Will UNAMID be compelled to withdraw from West Darfur?
This fifteenth installment of Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest has a very different time-frame and focus. I look exclusively at reports from the past half year bearing on how we must look at the impending decision by the UN Security Council as to whether or not it will renew the mandate for the feeble UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)—and whether, if it is renewed, it will be renewed in its present form, or with significant changes in the force, its mandate, or its areas of deployment. Current UN Security Council authorization of UNAMID expires on June 30, 2015.
[For previous (weekly) Radio Dabanga Digests, see:
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 1 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1CD
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 2 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1De
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 3 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Dt
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 4 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ei
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 5 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1EL
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 6 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Fp
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 7 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1FL
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 8 | http://wp.me/s45rOG-6452
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 9 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Gi
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 10 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Gt
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 11 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Hq
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 12 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1HY
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 13 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ia
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 14 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1II
Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 15 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ji —and below ]
Eric Reeves, 7 June 2015
Will UNAMID be compelled to withdraw from West Darfur?
Evidence strongly suggests that there is serious pressure to accommodate the Khartoum regime’s demand that UNAMID “exit” from Darfur. The impetus for this demand is largely of the UN’s own making by virtue of accepting the need for an “exit strategy,” one that is to be formulated expeditiously. This emerged not only from comments and reports by the Secretary General but in the highlighting of the terms announced in connection with the UNAMID re-authorizing resolution of last August (Resolution 2173).
The regime is on record as having said they wish to see the present 17,000 uniformed personnel reduced to 2,000 by the end of the year, this after previous reductions in the size of the originally authorized UNAMID: these come to over 10,000 personnel, with more reductions in the offing. Some of these previous reductions—e.g., the reduction of the original 19 Formed Police Units (FPU) to 13—cannot help but have serious consequences for the functioning of UNAMID as a protective force. Particularly in camp situations, FPU can be extraordinarily effective, if properly equipped and deployed. Some of the reductions—e.g., the firing of more than 200 native Darfuri translators—seem thoroughly unwise.
All of these reductions are described as “streamlining,” “reconfiguring,” “increasing efficiency,” or with other terms that disguise the true nature of what has already been done by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous. Permanent Members of the Security Council for their part have seemed more than acquiescent. Here are the comments of Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of the United Kingdom, which held the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of August 2014 when the re-authorization resolution was passed:
“The resolution prioritizes protection of civilians and humanitarian efforts in UNAMID’s work and requests enhanced human rights reporting from the Mission…”
“The resolution requests comprehensive and wide-ranging recommendations on the future mandate, configuration, composition, and exit strategy of UNAMID for next February, and expresses the Council’s clear intention to take prompt action on those recommendations. And we want to use this opportunity to make any necessary changes to improve the working of UNAMID.” [All emphases in all quoted material, whether in bold or bold underline, have been added; all editorial comments are in italics, in blue, with my initials following—ER]
Let’s be clear here: protection of civilians and humanitarians was always the primary feature of UNAMID’s mandate under the initial authorizing Security Council Resolution (1769, July 31, 2007). Section 15 (i)—in words that are announced immediately following the invocation of Chapter 7 authority—declares that UNAMID is mandated to “protect its personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its own personnel and humanitarian workers.” The very next section (15 [ii]) extends this mandate: “support early and effective implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, prevent the disruption of its implementation, and armed attacks, and protect civilians.”
To be sure, the disastrous Darfur Peace Agreement of May 2006 (negotiated in Abuja, Nigeria) was already a dead letter and would be replaced four years later by the even more diplomatically irresponsible Doha (Qatar) Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). But nothing in the August 2014 resolution gives more meaningful “priority” to the “protection of civilians and humanitarian efforts.” To suggest otherwise is shamefully disingenuous and an effort to boost civilian “protection” by merely rhetorical means.
Beyond this disingenuousness, however, lay a clear endorsement of an “exit strategy” for UNAMID, and the February date set at the time started the clock ticking in the minds of Khartoum’s political and military leadership.
Several sources with knowledge of the negotiations, in New York and Khartoum, have indicated that there is a strong possibility that West Darfur will be removed from the area in Darfur for which UNAMID is nominally responsible. A compromise on UNAMID presence in West Darfur may take the form of several hundred uniformed personnel remaining in the region, but this would clearly be a major capitulation to Khartoum. Although the “new West Darfur” is considerably smaller than the “old West Darfur” (a geographic issue I have recurred to often in these digests), it is still a very substantial region and can’t possibly be provided security by a force in the range of a single battalion. Nor will this remnant be able to provide security, or even escort protection, for the few remaining humanitarian organizations. Indeed, it is likely that the organizations remaining will withdraw, leaving the people of West Darfur completely without protection or international relief resources (see below). There is no relief corridor from Chad into Darfur.
Nor will UNAMID have the ability to redeploy to West Darfur in the event of an outbreak of the kind of terrible violence that wracked the region in early 2008. UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes declared at the time of this brutal offensive by Khartoum’s regular and militia forces:
“Rapid assessments have revealed severe consequences from the violence for some 160,000 civilians in the northern corridor connecting El Geneina and Kulbus, including the 20,000 currently at risk in Jebel Moun. The civilian population has experienced widespread displacement, property damage, and significant trauma and loss of life. Approximately 57,000 civilians were displaced due to the offensive. Along with countless homes, many compounds of non-governmental organizations have been looted or destroyed. Thousands of civilians have arrived in already overstretched Internally Displaced Persons camps near El Geneina or across the border into neighbouring Chad.” (Official statement of February 18, 2008)
Khartoum’s “Rapid Response Forces”—ready to move wherever in Darfur the regime wishes
If UNAMID deploys out of West Darfur (it had officially begun deploying into Darfur the month previous to the West Darfur onslaught—January 1, 2008), it will have no way to respond to such an offensive, or to offer anything in the way of civilian protection.
The signs that West Darfur might be excluded in any re-authorization acceptable to Khartoum have long been evident. Particularly notable is a relatively recent Radio Dabanga dispatch:
Sudan plans to disband camps in “secure” West Darfur | March 22, 2015 | El Geneina
The Sudanese government plans to dismantle the camps for the displaced in West Darfur, according to the Governor. Governor Haidar Galokuma told the Sudanese Centre for Press Services, owned by the security apparatus, on Thursday that his government intends to dismantle the camps in West Darfur, as part of its plans to return the displaced to their villages of origin. The West Darfur camps for the displaced are not needed anymore, he explained, as “an unprecedented secure and stable situation is prevailing in the state.” Sheikhs in the camps described Galokuma’s statements as “lies and deceptive,” referring to recent attacks on displaced at the Azirni, Kongok, Kereinik, and Um Tajuk camps.
As suggested by the sheikhs cited here, and below, this is a deeply unhappy misrepresentation:
“No UNAMID exit before peace in Darfur”: displaced | March 22, 2015 | Zamzam Camp
Notably, Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad refuse to be repatriated to Darfur; a great many are from West Darfur (“new” and “old”). This is a very recent, but entirely representative dispatch from Radio Dabanga:
Sudanese refugees in Chad refuse voluntary return | May 22, 2015 | Khartoum / Gaga Camp, eastern Chad
Sudan, Chad and the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees held a joint meeting in Khartoum to discuss the return of Sudanese refugees residing in twelve camps in eastern Chad. Babiker Ahmad Digna, the State Minister of Interior, confirmed his government’s commitment to achieve sustainable voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees in Chad. “It’s the best solution to their problems.”
The Sudanese refugees in the camps in eastern Chad [some 370,000 according to UN figures—ER] refused the government’s claims on voluntary repatriation and described the situation in Darfur as “more dangerous than when they fled to Chad.” Yassin Yahya, an activist in camp Gaga, told Radio Dabanga that the dream of returning home still entices all refugees, but the serious conditions prevailing now in Darfur cannot allow this.
Despite conspicuous insecurity throughout Darfur, getting rid of UNAMID nonetheless figured prominently in al-Bashir’s “election” campaign as he traveled to Darfur under extremely heavy security:
“Darfur does not need UNAMID protection”: Al Bashir | April 9, 2015 | El Fasher
Concluding his electoral campaign in the five states of Darfur, President Omar Al Bashir told supporters in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on Wednesday that the Darfuris do not need to be protected by foreign peacekeepers.
“Do you need someone to tell you how to find reconciliation between yourselves? Do you need UNAMID? Do you need the African Union? Do you need the UN?” Al Bashir asked hundreds of supporters. “Despite the rebels’ claim that Darfur is marginalised, they continuously impede the government’s efforts to build schools and dig wells. [There have never been such “government efforts”—indeed, the lack of them is precisely what led to the rebellion.] Instead they are trading the cause of Darfur, following a foreign agenda.” He said that the rebels will soon be eliminated. [Al-Bashir first made this claim in 2004—eleven years ago—and has stuck doggedly with it, here in a Reuters dispatch (February 24, 2010): “‘Now the war is finished in Darfur … We must start fighting the war for development,’ Bashir told his supporters at the rally in [North Darfur],” where the violence is currently most extreme–ER]
One of the sheikhs of the Zamzam camp for the displaced near El Fasher told Radio Dabanga that most of the camp residents boycotted the visit of Al Bashir, “except for a few people who joined the ruling National Congress Party in an attempt to meet some of their needs.” He compared the president’s visit to Darfur with “a murderer who visits the cemetery to dance on gravestones of his victims.” [This was certainly the attitude of the vast majority of people who did not attend the event—ER]
So just how big is West Darfur? The “old West Darfur” was approximately 700 kilometers north to south, and approximately 300 kilometers east to west. The “new West Darfur,” with substantial areas going to make up “Central Darfur,” is still large: over 300 kilometers north to south, and over 100 kilometers east to West. It is also the most difficult region to reach by overland transport.
There have been efforts in recent years to suggest that West Darfur, at least the “new West Darfur,” is somehow more secure than other parts of Darfur. UN head of peacekeeping Ladsous, regarded with contempt by many senior officials in the UN, has been especially culpable on this score. The present reduction in UNAMID was initiated three years ago when Ladsous asserted, falsely, that the security situation in Darfur, especially in West Darfur and the Chad/Darfur border areas, had sufficiently improved to justify a draw-down in troops levels. Following yet another deadly attack on UNAMID forces in July 2013, Ladsous declared, UNAMID “has the inherent robustness to deal with the situation” in Darfur (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], July 2013). There is nothing to support this claim, and UNAMID personnel have continued to face deadly attacks, many clearly carried out at Khartoum’s behest.
In a very limited sense, Ladsous’ characterization of West Darfur was true, given the extraordinary levels of violence in Central Darfur, South Darfur, and especially North Darfur, which is now witnessing levels of human suffering and destruction exceeding anything since the early years of the genocide. Victims continue to be overwhelmingly from the African tribal groups of Darfur, and the perpetrators of what are widespread and systematic atrocity crimes continue to be Arab militia forces (led by the regime-supplied and -equipped—and celebrated—“Rapid Response Forces,” RSF), and Khartoum’s regular military forces (the Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF)—including an air force that relentlessly targets civilians in a remorseless campaign of aerial bombardment that not only violates international law, but brazenly contravenes the “demands” of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005).
But as a survey of what has been reported from the “new West Darfur” over the past six months reveals, violence and threats to civilian and humanitarian security remain at intolerably high levels. I have assembled Radio Dabanga dispatches from these six months alone, organizing them by grim topics, and made very brief, only occasional editorial comments. The reports are so numerous that extreme concision has been required for all dispatches; most appear only with the title, date, and link. (NB: A useful and quite recent administrative map of Darfur appears here.)
The political backdrop to the current crisis over re-authorization of UNAMID
Perhaps the clearest signal of the potential for a catastrophic decision by the UN Security Council became clear exactly half a year ago. As reported by Radio Dabanga, Russia chose to support Khartoum’s position on the issue of UNAMID re-authorization:
UNAMID’s exit from Darfur supported by Russia, opposed by displaced, rebels | December 4, 2014 | Khartoum / North Darfur / Addis Ababa
Russia supports Sudan’s position on the departure of the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur. The Darfur displaced and the rebel movements voiced their strong rejection to UNAMID’s eviction. Foreign Minister Ali Karti announced at a joint a press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Wednesday that Sudan reached understandings with Russia about UNAMID’s exit. Lavrov arrived to Sudan early on Wednesday to attend the 2nd Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum convened in Khartoum. After a meeting with President Al Bashir and Karti, he stated during the press conference that Sudan and Russia agreed to support each other politically, militarily, and economically. On Sunday, Al Basher stressed in a press conference in Khartoum that he wants UNAMID to leave the country.
Dismal relations between Russia and the Permanent Three (France, the UK, and the U.S.—the P3) ensure that Vladimir Putin would enjoy subverting efforts to renew what the P3 at least claim to want. Moreover, Khartoum has also been an exceedingly good consumer of Russia weapons and armaments, including helicopter gunships and even highly advanced military systems such as advanced MiG-29 fighter jets, emblematic of the current regime’s spending profligacy. Knowing that it will likely be able to count on Russian support in the Security Council, Khartoum will push hard for radical cuts in UNAMID, perhaps exceeding the 85 percent cut in uniformed personnel that it has already tabled publicly. Supported with the threat of a possible Russian veto of any re-authorization resolution, the regime will strain to get as much as it can. As negotiations are now dragging on without resolution, it appears increasingly likely that the “new West Darfur” will be sacrificed to preserve the presence of UNAMID elsewhere in Darfur. What this ignores is that once the precedent of an essentially compelled withdrawal has been established, Khartoum will continue to push aggressively for more areas to be declared “secure” and thus no longer in need of a UNAMID presence—or indeed that of any international force or organization.
This won’t be because international assessment of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime has changed, as Radio Dabanga regularly reports:
“No improvement in Sudan’s war zones”: US Deputy | March 1, 2015 | Khartoum / Washington
“Freedoms severely curtailed in Sudan in 2014”: Amnesty International | February 26, 2015 | London
Freedoms of expression, association, and assembly were severely curtailed last year, with crackdowns on the media, public dialogue, and demonstrations, Amnesty International says in its annual State of the World’s Human Rights Report in 2014.
Sudan saw no progress in its abysmal rights record in 2014. Instead, new episodes of conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths and displaced; security forces repeatedly suppressed protesters demonstrating against government policies; and authorities continued to stifle civil society and independent media.
Reporters Without Borders Country Index of Press Freedom, 2015 [The Index ranks Sudan 174th of 179 countries surveyed—ER]
[The regime shut down UNAMID’s human rights office in Khartoum following the Tabit rape investigation and release of a damning internal UNAMID report on the event—ER]
Situation in Darfur “deteriorated significantly” over past year: Hervé Ladsous | March 18, 2015 | New York
[A dramatic reversal of assessment. Ladsous would have us believe that this” deterioration” is confined to the past year, but this is simply not true: the upsurge in violence began conspicuously in 2012, but Darfur has never been remotely close to true peace—ER]
UN human rights expert concerned about future of Darfur displaced | May 21, 2015 | Khartoum
“Sudan’s children bear brunt of conflict”: UNICEF | January 20, 2015 | Khartoum
Extraordinarily, some courageous Sudanese individuals are making equally telling points from within Sudan, although always at risk of arrest and possible torture or execution:
Dr. Amin Mekki Medan, former president of the Sudan Human Rights Monitor, was arbitrarily arrested on December 6, 2014 and detained until April 9, 2015. Prior to his arrest, Dr. Medani had just returned from Addis Ababa, where on December 3rd he had signed the “Sudan Call.”
[The “Sudan Call” is a Declaration on the “Establishment of a State of Citizenship and Democracy”, under which co-signatories committed to work towards the end of the conflicts raging in different regions of Sudan and towards legal, institutional and economic reforms. The Declaration, which commits signatories to end wars and conflicts as a priority, was co-signed in Addis Ababa by representatives from political and armed opposition parties…”]
“War in Darfur has led to chaos”: Ansar leader | June 3, 2015 | Omdurman
“Sudan’s judiciary corrupt since 1989”: former judge | December 21, 2014 | Khartoum
Liberation and Justice Movement apology to people of Darfur | February 2, 2015 | Khartoum
[This dispatch contains a remarkably candid admission by the Secretary General of the Liberation and Justice Movement, a factitious “rebel group” that was the only signatory to the July 2011 “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur,” a diplomatic disaster that Khartoum continues to cleave to because it is nominally an agreement; this way other rebel parties can have it demanded of them that they join in the “Doha process,” or be labeled “spoilers.” The Darfur Regional Authority created by the DDPD is widely regarded as a complete disaster—ER]
The secretary-general of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), Bahar Idris Abu Garda, has offered his apologies to the people of Darfur for the failure of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) to address their issues, and implement the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). In a meeting of LJM leaders on internal matters and the implementation of the DDPD, signed by the former rebel movement and the Sudanese government in 2011, Abu Garda apologised to the people of Darfur “who deserve more than an apology. I feel remorse because the DRA could have done much more regarding the Doha peace accord.”
[What goes unsaid here is that the DDPD never had the support of Darfuri civil society, which was not meaningfully included in the Doha negotiations, this at Khartoum’s insistence. Rebel groups other than the “LJM” were always opposed to the Doha process and agreement—ER]
The Sudanese economy is still imploding, with ever-greater consequences for citizens and the general food supply
A factor still not sufficiently considered in assessing the current political and security situation in Khartoum and Sudan more broadly is that despite the easy “re-election” of Omar al-Bashir as President of the regime, he continues to preside over an economy that is imploding, with high (and growing) real inflation, high unemployment/under-employment, a currency in free-fall, and an acute shortage of Foreign Exchange Currency (Forex). Beyond this, the regime has irresponsibly allowed external debt to explode up to US$46 billion, with no chance to repay or even service this debt—nor can the regime secure further substantial loans, even within the Arab world.
And without the required Forex, the regime cannot import key staples: cooking fuel and wheat to be ground into flour for bread. The reports of shortages, including in the Khartoum area, are relentless, a sure sign that the regime has essentially exhausted its hard currency reserves. This is a dangerous deterioration in Sudan’s economic situation, detailed in several Radio Dabanga dispatches:
Sudanese economists warn for rise of commodity prices | May 19, 2015 | Khartoum
Sudan’s inflation rate more than 24 percent in April | May 18, 2015 | Khartoum
Cooking gas and bread crises widen in Sudan | April 28, 2015 | Khartoum / Wad Madani
Cooking gas and bread crises continue in Sudan | April 23, 2015 | New Half / Kurti / Khartoum
Cooking gas shortage: charcoal, firewood prices skyrocket in Sudan | January 18, 2015 | North Darfur / Khartoum
Cooking gas crisis spreading in Sudan | January 8, 2015 | Khartoum / El Gezira
Sudan becomes ‘major weapons producer’ | February 25, 2015 | Abu Dhabi / Khartoum
[Given the dire straits of the economy, and the gross mismanagement of the agricultural sector over the past 25 years, it is difficult to imagine a more misguided investment of national resources. But this has been true of the regime during its entire time in power, and only a decade of booming oil revenues prevented an earlier day of economic reckoning—ER]
Even more worrisome, should the Melut basin oil fields in Upper Nile (South Sudan) be shut down, Khartoum would lose the transit fees it presently collects from the oil companies of the Petrodar consortium as well as from South Sudan. Such an additional loss of Forex would be crippling in the near term and might prompt military action by the SAF against the forces of South Sudan. A June 2015 report from Conflict Armament Research makes clear that Khartoum has for many months been supplying the forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/in Opposition (SPLA/iO), nominally led by Riek Machar. This is confirmation of what was revealed in the leaked minutes of a meeting of the regime’s most senior military and security officials in Khartoum on August 31, 2014. Several voices called for a strategically significant arming of the SPLA/iO. Were Khartoum to take an active role in the fighting over the Upper Nile oil fields, full-scale North/South war would seem to be inevitable.
The impact on Darfur of an imploding economy will take primary form in sharply rising food prices, something already evident in many locations, and certain to get worse as we move further into the “lean season” or “hunger gap” between spring planting and fall harvest. Food provided by the UN’s World Food Program must travel further to reach West Darfur (and parts of “Central Darfur” that were previously part of West Darfur) than any other Darfur state. Moreover, the WFP is running out of money for its operations in Darfur, and according to UN reports may soon be forced to reduce rations, something that has happened on a number of occasions in the past.
Given food shortages in and around Khartoum, we should also expect to see diversion of humanitarian food supplies, which can take any number of forms (import taxes, transportation surtaxes, local sales, or outright theft or appropriation). It has also become much more expensive to hire truck drivers to move food throughout Darfur because of the extremely high levels of insecurity and frequent hijackings of vehicles.
UNAMID withdrawal from West Darfur
The fundamental goal of this digest is to represent the level of violence and insecurity that currently prevails in West Darfur, as defined by what we learn from Radio Dabanga. The dispatches here, organized by topic, are all from the past six months.
If UNAMID is indeed withdrawn from West Darfur, remaining international humanitarian organizations will almost certainly leave as well: remaining in such an insecure and unmonitored environment would exceed all warning indications dictating withdrawal from a particular humanitarian theater. And with UNAMID and the INGOs go the last international eyes that might give us a sense of what is actually occurring in West Darfur, beyond what will continue to be reported by Radio Dabanga, a news source not taken nearly seriously enough by those fashioning Darfur policies. To be sure, UNAMID’s own reporting record is dismal, as the fiasco of the Tabit rape investigation made all too clear; but they are on occasion able to bear witness. INGOs can’t speak out publicly, although they can report conditions on the ground to those who will use the information cautiously. But there certainly won’t be any outside visitors if UNAMID is forced to withdraw from West Darfur; a recent Radio Dabanga dispatch will become boilerplate if UNAMID does withdraw:
No visa for Western diplomats intending to visit Darfur | April 22, 2015 | Washington
Nonetheless, the men in Khartoum expect that their nominal commitment to the contrived and worthless “Darfur Document for Peace in Darfur” will insulate them from international pressure, hence dispatches of this sort:
EU assured that “Darfur Peace will be respected” | January 27, 2015 | Khartoum
This is of course nonsense, but the EU has trouble saying as much—perhaps even believing as much. They have made of themselves a serious obstacle to real peace by too often accepting such “assurances” at face value, and continuing to support the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur long after it was clear that this fabricated agreement had no traction whatsoever in Darfuri civil society. Despite the familiar EU double-talk, the complete failure of the DDPD is clear if we attend to Radio Dabanga’s dispatches (and this is certainly not an exhaustive compendium):
Current violence in West Darfur, from which there will be no international protection in the event of a UNAMID withdrawal
Sudanese-Chadian troops torture villagers in West Darfur | April 27, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
[Note on administrative nomenclature: what is referred to as a “locality” by Radio Dabanga is designated as a “rural council” in the UN’s Darfur Field Atlases—ER]
“Government militiamen” attack displaced in West Darfur | January 4, 2015 | Kereinik, West Darfur
Man abducted for ransom in West Darfur | May 19, 2015 | Kereinik Locality, West Darfur
Militiamen threaten to torch West Darfur camp | April 17, 2015 | Kereinik, West Darfur
One killed, five injured in Darfur robbery raids | June 4, 2015 | Tawila / Sirba, West Darfur
Militiamen kill farmers, destroy crops in Darfur | March 10, 2015 | Mershing / Wadi Salih, West Darfur
Gunmen kill man, injure two, torch market in Darfur | December 9, 2014 | Darfur
Displaced molested by militiamen in West Darfur’s Sirba | May 3, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
West Darfur displaced tortured by military intelligence | April 22, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
Darfur’s militiamen lash women, shoot man near camps | April 21, 2015| Kabakiya / Nyala / Kendebe, West Darfur
One dead, another injured in Central and West Darfur attacks | June 1, 2015 | Niertiti / Murnei, West Darfur
Two dead in East and West Darfur shootings | March 5, 2015 | Ed Daein / Garsila, West Darfur
Displaced people in West Darfur beaten or kidnapped by militiamen | May 15, 2015 | Sirba and El Geneina, West Darfur
One killed in El Geneina-Zalingei road robbery, Darfur | February 20, 2015 | El Geneina and Sirba, West Darfur
Guards, militia members kill three in Darfur | February 20, 2015 | Ed Daein / El Fasher / Mukjar, West Darfur
Three killed by herders, militiamen in Darfur | December 19, 2014 | Darfur
West Darfur farmers despair militant herders | December 12, 2014 | Kereinik, West Darfur
West Darfur residents flee as herders threaten to attack | December 5, 2014 | Kereinik, West Darfur
Herders’ attacks on West Darfur villages continue | December 4, 2014 | West Darfur
West Darfur security agents beat up electoral candidate | April 2, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
Man killed in gunmen’s attack on West Darfur village | January 23, 2015 | Kereinik, West Darfur
Arms, ammo stolen in attack on West Darfur police station | March 5, 2015 | Kereinik, West Darfur
Government militias control Karnoi, Um Baru, Kutum water sources in North Darfur | February 8, 2015 | Karnoi / Um Baru / Kutum [North Darfur]
[Although this dispatch reports on North Darfur, the same pattern of controlling water sources is occurring in West Darfur, with enormously destructive implications for the African farming populations—ER]
Violence in the form of fires, some clearly arson
Inferno destroys 45 houses in Abu Suruj camp, West Darfur | February 8, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
Inferno at West Darfur’s Kerendig camp | March 1, 2015 | Kerendig Camp, West Darfur
Fires break out in various parts of Darfur | May 28, 2015 | Darfur, West Darfur
Sheikh dies in West Darfur camp fire | February 24, 2015 | Kendebe Camp, West Darfur
Fire destroys homes in West Darfur camp | December 10, 2014 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
[With the withdrawal of UNAMID, dismal as its reporting record has been, we may be sure that arson will never be investigated or prosecuted; the regime calculates that it will be easy to empty camps for the displaced: simply burn them to the ground—ER]
Sexual violence is unrelenting throughout Darfur, including West Darfur
Women, girl gang-raped in West Darfur’s Sirba | April 30, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
West Darfur child killed in savage rape | February 19, 2015 | El Geneina, West Darfur
[It is insufficiently noted, even by Radio Dabanga, what the fates are of the young girls who endure the utter horror and physical destruction of violent gang-raping. Many certainly suffer the fate of this nine-year-old girl—ER]
Displaced girl raped, “two men arrested” in West Darfur | May 8, 2015 | Sirba, West Darfur
A displaced girl of twelve years old was raped by five men in Sirba locality, West Darfur, on Wednesday. She is in the hospital, while the police have taken two people into custody. The coordinator of the camps for displaced people in Sirba reported the incident, which happened east of Sirba, to Radio Dabanga. He said that the militiamen wore military uniforms and that they raped the victim near Abu El Rish, in one of the valleys close to a camp. “People found the girl bleeding on the ground in one of the valleys. She was taken to the hospital in Sirba, and then to El Geneina, for treatment.” He added that the incident was reported to the police, and claimed that they managed to arrest two of the perpetrators.
[Sirba is one of the most violent and unstable places in West Darfur, and it is extremely unlikely that the police apprehended two militia perpetrators, and even less likely that the men will be prosecuted: these brutal men rape with complete impunity—ER]
Woman raped in El Geneina locality, West Darfur | December 7, 2014 | El Geneina Locality, West Darfur
Two raped near displaced camp in West Darfur | December 19, 2014 | Kereinik, West Darfur
Upsurge of attacks in Central Darfur, rape attempt in West Darfur | December 26, 2014 | Mukjar / El Geneina, West Darfur
Violence against Darfuri students, a number from West Darfur
Darfuri students in Sudan “in dangerous situation” | May 19, 2015 | Omdurman
Seventeen wounded in second attack on students in Khartoum | May 13, 2015 | Khartoum
Two Darfuri students detained, five wounded in Khartoum | May 28, 2015 | Khartoum
The future of humanitarian assistance and humanitarian needs in West Darfur
There can be no understanding violence in West Darfur, or anywhere in Darfur, without understanding the consequences of violence for those displaced, the way in which relief access has been attenuated, and the general severe trauma that has been endured by the population. Mental health issues are not represented in this analysis, but they are a very significant part of overall morbidity, especially among children and victims of rape.
Radio Dabanga has consistently reported, in detail, on humanitarian conditions and the suffering endured by those in camps for displaced persons, many of which have been subject to attack, looting, and even arson. Humanitarian indicators provided by various sources also make clear that despite the resources of the international relief community, the region is declining along with the rest of Darfur. By any measure, humanitarian capacity has been sharply reduced, even as insecurity has risen. To take but one example, provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a useful “infographic” map of Darfur:
Resources allocated to address the humanitarian needs of people affected by insecurity in Darfur have continued to decline since 2009. Darfur has also seen a corresponding drop in the number of aid workers since this time. As of 30 June 2009, the number of national and international aid workers in Darfur dropped from 17,700 to 12,658 when 13 INGOs were expelled. This further decreased to 6,850 in 2013, and by 30 November 2014 only 5,540 aid workers in international organisations remain in Darfur.
Less than a third of the humanitarian workers present six years ago are now in Darfur; 97 percent of them are Sudanese nationals, with only three percent of workers coming from outsider Sudan. And this has affected West Darfur as much as the other parts of Darfur, even as the overall scale of the relief challenges is not smaller but rather greater.
After years of deliberately downplaying the number of displaced persons, the official UN figure for displaced persons is now 2.55 million; the real number is almost certainly considerably greater, and this does not include the roughly 370,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad: they too are “displaced.” OCHA estimates in the same document that 4.4 million Darfuris are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, and again, this figure does not include the very substantial refugee population in eastern Chad. The best estimate of the pre-war population of Darfur is 6 million, although there is no true census of record. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, perhaps as many as half a million. And twelve years after the beginning of genocidal counter-insurgency, two thirds of the population will continue to need humanitarian assistance. (For regular updates on humanitarian conditions in Darfur, see OCHA’s weekly bulletin series.
For their part, Darfuris, in camps and rural areas—much as they despise UNAMID for its lack of effective action and reporting—are clearly against any withdrawal of whatever meager provision of security the force provides. They are also well aware that if UNAMID withdraws, the few International Nongovernmental Humanitarian Organizations (INGOs) remaining are unlikely to stay without any protection other than that provided by the Khartoum regime.
For its part, the regime has made no secret of its hostility of to those INGOs who are doing what Khartoum itself has not done, and is not inclined to do, by way of assisting the people of Darfur:
Sudan expels top UN officials | December 25, 2014 | Khartoum
Sudan has ordered two top officials from the United Nations to leave the country by the end of this year. The move is a surprise as the two most senior UN officials in Sudan are both not involved in UNAMID, the peacekeeping operation that was asked to leave a month ago. The officials are heading the largest humanitarian development agency in Sudan… The reason for the expulsions was not clear, and Sudan’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
MSF-Belgium suspends aid in East and South Darfur, Blue Nile | January 29, 2015 | New York
The Belgian branch of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) today announced the closure of its activities in Sudan, owing to “the Sudanese government’s systematic denial of access to people trapped in conflict areas.” In a press release today, MSF states that a total denial of access to Blue Nile state, forced closure of activities in East Darfur, and administrative obstacles and blockages in South Darfur “have made it impossible for MSF to respond to medical emergencies in these areas.”
Altogether more than two dozen international humanitarian relief organizations have been expelled—thirteen at one stroke in March 2009. Many individuals have been singled out for expulsion, as with the senior UN officials noted in the dispatch above. Other organizations have withdrawn for security reasons. Many more have been expelled from other parts of the country, including Eastern Sudan. A regime-imposed humanitarian blockade remains in place in rebel-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, denying critical relief to many hundreds of thousands of increasingly desperate civilians.
It is important here to note the malnutrition data in a leaked UNICEF document from last year, first released by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times; below are excerpts for Darfur from “Malnutrition Defined/UNICEF”:
• The rate of Acute Malnutrition among children in West Darfur is 8 percent.
• Chronic malnutrition among children in Sudan is widespread and pervasive:
Central Darfur: 45 percent
East Darfur: 40 percent
West Darfur: 35 percent
North Darfur: 35 percent
South Darfur: 26 percent [end of report excerpt]
These are shocking figures and demonstrate just how little the current regime has done to provide food security for its citizens, in Darfur or in other areas that also struggle with chronic malnutrition. That the data have been withheld from wider circulation by UNICEF is scandalous, but reflects the level of intimidation created by the Khartoum regime. One person who was not intimidated was the former head of UNICEF in Sudan, Nils Kastberg, who made the deliberate and consequential suppression of key data explicit:
Nils Kastberg [said in October 2010] that Khartoum is preventing his agency from releasing reports about malnutrition in IDP camps. “Part of the problem has been when we conduct surveys to help us address issues, in collaboration with the ministry of health, very often other parts of the government such as the humanitarian affairs commission [HAC] interferes and delays in the release of reports, making it difficult for us to respond [in a] timely [manner],” he said.
[In an earlier interview with Radio Dabanga, Kastberg had also declared]: “Sometimes it is security services that hinder access or delay access, sometimes it is the humanitarian affairs office [HAC] that delays the release of nutritional surveys. Sometimes it is delays in granting permissions and visas. It is different sections of different [government] institutions which interfere in our work.” (http://www.radiodabanga.org/node/4997 )
This is the context in which to understand the global data from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which estimates the current “burden” of people suffering from Acute Malnutrition in all of Sudan is staggering 2 million.
The need for clean water is acute throughout Darfur, and indeed Sudan as a whole:
Drinking water crises throughout Darfur | March 6, 2015 | El Radoom / Adila / Tawila
About 100,000 newly displaced in Darfur not reached with any aid | June 4, 2015 | Khartoum
[Many of these are from West Darfur—ER]
Funding constraints end aid operations in Darfur and Kordofan | May 15, 2015 | Kadugli / Sirba, West Darfur
Drinking water crises in West and South Darfur | February 22, 2015 | Nyala / Murnei, West Darfur
Meningitis cases, drinking water shortage in Khartoum | May 29, 2015 | Omdurman
The Children’s Emergency Hospital in Omdurman has received more than 50 cases of meningitis within the past two weeks, amid a severe heat wave that sweeps central Sudan. Residents in parts of Khartoum took to the streets in protest against drinking water cuts.
Primary medical care:
[Crises elsewhere give us a glimpse of West Darfur’s future, where a humanitarian blockade can be mounted effortlessly and with no international witnesses—ER]
Health care blockade claims three children in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra | March 1, 2015 | East Jebel Marra
[A health crisis in one area may spread very quickly, as is the case with measles—ER]
“Measles spread in Darfur, eastern Sudan”: health ministry | April 21, 2015 | Khartoum
2,169 measles cases, 27 deaths reported in Sudan | April 30, 2015 | Khartoum
The OCHA Sudan Weekly Bulletin | May 17, 2015 reports that as of mid-May, there were 2,336 confirmed cases of measles, including 653 deaths; the measles epidemic is disproportionately affecting West Darfur, where there are 650 cases, second only to the Khartoum region.
Disease kills 21 Darfuri children in Chad | March 30, 2015 | Eastern Chad
[There has been a precipitous drop in the funding for relief operations to assist Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad; morbidity and mortality will surely continue to increase—ER]
If humanitarians are forced to withdraw from West Darfur because of a deployment out of the area by UNAMID, their vaccination programs will come to an end. Given the highly contagious nature of diseases such as measles, the situation would pose a grave health threat to the rest of Darfur, and indeed all of Sudan. At the same time, we must remember just how vulnerable humanitarian organizations are in Darfur. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) issued the following statement in 2011 about Khartoum’s allegations that CRS was distributing Bibles among those it served:
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has worked in West Darfur, Sudan since 2004 and has established strong partnerships with the community and local government in the area. CRS remains committed to meeting the immediate and long-term development needs of more than 500,000 people of Darfur regardless of race, religion or nationality. Recently allegations have been made that CRS has distributed Bibles in West Darfur. CRS strongly denies these allegations. CRS does not distribute Bibles. The distribution of Bibles would be a violation of our policy…. The allegations have resulted in perceived safety threats to our staff and CRS was forced to temporarily close our Darfur offices and relocate staff. We hope to resume our critical aid and development work in West Darfur as soon as possible. [end of statement]
At the time CRS was the leading implementing partner for the World Food Program in West Darfur, and remains in the region. It is not likely that the organization will be able to continue if UNAMID withdraws.
It is difficult to find a census of international relief organizations that remain in West Darfur, but the UN’s Common Humanitarian Fund for 2015/First Round Allocations indicates that the following organizations are receiving support for work in West Darfur:
• Catholic Relief Services (several funded projects): shelter and non-food items (NFI); humanitarian support to disaster and conflict-affected communities; protective and life-saving education services for IDP children;
• International Medical Corps (several funded projects): Supporting delivery of quality and life saving primary healthcare services to vulnerable communities in Central, South, and West Darfur;
ª International Organization for Migration (IOM): Displacement Tracking Matrix; registration, tracking, and assessments of mobile populations in Sudan;
• World Relief: Support primary health care services for vulnerable groups in Kereinik and Geneina locality, West Darfur;
• The UN’s World Health Organization: Emergency life-saving services for the communities affected by conflict, displacement and disasters in 38 high priority localities in Sudan [including] West Darfur: Kereinik (without Murnei camp) and Jebel Moon.
• Strikingly, only one Sudanese National Nongovernmental Organization (NNGO) is listed as receiving UN support for work in West Darfur: Sudanese Organization for Rehabilitation and Construction, for work to “assist vulnerable long-term IDPs, newly displaced and disaster-affected population and returnees with emergency shelter (ES), non-food items, and environmental-friendly transitional shelters in West and Central Darfur.”
A great many organizations that previously worked in West Darfur have been expelled or came to regard the region as too insecure. Save the Children/USA was once the organizing INGO in West Darfur, but was expelled without cause along with twelve other INGOs in March 2009. In the process, Khartoum stripped the departing organizations of a wide range of assets, as well as making exorbitant claims for unpaid fees and salaries, that amounted collectively to tens of millions of dollars—unavailable for humanitarian work in other parts of the world.
Food security, malnutrition, and morbidity/mortality:
No organization is listed as an “implementing partner” for the UN’s World Food Program, not even Catholic Relief Services, which performed this task at least through 2011. Unsurprisingly, Radio Dabanga has frequently reported on WFP’s use of “food brokers” to distribute food, which inevitably increases significantly the cost of food distribution—or, as is more likely, reduces the amount of food distributed to those most in need. It is important to remember that primary health care and food security are deeply linked: malnutrition is the greatest risk factor for disease and death, especially for children under five.
Many more organizations are listed as receiving support for operations in “Central Darfur,” particularly those areas (of what was formerly West Darfur) that have been most ravaged over the past twelve years and currently face the greatest threats of violence and deprivation. If Khartoum does indeed succeed in compelling UNAMID to withdraw from West Darfur, we may be sure that Central Darfur is next of the list.
29 veterinarians quit in West Darfur | March 31, 2015 | El Geneina
The West Darfur Minister of Agriculture and Livestock has accepted the resignation of 29 veterinarians in the state. The veterinarians submitted their resignation mid-2014, in protest against the appointment of Animal Production graduates as directors at the Ministry’s livestock departments in the West Darfur localities.
[Such cronyism is endemic in Sudan under the current regime; that it costs West Darfur 29 veterinarians is a very serious matter, given the importance of livestock in the food security of these people—ER]
World Food Programme to re-classify needs of Darfur displaced | June 5, 2015 | Khartoum
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is conducting a survey among the displaced living in the Darfur camps, in order to classify them according to their needs. WFP representative Bakri Osman said in an interview with Radio Dabanga, of which the first part will be broadcast today (Friday), that the process began last year in some of the camps, and will be completed early next year. The UN agency, in collaboration with partner organisations and camp leaders, has gathered information from 600,000 displaced at 25 out of the 50 camps targeted this year. Osman explained that the information determining the standard of living of each household is obtained through a questionnaire, designed and implemented by a WFP team, in cooperation with the local community.
[Ordinarily this might seem a prudent measure; but in the context of declining donor contributions to relief efforts in Darfur, it is difficult not to see this as an exercise driven by inadequate funding rather than by a truly objective effort to “re-classify” people according to need—ER]
He commended the cooperation by the displaced and their understanding of the classification process, which, he said, has not been completed yet. The final classification into four categories will be based on the results of the survey. The WFP is currently providing food assistance to 1,400,000 displaced in 50 Darfur camps. 900,000 of them receive foodstuffs, while 600,000 receive food vouchers.
OCHA reported in its Weekly Bulletin of 18 January 2015 that donor funding to the nutrition sector has been declining since 2010. In its weekly Sudan bulletin of May 31, 2015, OCHA reported that,
… the WFP voucher programme [is] severely underfunded. Funding for WFP cash and voucher assistance is facing a severe shortfall, with a complete break in funding anticipated from July onwards. WFP estimates the extent of this funding shortfall at almost $24.8 million, including $18.4 million in transfer value for the next six months. In response, WFP has already halted a number of expansion plans and will likely cut rations in some locations for the month of June. [June is the very height of the traditional “hunger gap” between spring planting and fall harvest—ER]
If no urgent funds are mobilized however, WFP may have to further disrupt the voucher distribution cycle with more extensive ration cuts or even complete suspension of the programme. This puts almost 500,000 people, mostly IDPs, at risk of receiving no voucher assistance from September onwards.
[Beyond this terrifying prospect, it remains an open question as to whether WFP will be able to continue operating in West Darfur if UNAMID withdraws; WFP relies on “implementing partners” to distribute food, or food vouchers, since it doesn’t begin to have the manpower required for such an enormous task: will there be any such “implementing partners” to assist WFP in West Darfur?—ER]
Deteriorating security for humanitarians and UNAMID personnel:
“Upsurge of crime targeting humanitarian operations in Central Darfur,” is the header in OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin, May 24, 2015.
[What can we expect in West Darfur if only Khartoum provides “security”? – ER]
It is important to remember that humanitarians in Darfur have from the beginning of their deployment in large numbers (2004) been constantly subjected to harassment, various forms of intimidation, violence at the hands of local officials and police, denied visas for extended periods of time, and often subsequently denied the travel permits that allow for movement from Khartoum to Darfur. Humanitarian supplies have been delayed without reason for unconscionable periods of time, including urgently needed medical supplies. Humanitarian officials and organizations have been expelled from Sudan by the regime on a regular basis, as noted above. Access to areas critically in need (most of Jebel Marra, for example) is denied to relief workers. UN access maps—showing where relief workers are permitted to travel and security allows—reveal a steady contraction of operating space.
Given the perception of West Darfur that Khartoum is attempting to project, humanitarian organizations remaining in West Darfur after any UNAMID withdrawal are likely to be subject to an intense version of these chronic abuses. A recent incident, “deeply regretted” by the UN Secretary General, demonstrates just how cruel Military Intelligence (the regime’s primary organ of control in Darfur) can be:
“The Secretary-General … deeply regrets that, on 26 April, the Government of Sudan denied a flight request for the emergency medical evacuation of an Ethiopian peacekeeper injured while forming his duties in Mukjar in West Darfur. The peacekeeper died hours later.” (Statement of April 28, 2015)
This supreme callousness will be fully at work in West Darfur, if with other targets, should UNAMID withdraw. Such a hostile environment raises a host of questions:
• How will large transports of food by the UN’s World Food Program be conducted? Who will protect convoys once they reach West Darfur?
• What happens in the event of a major outbreak of violence against civilians, especially those in camps, if UNAMID is not present and not able (legally or logistically) to return on an emergency basis?
• What will happen if camps for displaced persons are systematically destroyed, and people are simply told to “return to your homes”—which in almost all cases no longer exist, have been seized by Arab militias or opportunistic groups, or are far too insecure to permit a resumption of agricultural life?
• How will the 370,000 refugees in eastern Chad feel that it is safe to repatriate?
Another key issue raised by the prospect of UNAMID’s withdrawal from West Darfur
Who will teach the young how to reconcile in this cauldron of violence? how to gain usable work skills?
Teacher shortage closes basic school in West Darfur | February 10, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
Severe teacher shortage in West Darfur | March 15, 2015 | Sirba Locality, West Darfur
UNICEF: Sudan to start enrolment campaign for 300,000 out-of-school children | May 31, 2015 | Khartoum
[The teachers and students of West Darfur are unlikely to see the benefits of this effort if violence accelerates with the withdrawal of UNAMID—ER]
Many hundreds of thousands of children have lost their childhoods, and their chance to become educated adults. The long-term effects of such loss and deprivation will be one of the greatest obstacles to a truly just and lasting peace for the region. Employment opportunities for people coming of age in camps that are ghastly “suburbs” of Nyala, El Fasher, and El Geneina will be few, and transportation from their homes in camps—which every day become more permanent—will be too expensive. It is difficult not to see explosive problems in such a future.
Conclusion: The Genocide Continues
The Darfur genocide will continue until the international community brings sufficient pressure on Khartoum to halt its ethnically-targeted destruction. There is increasing hesitation in some quarters to use the word “genocide” to describe what seems chaotic violence, not always under Khartoum’s control—and indeed often resulting in attacks on or hostility towards the Sudan Armed Forces and local officialdom. The situation is made more complex by the realities of significant inter-Arab tribal fighting, particularly in East Darfur (formerly South Darfur) where there seems to be no stable truce between the Rezeigat and Ma’aliya groups around the Abu Karinka area (Radio Tamazuj, May 12, 2015). Inter-marriage and changes in economic status have also, over many generations, worked to blur ethnic identity in many cases.
But if we look at those who have died, have been raped, have been displaced, have been forced to live in camps with often appalling conditions, or have suffered most from the appropriation of lands and possessions, we are looking at a population that is, by design, overwhelming African in character. Besides the enormous mortality and morbidity totals to date, two key parts of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide remain fully relevant:
“Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”
“Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”
The latter actions take the form of rape in Darfur; for not only are rapes frequently so violent as to be fatal, the fact of rape causes enormous familial and social disruption for the victim. Often she cannot bear children because of the violence of the rapes; fistulas are also common; but most significantly, these women face much diminished prospects for marriage and child-bearing. Some men peremptorily divorce their wives on learning of their being raped. Other women are scarred by their attackers, to ensure that the fact of their having been raped is always visible. Rapes are frequently committed before family members or larger social groups, ensuring that memory will be scarred even without physical evidence.
Rape is a weapon of war in Darfur, as all who have studied and reported on this terrible reality have concluded. Rapists—whether in militia forces or the Sudan Armed Forces—have systematically targeted African women because of their ethnicity. To be sure there are random acts of sexual violence in a chaotic and deeply insecure region; but even these are typically reported as having been committed by an individual or groups of Arab ethnicity.
Collectively there have been tens of thousands of rapes of women and girls over the past twelve years in Darfur and eastern Chad—likely many tens of thousands, although such a conclusion is necessarily inferential. For its part the UN has been intimidated by Khartoum into under-reporting sexual violence and refusing to discuss it as a major issue in the region. But the vast number of rapes and their systematic ethnic targeting make clear the relevance of the 1948 Genocide Convention. This may not be medical sterilization, castration, or any of the other methods Raphael Lemkin had in mind when he drafted what would become the Convention; but the effect of massive, systematically targeted rape of African Darfuri women and girls is undoubtedly a brutal method “intended to prevent births within the group.”
Even more clearly relevant to the situation in Darfur is the clause speaking of “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
This is and has long been the very definition of Khartoum’s counter-insurgency war against the civilians perceived as supporting rebel groups—civilians known to be overwhelmingly of African ethnicity. International jurisprudence has established that the question is one of intent, not motive. And while it is often thought that “intent” is more difficult to establish than “motive,” this is a problematic claim and moves us into the more philosophical realm of human psychology. But it is certainly the case that we can infer intent from acts or declarations: a sufficient number of acts of the same character allow us to infer a specific intent.
In Darfur, we have countless accounts of the destruction of villages, poisoning or demolishing water wells, burning of dwellings and markets, denial of access to water points, burning food- and seed-stocks, looting or killing livestock, destroying agricultural implements—the list goes on and on. These are acts “calculated” to “bring about the physical destruction” of people dependent on all that has been taken from them by the violence Khartoum continues to orchestrate. The violence may be more chaotic than in the earlier years of the genocide, but even in allowing this chaos Khartoum reveals its “intent” for the African people of Darfur.
As for declarations of “intent,” I invoke again the words emanating from the headquarters of Musa Hilal, the most notorious of the Janjaweed leaders, in a memo written in August 2004 (here as cited by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal):
The ultimate objective in Darfur is spelled out in an August 2004 directive from [Janjaweed paramount leader Musa] Hilal’s headquarters: “change the demography” of Darfur and “empty it of African tribes.” Confirming the control of [Khartoum’s] Military Intelligence over the Darfur file, the directive is addressed to no fewer than three intelligence services—the Intelligence and Security Department, Military Intelligence and National Security, and the ultra-secret “Constructive Security,” or Amn al Ijabi. (Julie Flint and Alex de Waal, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War, Zed Books, 2005)
Much has happened since August 2004; but Musa Hilal, freed by Khartoum from prison for murders he had committed in order to lead the northern Janjaweed on their genocidal rampage, is still needed by the regime. And as a March dispatch from Radio Dabanga makes clear, the partnership is an apt one:
Al Bashir urges people of Darfur “to expel the devil” | March 23, 2015 | Nyala
Addressing a rally in Nyala, South Darfur, on Thursday, the incumbent president said that the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur has met all the demands of the Darfuris. “There is no longer any need for carrying arms, except for those who want to undermine peace. It was the devil that entered Darfur, dismantled the social fabric, and divided the people until they disagreed, and began fighting with each other,” he said in his electoral campaign speech, urging the Darfuris to curse the devil, and “expel him by deeds, not by words.”
Sheikh Musa Hilal, former Janjaweed leader and head of the Mahameed tribe in Darfur, announced that his Revolutionary Awakening Council has decided to support the candidacy of the incumbent Sudanese president.
The “devil” indeed “entered Darfur,” although in the form of evil conceived in Khartoum. And of course one common rendering of Janjaweed, of uncertain authority, is “devils on horseback.” Whatever the etymological standing of the translation, it tells us far too much about Darfur today—and about the dangers that will only increase in West Darfur if it is traded out in a compromise deal between the UN and African Union on the one hand and the Khartoum regime on the other.
“The victims [of the Holocaust] perished not only because of the killers, but also because of the apathy of the bystanders. What astonished us after the torment, after the tempest, was not that so many killers killed so many victims, but that so few cared about us at all.”
[Elie Wiesel, “Why were there so few?”]