Seven and a half months after UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006) authorized deployment of 22,500 UN troops and civilian police to Darfur, with a robust mandate for civilian and humanitarian protection, the international community has been reduced to celebrating merely nominal agreement from the Khartoum regime to accept a package of “heavy support” for the current African Union (AU) force. Such celebration reveals both desperation and disingenuousness. For even were Khartoum to abide by its nominal commitment to accept such a support package, in the terms reported in various press accounts, the AU mission in Darfur is too severely under-manned, under-equipped, and under-funded. It barely functions in many locations, and morale is abysmal. The AU mission simply cannot, in any reasonable time-frame, be made into an effective source of security in Darfur, even with UN support.
Indeed, amidst deteriorating security in Darfur, AU forces have endured a sharply escalating loss of life. Their military resources have for far too long been disgracefully inadequate, in no small measure because Western nations have not provided nearly adequate equipment or funding. In turn, poor military and political leadership on the part of the AU—along with generally weak performance in the field—have made potential funding nations wary, even as these nations are unwilling to make any military commitments of their own.
Now, at the very moment that Khartoum has belatedly and expediently signaled that it will accept a “support package” first broached five months ago at a “High Level Consultation on Darfur” in Addis Ababa (November 16, 2006), key contributing countries Senegal and Rwanda are both threatening to withdraw from the AU mission, a development that would deal a crippling blow to the highly limited efficacy of the current force, particularly since any deployment of this new “support package” will take months:
“Senegal honoured on Thursday [April 12, 2007] five of its soldiers killed in Sudan’s Darfur region and said it could withdraw from an overstretched African peacekeeping force there within weeks unless it was given firm UN backing. The West African country, whose peacekeeping troops are widely respected, made the warning as UN negotiators drew close to persuading Sudan to allow 3,000 UN personnel to bolster the African Union (AU) mission in Darfur. Senegal has 538 soldiers in the 7,000-strong AU contingent in Darfur.” [ ]
“‘Senegal believes that enough is enough,’ Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio told a news conference. ‘If in the coming weeks we do not move toward a solution, which for Senegal means transforming the AU force into a UN mission, then we are going to withdraw our troops from Darfur.'”
“The Senegalese warning followed a similar statement last month by another contributor to the Darfur force, Rwanda, whose President Paul Kagame demanded more resources for it.” (Reuters [dateline: Dakar, Senegal], April 12, 2007)
18 AU soldiers have now been killed in Darfur, and another has been kidnapped for months. Many others have been wounded, some critically. The ability of the AU to move within Darfur has steadily diminished since the signing of the ill-conceived Darfur Peace Agreement (May 2006), and the number of patrols and protective actions undertaken has dropped precipitously. And yet because of Khartoum’s obdurate refusal to accept the force authorized by the Security Council seven months ago, the AU mission now faces months of further delay before it could receive a substantial infusion of new resources and manpower.
Moreover, we can already see the ways in which Khartoum will renege even on this limited agreement—limited because it doesn’t begin to address the question of a still merely notional follow-on AU/UN force on the ground, comprising some 20,000 troops and civilian police. For the 3,000 troops and support personnel discussed as part of the “heavy support package” face yet another obstacle to deployment, even if UN funding is secured and donors make appropriate commitments of forces and resources (Associated Press reports from the UN [April 17, 2007] on “what will likely be a months-long process to deploy the first significant UN peacekeeping force in Darfur”). For Khartoum has yet to accept explicitly the notion of non-African forces, even if under UN auspices. As Foreign Minister Lam Akol declared several days ago:
“Sudan will take as many more African Union (AU) troops as needed to stabilise Darfur but will not bow to international pressure to accept a UN force in the troubled region, [Khartoum’s] foreign minister said on Sunday [April 15, 2007]. Lam Akol reiterated Khartoum’s firm rejection of international troops in Darfur as visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte pressed Sudanese officials to accept thousands of UN peacekeepers to support the world’s biggest humanitarian effort there.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], April 15, 2007)
And while the regime has reportedly agreed to accept “3,000 UN personnel,” there are countless ways for Khartoum to renege, as it has so many times, with so many agreements in the past. Most notably, Khartoum retains a veto over any final decision on numbers and character of troops, which will be determined by a so-called “tripartite mechanism,” consisting of the UN, the AU—and the Khartoum regime itself: “we agreed to a technical group to go on the ground and be assisted by the Sudanese government to arrive at the figure [for deployed troops] they want,” Foreign Minister Lam Akol insisted (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], April 15, 2007).
By insisting further that any decision about force level must be “determined on a professional basis,” Akol is making clear that any force level Khartoum considers excessive will be deemed “unprofessional.” Coupled with the denial of any role for international UN troops, this amounts to a preservation of the status quo—in effect, a grim genocide by attrition that will continue indefinitely for lack of security. Levels of violence may be down over the last month, but as UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes stressed in his recent briefing to the UN Security Council:
“Over the past six months, nearly a quarter of a million more innocent civilians have been forced to abandon their homes, seeking refuge mainly from Government [of Sudan]-supported militia attacks. [ ] Well over a third of the population of Darfur is now displaced,” and at the current rate of displacement, “the same could be true for over half the population in another 18 months or so. This is a horrifying prospect. Meanwhile, politicization and militarization of camps have become a fact of life, creating a future time bomb just waiting to go off.” (Statement to the UN Security Council, April 4, 2007)
Despite this extraordinarily dire warning, and the unsurpassably urgent need for immediate improvements in security, there is understandably widespread skepticism about the significance of Khartoum’s reported agreement with the UN. Unsurprisingly, this skepticism comes most bluntly from those without political disgrace to hide. Human Rights Watch declared in an April 17, 2007 press release:
“‘Sudan’s green light for only part of the peacekeeping force is too little, too late, and is aimed only at defusing international pressure and heading off sanctions,’ said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. ‘Governments should keep the focus on the full international force, which could really help to protect civilians in Darfur.'”
The German humanitarian organization Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action) declared forcefully:
“Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action) is critical of Sudan’s announcement that it has reached an agreement on the troubled Sudanese region, Darfur. ‘The Sudanese government is just playing for time,’ says Hans-Joachim Preuss, Welthungerhilfe’s Secretary General. ‘In the meantime conditions for refugees and the situation of the local population in western Sudan are becoming critical.’ Even if the Sudanese government did agree to a 20,000-strong peacekeeping force combining African Union and United Nation troops, this would still ‘only be enough to protect the refugee camps,’ according to Preuss. ‘At least twice the number of troops are necessary to secure peace in the region.'” (Welthungerhilfe [German Agro Action] press release [Bonn], April 16, 2007)
To be sure, even UN representatives of the US, the UK, and other Western nations are expressing doubt about Khartoum’s intentions and with good reason, given the regime’s exceedingly long and comprehensive history of reneging on all agreements with the UN and other international actors attempting to respond to the Darfur crisis. In the end only UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been unqualified in his optimism, but with little reason or experience to justify his outlook. As Voice of America reports from the UN after the notional “agreement” was reached (April 17, 2007):
“But no sooner had [Ban Ki-moon’s] optimistic words been spoken than Sudan’s UN envoy appeared to contradict the terms of the agreement. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem suggested to reporters that Khartoum had not agreed to allow blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers in Darfur. ‘The issue of the UN is that, according to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), there is no provision for the UN in any way,’ he said. ‘It is only for the African Union to implement with the Sudanese Authorities and the rebel groups the DPA.'”
“Ambassador Abdalhaleem says Sudan sees the Darfur force as being commanded and staffed by Africans. ‘It should be an African force, African command with UN backstopping in techniques of control and command,’ he said. ‘The command is fully for the African leader of the African commander and African forces.'”
This is a reiteration of the very same language that has been used by senior members of the National Islamic Front regime for months now—before the putative “breakthrough” trumpeted by those more interested in deflecting any incisive analysis of this development than saving the people of Darfur. And according to Reuters, this language found unambiguous support in recent comments from AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konar in Addis Ababa:
“Konare, after talks with [NIF President Omar] al-Bashir on Saturday [April 7, 2007], said there had been clear agreement in Addis Ababa on a hybrid force consisting of African troops under AU command with logistical, financial and administrative assistance from the United Nations.” (Reuters [dateline: Addis Ababa], April 9, 2007)
What, then, has changed? What new role has been negotiated for UN forces? Moreover, all talk of a “breakthrough” in securing agreement for the “heavy support package” ignores the bluntest fact about the current state of affairs: Khartoum hasn’t begun to discuss, let alone accept, the “hybrid UN/AU force” of 20,000 troops and civilian police that alone can begin to change the security dynamic on the ground. Current discussions are simply of a substantial “support package,” not the actual peacekeeping/peacemaking force. As Associated Press reports from the UN (April 17, 2007):
“The heavy support package is the second phase of a UN plan. Ban and Konare made clear they want it to be followed by deployment of the third and final phase—a 20,000-strong ‘hybrid’ UN-AU force. Said Djinnit, the AU’s commissioner for peace and security, said the African Union had hoped the hybrid force would be deployed by the end of June , when the Security Council mandate for the AU force ends.”
“But Djinnit said this will not be possible because the heavy support package has to be deployed first—which a UN official estimated will take months, not weeks—and there is still ‘a lot of work to do to finalize the negotiations between the AU and the UN on the hybrid operations, and then to consult with Sudan on that so that we reach a common understanding.'”
This represents breathtaking understatement of the difficulties and delays confronting an international community that has repeatedly revealed itself to Khartoum as diffident, expedient, indecisive, and disingenuous. And from all this the regime only gains confidence that it can make agreements, grab an easy news headline, and subsequently renege at its leisure, assured that there will be no serious consequences for such continuing bad faith.
Thus emboldened, Khartoum has yet to move clearly and decisively away from its previous insistence that the UN role in providing security in Darfur involves only logistics, financing, technical and administrative assistance, and support personnel. There has been no explicit declaration that non-African Union or non-African troops would be permitted to deploy to Darfur. This is critical not only because of potential withdrawals by Rwanda and Senegal, but because there seems to be little stomach anywhere else in Africa to deploy forces into a conflict zone without an appropriate mandate. The burden of a hopelessly inadequate mandate has long curtailed the effectiveness of the current AU mission in Darfur, and this problem was not addressed in any detail during the November 2006 “High Level Consultation on Darfur” (Addis Ababa) that produced a “Conclusions” document (not an agreement) that has served as a guide for all subsequent negotiations.
But the issue of what mandate will guide any newly deploying forces to Darfur is critical, even as the Addis “Conclusions” document speaks only in the vaguest of terms: the mission of the force in Darfur “should be capable of contributing to the restoration of security and protection of civilians in Darfur through the implementation of security aspects of the Darfur Peace Agreement” (Paragraph 29). As Africa specialist John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group notes, potential troop contributions from African nations are,
“highly conditional. Because the forces currently deployed in Darfur are not being properly supported, some existing troop contributors are thinking about pulling out. As a consequence, a new deployment may begin without even existing numbers of forces. Very few countries in Africa have excess forces that they are willing to put into a [UN Charter] Chapter 7 [peacemaking] environment with a Chapter 6 [peacekeeping] mandate, and no support. [If these nations] had resources and support, thousands more could be cobbled together. But with the status quo, no one will come.” (email to the writer, April 16, 2007)
And Khartoum is aware of precisely this reluctance and has done everything in its power to encourage such caution. The regime has continually obstructed the AU, imposing gratuitous curfews, bureaucratic obstructions—and most significantly, has denied the AU a reliable supply of fuel, especially for AU aircraft. Indeed, through last year journalists from the New York Times and Washington Post reported on Khartoum’s commandeering of aviation fuel for its own military aircraft.
To be sure, any augmentation of the currently collapsing AU force must begin somewhere; there is no “silver bullet” or short-term military solution that could garner any meaningful international support, particularly since past inaction has permitted the security environment in Darfur to become steadily more chaotic, and thus much more threatening to both humanitarians and civilians. Foolish confidence in the “security provisions” of the disastrously misconceived Darfur Peace Agreement (May 2006)—insistently invoked by Khartoum in every document the regime “commits” to—is symptomatic of an international refusal to accept the difficult but necessary challenges in protecting civilians in Darfur. Rebel groups have fractured even more dangerously since the signing of the DPA, and represent a much greater threat to both civilians and humanitarians. Warlordism and banditry are thriving in an environment that reflects the grim realities of four years of genocidal counter-insurgency warfare orchestrated by Khartoum. And the consequences of a continuing climate of nearly total impunity are everywhere in evidence.
But despite these many challenges, or more likely because of them, nothing that has been “agreed” to in recent days suggests any of the urgency appropriate to the security crisis in Darfur. Nothing that has been reported represents a determination to provide in the near term the security desperately required by humanitarians in both Darfur and eastern Chad.
KHARTOUM’S BAD FAITH ON CONSPICUOUS DISPLAY
What we have seen instead are the findings of a new report by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, leaked to the New York Times on April 17, 2007 and now available from the New York Times website. As the Times itself reports:
“An unpublished United Nations report says the government of Sudan is flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in violation of Security Council resolutions and painting Sudanese military planes white to disguise them as United Nations or African Union aircraft. In one case, which the report illustrates with close-up pictures, the letters ‘UN’ have been stenciled onto the wing of a white-washed Sudanese armed forces plane that is parked on a military apron at a Darfur airport. Bombs guarded by uniformed soldiers are laid out in rows by its side.”
“The report says that contrary to Sudanese government denials, the freshly white planes are being operated out of all three of Darfur’s principal airports and used for aerial surveillance and bombardments of villages in addition to cargo transport. The report was compiled by a five-person panel responsible for assisting the sanctions committee of the Security Council in monitoring compliance with resolutions on Darfur. It was made available by a diplomat from one of the 15 Security Council nations, which believes the findings should be made public.” (New York Times [dateline: UN/New York], April 17, 2007)
The New York Times further reported:
“The report said the Sudanese government was shipping small arms, heavy weapons, artillery pieces, ammunition and other military equipment into Darfur on cargo planes, using airports at El Geneina, Nyala and El Fasher. It reported that one of the planes crash-landed on February 24, 2007 during a trip from Khartoum to El Geneina, and Sudanese army officials guarded it on the ground for a week while soldiers unloaded howitzers and up to 50 wooden boxes painted in olive drab that were suspected of containing arms and ammunition.”
“Commenting on the painting of the planes, the report said, ‘The panel believes the use of white aircraft by the government of the Sudan constitutes a deliberate attempt to conceal the identity of these aircraft such that from a moderate distance they resemble United Nations or AMIS Mi-8 helicopters used in Darfur.’ The African Mission in Sudan is referred to by its initials.”
Perhaps most strikingly, the New York Times reports:
“The panel said the Sudanese government was refusing to give advance word, as it was directed to do by the Security Council, of any introduction of weapons and related equipment into Darfur. When challenged to explain its action, the government said ‘it does not feel obliged to request permission in advance from the Security Council,’ the report said.”
The blatant flouting of UN Security Council directives is of course entirely consistent with Khartoum’s behavior in the past. UN Security Council Resolution 1556 (July 30, 2004) “demanded” that the regime disarm the Janjaweed militia and bring its leaders to justice. Instead, this same UN Panel of Experts found last August,
“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)
What conceivable reason could there be, other than political expediency, for accepting Khartoum’s word about “agreeing” to a “heavy support package” to the African Union, a “package” that the regime has been strenuously resisting for five months?
So telling are the findings of the current report from the UN Panel of Experts that they bear fuller reproduction. Certainly the diplomat who leaked the document to the New York Times was right in his/her judgment:
“[The report] was made available by a diplomat from one of the 15 Security Council nations, which believes the findings should be made public.”
The report begins with an Executive Summary that makes unambiguously clear violations by Khartoum of its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005):
“In spite of the clear understanding of its obligation under Security Council resolution 1591 (2005), at the time of writing the present report, the Government of the Sudan had not submitted any requests for approval to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) to move weapons, ammunition or other military equipment into Darfur, thereby knowingly violating the provisions of the resolution.” (Executive Summary)
Deliberate obstructionism is clearly reflected in various actions by Khartoum:
“The closure by the Government of the Sudan of all airports in Darfur to non-military operators during hours of darkness and on occasions at times during daylight precludes the possibility of the Panel attempting to verify suspicious aircraft cargo loads.” (Paragraph 31)
And most revealingly, the Panel reports on the use of white aircraft by Khartoum, a deliberate effort to disguise the identify of military aircraft:
“The Panel observed that the Government of the Sudan, contrary to its statements to the Panel and its official responses to the reports of the Panel, continues to operate white aircraft from the three primary airports in Darfur. The lack of identifying insignia could result in possible confusion over the recognition of these aircraft. Specifically, the Panel believes that the use of white aircraft by the Government of the Sudan, as previously reported (see S/2006/795), is a violation of article 24 (i) the Darfur Peace Agreement, which prohibits, ‘any attempt by a Party to disguise its equipment, personnel or activities as those of [the African Union mission], United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent or any other similar organization.'”
“The Panel believes that the use of white aircraft by the Government of the Sudan constitutes a deliberate attempt to conceal the identity of these aircraft such that from a moderate distance they resemble United Nations or [African Union] Mi-8 helicopters used in Darfur. The Panel has received reports from two independent sources of military reconnaissance overflights by white Antonov aircraft and white helicopters, believed to be those operated by the Government of the Sudan, in the area of Jebel Moon, Western Darfur.” (Paragraphs 93 and 95)
Nothing could be more revealing of the character of the regime than these actions, and we must wonder at the motives of those who would wish this report kept confidential when so decisively relevant to any assessment of current actions and commitments by the Khartoum regime.
With respect to the disarming of the Janjaweed, the UN Panel of Experts found yet more bad faith and reneging on the part of Khartoum:
“The Government of the Sudan has failed to fulfill its obligations—clearly outlined in the Protocol on the Enhancement of the Security Situation in Darfur (2004), relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 1556 (2004) (para. 6), the communiqu issued jointly by the Government of the Sudan and the Secretary-General on 3 July 2004 (S/2004/635, annex) and the Darfur Peace Agreement of 5 May 2006—to identify, neutralize and disarm armed militia groups under its control or influence. The Panel has previously reported on demonstrated instances of support, collusion and military coordination between various entities within the armed forces of the Government of the Sudan and militia groups commonly referred to as Janjaweed.”
“Reports received by the Panel indicate that the Janjaweed/armed militias continue to carry out attacks in the Darfur region. [ ] The Government of the Sudan is under obligation to ensure that these militias refrain from all attacks, harassment or intimidation. The Darfur Peace Agreement provides for the implementation of the disarmament and neutralization plan in a phased and timely manner. Under the Darfur Peace Agreement, the Government of the Sudan was to submit a comprehensive plan for disarming the Janjaweed/armed militias including information on their locations and areas of encampment within 37 days of the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement.” [ ]
“The Panel has been informed that no disarmament of Janjaweed/armed militias has been carried out by the Government of the Sudan since the submission of the previous report of the Panel (S/2006/795) [August 31, 2006].” (Paragraphs 70-73)
This is the regime that has been entrusted by the world with the lives of some 4.5 million human beings in the greater humanitarian theater of Darfur and eastern Chad, aided only by a crumbling AU force. This is the regime that has orchestrated genocidal violence for four years, both by means of its Janjaweed proxies and its own regular military forces, ground and aerial. The character of this genocidal violence, which has diminished only because of the massive scale of human destruction and displacement, has been amply detailed by countless human rights reports, investigations by the UN, and journalists traveling to all regions of Darfur and eastern Chad.
It has not been a case of ignorance by the world community; it has been a relentless willingness to acquiesce before massive, ethnically-targeted human displacement and destruction in this remote region. Inevitably, the nature of violence has become less well defined; some rebel elements are committing unspeakable atrocities and threatening humanitarian relief to the very people they claim to represent; Arab tribal groups that have desperately sought to stay out of the conflict have seen their lives and livelihoods shattered by the chaos of war and the anger of mindless retribution. The gnocidaires in Khartoum are the only ones profiting without cost from a genocidal counter-insurgency war that has served to preserve their ruthless control of national wealth and political power.
Moreover, the National Islamic Front (expediently and innocuously renamed the National Congress Party) has had no compunctions about exporting ethnic violence to eastern Chad (see my many previous accounts of this growing catastrophe, at www.sudanreeves.org, search “eastern Chad”). Here again the situation has become exceedingly complex, as both President Idriss Dby of Chad and Khartoum have been fighting one another by means of brutal proxy wars. Dby’s government has long supplied the Darfur rebels with weapons, even as the Khartoum regime has both armed Chadian rebel groups seeking to topple Dby, and have loosed the Janjaweed on the non-Arab or African tribal groups of Darfur. As Human Rights Watch has demonstrated, Khartoum’s regular forces have also been militarily active inside Chad.
Now within eastern Chad, and spreading westward, are new signs of dangerous ethnic violence, clearly the spill-over from Darfur. Arab militia groups include both Sudanese Janjaweed as well as Chadian militias (the demographics and land of eastern Chad are very similar to those of western Darfur). A series of recent reports from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and journalists in the region make clear that the civilian population of eastern Chad, as well as humanitarian operations, are facing rapidly escalating insecurity:
“Janjaweed militiamen killed up to 400 people in the volatile eastern border region near Sudan, leaving an ‘apocalyptic’ scene of mass graves and destruction, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday [April 10, 2007]. The attacks took place March 31  in the border villages of Tiero and Marena, some 550 miles from the capital, N’djamena. Chadian officials initially said 65 people had died, but added that the toll was sure to rise.”
“‘Estimates of the number of dead have increased substantially and now range between 200 and 400,’ the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said. ‘Because most of the dead were buried where their bodies were found—often in common graves owing to their numbers—we may never know their exact number.’ The attackers encircled the villages and opened fire, pursuing fleeing villagers, robbing women and shooting the men, UNHCR said. Many who survived the initial attack died later from exhaustion and dehydration, often while fleeing.” (Associated Press [dateline: N’djamena, Chad], April 10, 2007)
Reuters reports (April 10, 2007) from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva:
“Survivors identified the attackers as a coalition of well-armed Janjaweed militia ‘assisted by Chad rebels equipped with heavy weapons and vehicles,’ [UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond] said. It would be one of the most violent single incidents so far recorded on the volatile Chadian-Sudanese border.”
“‘The number of survivors who have provided us with heartbreaking testimony such as this is overwhelming. It paints a portrait perhaps better described as a massacre than an attack,’ Redmond told Reuters.”
“Better described as a massacre than an attack”: this tells us far too much about the nature of violence in eastern Chad, and the danger of Khartoum’s exporting uncontrolled Janjaweed violence. The vehicles and weapons of the Chadian rebel groups were also certainly provided by Khartoum.
Further details of the attacks come from a lengthy UNHCR dispatch ([dateline: Habile Camp, eastern Chad], April 10, 2007:
“Some 9,000 Chadians have arrived in UN refugee agency trucks and on their own at the Habile site for internally displaced persons after brutal attacks on two villages left houses torched and the ground strewn with dead. A United Nations team headed by UNHCR reached the burnt out villages of Tiero and Marena on Sunday, a week after the March 31  attacks. Survivors blamed the attacks on janjaweed militiamen on horses and camels, assisted by Chadian rebels with heavy weaponry and vehicles. Decomposing bodies still lay on the ground and smoke hung in the air from the last of the fires that had destroyed their houses.”
“Many who survived the attacks—particularly the elderly and young children—died in subsequent days from exhaustion and dehydration, often while fleeing. About 80 additional people were wounded. The attacks on the villages 45 kilometres east of the UNHCR sub-office in the village of Koukou-Angarana were far worse than initially thought. An estimated 8,000 local residents and internally displaced persons (IDPs) had been living in Tiero and Marena. Residents of other villages in the area also fled.”
“More than 9,000 Chadians from 31 villages have now arrived at the new Habile site for IDPs in UNHCR vehicles or by themselves. They joined another 9,000 who had fled earlier attacks in the region, especially last November and December when inter-communal violence left more than 200 dead and many wounded. Many new arrivals had already been displaced several times in the past year.”
“Many of the wounded were collected along the roadside by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and brought to the Goz Amir refugee camp health centre. Twenty-eight IDP children were admitted to the feeding centre, while 12 elderly Chadians are being treated, especially for exhaustion. More serious cases were referred for treatment in Goz Beida, a two-hour drive from the camp.” [ ]
“Hundreds upon hundreds of homes had been burned to the ground, and a small fire was still burning in one section of Tiero village. An overwhelming stench came from the rotting carcasses of domestic animals that had been hit by stray bullets, consumed by fire or died of thirst, as the owners had no time to untie them. Famished and frightened dogs barked incessantly. People had little or no time to flee: many essential household goods, food and domestic animals were left behind. Along the route were strewn belongings abandoned by those who died on the way or collapsed and were brought to Goz Amir camp health centre for treatment.” (UNHCR press release [dateline: Habile Camp, eastern Chad], April 10, 2007)
Another UNHCR spokesman, Matthew Conway, speaking from Abch, eastern Chad, declared to a reporter for The Guardian (UK):
“‘We’ve never seen an attack on this scale with this number of dead. The goal here was to kill. The victims were pursued far outside the village and shot down.'” (The Guardian [dateline: Abeche, eastern Chad], April 14, 2007)
“The goal here was to kill”—not to raid, not to intimidate, not to claim land: “the goal here was to kill.”
What prevents deployment of a robust UN protection force, earlier agreed to by Chadian President Dby? (Dby says now he will only accept police forces in eastern Chad.) Much of the answer has to do with Libya, which has been involved in wars back and forth across the Chad/Darfur border for more than two decades. The captious machinations of Libyan President Muamar Gadhafi have recently been highlighted by several analysts in the region:
“‘Libya’s primary objective is to ensure an international military force does not deploy,’ said Colin Thomas-Jensen, Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank [and currently in Chad]. The stalling over the Chad UN force now mirrors the situation in Sudan’s Darfur, where the Sudanese government has long been resisting international pressure for UN peacekeepers to bolster a struggling African Union military contingent. ‘Gadhafi wants no Western force in his backyard,’ said another Chad expert, who declined to be named.” (Reuters [dateline: Dakar], April 12, 2007)
But the perspective of humanitarians and human rights experts is different:
“Humanitarian groups say the delay in getting UN blue helmets into Chad and Sudan is costing lives by the day. ‘While the UN protection force (for Chad) is being negotiated and debated, people are being killed in their hundreds,’ David Buchbinder, a researcher with US-based Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.”
“‘I say deploy something now,’ said Serge Male, head of UN refugee agency UNHCR operations in Chad. ‘To do nothing is absolutely unacceptable,’ he added.” (Reuters [dateline: Dakar], April 12, 2007)
But of course “doing nothing” will almost certainly be the response of the international community to the rapidly escalating security crisis in eastern Chad, as it has been in Darfur for the past four years. And for an explanation of this long-term diplomatic paralysis we must look not only to the weakness and dishonesty of the US, the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League, and the countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, but to the institutionalized paralysis of the UN. Here China—veto-wielding member of the Security Council—comes relentlessly into focus, and Beijing’s longstanding military, economic, and unstinting diplomatic support for Khartoum must be seen as the most important source of insulation from international pressure.
[For a larger overview of China/Sudan relations, see my testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, “China in Sudan: Underwriting Genocide” (August 3, 2006, Russell Senate Office Building, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Page-10.html).]
The key to addressing the security crisis in Darfur, and eastern Chad, is not more disingenuous claims of “progress” in the form of meaningless “agreements.” It is full-on, unrelenting, uncompromising pressure on Beijing to force immediate changes in the behavior of the National Islamic Front regime.
Beijing must use its unrivalled leverage with the regime to work with the international community in demanding—with clear and painful consequences for non-compliance—
*an immediate cessation of all offensive military actions, including aerial bombardments;
*rapid, effective, and verifiable disarmament of the Janjaweed;
*a decisive augmentation of AU forces on an emergency basis, with full UN funding;
*immediate agreement to true UN participation in a large peace support operation in Darfur, with an appropriate mandate for civilian and humanitarian protection, of the sort specified in UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006)
[Notably, Resolution 1706 call for active monitoring of the borders between Darfur and eastern Chad, as well as Central African Republic, which also continues to suffer, if largely invisibly, from the bleeding over of ethnic violence from Darfur.]
*an immediate end to Khartoum’s obstruction of and attacks upon efforts by rebel groups to create a unified negotiating front; no serious peace process can begin without such progress among the rebel groups.
If China refuses, if Beijing continues to provide massive commercial and capital investment in the Khartoum economy, and to supply military weaponry and cooperation, and to offer unstinting and unqualified diplomatic support for a genocidal regime, then pressure must be brought to bear directly on China. Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games is unquestionably the point of greatest vulnerability, and it must be exploited to the fullest and widest extent possible.