Although still notionally “in progress,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s mission to Sudan on behalf of Darfur has clearly failed to register significant political progress on any front. And insofar as this mission marks a culmination of UN and international efforts—in Ban’s words, represents an “attempt to lock in progress” on Darfur—the failure is all the greater. Certainly if this visit marks the limit of pressure on Khartoum to abide by its many commitments—made or “demanded” over more than four years—the regime’s gnocidaires must be a good deal more confident. They will certainly know that the large civilian police and military force authorized by Security Council Resolution 1769 is little threat to the status quo, indeed seems to fall daily further behind schedule, even as it lacks the commitment of critical human and material resources. As a consequence, Khartoum understands full well that for the foreseeable future it can control deployment of this force, as well as manipulate security conditions in Darfur and eastern Chad, and threaten humanitarian operations throughout the region at will.
Ban declared in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan:
“‘For too long the international community has stood by, as seemingly helpless witnesses. That is now changing.'” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: el-Fasher, North Darfur], September 5, 2007)
Perhaps Ban offers here a fair assessment of his predecessor, Kofi Annan; but Ban himself is very far from demonstrating that we are seeing any “change” from “helpless witnessing.” The notable exception is the continuing efforts and courageous commitments of humanitarian workers and organizations—even as humanitarians are themselves among those most vulnerable to the violent insecurity that has emerged in Darfur following more than four years of international acquiescence.
Ban disingenuously presents himself as having
“a three-part strategy to deal with the Darfur crisis by ensuring that peacekeepers are deployed quickly and effectively, humanitarian aid and development is more easily available and the peace process pushes forward.” (UN News Service [New York], August 28, 2007)
But all the Secretary-General has done here is enumerate, in the broadest of terms, the conspicuous challenges in Darfur—he hasn’t articulated a “strategy” for dealing with them. Indeed, the threats to adequate humanitarian aid seem only to grow, as does the security crisis confronting aid organizations (see overview of recent developments in the humanitarian crisis below). Civilians in the camps confront growing violence, with little hope for the start of either a credible cease-fire or meaningful peace talks.
Certainly the challenges to deployment of the force specified in UN Security Council Resolution 1769, and authorized under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, only grow (see my recent analysis of these challenges at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article182.html). The August 31, 2007 deadline for commitments to this force has come and gone, and there remains an acute shortage of well-trained civilian police, deficits in skilled personnel for a range of essential tasks in the mission, and vast shortcomings in essential equipment, especially aircraft. No significant commitment of intelligence-gathering resources—crucial in a region as large as Darfur—has been announced.
Mark Kroeker, outgoing UN head of police operations, put a key matter bluntly:
“The number of officers from major developed nations was dwindling and countries such as Britain, the United States, Canada, Italy and France needed to offer more. ‘The countries that have been talking about Darfur need to now do something about Darfur with their deployment of police in probably the most desperate place in the world,’ Kroeker [said].” (Reuters [dateline: Canberra, Australia], August 30, 2007)
The same could be said of these countries when it comes to aerial and satellite reconnaissance capabilities.
For its part, Khartoum seems only to be warming up in its efforts to diminish the effectiveness of the force; but the Sudan Tribune (August 19, 2007) reports a telling comment from General Majzoub Rahamah, the officer in charge of international relations at the defense ministry:
“[General Rahamah] said that the military personnel in the [UN/AU] hybrid operation do not have the right to protect civilians. He further said that this force has the right to act under chapter 7 only in the case of self-defense.”
Khartoum is far from finished in curtailing the mandate of the “hybrid” force or devising means for compromising its ability to address insecurity.
PROSPECTS FOR A “DARFUR PEACE PROCESS”
And what of the “peace process” that Ban invokes? Does it exist? What of real significance emerged from the Arusha (Tanzania) meeting of some rebel leaders in early August? And what of the skills and commitment of the Secretary-General’s special envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, the AU envoy Salim Ahmed Salim, and AU Commissioner Alpha Oumar Konar? What evidence do they provide for Ban’s declaration of two months ago that there has been “credible and considerable progress” in halting Darfur’s massive human suffering and destruction? What can this fatuous statement possibly mean in the context of accelerating violence, deteriorating humanitarian indicators (particularly nutrition), and a rapidly growing number of Internally Displaced Persons? And what of Eastern Chad, where an immense crisis grows deeper and more threatening by the day? What “progress” can Ban point to?
Arusha yielded nothing of consequence and the actual participants included few with military strength on the ground. Almost nothing was done to overcome divisions among personalities, political views, and ethnicities. The popular Fur leader and founder of the SLA Abdel Wahid el-Nur was not present—a huge obstacle to success, even as he too has little military strength on the ground. (El-Nur desperately needs to devise a workable strategy for accelerating efforts to provide human security in Darfur while at the same time engaging in negotiations for a cease-fire, and ultimately peace in the region.) Key SLA commanders Suliman Marjan and Jar el-Naby where present in Arusha, but refused to participate until former SLA humanitarian coordinator Suleiman Jamous had been freed. Prior to Arusha Khartoum had promised it would do as much on the occasion of a rebel summit, but characteristically reneged. Jamous is only now being released, and it’s clear this “humanitarian gesture” was deliberately delayed until the UN Secretary-General met with National Islamic Front President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum.
Eliasson has consistently seemed out of his depth in serving as a UN peace envoy in these difficult circumstances. His refusal to work full-time or to commit to living in Sudan is reflected in an excessively limited understanding of the particulars of the crisis and the challenges in confronting, rather than accommodating, Khartoum. For their part, Salim and Konar have essentially capitulated to Khartoum, and with political and personal motives that don’t bear close scrutiny. Both have proved remarkably short-sighted in their efforts, and far too willing to accommodate Khartoum in an expedient effort to prevent a split within the African Union between Saharan and sub-Saharan African nations. And if there is understandable frustration with the unwillingness of the rebel factions to unite, these men should remember that the fracturing of the rebel movement was dramatically accelerated by the ill-conceived and disastrously concluded Darfur Peace Agreement in which they played such large roles.
Moreover, it is the shortsightedness of Salim and Konar, and their willingness to accommodate Khartoum on so many issues, that has in the eyes of Darfuris destroyed the ability of the AU to serve as a credible intermediary. This in turn augurs poorly for the reception of the “hybrid” force deploying to Darfur, particularly with Konar’s recent declaration that enough contributions had been received from African nations that no non-Africans need apply (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], August 12, 2007). This comment was quickly qualified by “hybrid” mission head Rodolphe Adada, who insisted that UN peacekeeping standards must be met, and that troops must be able to provide their own weapons and equipment (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], August 16, 2007). But the damage was done, and Khartoum will, as necessary, cleave relentlessly to Konare’s ill-considered and misleading statement in excluding non-African personnel, even technical personnel, as a means of weakening the deploying force.
And if the rebels were to unite, what are the prospects for meaningful negotiations with Khartoum? What is the likelihood that the woefully inadequate Darfur Peace Agreement will be significantly renegotiated, particularly the key issues of security (and security guarantors), compensation, and regional governance? At least the UN’s Eliasson has the honesty to declare that, “the government [of Sudan] has made it clear that it would not allow ‘a renegotiation of the Darfur Peace Agreement'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], August 7, 2007). But the rebels have made clear that the DPA is a dead letter, not least because Khartoum made no real efforts to implement it.
What can break such a diplomatic stalemate? And in the absence of concerted international pressure, economic and diplomatic, what can change Khartoum’s calculation that it need only sit at the table with rebels (if they were to forge a united negotiating front), waiting for splits to emerge, bribing all who can be bribed—and all the time insisting that the DPA can be changed only with the addition of very modest annexes?
Ironically, perhaps the most acute recent assessment of Khartoum’s outlook and motives—and those of other regional leaders—is offered by Alex de Waal, advisor to the AU at the Abuja talks that produced the DPA, and who has over the past year seem locked into the fantasy that somehow the DPA was almost a success story, thwarted only by inexcusable impatience on the part of US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and his imposition of an arbitrarily hasty deadline. But of course the DPA left security essentially in the hands of Khartoum, including disarming the Janjaweed, something Khartoum had many times promised. Indeed, the UN ineffectually “demanded” that the regime disarm the Janjaweed with passage of Security Council Resolution 1556 (July 30, 2004). There was simply no reason to believe that without guarantors much more robust than the AU mission in Darfur, which was even then crumbling, any of the security arrangements in the DPA would have been meaningfully implemented (and of course none were). De Waal has consistently failed to acknowledge this fatal flaw.
But de Waal’s recent comments, perhaps given the fullness of DPA failure, suggest a more realistic assessment of Khartoum and the prospects for peace:
“To some extent [ ] there is common interest among [regimes in] Khartoum, Asmara [Eritrea] and Tripoli [Libya] in sustaining the Darfur conflict until such time as the United States and the United Nations lose interest. To that end, Sudanese security is paradoxically supporting Eritrean initiatives to unify Darfur’s armed movements, even if that entails prolonging the war, because it could also delay the international peace process, perhaps indefinitely, and make UN troops ineffective. These governments are quite prepared to sabotage the peace process at any moment if they see it to be in their interests. The United Nations and African Union do not possess the necessary leverage to ensure that they deliver.”
[It is notable, given de Waal’s assessment here of the Libyan regime of Muamar Gadaffi, that Associated Press (dateline: Khartoum) reports today, “UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced Thursday [September 6, 2007] that new peace talks to end the four-year conflict in Darfur will start October 27, 2007 in Libya.” — ER]
“The greatest challenge is to provide reasons for the Sudan government to negotiate in good faith, and at present, Khartoum has little reason to take the peace process seriously. Most of those represented in Arusha have little armed presence in the field. Some do—but the government may be able to cut bilateral deals with them.” (Alex de Waal, “Peace in Darfur: Next Steps after Arusha,” CSIS Africa Policy Forum, August 21, 2007)
Ban Ki-moon does nothing to address the challenge of giving “Khartoum reason to take the peace process seriously.” Nor have Eliasson, Salim, or Konar addressed this challenge. Moreover, insofar as sanctions against the Khartoum-dominated economy must be part of any successful pressure on the regime to engage in good-faith peace talks, the role of China becomes even more important. Yet China has recently reiterated its adamant opposition to any sanctions measures, thereby reassuring Khartoum that it needn’t take the peace process seriously—and that there will be no consequences for obstructing, delaying, or harassing the deploying “hybrid” UN/AU force:
“On Friday [August 31, 2007] British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy revived the threat of sanctions, but China’s ambassador [to Khartoum] on Sunday [September 2, 2007] said dialogue, not threats of sanctions, will help create peace and stability. ‘Sanctions cannot help to solve the problem,’ [Ambassador] Li Chengwen said in a rare interview.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], September 2, 2007)
China counts on its vote in favor of Security Council Resolution 1769 to disarm all criticism of its role in sustaining the Darfur genocide, and that “business as usual” can continue with Khartoum. Thus sanctions for Khartoum’s inevitable non-compliance with the terms of reference in Resolution 1769 are a dead issue. Ambassador Li’s “dialogue” will be mainly about rapidly growing two-way trade and China’s huge commercial and capital investments in Sudan, particularly in the petroleum sector. There certainly will be no honest acknowledgement of Darfur’s deepening crisis, or more than perfunctory comments on the ghastly realities that continue to define the lives of millions of human beings. Lucrative arms shipments continue unabated (see Amnesty International report, “Sudan: Arms continuing to fuel serious human rights violations in Darfur,” May 8, 2007 [AFR 54/019/2007] at http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engafr540192007). And Khartoum all too predictably acts with impunity because of such multi-faceted Chinese support.
WHAT BAN KI-MOON DID NOT TALK ABOUT WHILE IN KHARTOUM
We may be sure that certain issues were not broached during Ban Ki-moon’s meeting with chief gnocidaire al-Bashir. Indeed, the implications of any such meeting were well captured by Warren Hoge of the New York Times ([dateline: Khartoum], September 3, 2007):
“Mr. Ban also hinted that he would show more understanding toward [Sudan’s] much-criticized leadership. ‘I have never put much stock in grand rhetoric, dreams of the future, “visions” that promise more than can be delivered,’ he said, addressing an invited gathering at Khartoum’s palatial Friendship Hall. ‘I am a realist, a man of action,’ he said. ‘I believe in results.'”
“Following his speech, he held a private meeting with Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Mr. Bashir has been shunned by many national leaders for his repeated denials of human rights abuses under his government.”
What is included in and what is excluded from Ban’s “realism”? Evidently the International Criminal Court (ICC) is too “visionary” a notion, for despite pleas from ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo directly to the Secretary-General, there has been no word or suggestion that the ICC emerged as a serious topic in Ban and al-Bashir’s tte–tte:
“The UN secretary-general should press Sudan to arrest two suspects—including a government minister—suspected of atrocities in Darfur and hand them to the International Criminal Court, the tribunal’s prosecutor has urged. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo brought up the arrest warrants when he met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York Wednesday [August 29, 2007], just days before Ban sets off on his first trip to Sudan since assuming leadership of the world body, a court official said Thursday.”
“Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir needs to be told ‘there are two arrest warrants of the ICC outstanding, including one against a minister, that Sudan is a member of the United Nations and has the obligation to enforce these arrest warrants,’ said Beatrice Le Fraper Du Hellen, who deals with the court’s relations with other countries.” [ ]
But of course al-Bashir well knows that a Janjaweed leader and his minister for humanitarian affairs have arrest warrants outstanding—and Ban Ki-moon is well aware of al-Bashir’s response to these warrants:
“In May , the Hague-based court issued arrest warrants for Sudan’s humanitarian affairs minister, Ahmed Muhammed Harun, and Ali Kushayb, a janjaweed leader. The two men are suspected of involvement in the murder, rape, torture and persecution of civilians in Darfur. It was the UN Security Council that asked Moreno-Ocampo to investigate atrocities in Darfur, and officials at the court want the world body to ensure the suspects are brought to justice.”
“Sudan hasn’t ratified the treaty that created the court and government officials have vowed not to hand over the men. ‘Our position is very, very clear—the ICC cannot assume any jurisdiction to judge any Sudanese outside the country,’ Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi said in May  after the arrest warrants were publicized. ‘Whatever the ICC does, is totally unrealistic, illegal, and repugnant to any form of international law.'” (Associated Press [dateline: The Hague], August 30, 2007)
Earlier in August, powerful Interior Minister Zubeir Bashir Taha weighed in as well (Taha is one of 17 individuals named for gross violations of human rights in a leaked Confidential Annex to the “Final Report” of the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, January 2006):
“[Ahmed] Harun has been interrogated about the allegations, and there is no case,’ said Interior Minister Zubeir Bashir Taha, a senior Cabinet minister who also oversees Darfur. ‘The evidence does not stand scrutiny, and whether it does or not, it is a matter for Sudan to decide and act upon. The [ICC] prosecutor has no jurisdiction here. He is an intruder.”
Such outrageous defiance of international justice is nothing new for Khartoum, but certainly gives us a much better sense of what the new UN Secretary-General is prepared to ignore in the name of “realism,” and just what, as a “man of action,” he is and is not prepared to do. As the Associated Press dispatch also appropriately notes:
“While court officials steer clear of telling the UN how to push Sudan into cooperating with the court, the Security Council could impose sanctions on Khartoum for not arresting the suspects. In his meeting with Ban, ‘Moreno-Ocampo very strongly emphasized that the UN has a responsibility legally and also morally to make the fight against impunity more than a concept. To make it a reality by helping to enforce the court’s decisions,’ Le Fraper said.” [ ]
“This issue is particularly important, ‘because at [an upcoming] conference they want to address humanitarian issues and one of the indictees [Ahmed Harun] is (Sudan’s) humanitarian affairs minister,’ said Le Fraper.”
As it has for the past four and a half years, expediency rules the day within the UN Secretariat, at least in confronting Khartoum’s brutal security cabal. Ban has clearly calculated that there is no chance for a sanctions resolution in the Security Council because of Chinese opposition—despite the enormity of the atrocity crimes committed by Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Haroun and the Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb. And he realizes the subject is extraordinarily sensitive for Khartoum (Ahmed could easily implicate much more senior members of the National Islamic Front regime in genocidal acts if he found himself in The Hague). The predictable result is silence, which in turn encourages Khartoum to defy the ICC even more brazenly. This is prosecutor Ocampo’s point:
“Countries that are members of the ICC must also do more on the issue, [Ocampo] said. ‘This is the law…. The state parties have to assume their responsibilities,’ he said. ‘In four years, the court has become operational, more mature. We want to go farther, we have to get more support. We need consistency.'”
“‘[Current Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed] Haroun displaced these people [primarily Fur people of West Darfur], and now he controls them,’ said Moreno-Ocampo, adding that ‘concentration camps’ have resulted. ‘It was not a tsunami’ but people who have caused the humanitarian crisis in the region, he said. ‘Executing the law will help to solve the situation,’ he said. ‘If not, we’re encouraging the hardliners.'” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: The Hague], September 3, 2007)
What Ocampo fails to understand is that the regime is made up entirely of “hardliners.” The calculus of survival is different for different members of the regime—but there are no “moderate voices,” none motivated by anything but a desire to perpetuate the NIF’s ruthless arrogation of national wealth and power. Different strategies and tactics do not make for “moderation,” and all within the regime realize that they must “hang together or hang separately.”
To be sure, the most egregious hypocrisy is that of the Security Council, which in March 2005 referred the investigation of atrocity crimes in Darfur to the ICC and yet is now unwilling to see the results of the ICC investigation supported. But this only gives us a clearer view of Ban’s deference to the threat of a Security Council veto by China (likely accompanied by Russia), and the hopeless paralysis of the Security Council on Sudan overall.
“I am a realist, a man of action,” Ban Ki-moon says. “I believe in results.” “Realism,” “action,” “results”—the fine language of pragmatism, put in the disgraceful service of disingenuousness and expediency.
ACCELERATING VIOLENCE IN DARFUR: CONSEQUENCES FOR CIVILIANS AND HUMANITARIANS
The newest “Darfur Humanitarian Profile” (Number 28) from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] has now appeared (http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/LSGZ-76RGXG?OpenDocument), representing conditions as of July 1, 2007 (and thus inevitably failing to capture a number of disturbing developments of the past two months). The lead paragraph on the section given over to “Protection” begins:
“The Government of Sudan military attacks with support from their [Arab militia] proxies against non-signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement have continued. Of particular concern were the reports of renewed air attacks on villages in the Dar Zaghawa area, North Darfur. The latest bombings have left civilians in the region highly traumatized. Many told the UN that ‘the biggest threat [to their lives and livelihoods] now comes from the air.’ Families have fled their homes and are living in the surrounding hills and wadis, without adequate shelter and water supplies. The risk of air attacks has also caused the closure of health posts and schools. Women collect water only at night, fearing targeted day-time aerial raids on water points.”
For those who doubt that genocide still continues in Darfur, it might be useful to reflect on the fact that women—ethnically non-Arab or African women—are reduced to collecting water only at night because of the deliberate bombing of water points during daylight. There is no commodity more precious in Darfur, and Khartoum is deliberately targeting, on an ethnic basis, vital sources of water with its aerial military assets.
In a subsequent section on Child Protection, Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 28 (hereafter DHP 28) reports on the fate of many newly displaced persons. UN OCHA now estimates that “since the beginning of 2007, 248,414 persons have been newly displaced or re-displaced in Darfur,” overwhelmingly because of violence (UN OCHA fact sheet, August 28, 2007). This figure, especially given it precision, reflects a census method that undoubtedly misses many of the displaced. But DHP 28 notes of the especially violent regions of South Darfur:
“UNICEF has responded immediately to provide emergency support to the newly displaced people in South Darfur, mostly women and children, following a wave of violence that has involved grave child and human rights violations. UNICEF and [nongovernmental humanitarian organization] partners have focused on assessing the situation of families, especially the families recently arrived in al Salam IDP camp. Over 90% of these families were headed by women. Children have been exposed to many grave violations, including killing and injury. Many children have arrived unaccompanied, girls have been raped, often repeatedly, and other children are missing. In addition, the families have reported dead and missing fathers.”
This description ominously echoes the reports from the most violent phase of the Darfur genocide, February 2003 through early 2005. And though violence now is more chaotic—increasingly involving internecine rebel fighting, fighting among Arab groups, and a general increase in banditry and warlordism—Khartoum’s response remains savagely indiscriminate:
“Heavy fighting in southern Darfur has killed scores of rebels and government forces over the past week, and the Sudanese air force has bombed several villages, rebels and international observers in Darfur reported Thursday [August 9, 2007].” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], August 9, 2007)
In greater detail, Amnesty International reported recently:
“Aerial attacks by the Government of Sudan on civilians in Darfur continue, with the UN reporting air attacks in North Darfur at the end of June . Thousands of displaced villagers have fled the Jebel Moon/Sirba area in West Darfur after renewed attacks on areas under control of armed opposition groups by government of Sudan forces supported by Janjawid. Local people said that helicopters brought in arms to the government and Janjawid forces. In South Darfur a Sudanese government Antonov aircraft carried out bombing raids following a 2 August  attack by the opposition Justice and Equality Movement on the town of Adila, targeting villages and water points. Since then there have been a number of Sudanese government Antonov bombing raids on Ta’alba, near the town of Adila, and on 13 August  the villages of Habib Suleiman and Fataha were bombed.” (Amnesty International, August 24, 2007, News Service No. 161)
Such reports have continued steadily throughout August. Here it is important to understand that whether or not rebel fighters are actually present in the villages attacked, Khartoum’s aerial bombing attacks are inevitably indiscriminate, i.e. by virtue of technical and targeting limitations, these attacks simply cannot discriminate between combatants and civilians. All such attacks, then, are ipso facto serious violations of international law, and may well constitute crimes against humanity.
Despite such indisputable realities, China, Russia, and other countries continue to ship weapons to Khartoum, knowing that the regime will use these weapons in Darfur despite a UN arms embargo. The same Amnesty International report notes:
“The Sudanese government is continuing to deploy offensive military equipment in Darfur despite the UN arms embargo and peace agreements. ‘The Sudanese government is still deploying weapons into Darfur in breathtaking defiance of the UN arms embargo and Darfur peace agreements. Once again Amnesty International calls on the UN Security Council to act decisively to ensure the embargo is effectively enforced, including by the placement of UN observers at all ports of entry in Sudan and Darfur,’ said Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s Arms Control Research Manager.”
“The [new] photographs, sent to Amnesty International and the International Peace Information Service in Antwerp by eyewitnesses in Darfur, reinforce evidence provided in Amnesty International’s May 2007 report ‘Sudan: Arms continuing to fuel serious human rights violations in Darfur.'”
Amnesty pointedly notes one of the key shortcomings in the mandate of the “hybrid” UN/AU force, a shortcoming that China did much to ensure:
“On 31 July 2007, the UN Security Council agreed through resolution 1769 to send a newly strengthened African Union-United Nations hybrid force to Darfur, but the resolution fails to provide peacekeepers with the mandate to disarm or demobilize government-backed Janjawid militia and the Darfur armed opposition groups. ‘If weapons continue to flow into Darfur and peacekeepers are not given the power to disarm and demobilize all armed opposition groups and Janjawid militia, the ability of the new peacekeeping force to protect civilians will be severely impeded,’ said Erwin van der Borght, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Program. ‘For a peacekeeping operation in Darfur to have any chance of success, the UN Security Council must ensure that the arms embargo on Darfur is fully and effectively enforced and that peacekeepers are mandated to disarm or demobilize government-backed Janjawid militia and Darfuri armed opposition groups,’ said van der Borght.”
Disgracefully, in the face of this detailed chronicle of violence in Darfur, Ban nonetheless declared while in el-Fasher that “security [in Darfur] was improving” (Associated Press [dateline: el-Fasher, North Darfur], September 5, 2007)—a generalization that simply cannot be made to comport with the facts at hand, but which will play exceedingly well in Khartoum.
All too predictably, Ban Ki-moon’s trip to Sudan did not address the key issues for the deploying “hybrid” force raised by Amnesty International. The Secretary-General was content with the vaguest of exhortations and promises concerning deployment. But whenever consequential numbers of forces deploy to Darfur—perhaps sometime in 2008—they will soon discover the price of a Secretary-General who is content to declare as a “plan” his vague hope that “peacekeepers [be] deployed quickly and effectively.” This is, of course, a critical goal; but it is not a plan or a strategy. Ban’s fatuous celebration of al-Bashir’s promise to him—“‘[al-Bashir] told me he will do everything to help the mission logistically'”—is simply extraordinary, given Khartoum’s relentless obstruction of the African Union force to date, and the regime’s equally relentless harassment and impeding of humanitarian efforts in Darfur.
We must hope at least that Ban is more capable of comprehending Darfur’s vast humanitarian crisis than he is at discerning Khartoum’s contemptuous mendacity.
DARFUR HUMANITARIAN OVERVIEW, HIGHLIGHTS
In a telling overview of the Darfur crisis, UN Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Margareta Wahlstrom recently pointed to an unprecedented decline in the humanitarian situation:
“[Wahlstrom] says the humanitarian situation in Sudan’s western Darfur region is worsening,” and that “the problems have grown even more critical in the past few months.”
“Wahlstrom says aid workers are concerned that malnutrition is on the rise in Darfur. She says several surveys indicate that, in certain areas, about one-in-five people (17 percent) are malnourished. Wahlstrom says there is a lean season every year in Darfur, but she says aid workers have never seen this pattern of decline. ‘With a huge effort of the international and humanitarian community, from 2004 the situation stabilized from a health and nutritional perspective,’ she said. ‘So this is the first time we see the potential of a deterioration for which we are very worried, and we put this in the context of the very unstable situation.'” (Voice of America [dateline: New York], August 31, 2007)
The need for all humanitarian resources to be deployed to maximum efficiency could not be clearer. And yet, in an especially revealing moment during his time in Sudan, Ban Ki-moon revealed that “he had unsuccessfully raised the issue of the government’s expulsion last week of Paul Barker, the director in Sudan of the international aid agency CARE” (New York Times [dateline: Juba, South Sudan], September 5, 2007). Ban was forced to declare that al-Bashir had simply “reiterated the position of the Sudanese government,” viz. that the country director for a distinguished humanitarian organization that had operated in Sudan for more than 25 years was being expelled for “espionage.” In fact, a range of sources make clear that Barker was guilty only of assessing security threats to CARE’s humanitarian workers in the field—a grim but critically necessary task in light of ongoing insecurity that has claimed the lives of more than a dozen humanitarian workers over the past year (four between April and June of this year). Khartoum’s expulsion of Barker was a clear and deliberate threat to humanitarian organizations: “you too will face expulsions, harassment, or curtailment of your life-saving activities if you speak too honestly about the security crisis in Darfur.”
But only the courageous, indeed heroic actions of organizations such as CARE sustain the lives of millions of Darfuris now acutely at risk. The figure for conflict-affected persons in Darfur—those in need of humanitarian assistance—has hovered between 4.1 and 4.2 million in the Darfur Humanitarian Profiles for this year. This very likely understates the number (particularly among nomadic Arab groups) and excludes the figure of 700,000 that OCHA uses for the conflict-affected population of Eastern Chad. Approximately 2.5 million have been uprooted from their homes—more (and perhaps many more) than 2.2 million as Internally Displaced Persons, another 250,000 as refugees in Chad.
Ominously, the number of humanitarian workers in Darfur continues to decline, even as human needs are greater than ever. There are 2,630 fewer aid workers in Darfur now compared with April 2006—a decline in staff of 18%. At the same time, access continues to be severely curtailed and the quality of humanitarian interventions has deteriorated. DHP 28 notes that,
“The combination of armed clashes and attacks on humanitarians has had a devastating effect on humanitarian access and the quality of humanitarian interventions. Overland humanitarian field visits have been reduced as a result of many hijackings and road ambushes and have frequently been replaced by quick in-and-out air missions.”
At the same time, many of those who are conflict-affected have no resources. The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reports on an increasingly common phenomenon, as continuing displacement overwhelms camp capacity, and Khartoum blocks the building of new camps:
“Displaced people living in squalid shelters on the fringes of an official displacement camp in Sudan’s North Darfur region lack relief services as the official camp is full. Efforts by a visiting British official this week to persuade local authorities to open a new site to accommodate the overflow of Al Salaam camp near El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state, failed.”
“Dozens of displaced families said they came here about 14 months ago from villages in North Darfur, fleeing renewed fighting in the region, but were not allowed to settle in the Al Salam camp proper, which already hosts 50,000 IDPs.” (IRIN [dateline: el-Fasher], July 20, 2007)
But greatest concern is now focusing on violence in and around the camps for Internally Displaced Persons, cauldrons of rage and despair that are increasingly awash in weapons. The threat of explosive violence draws ever nearer as these camps loom as the next “front line” in Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency war:
“Camps teeming with frustrated refugees in Sudan’s Darfur region have become militarised and present a danger that cannot be ignored, a UN official was quoted as saying on Thursday [August 30, 2007]. The UN’s emergency relief coordinator, John Holmes, told the BBC the presence of weapons in the camps and the proximity of the Sudanese military outside refugee centres made for a potentially explosive situation.” (Reuters [dateline: London], August 30, 2007)
Indeed, there have been a number of violent attacks on displaced persons camps over the past two years (the terrible Janjaweed attack on Aro Sharow displaced persons camp in West Darfur occurred in September 2005). Most recently and dangerously, the giant Kalma camp outside Nyala (South Darfur) was the scene of a potentially deadly confrontation, with significant consequences for the peace process:
“A government raid on Darfur’s volatile Kalma camp raised tensions in Sudan’s remote west ahead of peace talks, as insurgents accused Khartoum of trying to force people to leave the camps housing some 2 million people. [ ] Rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) official Ahmed Abdel Shafie said the attack on Kalma camp was a ‘clear indication’ Khartoum was not serious about talks and was pursuing a military solution to the conflict.”
“A spokesman for Kalma camp, Abu Sharrad, denied any of those arrested were involved in the attacks on police. Sharrad said camp residents would demonstrate every day until those arrested were released under UN auspices. Sharrad told Reuters on Wednesday [August 22, 2007] six people were injured during the police operations and 30 were arrested. ‘They destroyed six tents and arrested 30 people and looted 175 houses,’ he said. ‘The forces were from the police, army and border intelligence.'”
“He criticised African Union forces, which have 7,000 troops and police monitoring a shaky Darfur ceasefire. ‘We told both the United Nations and the African Union what was happening yesterday and they did not come for seven hours after the event,’ he said, adding the AU only stayed a short while because the camp was still full of tear gas.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum] August 22, 2007)
The trigger for outright conflict and pitched battles—between Khartoum’s regular military, as well as paramilitary forces, and those with weapons in the camps—is likely to be the regime’s effort to compel displaced persons to return to their villages without adequate security:
“Reports from Darfur suggest that the Sudanese government wants those who fled violence to return to their villages. But many people in the camps fear they will be attacked if they try to go back, and say they will instead seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Aid workers have been pressurised to help in sending villagers home, but UN officials maintain that many areas are not safe to return to.” (The Telegraph (UK) [dateline: Darfur], September 2, 2007)
Even so, Khartoum is making clear preparations for forced returns of displaced persons, a longstanding ambition. Reuters reports ([dateline: Khartoum], July 31, 2007) that “almost daily, state-owned media are reporting that 30 or even 40 percent of Darfuris in camps are going back home.” More recently Reuters reports that the percentage of returnees claimed by Khartoum has gone up: “The government has declared Darfur safe for people to return home and has said some 45 percent of those in camps have gone back” (Reuters [dateline: Otash camp, South Darfur], August 18, 2007). This deliberate misrepresentation prepares the way for drastically reduced camp populations, no matter how violent the means of reduction. The motive is clear to rebel leader Ahmed Abdel Shafie: “Khartoum [is] trying to empty the camps to lessen international attention on the conflict” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], August 22, 2007).
Compounding this already highly dangerous situation is the steady seizure of non-Arab or African farms and land by Arab groups from Chad, Niger, and elsewhere in Sudan:
“The United Nations’ special envoy to Sudan’s embattled Darfur region said in Khartoum that land-grabbing has created a ‘a ticking bomb.’ Envoy Jan Eliasson told Voice of America frustration, tension and anger were mounting in refugee camps. [ ] ‘Also due to the fact that many of the villages are being reoccupied by people who do not own that land … this is like a ticking bomb,’ Eliasson said. ‘We need to stop that process and instead move to the political talks, which in turn would mean the beginning of normalization of the situation on the ground.'” (United Press International [dateline: Khartoum], September 4, 2007)
But there is no evidence of restraint on the part of either Khartoum or those Arab groups orchestrating the seizure of African tribal lands and villages. The Independent (UK) reported on July 14, 2007:
“Arabs from Chad and Niger are crossing into Darfur in ‘unprecedented’ numbers, prompting claims that the Sudanese government is trying systematically to repopulate the war- ravaged region. An internal UN report, obtained by The Independent, shows that up to 30,000 Arabs have crossed the border in the past two months. Most arrived with all their belongings and large flocks. They were greeted by Sudanese Arabs who took them to empty villages cleared by government and janjaweed forces.”
“One UN official said the process ‘appeared to have been well planned.’ The official continued: ‘This movement is very large. We have not seen such numbers come into west Darfur before.'” [ ]
“‘Most have been relocated by Sudanese Arabs to former villages of IDPs (internally displaced people) and more or less invited to stay there,’ said the UN official [from the UN High Commission for Refugees]. The arrivals have been issued with official Sudanese identity cards and awarded citizenship, and analysts say that by encouraging Arabs from Chad, Niger and other parts of Sudan to move to Darfur the Sudanese government is making it ‘virtually impossible’ for displaced people to return home.”
The Independent also notes that these demographic ambitions could spark extremely dangerous new violence:
“If Khartoum is moving Arabs from abroad to replace them, diplomats fear that Darfur rebels may try to remove them forcibly. ‘It could be quite explosive,’ said one western diplomat. ‘It is a very serious situation.'”
As noted above, all this comes at a time when UN Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Margareta Wahlstrom has pointed to an unprecedented decline in the humanitarian situation:
“‘[Wahlstrom] says the humanitarian situation in Sudan’s western Darfur region is worsening,’ [and that] ‘the problems have grown even more critical in the past few months.'”
“Wahlstrom says aid workers are concerned that malnutrition is on the rise in Darfur. She says several surveys indicate that, in certain areas, about one-in-five people (17 percent) are malnourished. Wahlstrom says there is a lean season every year in Darfur, but she says aid workers have never seen this pattern of decline.”
Associated Press ([dateline: New York], August 31, 2007) also reports on Wahlstrom’s concerns, particularly malnutrition:
“[Wahlstrom] said 18 spot surveys by UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations in the three Darfur provinces all found that for the first time in three years the number of malnutrition cases has increased beyond the emergency threshold of 15 percent to ‘well over 17 percent being detected in some areas.’ [ ] ‘This is the first time we see the potential for a deterioration which we are very worried’ about, she said.”
These conclusions should be seen in the context of even more troubling data from UNICEF. The most recent “Darfur Nutrition Update,” Issue 9 (DNU-9) from UNICEF (covering the period May-June 2007), contains a number of ominous findings from the six sites surveyed (the report is available at http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/SJHG-75NA95?OpenDocument). Perhaps most significantly, DNU-9 finds that “Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates exceeded the emergency threshold of 15 percent (ranging from 17.2 to 30.4 percent) in all six [sites surveyed].”
“Mortality rates in two surveys (Otash Camp and Kass in South Darfur) were above alert levels for both under-5 [year-olds] and crude mortality [for the entire population]. The primary identified cause of death were reported as diarrhoea (watery and bloody) and Acute Respiratory Infection.”
“Admissions into Therapeutic Feeding Centres across Great Darfur continue to increase, almost doubling compared to the last two months and higher than those reported during the same period in 2006.”
Mortality implications are equally grim. In Kass town, the morality rate for children under five was reported by UNICEF as 4.42/10,000/day. In April 2006 UN OCHA estimated the conflict-affected population in the Kass area to be almost 200,000. Assuming that the under-five population in the region is approximately 10 percent of total population, and thus approximately 20,000, this represents well over 200 excess deaths per month. More than 200 children dying every month, in one location, from conflict-generated causes. Kass may be worse than many other locations, but it is not likely to be so for long. Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 28 concludes on a note that finds no echo in the absurdly contrived optimism of Ban Ki-moon:
“The humanitarian situation in Darfur has never looked as bleak as now. The numbers of Internally Displaced Persons are at the highest level ever, whilst there are good reasons to assume that these will continue to rise over the next few months, given the continuous new displacements triggered by wide-spread violence and insecurity. The camps are packed, the rainy season is adding to the misery of the internally displaced people, and some people who have fled their villages are arriving in appalling conditions after weeks in the bush. At the same time, the four years of conflict have seriously drained the coping mechanisms of the non-displaced, resulting in ever-increasing number of people in need of external aid.”
“For the first time since late 2004, malnutrition in many camps is above the emergency threshold. The humanitarian community, itself victim of continuous targeted attacks, is struggling to cope.”
Not included in this extraordinarily bleak conclusion is the terrible fate of the people of Eastern Chad, both Darfuri refugees as well as Chadian internally displaced persons and host communities, who suffer from ever greater deprivation and violence. This past June Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres sounded a clear and urgent warning:
“In [eastern] Chad 150,000 IDPs are caught up in a growing humanitarian crisis. Although an MSF survey has confirmed the emergency situation, assistance is still largely insufficient and MSF is coming up against numerous obstacles to increasing its activities. In eastern Chad, repeated deadly attacks on villages over the past 18 months have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Grouped together in camps where security is not always guaranteed, they live in basic huts and lack food, water and access to medical care.”
“Epicentre, MSF’s research and epidemiological survey centre, carried out a survey at the end of May in the camps around Goz Beida. This survey revealed that one child in five was suffering from acute malnutrition and that the mortality rates from March 30 to May 20, 2007, were catastrophic.” (“While attention is focused on Darfur, an emergency situation is unfolding in eastern Chad,” June 8, 2007)
The “realism” that Ban Ki-moon celebrates in himself must include an ability to absorb and respond meaningfully to such realities. On his present mission to Sudan, Ban gives little indication that he is the man he claims to be.