Kofi Annan belatedly acknowledges the need for robust international intervention to replace AU force in Darfur
January 14, 2006
A wide range of recent news and policy reports clearly reveal the consequences of ongoing international failure to confront Khartoum’s National Islamic Front, the dominant force in Sudan’s nominal “Government of National Unity.” For the NIF continues to escalate a series of militarily-driven crises in Africa’s largest country, all of which imperil the widely heralded north/south peace agreement of a year ago. Physicians for Human Rights and the International Crisis Group have released particularly important reports: on the aftermath of genocidal violence in Darfur; on the growing military confrontation in eastern Sudan; and on Khartoum’s continuing support for the destabilizing Lord’s Resistance Army in southern Sudan and northern Uganda. Yet other reports suggest that a border war between Chad and Sudan, in areas that are filled with desperate refugees and internally displaced persons, may break out at any time.
The common thread in all of these crises is the National Islamic Front (NIF), which has sought to re-name itself, euphemistically, the “National Congress Party.” But the leadership, ambitions, and power structures of the NIF and the “National Congress Party” are essentially unchanged, with the complex exception of Islamist ideologue Hassan al-Turabi, who was expediently sidelined in 1999. The only point of this attempted name change is to obscure as fully as possible the ugly history of the NIF, which seized power from an elected government by military coup (June 1989) in order to abort Sudan’s most promising chance for peace since independence in 1956. Sadly, all too many in the international community are eager to accept a change in name as signaling a change in character.
Following the coup, the NIF purged the civil service, the commercial and banking sectors, the armed forces, and most important Sudanese social institutions, re-fashioning them to serve an Arabizing and Islamizing agenda. That this agenda has been forced by international pressures to accommodate enough pragmatism to ensure political survival should in no way obscure the NIF’s basic intention: to arrogate to itself all political and security powers, as well as national wealth, in service of ultimately ideological goals.
To be sure, there is an argument that ideology is now for the NIF ultimately an instrument of power, rather than the representation of real belief or commitment. But for the purposes of political, diplomatic, economic, and military assessment, this distinction is not telling: the NIF is a ruthlessly survivalist regime, which has surrendered virtually no power under the working terms of the “Government of National Unity,” and has repeatedly shown itself willing to use genocide as a domestic security policy. This policy will soon be in evidence again in eastern Sudan, directed primarily against the non-Arab Beja peoples of the region. This is ominous in the extreme, as military conflict between Khartoum’s regular forces and SPLM forces still in the east, which have been allied with Eastern Front rebels, could very well re-ignite war in the south (see below).
GENOCIDE IN DARFUR: THE PAST AND THE FUTURE
Recent news wire dispatches have reported in detail on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s shamefully belated acknowledgement of what has long been obvious: the African Union force in Darfur is radically inadequate to the security crisis on the ground. Yet support for the AU monitoring mission has been the default international response to genocide in Darfur for over a year and a half—by Annan himself and his special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk; by the US; by the European Union; by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan; and by every other international actor of significance.
Rather than mount the humanitarian intervention that might have saved as many as 200,000 lives (see my February 25, 2004 Washington Post op/ed “Unnoticed Genocide,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A3559-2004Feb24¬Found=true), the international community has relentlessly indulged the deadly fiction that unobserved cease-fires and a conspicuously inadequate AU force could stop massive genocidal destruction directed against the non-Arab or African populations of Darfur. Many of the consequences of violence orchestrated by Khartoum—from 2002 through 2004, into 2005, and presently continuing—are detailed authoritatively by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) (“DARFUR: Assault on Survival; A Call for Security, Justice, and Restitution,” January 11, 2006, http://www.phrusa.org/research/sudan/news_2006-01-11.html).
Genocidal violence in Darfur, chronicled by PHR and other human rights organizations, has destroyed the livelihoods of over 2 million Darfuris, and has led to overall human mortality that likely exceeds 400,000 (see my August 31, 2005 morality assessment, http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=67). But PHR has led the way in establishing, in meticulous detail, how the actions by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies massively contravene the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (particularly Article 2, clause [c]):
“By eliminating access to food, water and medicine, expelling people into inhospitable terrain and then, in many cases, blocking crucial outside assistance, the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed have created conditions calculated to destroy the non-Arab people of Darfur.” (Executive Summary)
In order to halt the genocide, PHR recommends that the Security Council “immediately authorize a multinational intervention force in Darfur,” three times the size of the present ineffectual AU force, and that this force operate “under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter,” i.e., with peacemaking (not merely peacekeeping) authority. Exercising Chapter 7 authority requires heavily armed, substantially equipped soldiers, with robust rules of military engagement in confronting belligerents.
It is this recommendation—which has recently come from many quarters—that Kofi Annan this week appears to have accepted, if with a circumspection that hints at various political and diplomatic difficulties the UN leadership is unlikely to overcome. The most conspicuous of these difficulties are Khartoum’s already announced opposition to any non-AU force (dismayingly articulated by Foreign Minister and SPLM member Lam Akol) and China’s likely veto threat (see below).
But the military essentials are clear from Annan’s reported comments: he spoke of the need for “an expanded force with troops from outside Africa” and went on to say:
“Any new force would have to be a mobile one with tactical air support, helicopters and ‘the ability to respond very quickly.’ Asked if this would include rich countries, like the US and European nations, Annan said, ‘Those are the countries with the kind of capabilities we will need, so when the time comes, we will be turning to them.’ ‘We will need very sophisticated equipment, logistical support. I will be turning to governments with capacity to join in that peacekeeping operation if we were to be given the mandate.'” (Reuters, January 13, 2006)
As context for this belated recommendation, Annan invoked previous genocides, including one for which he bears a central responsibility:
“‘Today, as we recall our collective failures in places like Rwanda and Srebrenica, it remains my hope that we may never again be found wanting where so many lives hang in the balance,’ Annan said.” (Inter Press Service [dateline: United Nations], January 12, 2006)
These words must ring with a terrible hollowness for the millions of ethnically targeted people of Darfur, who for over two years have found the international community shamefully “wanting.”
Moreover, even in making his recommendation, Annan has deferred in all too many ways to the political sensibilities of the AU and others. Before any UN deployment,
“Annan said that first the Sudan government, the 15-member Security Council, and the AU, which has sent the only foreign troops to Darfur, had to agree to a UN operation.” (Reuters, January 13, 2006)
But it is clear that the AU will surrender its singular role in Darfur not because it is incapable of providing security, or because it troubled by its inability to mount a force remotely approximating the one Annan describes. The AU will allow the UN to take over only if it runs out of money, which will happen shortly:
“A report by the AU Peace and Security Council said funding for the [Darfur] mission—which costs $17 million a month to maintain—depended exclusively on the voluntary contributions by foreign partners of the 53-member body. ‘At present, no commitment has been made by our partners for funding of the Mission beyond March 2006,’ the report said. ‘The time has come to make a pronouncement on the future of the AU Mission in Darfur and the ways and means to adapt it to the present challenges, including the hand-over to the UN at the appropriate time.'” (Reuters, January 12, 2006)
Behind this apparently dignified “pronouncement” lie a host of undignified truths. The AU has had insufficient administrative capacity in Addis Ababa since the beginning of operations in Darfur, and has too often been opaque in its budgetary practices. There has been far too little accountability, and much money that has been contributed to the AU for operations in Darfur has been squandered or lost to incompetence, exceedingly poor logistical oversight, and general lack of capacity. The efficiency of the deployed AU force is estimated by some European Union officials at only 40-50% (see “The EU/AU Partnership in Darfur,” International Crisis Group, October 25, 2005, page 12).
The most basic truth is that the AU has neither the requisite manpower, resources, nor ability to absorb such resources. Most tellingly, it is without political courage to demand of Khartoum an appropriate mandate for Darfur, one that would permit aggressively active (as opposed to narrowly reactive) civilian and humanitarian protection. The AU has failed and appears now interested mainly in securing a stamp of “mission achieved” on its exit visa. As Samantha Power wrote in a recent edition of The New Yorker, “soon, this stopgap [AU] mission will fail not only those in need of protection but all the other interested parties as well.” In particular, Power reported that, “the AU is looking for a peg to hang success on so it can walk away gracefully,’ one UN official told me” (The New Yorker, November 28, 2005).
These truths have not been lost on the European Union, which (in the organization of funding tasks by Western nations) bears primary responsibility for AU operational costs in Darfur. Though much has been made, rightly, of the ham-fisted US Congressional refusal to authorize an additional $50 million for the AU mission, the real problem lies not in Washington but in Brussels. The US State Department has signaled that it can, if necessary, find the $50 million in other accounts (though at costs to other important international operations). But the EU leadership in Brussels seems distinctly disinclined to commit more money to AU operations. This is the real meaning of the comment from the AU report: “At present, no commitment has been made by our partners for funding of the Mission beyond March 2006.”
Alpha Omar Konare, AU Commission chairman, declared the monthly costs of the mission are $17 million, and “funds received so far under the enhanced AU mission in Sudan are almost exhausted” (UN IRIN, January 13, 2006). That these funds are “exhausted” is much more the responsibility of the EU than Washington, which took primary initial responsibility for setting up AU operations on the ground in Darfur.
In short, because the AU has stubbornly refused to ask for the help it so obviously needed—only for more money—the only recourse in the minds of many who wish to see the operation in Darfur brought under UN control is to cut off funding, quietly and inconspicuously. This, too, is far from “dignified,” and reveals finally a contemptible diplomatic cowardice.
On the other hand, because the UN cannot possibly mount an effective intervening force by March, there will be a last-minute infusion of temporary funds to sustain the AU—in an amount determined by the likely expedient calculations of UN planners, who will be trying to determine when they might do at least marginally better than the AU. Annan has declared that “even if we are to take over, we cannot do it by March , so there will be a lead time, and we should not have a gap between the two forces [i.e., the AU force now on the ground and the still merely notional UN force]” (Inter Press Service [United Nations], January 12, 2006). But a look at southern Sudan suggests that the chances of timely UN deployment are remote:
“Last week, Annan complained about the slow deployment of troops by the UN peacekeeping mission currently underway in southern Sudan. ‘The pace of the UN military deployment has increased but remains behind schedule, owing to delays in the force-generation process,’ Annan said in a report to the Security Council. As of mid-December [nine months after the UN Security Council authorizing resolution], the number of troops with the UN Mission in the Sudan stood at only 4,291, or 40% of an expected total of some 9,880-10,000 troops.” (Inter Press Service [United Nations], January 12, 2006).
In particular, Russia and China—consistently obstructionist forces on the UN Security Council in responding to Sudan’s crises—are consequentially reneging on their commitments:
“Russia and China have delayed promised helicopters and medical units to a UN peacekeeping force in [southern] Sudan, thereby causing other countries to postpone sending troops, [UN’s Jan Pronk] said.” (Reuters, January 14, 2006)
The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations had two years to plan and prepare for a peace in southern Sudan, and now has failed to deploy in a timely way, even as there are acute observational needs (the oil regions, Abyei, as well as Juba, Wau, Malakal, and other towns from which Khartoum, unobserved by monitors, has not withdrawn its troops as scheduled).
But how likely is it that a force for Darfur such as Annan describes will actually be approved by Khartoum and the UN Security Council—both approvals stipulated by the Secretary-General as requirements for a UN mission? A particularly dismaying rebuff of the UN proposal came from Lam Akol, a southerner and member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement—but one of those southerners who, along with Riek Machar, defected to the National Islamic Front in 1997 as part of the ill-conceived and ill-fated “Khartoum Peace Agreement” (this agreement did much to set the stage for the oil war in Western and Eastern Upper Nile, including among Akol’s own Shilluk people):
“Sudan on Friday rejected a suggestion by [ ] Kofi Annan that US and European troops be sent to Darfur, saying the international community should give more cash to African forces already on the ground. ‘We [the “Government of National Unity”] think that the AU is doing a good job and so far they have not said they are unable to do that job,’ Foreign Minister Lam Akol [said]. ‘Naturally what should happen is to give them the money they want, not to complicate matters by involving another force on the ground.'”
“Akol said the AU was a peace monitoring force and Sudan did not need the military power of the US in Darfur. ‘What would they do other than what the African forces can do?’ he said. ‘We are not looking for a force who is going to fight.'” (Reuters, January 13, 2006)
It has not taken Lam Akol long to learn the ways of NIF disingenuousness or to abandon the marginalized and suffering people of Darfur. In fact, his very position as “Foreign Minister” is the embodiment of a disturbing disingenuousness, for he enjoys no real power in foreign (or domestic) policy formulations: these are still the primary responsibility of the former Foreign Minister and long-time NIF stalwart Mustafa Osman Ismail, now a senior advisor to NIF President Omar el-Bashir. Akol is simply parroting NIF policy of the past two years, knowing full well the radical insufficiency of the AU and its inability to change the military dynamic in Darfur (for a full-length analysis of AU weaknesses, see my “Ghosts of Rwanda: The Failure of the AU in Darfur,” http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=77 and http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=78).
Notably, Akol insists that the AU’s is a “monitoring” mission, which in fact it is. And we may take him at his word when he says, “We are not looking for a force [that] is going to fight.” Precisely—even as this is what Darfur urgently requires: a robust, large-scale peacemaking force with the equivalent of UN Chapter 7 authority. The NIF, and those whom it has seduced or bribed, will cleave to notions of “non-interference” and speciously trade on claims of “national sovereignty,” hoping that the diplomatic support it enjoys from the Arab League and the AU itself will be sufficient to deter meaningful UN action (significantly, both organizations are holding their summits in Khartoum—the AU beginning in ten days; see http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w051226&s=reeves122905).
But if massive genocidal destruction is not enough to overcome self-protective claims of national sovereignty, then the notion of a “responsibility to protect” innocent civilians—adopted at a UN summit this past September—is meaningless. Preemptively acquiescing before such claims, as Annan appears to have done, compromises whatever is of value in his apparently robust proposals for action.
And Annan certainly knows that in the present situation China holds the threat of a veto and is highly unlikely to permit a force of the sort Annan has described. At the very least China will vigorously threaten to veto any Security Council resolution that invokes Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
In short, we must wonder whether Annan is doing anything more than posturing for history, having failed Darfur so badly, in so many ways, over the past two years. Is he prepared to expend the political capital required to force a meaningful UN decision about protecting Darfur’s civilians and humanitarians? Will he use the moral authority of his office to force the issue publicly with appropriate urgency? Or will the AU be allowed to flounder on? will temporizing replace recent bold words? will Darfur continue to endure immensely destructive and uncontrolled violence?
KHARTOUM AND THE LORD’S RESISTANCE ARMY
There is no present scope for a full analysis of Khartoum’s continuing support for the maniacal Lord’s Resistance Army as a destabilizing military proxy force in southern Sudan (see earlier extended account of the evidence of this support by this writer, http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=Sections&req=viewarticle&artid=156). But an important new report from the International Crisis Group offers considerable insight into both a military strategy for ending the twenty-year reign of terror by the LRA as well as evidence that the LRA continues to enjoy support by elements of the NIF security cabal:
“Khartoum now admits that the LRA was given sanctuary and logistical support as part of a destabilization strategy and scorched earth campaign against Sudanese civilians.” (“A Strategy for Ending Northern Uganda’s Crisis,” ICG, January 11, 2006, page 4, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3864&l=1)
This is an extraordinary “admission,” given the more than two million civilians whose lives have been terribly disrupted or destroyed by the LRA in northern Uganda and southern Sudan: “The UN estimates that 1.7 million Internally Displaced Persons in northern Uganda live in squalid camps and rely on humanitarian assistance for survival” (ICG, page 4). That Khartoum now admits responsibility for supporting the agent of this human devastation demands criminal investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has issued warrants for LRA leader Joseph Kony and four of his top commanders (Uganda formally referred jurisdiction over LRA prosecution for crimes against humanity to the ICC in December 2003). Such past support by Khartoum amounts to clear complicity in crimes against humanity.
But even now, as the LRA continues to attack civilians and, increasingly, humanitarian operations in southern Sudan, Crisis Group finds strong evidence that Khartoum continues to support this terrorist organization. Despite the regime’s present denial of support,
“spoilers within the ruling National Congress Party [NIF] and military who continue to exert full control over the security structures of the new government, are hostile towards the [north/south] Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and the LRA remains a tempting tool with which to help scuttle the agreement. Kony’s location roughly 100km north of Juba indicates he is still being given sanctuary by elements in the government, and reports continue that some assistance flows from government sources to LRA units.” (ICG, pages 4-5)
The evidence adduced by ICG comports well with intelligence coming to this writer from several sources in southern Sudan, including Juba, the center of Khartoum’s military operations in the south. Ongoing NIF support for the LRA implicates the regime in additional crimes against humanity, and also suggests egregious bad faith in complying with the terms of the CPA’s security protocol. Moreover, continued support of the LRA by a “Government of National Unity” that supposedly includes the southern SPLM suggests how insignificant a role southerners have in national governance, particularly military and security issues.
EASTERN SUDAN: THE GREATEST THREAT TO PEACE?
Very recent NIF military actions in eastern Sudan, responding to the challenges posed by the Eastern Front rebels (primarily from the Beja Congress, but also the Rashaida Free Lions), now pose a dramatic danger to the north/south peace agreement. Khartoum has deployed a large army force, including tanks, to the Hamesh Koreb area, bringing about a potentially explosive confrontation with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, as well as the Eastern Front rebels. A measure of how high the military stakes are is reflected in the SPLM response to the Hamesh Koreb incursion (500 kilometers northeast of Khartoum, near the Eritrean border):
“[SPLM/A spokesman Major General Elias Waya] Nyipuocs said the 1,500 SPLM troops in the Khartoum joint unit were already preparing to withdraw to their rebel camps unless the Sudanese army pulled back from Hamesh Koreb. ‘The SPLM (military) command…are now taking very tough and serious measures.'” (Reuters, January 12, 2006)
Nyipuocs is here referring to the Joint Integrated Units (comprising both SPLM and regular Khartoum military forces); if this essential element in the security protocol anchoring the peace agreement begins to fail, then the peace itself will fail. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports:
“Nyipuocs said SPLM/A chief of staff Lieutenant General Oyai Deng Ajack had given Khartoum’s troops 24 hours to withdraw or he would order all ex-rebel troops back to southern Sudan, a step that would deal a major blow to the peace deal.” (January 11, 2006)
There are many issues at play here, but the root cause of the presently threatened conflict is the chronic marginalization of the peoples of eastern Sudan, primarily the non-Arab Beja. An authoritative overview of the crisis and its background comes again from the International Crisis Group (“Sudan: Saving Peace in the East”), which describes eastern Sudan as “another powder keg,” and points out that “like Darfur and the South, the East suffers from marginalization and underdevelopment”; ICG also notes that “surveys suggest malnutrition levels and crude mortality rates in the East are significantly higher than conflict-ridden Darfur” (“Sudan: Saving Peace in the East,” ICG, January 5, 2006, page i http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3858&l=1).
A highly complex military and political history of this under-reported region of Sudan is drawn by ICG with clarity and coherence. But the opening paragraph of the Executive Summary takes on particular significance in light of the events of recent days:
“The low-intensity conflict between the [Khartoum] government and the Eastern Front risks becoming a major new war with disastrous consequences if the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement proceeds with its scheduled withdrawal from eastern Sudan this month [January 2006].”
ICG notes in particular that “a violent confrontation looms over control of Hamesh Koreb” (page 2). It is in this context that we must read a very recent dispatch concerning the region, filed after the ICG report was issued:
“A rebel group in eastern Sudan has accused the army of launching an attack on Wednesday on its camps in the Hamesh Koreb region, sparking clashes that left casualties. ‘Troops backed by warplanes attacked our camps in Hamesh Koreb,’ near the border with Eritrea, the secretary general of the Beja Congress, Abdullah Mussa, said. ‘Many victims’ were left among rebel fighters who confronted the troops, said Mussa, without giving details.” (AFP/Sapa [South Africa], January 12, 2006)
Highly authoritative sources report that actual fighting occurred not in Hamesh Koreb, but in camps nearby to the west and northwest. Still, the additional incursion of a large, mechanized military force into Hamesh Koreb itself is the most threatening development, and a clear example of Khartoum’s brinksmanship:
“SPLM/A spokesman Nyipuocs said. ‘[The military] incursion is a violation of the peace agreement and it is very dangerous. [Khartoum’s forces] are heavily armed and reinforced with four tanks.’ ‘Their commander informed our commander that they were ordered to evict the SPLA troops.’ ‘They have started digging trenches inside Hamesh Koreb at their defensive position about 200 meters from our base.'” (AFP, January 11, 2006)
[Reuters reports today (January 14, 2006) that, under the scrutiny of a joint UN team, Khartoum has begun to withdraw its forces from Hamesh Koreb, temporarily defusing the military crisis.]
It is true that,
“Under the terms of [the Comprehensive Peace Agreement], the SPLM/A was to have withdrawn its troops from Hamesh Koreb by January 9,  the first anniversary of the peace deal, unless it faced significant logistical problems and reported them.”
But Nyipuocs, also chairman of the technical committee of Sudan’s Joint Defence Board, has said, “the ex-rebels had informed Khartoum and the UN the re-deployment would [in fact] be delayed for ‘logistical and technical’ reasons.”
Moreover, as Nyipuocs also appropriately notes, “the SPLM/A was displeased that Khartoum’s troops had not met the same deadline to withdraw from towns in the south by Monday [January 9, 2006]. ‘The problem is that they are saying that we have delayed pulling out in line with the peace agreement, yet the government has not withdrawn from major towns in the south like Juba, Malakal and Wau.'” (AFP, January 11, 2006)
In any event, the essential point here is the one made by Crisis Group:
“If the SPLM proceeds with its scheduled withdrawal from eastern Sudan this month, competition to fill the security vacuum could spark urban unrest, reprisals, and worse. [ ] Fortuitously, [the SPLM] is months behind schedule.”
A precipitous withdrawal by the SPLM at this point virtually guarantees conflict; and yet Khartoum has been encouraged in its belligerent ways by Kofi Annan’s special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk. Pronk, not for the first time, takes a terribly myopic view of the crisis, refusing to see the true military threat posed by the NIF:
“Pronk said slow withdrawal [by the SPLM from the east] was a major problem to the [north/south] peace deal. On Friday [January 13, 2006] he said: ‘This is creating a void with a potential for new armed conflict.'” (Reuters, January 14, 2006)
But as the Reuters dispatch also notes:
“The Sudanese army is supposed to occupy SPLM positions once they have withdrawn. But eastern rebels, also in the same areas, say the government will have to fight them first. ‘If they want to replace the SPLM they will have to fight and expel the eastern troops first,’ said Eastern Front spokesman Ali el-Safi.” (Reuters, January 14, 2006)
This is the fighting that began on Wednesday (January 11, 2006), and which could accelerate explosively with the withdrawal of the SPLM. Eastern Sudan is critical to Khartoum’s stranglehold on national wealth, including agriculture and mining, but most significantly the crude oil for export that passes through a single pipeline near territory controlled by the Eastern Front. If full-scale war comes, the Beja people will become the newest victims of Khartoum’s genocidal domestic security policies.
Pronk’s dangerous myopia, which leads him to precisely the opposite conclusion as that of the thoroughly researched Crisis Group report, provides yet another reason that this incompetent man should be replaced—a view widely held within the UN.
There will be no peace in eastern Sudan if Khartoum does not commit to serious negotiations with rebels of the Eastern Front. Crisis Group provides a compelling road-map for such negotiations, which in many ways will be less difficult than those for either the south or Darfur. But such a peace effort cannot be led by an incompetent such as Pronk. If Kofi Annan and the political leadership in the Secretariat are serious about peace in Sudan, the first step is to replace this disastrously ineffectual diplomat.
NO PEACE IN SUDAN WITH THE NIF IN POWER
But no powers of diplomacy can change the fundamental political reality in Sudan: so long as the NIF controls virtually all national wealth and power—political and military—peace will never come to this tortured land (see my Washington Post op/ed “Regime Change in Sudan,” August 23, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25073-2004Aug22.html).
In Darfur, we continue to see signs of the real character of this regime. Khartoum has recently increased its troop strength along the border with Chad, and a “hot” war seems increasingly likely, one that holds the potential to destabilize much of the region, a threat made explicitly by AU Commission Chairperson, Alpha Oumar Konare. (See Angola Press [dateline: Brazzaville, Congo], January 10, 2006 at http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=406543).
Revealingly, Khartoum’s regular forces in Darfur continue their practice of disguising themselves as AU peacekeepers, a violation of international law that clearly increases the risk to AU personnel, who have recently suffered additional casualties in Darfur:
“Sudanese troops are disguising themselves as African peacekeepers to launch surprise attacks on rebels in the country’s troubled Darfur region, the AU chairperson charges. In a report to be submitted to the AU’s Peace and Security Council on Thursday, AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare said the Sudanese troops were painting their vehicles white, the colour of AU peacekeepers’ vehicles ‘to disguise their identities and launch surprise attacks on their opponents.'” (News 24, South Africa [dateline: Addis Ababa], January 12, 2006)
In its duplicity, its contempt for international efforts to halt war in Sudan, and in its supreme callousness, this vignette offers us the perfect portrait of the National Islamic Front today.