Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 10 October 2006

Paralysis in Darfur: Khartoum achieves a final diplomatic success


With humanitarian operations now in “free fall,” the UN and the international community have abandoned commitment to the military and police force defined by Security Council Resolution 1706, leaving in its place a still-notional “African Union-Plus” as the sole source of security in Darfur

By Eric Reeves

October 9, 2006 — The final shape of Khartoum’s diplomatic strategy in seeking to retain ultimate control over security arrangements in Darfur is now clearly in evidence; so, too, is the shameful success of this ruthless strategy. By insisting so vehemently that there be no deployment of a robust UN force in Darfur, despite the authorization of such a force by the Security Council, the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party) regime has forced upon the international community a choice---a choice sufficiently stark that these shrewdly calculating genocidaires are confident it will be made in their favor.

Specifically, Khartoum’s defining strategy has been to force upon the UN and the international community a choice between,

[1] the exceedingly difficult and in many ways risky nonconsensual deployment of the (preferably UN-sanctioned) force required to protect the desperately embattled humanitarian operations upon which more than 4 million conflict-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad (as well as many more in neighboring Central African Republic) increasingly depend; a tremendous number of these civilians, numbering in the many hundreds of thousands, are now completely beyond humanitarian reach because of insecurity;


[2] the very modest international augmentation of an African Union mission in Darfur that is structurally weak and radically inappropriate for present security purposes; severely under-manned and badly demoralized; undertaking many fewer patrols per unit; fatally hampered by critically inadequate communications and intelligence capacity; continually denied the ability to patrol because of Khartoum’s appropriation of AU helicopter fuel and imposition of severely restrictive curfew terms; often poorly commanded, and suffering from an unsuitable command structure. Perhaps most consequentially, the AU is now a force that has extremely poor relations with the more than 2 million Darfuris in displaced persons camps, an immense population that almost universally regards the AU as having sided conspicuously with the signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement (Abuja, May 2006)---including the Khartoum regime, its military forces, and its Arab militia proxies in Darfur, the very men who have so energetically displaced and destroyed non-Arab/African civilians for the past three and a half years.

[See below for an overview of the just-released report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, detailing massive and very recent, Khartoum-backed attacks by the Habbania militia against African tribal groups in the Buram area of southern South Darfur.]

These are the terms of the choice Khartoum has engineered through its defiance of the UN, and because of diplomatic backing from China, Russia, the Arab League, even the African Union. By refusing to accept a UN force---indeed, by relentlessly and obdurately refusing to accept the terms of UN Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006)---Khartoum has fashioned what the regime rightly presumes will be simply too difficult a choice for the militarily capable Western nations: between [1] an exceedingly difficult, militarily complex, and politically challenging effort---one justifiable, finally, in no terms other than saving many of the hundreds of thousands of African lives that will almost certainly be lost to ongoing genocidal destruction, and [2] an operation that is politically simple in its expediency, if transparently inadequate for the security needs of civilians and humanitarians---what has been designated “African Union-Plus.”

Faced with this choice, Western and UN officials---despite ongoing politically expedient bluster---have chosen the “African Union-Plus,” despite it acknowledged and radical limitations.


In short, all evidence suggests that Khartoum has succeeded in eliminating the political possibility of any timely deployment of UN forces with a mandate to protect humanitarians and civilians, regardless of whether or not the regime’s genocidaires acquiesce. Instead, the UN and the international community have decided---explicitly in some quarters, implicitly in others---to support an incremental increase in the African Union force presently overwhelmed by the security crisis in Darfur, while augmenting AU resources on the ground in highly limited fashion. The AU proposal, accepted by the UN in default, calls for raising the current deployment of 7,200 troops, civilian police, other personnel to approximately 11,000 personnel---a total force level still only approximately half the force contemplated in Security Council Resolution 1706, which includes 17,300 troops, 3,300 civilians police, and 16 Formed Police Units (for Darfur, approximately 2,000 back-up security forces).

UN augmentation of this force is exceedingly modest, extending to only about 200 personnel. A UN/AU letter of September 22, 2006, addressed to NIF President Omar al-Bashir, calls for: 23 UN mission support staff; 33 police advisors; 105 staff officers; and 25 additional civilian staff to work in a large range of complex tasks. Khartoum is assured in the letter that “UN staff deployed to Darfur as part of the support package for [the African Union mission] would be fully dedicated to support the AU operation and will operate under the operational control of [the African Union mission].”

Khartoum could hardly have asked for an easier UN imprimatur for preservation of the status quo. “African Union-Plus,” as represented in this very small augmenting effort, is nothing short of capitulation to Khartoum’s “demand,” explicitly declared such by an aide to the senior Khartoum official managing the Darfur genocide:

“An official who is an aide to Mohamed al-Dabi, the Sudanese president’s top Darfur representative, told Reuters by telephone that, [ ] ‘The AU-Plus is a Sudanese demand.’” (Reuters [dateline: Cairo], October 2, 2006)

We may be relatively sure that some of the failures to pay deployed AU forces, as well as some of the many logistical and communications problems, will be remedied by these approximately 200 UN personnel---and that some additional resources (transport, communications, and logistical) will be contributed by other international actors, including NATO in limited fashion. But no large-scale change of character in the overall AU mission is discernible in present proposals. Moreover, any additional helicopters and other transport vehicles will be subject to the same manipulation of fuel supplies that has defined the entire course of AU deployment in Darfur.

Further, the contributions discussed to date suggest no truly significant increase in transport capacity on the ground, or any enhancement of firepower. The African Union will still be outgunned by, and necessarily deferential to, Khartoum’s regular military forces, the Khartoum-backed Janjaweed, and the non-signatory insurgency forces. And in a development fraught with military implications, it is also now quite possible that the forces of SLA/Minni Minawi, the signatory faction of the rebel movement, may abandon its agreement with Khartoum, especially in light of a recent, apparently Khartoum-backed attack on SLA/Minni Minawi headquarters in Nyala. Even before the Nyala attack, SLA/Minni Minawi commanders on the ground in Darfur were speaking independently of forsaking partnership with a regime that was clearly continuing a genocidal assault on the Africa populations of Darfur (see the excellent reporting on SLA/Minni Minawi military commanders and their dilemma in South Darfur by Craig Timberg of The Washington Post ([dateline: Nyala], September 13, 2006) at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/13/AR2006091301996.html).


The massive failure of the African Union is revealed in part by a survey of current violence throughout the region

Throughout all three Darfur states and eastern Chad---a region significantly larger than France---there has been steadily escalating violence and displacement, and the AU has been completely unable to change the larger security dynamic. Seen from the perspective of those humanitarians on the ground, continued exclusive reliance on the African Union (or “African Union-Plus”) will result in ever-expanding regions throughout Darfur that are simply inaccessible to those attempting to provide life-sustaining food supplies, clean water resources, medical care, and other key forms of human care. The most recent UN map of the vast areas largely or wholly inaccessible to humanitarian efforts is terrifying, and has grown every month since the signing of the ill-conceived and ill-fated Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA):


With no force on the ground to provide for the disengagement of forces, Khartoum’s military actions continue to expand throughout all three Darfur states and inside eastern Chad.

In South Darfur, the Buram area was the arena for what have very recently been revealed as large-scale assaults on the African populations of the region by Khartoum’s Arab militia proxies. The “Fifth Periodic Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [UNHCHR] on the situation of human rights in the Sudan” (October 6, 2006) suggests how much violence against civilians has gone unreported, and how useless the African Union force has become even in monitoring the ethnic targeting of civilians:

“From 28 August [2006] until the beginning of September 2006, militia groups from the Habbania tribe embarked on a brutal campaign in the Buram locality of South Darfur. The campaign, marked by widespread targeting of civilians from tribes that are locally referred to as being of African origin, wholesale burning of villages, looting and forced displacement, appears to have been conducted with the knowledge and material support of Government [of Sudan] authorities. The attacks resulted in a death toll that could amount to several hundred civilians.”

“Furthermore, the large-scale attacks resulted in an extremely chaotic displacement, causing widespread separation of families and scores of missing children. Subsequent attacks on Internally Displaced Persons fleeing the fighting, carried out by militia from the government-allied Fallata tribe, caused the displaced population to scatter even further, hampering efforts to deliver aid to those affected.”

In further evidence of genocidal intent, the UNHCHR report notes:

“Witnesses reported that the recent attacks were far more brutal towards civilians than previous attacks. Furthermore, if in April [2006] the SLA presence was significant in the area, all witnesses interviewed claimed that, during the recent attacks, armed resistance was either non-existent or minimal. Most of the villages attacked were under government control.”

“Reportedly, the area is currently deserted as the majority of the population has fled. Displacement of inhabitants from these villages may have been the ultimate objective of the recent attacks. According to several people from the area, the motive behind the attacks was to change the demography of the region before the arrival of international troops. This area was not the traditional homeland for tribes of African origin. The present conflict seems to be an attempt to remove the tribes of African origin and make it an entirely Arab tribe area. This was reportedly done with the assumption that any international troops would focus on maintaining the status quo in the area.”

The savagery of the southern militia offensive, which began the same day (August 28, 2006) as Khartoum’s regular military forces began their major offensive in North Darfur, is made clear at many points in the UNHCHR, including its narrative of the attack on Tirtish:

“Tirtish, about 40 kilometers southwest of Geweghina, was inhabited by a variety of tribes of African origin, namely Massalit, Misseriya Jebel, Tama, Birgit, Dajo, Abdarak, among others. Witnesses reported that the village was attacked on 28 August by hundreds of Habbania militiamen. At around 11:30 am, the perpetrators, many wearing khaki uniforms similar to those worn by government forces, arrived at the village on horse and camelback and were accompanied by several vehicles. The attackers possessed heavy weaponry, including machine guns; one witness also reported the use of rocket-propelled grenades.”

“A witness reported that the militia stormed into town, shooting at civilians and setting fire to dwellings and shops. Reportedly, women and children were thrown into burning dwellings as they attempted to flee. Children as young as three years old, including the daughter of an interviewee, were killed in this manner. A witness reported that he personally participated in the burial of 62 people killed in Tirtish that day (he himself later fled), and estimates the total civilian death toll in the village at between 80 and 90. He reports that at least 40 people in the village, including many children, are unaccounted for.”

Such large-scale, ethnically-targeted, Khartoum-backed militia assaults defined the worst phases of the genocidal violence in Darfur (2003-2004); now, in late 2006, the African Union is completely and conspicuously powerless to control the resurgence of such violence.

The connection between the Habbania Arab militia force and the Khartoum regime is stressed in the UNHCHR report:

“In nearly all of the attacks documented, victims and witnesses made reference to the presence of two Habbania leaders with ties to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF): Agid Ayadi and Umda Mohammed Musa. These two men were also believed to have been personally involved in directing the April [2006] Habbania militia attacks in the area. Several sources reported that on 25-26 August 2006, in Wad Hajum, Agid Ayadi and Umda Mohammed Musa organized a recruitment meeting for the upcoming attacks, for which the stated purpose was ‘removing Zurga [African tribes] from the area.’ Two witnesses recognized government officials (some in higher-ranking military uniforms) at the meeting [ ].”

The report’s conclusion highlights Khartoum’s complicity in these genocidal attacks:

“The attacks, spearheaded by Habbania militia, were massive in scale, involving a large number of villages, and were carried out over only a few days. Government knowledge, if not complicity, in the attacks is almost certain. In all the above cases, militia members wore khaki uniforms similar to those worn by government forces, carried heavy weaponry in most cases, and were accompanied by vehicles. Several interviewees noted that the Habbania militiamen themselves do not possess vehicles nor the kind of heavy weapons used during the attacks (such as Rocket-Propelled Grenades and vehicle-mounted machine guns).”

“Furthermore, reports regarding participation of government officials in the Habbania meeting in Wad Hajum on 25-26 August 2006 also indicate previous government knowledge about the attacks. The attacks appeared to have been directed at civilians as reports indicate that the rebel presence in the area was not significant. The attacks appeared to have targeted civilians from tribes of African origin in what appeared to be an attempt to drive them from the Habbania homeland and therefore completely change the ethnic balance in the area.”

If this report provides clear evidence that rural areas remain especially vulnerable because of African Union incapacity, camps for displaced persons are also highly vulnerable. The Sudan Organization Against Torture (SOAT) recently reported (October 4, 2006) that Janjaweed militia forces attacked the vast Kalma camp for displaced persons near Nyala (South Darfur), killing two people and critically wounding a third. Such attacks are becoming more common and could easily become occasions for catastrophic violent human destruction.

Alarmingly, great areas of West Darfur have come under de facto governance of the Janjaweed, as Amnesty International has very recently reported:

“In large parts of West Darfur, the Janjawid have almost complete control and are gradually occupying the land which was depopulated by the scorched earth campaign in 2003 and 2004. Hundreds of thousands of people---most of the original population---now live in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) or in refugee camps across the border in Chad. The Janjawid presence threatens attack on any IDP movement outside of the camps, making venturing outside extremely difficult and any return of the displaced to their homes impossible. The displaced are effectively imprisoned inside the camps. Even within them, the Janjawid commit killings, rapes, beatings and theft. Rape is a near certainty for women caught outside the camps, and women are sometimes abducted and enslaved in Janjawid households. Men venturing outside the camps are often beaten, tortured or killed.” (Amnesty International, “Crying Out for Safety,” October 5, 2006, at http://web.amnesty.org/pages/sdn-features-eng)

The governing genocidal dynamic is captured in subsequent paragraphs:

“The vast majority of the original residents of large areas of West Darfur, the Masalit, were targeted by the Janjawid attacks at the beginning of the conflict in 2003 and 2004. The Janjawid now have almost absolute control of large areas of West Darfur, where they drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. The displaced fled either to Chad or to the nearest urban centres, which quickly developed into massive IDP camps.”

“The land abandoned did not remain vacant. The Janjawid utilized the land of the displaced for their livestock, passing through villages, making use of the untended water points, taking what was left of the agricultural produce, and attacking any of the original inhabitants who attempted to return---effectively occupying the land. The displaced in the IDP camps in West Darfur and the refugee camps in Chad not only await an end to the fighting in order to return home, but also an end to the occupation of their land. Until the Janjawid are disarmed and have vacated their land, they cannot return.”

Amnesty reports on the character of the Janjaweed’s terrifying authority:

“The Janjawid use their control of the camp occupants to assert their ownership of territory and the livestock in it; [one woman reported]:

‘In October 2004 I went to a wadi [seasonal watercourse] with another villager [a man named Gandme, aged about 50] and our cattle. We came across a group of many Janjawid who beat me with rifle butts, breaking my right leg and left arm. Gandme was shot dead. The Janjawid told me: “You are a Nuba [derogatory racial epithet for African tribal people] woman, daughter of a whore. You have no right to these cattle and they do not belong to you.” They took away my cattle (seven cows and goats) and Gandme’s cattle.’
[A Masalit woman aged in her fifties, originally from the village of Hajilija near Arara, in West Darfur.]”

“Enslavement of women, though less usual than rape, is also a threat. Numerous women who had fled the IDP camps in Darfur told Amnesty International that the Janjawid took women to serve in their households and to be ‘used’ at will. Women survivors rarely describe in detail their enforced servitude in Janjawid households, but the abuses against them are widely understood to include rape.”

A similarly grim picture is offered of eastern Chad, where genocidal violence is poised to explode with the onset of the dry season, which opens previously impassable cross-border routes:

“In eastern Chad, directly across the border from West Darfur, attacks reminiscent of the first wave of Darfur’s scorched earth campaign continue unopposed. Amnesty International has documented the cross-border attacks since late 2005, in which the Janjawid have killed and driven from their homes thousands of civilians, targeted according to their ethnicity, and looted whole communities’ wealth.”

The potential for vastly widening violence in eastern Chad, in response to Khartoum’s continuing support for Chadian rebels and the Janjaweed, is perhaps the most ominous finding of the new Amnesty report:

“Since Chadian armed opposition groups based in West Darfur and supported by Sudan have become more active, Chad has been increasingly involved in the Darfur conflict. From late 2005 it has openly hosted and sometimes aided Darfurian armed opposition groups in retaliation for Sudan’s increased support of the Chadian armed opposition.”

“To date this has been war by proxy, but the developments in south-eastern Chad, with large parts of the Chadian population drawn into the conflict, represents a new level of involvement. Amnesty International warned of the regional repercussions if the Janjawid were not checked. As a result of these attacks, the region’s civilian population, previously largely removed from the Darfur conflict, is being drawn into active participation in it. Conscious of the role ethnicity has played in the targeting of certain communities in Chad, increasingly they see a common cause with the Darfurian armed opposition groups that ignores the nominal international border between Chad and Darfur.”

“There are now some members of the National Redemption Front [the main military and political coalition among non-signatory Darfuri rebels] with recruitment and training facilities in south-eastern Chad, and the flow of small arms into the region has increased. In Goz Beida, capital of Dar Silah region, members of the tribes most affected by the Janjawid attacks---most of them from the Dajo community---have begun to be recruited, armed and trained.”

“The implication of these developments will become apparent after the rainy season, when traditionally fighting resumes in the region. Ethnic polarization is on the rise, and the victims of the previous Janjawid attacks, no longer unarmed, may retaliate against other Chadian ethnic groups who aligned themselves with the Janjawid during these attacks.”

With Chad’s government neither willing nor able to protect rural populations, a massive increase in violence and civilian destruction seems both imminent and inevitable. Associated Press reports yesterday that:

“Sudanese soldiers crossed the border into eastern Chad to fight a group of Darfur rebels, leaving more than 300 people injured, an aid worker said Sunday.” ([dateline: N’Djamena, Chad], October 8, 2006).

The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (October 9, 2006) reports today:

“For the first time, combat between Sudanese rebel groups and the government of Sudan has spilled across the border from the embattled Darfur region into eastern Chad, aid workers said on Monday [October 9, 2006]. Previously, such clashes had involved the Chadian army in pursuit of rebels seeking to oust Chadian President Idriss Deby.”

“The weekend fighting signals an escalation of violence in eastern Chad, but aid agencies said on Monday that humanitarian operations would continue. ‘Violence in eastern Chad, violence in Darfur is problematic for all of us. We are having less and less access to a number of internally displaced people in that part of that world and it does concern us and other UN agencies operating in the region,’ Jean-Jacques Graisse, senior deputy executive director of the World Food Programme, told IRIN in Dakar on Monday.”

Certainly even an “African Union-Plus” cannot begin to take on the tasks of monitoring events on the ground in eastern Chad or cross-border military incursions, although such tasks are explicitly part of the mandate for the UN force contemplated in UNSC 1706.


To the south of Chad, but with a significant border with Darfur and Bahr el-Ghazal Province, the Central African Republic has also been drawn unwillingly into the Darfur conflict. The UN News Center (September 29, 2006) reports:

“Almost a quarter of a million people in northern parts of the Central African Republic (CAR) have been forced to flee their homes in recent months because of ‘severe levels of violence’ perpetrated by armed groups, including Government soldiers, the top United Nations aid official in the impoverished country said today, warning of the regional impact of this unrest.”

The connection to Darfur’s conflict is drawn explicitly:

“Toby Lanzer, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the CAR, [said in New York], ‘So there is certainly a regional impact that the situation is having and paradoxically quite some concern that the situation in [neighbouring] Sudan and Chad---also very fragile, as you know---is having quite some bearing on the situation in the Central African Republic.’”

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has recently reported on conditions in northern Central African Republic (CAR) and the role of Khartoum in destabilizing this terribly impoverished country. He begins with a grim overview:

“My purpose [in traveling to the Central African Republic was] to emphasize the urgency of ending the genocide in Darfur before it destabilizes even more of Africa. The malignancy has already spread to Chad, and now it is beginning to destroy the Central African Republic as well.”

“Sudan has in effect invaded the Central African Republic with a proxy force of Chadians whom it armed and transported to a remote airstrip in Sudanese Antonov aircraft. Now those troops are living in caves in the northeast part of this country and recruiting local people to fight. When the dry season comes in another month or so, that force of 500 troops will presumably join a larger force of Sudanese puppets in trying to overthrow the government of Chad and perhaps of this country as well.” (New York Times [dateline: Paoua, Central African Republic], October 1, 2006)

There can be little avoiding Kristof’s conclusions:

“[This] kind of random violence is incredibly infectious, and the legacy of Darfur may be that all of Chad and the Central African Republic will collapse into Somalia-style anarchy. In an interview [ ], President François Bozize of the Central African Republic offered an excellent suggestion: With the deployment of UN peacekeepers to Darfur delayed indefinitely because of Sudan’s defiance, post them in the meantime in Chad and the Central African Republic---while still pushing to get them into Darfur itself.”

There is currently no such urgent planning for deployment of substantial, well-equipped and -supplied UN forces to either the Central African Republic or Chad---merely disingenuous celebration of the “African Union-Plus” as a modest diplomatic “victory,” moving things in the “right direction.” It is neither; indeed, it is sheer pretense to suggest that the AU, in any augmented form, is an adequate response to the desperate security crisis facing well over 4 million human beings and the vast, highly dispersed humanitarian operations upon which these people grow more---not less---dependent.


How did Khartoum triumph in forestalling UN deployment of forces under Security Council Resolution 1706? There are many answers. But we would do particularly well to focus on the cowardice and incompetence of Jan Pronk, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sudan. Pronk has a spectacular history of mistakes, poor judgment, and stubbornness in his present capacity, and is widely held in contempt, including by many within the UN.

Most consequentially, Pronk feels no obligation to abide by the terms of UN Security Council resolutions. When UNSC Resolution 1556 passed on July 30, 2004, it contained the only demand of significance that has been made of Khartoum to date: that the regime disarm the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice. Just days later, in early August 2004, Pronk in effect negotiated away, on his own authority, this critical demand; and he did so in order to secure Khartoum’s agreement in the creation of “safe areas” in Darfur.

So ill-conceived was Pronk’s plan---it immediately served to provide diplomatic cover for Khartoum’s expanding military offensive in areas contiguous to the “safe areas”---that both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued blistering critiques (see also my analysis “The UN Plan for ‘Safe Areas’ in Darfur: Consolidating Khartoum’s campaign of ethnic/racial displacement and genocide,” September 3, 2004 http://www.sudanreeves.org/Sections-index-req-viewarticle-artid-212-page-1.html). Pronk’s “safe areas” plan was quietly dropped by the UN in September 2004, but not before the terrible political and diplomatic damage had been done with respect to holding Khartoum directly accountable for the ongoing genocidal predations of the Janjaweed.

More than two years later, Pronk has extended his very long list of critical errors; his most recent is reliably reported as having earned him a severe chastisement by senior UN officials, although again, too late.

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 Pronk gratuitously surrendered the UN Security Council “demand” that Khartoum disarm the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice, 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 UNSC 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 sources). But as was the case in August 2004, so in October 2006: the damage had already been done.

Pronk was right only in asserting that Khartoum would allow the AU to stay in Darfur, since it presently serves as the means for avoiding a complete withdrawal of security forces, a potentially catalytic event for a morally torpid international community. But Khartoum has also recently insisted that the AU mandate in Darfur will not be extended indefinitely:

“[A Khartoum] official, who is an aide to Mohamed al-Dabi, the Sudanese president’s top Darfur representative, told Reuters by telephone [speaking on condition of anonymity] that Sudan would welcome a planned increase in AU peacekeepers for now. But he said, ‘Sudan agrees that the African Union troops stay until the crisis is over, but not indefinitely.’ He had been asked whether Khartoum would agree to an indefinite extension of AU troops in Darfur as a way of breaking a deadlock over the deployment of UN peacekeepers there.” (Reuters [dateline: Cairo], October 2, 2006)

We may be all too sure that when international attention drifts from Darfur, when diplomatic pressure lessens, AU deployment and troop rotation will face growing challenges. Meanwhile, the AU will be obstructed, harassed, and impeded as mercilessly as it has for more than two years. Moreover, nothing reported in recent days suggests that the AU has been able to secure an independent and reliable fuel source for its helicopters and ground vehicles; nothing suggests that highly constraining curfews will be lifted, or that onerous requirements and certifications of various sorts have been abandoned by Khartoum.

And why should Khartoum feel any need to offer more than a few further modest concessions to an “African Union-Plus”? Diplomatic pressure is diminishing, after cresting during NIF President Omar al-Bashir’s trip to the UN in New York for the opening of the General Assembly. To be sure, there’s much tough talk from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (“Khartoum must choose cooperation or confrontation”), but no consequences have been spelled out if the regime continues to cleave to the genocidal status quo by means of the “African Union-Plus.”

Europe is no better, only quieter in its accommodation of genocide; and in speaking about the “African Union-Plus” there is a clear willingness to pretend that this force has implications it clearly does not:

“In Finland, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he understood that Bashir was close to accept[ing] the AU-Plus presence in Darfur, citing such a step as progress toward a genuine UN force in the region.” (Reuters [dateline: Cairo], October 2, 2006)

In fact, the “African Union-Plus” represents Khartoum’s strategy for preventing, precisely, “progress toward a genuine UN force in the region.”

British lame-duck Prime Minister Tony Blair, with his legacy evidently much on his mind, is reported to be ordering plans drawn up for a force of “at least 1,000 troops to play a core role in an international protection force” (Scotland on Sunday [UK], October 8, 2006):

“The Prime Minister has signalled his intention to back up his demands for international intervention to prevent ‘genocide’ in Darfur by sending a large British force to help protect the black African population.” [ ]

“Blair is continuing to press for the move as a gesture of intent, particularly amid the continuing failure of the international community to agree on a multi-national force---and the Sudanese government’s refusal to accept any intervention.”

But we have seen pointless saber-rattling from the Blair government several times before; as this writer noted five months ago, on a similar occasion:

“It’s easy for Tony Blair to declare that a non-existent peacemaking force must have ‘sufficient firepower’ to guarantee the feeble accord signed last week in Abuja, and that ‘Britain and the US, with other NATO partners, [are] looking at the issue urgently to see what more could be done.’ But an assertion of ‘urgency’ seems a cruel joke almost two years after General Sir Mike Jackson declared that the British army could field a brigade (5,000 troops) for a humanitarian mission to Darfur.” (The Guardian [on-line], May 15, 2006, “International powers are talking about urgent action to enforce peace. But where are the troops?” at:
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/eric_reeves/2006/05/darfur_3.html )

For his part, President Bush several months prior to this (February 2006) made the politically expedient promise that there would be “NATO stewardship” for a Darfur mission. But this promise was not only expedient, it was predictably vacuous (see my February 22, 2006 analysis of the Bush statement, http://www.sudanreeves.org/Sections-index-req-viewarticle-artid-548-page-1.html).


There continue to be suggestions in various quarters that somehow Darfuris don’t really want international humanitarian intervention, consensual or nonconsensual. This is simply untrue: there is indisputable and overwhelming consensus among the Darfuris who have been targeted for genocidal destruction for many years, as well as Darfuris in the diaspora: “we are desperate for international intervention.”

There are also declarations that any international deployment would find itself in the midst of an Iraq-like quagmire of ethnic violence and factional strife---precisely the threat that is so continually wielded by National Islamic Front leaders. But how likely is it that the African populations of Darfur (perhaps 65% to 75% of the total pre-conflict population) would not energetically assist in any intervention made for their own security and that of critically required humanitarian assistance? How likely is it that a non-Darfuri jihadist campaign would take root in this highly remote region, where non-Darfuris are thoroughly conspicuous?

There can be no denying that nonconsensual deployment would be dangerous and risky in many ways. Moreover, the extraordinary logistical difficulties of deployment, consensual or nonconsensual, bear repeated emphasis. Critically, any such intervention must take into primary consideration the task of preventing reprisals by Khartoum and the Janjaweed against humanitarian organizations and civilians, especially those concentrated in camps for displaced persons. Clear, extremely robust, and fully plausible threats must be issued, forcing as much of a military stand-down by all combatants as possible. There are other very difficult political, diplomatic, military, and economic issues that would present themselves.

But it is also important to bear in mind as well that intervention at this point in the crisis will be much more difficult precisely because of earlier inaction, when genocide first was recognizable and immense impending human destruction was clearly visible:

“Immediate plans for humanitarian intervention should begin. The alternative is to allow tens of thousands of civilians to die in the weeks and months ahead in what will be continuing genocidal destruction. (Washington Post op/ed [“Unnoticed Genocide”] by this writer, February 25, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A3559-2004Feb24?language=printer).

The difficulties of intervention have continued to increase rapidly over the past 32 months, and will continue to do so, even as human mortality has climbed to approximately 500,000 (see my April 2006 Darfur mortality assessment at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article102.html).

And this already staggering total is clearly poised to explode upwards, as Jan Egeland, head of UN humanitarian operations, warned the Security Council over five weeks ago:

“Our entire humanitarian operation in Darfur---the only lifeline for more than three million people---is presently at risk. We need immediate action on the political front to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe with massive loss of life. [ ] If the humanitarian operation were to collapse [because of insecurity], we could see hundreds of thousands of deaths. In short, we may end up with a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale in Darfur.”

“In the past months I have repeatedly called for attention to the deteriorating situation in Darfur. As you have heard today our warnings have become a black reality that calls for immediate action: insecurity is at its highest levels since 2004, access at its lowest levels since that date and we may well be on the brink of a return to all-out war. This would mean the withdrawal of international staff from Darfur, leaving millions of vulnerable Darfuris to suffer their fate without assistance and with few outsiders to witness.”

“[The humanitarian gains of the past two years in Darfur] can all be lost within weeks---not months. I cannot give a starker warning than to say that we are at a point where even hope may escape us and the lives of hundreds of thousands could be needlessly lost. The Security Council and member states around this table with influence on the parties to the conflict must act now. Hundreds of humanitarian organizations from around the world are watching what you will be doing or may refrain from doing in the coming weeks.”
(Briefing by Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the humanitarian situation in Darfur Source, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 28, 2006)

Certainly there are “hundreds of humanitarian organizations from around the world watching” what the Security Council has, and has not done. But more than five weeks have passed since Egeland’s briefing, and there is no meaningful plan for improving security in Darfur, merely expedient and specious efforts to pretend that an “African Union-Plus” force marks a serious response to the rapidly escalating security crisis throughout Darfur, as well as eastern Chad and the Central African Republic. Humanitarian operations continue, in Egeland’s phrase of September 12, 2006, “in free fall.

Kofi Annan’s most recent report on Darfur (to the UN Security Council, September 26, 2006) speaks with characteristic duplicity---on the one hand acknowledging that:

“Darfur is at a critical stage. Insecurity in this troubled region is at its highest levels and humanitarian access is at its lowest levels since 2004. Unless security improves, the world is facing the prospect of having to drastically curtail an acutely needed humanitarian operation.”

But at the same time, refusing to demonstrate the leadership that might pressure Khartoum to accept the UN force specified in UNSC Resolution 1706, Annan declared:

“As the Security Council has recognized, the transition to a United Nations operation will not be possible as long as the Government of Sudan refuses its consent. Once again, therefore, I urge the Government of Sudan to....”

Nothing could embolden Khartoum more than the sense that it faces only further “urgings.” That neither the Arab League nor the African Union is prepared to do more than “urge” Khartoum to accept the UN force of 1706 only further encourages the regime to believe in the ultimate success of the strategy outlined at the beginning of this analysis. And thus the dismaying authority of today’s comment by the distinguished and courageous Suleiman Baldo of the International Crisis Group:

“‘I don’t think diplomatic pressure of any kind will make Khartoum accept a UN peacekeeping mission,’ said Suleiman Baldo, a Sudan expert at the US-based International Crisis Group.” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], October 9, 2006)

But this diplomatic outcome has not been of necessity, certainly not if Khartoum were to have faced the clear and unavoidable prospect of nonconsensual deployment in failing to accept a UN force; rather, Baldo’s conclusion speaks to the self-fulfilling prophesy of people like Jan Pronk and others who encourage Khartoum’s obduracy by means of their own cowardly acquiescence. These are the same people who fail to see Khartoum’s determination to complete its genocidal task, and who as part of this exercise in blindness and deafness pretend that an “African Union-Plus” response is somehow a temporarily acceptable response to the desperate people of this tortured region.

Certainly Pronk and his ilk have no time to hear the plea of Amoodh Al-Akhdar, one of the victims of the August 2006 assaults in the Buram region by Khartoum’s military proxies---assaults, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reports, in which young children and the elderly were hurled into their burning homes:

“‘Most of our people are hiding in the bushes. The only routes connecting inhabited villages pass through Janjaweed held areas, while other roads have been submersed by water because of the rain. There are injured and sick who were caught in the fighting. Many people have gone missing. People cannot leave the area without protection. We call for the international community to intervene immediately to help the civilians in the area.’”

Amoodh Al-Akhdar calls in vain.

* 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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