Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 26 October 2006

Pronk’s expulsion: Darfur, S. Sudan without UN critical presence

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Khartoum Expels Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk:
Another in a series of consequential blunders by the willful Pronk leaves Darfur and Southern Sudan without a critical UN diplomatic presence

By Eric Reeves

October 26, 2006 — A great deal is represented by the extraordinarily arrogant decision on the part of the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum to expel Jan Pronk, who has for more than two years served as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Sudan. Most conspicuously, Khartoum has demonstrated yet again its complete contempt for the international community, for the United Nations, and by extension, for the people of Darfur and Southern Sudan. This brazen expulsion demonstrates just how meaningless the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006) remains---and how far the world is from providing real protection to more than 4 million conflict-affected civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad, and to the increasingly embattled humanitarian aid workers upon whom they depend. The 22,500 troops and civilian police contemplated in Resolution 1706 are no closer to being assembled and deployed today than they were two months ago.

Moreover, the unilateral decision by the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) to expel Pronk also dangerously exacerbates severe tensions within the notional “Government of National Unity” in Sudan. Indeed, the expulsion order reveals clearly that a genocidal security cabal in Khartoum continues to make all decisions of consequence concerning Darfur, without consultation with or consideration of other political views or constituencies in Sudan:

“The autonomous government of southern Sudan on Sunday denounced Khartoum’s expulsion of UN envoy Jan Pronk, deepening rifts in Sudan’s unity government formed after a north-south peace deal last year. The Government of Southern Sudan [GOSS] said it had not been consulted on Pronk’s expulsion, which it said was a ‘wrong decision’ that could worsen deteriorating conditions in the troubled western Darfur region.”

“And [the GOSS] said the move could hurt the federal administration, created in 2005 between Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir’s ruling National Congress Party and the south’s ex-rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). ‘It is a wrong decision and it is taking Sudan more and more to the brink of confrontation with the international community,’ said Yasir Arman, deputy secretary-general of the SPLM/A.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Nairobi], October 22, 2006)

At the same time, it must be said that Pronk’s tenure has been marked by egregious errors in judgment, perverse miscalculations, expedient disingenuousness, and a series of decisions that have had disastrous consequences for the international response to massive, ongoing genocidal destruction. He is sharply faulted by many, including many within the UN and the humanitarian community, and his imminent departure (he would not have survived the impending changes within the Secretariat) ensures that he can do no further damage (search “pronk” at www.sudanreeves.org for a series of critiques of Pronk’s performance over the past two and a half years). His expulsion also ensures, however, that there is very likely to be no senior UN diplomatic presence in Sudan, either to help oversee implementation of the north/south Comprehensive Peace Agreement (January 2005) or to lend appropriate UN authority to the increasingly endangered humanitarian operations in Darfur. Diplomatic negotiations between the Darfur rebel groups and Khartoum, such as exist, are also now without a readily available, high-level UN interlocutor.

Pronk’s expulsion derives from his decision to offer on his personal web log of October 14, 2006 an unsparing, and quite undiplomatic, assessment of the military situation in North Darfur. This represents yet another highly consequential error in judgment, even as Pronk was certainly accurate in noting that:

“First, the [Khartoum government’s regular] Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has lost two major battles, last month in Umm Sidir and this week in Karakaya. The losses seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles, many wounded soldiers and many taken as prisoner. The morale in the Government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused fighting. The Government has responded by directing more troops and equipment from elsewhere to the region and by mobilizing Arab militia. This is a dangerous development. Security Council Resolutions which forbid armed mobilization are violated. The use of militia with ties with the Janjaweed recalls the events in 2003 and 2004. During that period of the conflict systematic militia attacks, supported or at least allowed by the SAF, led to atrocious crimes. Moreover, a confrontation with Chad is not impossible.” (Jan Pronk web log for October 14, 2006, www.janpronk.nl)

This is all essentially accurate. And the battle Pronk refers to as having occurred “the previous week,” just to the east of the Bahai refugee camp in eastern Chad, has now been reported in the New York Times by virtue of the fortuitous proximity of Lydia Polgreen, who has filed a number of singularly important dispatches from Darfur. But Polgreen’s dispatches in the New York Times were published on October 17 and 22, 2006---days after Pronk’s web log entry. Pronk is simply disingenuous in claiming that all of what he had written, the occasion for his expulsion, had appeared in a “local newspaper” (Associated Press [dateline: Amsterdam], October 24, 2006).

While a careful reading of various dispatches from the UN Sudan Bulletin, wire reports, newspaper dispatches, and accounts from more confidential sources on the ground might lead to the general conclusions Pronk offers, they were certainly not available in any “local newspaper.” Indeed, given the present climate of extreme press censorship, any newspaper bold enough to publish comments on Khartoum’s military losses, the state of troop morale, and the firing of senior officers would have been permanently banned.

[See the damning section C, “Freedom of expression, association, and assembly” in the most recent report on “The Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan,” by UN Special Rapporteur for Sudan, Sima Samar (document A/61/469); September 20, 2006]

Indeed, so inflammatory were Pronk’s unvarnished truths that a diplomatic crisis was guaranteed: Khartoum’s military leaders were predictably incensed, and their demand that Pronk be expelled inevitably found a sympathetic ear with NIF President, and Field Marshal, Omar al-Bashir.

In fact, it is difficult to believe that Pronk was unaware of the effect these words, in his widely read web log, would have; some have suggested that Pronk deliberately engineered his own expulsion, rather than be “retired” from his position following the ascension of a new UN Secretary-General. Given the high level of anger and frustration with Pronk, within the UN and by many within the humanitarian and human rights community, he must have realized his days were numbered and may very well have chosen to instigate his expulsion. Given the catastrophe that has continued to accelerate in Darfur on his watch, and his conspicuous failures to work effectively in promoting the north/south Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Pronk may have sought to contrive “martyrdom” for himself in the waning days of a disastrous tenure.

Certainly Pronk’s prior, and perhaps most consequential, blunder had earned him blunt and unsparing criticism from senior officials at the UN. For in late September, less than a month after passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006), Pronk simply decided that deployment of the peace support operation contemplated in Resolution 1706 would not be accepted by Khartoum. In Pronk’s view, Khartoum’s defiance of the UN was not to be challenged; so instead of seeking political pressure in support of the authorized UN force, Pronk helped to fashion what has become the default international response: abandoning Resolution 1706 in favor of simply helping the African Union force presently on the ground.

In other words, Pronk---representing the UN Secretariat---unilaterally decided to acquiesce before a genocidal regime’s defiance, and to settle for some augmentation of the current radically inadequate African Union force that cannot possibly halt escalating genocidal violence. This decision sharply undercut the comments of Kofi Annan’s report to the Security Council, which has appeared just days before (September 26, 2006):

“I remain strongly convinced that a UN multidimensional operation, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1706 (2006), would be the most appropriate political approach to achieving lasting and sustainable peace in Darfur, and that only such a truly international and impartial operation, with adequate resources and capacity, and with strong African participation, can effectively support the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.” (paragraph 60)

Three days later, on September 29, 2006, the BBC reported on comments made by Pronk the preceding day (“UN ‘must drop’ Darfur peace force”):

“Mr Pronk has meanwhile told the Associated Press news agency he does not expect Khartoum to accept UN peacekeepers any time soon. ‘The international community should instead push for the African Union’s mission to be prolonged and reinforced,’ Mr Pronk is quoted as saying. He said the AU force’s mandate should be extended indefinitely to ensure relief continued to reach Darfur’s refugees. Mr Pronk is quoted as saying he was certain Khartoum would allow the AU force to stay on in Darfur.”

Just as in August 2004 Pronk had gratuitously surrendered the UN Security Council “demand” that Khartoum disarm the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice (UN Security Council Resolution 1556, July 30, 2004), so with these widely reported words Pronk essentially signaled to Khartoum that the UN had abandoned efforts to press aggressively for deployment of the UN force called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1706. This was certainly how Pronk’s words were heard by Khartoum’s genocidaires, by numerous human rights and policy organizations, by vulnerable humanitarians and civilians on the ground in Darfur---and by UN officials, who berated Pronk after the fact for his weak and ill-informed surrender of 1706 (confirmed to this writer by two very well-placed UN sources). But as was the case in August 2004, so in October 2006: the damage had already been done. Twice Pronk had effectively worked to eviscerate the force of critical UN Security Council resolutions.

A VIEW FROM AFRICA ON PRONK’S EXPLUSION

While there have been dutiful noises from the UN Secretariat about continuing support for Pronk (who has declared that he has “no regrets” about his web log commentary), many at the UN who work on Darfur---in New York and in the field---are greatly relieved that Pronk’s stubborn and tendentious personality is no longer a ticking diplomatic time-bomb. Certainly Pronk had long ago been specifically told to stop writing about Darfur in his web log by senior UN officials. Associated Press reports from Khartoum:

“[UN spokesman Stephane] Dujarric said the UN had held several discussions with Pronk about his blog, though he would not characterize them. However, two UN officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because those conversations were private, said Pronk had been explicitly asked to stop writing about his work in the blog. ‘Of course we’ve been telling him to do that,’ one of the officials said. ‘But there’s very little anybody can do about it except Mr. Pronk.’” (October 20, 2006)

Moreover, Reuters reports from the UN (New York) that UN spokesman Dujarric, revealingly, “would not say whether the incident had complicated efforts to move a UN peacekeeping force into Darfur to replace a smaller, ill-equipped African Union force now there” (October 23, 2006). The highly significant implication here could not be more obvious.

And among many in Africa who have taken up the cause of Darfur, there is a similar view of Pronk. The Guardian (Nigeria) reported on October 24, 2006 (“African diplomats decry UN envoys remarks on Darfur crisis”):

“A top African diplomat at the UN, who preferred anonymity, explained to The Guardian that Pronk’s comments should have been addressed to the Security Council of the UN rather than making them on his website and blog, thus worsening the impasse between the UN and the government of Sudan on how to resolve the crisis in Darfur. ‘Pronk should not have published his own views, he was sent there not for his own opinion,’ the diplomat said.” [ ]

“The Guardian learnt that Pronk’s comments could now make the work of the AU and the Arab League more difficult. Only a couple of weeks back, the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Joy Ogwu, and her Senegalese counterpart met with the Sudanese government in Khartoum to find ways to close the gap between the UN and Sudan on an international UN troop deployment to halt what has been described by the US government and other African leaders as the Darfur genocide. Sudan is resisting strong international pressure to allow UN peacekeepers to end the conflict.”

“Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Aminu Wali, confirmed to The Guardian that efforts by the two West African foreign ministers were being affected by the latest misunderstanding between the UN envoy and the government of Sudan.”

ANOTHER VOICE FROM AFRICA

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia recently declared emphatically the need to move to a UN force in Darfur:

“We must properly equip and fund the current African Union mission now, while we move urgently to mount an effective United Nations intervention. Our government has called upon the General Assembly and the Security Council to exercise its authority, under Chapter Seven, to restore peace, security and stability to Darfur.” (All Africa Press Service, October 17, 2006)

But in large part because of Pronk’s disastrous concession in September on a UN force for Darfur, what we see instead of “urgent movement to mount an effective UN intervention” is Khartoum’s gradual diplomatic consolidation of the status quo, in which a hopelessly inadequate AU force remains the sole source of security throughout Darfur and eastern Chad (where violence is rapidly escalating, posing extreme risks to civilian populations, including those in refugee camps). Politically, a disorganized AU remains committed to a policy of deferring to Khartoum’s decisions concerning the desperately needed UN force in Darfur. Meanwhile, Egypt, which is a member of the AU but the dominant player in the Arab League, has been notably unhelpful. Khartoum’s rejection of an Arab League proposal for additional forces in Darfur brought no rebuke or criticism from Egypt:

“Sudan’s president [Omar al-Bashir] has turned down a proposal from Arab and Muslim countries to send Arab peacekeepers to bolster the African Union peacekeepers now in war-torn Darfur, Arab diplomats said Sunday [October 8, 2006]. [ ] Arab diplomats who accompanied [Arab League Secretary-General, and former Egyptian foreign minister, Amr] Moussa said he suggested to al-Bashir that Sudan accept thousands of troops from Arab and Muslim countries, to join the current force of African Union troops and then have that mission later shift to UN peacekeepers.” (Associated Press [dateline: Cairo], October 8, 2006)

But more recently, Egypt has gone so far as to warn the US to stop pressuring Khartoum on the UN force that Liberia’s Johnson-Sirleaf has described as “urgently” necessary:

“Egypt has advised the United States to stop pressures on the Sudanese government over the UN forces takeover in troubled region of Darfur suggesting to support the African forces at the current stage. [Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit] affirmed the importance of solving Darfur issue through negotiations away from pressures.” (Sudan Tribune [dateline: Cairo], October 21, 2006)

The European Union seems to be of the same mind. Despite the fact that in September 2004 the Parliament of the European Union voted 566 to 6 to declare that realities in Darfur were “tantamount to genocide,” there is still no will in Europe to bring pressure to bear on the regime responsible for the atrocities leading to this extraordinary finding:

“The European Union today urged Sudan to stop the growing violence in Darfur but stopped short of threatening sanctions to force Khartoum to allow UN peacekeepers into the troubled region.” (Reuters [dateline: Luxembourg], October 17, 2006)

And yet in the absence of any effective pressure---from Europe, the UN, or the US---there is no chance that Khartoum will yield on the issue of UN deployment:

“Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir’s adviser said on Thursday after a meeting with Washington’s top envoy that Khartoum continued to reject the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in war-torn Darfur. ‘Our position has not changed,’ Ghazi Salaheddin told reporters after meeting Andrew Natsios, who is on a mission to Khartoum aimed at winning Sudanese approval for the deployment of UN peacekeepers to replace an African Union force.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Khartoum], October 19, 2006)

Following a recent mission to Khartoum, during which he met with NIF President Omar al-Bashir, Hilary Benn, UK Secretary of State for International Development, also found that “the Sudanese leader ‘remains resolutely opposed’ to UN resolution 1706, which calls for 20,000 troops to replace the current contingent of 7,000 from the African Union, which is due to leave at the end of December.” (The Guardian [UK] [dateline: London], October 18, 2006)

In this context, Benn suggested that UN Security Council Resolution 1706 is all but dead:

“Hilary Benn, UK Secretary of State for International Development, who returns from one day visit to Khartoum told the Guardian ‘Once we get beyond the end of this month we’ll have to consider alternatives’ to the 1706 resolution.”

Several weeks ago, David Triesman, the British Foreign Office’s minister for Africa, said “the international community must consider all options---including military intervention---as it mulls how to deal with Sudan’s rejection of the UN peacekeeping force” (Associated Press [dateline: UN, New York], October 5, 2006).

Such bold language must now be seen as mere posturing, another bluff of the sort that Khartoum has seen for too many years on too many different occasions. Non-consensual deployment, despite blustery talk from the UK, France, and senior Bush administration officials, is now being contemplated by no international actor of consequence. Recent comments by a senior US State Department official make clear how contemptuously the issue of non-consensual deployment, even with the clear risk to hundreds of thousands of lives, is regarded:

“A senior State Department official said [that] despite Sudan’s continued opposition to allowing a UN peacekeeping force to replace the African Union force in Sudan, [ ] “I don’t know who you’re going to find around the world to shoot their way into Sudan.” (Washington File, October 23, 2006; produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, US Department of State)

For their part, UN officials have neglected to inform the world body’s Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Switzerland’s Jean Ziegler, that non-consensual deployment is not even being contemplated. Ziegler yesterday---

“demanded the organisation intervene in western Sudan’s Darfur. Ziegler, presenting his annual report in New York, said that the war-torn region represented the worst current humanitarian crisis. The Geneva sociologist added that the UN had the right to intervene to help local populations without the authorisation of the Sudanese government, [saying] this was only way of setting up proper and secure humanitarian corridors.” (SwissInfo and wire services, October 25, 2006)

No doubt the oversight will soon be corrected, and Mr. Ziegler properly briefed on the views of the international community. For the blunt and shameful truth is that there is international will for neither non-consensual deployment nor even continued efforts to secure consent for the force authorized by Resolution 1706. Indeed, Hilary Benn’s suggestion that “alternatives” to Resolution 1706 will have to be considered “once we get beyond the end of the month” (five days from now) is already guiding planning at the UN. As one extremely well-informed source has told this writer:

“The UN is no longer planning to take over the mission [in Darfur]. There is a plan on the shelf but no one is developing it or seeking troop contributions because no one really believes it will come to fruition. All UN effort is now focused on bucking up the African Union mission in Darfur.” (confidential email; received October 24, 2006)

This is not lost on Khartoum, which continues to expand its military offensive in Darfur, despite punishing losses, and continues to pose even greater threats to civilians and humanitarian operations.

KHARTOUM’S CURRENT MILITARY ACTIONS AND PREPARATIONS

Despite the exceedingly poor morale among many of Khartoum’s regular troops in Darfur, and the conspicuous lack of resources for many who have been deployed, Khartoum’s military command has clearly settled on a course of military victory. At the same time, the political leadership in Khartoum (not, as Pronk’s expulsion makes clear, to be distinguished sharply from the military leadership) will not negotiate with the non-signatory rebels from a position of military weakness, i.e., its current posture.

From the ground, the sense among many Darfuri villagers is that with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, things will become much worse:

“People in Madu [North Darfur] and many other villages said they fear a massive government offensive after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan finishes soon. ‘We expect things to become much worse,’ [local leader Abubaker] Jacob said.” (Associated Press [dateline: Madu, North Darfur], October 17, 2006)

The Associated Press dispatch offers a telling snapshot of life among the Berti tribal people in North Darfur:

“In the vast no man’s land that constitutes the front line between the Sudanese army and various rebel groups, Berti villagers are less concerned about speaking out than their leaders. They say they are being regularly bombed by government aircraft. ‘For us, the war is every day. It’s worse than ever,’ said a leader in Madu village, Abubaker Jacob. He said the village had been bombed twice the week before, killing three women and one donkey.”

This is but one glimpse into the suffering and destruction that are everywhere in North Darfur, as well as the other Darfur states:

“The latest fighting in [North] Darfur has left more than 350,000 people without any form of humanitarian aid, aid groups say. And at least 18,000 new villagers have fled to refugee camps on the outskirts of the regional capital of El Fasher.” (Associated Press [dateline: Madu, North Darfur], October 17, 2006)

Reports from rebel groups in North Darfur must be regarded with caution, but most have proved accurate in the main, and Jar el-Naby is one of the most reliable rebel commanders:

“Armed militia have looted and attacked civilians and raped two girls in villages in the Nena area of North Darfur [about 100 kilometer northwest of el-Fasher], rebels said on Sunday [October 22, 2006]. ‘The Janjaweed attacked villages in Nena yesterday and raped two girls...aged 16 and 18,’ said Jar el-Naby, a rebel commander in North Darfur. ‘Government troops are also mobilising in this area, and we are prepared for an attack,’ Naby said.”

“One African Union source confirmed the heavy build-up of troops around the area in North Darfur, which has seen fighting between the rebels and government over the past few months.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], October 22, 2006)

A detailed account of the military situation was reported recently by The Telegraph (UK) from el-Fasher (capital of North Darfur):

“The [Antonov cargo] plane was being loaded for another bombing run, as Sudanese government forces gear up for a military onslaught when Ramadan ends today or tomorrow [October 23 or 24, 2006]. Crude but effective, the Antonovs are back in the air over the villages of Darfur, just as they were during the initial pogroms that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced more than two million. When they reach their targets, the soldiers lower the ramps and kick out the bombs---which look like munitions used in the Second World War---to explode on those below.”

“New arrivals at the El Salaam camp outside Al Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, describe how the Antonovs and helicopter gunships attacked their villages, forcing them to flee. ‘I saw about 10 bombs falling,’ said Adam Ishag, who fled his village of Hila Babkeir after it came under attack. ‘They exploded beside the houses and two were destroyed. We took the children and we ran away.’” [ ]

“[Khartoum’s] army and its Arab militia allies, the Janjaweed, are reported to be massing in the north. The rebels, and UN officials, believe that a major attack is imminent. Planes carrying soldiers have poured into Al Fasher airport, bringing with them vast quantities of weapons. On Wednesday [October 18, 2006] evening, traffic in the centre of town ground to a halt as a military convoy, perhaps 100 vehicles long, rolled by---some packed with men, others with machine-guns and rocket launchers.” (The Telegraph [UK] [dateline: el-Fasher, North Darfur], October 22, 2006)

The UN News Center reports (October 19, 2006):

“Amid increasing insecurity in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, the United Nations mission in the country has received reports that a Government aircraft bombed an area in North Darfur, killing an eight-year-old boy, and that two aid workers were arrested in the south of the region. The reports to the UN Mission in Sudan said the aircraft ‘dropped an unconfirmed number of bombs’ near Birmaza [North Darfur] yesterday, spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.”

The UN’s daily Sudan Bulletin for October 20, 2006 reports:

“In Darfur, concerns about spiraling violence continue. In North Darfur, a military build-up is taking place, which raises concerns about possible attacks on rebel forces to the north of Kutum [approximately 100 kilometers northwest of el-Fasher].”

“Reports indicate that nine villages (between Kafod and Kutum) were attacked by Janjaweed soldiers on 19 October [2006]. The soldiers reportedly attacked from two directions, one with 20 vehicles and the other with 7 vehicles. The market was looted and two civilians were abducted. The number of casualties is unavailable.”

The same UN Bulletin reports from South Darfur:

“Over 400 new Internally Displaced Persons arrived in Nyala from surrounding villages in Buram [far to the south of Nyala] in fear of further attacks by the Janjaweed.”

ONGOING HUMANITARIAN CONSEQUENCES

Human suffering and destruction throughout Darfur are now accelerating rapidly, although this sharp uptick has not yet been captured in any global assessment (in part because so much of Darfur is completely inaccessible). But there is certainly a wealth of telling anecdotal evidence. For example, a Reuters “Alert” of October 17, 2006 reports on the findings of an aid worker who recently returned to Darfur after time away:

“Colleagues had told me the situation in Darfur had worsened since my last visit. I was told an increase in the number of raids on villages over Ramadan had meant a stark rise in the influx of refugees in the camps. I was also told the conditions had reached a new level of desperation and that the nongovernmental humanitarian organizations were working at ‘absolute full stretch.’ Yet I found myself asking how this could be having seen how atrocious the conditions were in camps such as al-Salaam [near el-Fasher, North Darfur] just months ago.”

“Today, visiting Camp Otash on the outskirts of Nyala [South Darfur], my question was answered.”

“The raids and fighting has meant Otash has, over the last two weeks, been accepting between 600 and 2,000 refugees a day. They have been trucked in, crammed together like livestock, traveling through desert in shriveling heat to escape the violence in their villages. Though there are hundreds, maybe thousands, who did not get on the trucks and, if still alive, they remain in desperate need of assistance.”

“The ones who made it to the camp are now the bottom-of-the-pile refugees. They own nothing but perhaps an old water barrel, the clothes they wear and the odd scraps of tarpaulin sheeting found scavenging around the camp. But as the next day comes so will the trucks bringing people who will find themselves in an even worse state than the refugees here now.”

“Most of the refugees are in need of medical attention, so the queues at the clinics, filled with young mothers cradling their babies, stretch out far. Other women return from outside the camp with wooden branches stacked on their shoulders to be used as firewood or framing for shelters. They travel in groups as a safety-in-numbers policy, having been warned of the risks of being raped when leaving the camp going out into the fields.”

“There are not many men here. The camp is mainly made up of women, children and the elderly. I am told the men are either fighting or dead. The children have orange tinted hair, a sign of serious malnutrition. They stare at you with empty faces, the opposite of the children I’d seen in camps before who were full of life, regardless of the dreadful conditions in which they were living. But then for the new refugees these conditions are worse, a lot worse.”

The camps for displaced persons and refugees are also potential targets for attack, and here the destruction could be swift and massive. In her most recent report to the Security Council (September 20, 2006), UN Special Rapporteur for Sudan, Sima Samar, reports:

“The situation in Darfur deteriorated dramatically since my last visit in March [2006]. [ ] All the signs suggest that there will be an escalation of violence in the coming months, especially if [the African Union mission] pulls out and leaves a security vacuum. Experts are predicting there could be mass killings of civilians.” (“The Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan,” by UN Special Rapporteur for Sudan, Sima Samar [document A/61/469] paragraphs 81, 82; September 20, 2006]

An Associated Press dispatch (dateline Kassab, North Darfur) points not only to the danger of the camps, but the woeful ineffectiveness of the AU (for a critique of the current African Union force, and the still merely notional “African Union-Plus,” see my analysis at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article127.html):

“Refugees in the camps scattered across Darfur live in fear, saying the African Union peacekeeping mission does little to protect them even as rising violence is driving away crucial humanitarian aid. ‘You have been here for three years now, and what have you done for us?’ a tribal leader bitterly asked a delegation of AU soldiers and police that came to the Kassab refugee camp last week.”

“But refugees in Kassab say they do not see how their security could get any worse in their camp, on the frontline of a murky war zone where some 2,000 rebels clash with about 5,000 Sudanese soldiers and another 2,000 militia. The militia, called the janjaweed, were recruited among nomad Arabs to help quell the ethnic African rebels and are blamed for much of the looting and violence against refugees.”

[See at the end of this analysis my recent article in The Guardian [UK] on the nature of Janjaweed violence as recounted by a former recruit into this savage militia force; also on-line at http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/eric_reeves/2006/10/reeves.html]

Rebel violence is also a large part of civilian insecurity:

“Rebel violence and hostility to aid workers also has escalated since May [2006], when one rebel faction signed a shaky peace agreement with the government. Humanitarian groups and AU police say they withdrew from Kassab in September [2006] mostly because of the rebel violence. The camp’s clinic closed, so refugees in need of treatment trudge to the nearest town. Refugee women say taking that road, or even collecting firewood around the camp, exposes them to robbery and rape.”

The assessment by an Egyptian officer in the AU gives us all too telling an account of the overall hopelessness of the security situation:

“Egyptian Maj. Ahmed El Serafy, who commands AU police in the sector of Darfur that includes Kassab, says improving security in Kassab is urgent for what few forces he has---82 police for an area of 13,000 square miles. ‘I knew it was going to be bad, but I never thought it would be this bad,’ he said. Serafy said police would resume day patrols in Kassab next week and hoped this show of force would improve security. But the AU’s officers go unarmed, and he said some were afraid to return into the refugee camp.”

And the view from the perspective of civilians could not be starker:

“‘Hurry up, because for now we’re on our own,’ said Sheik Youssouf Aldoun. ‘He is all we have for protection’ he said, pointing his palms toward the sky in a Muslim gesture that signifies God. ‘The government just wants us to disappear and die, and the rest of the world isn’t doing anything’ said one refugee leader, who asked not to be named because he says authorities retaliate against those who speak to the media.” (Associated Press [dateline: Kassab, North Darfur], October 16, 2006)

The British medical humanitarian organization Merlin offers yet another ghastly account:

“Aid workers in Darfur are struggling to cope with a rapid rise in the number of people fleeing villages amidst increasing instability, British medical agency Merlin said today [October 23, 2006].” [ ]

“Over the past month, clashes around Gereida have put more than 100,000 people at risk. Merlin’s medical staff estimate that more than 60 per cent of patients seen are war widows and their children, many of whom have suffered severe burns, deep cuts and fractures. Pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea are the most serious medical problems faced by people in the camp, with many cases exacerbated by malnutrition.”

"‘By the time we see the children in the clinic, they are often in advanced stages of pneumonia or malaria or both,’ said a Merlin doctor working Gereida. ‘Babies are often brought in when they are beginning to convulse from high fever and are breathing poorly. Patients like these should be in a hospital with constant oxygen and intravenous medication. In the camp clinic, we are able to provide emergency treatment that is suited to the environment. Most deaths occur because the infection is just too advanced for treatment.’”

"‘The population is under constant stress because of the extreme heat, lack of food and hard physical work required in their daily tasks. People cannot go far from the camp during the daytime because they risk being attacked, and movement is not possible at night. Some do venture out to get food, water and firewood, but it is dangerous, especially for young women and girls.’”

"[Carolyn Miller, Merlin Chief Executive, said,] ‘We are monitoring the situation very closely. While taking all precautions to protect our workers, we are acutely aware that the region is a powder keg and that the lives of more than 100,000 people hang in the balance.’”

“At around the same time as the incident in Gereida, thousands of people were forced out of the Muhajariya area in South Darfur, where several settlements have reportedly been destroyed. Up to 30,000 people are now dispersed across a 20km zone, and are in desperate need of water, food, shelter and medical aid. Together with other NGOs operating in the region, Merlin is attempting to respond to these needs.’” (“Aid agency warns of ’powder keg’ in Darfur camp,” press release Merlin [UK], October 23, 2006)

One medical relief organization; one location in South Darfur state; “the lives of more than 100,000 people hanging in the balance.”

Reports of cholera also continue to suggest that huge additional mortality is impending, especially in light of further rapid contraction of humanitarian access and capacity, with inevitable consequences for water supplies and sanitation. The UN Sudan Bulletin of October 18, 2006 reports:

“On 15 October [2006], UN agencies with an [international nongovernmental humanitarian organization] conducted a field assessment in Gubbo [South Darfur] to provide medical support and training on the outbreak of cholera. Sheiks and Umdas report that 200 cases and 100 deaths were counted over a total population of 25,000 inhabitants. The numbers are being verified.”

“In Jawra and Kebkabiya [North Darfur] areas, 14 new cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD), including four deaths, have been reported. As of 2 October [2006], the total cases of AWD in North Darfur have reached 220.” (UN Sudan Bulletin, October 6, 2006) (Three new cases in el-Fasher town had been reported by the UN Sudan Bulletin, September 29, 2006)

“Cases of life-threatening diarrhoeal disease, including cholera, are on the increase in a region extending from the north of Sudan to southern Darfur. [ ] 7,000 cases have been reported since April [2006].” (UNICEF press release, September 20, 2006)

“On 7 October [2006], OCHA and an [international nongovernmental humanitarian organization] conducted an Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) field assessment in Torre, Tarantar and Sulel [South Darfur]. The outbreak started three weeks ago resulting in 70 cases reported with 40 deaths.” (UN Sudan Bulletin, October 4, 2006)

Eastern Chad, too, is caught up in the accelerating violence, civilian destruction, and acute security risks to humanitarian personnel. Amnesty International has sounded the most recent alarm, even as discussions of an “African Union-Plus” for Darfur don’t pretend that such a force can be made the means to staunch the rapid flow of genocidal violence into Chad. As the dry season begins, civilians from non-Arab tribal groups are “again being targeted by the Janjawid”---

“‘These attacks against civilians in Chad show us yet again how urgent the need is for an immediate deployment of UN peacekeepers in Sudan not only to stop attacks against people in Darfur but also to stop cross-border attacks into Chad,’ [said Kate Gilmore, Executive Deputy Secretary General of Amnesty International].”

“Amnesty International called for the establishment of a UN presence in key locations in Chad and the deployment of UN forces in Darfur to monitor transborder activities of armed groups along the Sudanese border, as called for by UN Security Council Resolution 1706, adopted on 31 August [2006].”

“According to information obtained by the organization, the new wave of attacks across the Chad/Sudan border started on 3 October [2006] and have continued since then. Dozens of people have been killed and some 3,000 have fled in the past week---some from villages that have been attacked, others from villages they fear will be attacked. One UN High Commission for Refugees camp housing 3,500 Chadians displaced in Habile has already reached its maximum capacity, with further attacks expected.”

“Over the last ten days, close to a dozen villages in eastern Chad have been attacked, with at least forty people killed---including an imam and his four sons in Tamadjour on 15 October [2006]. In one attack in Marmadingue in Koloy canton, men on horseback attacked villagers working in their fields, killing 22 men and one woman.”

“Fleeing villagers described the attackers as Janjawid wearing Sudanese army uniforms.” (Amnesty International Press Release, “Chad: Thousands flee Janjawid attacks,” October 20, 2006 [AI Index: AFR 20/012/2006])

And yet no security force, of any sort, is currently contemplated by the UN or any other international actor for the more than 350,000 conflict-affected civilians and refugees in eastern Chad. Genocidal violence will continue to spill over from Darfur without check. At the same time, Khartoum-supported rebel groups increasingly threaten the government of President Idriss Deby in N’Djamena, producing redeployments of Chadian military forces that leave more and more rural civilians and refugee camps exposed to Janjaweed predations.

WE HAVE SEEN THIS BEFORE

An extraordinary open letter to European Union countries was released several days ago by 120 survivors of previous genocides, including the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda:

“Survivors of genocide, from the Nazi Holocaust to Rwanda, called on Friday [October 20, 2006] for European Union sanctions to stop the Darfur conflict, saying so far the EU has done almost nothing to stop mass killing in western Sudan. ‘I didn’t survive a Nazi concentration camp to sit back while genocide is repeated,’ said Holocaust survivor Martin Stern, one of 120 people to sign an open letter to EU states. ‘Europe can play a leading role in stopping this slaughter but it has to act now,’ he added.”

The letter spoke blunt truths about European failure in responding to Darfur’s genocide:

“‘We write to urge you to act now to end the genocide in Darfur,’ [the letter] said. ‘Through the European Union you have the capacity to put real pressure on the Sudanese Government to stop the killing. But so far the EU has done next to nothing.’” (Reuters [dateline: Helsinki], October 20, 2006)

“But so far the EU has done next to nothing.” All too true. But the grimmest truth is that the European Union has no plan to do anything to stop ongoing genocide in Darfur, even by imposing economic sanctions against Khartoum. Moral clarity here finds a perverse symmetry with political cowardice.

Perhaps inevitably, it is from the remote village of Kassab, in North Darfur, that current realities are most compellingly articulated:

“Sheik Youssouf Aldoun said, ‘He is all we have for protection,’ pointing his palms toward the sky in a Muslim gesture that signifies God. ‘The government just wants us to disappear and die, and the rest of the world isn’t doing anything’ said one refugee leader, who asked not to be named because he says authorities retaliate against those who speak to the media.”

Darfur will inevitably offer its own survivors; perhaps Sheik Youssouf Aldoun and the refugee leader from Kassab will live to sign the next letter about halting genocide. Perhaps not. So many do not care.


“Death in Darfur”

from The Guardian (UK), October 18, 2006
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/eric_reeves/2006/10/reeves.html

The story of a former Janjaweed fighter who fled to the UK shows beyond doubt that a second wave of genocide has begun.

By Eric Reeves

Although there are perverse pockets of skepticism about whether atrocities in Darfur amount to genocide, the evidence provided by human rights organisations and UN assessments over the past three and a half years incinerates all but the most obdurate or politically motivated doubt. The narrative of ethnically-targeted human destruction has become numbingly, terrifyingly familiar.

As part of a ghastly counter-insurgency war, the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party in Khartoum, which dominates a merely notional "Government of National Unity," has systematically attacked non-Arab or African villages throughout Darfur, engaging in the deliberately comprehensive destruction of livelihoods of those assaulted. Food- and seed-stocks have been burned; agricultural implements and water vessels destroyed; water wells poisoned with human and animal corpses; mature fruit trees cut down; all buildings burned.

Khartoum’s regular military forces did not comprise sufficient manpower for the scale of genocidal destruction contemplated, so the Janjawid were recruited - a very large, brutal, and extremely well-armed Arab militia force. Many of the Janjawid leaders had extensive previous experience as militia raiders; some had served in Muamar Ghaddafi’s notorious "Islamic Legion". But the Janjawid also needed more manpower than was readily available, given the immense number of African villages that would be targeted (thousands have now been destroyed, according to my many contacts in the Darfuri diaspora - between 80 and 90% of all villages of the Fur, Massalit, Zaghawa, Birgid, and others).

This is where young men like "Dily" come in. Dily, in his early twenties, is a former Janjaweed fighter who became overwhelmed by the atrocities he was recruited to commit, and fled Darfur on a journey that would take him finally to the UK. Both the Times and the BBC (October 17, 2006) have reported on Dily ("Ali" in the BBC account), and have made every effort to determine the authenticity of his claims about his background. Darfuris and others (including James Smith, chief executive of the Aegis Trust) assert with great confidence he is who he claims to be. The chances of a hoax are vanishingly small.

In one sense, Dily tells us nothing new. But there has been no such previous view offered from within inside the Janjaweed - no first-person narrative by a génocidaire in the ranks. And Dily’s account is harrowing. After rudimentary training, he and other young Arab men recruited by local tribal leaders were given their orders, which derived ultimately from Khartoum:

"Dily and his battalion - led by a former bandit - spent the next three years on the move, destroying one village after another. ’The Government said attack all villages. The local commanders decided which,’ he said."

"The battalion would send scouts to check whether there were armed fighters in the targeted village. ’If there were no fighters we just attacked straight away. If there were we had to be more cautious.’ Sometimes they used satellite telephones to request airstrikes by the Sudanese military helicopters before attacking. ’We would see smoke and fire and then we would go in.’"

"The attacks usually started early and lasted most of the day. The commanders said the villages had to be destroyed, and they did not spare women or children. ’Mostly they said "Kill the blacks. Kill the blacks,"’ Dily said. ’The majority of (the victims) were civilians, most of them women.’"

The villages targeted were all "black" or African villages. A variety of racially charged epithets, hurled by attackers, have been recorded by human rights investigators interviewing survivors of assaults such as those recounted by Dily: "zurga", "Nuba" (after the region in southern Kordofan - a broad term for anyone "African"), "abid" (meaning "slave", with many connotations of the hateful word "nigger").

Dily reports that "for three years he and his fellow Janjawid charged the farming villages of Darfur on their camels and horses, raking the huts with gunfire and shouting: ’Kill the slaves! Kill the slaves!’" Sedentary farming is the most distinguishing feature of the African tribal populations in Darfur.

Following such attacks, few escaped: Dily recalls that if there were survivors after an attack on a village, "they would be left there ... They couldn’t get help. Sometimes they made it to camps but mostly they died of thirst or starvation."

Dily’s account is of enormous importance at present, since all evidence suggests a massive re-grouping and heavy re-arming of Janjawid forces is currently underway, especially in North Darfur, where Khartoum’s August ground and air offensive has met fierce rebel resistance and sustained heavy losses of men and equipment. The regime’s most likely response will be to turn loose the Janjawid, this vicious instrument of ethnic destruction, upon all remaining African villages, and quite conceivably to engage in full-scale assaults on camps for the internally displaced, wretched homes for more than 2 million human beings driven from their homes and lands - virtually all are African.

For there is no meaningful security in Darfur, including in these squalid camps to which humanitarian access is rapidly diminishing. A diffident international community has refused to move toward deploying the large-scale UN peace support operation outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1706, cowering before Khartoum’s defiant and narrowly self-serving assertion of "national sovereignty".

The African Union force on the ground is crumbling. And there are many more Dily’s. Darfur’s second major phase of genocidal destruction is well begun.

* Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and has published extensively on Sudan. He can be reached at ereeves@smith.edu; website : www.sudanreeves.org



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