Darfur in 2014: A nightmare impossible to “slumber” through: A detailed timeline for events leading to present intensifying threats of displacement and violence against civilians throughout Darfur: Part Two .
Eric Reeves, December 30, 2014
PART TWO (Part One at | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1y6 )
§ August 31, 2014: A meeting was held at the National Defense College in Khartoum, attended by fourteen of the very most powerful men in the regime; all but two are presently or formerly in the military or security services. I received on September 22, 2014 the Arabic text of the minutes taken at this meeting, along with an initial English translation that was good and entirely intelligible, if occasionally unidiomatic or grammatically problematic. Beginning on September 24, I began publishing a series of analyses of the many implications of this lengthy and extraordinarily revealing document. The authenticity of the document is no longer in question, and I have yet to encounter a native speaker of Arabic who is Sudanese who does not believe the minutes are authentic.
[For a full account of the authenticity of the minutes, see: http://sudanreeves.org/2014/10/14/on-the-authenticity-of-minutes-of-the-military-and-security-meeting-held-in-the-national-defense-college-khartoum-31-august-2014-minutes-of-the-meeting-are-dated-1-september-2014/ ]
The analyses listed below, along with their URLs, given a sense of how important these minutes are and how deeply revealing they are of the regime’s thinking at present. Much of what was discussed in the minutes has been confirmed by subsequent actions on the part of the regime (e.g., the determination to burn the abundant sorghum harvest in South Kordofan as a means of “starving”—the word appears in the minutes—civilians in South Kordofan—this to weaken the rebel movement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North.
It should be noted that the leitmotif of the August 31 meeting is clear throughout and on nearly every page of the minutes document: Khartoum’s génocidaires declare that they must nurture and improve their “strategic relationship with Iran” (the phrase is used almost obsessively in a range of contexts). The relationship extends to cooperation in supporting radical Islamism internationally and various terrorist organizations: Hamas in Gaza, and Abdal-Malik Al-Huthi Shite’ Believers in Yemen (in the August 31 minutes Major General Hashim Abdalla Mohammed—Chief of Joint General Staff—declares candidly: “We have a problem with Saudi Arabia because they learnt about the weapons we transported to Abdal-Malik Al-Huthi Shite’ Believers in Yemen [t]hrough the Red Sea.” Another official in the August 31 meeting boasts of Khartoum’s support for Libyan Dawn, a radical Islamist organization in Libya).
[The document came to me from a highly reliable and trustworthy Sudanese source in the form of 28 pages of photographs [JPEG], one for each page of the minutes. These may be found at: http://sudanreeves.org/2014/09/29/arabic-original-hand-written-english-translation-of-31-august-2014-meeting/.
The (revised) English translation may be found at: http://sudanreeves.org/2014/10/22/new-and-exceedingly-accurate-translation-into-e/ ]
Individual analyses are offered here, in the main in reverse chronological order:
- “Sudan embraces genocide, terrorism—and now Iran,” The Washington Post, November 30, 2014 (Sunday) | http://goo.gl/HLVJEK
- Khartoum’s Promised Starvation Campaign in the Nuba Mountains Now Underway, December 6, 2014 | http://sudanreeves.org/2014/12/06/khartoums-starvation-campaign-in-the-nuba-mountains-now-underway-6-november-2014/
- “The UNAMID internal report on mass rape in Tabit,” Sudan Tribune, November 21, 2014 | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article53100
- “Mass Sexual Violence: UNAMID declares it finds ‘no evidence,'” Sudan Tribune, November 12, 2014 | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article53025
- “Fallout from Leaked Minutes of August 31 Military/Security Meeting: Khartoum’s Obligatory Lies,” October 29, 2014 | http://sudanreeves.org/2014/10/29/fallout-from-leaked-minutes-of-august-31-militarysecurity-meeting-khartoums-obligatory-lies/
- “Khartoum Announces a Campaign to ‘Starve’ the People of the Nuba Mountains,” The Huffington Post, October 7, 2014 | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-reeves/khartoum-announces-a-camp_b_5923470.html
- Aerial Attacks on Civilian Agriculture and Food Supplies: “Starving” theNuba,” September 27, 2014 | http://sudanreeves.org/2014/09/27/aerial-attacks-on-civilian-agriculture-and-food-supplies-starving-the-nuba-part-two-of-looking-directly-into-the-heart-of-darkness-27-september-2014/
- Khartoum Offers Strategic Military Support to Rebels in South Sudan (SPLA-in-Opposition), September 28, 2014| http://sudanreeves.org/2014/09/28/khartoum-offers-strategic-military-support-to-rebels-in-south-sudan-spla-in-opposition-28-september-2014/
My most comprehensive analysis of the minutes appeared first:
- Looking Directly into the Heart of Darkness: What the Khartoum Regime Really Thinks (leaked minutes of critical August 2014 meeting of senior military and security officials), September 24, 2014 | http://sudanreeves.org/2014/09/25/looking-directly-into-the-heart-of-darkness-what-the-khartoum-regime-really-thinks-leaked-minutes-of-critical-august-2014-meeting-of-senior-military-and-security-official/
See also: AFRICA CONFIDENTIAL, October 10, 2014, Volume 55, No. 20 | “The world according to Khartoum” | http://www.africaconfidential.com/article/id/5809/The_world_according_to_Khartoum
§ September 5, 2014: Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times published on his blog an internal and confidential report from UNICEF detailing levels of malnutrition throughout Sudan, including Darfur. UNICEF is one of the UN agencies most responsible for the UN’s refusal to release critical malnutrition data for Darfur, this in order not to anger Khartoum with a revelation of essential humanitarian realities. The document is a compilation of various charts and graphs, key points of definition, as well as a vague sketch of something called “The Strategic Response Plan.” But the actual data presented are shocking, utterly shocking; and yet predictably, there is no response from the UN Secretariat, the European Union, the African Union, or the Obama administration:
Sudan has very high numbers of malnourished children under five; malnutrition exists in both acute and chronic form
• (Global Acute Malnutrition) [GAM]
Arm muscle wasted to a circumference < 11.5cm
[A graph is presented at this point, bisected by the World Health Organization emergency threshold for acute malnutrition: > =15 percent [the report indicates in a subsequent section that this threshold figure drops to a 10 percent threshold in areas of armed conflict such as Darfur; particular results for Darfur include—ER]:
• Acute malnutrition rates for children in Sudan among the highest in the world:
North Darfur: 28 percent acute malnutrition among children
South Darfur: 18 percent acute malnutrition among children
East Darfur: 15 percent acute malnutrition among children
South Darfur: 13 percent acute malnutrition among children
West Darfur: 8 percent acute malnutrition among children
• Other notable acute malnutrition rates among children:
Red Sea State: 20 percent
Blue Nile: 19 percent
Kassala: 15 percent
South Kordofan: 10 percent
Source: S3m Survey, 2013 [This date suggests that much of the malnutrition that has developed since the violence began in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is not reflected in these numbers—ER]
• Chronic malnutrition among children is widespread and pervasive
A second graph reports the following figures for chronic malnutrition among children in Sudan:
Central Darfur: 45 percent
East Darfur: 40 percent
West Darfur: 35 percent
North Darfur: 35 percent
South Darfur: 26 percent
The report indicates that the World Health Organization cutoff point for “high” prevalence of chronic malnutrition is 30 percent, and for “very high prevalence” > = 40 percent.
Source: S3m Survey, 2013] [See also Save the Children’s Acute Malnutrition Summary Sheet—ER]
• A third chart indicates:
“% of under-fives moderately or severely wasted in the 10 most affected countries”
(Sudan ranked 4th from the bottom in this category in 2010—ER]:
Wasting prevalence for country population under five:
Moderate or severe wasting: 16 percent
Severe wasting: 5 percent
[Emphasis added here: two percent is the “emergency” threshold for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) among children; in developing countries, even in hospital settings, some 20 – 30 percent of all children suffering from SAM die—ER]
Number of wasted children, 2011 (moderate and severe): 817,000
[End of report excerpts]
International indifference to the ways in which such malnutrition is actively generated by the Khartoum regime as a military strategy in dealing with insurgencies in the marginalized regions of the country suggest just how far the people of Sudan are from receiving appropriate assistance—assistance actively discouraged by the regime.
§ October 2014: Most of the events of significance for the month are addressed in analyses of the August 31 Minutes (see above), particularly accelerating destruction of agriculture in the Nuba Mountains. The reaction of the Khartoum regime to the release of the minutes also figures prominently, as President al-Bashir attempts to mend fences badly damaged by revelations of Khartoum’s real feelings about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, as well as the regime’s substantial support for the Libyan Dawn Islamist movement in Libya.
Radio Dabanga continues its authoritative reporting on village burnings, sexual assaults, attacks on camps for the displaced, aerial attacks on civilian targets (still primarily in Jebel Marra), appropriation of African farmland by nomadic Arab pastoralists. Extortion schemes, kidnappings, hijackings, roadblocks, and random violence define the life of most Darfuris.
§ October 31 – November 1, 2014: The town of Tabit, North Darfur (population roughly 7,000) is attacked by military forces from the nearby SAF base. More than 200 girls and women are raped, and many in the town flee following the departure of the attacking men. The incident is immediately reported to UNAMID, which has a nearby force in Shangil Tobaya, South Darfur. On November 4, three days later, UNAMID finally sends an investigative team to Tabit, but the team claims it was denied access at an SAF checkpoint. The following day (November 5) UNAMID issues a press release indicating their lack success in reaching Tabit.
Following this announcement comes a series of lies, misrepresentations, and feckless actions by the UNAMID leadership, as well as UN DPKO. I offer a full overview of what could be known in the early days following this massive sexual assault in two analyses:
- “More Lies from UNAMID: False Representation of an Investigation of Mass Rapes at Tabit, North Darfur” (November 6, 2014) | http://sudanreeves.org/2014/11/06/more-lies-from-unamid-false-representation-of-an-investigation-of-mass-rapes-at-tabit-north-darfur-6-november-2014/
- “Mass Onslaught of Sexual Violence in Tabit (North Darfur): UNAMID Declares it Finds ‘No Evidence,'” Sudan Tribune (November 10, 2014) http://sudanreeves.org/2014/11/10/mass-onslaught-of-rapes-in-tabit-north-darfur-unamid-declares-no-evidence-10-november-2014/ )
For the present I offer here a brief time-line, clarifying events and the significance of UNAMID delays (a much fuller and more detailed version of this timeline appears at “Mass Onslaught of Sexual Violence in Tabit (North Darfur): UNAMID Declares it Finds ‘No Evidence,'” noted above).
§ Late October: A soldier from the SAF garrison near Tabit goes missing, as reported by the Sudan Tribune: “Sources say a soldier from the military garrison in the area was missed in Tabit after he went to the village to meet his girl friend. The denial of his whereabouts by the villagers triggered a search to recover the missing soldiers. His angry colleagues allegedly committed the punitive mass rape during this night operation. (Sudan Tribune [Khartoum] November 9, 2014)
§ Friday, October 31: Our best journalistic account of how the violence began remains the dispatch of Ruth Maclean forThe Times (London), 6 November 2014:
Sudanese soldiers raped more than 200 women and girls in Darfur last week, according to villagers. An elder from the village of Tabit said a military commander at a nearby garrison accused the villagers last Friday [October 31] of harbouring a missing soldier and gave them until sunset to return him. The villagers had no knowledge of the soldier, but when night fell, soldiers surrounded Tabit, beat the men and chased them away, before raping the women and girls, including eight primary school pupils.
§ Saturday, November 1: Rapes and beatings continued into the early morning before SAF forces finally returned to their garrison headquarters. Khartoum’s shamelessly mendacious SAF spokesman, Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khaled Saad, denies the allegations of large-scale rape, saying:
“Tabit is a small village and the number of troops in the military post does not exceed one hundred soldiers” (Sudan Tribune [Khartoum] November 9, 2014).
These are extreme numerical misrepresentations in both cases.
§ November 3: Evidently realizing the seriousness of the crimes, the commander of the SAF post returns to Tabit:
…the commander, armed with a machine-gun and accompanied by some of his forces, returned to the village and apologised on Monday [November 3], explaining that the missing soldier had been found…. “We refused his apology,” the elder said. “[We] demand the formation of an independent investigation into the crime, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.” Families have fled Tabit for nearby refugee camps. (Ruth Maclean for The Times [London] 6 November 2014)
§ Tuesday, November 4: UNAMID sends from nearby Shangil Tobaya, South Darfur an investigative patrol that arrives in Tabit at 5:00am; this is when (according to one well-informed account) a brief but revealing conversation with several residents of Tabit occurs before being interrupted by several cars of Military Intelligence personnel.
This account may not be accurate, but the source is highly reliable. If, however, the UNAMID team encountered a Sudanese military checkpoint and was turned away, it would have been north of Tabit, as the team was coming from the south, and thus would already have passed through Tabit. None of this figures in either of the press releases issued by UNAMID.
§ Wednesday, November 5: UNAMID issues a press release claiming that it had immediately sent an investigative patrol to Tabit, but had been turned away at a military checkpoint:
In a press statement today, the Mission cited reports of the alleged mass rape in the town of Tabit, located 45 kilometres southwest of El Fasher, in North Darfur. A UNAMID verification patrol was immediately dispatched to conduct an investigation but upon reaching the outskirts of the town was denied access by Sudanese military at a checkpoint.
“The Mission leadership is calling on authorities of the Government of Sudan to grant UNAMID’s unhindered access to all Darfur, especially to areas where alleged incidents affecting civilians have been reported,” the statement read, adding that UNAMID remained “determined to obtain crucial information and leads.” (UN News Center, November 5, 2014)
Also on Wednesday, November 5, UNAMID is reliably reported to have attempted to investigate the Tabit rapes by searching for recently displaced persons from the town at ZamZam displaced persons camp, just outside el-Fasher. No distinction between the two UNAMID missions is evident in the press release.
§ Thursday, November 6: Military officials impose a 5pm curfew in Tabit, according to a Darfuri reporting source.
§ Friday, November 7: In a press release, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, declares that,
“UNAMID should be given access by the Government of Sudan to investigate and verify whether the incidents reported in the town of Tabit have occurred and, if they have, to ensure accountability.” (UN News Center)
This statement comes six days after the frenzy of sexual violence had wound down in Tabit. It is another “UN should,” making clear that there is no real expectation that such access will be granted.
§ Sunday, November 9: SAF’s Colonel Al-Sawarmy Khaled Saad, tells reporters:
“[M]ass rape ‘cannot be committed by any Sudanese institutions, military or otherwise.’ ‘Mass rape is something completely new to us as Sudanese,’ he told a news conference. ‘Tabit is a small village and our operation there is very small, and numbers around 100 soldiers,’ Saad said. (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum] November 9, 2014)
Besides his gross numerical inaccuracies here, Saad offers not evidence or reasoning but bald assertion, and a misrepresentation of the SAF military presence in Tabit. Moreover, we certainly know from reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières that “mass rape” is anything but new in Darfur. Indeed, such data as we have, coupled with the continuous individual reports coming from Radio Dabanga, strongly suggest that tens of thousands of Darfuri women and girls have been sexually assaulted over the past twelve years.
Ironically, Saad’s explanation of why the UNAMID investigators were initially denied access shows just how irrelevant the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) has become, an agreement Khartoum signed in February 2008 granting complete freedom of movement to UNAMID:
The UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said it sent a patrol from state capital El Fasher to Tabit on Tuesday and Sudanese soldiers barred it entry. “We welcomed them, but we asked them about the official permissions which they have to have with them, and they returned to El Fasher,” Saad said. (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum] November, 9 2014)
Clearly officials in Khartoum understood just how serious this particular episode of sexual violence had become, and attempted to preempt criticism of the public UNAMID report or any new investigation:
The special prosecutor for crimes in Darfur on Saturday [November 8] denied the allegations [of rape in Tabit], saying the minister of justice immediately after his return from Qatar ordered to probe the mass rape. The official said they inspected the situation on the ground where “they verified the inaccuracy of what has been circulating in social media, and some of the local radio stations.” He further indicated he contacted the state officials, adding, “all confirmed that the area is free of complaints in this regard.” (Sudan Tribune [Khartoum] November 9, 2014)
Notably, Khartoum’s “special prosecutor for crimes in Darfur” has no significant convictions for atrocity crimes to his credit, despite the availability of overwhelming evidence. The same is true of his several predecessors.
§ Monday, November 10: UNAMID issues an absurdly brief and wholly implausible account, one contradicted by every shred of evidence that has come from the people of Tabit to interlocutors outside Darfur:
The team spent several hours touring the village and interviewing a variety of Tabit’s residents; including community leaders, ordinary men and women, teachers and students to ascertain the veracity of the media reports. Village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area. The team also interviewed the local Sudanese Armed Forces Commander.
None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report. The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations during the period in question.
No mention is made of the fact that this press release is being issued nine days after the worst of the brutality had ended (again, SAF forces responsible for the rapes and beatings left Tabit as of Saturday, November 1).
§ November 11, 2014: Residents of Tabit are understandably outraged and bewildered by such a finding:
Denial of rape case by UNAMID shocks victims Tabit
Radio Dabanga [Tabit] 11 November 2011 – The villagers of Tabit are shocked after UNAMID concluded that it had not found “any evidence or information” about the reported mass rape on Monday. The UN-AU peacekeeping mission visited the village, accompanied by government officials, six days after a verification patrol was denied access to investigate the mass rape of many women and girls in Tabit.
A delegation of five members of the Coordination Committee of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur had also visited the village: “We just returned from Tabit on Friday with a delegation, after two days of investigation. There we met 60 women and girls, we looked into their eyes while they told us they were raped by soldiers from 8 pm [on Friday, October 31] until 5:00am [on Saturday, November 1]…
One of the witnesses speaking to Radio Dabanga described the arrival of the UNAMID in Tabit on Sunday, November 9:
“They only passed by on the main road, but they did not come to us.” According to a UNAMID officer … national security staff, police forces, and military personnel accompanied the convoy of the UN delegation. “I think that every UNAMID staff member was accompanied by at least three people, from the security, police, or military. No one could speak freely to anyone. When we asked some people in Tabit, they only answered: ‘You should speak to the army commander and the authorities.'” UNAMID confirmed that it also interviewed the local Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Commander during its visit.
“50 women treated”
A woman who works in a group that helps the victims of the rape, said that UNAMID did not come into the area where they live, and where they had faced the soldiers’ attacks. “We treated at least 50 women. We did it ourselves, but there is nothing to treat them with. We can only throw warm water on them. I am very disappointed with the situation. Many girls still suffer. We can’t send them anywhere; we treat them with only water, like I said.”
The women speaking to Radio Dabanga cried in disbelief when they heard about he conclusion of UNAMID: “Where is that? How come [they say] nothing happened? And what about all hose girls? Here they are suffering…” Two witnesses said that they are ready to testify if they can be protected: “We are ready and I have enough evidence to show, there are many abused girls and they should be medically examined.”
§ November 14, 2014: “The Sudanese Foreign Ministry summoned the acting head of the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Abiodun Bashua on Friday to protest the mission’s handling of recent claims of mass rape of some 200 women in the village of Tabit in North Darfur by Sudanese military personnel.” (Sudan Tribune)
§ November 15, 2014: UNAMID attempts to mount another investigation of Tabit, but is denied access by Khartoum. The Mission’s determination to investigate properly the scene of this mass atrocity crimes is highly suspect, despite “demands” from a wide range of UN officials—including the Secretary General—that an independent, credible investigation be conducted. Of course at this point all the critical forensic evidence has disappeared, as has the possibility of medical examination of victims, most of who have fled Tabit in any event.
§ November 19, 2014: The Khartoum regime officially rejects the possibility of a new UNAMID investigation of events at Tabit, despite the explicit appeal of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
§ November 20, 2014: “The United Nations Security Council issued a statement on Wednesday [November 19, 2014] expressing concern at allegations of rape committed by Sudanese soldiers in the North Darfur village of Tabit” (Sudan Tribune). Khartoum’s rejection is as adamant as ever; the regime knows that the Security Council won’t go beyond making “statements.” Khartoum’s attitude is captured well in a headline from Sudan Tribune: “Sudan says UNAMID personnel have a history of sexual abuse” (November 25, 2014), implying that UNAMID is unfit to conduct an investigation of rape and sexual violence.
§ November 20, 2014: UNAMID has prepared an internal document on the Tabit investigation that does not comport at all with the publicly released report. It was leaked to me on November 22, 2014 and I have posted it on my website: http://sudanreeves.org/2014/11/20/5903/. It had surely been seen immediately on completion by senior UN and UNAMID officials, as well as Security Council members. Among the many striking passages, one stands out in revealing the character of the investigation:
The interviews were conducted in group as well as isolation format. Attempts were made to conduct the interview in confidential setting but it was not always possible. The sub-teams introduced themselves and the explained the purpose and objective of the mission; consent were sought before the interviews and the interviewees were given time to ask question or pose comments.
Beside access issue, significant challenges were faced on the ground during verification exercise. The SAF personnel were present in sizable numbers—in uniform and civil clothing—in Tabit. They followed the sub-teams during the verification exercise. Some of the sub-teams reported the interviews being captured on recording devices (mobile phone) by the SAF members. The behavior and responses of interviewees indicated an environment of fear and intimidation. Some of the sub-teams had to ask the military personnel to stop following them and also asked them to allow the conduction of interviews in some privacy.
The integrated mission was launched suddenly. A short debriefing was done but the lack of time to properly organize created logistical and substantive challenges. The format or types of interviewing tools were not finalized. An agreed set of questions were not developed and deployed. Each sub-team had to rely on their own previous experience and expertise to find the information required. (“UNAMID: Tabit Integrated Field Mission,” November 9, 2014)
An investigative mission of this sort is bound to fail.
[As of the end of December 2014, there has been no further investigation at Tabit, nor is any in prospect. Khartoum simply denied the various international pleas for an independent and credible investigation of the rapes of more than 200 girls and women. On every such occasion, the regime is further convinced that the world is content to bluster but will never truly demand anything.]
The expulsion of UNAMID from Darfur:
§ November 21, 2014: “Sudan’s foreign ministry told western diplomats and international organisations in Khartoum on Friday that it has informed the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) two weeks ago to begin an exit strategy from the restive region” (Sudan Tribune).
§ November 22, 2014: UNAMID confirms only “verbal receipt” of the demand that it leave Sudan (Sudan Tribune).
The dating here is deeply suspicious: it is almost certain that the demand for an exit strategy came after the unauthorized release of the internal UNAMID document on the Tabit investigation, first reported in brief by Agence France-Presse on November 12, 2014. Khartoum was authoritatively reported to have been furious that UNAMID leaked the internal report to AFP, thereby prolonging international pressure for a proper investigation at Tabit. My own publication of the document was on November 20, 2014.
§ November 30, 2014: President Omar al-Bashir confirmed Khartoum’s intention to expel UNAMID, declaring in a press conference:
“We want a clear plan for the exit of UNAMID from Darfur,” Bashir said in a press conference held on Sunday, adding: “We have instructed the foreign ministry to work with the United Nations to end the presence of UNAMID in Darfur.” (Sudan Tribune, November 30, 2014)
Al-Bashir is well aware that this will entail as well the departure of international humanitarian organizations, and the effects on civilians of the region will be devastating.
§ December 3, 2014: Former UNAMID spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri releases an open letter to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, declaring inter alia that,
[The] UN leadership and the team formed by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to investigate claims of manipulation of reporting on Darfur by UNAMID “… turned out to be an internal, partial, biased and secretive process.”
“This review body was incapable of uncovering the truth about the gross misconduct and routine manipulation of the facts that have become the hallmarks of UNAMID and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). As a result, those who manipulated the truth previously continue to do so, confident they will be shielded by the UN’s questionable immunity policy,” Elbasri said in her letter seen by Sudan Tribune…. [complete letter at | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article53218 ]
This past June (2014), Bensouda herself
…referred to cover-up reports and asked the [Security Council] to authorize a “thorough, independent and public inquiry” probe into allegations that UNAMID [was] subject to “manipulation” through acts committed “with the intentional effect of covering up crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers.”
§ December 3, 2014: “Sudan Call: A Political Declaration on the Establishment of a State of Citizenship and Democracy” is promulgated (see August 8, 2014 above and December 25, 2014 below for a discussion of the political implications of this historic document.
§ December 4, 2014: Recognizing the depth of the crisis created by Khartoum’s demand that UNAMID leave, the head of the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous attempts to brief the Security Council in terms preposterously encouraging and deeply disingenuous. It was Ladsous in spring 2012 who made the disastrously inaccurate determination that “improvements on the ground”—meaning security for civilians in Darfur—were sufficiently great that UNAMID could be drawn down. Now he faces at six-month time-table for redeploying some 20,000 remaining personnel, a task logistically impossible for UN DPKO or the African Union.
Khartoum is sure to grow impatient as the UN moves at its customary pace, and this may well create an incentive to use violence as a means of accelerating the Mission’s departure. Khartoum and its militia allies have clearly been responsible for most of the attacks on UNAMID personnel and all of the most deadly attacks (see “Killing UN Peacekeepers: A Ruthless Proclivity of Khartoum’s SAF, Militia Proxies,” May 9, 2013 | http://sudanreeves.org/2013/05/09/killing-un-peacekeepers-a-ruthless-proclivity-of-khartoums-saf-militia-proxies/).
§ December 10, 2014: Khartoum’s determination to expel UNAMID is made even clearer to the UN, as suggested in a dispatch from Sudan Tribune:
The Sudanese government said it is determined to put an end to the presence of the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), but expects the latter to resist exiting from the country… Last week, Sudan’s ambassador to the UN, Rahmatallah Mohamed Osman, renewed to the Security Council Khartoum’s desire to put in place an exit strategy for the UNAMID, adding that no date has been yet set for the mission’s departure…
The Sudanese foreign ministry undersecretary, Abdalla al-Azrag, said in statements to al-Youm al-Tali daily newspaper on Wednesday that his government is resolved that the hybrid mission should leave the country and wouldn’t care about any UN resolutions that could hinder the move. “[We wouldn’t allow UNAMID to stay] even if the Security Council issued a million resolution to maintain its presence,” he added. (December 10, 2014)
Such statements would appear to make nonsense of the claim by UN DPKO head Ladsous that negotiations between the UN and the Khartoum are going well, that there are no excessive expectations on the part of the regime, and that matters are being dealt with in a “cordial” manner. But such “cordiality” is of little value to the Darfuris who have suffered so much because of the ineptitude of men like Ladsous, as well as other senior UN officials and the former heads of UNAMID: Rodolphe Adada, Ibrahim Gambari, and the now quietly departed Mohamed Ibn Chambas (in the August 31 minutes, various regime officials boast of having both Ibn Chambas and Thabo Mbeki in their pocket (Mbeki, as chair of the AU High-level Implementation Panel, has botched one series of peace negotiations after another; his remuneration in this role is reported to be very high, and failure doesn’t seem to diminish his income). Corruption runs deep throughout the various “peace processes” that Khartoum’s military violence has engendered.
§ December 12, 2014: International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda tells the UN Security Council that she was “hibernating” her investigation of atrocity crimes committed in Darfur because of lack of Security Council support, even as it was the Council that referred the crimes in Darfur to the ICC in March 2005—almost ten years ago. Bensouda minced no words:
“Given this council’s lack of foresight on what should happen in Darfur, I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases. It should thus be clear to this Council that unless there is a change of attitude and approach to Darfur in the near future, there shall continue to be little or nothing to report to you for the foreseeable future,” the ICC prosecutor told the UNSC.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to appear before you and purport to be updating you when all I am doing is repeating the same things I have said over and over again,” she added. Bensouda stressed that a “dramatic shift” is needed in the UNSC approach to arresting Darfur suspects. (Sudan Tribune, December 12, 2014)
§ December 13, 2014: Predictably, al-Bashir and his cabal celebrate the decision by ICC Prosecutor Bensouda as a victory, and presume to press further. In a bizarre and perverse bit of logic, Khartoum’s foreign ministry attempted to link Bensouda’s decision to the mass sexual assault on Tabit by regular army forces and the reporting of Radio Dabanga:
“Circulating rumours on cases of mass rape in the village of Tabit in North Darfur is nothing but a blatant attempt to offer new material to the report of the prosecutor to maintain the case before the UNSC,” [the Foreign Ministry] added.
Not only have the basic facts of the mass sexual assault on the women and girls of Tabit been sufficiently well established by a wide range of sources, whose credibility dwarfs that of the regime’s Foreign Ministry (see above), there is not a shred of evidence that Bensouda, the ICC, or anyone else has attempted to use the atrocity crimes at Tabit as evidence in The Hague. This is nothing but a crude and illogical effort to deny culpability in those crimes by pointing to what is in fact nothing more than an international refusal to support warrants for the arrest of al-Bashir (on multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity) and Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, former Interior Minister and currently Defense Minister (on multiple counts of crimes against humanity).
Radio Dabanga is thrown into the conversation only because it is overwhelming favored over state-controlled broadcast media by Darfuris and many non-Darfuris as well:
The foreign ministry also expressed regret that several UNSC member states drifted behind the “hate and lies” media reports spread by Radio Dabanga, saying the UNSC should have criticised that radio station particularly as the hybrid peace mission in Darfur (UNAMID) found no evidence of mass rape at Tabit. Radio Dabanga, a radio station headquartered in the Netherlands with a team of local reporters in Darfur, was the first media outlet to report the mass rape allegations. (Sudan Tribune, December 13, 2014)
In fact, there can be no doubt that Radio Dabanga has done an extraordinary job of reporting on realities in Darfur, operating under almost impossible difficulties. Its reporting on events at Tabit only make this clearer.
§ December 14, 2014: Reuters reports on key elements of the failures that characterize so much of UNAMID’s reporting and has obscured so much of what Darfuris have suffere | http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/14/us-sudan-darfur-un-idUSKBN0JS0SA20141214
§ December 17, 2014: Hervé Ladsous, head of UN Peacekeeping shows additional signs of understanding just how great a crisis has been created by the failures of UNAMID—in the Tabit investigation and more broadly in the failures detailed in the Reuters dispatch of December 14 (above).
Notably, Sudan Tribune (December 16, 2014) reported that “the head of the United Nations peacekeeping department, Hervé Ladsous, said the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will not bow to Sudan’s request to leave the restive region amid rising violence there.”
Similarly, African Press Agency reports (December 17, 2014):
The United Nations and African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will not leave the troubled region in the coming short time as the violence is still rising. The head of UN peacekeeping forces, Hervé Ladsous, said the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur is worsening and the government [is] still denying … access to the village of Tabit where alleged mass rape by Sudanese soldiers have taken place.
He added that Khartoum knew the mission would not leave any time soon. “They have asked us to form an exit strategy, which was always an objective, but they are doing it with a certain insistence and publicity which is a little bit special” the UN official said. “It won’t happen tomorrow and not while we continue to see so much suffering, this year alone we’ve seen a further 430,000 displaced, which is a clear indication that the situation in Darfur is not good,” Mr. Ladsous argued. (December 17, 2014)
In fact, more than 450,000 have been displaced inside Darfur this year alone, and this does not include a growing influx of refugees to eastern Chad, where the population has grown dramatically over the past two years (now exceeding 360,000). Ladsous disingenuously characterizes the adamant insistence by Khartoum that UN DPKO draw up and present an exit strategy—and then leave Darfur—as “a little bit special.” No, Mr. Ladsous, it is not “a little bit special,” it is an insistence that is quite unprecedented—and there is simply no reason to doubt that the Khartoum regime is anything but deadly serious (see above).
In other words, Ladsous belabors the obvious (“[our departure] won’t happen tomorrow”) in order to suggest the possibility that UNAMID’s departure is not contingent upon Khartoum’s wishes but the suffering of the people of Darfur. By declaring that UNAMID will not leave “while we continue to see so much suffering,” he is implicitly committing the UN and African Union to non-consensual continued peacekeeping deployment in Darfur. This is fantasy.
If UNAMID has not withdrawn by the time its current authorization expires (June 30, 2015), that authorization will certainly not be renewed by a Security Council in which both Russia and China are poised to veto any new resolution at Khartoum’s bidding. Such tough talk from the feckless, incompetent Ladsous is vacuous, a hallmark of his time in office.
§ December 23, 2014: Radio Dabanga reports: “Militant herders shot dead a farmer in the area of Jedid El Seil, north of El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on Sunday. The next day, seven farmers were killed, and five others wounded by militant herders in the same area. People in El Fasher went to the streets in protest against the killings. An eyewitness told Radio Dabanga that the farmer was shot dead in Jedid El Seil, when he refused to hand his crops to gunmen.” Brazen violence of this sort, even near major urban areas, has become much more common. Notable here is the presence of UNAMID headquarter in El Fasher.
§ December 24, 2014: Khartoum expels the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country director, Yvonne Helle, giving her 72 hours to leave the country. No credible explanation is offered.
§ December 25, 2014: Khartoum expels the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ali Al-Za’atari; again no credible explanation is offered. The state-run “Sudan Media Center,” a heavily used propaganda organ, had on December 2, 2014 accused Al-Za’atari of “insulting” Sudan in an interview with an Oslo-based Norwegian newspaper. Any examination of the errors in the SMC reporting of the interview make clear that this was a crude “hit job,” serving larger political purposes.
Six days after the first expulsion, the U.S. gets around to offering a flaccid “condemnation” through the Director of the Bureau of Public Affairs:
The United States deplores the decision by the Government of Sudan to expel two senior United Nations officials and calls on the Government of Sudan to reverse the decision. The expulsions of Mr. Ali Al-Za’tari and Ms. Yvonne Helle, two highly regarded UN professionals, are detrimental to Sudan’s relations with the international community and to the protection and well-being of the people of Sudan. (December 30, 2014)
It would be difficult to imagine a more invisible forum or inconsequential statement coming from the Obama administration about a matter of grave import.
§ December 25, 2014: The National Consensus Forces (NFC)—working to bring down the current Khartoum regime by peaceful means—broadly endorses “Sudan Call,” a December 3, 2014 document that offers “A Political Declaration on the Establishment of a State of Citizenship and Democracy.” The National Consensus Forces was already a broad coalition of Sudanese opposition parties and activists.
Additionally, powerful letters to Gary Quinlan of Australia, the November President of the UN Security Council (November 14, 2014) and UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon (December 22, 2014) indicate greater cohesion and increasing resolve within the Darfuri groups on the ground and in the diaspora.
§ December 27, 2014: President al-Bashir responds to the growing political opposition by “lash[ing] out again at opposition forces and rebel coalition of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) and described them as agents, traitors and mercenaries for cooperating with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Israeli intelligence service (Mossad)” (Sudan Tribune). The stridency, vehemence, and paranoia of statements by al-Bashir and other senior regime officials have increased significantly this year.
§ December 27, 2014: Britain joins in Ban Ki-moon’s call for a reversal of the expulsion decision of al-Za’atari and Helle. The previous day Khartoum’s Foreign Ministry had responded to Ban’s call, issuing a statement “expressing regret for Ban’s ‘hasty’ rebuke of Khartoum and criticising his suggestion that it was meant as punishment of UN personnel working in the country” (Sudan Tribune, December 26, 2014)
§ December 28, 2014: Khartoum makes clear that it has no intention of reversing the expulsions of al-Za’atari and Helle. Indeed, Foreign Minister Ali Karti issues a threat of further expulsions:
The Sudanese government has threatened to expel more UN officials if they continue to “meddle” in the country’s internal affairs. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Karti announced on Sunday that the government will review the activities of UN officials in the country and warned that those found to be working outside their mandate would be expelled. Karti told reporters in Khartoum that Sudan will not rescind its decision earlier this week to expel UN country representatives despite calls by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to reverse the move. (Sudan Tribune, December 28, 2014)
§ December 29, 2014: Radio Dabanga reports a further build-up of Rapid Support Forces in the area between Shangil Tobay and Tabit. This is the route taken by UN during its attempt to investigate the mass sexual assaults on girls and women in Tabit (October 31 – November 1, 2014).
§ December 30, 2014: Radio Dabanga reports that Rapid Support Forces, in a growing pattern of violence, kidnap some 60 Darfuris:
Elements of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) ambushed a commercial convoy of three lorries in Tawila locality, North Darfur, on Monday. They seized two of the vehicles, and took 60 passengers with them to an unknown destination. A passenger of the third vehicle expressed his concern about the fate of the kidnapped people, fearing that they may be subjected to maltreatment and torture. “The convoy was transporting a number of passengers and commodities to the market of Fanga, when these Janjaweed intercepted us in the area of Terbo, 10 km south of Dubo El Omda,” he told Radio Dabanga.
• Almost 3 million people cannot return to their homes—displaced into IDP camps (2.4 million), living at non-UN sites (with family and friends in nearby villages, or simply under trees as they move toward what they hope is safety), an uncounted number displaced in Jebel Marra (which remains under humanitarian embargo, including for assessment missions), and more than 360,000 refugees in eastern Chad.
• Efforts by civilians to return to their lands and villages—the so-called “voluntary return villages”—have proved no safer than other villages: few in number, they too have been attacked by the Rapid Response Forces. As Radio Dabanga reports (December 14, 2014)
On Saturday, nine villagers were killed, and their homes burned to ashes in an attack by militiamen on Abu Jabra in Gireida locality, South Darfur. “About five weeks ago, the people of Abu Jabra had returned to their village, in the voluntary return programme organised by the Darfur Regional Authority,” an eyewitness from a neighbouring village told Radio Dabanga. “The formerly displaced had begun to settle themselves again at the place, located 20 km north of Gireida town. However, on Saturday afternoon, a large group of about 100 militiamen on camels and horses attacked the village, without any warning or clear reason. They fired at the people, killing nine instantly. After pillaging the entire village, they set it ablaze” …
• Violent attacks against villages by the RSF and other militia forces—often entailing wholesale destruction, pillaging, rape, and murder—have been escalating throughout 2014 and show no sign of diminishing.
• Land continues to be appropriated from African farmers by armed Arab groups on a large scale; this makes peace and reconciliation continually more difficult, and will likely be the primary obstacle in any peace settlement acceptable to Darfuri civil society.
• Radio Dabanga continues to report the unrelenting aerial bombardment of civilian targets in Jebel Marra and other regions of Darfur. The attacks are often deadly and immensely destructive, prompting significant human displacement. UNAMID fails to investigate or report these attacks.
• An epidemic of sexual violence against girls and women continues to be reported, primarily by Radio Dabanga, on a regular basis. (See extended overview of this grim reality | http://sudanreeves.org/2012/03/04/rape-as-a-continuing-weapon-of-war-in-darfur-reports-bibliography-of-studies-a-compendium-of-incidents/ )
• Severe humanitarian shortcomings in camps for the displaced are also reported on a virtually daily basis by Radio Dabanga. Morbidity and morality rates continue to climb, even if not reported by the UN (and as a consequence, by operational INGOs). For example, on December 28, 2014, Radio Dabanga reported that there are no doctors or medicines in Mukjar (formerly West Darfur).
• The death toll from the consequences of violence and violent displacement continues to rise; extant data as well as reports from the ground strongly suggest that the figure is now above 500,000. An increasing percentage of deaths are the direct result of violence.
• The UN, the United States, the European Union, as well as the African Union, continue to support the peace agreement known as the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (July 2011). This is so despite the fact that all know the agreement is a dead letter within Darfuri civil society and the major rebel groups; the Darfur Regional Authority created by the DDPD is a conspicuous failure after three and a half years of ineffective and finally inconsequential changes on the ground in Darfur.
• The U.S. position on the Doha document has been muddied by contradictory public comments coming from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and U.S. deputy charge d’affaires in Sudan, Christopher Rowan. On March 12, 2014, Power is reported by the Sudan Tribune as,
…call[ing] on members of the African Union Peace and Security Council to find an alternative forum to resolve the Darfur crisis, saying the DDPD has become outdated and cannot be relied on.
Sudan Tribune was also the source for Khartoum’s criticism of Power’s remarks:
The Sudanese government Tuesday criticised a statement by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, [which called] on the AUPSC so support the holistic approach and to merge the two peace processes for Darfur and the Two Areas. (March 12, 2014)
The United States deputy charge d’affaires in Sudan Christopher Rowan affirmed that the solution to the Darfur conflict could only come through dialogue and negotiations and not through arms, stressing his country’s support for the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).
Very recently, a State Department official informed me that the DDPD is regarded as untenable within the Obama administration, but that there is hesitation in declaring as much without a willingness to provide a serious diplomatic alternative. In short, the position of the Obama administration is expediently muddled.
Within Sudan, the DDPD is supported only by the Khartoum regime and for predictable reasons: any life remaining in the DDPD, even if entirely artificial, gives the regime an excuse for not engaging in further, meaningful diplomacy about how to bring peace, security, and justice to Darfur. Since so many high-ranking officials in the regime are responsible for massive atrocity crimes in Darfur, indeed genocide, there is simply no discussion of justice for those who have violated international law in Darfur.
• Brutal military campaigns in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states continue to target civilians and civilian food supplies and agricultural production. A humanitarian embargo placed on rebel-controlled regions by Khartoum in 2011 continues, with no signs of its being lifted. Bombing attacks—including attacks on hospitals, mosques, churches, schools, and grain storage sites—continue relentlessly with virtually no international condemnation, and certainly none of consequence. The burning of this year’s abundant sorghum crop, stipulated as a goal in the August 31 minutes, has begun.
• A severe political and news media crackdown continues to intensify in the run-up to the April 2015 presidential election. Darfuris are particular victims of the extreme political repression in Khartoum and at universities in other major cities. Despite this, there is growing evidence of political opposition united at many points. This opposition is strengthened by the continuing collapse of the Sudanese economy. One Sudanese economist, based in Egypt, claims that the country’s economy has already collapsed, and the current budget if entirely contrived. The IMF is supposedly monitoring the economy but contents itself with figures that come from the regime’s Central Bureau of Statistics, repeatedly cited without qualification in IMF reports.
• Increasingly close relations between Khartoum and Moscow suggest that the regime desires another key ally on the UN Security Council to block any further authorization of UNAMID. Humanitarian organizations are even now making contingency plans for withdrawing from Darfur if there is not even a nominal protection force on the ground. This is precisely what Khartoum wishes, indeed is central to its ghastly program to “Sudanize” humanitarian operation throughout Sudan.
• As is the case in so many regions of the world in which the U.S. has extended its “war on terror,” Sudan continues to be the beneficiary of policies that are governed not by the judgment of the State Department or concern for human rights and democratic development, but rather by the narrow interests of the multifarious U.S. intelligence community. This tendency has increased dramatically during the Obama administration, particularly in Sudan. Again and again, in countries around the world, we find examples of this deeply disturbing re-orientation within U.S. foreign policy.
[A brilliantly revealing account of this perverse development, in a very different region of the world (Central Asia) is offered in Alexander Cooley’s Great Games, Local Rules: The New Power Contest in Central Asia [Oxford University Press, 2012.]
June 30, 2015 continues to loom as the date on which Khartoum expects UNAMID to be out of Darfur. The UN Security Council will not have renewed the Mission’s authorization, and despite disingenuous words to the contrary from UN DPKO chief Hervé Ladsous, it won’t matter to either Russia or China what humanitarian and security conditions prevail in the region at that time.