Hundreds of thousands of civilians are directly threatened with genocidal destruction by the National Islamic Front
April 6, 2006
Jan Egeland, the UN’s chief humanitarian official, was this week brazenly and contemptuously denied access to Darfur by leaders of Khartoum’s National Islamic Front (“National Congress Party”). Not only was Egeland refused entry to South Darfur and West Darfur, but he was informed through the NIF’s UN mission in New York that he “would not be welcome in Khartoum.” As if to underscore their contempt for UN humanitarian operations, Khartoum’s genocidaires the next day denied Egeland use of Sudanese air-space as he sought to travel to Chad to see Darfuri refugees and the rapidly deteriorating conditions along the Darfur/Chad border.
Although Khartoum may be expediently re-calibrating its response to the Egeland assessment mission, this denial of timely access was only the most conspicuous recent episode in a brutally calculated campaign to disrupt, harass, and impede humanitarian assistance—a campaign that has defined Khartoum’s Darfur policy for the past three years. Here we must bear in mind that the deliberate interference with and attacks upon humanitarian assistance long defined National Islamic Front war policy in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. And there are increasing signs that this savagely destructive military policy is already at work in eastern Sudan in response to the growing insurgency on the part of the Beja Congress and the Rashaida Free Lions (the “Eastern Front”).
This history of Khartoum’s barbarism (see below) should have a clear bearing on our understanding of the present deliberate obstruction, harassment, and intimidation of humanitarian operations in Darfur: in the absence of a highly credible military presence, one far greater in abilities and resources than the current African Union mission, the denial of humanitarian aid will become an ever more deadly weapon of war. The difficulties of deploying such a military force are considerable (see the important International Crisis Group report, “To Save Darfur,” March 17, 2006 at http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4027). But the consequences of failing to provide military protection for humanitarian operations and acutely vulnerable civilians will be staggering: catastrophic human mortality is imminent, particularly in younger children. The wholesale withdrawal of humanitarian workers, and thus loss of access to many additional hundreds of thousands of needy civilians, could occur at any moment. Not to act now clearly risks the destruction of these lives.
THE WAR ON HUMANITARIAN AID IN DARFUR
At the same time that officials in Khartoum were denying Jan Egeland access to Darfur, indeed even Sudanese air-space, the regime ordered the distinguished Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to leave Darfur immediately. This despite the fact that NRC has been the humanitarian coordinator for Kalma Camp, the largest of Darfur’s camps for displaced persons, home to almost 100,000 highly distressed civilians. Egeland gave a forthright explanation of the meaning of this utterly unjustified, and unexplained, expulsion:
“‘[NRC’s coordination role] is totally essential work in one of the most difficult conditions possible: Kalma camp with 100,000 Internally Displaced Persons [IDPs]. I fear now, with the Norwegian Refugee Council gone, there will be less protection for the IDPs, there will be deteriorating services, and many civilians will suffer.'” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, April 5, 2006)
“‘With no one to replace the NRC, I fear that conditions for the 90,000 people in the camp will worsen. Tensions are likely to rise among the IDPs who looked to NRC for help and to resolve problems, particularly with local authorities’ [Egeland] added.” (release from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, April 5, 2006)
The Norwegian government also strenuously protested the expulsion of NRC:
“‘The decision of Sudan is all the more unacceptable in that it affects the most fragile group of the population; that is, displaced persons,’ [Secretary of State at the Norwegian foreign ministry Raymond] Johansen said. The head of the NRC’s international division, Jens Mjaugedal, earlier warned that ‘all humanitarian aid destined for 100,000 children and adults will be deprived of management and coordination’ in the camp following the decision.”
“Although other NGOs will remain in the camp, NRC’s departure will cause coordination and supply problems for medicines and food, he said. No explanation was given for the decision not to renew the group’s mandate, which expires Tuesday, [Mjaugedal] said.” (Agence France Presse [dateline: Oslo], April 5, 2006)
NRC itself, in an April 4, 2006 public statement, declared:
“‘We are now preparing to evacuate all staff from Darfur. The consequences for the internally displaced persons are serious and immediate, when NRC no longer can carry out food distribution to 50,000 persons,’ Head of [NRC’s] International Department, Jens Mjaugedal said.” (Norway, NRC spokesman Astrid Sehl, April 4, 2006)
Amnesty International was one of several observers to note that the expulsion of NRC is part of a larger assault on humanitarian operations in Darfur:
“Today [April 4, 2006], the Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC), in Nyala, South Darfur, informed the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an international non-governmental organization (NGO), working in Kalma Camp that its ‘Cooperation Agreement’ would not be renewed and that it must withdraw all international staff from South Darfur. No reason was given for this decision. NRC plays a vital role in coordinating all relief activities in Kalma Camp, aiding approximately 95,000 resident internally displaced persons.”
“The refusal to renew the NRC’s mandate and expulsion of its international staff are the most recent actions in a resurgent trend in recent months of government intimidation and harassment of humanitarian workers in Darfur. The delay and withholding of travel permits and exit visas for foreign humanitarian staff have again become means of obstructing the provision of aid in Darfur, already compounded by rising insecurity and attacks against humanitarian staff.” (Amnesty International, public statement, April 4, 2006)
Amnesty also highlighted the increasing attacks by Khartoum on Sudanese humanitarian efforts:
“This trend does not affect only international NGOs. Last month Amnesty International expressed concern over the suspension of the Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO), a national NGO. On 13 March 2006, SUDO was ordered by [Khartoum’s] Humanitarian Aid Commission [HAC] to close its offices in al-Jeneina, capital of West Darfur State, and Zalingei, West Darfur State. HAC ordered SUDO to cease all operations and hand over the keys to their offices, medical centres and feeding centre, as well as their vehicles. SUDO’s bank accounts for their Zalingei and al-Jeneina offices were also frozen. HAC justified the closure of SUDO’s offices and the suspension of its operations on the ground that SUDO had violated the Humanitarian Aid Commission Act. However, despite SUDO’s requests for clarification, it never specified which sections of the enactment had been violated.” (Amnesty International, public statement, April 4, 2006)
The use of the “Humanitarian Aid Commission Act” has been of major concern to humanitarian organizations operating in Sudan for a number of months (it was originally promulgated hastily by decree by NIF President Omer el-Bashir last summer prior to formation of a “Government of National Unity” [GNU]). As passed by the NIF-controlled Parliament of the “GNU,” the successor legislation (“Organization of Humanitarian and Voluntary Work Act,” February 2006) also poses grave threats to humanitarian operations. As Amnesty International pointedly notes, this new act also threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to report atrocities they witness:
“The enactment of this Act will impose undue restrictions on the work of NGOs operating throughout Sudan. It grants discretionary and excessive regulatory power to the Government over the operations of NGOs and some provisions violate the right to freedom of association contained in international human rights treaties, to which Sudan is a party, as well as Sudan’s Interim National Constitution. However, the President has not signed this law into effect.” [There is every reason to believe that President el-Bashir will indeed soon sign the legislation—ER]
“Of particular concern for NGOs working in Darfur, Section 5 (f) requires ‘non-interference by foreign and national organizations in the internal affairs of the Sudan, to the extent that these infringe upon the sovereignty of the country’. ‘International interference in internal affairs’ is a longstanding government excuse for restricting NGOs who work in sensitive regions from speaking out about human rights violations they witness on the ground. It is worrying, especially for NGOs in Darfur, that this has been enshrined in the new law.” (Amnesty International, public statement, April 4, 2006)
The broader assault on humanitarian operations in Darfur was also described by the UN’s Egeland:
“[Egeland said] the government was also preventing many other NGOs from doing their work in the region, and the recent imposition of a fuel embargo in southern Darfur meant no one could operate their water wells. ‘They [the nongovernmental organizations] are constantly blocked. They [Khartoum authorities] have totally unreasonable restrictions on their activities,’ Egeland said.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, April 5, 2006)
Instead of facilitating humanitarian work in Darfur, Khartoum is actively using bureaucratic means to restrict such work:
“The decision [to expel NRC] highlighted the daily constraints imposed upon humanitarian workers from the United Nations and NGOs, Mr. Egeland said, ‘It is just one example of the rising levels of restrictions that the 14,000 aid workers in Darfur and in many other parts of Sudan face every day.’ These restrictions range from long delays in exit and re-entry visas for NGO staff, unjustified interference in the recruitment of staff, to delays clearing imported humanitarian goods and equipment. ‘The rise in these restrictions in recent months unfortunately reminds me of the early part of 2004. We must have the full cooperation of the Government at all levels to be able to carry out life-saving work in Darfur and other parts of Sudan. Those who will suffer the most if we don’t are the millions of Sudanese citizens who urgently need humanitarian relief,’ Mr. Egeland added.” (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs release, April 5, 2006)
Egeland went on to declare that “‘the only way that we can avoid a massive loss of lives—massive—is by enabling this humanitarian operation, which is on the ground, to be able to do its job'”; and as Egeland has repeatedly asserted, the only way the Darfur humanitarian operation can be enabled and sustained is with a dramatic increase in protection. Egeland has several times in recent months urgently argued for a force three times the size of the presently deployed African Union mission of approximately 7,000 personnel—in short, a force of approximately 20,000 peacekeepers (far beyond the capacity of the African Union). To fail to accept this imperative is to acquiesce before what all observers describe as rapidly accelerating insecurity in Darfur, insecurity that is severely attenuating humanitarian reach and capacity. Such insecurity is the essential source of the bleak future Egeland already discerns:
“‘Now, we see an increase in mortality; we see an increase in war deaths; we see an increase in displacement again,’ [Egeland] observed. ‘I think it is again becoming, perhaps, the worst crisis in the world, because I know of few other places where we have lost access to so many people and where we have had so large displacements of late. We are slipping, as we are hanging in there with our fingernails in Darfur.'” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, April 5, 2006)
In the southern Sudanese town of Rumbek, Egeland declared desperately:
“‘We could have [in Darfur] nightmares even worse than the horrendous situation we now have [in Darfur].'” (Bloomberg [dateline: Rumbek, South Sudan], April 4, 2006)
The international failure to provide security for humanitarian operations in Darfur is matched by an increasingly glaring financial failure. Dan Toole, head of emergency programs for the UN children’s fund (UNICEF), declares:
“International donors are turning their backs on Sudan’s crisis-torn Darfur region, putting at even greater risk the lives of people who are already victims of conflict and banditry, UNICEF said on Wednesday.” (Reuters [London], April 5, 2006)
Toole went on to note that,
“large parts of the vast region were off limits to aid workers as government forces and local militias battled each other as peace talks faltered. ‘Donors are just not coming up with the money. I can understand that they are fed up. But this is people’s lives. I told the American government, the British government and others decreases in funding equals increased mortality,’ Toole said. ‘The peace process isn’t moving forward, security is deteriorating—we have no access to the area of the border with Chad, there are parts of south Darfur you can’t even travel anymore—and donors have not kicked in adequate funds.'”
“Toole said the UN operation in Darfur had received less than a third of the funds it needed to operate in the area the size of France. [ ] Toole said that in neighbouring Chad, where thousands of Darfurian refugees have fled to camps to escape the fighting, UNICEF had run out of donor money and been forced to dig into its own reserves.” (Reuters [London], April 5, 2006)
Even as massive civilian destruction is impending, it is important to understand that this will be a continuation of the massive civilian destruction that has already occurred in Darfur: some 400,000 civilians have already perished, victims of the genocide.
Lazy and irresponsible new reporting on human mortality in Darfur has, disgracefully, obscured a good deal of the scale of this destruction. A telling example: some news wire reports still cite the figure of “180,000 deaths,” first promulgated by the UN over a year ago (March 2005)—and which even then was offered as representing only deaths from disease and malnutrition over the preceding 18 months. It was most decidedly not offered by the UN as a global mortality figure, and certainly did not include the massive violent mortality for which we have considerable and compelling data. Most obviously, the figure could not take cognizance of a blunt mortality assessment that was offered over half a year later by Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees: “‘People are dying [in Darfur], and dying in large numbers'” (Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2005).
Such basic facts, readily and publicly available, seem not to be of concern to many journalists; this is finally the only way to understand their willingness to recycle and misrepresent a mortality figure that is now over a year old. As a consequence, many tens of thousands of Darfuri lives are statistically elided by what is finally moral slovenliness.
[See my mortality analysis of August 31, 2005, http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=67, and my assessment of data from Physicians for Human Rights (“Darfur: Assault on Survival,” January 2006) at http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=94).]
NEW CASUALTIES OF KHARTOUM’S CONTINUING GENOCIDAL ASSAULT
Bloomberg is one of several wire services reporting Egeland’s estimate of very recent civilian destruction orchestrated by Khartoum through its regular and militia forces, the Janjaweed:
“Pro-government forces have attacked 90 villages and displaced 200,000 people in recent months around the rebel-held town of Gereida in South Darfur, where Egeland was supposed to visit yesterday, he said.” (Bloomberg [dateline: Rumbek, South Sudan], April 4, 2006)
Nearly all of these people must be added to the earlier UN estimate of 3.6 million conflict-affected persons (UN Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 22, representing conditions as of January 1, 2006).
In eastern Chad the situation for civilians also continues to deteriorate badly. A wire dispatch with an Adre, Chad dateline reports:
“Since the beginning of the year, militias backed by the Sudanese government are crossing over almost daily into neighboring Chad and freely attacking Darfur refugees and Chadian civilians in villages along the lengthy, desolate border. Making matters worse, about 8,000 Chadian rebels have set up camp in Darfur. On March 30,  they clashed with Chadian government forces 60 miles south of the strategic border town of Adre. Dozens of fighters were killed in an attack that Chad said Sudan supported.”
“The mounting violence has driven at least 55,000 Chadians from their homes, and camps for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad are swelling with hundreds of new arrivals each week. Much of the region is beyond the reach of relief agencies, and the UN World Food Program says several thousand people will go hungry in the coming months.” (Knight Ridder [dateline: Adre, Chad], April 4, 2006)
The large and growing number of conflict-affected civilians in eastern Chad, in addition to the more than 220,000 Darfuri refugees in camps in the region, represent yet another immense humanitarian challenge. Khartoum has already succeeded in making of West Darfur a region in which there is almost a complete shutdown of UN aid, and extremely severe restriction on aid delivered by nongovernmental organizations. Many thousands of square kilometers and hundreds of thousands of civilians are inaccessible in West Darfur and the Jebel Marra area. This part of Darfur has seen no adequate pre-positioning of food aid because access from the east is almost impossible. The late spring onset of the rainy season is rapidly approaching, and road access from the west in Chad will also soon end.
The UN World Food Program is explicit about the nature of the rapidly growing humanitarian crisis in Chad:
“Mounting violence in eastern Chad, which aid workers say has forced thousands of Chadians from their homes, ‘could seriously impede’ humanitarian relief efforts in the region, where aid groups are assisting nearly a quarter-million refugees from Sudan’s Darfur conflict, the UN food aid agency said on Friday. The World Food Programme said in a communiqu that unrest is hindering efforts to evaluate how dire the situation is for families recently displaced by violence. ‘We are at an extremely delicate stage in Chad—right on the edge,’ said Stefano Porretti, Chad country director for WFP.”
PRECEDENTS FOR NATIONAL ISLAMIC FRONT ASSAULTS ON HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN SUDAN
There is nothing surprising about the actions of the National Islamic Front regime in its assaults on humanitarian assistance in Darfur. These assaults continue a long and deadly history of denying and attacking humanitarian workers and operations. Khartoum’s denial of humanitarian assistance was the primary cause of the terrible 1998 famine in Bahr el-Ghazal (see the authoritative report by Human Rights Watch: “Famine in Sudan, 1998,” at http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/sudan). Using public documents and reports from highly authoritative sources on the ground in Sudan, this writer has for a number of years contemporaneously chronicled various moments in Khartoum’s assault on humanitarian assistance in southern Sudan:
In the Washington Post, August 15, 2000:
“To make sure of the genocidal efficacy of the [civilian] bombing campaign, the Khartoum regime has also escalated its assaults on humanitarian efforts. It is attacking, with much greater frequency, the medical and food relief programs of those trying heroically to save the people of the south from disease and starvation. Many of the hospitals and clinics that have been targeted are run by the world’s finest humanitarian organizations.”
“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is but one example. Its clinic at Chelkou, in one of the most distressed regions of southern Sudan, was deliberately bombed on July 14, . Reliable sources confirm that there was no military presence near Chelkou. Moreover, as part of its standard protocol, the ICRC had fully apprised the Khartoum regime of its presence in Chelkou and had secured permission. It was bombed anyway.”
“On July 25,  some 200 miles to the southeast in the village of Billing, the Khartoum regime again bombed the Red Cross. Pilots on the ground, who had an approved flight plan from Khartoum, heard the bombers coming and desperately spread out a large Red Cross flag on the ground. It did no good. The bombs fell anyway.”
In the International Herald Tribune, January 23, 2001:
“The International Committee of the Red Cross—the very symbol of neutral, international humanitarian aid—was savagely attacked at its medical base in Chelkou, southern Sudan, on January 12, . The attack was carried out by militia forces allied with the radical National Islamic Front regime that rules from Khartoum. All buildings were destroyed, all expatriate workers withdrawn, villagers have been killed, and the ICRC is deeply concerned about the fate of their Sudanese workers.”
“This act of barbarism by the Khartoum-backed Popular Defense Forces (PDF) completely destroyed the ICRC medical facilities at an important humanitarian site in the southern province of Bahr el-Ghazal. Reuters newswire, as well as extremely reliable sources from the ground, reported the destruction, as well as the likelihood of additional such government-backed attacks on civilians and humanitarian relief.”
From the Washington Post, July 6, 2002:
“The number is so shockingly large as to defy casual comprehension. We must exercise both moral and statistical imagination to understand the evil represented: 1.7 million human beings, the most recent UN estimate for people in southern Sudan deliberately being denied humanitarian aid by Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime. Such denial of food and medical assistance, given the distressed condition of so many of these people, is nothing less than a terribly crude but equally effective ‘weapon of mass destruction.'”
“For the past 13 of Sudan’s almost 20 years of civil war, humanitarian aid for the desperately poor and underdeveloped south has mainly taken the form of Operation Lifeline Sudan. Lifeline is a consortium of UN organizations and other international aid groups that work under a common umbrella with a common mission: to avert catastrophe among civilians caught up in the world’s most destructive conflict. The fundamental principle of the organization has always been neutral humanitarian aid to civilian populations, wherever the battle lines of war exist.”
“But this principle has been deeply compromised, and the continued existence of Operation Lifeline Sudan is now in doubt as a result. For there is simply no mistaking the ambitions of the Khartoum regime in denying humanitarian aid to immense parts of southern Sudan: human annihilation, especially in the lucrative oil regions of Western Upper Nile Province. This part of southern Sudan has been without Operation Lifeline Sudan aid since May 16, .”
“Again this year, with extremely ominous signs of food shortage and malnutrition, humanitarian access has been dramatically reduced. Khartoum’s method is to list an increasing number of Lifeline relief sites as ‘denied’ in monthly access agreements. The situation had become critical even before the mid-May denial for Western Upper Nile, where Khartoum is attempting to secure territory for further oil development. Their primary tactic is a well-chronicled campaign of scorched-earth warfare against the indigenous populations on behalf of international oil companies. There, in addition to denying aid access, Khartoum also deliberately attacks humanitarian efforts in progress.”
“For example, on February 20,  at the village of Bieh, in the heart of the oil regions, Khartoum’s helicopter gunships attacked thousands of women and children gathered at a UN World Food Program distribution center. It was broad daylight, the center was well-marked, and there was no military activity anywhere nearby. Yet from a low hover, one of the helicopter gunships directed machine-gun fire and rockets into food-distressed civilians, killing and wounding scores. All this was witnessed by UN personnel so close they could see the faces of the pilot and gunner.”
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE TO KHARTOUM’S DENIAL OF DARFUR ACCESS TO EGELAND
It has been well over two years since Tom Vraalsen, UN Special Envoy for humanitarian affairs in Sudan, declared in an internal UN memo that Khartoum was “systematically” denying aid to areas in which the civilian populations of Darfur’s African tribal groups were concentrated. The phrase “systematic denial of access” was highlighted in Vraalsen’s text (December 2003).
And it is now over two years since Mukesh Kapila, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, declared:
“‘The only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved. Darfur is more than just a conflict, it is an organised attempt to do away with a group of people. [ ] I was present in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, and I’ve seen many other situations around the world and I am totally shocked at what is going on in Darfur.” (March 2004)
Yet despite the continuation of genocidal destruction, despite the well-recognized continuation of “systematic” denial of humanitarian access to the victims of genocide, overwhelmingly the African tribal populations of Darfur, the world is unprepared to confront Khartoum. Kofi Annan’s response to the regime’s brutal stiff-arming of Egeland was to express “regret” and to promise to telephone Omer el-Bashir. The UN Security Council was characteristically paralyzed, content merely to echo Annan’s “regret.” Reuters reports:
“[UN] diplomats said Russia, China and Qatar called for a more general statement focusing on the humanitarian situation in Darfur rather than on Egeland. Absent their objections, most other members, including Britain, would have agreed to the phrasing suggested by Washington, the envoys reported.” (Reuters [United Nations, New York], April 4, 2006)
Of particular note was the US refusal to push more vigorously and publicly for a stronger response from the world body in condemning Khartoum’s outrageous actions against the world’s top humanitarian aid official. This refusal is best understood in the context of a remarkable Reuters dispatch from the UN, confirming earlier reports by this writer that the US, in the interest of seeking terrorist intelligence from Khartoum’s genocidaires, is willing to work to exclude Major General Saleh Abdalla Gosh from the list of those to be sanctioned by the UN Security Council (per the terms of Resolution 1591, March 2005):
“The United States is opposing the inclusion of any Sudanese official on a potential UN Security Council sanctions list of individuals blocking peace in Darfur, two diplomats said on Wednesday. Britain and other nations on a council sanctions committee have recommended a list of eight names of people including some government officials who would be subject to a travel ban and an assets freeze. All 15 council nations have to approve.”
“The UN is trying to halt atrocities in Sudan’s western region of Darfur where the government is accused of backing Arab militia, known as Janjaweed who have raped, killed and driven more than 2 million African villagers from their homes. But the United States recommended for the sanctions list just one middle-ranking Janjaweed militiaman and a rebel fighting opposing the militia, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the process.” (Reuters [United Nations, New York], April 5, 2006)
This effort reflects more than anything else the desire to retain access to Saleh Gosh, who is at once head of the Mukhabarat, Khartoum’s ruthlessly efficient National Security and Intelligence Service, and one of the primary architects of the Darfur genocide. He is responsible for the torture, arrest, and extrajudicial executions of many tens of thousands of Sudanese citizens. Because Gosh was Osama bin Laden’s minder during bid Laden’s formative years in Sudan (1991-96, the key years in the fruition of al-Qaeda), the Bush administration has traded out meaningful commitment to Darfur for the questionable terrorist intelligence that Gosh promises.
This US behavior at the UN makes a mockery of President Bush’s hollow promise (February 17, 2006) of “NATO stewardship” for a mission in Darfur. Bush’s more recent invocation of NATO—
“President George Bush on Wednesday said that ‘genocide has to be stopped’ in western Sudan, and that involvement by NATO should send a ‘clear signal'” (March 29, 2006)
—stands as transparent political posturing. In fact, NATO leadership in Brussels continues to move even further from any sort of meaningful commitment to a force in Darfur:
“NATO military experts are drawing up plans for increased support to international peacekeepers in Darfur, but the alliance’s chief diplomat on Monday again stressed that the deployment of NATO troops was not an option.”
Gesturing vaguely toward the complex crisis that is Darfur, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said, “‘That [sic] can very much be done without speaking of a NATO force,’ [de Hoop Scheffer said] ‘It’s the African Union, it’s the UN which are the guiding organizations.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Brussels], April 3, 2006)
Some additional lift capacity and logistical support, along with some additional training of AU personnel, represents the full extent of NATO commitment in the wake of a request last week from Annan:
“UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called de Hoop Scheffer last week to request additional NATO support for the mission as the AU prepares to hand over to a UN force. NATO has said it is willing to extend its existing back-up to the African force–including airlift, training for officers and planning—but not sending European or North American troops.”
In January Annan publicly pleaded for a UN force that would have NATO capabilities:
“Any new mission [in Darfur] will need a strong and clear mandate, allowing it to protect those under threat, by force if necessary, as well as the means to do so. That means it will need to be larger, more mobile and much better equipped than the current AU mission. Those countries that have the required military assets must be ready to deploy them.” (Washington Post op/ed, “Darfur Descending,” January 25, 2006)
But the real nature of European commitment was finely captured in the words of European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who had earlier held talks at NATO headquarters to discuss Darfur:
“‘We are very, very, very concerned with the situation,’ Solana said. He added that the EU would aim to boost peace talks between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.” (Associated Press [dateline: Brussels], April 3, 2006)
The people of Darfur are being asked to survive on such facile, noncommittal “concern.” Hundreds of thousands will not survive long.
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