Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 9 April 2004

The lesson of the Darfur truce accord


In All Likelihood, Virtually Nothing Without Additional International Pressure

By Eric Reeves

April 9, 2004 — The agreement reached yesterday in N’Djamena (Chad), providing for a
cease-fire of 45 days and nominally for humanitarian access, suggests
how quickly international pressure can influence Khartoum. At the same
time present realities on the ground in Darfur reveal the disastrous
consequences of belated application of this pressure. Even with
immediate humanitarian access, the US Agency for International
Development is now predicting that as many as 100,000 people are
destined to perish because of current food insecurity, disease,
compromised water sources, and lack of security for agricultural
production. Moreover, since the auspices for the agreement are those of
the very weak Chadian government of Idriss Deby, the consequences of
Khartoum’s violation and reneging have not been spelled out in ways that
have any real meaning.

The essential task confronting the international community---which has,
unforgivably, waited months to speak with sufficient urgency, despite
the clear evidence of massive racially/ethnically-driven civilian
destruction---is to transform this flimsy agreement into something that
will trigger powerful international sanctions if it is violated. UN
Secretary-general Kofi Annan’s declared willingness to use military
force to ensure humanitarian access and civilian safety must result in
immediate planning for a possible deployment. For certainly one likely
response of Khartoum’s Arab militia allies to this agreement will be an
acceleration of human destruction, particularly in the concentration
camps that continue to grow in number and size throughout Darfur. These
camps are increasingly under the control of the Arab militias (the
Janjaweed), with no government presence or control.

[A truly extraordinary first-hand report from within the Nyala region
of Darfur, perhaps the most compelling to emerge from Darfur, has come
to this writer from Eltigani Ateem, former governor of Darfur; excerpts
appear below. This very recent and enormously persuasive report was
prepared by a Darfur native of Arab tribal background, and gives
horrifying details of the precarious hold on existence of tens of
thousands of civilians trapped in these concentration camps. Thousands
face possible extermination in the space of days or even hours. See

Certainly Khartoum’s longstanding and strenuous resistance to any
international presence---either in the negotiations or on the ground in
Darfur---has not changed simply with the signing of an agreement. The
challenges in overcoming this resistance are enormous, even as
Khartoum’s means of resisting the terms of the agreement are many,
and easily calibrated to what evolving circumstances permit.

There are a number of early tests that will be a measure of Khartoum’s
continuing resistance to any international presence in vast areas of
Darfur devastated by the war and presently beyond the reach of any
humanitarian relief. Failure by the international community to confront
Khartoum over any refusal to "guarantee safe passage for humanitarian
aid to the stricken region" (Agence France-Presse, April 8, 2004) will
guarantee the rapid collapse of the cease-fire and any prospects for
meaningful increases in humanitarian aid delivery. Many aid workers are
already expressing deep skepticism over the meaningfulness of the

One early test will be the expedited provision of visas and travel
permits for all humanitarian workers, for those conducting humanitarian
assessments, and for those providing logistical support. Here we should
note with grave concern that there has been no further update on the
issue of access for the four-person UN human rights investigating team,
deployed several days ago on a 10-day mission. Agence France-Presse
reported on April 7, 2004: "The Sudanese government had not given the
[UN human rights investigating] mission permission to enter Sudan, a UN
spokesperson said on Tuesday [April 6, 2004]." Reuters reported
yesterday that: "The four-member team is still interviewing Sudanese
refugees in Chad and has not yet been given a green light to enter
Sudan, a U.N. human rights spokeswoman said in Geneva late on Thursday
[April 8, 2004]" (Reuters, April 8, 2004).

Another early test will be to ascertain whether all military aircraft
have ceased flying combat missions; these included Antonov bombers, MiG
fighters, and helicopter gunships. If "US defense officials are closely
monitoring developments in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region" (Voice of
America, April 1, 2004), this determination should be thoroughly

Certainly credible reports of aerial assaults are very recent. Sudan
Organisation Against Torture (SOAT) reported on April 6, 2004 that
Khartoum’s "armed forces bombed Mahajrea village, 4 April 2004, east
Nyala, Southern Darfur State. The military bombed the village using two
Helicopter gunships and one military plane (Antonov). SOAT has received
information that at least four civilians have been killed with one
civilian wounded. The aerial bombardment took place between 3: 30pm and

Yet another test will be to see whether there is an end to the burning
of Massaleit, Fur, and Zaghawa villages---this may easily be
accomplished through aerial and satellite reconnaissance.

If Kofi Annan "trusts this agreement will result in an immediate
cessation of hostilities and an end to attacks against civilians" (UN
News Center [New York] April 8, 2004), this is well and good. But the
overwhelming likelihood is that this agreement won’t end attacks on
civilians, but may in fact accelerate them. The Janjaweed militias have
very good reason to destroy as many witnesses to their countless
atrocities as possible. For the entry into Darfur of humanitarian
workers means that these atrocities will no longer be invisible, and
this may have grim, unintended consequences.

If Khartoum fails any of these key tests, the international community
must immediately move toward actual deployment of the assets that will
be required for a militarily protected humanitarian intervention.

The alternative? What might happen is no such action is taken? What
will be the fate of those so clearly and deeply imperiled at this
moment? The Sudan Organization Against Torture (SOAT) and Amnesty
International have both very recently reported on a brutal episode of
extrajudicial killings in which 168 people of the Fur tribe were
executed for the "crime" of being African (one of many such reports in
recent months). SOAT reported on April 6, 2004:

"Officers from military intelligence and militia leaders (Janjaweed)
arrested 168 people all belongs to the Fur Tribe, 5 - 7 March 2004, and
then summarily executed them at security offices in Delaij, Wadi Salih
province, Western Darfur State. The arrests took place in the villages
of Zaray, Fairgo, Tairgo and Kaskildo, all south of Garsilla, Wadi Salih
province. They were detained for alleged involvement with the Sudan
Liberation Army (SLA) and taken to the security offices in Delaij, a
village 30 kilometres east of Garsilla town, Wadi Salih province. During
their detention the 168 people were allegedly subjected to torture and
summarily executed by firing squad. SOAT has received information that
they were executed outside of the judicial process and were not given
their rights as guaranteed by Sudanese law."

Amnesty International echoes this finding in its report of April 7,

"Amnesty International has now obtained detailed accounts of the 168
people extrajudicially executed. The men were taken from 10 villages in
Wadi Saleh, in the west of Darfur near the Chad border, by a large force
which included members of the Sudan army, military intelligence and

"They were blindfolded and taken in groups of about 40, on army trucks
to an area behind a hill near Deleij village. There they were then told
to lie on the ground and shot by a force of about 45 members of the
military intelligence and the Janjawid.

"Two of those shot lay wounded among the bodies before escaping and
giving information to the outside world."
(Amnesty International report [London], April 7, 2004)

This brutally shocking and authoritatively established episode is but
one of many, and again, the international community must confront the
clear prospect that in Darfur (an area the size of France) these
killings will accelerate with the advent of humanitarian
workers---workers who will be operating in extremely perilous
circumstance because they will also be witnesses to massive crimes
against humanity, and indeed genocide.

Here, appropriately, the Committee on Conscience of the US Holocaust
Memorial Museum has again reiterated its genocide warning for Sudan,
taking cognizance of massive impending civilian destruction:

"’USAID’s prediction that 100,000 civilians may soon die underscores
the increasing threat of genocide in Sudan,’ said Committee Chairman
Thomas Bernstein. ’If there is anything we can learn from the history of
the Holocaust, and from the history of genocide since the Holocaust, it
is that we cannot ignore widespread and systematic, government-sponsored
attacks on civilians of specific racial and ethnic groups.’" (Inter
Press Service, April 7, 2004)

How vulnerable are the increasingly concentrated populations of Darfur
to such destruction? Reuters offers an example in a dispatch filed
today from the very large concentration camp near Kuttum:

"’Young girls can’t leave the camp. We are scared to send them out.
They rape them. We can’t send the young men out because they will kill
the men,’ Fatma, an African villager clutching her infant, said in a
camp on the edge of Kutum." (Reuters, April 9, 2004)

The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks reports on the fate
of Dinkas from southern Sudan caught up in the racially/ethnically
animated destruction of Darfur:

"Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state of Southern Darfur,
western Sudan, say their camp was looted and burned by Arab militiamen
on 4 April [ ]. The camp, home to thousands of Dinkas---an ethnic group
from southern Sudan---is located on the edge of Abu Jura, a village
about 40 km from Nyala. Almost all of it was burned by Janjawid---Arab
militias---several of the IDPs told IRIN in Nyala. ’We are targeted
because we are black,’ a Dinka teacher claimed. ’The Janjawid said: "We
don’t want any black skin here."’" (UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks [Nyala, Darfur], April 8, 2004)

As noted above, perhaps the single most terrifying single account to
date from within Darfur comes from the Nyala region. The account has
been forwarded to this writer by Eltigani Ateem, former governor of
Darfur, and excerpts appear below. This very recent report was prepared
by a Darfur native of Arab tribal background (only this permitted the
access he was able to gain), and offers a terrifying view into the
holocaust unfolding within the many concentration camps. The full
2500-word account is available upon request. Herewith the most telling

"Eyewitness account: The situation in Southern Darfur"

"I have been away from Darfur for sometime, almost two years during
which major developments have occurred in a region renowned by its
tribal diversity. I have decided to go to the region in order to visit
my relatives and to acquire first hand knowledge of the situation in the
region [....].

"I flew to Nyala, the capital of Southern Darfur State. From the
airport you can feel the state of war in the region as the airport was
heavily guarded by tanks, artillery and rocket launchers, in addition to
the presence of a large number of troops. The feeling of war and tribal
animosities as well as polarisation along tribal lines were obvious
throughout the town [....].

"Despite repeated warnings from my friends and relatives not to venture
to travel outside Nyala because of lack of security, I decided to visit
one of the so-called battlefronts along the borders of the Arab Beni
Halba tribe and the Fur tribe where wide scale atrocities were recently
reported in Kilkeik, Um Labasa, Shataya, Dogodossa and a number of other
villages in the area [...].

"The sense of lawlessness, complete militia control and absence of
government control could be felt two miles from Nyala. The whole area is
full of government-supported militia on horsebacks carrying their rifles
on the move to attack the Fur villages. Every village that belongs to
members of the Fur tribe inside the Beni Halba area was deserted, with
the exception of some Janjaweed looting the properties of those who fled
the villages [...].

"The government has managed to create substantial tribal hostilities to
the extent that the Arab militiamen do not contemplate to spare the life
of anybody who belongs to the indigenous African tribes. This is the
code of conduct the militia has been ordered to strictly observe with
vigour in this mad campaign in Darfur.

"We reached Um Labasa at a time when Shataya and 18 other Fur villages
were torched. The trip has also coincided with the attack by the
government troops and the militia on Sindu where the SLM had a training
camp. In Um Labasa there were about 6000 IDPs all of whom were women,
elderly and children who fled the joint assault of the government troops
and the militia on Sindu area. The IDPs are living in the open, within
boundaries of fences constructed from thorn trees and have no access to
food, medicines or even water. Many of the children and the elderly have
died as a result of starvation and lack of medicine. The authorities
have deliberately prevented supplies of food and medicines to reach
these vulnerable people despite the efforts of some of the moderate
Arabs in the area. I believe many of these people will die if relief is
not immediately provided.

"The whole area has become a military zone with thousands of Arab
militia, well armed and well organised taking control of the situation.
In fact every Arab I saw that day was carry an automatic rifle. Some
have much more lethal weapons. There was no presence of the army with
the exception of a small contingent led by a lieutenant interrogating
the IDPs after isolating the males from the rest of the IDPs. The scene
was heartbreaking. The way these vulnerable people are treated is
degrading and dehumanising. I read of concentration camps in the history
books and I saw pictures of the Bosnian Muslims ill-treated by the Serbs
in camps of barbwire. What I saw in Darfur is worse than the images I
saw from Bosnia. It has reminded me with the Rwandan genocide of the
early 1990s where hundreds of thousand of minority Tutsis were brutally
murdered and the entire world was taking no notice of the genocide until
it was too late.

"The sheer magnitude of the problem in Darfur is very clear when you
visit Um Labasa police station. A number of detainees alleged to belong
to the SLM were crammed in a small cell including the elderly. Perhaps
the most harrowing part of this is the presence of a number of seriously
wounded among the detainees in police custody. You ask why the wounded
are not taken to the hospital and the police response: is swift; ’we
keep them here for their own safety. If they are transferred to the
hospital, the militia will kill them in their hospital beds.’ The
question I asked myself is ’if this is what is happening in the tribal
border areas, what would be the situation deep in the Fur land where the
only witnesses to the way people are treated are the militia and the
government troops?’

"We left for Shataya, a once prosperous town in the area. On the way,
the sign of lawlessness and brutality is evident. On the one hand are
the militia who were everywhere checking our identities, informing their
leaders via mobile and satellite phones, and on the other hand is a
massive looting operation of the Fur villages [...]. Village after
village, evacuated by members of the Fur tribe after the attack on Sindu
have been looted and torched. When we arrived at Shataya, the scene was
sickening. The entire town, without exception was torched and gutted
including the schools and the hospital [...].

"My journey did not end there. I decided to visit Kaileik, which has
dominated the news over the last few days as a result of the ill
treatment of IDPs. Kaileik is the last post in the so-called battle
frontline in which well-armed Arab militiamen have repeatedly and
persistently attacked and torched Fur villages. I arrived in Keileik in
the afternoon and from the onset you could tell that something terrible
is going on in this place. The place was overwhelmed by the militia and
again there is no trace for government troops. The scenes looked chaotic
and the militia have full control of the area.

"However, it wasn’t too long before I stumbled over the most horrific
scenes I have ever seen in my life. In an open area surrounded by a
fence made from thorn trees are around 6000 IDPs most of whom are women,
children and elderly. It seems these IDPs have been there for sometime.
They looked tormented, hungry and frail. I have come to learn that these
IDPs have been there without food, water, shelter and medicines. A lot
of them have died as a result of thirst, hunger and disease. That day 17
IDPs died and I believe many would in the next few days, as virtually
there is nothing to eat or drink. What worried me most in the wake of
this unfolding tragedy is that the militiamen behave so unemotionally as
if nothing is happening. Few moderate Arabs are trying cautiously to
call for feeding these IDPs and providing them with water but such calls
fall on deaf ears.

"I privately asked some people why all of the IDPs are either women,
children or elderly? Where are the men? Some people privately admitted
that the government troops and the militia have executed a lot of people
when the villages were raided. Some were taken away by the government
troops and the Militia in truckloads and their fate is unknown. A name
of one militia leader frequently quoted is Ali Koshaib, a retired army
lieutenant from Ta’aisha Arab tribe. He is nicknamed the Butcher of
Western Darfur because he is the man entrusted by the government to wipe
out all the villages in Western Darfur and to depopulate the area. I
have come to understand that the entire villages in Western Darfur, Dar
Massaleet and Dar Zagawa have been completely destroyed---more than 2000

"The State government in Nyala has a good idea of what is happening in
Kaileik but nothing has been done to avert this terrible disaster. Is
this happening with the full blessing of the government? Many people
including some leaders of the militia privately admit that it is the
government’s policy and that they are being rewarded financially for
this. From what I have seen in Kaileik, the world would definitely
witness another genocide in the African continent, which might probably
be worse than that of Rwanda. I left the area with a lot of ill
feelings. I felt extremely irritated at the way the militia treated the
vulnerable IDPs most of whom are children, women and elderly, depriving
them from water, food and medicine. They are dying everyday as result of
hunger and diseases. I felt completely unable to expose the plight of
these people locally as that would mean retribution against oneself and
his immediate family.

"My next stop was Id Elfursan, the capital of Bani Halba Tribe [...].
Next day the Minister and the Governor of Southern Darfur State visited
Id Elfursan, where they have been met by the militiamen on horseback.
Addressing the militia, Mr. Kasha praised their courage and vigour in
confronting the rebels and teaching them a lesson. He asked them to
continue their campaign with the full support of the central
authorities. He donated LS100 million to the militia. The governor of
South Darfur also addressed the gathering and donated LS10 million.

"Perhaps the most sickening event occurred in Kabum where the Federal
Minster of Trade visited a camp where 6000 IDPs were staying. ’Where are
your leaders?’ he said. ’They fled and left you behind and now you are
under the mercy of these people (the militia). Why don’t you ask those
in London to come for your aid?’ I just couldn’t understand how on
earth such a person address tormented IDPs who survive the attacks on
their villages in this manner. A federal Minster, somebody who is
supposed to be acting responsibly, instead of comforting the IDPs and
calling for immediate shipments of relief to the dying IDPs, is making a
mockery of the plight of the these people and is telling them that they
are under the mercy of the militia.

"At the end of my visit to the area I would like to state the following:

"The IDPs in the area are kept in concentration camps with no access to
food, water and medicine. At the moment the death rate stands at around
15/day. This figure would definitely rise over the next few days. These
people are living in appalling conditions and the only way to rescue
them is through international intervention. There is an urgent need for
relief but neither the State government nor the central authorities are
prepared to allow shipments of relief to the IDPs in this area.

"The concentration camps are in the following areas:

- Kaileik, 6000;
- Umlabassa, 4,000;
- Dugo Dossa, 3,000;
- Kabum, 6,000;
- Habooba, 1500;

"There is no doubt that the Sudanese government has organised the Arab
militia, armed them and encouraged them to commit a wide scale
atrocities against three tribes of the area, namely the Fur, Massaleet
and Zagawa tribes. There is a lot of co-ordination in the field between
militia leaders and the government forces and security elements.

"There is a deliberate policy by the government to hamper relief
supplies to the IDPs. Six truckloads of relief destined for the IDPs in
Kaileik were confiscated by the security forces in Kass last week.

"High-ranking government officials are deeply involved in encouraging
violence against the innocent civilians as well as encouraging the
militia to commit atrocities in the area."

[end of report]

- Eric Reeves
- Smith College
- Northampton, MA 01063

- Tel: 413-585-3326

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