A Key Report on Darfur by UN Panel of Experts Consigned to Oblivion
To understand the surging violence in Darfur over the past year, a lengthy and highly authoritative “unofficial” report covering most of 2011, from former members of the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan (Darfur), is critically important. Why does the UN continue to keep it confidential? The answer lies in the incompetence and political bias of successors on the Panel, and the failure of the “unofficial” report to square with the highly distorted UN/African Union narrative about Darfur.
Eric Reeves, 27 April 2013
Reporting on Darfur by non-Sudanese news organizations has picked up significantly in recent months as violence accelerates dramatically, massive new human displacements occur continually in all three major regions of Darfur, and large-scale fighting continues between the Khartoum regime’s regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), along with its militia allies, and rebel forces that have become stronger and more aggressive. These dispatches have come from Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). Although not allowed into Darfur for a number of years, journalists are finding that enough information is making its way out that reporting has become obligatory. To be sure violence in Darfur has long continued, at much higher levels than the UN and African Union have reported, either via the UN/AU “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) or the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator George Charpentier set the terrible precedent of refusing to speak honestly about humanitarian and security conditions on the ground, declaring with an utterly shameful mendacity:
“‘UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to the Institute for War and Peace reporting (IWPR)].” (“UN Accused of Caving In to Khartoum Over Darfur: Agencies said to be reluctant to confront Sudanese government about obstructions to humanitarian aid effort,” January 7, 2011) (http://iwpr.net/report-news/
This statement was and is patently untrue, and was contradicted at the time by UN officials speaking on and off the record, and by non-UN relief workers in confidential interviews. But Charpentier set the tone, and international non-governmental humanitarian organizations were forced to follow suit or face expulsion by the Khartoum regime—a regime that has expelled a great many organizations over the years, and made the work of many others impossible.
The UN and AU continue their disingenuous ways, but no longer do we see such deeply misleading reporting as appeared in The New York Times just over a year ago. With a dateline of Nyuru, West Darfur (less than 20 miles north of the major town of Mornei), the Times dispatch (“A Taste of Hope Brings Refugees Back to Darfur,” February 26, 2012) provides an astonishingly misleading account of realities in Darfur:
“More than 100,000 people in Darfur have left the sprawling camps where they had taken refuge for nearly a decade and headed home to their villages over the past year, the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 and a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.”
A UN official cited in the dispatch declared simply: “there are pockets of insecurity in Darfur.”
“‘It’s amazing,’ said Dysane Dorani, head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission [UNAMID] for the western sector of Darfur. ‘The people are coming together. It reminds me of Lebanon after the civil war.’”
“On a recent morning, thousands of Nyuru’s residents were back on their land doing all the things they used to do, scrubbing clothes, braiding hair, sifting grain and preparing for a joint feast of farmers and nomads. Former victims and former perpetrators would later sit down side by side together, some for the first time since Darfur’s war broke out, sharing plates of macaroni and millet—and even the occasional dance—in a gesture of informal reconciliation.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/
In fact, what is “amazing” is not the returns, many of whom do not, in fact, stay in areas to which they have “returned” because of security concerns; the UN makes no mention of these, although Radio Dabanga has repeatedly (http://www.radiodabanga.org/
It should be noted in this context that Radio Dabanga (http://www.
But there was in fact also much in the “unofficial” report from the former members of the Panel of Experts that sharply and directly contradicted the UN’s politically motivated official accounts, especially from eastern regions of Darfur. From January 2011 through August 2011 three members of the UN Panel of Experts on the Sudan (Darfur) conducted the last professional investigation as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005): (1) monitoring the arms embargo on Darfur and (2) monitoring compliance with the Security Council “demand” that the Khartoum regime cease all aerial military assaults on Darfur. Following their resignation from the Panel in August and September 2011, weapons experts Mike Lewis (Britain) and Claudio Gramizzi (Italy), and Darfur and Chad specialist Jérôme Tubiana (France) prepared a last, extensive report on their findings. This document has, unfortunately, not been widely circulated outside the UN (where it remains “confidential”), even as it remains the most authoritative account we have from any international investigators on the ground in Darfur. It also provides a clear warning of what was to come in the following two years. What appears now a vast and incoherent mélange of violence has a great deal more intelligibility if we examine closely this highly detailed, professional, ground-based research from 2011. The document is available at:
In a significant scoop, the highly authoritative Africa Confidential provided the first account of the report in April 2012 (along with the URL for the report itself):
“UN clash over Beijing bullets claim: UN experts’ reports differ over Darfur arms violations,” Africa Confidential, 13th April 2012:
“A seismic diplomatic row is rumbling at United Nations headquarters in New York over the circulation of a damning report by former UN experts pointing to the supply of Chinese-made ammunition to the Sudan government for use against civilians in Darfur. The row exposes fresh divisions on Sudan at the UN Security Council and disarray in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office. It may also unpick Beijing’s careful diplomacy as it seeks to realign its relations between Sudan and South Sudan.
“The report, which is circulating clandestinely at UN headquarters, was written by three of the original members of the UN’s Panel of Experts, which monitors violations of the UN arms embargo in Darfur. It argues that the Darfur crisis, far from winding down as Khartoum and some press reports suggest, is worsening, with new incidents of ethnic cleansing, arms deliveries and aerial bombing. Africa Confidential has obtained two separate reports on Darfur (available to download at the end of this article), one commissioned by Ban’s Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, which is highly conservative in its findings, and a more forthright, detailed unofficial version by the three specialists who resigned from Pascoe’s appointed Panel on Darfur in 2011.
“Weapons experts Mike Lewis (Britain) and Claudio Gramizzi (Italy), and Darfur and Chad specialist Jérôme Tubiana (France) resigned, Africa Confidential has learned, after Pascoe’s department declined to take seriously their complaints about the standards of competence and neutrality on the Panel. The trio have now sent their own report—with lengthy annexes—to the Security Council. This unofficial report details Sudan army ammunition found in Darfur that appeared to be Chinese-made. Some may have been made in the Sudan Technical Centre, a Sudanese military company in Khartoum. The findings upset China, which says the report is not an official document and should not be given a hearing. Diplomats from the United States and Britain are nonetheless backing the report in private.”
I have also written previously (April 17, 2012, http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=
 The “official” Panel of Experts offered only a very superficial account of events in eastern Darfur, especially in the Shangal Tobay region, where violence flared viciously in the wake of Minni Minawi’s defection from the Khartoum regime in late 2010. But the Panel experts who resigned investigated much more fully, spent much more time on the ground in the region, and interviewed a much greater range and number of witnesses. On the basis of this extensive research, they concluded that the attacks on Zaghawa civilians were deliberate (Minawi is the Zaghawa leader of the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi, or SLA/MM) and that the evidence was sufficiently compelling to characterize the violence as “ethnic cleansing” by the Khartoum regime and militia proxies.
 The “official” Panel of Experts offers only a few weak conclusions—and even less research—about violations of the UN arms embargo on Darfur (again, monitoring this embargo and the ban on offensive military flights are the primary mandates for the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, per UN Security Council Resolution 1591). For its part, on the basis of wide and impressively deep research, the “unofficial” Panel of Experts finds overwhelming evidence that weapons and ammunition manufactured after 2005 in Russia and China continue to make their way to Khartoum and then onto Darfur. Unsurprisingly, resistance to discussion of the “unofficial” Report comes primarily from these two veto-wielding members of the Security Council.
 Nowhere is the contrast between the two reports greater than in the broader generalizations drawn about insecurity on Darfur. Again, it must be stressed that in character and quality of field research, depth of analysis, annexes, footnotes, and time on the ground, there is simply no comparison between the two reports. Indeed, the official report of the UN Panel of Experts has five factitious and skimpy annexes. The fifth is simply make-work—a “Summary of the Outgoing Communications Sent by the Panel of Experts” (e.g., we learn that on “February 18 Ethiopia [was contacted] for visa assistance”).
By contrast the report of the Experts who resigned has twenty-eight key annexes. It also has more than 150 detailed footnotes for references. For its part, the “official” Panel of Experts typically provides trivial and often meaningless sourcing, a large majority of them baldly citing UNAMID (e.g., Footnote 50, on the important subject of carjackings over the past four years has simply, in toto, “UNAMID source”; Footnote 46 declares equally baldly, “Figures provided by UNAMID”). Indeed, the entire report by the “official” Panel of Experts reads like an uninspired, uninformed, and dismayingly listless political exercise, allowing the UN and AU to check off a box on the “to do list.”
The conclusions drawn about human security are correspondingly, and unsurprisingly, at odds in the two reports. On the basis of what is finally paltry evidence from the ground, the “official” Report concludes that:
“there has been a clear and relatively positive change compared to the [security] situation in the previous years. Significant and tangible changes have taken place in the political and security situation. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) has set in motion a peace process that has been garnering support from the Darfur population at large.”
These conclusions are simply preposterous: all evidence suggested that even at the time of this statement violence was significant and expanding; it has continued to escalate dramatically. And reports from Darfuri leaders in the camps make clear that the Doha agreement is a dead letter, a blue-print for nothing other than the perpetuation of the status quo. This “agreement” is purely expedient UN political posturing in the face of a situation in which it has made no progress either diplomatically or in providing human security. Indeed, the Sudan Tribune reports (April 25, 2013) that relations between Khartoum and the one small rebel group to sign the peace “agreement” in July 2011 (el-Tigani Seisi’s “Liberation and Justice Movement”) are on the verge of collapse—a collapse that cannot be averted by the recent signing on to the agreement by a Justice and Equality Movement splinter group.
By contrast, the report from the Experts who resigned notes:
“Nonetheless, from their [the authors’] experience and direct observation elsewhere in Darfur, and from information and testimonies gathered from sources in Darfur, Khartoum and countries neighboring the Republic of Sudan, the Members of the Panel consider that some elements emerging from the Shangal Tobay case-study represent a reliable illustration of more generic trends of the recent evolution of the conflict in neighboring areas of the same region [i.e., the area of Shangal Tobay, between el-Fasher and Nyala and east], straddling the border between North and South Darfur. Members of the Panel also found that the most intense violence in Darfur during their mandate happened in those areas of eastern Darfur, and in particular Shangal Tobay area.” [ ]
“Members of the Panel found that government officials and forces under the control ofthe Government of Sudan had a primary role in the violence in Shangal Tobay” [though, they note, some officials also tried to stop the violence].”
The scandalous lack of even desk research by the “official” Panel of Experts is constantly in evidence. So too is the inadequacy of desk research, given the reporting patterns of UNAMID. The “unofficial” report, for example, notes that,
“…events [the former members of the Panel] witnessed alongside UNAMID personnel were not fully reported in UNAMID Patrol Reports or Situation Reports.”
The largest conclusion of the “unofficial” Report of the Experts on Darfur is reflected in the violence that has been exploding in Darfur since last July:
“UNAMID forces have not been able to protect Zaghawa or other civilians, including those already living in IDP camps, from attacks, harassment, and displacements, some of which took place just in front of Shangal Tobay UNAMID team site.”
These Experts also note that the failure to understand sufficiently the “chain of violence” in Shangal Tobay was due to “under-reporting or deliberately omitting to report some incidents.” This has been true for years and includes the dramatically inadequate and misleading reporting by the AU and UN leadership (again, see Appendix Two for some of the most telling examples). UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Secretariat as a whole, in various reports on UNAMID and Darfur, have been either spectacularly credulous or disgracefully disingenuous. One revealing example: in the first two reports on Darfur and UNAMID in 2012, Ban’s report mentions not a single incident of sexual violence—not one—even as the epidemic of rape continues unabated; reporting by Radio Dabanga also makes clear that UNAMID refuses to respond to threats or acts of rape.
This “under-reporting or deliberately omitting to report” has contributed greatly to the failure of the international community to understand the dynamics by which violence has escalated to the point where there is simply no security anywhere in Darfur, and mass civilian displacements from violence are reported on an almost daily basis. This comparison of the two reports will be continued in subsequent briefs. Of particular significance for this period, the “unofficial” report of the Panel of Experts estimates thatapproximately 70,000 people were newly displaced from the greater Shangal Tobay/Khor Abeche region during their time on the ground in 2011:
“This cycle of violence provoked one of the most significant displacements that Darfur has experienced since the height of the conflict between 2003-2005, with the reported registration of around 70,000 new IDPs…. Most of those new displaced persons belong to the Zaghawa group.”
Presently human displacement is surging throughout Darfur and into Chad; MSF reports some 50,000 new refugees in eastern Chad in recent weeks, including 40 percent of the major town of Umm Dukhum in West Darfur. Altogether, many hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes within Darfur over the past months and years into highly uncertain circumstances, amidst rapidly decreasing security (see Appendix One).
Indeed, as I have argued in a series of recent analyses, security in Darfur is in “free-fall”:
“Human Security in Darfur Enters Free-Fall,” March 20, 2013http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=
“Human Security in Darfur, Year’s End 2012: North Darfur,” January 17, 2013http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=
“Human Security in Darfur, Year’s End 2012: South Darfur,” January 11, 2013http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=
“Human Security in Darfur, Year’s End 2012: West Darfur,” December 27, 2012http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=
“Growing Violence in Darfur Deserves Honest Reporting, Not More Flatulent UN Nonsense,” December 1, 2012 http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=
“Violence in Hashaba, North Darfur: A brutal portent, another UN disgrace,” October 30, 2012 http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=
Despite overwhelming evidence of a rapidly deteriorating security environment—posing a wide range of acute dangers for civilians, both in the camps and rural areas—the UN and African Union continues to minimize the scale of current violence, as it has done for many years now; this is true even as UNAMID’s performance continues to deteriorate and morale falls. It is especially revealing that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and its Undersecretary Hervé Ladsous, continues to claim that circumstances on the ground actually permit a draw-down of peacekeeping forces(http://www.sudantribune.com/
The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) has very recently offered not only a more realistic assessment of the total number of displaced—2.3 million in Darfur and Chad—but cites an estimate by the International Monitoring Centre:
“An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict. A number of peace agreements – most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur—have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region…. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre(http://tinyurl.com/cqp8rrz), more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.” (April 19, 2013)
Many additional tens of thousands of people have been displaced since violence began to accelerate so dramatically last July, producing a figure of newly displaced that dwarfs highly dubious UN claims about the number of “returning” displaced persons (seeAppendix One). An epidemic of rape continues to surge throughout Darfur amidst a climate of complete impunity; displaced persons camps are increasingly attacked or subject to brutal, often violent extortion schemes by militias and the feared Abu Tira (Central Reserve Police); major roads are too insecure for travel except with the heaviest of armed escorts. Relief efforts are ever more endangered, and there is a steady increase in reports of food shortages, food inflation, lack of clean water and primary medical care, and a lack of livelihoods. In many cases, returns by displaced persons to their villages and lands is impossible because they are now occupied by Arab pastoralists—typically armed and threatening—including groups from Chad and Niger.
Indiscriminate aerial bombardment continues unabated (see www.sudanbombing.org), particularly in the Jebel Marra region, but in a great many other locations in Darfur. UNAMID confirms virtually none of these, in part because it is so frequently denied access by the security forces of the Khartoum regime. Humanitarian access—both because of insecurity but also because of Khartoum’s denial of access—continues to deteriorate rapidly. Assaults on camps and even in towns have become more frequent and more indiscriminate. Basic services, including water and always sparse electricity, continue to be degraded. And there is no end in sight to the violence. But current realities have a history, and our most detailed account for 2011 comes from the reporting work of Mike Lewis, Claudio Gramizzi, and Jérôme Tubiana. §
§ The report of the former members of the Panel of Experts, with its highly defined mandate, is amply supplemented by a report from the Small Arms Survey by Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana. They have provided a remarkably full overview of this violence in a report from the Small Arms Survey (Geneva): “Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players,” (July 2012, http://reliefweb.int/report/
APPENDIX ONE: Displacement, “returns,” and current trends (a compendium of reports; see also, “How many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are there in Darfur?” Dissent Magazine [on-line], April 28, 2011, http://www.dissentmagazine.
It is important to realize that the UN, in totaling the number of returning IDPs, takes no obvious account of those who must abandon their attempt to regain their lands and way of life. For example,
“[Seven] families who came back to the Guldo region [West Darfur] in the framework of the Sudanese Government’s voluntary repatriation initiative were found in an extremely worrying state. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that they were part of 25 families who left Kalma Camp (South Darfur) as a part of the Voluntary Return program. However, the journey was too dangerous, and 18 families were forced to travel back to their original camp in South Darfur. Furthermore, they reported to Radio Dabanga that the remaining families did not receive any support from the province of West Darfur, even though it organized the deportation. They now call for international action to save these families, who are currently in a critical state.” (Radio Dabanga, July 26, 2011, “Voluntary Repatriation: 7 families found in a critical state”)
Displacement and returns have been central issues in Darfur since the beginning of major fighting in 2003. Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 34 (representing conditions as of January 2009) was the last that OCHA produced. Its release in March 2009 came just as Khartoum was expelling thirteen distinguished international humanitarian organizations and closing three important Sudanese relief organizations—altogether roughly half the humanitarian capacity in Darfur. This last Profile found that there were “nearly 2.7 million Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur.” An accompanying graph showed a slow but steady increase, much of it clearly the result of massive civilian destruction and attacks such as had occurred in the Muhajeriya area of South Darfur (October 2007) and the regions north of el-Geneina in West Darfur (February 2008), the latter described in brutal detail by one of the last meaningful UN human rights reports on Darfur (March 20, 2008):
“Military attacks in Sirba, Silea and Abu Suruj (8 February), involved aerial bombardments by helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft, accompanied by ground offensives by militia and SAF. Consistent information gathered by UNAMID Human Rights Officers indicated that these actions violated the principle of distinction stated in international humanitarian law, failing to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives. Moreover, the scale of destruction of civilian property, including objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, suggests that the damage was a deliberate and integral part of a military strategy. Information on extensive pillaging during and after the attacks was also gathered. In addition, consistent and credible accounts of rape committed by armed uniformed men during and after the attack in Sirba were collected.”
Such reports worked to explain the steady rise in IDPs that had featured prominently in news and human rights reporting on Darfur; both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center used the 2.7 million figure. But OCHA issued a massive (and unexplained) “correction” in July 2010, tied to no public or private report. As of July 2010 OCHA referred to 1.9 million IDPs—800,000 people had suddenly become “undisplaced” (http://ochaonline.un.org/
The IOM did not announce a publication or completed study on displacement in Darfur; nor did OCHA subsequently explain what IOM had uncovered that justified such an enormous decline in the population considered “displaced.” IOM’s 2009 annual report makes no reference to research on IDPs in Darfur, although the report does note that Khartoum prevented IOM missions from traveling to South Darfur for much of the year (in summer 2010 Khartoum expelled two senior IOM officials for no reason).
What had happened? Since 2009, many within the humanitarian community in Darfur had thought some recalibration of IDP numbers was necessary, for a variety of reasons: double-counting of people registered in two locations; manipulation within the camps of UN World Food Program ration cards; the many deaths (but of course also many births) that had occurred in the camps; and confusion over whether a person already displaced counted for one or two “IDPs” if displaced a second time.
But the new IOM “figure” was relevant for the year 2008, not 2010, even less for 2011, 2012, and 2013. Moreover, during the period of study IOM’s database was significantly incomplete. For example, only 488,997 IDPs were registered with IOM in South Darfur, a region with half of Darfur’s total population (6.5 million). Some camps and concentrations of IDPs had never been registered. This was not an issue of bad faith on the part of IOM, which was simply doing the best it could with limited data (including data from the UN World Food Program). For the beginning of 2008, a figure of 1.9 million was at least representative of the data available to IOM. IOM made clear to OCHA that the figure was a work-in-progress with very significant limits; OCHA ignored this and peremptorily reduced the figure on the basis of the “IOM Sudan (2009)” reference. IOM had no intention of the figure of 1.9 million IDPs replacing earlier assessments, precisely because of the issues that are raised here, according to former IOM officials.
The Data Extant
To gain any true sense of scale of displacement in Darfur, we should also bear in mind UN and other figures for total displacement, of all kinds, in the immediately preceding years.
• OCHA estimated that 300,000 Darfuris were newly displaced in 2007;
• OCHA estimated that 317,000 Darfuris were newly displaced in 2008;
• In 2009—the year of humanitarian expulsions—OCHA promulgated no figure of its own, but the Canadian “Peace Operations Monitor” found evidence suggesting that “over 214,000 people were newly displaced [in Darfur] between January & June  alone (http://pom.peacebuild.ca/
• The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre collected data suggesting that in 2010 approximately 300,000 people were newly displaced (http://tinyurl.com/n6fzjx). The OCHA Sudan Bulletin (January 7 – 13, 2011) reported that the “overall number of people displaced during the December 2010 fighting in the area of Khor Abeche stands at 43,000.” 300,000 newly displaced for the year again seems a conservative figure;
• UN IRIN (Nairobi) reports, March 16, 2011:
“Tens of thousands of people continue to flee their homes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur for the safety of internally displaced people’s camps after recent fighting between government forces and armed militias. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 66,000 IDPs have arrived in camps in North and South Darfur since January. At least 53,000 are in and around North Darfur State’s Zam Zam IDP Camp.”
• Radio Dabanga alone reported on March 27, 2012 a finding by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (these are precisely the sorts of stories—accounts from UN humanitarian agencies—that so rarely figure in international reporting on Darfur):
“The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN said on Monday [March 26, 2012] that about 3,000 people from the areas of Dar Es Salam and Zam Zam camps in North Darfur have been displaced to Kalimdo and other areas with El Fasher. The FAO said that the displaced people are in need aid, food and medicines.”
• Radio Dabanga reported, April 2, 2012:
7,000 flee after government forces raze villages in North Darfur
“More than 7,000 people have fled their homes in North Darfur after government forces and militants reportedly burned down their villages last week. ’7,000 have left the villages of Adam Khatir, Nagojora, Hamid Dilli, Amar Jadid, Koyo and Duga Ferro near Donki Hosh and fled to the surrounding areas where there is no food, water or shelter,’said a newly displaced witness to Radio Dabanga from a safe area. ‘They attacked us for three days, from Tuesday until Thursday evening. They burned down five villages, looted more than 20 and destroyed water wells and pumps,’ added the witness. She appealed to the UN and humanitarian organisations to protect them and provide them with desperately needed assistance.”
• Radio Dabanga reported, April 16, 2012:
5,000 South Sudanese forced out of Darfuri camp (Sharef [South Darfur], 16 Apr 2012)
“South Sudanese citizens living in a camp in the Sharef area of East [formerly South] Darfur had their homes burned down and destroyed on Monday by a group of militia. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga their camp was completely looted yesterday including the clothes they were wearing. They said today the militants came back and indiscriminately burned down their homes forcing the traumatised camp residents out into the surrounding areas.”
• UN OCHA reported, April 29, 2012:
“According to IOM [the International Organization for Migration], some 3,400 newly displaced people have been verified and registered in Zamzam IDP camp, North Darfur. These newly displaced people fled their homes because of inter-tribal fighting between Zaghawa and Birgid tribesmen in Alauna village (approximately 25km north of Dar el Salam, North Darfur) that started on 22 February.”
• August 5, 2012: a report from a highly reliable and experienced source on the ground in North Darfur (received via e-mail):
“Kutum town has been overrun by Arab militia since last Thursday [August 3, 2012]…all of the INGOs [International Nongovernmental Humanitarian Organizations] and UN offices in the area have been thoroughly looted and their staff relocated to el-Fasher. All of the IDPs from Kassab IDP camp have been displaced [approximately 30,000 civilians—ER]. The markets in Kutum and in Kassab have both been thoroughly looted.”
• Radio Dabanga reported, August 9, 2012:
“Representatives of the Kassab and Fatta Barno camps in North Darfur, revealed on Wednesday that the situation in both camps remains critical and over 70,000 IDPs fled so far. UNAMID promised to provide support to both camps within 24 hours.”
• Radio Dabanga reported, September 30, 2012:
“[M]ore than 2,000 people who fled the recent attacks around Hashaba have arrived to Ba’ashim area, north of Mellit, North Darfur, on Sunday, 30 September. Sources told Radio Dabanga that these people traveled for three days by foot, hiding around mountains and valleys when it was light and moving only by night. This way, sources explained, the victims could avoid being found by pro-government militias.
“Witnesses said these people are suffering from fatigue, adding that they barely ate or drank anything during the three days they traveled. Upon arrival in Ba’ashim, a remote area, most people were transferred to Mellit city where there are enough facilities to support them, sources explained. They added that the 2,000 people who arrived in Ba’ashim represent only one fourth of the victims who fled the Hashaba attacks.”
• UN IRIN reported February 8, 2013:
“The Darfur-based Radio Dabanga reported on 6 February that some 16,000 newly displaced people had arrived in the North Darfur towns of Kabkabiya and Saraf Omra following threats by rival tribal militias. Many of the displaced are living on the streets with no humanitarian support.”
• Reuters (AlertNet), reported (February 13, 2103):
“The latest violence left more than 100 people dead and forced some 100,000 to flee their homes in what aid agencies say is the largest displacement in recent years inside Sudan’s troubled western region of Darfur. The United Nations said in mid-January it was alarmed by confirmed reports of killings of civilians, as well as the burning of more than three dozen villages.”
• Radio Dabanga reported (March 19, 2013):
“Some 4,000 people in South Darfur were displaced after having their villages ‘burnt by aerial bombings by the Sudanese air force’ during last week’s battles.” (http://www.radiodabanga.org/
• Radio Dabanga reported, March 26, 2013:
“A Nertiti camps activist disclosed on Tuesday [February 26, 2013] that between 23,000 and 25,000 families [likely over 100,000 civilians] have arrived in the area fleeing the battles between government and rebel forces in [formerly West] Darfur that erupted on 23 December last year. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, he noted that some 15 or 20 families continue arriving in the camps every day from Golo and the Jildu garrison area in West Jebel Marra, where much of the fighting took place. Nertiti is already home to more than 42,000 displaced persons according to the UN OCHA.”
• Radio Dabanga reports, April 23, 2013:
“Pro-government militias reportedly attacked 300 civilians who were fleeing battles between government forces and rebels in South Darfur on Monday. The displaced were heading to El Salam camp near the state’s capital which has received ‘7,000 families’ [perhaps more than 30,000 civilians] since March.”
• Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported, April 26, 2013:
“TISSI, CHAD/NEW YORK, APRIL 26, 2013—Violent clashes in Sudan’s Darfur region have driven approximately 50,000 people across the border into southeastern Chad since early March, where a lack of food, water, shelter, and basic services is developing into a humanitarian crisis, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.”
• UN IRIN reported, April 19, 2013:
“An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict. A number of peace agreements—most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur—have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region…. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.” (http://tinyurl.com/cqp8rrz)
• Radio Dabanga reports, April 26, 2011:
2,200 families fleeing Sudan army, rebels battles arrive in camp (KALMA CAMP)
“In line with “preliminary assessments” at least 2,200 families have arrived in a South Darfur camp over the last month due to clashes between Sudanese and rebel troops in two states of the region.”
NB: the IRIN figure in its April 19 dispatch evidently includes much of what is excluded from the commonly cited UN figure of “1.4 million internally displaced in Darfur”:
• 330,000 refugees in Chad;
• 300,000 IDPs registered in camps, but not registered for feeding by the UN’s World Food Program (OCHA weekly report, Issue 06 | September 2, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/bnqh8o2); it is this population that when omitted yields the figure of1.4 million displaced that OCHA itself has done far too much to promulgate without qualification.
• Recently displaced persons who figure in no census—perhaps as many as 200,000, judging from reports from the UN, Radio Dabanga, and other sources (see above);
• Those displaced but living with host families or villages, not in camps; early in its reporting, the UN Darfur Humanitarian Profiles estimated this figure to be as high as 600,000.
This readily available data, in aggregate suggests that more than 1.2 million civilians have been newly displaced since January 1, 2008, the official beginning of UNAMID’s mandate. Indeed, the figure may be much greater than 1.2 million. Yet despite these data, most news reports continue to cite a figure of “1.4 million” as “remaining displaced” in Darfur; this is a gross misrepresentation of realities on the ground. Even so, the new UN/AU Joint Special Representative Aichatu Mindaoudou claims on the basis of this figure that “the numbers of people affected by violence had decreased each year between 2008 and 2011.” It did not take Ms. Mindaoudou long to learn the mendacious ways of UNAMID (see Appendix Two below).
APPENDIX TWO: UN and African Union misrepresentations of Darfur’s realities
[ It is worth noting here that the spokesman for UNAMID, Aicha Elbasri, resigned on April 23, 2013, as Radio Dabanga and the Sudan Tribune reported (April 23, 2013):
“The spokesperson of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Aicha Elbasri, announced her resignation on Tuesday eight months after her appointment, saying she was blocked from accessing information. ‘I resigned from my post because I wasn’t receiving the support I needed in terms of access to information in a timely manner, including the accurate and up-to-date information the media was asking for,’ Elbasri told Radio Dabanga.”
A “rogue’s gallery” of UN and AU commentary:
• August 2009 statement by departing head of UNAMID forces Martin Agwai: “as of today, I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur, [but rather] very low intensity engagements.”
[In 2009 data suggest that some 250,000 Darfuris were newly, and typically violently displaced—ER]
• Departing UN/AU special representative to UNAMID, Rodolphe Adada (August 2009):
“‘I have achieved results’ in Darfur. [ ] ‘There is no more fighting proper on the ground.’ ‘Right now there is no high-intensity conflict in Darfur. Call it what you will but this is what is happening in Darfur—a lot of banditry, carjacking, attacks on houses.”’ (http://inform.com/politics/
• UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Georg Charpentier offered a similarly optimistic assessment of Darfur in early 2011: “We are seeing a ‘trend of decreasing overall violent incidents in Darfur.’” (January 20, 2011)
• In a truly despicably moment of mendacity, Charpentier declared: “‘UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to the Institute for War and Peace reporting (IWPR)].”
• A year and half ago former JSR Ibrahim Gambari gave a statistical account of UNAMID’s success: “Our figures have shown that the number of armed attacks in all three Darfur states has fallen by as much 70 percent over the past three years, which has resulted in more displaced people returning to their homes.” (Radio Netherlands International, September 14, 2011)
• In an interview with Radio Dabanga (May 20, 2012), the spokesman for the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Christopher Cycmanick, “described the security situation in Darfur as ‘relatively calm.’”
• Former JSR Gambari declared in anticipation of his retirement party in September 2012, ”I am gratified to note that barely 31 months on, all the objectives I set out to meet have largely been met.”
Fearing no contradiction, UN and AU officials—including senior UN officials in New York—have deliberately and disastrously understated the scale of insecurity and humanitarian need in Darfur.