Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 8 February 2008

Chad insurgency highlights ongoing Darfur genocide

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By Eric Reeves, www.cceia.org

February 7, 2008 — Amidst the ominous uncertainties created by the Chadian rebel assault
on N’Djamena, Chad’s capital city in the far west of this vast
country, one reality is all too clear: in eastern Chad, more than
400,000 displaced Chadians and Darfuri refugees confront an extremely
dangerous future. If humanitarian assistance is cut off, many thousands
will die. As of this writing a number of UN and nongovernmental
humanitarian organizations are withdrawing personnel. Both food and
critical non-food items (medicine, shelter materials, resources for
clean water and sanitation) all come from the west, and this long and
tenuous life-line could easily be snapped by continued violence in and
around N’Djamena—or along the road stretching hundreds of miles to
the most affected regions in the east.

Khartoum, which has long supplied and given sanctuary to the Chadian
rebel groups, hopes to topple President Idriss Déby and install a much
more pliant regime—one that will in the near term forestall the
European Union force (EUFOR) that had finally begun deployment to
protect civilians and humanitarians in eastern Chad. Khartoum is
determined to prevent a militarily capable force from deploying to its
western border, and the timing of the rebel attack on N’Djamena was
dictated by the impending movement of European Union forces.

But the fate of Darfur itself and its more than 4 million
conflict-affected civilians also looks daily more ominous. There is no
longer a “border” between those in Chad who face violence and
humanitarian collapse and those in Darfur who face the same threats.
Just as in Chad EUFOR has waited too long to deploy (it was to have
begun operations in late October/early November after muddy roads from
the preceding rainy season had dried), so the UN and African Union have
moved much too slowly in attempting to deploy their “hybrid”
security force in Darfur. And they have too often refused to
acknowledge Khartoum’s resolute policy of obstructing this
UN-authorized peace support operation.

More than six months after UN Security Council Resolution 1769
authorized a force of 26,000 civilian police and troops to protect
Darfuri noncombatants, as well as the humanitarian operations on which
they depend, insecurity has only continued to deepen, bringing many aid
organizations to the brink of withdrawal. More than a year and a half
after the signing of the ill-conceived Darfur Peace Agreement in Abuja,
Nigeria, in May 2006, violence is a great deal more chaotic and more
deeply threatening. In recent weeks both UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations
Jean-Marie Guéhenno have stressed that insecurity has reached
unprecedented levels.

The UN-authorized force is supposed to replace a badly demoralized,
under-manned and under-equipped African Union force. But the UN/African
Union “hybrid” force (known as UNAMID) has managed to deploy no
significant increases of personnel or resources—nothing that can offer
real protection. As a consequence, at any given moment between 500,000
and 1 million human beings are completely beyond the reach of
humanitarian efforts, and at least as many have only tenuous access to
food, clean water, sanitary facilities, and primary health care. If
insecurity does force aid organizations to abandon Darfur, a possibility
they stress both publicly and privately, human destruction will be
catastrophic within a population weakened by a genocidal
counterinsurgency campaign that has now entered its sixth year.

What accounts for this unconscionable delay of a UN-authorized peace
support mission, with Chapter 7 auspices? Unsurprisingly—and now
increasingly publicly acknowledged by UN diplomats---the answer lies in
defiant obstructionism by the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime in
Khartoum (which has expediently and euphemistically renamed itself the
National Congress Party). Though notionally the senior member of a
Sudanese “Government of National Unity,” the Khartoum security cabal
represents only ruthless survivalism, and is animated only by a
determination to retain its stranglehold on Sudanese national wealth and
power. But the NIF has extremely limited domestic political support;
their confident obstruction of international efforts to halt what has
become a grim “genocide by attrition” in Darfur must be explained in
other terms. And here the key is Chinese support for the
regime—support of longstanding that has taken economic, military,
and diplomatic form.

To be sure, the Arab League—Egypt in particular—has been supportive
of Khartoum, as has the Organization of the Islamic Conference. But to
survive international pressure, especially by the US, to flout with
disdain Security Council resolutions, and to thrive economically despite
the crushing burden of its more than $25 billion in external debt,
Khartoum has depended upon Beijing. Beijing has abstained on, or
blocked through a threatened veto, virtually every action the Security
Council sought to take prior to passage of Resolution 1769. China did
finally vote for this resolution, but only after significantly weakening
its mandate and insisting that there be no sanctions threat against
Khartoum, even in the event of non-compliance with the resolution.

This insulating of Khartoum from international pressure is longstanding
and enormously consequential. In August 2006, for example, before the
violent factionalizing of the Darfur rebel movement, and before the
security conditions on the ground had reached anything approaching the
current chaos, the Security Council passed Resolution 1706. This
authorized the deployment of 22,500 civilian police and troops, with a
robust mandate that included protecting civilians and humanitarians, as
well as staunching the flow of genocidal violence into neighboring
eastern Chad and Central African Republic. With Chapter 7 authority and
rapid deployment, this force could have halted the long and continuing
slide toward complete anarchy, saved tens of thousands of lives, and
prevented much of the current spillover of violence into Chad. China
agreed to abstain on the resolution, as opposed to vetoing it outright,
but only because it had succeeded in inserting language that
“invited” the consent of the Khartoum regime. The invitation was of
course contemptuously rejected, and for the first time in the history of
UN peacekeeping, an authorized force did not deploy. China had done
more than enough to convince Khartoum that it could defy the
international community with impunity.

We see this same sense of impunity in the regime’s response to
indictments from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Resolution
1593 (March 2005) referred atrocity crimes committed in Darfur to the
ICC, despite China’s abstention on this vote. In spring 2007 the ICC
issued its first indictments, charging a Janjaweed militia leader, Ali
Kushyb, and a mid-level NIF official, Ahmed Haroun, with a broad range
of crimes against humanity. In response Khartoum has spared no
opportunity to express its contempt for the ICC and its warrants.
Indeed, Haroun—who was deeply complicit in many of the most brutal
genocidal efforts of 2003-2004—has been promoted: he serves as State
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and as a member of a team selected by
Khartoum to “investigate” human rights abuses in Darfur. Most
troublingly, he is the regime’s liaison with the UN/African Union
force (UNAMID) now attempting to deploy to Darfur.

In December 2007 the UN Security Council President (Italy) attempted to
pass a non-binding “Presidential Statement” supporting the ICC
special prosecutor on Darfur, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. China insisted on
eviscerating the statement to the point of vacuousness, and the measure
was quietly dropped. This represented not only a serious blow to the
struggling ICC but worked to reassure Khartoum yet again that China
would allow no serious action to be taken. Similarly, when Khartoum
deliberately, and with clear premeditation, attacked a UNAMID transport
convoy on January 7—a shocking event, and one meant to intimidate
peace support personnel throughout Darfur—China led the way in
weakening what amounted to a tepid Security Council threat.

Why is China so determined to protect a regime whose genocidal
counterinsurgency in Darfur has left hundreds of thousands dead, more
than 2.5 million displaced into overcrowded camps, and two-thirds of the
pre-war population of the province dependent on humanitarian aid
operations that will collapse rapidly without a fundamental change in
the security dynamic? Most of the answer lies in China’s dominant
role within Sudan’s oil exploration and production consortia, which
lie in southern Sudan and along the north/south administrative border
imposed by colonial rulers Great Britain and Egypt. A net importer of
oil since 1995, China has seen its petroleum thirst grow as rapidly as
its economy—over 10% annually over the past decade. Sudan is
China’s premier source of offshore oil production (without a close
second), and this does much to insulate the Chinese economy from the
effects of rapid rises in crude oil supplies. For more than a decade
Beijing has looked at Sudan, and its many marginalized and impoverished
regions, solely through the eyes of Khartoum’s interests—and its own
interests in crude oil production that now runs to approximately 500,000
barrels per day.

China has also more than willingly responded to Khartoum’s
determination to acquire the means to wage war on its own people.
During the time of burgeoning oil development, China has been the
regime’s leading provider of arms and arms technology. With China’s
assistance, Khartoum acquired not only the weapons it used during the
decades-long war in southern Sudan—including tanks, artillery, and
military aircraft—but those that have been introduced into Darfur.
Despite an arms embargo on Darfur, per UN Security Council Resolution
1591 (March 2005), a UN Panel of Experts on Darfur has repeatedly found
that Khartoum completely ignores the embargo. In turn, Amnesty
International has reported that among these arms are weapons and
military supplies of Chinese manufacture. Unsurprisingly, China
abstained on Resolution 1591; and, as it has on many similar occasions,
China also made clear that it would not countenance sanctions against
Khartoum, even in the event the regime flagrantly refused to comply with
UN demands.

A grim syllogism governs the fate of the people of Darfur, and to a
very considerable extent the displaced and conflict-affected people of
eastern Chad: Either the international community devises a strategy for
bringing pressure on Khartoum to negotiate in good faith and abide by
agreements signed, or ethnically-targeted human destruction will
continue throughout much of Sudan. Here we should bear in mind the fate
of the much-touted north/south “Comprehensive Peace Agreement”
(January 2005). More than three years after its arduous consummation,
the CPA has been serially abrogated by Khartoum in ways that have made
the resumption of war a terrifyingly likely outcome.

The regime has also failed to abide by the various terms of the Darfur
Peace Agreement, most significantly on security issues, but also in
funding compensation and reconstruction promised in the agreement. An
especially revealing example of the regime’s attitude toward its
commitments is the unilateral “cease-fire” it declared on October
27, 2007 at the start of the doomed peace talks in Sirte, Libya. Senior
presidential advisor Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, who holds the Darfur
portfolio, promised a halt to all offensive military activities; the
very next day rebel groups reported that the regime’s Antonov bombers
attacked civilian targets in West Darfur, attacks confirmed privately by
the UN and African Union.

LEVERAGE AND PROSPECTS

Can the international community muster the resolve to deal resolutely
with the ongoing genocide in Darfur? Certainly there are opportunities
to ratchet up pressure on Khartoum. China is particularly vulnerable at
present as host of the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympic Games, a fact seized
on by a wide range of human rights and Darfur advocacy groups, which
have defined these Games as the “Genocide Olympics.” But their
successes must be amplified by Western governments, which have so far
done far too little to make Darfur a significant issue in their
bilateral relationships with China. This is true of the US, France,
Britain, Germany, and other powerful trading partners with China.
Unless China faces effective pressure to convince Khartoum that the days
of unqualified political and diplomatic protectionism are over, the
regime’s behavior will not change in fundamental ways.

There are certainly other measures available, especially to the
Europeans. The EU should impose a moratorium on all future trade and
investment with Sudan that benefit the Khartoum regime (unsurprisingly,
China is by far the largest commercial and capital investor in the
Khartoum-dominated economy). Since so little of foreign trade and
investment benefits any part of Sudan other than a narrow sliver of the
Nile River Valley (essentially Khartoum, Omdurman, and their extended
suburbs), this will not cause broad hardship. Even more potent would be
the imposition of EU monetary sanctions, modeled on the sanctions
imposed by the US last year, which have forced an awkward and
inefficient transition to the Euro by Sudan’s central bank. Denied
use of the Euro in contracts, business and banking transactions, and
other financial activities, Khartoum would have no effective alternative
currency available. This would immediately turn up the domestic
political heat on a regime that must ultimately surrender power if Sudan
is to make any progress toward the ideals of true federalism and
national equality without regard to religion, geography, race, or
ethnicity.

But the likelihood of unctuous hand-wringing being replaced by robust
and decisive action seems slim. In the absence of concerted, forceful
pressure on Khartoum, particularly in securing urgent deployment of
UNAMID, there is very little chance that a new cataclysm of human
suffering and destruction can be avoided. The world has watched as
several hundred thousand innocent Darfuris have died from violence,
disease, and malnutrition. The watching seems destined to continue.



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