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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Catastrophe in Darfur, Chad accelerates amidst intl disarray

No progress on security, diplomatic, or political issues; international
actors find no common ground in confronting Khartoum; eastern Chad slips further into chaos

By Eric Reeves

April 4, 2007 — The mismatch could hardly be greater between the massive security
crisis in Darfur and eastern Chad on the one hand and the pusillanimous
disarray on the part of the international community in responding. The
clearest beneficiaries of this disarray are the génocidaires in Khartoum
and their Janjaweed militia proxies; those who suffer most are those
innocent civilians who now confront a fifth year of genocidal
counter-insurgency warfare. And while the Darfur rebel groups and
leaders certainly bear significant responsibility for current
unsustainable levels of insecurity, here we must also recall how badly
the people of Darfur have been served by the international community
forcing through the ill-conceived “Darfur Peace Agreement” (May
2006). We must also see how relentlessly the Khartoum regime has sought
to prevent the rebels from creating a common negotiating front,
including several times deliberately bombing sites where the African
Union has sought to engineer a cease-fire with the rebel groups.
Khartoum also continues to imprison Suleiman Jamous, perhaps the most
critical figure in creating rebel unity (see my analysis of Jamous’s
key role, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article153.html). Khartoum is
clearly intent on denying the rebels Jamous’s conciliatory skills.

A grim genocide by attrition settles ever more deeply over Darfur and
eastern Chad, with almost a million human beings completely beyond
humanitarian reach. Mortality in these regions is unknown but is
certainly in the thousands per month. We do know that UN agencies now
estimate that approximately 4.5 million people in the greater
humanitarian theater are “conflict-affected” and in need of
humanitarian relief. A huge percentage of these people are totally
dependent on humanitarian assistance for food, water, and primary
medical care. If the Crude Mortality Rate (CMR) for this population
(deaths per day per 10,000 of population) has risen by even 0.7 above
normal (0.6 for Darfur, according to UNICEF), then excess monthly
mortality is in the range of 10,000 human beings—month in, month out.

Humanitarian assistance continues to contract, and the catastrophic
threat of humanitarian collapse has been reiterated by the new UN
Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes. We are obliged to
face the stark possibility that in the near term, without any chance for
an international response, we could be facing monthly mortality well in
excess of 100,000 human beings. Those describing current efforts to
secure military protection for humanitarians and civilians in Darfur as
indulging a “salvation delusion” had best come up with a comparable
term for the massive, very real human destruction that will surely ensue
if present insecurity continues or deteriorates.

IN THE DIPLOMATIC ARENA

There appears to be no coherence in the various approaches of the US,
the UN, the EU, or other important international actors—nothing that
moves Khartoum closer to accepting a meaningful deployment of UN forces.
At the same time, in the wake of Sunday’s (April 1, 2007) killing of
five African Union troops guarding a water point near the Chad/Darfur
border, there have been sobering words from AU officials:

“African Union forces can no longer cope with the dangers in Darfur
and need the help of UN troops to prevent further ‘slaughter,’ a top
AU official in Sudan said on Tuesday [April 4, 2003]. Sam Ibok, head of
the AU team charged with implementing a peace agreement in western
Sudan, expressed his concerns after gunmen killed five AU troops in the
deadliest single attack against the African force since it deployed in
2004. The five Senegalese soldiers were guarding a water point near the
Sudanese border with Chad when they came under fire on Sunday. Four
soldiers were killed in the shooting and the fifth died of his wounds on
Monday morning.”

“‘The African Union force cannot cope with the circumstances that
it finds itself in, and we have to be honest about it,’ Ibok told
Reuters Television in an interview. ‘Anybody who wants us to succeed
would need to work to give us the ability to be more effective and that
can only be done … between the United Nations and the African
Union.’ [ ] The latest deaths brought to 15 the number of AU
personnel killed in Darfur since troops were deployed in late 2004. A
senior Nigerian officer working with the mission has been missing since
he was kidnapped in December [2006].” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum],
April 3, 2007)

Reuters also reports that “the attack came a day after a helicopter
carrying the African Union deputy force commander came under fire on its
way from western Darfur to the force’s headquarters in El Fasher, the
region’s biggest town” ([dateline: Khartoum], April 2, 2007)

African Union Commission Chief Alpha Oumar Konaré declared in the wake
of these events:

“‘If this trend continues, the peacekeeping operation in Darfur will
be in serious jeopardy,’ Mr Konare warned in a statement. ‘It has
become imperative and unavoidable, in the present circumstances, to
speedily implement the three-phase approach to the peacekeeping
operation in Darfur,’ the statement continued.” (BBC, April 3,
2007)

THE ROLE OF ARAB LEAGUE COUNTRIES

But despite these urgent words, the Khartoum regime remains adamantly
opposed to allowing significant UN forces into Darfur to relieve the
hopelessly overwhelmed and badly demoralized AU mission, even if these
UN forces come in the form of the “three-phase approach” to which
Konaré refers. There has been a serious effort at obfuscation here, in
which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has become dismayingly complicit.
At the Arab League summit, host Saudi Arabia disingenuously attempted
to suggest that some breakthrough had been achieved on the force
originally authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31,
2006), and subsequently mooted in general terms as a “three-phase
UN/AU hybrid operation” in the “Conclusions” document to the Addis
Ababa “High Level Consultation on the Situation in Darfur” (November
16, 2006):

“‘Sudan has now agreed for the UN to provide logistical support to
help African forces,’ Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said at a
news conference. ‘This means there will be some non-African forces
there and this is a breakthrough that never happened before and we hope
it leads immediately to a solution to the humanitarian tragedy in Darfur
as soon as possible.’” (Reuters [dateline: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia],
March 29, 2007)

But this is of course self-congratulatory nonsense: Khartoum has always
agreed to UN logistical and financial support for AU forces in what the
regime insistently calls an “AU/UN hybrid operation.” Just as
insistently, Khartoum has refused to countenance an “AU/UN hybrid
force,” one that has UN authority and non-AU troops and commanders.
There has been no breakthrough, though by claiming one Saudi Arabia is
evidently bent on suggesting that the Arab League is a force for peace
in Darfur, when in fact it has been unstinting in supporting
Khartoum’s National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) regime
at its most intransigent. As if to re-emphasize the actual position of
his regime, NIF President Omar al-Bashir again declared in Riyadh what
he has for months:

“Al-Bashir said UN resolutions calling for a UN troop deployment in
Darfur were ‘a violation for Sudan’s sovereignty’ and ‘provoke the
conflict in Darfur, instead of finding a solution for it.’ ‘We
assure you that we do not desire a confrontation with the international
community, but what we are seeking is to keep the African color of the
forces in Darfur according to the shape and leadership, but on condition
that the UN will take over the financial, technical and logistic support
for those forces,’ [al-Bashir] said.” (Associated Press [dateline:
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia], March 28, 2007)

The arrogance of the Saudis was on full display in the Kingdom’s
characterization of the Arab League agenda:

“The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Monday
[March 26, 2007] that ‘Arab national security’ will top the agenda
of the summit, which begins Wednesday in Riyadh. Al-Faisal said Arabs
want to have their own ‘mechanism’ to resolve regional conflicts
such as Iraq and Darfur. ‘Experience has shown that Arabs can solve
their problems without foreign intervention,’ he added.” (Associated
Press [dateline: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia], March 27, 2007)

In characterizing Darfur as an “Arab problem,” Prince al-Faisal
reveals not only arrogance, but a revealing refusal to acknowledge the
ethnic realities that have defined human destruction and suffering for
over four years. That the non-Arab or African populations of Darfur are
asked implicitly here to submit to a purely Arab “security
mechanism,” given the vast and brutal predations of the Arab
Janjaweed militias, is a ghastly irony evidently lost on the ethnically
parochial Prince al-Faisal.

But Saudi Arabia is hardly alone among Arab countries in its
contemptuous attitudes towards Darfur. Commenting on Algeria’s
pernicious role in recent debate within the UN Human Rights Council in
Geneva, Human Rights Watch declared of competing draft resolutions on
Darfur:

“The draft resolution [on human rights in Darfur] put forward by
Germany—in an apparent effort to achieve consensus—is carefully
worded and presents only a small step forward. The council could, and
should, do much more to end abuses in Darfur. In contrast, however, the
Algerian draft is a shameful attempt to deny the horrific situation in
Darfur and delay any action by the council to address it.” (Human
Rights Watch press release [Geneva], March 22, 2007)

Egypt also continues to play a thoroughly unhelpful role in securing
from Khartoum consent for the UN peace support personnel so desperately
needed by both civilians and humanitarians:

“President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt rebuffed a request today from
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to influence Sudan’s president to drop
his objections to United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur. At a morning
meeting with the Egyptian president here, Mr. Ban said he had asked for
help in changing the mind of the Sudanese leader, Omar Hassan al-Bashir,
who has been defying United Nations requests to put troops into Darfur
to help the overwhelmed African Union mission there. ‘The issue is not
pressure, the issue is discussions between the government of Sudan and
the rebels,’ said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister,
who appeared at a news conference with Mr. Ban.” (New York Times
[dateline: Cairo], March 24, 2007)

Aboul Gheit makes no mention of the Khartoum regime’s use of bombing
attacks as a primary method of “discussion” with the rebels,
evidently willing to overlook what was very publicly reported by the
African Union last December:

“Sudanese forces bombed two rebel locations in Darfur just days after
the head of the African Union’s peacekeeping force visited the area to
urge the rebels to join a cease-fire agreement, the AU said yesterday
[December 30, 2006]. A Sudanese government aircraft on Friday [December
29, 2006] bombed Anka and Um Rai in North Darfur province where Gen.
Luke Aprezi had met on Wednesday [December 27, 2006] with rebels, an AU
statement said. ‘When a bombing is made after I have visited an area,
my credibility is involved,’ Aprezi told The Associated Press by
telephone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. ‘To that group, I don’t have
any credibility anymore.’”

“The incident jeopardizes efforts to bring additional groups into the
cease-fire that a single rebel faction and the government signed in May
2006, the AU said. [ ] The AU obtained consent from Sudanese officials
in Darfur and the capital ahead of meeting the rebels, it said in the
statement. It called Friday’s [December 29, 2006] attack ‘a seriously
disturbing development.’” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum],
December 31, 2006)

Khartoum’s bombing attacks, violating the cease-fire agreements the
regime has signed and showing complete contempt for UN Security Council
resolutions, have continued to be reported by the African Union:

“The African Union denounced air bombardment by government warplane
of two localities in North Darfur near the Chadian border, saying Sudan
ceasefire violations will hinder its effort for durable ceasefire.
‘The [African Union] Ceasefire Commission (CFC) notes with concern
the bombardment by Government of Sudan forces of Kariari and Bahai, 2
villages in North Darfur close to [the] Chad-Sudan border on 11 February
2007, at about 1200hours,” [the AU] said a statement issued [ ] on
Sunday 11 February [2007].”

The AU Ceasefire Commission statement continued,

“‘The AU CFC considers these acts unwarranted especially as efforts
are on to ensure that the ceasefire to which all Parties expressed
commitment holds in order to seek an enduring political solution to the
crisis.’ The Sudanese government routinely bombs, the African Union
and the United Nations have regularly condemned Khartoum for these
flagrant violations of ceasefire agreement.” (Sudan Tribune [dateline:
el-Fasher], February 12, 2007)

Reuters reported in January 2007:

“The African Union has confirmed Sudan’s army bombed two villages in
North Darfur, violating ceasefire agreements and jeopardising efforts to
revive a stalled peace process. [ ] In the first independent
confirmation of rebel reports that the government bombarded their
positions in Anka and Korma on January 16 and 19, [2007] the AU
condemned the attacks. ‘The (AU) ceasefire commission is once again
calling on all parties to refrain from any activities that will
jeopardize the peace process,’ the statement sent late on Monday
[January 22, 2007] said.”

“Rebels are trying to hold a conference in Darfur to unify their
position ahead of a renewed push for peace talks. They want government
guarantees that the conference will not be attacked, but the army has
three times bombed rebel positions in the past two months, the AU
says.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 23, 2007)

Most recently the UN High Commission for Refugees reported (March 27,
2007) yet another bombing attack by Khartoum, with civilians clearly the
targets. Two international aid workers, operating amidst intolerable
levels of insecurity on the ground, were wounded in the aerial assault:

“Last Thursday [March 22, 2007], a plane described by witnesses as a
Sudanese Antonov, bombed areas north and south of the north-eastern
Chadian town of Bahai. The air strikes included the area around Lake
Cariari, several kilometres from the Oure Cassoni refugee camp. Oure
Cassoni hosts nearly 27,000 Sudanese refugees. While no refugees were
injured, several Chadian civilians and two humanitarian workers from an
international NGO were wounded. This is not the first time that air
strikes have occurred near Oure Cassoni, which is only 5 km from the
Sudanese border. Air strikes were reported over a two-day period in
early January 2007 and in October 2006. UNHCR has been seeking agreement
from the refugees and Chadian authorities to move the camp further from
the border.”

THE ROLE OF UN SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON AND UNDER-SECRETARY FOR UN
PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS JEAN-MARIE GUEHENNO

Even as various Western nations belatedly and fitfully move toward
stiffer sanctions against Khartoum, with no evidence at hand that this
will move the regime’s génocidaires in their currently defiant mood of
self-preservation, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indulges the foolish
notion that Khartoum will somehow be talked into accepting what it has
for months pointedly and publicly refused to permit: an adequate
complement of UN troops as part of the necessary security force for
civilians and humanitarians in Darfur.

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the United States and
Britain to hold off on a push for tougher sanctions against Sudan,
saying he needs more time to persuade the country to accept the
deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur. Ban said he hoped to send UN
experts to Ethiopia’s capital next week to follow up on an agreement he
reached last week with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to work out UN
support for a beleaguered African Union peacekeeping force. ‘My
position is that, before we talk about sanctions, let me have some more
political space to deal with this dialogue’ with the Sudanese
government, Ban told reporters Monday [April 2, 2007] after returning
from a tour in the Middle East.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New
York], April 3, 2007)

It is now more than seven months since the UN Security Council passed
Resolution 1706, under Chapter VII auspices of the UN Charter,
authorizing deployment of 22,500 troops and civilian police, with a
robust mandate to protect humanitarians and civilians. It is almost
five months since a document was produced in Addis Ababa that has served
as the vague roadmap for discussions of a “three-phase” deployment
of UN personnel alongside the AU in Darfur; the third “phase” of
this “plan” was to bring the force level to approximately 20,000
troops and civilian police.

To date, approximately 200 UN technical experts have deployed to
Darfur. And as the AU has made desperately clear in recent days, what
remains of the AU mission in Darfur is on the verge of total collapse.
Why, it must be asked, is Ban Ki-moon content simply to speak with such
a conspicuously, obdurately defiant regime? If there are to be
“political talks,” why are they not in Beijing, with the one
government that actually has the diplomatic and political leverage to
move Khartoum? Why is Ban engaged in more conversation with men who
wish for nothing more than an indefinite extension of
“negotiations”?

What time-frame governs the Secretary-General’s sense of when
protection forces must deploy to Darfur? How many more months is he
prepared to wait before deciding that Khartoum will never acquiesce?
How much closer to full-scale, catastrophically consequential
humanitarian evacuation is he prepared to allow the crisis to move?

Questions must also be asked of Jean-Marie Guéhenno, UN Undersecretary
for Peacekeeping Operations. The UN News Service reports a disturbingly
evasive answer by Guéhenno to a perfectly legitimate query:

“Asked if there was a timeline for intervention, given the dire
humanitarian situation, the Under-Secretary-General [Guehenno] said:
‘The timeline has been broken many times. I think we should have
[had] an answer yesterday.’” (UN News Service (March 19, 2007)

Of course Khartoum has “broken the time-line many times,” and of
course the international community should have had an answer, a positive
answer, from Khartoum “yesterday,” indeed months ago. It has taken
several letters from successive UN Secretaries-General to arrive even at
the present thoroughly muddled situation, which has contributed
significantly to paralysis of the international will in responding to
Darfur. But the simple fact is that though there should have been an
answer yesterday, though time-lines should not have been broken, the
realities of the situation are otherwise. The real force of the
question Guéhenno has so obviously dodged here is: “Is there some
point at which the UN and the international community will cease to
confer veto-power on a regime of génocidaires? Is there some point at
which the lives of millions of Darfuris, and the humanitarians upon whom
they depend, will matter more than the threats that Khartoum has issued
and implied?” This question Undersecretary Guéhenno has no stomach to
answer. Instead he is reduced to meaningless circularity:

“‘We do believe that it’s important to have a strong peacekeeping
presence [in Darfur],’ [Guéhenno] said. ‘We believe that it’s
important to have a political process, but that political process needs
to be supported by a solid peacekeeping presence. One supports the
other. One without the other will not be sustainable.’”

But we have neither a political process nor meaningful peacekeeping;
something must come first; both will not be brought to fruition
simultaneously. What we do know is that without a peacekeeping, or at
least protection force in Darfur, there will very likely be hundreds of
thousands of civilian deaths in the coming months. Can Darfur wait for
a credible “political process” with this overwhelmingly urgent
threat to human lives? What is Mr. Guéhenno talking about?

In fact, he seems primarily to be talking about extended time-lines
rather than broken ones:

“Mr. Guéhenno told a Security Council meeting that the latest written
response from Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir to
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s letter detailing the planned force
indicated there may be ‘fundamental strategic differences’ over
Darfur. ‘We still have, unfortunately, a long way to go because there
may be some fundamental misunderstandings on what are the expectations
of the Government of Sudan and what is on offer,’ [Guehenno] told
journalists.” (UN News Service, March 22, 2007)

It “may be” that there are “fundamental strategic differences”
over Darfur, Mr. Guéhenno? What part of the recent stiff-arming letter
from NIF President al-Bashir did you not understand? It could not have
been a more explicit rejection of the terms of reference that have
guided UN understanding of what was achieved in the “Conclusions”
document of the November 16, 2006 “High Level Consultation on
Darfur” in Addis Ababa. There is no “may” to the matter:
Khartoum continues adamantly to reject an “AU/UN hybrid force” and
cleaves consistently to the much attenuated notion of an “AU/UN hybrid
operation,” with the UN supplying only technical advice, funding, and
logistical assistance.

Despite such clarity, Guéhenno simultaneously declares that “the
situation on the ground in Darfur ‘requires urgent action,’” even
as he intimates a willingness to engage in endless “clarification”
with Khartoum:

“We’ll never take any reaction [from Khartoum] as a rejection,’
Guehenno said. ‘We can’t afford that and the people in Darfur
can’t afford that. … We are prepared to clarify any detail in
what is on offer.’” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], March
20, 2007)

But nor can the people of Darfur “afford” the extraordinarily
accommodating attitude represented here: such an attitude will yield
nothing but delay and growing confidence on the part of the regime. It
is all well and good for Guéhenno to declare that “the international
community has already ‘waited much too long,’ given the level of
suffering across Darfur.” No one could possibly quarrel with such an
assessment. The question is of course what is Mr. Guehenno prepared to
advocate for as a way of foreshortening what he himself describes as the
“long way to go” before the UN can possibly secure consent from
Khartoum for deployment of UN forces.

THE WESTERN POWERS

The stench of hypocrisy is as great in Europe as it is in the US and
Canada. An irrelevant Japan barely reaches the threshold of
indifference. But perhaps the French have set a new standard, as
suggested by an Associated Press dispatch from Paris (March 21, 2007).
In two paragraphs we have:

“‘We cannot stay silent before one of the great humanitarian
tragedies of our time,’ [President Jacques] Chirac said in a statement
sent to the [Darfur] rally [in Paris]. ‘If atrocities follow, if the
word is not kept, the (UN) Security Council will have no other choice,
but to adopt sanctions.’”

“Last week, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Darfur should
be at the top of the UN agenda, but dismissed the idea of a UN Security
Council resolution against Sudan.”

Khartoum will have little difficulty in discerning how concerned the
Chirac government really is.

Germany has recently joined in a contest of moral bluster with the UK:

“British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the actions of Sudan’s
government ‘unacceptable’ and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called
the Darfur region’s suffering ‘unbearable.’” (Associated Press
[dateline: Es Sallam, Darfur], March 25, 2007)

But both Germany and Britain have found ways to make Darfur’s agony
“acceptable” for the past four years. The suffering may be
dismaying, but it has proved “bearable.” Why hasn’t Britain
forced the suspension of business in Sudan by Rolls Royce, or Weir Pumps
(Glasgow)? Why did it take an American divestment campaign to force
German industrial giant Siemens to suspend operations in Darfur? What
commitments of troops to a UN peace support operation have Germany or
the UK made publicly? In fact, Prime Minister Tony Blair recently
acknowledged that Britain would not be sending any military forces to
Darfur for a possible UN operation, this despite the fact that in summer
2004 the senior British military official, General Sir Mike Jackson,
publicly declared that Britain could send a brigade to help stop
genocide in Darfur. For its part, Germany has remained revealingly
quiet on the question of any possible troops contribution to a UN
mission.

However “unacceptable” or “unbearable” Darfur’s realities are
declared to be, ways will be found by the expedient.

Blair’s recent insistence on implementation of a “No Fly Zone”
(NFZ) has at last prompted serious military scrutiny of the
practicability of such an effort. And despite the admirable
goal—grounding Khartoum’s aerial weapons of civilian
destruction—an Iraq-style NFZ is neither feasible nor an appropriate
expenditure of resources, given the dearth of funding and equipment
presently endured by the AU forces actually deployed (it is worth
recalling that the best of these forces, those of Rwanda, may be
deployed out of Darfur in coming months if resources are not found for
them). A “No Fly Zone” is, as British military aviation specialist
Paul Smyth has recently written, “Easy to Say, Difficult to
Implement” (March 13, 2007 at
http://www.rusi.org/publication/newsbrief/ref:A45F675ED3A8C7/; listen
also to a Public Radio International discussion of the issue at
http://www.theworld.org/?q=node/8876; and see my analysis of the
risks of an accidental shoot-down of humanitarian aircraft, at
http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article157.html).

What sounds like a muscular response is finally nothing but more
posturing.

The predominant European attitude was best captured in a recent
dispatch form Brussels:

“The European Union acknowledged Monday that the lack of a military
option and China’s UN support for Sudan will make it tough to take
decisive action on the Darfur crisis, despite calls by EU leaders for
tougher measures. ‘You have to make sure that that you do not raise
expectations that cannot be met,’ said EU spokesman Amadeu Altafai
Tardio.” (Associated Press [dateline: Brussels], March 26, 2007)

There can hardly be any worry, in any quarter, that the Europeans are
in danger of “raising expectations that cannot be met.”

For its part, the US has been fatally compromised in its credibility by
virtue of empty bluffing on the part of Special Presidential Envoy for
Sudan Andrew Natsios. In late 2006 Natsios threatened US deployment of
some putatively muscular and coercive “Plan B” if Khartoum did not
accept key elements of the UN proposal for forces in Darfur by January
1, 2007. Three months later, there are a mere 200 UN technical
personnel in Darfur, there is no agreement on the elements of the second
“phase” (the “heavy UN support package” to the AU), and not even
initial discussion of the third “phase”—actual deployment of what
the UN had fancifully assumed would be a large AU/UN “hybrid
force.”

In fact, it has long been difficult to elicit either honest or
consistent answers from the Bush administration about its Darfur policy.
The genocide determination made by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell
(September 2004) seems more a burden than a moral commitment. What else
are we to make of recent comments by State Department Spokesman Sean
McCormack on March 20, 2007? —

“‘We have gotten to a point where we need to look, give a good,
hard look at what levers we might use at our disposal in order to
convince the Sudanese government to change its position.’” (Reuters
[dateline: Washington, DC], March 20, 2007)

This is an extraordinary declaration: we have only now “gotten to a
point” where we begin to survey the “levers” that can be brought
to bear in order to halt what the Bush administration has accurately
described as genocide? Colin Powell’s determination, made on the
basis of an extensive and authoritative investigation by the Coalition
for International Justice along the Chad/Darfur border in August 2004,
came two and a half years ago. McCormack’s words—suggesting an
urgency that has only recently to have risen to the point where the US
might use all the resources at its disposal in pressuring
Khartoum—seem grotesque. What this dilatory time-frame actually
reveals is yet again that the US has no further resources of
consequence, unless willing to make of Darfur a truly first-tier issue
in its bilateral relation with the regime in Beijing.

Otherwise, “Plan B” amounts to no more than an effort to force
Khartoum to convert its presently dollar-denominated contracts to
contracts with other currencies as their basis for denomination. And
even this is unlikely to have much impact, since such currency sanctions
already exist for many companies. Reuters reports,

“About 130 firms with ties to Sudan’s government, including the two
leading oil companies, are already on a US sanctions list barring them
from doing business with the United States or from using US financial
institutions to do dollar transactions—the favored currency for
lucrative oil trades.” ([dateline: Washington, DC], March 29, 2007)

With a highly valued, fungible international commodity such as crude
oil, Khartoum may be inconvenienced by additional US currency sanctions,
but hardly made to move out of its current survivalist mode. A lack of
true coerciveness also defines so-called “targeted sanctions,” which
attempt to concentrate punitive pressure or scrutiny on Khartoum’s
leaders. With years to sequester their wealth in anticipation of such
measures, and with a full willingness to travel exclusively in the Arab
and Islamic worlds (which will never enforce targeted travel bans),
Khartoum’s génocidaires must confront much greater pressure before
yielding on a matter as consequential as deployment of a UN/AU force.

HUMANITARIAN CONDITIONS IN DARFUR AND EASTERN CHAD

There is no respite for the people of Darfur or eastern Chad. The
feckless, diffident, and morally cowardly responses from the
international community do nothing to diminish the harsh realities of
this still-deepening humanitarian crisis. A survey of recent
developments reveals a number of extremely disturbing trends, which
suggest all too powerfully that the excess Crude Mortality Rate
suggested above may in fact be conservative, and that human mortality is
vastly understated, particularly in areas to which there is no
humanitarian access (and thus no possibility of humanitarian
assessment).

[1] Ongoing displacement: the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs estimated that approximately 30,000 people were
newly displaced in February 2007; this followed a January displacement
figure of 50,000. There is no figure for March, but it is very
certainly considerable. At the same time, camps for internally
displaced persons in Darfur are reaching or have surpassed capacity:

“Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan’s
conflict-torn Darfur region are almost at full capacity due to a
continuing influx of people fleeing violence, with 30,000 people
uprooted last month alone, the United Nations reported today [March 20,
2007]. Since January 80,000 people have fled, on top of half a million
others displaced in 2006. [ ] Last week, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
reported that IDP camps were sheltering 50,000 to 100,000 people apiece.
‘We simply cannot absorb any more displaced,’ UNICEF country
representative Ted Chaiban said on his return from a visit to Darfur.”
(UN News Center, March 20, 2007)

[2] At the same time, access to the 4.5 million conflict-affected
persons in Darfur and eastern Chad continues to diminish. A recent
UN/nongovernmental aid organization study found that “access for aid
agencies in Darfur dropped to 64 percent in January [2007] and 20
percent of the affected people could not be reached by any humanitarian
agency. ‘An average of 2.45 million people, 70 percent of the conflict
affected-population, remain food insecure’ [the report] noted.” (UN
Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: Nairobi], March 19,
2007)

We catch a rare glimpse of life beyond the reach of humanitarian aid in
a Reuters dispatch for Deribat (Jebel Marra), March 26, 2007:

“Government forces closed off the main supply route to rebel-held
Deribat five months ago, residents say, isolating an area vulnerable to
multiple front lines that have driven away humanitarian organisations.
Deribat, one of the main villages in the southeast of the Jebel Marra
region, welcomed the new United Nations humanitarian chief on Sunday
during his Darfur tour aimed at winning aid groups more access to
victims of the conflict.”

“After the children stopped singing and hospitable local leaders
shook his hand, the magnitude of the task ahead soon became apparent to
John Holmes, the UN’s under-secretary for humanitarian affairs and
emergency relief coordinator. Mothers with infants in their arms cried
out for medicine. Others feared their children would be robbed of an
education. Holmes was shown water pumps in the village, which could dry
up if maintenance supplies were not flown in.”

“But aid groups say it is too dangerous to operate in Jebel Marra,
where humanitarian workers have been targeted by militias, including an
incident last year in which uniformed Arab militias [Janjaweed] beat
four NGO workers while their international female colleague was sexually
assaulted. The last two remaining aid groups left the area in August.
‘You can’t just drop medicine from the air,’ said an aid worker,
who asked not to be named. ‘We look for windows of opportunity to help
out. Many humanitarian agencies have fled rural areas and this has
severe consequences.’”

[3] At the same time, IDP camps are increasingly becoming magnets for
food and resources—an ominous development in a region where previous
displacement has overwhelmingly been a function of insecurity:

“While [ ] aid workers try to also give food and blankets and other
aid to those [Darfuris] in the remote villages cut off from the
fighting, limited funds and insecurity means those outside the camps
often get less aid than those inside. Some aid workers expressed
concerns that this was attracting people who were more economic migrant
than refugee.” (Reuters [dateline: el-Geneina, West Darfur], March 21,
2007)

Such a “magnet effect” can distort even further local economies,
and make the task of humanitarian aid delivery that much greater.

[4] Khartoum continues to wage its war of attrition against
humanitarian relief, yet another instrument of genocidal destruction,
even if the means are constantly varying. While signing a recent
agreement to improve humanitarian access for international organizations
(an agreement that contained some of the same provisions that were
embodied in the July 2004 version of this “agreement”), Khartoum was
at the same time obstructing the work of indigenous Sudanese relief
efforts:

“[The Government of] Sudan temporarily suspended 52 non-governmental
organisations working in Darfur on Thursday as the new UN humanitarian
chief began his first visit to the country, hoping to win aid groups
better access to the region. Jamal Youssef Idriss, from the government’s
Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) in Nyala, said the NGOs had been
suspended from working in southern Darfur state after an investigation
aimed at preventing fraud found they did not comply with regulations.”
(Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 22, 2007)

And the visiting UN humanitarian chief, John Holmes, quickly discovered
that his high office meant nothing in the killing fields of Darfur:

“Sudanese troops barred the UN humanitarian chief on Saturday from
visiting Darfur’s most violence-plagued refugee camp during his first
trip to the war-torn region. The convoy carrying John Holmes was halted
at a checkpoint about a mile (1.2 kilometers) outside the Kassab refugee
camp, and he was told he did not have the proper papers to visit the
site.”

“‘I’m frustrated, annoyed, but it’s not atypical of what happens
here,’ Holmes told journalists traveling with him. He said his trip
had obtained all the necessary clearances from Khartoum. ‘This is
rather typical of the kind of problem people are encountering in this
kind of area. But it is interesting to see it in practice,’ he said.
The soldiers at the checkpoint briefly prevented a car carrying
journalists from leaving after Holmes turned back from the site. The
journalists were only allowed to leave after the troops took a videotape
from a UN television cameraman.” (Associated Press [dateline: Kassab,
North Darfur], March 24, 2007)

As Associated Press notes in this same dispatch,

“Kassab, home to more than 25,000 refugees, has seen the highest
level of rapes and other attacks against its residents. The camp is
located in a region under tight control of the janjaweed and government
forces, near the town of Kutum, 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of El
Fasher, the North Darfur capital.”

Despite subsequent “official apologies,” it was no accident that
Holmes was denied access to this particular camp.

Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times, one of the very finest
journalists to have reported from Darfur, recently filed a dispatch that
gives an excruciatingly acute sense of the bureaucratic obstacles facing
humanitarian operations:

“Aid agencies say their operations are tied in endless ribbons of red
tape. Rather than being chased from the country by violence they are
more likely to lose heart from the endless bureaucracy—a slow death by
a thousand paper cuts. ‘Many organizations are saying that the
bureaucratic obstacles are the No. 1 problem and may be the straw that
breaks the camel’s back,’ said one senior aid official, who spoke on
the condition on anonymity for fear of government retaliation.”

“The mountains of paperwork—including trips to government
ministries to obtain official stamps and permissions for visas, travel
permits and import tax exemptions—take up so much time that one large
aid organization with operations across Darfur employs five full-time
workers whose only job is to navigate the bureaucratic maze. The
government signed an agreement with the United Nations in 2004 that
eliminated most restrictions on aid workers. But that agreement has been
repeatedly violated: a United Nations list of incidents compiled in the
first two months of the year cited more than two dozen cases of workers
being forced off aid flights, turned back at checkpoints or denied
paperwork and visas.”

“Visas are issued for a few months at a time, if at all. Exit visas
are required for workers staying more than a month, but these, too, can
take weeks to come through and cost $120 each. The cost of a single
worker’s paperwork can add up to $1,000 a year.” (New York Times
[dateline: Deribat, Darfur], March 25, 2007)

“The cost of a single worker’s paperwork can add up to $1,000 a
year.”

These excessive costs to humanitarian organizations, and Khartoum’s
contempt for humanitarian organizations, have consequences felt not only
in Darfur, but in South Sudan, which struggles to but itself together
after decades of ruinous civil war:

“[International] Donors began meeting on Tuesday [March 20, 2007] to
pledge money to rebuild Sudan after a devastating north-south civil war,
but the event was overshadowed by the separate conflict in Darfur being
left off the agenda. [ ] The [Khartoum] government refused to allow
Darfur to be on the agenda and at the last minute cancelled a compromise
meeting to be held separately on Monday, UN officials and diplomats
said. Donors have already pledged some $4.5 billion to rebuild Sudan,
ruined by two decades of civil war, after a north-south peace deal in
January 2005. But most of that money has not appeared and the south
complains much has been redirected to Darfur.”

“The meeting—dubbed the Sudan Consortium—had hoped to address
that issue, in addition to getting the original pledges renewed and
securing fresh promises of cash. But the cancellation of the Darfur
meeting meant some donors withdrew high-level participation.” (Reuters
[dateline: Khartoum], March 20, 2007)

EASTERN CHAD

[5] Not nearly enough attention has been focused on eastern Chad,
where ethnically-targeted violence continues to spill across the border
from Darfur, often at the instigation of Khartoum and involving
Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militia forces. Indeed, eastern Chad in some
ways presents more difficult humanitarian problems than Darfur itself.
In a grim irony, the UN has found itself moving some Chadian victims of
the war into Darfur for safety. The situation was appropriately
highlighted by Undersecretary Holmes during his assessment mission to
the region:

“[Holmes] said at least 140,000 displaced Chadians and 235,000
Sudanese refugees are now sheltering in the barren eastern deserts of
the vast north-central African country, while emergency relief NGOs and
UN agencies are struggling to support them because of ongoing fighting
and attacks on them. ‘I am very worried by the situation and the
international community… perhaps underestimates its gravity,’ he
told journalists in the capital N’djamena on Wednesday. ‘The needs are
enormous and get bigger every day,’ he added, highlighting that donors
have so far only paid US $40 million of the $173 million needed to keep
food, water and shelter supplied in eastern Chad.” (UN IRIN [dateline:
N’Djamena], March 29, 2007)

The consequences of this shortfall were made explicit recently by the
UN’s World Food Program:

“Scores of thousands of displaced Chadians are running out of food in
the eastern border region with Sudan and face a desperate struggle to
survive absent new donations to meet the needs of a rising tide of
people uprooted by continuing conflict, the United Nations World Food
Programme (WFP) warned today. ‘This is not a sustainable situation,’
WFP Chad Country Director Felix Bamezon said, noting that even before
the latest increase in displaced people the agency’s $85-million
Emergency Operation to assist Sudanese refugees, internally displaced
people, host communities and refugee-affected local people in eastern
Chad from January 2007 until June 2008 had received only $39 million,
leaving a 54 per cent shortfall.”

“‘Life in eastern Chad has always been precarious, but now tens of
thousands of Chadians are being pushed to the breaking point. There is
simply not enough food to go around,’ he added of the ‘race against
time’ to pre-position as much food as possible before the rainy season
starts in late June, making most roads impassable.” [ ]

“A recent WFP-led assessment found nearly 130,000 displaced people
living on the outskirts of villages—almost three times the number
expected—the vast majority living in flimsy shelters patched together
from straw or millet stalks that will not survive the rains. One in five
families does not even have a roof. Few have access to potable water or
latrines, and local health services cannot handle the unexpected flood
of new patients. With so many new mouths to feed, local host communities
are being forced to kill off their livestock, and WFP fears that soon
seed stores will start to be consumed as hunger and rising cereal prices
take their toll.” (UN News Center, March 30, 2007)

As in Darfur, the greatest issue for the internally displaced in Chad
is security:

“Some 140,000 Chadians have fled their homes to squat in squalid
settlements in the deserts of eastern Chad since attacks on their
villages started in 2005. Human rights groups and the UN blame a complex
and barely understood inter-ethnic war as well as attacks from the
Sudanese janjawid militia for the violence. Chad’s government has
refused a UN peacekeeping force which was proposed to provide protection
for civilians and to guard the border.” (UN IRIN [dateline:
Gouroukoun, eastern Chad], March 30, 2007).

One unnamed but representative victim described a relentlessly harsh
and cruel existence:

“‘We have been chased away from our homes. We have lost everything.
Our children and our husbands were killed, we have been left with
nothing but orphans in our arms. Our houses were burned. We walked 150
km to get here but still have the same problems we fled—like how are
we going to drink and how can we have security?’”

“‘On this site where we live now for months we have no shelter, no
money, nothing to eat. We sleep on the ground. To get something to eat
we had to sell the plastic and sticks we were given to build a shelter
last year. We have to walk to the [refugee camp] at Goz Beida to get
water or go to other refugee camps. When we go out to get firewood, the
janjawid often attack us, killing and raping as they want. One woman
went out and she was found a few days later with her throat cut. Before
that, some men were killed when they were out working in a field.’”

The most recent attack, terrifyingly reminiscent of violence in Darfur,
was reported to have occurred this past weekend:

“Janjaweed militia attacked two Chadian villages in the volatile
southeastern border region close to Sudan, torching houses, randomly
shooting those who fled and killing at least 65 people, officials said
Tuesday [April 3, 2007]. Survivors, 2,000 of whom arrived at a refugee
camp about 30 miles from their villages, told aid workers that they were
attacked by men on horseback, camel-back and in vehicles with heavy
weaponry, the UN refugee agency said.”

“The attackers encircled the villages and opened fire, pursuing
fleeing villagers, robbing women and shooting the men, many of whom are
feared dead, the UN agency said in a statement. Corpses were decaying
fast because of the heat and would be buried in a common grave, the UN
said. The attacks took place Saturday [March 31, 2007] in the border
villages of Tiero and Marena, some 550 miles from the capital,
N’djamena, but details were not immediately made public.”

“Chadian military officials reported that at least 65 people died in
the fighting in Tiero, and the death toll is expected to rise when
casualty figures from the attack on Marena are released, the UN refugee
agency said.”

“The agency did not give the nationality of the militiamen, saying
only that they were reported to have fled in the direction of the border
with Sudan after local self-defense militiamen and Chadian soldiers
repelled their attack. [ ] Those who survived the attacks told aid
workers that many people were still hiding in the bush, fearing the
militiamen are still in the area, the UN said. Most of those who
survived are women and children, some of whom have made it to the Goz
Amir refugee camp near the border with Sudan.” (Associated Press
[dateline: N’Djamena], April 3, 2007)

[6] In some ways the humanitarian crisis in eastern Chad is a
reflection of the proxy war between Khartoum and the Chadian government
of Idriss Deby, with ethnic animosities used as weapons of war.
Associated Press reports from Goz Beida (April 1, 2007):

“The sultan of Silla looked worried: Arab-African violence spilling
over from Darfur is threatening this part of Chad, too, in what is
quickly growing into a regional conflict. He pleaded with the visiting
UN humanitarian chief to help stop it. ‘The picture is so bleak,’
Sultan Said Brahim told John Holmes, the UN undersecretary-general for
humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, during Holmes’ visit here
earlier this week. ‘I can’t even tell you how bad things are
getting.’”

“As ruler of a vast Chad region that borders Darfur in Sudan, where
Arab government forces and their allied militias have killed African
villagers by the thousands, Brahim told Holmes he is witnessing, aghast,
as the violence spreads rapidly into his own society. [ ] Most
pernicious, cohabitation and friendship between Arabs and Africans here
has given way to distrust and thinly veiled hatred.” [ ]

“The government of Chad has also gotten involved, arming Africans to
try to fend off attacks from Arab militias in Darfur. Both [(Arab) Sheik
al-Mahdi] al-Samani and [Sultan Said] Brahim said privately, when
Chadian government officials had stepped away, that this policy was part
of the problem, and blamed much of the increase in attacks on the newly
formed African militias. Western diplomats in N’djamena, the Chadian
capital, have said that Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, may even be
encouraging ethnic warfare on the border to defend his precarious grip
on power.”

Ultimately, as in Darfur, security is key to humanitarian viability and
human survival. A new study from Refugees International (“Chad: Will
a UN Presence on the Darfur Border Protect Civilians?”) asks some hard
but important questions about what kind and size of force will be
required (see
http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/9953/?mission=9872)
These questions focus rightly on how any deploying force can ensure
that civilians are not caught in the cross-fire between various
combatants:

“It seems likely that the multidimensional presence [of the sort
called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1706—ER] would come under
attack from Sudan directly, through Sudan’s Chadian proxies, and from
Sudanese rebel groups. The force would be deployed explicitly to
protect civilians, thus placing civilians directly in the line of fire,
either during attacks on peacekeepers or as specific targets to test the
resolve of the force, demonstrate its inability to protect civilians,
and retaliate for attacks by peacekeepers. For civilians in the
southeast, this would internationalize the attacks against them, which
are now largely internal.”

“These risks would be mitigated if a large force with a robust
mandate deployed all at once, with a substantial policing component to
protect intact non-Arab villages from attack (and Arab villages from
retaliation by non-Arabs), as well as refugee camps and internal
displacement sites. Identifying enough willing troops, however, will be
a major challenge for the UN, especially given the difficult physical
and political environment for the mission. Calls for quick action, any
action, to bring pressure on Sudan may push the Security Council and the
UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to deploy a weak force,
which would be vulnerable to attack and unable to protect civilians.”

It is difficult to dispute any of these assessments or conclusions.
But the alternative to facing these risks and challenges is to consign a
very large and growing civilian population to intolerable insecurity and
the prospect of wholesale humanitarian withdrawal. Such withdrawal
would ensure additional tens of thousands of deaths. But there can be
no denying the grim conclusion to the Refugees International analysis:

“[Those involved in an operation in eastern Chad] must remember that
Sudan will regard any deployment as a threat, putting civilians, whether
from crossfire or direct attacks, in harm’s way.”

Khartoum’s willingness to export genocidal violence to eastern Chad
for its own brutal purposes will not be easily curtailed.

AGREEMENT ON HUMANITARIAN ACCESS: A CYNICAL “INSURANCE POLICY”
TAKEN OUT BY KHARTOUM

It has been widely reported that the Khartoum regime has agreed to
facilitate humanitarian relief in Darfur. And there is a suitably
signed and titled document: “Joint Communiqué Between the Government
of Sudan and the United Nations on the Facilitation of Humanitarian
Activities in Darfur” (March 28, 2007). It is signed by Ali Karti,
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs for the NIF regime and Manuel Aranda
da Silva, Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for the UN in Sudan. It
reiterates a series of commitments which the regime has either already
made or which should go without saying in the midst of a humanitarian
crisis affecting 4.5 million people.

In fact there is little reason to believe that the effects of the
“Joint Communiqué” will be any longer-lasting or binding than
those contained in an equivalent “Joint Communiqué” signed by former
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and NIF President Omar al-Bashir on July
3, 2004. Why did Khartoum bother to agree to any terms of reference for
the humanitarian aid operations it has so assiduously obstructed for
more than three years? The answer came the day following the signing in
Khartoum:

“US plans to impose tough new measures against Sudan to force it to
change course on Darfur will only threaten humanitarian agreements
Khartoum has signed with the United Nations and fuel violence in the
region, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. US officials said
Washington aimed to ‘tighten the screws’ on Sudanese President Omar
Hassan al-Bashir and have him accept an international force in the
western province. ‘This will have negative repercussions. It will
threaten agreements that we have reached with the United Nations and the
African Union,’ said foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig.”
(Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], March 29, 2007)

All too obviously, the agreement was little more in Khartoum’s eyes
than a kind of “insurance policy”: by promising to grant what it has
no intention of adhering to over the long term, the regime in the near
term puts the Bush administration in the awkward position of deciding
whether or not to impose sanctions, which if imposed will be used by
Khartoum as an excuse to renege on the “Joint Communiqué.” That
such reneging will come in any event does little to diminish the
embarrassing optics the US confronts in taking the lead on imposing any
further sanctions, even if they represent primarily a modest political
resolve.

Those who doubt that Khartoum’s génocidaires could be so cynical in
making such an agreement have simply not been attending to events of the
past four years.

* Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and has published extensively on Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected]mith.edu; website : www.sudanreeves.org