There can be little doubt that the peace support operation authorized in July 2007 by UN Security Council Resolution 1769 is inadequate for the immensely challenging tasks of civilian and humanitarian protection in Darfur. The force is not what it should be, either in mandate or resources, in its confusingly “hybrid” nature and command structure, or in its terribly belated creation. The security environment in Darfur has deteriorated dramatically since passage of a stillborn predecessor, the robust force authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 2006). International failure to push for deployment of this earlier and much more timely force set a grim precedent: never before had an authorized UN peacekeeping force failed to deploy.
But a similar fate may very well befall the current UN-authorized force (UNAMID). Deployment has been virtually paralyzed by the Khartoum regime’s calculated obstructionism and by the refusal of militarily capable nations to provide critically needed tactical and transport helicopters, as well as ground transport capacity. The likelihood of successful deployment has diminished by the day since passage of Resolution 1769 almost five months ago. And the longer Khartoum delays meaningful deployment, the greater the chances for outright failure of the mission or, just as likely, a decision by the UN to abort the mission entirely rather than risk such failure. The UN’s head of peacekeeping operations, Jean-Marie Guhenno, posed on November 26, 2007 a question that answered itself:
“Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?”
But this question forces another: is there an alternative to UNAMID if we are serious about protecting civilian lives in Darfur? Is there another way for the international community to provide security for the humanitarian organizations that are on the verge of withdrawing from Darfur in the absence of a force capable of protecting their personnel and operations from relentlessly increasing violence? Of course there is not, a fact unacknowledged by those who regard the UN-authorized force as already a “failure” or, in the words of Ban Ki-moon’s key advisor Jeffery Sachs, a “waste of money.” Nor is there any chance that a peace settlement will be reached in time to make the challenges to the “hybrid” UN/African Union force less strenuous. Laurie Nathan, an advisor to the African Union during the ill-fated Abuja peace talks, with their culmination in the disastrous Darfur Peace Agreement, has put the matter with appropriate force and insight, indeed offers an indispensable moment of clarity:
“The UN and the AU insist there is no military solution to the Darfur crisis. They contend that any solution has to be political, in the form of a negotiated settlement. At the very least, the long anticipated deployment of a peacekeeping force requires a ceasefire agreement so that there is a peace to be kept.”
“While this argument might be correct in principle, it is tragically wrong in practice. A negotiated settlement for Darfur is out of reach. In the absence of clear political agreement, there are only two strategies that hold any prospect of providing relief to the people of Darfur: a robust peace operation that vigorously provides protection to civilians, and concrete pressure on Khartoum to abstain from violence.”
“This was obvious in 2006, it remains obvious today and it will be no less obvious in 2008. The question that matters most now is whether the UN and the AU have the stomach to pursue these strategies.”
(Globe and Mail [Canada], November 16, 2007; co-authored by Robert Muggah, research director of the Small Arms Survey)
What should be continually borne in mind in discussing the need for civilian security in Darfur is the desperate plight of humanitarian organizations, which have begun to draw down their key expatriate staff in significant numbers. More than 4.2 million people in Darfur are defined by the UN as “conflict-affected” and in need of humanitarian assistance; many are completely dependent upon aid organizations for food, clean water, shelter, and primary medical care. Particularly in South Darfur and West Darfur, the already terrifying security situation continues to move inexorably toward a total meltdown. Oxfam International, one of the largest and most important of the nongovernmental humanitarian organizations operating in Darfur, is close to withdrawing. Oxfam spokesman Alun MacDonald recently put the matter bluntly:
“‘Our staff are being targeted on a daily basis. They are being shot, robbed, beaten and abducted,’ MacDonald says. ‘We can’t use the roads, we have to fly to the majority of our programme locations. In terms of actual violence against aid workers, seven were killed in October.’ The security situation, he insisted ‘is the worse since the entire conflict began by a considerable way.'”
“Oxfam, like other aid organisations, has no plans to pull out but Mr MacDonald believes this may soon change. ‘We can get staff to Darfur then they can’t move, they can’t get to the villages and the camps. These aren’t conditions we can keep working in,’ he says. If aid organisations like Oxfam were forced to pull out of Darfur, the consequences for the four million people who rely on such agencies to survive would be unthinkable. Yet with 75% of the region’s roads now too dangerous for them to use, that possibility grows by the day.” (BBC [dateline: el-Fasher, North Darfur], December 3, 2007)
Seven humanitarian workers killed in Darfur in October alone.
In West Darfur, a leading nongovernmental humanitarian organization has ended all travel for its workers through at least the New Year, as carjacking reaches unprecedented levels, and is marked by growing violence and sophistication. This is the culmination of a contraction in humanitarian reach that has been accelerating for well over a year, and yet the security crisis continues to deepen. The threat (December 20, 2007) by the forces of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to seize el-Geneina, capital of West Darfur, though implausible, would be disastrous if realized. Absent an international force to deter such an ill-advised military action, hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons and host or resident families would be dispersed by JEM’s fighting its way into el-Geneina. Khartoum would shut down all transport into the region, and a large-scale humanitarian exodus would begin immediately. Human destruction would be massive. However unlikely a JEM assault on el-Geneina may be at present, Darfur is lurching toward more such large-scale, indeed catastrophic threats.
Morale among humanitarians in South Darfur—which has half Darfur’s population, and half its Internally Displaced Persons—has plummeted according to recent assessments. This is partly because of an acute reduction in humanitarian access and a sharp increase in violence against humanitarians. During his recent trip to Darfur, UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs John Holmes saw “a UN map show[ing] about half of South Darfur had limited access for aid and large swathes were completely no-go” (Reuters [dateline: Nyala, South Darfur], December 1, 2007). Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable human beings simply can’t be reached. South Darfur, the Nyala area in particular, is the focus of Khartoum’s efforts to forcibly expel displaced populations from the many camps that serve as tenuous sources of humanitarian assistance and protection from Janjaweed militias. The lead UN humanitarian in South Darfur, Wael al-Haj-Ibrahim, was expelled from his position by Khartoum on November 7, 2007 for opposing these forced expulsions of completely vulnerable civilians.
VIOLENCE DIRECTED AGAINST CIVILIANS
Violence directed against civilians also continues, if not at the same levels that marked the height of genocidal destruction from late 2002 through early 2005. Ethnically-targeted killing continues, as in the attacks on the towns of Muhajiriya (South Darfur) and Haskanita (North Darfur) earlier in the fall. The New York Times, on the basis of highly informed sources on the ground, reported on October 17, 2007 the aftermath of an attack on Muhajiriya, east of Nyala (“In Darfur, Signs of Another Massacre”):
“[W]itnesses said Sudanese government troops and their allied militias had killed more than 30 civilians, slitting the throats of several men praying at a mosque and shooting a 5-year-old boy in the back as he tried to run away. According to several residents of Muhagiriya, a small town in southern Darfur, two columns of uniformed government troops, along with dozens of militiamen not in uniform, surrounded the town around noon on October 8,  and stormed the market.”
“Muhagiriya was a stronghold of one of Darfur’s many rebel factions, but witnesses said that there were few rebels there at the time and that government forces turned their guns—and knives—on civilians. Ayoub Jalal, a mechanic, said his father was praying at a mosque when soldiers burst in. ‘They dragged my father and the others out of the mosque and slashed their throats,’ said Mr. Jalal, who was interviewed by telephone.”
“Both the United Nations and the African Union said that dozens of civilians had been killed and that witnesses had consistently identified the attackers as government soldiers and allied gunmen. However, neither entity said it could independently verify who was responsible. The Sudanese government denied any involvement, but witnesses said uniformed troops methodically mowed down anyone who tried to escape, including a group of fleeing children.”
“‘The youngest child, a 5-year-old boy, I knew well,’ said Sultan Marko Niaw, a tribal elder, who also spoke by phone. He said the boy’s name was Guran Avium, adding, ‘A soldier had shot him in the back.'”
“The viciousness of the attack, as described by the witnesses and corroborated by aid organizations working in the area, seemed reminiscent of the early days of the conflict in Darfur, when government troops and allied militias slaughtered thousands of civilians, according to human rights groups.” [ ]
In short, this was an attack on an African civilian population by Khartoum’s regular and Janjaweed militia forces, entirely in character with attacks earlier in the genocide:
“James Smith, chief executive of the Aegis Trust, a British anti-genocide group working in the region, said villagers in Muhagiriya ‘confirmed to us that government and janjaweed forces deliberately attacked unarmed civilians,’ referring to the Arab militias that are aligned with the government. Solidarits, a French aid organization that distributes food in the area, said three Sudanese aid workers were killed in the attack. In a report, it also said that ‘many people are wounded and need medical assistance.’ ‘Many houses and shops have been looted,’ it said. ‘Many families lost everything.’ In separate interviews, several residents said they watched soldiers cart away their property in government trucks. [ ] ‘All the IDP’s,’ internally displaced persons, ‘believe it was a joint government-militia operation,’ said Radhia Achouri, a United Nations spokeswoman.”
There are some who, invoking a perversely attenuated version of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, argue that genocide is not longer occurring in Darfur. But it is not only attacks such as that on Muhajiriya that undermine such claims. The Genocide Convention stipulates as genocidal those acts “deliberately inflicting on [national, ethnical, racial or religious groups] conditions of life calculated to bring about [their] physical destruction in whole or in part.” Earlier violence in Darfur, orchestrated by the Khartoum regime, destroyed the livelihoods of millions from the non-Arab or African tribal populations, and such violence continues, if on a lesser scale because of the comprehensiveness of former destruction.
In this context, then, Khartoum’s deliberate compromising of humanitarian aid—amply and continuously documented by human rights groups and UN officials—is a highly consequential extension of previous violent efforts that have “deliberately inflicted conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction” of African tribal populations. Khartoum’s efforts to impede and delay humanitarian assistance have been sustained, systematic, and sanctioned by the upper reaches of the National Islamic Front hierarchy. So too are efforts by the Khartoum regime to compel the return of displaced persons without security or the wherewithal to sustain agricultural life; this represents a further extension of genocidal violence, and one that appears to be accelerating dramatically.
Genocide is not simply equivalent to violent mass ethnic slaughter, and the refusal to see the ongoing relevance of the various terms of the Genocide Convention in Darfur has become a form of apology for Khartoum’s gnocidaires.
THOSE WHO WOULD ARGUE AGAINST UNAMID
A fuller account of mounting threats to civilians and humanitarians in Darfur, as well as troubling humanitarian indicators, appears in Part 2 of this analysis. But given the skepticism about whether there is any point to deploying UNAMID, despite Khartoum’s clearly prevailing genocidal ambitions, it is important to see precisely what is entailed in arguments against the very idea of trying to secure full and unimpeded access to Darfur for a UN-authorized protection force. To be sure, the success of such a force is increasingly unlikely, in part because of callous skepticism that looks increasingly like self-fulfilling prophecy. But the alternative to UNAMID is acquiescence, with quite literally millions of civilian lives at stake.
Some of the arguments against deployment of the UNAMID force are simply an outrageous and unconsidered flippancy, with no demonstrated comprehension of Khartoum’s role in generating the complex violence in Darfur or the current levels of insecurity confronted by humanitarians and civilians. Jeffrey Sachs, a key advisor to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the primary proponent of global warming as explanation for the Darfur conflict, recently declared:
“the focus on peacekeepers was misplaced because the crisis was fundamentally a development problem, not a political one. He said the crisis stemmed from the desperation of poor people in a huge, arid, underdeveloped region. ‘You could put the peacekeepers in there, they won’t change one iota on the ground in terms of the grim realities of the harshness of life in Darfur,’ Sachs said, pointing to the need for clinics, schools, electricity and water holes. ‘I’m not against the peacekeepers, I just find them a waste of money,’ he said. ‘Unless the rich world is going to promise $2.6 billion for the peacekeepers each year, plus $2.6 billion for development, I’d say keep your peacekeepers.'” (Reuters [dateline: New York], December 3, 2007)
The idea that UN-authorized peace support personnel with a mandate to protect civilians and humanitarians “won’t change one iota on the ground in terms of the grim realities of the harshness of life in Darfur” is a perverse combination of ignorance and callousness. It is easy for Sachs, living his well-heeled life at Columbia University and the upper reaches of the UN Secretariat, to say, “don’t bother with peacekeepers—the problem is one of development.” Leaving aside the impossibility of development proceeding amidst Darfur’s chaotic violence, Sachs chooses to ignore the most fundamental political and historical dimensions of the current crisis. Darfuris certainly have a radically different perspective, including some of the most distinguished champions from this tortured region, two of whom recently received prominent human rights awards.
Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla, on receiving the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for his work with victims of rape and torture on the ground in Darfur over the past four years, spoke forcefully about a peace support operation in Darfur and the conditions requiring urgent deployment of the UN/African Union force. He also spoke of “the final phase of the Sudanese government’s plan to exterminate the African tribes of Darfur.” His impassioned words have been echoed in one form or another in every conversation this writer has recently had with Darfuris, with human rights workers, and with the personnel of humanitarian organizations operating in Darfur.
Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla (November 16, 2007):
“I would like to speak to you about the situation on the ground in Darfur, to tell you about my work with survivors of torture, and, finally, about the Darfurian peoples’ hopes for peace.”
“During the past few months, there has been an absolute deterioration in the conditions in the Internally Displaced Persons [IDP] camps. There are many people who are now out of reach of humanitarian aid. In the hospital, we are seeing more cases of malnutrition and infectious diseases we have not seen in a long time, such as polio, measles and tuberculosis.”
“In July  the United Nations passed a resolution to send an international peacekeeping force to Darfur with a strong mandate to protect the people who continue to be attacked by government forces and local militias. Soon after that, the government of Sudan announced to local media that by the time the peacekeeping forces arrive, no IDPs will be left for them to protect. For the past several months since the UN resolution, the Sudanese government has begun to carry out a campaign to forcibly empty the IDP camps. It is testing the international community, and intends to embarrass it once again.”
“The government has used a two-part strategy to liquidate the IDP camps. First, it has targeted humanitarian organizations so that they will leave. These groups have been subjected to assaults and looting. Just in the town of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur where I work, 4 to 5 aid vehicles might be stolen in a single day. These groups cannot tolerate the deteriorating security conditions, and many have been forced to leave or halt their activities. Their withdrawal creates a disastrous situation, because the civilians depend almost completely on aid from these groups for survival.”
“The second part of the government’s strategy is to attack the people in the IDP camps. Within the past few weeks, government forces have killed people in several different camps. They kill people to intimidate the rest of the survivors in the camps, and also to test whether the international community will respond. In addition to killing, they are using violence or the threat of violence to force others to leave the camps. In the last two weeks, at a camp near Nyala [South Darfur], soldiers and police carrying sticks and rubber hoses threatened IDPs, while tents were destroyed and property was carried away in trucks.”
“Approximately 1,000 IDPs were forced onto trucks at gunpoint and were dumped in the outskirts of the city. Some people have been removed to locations that the African Union forces are prohibited from visiting, so we cannot know their fate. Just two days ago, while I was here, the Kalma camp was surrounded by government forces. We do not know the fate of these people because all lines of communication have been cut. The head of the United Nations’ humanitarian operations in Nyala was expelled from Sudan for publicly objecting to these forced relocations.”
“This is a moment of great possibility and hope. The hybrid UN-African Union forces that are due to be deployed early next year are authorized with a strong mandate to protect civilians. But if the international community does nothing to provide the equipment they need to do their jobs, the result will be absolute disaster—we will have another Rwanda.” (http://www.rfkmemorial.org/legacyinaction/2007_Ahmed)
To all of which Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, special advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, says simply that security efforts for Darfur are “too expensive and a waste money.”
Salih Mahmoud Osman, Sudanese human rights lawyer and recent winner of the European Union’s Andrei Sakharov Award for human rights advocacy, was as outspoken as Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla:
“Mr. Osman criticised European governments for not exercising their full diplomatic potential towards Sudan’s government and cited as an example the fact that the Darfur issue was not specifically discussed at the EU-Africa summit last weekend (8-9 December ). ‘We are disappointed,’ he said, adding that Europe fears that the [north/south] Comprehensive Peace Agreement might be jeopardized if more pressure is put on Sudan. ‘But it is at the expense of the lives of people of Darfur,’ Mr. Osman concluded.”
“The Sakharov Prize winner also spoke about a 26,000-strong peacekeeping mission, made up of UN and African Union forces, which is to replace the 7,000 African Union operation this month. ‘You tell us you are busy in Afghanistan, but without an international component there will never be effective protection of the people in the region,’ he said.” (EU Observer [dateline: Strasbourg], December 11, 2007)
Salih Mahmoud Osman (December 11, 2007 interview):
“I am really glad about this recognition of the work of us human rights defenders in Sudan, and Darfur in particular. We are working in a hostile environment, under perpetual danger of being intimidated, arrested, detained and tortured. Still I think there is always an ethical and moral responsibility to stand with the people.”
“There is a real human suffering in Darfur. For me as a lawyer it is genocide. More than 400,000 people have died and more than 2000 villages have been erased. Rape is used as a weapon of war; young girls, as young as 8, are being assaulted. Many rapes take place in front of the victims’ male relatives to humiliate them.”
“Despite serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, there is no justice. There is an atmosphere of total impunity; all the perpetrators are still beyond the reach of justice. We talk about impunity because our judicial system is incompetent and unwilling to provide justice.” [ ]
“There will never be peace in Darfur and Sudan without justice. There is no peace without justice. Justice is a very important and basic element of peace, and cannot be compromised for any political reasons. In the south of Sudan more than 2 million people were killed and about 4 million have been displaced. Justice is not for the purposes of revenge; it is for a lasting peace and a possible reconciliation. The nature of the atrocities will never allow the victims and survivors to forget about their suffering. This is why justice is important.”
[concerning Europe and Darfur]
“For many victims and survivors steps by the international community were too slow. Many UN Security Council resolutions have never been (effectively) implemented. Nevertheless, it is the international community—Europe, America, Canada—that made it possible for more than 5 million people to be alive today through humanitarian assistance.”
“People of Europe brought to victims things to keep them alive, but it is not enough. We want them to think about protecting the lives perishing daily, and help the innocent to go back to their homes with safety and dignity. It is not acceptable to leave people in the camps for more than four years now. We want to see more concern from Europe, rallies for solidarity with the people of Darfur, like in the US.”
“We want Europe to put pressure on the government of Sudan to allow deployment of hybrid forces. Europe has responsibility to send troops to Darfur. I will be calling on the leaders of Europe to think about their moral, ethical and legal responsibility to protect the lives of people and to prevent the government from destroying our communities.” (European Parliament website, December 11, 2007 at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/story_page/015-14630-345-12-50-902-20071210STO14629-2007-11-12-2007/default_en.htm)
OTHER VOICES ARGUING AGAINST UNAMID
But it is not just Jeffrey Sachs who speaks so callously of the protection force that Mohamed Ahmed Abdalla and Salih Mahmoud Osman plead for with such anguish and deep experience of Darfur’s suffering. There is a growing chorus of voices dismissing the notion that Darfur continues to be the site of genocide, dismissing the idea that UNAMID can address any elements of the security crisis facing civilians and humanitarians in Darfur, and sniffing contemptuously at the very advocacy efforts celebrated by both Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla and Salih Mahmoud Osman. The loudest of these voices belongs to Julie Flint, who has published a series of articles in recent months that strenuously make the case against all that Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla, Salih Mahmoud Osman, and so many other Darfuris plead for with such painful urgency, indeed desperation. Three articles are of particular note:
“Darfur, Saving Itself,” The Washington Post, June 3, 2007, at
“Faint hearts can’t lift darkness in Darfur,” The Irish Independent, December 12, 2007, at
“A bad idea is about to deploy in Darfur,” Daily Star (Lebanon), December 14, 2007, at http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=5&article_id=87464
Several of Flint’s statements in these pieces are unsupportable claims, many others are little more than elegantly turned sneers that elide key issues, and there is a recklessly tendentious attitude in too many of her assertions. But there is no voice that represents more fully than hers the attitude of an unnamed official who, Flint reports, peremptorily declared following a “brainstorming session in Khartoum,” that “no one thinks UNAMID is a good idea.” Another source, not named or characterized by Flint, declares, “They [uncharacterized] are all going into it knowing it is going to be a nightmare. They [uncharacterized] are playing up to public opinion. It is absolutely disgraceful.”
Flint makes it clear that she agrees. But what does such cynical skepticism imply? Again and again we must ask: Is there an alternative to UNAMID that does not take the form of acquiesce before the continuing destruction of the people of Darfur?
The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations was charged in July 2006, by then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to design the best possible peace support operation for Darfur. It was this operation, robustly mandated and resourced, that was authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006). But Flint was among those who supported Annan’s special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, in capitulating almost immediately before Khartoum’s refusal to accept deployment of the authorized force. In the wake of such capitulation, and as a consequence of the international community’s failure to confront Khartoum forcefully—threatening real consequences for non-compliance with Resolution 1706—talk turned to a nebulous “African Union-Plus” force as a substitute for the UN operation. This was indeed a truly “disgraceful” option and led directly to yearlong, obscenely deferential discussions with Khartoum about a “hybrid” African Union/UN force—the origins of the presently authorized force that Flint finds such a bad, indeed “disgraceful” idea.
There is dishonesty in Flint’s not acknowledging her refusal to support the UN operation authorized by 1706 at a time when violence was much less chaotic and challenging for a deploying force. She further declares that a peace support operation “would have made more sense in 2003-2004, at the height of the conflict.” This writer concurs, indeed argued in the Washington Post on February 25, 2004—almost four years ago:
“Khartoum has so far refused to rein in its Arab militias; has refused to enter into meaningful peace talks with the insurgency groups; and most disturbingly, refuses to grant unfettered humanitarian access. The international community has been slow to react to Darfur’s catastrophe and has yet to move with sufficient urgency and commitment. A credible peace forum must rapidly be created. Immediate plans for humanitarian intervention should begin. The alternative is to allow tens of thousands of civilians to die in the weeks and months ahead in what will be continuing genocidal destruction.”
Every word remains as true today as then. But Flint’s voice was nowhere to be heard when this proposal made “more sense.” She is either writing self-exculpatory history with her present declaration about the appropriateness of a force for Darfur in 2003-2004—or simply doesn’t mean what she says. It is impossible to say. Certainly in writing self-exculpatory history she would have a great deal of company.
Flint also viciously excoriates the advocacy community that has for the most part consistently pushed for an international protection force in Darfur: this highly diverse groups of advocates, including distinguished human rights organizations, is accused of “creating mass hysteria which limited the ability of decision-makers to pursue legitimate policy options,” of “perceiving the war as a simple morality tale,” and of “expecting that UNAMID will secure every displaced camp, end criminality and disarm militias.” UNAMID, Flint claims, “was pushed by an international lobby that is crying ‘genocide’ almost three years after large-scale hostilities ended.”
This is a preposterous and dishonest homogenization of Darfur advocacy on several counts. Certainly there are varying levels of understanding within Darfur advocacy groups, within human rights organizations, and on the part of a range of individuals working in various ways on issues pertaining to Darfur, southern Sudan, and the ongoing tyranny of the Khartoum regime. But wildly unreasonable expectations of UNAMID and “hysterical” narrations of a “morality tale” do not define the vast majority of Darfur advocacy efforts. And Flint’s suggestion that genocide is over simply because “large-scale hostilities ended” almost three years ago betrays precisely what is discussed above as an attenuated, and seriously misleading, rendering of the definition of genocide within the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In accusing Darfur advocacy of ignorance, Flint ends up betraying her own—or, again, her disingenuousness.
Moreover, nowhere does Flint acknowledge what Salih Mahmoud Osman declares on the occasion of winning the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Human Rights:
“Many UN Security Council resolutions have never been (effectively) implemented. Nevertheless, it is the international community—Europe, America, Canada—that made it possible for more than 5 million people to be alive today through humanitarian assistance.”
The world’s largest (if most endangered) humanitarian operation deployed on a vast scale, and with a sense of urgency, that derived in critical ways from Darfur advocacy, including the all too accurate assertion that massive ethnically-targeted violence, and its terrible aftermath, constituted genocide. Not to acknowledge this, or the consistent importance attached to a credible peace forum by Darfur advocacy at all levels, is to mischaracterize the efforts of hundreds of thousands of individuals, as well as a great many organizations, including the world’s most distinguished human rights organizations. Again, some are inevitably less informed than others; but the majority are still animated by a compassion nowhere rendered in Flint’s account and certainly not in her characterization of advocacy efforts as “hysteria”:
“For them [Darfur advocates], Darfur is not a place with a complex history; it’s a moral high ground. Darfurians are no longer real human beings who laugh and love and care for children; they are on-dimensional images of suffering.”
The animus in Flint’s characterization is not easily comprehended; her inaccurate caricature is easily recognized as contemptible slander.
Half a year ago, in her Washington Post op/ed, Flint concluded by declaring, “The people who will ‘save’ Darfur are the Darfurians.” This was on the basis of a March 2007 sojourn in a relatively small portion of rebel-controlled North Darfur, where she found that “life is returning to normal” (though North Darfur has been relentlessly bombed by Khartoum’s Antonovs precisely because of rebel control). But Flint’s observation that life for Kaltouma Musa and her baby, and for villages in the Ain Siro mountains of North Darfur (northwest of Kutum), had regained some of what they had lost can hardly be the basis for concluding that “Darfurians will save themselves.” Indeed, such a suggestion, even for most of North Darfur, is highly misleading. El-Fasher and its surrounding camps for displaced persons, the deeply threatened areas around Tawilla and eastern Jebel Marra, the town of Haskanita in eastern North Darfur (which was completely destroyed by Khartoum’s forces in early October 2007)—in short, areas with the majority of the population in North Darfur—all remain thoroughly dangerous for civilians, and life is anything but “normal.”
In speaking about the capabilities of UNAMID, Flint declares:
“The only task that is still achievable is securing the perimeters of displaced camps. Security for the displaced needs a civilian police force inside the camps, which are armed and increasingly lawless.”
But UNAMID is in fact scheduled to deploy over 6,000 civilian police (some in Formed Police Units). Policing the camps is certainly now a much more dangerous task than when Resolution 1706 authorized some 4,000 civilian police almost a year and a half ago. But it is not impossible, even if success will be far from complete. Negotiations with the various armed elements in the camps, especially those allied with particular rebel groups, will be difficult. But there is no inherent reason that progress cannot be made in policing some of the camps, thereby contributing in significant ways to halting Khartoum’s campaign to dismantle the camps and forcibly relocate civilians without regard for their security or well-being. These police will need military protection, and their liaison efforts with traditional leaders within the camps will be critical. But this task only becomes more difficult with delay, as authority increasingly passes from the sheiks and omdas to young men with guns. Some camps, such as Kalma near Nyala, are poised to explode in violence. Flint is advising that the international community confess helplessness, and that we simply watch as humanitarian organizations serially withdraw as insecurity becomes intolerable.
WHAT COULD UNAMID DO, IF EXPEDITIOUSLY DEPLOYED WITH APPROPRIATE PERSONNEL AND RESOURCES?
Beyond the camps UNAMID could also provide security for the convoys, particularly those of the UN’s World Food Program, that are now subject to constant attack. It will soon become impossible to find Sudanese drivers (virtually all the drivers are Sudanese nationals) willing to run the gauntlet of bandits, undisciplined rebels, Janjaweed, and other arms elements. To be sure, some humanitarians will cleave to a neutrality that will not permit them to accept escort missions by UNAMID; but some are desperate for such escort protection. And those with the riskiest jobs, the convoy drivers, are most desperate for protection. Key transport corridors could be cleared of criminal checkpoints and many of the threats that currently plague operations.
Communication with combatants will be essential—both rebel and militia forces, as well as Khartoum’s regular military. Indeed, communication with Arab groups will be essential if UNAMID is to achieve significant success in stabilizing a highly volatile security environment. A recent report by the International Crisis Group (“Darfur’s New Security Reality,” November 26, 2007, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5180) offers an especially timely and important assessment of the changing roles of Arab tribal groups in the Darfur conflict:
“Inter-Arab dissension has added new volatility to the situation on the ground. Some tribes are trying to solidify land claims before the UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur (UNAMID) arrives. This has led to fighting with other Arab tribes, which have realized that the National Congress Party [National Islamic Front] is not a reliable guarantor of their long-term interests and have started to take protection into their own hands. There is now a high risk of an Arab insurgency, as well as potential alliances with the predominantly non-Arab rebel groups. A spillover of the conflict in Kordofan [Province to the east] has also started.”
[Detailed analyses of particular elements of the “Rise in Arab-Arab Conflict” are a key part of the ICG report, pages 2-6.]
What if UNAMID had been deployed expeditiously? What other tasks might it have been able to undertake? What tasks can still be achieved? An answer requires first a rehearsal of the time-frame for past actions and failures.
It is now a year and a half since Kofi Annan charged the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UN DPKO) to plan an effective peace support operation for Darfur (July 2006). It is well over a year since Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006) authorized the mission carefully outlined by UN DPKO. It is over a year since the international community sought to pick up the pieces after capitulating before Khartoum’s unprecedented blocking of a UN peacekeeping force. This took the form of talks beginning in November 2006 (Addis Ababa) that vaguely sketched out a “hybrid” force of UN and AU forces for Darfur. Specifics of the force would require eight long months of negotiations with Khartoum before passage of Resolution 1769 (July 31, 2007).
It is now five months since passage of Resolution 1769, and over a year since it became clear that a force approximating to UNAMID was in the works—time in which militarily capable nations should have been preparing for requests they knew would come from UN DPKO. The form of these requests was readily discernible, particularly in light of radical deficiencies in the current African Union mission in Darfur. Instead, both UN DPKO and key governments simply waited for the belated passage of Resolution 1769.
Khartoum for its part, seeing that its obstructionist tactics have worked superbly well and that there is little willingness on the part of militarily capable nations to contribute key resources to UNAMID, has only become more defiant and recalcitrant, and will continue to do so without much greater pressure from the international community and China in particular (see my recent analysis of China’s enabling role in the Darfur genocide, The New Republic, December 19, 2007 at http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=1f4269dd-9d4f-4911-891f-57ae85d66b70).
It is in the context of this shamefully dilatory, fitful, and too often half-hearted effort to provide a robust international protection force for Darfur that we are obliged to assess the prospects for UNAMID. As head of UN DPKO Guhenno has clearly suggested, the mission may never deploy in meaningful fashion. A range of recent news reports indicate that there will be fewer than 9,000 personnel of the 26,000 authorized at the time of official handover from the UN Mission to the UN/African Union “hybrid” mission (December 31, 2007). Key enabling units of the force have not been deployed because of Khartoum’s refusal to accept the proposed list of troop- and personnel-contributing countries. A slow, prolonged deployment may endanger the mission and risk early, perhaps fatal humiliation. The AU troops that will make up the overwhelming bulk of the “re-hatted” force in place on the first of the year are demoralized, under-equipped, and rightly feel betrayed by the international community. There is little reason to expect any change in the security crisis on the ground with such meager augmentation of the current AU mission.
But were the UNAMID force to deploy with real urgency, were the required helicopter assets to be provided, as well as ground transport resources, were 6,000 well-trained civilian police to deploy along with the full complement of well-equipped troops, the possibilities for protection are many. UNAMID could and should:
 Prevent, by virtue of its presence and its willingness to act vigorously, Khartoum from continuing its long-planned campaign to empty the camps, as urged by Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla:
“I urge the United States and the international community to understand these camp liquidations for what they are: the final phase of the Sudanese government’s plan to exterminate the African tribes of Darfur. The fate of the people expelled from the camps is clear: they are left vulnerable to attacks by militias and left without access to the humanitarian aid they rely upon. Because of this situation, they will soon die of preventable disease, malnutrition, starvation or violence—unless they are protected!”
 Protect the camps for displaced persons from external assault by the Janjaweed and Khartoum’s regular military forces. The threat of direct armed assaults on the camps has grown steadily as the camps have become more politicized, more militant, and more awash in weapons.
 Provide a growing police presence within the camps, and restore authority to traditional tribal leaders. This will be a slow and difficult process, requiring both sustained communication and a clear willingness to protect leaders who are threatened by men with guns in the camps.
 Protect convoys, especially those of the UN World Food Program. Clear key road arteries of bandits and checkpoints controlled by renegade rebel elements. Again, communication with rebel groups, Arab groups, and Khartoum itself must be patient, but forceful.
 Provide security for returning displaced persons. As some of the camp populations contemplate voluntary returns to their villages and lands, they will require an extraordinary initial level of security—particularly if their lands have been seized by Arab raiders or opportunists. UNAMID must provide, in order to build confidence, a constant armed presence for the first groups venturing into land controlled by the Janjaweed, most of whom have now been recycled by Khartoum into other paramilitary guises.
 Participate directly and vigorously in a renewed cease-fire commission in the event that a cease-fire is negotiated between Khartoum and rebel groups. The current unworkable commission structure reflects yet again the failure of Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), negotiated in Abuja, Nigeria (May 2006). It is critical that any new cease-fire commission include all parties in a single framework and be able to report in timely and unfettered fashion the results of any and all investigations of cease-fire violations. This will require robust self-assertion by UNAMID.
These are the key tasks. All are daunting, and will require at least the full and robust deployment of UNAMID, with all necessary helicopter and ground transport, and the tactical helicopters critical for reconnaissance, civilian protection, and self-defense. Presently, Khartoum refuses to accept the UN/African Union-proposed roster of countries that are to provide troops, civilian police, and specialized units. Khartoum refuses to grant adequate land and water rights to UNAMID, or to grant required night flying rights. The Khartoum regime has at various points in tortured negotiations with the UN and AU insisted that it be able to shut down UNAMID communications during military operations, and that UNAMID notify Khartoum in advance of all its military movements. Khartoum has refused to grant landing rights at Nyala and el-Fasher for heavy transport aircraft; has refused to expedite off-loading of critical equipment in Port Sudan; has seized communications equipment destined for UNAMID use in Darfur; and has objected to UNAMID forces wearing the UN blue berets and helmets. Recently, Khartoum delayed for three hours the emergency medical evacuation of an African Union soldier who had been shot in the back and very seriously wounded.
UNAMID: GOING FORWARD OR GOING BACKWARD?
This obstructionism is the best measure of the obstacles that UNAMID will face going forward. If there is no international will to confront Khartoum vigorously—and to demand truly unimpeded access for UNAMID, its designated personnel, and its required resources—then the mission will indeed fail. But it will not be a failure deriving from a lack of practicable tasks. It will not be a failure reflecting an impossible deployment. It will be a failure marking international capitulation before the obstructionist efforts of a genocidal regime that has for 18 years ruthlessly arrogated to itself Sudanese national wealth and power, and presumed to speak of Sudanese “national sovereignty” despite overwhelmingly unpopular national policies—in the south, in Darfur, and in other regions of the north. It will be a failure stretching back at least to summer 2006, and arguably late 2003, when the genocidal nature of the violence became fully clear (see my statement of December 30, 2003 at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Sections-article301-p1.html).
This failure will also have to be seen in the context of all that is now clearly impending in Darfur, in particular the steady deterioration of humanitarian indicators and overall humanitarian security. Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) is rising ominously. Water shortages are growing as overused camp boreholes go dry, aquifers are depleted at unknown but threatening rates, traditional water storage systems degrade for lack of maintenance, and a general deterioration in sanitation is increasingly in evidence (see an especially important report on the water crisis around el-Fasher and Darfur generally, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, December 10, 2007 at http://allafrica.com/stories/200712100881.html). In the extremely hot and arid region of Darfur, water is as precious as life. Management of water supplies for millions of human beings is a critical humanitarian task.
Here it must be acknowledged that UNAMID will have a large and consequential footprint in Darfur, and be in particular water-consumptive. But to make this an argument against deployment, as Flint does, is simply perverse: the only reason clean water and sanitary facilities are available to some 2.5 million displaced persons, in addition to large numbers of other conflict-affected persons, is because of the presence of humanitarian water and sanitation operations. If UNAMID does not deploy successfully, and as a consequence insecurity forces humanitarian personnel to withdraw—a development daily more likely—there will be no one to control the purification or distribution of water, no organized maintenance of sanitary facilities, and no primary medical response to the inevitable outbreak of diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Displaced and conflict-affected Darfuris are not in a position to “save themselves,” and are well aware of the fact.
Humanitarian operations also continued to be threatened by Khartoum’s vicious bureaucratic machinations. A critically important Moratorium on Restrictions governing the visas, travel papers, and movement of all workers for nongovernmental humanitarian organizations has yet to be renewed by the regime, even as it is of surpassing urgency in humanitarian planning. As Refugees International notes in a recent overview (“Humanitarian Action Still Under Fire in Darfur,” December 13, 2007):
“In 2007, the Government of Sudan extended the Moratorium for one year until January 31, 2008. Unless the Moratorium is now renewed for at least another year, all visas and permits for international NGO staff working in Darfur will expire at the end of January, and the humanitarian operation in Darfur will grind to a halt.”
Nongovernmental organizations are typically the enabling agencies for UN organizations such as the World Food Program. This is all the more so as humanitarian need continues to grow. Some 280,000 Darfuris have been newly displaced this year alone, the fifth year of genocidal destruction and displacement. The most recent UN Darfur Humanitarian Profile (No. 29, representing conditions as of October 1, 2007) estimates that the conflict-affected population in Darfur now exceeds 4.2 million. Many, a great many, are poised to die.
Retrospective human mortality remains a controversial issue. This writer has argued that approximately 500,000 civilians have died in Darfur and Eastern Chad from all causes—violence, disease, and malnutrition—since the outbreak of major hostilities in February 2003 (see http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article102.html). But other estimates are lower, even if less inclusive of the extant data. Though Flint now declares that Darfur advocacy is engaged in the “inflation of death tolls,” her words were previously of a different tenor, as when she described this writer’s efforts as “a serious analysis of mortality” in Darfur (“A Year Gone By in Darfur, and the Despair Has Deepened,” The Daily Star [Beirut], December 30, 2004). My estimate of total mortality at the time of Flint’s appraisal was 370,000 dead (see http://www.sudanreeves.org/Sections-article256-p1.html). The grim truth is that few any longer dispute that hundreds of thousands of Darfuris have perished because of Khartoum’s relentless orchestration of violence and deprivation. Nor can there be much doubt about the cataclysm of human destruction that will ensue in the event of humanitarian withdrawal.
THE SYLLOGISM OF HUMAN DESTRUCTION IN DARFUR
A grim syllogism of human destruction in Darfur remains fully in force: if UNAMID does not deploy effectively, or if it is aborted, then the African Union nations participating in the present mission in Darfur (AMIS) will withdraw. Currently hunkered down, badly demoralized, conducting almost no patrols or missions, and unable to protect themselves, let alone civilians and humanitarians, AMIS is a portrait of impotence. But withdrawal by AMIS would convince humanitarian organizations that security had entered free fall, and they would refuse any longer to accept what are already intolerable attacks, risks, as well as threats from Khartoum.
An alternative to UNAMID? Would that there were one, but there is not. The choice before the international community is stark: Is it prepared to see the mission fail? Or will it rally the resources and exert the pressure on Khartoum, both of which are critical to the mission’s success?
There are few hopeful signs, and the voices denying that there is any real purpose to UNAMID make it daily less likely that the mission will deploy at all.
[Part 2 addresses humanitarian conditions more particularly, as well as survey the ongoing catastrophe in Eastern Chad and the prospects for deployment of a European Union force to the border region with Darfur: http://www.sudanreeves.org/2007/12/31/what-alternative-to-unamid-will-provide-security-for-darfur-part-2-of-2/ ]