With much talk about the “moment of truth” having arrived, the UN and African Union convened Darfur peace talks in Sirte, Libya on October 27, 2007. But all too predictably, no progress was recorded and prospects for future negotiations are unclear. There were many reasons for the failure in Sirte, and much more effective work must be done by the mediators if talks resuming in a new venue are to yield results. Key rebel leaders did not show up, as various internal divisions persisted, including tensions between commanders on the ground and political leaders abroad. Many rebels also doubt the good faith and impartiality of the UN and AU, given the nature of their dealings with Khartoum. Issues of representation remain vexed, and Darfuris in the camps and civil society were largely unrepresented, ensuring that the voices of those suffering most would be unheard.
Moreover, the choice of venue was disastrous. Libya’s Muamar Gadaffi, who has for decades fomented violence on both sides of the Darfur/Chad border, poisoned the atmosphere early on, and gained instant notoriety for suggesting that the Darfur genocide was “a quarrel over a camel.” His further suggestion that the catastrophe in Darfur was merely a tribal issue, and his consequent resistance to international protection efforts, played directly into Khartoum’s negotiating hand. There can be little doubt of how foolish UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in accepting Khartoum’s proposal of Libya as venue for the talks, the more so since Ban was warned by well-informed policy, human rights, and humanitarian groups before traveling to Sudan in early September that the regime would likely propose Libya, and that accepting this proposal would be a grave mistake.
But the most disturbing consequence of the collapse of the Sirte talks is the boost it gives to Khartoum, which appeared with a full delegation (including Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, the brutal and powerful presidential advisor who now handles the Darfur file for the regime), and proceeded to indulge in fulsome talk about being prepared to make peace. Knowing full well that there would be no adequate or coherent rebel representation, the regime clearly saw this as the perfect opportunity for a significant propaganda victory.
In turn, the consequences of an emboldened Khartoum are powerfully amplified by a growing shift in China’s policy toward the Darfur crisis—from an effort of some months to exert very modest pressure on the regime to accept UN and African Union peacekeepers to a present posture of unqualified support for a defiant Khartoum. This is especially true on the key issue of the composition of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). While the UN has proposed a well-considered, and predominantly African, roster of international forces to make up the 26,000 troops and civilian police authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1769 (July 31, 2007), Khartoum has refused to accept the roster, and China alone of major diplomatic players is supporting the regime in this obstructionism. As recently as November 9, 2007, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted yet again that Khartoum has failed to accept the proposed civilian police and security personnel—more than three months after Resolution 1769, and a year after discussions of such a force were begun in Addis Ababa.
China is again supporting Khartoum without qualification despite other forms of obstructionism by the regime, including the refusal to grant land necessary for housing UNAMID forces; denying landing rights for critically important heavy transport aircraft; denying adequate port access; refusing to guarantee unrestricted flights; and refusing to guarantee reporting independence for monitors and other personnel. These forms of obstructionism are detailed in a recent Amnesty International report (see below), as well as by a number of UN officials. In turn, that China has moved into a diplomatic posture much more accommodating of Khartoum’s intransigence and defiance is a conclusion supported by several well-placed and highly authoritative sources. Arab League support is similarly accommodating of Khartoum’s genocidal impulses, though less consequentially at the UN Security Council and in Western capitals.
Assured of Beijing’s adamant and unstinting opposition to any sanctions measures targeting Khartoum, the regime feels increasingly confident that it will not face serious consequences for its actions in Darfur. The collapse of talks in Sirte allows the regime to claim that it has no interlocutor from the rebel side, and in fact rebel leaders have taken an unconscionably long time in overcoming their various differences. The opportunities for propaganda are irresistible. Thus despite Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e’s loudly announcing a unilateral cease-fire on the opening day of the peace talks, Khartoum launched Antonov bombing attacks on civilian and rebel targets in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur the following day (October 28, 2007). Despite public denials, the regime has not denied these attacks in confidential conversations with both the UN and the AU—and yet neither body has condemned the bombings, serving further to convince the rebels that there is a fundamental lack of even-handedness on the part of the mediators. (If Khartoum is denying the AU access to the targets of this egregious violation of its self-proclaimed cease-fire, then at the very least that fact should be made public.)
Even more seriously, following the opening of the Sirte talks the regime has continued its longstanding and brutal campaign to shut down camps in South Darfur and ultimately throughout Darfur. This has included the violent, forced relocation of many hundreds of civilians (primarily women and children) from Otash camp near Nyala, capital of South Darfur. John Holmes, UN humanitarian coordinator, reported that Khartoum used trucks protected by machine-guns, security personnel wielding rubber hoses and sticks, as well as other threats to force people to leave. Outrageously, for daring to object to this policy, the top UN humanitarian official for South Darfur, Wael al-Haj Ibrahim, was expelled from the region by regime officials and forced—on threat of physical seizure—to return to Khartoum. Al-Haj Ibrahim became the 11th humanitarian aid worker expelled from Sudan this year and the second from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. As Reuters reports ([dateline: Khartoum], November 8, 2007):
“The expulsion of the top UN humanitarian official from South Darfur will hinder efforts to provide aid to some 1 million aid-dependent Darfuris by removing a key member of the aid team, [humanitarian aid] officials said on Thursday [November 8, 2007].” [ ]
“‘The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] plays a very important role in South Darfur assisting the government, NGOs, UN agencies and donors to coordinate assistance for up to 1 million displaced,’ said OCHA spokeswoman Orla Clinton. ‘It is very important to ensure a consistent and timely response. We cannot afford to have gaps at this critical time,’ she said adding, ‘We fully support our head of OCHA.'”
“A source in the aid community in Khartoum said al-Haj Ibrahim’s departure was a major blow for the South Darfur operation as many young and inexperienced aid workers relied on his guidance in dangerous working conditions. UN figures show seven aid workers died last month in Darfur, the highest monthly death toll in almost 18 months.”
It is clear that the motive for al-Haj Ibrahim’s expulsion was his refusal to acquiesce in Khartoum’s policy of forced returns of displaced persons, which is the necessary first step in ultimately dismantling the camps altogether (see below):
“Late last month [October 2007], UN officials said they had evidence that Sudanese government forces were chasing the refugees out of at least one camp, Otash, home to 60,000 people on the outskirts of Nyala. The Aegis Trust, a British-based organization which works to prevent genocide and has offices in Africa, said the UN was warned by the [Khartoum-appointed] governor [of South Darfur] last week that if UN officials opposed the dismantling of camps, he would ensure that those officials were expelled. James Smith, the Aegis Trust’s chief executive, said Wednesday [November 7, 2007] that Ibrahim ‘was forced out essentially because he did his job so well.'” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], November 8, 2007)
While an official of Khartoum’s grotesquely misnamed “Humanitarian Aid Commission” in South Darfur declared that al-Haj Ibrahim “was inciting Internally Displaced Persons and the people against the government,” Reuters reports: “A Reuters witness had seen al-Haj Ibrahim in 2006 working to calm hundreds of enraged Darfuris during a riot in Kalma camp and to protect a Sudanese aid worker who had been accused of mistranslating during a demonstration” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], November 8, 2007)
Finally, a range of reports—from Amnesty International and military sources—continue to indicate that Khartoum is massing its regular and paramilitary forces in North Darfur, particularly near Kutum (northwest of el-Fasher). Coupled with bombing attacks such as those in Jebel Moon and assaults on camps for displaced persons (see below), it is clear that Khartoum’s “cease-fire” declaration is wholly propagandistic.
A FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH
A fundamental truth governs the vast human catastrophe in Darfur and in many ways the growing crisis in Eastern Chad. For China’s increasingly callous and unqualified support for Khartoum reproduces yet again a grim logic: so long as the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) regime feels that it will not be subject to serious pressure for sustaining a terrible genocide by attrition, it will act as it has in recent days and weeks—and months. Absent any threat of sanctions, or pressure from China, the chaotic status quo will settle more deeply over Darfur. That this is, as Human Rights Watch has recently reported, “chaos by design” (http://hrw.org/reports/2007/sudan0907/) must remain the most salient feature in any account of human suffering and destruction in Darfur. Khartoum’s strategy of inciting ethnic violence, even among Arab tribal groups; of harassing and obstructing humanitarian relief; of transferring lands from non-Arab or African tribal groups to Arab groups; of violating the UN arms embargo and arming militia groups to fight civilians and one another; and of undertaking a longer-term policy of forcing the collapse of camps for displaced persons—these are the current tools of the National Islamic Front gnocidaires.
Any account of this broader effort is inevitably inflected by the role of China, and the cynical calculation by Bejing that it has done enough in its public relations effort to defend itself from the charge that it will be hosting the “Genocide Olympics” in August 2008. The signs of impunity on the part of Khartoum are everywhere, and this sense of impunity governs the regime’s actions towards humanitarian operations, toward the badly belated UNAMID force, toward international mediation, and—most consequentially—toward the people of Darfur. If China is not moved to engage much more constructively on Darfur, “chaos by design” will continue to be Khartoum’s larger genocidal strategy in the region.
CONSEQUENCES OF IMPUNITY
 Attacks on camps for displaced persons:
Overshadowed by reporting on the Sirte talks, and more recently by the distracting sideshow of “Zo’s Ark” in Chad, are the terrible conditions and increasing violence that define the lives of people in camps for displaced persons. Journalists on the ground and UN officials report that Khartoum is orchestrating attacks on camps for displaced persons as well as the involuntary relocation of these acutely vulnerable civilians. Such actions threaten to disperse hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, with the potential for catastrophic mortality. Denied the humanitarian resources and limited physical security of the camps, many within this vast population will likely be without food, water, or primary medical care. The most vulnerable will die quickly. Given the counter-insurgency logic that has governed the actions of the Khartoum regime, a new front line extending to displaced camps would constitute a grim “final solution.”
The camps themselves are already cauldrons of rage and despair, and increasingly awash in weapons. The African Union (AU) force in Darfur long ago gave up trying to maintain a meaningful police presence, and access for humanitarian organizations is increasingly limited because of insecurity. Inter-ethnic violence and political tensions that have simmered in recent months are now unconstrained in many camps, as traditional leaders—the omdas and sheiks—lose influence to men with guns. Power increasingly shifts to rebel infiltrators and young men frustrated to the point of violence by boredom, powerlessness, and continual threats to their families by the Janjaweed.
But actual assaults on the camps—which are sprawling, unprotected conglomerations of human habitation scattered over areas as large as three square miles—will result in explosively deadly confrontations. Such attacks, as well as forced relocation, are not without precedent. Two years ago, the Janjaweed attacked Aro Sharow camp in West Darfur, killing many and displacing the entire population of 5,000 IDPs. Last October the Janjaweed attacked a number of civilian settlements in the Jebel Moon area, including an IDP camp housing 3,500 people. There have been other such attacks, but the current situations in camps near Nyala, and the al-Hamidiya camp in West Darfur, are most threatening and give the clearest indication of how desperately belated international intervention in Darfur is.
Eyewitnesses in Kalma camps report that many scores of shacks have been burned, and many civilians have been shot and killed. Camps in other volatile areas are at acute risk of similarly deadly assaults. Even the threat of violence may spark massive dispersals.
On October 21, 2007, the UN Mission in Sudan News Bulletin reported:
“Following the killing of a member of the Border Intelligence [into which a great many of the Janjaweed have been recycled] by displaced persons on 20 October  in Hamidiya Internally Displaced Persons camp in Zalingei [West Darfur], Sudan Armed Forces [Khartoum’s regular military forces] surrounded the camp the same day and started shooting toward the camp.”
In short, despite an overwhelming population of defenseless women and children in al-Hamidiya camp for displaced persons, Khartoum directed automatic weapons fire into the camp.
The same UN Mission News Bulletin reported, also in West Darfur:
“On 18 October 2007, it was reported that the population of Bir Dagig is being displaced to Kondobe and Sirba villages. Reportedly, 200 households were displaced to Sirba, 450 to Kondobe, while 150 families remain in Bir Dagig and are seeking support from international agencies to organize their relocation. The displacement is seen as a preventive measure in anticipation of an attack in retaliation for the murder of an Arab man on 17 October  in Bir Dagig by unknown armed men.”
The viciousness of the attack by Khartoum’s regular forces on al-Hamidiya camp for displaced persons, and the overwhelming fear forcing the flight of some 800 families (perhaps 4,000 people) from Bir Dagig, serve as an indictment of both the National Islamic Front regime and the international community that has allowed so many people to live in such extraordinary insecurity. Without protection in the near term, this sort of violence and fear will continue to define the lives of over 2 million Darfuris in camps, and many hundreds of thousands of other civilians affected by conflict (the total conflict-affected population in Darfur according to the UN is approximately 4.2 million).
And yet Khartoum continues to delay and obstruct deployment of the UN/AU force whose mandate is precisely to protect people in places such as Bir Dagig and al-Hamidiya camp. Again and again we must ask, How can this regime defy the international community and delay deployment of a UN-authorized force with such impunity? And in answering this question, there is no more consequential consideration than Beijing’s policy of “non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries”—a policy that is hardening, not softening on Darfur.
 Khartoum’s strategy of forced relocation and dismantling of camps for the displaced:
Humanitarian workers have long feared that Khartoum would dismantle camps for displaced persons, and force these people to return to villages where there is no security. As long ago as July 2004 Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, warned that the Janjaweed were continuing to destroy food sources in rural areas, especially in the Jebel Marra region of West Darfur. Special Rapporteur Ziegler’s assessment was reported by the UN News Service:
“Calling for immediate action to stop armed militias destroying food and water sources in the violence-wracked Darfur region of Sudan, a United Nations rapporteur today urged the UN Commission on Human Rights to convene a special session on the situation in Darfur. Mr. Ziegler said Khartoum wanted to send people back to their homes even though [Janjaweed] militias have either destroyed, damaged or looted crops, agricultural areas, livestock and drinking water installations.” (UN News Service, [New York] July 9, 2004)
It was widely recognized at the time that if Khartoum’s policy of forcible returns were accepted, the number of immediately ensuing deaths would be huge:
“Humanitarian workers fear that a forcible mass return of some 1.2 million Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur could result in enormous fatalities.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, July 13, 2004)
There are currently double this number of Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur, as well as some 240,000 Darfuri refugees in Eastern Chad.
On August 8, 2004 (dateline: Nyala), The Independent (UK) reported:
“The Sudanese government has been accused of sending refugees back into the hands of the murderous Janjaweed militia. The Independent on Sunday has been given accounts of returnees being killed by gunmen—sometimes, it is claimed, in collusion with security forces. There is also evidence that the police have attacked village chiefs who have refused to lead their communities back home from refugee camps. Refugees also claim that [Khartoum’s] official agencies that have a part in distributing international aid are cutting back on rations in an effort to get inmates to leave the camps.”
“In the latest clash [at Kalma] last week, 42 people were arrested and one village sheikh, Abdullah Bashir Sabir, was severely injured. The [Khartoum] authorities say he was attacked after he tried to get people from his village to go back. But, according to people in the camp he was shot because he refused to comply with the authorities’ demands to take them home. His wife, Halima, said: ‘They shot him in the leg because he would not agree.'” (The Independent [dateline: Nyala], August 8, 2004)
It is true that the large-scale violent attacks and ethnic massacres in Darfur so frequent from early 2003 through early 2005 have diminished significantly, and that violence now is “anarchic.” Certainly there is indeed a “chaos by design” evident in much of Darfur; but organized violence against civilians continues as well, including civilians in camps. Jan Egeland, former UN humanitarian aid chief, declared just a year ago in his last report to the Security Council (November 22, 2006):
“Villages, camps and communities outside the urban centers of Darfur are again being burnt and looted. Women and children are abused, raped and killed with impunity. Just ten days ago the village of Sirba [West Darfur] saw three attacks by government forces and Arab militia that resulted in innocent civilians, mainly women and children, killed and injured.”
In January 2006, Christian Aid highlighted the violence against camps in the Mershing area of South Darfur:
“”There have recently been attacks by the government-backed militia, the Janjaweed, in the Mershing camps in South Darfur. The peacekeeping troops of the AU had promised to protect these camps last autumn. Armed Sudanese police are also located in the area. But neither these troops nor the police were able to stop these latest attacks. Around 90% of the people from Mershing’s eight camps, which hold 35,000 people, have fled and are understood to be sleeping in the open without water or security. Christian Aid’s partner, the Sudan Social Development Organisation, has a clinic in Mershing; all employees have been forced to leave the camp.” (Christian Aid press release, January 27, 2006)
Amplifying this account, the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reported (February 1, 2006):
“An estimated 70,000 people have been displaced by recent attacks on two towns in the war-ravaged Sudanese state of South Darfur, humanitarian workers in the region said. At least 50,000 were displaced in a series of attacks on camps for internally displaced people [IDPs] in Mershing town, while more than 15,000 were displaced in separate attacks on nearby Shearia. ‘Roughly 20,000 residents and up to 35,000 IDPs from Mershing have arrived in [the nearby town of] Menawashi,’ said [UN spokeswoman] Dawn Blalock on Wednesday [February 1, 2006].”
The purpose of attacks on camps for displaced persons is well captured in a recent account by Human Rights Watch of the violence at Kalma and Otash camps:
“The recent events are the latest in a long history of Sudanese government attempts to close Kalma camp, home to at least 90,000 people and one of the largest camps for displaced persons in Darfur. Most of the displaced people in the camps were victims of government and ‘Janjaweed’ militia attacks, and have no confidence in Sudanese government efforts to provide security. Many of the displaced people see the relocation efforts as an attempt to exert further control over their movements and cut off their access to Nyala town and to international aid workers.”
“‘While there are clearly problems with security in Kalma camp, many people feel safer there than in rural areas where they are extremely vulnerable to ongoing attacks and have no access to humanitarian assistance,’ said [Human Rights Watch Africa director, Peter] Takirambudde. ‘Rather than trying to dismantle the camps and forcibly relocate people, the government should cooperate with the African Union and UN to improve security in the camps.'”
(Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Cease Darfur Camp Evictions; Forced Relocations by Khartoum Violate International Law,” October 31, 2007)
But the force of this “should” is felt not at all in Khartoum, and the very historical account Human Rights Watch offers makes clear that dismantling the camps and forcibly relocating people is part of a larger, deliberately genocidal strategy. Far from “cooperating” with the African Union and UN to improve security, Khartoum is actively opposing deployment of UNAMID—and doing so with ample help from Beijing. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine China using its enormous leverage with Khartoum and not compelling a significant change in the regime’s response to UNAMID. Yet China refuses to do so, indeed has become even more supportive of Khartoum’s defiance. Beijing is evidently convinced that it will now pay no greater price for the intolerable contradiction posed by its hosting the premier event in international sports, the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and its complicity in the ultimate international crime of genocide.
 The Fate of UNAMID:
It is important to keep in mind both the history of the UNAMID force and the timetable that was nominally laid out in the authorizing UN Security Council Resolution (1769, July 31, 2007). In July 2006 the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations was tasked by then-Secretary General Kofi Annan with drawing up plans for an effective protection force for Darfur, capable also of working to seal the borders with Eastern Chad and Central African Republic in order to staunch the flow of genocidal violence (the terrible ensuing fate of Eastern Chad reveals how important such an effort would have been, even if only partially successful). The mission proposal was contained in UN Security Council Resolution 1706, passed on August 31, 2006. It called for deployment of 22,500 troops and civilian police, and if expeditiously and effectively deployed, such a force could have saved tens of thousands of lives and helped prevent descent into the far greater chaos that Darfur has witnessed over the past fourteen months.
China not only abstained in the critical vote on Resolution 1706, but insisted on language that “invited” the consent of Khartoum for deployment of the UN force. Given China’s insistence on the preeminent importance of Khartoum’s claim of national sovereignty, it was utterly predictable that the regime would resolutely decline the invitation. Bowing to the demands of Beijing and Khartoum, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, quickly abandoned any UN commitment to this essential Security Council action. Instead, beginning in November 2006 in Addis Ababa, the international community began an obscenely deferential diplomatic colloquy with Khartoum that lasted until April 2007, five months after talks began and seven months after passage of Resolution 1706, when the regime finally agreed “in principle” to a “hybrid” UN/AU force. It would take another three months for passage of Resolution 1769, authorizing the force that has come to be known as UNAMID.
The forces outlined in Resolutions 1706 and 1769 differ in critical ways. But perhaps most importantly, 1706 was passed when rebel divisions were still manageable, and the present chaos on the ground was much less threatening to a deploying force. The disastrous consequences of the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in Abuja (May 2006) had not yet fully played out, and the chances of insulating Eastern Chad from some of the worst ethnic violence were reasonable in some locations. None of this is true now. So while 1706 was to have established a “multidimensional presence” to “improve the security situation in the neighboring regions along the borders between the Sudan and Chad and between the Sudan and the Central African Republic,” nothing similar is contemplated in 1769, even with great manpower.
Also of critical importance is the change in mandate insisted upon by Khartoum, and supported by Beijing: unlike the force authorized by 1706, UNAMID has no mandate to disarm combatants, even bandits or armed elements directly threatening humanitarians or civilians. Nor is UNAMID authorized to confiscate weapons introduced into Darfur in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005), which imposed a total arms embargo for the entire region.
Most consequentially from the standpoint of the overall effectiveness of the force, UNAMID is to be an untested “hybrid” operation, combining the UN and AU in unprecedented ways that have left many issues unresolved. Issues of command-and-control in particular were finessed, not confronted—critical matters for many potential troop-contributing countries. 1769 declares that the force deploying will be predominantly African in character, but Khartoum has construed this to mean an all-African force, and has refused to accept the roster of countries that have offered troops, civilian police, and various specialists. Both the UN and African Union are in agreement about the needs of the mission, and the appropriateness of the roster—which was to have been settled by the end of August 2007. On November 9, 2007 the UN News Center reports that “the Sudanese government has not responded yet to the UN-AU submission of the [UNAMID] force’s composition, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, warning that delays to deployment will only exacerbate the humanitarian situation.”
What has gone largely unspoken is that the date of passage for 1769 should have been anticipated by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the African Union Peace and Security Council, and UN members who could reasonably expect to make contributions to the UNAMID force. None of this happened, and real planning efforts began only after passage of the resolution. This is one reason that more than 100 days after passage of 1769 Khartoum has had to do so little to forestall any meaningful deployment, although these efforts are all too conspicuous and suggest how resourceful the regime will be without pressure to cooperate from Beijing and other international actors.
The current refusal to accept the UN and AU roster of troops derives from an insistence that the only non-African countries it will permit are China, and Muslim Pakistan. Countries such as Uruguay, Thailand, Nepal, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands—indeed all Western countries—have been refused by Khartoum, despite the need for key technical capabilities that cannot be found in Africa, even as African personnel make up 95% of the infantry in the proposed roster.
UN and AU officials have repeatedly made clear that UNAMID will be set up for failure if required technical capabilities are not part of the mission. They have also made clear that not all African contributions meet UN peacekeeping standards (the African Union mission in Darfur had no common standards, and many troops arrived without any equipment whatsoever):
“[African Union military advisor] General [Henry] Anyidoho also cautioned that finding qualified troops might also pose a problem. He says a team of UN and AU experts will be visiting potential contributing countries in the next few weeks to ensure that the troops being offered are capable of operating in the harsh and hostile environment of Darfur. ‘For infantry units, at least about 90 percent of them have been pledged,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t mean those pledged are available. Because the process is still going on. We have to assess what they are capable of doing.'”
General Martin Agwai, overall UNAMD military commander, offered a further caution:
“We need a lot of armoured personnel carriers (APCs). [The African Union mission in Darfur] is a donor-driven mission—countries donate equipment that the troops are using. Under UNAMID, the UN system [will apply] a country comes with its own equipment and the UN leases the equipment. So we hope the countries that are coming will meet the UN standard. For example every battalion is supposed to come with a minimum of 18 APCs.” (Interview with Martin Agwai by allAfrica.com [dateline: Cape Town], November 6, 2007)
There is considerable reason for skepticism about the equipment of a number of battalions offered by various African nations.
Agwai in this same recent interview outlined his optimistic sense of what UNAMID could achieve in the seven weeks before the end of the year. He began, however, by noting that the current strength level of the African Union mission in Darfur, upon which UNAMID is to build, is typically mis-reported as “7,000 troops”:
“First of all, let me correct the notion—I don’t even have 6,000 troops on the ground. What we have is just a little bit over 5,000.”
One informed observer on the ground in Darfur notes that lower-level African Union officers report a recent increase of two large battalions (1,600 troops), as stipulated by Resolution 1769; but this has not been reliably confirmed, and would seem an oddly omitted development, given Agwai’s comments of November 6, 2007. Agwai himself puts the figure of troops that might be deployed by December 31, 2007 at “9,000 or 10,000, out of 20,000,” but this presumes a cooperation from Khartoum that is nowhere in sight. A doubling of force strength—from just over 5,000 troops to 10,000—would be an extraordinary logistical accomplishment, even as Khartoum continues to impose a great many obstacles to UNAMID logistics, including denying landing rights at key airports and even adequate port access at Port Sudan.
Agwai is honest about the static nature of deployment, and seems intent on lowering expectations about what his mission can achieve, given the repeated delays. And though Agwai is tactful about responsibility for the various missed deadlines that require a lowering of expectations, Khartoum’s defiance is readily apparent as the primary cause:
“One thing is clear it has to be a tripartite agreement—the AU, the UN and the host country, Sudan. Until those three agree, you can’t have a force, and as of now, I don’t think there has been an agreement. So apart from the current force we have on the ground, there is nothing new. That’s why I keep saying that expectations are far away from the reality. For example, going by the mandate of [Security Council Resolution] 1769, by the end of August we would have known the troop-contributing countries. We are in November—we don’t know. So we are already running far behind this plan. That’s why I keep on sounding a warning on expectations, expectations.”
We “don’t know” the UNAMID troop-contributing countries will be—on November 11, 2007—because Khartoum, emboldened by the Chinese, doesn’t feel compelled to accept the proposed UN/AU roster. Moreover, Agwai focuses in the interview on infantry troops, when the most critical element of UNAMID is likely to be civilian police. Civilian police certainly need fully adequate military protection, but properly deployed in the camps and urban areas that are most volatile, some of the most immediate threats to civilian and humanitarian security could be dramatically reduced—particularly Khartoum’s plan to dismantle camps and violently compel the return of internally displaced persons. And yet it is in the area of civilian police that African countries are particularly lacking, a striking feature of the current AU mission in Darfur. By refusing to accept the UN/AU roster of countries, Khartoum is denying a role for non-African countries that might contribute critically needed technical units as well as trained civilian police.
At the same time, UNAMID risks being crippled by the lack of transport and tactical helicopters and heavy ground transport resources. Here the militarily capable countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa (i.e., South Africa) have been scandalously laggard (although some have legitimate concerns about the still uncertain command-and-control of the “hybrid” UNAMID). Almost two months ago Jean-Marie Guehenno declared:
“‘What worries me the most is the lack of tactical transport, trucks, helicopters,’ Guehenno said. He also said the UN will have trouble meeting targets for an estimated 6,000-strong police force.” (Agence France Presse [dateline: Paris], September 19, 2007)
Nothing has changed, either in offers of “tactical transport, trucks, helicopters” or in the availability of non-African civilian police.
At the same time that Guehenno was sounding his warning, Romeo Dallaire, UN force commander during the Rwandan genocide, cut forcefully through the glib optimism about African resources for UNAMID:
“It is beyond dispute [ ] that African states themselves simply cannot provide nearly 20,000 qualified troops (nor enough police). UNAMID needs attack helicopters, engineers, big cargo lorries, communications and other capabilities that African states also cannot provide.” (Open letter from Romeo Dallaire to UNAMID commander General Martin Agwai, September 16, 2007 [Global Day for Darfur])
Here we should recall the language of Resolution 1769 on troop and police composition of UNAMID:
“Recalling the Addis Ababa Agreement that the Hybrid operation should have a predominantly African character and the troops should, as far as possible, be sourced from African countries.”
“As far as possible” without compromising the effectiveness of the mission to protect millions of lives: this has been the clear premise following what is inaccurately described in Resolution 1769 as the “Addis Ababa Agreement.” For there was no “agreement” iat the November 2006 Addis Ababa “High-Level Consultations on Darfur,” only an “outcome document” that bore not a single signature, certainly not that of the Khartoum regime; the “outcome document” also left critical issues undetermined, issues that continue to haunt the deployment of UNAMID. Out of such disingenuous verbal sleights-of-hand spring myriad opportunities for reneging by Khartoum.
We may expect to see a similarly critical phrase haunt the actions of UNAMID insofar as it ever deploys, for Resolution 1769 also declares that the force has a mandate to protect civilians and humanitarians, but—critically—“without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan.” The potential ambiguities here are legion, as are the opportunities for Khartoum to invoke this phrase as justification for any number of obstructive actions.
China may have voted for Resolution 1769, but this vote was purchased at considerable cost in the language of the resolution, including loss of a mandate to disarm combatants threatening civilians and humanitarians. China has also sided with Khartoum in deliberately and dangerously narrowing the meaning of “predominantly African in character,” ignoring the critical qualification “as far as possible.” Beijing now supports Khartoum’s construal of 1769 to mean only African personnel because there are supposedly enough African infantry contributions. But this ignores both the letter of the resolution (which speaks at various points of the complex needs of the UNAMID mission), as well as the obvious need for key technical units and capabilities that are simply not available from African nations.
Amnesty International has provided an overview report that is essential to understanding the scope of Khartoum’s current obstruction of UNAMID (“Obstruction and Delay: Peacekeepers need in Darfur now,” October 22, 2007 at http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engAFR540062007?open&of=eng-SDN). The reports highlights:
*The refusal by Khartoum to accept the proposed roster of countries to contribute troops, civilian police, and technical units.
*The refusal by Khartoum to grant landing rights for heavy aircraft needed to transport heavy equipment such as armoured personnel carriers, “forcing heavy equipment to be brought via Port Sudan and adding weeks or months on to the journey.”
*The refusal by Khartoum to grant adequate land for deploying UNAMID personnel, including land for the proposed headquarters in Nyala—distinctly the most appropriate location for a range of reasons.
*The refusal by Khartoum to grant “assurances of freedom of movement, including night flights and not being subject to curfew” (such freedom of movement is critical to a number of countries that insist upon 24-hour access to evacuate their injured or endangered personnel).
*The refusal by Khartoum to give “firm guarantees that [UNAMID] will be able to publish reports independently and without the approval of parties to the conflict.”
*The refusal by Khartoum to agree to a disarmament mandate for UNAMID:
“The number of hijackings and attacks on humanitarian vehicles and convoys is still high. Internally displaced people’s camps are becoming militarized and roads are unsafe. So eventually any effective peacekeeping mission will have to help in ensuring that an effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme is implemented for all armed groups operating in Darfur.”
China, at Khartoum’s insistence, supported stripping out of 1769 the disarmament mandate that was contained explicitly in Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006). China is currently supporting Khartoum in all these obstructive actions, despite their consequential hindering of UNAMID in protecting civilians and humanitarians.
IN THE ABSENCE OF EFFECTIVE DEPLOYMENT OF UNAMID
China’s support for Khartoum’s increasingly obstructionist behavior has convinced the regime that UNAMID can be severely compromised, even brought to the point of failure that has been the fate of the AU Mission in Darfur (AMIS). The inability of the UN and AU to keep meaningfully to the benchmark dates of Resolution 1769 (passed July 31, 2007) is patent:
 In Resolution 1769 the Security Council “calls on member states to finalise their contributions to UNAMID within 30 days of the adoption of this resolution [i.e., August 31, 2007].” On November 9, 2007 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared that Khartoum has still not accepted the UN/AU roster for contributions.
 In Resolution 1769 the Security Council “decides” that “no later than October 2007, UNAMID shall establish an initial operational capability for the headquarters, including the necessary management and command and control structures.” But Amnesty International reports:
“The Sudanese government has agreed in principle ‘at the highest levels’ to allow UNAMID’s headquarters to be built in Nyala. Nyala has better access to water and to communications, both internal and external, than the current headquarters in al-Fasher. It has better access to the road network within Darfur, its airport can accommodate international flights and there is a railway line and an all-weather road to Khartoum. However, the government delayed completing a specific agreement concerning the land or the right to drill the borehole needed, so at present the headquarters may have to stay in al-Fasher, where more than 600 AMIS personnel are currently occupying a base built for 356.”
In mid-November 2007 there remain outstanding issues around command-and-control, even as the “initial operational capability for the [UNAMID] headquarters” is rudimentary at best.
 In Resolution 1769 the Security Council “decides” that “as of October 2007, UNAMID shall complete preparations to assume operational command authority over the Light Support Package, personnel currently deployed to [African Union mission in Darfur], and such Heavy Support Package and hybrid personnel as may be deployed by that date.”
But there is no clear evidence that any “hybrid personnel” have deployed, and even the “heavy support package,” designed to prepare for the large footprint of the fully deployed UNAMID force, is not fully in place. A tremendous amount of construction and engineering work needs to be accomplished to move toward UNAMID goals for troops, civilian police, and an important contingent of 5,000 civilian personnel, some of whom will be involved in key tasks of civil administration and liaison within the camps and among rural populations. It looks increasingly doubtful that even relatively full deployment is possible before the second half of 2008. Additional Chinese-supported obstruction by Khartoum could further compromise the time-frame for deployment.
 In Resolution 1769 the Security Council “decides” that “as soon as possible and no later than 31 December 2007, UNAMID having completed all remaining tasks necessary to permit it to implement all elements of its mandate, will assume authority from [the African Union Mission in Darfur] with a view to achieving full operational capability and force strength as soon as possible thereafter.”
This “assumption of authority” by UNAMID, seven weeks hence, will be largely symbolic, since even the optimistic prediction of 9,000 to 10,000 troops by UNAMID commander Agwai will be unsupported by meaningful deployment of civilian police, administrative personnel, or—given present indications—adequate transport, either ground or air. Without key technical units, transport and tactical helicopters, a reasonable complement of fixed-wing aircraft, and the means to expedite movement of heavy equipment (such as armoured personnel carries), civilian protection in Darfur will simply mean a slightly larger African Union force. Since this force has been hopelessly inadequate (see the first section of the Amnesty International report “Obstruction and Delay: Peacekeepers need in Darfur now”), Khartoum will have succeeded in preserving the genocidal status quo for almost half a year, with virtually no prospect of a rapid ramping up of UNAMID capacity. All the while humanitarian access becomes more tenuous, camps become more violent, and there is an increasingly likely prospect of large-scale fighting between Khartoum’s regular forces and consolidating rebel fighting forces (especially in North Darfur, where Amnesty International and others report significant military build-up).
Prospects for resumed peace talks seem bleak, even as Khartoum’s declared cease-fire has proved thoroughly vacuous. The chances of achieving a meaningful ceasefire, given this most recent reneging by the regime, are correspondingly diminished. The substance of peace talks is little discussed, but nothing has changed in Khartoum’s unrelenting and vehement insistence that the disastrous Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) is not subject to significant re-negotiation. Part of the price for passage of Resolution 1769, and indeed securing Khartoum’s agreement to any document, is a favorable highlighting of the DPA, despite overwhelming rejection by Darfuris and the rebel groups. Resolution 1769 declares that the Security Council “reiterates,”
“its belief in the basis provided by the Darfur Peace Agreement [DPA] for a lasting political solution and sustained security in Darfur, deploring that the Agreement has not been fully implemented by the signatories and not signed by all parties to the conflict in Darfur.”
But such a statement makes a wholly unwarranted assumption about what political potential there is in the DPA, and does not record that the key failures of implementation derive from Khartoum’s refusal to abide by any of its commitments in the DPA, most conspicuously on security arrangements, compensation, and provision of reconstruction funds. Rebel leaders refused to sign the DPA because it contained inadequate provisions on all these counts, as well as inadequate regional and national political representation. “Deploring” the failure of various rebel leaders to sign this poorly conceived and disastrously consummated document makes it less likely that the rebel leadership will regard UN mediation in peace talks as balanced. The DPA is a failure, particularly in its lack of international guarantors for the security provisions; to hold future negotiations hostage to accepting the assessment of the DPA offered in Resolution 1769 ensures a diplomatic stalemate.
Certainly Darfuri rebel, political, and civil society leadership figures are looking carefully at the continuing breakdown of the north/south Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA; January 2005). Just today (November 11, 2007) a high-level committee to resolve the crisis over Abyei (Bahr el-Ghazal), set up by the southern leadership with Khartoum, ceased functioning just days after beginning work. Abyei remains the most dangerous flash-point for resumed war in Sudan, and the refusal of the National Islamic Front to accept the findings of the distinguished Abyei Boundary Commission (stipulated in the CPA and whose report was presented to NIF President al-Bashir in July 2005) is only the most glaring example of the regime’s reneging on the terms of this historic achievement. Certainly Darfuris know that if the CPA collapses, no agreement with Khartoum will hold any meaning: resumed north/south war will inevitably become fully national in scope, involving not only the south, but the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, Kordofan Province (the site of growing tension and violence), the Eastern Provinces, Nubia to the far north—and certainly Darfur.
If major conflict again erupts in Darfur, in the context of renewed north/south conflict or because Khartoum mounts a series of major military offensives, or continues its brutal assaults on camps for displaced persons, then humanitarian organizations—already enduring intolerable levels of insecurity—will withdraw en masse. Hundreds of thousands of acutely vulnerably and badly weakened civilians will die. Malnutrition indicators are moving ominously upwards throughout Darfur, and will skyrocket the moment there are major withdrawals by humanitarian organizations (beyond those that have already occurred).
Fully deployed, UNAMID might be able to protect significant numbers of civilians even in the midst of large-scale conflict, but would be helpless to do more, and would likely have to concentrate its forces simply for self-protection. But even in the absence of renewed war, an emboldened Khartoum poses a grave threat to the civilians of Darfur. UNAMID is clearly many months behind schedule, and falling steadily further behind, despite factitious optimism in some quarters of the AU. And the more fully Khartoum feels supported by Beijing, the more obstructionist its behavior will become.
The Secretary General has much company in insisting that “there is no military solution in Darfur.” But in fact this is a dangerous half-truth. Certainly Khartoum is militarily incapable of crushing the rebel forces, which are more heavily armed than ever; and the rebels are unlikely to be able to capture the few urban areas in which Khartoum chooses to maintain its largest military presence in Darfur. At the same time, continued Janjaweed predations, inter-ethnic fighting (including increased fighting among Arab groups), and rebel in-fighting only serve Khartoum’s military ambitions, and such violence and fighting are encouraged by the regime in a wide range of ways.
But to see this is to realize that a terrible “military victory” is even now being achieved by Khartoum. “Chaos by design” is precisely the right description of the military strategy that the regime is now pursuing, and has indeed assiduously pursued since the end of the largest episodes of village destruction and mass ethnic slaughter sometime in early 2005. It is because UNAMID poses a clear threat to this strategy that Khartoum is so resolutely and variously resisting deployment of the hybrid UN/AU force, so far with remarkable success.
But China is the indispensable partner in this success, and the authoritative reports indicating that Beijing is becoming more supportive of Khartoum’s obstructionism should be of the deepest concern to the international community. China is now more deeply complicit than ever in forestalling deployment of what is clearly the last chance for the world to shoulder the “responsibility to protect” the people of Darfur. Either China is moved to pressure Khartoum to facilitate UNAMID, or there is a danger that the mission will devolve into sending inadequately supported African infantry forces into encampments that may be able to protect themselves, but will be helpless to undertake the challenging tasks of civilian protection.
Khartoum will not move without substantial international pressure, preeminently from China. Beijing will not moved without even greater and more concerted international pressure.