By Mahmoud A. Suleiman
January 21, 2008 — Lemarchand, René in the “Patterns of State Collapse and Reconstruction in Central Africa”, Says, there is no room for compromise: “the preservation of ethnic hegemony is perceived as a condition for physical survival” by the incumbents, with “the elimination of rival claimants as the only means by which survival can be assured”. The personalities of political actors impinge on political affairs in countless ways, often with calamitous consequences. Sigmund Freud in the Psychology of Everyday Life, in reference to Leonardo Da Vinci’s memory of childhood, says: “He grew appalled at the chauvinism of intellectuals, the callousness of commanders and the stupidity of politicians.” It is not surprising if the people of Sudan in Darfur continue to endure the hardships of ethnic cleansing and genocide under the military regime of President Field Marshal Omer Ahmed Al-Bashir. President Al-Bashir is leaving the civilians in Darfur to be killed shameless and heartless, to say the least. There has been a systematic effort by the regime of Omar Hassan al-Bashir to cover up the death toll in Darfur. The government of Sudan (GOS) has claimed that “only” 9,000 have died. The UN, however, says that more than 200,000 have perished whereas Amnesty International estimates 300,000 (95,000 killed and more than 200,000 dead from conflict-related hunger or disease) and the Save Darfur Coalition, an umbrella group of NGOs, places the total at 400,000. The government of Sudan (GOS) has been reported to have suppressed information by jailing and killing witnesses since 2004 and tampered with evidence such as mass graves to eliminate their forensic values. Lately, however, as the debate over Darfur death toll intensifies, Marshal Omer al-Bashir, the president of the ruling National Congress Party, (NCP) is quoted in September 2007 to have been content that the deaths are a tiny fraction of that reported by the UN and other concerned agencies; his current figure is “Only” 10000 deaths. That is to say within the period of one year thousand deaths have occurred in Darfur, according to Mr. President’s estimate. It is evident that to the president Al-Bashir, Darfur death toll has become some auction proceed or a bid needs to login! However, as this is a voluntary confession by his Excellency, it will be taken as’legitimate evidence in the court of law to indict him.
The nations that care for their citizens become alarmed and disquieted for one of its nationals gets into trouble either at home or abroad. A good example of this was the diplomatic efforts of the United Kingdom foreign office during the British teacher’s ordeal. Britain’s ambassador to Sudan, Rosalind Marsden, accompanied Gillian Gibbons the British ‘teddy’ teacher jailed in Sudan for insulting Islam, after being pardoned, to Khartoum airport where her departure plans was kept secret until after take-off for fear of a repetition of demonstrations on a Friday calling for her execution. Gillian Gibbons, 54, was accompanied by the two British Muslim peers, Lord Nizar Ahmed and Baroness Warsi, who secured her pardon by Sudan’s Islamist President Omar al-Bashir. President Omar al-Bashir could inform the visiting parliamentarians that he had pardoned the teacher, but had no guts to show glimpse of mercy to his noncombatant citizens in Darfur. Observers believed, at the time, that the whole incident had put an enormous strain on relations between Britain and Sudan and it was thought it could have had long lasting consequences that would not be easy to resolve. On the other hand, the Government of Sudan (GOS) reacted angrily to threats by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about possible sanctions over Darfur.
All mankind societies reflect deeply and dispassionately on the Sanctity of human Life, no matter how humble. If there is one value that is universal, that could truly be called Holy, is the value of protection of human life. This is conceded even by those who, as agnostics, are far from arguing on religious grounds. Granville-Williams, for example, once president of the English Euthanasia Society, stated in his famous book: The Sanctity of Life (1958:30) that even by the “modern infidel” it is widely accepted to be “our duty to regard all human life as sacred, however disabled, worthless or even repugnant the individual may be.”
Darfur death rates exceeded “Crisis Threshold” by September 2004. In West Darfur, the crude mortality rate was 2.9 deaths per 10,000 people, while in North Darfur the rate was 1.5 deaths. South Darfur was not measured because of security problems there, and the survey included 1,500 households and covered the period from mid-June to mid-August 2004. The figures indicate that an average of 144 IDPs are dying each day in West Darfur and another 57 in North Darfur, between three and six times the expected rate. According to Feinstein International Center’s briefing paper, the Darfur deaths, based on previous surveys, extrapolated from February 2003 to September 2004 were300000 (Eric Reeves 2004). MSF survey of five IDP camps in West Darfur in 2004 combined with WHO survey over 31 months, the death toll was 170000-255000 deaths. GOS up to November 2006 9000 deaths (Omer Hassan Al-Bashir 2006).
The insensitivity and cruelty of the National Islamic Front (NIF) military junta was witnessed by the people of Sudan in Khartoum from the early days of 30 June 1989 coup led by Brigadier Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. This was on the 24th April 1990, the 28th of the holy month of Ramadan almost one day before Eid Al-Fitr, the Muslim religious festival that celebrates the end Ramadan, when the National Islamic Front (NIF) leadership of the June 1989 Coup d’état massacred 28 fellow army officers and more than 200 regulars without proper adherence to the military law. Ironically, Hassan al-Turabi, parliament speaker and leader (godfather) of the NIF, was incarcerated into prison by General al-Bashir and his immediate circle that marked one power centre and Hassan al-Turabi and his circle another. Now al-Turabi is the leader of al-Moutamar Sha’bi Party (the NIF opposition faction) whilst Omer al-Bashir is the leader of al-Moutamar al-Watani (NCP)! Furthermore, Marshal Omer Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir has been quoted as saying, in al-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State, while addressing his troops who were being sent to fight Darfur rebels (SLA and JEM) that he did not want to see prisoners of war (POWs) or wounded combatants brought back (alive)! This is an outright disregard to the Geneva Conventions “for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field”, Geneva Convention “relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War” and Geneva Convention “relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War”.
The debate on how many dead in Darfur may continue for a while? Some may ask does it matter the number of deaths in Darfur when this was a matter on which opinions diverged. Mortality estimates, ranging from Khartoum’s figure of 9,000 to the figure of well over 450,000 generated by others? The answer to this loaded “Sixty Four Dollar Question” is that the number of dead is required to determine whether genocide had been committed and was continuing in Darfur. Furthermore, the estimates are needed to establish the size of compensation for the loss of life in Darfur when it is negotiated. The number of deaths in Darfur is of far-reaching consequence for the indictment for War Crimes and Crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. Additionally, the numbers are needed during the inclusive process of reconciliation through the Darfur Darfur Dialogue & Consultation (DDDC). Last and not least, the number of deaths in the Darfur tragedy will be documented as a fact in the history book of the New Sudan.
Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is the Deputy Chairman of the General Congress for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). He can be reached at [email protected]