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Despite Darfur peace, insecurity, humanitarian crisis continue to deepen

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Assistance in Darfur Hanging by a Thread"---Doctors Without Borders/
Médecins Sans Frontières (July 26, 2006):
Amidst escalating violence and increasing attacks on humanitarian workers, aid to conflict-affected civilians continues to collapse

Eric Reeves

by July 29, 2006

Despite the blandly disingenuous words of UN officials such as Jan Pronk, and the shameful silence of African Union officials, the catastrophe in Darfur continues to deepen---relentlessly, dangerously, uncontrollably. Malnutrition and mortality are rising rapidly, and growing water shortages will result in the increased use of unsanitary ground water during the current rainy season. Water-borne diseases are already increasingly prevalent and will continue to spread through September. The current outbreak of cholera is poised to explode in any number of camps that have diminished humanitarian resources, fewer sanitary latrines, and in many cases are still absorbing large numbers of newly displaced persons as violence continues apace in many locations.

Insecurity has also increased steadily, with a recent spate of deadly attacks on humanitarians that has produced evacuations and suspensions of operations. As Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) notes this week in its “latest operational update”:

“Despite the signing of a peace agreement in early May, violence has escalated. While the government and rebels have clashed and attacks on civilians have continued in certain areas of Darfur, fighting between different branches of the rebellion has increased, plunging Darfur into deeper insecurity.” (MSF, "Assistance in Darfur Hanging by a Thread,” July 26, 2006

As a consequence, over 2 million people in Darfur remain trapped in camps for Internally Displaced Persons, civilians “too scared to return to their homes and continue to live in camps that amount to open-air jails” (MSF update). And the camps themselves are increasingly dangerous, with a growing prevalence of weapons, the presence of rebels soldiers, and deadly incursions into the camps by Khartoum’s Janjaweed militia proxy.

At the same time, the Darfur Peace Agreement of May 5, 2006 has collapsed completely, even as Khartoum has made clear that it has no intention of re-starting or re-energizing the peace process:

“Assistant to the Sudanese President and Deputy Chairman of the ruling National Congress Party [the renamed National Islamic Front---ER], Nafie Ali Nafie, pointed out that the file of negotiation on Darfur was closed finally, and will never be opened again whatever the reasons are.” (Sudan Tribune [dateline: Khartoum], July 24, 2006)

And although the fatuous Jan Pronk, Kofi Annan’s special representative to Sudan, declared earlier this week that “Sudan has left a ’tiny’ window open for negotiation on accepting UN troops in its violent Darfur region” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 26, 2006), this claim has no meaningful basis. Pronk could only point to an expedient statement made by Khartoum’s Foreign Minister, Lam Akol, earlier this month at the Brussels donors’ meeting for the African Union force in Darfur:

"?The minister of foreign affairs declared in Brussels ... that the decision [on deployment of a UN force] has not yet been taken,’ [Pronk] told a news conference in Khartoum. The international community has seen this as an opening, a very tiny opening---I don’t know how big it is.’" (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 26, 2006)

Pronk has not had long to wait to find out “how big it is”: yesterday (July 28, 2006) NIF President and Field Marshal Omar el-Bashir reiterated his previous brazen threat to turn Darfur into a “graveyard” for any deploying UN force:

“Sudanese President Omer al- Bashir warned yesterday that Darfur would become a ?graveyard’ for United Nations forces if they were deployed in the west Sudan region, the state-run SUNA news agency said. ?We shall never hand Darfur over to international forces which will never enjoy being in the region that will become their graveyard,’ Bashir was quoted as telling a rally at Zeribah in North Kordofan, central Sudan.” (Reuters, “Sudan’s Bashir reiterates Darfur would be UN troops ?graveyard,’ [dateline: Khartoum], July 28, 2006).

Nafie Ali Nafie and Omar el-Bashir speak much more authoritatively for the National Islamic Front regime than Lam Akol, the lapdog “Foreign Minister” from the southern SPLM. That Pronk would attempt to use statements by the powerless Lam Akol as a sign of encouragement for the possibility of UN deployment is a mark of desperation or disingenuousness, which are hardly to be distinguished in the relentlessly misguided Pronk.

KHARTOUM LAUNCHES MAJOR, COORDINATED MILITARY OFFENSIVES

Even more destructive of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) are the wide-ranging military offensives launched by Khartoum’s regular armed forces and Janjaweed allies in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur and the KulKul area north of el-Fasher (North Darfur State):

“Sudanese government forces and allied [Janjaweed] militias attacked bases of a new rebel alliance in Darfur despite a cease-fire in the violent west, [UN and African Union] officials and rebels said on Saturday [July 29, 2006].”

“An unpopular African Union-mediated peace deal was signed in May by only one of three rebel negotiating factions. Many leaders who did not sign formed a new group called the National Redemption Front (NRF), which began military operations earlier this month in the Kordofan area neighboring Darfur. ?Yesterday [July 28, 2006] all day and until the evening the government of Sudan with the Janjaweed attacked Jabel Moun and KulKul, north of el-Fasher,’ Abu Bakr Hamid al-Nur, a rebel NRF commander, told Reuters from Darfur on Saturday.”

“Jabel Moun is a mountainous area on the Sudan-Chad border. Kulkul is 35 km (22 miles) north of Darfur’s main town el-Fasher [and the site of several IDP camps---ER]. Nur said the government used Antonov planes and three attack helicopters to bombard the areas, forcing hundreds of civilians to flee their homes and seek refuge in el-Fasher.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 29, 2006)

Pronk himself was forced by these exceedingly ominous events to issue a statement with Baba Gana Kingibe, the AU special representative and Pronk’s equal in any number of unflattering respects, declaring that they,

“are deeply concerned about the fighting that erupted today in Jebel Moon (West Darfur) involving, according to reports reaching the African Mission in Sudan, a combined operation by the Janjaweed militia and the Government Armed Forces against forces believed to be of the non-signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). [The two special representatives] recall that any attack on any party to the Darfur conflict is either a breach of the DPA or a violation of previous agreements concluded on the basis of the N’Djamena Ceasefire Agreement [April 2004].” (Joint AU/UN Statement, July 28, 2006)

Khartoum never had any intention of abiding by either the Darfur Peace Agreement or the N’Djamena ceasefire, and the major, well-prepared attacks of yesterday are only the most conspicuous evidence of bad faith to date.

MINNI MINAWI: “JANJAWEED 2”

Although Khartoum’s culpability in this renewed act of war is patent here, the chaotic nature of the fighting and the factionalizing of the combatants needs some clarification, particularly as this factionalized fighting on the part of the Darfuri insurgency movements is now a primary source of insecurity throughout Darfur.

The main fighting elements of the “National Redemption Force” (NRF) in North Darfur are those of the Sudan Liberation Army faction know as SLA-United, or SLA-G19 after the 19 SLA commanders who split from Abdel Wahid el-Nur. Abdel Wahid is the SLA leader who did not sign the Abuja agreement and who shows signs of both political and military weakness and increasing isolation Because he is a Fur, however, the largest ethnic group in Darfur, he retains considerable significance in any peace or reconciliation effort. Abdel Wahid’s primary military base is in the rugged Jebel Marra area in central Darfur.

SLA-United/SLA-G19 enjoys considerable popular support and has gained military control over virtually all territory north of el-Fasher in North Darfur, having defeated the forces of yet another SLA faction, that of Minni Minawi, who did sign the Abjua accord and is widely reviled by Darfuris, even those in his own Zaghawa tribe. It is Minawi who has been receiving military support directly from Khartoum in his attacks on civilians in North Darfur in a desperate bid to regain his previous control of the area. Minawi is slated to become the fourth-ranking member of the National Islamic Front “Government of National Unity,” with the title of “Presidential Assistant.”

A recent report received by this writer from the ground in North Darfur, from a Sudanese national with exceptional access and contacts (and not allied with any faction), reports of Minawi’s forces:

“Minni Minawi does not control North Darfur; the group [SLA/United-SLA/G19] that does control the northern part of North Darfur is accusing the African Union (AU) of supporting the Government of Sudan and Minni Minawi. In an attempt to open a dialogue between the AU and those who control the territory (in order to facilitate access for nongovernmental humanitarian organizations), SLA-United/SLA-G19 agreed to meet with political figures from the AU in their own territory. But while the meeting was convening, the Government of Sudan sent 10 vehicles with armor and heavy weaponry in the direction of the meeting. This intelligence came even as one rebel commander was criticizing the AU for cooperating with the Government of Sudan.” [The obvious implication is that the AU tipped off Khartoum’s forces as to the location of the meeting---ER]

“Minni Minawi’s forces in the south of Darfur are in disarray, entering IDP camps, threatening them, beating them, and looting their property. In el-Fasher Minawi’s forces are roaming the town drunken and spending their time with prostitutes. In Khartoum Minawi is fully controlled by the National Congress Party [National Islamic Front], and those who object to this are expelled from Minawi’s SLA faction.”

“Cooperation between Minawi and the Government of Sudan in the most recent fighting in North Darfur is very clear: Government of Sudan trucks were captured, supply orders were found, and Government of Sudan soldiers are being held as prisoners of war, and have been shown to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Some Government of Sudan soldiers were from Southern Sudan and they were brought by Khartoum to train Minawi soldiers on new heavy artillery made and supplied by the Government of Sudan.”

“The US is banking on a looser in Minni Minawi, and by the time he returns from the US [where he recently met with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice], he will be at a total loss, without forces, political support, or land under his control.”

“Violence is getting worse, as are banditry and Janjaweed activities. The Government of Sudan is happy.” (email to this writer from el-Fasher, received July 24, 2006; text edited for clarity and to protect the source).

A subsequent email from this same exceptionally well-informed source on the ground reports:

“Minni Minawi has nothing north of el-Fasher and his official story is that he lost the area because of Chadian supporting mercenaries---the same sort of excuses the NIF is using to explain its military actions in the area.”

“The remaining troops loyal to Minawi are out of control. They are entering Internally Displaced Persons camps in their vicinity, and armed. Last week they entered ZamZam camp,17 kilometers south of el-Fasher and arrested 15 civilians claiming that they were soldiers with them who escaped military service. They entered a girls’ school, and harassed the girls inside classes; when the teacher complained she was beaten and they told her that they can do anything they wish to her.” [ ]

“All the people in Darfur view Minni Minawi as a criminal, and no one knows why the United States wants to have anything to do with him. It is another disaster for US policy.” (email to this writer from el-Fasher, received July 26, 2006; text edited for clarity and to protect the source).

Refugees International does much to confirm the irresponsible nature of violence on the part of the US government’s new “partner for peace” in Darfur:

“Leaders from within Minawi’s own tribe have separated from him, leading to intra-Zaghawa fighting as well. [ ] While Minawi and his soldiers deny responsibility for the violence in Tawilla [west of el-Fasher in North Darfur] and other towns in the region, a group of sheikhs said that they knew that Minawi’s troops were involved because they recognized the attackers as their neighbors. Another sheikh reported that when his town was being attacked, his people were told that the soldiers would kill half of those who were against Minni Minawi in order to urge the other half to follow. Other victims from the region have said that the attackers announced they had arrived to enforce the peace.”

“A spokesperson for the SLA-Minawi faction told Refugees International, ?We want peace and to punish the people who don’t want peace.’ One woman in the Tawilla camp described the nature of these punishments. She said that hundreds of Minawi’s soldiers entered her village and started shooting. They went inside the houses one by one shooting the men, including her husband, and beating or raping the women and girls. The soldiers took whatever they could find---clothing, shoes, money, livestock. Her story is remarkably consistent with thousands of others in the region that detail targeted executions of men and violent, forced displacement.”

“The camp residents, an overwhelming number of whom are women, agree that the situation has deteriorated since the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement. One sheikh said, ?There is no peace in Darfur. Our situation is worse now than ever and this is why no one supports the Darfur Peace Agreement.’ A woman pointed out that at least the Janjaweed would leave after attacking and looting a village, but Minawi’s SLA faction has stayed to control the area and terrorize the population. The women are afraid to walk the few hundred meters into the town market during the day for fear that they will be attacked. An elderly grandmother was beaten just a few days ago, allegedly by Minawi’s troops, when she tried to return to her farm to begin planting. The soldiers told her that this was an example of what would happen to the residents who tried to farm.” (Refugees International. “Town in North Darfur Reflects Changing Nature of Conflict,” July 24, 2006)

Amnesty International/Ireland also reports on Minawi’s increasingly brutal civilian predations:

“According to the UN at least 8000 civilians have been displaced in North Darfur since 5 July [2006]. The vast majority of those displaced have been driven out by attacks by forces of Minni Minawi’s faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) which is a signatory, with the Sudan government, to the Darfur Peace Agreement of May 2006. The ferocity of the attacks, killing and looting by the [Minawi’s] SLA has led the local people to call them the ?Janjawid 2.’ Among the 72 said to have been killed were 10 women and 11 primary school pupils. The reason for the killings in this area appears to have been because the people in this area were nearly all members of the Fur ethnic group, which is closely associated with the SLA (Abdel Wahid el-Nur) faction, opposed to the SLA (Minni Minawi).” (Amnesty International/Ireland, Update Bulletin Darfur/Eastern Chad, July 25, 2006)

The US, in its inexcusable haste to ram through a peace agreement in Darfur, did not care that in the end the only signatories were Khartoum’s genocidaires and the murderous Minni Minawi. The picture of President Bush and the soon-to-be Presidential Assistant Minni Minawi of the National Islamic Front makes a mockery of the Bush administration genocide determination for Darfur, and the President’s consistently glib invocation of the word.

OTHER VIOLENCE IN DARFUR

Amidst this exceedingly dangerous violence the African Union is failing even more conspicuously. Today’s Reuters dispatch notes,

“Advocacy group Refugees International said in a statement on Friday that ?the AU appears paralyzed, demoralized and unable to provide the one condition that the 2 million displaced people in Darfur crave---security.’" (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 29, 2006)

Reports from the ground make clear that the AU is no longer providing any security in a large majority of the camps, even as these “open-air prisons” become more explosively violent, and more threatening to aid workers, a number of whom have recently been killed or experienced hijackings and other violent attacks:

[1] The humanitarian organization Tearfund reported the death of a member of its relief team in Deleige (Wadi Saleh), West Darfur:

“It is with shock and deep sadness that Tearfund can confirm the death of a Sudanese member of its aid relief team in West Darfur, Sudan.”

“It is understood that civil unrest escalated in Deleige, northeast of Garsilla in West Darfur earlier today [July 27, 2006]. 4 staff and 2 vehicles were amidst the troubles, with one staff member badly beaten and both vehicles significantly damaged.”

“This is a serious security incident and we are in the process of establishing all the details. At this time it is not clear what triggered the unrest in a community in which Tearfund have been serving for 20 months. We remain in regular contact with the rest of the team, who are remaining in the operational base at Garsilla until a review of operations is completed.” [ ]

“Tearfund takes the safety and security of all its staff on overseas operations extremely seriously. Although the relief programme is not suspended, we continually assess the risks and are reviewing our operations in the area.”

This last sentence carries the clear implication that suspension of activities in the extremely insecure West Darfur is a distinct possibility.

[2] Amnesty International/Ireland reports:

“On 10 July [2006], Oxfam temporarily closed its offices in North Darfur after failed attempts to find and negotiate the release of an Oxfam employee who was kidnapped on 3 May [2006]. On 12 July [2006], an agricultural officer for Relief International was killed resulting in the suspension of Relief International’s operations in the Kabkabiya area. Some 250,000 displaced in North Darfur did not receive food aid in June because of insecurity.” (Amnesty International/Ireland, Update Bulletin Darfur/Eastern Chad, July 25, 2006)

[3] Save the Children/USA has reported that one of its ambulance was hijacked last week in West Darfur.

[4] Mistrust of the Khartoum regime led residents of Hissa Hissa camp in West Darfur to attack and kill three members of the State Water Corporation, who were testing the water for safety but were rumored to be poisoning it and were then assaulted. Though completely inexcusable, such is the deep distrust and boiling rage in the camps that these actions will almost certainly be replicated, further endangering water supplies and other aid operations. (UN News Service, July 25, 2006)

[5] The security of humanitarian personnel is also directly threatened by the proliferation of weapons throughout Darfur, including in the camps, and also by the growing intrusions by Janjaweed forces into many of the camps, including the vast Kalma camp near Nyala, South Darfur. The Sudanese Organization Against Torture (SOAT) reported in a “Human Rights Alert” of July 26, 2006:

“There has been steady gathering of armed militias, reportedly the Janjaweed in the surrounding areas of Kalma camp. These militias, besides attacking humanitarian workers, undertake nightly incursions into the camp for purposes of looting. The militias allege that rather than raiding the camp, they are responding to alleged theft of their cows and horses by IDPs from Kalma camp.”

“On 29 June 2006, in the early morning, unknown men armed with JM3 machine guns and Kalashnikovs attacked Kalma internally displaced camp in Nyala killing one person and injuring two others.”

Such deadly incursions are intolerable and yet the African Union is powerless to stop them, and has indeed withdrawn entirely from Kalma Camp, which only increases the sense of impunity on the part of the Janjaweed even as it encourages camp residents to provide themselves with weapons.

These are just some of the assaults in recent weeks that have targeted or threatened humanitarian workers; there have been many scores of attacks, kidnappings, and hijackings since security began to deteriorate badly last August/September, and a number of aid workers have been killed or wounded. The upshot of such insecurity is that fewer and fewer of those in need can be reached by humanitarian efforts. The UN News Service recently reported (July 24, 2006):

“United Nations humanitarian staff in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region cannot reach at least one in five of those in need of assistance because of the ongoing violence and insecurity there, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported today. Direct attacks against humanitarian workers, acts of banditry and fighting among rebel groups mean the UN has access to less than 80 per cent of beneficiaries, well below the rates achieved in 2004, according to UNMIS.”

2004 was the year of greatest genocidal violence, directed by Khartoum’s regular military forces and Janjaweed allies against the non-Arab/African populations of Darfur perceived as supporting the insurgency movements. Rural villages of the Fur, Massalit, and Zaghawa were particular targets. It is as a result of this earlier violence that some 2.5 million people have been displaced (including into neighboring Chad), and that internally displaced persons camps in Darfur have some 2 million people trapped in terrible conditions.

Even so, access is still less than 80% (likely far less), despite the enormous concentration produced by mass displacement into IDP and refugee camps. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides in its recent report a grim account of the further attenuation of humanitarian relief:

“When the town of Golo in North Darfur state and its surroundings were attacked at the end of January [2006], uprooting 60,000 people who fled to the neighboring mountains, MSF teams were forced to evacuate the town. Since then, MSF has been trying to reach the displaced in the face of numerous attacks on vehicles operated by humanitarian aid agencies, including several of MSF’s. In recent weeks, in the three states of Darfur, a spate of serious security incidents affecting MSF and other organizations has impeded movements and limited the possibility of providing assistance.” [ ]

“Beyond the ongoing violence, MSF is facing the possibility of fewer aid agencies operating in Darfur. MSF is not an exception, having been forced to suspend some of its activities in recent weeks. Some aid agencies have had to evacuate certain regions of Darfur due to insecurity and attacks. Moreover, for months, nongovernmental organizations that depend on government funding have been forced to cut back their programs. If other aid agencies reduce the scope of their programs, if the quality of the water delivered becomes inadequate, if malnutrition rates increase, if epidemics emerge, MSF teams may have to compensate, and our own capacity is already reaching its limits.” [ ]

“In April [2006], the World Food Program (WFP) announced that it was halving its food allocations for the displaced because of large funding shortfalls. WFP received increased funds after this announcement, but it is still incapable of providing full food distributions. Other than these food distributions, displaced Darfurians have virtually no resources to ensure their survival. People cannot farm because of the insecurity that reigns outside the camps. At most, they can earn a little money selling firewood gathered in the nearby bush, but even there they risk being attacked.”

“And the toughest months lie ahead. The months of July to October bring both the ?lean’ period and the rainy season. The first is characterized by limited food in the markets and among families who are still able to farm and would ordinarily be in a position to help their neighbors. The rainy season is traditionally associated with an increase in potentially life-threatening diarrheic illnesses.”

“Over the past year, temporary breakdowns in the food distribution system have resulted in a significant increase in malnutrition. In Mornay [West Darfur], where 75,000 displaced people are housed, the number of admissions for severe malnutrition in the MSF hospital rose from 10 to 20 admissions per month from January to May 2005 and from 80 to 120 admissions per month from July to October [2005]. This increase, which coincided with delays in food distributions to the camps, is too great to be the result of seasonal fluctuation.” (Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières, “latest operational update,” July 26, 2006)

MSF rightly highlights the continuing danger facing women gathering firewood near camps (which, as the areas around the camps are gradually stripped, requires more distant travel). SOAT also reported in its “Human Rights Alert” of July 26, 2006:

“On 24 July 2006, approximately 25 armed militias, some in army uniform, attacked twenty women outside Kalma internally displaced camp in Nyala, South Darfur. The women were attacked whilst they were collecting firewood. The women had gone outside the camp as a collective in the false belief that they would be safe from attack as a group.”

“During the attack, the militias beat the women with the butt of their guns and flogged them before raping seventeen of the women. The details of the women raped are as follows, names withheld:

19 yrs, Fur tribe
19 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
20 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 4
22 yrs, Fur tribe
22 yrs, Fur tribe
22 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
23 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
24 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
29 yrs, Fur tribe
30 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
31 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
32 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
32 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
32 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
37 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
40 yrs, Fur tribe, lives at sector 5
42 yrs, Fur tribe”

These women of course have names, and lives; most have families; all have endured horrific physical and psychological trauma. These rapes---and the tens of thousands of rapes that have preceded over the past three years---are part of a systematic weapon of genocidal war deployed by the Janjaweed and by Khartoum’s regular military forces. The women who are raped are often deliberately scarred or branded to ensure their visual stigmatization; some have leg or ankle tendons cut to hobble them. These attacks are deliberate assaults on familial and social cohesion; they are intended to crush the morale of the non-Arab or African tribal populations of Darfur, as fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons are incapable of responding to these Janjaweed assaults.

THE DARFUR PEACE AGREEEMENT

The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) has collapsed with shocking rapidity. No facile comments from the UN’s Pronk, US officials, or other international actors who pushed through this deeply flawed agreement can change the brutal realities on the ground, and the rapid deterioration in security. The African Union may have been funded through October 1, 2006---perhaps even beyond---but it has lost all credibility with the people of Darfur. It simply cannot function meaningfully in providing security for civilians or humanitarians.

The Darfur Peace Agreement was from the beginning without meaningful international guarantors of the security arrangements; the current escalation of fighting could have been, and was, predicted. The implementation of the various provisions of the DPA is failing because Khartoum feels no meaningful international pressure, indeed is content to abuse publicly the very notion of a UN peace support operation. The International Criminal Court is held in similar contempt. The large-scale military offensives in Jebel Moon and North Darfur are not aberrations but deeply symptomatic of the National Islamic Front’s contempt for all agreements it makes with all Sudanese parties. Indeed, the DPA has perversely come to serve as “justification” for Khartoum’s assaults on those who are not signatories.

Here it is instructive to look at comments made today by the leadership of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement regarding implementation of the north/south “Comprehensive Peace Agreement” (January 9, 2006). Besides the failure to respect the key findings of the Abyei Boundary Commission, or to move to establish north-south boundaries in the oil regions, or to draw down its regular military forces in Juba and surrounding garrisons, Khartoum continues to support various militia forces in the south, particularly in the oil regions of Upper Nile Province:

“Sudanese armed forces are still arming and supporting militias in southern Sudan in violation of a peace deal which ended two decades of a bloody civil war, a southern official said on Saturday. Under the north-south peace deal signed in January 2005 all southern militias were told to join the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) or the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or lay down their arms. But hundreds of people have been killed in continued clashes between militias in the southeast Upper Nile region and the areas around Sudan’s main oil fields which are in the south.”

“Pagan Amum, secretary-general of the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) which joined the coalition government in Khartoum with the northern National Congress Party [i.e., the National Islamic Front] under the 2005 peace deal, accused the NCP of violating the peace deal. ?The continuation of support to militias in the south from elements of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) is a violation of the peace agreement,’ Amum told reporters in Khartoum. ?It is known who is giving them arms, it is known who is giving them money ... elements from SAF are continuing to arm them,’ Amum said.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 29, 2006

The existence of these militias, and Khartoum’s continuing support for them, is well known to all who will look honestly, though this evidently does not include the UN’s Pronk, who absurdly speaks of “former South Sudan Defense Force commanders [ ] getting support from what I have called [ ] on other occasions ?forces in the dark’ in Khartoum.” (July 27, 2006 transcript of Jan Pronk press conference)

What does Pronk mean by his apparently reiterated phrase “forces in the dark in Khartoum”? Does he mean to suggest that there are consequential members of the National Islamic Front who are “in the dark” (i.e., don’t know what’s occurring) with respect to payment and support to the militias? Or does he mean to suggest that those supporting the militias are on the “dark side” of a regime that somehow has, elsewhere, enlightened members? Both readings are absurd---contemptibly absurd. So, too, is Pronk’s suggestion the militia umbrella known as the South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF) is a thing of the past: a number of senior SSDF commanders---most notoriously Gordon Kong---still consider themselves SSDF commanders, and are amply encouraged in so believing by various forms support and payment from Khartoum.

The point here is not so much about Pronk’s dismaying and destructive incompetence as it is about the failure of Khartoum to honor the terms of the CPA. Thus it matters little what may have been written into the Darfur Peace Agreement: without credible international guarantees and guarantors, the document is worthless and proves itself more so every day. That the international community has no intention of providing such guarantees and guarantors is also clearer by the day. The current disintegration in Darfur that has left humanitarian assistance “hanging by a thread” is accelerating, and the thread will soon break entirely.

* Eric Reeves, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063. He can be reached at ereeves@smith.edu. Website: www.sudanreeves.org



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