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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Darfur peace talks in Libya produce only an emboldened Khartoum

International attention focuses on the fractious rebel groups, but the
real issue is Khartoum’s growing intransigence—and China’s
enabling diplomacy

By Eric Reeves

November 11, 2007 — With much talk about the “moment of truth” having arrived, the UN
and African Union convened Darfur peace talks in Sirte, Libya on October
27, 2007. But all too predictably, no progress was recorded and
prospects for future negotiations are unclear. There were many reasons
for the failure in Sirte, and much more effective work must be done by
the mediators if talks resuming in a new venue are to yield results.
Key rebel leaders did not show up, as various internal divisions
persisted, including tensions between commanders on the ground and
political leaders abroad. Many rebels also doubt the good faith and
impartiality of the UN and AU, given the nature of their dealings with
Khartoum. Issues of representation remain vexed, and Darfuris in the
camps and civil society were largely unrepresented, ensuring that the
voices of those suffering most would be unheard.

Moreover, the choice of venue was disastrous. Libya’s Muamar
Gadaffi, who has for decades fomented violence on both sides of the
Darfur/Chad border, poisoned the atmosphere early on, and gained instant
notoriety for suggesting that the Darfur genocide was “a quarrel over
a camel.” His further suggestion that the catastrophe in Darfur was
merely a tribal issue, and his consequent resistance to international
protection efforts, played directly into Khartoum’s negotiating hand.
There can be little doubt of how foolish UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon was in accepting Khartoum’s proposal of Libya as venue for the
talks, the more so since Ban was warned by well-informed policy, human
rights, and humanitarian groups before traveling to Sudan in early
September that the regime would likely propose Libya, and that accepting
this proposal would be a grave mistake.

But the most disturbing consequence of the collapse of the Sirte talks
is the boost it gives to Khartoum, which appeared with a full delegation
(including Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, the brutal and powerful presidential
advisor who now handles the Darfur file for the regime), and proceeded
to indulge in fulsome talk about being prepared to make peace. Knowing
full well that there would be no adequate or coherent rebel
representation, the regime clearly saw this as the perfect opportunity
for a significant propaganda victory.

In turn, the consequences of an emboldened Khartoum are powerfully
amplified by a growing shift in China’s policy toward the Darfur
crisis—from an effort of some months to exert very modest pressure on
the regime to accept UN and African Union peacekeepers to a present
posture of unqualified support for a defiant Khartoum. This is
especially true on the key issue of the composition of the UN/African
Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). While the UN has proposed a
well-considered, and predominantly African, roster of international
forces to make up the 26,000 troops and civilian police authorized by UN
Security Council Resolution 1769 (July 31, 2007), Khartoum has refused
to accept the roster, and China alone of major diplomatic players is
supporting the regime in this obstructionism. As recently as November
9, 2007, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted yet again that Khartoum has
failed to accept the proposed civilian police and security
personnel—more than three months after Resolution 1769, and a year
after discussions of such a force were begun in Addis Ababa.

China is again supporting Khartoum without qualification despite other
forms of obstructionism by the regime, including the refusal to grant
land necessary for housing UNAMID forces; denying landing rights for
critically important heavy transport aircraft; denying adequate port
access; refusing to guarantee unrestricted flights; and refusing to
guarantee reporting independence for monitors and other personnel. These
forms of obstructionism are detailed in a recent Amnesty International
report (see below), as well as by a number of UN officials. In turn,
that China has moved into a diplomatic posture much more accommodating
of Khartoum’s intransigence and defiance is a conclusion supported by
several well-placed and highly authoritative sources. Arab League
support is similarly accommodating of Khartoum’s genocidal impulses,
though less consequentially at the UN Security Council and in Western

Assured of Beijing’s adamant and unstinting opposition to any
sanctions measures targeting Khartoum, the regime feels increasingly
confident that it will not face serious consequences for its actions in
Darfur. The collapse of talks in Sirte allows the regime to claim that
it has no interlocutor from the rebel side, and in fact rebel leaders
have taken an unconscionably long time in overcoming their various
differences. The opportunities for propaganda are irresistible. Thus
despite Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e’s loudly announcing a unilateral
cease-fire on the opening day of the peace talks, Khartoum launched
Antonov bombing attacks on civilian and rebel targets in the Jebel Moon
area of West Darfur the following day (October 28, 2007). Despite
public denials, the regime has not denied these attacks in confidential
conversations with both the UN and the AU—and yet neither body has
condemned the bombings, serving further to convince the rebels that
there is a fundamental lack of even-handedness on the part of the
mediators. (If Khartoum is denying the AU access to the targets of this
egregious violation of its self-proclaimed cease-fire, then at the very
least that fact should be made public.)

Even more seriously, following the opening of the Sirte talks the
regime has continued its longstanding and brutal campaign to shut down
camps in South Darfur and ultimately throughout Darfur. This has
included the violent, forced relocation of many hundreds of civilians
(primarily women and children) from Otash camp near Nyala, capital of
South Darfur. John Holmes, UN humanitarian coordinator, reported that
Khartoum used trucks protected by machine-guns, security personnel
wielding rubber hoses and sticks, as well as other threats to force
people to leave. Outrageously, for daring to object to this policy, the
top UN humanitarian official for South Darfur, Wael al-Haj Ibrahim, was
expelled from the region by regime officials and forced—on threat of
physical seizure—to return to Khartoum. Al-Haj Ibrahim became the
11th humanitarian aid worker expelled from Sudan this year and the
second from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
As Reuters reports ([dateline: Khartoum], November 8, 2007):

“The expulsion of the top UN humanitarian official from South Darfur
will hinder efforts to provide aid to some 1 million aid-dependent
Darfuris by removing a key member of the aid team, [humanitarian aid]
officials said on Thursday [November 8, 2007].” [ ]

“‘The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA]
plays a very important role in South Darfur assisting the government,
NGOs, UN agencies and donors to coordinate assistance for up to 1
million displaced,’ said OCHA spokeswoman Orla Clinton. ‘It is very
important to ensure a consistent and timely response. We cannot afford
to have gaps at this critical time,’ she said adding, ‘We fully
support our head of OCHA.’”

“A source in the aid community in Khartoum said al-Haj Ibrahim’s
departure was a major blow for the South Darfur operation as many young
and inexperienced aid workers relied on his guidance in dangerous
working conditions. UN figures show seven aid workers died last month
in Darfur, the highest monthly death toll in almost 18 months.”

It is clear that the motive for al-Haj Ibrahim’s expulsion was his
refusal to acquiesce in Khartoum’s policy of forced returns of
displaced persons, which is the necessary first step in ultimately
dismantling the camps altogether (see below):

“Late last month [October 2007], UN officials said they had evidence
that Sudanese government forces were chasing the refugees out of at
least one camp, Otash, home to 60,000 people on the outskirts of Nyala.
The Aegis Trust, a British-based organization which works to prevent
genocide and has offices in Africa, said the UN was warned by the
[Khartoum-appointed] governor [of South Darfur] last week that if UN
officials opposed the dismantling of camps, he would ensure that those
officials were expelled. James Smith, the Aegis Trust’s chief executive,
said Wednesday [November 7, 2007] that Ibrahim ‘was forced out
essentially because he did his job so well.’” (Associated Press
[dateline: Khartoum], November 8, 2007)

While an official of Khartoum’s grotesquely misnamed “Humanitarian
Aid Commission” in South Darfur declared that al-Haj Ibrahim “was
inciting Internally Displaced Persons and the people against the
government,” Reuters reports: “A Reuters witness had seen al-Haj
Ibrahim in 2006 working to calm hundreds of enraged Darfuris during a
riot in Kalma camp and to protect a Sudanese aid worker who had been
accused of mistranslating during a demonstration” (Reuters [dateline:
Khartoum], November 8, 2007)

Finally, a range of reports—from Amnesty International and military
sources—continue to indicate that Khartoum is massing its regular and
paramilitary forces in North Darfur, particularly near Kutum (northwest
of el-Fasher). Coupled with bombing attacks such as those in Jebel Moon
and assaults on camps for displaced persons (see below), it is clear
that Khartoum’s “cease-fire” declaration is wholly


A fundamental truth governs the vast human catastrophe in Darfur and in
many ways the growing crisis in Eastern Chad. For China’s
increasingly callous and unqualified support for Khartoum reproduces yet
again a grim logic: so long as the National Islamic Front (National
Congress Party) regime feels that it will not be subject to serious
pressure for sustaining a terrible genocide by attrition, it will act as
it has in recent days and weeks—and months. Absent any threat of
sanctions, or pressure from China, the chaotic status quo will settle
more deeply over Darfur. That this is, as Human Rights Watch has
recently reported, “chaos by design”
( must remain the most salient
feature in any account of human suffering and destruction in Darfur.
Khartoum’s strategy of inciting ethnic violence, even among Arab
tribal groups; of harassing and obstructing humanitarian relief; of
transferring lands from non-Arab or African tribal groups to Arab
groups; of violating the UN arms embargo and arming militia groups to
fight civilians and one another; and of undertaking a longer-term policy
of forcing the collapse of camps for displaced persons—these are the
current tools of the National Islamic Front génocidaires.

Any account of this broader effort is inevitably inflected by the role
of China, and the cynical calculation by Bejing that it has done enough
in its public relations effort to defend itself from the charge that it
will be hosting the “Genocide Olympics” in August 2008. The signs
of impunity on the part of Khartoum are everywhere, and this sense of
impunity governs the regime’s actions towards humanitarian operations,
toward the badly belated UNAMID force, toward international mediation,
and—most consequentially—toward the people of Darfur. If China is
not moved to engage much more constructively on Darfur, “chaos by
design” will continue to be Khartoum’s larger genocidal strategy in
the region.


[1] Attacks on camps for displaced persons:

Overshadowed by reporting on the Sirte talks, and more recently by the
distracting sideshow of “Zoë’s Ark” in Chad, are the terrible
conditions and increasing violence that define the lives of people in
camps for displaced persons. Journalists on the ground and UN officials
report that Khartoum is orchestrating attacks on camps for displaced
persons as well as the involuntary relocation of these acutely
vulnerable civilians. Such actions threaten to disperse hundreds of
thousands of displaced persons, with the potential for catastrophic
mortality. Denied the humanitarian resources and limited physical
security of the camps, many within this vast population will likely be
without food, water, or primary medical care. The most vulnerable will
die quickly. Given the counter-insurgency logic that has governed the
actions of the Khartoum regime, a new front line extending to displaced
camps would constitute a grim “final solution.”

The camps themselves are already cauldrons of rage and despair, and
increasingly awash in weapons. The African Union (AU) force in Darfur
long ago gave up trying to maintain a meaningful police presence, and
access for humanitarian organizations is increasingly limited because of
insecurity. Inter-ethnic violence and political tensions that have
simmered in recent months are now unconstrained in many camps, as
traditional leaders—the omdas and sheiks—lose influence to men with
guns. Power increasingly shifts to rebel infiltrators and young men
frustrated to the point of violence by boredom, powerlessness, and
continual threats to their families by the Janjaweed.

But actual assaults on the camps—which are sprawling, unprotected
conglomerations of human habitation scattered over areas as large as
three square miles—will result in explosively deadly confrontations.
Such attacks, as well as forced relocation, are not without precedent.
Two years ago, the Janjaweed attacked Aro Sharow camp in West Darfur,
killing many and displacing the entire population of 5,000 IDPs. Last
October the Janjaweed attacked a number of civilian settlements in the
Jebel Moon area, including an IDP camp housing 3,500 people. There have
been other such attacks, but the current situations in camps near Nyala,
and the al-Hamidiya camp in West Darfur, are most threatening and give
the clearest indication of how desperately belated international
intervention in Darfur is.

Eyewitnesses in Kalma camps report that many scores of shacks have been
burned, and many civilians have been shot and killed. Camps in other
volatile areas are at acute risk of similarly deadly assaults. Even the
threat of violence may spark massive dispersals.

On October 21, 2007, the UN Mission in Sudan News Bulletin reported:

“Following the killing of a member of the Border Intelligence [into
which a great many of the Janjaweed have been recycled] by displaced
persons on 20 October [2007] in Hamidiya Internally Displaced Persons
camp in Zalingei [West Darfur], Sudan Armed Forces [Khartoum’s regular
military forces] surrounded the camp the same day and started shooting
toward the camp.”

In short, despite an overwhelming population of defenseless women and
children in al-Hamidiya camp for displaced persons, Khartoum directed
automatic weapons fire into the camp.

The same UN Mission News Bulletin reported, also in West Darfur:

“On 18 October 2007, it was reported that the population of Bir Dagig
is being displaced to Kondobe and Sirba villages. Reportedly, 200
households were displaced to Sirba, 450 to Kondobe, while 150 families
remain in Bir Dagig and are seeking support from international agencies
to organize their relocation. The displacement is seen as a preventive
measure in anticipation of an attack in retaliation for the murder of an
Arab man on 17 October [2007] in Bir Dagig by unknown armed men.”

The viciousness of the attack by Khartoum’s regular forces on
al-Hamidiya camp for displaced persons, and the overwhelming fear
forcing the flight of some 800 families (perhaps 4,000 people) from Bir
Dagig, serve as an indictment of both the National Islamic Front regime
and the international community that has allowed so many people to live
in such extraordinary insecurity. Without protection in the near term,
this sort of violence and fear will continue to define the lives of over
2 million Darfuris in camps, and many hundreds of thousands of other
civilians affected by conflict (the total conflict-affected population
in Darfur according to the UN is approximately 4.2 million).

And yet Khartoum continues to delay and obstruct deployment of the
UN/AU force whose mandate is precisely to protect people in places such
as Bir Dagig and al-Hamidiya camp. Again and again we must ask, How can
this regime defy the international community and delay deployment of a
UN-authorized force with such impunity? And in answering this question,
there is no more consequential consideration than Beijing’s policy of
“non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign
countries”—a policy that is hardening, not softening on Darfur.

[2] Khartoum’s strategy of forced relocation and dismantling of
camps for the displaced:

Humanitarian workers have long feared that Khartoum would dismantle
camps for displaced persons, and force these people to return to
villages where there is no security. As long ago as July 2004 Jean
Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, warned that the
Janjaweed were continuing to destroy food sources in rural areas,
especially in the Jebel Marra region of West Darfur. Special Rapporteur
Ziegler’s assessment was reported by the UN News Service:

“Calling for immediate action to stop armed militias destroying food
and water sources in the violence-wracked Darfur region of Sudan, a
United Nations rapporteur today urged the UN Commission on Human Rights
to convene a special session on the situation in Darfur. Mr. Ziegler
said Khartoum wanted to send people back to their homes even though
[Janjaweed] militias have either destroyed, damaged or looted crops,
agricultural areas, livestock and drinking water installations.” (UN
News Service, [New York] July 9, 2004)

It was widely recognized at the time that if Khartoum’s policy of
forcible returns were accepted, the number of immediately ensuing deaths
would be huge:

“Humanitarian workers fear that a forcible mass return of some 1.2
million Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur could result in enormous
fatalities.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, July 13,

There are currently double this number of Internally Displaced Persons
in Darfur, as well as some 240,000 Darfuri refugees in Eastern Chad.

On August 8, 2004 (dateline: Nyala), The Independent (UK) reported:

“The Sudanese government has been accused of sending refugees back
into the hands of the murderous Janjaweed militia. The Independent on
Sunday has been given accounts of returnees being killed by
gunmen—sometimes, it is claimed, in collusion with security forces.
There is also evidence that the police have attacked village chiefs who
have refused to lead their communities back home from refugee camps.
Refugees also claim that [Khartoum’s] official agencies that have a
part in distributing international aid are cutting back on rations in an
effort to get inmates to leave the camps.”

“In the latest clash [at Kalma] last week, 42 people were arrested
and one village sheikh, Abdullah Bashir Sabir, was severely injured. The
[Khartoum] authorities say he was attacked after he tried to get people
from his village to go back. But, according to people in the camp he was
shot because he refused to comply with the authorities’ demands to take
them home. His wife, Halima, said: ‘They shot him in the leg because
he would not agree.’” (The Independent [dateline: Nyala], August 8,

It is true that the large-scale violent attacks and ethnic massacres in
Darfur so frequent from early 2003 through early 2005 have diminished
significantly, and that violence now is “anarchic.” Certainly there
is indeed a “chaos by design” evident in much of Darfur; but
organized violence against civilians continues as well, including
civilians in camps. Jan Egeland, former UN humanitarian aid chief,
declared just a year ago in his last report to the Security Council
(November 22, 2006):

“Villages, camps and communities outside the urban centers of Darfur
are again being burnt and looted. Women and children are abused, raped
and killed with impunity. Just ten days ago the village of Sirba [West
Darfur] saw three attacks by government forces and Arab militia that
resulted in innocent civilians, mainly women and children, killed and

In January 2006, Christian Aid highlighted the violence against camps
in the Mershing area of South Darfur:

““There have recently been attacks by the government-backed
militia, the Janjaweed, in the Mershing camps in South Darfur. The
peacekeeping troops of the AU had promised to protect these camps last
autumn. Armed Sudanese police are also located in the area. But neither
these troops nor the police were able to stop these latest attacks.
Around 90% of the people from Mershing’s eight camps, which hold
35,000 people, have fled and are understood to be sleeping in the open
without water or security. Christian Aid’s partner, the Sudan Social
Development Organisation, has a clinic in Mershing; all employees have
been forced to leave the camp.” (Christian Aid press release, January
27, 2006)

Amplifying this account, the UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks reported (February 1, 2006):

“An estimated 70,000 people have been displaced by recent attacks on
two towns in the war-ravaged Sudanese state of South Darfur,
humanitarian workers in the region said. At least 50,000 were displaced
in a series of attacks on camps for internally displaced people [IDPs]
in Mershing town, while more than 15,000 were displaced in separate
attacks on nearby Shearia. ‘Roughly 20,000 residents and up to 35,000
IDPs from Mershing have arrived in [the nearby town of] Menawashi,’
said [UN spokeswoman] Dawn Blalock on Wednesday [February 1, 2006].”

The purpose of attacks on camps for displaced persons is well captured
in a recent account by Human Rights Watch of the violence at Kalma and
Otash camps:

“The recent events are the latest in a long history of Sudanese
government attempts to close Kalma camp, home to at least 90,000 people
and one of the largest camps for displaced persons in Darfur. Most of
the displaced people in the camps were victims of government and
‘Janjaweed’ militia attacks, and have no confidence in Sudanese
government efforts to provide security. Many of the displaced people see
the relocation efforts as an attempt to exert further control over their
movements and cut off their access to Nyala town and to international
aid workers.”

“‘While there are clearly problems with security in Kalma camp,
many people feel safer there than in rural areas where they are
extremely vulnerable to ongoing attacks and have no access to
humanitarian assistance,’ said [Human Rights Watch Africa director,
Peter] Takirambudde. ‘Rather than trying to dismantle the camps and
forcibly relocate people, the government should cooperate with the
African Union and UN to improve security in the camps.’”
(Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Cease Darfur Camp Evictions; Forced
Relocations by Khartoum Violate International Law,” October 31, 2007)

But the force of this “should” is felt not at all in Khartoum, and
the very historical account Human Rights Watch offers makes clear that
dismantling the camps and forcibly relocating people is part of a
larger, deliberately genocidal strategy. Far from “cooperating”
with the African Union and UN to improve security, Khartoum is actively
opposing deployment of UNAMID—and doing so with ample help from
Beijing. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine China using its enormous
leverage with Khartoum and not compelling a significant change in the
regime’s response to UNAMID. Yet China refuses to do so, indeed has
become even more supportive of Khartoum’s defiance. Beijing is
evidently convinced that it will now pay no greater price for the
intolerable contradiction posed by its hosting the premier event in
international sports, the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and its complicity
in the ultimate international crime of genocide.

[3] The Fate of UNAMID:

It is important to keep in mind both the history of the UNAMID force
and the timetable that was nominally laid out in the authorizing UN
Security Council Resolution (1769, July 31, 2007). In July 2006 the UN
Department of Peacekeeping Operations was tasked by then-Secretary
General Kofi Annan with drawing up plans for an effective protection
force for Darfur, capable also of working to seal the borders with
Eastern Chad and Central African Republic in order to staunch the flow
of genocidal violence (the terrible ensuing fate of Eastern Chad reveals
how important such an effort would have been, even if only partially
successful). The mission proposal was contained in UN Security Council
Resolution 1706, passed on August 31, 2006. It called for deployment of
22,500 troops and civilian police, and if expeditiously and effectively
deployed, such a force could have saved tens of thousands of lives and
helped prevent descent into the far greater chaos that Darfur has
witnessed over the past fourteen months.

China not only abstained in the critical vote on Resolution 1706, but
insisted on language that “invited” the consent of Khartoum for
deployment of the UN force. Given China’s insistence on the
preeminent importance of Khartoum’s claim of national sovereignty, it
was utterly predictable that the regime would resolutely decline the
invitation. Bowing to the demands of Beijing and Khartoum, the
Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk,
quickly abandoned any UN commitment to this essential Security Council
action. Instead, beginning in November 2006 in Addis Ababa, the
international community began an obscenely deferential diplomatic
colloquy with Khartoum that lasted until April 2007, five months after
talks began and seven months after passage of Resolution 1706, when the
regime finally agreed “in principle” to a “hybrid” UN/AU force.
It would take another three months for passage of Resolution 1769,
authorizing the force that has come to be known as UNAMID.

The forces outlined in Resolutions 1706 and 1769 differ in critical
ways. But perhaps most importantly, 1706 was passed when rebel
divisions were still manageable, and the present chaos on the ground was
much less threatening to a deploying force. The disastrous consequences
of the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in Abuja (May 2006) had not yet
fully played out, and the chances of insulating Eastern Chad from some
of the worst ethnic violence were reasonable in some locations. None of
this is true now. So while 1706 was to have established a
“multidimensional presence” to “improve the security situation
in the neighboring regions along the borders between the Sudan and Chad
and between the Sudan and the Central African Republic,” nothing
similar is contemplated in 1769, even with great manpower.

Also of critical importance is the change in mandate insisted upon by
Khartoum, and supported by Beijing: unlike the force authorized by 1706,
UNAMID has no mandate to disarm combatants, even bandits or armed
elements directly threatening humanitarians or civilians. Nor is UNAMID
authorized to confiscate weapons introduced into Darfur in violation of
UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005), which imposed a total
arms embargo for the entire region.

Most consequentially from the standpoint of the overall effectiveness
of the force, UNAMID is to be an untested “hybrid” operation,
combining the UN and AU in unprecedented ways that have left many issues
unresolved. Issues of command-and-control in particular were finessed,
not confronted—critical matters for many potential troop-contributing
countries. 1769 declares that the force deploying will be predominantly
African in character, but Khartoum has construed this to mean an
all-African force, and has refused to accept the roster of countries
that have offered troops, civilian police, and various specialists.
Both the UN and African Union are in agreement about the needs of the
mission, and the appropriateness of the roster—which was to have been
settled by the end of August 2007. On November 9, 2007 the UN News
Center reports that “the Sudanese government has not responded yet to
the UN-AU submission of the [UNAMID] force’s composition,
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, warning that delays to deployment
will only exacerbate the humanitarian situation.”

What has gone largely unspoken is that the date of passage for 1769
should have been anticipated by the UN Department of Peacekeeping
Operations, the African Union Peace and Security Council, and UN members
who could reasonably expect to make contributions to the UNAMID force.
None of this happened, and real planning efforts began only after
passage of the resolution. This is one reason that more than 100 days
after passage of 1769 Khartoum has had to do so little to forestall any
meaningful deployment, although these efforts are all too conspicuous
and suggest how resourceful the regime will be without pressure to
cooperate from Beijing and other international actors.

The current refusal to accept the UN and AU roster of troops derives
from an insistence that the only non-African countries it will permit
are China, and Muslim Pakistan. Countries such as Uruguay, Thailand,
Nepal, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands—indeed all Western
countries—have been refused by Khartoum, despite the need for key
technical capabilities that cannot be found in Africa, even as African
personnel make up 95% of the infantry in the proposed roster.

UN and AU officials have repeatedly made clear that UNAMID will be set
up for failure if required technical capabilities are not part of the
mission. They have also made clear that not all African contributions
meet UN peacekeeping standards (the African Union mission in Darfur had
no common standards, and many troops arrived without any equipment

“[African Union military advisor] General [Henry] Anyidoho also
cautioned that finding qualified troops might also pose a problem. He
says a team of UN and AU experts will be visiting potential contributing
countries in the next few weeks to ensure that the troops being offered
are capable of operating in the harsh and hostile environment of Darfur.
‘For infantry units, at least about 90 percent of them have been
pledged,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t mean those pledged are available.
Because the process is still going on. We have to assess what they are
capable of doing.’”

General Martin Agwai, overall UNAMD military commander, offered a
further caution:

“We need a lot of armoured personnel carriers (APCs). [The African
Union mission in Darfur] is a donor-driven mission—countries donate
equipment that the troops are using. Under UNAMID, the UN system [will
apply]… a country comes with its own equipment and the UN leases the
equipment. So we hope the countries that are coming will meet the UN
standard. For example every battalion is supposed to come with a minimum
of 18 APCs.” (Interview with Martin Agwai by [dateline:
Cape Town], November 6, 2007)

There is considerable reason for skepticism about the equipment of a
number of battalions offered by various African nations.

Agwai in this same recent interview outlined his optimistic sense of
what UNAMID could achieve in the seven weeks before the end of the year.
He began, however, by noting that the current strength level of the
African Union mission in Darfur, upon which UNAMID is to build, is
typically mis-reported as “7,000 troops”:

“First of all, let me correct the notion—I don’t even have 6,000
troops on the ground. What we have is just a little bit over 5,000.”

One informed observer on the ground in Darfur notes that lower-level
African Union officers report a recent increase of two large battalions
(1,600 troops), as stipulated by Resolution 1769; but this has not been
reliably confirmed, and would seem an oddly omitted development, given
Agwai’s comments of November 6, 2007. Agwai himself puts the figure
of troops that might be deployed by December 31, 2007 at “9,000 or
10,000, out of 20,000,” but this presumes a cooperation from Khartoum
that is nowhere in sight. A doubling of force strength—from just over
5,000 troops to 10,000—would be an extraordinary logistical
accomplishment, even as Khartoum continues to impose a great many
obstacles to UNAMID logistics, including denying landing rights at key
airports and even adequate port access at Port Sudan.

Agwai is honest about the static nature of deployment, and seems intent
on lowering expectations about what his mission can achieve, given the
repeated delays. And though Agwai is tactful about responsibility for
the various missed deadlines that require a lowering of expectations,
Khartoum’s defiance is readily apparent as the primary cause:

“One thing is clear… it has to be a tripartite agreement—the AU,
the UN and the host country, Sudan. Until those three agree, you can’t
have a force, and as of now, I don’t think there has been an agreement.
So apart from the current force we have on the ground, there is nothing
new. That’s why I keep saying that expectations are far away from the
reality. For example, going by the mandate of [Security Council
Resolution] 1769, by the end of August we would have known the
troop-contributing countries. We are in November—we don’t know. So we
are already running far behind this plan. That’s why I keep on sounding
a warning on expectations, expectations.”

We “don’t know” the UNAMID troop-contributing countries will
be—on November 11, 2007—because Khartoum, emboldened by the Chinese,
doesn’t feel compelled to accept the proposed UN/AU roster. Moreover,
Agwai focuses in the interview on infantry troops, when the most
critical element of UNAMID is likely to be civilian police. Civilian
police certainly need fully adequate military protection, but properly
deployed in the camps and urban areas that are most volatile, some of
the most immediate threats to civilian and humanitarian security could
be dramatically reduced—particularly Khartoum’s plan to dismantle
camps and violently compel the return of internally displaced persons.
And yet it is in the area of civilian police that African countries are
particularly lacking, a striking feature of the current AU mission in
Darfur. By refusing to accept the UN/AU roster of countries, Khartoum
is denying a role for non-African countries that might contribute
critically needed technical units as well as trained civilian police.

At the same time, UNAMID risks being crippled by the lack of transport
and tactical helicopters and heavy ground transport resources. Here the
militarily capable countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa (i.e., South
Africa) have been scandalously laggard (although some have legitimate
concerns about the still uncertain command-and-control of the
“hybrid” UNAMID). Almost two months ago Jean-Marie Guehenno

“‘What worries me the most is the lack of tactical transport,
trucks, helicopters,’ Guehenno said. He also said the UN will have
trouble meeting targets for an estimated 6,000-strong police force.”
(Agence France Presse [dateline: Paris], September 19, 2007)

Nothing has changed, either in offers of “tactical transport, trucks,
helicopters” or in the availability of non-African civilian police.

At the same time that Guehenno was sounding his warning, Romeo
Dallaire, UN force commander during the Rwandan genocide, cut forcefully
through the glib optimism about African resources for UNAMID:

“It is beyond dispute [ ] that African states themselves simply
cannot provide nearly 20,000 qualified troops (nor enough police).
UNAMID needs attack helicopters, engineers, big cargo lorries,
communications and other capabilities that African states also cannot
provide.” (Open letter from Romeo Dallaire to UNAMID commander General
Martin Agwai, September 16, 2007 [Global Day for Darfur])

Here we should recall the language of Resolution 1769 on troop and
police composition of UNAMID:

“Recalling the Addis Ababa Agreement that the Hybrid operation should
have a predominantly African character and the troops should, as far as
possible, be sourced from African countries.”

“As far as possible” without compromising the effectiveness of the
mission to protect millions of lives: this has been the clear premise
following what is inaccurately described in Resolution 1769 as the
“Addis Ababa Agreement.” For there was no “agreement” iat
the November 2006 Addis Ababa “High-Level Consultations on Darfur,”
only an “outcome document” that bore not a single signature,
certainly not that of the Khartoum regime; the “outcome document”
also left critical issues undetermined, issues that continue to haunt
the deployment of UNAMID. Out of such disingenuous verbal
sleights-of-hand spring myriad opportunities for reneging by Khartoum.

We may expect to see a similarly critical phrase haunt the actions of
UNAMID insofar as it ever deploys, for Resolution 1769 also declares
that the force has a mandate to protect civilians and humanitarians,
but—critically—“without prejudice to the responsibility of the
Government of Sudan.” The potential ambiguities here are legion, as
are the opportunities for Khartoum to invoke this phrase as
justification for any number of obstructive actions.

China may have voted for Resolution 1769, but this vote was purchased
at considerable cost in the language of the resolution, including loss
of a mandate to disarm combatants threatening civilians and
humanitarians. China has also sided with Khartoum in deliberately and
dangerously narrowing the meaning of “predominantly African in
character,” ignoring the critical qualification “as far as
possible.” Beijing now supports Khartoum’s construal of 1769 to
mean only African personnel because there are supposedly enough African
infantry contributions. But this ignores both the letter of the
resolution (which speaks at various points of the complex needs of the
UNAMID mission), as well as the obvious need for key technical units and
capabilities that are simply not available from African nations.

Amnesty International has provided an overview report that is essential
to understanding the scope of Khartoum’s current obstruction of UNAMID
(“Obstruction and Delay: Peacekeepers need in Darfur now,” October
22, 2007 at
The reports highlights:

*The refusal by Khartoum to accept the proposed roster of countries to
contribute troops, civilian police, and technical units.

*The refusal by Khartoum to grant landing rights for heavy aircraft
needed to transport heavy equipment such as armoured personnel carriers,
“forcing heavy equipment to be brought via Port Sudan and adding weeks
or months on to the journey.”

*The refusal by Khartoum to grant adequate land for deploying UNAMID
personnel, including land for the proposed headquarters in
Nyala—distinctly the most appropriate location for a range of

*The refusal by Khartoum to grant “assurances of freedom of movement,
including night flights and not being subject to curfew” (such freedom
of movement is critical to a number of countries that insist upon
24-hour access to evacuate their injured or endangered personnel).

*The refusal by Khartoum to give “firm guarantees that [UNAMID] will
be able to publish reports independently and without the approval of
parties to the conflict.”

*The refusal by Khartoum to agree to a disarmament mandate for UNAMID:

“The number of hijackings and attacks on humanitarian vehicles and
convoys is still high. Internally displaced people’s camps are
becoming militarized and roads are unsafe. So eventually any effective
peacekeeping mission will have to help in ensuring that an effective
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme is implemented
for all armed groups operating in Darfur.”

China, at Khartoum’s insistence, supported stripping out of 1769 the
disarmament mandate that was contained explicitly in Resolution 1706
(August 31, 2006). China is currently supporting Khartoum in all these
obstructive actions, despite their consequential hindering of UNAMID in
protecting civilians and humanitarians.


China’s support for Khartoum’s increasingly obstructionist behavior
has convinced the regime that UNAMID can be severely compromised, even
brought to the point of failure that has been the fate of the AU Mission
in Darfur (AMIS). The inability of the UN and AU to keep meaningfully
to the benchmark dates of Resolution 1769 (passed July 31, 2007) is

[1] In Resolution 1769 the Security Council “calls on member states
to finalise their contributions to UNAMID within 30 days of the adoption
of this resolution [i.e., August 31, 2007].” On November 9, 2007
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared that Khartoum has still not
accepted the UN/AU roster for contributions.

[2] In Resolution 1769 the Security Council “decides” that “no
later than October 2007, UNAMID shall establish an initial operational
capability for the headquarters, including the necessary management and
command and control structures.” But Amnesty International reports:

“The Sudanese government has agreed in principle ‘at the highest
levels’ to allow UNAMID’s headquarters to be built in Nyala. Nyala
has better access to water and to communications, both internal and
external, than the current headquarters in al-Fasher. It has better
access to the road network within Darfur, its airport can accommodate
international flights and there is a railway line and an all-weather
road to Khartoum. However, the government delayed completing a specific
agreement concerning the land or the right to drill the borehole needed,
so at present the headquarters may have to stay in al-Fasher, where more
than 600 AMIS personnel are currently occupying a base built for

In mid-November 2007 there remain outstanding issues around
command-and-control, even as the “initial operational capability for
the [UNAMID] headquarters” is rudimentary at best.

[3] In Resolution 1769 the Security Council “decides” that “as
of October 2007, UNAMID shall complete preparations to assume
operational command authority over the Light Support Package, personnel
currently deployed to [African Union mission in Darfur], and such Heavy
Support Package and hybrid personnel as may be deployed by that

But there is no clear evidence that any “hybrid personnel” have
deployed, and even the “heavy support package,” designed to prepare
for the large footprint of the fully deployed UNAMID force, is not fully
in place. A tremendous amount of construction and engineering work
needs to be accomplished to move toward UNAMID goals for troops,
civilian police, and an important contingent of 5,000 civilian
personnel, some of whom will be involved in key tasks of civil
administration and liaison within the camps and among rural populations.
It looks increasingly doubtful that even relatively full deployment is
possible before the second half of 2008. Additional Chinese-supported
obstruction by Khartoum could further compromise the time-frame for

[4] In Resolution 1769 the Security Council “decides” that “as
soon as possible and no later than 31 December 2007, UNAMID having
completed all remaining tasks necessary to permit it to implement all
elements of its mandate, will assume authority from [the African Union
Mission in Darfur] with a view to achieving full operational capability
and force strength as soon as possible thereafter.”

This “assumption of authority” by UNAMID, seven weeks hence, will
be largely symbolic, since even the optimistic prediction of 9,000 to
10,000 troops by UNAMID commander Agwai will be unsupported by
meaningful deployment of civilian police, administrative personnel,
or—given present indications—adequate transport, either ground or
air. Without key technical units, transport and tactical helicopters, a
reasonable complement of fixed-wing aircraft, and the means to expedite
movement of heavy equipment (such as armoured personnel carries),
civilian protection in Darfur will simply mean a slightly larger African
Union force. Since this force has been hopelessly inadequate (see the
first section of the Amnesty International report “Obstruction and
Delay: Peacekeepers need in Darfur now”), Khartoum will have succeeded
in preserving the genocidal status quo for almost half a year, with
virtually no prospect of a rapid ramping up of UNAMID capacity. All the
while humanitarian access becomes more tenuous, camps become more
violent, and there is an increasingly likely prospect of large-scale
fighting between Khartoum’s regular forces and consolidating rebel
fighting forces (especially in North Darfur, where Amnesty International
and others report significant military build-up).

Prospects for resumed peace talks seem bleak, even as Khartoum’s
declared cease-fire has proved thoroughly vacuous. The chances of
achieving a meaningful ceasefire, given this most recent reneging by the
regime, are correspondingly diminished. The substance of peace talks is
little discussed, but nothing has changed in Khartoum’s unrelenting
and vehement insistence that the disastrous Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)
is not subject to significant re-negotiation. Part of the price for
passage of Resolution 1769, and indeed securing Khartoum’s agreement
to any document, is a favorable highlighting of the DPA, despite
overwhelming rejection by Darfuris and the rebel groups. Resolution
1769 declares that the Security Council “reiterates,”

“its belief in the basis provided by the Darfur Peace Agreement [DPA]
for a lasting political solution and sustained security in Darfur,
deploring that the Agreement has not been fully implemented by the
signatories and not signed by all parties to the conflict in Darfur.”

But such a statement makes a wholly unwarranted assumption about what
political potential there is in the DPA, and does not record that the
key failures of implementation derive from Khartoum’s refusal to abide
by any of its commitments in the DPA, most conspicuously on security
arrangements, compensation, and provision of reconstruction funds.
Rebel leaders refused to sign the DPA because it contained inadequate
provisions on all these counts, as well as inadequate regional and
national political representation. “Deploring” the failure of
various rebel leaders to sign this poorly conceived and disastrously
consummated document makes it less likely that the rebel leadership will
regard UN mediation in peace talks as balanced. The DPA is a failure,
particularly in its lack of international guarantors for the security
provisions; to hold future negotiations hostage to accepting the
assessment of the DPA offered in Resolution 1769 ensures a diplomatic

Certainly Darfuri rebel, political, and civil society leadership
figures are looking carefully at the continuing breakdown of the
north/south Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA; January 2005). Just
today (November 11, 2007) a high-level committee to resolve the crisis
over Abyei (Bahr el-Ghazal), set up by the southern leadership with
Khartoum, ceased functioning just days after beginning work. Abyei
remains the most dangerous flash-point for resumed war in Sudan, and the
refusal of the National Islamic Front to accept the findings of the
distinguished Abyei Boundary Commission (stipulated in the CPA and whose
report was presented to NIF President al-Bashir in July 2005) is only
the most glaring example of the regime’s reneging on the terms of this
historic achievement. Certainly Darfuris know that if the CPA
collapses, no agreement with Khartoum will hold any meaning: resumed
north/south war will inevitably become fully national in scope,
involving not only the south, but the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue
Nile, Kordofan Province (the site of growing tension and violence), the
Eastern Provinces, Nubia to the far north—and certainly Darfur.

If major conflict again erupts in Darfur, in the context of renewed
north/south conflict or because Khartoum mounts a series of major
military offensives, or continues its brutal assaults on camps for
displaced persons, then humanitarian organizations—already enduring
intolerable levels of insecurity—will withdraw en masse. Hundreds of
thousands of acutely vulnerably and badly weakened civilians will die.
Malnutrition indicators are moving ominously upwards throughout Darfur,
and will skyrocket the moment there are major withdrawals by
humanitarian organizations (beyond those that have already occurred).

Fully deployed, UNAMID might be able to protect significant numbers of
civilians even in the midst of large-scale conflict, but would be
helpless to do more, and would likely have to concentrate its forces
simply for self-protection. But even in the absence of renewed war, an
emboldened Khartoum poses a grave threat to the civilians of Darfur.
UNAMID is clearly many months behind schedule, and falling steadily
further behind, despite factitious optimism in some quarters of the AU.
And the more fully Khartoum feels supported by Beijing, the more
obstructionist its behavior will become.

The Secretary General has much company in insisting that “there is no
military solution in Darfur.” But in fact this is a dangerous
half-truth. Certainly Khartoum is militarily incapable of crushing the
rebel forces, which are more heavily armed than ever; and the rebels are
unlikely to be able to capture the few urban areas in which Khartoum
chooses to maintain its largest military presence in Darfur. At the
same time, continued Janjaweed predations, inter-ethnic fighting
(including increased fighting among Arab groups), and rebel in-fighting
only serve Khartoum’s military ambitions, and such violence and
fighting are encouraged by the regime in a wide range of ways.

But to see this is to realize that a terrible “military victory” is
even now being achieved by Khartoum. “Chaos by design” is precisely
the right description of the military strategy that the regime is now
pursuing, and has indeed assiduously pursued since the end of the
largest episodes of village destruction and mass ethnic slaughter
sometime in early 2005. It is because UNAMID poses a clear threat to
this strategy that Khartoum is so resolutely and variously resisting
deployment of the hybrid UN/AU force, so far with remarkable success.

But China is the indispensable partner in this success, and the
authoritative reports indicating that Beijing is becoming more
supportive of Khartoum’s obstructionism should be of the deepest
concern to the international community. China is now more deeply
complicit than ever in forestalling deployment of what is clearly the
last chance for the world to shoulder the “responsibility to
protect” the people of Darfur. Either China is moved to pressure
Khartoum to facilitate UNAMID, or there is a danger that the mission
will devolve into sending inadequately supported African infantry forces
into encampments that may be able to protect themselves, but will be
helpless to undertake the challenging tasks of civilian protection.

Khartoum will not move without substantial international pressure,
preeminently from China. Beijing will not moved without even greater
and more concerted international pressure.

* Eric Reeves is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. He can be reached at [email protected].