The recent and fulsome decision by the African Union to agree with Khartoum on the question of deploying a UN force to Darfur almost certainly ensures that the National Islamic Front regime retains unthreatened control over human security in this vast and acutely threatened region:
“Peacekeeping troops should not be sent to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region without the Sudanese government’s approval, the president of the African Union [Alpha Oumar Konare] said Monday [September 25, 2006]. ‘No soldier should go to Sudan without the permission of the Sudanese government because it’s not about making war with the Sudanese people but helping them.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Caracas, Venezuela], September 25, 2006)
Konare makes no mention of the fact that the “Sudanese government,” at least the ruling National Islamic Front (NIF) cabal, continues to “make war on the Sudanese people” of Darfur. Nor does Konare make mention of the fact that the NIF, which completely dominates the merely notional “Government of National Unity,” is waging an ever-more debilitating and brutal war on precisely those humanitarian organizations most determined to “help the Sudanese people.” Such truths are evidently too discomfiting for Konare and the African Union to accept, and so the organization has capitulated to the demand that has been central to Khartoum’s diplomacy throughout Africa, throughout the Arab world, and with all who can be strong-armed or intimidated or bribed: “support us in our insistence that there be no UN force in Darfur, or there will be dire consequences for our bilateral relationship.”
TO WHOM HAS THE AFRICAN UNION CAPITULATED?
As a number of observers have remarked, Khartoum’s genocidaires have much to fear from a robust UN deployment in Darfur, one that would further undermine their ruthless arrogation of Sudanese national wealth and power. Moreover, despite the reassurances given these brutal men by the UN, the International Criminal Court should certainly have been able to conduct sufficiently thorough investigations, even without direct access to Darfur, to issue warrants for the arrest of most senior National Islamic Front officials. And if these men were to answer in The Hague for their actions of the past 17 years, all would certainly receive multiple life sentences for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Men like President Omar al-Bashir, Vice President Ali Osman Taha, Defense Minister (and former Interior Minister) Abdel Rahmin Mohamed Hussein, Major General Saleh Abdalla Gosh (head of the feared National Security and Intelligence Service), Presidential advisors Nafie Ali Nafie and Gutbi al-Mahdi, Interior Minister Elzubier Bashir Taha, Major General Ismat Zain al-Din (director of operations, Sudanese Armed Forces), and many others are well aware of their guilt and the overwhelming evidence that could be assembled in an international tribunal. Many already stand “indicted” by a UN Panel of experts (January 2006) and should be subject to sanctions (per UN Security Council Resolution 1591 [March 2005]); virtually all the others are certainly among the 51 names referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN Security Council on the basis of a January 2005 report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur.
These are the same men adamantly refusing to accept a UN force, and commandeering all of Sudan’s international diplomatic leverage in their unrelenting effort.
The character of the vicious security cabal that is the National Islamic Front was well captured in the opening sentences of recent Congressional testimony by Roger Winter, who has for a quarter of a century worked tirelessly to achieve a just peace in Sudan, most recently in his capacity as Special Representative on Sudan of the Deputy Secretary of State:
“Sudan’s National Congress Party is controlled by an intellectually-capable, radically-committed, conspiratorial and compassionless nucleus of individuals, long referred to as the National Islamic Front (NIF). In the seventeen years since they came to power by coup to abort an incipient peace process, they have consistently defied the international community and won. As individuals, the NIF has never paid a price for their crimes. Almost all of them are still in important positions. The NIF core is a competent cadre of men who have an agenda, the pursuit of which has killed millions of Sudanese and uprooted and destroyed the lives of millions more. While their agenda is radically ideological, it is equally about personal power and enrichment.”
(Statement of Roger P. Winter before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations House International Relations Committee, October 20, 2006; full testimony available at http://wwwc.house.gov/international_relations/109/win092006.pdf)
It is not difficult to see why such a regime feels as though it is fighting for its survival; and there is certainly nothing these men will not do to keep the UN out of Darfur—and to ensure that security throughout the region remains solidly under their savage control. There are of course huge swaths of Darfur that are controlled by rebel groups that did not sign the ill-conceived Abuja peace agreement of May 2006; but fighting and banditry in these areas have made them too insecure for humanitarian operations. The inevitable result is vast, ongoing human displacement, as well as genocidal attrition among the badly weakened non-Arab or African tribal populations that have been so relentlessly targeted by Khartoum’s violence.
At this most critical moment, the National Islamic Front has deployed all its diplomatic assets and issued all manner of threats; nothing has been held in reserve. This extends even to the preposterous caricature of those working in the international advocacy community to support urgent deployment of a UN force to protect civilians and humanitarians—a caricature clearly designed to play in the Arab and Muslim worlds. NIF President Omar al-Bashir declared last week that, “‘The main purpose [of UN peacekeeping deployment to Darfur] is the security of Israel.’ [ ] Asked about Sunday’s [September 17, 2006] Darfur peace rallies from Rwanda to San Francisco, Bashir said they were ‘invariably organized by Zionist Jewish organizations'” (Reuters [UN, New York], September 19, 2006). Al-Bashir went on to claim that, “human rights groups have exaggerated the crisis in Darfur to help their fundraising” (Associated Press [dateline: UN, New York], September 20, 2006).
The National Islamic Front recognizes that the current stage of the Darfur catastrophe poses the greatest test to date of its ruthless survivalism, and this has energized an extraordinary defiance. According to both the Sudan Tribune and Arabic-language news media (reported by the UN Mission in Sudan daily report, September 28, 2006), a spokesman for the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) has gone so far as to threaten abrogating the January 2005 north/south peace agreement (the “Comprehensive Peace Agreement” between the NIF and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) if there is a confrontation between Khartoum and the UN:
“For the first time since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 9 January 2005, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement accused its partner in the government of the national unity, the ruling National Congress Party [National Islamic Front], of violating the peace deal. This development comes after a statement made by Ibrahim Ahmed Omar, a leading member of the National Congress Party, saying if there is a military confrontation with the UN forces in Darfur, the NCP would cancel the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [between Khartoum and the SPLM]. According to the Satellite TV al-Jazeera, Omar also condemned the SPLM stance in favor of the UN takeover from the African Union forces in Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur. Al-Jazeera broadcasted a photocopy of the SPLM’s statement in Arabic language.” (The Sudan Tribune [dateline: Khartoum], September 27, 2006, “SPLM accuses the ruling party of violating peace deal”)
Even the Darfur rebel groups that did not sign the ill-fated and ill-conceived Darfur Peace Agreement in Abuja are simultaneously being attacked militarily by Khartoum and encouraged to believe that the regime is willing to negotiate an “interpretive annex” to the Abuja agreement if the non-signatory rebels groups “clearly express their rejection to the presence of the international forces in Darfur” (Sudan Tribune [dateline: Cairo], September 26, 2006). This “inducement” is offered even as Khartoum continues with its current offensive in North and West Darfur (where the non-signatory groups are concentrated) and complies with none of the key terms of the security arrangements embodied in the Darfur Peace Agreement.
Given the extraordinary stakes for which it is playing, Khartoum has achieved decisive diplomatic success, including explicit statements supporting its position on UN deployment from Ethiopia and Eritrea (both wanting Khartoum’s support or at least even-handedness in the event that they renew war with one another), from Egypt and its foreign policy extension office (the Arab League), from veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China, and from a range of “non-aligned nations.” Conclusive success with the Africa Union now ensures that the 4 million conflict-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad, as well as the deeply imperiled humanitarian operations upon which these people are increasingly dependent, will have no adequate protection—merely what can be patched together by the AU, a few dozen UN advisors (“100 personnel” is the figure cited by Reuters in a dispatch from AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, September 25, 2006), augmented with logistical assistance and some equipment from NATO. In words unlikely to strike fear into the hearts of Khartoum’s genocidaires, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said today, “Darfur will, as far as NATO is concerned, continue to see a continuation of what we are now giving to the African Union” (Associated Press [dateline: Portoroz, Slovenia], September 28, 2006).
“Continue to see a continuation” indeed.
It is fully understandable that NIF President Omar al-Bashir would “praise the African Union’s extension of its peacekeeping [sic] mission in Darfur as ‘a major victory'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum] October 25, 2006). Among other effects, the AU decision will certainly embolden China in its unstinting diplomatic support for Khartoum’s military intransigence and diplomatic defiance.
THE REALITIES OF THE AFRICAN UNION, AUGMENTED OR NOT
The AU disingenuously says it will add enough personnel to bring the force level to 11,000—still less than half of what traditional peacekeeping benchmarks dictate would be required in a far more permissive environment than Darfur presents. But it is highly doubtful that there are an additional 4,000 trained troops or security personnel available, in the near- or even medium-term. Nigeria, one of the countries mooted as providing some of these additional troops, is in fact showing increasing frustration with the AU mission overall; President Obasanjo recently suggested in New York a contraction rather than an expansion of AU forces, according to remarks cited by the Daily Trust newspaper (Abuja, Nigeria, September 26, 2006):
“President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday threatened to withdraw Nigerian troops from Darfur if the United Nations does not replace them within months. Other countries that contributed troops to the African Union (AU), Peace-keeping force in Sudan’s Darfur region may also withdraw their contingents if the UN is not allowed in by December, the president said in New York yesterday. He expressed Nigeria’s concern over the slow pace at which key aspects of the peace agreement on Darfur [were] being implemented.”
Nor should we forget that the AU’s deployment record to date in Darfur has been an extremely dilatory one. That the organization has been able to give no specific or credible account of where this new manpower will come from, or to say anything about the quality or experience of the proposed new forces, hardly argues for more rapid deployment in present circumstances. In any event, there will certainly be nothing approaching the force authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1706: an international mission of 17,300 troops, 3,300 civilian police (trained international civilian police are desperately needed throughout the camps for displaced persons in Darfur), and 16 Formed Police Units (approximately 2,000 additional support police personnel).
In short, so long as human security in Darfur remains solely the responsibility of the African Union, there will be no force remotely adequate to needs on the ground. The AU mission has by all accounts hunkered down, become badly demoralized, and is too often very poorly led, inadequately supplied, and only sporadically paid. Perversely, the only significant near-term prospect for a change in the military/security dynamic lies in Khartoum’s promise to send many more thousands of its own troops to Darfur, this as part of an ominous “security plan” presented to Secretary Kofi Annan in early August 2006.
KHARTOUM’S CURRENT MILITARY OFFENSIVE AND HUMANITARIAN CONDITIONS IN DARFUR
But Khartoum is already well into prosecution of its very large current military offensive in North Darfur and the Eastern Jebel Marra region (West Darfur); this has entailed widespread and indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian targets, as reported by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, UN monitors, and sources on the ground communicating directly with this writer. For its part, the AU has been hopeless in reporting on this consequential war crime. Indeed, Khartoum’s ongoing military effort is unconstrained in any way by AU presence, and this simply will not change if the international community, in all quarters, continues to confer veto-power upon a regime clearly intent on completing its genocidal campaign. Moreover, newly deploying AU troops will face the same obstacles, the same violence directed against current AU personnel, and the same contemptuous obstructionism on Khartoum’s part (see below).
On the humanitarian side, we may be sure that massive human displacement will continue, adding to the some 2.5 million who have already been displaced during three and a half years of genocidal conflict: some 50,000 people have been displaced in the last month of fighting in North Darfur alone, according to the UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan Manuel Aranda da Silva (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], September 26, 2006). The same Associated Press dispatch reports that according to UN officials 100,000 have been violently displaced in the past three months.
Humanitarian operations on the ground in Darfur continue their relentless contraction, as physical threats become more acute, assaults on and killing of aid workers becomes more common, and Khartoum continues to step up its war of attrition on humanitarian operations. Reports reaching this writer from a range of aid officials and humanitarian workers on the ground paint the grimmest possible picture of intimidation, harassment, obstruction, and targeted violence. Only fear of being expelled by Khartoum prevents humanitarian organizations, and the UN itself, from speaking frankly of the nature of threats confronting all aid operations in Darfur, though especially North Darfur and West Darfur.
[Khartoum’s recently imposed travel ban on US officials in Sudan has been extended to officials of at least one US nongovernmental humanitarian organization operating in Darfur, according to a report coming directly to this writer from the organization.]
The overall assessment by Jan Egeland—chief of UN humanitarian operations and the conscience of the UN on Darfur—cannot be too often invoked:
“Our entire humanitarian operation in Darfur—the only lifeline for more than three million people—is presently at risk. We need immediate action on the political front to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe with massive loss of life. [ ] If the humanitarian operation were to collapse [because of insecurity], we could see hundreds of thousands of deaths. In short, we may end up with a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale in Darfur.”
(Briefing by Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the humanitarian situation in Darfur Source, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 28, 2006)
Egeland concluded his Security Council briefing by making clear that his words marked the culmination, not the inauguration, of the direst possible warning:
“In the past months I have repeatedly called for attention to the deteriorating situation in Darfur. As you have heard today our warnings have become a black reality that calls for immediate action: insecurity is at its highest levels since 2004, access at its lowest levels since that date and we may well be on the brink of a return to all-out war. This would mean the withdrawal of international staff from Darfur, leaving millions of vulnerable Darfuris to suffer their fate without assistance and with few outsiders to witness.”
“[The humanitarian gains of the past two years in Darfur] can all be lost within weeks—not months. I cannot give a starker warning than to say that we are at a point where even hope may escape us and the lives of hundreds of thousands could be needlessly lost. The Security Council and member states around this table with influence on the parties to the conflict must act now. Hundreds of humanitarian organizations from around the world are watching what you will be doing or may refrain from doing in the coming weeks.”
Two weeks after this most terrifying of warnings, and two weeks after Khartoum launched its massive and long-anticipated military offensive in North Darfur, Egeland declared that humanitarian operations in Darfur were “in free fall” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], September 12, 2006).
About the need for the UN force specified in UN Security Council Resolution 1706, Egeland could not have been more explicit: “‘we need this UN force to avoid a collapse'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], September 15, 2006).
A month after Egeland’s briefing the situation continues to deteriorate daily. Areas completely inaccessible or only tenuously accessible are expanding rapidly; and those areas that are tenuously accessible are often so only by virtue of resource-consumptive helicopter flights (instead of overland road delivery). (A deeply dispiriting map representing areas of humanitarian inaccessibility can be found at
Moreover, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Manuel Aranda da Silva has very recently raised the terrifying specter of Khartoum’s military forcibly returning people from displaced persons camps to their villages (or the sites of the their former villages):
“Da Silva said he was also worried about recent talk in government circles to send refugees back to their villages by force. ‘I’ve seen how the government handles security in Darfur,’ he said. ‘If the army goes into the camps, there will be unpredictable violence.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], September 26, 2006)
In fact, the results of the violent removal of displaced persons from camps are all too predictable: there will be massive civilians casualties, and those actually returned to their villages will be without adequate resources and completely vulnerable to renewed Janjaweed attacks. The AU, in any configuration, is powerless to stop such a brutal campaign of forced returns, even as the UN has been warning of such a policy at various points over the past two years.
IF NOT THE AU, WHO?
The African Union belatedly—though still months ago—recognized its shortcomings, and the need to hand over the mission in Darfur to the UN. But this frank and public acknowledgement, by a range of AU officials, has not produced the political courage to confront Khartoum. By declaring that Khartoum must consent to UN deployment—even as the regime remains adamantly, publicly, relentlessly opposed to deployment—the AU leaves exceedingly little diplomatic space for those international actors that might be prepared to act without Khartoum’s consent, if the alternative to such action is passively accepting hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian deaths.
But are there any such actors? Vague noises have emanated from London, Paris, and Washington; but the AU decision announced by Konare very likely paralyzes further movement toward non-consensual deployment for both military tactical reasons and political reasons. This is the context in which to understand the fierce, blustery, but finally empty threats coming from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday (September 27):
“‘The government of Sudan must immediately and unconditionally accept a UN peacekeeping force into Darfur,’ US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said September 27, ” (Washington File [US State Department News Service], September 28, 2006)
“‘The Sudanese government faces a clear and consequential decision,’ said Rice, adding, ‘This is the choice between cooperation and confrontation.'”
“Rice did not indicate what she meant by ‘confrontation.’ UN member nations, particularly those offering troops, have made clear they do not want to shoot their way into Darfur, where about 7,000 African Union troops are battling to keep the peace in an area the size of France. When asked what Rice meant by this, US special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, also declined to provide specifics, saying it was more diplomatic to leave the consequences vague.” (Reuters [dateline: Washington], September 27, 2006)
It is hardly cynical to suggest that the “consequences” of Khartoum’s continued defiance have been left “vague” because the Bush administration has none clearly in mind. Having squandered immense moral authority as well as political and diplomatic capital on the war in Iraq, the US has no resources with which to lead or to impose meaningful consequences upon a regime that it has repeatedly declared is committing genocide in Darfur.
Khartoum certainly wasted no time in peremptorily rejecting Rice’s demands:
“Sudan rejected US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s demand that it accept United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur, and will [instead] agree to a stronger African Union force, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Karti said. ‘It is not for Condoleezza Rice to tell us what to do,’ Karti said today in an interview in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. Rice said yesterday that the Sudanese government must halt military operations in Darfur and accept a UN peacekeeping force or face punishment by the international community.” (Bloomberg news service [dateline: Khartoum], September 28, 2006)
All the while, a month after nominal UN Security Council “action” on Darfur, the “perfect storm” of human destruction that Egeland forecast exactly a month ago has fully descended upon the brutalized region.
Here the consequences of the US decision to rush through the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in Abuja, Nigeria (May 2006) are playing out in the most disastrous fashion. An agreement that was woefully inadequate in its security guarantees (and guarantors), and contemptible in what it offered the people of Darfur in the way of compensation from the oil-rich regime in Khartoum, is serving as cover for the ongoing military offensive in North and West Darfur: Khartoum claims it is attacking non-signatory rebel groups to bring them into “compliance” with this fatally flawed agreement—and it is doing so with the Janjaweed militia forces that were to have been disarmed per the terms of the DPA.
Not a single security provision of the DPA is having any effect. The contemplated Cease-Fire Commission (with primary responsibilities falling to the AU) is a ghastly joke. Moreover, many on the ground—including many within the humanitarian community—complain bitterly of the AU’s inability and unwillingness to report on what is occurring. For its part, Khartoum sees that it has been almost completely successful in keeping journalists out of Darfur (the number of wire and newspaper reports with a Darfur dateline has plummeted in the last month). As humanitarian access continues its contraction, there will be fewer and fewer witnesses to the atrocities and genocidal actions that are currently, this very day, occurring. Those dying from indiscriminate aerial attacks on villages, those murdered by Khartoum’s ground forces and Janjaweed militia allies, those starving to death, those dying from disease—they are dying, overwhelmingly, invisibly.
And they are dying in ever-greater numbers: there are very likely more than 10,000 conflict-related deaths per month (in a perverse and revealing coincidence, 10,000 is the total mortality figure—for the entire Darfur conflict, from all causes, on all sides—recently insisted upon by NIF President al-Bashir). Such a current mortality rate can only be a very general estimate, a crude extrapolation from UN mortality rate data released in preliminary form in June 2005. For there has been no further promulgation of systematic data on mortality, by the UN or any other organization, for almost a year and a half (see April 29, 2006 mortality assessment by this writer at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article102.html).
Even so, given the mortality rate data reported in a UN World Health Organization-overseen study in spring of 2005, for a retrospective time-period in which humanitarian access was relatively good, we must assume significant increases in mortality rates in all three Darfur states (at the time of the study, overall UN data suggested a rate of approximately 6,000 excess [conflict-related] deaths per month). Moreover, there has also been very large increase in the number of conflict-affected persons: from approximately 2.73 million (May 1, 2005 “UN Darfur Humanitarian Profile”) to the current estimate by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of 3.78 million. In other words, the “denominator” for the excess Crude Mortality Rate (excess, or conflict-related, deaths per day per 10,000 of population) has increased by over 1 million human beings (37%) since the last systematic data were released.
The humanitarian crisis in Chad, intimately related to the Darfur genocide and in many ways an extension of it, has steadily slipped from news coverage of the greater crisis. And the Darfur spillover into the Central African Republic is almost completely unreported, although the destabilizing effects of the Darfur conflict continue to be emphasized by senior UN officials, including Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Referring specifically to the Central African Republic and Chad, Guterres warned:
“‘I would say you must look at Darfur not only in itself, but as the epicentre of a major earthquake in the area that can have a devastating impact not only on peace and security but also terrible humanitarian consequences.'” (BBC, September 16, 2006)
UN figures indicate that there are presently over 350,000 conflict-affected persons in Chad (Darfuri refugees, Chadian internally displaced persons, and affected host populations); the vast majority of these people require humanitarian assistance that is acutely threatened by targeted violence and insecurity. Moreover, these people are at steadily increasing risk with the return of the dry season, which will permit military incursions by the Janjaweed and Khartoum’s regular military forces into Chad (the current rainy season, now ending, has in recent months made crossing rain-swollen wadis impossible for the Janjaweed and other armed forces).
Notably, the UN force contemplated in Security Council Resolution 1706 is specifically tasked with “monitoring trans-border activities of armed groups along the Sudanese borders with Chad and the Central African Republic, in particular through regular ground and aerial reconnaissance activities” (Paragraph 8, clause [e], UN Security Council Resolution 1706, August 31, 2006). But this task is completely beyond the African Union, which even if augmented cannot begin to handle the security tasks just for Darfur itself, including: protecting the camps for displaced persons (where AU personnel are despised because of their impotence); protecting humanitarian corridors (which in many cases have become little more than shooting galleries for bandits and car-jackers); protecting rural civilians and villages at risk of military assault; creating a meaningful cease-fire commission; and overseeing the disarming of the Janjaweed (both as separate fighting elements and as they have been incorporated by Khartoum into the regular armed forces, the Popular Defense Forces [PDF], and other security forces).
The AU is completely incapable of staunching the flow of genocidal violence across the border between Darfur and Chad, and the very large defenseless populations in eastern Chad at risk must figure much more prominently in public discussion of the AU mission in Darfur and what is required for human security in the broader humanitarian theater.
[See two important reports on this violence, by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, making clear both Khartoum’s direct role in cross-border violence and the acute threats to humanitarian operations:
 Human Rights Watch, “Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad,” February 2006, http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/chad0206/)
 Amnesty International, “Sowing the Seeds of Darfur: Ethnic targeting in Chad by Janjawid militias from Sudan,” June 2006,
The AU’s conspicuous failure to take on a mandate for the Chad border region, of the sort specified in UN Resolution 1706, is made clear by a recent wire report (September 28, 2006) from Bahai, Chad (on the border with North Darfur):
“Walking behind his mule beneath a sky seared white by the afternoon heat, Abdikrim Mohammed contemplated the end of the rainy season. He and his family have lived in Oure Cassoni refugee camp in this Sahara Desert border town since 2003, when they fled western Sudan’s Darfur region in the wake of militia attacks supported by the Sudanese government. About 29,000 men, women and children live in the camp. [Although hoping to return to his village] Mohammed, 35, braces for renewed fighting. The deluge of rain that swept through central Africa beginning in June will end this month, making it possible for Sudan-backed militias to ford once-flooded rivers and increase their attacks on Chadian border villages. ‘Without the rains, they will come,’ Mohammed said, staring at the border and the shallow river, Wadi Hawar, that separates the camp from Sudan.”
“Mohammed is not alone in his concern. The United Nations and relief organization officials say they are bracing for fighting that may rival anything that came before in a conflict the Bush administration calls genocide. Mounting violence before the rainy season resulted in at least 55,000 Chadians driven from their homes. Refugee camps swelled with these displaced families and the hundreds of Sudanese refugees that arrived each week.” [ ]
“About 235,000 Sudanese refugees have sought sanctuary in Chad. In the eastern provinces of Chad, 12 refugee camps have been established. Security remains particularly precarious for them and for humanitarian workers.”
“Sudanese troops in August  deployed along the border near Oure Cassoni [also on the border between North Darfur and Chad] and other refugee camps for the first time since the Darfur war began in 2003. Some aid workers say the troops, ostensibly placed to prevent anti-Sudan rebels from escaping into Chad, will leave fleeing Darfur families sandwiched between the militias and the Sudanese soldiers.”
“[Matthew Conway, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, warned that], ‘given the recent history [along the Chad/Darfur border] we are preparing for the worst.’ Conway said UN refugee experts expect at least 50,000 new refugees by the end of the year.” [This would bring the conflict-affected population in Chad to over 400,000—ER]
“It remains unlikely that Mohammed or the families around him will return to their Darfur villages anytime soon. In fact, some aid officials worry that the refugee camps run the risk of becoming permanent, impoverished versions of how these families, mostly farmers, once lived. ‘It is a concern,’ said Ndoyengar Narcisse, an aid worker with a local agricultural organization called Secadev.” [ ]
“In Oure Cassoni, Darfur secondary school teachers gathered beneath a tent one afternoon to discuss their problems as refugees. Little food, little water, little to do. Many cast worried looks toward the nearby Sudan border, where the dim dark outlines of tanks and Jeeps weaved in the afternoon heat. ‘You see the government [of Sudan] troops over the river,’ said Sharif Nuran, 40. ‘They continue to follow us.’ ‘They are closing the border so refugees can’t come and the people here won’t know what is happening,’ added Mohammad Hamid, 40. ‘One day,’ Nuran said, ‘they will come into the camp and kill people who don’t support them.'”
“On the other side of the camp, Abdikrim Mohammed tried not to think of the future. Still, he could not resist watching the sky and the few clouds scudding overhead. ‘The rivers are low,’ he said. ‘When the water is gone, then it will be the bad time.'” (McClatchy Newspapers wire-service [dateline: Bahai, Chad (on the Chad/Darfur border)], published September 28, 2006)
PROSPECTS FOR THE AFRICAN UNION FORCE
Secure in its diplomatic triumph, defying the UN, ignoring the importuning of the European Union, sneering brazenly at the US, Khartoum knows full well that there will be no change in the security crisis throughout Darfur so long as the African Union provides the only force on the ground. Moreover, as the past history of the AU in Darfur painfully reveals, AU troops and civilian police on the ground will continue to be harassed, obstructed, and humiliated by Khartoum’s military forces. AU aviation fuel for patrol helicopters will continue to be commandeered by Khartoum for its own savagely destructive helicopter gunships (see New York Times dispatch [dateline: Tawilla, North Darfur], September 9, 2006, at http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/09/09/africa/web.0909darfur.php). Even Jendayi Frazer, the singularly incompetent US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was forced recently to acknowledge the hapless nature of the AU in confronting Khartoum’s obstructionism:
“The al-Bashir government has sabotaged the African Union’s Mission in Sudan, AMIS, by delaying visas and dismantling and removing bolts from AMIS armored personnel carriers when they arrive in Port Sudan, US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer told a small group of reporters on Thursday.” (Inner City Press [dateline: UN, New York], September 21, 2006)
Such sabotaging is much more extensive that Frazer acknowledges, and much more debilitating. We should recall that 105 Canadian armored personnel carriers, destined for the AU in Darfur, where forced to remain in Senegal from July to November 2005 because Khartoum would not permit their entry into Darfur—and when they were admitted, they arrived without their key armament (12.7mm mounted machine-guns), and without the technicians to train the AU personnel in the use of the vehicles. We should also recall the curfews imposed by Khartoum on AU personnel, the extensive restrictions on flying time for patrol helicopters, the gratuitous requirements for pilot re-certification, and countless other consequential obstacles to effective deployment.
We should also bear in mind the kinds of fundamental, structural limitations to the AU force—limitations in intelligence gathering, as well as in communications ability and experience; lack of operating cohesion (including often the lack of a common language or radio frequency); lack of relevant training; acute lack of capable on-the-ground logistics; and limitations in administrative capacity in Addis Ababa (including inadequate financial accounting). It is not that these limitations are unknown to the UN or other international actors who are now acquiescing before Khartoum’s insistence that the mission in Darfur remain solely in the hands of the African Union. Almost a year ago, comprehensive analyses came from several distinguished policy organizations:
 Refugees International, “No Power to Protect: The African Union Mission in Sudan” (November 2005, http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/publication)
 Brookings Institution/Bern University, “The Protecting of Two Million Internally Displaced: The Successes and Shortcomings of the African Union in Darfur,” (November 2005, http://www.brookings.edu/fp/projects/idp/200511_au_darfur.pdf)
 International Crisis Group, “The AU’s Mission in Darfur: Bridging the Gaps,” (July 6, 2005 http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3547&l=1)
[This writer has undertaken a synthetic account of this very substantial body of research: “Ghosts of Rwanda: The Failure of the African Union in Darfur,” Part 1 of 2, November 13, 2005, at
“Ghosts of Rwanda: The Failure of the African Union in Darfur,” Part 2 of 2, November 20, 2005, at
The Brookings report analyzed over 20 categories of significant weakness in the “African Union Mission in Sudan” (AMIS) force, weaknesses that in nearly all cases still characterize the current AU deployment:
*”Slow and Cumbersome Command and Control”
*”High Turnover of Sector Commanders”
*”Inadequate Planning and Management Capacity”
*”Absence of Standard Operating Procedures in AMIS’ First Year”
*”Lack of Rules of Engagement Governing Use of Firearms or Force”
*”Poor Coordination of Outside Assistance”
*”Weak Financial Oversight”
*”Poor Data Management”
*”Lack of Good Intelligence Information”
*”Insufficient Coordination between AMIS’ Military and Civilian Police”
*”Too Close an Alliance between AMIS Civilian Police and Sudan’s Police”
*”Inadequate Access to Rebel-Controlled Areas”
*”Limited Patrol Capacity [ ] and No Ability for Night Patrols”
*”Inconsistent Relationships with NGO’s and UN Agencies”
*”Problems of Including Sudanese Armed Forces and Rebel Groups in AMIS Investigations”
[six other significant shortcomings are listed by the Brookings report]
Some of these problems have only grown worse: the split in the rebel movements over the Darfur Peace Agreement (with only one, the Sudan Liberation Army faction of Minni Minawi, signing) has resulted in an almost complete paralysis of AU investigations, since Khartoum has insisted that representatives of non-signatory groups be expelled from AU sites as “terrorists.” This makes it impossible for the AU to investigate in the vast areas (particularly north and west of el-Fasher) controlled by the non-signatory groups. This is where present fighting and indiscriminate aerial bombardment of villages are concentrated.
Only some of these problems can be addressed, and only very partially, by UN advisors and logistical, transport, and equipment support from NATO countries. Moreover, AU stubbornness about leadership in key areas may still undermine the effectiveness of any augmented AU force. For example, the intelligence capabilities of the AU are disastrously weak. Human intelligence, aerial and ground surveillance, intercept capability, and analytic capacity are virtually non-existent. The Refugees International (RI) report of November 2005 notes,
“Even when AMIS does collect valuable information, RI was told by AMIS officers and advisors that there is a lack of suitably trained personnel capable of analyzing this information for intelligence value, which hinders any given commander’s ability to react.” (page 10)
Even more bluntly the Brookings report notes:
“Lack of planning and establishing an intelligence infrastructure within AMIS [African Union Mission in Sudan] meant that there was no routine way to gather and analyze intelligence on either the government forces and their militias or the various rebel groups. Good intelligence is vital in Darfur, yet AMIS’ capacity to gather, analyze and act on information has been very weak. ‘The AU does not understand the importance of having an “intelligence cell” and of having good information on the command structure, for example, of the Janjaweed.’ ‘AMIS force headquarters is blind when it comes to intelligence,’ according to a former advisor.” (page 37)
An appropriate intelligence capacity cannot be “airlifted” to the AU by NATO or the EU; it cannot be “purchased” along with appropriate equipment. In this crucial arena, the AU mission will be crippled without substantial first-world military intelligence capabilities and leadership.
The Brookings military assessment highlights other key deficiencies in AU abilities: the AU force lacks “fast warning of imminent attack”; lacks “continuous, all-source, and real-time intelligence”; lacks “ability to distinguish among combatants”; and lacks “flexible command and control of distributed forces” (page 35). Again, most of these problems remain, and in some regions (most of North Darfur and eastern West Darfur) the problems have only worsened.
The Brookings report also notes that African Union civilian police “suffer from severe communications problems, which, if anything, are worse than AMIS military must endure”; “one AMIS police sector cannot communicate directly with another” (page 20). The African Union has never made trained civilian police a high enough priority, and this remains the case—and will almost certainly be reflected in any future deployments. Yet again, the problems have actually increased since these assessment reports were issued last November: Darfuri displaced persons are increasingly angry at the AU for its manifest failure to protect civilians, and this has made it increasingly difficult for the AU to maintain an appropriate presence in most camps.
DOES THIS MATTER ENOUGH?
As Jan Egeland has insistently predicted for months, without an appropriate security force—and he has very recently indicated quite specifically that he means the UN force contemplated in Security Council Resolution 1706—catastrophe is inevitable. One month ago he declared that “we are at a point where even hope may escape us and the lives of hundreds of thousands could be needlessly lost.” Two weeks later he warned that humanitarian aid in Darfur was “in free fall.” If we wait to see the full scale and consequences of an inevitable AU failure to provide security for Darfur, we will be waiting while too many hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings die.