displaced Persons of Darfur], ‘the disarmament of the Janjaweed militia is a priority for them to return to their homes.'” (UN IRIN, September 27, 2005)
It is not difficult to see the rationale for Mendez’s observations. Too many displaced persons share the experience of those living in Riyad Camp, West Darfur:
“Arab militias attack the Riyad camp in the Sudanese region of Darfur daily, beating residents and raping women with impunity, camp residents said. Many said African Union forces monitoring a shaky ceasefire in the region have not done enough to stop violence against around 15,000 refugees at the Riyad camp, just outside West Darfur’s capital el-Geneina.”
“‘Daily they come in and beat our people. But no one does anything,’ said Darfuri Yehya Ahmed. ‘They come on horses and camels. They rape our women and try to scare us away to force us to go home,’ the elderly camp resident told Reuters. ‘They (the AU troops) just come and write reports which don’t go anywhere,’ he said. ‘They have been here now for more than a year and still we live in terror—we cannot go home.'” (Reuters [dateline: Riyad Camp] October 6, 2005)
The lack of will and capacity on the part of the AU tells us far too much about why the security crisis in Darfur has escalated so far beyond control. Moreover, there are other signs of intensifying Janjaweed violence, directed against the civilians that the international community expediently claims are being protected by the AU. Mendez noted, while still in Khartoum that “Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps still are subjected to attacks; a new development seems to be the incursion of armed elements into IDP camps” (transcript of interview at UN Mission in Sudan headquarters, Khartoum, September 26, 2005).
Of course, just two days after Mendez’s remarks, the Janjaweed launched an unprecedented attack on the Aro Sharow camp for displaced persons in West Darfur, near the Chad/Darfur border. This was part of a broader offensive, described in detail on October 1, 2005 by AU ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe:
“On 28 September 2005, just four days ago, some reportedly 400 Janjaweed Arab militia on camels and horseback went on the rampage in Arusharo, Acho and Gozmena villages in West Darfur. Our reports also indicate that the day previous, and indeed on the actual day of the attack, Government of Sudan helicopter gunships were observed overhead. This apparent coordinated land and air assault gives credence to the repeated claim by the rebel movements of collusion between the Government of Sudan forces and the Janjaweed/Arab militia. This incident, which was confirmed not only by our investigators but also by workers of humanitarian agencies and NGOs in the area, took a heavy toll resulting in 32 people killed, 4 injured and 7 missing, and about 80 houses/shelters looted and set ablaze.” (Press release of Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Darfur [Khartoum], October 1, 2005)
It is important to note that what Kingibe reports as the “rampage in Arusharo, Acho and Gozmena villages in West Darfur” entailed in particular a massive assault on the Aro Sharow camp for displaced persons, where 4,000-5,000 innocent civilians were made to flee, at least 34 were killed, and (according to the UN High Commission for Refugees) approximately one quarter of the flimsy shelters in the camp were destroyed in the assault. Such an attack on an IDP camp is unprecedented, even for Darfur.
INSECURITY AND EVACUATION: IMMEDIATE HUMANITARIAN CONSEQUENCES
Insecurity in Darfur now obstructs access to “around 650,000 refugees in South and West Darfur” according to UN officials (Reuters, October 13, 2005). In fact, the number is likely much greater, since no accurate census of displaced persons exists (the World Food Program registration numbers, on which UN figures are based, are only partially representative of the displaced and needy populations in Darfur). Moreover, a figure for North Darfur is not included here (see below). Some of the consequences of restrictions on humanitarian aid movements are noted by Oxfam International: “British aid agency Oxfam said it could not access any of its West Darfur camps by road and were concerned fuel for water pumps could run out, leaving tens of thousands of refugees without access to water” (Reuters, October 13, 2005). Clean water is already critically short in many locations in Darfur: the restrictive consequences of insecurity will deepen this already deadly crisis.
Save the Children/US reported that even before the UN evacuation of humanitarian workers, “‘in September we could only do 66% of our planned operations [in West Darfur], rather than the usual 95%, because of insecurity,'” and the consequences for protection are just as dire:
“‘Sisi is an IDP camp of 5,000 people just south of el-Geneina that has been cut off completely for the past two weeks, after our staff came back to el-Geneina and couldn’t go back,’ [the Save the Children spokeswoman] said. ‘There have been frequent reports of rape in Sisi in the past and I’m very worried about what is happening there right now.'” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [el-Geneina], October 12, 2005)
Again even before the evacuation order, the UN area humanitarian coordinator for West Darfur declared:
“‘With each passing day we are in a race against time to get assistance to over half a million people to whom we have lost regular access,’ Andy Pendleton, area coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in West Darfur, said in el-Geneina on Sunday. ‘The situation is desperate, more desperate than ever before,’ he warned.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [el-Geneina], October 12, 2005)
South Darfur, distinctly the largest of the three Darfur states, has also seen a dramatic curtailing of humanitarian access. A UN press release notes that “the UN Mission in Sudan reports that almost two-thirds of the humanitarian operations in South Darfur have been suspended for security reasons” (UN press release [New York], October 12, 2005). By contrast, in the UN’s Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 17 (representing conditions as of August 1, 2005), 37% of the conflicted-affected population was described as inaccessible. There are over 1.1 million conflict-affected persons in South Darfur—and again this number, based on WFP food registrations, certainly understates the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in the region. (The UN currently estimates that over 3.5 million people in Darfur are “conflict-affected.”)
There have been suggestions that somehow North Darfur state is more stable, less threatened by violence, and providing better access to humanitarian operations. Radia Achouri, spokeswoman for the UN Mission in Sudan, recently declared that “only North Darfur appeared to be relatively safe,” and that “humanitarian access to North Darfur ‘has been less affected and most areas of operation are accessible'” (Agence France-Presse, October 12, 2005). If this is true, it is only in a very limited sense: extraordinary violence has been reported in North Darfur recently, by the African Union, by various UN organizations, and by news dispatches—and much of it has a direct impact on humanitarian operations. A telling example comes from the September 30, 2005 US Agency for International Development “fact sheet” on Darfur:
“According to the UN Department of Safety and Security, on September 29, UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) representatives were conducting an assessment in Tawila, North Darfur, where Government of Sudan soldiers entered the marketplace and opened fire. UNMIS reported that unknown elements returned fire and shooting continued for approximately 45 minutes. The UNMIS representatives took refuge at a nearby African Union Mission in Sudan compound. Later in the day, shooting erupted again. Non-governmental organizations immediately evacuated the town, and UNDSS declared Tawila town and the road connecting El Fasher and Tawila ‘no-go’ for UN agencies.”
The military threats in North Darfur are literally paraded by Khartoum:
“On 24 September , the town of el-Fasher witnessed a military show of force as [Khartoum’s] SAF troops armed with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], AK-47 [automatic weapons], and 50-caliber machine guns and moving in large trucks, land cruisers, armored scout vehicles, and T55 tanks paraded through el-Fasher to Abu Shouk IDP camp.” (UN “sit rep,” September 26, 2005)
It is difficult to imagine a more threatening and intimidating gesture toward the displaced persons of the very large Abu Shouk camp, a frequent stopping site for visiting dignitaries and reporters (the “opinions” of these deeply intimidated camp residents are frequently sought by visitors).
“The parade ended with a drive-by salute for the Wali [governor] and military commanders near the Wali’s house. The Wali announced the activation and full implementation of the Emergency Act, which gives full authority to the military and police forces to maintain the security and sovereignty of the state.” (UN “sit rep,” September 26, 2005)
In fact, this military parade was also a “victory” march. Shortly prior, the African Union reports, these forces, in concert with Janjaweed allies, had attacked a number of villages in North Darfur:
“[Baba Gana Kingibe, head of the AU Mission in Sudan] told a news conference in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Saturday [October 1, 2005] that government forces were responsible for ‘coordinated offensive operations’ which they carried out along with their alleged allies, the Janjawid militia. ‘On 18 September 2005, simultaneous attacks at Khartoum Djadeed, Sandego, Khasantongur, Tary, Martal and Djabain resulted in the death of 12 civilians, five seriously wounded, and the displacement of about 4,000 civilians.’ Heavy and small weapons mounted on vehicles were reportedly used by GOS [Government of Sudan] in close coordination with about 300 Janjawid Arab militia. Most of the displaced people moved to ZamZam [just outside el-Fasher] and Tawilla[west of Darfur] IDP camps.” (UN IRIN, October 4, 2005)
It is difficult to see how displaced persons and humanitarian operations in North Darfur are in any meaningful sense less threatened by broadly deteriorating security conditions.
THE ABUJA DIPLOMATIC PROCESS IN ITS DEATH THROES
The sixth round of the African Union-sponsored Abuja peace talks are sputtering to a thoroughly inconclusive end. The talks are aptly described by Roger Winter, the superb and highly experienced US special representative, as a “dysfunctional negotiating process,” deeply compromised by accelerating violence (Associated Press, October 4, 2005).
The rebel movements show growing signs of splintering, and are in the process becoming less, not more, inclined to negotiate. A dispatch from the Sudan Tribune suggests just how deep the problems are from the point of view of the insurgency movements:
“The Sudan Liberation Movement’s secretary-general, Mani Arkoi Minawi, said yesterday, ‘The main reason for the impasse in the talks on security is the glaring weakness of the AU mediators’ committee and its failure to exert pressure on the government forces and their allied militias.’ He further said Darfur was sliding into total chaos and asked the international community to send a UN representative to act as mediator and help resolve the crisis, pointing out that the crisis in Darfur had not given rise to international concern as the civil war in southern Sudan had done.”
“For his part, representative of Justice and Equality Movement at the Abuja talks, Ahmad Hussein, criticized the African Union and said African mediators had decided to move to the issue of wealth-sharing after the preliminary talks on power-sharing failed.” (The Sudan Tribune, October 15, 2005)
CONTINUING RELIANCE ON THE AFRICAN UNION FOR SECURITY IN DARFUR: A CRUEL DISHONESTY
There is a good deal of disingenuousness in these comments from both the main rebel movements (and significantly, an increasingly divided SLA/M). But the deep frustration with the inadequacies of the AU is universal among Darfuris, and in this at least they are represented by the rebels’ views. Moreover, it is not enough for the world to throw up its hands in frustration over failure to make diplomatic progress in Abuja, and declare simplistically with US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick: “Ending violence in Sudan’s Darfur region…is in the hands of negotiators” (Senate testimony, reported by the Washington File, September 28, 2005 [Bureau of International Information Programs, US Department of State]).
Either the international community responds immediately to the desperate security needs of Darfur’s civilians and humanitarian workers, or violence will only continue to accelerate, and the provision of life-saving assistance will continue to diminish. There is no way to escape this conclusion short of prevarication. That only the International Crisis Group has made a credible proposal for humanitarian intervention in Darfur suggests how widely expediency and disingenuousness prevail within the world community in responding to genocide in Darfur (see July 6, 2005 Darfur analysis by ICG [Nairobi/Brussels], “The AU’s Mission in Darfur: Bridging the Gaps,” at http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=3547).
The pretense that the African Union can be strengthened to the point where it will be able to undertake the numerous security tasks outlined, for example, in Mendez’ recent report, is nothing more than cruel dishonesty. There is quite clearly no way that the 6,388 AU troops and civilian police (with no sign of significantly increasing deployment) can:
*”Ensure security in and around Internally Displaced Persons camps”;
*help significantly in the “disarmament of the Janjaweed, [which] is a priority”;
*change the security dynamic whereby “victims refuse to report crimes out of fear of reprisals by the perpetrators”;
*establish the adequate “security conditions [that] need to be created in the areas where IDPs used to live or where they may want to resettle”;
*and “protect humanitarian convoys.” (Mendez report, pages 2, 4, 5, 8, 12)
Mendez acknowledges that one of the key difficulties here is the refusal of some humanitarian organizations “to travel with armed escorts in [African Union] convoys for reason of principle” (Paragraph 23). This issue of principle deserves the deepest respect, as it animates some of the most important humanitarian actors on the ground in Darfur. But this only makes more essential the establishing of broader security throughout Darfur, and the disarming of the Janjaweed, far and away the most destabilizing source of violence on the ground in Darfur. The AU has none of the requisites for such a comprehensive mission: not the men, not the equipment, not the transport or logistics, not the operating cohesion, not the administrative capacity, not the experience—and not the mandate. Western funding and logistical help cannot change this.
And yet still the US and its European allies expediently indulge the fiction that the AU is doing the job. Nowhere is this outrageous expediency more evident than in recent State Department comments on the level of genocidal destruction—from a growing range of officials. Now evidently inconveniently burdened by its previous genocide determination for Darfur, the State Department increasingly substitutes outright prevarication for honest assessment. The level of village destruction among the African tribal populations in Darfur, once an issue highlighted by Bush administration officials, offers a particularly revealing example. Here we should recall that Kofi Annan in his July 2005 report to the UN Security Council suggested something of the scale of this destruction, and its aftermath, throughout Darfur:
“So many villages have been destroyed since the war began that there are now fewer locations for militia to strike. In addition, the threat of [Janjaweed] attack—on villages or other concentrations of civilian population—persists. [ ] Active combat has been replaced by a suffocating environment of intimidation and fear, perpetuated by ever-present militia.” (July 2005 Monthly Report of the Secretary-General on Darfur to the Security Council, paragraph 40).
Mendez in his report to the Security Council declares that “many of our interlocutors [on the ground in Darfur] expressed a strong view that the limited number of attacks on villages is to a large extent a function of the fact that there are few villages of African tribes remaining, given that almost two million persons are living in camps for displaced persons” (Paragraph 7).
Mendez also reports that “all Internally Displaced Persons claimed that their land was currently occupied by members of Arab tribes,” and that according to recent finding of the UN High Commission for Refugees:
“The months preceding the rainy season have witnessed the increase and consolidation of settlements by nomadic tribes in the shells of destroyed villages in West Darfur previously inhabited by African tribes.” (Paragraph 26)
And yet what is the current view of the US State Department on this issue? Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Michael Ranneberger embodies the viciously destructive mendacity of the Bush administration:
“Even now what you are seeing is not these systematic Janjaweed attacks against villages. You know, somebody said, It’s because all the villages were burned. Well, it’s not. You fly over Darfur, almost all…you see thousands of villages fully populated, farming going on, and everything else. So, it’s because of the presence of these African Union forces.” (Michael Ranneberger, October 7, 2005 transcript from National Public Radio, “Morning Edition”)
It is difficult to imagine how Ranneberger could possibly be speaking of the same region that is described, from the ground, by Mendez, by the African Union, by the UN High Commission for Human Rights, by UNICEF, by humanitarian organizations, and by many other observers. Nor is it clear in this statement who Ranneberger’s “somebody” might be. Perhaps Kofi Annan; perhaps Juan Mendez. But this writer solicited assessments of Ranneberger’s comments from many well-informed Darfuris within the diaspora. While it is difficult to summarize readily the scores of pages of responses, there was overwhelming consensus that between 80-90% of all African villages have been destroyed. There was universal outrage and bewilderment at Ranneberger’s fly-over assessment, expressed in the strongest possible terms.
Some of these Darfuri assessments provided extraordinary detail. One especially well-informed Darfuri, a Fur who previously held significant political office in Darfur and has a wide network of contacts on the ground in Darfur, reports:
“The following are my own estimates, based on records and information from the ground:
1. Wadi Saleh: 95% of the villages are destroyed with the exception of
Grasila, Diliege and Mukjar;
2. Zalingi, almost 99% with the exception of Zaling and Abata. In fact, I was called by somebody from Zalingi yesterday. He was telling me that no could dare to go to ‘Dodo,’ a deserted village only 8 kilomters to the West of Zaling;
3. Geneina: about 98% of the villages are destroyed with the exception of
those occupied by the Arab groups;
4. Dar Zagawa: All villages are destroyed (about 95%) with the exception of
Muzabt and those under the control of the SLM;
5. Jebel Mara: 70% destroyed;
6. Nyala: About 80% of the villages are destroyed, while all villages occupied by the Arab ethnic groups are intact. This also applies to the el-Fasher area.” (received by email, October 10, 2005)
Assessments like Ranneberger’s seem to be part of a sustained State Department effort to understate Darfur’s realities (extending even to mortality assessments—see analysis by this writer at http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=505&page=1). Perhaps this explains the outrageous decision by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton to vote with China, Russia, and Algeria to prevent Mendez from briefing the Security Council on his important findings:
“Bolton said he had objected to the [Mendez] briefing to make the point the council should be ‘talking more about the steps it can take to do something about the deteriorating security situation’ in Darfur. He gave no new proposals.” (Reuters, October 10, 2005)
“He gave no new proposals.” A portrait in miniature of Bush administration Darfur policy.
In an equally revealing recent statement, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, a thuggishly dishonest purveyor of Bush administration views, recently declared:
“Ereli took a less dire view of the [AU mission in Darfur], saying that ‘the information available to us is that relief and humanitarian operations in Darfur continue. As far as I am aware, the food situation is still okay. There have been attacks against IDP camps in the last two weeks (but) those stopped.'” (Agence France-Presse, October 12, 2005)
The truly extraordinary distance between Ereli’s blithe statement on behalf of the State Department and all other reports from Darfur is too revealing—revealing of an administration that has no desire to see Darfur’s realities, and the radical inadequacy of the AU force on the ground, acknowledged. In this, the US and Khartoum’s National Islamic Front perversely share both method and goal. Both wish to avert any serious discussion of the force required to provide adequate security on the ground in Darfur, and both are content to see a chasm develop between announced views of the Darfur crisis and the realities on the ground. The disparity between the assessments of Ranneberger and highly informed Darfuris in exile is ironically mirrored in what Juan Mendez found during his recent trip to Darfur:
“I must underscore that I perceived an alarming gap between the authorities’ [the NIF’s] view of the situation and its measures to address the problems in Darfur, and the accounts of many Darfuris and observers with whom we met during the course of the visit.” (Paragraph 3)
Such an “alarming gap,” in Khartoum and Washington, prefigures accelerating genocidal destruction.
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