Although the name “Suleiman Jamous” is hardly familiar, even within the world of Darfur advocacy, he is one of the true heroes to emerge from the desperate conflict of the past four years. Jamous, chief humanitarian coordinator for the rebel movements, has done more than anyone to enable humanitarian relief efforts to cross the lines of various rebel factions, reaching tens of thousands of Darfuris who would otherwise have been forced into camps for the displaced, thus losing all ability to use local resources and creating yet greater pressures within these desperately overcrowded camps. He is a man who is by nature conciliatory, even as he is politically savvy and enjoys the trust of nearly all the commanders on ground. Given the highly fractious nature of the rebel movement in Darfur, this is an enormously valuable, indeed critical asset.
Humanitarian workers in Darfur are certainly able to offer the most compelling endorsements of Jamous’s work in responding to the urgent needs of millions of Darfuris. As the current humanitarian crisis deepens, as security deteriorates and brings aid operations to the verge of collapse, it is especially important to keep in mind his previous efforts. Jamous has a well-proven record of delivering relief under the most difficult of circumstances; this alone presents the most compelling argument for his immediate release. Significantly, no humanitarian workers were beaten or raped when he was in charge, even as rebel abuses have soared in the eight months since he was arrested. Relief supplies were not looted when Jamous served as aid coordinator for the rebels, even as such looting is now commonplace. There is precious little humanitarian space open in Darfur at present; if it is to remain open, Jamous is desperately needed.
But just as important, because Jamous’s concern has been so conspicuously for people, not politics, he will be the essential anchor for the upcoming conference of rebel commanders, now scheduled to begin February 19, 2007. This conference has as its ambition the forging of a united movement and negotiating platform—the key feature of any successful talks with the Khartoum regime.
Notably, Jamous is also a Zaghawa. Given the poisonous relations that have been created by Minni Minawi’s own Zaghawa ethnic parochialism and indeed brutality, it is essential that a Zaghawa voice of reason and peace be heard. Since Minawi assumed the leadership of his own Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) faction, he has proved himself to be the primary source of rebel human rights abuses. This destructive pattern continued even after Minawi entered the merely notional “Government of National Unity” in Khartoum. Minawi was the only rebel, and distinctly the least representative, to sign the disastrous Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in Abuja (May 2006), under unreasonable pressure from US and European diplomats. He has now been completely sidelined in Khartoum, and his commanders in the field have joined with Khartoum’s forces (some refer to these as “Janjaweed 2”), joined other rebel groups (primarily the much more cohesive Group of 19 in North Darfur), or resorted to vicious banditry.
In short, Minni Minawi is hated by most Darfuris both for signing the DPA and for the brutally divisive military actions of his men. He cannot possibly represent the people of Darfur in any future peace conference.
But Suleiman Jamous would certainly be able to serve in this role, precisely because he is a conciliatory figure who is known for caring more about human needs than political power (see, for example, Jen Marlowe’s “The Ordeal of Suleiman Jamous,” at http://www.counterpunch.org/marlowe01222007.html). He is the very opposite of the now isolated and debauched Minawi.
SULEIMAN JAMOUS NOW
So where is Jamous now? Why was he arrested eight months ago? Why hasn’t he been released? Jamous is widely recognized as the figure essential to forging a united rebel negotiating presence, the most difficult task in the upcoming conference of rebel commanders that are not signatories to the DPA. For precisely this reason, Jamous continues to be held prisoner in the town of Kadugli in neighboring Kordofan Province, to the east of Darfur. Having been arrested several times by both the Khartoum regime and the forces of Minni Minawi, Jamous required the intervention of the UN to free him following his last arrest by Minawi, in June of 2006—in large measure because Jamous refused to sign or support the Darfur Peace Agreement, for entirely justified reasons. Although he is nominally in the care of the UN in Kadugli, the reality is that even though he is desperately in need of medical attention (he has a very serious illness that long ago should have been treated), Khartoum refuses to allow his release. Were he to leave the bare “hospital” room that serves as his prison cell, Khartoum would have him arrested.
For eight months, the 62-year-old Jamous has been held captive. He remains, in short, a prisoner of war despite his immensely important humanitarian and peacemaking role. Many of the most significant rebel commanders believe that the upcoming conference cannot succeed without the presence of Jamous: his importance is this great. Moreover, a failed rebel commanders’ conference will almost certainly generate at least one new and consequential split in the rebel ranks, making peace even harder to attain, and increasing insecurity for humanitarians in Darfur.
The UN, the EU, and the AU have so far refused to commit the diplomatic and political resources necessary to free him from confinement. Despite his desperate need to avail himself of medical resources in Nairobi (his severe abdominal ailment cannot be either diagnosed or treated in the town of Kadugli), he suffers in isolation. Indeed, the international community as a whole has proved disgracefully unwilling to accept either Jamous’s importance to the upcoming commanders’ conference or the need for concerted pressure on Khartoum to secure his release. And without such concerted pressure, the regime’s gnocidaires are more than willing to see the commanders’ conference badly—perhaps fatally—compromised for lack of a key leader. The especially thuggish Mazjoub al-Khalifa (Khartoum’s chief negotiator for the Darfur Peace Agreement) is widely reported to be most adamant in refusing to allow Jamous’ release, but the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime as a whole has clearly decided that Jamous will stay imprisoned.
This reflects more than anything else Khartoum’s determination to prevail in Darfur by genocidal means. For despite the fatuously expedient words of US special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios (“‘The term genocide is counter to the facts of what is really occurring in Darfur,'” Inter Press Service [dateline: Washington, DC], February 12, 2007), Khartoum is well aware that its grim genocide by attrition continues remorselessly. The denial of unfettered humanitarian access; the previous systematic and comprehensive destruction of the livelihoods of African tribal populations; and the continuing decline in security for humanitarian operations in Darfur—all ensure that the non-Arab civilian populations targeted because of their ethnicity remain the acutely vulnerable victims of the past four years of obscene violence. Natsios’s expedient refusal to accept these indisputable “facts” on the ground continues the process by which the Bush administration has slowly attempted to back away from the unambiguous genocide determination rendered by former Secretary of State Colin Powell in September 2004: “genocide has been committed in Darfur, and the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility” (testimony on Darfur before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, September 9, 2004).
But however inconvenient Darfur’s continuing realities of genocidal destruction may be for Natsios, they cannot be ignored. Indeed, as Natsios himself is obliged to declare—bizarrely, given his recent disclaimer—“he fear[s] aid groups could be forced out of Darfur and pro-government Janjaweed militia would try to close camps sheltering millions, resulting in a ‘blood bath'”:
“‘The risk is that if the NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) leave, the UN humanitarian agencies leave … there will be no one to care for these people in the camps who can be trusted,’ [Natsios] told Reuters in an interview. ‘There is a potential for an explosion if the agencies leave that would match the risk to people of the 2003 and 2004 time period,’ he said.” (Reuters [dateline: Washington, DC], February 14, 2007).
Given the overwhelming African ethnic character of the camps, it is unclear why Natsios is not in fact predicting resumption of full-scale genocidal violence.
But leaving aside the Bush administration’s semantic trimming of the issue, it is clear that security on the ground is simply essential if humanitarian organizations are not to suffer ongoing contraction of their operations—or indeed confront the increasingly likely prospect of full-scale withdrawal from Darfur. Certainly we know that if these organizations do withdraw (see below), human mortality will be catastrophic and could easily exceed 100,000 per month, as former UN aid chief Jan Egeland warned over two years ago. Khartoum is well aware that Suleiman Jamous could do much to improve security for humanitarians; but because the ambition of the regime is clearly to attenuate, even collapse humanitarian presence, his release is being denied.
As all recognize, long-term peace and security in Darfur can come only with meaningful peace negotiations. The lack of a coherent rebel negotiating position during the various rounds of the Abuja talks is now well understood by most commanders as the major cause of the failed Darfur Peace Agreement, and there is a clear determination to avoid past mistakes. Jamous would be the indispensable presence during these difficult internal deliberations. And for precisely this reason, precisely because Khartoum wishes to cleave insistently to the Darfur Peace Agreement as the only “peace agreement,” it has no interest in facilitating rebel cohesion—and thus remains committed to imprisoning Jamous, by means of the UN, in Kadugli.
KHARTOUM AND THE “DARFUR PEACE PROCESS”
The vast majority of Darfuris have rejected the Darfur Peace Agreement, primarily because it lacks both security guarantees and guarantors. And Khartoum’s blatant contempt for the terms of the DPA, as well as for previously signed commitments, is everywhere in evidence. The Janjaweed have not been disarmed, as Khartoum has on six occasions committed to doing, and as UN Security Council Resolution 1556 (July 2004) “demanded.” Aerial bombardment of civilian targets continues to this day. And prisoners of war, such as Suleiman Jamous, were all to have been released. Jamous’s continued imprisonment is only the most flagrant and consequential violation of this particular commitment.
Indeed, nothing of significance has been achieved on the basis of the DPA. Humanitarian conditions have badly deteriorated since its signing; there were thirteen killings of humanitarian workers in Darfur in 2006, nearly all occurring after the signing of the DPA. Civilian and humanitarian security was also dramatically compromised when Khartoum launched a major military offensive in late August 2006, at the very moment the UN Panel of experts was reporting:
“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 DPA and to the international community, including to the UN, was further highlighted in this 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)
Much of Khartoum’s military activity is, in fact, a direct assault on the peace process—an attempt to bomb and kill the rebel commanders who are seeking, amidst inordinate political and logistical difficulties, to unify. Reuters recently reported (February 13, 2007):
“Government forces have attacked Darfur rebel positions ahead of a critical meeting between rebel leaders and African Union and UN envoys trying to revive a stalled peace process, rebels said on Tuesday [February 13, 2007]. ‘There was an attack from the Janjaweed and government of Sudan early in the morning on the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and on civilians,’ said Osman al-Bushra, a rebel commander in Darfur. ‘They took livestock and killed civilians,’ he added.” [ ]
“The rebel conference has been delayed many times, twice because of government bombardment, but Darfur rebel commander Jar el-Neby said commanders had begun to arrive from all over Darfur and the meeting should begin on February 19, .” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], February 13, 2007)
The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reports (February 12, 2007) on the meaningless response of the UN Security Council to these calculated bombing attacks:
“‘[The Security Council] denounces in particular the bombing of areas in Northern Darfur by the Sudanese Air Force, which disrupted the preparations for a meeting of Sudan Liberation Movement commanders despite the fact that the Sudanese government had earlier declared its consent to the meeting.'”
Such vacuously reiterated “denunciations” of course mean nothing to Khartoum. Indeed, they work to convince the regime that the UN has no intention of acting rather than posturing.
A dispatch from The Sudan Tribune (dateline: el-Fasher) reports in detail on recent findings by the African Union Ceasefire Commission:
“The African Union denounced air bombardment by government warplane of two localities in North Darfur near the Chadian border, saying Sudan ceasefire violations will hinder its effort for durable ceasefire. ‘The [African Union] Ceasefire Commission (CFC) notes with concern the bombardment by Government of Sudan forces of Kariari and Bahai, 2 villages in North Darfur close to [the] Chad-Sudan border on 11 February 2007, at about 1200hours,” [the AU] said a statement issued [ ] on Sunday 11 February .”
The AU Ceasefire Commission statement continued,
“‘The AU CFC considers these acts unwarranted especially as efforts are on to ensure that the ceasefire to which all Parties expressed commitment holds in order to seek an enduring political solution to the crisis.’ The Sudanese government routinely bombs, the African Union and the United Nations have regularly condemned Khartoum for these flagrant violations of ceasefire agreement.” (Sudan Tribune [dateline: el-Fasher], February 12, 2007)
Certainly Khartoum’s bombings have been “regular,” and their intent has been conspicuous for many weeks, indeed months. As Reuters reported last month:
“The African Union has confirmed Sudan’s army bombed two villages in North Darfur, violating ceasefire agreements and jeopardising efforts to revive a stalled peace process. [ ] In the first independent confirmation of rebel reports that the government bombarded their positions in Anka and Korma on January 16 and 19,  the AU condemned the attacks. ‘The (AU) ceasefire commission is once again calling on all parties to refrain from any activities that will jeopardize the peace process,’ the statement sent late on Monday [January 22, 2007] said.”
“Rebels are trying to hold a conference in Darfur to unify their position ahead of a renewed push for peace talks. They want government guarantees that the conference will not be attacked, but the army has three times bombed rebel positions in the past two months, the AU says.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 23, 2007)
Earlier (January 21, 2007) Reuters had reported the comments of rebel commander Jar el-Naby, perhaps the most principled of those fighting in the “Group of 19” (G-19) faction of what was formerly the SLA:
“Rebel commander Jar el-Neby also accused the government of bombing. ‘They bombed for about five hours (on Saturday [January 20, 2007]),’ he said. ‘I think they are trying to stop our commanders’ conference.’ Rebel commanders want to hold a conference in Darfur to unite their positions ahead of peace talks. There are more than a dozen rebel factions. Rebels say they want guarantees the army will not attack or bomb their meeting.”
But there will be no such guarantees: Khartoum’s continuous campaign of aerial bombardment makes clear the regime will do all it can to prevent the rebels from creating a cohesive negotiating front. A statement last month from the African Union speaks volumes about Khartoum’s intentions in Darfur (here by way of an Associated Press dispatch [dateline: Khartoum], December 31, 2006):
“Sudanese forces bombed two rebel locations in Darfur just days after the head of the African Union’s peacekeeping force visited the area to urge the rebels to join a cease-fire agreement, the AU said yesterday [December 30, 2006]. A Sudanese government aircraft on Friday [December 29, 2006] bombed Anka and Um Rai in North Darfur province where Gen. Luke Aprezi had met on Wednesday [December 27, 2006] with rebels, an AU statement said. ‘When a bombing is made after I have visited an area, my credibility is involved,’ Aprezi told The Associated Press by telephone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. ‘To that group, I don’t have any credibility anymore.'”
“The incident jeopardizes efforts to bring additional groups into the cease-fire that a single rebel faction and the government signed in May 2006, the AU said. [ ] The AU obtained consent from Sudanese officials in Darfur and the capital ahead of meeting the rebels, it said in the statement. It called Friday’s [December 29, 2006] attack ‘a seriously disturbing development.'”
These are conspicuously not the actions of a regime that has any intention of engaging in good faith negotiations with rebel groups that are non-signatories to the deeply flawed and hastily consummated Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). Moreover, Khartoum has given every indication that it will insist that the DPA serve as the only basis for peace talks, even on crucial issues of security. In the nine months since the signing of the DPA, nothing could be clearer than that without robust international guarantors, the security provisions of the DPA are utterly worthless. These provisions have in no way constrained the violence of any of the parties to the conflict.
And while military defeats continue to be inflicted on Khartoum’s regular forces, especially in North Darfur, the regime’s ultimate weapon of mass destruction has already been deployed and only gathers potency. The same regime that today effectively barred from Darfur a distinguished UN human rights investigative team (“UN rights team cancels Darfur visit over visa row,” Reuters [dateline: Geneva], February 14, 2007 at www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL1448353920070214) has taken dead-aim at humanitarian efforts, knowing how terribly close to complete withdrawal aid organizations are. There is a ghastly familiarity to the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks report of February 12, 2007:
“Attacks against international non-governmental organisations and humanitarian workers in the Sudanese region of North Darfur have created ‘an unsustainable level of insecurity’ for operations, relief workers said on Monday [February 12, 2007].”
How much clearer a signal must the world community have before it recognizes that this “unsustainable level of insecurity” will undoubtedly result in large-scale humanitarian evacuations and withdrawals? Could the consequences of these evacuations and withdrawal be any clearer? Can we have any doubt that the current course of events will result in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths?
We catch a small glimpse of what is destined to be replicated on countless occasions in the coming months and years in a Sudan Tribune dispatch from el-Fasher (February 12, 2007):
“Violence and repeated attacks against Darfur civilians by government-backed militia [has] led to gradual evacuation of aid workers from many areas. On 8 February , a joint UN team travelled from al-Fasher through Tawila to assess the security situation. The African Union reported that since the humanitarian agencies left Tawila about 75 children and ten pregnant women died due to lack of medicine, a UN bulletin reported.”
THE BREAKING POINT
There seems, despite the conspicuous evidence before the world community, an inexcusable refusal to draw the most obvious inferences about the future of Darfur. Humanitarian security continues to deteriorate, the point of no return comes daily nearer, and the consequences could not be starker. And yet the most explicit pleas of humanitarian organizations fall on morally tone-deaf ears.
But we simply cannot ignore these direst of warnings:
Six humanitarian aid organizations, operating or formerly operating in Darfur, issued an extraordinarily dire warning on January 30, 2007, declaring that the “enormous humanitarian response in Darfur will soon be paralysed unless African and global leaders at the AU Summit take urgent action to end rising violence against civilians and aid workers.” Of course no such action was taken—UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon instead urged “patience”— and organizations such as Save the Children, Action Against Hunger, CARE International, Oxfam International, Norwegian Refugee Council, World Vision are left to declare that,
“African Heads of State and the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will fail the people of Darfur if they do not take concrete steps to herald the start of a new chapter in the region and ensure an immediate ceasefire is both agreed and adhered to.”
“The six agencies—Action Against Hunger, CARE International, Oxfam International, Norwegian Refugee Council, World Vision and Save the Children—said aid workers are facing violence on a scale not seen before in Darfur, leaving access to people in need at the conflict’s lowest point at a time when the humanitarian need is greater than ever. Attacks on civilians are again rising and forcing even more people to flee their homes, and a breakdown of the aid response will leave millions in even greater danger. The worsening four-year-old crisis must not be allowed to deteriorate any further.” [ ]
“More than a month after an attack on aid workers in Gereida—the most violent of the conflict so far, which saw staff raped, beaten and subjected to mock executions—it is still far too dangerous for agencies to return to the camp, the world’s largest for displaced people, where 130,000 have sought refuge from attacks on their villages.”
“Temporary evacuations of staff from other locations across Darfur have continued, with nearly 500 aid workers withdrawn since the start of December. In early January, the UN warned that malnutrition rates are again rising close to emergency levels. Progress made in stabilizing conditions over the past four years is in serious danger of being reversed.” (allAfrica.com, January 30, 2007, at http://allafrica.com/stories/200701300918.html)
For their part, UN humanitarian organizations, in an extraordinary moment of institutional decisiveness and solidarity, declared on January 18, 2007:
“In the face of growing insecurity and danger to communities and aid workers, the UN and its humanitarian partners have effectively been holding the line for the survival and protection of millions.”
“That line cannot be held much longer. Access to people in need in December 2006 was the worst since April 2004. The repeated military attacks, shifting frontlines, and fragmentation of armed groups compromise safe humanitarian access and further victimize civilians who have borne the brunt of this protracted conflict. In the last six months alone, more than 250,000 people have been displaced by fighting, many of them fleeing for the second or third time. Villages have been burnt, looted and arbitrarily bombed and crops and livestock destroyed. Sexual violence against women is occurring at alarming rates. This situation is unacceptable.”
“Nor can we accept the violence increasingly directed against humanitarian workers. Twelve relief workers have been killed in the past six months—more than in the previous two years combined. Their loss has had direct consequences on the Darfur humanitarian operations.” [ ]
“In the last six months, 30 nongovernmental organizations [NGOs] and UN compounds were directly attacked by armed groups. More than 400 humanitarian workers have been forced to relocate 31 times from different locations throughout the three Darfur states, including from the capitals El Fasher and El Geneina and from rebel-controlled areas. Assets have been looted and staff threatened and physically harassed. In the town of Gereida (South Darfur), targeted attacks against six humanitarian compounds on 18 December forced the NGO staff to withdraw, seriously compromising the delivery of vital assistance such as food, clean water and health care for 130,000 displaced persons, the largest IDP gathering in all Darfur. Ten days earlier, in the town of Kutum (North Darfur), the staff of four NGOs and WFP were forced to withdraw to El Fasher, after an attack on a clearly marked humanitarian compound. These are but two examples of the types of incidents which have taken place throughout Darfur.”
“If this situation continues, the humanitarian operation and welfare of the population it aims to support will be irreversibly jeopardised. Ongoing insecurity negatively affects access to health care for the population of Darfur, as many NGOs providing primary health care have had to suspend or minimize their activities. This reduction in services is leading to a deterioration of the hygiene in IDP camps, reflected by the cholera outbreak that struck 2,768 and killed 147 people during 2006. Global malnutrition rates are edging perilously close to the emergency threshold, while some 60 percent of households in need of food aid cite insecurity as the main barrier to cultivating their land, raising livestock and taking part in other income-generating activities.”
“The humanitarian community cannot indefinitely assure the survival of the population in Darfur if insecurity continues. [ ] Solid guarantees for the safety of civilians and humanitarian workers is urgently needed. At the same time, those who have committed attacks, harassment, abduction, intimidation, robbery and injury to civilians, including Internally Displaced Persons, humanitarian workers and other non-combatants, must be held accountable. If not, the UN humanitarian agencies and nongovernmental humanitarian organizations will not be able to hold the fragile line that to date has provided relief and a measure of protection to some four million people in Darfur affected by this tragic conflict.”
This statement has been endorsed by the following members of the UN Country Team in Sudan:
International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
United Nations Joint Logistics Centre (UNJLC)
United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)
United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
World Food Programme (WFP)
World Health Organisation (WHO)
(Joint Statement on Darfur, January 18, 2007; source: UN High Commission for Refugees)
And we have also terribly specific glimpses of the unspeakably grim future predicted by these courageous aid organizations—a future that is already upon us. Associated Press reports from Khartoum (January 29, 2007):
“A leading French aid group said Monday [January 29, 2007] it was pulling out of Darfur because the violence in the western Sudan region posed too high a risk to its workers. Medecins du Monde, or Doctors of the World, has ‘suspended its activities in Darfur for an undetermined period of time,’ said the group’s director of international missions, Eric Chevallier, in a phone interview. ‘The balance between the help we were able to provide and the risks our staff were taking had reached breaking point,’ Chevallier said.” [ ]
“The French aid group has begun pulling out more than a dozen international aid workers and some 200 Sudanese nationals working in the region, its international director said. ‘It’s a very difficult decision, and we hope we will be able to go back in when security improves,’ said Chevallier. The aid group had been assisting some 90,000 refugees in the Kalma refugee camp of South Darfur, and had operated a mobile clinic treating about 30,000 people in remote villages in the Jebel Marra mountains where there was an outbreak of cholera last year.”
Just as disturbing is the recent violent assault on aid workers in Nyala (capital of South Darfur) by Khartoum’s local “police” thugs. The viciousness of the attack speaks volumes about the regime’s attitudes towards a humanitarian presence in Darfur:
“Aid workers have described how they watched helplessly as Sudanese police officers dragged a female United Nations worker from an aid agency compound in Darfur and subjected her to a vicious sexual attack. Staff say they feared for their lives when armed police raided their compound in Nyala, dragging one European woman out into the street by her hair and savagely beating several other international staff before arresting a total of 20 UN, aid agency, and African Union staff.” [ ]
“A UN official in Darfur said: ‘If the people responsible for beating and molesting the aid workers and UN staff are not punished, others will think they can get away with such crimes and it will happen again. Should the security situation for international aid workers not improve and the overall safety of our staff be assured, we will be forced to withdraw from Darfur.'”
“The latest incident came when police and national security staff stormed an impromptu party at the aid agency compound in Nyala. The UN said police beat staff with batons, with UN and aid agency personnel sustaining serious injuries. Workers at the party said the attacks were part of a campaign of harassment. ‘It seemed as if they had been waiting for an excuse to get stuck into some foreign aid workers, and this was their chance,’ said one.”
“‘Some of the UN guys were seriously injured. I saw a police officer repeatedly hitting one person in the face and then kicking him on the back of the head as he lay on the ground.’ Another said: ‘It has become clear to many of us here that the police and national security have been stirring up trouble in the local community by spreading rumours about aid workers and agencies. They are trying to make our work here as difficult as they can and by getting locals to resent us they can make aid operations almost impossible to run.'” (The Telegraph [UK] [dateline: Darfur], January 28, 2007)
In the camp at Gereida, now the largest camp in the world for Internally Displaced Persons, the extremely violent and threatening attack of late December 2006 has produced a near collapse in humanitarian presence. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only remaining humanitarian organization, reports from Geneva (January 28, 2007):
“The consequences in humanitarian terms of the recent security incident in Gereida and the subsequent evacuation of aid personnel are beginning to show. Camp residents have at most two weeks of food left and are already worried. The maintenance of water-supply systems is another concern, along with sewage disposal and hygiene promotion. The link between food, hygiene and safe water is so close that neglecting any of these areas can have a direct impact on people’s health.”
And as Oxfam International forcefully reminds us today (“Eastern Chad Must Not Become Another Darfur”), the threats from Khartoum’s export of genocidal violence to eastern Chad continue to increase:
“”We are facing an extraordinary situation as more than 230,000 refugees, who fled attacks in Darfur in 2003 and 2004, are joined by thousands of Chadians fleeing a new wave of fighting at home,’ said Roland Van Hauwermeiren, head of Oxfam in Chad. ‘Eastern Chad is one of the hardest places in the world to find water. And, despite our best efforts, some people are only receiving 4 to 5 litres of water per day when they should be receiving at least 15 litres.'”
“‘In some of the areas where we work, you’ve got 12,000 or 15,000 people, and not a single latrine. If further violence prevents us from building latrines quickly, it will be very hard to prevent the outbreak of infectious and water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and hepatitis,’ said Van Hauwermeiren. ‘Every day, more and more people in eastern Chad are suffering the consequences of violent conflict, and the situation is spiralling out of control. We need to put an end to the attacks now.'” (“Eastern Chad must not become another Darfur,” February 15, 2007 Oxfam press release)
But there is dismayingly little international support for a peace support and security mission to eastern Chad, despite the urgent pleas from the governments of Chad and the Central African Republic, and from human rights, policy, and humanitarian groups. France refuses to lead this effort, despite its critical military air base in Abch; and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is widely reported to be reluctant to support such a mission and is dragging its heals. Peace in eastern Chad, and northeastern Central African Republic, seems as remote as peace in Darfur itself. Certainly there is no evidence that Khartoum intends to curtail its savage role in this widening cataclysm of ethnically-targeted human destruction.
ONE MAN, MANY PEOPLE
Suleiman Jamous is only one man. But his unique ability to facilitate humanitarian assistance is indisputable. His continued imprisonment, with UN acquiescence, represents a shameful lack of resolve on the part of the international community. Jamous is desperately needed, both to serve as humanitarian coordinator in rebel-held territories and to provide political counsel to the badly divided non-signatory rebel groups.
Yet Jamous continues to languish in his cell in Kadugli, urgently in need of medical care. And so the people of Darfur continue to languish amidst what is continuing genocide by attrition. In the fate of Suleiman Jamous we see too much of the future of Darfur.