The mismatch could hardly be greater between the massive security crisis in Darfur and eastern Chad on the one hand and the pusillanimous disarray on the part of the international community in responding. The clearest beneficiaries of this disarray are the gnocidaires in Khartoum and their Janjaweed militia proxies; those who suffer most are those innocent civilians who now confront a fifth year of genocidal counter-insurgency warfare. And while the Darfur rebel groups and leaders certainly bear significant responsibility for current unsustainable levels of insecurity, here we must also recall how badly the people of Darfur have been served by the international community forcing through the ill-conceived “Darfur Peace Agreement” (May 2006). We must also see how relentlessly the Khartoum regime has sought to prevent the rebels from creating a common negotiating front, including several times deliberately bombing sites where the African Union has sought to engineer a cease-fire with the rebel groups. Khartoum also continues to imprison Suleiman Jamous, perhaps the most critical figure in creating rebel unity (see my analysis of Jamous’s key role, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article153.html). Khartoum is clearly intent on denying the rebels Jamous’s conciliatory skills.
A grim genocide by attrition settles ever more deeply over Darfur and eastern Chad, with almost a million human beings completely beyond humanitarian reach. Mortality in these regions is unknown but is certainly in the thousands per month. We do know that UN agencies now estimate that approximately 4.5 million people in the greater humanitarian theater are “conflict-affected” and in need of humanitarian relief. A huge percentage of these people are totally dependent on humanitarian assistance for food, water, and primary medical care. If the Crude Mortality Rate (CMR) for this population (deaths per day per 10,000 of population) has risen by even 0.7 above normal (0.6 for Darfur, according to UNICEF), then excess monthly mortality is in the range of 10,000 human beings—month in, month out.
Humanitarian assistance continues to contract, and the catastrophic threat of humanitarian collapse has been reiterated by the new UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes. We are obliged to face the stark possibility that in the near term, without any chance for an international response, we could be facing monthly mortality well in excess of 100,000 human beings. Those describing current efforts to secure military protection for humanitarians and civilians in Darfur as indulging a “salvation delusion” had best come up with a comparable term for the massive, very real human destruction that will surely ensue if present insecurity continues or deteriorates.
IN THE DIPLOMATIC ARENA
There appears to be no coherence in the various approaches of the US, the UN, the EU, or other important international actors—nothing that moves Khartoum closer to accepting a meaningful deployment of UN forces. At the same time, in the wake of Sunday’s (April 1, 2007) killing of five African Union troops guarding a water point near the Chad/Darfur border, there have been sobering words from AU officials:
“African Union forces can no longer cope with the dangers in Darfur and need the help of UN troops to prevent further ‘slaughter,’ a top AU official in Sudan said on Tuesday [April 4, 2003]. Sam Ibok, head of the AU team charged with implementing a peace agreement in western Sudan, expressed his concerns after gunmen killed five AU troops in the deadliest single attack against the African force since it deployed in 2004. The five Senegalese soldiers were guarding a water point near the Sudanese border with Chad when they came under fire on Sunday. Four soldiers were killed in the shooting and the fifth died of his wounds on Monday morning.”
“‘The African Union force cannot cope with the circumstances that it finds itself in, and we have to be honest about it,’ Ibok told Reuters Television in an interview. ‘Anybody who wants us to succeed would need to work to give us the ability to be more effective and that can only be done … between the United Nations and the African Union.’ [ ] The latest deaths brought to 15 the number of AU personnel killed in Darfur since troops were deployed in late 2004. A senior Nigerian officer working with the mission has been missing since he was kidnapped in December .” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], April 3, 2007)
Reuters also reports that “the attack came a day after a helicopter carrying the African Union deputy force commander came under fire on its way from western Darfur to the force’s headquarters in El Fasher, the region’s biggest town” ([dateline: Khartoum], April 2, 2007)
African Union Commission Chief Alpha Oumar Konar declared in the wake of these events:
“‘If this trend continues, the peacekeeping operation in Darfur will be in serious jeopardy,’ Mr Konare warned in a statement. ‘It has become imperative and unavoidable, in the present circumstances, to speedily implement the three-phase approach to the peacekeeping operation in Darfur,’ the statement continued.” (BBC, April 3, 2007)
THE ROLE OF ARAB LEAGUE COUNTRIES
But despite these urgent words, the Khartoum regime remains adamantly opposed to allowing significant UN forces into Darfur to relieve the hopelessly overwhelmed and badly demoralized AU mission, even if these UN forces come in the form of the “three-phase approach” to which Konar refers. There has been a serious effort at obfuscation here, in which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has become dismayingly complicit. At the Arab League summit, host Saudi Arabia disingenuously attempted to suggest that some breakthrough had been achieved on the force originally authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006), and subsequently mooted in general terms as a “three-phase UN/AU hybrid operation” in the “Conclusions” document to the Addis Ababa “High Level Consultation on the Situation in Darfur” (November 16, 2006):
“‘Sudan has now agreed for the UN to provide logistical support to help African forces,’ Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said at a news conference. ‘This means there will be some non-African forces there and this is a breakthrough that never happened before and we hope it leads immediately to a solution to the humanitarian tragedy in Darfur as soon as possible.'” (Reuters [dateline: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia], March 29, 2007)
But this is of course self-congratulatory nonsense: Khartoum has always agreed to UN logistical and financial support for AU forces in what the regime insistently calls an “AU/UN hybrid operation.” Just as insistently, Khartoum has refused to countenance an “AU/UN hybrid force,” one that has UN authority and non-AU troops and commanders. There has been no breakthrough, though by claiming one Saudi Arabia is evidently bent on suggesting that the Arab League is a force for peace in Darfur, when in fact it has been unstinting in supporting Khartoum’s National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) regime at its most intransigent. As if to re-emphasize the actual position of his regime, NIF President Omar al-Bashir again declared in Riyadh what he has for months:
“Al-Bashir said UN resolutions calling for a UN troop deployment in Darfur were ‘a violation for Sudan’s sovereignty’ and ‘provoke the conflict in Darfur, instead of finding a solution for it.’ ‘We assure you that we do not desire a confrontation with the international community, but what we are seeking is to keep the African color of the forces in Darfur according to the shape and leadership, but on condition that the UN will take over the financial, technical and logistic support for those forces,’ [al-Bashir] said.” (Associated Press [dateline: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia], March 28, 2007)
The arrogance of the Saudis was on full display in the Kingdom’s characterization of the Arab League agenda:
“The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Monday [March 26, 2007] that ‘Arab national security’ will top the agenda of the summit, which begins Wednesday in Riyadh. Al-Faisal said Arabs want to have their own ‘mechanism’ to resolve regional conflicts such as Iraq and Darfur. ‘Experience has shown that Arabs can solve their problems without foreign intervention,’ he added.” (Associated Press [dateline: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia], March 27, 2007)
In characterizing Darfur as an “Arab problem,” Prince al-Faisal reveals not only arrogance, but a revealing refusal to acknowledge the ethnic realities that have defined human destruction and suffering for over four years. That the non-Arab or African populations of Darfur are asked implicitly here to submit to a purely Arab “security mechanism,” given the vast and brutal predations of the Arab Janjaweed militias, is a ghastly irony evidently lost on the ethnically parochial Prince al-Faisal.
But Saudi Arabia is hardly alone among Arab countries in its contemptuous attitudes towards Darfur. Commenting on Algeria’s pernicious role in recent debate within the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Human Rights Watch declared of competing draft resolutions on Darfur:
“The draft resolution [on human rights in Darfur] put forward by Germany—in an apparent effort to achieve consensus—is carefully worded and presents only a small step forward. The council could, and should, do much more to end abuses in Darfur. In contrast, however, the Algerian draft is a shameful attempt to deny the horrific situation in Darfur and delay any action by the council to address it.” (Human Rights Watch press release [Geneva], March 22, 2007)
Egypt also continues to play a thoroughly unhelpful role in securing from Khartoum consent for the UN peace support personnel so desperately needed by both civilians and humanitarians:
“President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt rebuffed a request today from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to influence Sudan’s president to drop his objections to United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur. At a morning meeting with the Egyptian president here, Mr. Ban said he had asked for help in changing the mind of the Sudanese leader, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been defying United Nations requests to put troops into Darfur to help the overwhelmed African Union mission there. ‘The issue is not pressure, the issue is discussions between the government of Sudan and the rebels,’ said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, who appeared at a news conference with Mr. Ban.” (New York Times [dateline: Cairo], March 24, 2007)
Aboul Gheit makes no mention of the Khartoum regime’s use of bombing attacks as a primary method of “discussion” with the rebels, evidently willing to overlook what was very publicly reported by the African Union last December:
“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.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], December 31, 2006)
Khartoum’s bombing attacks, violating the cease-fire agreements the regime has signed and showing complete contempt for UN Security Council resolutions, have continued to be reported by the African Union:
“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)
Reuters reported in January 2007:
“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)
Most recently the UN High Commission for Refugees reported (March 27, 2007) yet another bombing attack by Khartoum, with civilians clearly the targets. Two international aid workers, operating amidst intolerable levels of insecurity on the ground, were wounded in the aerial assault:
“Last Thursday [March 22, 2007], a plane described by witnesses as a Sudanese Antonov, bombed areas north and south of the north-eastern Chadian town of Bahai. The air strikes included the area around Lake Cariari, several kilometres from the Oure Cassoni refugee camp. Oure Cassoni hosts nearly 27,000 Sudanese refugees. While no refugees were injured, several Chadian civilians and two humanitarian workers from an international NGO were wounded. This is not the first time that air strikes have occurred near Oure Cassoni, which is only 5 km from the Sudanese border. Air strikes were reported over a two-day period in early January 2007 and in October 2006. UNHCR has been seeking agreement from the refugees and Chadian authorities to move the camp further from the border.”
THE ROLE OF UN SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON AND UNDER-SECRETARY FOR UN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS JEAN-MARIE GUEHENNO
Even as various Western nations belatedly and fitfully move toward stiffer sanctions against Khartoum, with no evidence at hand that this will move the regime’s gnocidaires in their currently defiant mood of self-preservation, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indulges the foolish notion that Khartoum will somehow be talked into accepting what it has for months pointedly and publicly refused to permit: an adequate complement of UN troops as part of the necessary security force for civilians and humanitarians in Darfur.
“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the United States and Britain to hold off on a push for tougher sanctions against Sudan, saying he needs more time to persuade the country to accept the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur. Ban said he hoped to send UN experts to Ethiopia’s capital next week to follow up on an agreement he reached last week with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to work out UN support for a beleaguered African Union peacekeeping force. ‘My position is that, before we talk about sanctions, let me have some more political space to deal with this dialogue’ with the Sudanese government, Ban told reporters Monday [April 2, 2007] after returning from a tour in the Middle East.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], April 3, 2007)
It is now more than seven months since the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1706, under Chapter VII auspices of the UN Charter, authorizing deployment of 22,500 troops and civilian police, with a robust mandate to protect humanitarians and civilians. It is almost five months since a document was produced in Addis Ababa that has served as the vague roadmap for discussions of a “three-phase” deployment of UN personnel alongside the AU in Darfur; the third “phase” of this “plan” was to bring the force level to approximately 20,000 troops and civilian police.
To date, approximately 200 UN technical experts have deployed to Darfur. And as the AU has made desperately clear in recent days, what remains of the AU mission in Darfur is on the verge of total collapse. Why, it must be asked, is Ban Ki-moon content simply to speak with such a conspicuously, obdurately defiant regime? If there are to be “political talks,” why are they not in Beijing, with the one government that actually has the diplomatic and political leverage to move Khartoum? Why is Ban engaged in more conversation with men who wish for nothing more than an indefinite extension of “negotiations”?
What time-frame governs the Secretary-General’s sense of when protection forces must deploy to Darfur? How many more months is he prepared to wait before deciding that Khartoum will never acquiesce? How much closer to full-scale, catastrophically consequential humanitarian evacuation is he prepared to allow the crisis to move?
Questions must also be asked of Jean-Marie Guhenno, UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations. The UN News Service reports a disturbingly evasive answer by Guhenno to a perfectly legitimate query:
“Asked if there was a timeline for intervention, given the dire humanitarian situation, the Under-Secretary-General [Guehenno] said: ‘The timeline has been broken many times. I think we should have [had] an answer yesterday.'” (UN News Service (March 19, 2007)
Of course Khartoum has “broken the time-line many times,” and of course the international community should have had an answer, a positive answer, from Khartoum “yesterday,” indeed months ago. It has taken several letters from successive UN Secretaries-General to arrive even at the present thoroughly muddled situation, which has contributed significantly to paralysis of the international will in responding to Darfur. But the simple fact is that though there should have been an answer yesterday, though time-lines should not have been broken, the realities of the situation are otherwise. The real force of the question Guhenno has so obviously dodged here is: “Is there some point at which the UN and the international community will cease to confer veto-power on a regime of gnocidaires? Is there some point at which the lives of millions of Darfuris, and the humanitarians upon whom they depend, will matter more than the threats that Khartoum has issued and implied?” This question Undersecretary Guhenno has no stomach to answer. Instead he is reduced to meaningless circularity:
“‘We do believe that it’s important to have a strong peacekeeping presence [in Darfur],’ [Guhenno] said. ‘We believe that it’s important to have a political process, but that political process needs to be supported by a solid peacekeeping presence. One supports the other. One without the other will not be sustainable.'”
But we have neither a political process nor meaningful peacekeeping; something must come first; both will not be brought to fruition simultaneously. What we do know is that without a peacekeeping, or at least protection force in Darfur, there will very likely be hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in the coming months. Can Darfur wait for a credible “political process” with this overwhelmingly urgent threat to human lives? What is Mr. Guhenno talking about?
In fact, he seems primarily to be talking about extended time-lines rather than broken ones:
“Mr. Guhenno told a Security Council meeting that the latest written response from Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s letter detailing the planned force indicated there may be ‘fundamental strategic differences’ over Darfur. ‘We still have, unfortunately, a long way to go because there may be some fundamental misunderstandings on what are the expectations of the Government of Sudan and what is on offer,’ [Guehenno] told journalists.” (UN News Service, March 22, 2007)
It “may be” that there are “fundamental strategic differences” over Darfur, Mr. Guhenno? What part of the recent stiff-arming letter from NIF President al-Bashir did you not understand? It could not have been a more explicit rejection of the terms of reference that have guided UN understanding of what was achieved in the “Conclusions” document of the November 16, 2006 “High Level Consultation on Darfur” in Addis Ababa. There is no “may” to the matter: Khartoum continues adamantly to reject an “AU/UN hybrid force” and cleaves consistently to the much attenuated notion of an “AU/UN hybrid operation,” with the UN supplying only technical advice, funding, and logistical assistance.
Despite such clarity, Guhenno simultaneously declares that “the situation on the ground in Darfur ‘requires urgent action,'” even as he intimates a willingness to engage in endless “clarification” with Khartoum:
“We’ll never take any reaction [from Khartoum] as a rejection,’ Guehenno said. ‘We can’t afford that and the people in Darfur can’t afford that. … We are prepared to clarify any detail in what is on offer.'” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], March 20, 2007)
But nor can the people of Darfur “afford” the extraordinarily accommodating attitude represented here: such an attitude will yield nothing but delay and growing confidence on the part of the regime. It is all well and good for Guhenno to declare that “the international community has already ‘waited much too long,’ given the level of suffering across Darfur.” No one could possibly quarrel with such an assessment. The question is of course what is Mr. Guehenno prepared to advocate for as a way of foreshortening what he himself describes as the “long way to go” before the UN can possibly secure consent from Khartoum for deployment of UN forces.
THE WESTERN POWERS
The stench of hypocrisy is as great in Europe as it is in the US and Canada. An irrelevant Japan barely reaches the threshold of indifference. But perhaps the French have set a new standard, as suggested by an Associated Press dispatch from Paris (March 21, 2007). In two paragraphs we have:
“‘We cannot stay silent before one of the great humanitarian tragedies of our time,’ [President Jacques] Chirac said in a statement sent to the [Darfur] rally [in Paris]. ‘If atrocities follow, if the word is not kept, the (UN) Security Council will have no other choice, but to adopt sanctions.'”
“Last week, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Darfur should be at the top of the UN agenda, but dismissed the idea of a UN Security Council resolution against Sudan.”
Khartoum will have little difficulty in discerning how concerned the Chirac government really is.
Germany has recently joined in a contest of moral bluster with the UK:
“British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the actions of Sudan’s government ‘unacceptable’ and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the Darfur region’s suffering ‘unbearable.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Es Sallam, Darfur], March 25, 2007)
But both Germany and Britain have found ways to make Darfur’s agony “acceptable” for the past four years. The suffering may be dismaying, but it has proved “bearable.” Why hasn’t Britain forced the suspension of business in Sudan by Rolls Royce, or Weir Pumps (Glasgow)? Why did it take an American divestment campaign to force German industrial giant Siemens to suspend operations in Darfur? What commitments of troops to a UN peace support operation have Germany or the UK made publicly? In fact, Prime Minister Tony Blair recently acknowledged that Britain would not be sending any military forces to Darfur for a possible UN operation, this despite the fact that in summer 2004 the senior British military official, General Sir Mike Jackson, publicly declared that Britain could send a brigade to help stop genocide in Darfur. For its part, Germany has remained revealingly quiet on the question of any possible troops contribution to a UN mission.
However “unacceptable” or “unbearable” Darfur’s realities are declared to be, ways will be found by the expedient.
Blair’s recent insistence on implementation of a “No Fly Zone” (NFZ) has at last prompted serious military scrutiny of the practicability of such an effort. And despite the admirable goal—grounding Khartoum’s aerial weapons of civilian destruction—an Iraq-style NFZ is neither feasible nor an appropriate expenditure of resources, given the dearth of funding and equipment presently endured by the AU forces actually deployed (it is worth recalling that the best of these forces, those of Rwanda, may be deployed out of Darfur in coming months if resources are not found for them). A “No Fly Zone” is, as British military aviation specialist Paul Smyth has recently written, “Easy to Say, Difficult to Implement” (March 13, 2007 at
http://www.rusi.org/publication/newsbrief/ref:A45F675ED3A8C7/; listen also to a Public Radio International discussion of the issue at http://www.theworld.org/?q=node/8876; and see my analysis of the risks of an accidental shoot-down of humanitarian aircraft, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article157.html).
What sounds like a muscular response is finally nothing but more posturing.
The predominant European attitude was best captured in a recent dispatch form Brussels:
“The European Union acknowledged Monday that the lack of a military option and China’s UN support for Sudan will make it tough to take decisive action on the Darfur crisis, despite calls by EU leaders for tougher measures. ‘You have to make sure that that you do not raise expectations that cannot be met,’ said EU spokesman Amadeu Altafai Tardio.” (Associated Press [dateline: Brussels], March 26, 2007)
There can hardly be any worry, in any quarter, that the Europeans are in danger of “raising expectations that cannot be met.”
For its part, the US has been fatally compromised in its credibility by virtue of empty bluffing on the part of Special Presidential Envoy for Sudan Andrew Natsios. In late 2006 Natsios threatened US deployment of some putatively muscular and coercive “Plan B” if Khartoum did not accept key elements of the UN proposal for forces in Darfur by January 1, 2007. Three months later, there are a mere 200 UN technical personnel in Darfur, there is no agreement on the elements of the second “phase” (the “heavy UN support package” to the AU), and not even initial discussion of the third “phase”—actual deployment of what the UN had fancifully assumed would be a large AU/UN “hybrid force.”
In fact, it has long been difficult to elicit either honest or consistent answers from the Bush administration about its Darfur policy. The genocide determination made by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell (September 2004) seems more a burden than a moral commitment. What else are we to make of recent comments by State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack on March 20, 2007? —
“‘We have gotten to a point where we need to look, give a good, hard look at what levers we might use at our disposal in order to convince the Sudanese government to change its position.'” (Reuters [dateline: Washington, DC], March 20, 2007)
This is an extraordinary declaration: we have only now “gotten to a point” where we begin to survey the “levers” that can be brought to bear in order to halt what the Bush administration has accurately described as genocide? Colin Powell’s determination, made on the basis of an extensive and authoritative investigation by the Coalition for International Justice along the Chad/Darfur border in August 2004, came two and a half years ago. McCormack’s words—suggesting an urgency that has only recently to have risen to the point where the US might use all the resources at its disposal in pressuring Khartoum—seem grotesque. What this dilatory time-frame actually reveals is yet again that the US has no further resources of consequence, unless willing to make of Darfur a truly first-tier issue in its bilateral relation with the regime in Beijing.
Otherwise, “Plan B” amounts to no more than an effort to force Khartoum to convert its presently dollar-denominated contracts to contracts with other currencies as their basis for denomination. And even this is unlikely to have much impact, since such currency sanctions already exist for many companies. Reuters reports,
“About 130 firms with ties to Sudan’s government, including the two leading oil companies, are already on a US sanctions list barring them from doing business with the United States or from using US financial institutions to do dollar transactions—the favored currency for lucrative oil trades.” ([dateline: Washington, DC], March 29, 2007)
With a highly valued, fungible international commodity such as crude oil, Khartoum may be inconvenienced by additional US currency sanctions, but hardly made to move out of its current survivalist mode. A lack of true coerciveness also defines so-called “targeted sanctions,” which attempt to concentrate punitive pressure or scrutiny on Khartoum’s leaders. With years to sequester their wealth in anticipation of such measures, and with a full willingness to travel exclusively in the Arab and Islamic worlds (which will never enforce targeted travel bans), Khartoum’s gnocidaires must confront much greater pressure before yielding on a matter as consequential as deployment of a UN/AU force.
HUMANITARIAN CONDITIONS IN DARFUR AND EASTERN CHAD
There is no respite for the people of Darfur or eastern Chad. The feckless, diffident, and morally cowardly responses from the international community do nothing to diminish the harsh realities of this still-deepening humanitarian crisis. A survey of recent developments reveals a number of extremely disturbing trends, which suggest all too powerfully that the excess Crude Mortality Rate suggested above may in fact be conservative, and that human mortality is vastly understated, particularly in areas to which there is no humanitarian access (and thus no possibility of humanitarian assessment).
 Ongoing displacement: the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that approximately 30,000 people were newly displaced in February 2007; this followed a January displacement figure of 50,000. There is no figure for March, but it is very certainly considerable. At the same time, camps for internally displaced persons in Darfur are reaching or have surpassed capacity:
“Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region are almost at full capacity due to a continuing influx of people fleeing violence, with 30,000 people uprooted last month alone, the United Nations reported today [March 20, 2007]. Since January 80,000 people have fled, on top of half a million others displaced in 2006. [ ] Last week, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that IDP camps were sheltering 50,000 to 100,000 people apiece. ‘We simply cannot absorb any more displaced,’ UNICEF country representative Ted Chaiban said on his return from a visit to Darfur.” (UN News Center, March 20, 2007)
 At the same time, access to the 4.5 million conflict-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad continues to diminish. A recent UN/nongovernmental aid organization study found that “access for aid agencies in Darfur dropped to 64 percent in January  and 20 percent of the affected people could not be reached by any humanitarian agency. ‘An average of 2.45 million people, 70 percent of the conflict affected-population, remain food insecure’ [the report] noted.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: Nairobi], March 19, 2007)
We catch a rare glimpse of life beyond the reach of humanitarian aid in a Reuters dispatch for Deribat (Jebel Marra), March 26, 2007:
“Government forces closed off the main supply route to rebel-held Deribat five months ago, residents say, isolating an area vulnerable to multiple front lines that have driven away humanitarian organisations. Deribat, one of the main villages in the southeast of the Jebel Marra region, welcomed the new United Nations humanitarian chief on Sunday during his Darfur tour aimed at winning aid groups more access to victims of the conflict.”
“After the children stopped singing and hospitable local leaders shook his hand, the magnitude of the task ahead soon became apparent to John Holmes, the UN’s under-secretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. Mothers with infants in their arms cried out for medicine. Others feared their children would be robbed of an education. Holmes was shown water pumps in the village, which could dry up if maintenance supplies were not flown in.”
“But aid groups say it is too dangerous to operate in Jebel Marra, where humanitarian workers have been targeted by militias, including an incident last year in which uniformed Arab militias [Janjaweed] beat four NGO workers while their international female colleague was sexually assaulted. The last two remaining aid groups left the area in August. ‘You can’t just drop medicine from the air,’ said an aid worker, who asked not to be named. ‘We look for windows of opportunity to help out. Many humanitarian agencies have fled rural areas and this has severe consequences.'”
 At the same time, IDP camps are increasingly becoming magnets for food and resources—an ominous development in a region where previous displacement has overwhelmingly been a function of insecurity:
“While [ ] aid workers try to also give food and blankets and other aid to those [Darfuris] in the remote villages cut off from the fighting, limited funds and insecurity means those outside the camps often get less aid than those inside. Some aid workers expressed concerns that this was attracting people who were more economic migrant than refugee.” (Reuters [dateline: el-Geneina, West Darfur], March 21, 2007)
Such a “magnet effect” can distort even further local economies, and make the task of humanitarian aid delivery that much greater.
 Khartoum continues to wage its war of attrition against humanitarian relief, yet another instrument of genocidal destruction, even if the means are constantly varying. While signing a recent agreement to improve humanitarian access for international organizations (an agreement that contained some of the same provisions that were embodied in the July 2004 version of this “agreement”), Khartoum was at the same time obstructing the work of indigenous Sudanese relief efforts:
“[The Government of] Sudan temporarily suspended 52 non-governmental organisations working in Darfur on Thursday as the new UN humanitarian chief began his first visit to the country, hoping to win aid groups better access to the region. Jamal Youssef Idriss, from the government’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) in Nyala, said the NGOs had been suspended from working in southern Darfur state after an investigation aimed at preventing fraud found they did not comply with regulations.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 22, 2007)
And the visiting UN humanitarian chief, John Holmes, quickly discovered that his high office meant nothing in the killing fields of Darfur:
“Sudanese troops barred the UN humanitarian chief on Saturday from visiting Darfur’s most violence-plagued refugee camp during his first trip to the war-torn region. The convoy carrying John Holmes was halted at a checkpoint about a mile (1.2 kilometers) outside the Kassab refugee camp, and he was told he did not have the proper papers to visit the site.”
“‘I’m frustrated, annoyed, but it’s not atypical of what happens here,’ Holmes told journalists traveling with him. He said his trip had obtained all the necessary clearances from Khartoum. ‘This is rather typical of the kind of problem people are encountering in this kind of area. But it is interesting to see it in practice,’ he said. The soldiers at the checkpoint briefly prevented a car carrying journalists from leaving after Holmes turned back from the site. The journalists were only allowed to leave after the troops took a videotape from a UN television cameraman.” (Associated Press [dateline: Kassab, North Darfur], March 24, 2007)
As Associated Press notes in this same dispatch,
“Kassab, home to more than 25,000 refugees, has seen the highest level of rapes and other attacks against its residents. The camp is located in a region under tight control of the janjaweed and government forces, near the town of Kutum, 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of El Fasher, the North Darfur capital.”
Despite subsequent “official apologies,” it was no accident that Holmes was denied access to this particular camp.
Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times, one of the very finest journalists to have reported from Darfur, recently filed a dispatch that gives an excruciatingly acute sense of the bureaucratic obstacles facing humanitarian operations:
“Aid agencies say their operations are tied in endless ribbons of red tape. Rather than being chased from the country by violence they are more likely to lose heart from the endless bureaucracy—a slow death by a thousand paper cuts. ‘Many organizations are saying that the bureaucratic obstacles are the No. 1 problem and may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,’ said one senior aid official, who spoke on the condition on anonymity for fear of government retaliation.”
“The mountains of paperwork—including trips to government ministries to obtain official stamps and permissions for visas, travel permits and import tax exemptions—take up so much time that one large aid organization with operations across Darfur employs five full-time workers whose only job is to navigate the bureaucratic maze. The government signed an agreement with the United Nations in 2004 that eliminated most restrictions on aid workers. But that agreement has been repeatedly violated: a United Nations list of incidents compiled in the first two months of the year cited more than two dozen cases of workers being forced off aid flights, turned back at checkpoints or denied paperwork and visas.”
“Visas are issued for a few months at a time, if at all. Exit visas are required for workers staying more than a month, but these, too, can take weeks to come through and cost $120 each. The cost of a single worker’s paperwork can add up to $1,000 a year.” (New York Times [dateline: Deribat, Darfur], March 25, 2007)
“The cost of a single worker’s paperwork can add up to $1,000 a year.”
These excessive costs to humanitarian organizations, and Khartoum’s contempt for humanitarian organizations, have consequences felt not only in Darfur, but in South Sudan, which struggles to but itself together after decades of ruinous civil war:
“[International] Donors began meeting on Tuesday [March 20, 2007] to pledge money to rebuild Sudan after a devastating north-south civil war, but the event was overshadowed by the separate conflict in Darfur being left off the agenda. [ ] The [Khartoum] government refused to allow Darfur to be on the agenda and at the last minute cancelled a compromise meeting to be held separately on Monday, UN officials and diplomats said. Donors have already pledged some $4.5 billion to rebuild Sudan, ruined by two decades of civil war, after a north-south peace deal in January 2005. But most of that money has not appeared and the south complains much has been redirected to Darfur.”
“The meeting—dubbed the Sudan Consortium—had hoped to address that issue, in addition to getting the original pledges renewed and securing fresh promises of cash. But the cancellation of the Darfur meeting meant some donors withdrew high-level participation.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 20, 2007)
 Not nearly enough attention has been focused on eastern Chad, where ethnically-targeted violence continues to spill across the border from Darfur, often at the instigation of Khartoum and involving Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militia forces. Indeed, eastern Chad in some ways presents more difficult humanitarian problems than Darfur itself. In a grim irony, the UN has found itself moving some Chadian victims of the war into Darfur for safety. The situation was appropriately highlighted by Undersecretary Holmes during his assessment mission to the region:
“[Holmes] said at least 140,000 displaced Chadians and 235,000 Sudanese refugees are now sheltering in the barren eastern deserts of the vast north-central African country, while emergency relief NGOs and UN agencies are struggling to support them because of ongoing fighting and attacks on them. ‘I am very worried by the situation and the international community… perhaps underestimates its gravity,’ he told journalists in the capital N’djamena on Wednesday. ‘The needs are enormous and get bigger every day,’ he added, highlighting that donors have so far only paid US $40 million of the $173 million needed to keep food, water and shelter supplied in eastern Chad.” (UN IRIN [dateline: N’Djamena], March 29, 2007)
The consequences of this shortfall were made explicit recently by the UN’s World Food Program:
“Scores of thousands of displaced Chadians are running out of food in the eastern border region with Sudan and face a desperate struggle to survive absent new donations to meet the needs of a rising tide of people uprooted by continuing conflict, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today. ‘This is not a sustainable situation,’ WFP Chad Country Director Felix Bamezon said, noting that even before the latest increase in displaced people the agency’s $85-million Emergency Operation to assist Sudanese refugees, internally displaced people, host communities and refugee-affected local people in eastern Chad from January 2007 until June 2008 had received only $39 million, leaving a 54 per cent shortfall.”
“‘Life in eastern Chad has always been precarious, but now tens of thousands of Chadians are being pushed to the breaking point. There is simply not enough food to go around,’ he added of the ‘race against time’ to pre-position as much food as possible before the rainy season starts in late June, making most roads impassable.” [ ]
“A recent WFP-led assessment found nearly 130,000 displaced people living on the outskirts of villages—almost three times the number expected—the vast majority living in flimsy shelters patched together from straw or millet stalks that will not survive the rains. One in five families does not even have a roof. Few have access to potable water or latrines, and local health services cannot handle the unexpected flood of new patients. With so many new mouths to feed, local host communities are being forced to kill off their livestock, and WFP fears that soon seed stores will start to be consumed as hunger and rising cereal prices take their toll.” (UN News Center, March 30, 2007)
As in Darfur, the greatest issue for the internally displaced in Chad is security:
“Some 140,000 Chadians have fled their homes to squat in squalid settlements in the deserts of eastern Chad since attacks on their villages started in 2005. Human rights groups and the UN blame a complex and barely understood inter-ethnic war as well as attacks from the Sudanese janjawid militia for the violence. Chad’s government has refused a UN peacekeeping force which was proposed to provide protection for civilians and to guard the border.” (UN IRIN [dateline: Gouroukoun, eastern Chad], March 30, 2007).
One unnamed but representative victim described a relentlessly harsh and cruel existence:
“‘We have been chased away from our homes. We have lost everything. Our children and our husbands were killed, we have been left with nothing but orphans in our arms. Our houses were burned. We walked 150 km to get here but still have the same problems we fled—like how are we going to drink and how can we have security?'”
“‘On this site where we live now for months we have no shelter, no money, nothing to eat. We sleep on the ground. To get something to eat we had to sell the plastic and sticks we were given to build a shelter last year. We have to walk to the [refugee camp] at Goz Beida to get water or go to other refugee camps. When we go out to get firewood, the janjawid often attack us, killing and raping as they want. One woman went out and she was found a few days later with her throat cut. Before that, some men were killed when they were out working in a field.'”
The most recent attack, terrifyingly reminiscent of violence in Darfur, was reported to have occurred this past weekend:
“Janjaweed militia attacked two Chadian villages in the volatile southeastern border region close to Sudan, torching houses, randomly shooting those who fled and killing at least 65 people, officials said Tuesday [April 3, 2007]. Survivors, 2,000 of whom arrived at a refugee camp about 30 miles from their villages, told aid workers that they were attacked by men on horseback, camel-back and in vehicles with heavy weaponry, the UN refugee agency said.”
“The attackers encircled the villages and opened fire, pursuing fleeing villagers, robbing women and shooting the men, many of whom are feared dead, the UN agency said in a statement. Corpses were decaying fast because of the heat and would be buried in a common grave, the UN said. The attacks took place Saturday [March 31, 2007] in the border villages of Tiero and Marena, some 550 miles from the capital, N’djamena, but details were not immediately made public.”
“Chadian military officials reported that at least 65 people died in the fighting in Tiero, and the death toll is expected to rise when casualty figures from the attack on Marena are released, the UN refugee agency said.”
“The agency did not give the nationality of the militiamen, saying only that they were reported to have fled in the direction of the border with Sudan after local self-defense militiamen and Chadian soldiers repelled their attack. [ ] Those who survived the attacks told aid workers that many people were still hiding in the bush, fearing the militiamen are still in the area, the UN said. Most of those who survived are women and children, some of whom have made it to the Goz Amir refugee camp near the border with Sudan.” (Associated Press [dateline: N’Djamena], April 3, 2007)
 In some ways the humanitarian crisis in eastern Chad is a reflection of the proxy war between Khartoum and the Chadian government of Idriss Deby, with ethnic animosities used as weapons of war. Associated Press reports from Goz Beida (April 1, 2007):
“The sultan of Silla looked worried: Arab-African violence spilling over from Darfur is threatening this part of Chad, too, in what is quickly growing into a regional conflict. He pleaded with the visiting UN humanitarian chief to help stop it. ‘The picture is so bleak,’ Sultan Said Brahim told John Holmes, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, during Holmes’ visit here earlier this week. ‘I can’t even tell you how bad things are getting.'”
“As ruler of a vast Chad region that borders Darfur in Sudan, where Arab government forces and their allied militias have killed African villagers by the thousands, Brahim told Holmes he is witnessing, aghast, as the violence spreads rapidly into his own society. [ ] Most pernicious, cohabitation and friendship between Arabs and Africans here has given way to distrust and thinly veiled hatred.” [ ]
“The government of Chad has also gotten involved, arming Africans to try to fend off attacks from Arab militias in Darfur. Both [(Arab) Sheik al-Mahdi] al-Samani and [Sultan Said] Brahim said privately, when Chadian government officials had stepped away, that this policy was part of the problem, and blamed much of the increase in attacks on the newly formed African militias. Western diplomats in N’djamena, the Chadian capital, have said that Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, may even be encouraging ethnic warfare on the border to defend his precarious grip on power.”
Ultimately, as in Darfur, security is key to humanitarian viability and human survival. A new study from Refugees International (“Chad: Will a UN Presence on the Darfur Border Protect Civilians?”) asks some hard but important questions about what kind and size of force will be required (see http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/9953/?mission=9872) These questions focus rightly on how any deploying force can ensure that civilians are not caught in the cross-fire between various combatants:
“It seems likely that the multidimensional presence [of the sort called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1706—ER] would come under attack from Sudan directly, through Sudan’s Chadian proxies, and from Sudanese rebel groups. The force would be deployed explicitly to protect civilians, thus placing civilians directly in the line of fire, either during attacks on peacekeepers or as specific targets to test the resolve of the force, demonstrate its inability to protect civilians, and retaliate for attacks by peacekeepers. For civilians in the southeast, this would internationalize the attacks against them, which are now largely internal.”
“These risks would be mitigated if a large force with a robust mandate deployed all at once, with a substantial policing component to protect intact non-Arab villages from attack (and Arab villages from retaliation by non-Arabs), as well as refugee camps and internal displacement sites. Identifying enough willing troops, however, will be a major challenge for the UN, especially given the difficult physical and political environment for the mission. Calls for quick action, any action, to bring pressure on Sudan may push the Security Council and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to deploy a weak force, which would be vulnerable to attack and unable to protect civilians.”
It is difficult to dispute any of these assessments or conclusions. But the alternative to facing these risks and challenges is to consign a very large and growing civilian population to intolerable insecurity and the prospect of wholesale humanitarian withdrawal. Such withdrawal would ensure additional tens of thousands of deaths. But there can be no denying the grim conclusion to the Refugees International analysis:
“[Those involved in an operation in eastern Chad] must remember that Sudan will regard any deployment as a threat, putting civilians, whether from crossfire or direct attacks, in harm’s way.”
Khartoum’s willingness to export genocidal violence to eastern Chad for its own brutal purposes will not be easily curtailed.
AGREEMENT ON HUMANITARIAN ACCESS: A CYNICAL “INSURANCE POLICY” TAKEN OUT BY KHARTOUM
It has been widely reported that the Khartoum regime has agreed to facilitate humanitarian relief in Darfur. And there is a suitably signed and titled document: “Joint Communiqu Between the Government of Sudan and the United Nations on the Facilitation of Humanitarian Activities in Darfur” (March 28, 2007). It is signed by Ali Karti, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs for the NIF regime and Manuel Aranda da Silva, Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for the UN in Sudan. It reiterates a series of commitments which the regime has either already made or which should go without saying in the midst of a humanitarian crisis affecting 4.5 million people.
In fact there is little reason to believe that the effects of the “Joint Communiqu” will be any longer-lasting or binding than those contained in an equivalent “Joint Communiqu” signed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and NIF President Omar al-Bashir on July 3, 2004. Why did Khartoum bother to agree to any terms of reference for the humanitarian aid operations it has so assiduously obstructed for more than three years? The answer came the day following the signing in Khartoum:
“US plans to impose tough new measures against Sudan to force it to change course on Darfur will only threaten humanitarian agreements Khartoum has signed with the United Nations and fuel violence in the region, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. US officials said Washington aimed to ‘tighten the screws’ on Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and have him accept an international force in the western province. ‘This will have negative repercussions. It will threaten agreements that we have reached with the United Nations and the African Union,’ said foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 29, 2007)
All too obviously, the agreement was little more in Khartoum’s eyes than a kind of “insurance policy”: by promising to grant what it has no intention of adhering to over the long term, the regime in the near term puts the Bush administration in the awkward position of deciding whether or not to impose sanctions, which if imposed will be used by Khartoum as an excuse to renege on the “Joint Communiqu.” That such reneging will come in any event does little to diminish the embarrassing optics the US confronts in taking the lead on imposing any further sanctions, even if they represent primarily a modest political resolve.
Those who doubt that Khartoum’s gnocidaires could be so cynical in making such an agreement have simply not been attending to events of the past four years.