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Sudan Tribune

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Darfur Humanitarian Update: August 31, 2010

Amidst a rapidly deteriorating security and political climate, and at the height of the rainy season and “hunger gap,” Darfur’s people face severe challenges to survival, both in camps and rural areas. Recent events at Kalma camp portend increased violence directed against Internally Displaced Persons throughout Darfur, and Khartoum’s new “peace from within” plan ominously recalls similar plans during the genocide in the Nuba Mountains (1992-99). The UN refuses to provide substantial data and reports on humanitarian conditions in Darfur, continuing a trend of over a year. For its part, the US is “de-emphasizing” the Darfur crisis and shifting its focus to the southern self-determination referendum.

By Eric Reeves

August 31, 2010– Detailed analyses of humanitarian conditions in Darfur and eastern Chad from earlier this summer remain all too telling in their depiction of human suffering and deprivation: (June 18, 2010) (July 4, 2010)

Sections of the present analysis:

•Political Context

•Khartoum’s proposed “New Strategy” for Darfur

•US support for the “New Strategy”

•Implementing the “New Strategy”

•The catastrophe at Kalma

•A climate of intimidation for humanitarians

•Humanitarian conditions:

[a] health/medical needs

[b] water

[c] sanitation

[d] malnutrition

•An increasingly grim future for Darfuris

•Addendum: Rwanda’s threat to withdraw from UNAMID

We are presently at the very height of the rainy season (historically August is the rainiest month in Darfur, and September the second rainiest month). The “hunger gap” began unusually early this year following the poor harvests of 2009-2010, and fall harvest is still many weeks away. The success of this harvest is deeply dependent on the rains as well as security at the time of harvest. Right now, the food and other humanitarian needs in many camps are acute. Deaths from malnutrition alone are likely in the thousands. But these needs have been forced into a grim political and diplomatic context, one essential to any broader understanding of humanitarian shortfalls, rising malnutrition, and the longer-term threats to human survival and welfare throughout Darfur. The recent violence at Kalma camp and the ensuing international responses are particularly revealing of this larger context.


The events at Kalma and other politically radicalized camps are at once cause and pretext for Khartoum’s pushing of plans that have been long in the making; these plans call for a “New Strategy” for Darfur, one that entails a “domestication” of the peace process ( ). While continuing to give lip service to the peace forum in Doha (Qatar), the regime has clearly decided upon a very different approach in bringing “peace” to Darfur. Ghazi Salahuddin, who currently holds the Darfur portfolio for Darfur, told Arab diplomats on August 9 that “while the government would work to reach a negotiated settlement, it was not a priority” (Small Arms Survey, Geneva, August update, ).

The decision to relocate residents of Kalma camp—announced by the Governor of South Darfur, Abdel Hamid Musa Kasha, also on August 9—has “deepened concern that ‘domestication’ will proceed in parallel with a range of coercive measures, including continued military action against the armed opposition movements in Darfur and attempts to dismantle the camps that house more than 2.5 million displaced” (SAS August update). There has been no significant resistance by the international community to Khartoum’s initiative; indeed, recent reports suggest that the African Union and Thabo Mbeki, UNAMID, US President Obama’s Special Envoy Scott Gration, and others have acquiesced—frustrated by the lack of progress in Doha and unwilling to confront a regime with the power to collapse the southern self-determination referendum (January 2011). Khartoum’s patience and refusal to negotiate in good faith have allowed the regime to prevail, and the consequences will be disastrous for Darfur.

The rebel movements, including the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM, the only group still engaged in Doha), have all warned of the extremely dangerous implications of this new policy. The LJM has said “‘domestication’ will serve only to silence opposition and weaken the negotiating position of the victims of the war.” Civil society representatives, “whose participation in the Doha process was portrayed as a big step forward on the road to peace, have fiercely opposed it” (SAS August update). JEM has denounced “domestication” as a “rerun of the ‘peace from within’ strategy attempted in the Nuba Mountains after the jihad of the early 1990s failed to defeat the insurgency there” (SAS August update). This “peace from within” strategy resulted in concentration camps, brutal treatment of camp residents, forced conversion to Islam in order to receive food, appropriation of land from native Nubans, and widespread starvation. Initially supported by some development personnel in Khartoum, the strategy amounted to genocide.

A telling action on the part of Khartoum’s negotiators in Doha is reflected in the peremptory rejection of the Heidelberg Document, and the evident contempt for real civil society engagement in the peace process. Khartoum’s actions were the focus of an earlier Small Arms Survey update on the peace process (June 22, 2010):

“Government negotiators in Doha turn[ed] away delegates of the Heidelberg Committee—Darfur academics, activists, and civil society organizations brought together in 2008 by the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany, in tandem with the Peace Institute of Khartoum University. The delegates had travelled to Doha, at the invitation of the [UN/African Union-sponsored peace] mediation, to present proposals for peace drawn up in nearly three years of discussions. The proposals, strongly supported by the LJM, include reuniting the three states of Darfur as one administrative territory, creating ways to allow IDPs to return to their homes and be compensated?both individually and collectively?and expelling settlers from neighbouring countries. The government spokesman in Doha, Omer Adam Rahman, claims the Heidelberg group is biased towards the armed movements. The LJM warns that rejection of the Heidelberg proposals will mean a return to war.”

Khartoum is not interested in negotiating peace in Darfur, and certainly has no intention of engaging meaningfully with Darfuri civil society ( ). Khartoum’s bad faith has been obscured by the hopelessly fractious and irresponsible negotiating tactics of the larger rebel groups, but there can be little doubt that Khartoum would have been as intransigent and disingenuous on key issues as it was in the Abuja negotiations that produced the disastrous 2006 “Darfur Peace Agreement.”

Now, however, with no resistance from the international community, Khartoum has begun to implement its new strategy. As The Sudan Tribune reported on August 27, 2010:

“Chairman of AU Panel on Sudan, Thabo Mbeki, Joint Special Representative (JSR) of the AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Ibrahim Gambari, US Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration met Thursday with Presidential Adviser, Ghazi Salah Eddin Attabani to discuss government’s new strategy to end Darfur conflict through development and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). ‘We strongly support this strategy to resolve the conflict in Darfur,’ said Mbeki in statements to reporters following the meeting.”


Acquiescing in, indeed “strongly supporting” a “strategy” so transparently threatening to vulnerable Darfuris is consistent with US policy, which has recently been determined by Obama’s disastrously incompetent envoy Scott Gration, who is reported to be pushing heavily to be named ambassador to Kenya. Obama himself has sought to stay above the debate within his administration over Sudan policy, but given his close relationship with Gration and his acceptance of his policies, the President ultimately bears great responsibility for what unfolds in Sudan in the coming months. We catch a glimpse of the Obama administration in action in the wake of a “contentious principals-level meeting at the White House [in the first week of August], in which Gration clashed openly with US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice over the direction of Sudan policy”:

“At the meeting, Rice was said to be ‘furious’ when Gration proposed a plan that makes the January referendum a priority, deemphasizes the ongoing crisis in Darfur, and is devoid of any additional pressures on the government in Khartoum. According to multiple sources briefed on the meeting, Gration’s plan was endorsed by almost all the other participants, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and will now go to the president for his approval.” (Foreign Policy on-line, August 13, 2010, at )

This US “de-emphasis” on Darfur policy is a signal to Khartoum to accelerate its “New Strategy” for the region, and the policy implications of the US shift should be clearly understood by all. The regime’s buzzword in the document (“Darfur: Towards New Strategy to Achieve Comprehensive Peace, Security and Development”) is “development,” which occurs again and again. The clear expectation is that the international community will support this shift in emphasis from humanitarian relief: “The government expects UNAMID and other partners to play decisive role in this anticipated shifting from relief to development.” And while it is certainly the case that Darfur has remained almost totally undeveloped during the twenty-one years of National Islamic Front/National Congress party rule—indeed for virtually all the 20th century—the regime’s idea of what constitutes “development” requires substantial glossing. What this word really signifies, in the multiple contexts in which it appears, is unmistakable: “It is a top priority for the government to re-direct the humanitarian efforts towards rehabilitation and shifting from depending on the relief to development and self-reliance.” Translation: international humanitarian organizations must leave, Darfuris must return to their villages and become “self-reliant,” and the regime will take on all security responsibilities, leaving only a short-term role for UNAMID. “Rehabilitation” and “development” are also the pretext for Khartoum’s dismantling of IDP camps, with Kalma first on the hit-list.


Indeed, while acknowledging in one breath that the humanitarian “crisis” in Darfur could deepen, the regime declares that it is “important to continue efforts and direct the humanitarian activity towards resettlement of war-affected persons.” Such “resettlement” is the complement to “development” and means the return of all IDPs to their villages or to new camps, which in nearly all cases have yet to be constructed. Such resettlement will inevitably be forcefully or violently implemented, as Kalma clearly reveals.

There some 90,000 IDPs were confronted with violence from within and without that worked to disperse tens of thousands. Using a conservative UN World Food Program (WFP) registration figure of 82,000, the retiring UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian affairs, John Holmes, very recently estimated that “some 15,000 [Kalma residents] seemed to have fled to Nyala town and another 10,000 to surrounding areas, including nearby Bileil camp.” According to Holmes, in his August 23 briefing of the UN Security Council on the events, both Kalma and Bileil were denied all humanitarian access from August 2 through August 18, with the exception of one brief assessment and delivery mission on August 16 (with characteristic mendacity, Khartoum repeatedly and shamelessly denied such denial of access). Access appears to remain open for the moment, but this may prove short-lived—merely an expedient concession given Security Council attention to the matter.

As context for his remarks on Kalma, Holmes notes that, “the humanitarian situation in Darfur has been steadily deteriorating again this year….” He also notes that “access restrictions, in the form of denial in practice of permission for humanitarian actors to travel, still prevail in Eastern Jebel Marra,” where more than 100,000 civilians have been denied all humanitarian relief since February; he might have added that many other places in need are or have been denied access by Khartoum.

[For a recent comprehensive overview of issues of humanitarian access, the blockade of Kalma, and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law throughout Darfur and Sudan as a whole, see “Sudan Human Rights Monitor, June – July 2010,” from the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, at ]

Holmes notes the expulsion of key leadership staff from the (intergovernmental) International Organization for Migration (IOM)—an act that compromises the effort to distribute non-food items (NFI—tents, tarpaulins, jerry cans, soap, mosquito nets, medicine). IOM took over the NFI “common pipeline” for humanitarian organizations in Darfur after another humanitarian organization, CARE/US, was expelled in March 2009—along with twelve other large international humanitarian organizations representing roughly half the aid capacity in Darfur. IOM would also be one of the key organizations, along with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), undertaking supervision of voluntary returns by displaced persons. But two members of the scrupulously neutral ICRC were also recently expelled from West Darfur, as were the regional heads of the UN High Commission for Refugees and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (the latter for circulating a petition on world hunger). A worker for Danish Church Aid in South Darfur was expelled on August 31, 2010, reportedly charged with urging a newly released aid worker to disclose her mistreatment at the hands of her kidnappers ( ).

On the subject of returns, Holmes made several ominous observations:

“[It is] vital that displaced populations are not threatened with violence or otherwise forcibly moved.”

“[The tense situation in Kalma] was further aggravated when local authorities denied NGOs and UN agencies access to the camp for 15 day after August 1, amid suggestions that they want to get rid of the camp altogether.”

“[T]he situation remains tense and fragile, and there is still government talk of moving the IDPs out of Kalma and dismantling the camp.”

This is not mere talk: it is part of Khartoum’s new strategy of “accelerating” the return of IDPs. Since 2004 the regime has been eager to return people to their lands and villages, with or without security. Although declaring that the returns will be “voluntary” and “sustainable,” there is no evidence that it has any scruples on the matter of how civilians are removed from the camps in the absence of international observation. Again, the IOM and the ICRC—two organizations recently targeted by expulsions of senior officials on the ground—provide the most substantial resources in Darfur for overseeing returns and ensuring that all comply with international humanitarian law.


“Government talk” of “moving the IDPs out of Kalma and dismantling the camp” is precisely what is being threatened implicitly in the “New Strategy,” if one reads with any care. And Abdel Hamid Musa Kasha, governor of South Darfur, has been the regime’s brutally frank spokesperson on the issue (Kalma and Beleil are very close to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur). Two days after Holmes briefed the Security Council, a press release by the Khartoum regime (from its embassy in Washington, DC) declared:

“The governor of south Darfur state, Abdulhamid Musa Kasha, has said that the government is determined to bring Kalma IDP camp under control as from Tuesday [August 24, 2010]. Speaking after talks with UNAMID, Kasha said the government will consider the camp a hostile military base if the government forces faced any resistance within the camp.” (August 25, 2010, at,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=1203&cntnt01returnid=15 )

The message to UNAMID is clear: control Kalma completely, and turn that control over to our police, armed forces, and Military Intelligence, or you will be viewed as obstructing security. Indeed, on the same day as the Washington, DC press release, Sudan Vision—the regime’s regular propaganda outlet, but often used to send signals to Western capitals and the UN—went further in expressing Khartoum’s outright hostility to UNAMID:

“South Darfur Governor Dr. Abdul Hamid Musa Kasha accused UNAMID as attempting to escalate Kalma IDPs camp incidents and [of] discouraging the IDPs to implement the steps the government is going to take in the state in dealing with the issue. Kasha during his meeting with UNAMID personnel working in South Darfur State that the government has information about weapons entering the camp; [in addition,] one of the UNAMID elements is discouraging the IDPs not to respond to the government call for transferring the camp into safer area.”

“Kasha declared that the South Darfur government will be permanent in the camp to bring about control and protect the innocent IDPs, affirming that they will not allow for the incidents of Kalma IDPs camp to repeat themselves. He affirmed that he, in his capacity as governor, will make regular visits to the camp.” (Sudan Vision, August 25, 2010; official translation lightly edited for clarity—ER)

The Khartoum police and military forces have never been able to enter Kalma camp, and Governor Kasha is clearly threatening UNAMID as a way to end this state of affairs. His threat comes in the immediate wake of USG Holmes’ insistence that it is “vital that displaced populations are not threatened with violence.” But any entrance by armed elements of the regime will precipitate precisely such violence, as was the case when in August 2008 Khartoum’s forces attempted a breach of Kalma and killed at least 32 civilians, and wounded many more, before retreating. On August 17, 2010 the Human Rights and Advocacy Network for Democracy (HAND) reported on a “military build-up and mobilization of government security forces around the major IDP camps,” as well as heavy arming of certain elements within the camps ( ).

[HAND is a highly informed Darfuri advocacy consortium established in February 2010, self-described as “a network of grassroots organizations, managed by and for Darfuris and operating in Darfur proper.” With many contacts on the ground in Darfur, HAND has reported a much greater flight from Kalma than USG Holmes, and uses a much higher total for the camp population (as does Reuters newswire): 100,000 IDPs. HAND also offers the most informed and perspicuous account of the political violence in both Kalma and Hamidiya camps, at ]

The stakes are extremely high here, not only for the displaced persons in Kalma, but for the integrity of UNAMID’s mission. Earlier in August, President al-Bashir went so far as to threaten openly the expulsion of UNAMID, along with humanitarian organizations:

“‘Any aid group or UN or AU agency, even UNAMID—their mandate is to support government authorities, [al-Bashir] told a gathering of Darfur leaders in Khartoum Saturday [August 7, 2010]. ‘I tell my brothers the governors of Darfur that anyone who exceeds these boundaries or their mandate can be expelled the same day.’”

“‘No one has the right to prevent the government from doing its job to protect civilians,’ he said. ‘The (Darfur) camps are Sudanese territory under Sudanese authority and there is no authority in this world which can stop the government from … prosecuting criminals who break the law.’” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], August 7, 2010)

There can be no doubt that Governor Kasha is acting under explicit instructions from Khartoum, and that his pronouncements are not simply officially sanctioned but reflections of regime policy. This will be decisive in any disposition of the case of six IPD leaders from Kalma camp who have sought sanctuary with the UNAMID policing center at Kalma. Khartoum demands that these IDPs, associated with the Abdel Wahid el-Nur rebel faction (SLA/AW), be turned over to its security forces (backers of SLA/AW oppose participation in the Doha peace process and appear to be primarily responsible for the violence at Kalma and camps near Zalingei, West Darfur, including Hamidiya camp). So far, UNAMID has resisted and taken its lead from UN headquarters in New York, which has demanded that Khartoum “[bring the six IDPs] to trial in accordance with international standards of justice,” and with “fairness and due process of law” ( ). But Ibrahim Gambari, the UN/African Union Joint Special Representative to UNAMID, is an unprincipled and expedient diplomat who specializes in accommodating tyrannical regimes (see my analysis of Gambari’s career, and his actions at Kalma— ).

Given Khartoum’s insistence in the matter, it seems only a matter of time before some justification is contrived to release the six to what will surely be extrajudicial treatment, including torture, imprisonment without charge, and perhaps execution.

Moreover, Gambari has put himself squarely in support of the regime’s threatening new emphasis on “development,” even going so far as to move UNAMID away from its key civilian protection mandate (recently underscored by the UN Security Council) in support of such “development” efforts. In response to Khartoum’s new “Strategy for Darfur,” Gambari express his “satisfaction”:

“The [Joint Special Representative] also emphasized UNAMID’s commitment to support early recovery and development in the region. ‘UNAMID will be supporting recovery programs in close consultation and coordination with the UN Country Team,’ Professor Gambari remarked.” (UNAMID press release [el-Fasher], August 26, 2010)

Again, UN Security Council Resolution 1935 (July 30, 2010), extending the mandate for UNAMID, stressed the importance of “giving priority in decisions about the use of available capacity and resources to [a] the protection of civilians across Darfur, and [b] ensuring safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access, the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and humanitarian activities.”

Not only is UNAMID incapable of fulfilling these fundamental obligations, there is real danger that any pursuit of “development” projects will be perceived not as a legitimate role for the peacekeeping force but as an extension of regime plans in Darfur:

“Reuters quoted unnamed Western diplomats [July 30, 2010] at the world body as saying that the force should put those goals ahead of reconstruction projects or a direct role in attempts to negotiate a political settlement, which they said UNAMID had been straying into and which Sudan’s government favoured. Many observers, aid groups, and rebels have stepped up their criticism of UNAMID saying it is not performing efficiently to fulfill its mandate which some have called as ‘weak.’”

“Aid group Oxfam agreed with the Security Council that UNAMID should focus on security and stay out of reconstruction. ‘Mixing the work of blue helmets (peacekeepers) with aid groups will confuse Darfuris,’ El Fateh Osman, Oxfam’s country director in Sudan, said in a statement.” (Sudan Tribune, July 31, 2010)

Other aid organizations have expressed deep concerns about the wisdom of mixing peacekeeping and development work, blurring the lines between military and humanitarian roles, and in the process making aid workers ever more vulnerable to assault, particularly given the high level of Darfuri animosity towards UNAMID.

And yet JSR Gambari continues to do precisely the regime’s bidding. Indeed, concerning the six IPD representative currently in UNAMID custody, the Khartoum daily al-Sahafa reported on August 12, 2010 that, “Gambari reassured the Sudanese officials during a meeting with the deputy governor of South Darfur state Abdel Karim Moussa, saying the hand over of the six IDPs delegates is only a matter of time and urged them to complete the requested procedures in order to achieve the process to the satisfaction of all parties” (The Sudan Tribune, August 12, 2010).

This is a ghastly reprise of Gambari’s performance in Burma in dealing with the brutal military junta (see ).


Too few are willing to state publicly the implications of Khartoum’s policies, longstanding or as part of the “New Strategy.” Human Rights Watch is a notable exception in its July 19, 2010 report, “New Deaths, Others Abuses Underscore Need for Better Access, Improved Security”:

“‘While international attention has focused on the Sudanese elections and the referendum on Southern Sudan, Darfur remains in shambles,’ said Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The new fighting and rights abuses across Darfur show clearly that the war is far from over and that the UN needs to do more to protect civilians.’” ( )?

To those convinced by Khartoum’s propaganda or shallow analyses that the war is over, Human Rights Watch declares:

“Government soldiers and allied militias targeted civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law, during clashes with rebel groups in the Jebel Mun and Jebel Mara areas of Darfur, which continued through June in some locations. Witnesses and victims of attacks reported to Human Rights Watch that government forces killed and raped civilians, destroyed homes, and bombed water supplies, forcing the displacement of thousands of civilians. The attacks included government aerial bombing in and around Jebel Mun in late April and early May. Accounts from witnesses suggest the bombs were directed at places near water where civilians gathered. In one incident on April 29, bombs reportedly killed nine civilians in Girgigirgi, a village 15 kilometers east of Jebel Mun.” [ ]

“‘Hundreds of civilians are dying, and peacekeepers in many cases aren’t even able to reach the populations at risk,’ Peligal said. ‘The Sudanese government needs to end attacks on civilians and take immediate steps to improve the peacekeepers’ access to affected areas. The peacekeepers should make access to these areas a top priority.’”

But access is precisely what Khartoum is denying, both to humanitarians and UNAMID. It does so by intimidation, threats, bureaucratic obstruction, contrived “security issues,” and a range of other means. The denial of humanitarian access is particularly consequential, especially for the populous eastern Jebel Marra, but many other areas as well. It is also increasingly consequential for the civilians caught up in deadly violence between Arab tribal groups. There have been numerous reports of fighting in recent months, particularly between Rizeigat and Misseriya elements in both West Darfur and South Darfur, particularly in the Kass area. In a grim irony, much of the fighting is over land abandoned earlier in the genocide by targeted African ethnic groups. Moreover, the typically camel-herding (aballa) Rizeigat are the Arab tribal group from which Khartoum drew most heavily in recruiting the Janjaweed militias.

[For a brief but excellent discussion of the issue of ethnic identity in Darfur, by true experts on the subject, see Sean O’Fahey and Jerome Tubiana, “Darfur: Historical and Contemporary Aspects,” pages 5 – 7, ]

Not only is Khartoum denying both aid organizations and UNAMID access to critical locations, it is expressing an increasingly hostile attitude towards both peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. On July 31, 2010 Khartoum announced that it would monitor all travel by UNAMID and humiliate UNAMID personnel by searching all their bags at airports in Darfur:

“Senior information ministry official Rabie Abdelati accused UNAMID on Saturday [July 31, 2010] of failing to halt the violence in the camps and harbouring instigators of the fighting, and said the force must in future inform the government of all travel plans. ‘UNAMID has not done its job at all—there was shooting, burning, people died and all they did was watch,’ Abdelati told Reuters.”

“He was in South Darfur this week when the fighting between refugee groups broke out. ‘The governor of South Darfur told UNAMID they should either do their job (in Kalma refugee camp) or get out and let the government take over,’ he said. UNAMID staff will have their bags searched at the airport and they will have to inform the government before moving on roads even within South Darfur’s capital Nyala, he said.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 31, 2010)

For many months UNAMID personnel have been abused, arrested, and confronted with bureaucratic obstructionism, often resulting in the delay of travel visas and timely deployment of soldiers and equipment. Intimidation is pervasive and can take deadly form. The most recent report from the UN Secretary-General (July 14, 2010) indicates that “during the current mandate period of July 2009 to July 2010, UNAMID peacekeepers were attacked on 28 occasions, leaving 10 dead and 26 injured.” At least 27 peacekeepers have been killed since UNAMID assumed it role officially on January 1, 2008. Responsibility for these assaults is often difficult to determine, but on a number of occasions the attackers have been identified as Khartoum-allied militia forces and even regular Sudan Armed Forces ( ). On July 16, 2010 UMAMID was fired upon by regular Sudan Armed Forces, an attack explained by Khartoum as the result of a “misunderstanding.” A number of UNAMID personnel have also been abducted. So far, Khartoum has convicted none of the very few who have been apprehended in connection with any of these actions against a UN-authorized peace support operation.

The abuse, intimidation, threatening, and obstruction of humanitarian organizations is even worse than that confronting UNAMID (I detail Khartoum’s actions and their effect in curtailing humanitarian relief efforts at ). In the wake of Khartoum’s March 2009 expulsion of thirteen of the world’s finest international relief organizations (on absurd charges of espionage), this further attenuation of humanitarian reach is proving disastrous, even as Darfur becomes increasingly invisible. As a well-placed UN official declared last spring of humanitarian capacity, access, and reporting:

“Overall, the quality of aid provision dropped precipitously [following the expulsions]; this is unquestionable. The drop in regular presence (and therefore some measure of security) and monitoring and evaluation have had serious implications for the most vulnerable and […] the wider community, as levels of assistance would necessarily be held static due to an inability to ensure effective coverage. Not seen, not heard, not helped, therefore not recorded.” (email received June 1, 2010)

Over the past three months, as we have moved deeper into the rainy season and hunger gap, such shortcomings are all the more telling—and reporting, “recording,” of humanitarian shortfalls and their human consequences is also deteriorating. For one of the most consequential effects of the March 2009 expulsions has been the silencing of those humanitarian organizations that remain in Darfur. Data and reports no longer appear, or appear only sporadically and incompletely; the UN’s “Darfur Humanitarian Profiles” no longer appear at all; and such reports as do appear are not timely. UN agencies, which should be more open in revealing the conditions of Darfuri IDPs and distressed rural populations, are generally silent. The last UN World Food Program report on food security in Darfur was February 5, 2010 (the “UN Sudan Information Gateway” website is scandalously out of date—e.g., the most recent entry under “Health” is June 12, 2008 ( ).

The same absence of observation and investigation that Human Rights Watch reports for security and human rights issues in Darfur affects reporting by aid workers and organizations, as well as UN agencies:

“The [humanitarian] expulsions, combined with access restrictions, have created an information vacuum about the security and human rights situation in Darfur. Although Human Rights Watch has documented attacks that occurred months ago, the UN has yet to report publicly about them.”

The same “information vacuum” exists for humanitarian conditions.


The lack of humanitarian access can be only partially quantified. In his most recent report to the UN Security Council on UNAMID (July 14, 2010), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that “over 250,000 intended beneficiaries were not reached [in May 2010] owing to insecurity,” much of this insecurity of course contrived by Khartoum. But even this huge number understates significantly the number of civilian populations whose needs are considerable but who have remained unassessed for lack of access (again, a key issue in Eastern Jebel Marra and Jebel Mun).


We are not wholly without information, though there is very little contextualizing and not nearly enough discussion of the implications of various data. The UN World Health Organization recently reported data from a number of surveys, and these included the disease Incidence Rate (IR) per 10,000 of population (though WHO fails to distinguish between children under five and the rest of the population; see ). The three most serious causes of morbidity were Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI), Bloody Diarrhea (BD), and Clinical Malaria (MAL), through Week 27 of 2010. The figures for South and West Darfur are especially alarming for Week 27: the IR for ARI is 23.8 (it was 11.8 in Week 24). In West Darfur the IR for ARI is 27.3. Bloody Diarrhea appears to be steadily increasing in West Darfur, with a Week 27 incidence rate of 8.5 (the same figure as for Clinical Malaria). There are many fluctuations, particularly in North Darfur, but the general pattern is one of increased morbidity from the three most threatening diseases in Darfur.

Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) is one of the world’s leading killers of children under five. Worldwide, two million children die from ARI every year (some estimates are much higher), and ARI may account for as much as one-quarter of all under-five mortality ( ). We also know that ARI is made much more deadly among malnourished children, which is why the current high IR is extremely worrying. Many of these children will die if the malnutrition rates are as high as predicted months ago by WFP and more recently by the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net, at$File/full_report.pdf ). Secondary infection also increases mortality rates for ARI. There is much to be concerned about, but no reliable data on global mortality or mortality rates are currently available from the UN or International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs).

Much of what we know about the health concerns in Darfur takes the form of anecdotal accounts by Darfuri diaspora news reports, especially Radio Dabanga and the Human Rights and Advocacy Network for Democracy (HAND). But we do know a good deal about Kalma, a crisis that forced the UN to be explicit about health concerns, including water-borne diseases and mosquito-borne malaria—concerns that we know exist in other inaccessible or underserved camps and rural areas:

“According to Samuel Hendricks, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Darfur, NGOs running clinics in Kalma reported that drugs available are sufficient to cover needs for the next 4 to 6 weeks. ‘The last food distribution would have been at the beginning of July. Blanket feeding for children under five was scheduled to start at the beginning of August, and general food distribution this week, but it has all been prevented by lack of access to the settlement,’ Hendricks told IRIN.”

“One NGO which had received an additional shipment of Plumpy’nut [a critical therapeutic feeding supplement for very young children] had not been able to deliver it to the camp because of lack of access, but nutritional supplies are reported to be sufficient for six weeks. When 11 [sic] NGOs were expelled from Darfur in March 2009, Kalma residents went for three months without any food distribution. Only five NGOs remained in Kalma until the latest ban.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [IRIN] [dateline: Nairobi], August 12, 2010)

Radio Dabanga, an increasingly important source of news reports from Darfur, emphasized the threat of malaria:

“The risk of a malaria outbreak is high. Today the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) stated that ‘heavy rains, stagnant water, and the lack of shelters and mosquito nets have added to growing concerns of a likely outbreak of infectious diseases, especially malaria’ in Kalma.” (August 12, 2010)

Elsewhere in Darfur, Radio Dabanga reports:

[1] “There are shortages of medical supplies reported in a local hospital in Gereida and in other administrative units of South Darfur. The hospital faces an acute shortage of staff assistants, lacks a refrigerator for blood stocks, and lacks rooms for women and children. The departments for ultrasound radiology serve a population of 300 thousand people, the local medical director acknowledged. Speaking from Gereida, Dr. Hafez Nur Al Din said that there is a severe shortage of wards, particularly for women and children. He said that there is no ambulance, pointing out that many patients arrive at the hospital by animals (donkeys and horses).” (July 13, 2010)

[2] “Stocks of life-saving drugs and emergency supplies have run out at El Fasher Hospital in North Darfur. This development has increased the suffering of patients, a source told Radio Dabanga from the town, explaining that the hospital did not receive the expected delivery of special medical supplies or life-saving medicines.” (July 7, 2010)

[3] The relationship between malnutrition and disease is captured in the following dispatch:

“Humanitarian officials discovered hundreds of cases of malnutrition among children of Kalma Camp in southern Darfur. They are monitoring 600 cases of malnutrition among the internally displaced people (IDPs) who inhabit the camp, a camp leader said on Friday, citing a survey conducted by ActionAid, one of the aid organizations working at the camp. A sheikh from the camp told Radio Dabanga that major shortages of food have led to outbreaks of disease. He predicted a higher incidence of malnutrition if organizations do not intervene to solve the food crisis in Kalma.”

“In another development, people in Kereinek Camp in the state of West Darfur suffer from an outbreak of diarrhea, as well as an acute crisis in access to water. One of the displaced persons at Kereinek Camp told Radio Dabanga that the IDP camp suffers most from the water shortage and diarrhea outbreak. He said that they form long lines to wait for water and he appealed to aid organizations to provide water for the displaced and send teams to address the medical cause of the diarrhea outbreak.” (July 8, 2010)

[4] “Typhoid broke out in Rahid El Barda, South Darfur. According to Dr. Al Sadig Muhammad Ali, medical director of the locality, the outbreak has an estimated incidence of about 60%. He appealed to citizens in Rahid El Barda to wash their hands with soap three times after each meal and not to defecate in the open. He also called upon all workers in the restaurants to have a medical examination.” (August 27, 2010)

Mental illness is very rarely discussed, even as the effects of more than six years of genocidal conflict have left civilians suffering from a wide range of severe mental disorders, particularly the tens of thousands of girls and women who have been victims of rape. In a carefully researched May 2009 report, Physicians for Human Rights chronicled in soul-destroying detail some of the devastation among Darfuri refugee girls and women in eastern Chad:

“Researchers asked women to rate their physical and mental health status in Darfur and now in Chad on a 1-5 scale with 1 being ‘very good’ and 5 being ‘poor.’ Women reported a marked deterioration in their physical health status since leaving Darfur, with an average ranking of 3.99 for health in Chad versus 2.06 for Darfur.” ( )

“The study indicated a marked deterioration in self-reported mental health, where the average score in Chad was 4.90. ‘I am sad every day (since leaving Darfur). I feel not well in my skin,’ explained one respondent. [ ] Women who experienced rape (confirmed or highly probable) were three times more likely to report suicidal thoughts than were women who did not report sexual violence.” (page 5)

Mental illness and particularly the trauma associated with rape and sexual violence are now a completely taboo subject among international humanitarians working in Darfur itself. It remains for Darfuris to report, however unsystematically, on these terrible realities:

“Sixty-seven (67) people in Abu Nabag refugee camp in eastern Chad suffer from mental disorders because of their suffering from the war in Darfur, according to an activist in the camp. There are also cases of diseases of the eye, heart, paralysis and sudden death. The source said that the incidences of the mentioned diseases are increasing and there is no treatment. She called for donations of the necessary treatment and pharmaceuticals.” (Radio Dabanga, August 23, 2010)

•Clean Water:

We have remarkably little data or reporting on the water supplies in Darfur, and its quality. Ban Ki-moon noted in his July 14 report on UNAMID only that:

“The scarcity of water in Darfur is growing, with reports of a significant number of wells drying up. The quality of service delivery has decreased owing to [Khartoum’s] expulsion in March 2009 of organizing specializing in water, sanitation, and hygiene [WASH].”

But the problems are much larger than Ban admits here (see my lengthy analysis of the water crisis in Darfur at ). Certainly going back as far as January of this year we had clear warning signs, and indeed earlier in the form of detailed analyses by INGOs. But Khartoum’s actions have prevented a timely response to issues that have been squarely before us for many months:

“Refugees in parts of Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region are desperately short of food and water due to a lack of rain, and problems have been exacerbated in at least one area by Khartoum’s expulsion of aid groups, officials said on Thursday [January 28, 2010]. UN officers told Reuters the remote western region only received ‘a fraction’ of the rainfall of previous years and aid groups were planning to step up efforts to reach millions of people displaced by seven years of conflict.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 28, 2010)

In turn, the implications of water shortages for food and conflict must also be highlighted:

“‘Due to low levels of rainfall last year, state authorities and the humanitarian community expect significant food shortages in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in 2010, increasing the possibility of further conflict,’ read a statement from Darfur’s joint UN/African Union UNAMID peacekeepers. […] UNAMID said a joint assessment mission with UN agencies had found worrying signs of shortages around the North Darfur settlements of Dar El Salaam and Shangil Tobay and their surrounding displacement camps. ‘IDPs in both regions were found to be in desperate need of food and water,’ it said.”

“Another UN official, who asked not to be named, said the aid group Oxfam [Great Britain] had provided water services in Shangil Tobay before it was expelled last year. ‘That gap has not been properly filled,’ said the official.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 28, 2010)

[For the most comprehensive assessments of Darfur’s water crisis, see the October 2007 study by Tearfund, “Darfur: Water Supply in a Vulnerable Environment” and the October 2008 report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), “Darfur: The Case for Drought Preparedness,” which builds on the Tearfund study (at )]

In the absence of anything approximating the defunct UN “Darfur Humanitarian Profiles,” we simply don’t know enough to characterize the overall water situation in Darfur, even as it is a critical resource in this arid region. The only generalization we may be sure of is that offered by Ban Ki-moon: “The scarcity of water in Darfur is growing, with reports of a significant number of wells drying up.”


The rainy season poses severe problems for preserving sanitary and hygienic conditions. Not only are the floods from heavy rains at times massively destructive, they contaminate water supplies, increase the likelihood of malaria and water-borne diseases, and require more substantial shelter. Medair (Switzerland), for example, recently reported that Sisi camp in West Darfur had experienced severe flooding in late July:

“the Medair clinic [at Sisi] had collapsed and that many houses had been damaged. The camp is home to 10,500 IDPs (internally displaced persons) who have fled from their original villages due to the ongoing conflict in West Darfur.” [ ]

“Landing in Sisi, the Medair team discovered that 98 houses in the camp had been badly damaged, and 11 more had been completely washed away.” [ ]

“In addition, the flooding damaged a total of 55 latrines.” (Medair press release, August 26, 2010)

Sisi was fortunate to be a relatively small camp, and to have Medair assistance in rebuilding, repairing the latrines, and restocking the clinic. Many camps and populations are not nearly so fortunate. Latrines in heavy use, damaged by seasonal torrents of rain, and lacking effective maintenance can become deadly magnets for disease.

Even large urban areas are vulnerable:

“A number of houses collapsed and neighborhoods were affected by flooding south of El Fasher. Torrential rains and strong winds also caused direct damage to a number of mosques, schools, health facilities and main streets.” (Radio Dabanga, August 23, 2010)

But the more typical scenario is one we have seen recently at Zam Zam IDP camp, on the outskirts of el-Fasher:

“Heavy rainfall has affected more than 700 families in Zam Zam IDP camp, located on the outskirts of El Fasher, North Darfur. Many households have lost property and food stocks to the flooding, and collapsed latrines pose significant health risks. A UN interagency team is currently planning a mission to reach those in most urgent need.” (Radio Dabanga, August 9, 2010)

Again, many camps and population concentrations have no UN access because of Khartoum’s obstruction. Many are in the position of begging for assistance:

“The residents of Seraf Umra in North Darfur appealed to humanitarian organizations and philanthropists to provide assistance to them after their homes were destroyed by floods and rain, leaving them in the open without shelter. One resident said that the rains and flash floods destroyed their homes and they were resettled by local authorities to another area in Seraf Umra. He added that their situation is very difficult and they urgently need assistance from aid organizations that provide tents, food and treatment to affected populations. The witness was speaking with Radio Dabanga.” (Radio Dabanga, July 28, 2010)

No more recent information about Seraf Umra is available. Radio Dabanga is our only source for much of what is occurring this rainy season:

“In the North Darfur state capital, El Fasher, there is a proliferation of flies and insects after torrential rains left pools of stagnant, polluted water in the city. There are now more cases of diarrhea, especially among children, said a source at the hospital in El Fasher. He said on Friday [July 16, 2010] that the hospital received dozens of sick children during the past two days.”

“The rains washed away more than 125 houses in Zalingei camp [West Darfur] for displaced people. The rains also swept away boxes full of supplies at camps Abu Shouk and As Salaam camps outside El Fasher. In camps in South Darfur the rain caused disruptions at hospitals and schools. At Kalma camp, Gereida and a number of neighborhoods around Nyala there was damage to homes and parts of the camps washed away. IDPs at a number of camps called on concerned authorities to immediately intervene to improve the humanitarian situation in the camps, warning of catastrophe.” (July 19, 2010)

“IDPs of camp Attash [South Darfur] accused the government of negligence towards them since the onset of the rainy season. They said that the rains have worsened the rising commodity prices. The displaced also said to Radio Dabanga in the camp that UNHCR had not distributed mosquito nets to the displaced this year. A source described the situation in the camp as bad and said that food rations provided by the UN have shrunk to less than half.” (August 29, 2010)

Conditions in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad are no better:

“In eastern Chad, the rain on Thursday [July 14, 2010] destroyed more than 200 houses at Camp Djebel for Sudanese refugees. One refugee from the camp said that the rains destroyed food and people are forced to flee to higher ground. The refugee appealed to aid organizations to accelerate the provision of sheeting and improve drainage of stagnant water, otherwise there will be an outbreak of diseases.”

“Heavy rains that lasted for two days last week demolished tens of homes at Camp Abu Nabag for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad. The damage left scores living in the open and cut off roads leading to the camp. The refugees appealed to aid organizations to move quickly to rescue tens of victims in the camp. They said on Radio Dabanga that disease and epidemics began to spread inside the camp.” (August 30, 2010)


We continue to lack timely, global data for malnutrition in Darfur, even as a UN spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) promised during an August 12, 2010 news stakeout that:

“A limited amount of malnutrition data for Darfur has been verified, which will be available in the next 1-2 days. Remaining data is still in the process of verification and will be released once verification is complete.”

These data have not been released, certainly don’t appear on the UN World Food Program website, and turn up in no obvious humanitarian website related to Darfur. Where are these data? Where are the reports that should accompany and interpret the data for the broader humanitarian community? What is entailed in the “process of verification”? What role does Khartoum play in the timing and promulgation of malnutrition data, a subject on which they are known to have proved acutely sensitive in the past, resulting in the delay of critical, time-sensitive information? OCHA won’t say, precisely for fear of offending the regime.

What we do know is that there are far too many accounts of the sort again reported by Radio Dabanga:??“Displaced persons of camp Um Tajouk in the state of West Darfur said that the United Nations’ World Food Programme is shirking from keeping its word about responding to disasters facing the displaced persons. They said that the food at the camp is running out and said they were expecting to receive shelters, this being the onset of the rainy season, but the WFP did not do anything. They said that this is especially a pressing need for those who fled recently from their homes due to violence between the Misseriya and Rizeigat tribes.” (July 13, 2010)

From this anecdotal account it may be useful to return to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net) and its estimates for the third quarter of the year in Darfur (July through September): all of North Darfur and parts of South Darfur and West Darfur are predicted to be “highly food insecure”; other areas in Darfur will be “moderately food insecure” ( ). Here we should bear in mind that at the time of the FEWS Net prediction, there were “over five million food insecure people. Of this population, four million are located in the Darfur region….” In the absence of any indication to the contrary from data, from reports or assessments, or indeed from any source, we are obliged to accept that “food security conditions in Northern Sudan are likely to deteriorate during July to September, the peak lean season….”

So what do these general terms mean? “Moderately food insecure”? “Highly food insecure”? The FEWS Net analysis is explicit in its terminology:

“Moderately food insecure”: “levels of acute malnutrition are above those of a healthy population. Dietary quality is poorer than usual. Levels of acute malnutrition are stable, at or below typical seasonal average—or—in the absence of historical data, GAM<10% -- CMR ‹ 0.5 U5MR ‹ =1.” [I.e., the Global Acute Malnutrition rate is under 10 percent; the Crude Mortality Rate is less than 0.5 deaths per day per population of 10,000, and under 1.0 deaths per day for children under five years] The conditions described here are threatening and point the way to a situation in which people may become “highly food insecure”—again the predicted condition now for all of North Darfur and large sections of South and West Darfur:??“Highly food insecure”: “the prevalence of acute malnutrition is increasing unseasonably—or—is above the typical seasonal average—or—in the absence of historical data GAM is >10%, CMR 0.5 – 1 [and] increasing; U5MR 1 – 2.” [I.e., the Global Acute Malnutrition rate is above 10 percent, the Crude Mortality Rate is 0.5 to 1.0 deaths per day (Darfur’s “normal” CMR is, according to UNICEF, 0.3), and the Crude Mortality Rate for children under five years is 1.0 – 2.0]

[Notably, UNICEF’s “Nutrition: Summary Issue No. 23” (covering October 2009 – January 2010, at ) found that Global Acute Malnutrition rates for six out seven surveys released during this period reported GAM above 15 percent, generally regarded as the threshold for a “humanitarian emergency.” Alarmingly, this was true regardless of whether the data collection occurred during or after the hunger gap. Otash camp in South Darfur reported a GAM of almost 20 percent.]

If half Darfur’s food-insecure population of 4 million is indeed living in conditions that are “highly food insecure,” and if we assume a very approximate mid-point for the Crude Mortality Rate for both adults and children under five of 1.0—and thus 0.7 in excess of normal CMR—then mortality from malnutrition is 140 persons per day.

If these assumptions are correct, approximately 140 people in Darfur are dying every day from malnutrition (and this excludes excess mortality from the populations that are “moderately food insecure”). Thousands have died and many more thousands will die.

What other data do we have on food insecurity and malnutrition? There is substantial evidence of significant inflation in food prices, which can have devastating effects. As FEWS Net warned in a June 16, 2010 brief, “The combination of conflict, drought, high food prices and poor seasonal production was likely to affect food security through September in parts of the volatile region” (UN IRIN [dateline: Nairobi, June 18, 2010]. FEWS Net more specifically noted that “high cereal prices (sorghum/millet) in the north and south [of Sudan] are likely to increasing during April – September 2010. Livestock to cereal terms of trade in the north and south will deteriorate during the lean season [“hunger gap”] due to high cereal prices.” Access to wild foods and the deployment of traditional coping skills are also severely hampered at this time, both by the rains and extremely high levels of insecurity (insecurity also limits seasonal livestock migration as well as access to what cultivation has been managed this planting season).

On top of these trends, the August 20, 2010 USAID “fact sheet” on Sudan notes that,

“The rapid expansion of emergency food aid provision to meet increased requirements in Southern Sudan has decreased resources in other regions of the country, including Darfur. WFP plans to reduce the food aid ration for IDPs in Darfur from 72 to 50 percent of the standard ration of approximately 2,100 calories per day during the July to September lean season—when prices peak and households deplete food stocks—potentially reducing food availability and increasing food prices.”

WFP’s severe reduction of food rations for Darfuri IDPs, to one half the UN’s kilocalorie minimum, has received very little attention, even as it directly threatens many communities and will certainly add significantly to food price inflation. Given the poor harvests of 2009-2010, there is very little that can halt such inflation, and ultimately widespread food shortages.

Certainly the consequences are already being felt. Radio Dabanga reported from el-Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on August 4, 2010:

“Citizens lined up in long lines yesterday in the city of El Fasher in order to get loafs of bread after most of the bakeries shut down as a result of the high price of flour. One of the residents of El Fasher, Mohammed Abdullah, commented that El Fasher traders have hoarded flour, which led to rising prices and the shut-down of most ovens, besides which a convoy of supplies has not reached the state of late, he told Radio Dabanga.”

Several weeks earlier Radio Dabanga had reported from Abu Shouk camp near el-Fasher that,

“People in Abu Shouk camp near El Fasher are suffering from deteriorated conditions after heavy seasonal rains hit the area. They complained of poor sanitary conditions, with severe shortages in food supplies. Delivery of food assistance has been interrupted for three months by the humanitarian organizations, a displaced resident of Abu Shouk camp told Radio Dabanga in an interview aired this morning.” (July13, 2010)

A more global assessment was reported by Radio Dabanga on July 5, 2010:

“A survey conducted by the University of Nyala in selected areas of South Darfur State has found high prices of commodities and food, especially for the displaced and vulnerable. The citizens of Kass Locality were affected by rising prices because of the conflicts in the neighboring areas, which caused most of the inhabitants to flee from the agriculturally productive areas to the outskirts of towns, leaving behind their agricultural and trade activities.”

The prices of beef, lamb, grains (especially millet and white corn), potatoes, onions, and tomatoes have all risen steadily and significantly. This puts increasing pressure on meager household budgets that are already overwhelmingly committed to food purchases. Camp leaders, sheiks and omdas, are inevitably seeking additional food registrations and ration cards, which can serve as an important source of currency. But there is good reason to believe that the complaints from the camps near el-Geneina, capital of West Darfur, speak to real need:

“The internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the camps around El Geneina in West Darfur complained of lack of food provided to them by humanitarian organizations. One of the elders of Ardamata displaced camp said that the share of maize provided to them was reduced from 9 kilograms per individual per month to seven kilograms. The sheikh of another camp, El Hujaj, also complained of a shortage.” (Radio Dabanga, July 8, 2010)

Most recently, Radio Dabanga reported from Abu Shouk camp:

“The refugees in camps in Darfur complained of deteriorating security, health and living conditions in the camps. Zakaria Al Jibril, an activist in Khamsa Degaig Camp near Zalingei said the displaced suffer from lack of food due to the reduction of rations from the World Food Programme. He added that the suffering of displaced persons has increased in the rainy season with the outbreak of diseases and the absence of humanitarian organizations and the spread of flies. At one of the larger camps near El Fasher, Abu Shouk, the displaced have been suffering from a scarcity of food aid, according to resident Fatima Adam Yagoub.” (August 27, 2010)

Reduced humanitarian access and capacity comes on top of continuing waves of newly displaced persons—over 500,000 since UNAMID officially took up its mandate in January 2008. Many tens of thousands have been displaced this year, from the areas around Kass, Mukjar, Eastern Jebel Marra, Nyala, and elsewhere. Attacks on and abductions of aid workers, particularly international workers, are increasing.


USG Holmes weakly declared last week that,

“The level of restrictions imposed on humanitarian operations, and of harassment, threats and violence directed at humanitarian personnel, is once again becoming unacceptable. All this renders the civilians we are trying to help even more vulnerable.” (Statement of August 23, 2010)

“Once again”? When in the years since 2004 have security and operating conditions for humanitarians ever been “acceptable”? This disingenuousness should be recognized for what it is: a denial of past realities and a current accommodation of Khartoum’s deliberate, ongoing harassment, obstruction, sabotage, and restriction of humanitarian aid, as well as its violent war of attrition against aid workers and peace support personnel. The regime has never abided by the agreements it has signed or committed to, either with humanitarians or with UNAMID. The February 2008 “status of forces agreement” between Khartoum and UNAMID has proved utterly meaningless, and violations have typically been accepted in silence by UN and African Union personnel.

The regime that exports huge quantities of agricultural products for profit ( ), even as the World Food Program reports that a third of all Sudanese children are seriously underweight and malnutrition plagues all the marginalized areas in Sudan, insists in its “New Strategy for Darfur” that it be allowed to assume responsibility for humanitarian and security operations in the region. History has already shown with cruel clarity how Khartoum conceives of “security” for Darfur. As for humanitarian assistance—“[our goal is to] restructure of humanitarian operation in order to shift the focus from relief to development at the long run”—this is little more than a cover for the expulsion of international aid organizations.

For all the reticence of humanitarians and UN political leaders—and despite the shameful silence of those in the West, in Africa, and in the Muslim and Arab worlds—the truth of Darfur’s agony is all too conspicuous. That it remains so largely unspoken is at once testament to the power and evil the rules in Khartoum, and to the selfish and pusillanimous character of the international “community.”


UNAMID currently faces an extraordinary threat in the form of Rwanda’s reaction to a UN investigation and explosive report on the actions of Rwandan military forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The report in its present form argues that these forces may be guilty of genocide, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Rwandan government has responded strenuously, apparently only recently learning of the report’s existence. Philip Gourevitch, writing in The New Yorker (August 30, 2010) has obtained a copy of an August 3, 2010 letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. The letter concludes:

“We reiterate here what we have already told the High Commissioner; namely that attempts to take action on this report—either through its release or leaks to the media—will force us to withdraw from Rwanda’s various commitments to the United Nations, especially in the area of peacekeeping.”

In his article (“Rwanda Pushes Back Against Genocide Charges”), Gourevitch draws on an interview with Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo:

“[The Rwandan] army today is the chief contributor of troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur—and last month, after Rwanda received the draft report, Kagame met with the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, in Madrid, and told him that if the report came out, Rwanda would withdraw from all of its commitments to the UN, starting with Darfur. ‘I was in the meeting,’ Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, told me in Kigali a few weeks ago. Mushikiwabo followed up with Ban by letter, elaborating her government’s complaint and reiterating its threat.”

“In our conversation, she insisted that Rwanda wasn’t bluffing. She described the draft report as a disgrace, methodologically and politically, and she told me, ‘If it is endorsed by the UN and it’s ever published, we used very, very strong words—if the UN releases it as a UN report, the moment it’s released, the next day all our troops are coming home. Not just Darfur, all the five countries where we have police’—she mentioned Haiti, Liberia, and South Sudan—‘everybody’s coming home.’” ( )

Associated Press reports from Kigali on August 31, 2010:

“Rwanda Defence Force spokesman Lt. Col. Jill Rutaremara said Tuesday that the country has finalized a contingency withdrawal plan from Darfur and Southern Sudan if the UN publishes its ‘outrageous and damaging report.’”

UNAMID could not possibly survive the withdrawal of Rwanda troops and personnel, particularly given their high level of training and modern equipment. UNAMID faces—in the very near term—a moment of critical truth. There is good reason to believe Rwanda is not bluffing, and that the trip-wire specified (“either through [the report’s] release or leaks to the media”) has already been crossed.

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