It is more than six weeks since UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland warned the Security Council that, “[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.” It is more than six weeks since the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1706, authorizing “rapid” deployment of 22,500 military and security personnel to Darfur to protect civilians and humanitarian operations, as well as to secure the border between Darfur and Chad, where violence continues to escalate dangerously.
It is over a month since Egeland declared that humanitarian operations in Darfur were “in free fall,” and that “mass murder, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing” were “very visible on the ground” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], September 12, 2006). Precisely a month ago Egeland indicated that “there is still a possibility to avoid [the mass exodus of humanitarian organizations from Darfur], but we have very little time [ ] to avoid a collapse in Darfur.” Egeland went on to insist, explicitly, that “‘we need this UN force to avoid a collapse [in humanitarian operations]'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], September 15, 2006).
Nothing could be clearer than the need for extremely urgent deployment of a fully adequate security force to Darfur: humanitarian operations will continue in “free fall” without protection, and an ever-greater percentage of the more than 4 million conflict-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad will be without any assistance. Yet such urgency is nowhere in evidence: there has been no effective movement toward securing the personnel and resources for the force contemplated in Resolution 1706; the African Union mission currently deployed in Darfur has yet to receive even modest augmenting, and is incapable of being made into a force remotely adequate for civilian and humanitarian protection (see my October 9, 2006 analysis of what has come to be dubbed “African Union-Plus,” at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article127.html); and there is no appropriately urgent consideration of or preparation for non-consensual military deployment if Khartoum continues to defy the UN, and refuses to accept the UN force that Egeland describes as necessary to forestall humanitarian collapse and massive human destruction.
Certainly the issue of non-consensual deployment has now been fully broached, including by various senior government officials of the UK, France, and the US; by UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown; by 25 human rights, humanitarian, policy, and advocacy groups (see statement on website of Physicians for Human Rights, http://www.phrusa.org/research/sudan/news_2006-09-13.html); and by the International Crisis Group in its most recent report (“Getting the UN Into Darfur,” October 12, 2006).
But the recent statements by both Malloch Brown, reflecting UN policy, and by the influential policy organization International Crisis Group (ICG) also reflect a dismaying diffidence about accepting the overwhelming urgency of current humanitarian realities, as well as an inadequate appreciation of the readily predictable consequences of accelerating violence and insecurity. Malloch Brown, in an address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC (October 12, 2006) declared that Darfur is reaching a dangerous “tipping point” and that “we fear the worst”: it is increasingly likely that insecurity “could tip back to massive lost of life.” But while Malloch Brown expressed considerable urgency—the deteriorating security situation affords only “days or weeks” to make progress—he offered no persuasive account of what prospective diplomatic developments could reverse the present course of rapidly deteriorating security conditions—in short, why there should be any delay in preparing for what will certainly be demanded by near-term events.
Malloch Brown spoke of a “constructive diplomatic climate that we have built”; but he offered no evidence that Khartoum is prepared to do anything but take advantage of the comfort afforded by this “diplomatic climate” in continuing its obdurate refusal of the UN force authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (under Chapter VII of the UN Charter). Khartoum’s Foreign Minister Lam Akol today (October 15, 2006) pointedly told US special envoy Andrew Natsios precisely as much; following the meeting between Lam and Natsios,
“Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ali Sadiq said Sudan had welcomed Natsios’ visit as a chance to improve US-Sudanese relations, but he stressed that Sudan would not change its views on UN peacekeepers. ‘It is good to exchange views, but the position of the Sudan regarding UN Security Council Resolution 1706 remains unchanged,’ he said.” (Voice of America [dateline: Khartoum], October 15, 2006)
Malloch Brown is certainly right to declare that in moving from economic and diplomatic pressure, we “may move very quickly to a more dangerous set of options,” including the use of military force: “We can’t take military force off the table, even if it is the worst option” (source: audience notes from an experienced observer of Darfur). To be sure, deployment of non-consensual military force is, all would agree, the “worst” policy option; but this does not in itself change the realities that make this dangerous, politically risky, and enormously difficult task so compelling under current circumstances: we have only to recall Egeland’s ferocious words of warning about “the lives of hundreds of thousands being lost needlessly” to see why this decision “needs” to be made now.
KHARTOUM’S CONTINUING OBDURACY
There is simply no evidence that Khartoum will back away from its current posture of defiance; on the contrary, the regime’s recent refusal to accept an Arab League proposal for augmenting the African Union force suggests just how confidently defiant the regime remains:
“Sudan’s president has turned down a proposal from Arab and Muslim countries to send Arab peacekeepers to bolster the African Union peacekeepers now in war-torn Darfur, Arab diplomats said Sunday [October 8, 2006]. [ ] Arab diplomats who accompanied [Arab League Secretary-General Amr] Moussa said he suggested to al-Bashir that Sudan accept thousands of troops from Arab and Muslim countries, to join the current force of African Union troops and then have that mission later shift to UN peacekeepers.” (Associated Press [dateline: Cairo], October 8, 2006)
Such rejection of a proposal from an organization to which Sudan itself belongs is an exceedingly significant measure of the Khartoum regime’s resistance to any meaningful international force in Darfur. So too is the extraordinary threat contained in a recent letter sent by Khartoum’s UN mission in New York to dozens of member nations who had attended a September 25, 2006 UN meeting on potential troop contributions for a UN mission to Darfur. The letter declared:
“‘In the absence of Sudan’s consent to the deployment of UN troops, any volunteering to provide peacekeeping troops to Darfur will be considered as a hostile act, a prelude to an invasion of a member country of the UN,’ the letter said.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: UN, New York], October 5, 2006)
In other words, the mere act of offering to volunteer forces for a still only possible UN mission to Darfur constitutes, in Khartoum’s diplomatic calculations, “a hostile act,” serving as “prelude to an invasion” of Sudan.
A more detailed report indicates further that,
“countries [receiving] Sudan’s warning letter included Australia, New Zealand, Slovakia and Japan—but not the United States. All African and Arab countries got a copy.” (National Post [Canada] [dateline: UN, New York], October 6, 2006)
The National Post dispatch also noted:
“Veteran UN watchers also say it is unlikely the Sudanese mission issued the warning letter without the permission of [National Islamic Front President Omar al-] Bashir or someone close to him. [ ] ‘The letter is very provocative,’ said one diplomat of a receiving country.”
And while US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton subsequently [October 6, 2006] claimed in gruff language that Khartoum had backed down from the letter’s threat in the face of US objections, the truth is quite otherwise:
“Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday [October 7, 2006] that it stands behind a letter sent this week to dozens of nations warning them against volunteering troops for a proposed United Nations peacekeeping mission in war-torn Darfur. The letter drew the ire of some in the international community who considered Sudan’s warning a threat.” (Deutsche Press Agentur [dateline: Khartoum], October 7, 2006; “Sudan Foreign Ministry Defends Darfur letter”)
These are not the actions of a regime that is contemplating diplomatic compromise or acceptance of an international force. As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan rightly declares in his most recent (September 26, 2006) report on Darfur to the Security Council:
“The decision of the Government of the Sudan to deploy a large number of military troops to Darfur signals its apparent determination to pursue a military solution to the crisis in the region.” (Paragraph 2)
The consequences of Khartoum’s pursuing a “military solution” in Darfur mean more civilian destruction and displacement, more indiscriminate aerial assaults on defenseless villages—targeted because of the ethnicity of their inhabitants—and further attenuation of humanitarian access. The current offensives in North Darfur and in eastern Jebel Marra (West Darfur) have already displaced tens of thousands, and killed an untold number. A range of reports, including that just released by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur (assembled under the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 [March 2005]), indicate that Khartoum continues to pour troops and military equipment into North Darfur, in clear violation of the terms of the Darfur Peace Agreement and UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005) (See report by Panel of Experts, August 31, 2006, paragraphs 73-88). Moreover, instead of disarming the Janjaweed, as first “demanded” by UN Security Council Resolution 1556 (July 2004) and by the terms of the Darfur Peace Agreement, Khartoum is arming these military proxies even more heavily:
“The [UN] Panel [of Experts] has credible information that the Government of the Sudan continues to support the Janjaweed through the provision of weapons and vehicles. The Janjaweed/armed militias appear to have upgraded their modus operandi from horses, camels and AK-47s to land cruisers, pickup trucks and rocket-propelled grenades. Reliable sources indicate that the Janjaweed continue to be subsumed into the Popular Defence Force in greater numbers than those indicated in the previous reports of the Panel. Their continued access to ammunition and weapons is evident in their ability to coordinate with the Sudanese armed forces in perpetrating attacks on villages and to engage in armed conflict with rebel groups.” (Report of the UN Panel of Experts, August 31, 2006, paragraph 76)
Khartoum’s contempt for various obligations and commitments to the international community, including to the UN, was further highlighted in this most recent report by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur:
“In spite of the clear understanding of its obligations under Security Council resolution 1591 (2005), at the time of writing this report [August 31, 2006], the Government of the Sudan still had not requested approval from the Committee to move weapons, ammunition or other military equipment into Darfur, thereby knowingly violating the provisions of the resolution .” (Introductory Summary)
In fact, the UN Panel of Experts report details a wide range of other violations of previous agreements, including a previous demand that Khartoum cease to paint its military aircraft and ground vehicles the white color that is used by both the African Union and humanitarian organizations (see below).
THE CONTEXT FOR NON-CONSENSUAL DEPLOYMENT TO DARFUR
This extraordinary obduracy on the part of the regime is the context in which to assess the deeply informed, but ultimately diffident report from the International Crisis Group (“Getting the UN Into Darfur,” October 12, 2006, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4442&l=1). Although the report makes a number of useful recommendations, it is thoroughly unpersuasive in its central conviction that “tough new measures” in the form of targeted sanctions will work quickly or powerfully enough to change the security dynamic on the ground in Darfur. In short, despite a lengthy assessment of non-consensual military deployment—deployment contemplated as an eventual future possibility—the ICG analysis is premised on a tractability in Khartoum that is nowhere in evidence. And the report as a whole does not take sufficient cognizance of the consequences of current readily discernible trends in humanitarian aid access.
None of the new sanctioning measures proposed by ICG are powerful enough to inflict unacceptable levels of pain or loss on those who control Khartoum’s military and security policies in Darfur:
 “an assets freeze and travel ban” on senior National Islamic Front genocidaires: these men have had far too long to sequester their wealth and business operations beyond the reach of the “forensic accounting” that the ICG report proposes; “travel restrictions” have been imposed in a previous UN sanctions measure (following Khartoum’s conspicuous participation in the 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during an Organization of African Unity summit in Addis Ababa), with no discernible effect.
 targeting “aspects of the petroleum sector” sounds like a potent idea; but as ICG itself recognizes, “it would only take China’s and perhaps one or two other Asian countries’ non-participation” in an oil sector sanctions regime “to make a voluntary boycott meaningless.” Such “non-participation” is a virtual certainty.
 “toughening national sanctions, such as those in the US,” is a measure long overdue by those European governments that allow many of their multinational companies to continue to do business as usual with a genocidal regime; but a truly threatening panoply of new European sanctions is extremely unlikely in the near term.
The International Crisis Group report also recommends, uncontroversially, strengthening the African Union mission in Darfur, but recognizes that the AU is “not a suitable long-term replacement for a larger UN mission.” “Darfur requires a more effective international response as soon as possible, which can best be provided through the UN force authorized in Resolution 1706.”
ICG also proposes creation of a “No-Fly Zone” over Darfur as a means of banning military flights (as mandated by Security Council Resolution 1591). A wealth of evidence—much of it, including photographic evidence, assembled in the report by the UN Panel of Experts—clearly reveals that Khartoum continues to use its Antonov “bombers” and helicopter gunships in current military offensives in North and West Darfur. But while a “No-Fly Zone” must certainly be welcome in theory, we should recognize that it will entail a relatively extravagant devotion of military resources for potentially very limited effect; is logistically very challenging; and faces a critical difficulty in distinguishing between military and humanitarian aircraft.
ICG outlines the extensive force requirements for a “No-Fly Zone” (NFZ):
“Effective, 24-hour monitoring of government aircraft, including helicopters, would require at least four to six Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) and Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) planes. These could potentially be deployed from the US airfield in Djibouti, supported by in-flight refuelling tankers from Chad. Enforcing the NFZ would require a squadron of twelve to eighteen Harrier fighter aircraft , with a forward operating base in Chad at the French airfield in Abeche, that could force aircraft to land, shoot them down or disable their runways.”
“Support planes for supply and in-flight refuelling and substantial personnel for maintenance, logistics, security and intelligence would also be needed. The airstrip and hangers in Abeche and the N’Djamena airport would require upgrades that likely only the US military has the capacity to do rapidly. Intelligence coordination with [African Union mission] in Darfur and the UN force assisting implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in southern Sudan (UNMIS) would also be needed.”
While it is urgently necessary to deny Khartoum the ability to use its aerial military assets in continuing attacks on civilian targets, enforcement of an “Iraq-style” NFZ would be disproportionately force-consumptive. An alternative strategy would be to threaten all military aircraft that Khartoum continues to deploy in Darfur with destruction by unmanned aerial attack, including cruise missiles. Given the value that the regime attaches to these aircraft, redeployment out of Darfur is likely if even a single helicopter gunship were destroyed on the ground in el-Fasher or other air bases.
But there are two key issues not addressed by the ICG version of a “No-Fly Zone”:
 It would be extremely difficult to distinguish by means of AWACS and JSTARS alone the identity of both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft that are being used for military purposes, as opposed to those being used—in precisely the same areas—for humanitarian purposes. Compounding the problem is the fact that Antonov aircraft are used both for humanitarian cargo delivery and as “bombers” (the Antonov is a cargo plane by design; it has been for many years retrofitted by Khartoum’s military so that crude and inaccurate anti-personnel bombs can be rolled out the back cargo bay). Low-flying military helicopters could prove exceedingly difficult to distinguish if deployed in areas and at times when humanitarian and African Union transport helicopters are also in use.
Significantly, Khartoum is already painting its military aircraft white to promote confusion about their real identity. The UN Panel of Experts provides overwhelming evidence, including substantial photographic evidence, that Khartoum—in violation of international law and previous commitments—is engaged in this extremely dangerous effort to deceive observers about the real identity of its military aircraft (see UN Panel of Experts on Darfur report to the Security Council, paragraphs 85, 101-102, 201-213, and Figures [photographs] 3, 6, 9, 10).
If Khartoum thought that actual enforcement of a NFZ were likely, it would make even more concerted efforts to create confusion about the identity of military and humanitarian aircraft.
 No form of non-consensual military actions should begin without a clear plan for urgent insertion of a robust ground force that might protect civilians and humanitarians in the event that Khartoum’s regular military forces or its Janjaweed militia allies threaten reprisals. Of the many dangers arising out of non-consensual military response to ongoing genocidal destruction in Darfur, this is without question the greatest—and the one to which the most urgent planning must be given.
Since it is highly unlikely that military enforcement of a “No-Fly Zone” alone will be sufficiently punitive to produce in Khartoum a diplomatic recalculation about consenting to UN deployment, there must be fully adequate preparation for the possibility of retaliatory measures by the regime. Although the ICG report acknowledges in passing the dangers of such retaliation, the absence of planning or prescribed preparation for possible reprisal attacks is a serious shortcoming in the ICG analysis, given its proposals for present military actions (including “shoot down” enforcement of a “No-Fly Zone”).
It is possible that simply the threat of large-scale destruction of key military assets might produce a stand-down by Khartoum, but this is far from certain. Much more effective would be full preparation of and the entirely credible threat to engage in non-consensual deployment on the ground in Darfur, perhaps from pre-staged positions within eastern Chad; in fact, such preparation and the clear possibility of imminent deployment is precisely the development most likely to secure from Khartoum the required consent for the currently planned UN force. But given the primary purpose of non-consensual deployment—civilian and humanitarian protection—full anticipation of possible reprisal actions is essential.
More usefully, the International Crisis Group recommends deployment of a “rapid reaction force” to eastern Chad:
“A rapid-reaction force of 3,000-5,000 deployed to eastern Chad with that government’s consent could complement the NFZ operation, help limit cross-border attacks and worry Khartoum that it might become the core of a larger ground force tasked with a mission of non-consensual deployment. It might be drawn initially from existing French assets and would build on Resolution 1706, which calls for [the UN Mission in Sudan/UNMIS] to establish a presence in ‘key locations’ in Chad. That resolution tasks UNMIS ‘to monitor 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.'”
This would be an important action, given the current acceleration of cross-border violence, especially near the Bahai region of northeastern Chad. There are difficulties associated with such deployment, including its effect on the military dynamic between Khartoum and the Darfur rebels, and on Chadian internal politics. But on balance, such a measure would be of very considerable use in halting violence in eastern Chad and sending a clear signal to Khartoum: “a highly credible force is in-theater and prepared to intervene to halt ongoing genocide.”
The most troubling part of the ICG analysis lies in its explicit concluding discussion of non-consensual deployment to Darfur with respect to an “international responsibility to protect” civilians at risk of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or ethnic cleansing. Of the five criteria for non-consensual deployment set out in the report, ICG concludes that three have been met. A fourth (“Balance of Consequences”) is in ICG’s judgment uncertain:
“Balance of Consequences: Is there a reasonable chance of the military action being successful in meeting the threat in question, with the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction? This is by far the hardest criterion to satisfy in the particular circumstances of Darfur. (That it may not be able to be satisfied, now or in the future, does not mean that the “responsibility to protect” concept would be rendered irrelevant: just that it might have to be implemented here by means falling short of full-scale coercive military intervention.) A non-consensual deployment would be desperately difficult for a number of reasons, and the overall security situation for civilians in the region could well worsen.”
“First, it would be logistically extremely challenging for a non-consensual force to operate in Darfur, which is landlocked and has poor air infrastructure. Supply would be expensive and arduous. Secondly, there would be a big risk to civilians ahead of the arrival of any large international protective force, with basically a hostage population of more than two million sitting defenceless in large concentrations. Thirdly, there would be the risk to civilians from the inevitable collapse of humanitarian relief operations if a non-consensual intervention occurred.”
“Fourthly, the existing [UN Mission in Sudan] force and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement would unquestionably be jeopardised: the implementation of the North-South peace agreement, bringing to a conclusion a decades-long conflict which killed and displaced many more people than even Darfur, is fragile at best. Fifthly, a persistent insurgency campaign is possible, not least in circumstances where a UN mission takes place as a primarily Western-backed enterprise probably needing to have a significant number of white, non-Muslim personnel.”
This is a fair summary of the very significant challenges and risks of international non-consensual military deployment to Darfur. The critical shortcoming in the ICG analysis, and the report as a whole, is a failure to articulate with sufficient urgency, or acknowledgement of scale, the costs of not acting: specifically, the risks to a conflict-affected population of over 4 million civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad, and the number of deaths that are likely to follow upon continuing, indeed rapidly escalating human insecurity.
Moreover, it is not enough to look at the current threat to human life and livelihoods: even if a political decision to deploy in Darfur non-consensually were made today (and such a decision is nowhere in evidence), the time to actual deployment of a force on the ground, in numbers that might reverse the current security crisis, is likely already measured in many tens of thousands of lives lost—very possibly hundreds of thousands of lives lost. In assessing the “balance of consequences,” we must not look simply at current conditions, but the massive mortality to date and what present evidence suggests will be the conditions obtaining several months from now, as well as the intervening, and accelerating, human destruction that has become inevitable.
The ICG report suggests that there is scope for additional diplomatic activity, that there are unused sources of economic and other pressures, and that these argue against non-consensual deployment. But as I argue above, ICG has failed to articulate persuasively the robust means necessary to move an increasingly defiant Khartoum regime. ICG certainly recognizes that “the situation in Darfur demands the most effective response possible,” that this “can only come through full UN deployment,” and that “efforts need to be concentrated to bring about [UN deployment] as rapidly as possible.” But none of the sanctions or punitive measures outlined offers realistic promise of significant near-term diplomatic re-calculation on the part of Khartoum, even as human destruction is rapidly accelerating. A calculus that fully assesses “the balance of consequences” does not permit the time-frame that ICG proposals imply for securing Khartoum’s consent.
SECURITY CONDITIONS IN DARFUR AND EASTERN CHAD
A recent overview of security in Darfur comes from the very useful, if occasionally inaccurate, report to the Security Council by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur:
“The camps, where the humanitarian situation is degrading due to the reduction of aid, are now slipping out of the control of any organized authority. Fifty per cent of NGOs are said to have left due to the lack of funding and security. The Panel noted an infiltration of weapons and armed elements, widespread theft and physical assaults, resulting in overall insecurity for the inhabitants. Outside the camps, the Janjaweed/armed militias are more present than ever, and are engaged in looting, beating and/or raping women who put themselves at risk by moving outside the camps to gather firewood. The local police force is too often absent or inefficient due to fear of reprisal. The African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) is not able to carry out an adequate number of escort patrols owing to resource constraints.” (paragraph 13)
Amnesty International has recently provided a terrifying overview of conditions in both West Darfur and eastern Chad:
“In large parts of West Darfur, the Janjawid have almost complete control and are gradually occupying the land which was depopulated by the scorched earth campaign in 2003 and 2004. Hundreds of thousands of people—most of the original population—now live in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) or in refugee camps across the border in Chad. The Janjawid presence threatens attack on any IDP movement outside of the camps, making venturing outside extremely difficult and any return of the displaced to their homes impossible.”
“The displaced are effectively imprisoned inside the camps. Even within them, the Janjawid commit killings, rapes, beatings and theft. Rape is a near certainty for women caught outside the camps, and women are sometimes abducted and enslaved in Janjawid households. Men venturing outside the camps are often beaten, tortured or killed.” (Amnesty International, “Crying Out for Safety,” October 5, 2006, at http://web.amnesty.org/pages/sdn-features-eng)
A similarly grim picture is offered of eastern Chad, where genocidal violence is poised to explode with the onset of the dry season, which has opened previously impassable cross-border routes:
“In eastern Chad, directly across the border from West Darfur, attacks reminiscent of the first wave of Darfur’s scorched earth campaign continue unopposed. Amnesty International has documented the cross-border attacks since late 2005, in which the Janjawid have killed and driven from their homes thousands of civilians, targeted according to their ethnicity, and looted whole communities’ wealth.”
Subsequent news-wire reports suggest that this violence is having enormous consequences for Darfuri refugees in camps in eastern Chad:
“The United Nations said on Tuesday [October 10, 2006] it would urgently move more than 40,000 Sudanese refugees deeper into Chad after weekend fighting at the border. Sudanese rebels opposed to a recent peace deal in Darfur clashed with government troops near Sudan’s border with Chad on Saturday, more ‘evidence of the destabilisation’ in the volatile region, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. ‘The ongoing deterioration in security in Darfur and increasing insecurity throughout eastern Chad highlights the urgent need to move Sudanese refugees in Oure-Cassoni camp [five kilometers from Darfur] further away from the border,’ UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.” (UN News Service [dateline: Geneva], October 10, 2006)
Agricultural production is also threatened, throughout Darfur, by ongoing insecurity and violence. Kofi Annan, in his most recent report to the Security Council (September 26, 2006), finds that “this year’s harvest will be a poor one because of continued insecurity, which makes maintaining and harvesting crops difficult” (paragraph 26). “Fighting near Tawila, Korma, Jebel Moon, and Jebel Marra [all sites of recent offensive military actions by Khartoum] has forced local farmers to flee during the few weeks available for planting the sorghum and millet upon which thousands depend for their sustenance.”
A recent Associated Press dispatch from Fata Borno (northwest of el-Fasher, again the site of heavy offensive military activity by Khartoum) links the Janjaweed to the even higher levels of insecurity paralyzing agricultural production:
“Fertile lands within a kilometer of the Fata Borno camp were now off limits.
‘Anyone who goes beyond that point is risking his life,’ resident Sheik Ibrahim Abdallah said, pointing at trees a few hundred meters away. He said to avoid looting at night, refugees tie their animals close to the African Union outpost alongside the camp. ‘But even there, under the lights of the peacekeepers, donkeys get stolen,’ he said.”
“UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland on Wednesday warned that the Janjaweed were becoming even more dangerous because of new equipment they were apparently receiving from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The militias ‘are more brutal than ever,’ Egeland told reporters in Geneva.” (Associated Press [dateline Fata Borno, North Darfur], October 11, 2006)
Attacks on the camps for displaced persons are becoming increasingly brazen, and given the often punishing military losses Khartoum’s regular military forces are suffering in the field, especially in North Darfur, the response may be to unleash the Janjaweed on the camps in wholesale assaults. Many camps in Darfur are clearly at risk of such assault, especially the vast Kalma camp near Nyala (South Darfur). As the courageous Sudanese Organization Against Torture (SOAT) recently reported:
“On 04 October 2006, in the early morning, armed militias—allegedly the Janjaweed militias—attacked Kalama IDP camp in South Darfur. During the attack 2 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were killed and one wounded. The injured man is currently receiving medical are at the IRC clinic in Kalama Camp. SOAT strongly condemns the continuing attacks and terrorisation of the already vulnerable IDP population in Darfur. SOAT stresses that the continuing attacks on the civilian population by government forces and armed militias committed with impunity is in clear violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, the cease fire Agreements, UNSC resolutions, and international Conventions protecting non-combatants.” (SOAT Human Rights Alert, October 4, 2006)
Notably, SOAT “calls on the African Union Peace and Security Council [ ] to immediately transfer its operations in the region to the UN.”
Kofi Annan in his September 29, 2006 report to the Security Council notes that around Kalma camp, instances of sexual assault “increased from 10 per month to almost 10 per day by mid-July 2006” (paragraph 20).
Insecurity may soon spread to larger towns as well as camps. A highly alarming Reuters dispatch reports:
“Sudanese Arab militia fighters clashed with former Darfur rebels in the main town of el-Fasher in Sudan’s war-ravaged west, a former rebel official said on Saturday. A witness reported hearing heavy gunfire from the market area of el-Fasher on Friday night. At least one person was shot dead and another injured, an official from the former rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) said. ‘What happened is the Janjaweed militia in el-Fasher clashed with our forces there, and then went to loot the market and shot some people,’ said Mohamed Bashir, who runs SLM leader Minni Arcua Minnawi’s office in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], October 14, 2006)
A subsequent dispatch from Voice of America (dateline: Khartoum) reported:
“SLA/Minnawi spokesman Mohammed Bashir said former rebels [in fighting the Janjaweed] were merely attempting to protect civilians after Sudanese Armed Forces failed to intervene. ‘The Janjaweed militia, they shot at some people and looted the market [in el-Fasher]. The government there failed to control the situation. We have requested from the government if he fails to protect the people in the city we have to call our forces from outside to the city,’ said Bashir. ‘So far no reply.'” (VOA, October 15, 2006)
[These events in the capital town of North Darfur strongly suggest that SLA/Minni Minawi will be forced to abandon its ill-conceived partnership with the ruthless National Islamic Front regime; this, in turn, would strip the Darfur Peace Agreement of its only Darfuri signatory. Even last month SLA/Minni Minawi commanders on the ground in South Darfur were speaking independently of forsaking partnership with a regime that was clearly continuing its genocidal assault on the non-Arab or Africa populations of Darfur (see the excellent reporting on SLA/Minni Minawi military commanders and their dilemma in South Darfur by Craig Timberg of The Washington Post ([dateline: Nyala], September 13, 2006) at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/13/AR2006091301996.html).]
Almost certainly the greatest security threat to those in the camps for displaced persons are forcible returns to their villages, or sites of their former villages; ominously, this threat has again emerged as a major concern:
“On the ground in Khartoum, [UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan Manuel Aranda] Da Silva, ‘said he was 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)
The violence will be murderously destructive, and almost certainly on a very large scale.
INSECURITY AND HUMANITARIAN ISSUES
Attacks on humanitarians continue to increase, against the grim backdrop of 13 aid workers killed since the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement in Abuja, Nigeria (May 5, 2006). A particularly disturbing event from September was only this past week reported publicly:
“Four aid workers were attacked in Sudan’s Darfur region, beaten and given death threats, an official from the Medecins Sans Frontieres [Doctors Without Borders] medical organization said on Tuesday [October 10, 2006]. The MSF France team was attacked by around a dozen masked, armed men on a road between Zalingei and Nertiti [West Darfur] near the violent central Jabel Marra region in Darfur on September 11, .”
“Three Sudanese staff were beaten and one international female staff was sexually harassed, MSF deputy head of mission Marc Galinier said. ‘They [the attackers] said we don’t want any foreigners here,’ Galinier told Reuters. He said MSF France had limited its movement in the area since the attack. ‘These attacks have become more and more frequent in recent months and have the effect of limiting humanitarian access.’ ‘The humanitarian community take enormous risks.'” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], October 10, 2006)
The International Committee of the Red Cross recently reported on the death of one of its national workers:
“ICRC activities in the wider Jebel Marra area remain suspended owing to the security incident in mid-August in which an ICRC driver was killed. To date, it has not been possible to obtain sufficient guarantees of safe passage to allow travel there to resume. An investigation into the incident is still under way. Field travel in other areas is continuing wherever feasible.” (Sudan—ICRC Bulletin No. 46/October 13, 2006)
150,000 people needing food are affected by this suspension on the part of the ICRC.
Eastern Chad is just as dangerous for humanitarians:
“Several aid workers were held hostage in the area near Chad’s border with Sudan this week, the UN High Commission for Refugees [UNHCR] said. Men wearing military uniforms stormed the compounds of two humanitarian groups and held staff at gunpoint while trying unsuccessfully to steal their vehicles, said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for UNHCR.”
“Unidentified armed men stole three vehicles belonging to humanitarian agencies in eastern Chad over the last 10 days, Pagonis said, noting that 40 cars have been seized from aid workers there since November. She did not specify the aid agencies involved.” (Reuters [dateline: Geneva], October 6, 2006)
Humanitarian organizations also continue to face a wide range of obstructionist tactics and intimidation by Khartoum’s authorities in Darfur. Most notably, the International Rescue Committee has, according to today’s UN Sudan Bulletin (October 15, 2006), had its life-saving activities suspended on orders from Khartoum:
“On 12 October , Government authorities in Nyala [capital of South Darfur] suspended all activities of an international nongovernmental humanitarian organization in South Darfur State to take effect by 18 October . Comment [emphasized with italics in text]: It is believed that the Government’s decision has been taken in retaliation for the publication by this [organization] of a report stating that 80 rape cases took place in South Darfur in September.”
Although the UN Sudan Bulletins make a practice of not naming specific humanitarian organizations in its reports, there can be no doubt that the organization suspended is of considerable significance in operations in South Darfur. The task of reporting on rape has necessarily “rotated” because of Khartoum’s hostility to all reporting on this subject. MSF/Doctors Without Borders endured the arrest of senior officials last year because of the organization’s report on rape; more recently, the International Rescue Committee has been courageously active in reporting on rape in Darfur for months, most notably in South Darfur near the huge Kalma camp outside Nyala:
“The International Rescue Committee has recorded more then 200 sexual assaults among residents of a single camp [Kalma] near Nyala, a town in South Darfur state, during a five-week period in July and August.” (Washington Post [dateline: South Darfur], September 15, 2006)
The humanitarian organization suspended for reporting most recently on rape is paying the collective price for all such reporting.
Finally, although it has not been reported in any news dispatch, an international female aid worker has recently been raped in Darfur as an act of brutal intimidation by Janjaweed militia—the first instance of its kind during the current deployment of some 1,000 expatriate aid workers (along with some 12,000 highly courageous Sudanese nationals) in Darfur. This grim development has led to further attenuation of humanitarian access in one of the most poorly served parts of Darfur. [The rape has been reported to this writer by a highly informed source on the ground in Darfur, and confirmed by a variety of sources within the broader humanitarian community, including UN sources. I have chosen to withhold the date, location, and name of the humanitarian organization for which the woman was working, given the desire on the part of the victim for anonymity; but there should be no mistaking the highly consequential implications of this brutal sexual assault.]
Continuing insecurity makes humanitarian challenges throughout Darfur exceedingly difficult. The critical tasks entailed in providing clean water are now exceedingly difficult, and with the onset of the dry season, people will be much more likely to drink untreated ground water—and thus expose themselves to a variety of diseases, including cholera. In the huge Abu Shouk camp outside el-Fasher in North Darfur, “six out of 34 water pumps have gone dry and an additional six pumps are almost out of water” (UN Sudan Bulletin, October 6, 2006). In Ryad camp (North Darfur), only 35% of the population use clean water (UN Sudan Bulletin, September 29, 2006). This same UN Bulletin reports, “Due to poor hygiene conditions in Abu Shouk camp, cases of bloody diarrhea and malaria are on the rise. The Ministry of Health reports the 253 latrines have collapsed.” As demands for water increase with continuing human displacement, and as traditional water storage means continue to degrade, there will a steadily increasing shortfall in the daily average water supply per displaced person, already well below what humanitarian protocols dictate for vast numbers of displaced persons.
Cholera continues to be reported with ominous frequency (if often as Acute Watery Diarrhea [AWD] because of Khartoum’s sensitivities about use of the word “cholera”):
“In Jawra and Kebkabiya [North Darfur] areas, 14 new cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD), including four deaths, have been reported. As of 2 October , the total cases of AWD in North Darfur have reached 220.” (UN Sudan Bulletin, October 6, 2006) (Three new cases in el-Fasher town had been reported by the UN Sudan Bulletin, September 29, 2006)
“Cases of life-threatening diarrhoeal disease, including cholera, are on the increase in a region extending from the north of Sudan to southern Darfur. [ ] 7,000 cases have been reported since April .” (UNICEF press release, September 20, 2006)
“On 7 October , OCHA and an [international nongovernmental humanitarian organization] conducted an Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) field assessment in Torre, Tarantar and Sulel [South Darfur]. The outbreak started three weeks ago resulting in 70 cases reported with 40 deaths.” (UN Sudan Bulletin, October 4, 2006)
“Meanwhile, in West Darfur, the [UN] Mission says it has received reports that five people have died from cholera in the town of Um Kher [out of 33 cases].” (UN New Center, October 2, 2006)
Because of relentlessly growing insecurity, over 1.5 million people now have little or no access to life-sustaining humanitarian assistance: food, clean water, primary medical care, shelter. Mortality among the larger conflicted-affected population of more than 4 million human beings in Darfur and eastern Chad is impossible to assess, but is rapidly rising and must certainly be in excess of 10,000 per month. Humanitarian operations remain in what Jan Egeland has called “free fall.”
At the UN, China gives no sign of exerting real pressure on Khartoum to accept the UN force of Resolution 1706, despite Beijing’s enormous leverage with the regime. The Arab League also shows no sign of bringing meaningful pressure to bear on Khartoum. The African Union and African nations are divided over Resolution 1706, and present no unified position in responding to the defiant regime. UN officials have also presented a divided front, and public statements are at odds with one another. Particularly destructive of effective diplomacy have been recent statements by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, who has characteristically mishandled the whole issue of a UN force in Darfur; indeed, Pronk has apparently deliberately undermined the position of the Secretary-General himself, who declared in his most recent report to the Security Council (September 26, 2006):
“I remain strongly convinced that a UN multidimensional operation, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1706 (2006), would be the most appropriate political approach to achieving lasting and sustainable peace in Darfur, and that only such a truly international and impartial operation, with adequate resources and capacity, and with strong African participation, can effectively support the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.” (paragraph 60)
Pronk had the previous week simply abandoned UN commitment to 1706 in favor of attempting to augment the African Union (“African Union-Plus”). Although highly informed UN sources have informed this writer that Pronk was thoroughly wrong to speak as he did, and has been bluntly told as much, the diplomatic damage had already been done: Khartoum saw that the UN Secretariat had no stomach to push hard for 1706.
Moreover, despite Annan’s efforts to speak about “implementation,” the Darfur Peace Agreement is dead, as Khartoum is well aware. And given the political realities in Darfur and among the rebel factions, and the brutally expedient calculations by the National Islamic Front regime, to wait for a new and broadly acceptable peace accord—one that will be acceptable to the people of Darfur and the non-signatory rebel groups—is to wait far too long. Khartoum’s still-expanding military offensive; its widely reported deployment of more aggressively armed Janjaweed militia (noted in particular by the UN Panel of Experts); and the ethnically-targeted predations by elements of Minni Minawi’s (predominantly Zaghawa) faction of the SLA (the only signatory to the Darfur Peace Agreement)—all suggest the enormous difficulties in creating an appropriate political and diplomatic climate for productive peace talks.
WHAT DARFURIS WANT
The International Crisis Group is right to emphasize the risks and uncertainties of non-consensual deployment in Darfur. But if we wish to know what Darfuris themselves wish, there can be no question that Alfred Taban, distinguished and courageous editor of the opposition Khartoum Monitor newspaper, speaks for the people of Darfur:
“Darfur requires both more troops and a tougher mandate, Taban argued, adding that Darfurians had told him what they really want is a NATO force such as the one that restored peace to Kosovo in 1999.” (Associated Press [dateline: Cairo], October 4, 2006)
This assessment comports fully with the views of all the Darfuris with whom this writer has communicated.
That such a force as Taban describes is extremely unlikely should not obscure the moral claim it must make upon all who believe that hundreds of thousands of human beings are poised to die, as Jan Egeland as so acutely put the matter, “needlessly.”