Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 4 January 2007

Darfur and the International Abandonment of a "responsibility to protect"


How the UN and Western powers conferred veto power upon Khartoum’s regime of génocidaires: the grim path from UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006) to the present fig-leaf “hybrid operation”

By Eric Reeves


January 2, 2007 — Recent large-scale evacuations of humanitarian personnel from Darfur, coming in the wake of an escalating series of violent attacks, are part of a pattern that may culminate in an almost complete collapse of aid operations during the coming year. The most recent analysis by this writer examines in detail a number of current reports and assessments (“Darfur Humanitarian Operations Now in ‘Meltdown’ Phase,” December 23, 2006, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article143.html). Highlights of the threats to humanitarian operations are suggested in the following compendium of excerpts:

“More aid workers have been relocated in western Sudanese region of Darfur following Monday’s [December 18, 2006] attack on Gereida, South Darfur State, bringing the numbers of humanitarian staff moved in December to a record 400, the United Nations said.” (UN Regional Information Networks [dateline: Khartoum], December 20, 2006)

“The United Nations evacuated 71 aid workers from the largest refugee camp in Darfur Tuesday after gunmen looted their compounds, leaving some 130,000 refugees virtually without humanitarian help. [ ] The UN said it was the eighth evacuation of endangered aid workers it has had to carry out so far this month in Darfur.” (Associated Press [dateline: Cairo], December 20, 2006)

“Since May [2006], at least 23 incidents of [nongovernmental humanitarian organizations] being forced to withdraw staff from areas of Darfur because of growing insecurity had been reported, [UNICEF] added. Of these, 12 resulted in the permanent withdrawal of personnel.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: Nairobi], December 14, 2006)

“With access to people in need already at its lowest point since mid-2004, five major areas suffered significant withdrawals of staff in the first week of December alone: El Fasher and Kutum in North Darfur; El Daein and Shearia in South Darfur; and Kulbus in West Darfur. Although hopefully temporary, such evacuations are becoming more and more frequent, restricting the massive humanitarian response in a region where nearly four million people are now dependent on aid agencies for essential services such as food, water and healthcare.”

"‘The whole region is increasingly complex and uncertain. While we all remain fully committed to helping the people of Darfur, frequent evacuations of programmes are making it incredibly difficult to deliver aid effectively’ [ ] said Patty Swahn, the International Rescue Committee’s Regional Director.” (International Rescue Committee-UK, from a “joint agency release,” December 18, 2006)

“The aid agency Concern has announced that it is to withdraw all non-essential staff from the Darfur region of Sudan. The decision follows a series of attacks on aid workers and humanitarian vehicles in the troubled region. Last week, the aid agency Goal said that it was withdrawing its remaining international staff from Darfur. Concern says that it is leaving one essential programme manager in Darfur. The organisation says it intends to move back into the region as soon as possible depending on the security situation. Oxfam International, the International Rescue Committee, Norwegian Refugee Council and World Vision have all withdrawn staff temporarily because of the attacks on aid workers and their vehicles.” (RTE Ireland, December 15, 2006)

Oxfam International provides some sense of the crisis in Chad, which continues to be eclipsed by the vast cataclysm to the east:

“A wave of violence has forced the temporary evacuation of over 400 humanitarian staff in eastern Chad in the past two weeks, severely interrupting the provision of humanitarian aid, said international agency Oxfam today. The serious deterioration of security in the region bordering Darfur threatens to cause a major health and food crisis for hundreds of thousands of people.” (December 16, 2006 press release)

In the absence of a dramatic reversal in current security trends, presently nowhere in evidence or in prospect, full-scale humanitarian withdrawal will certainly result, with catastrophic consequences for already acutely imperiled civilians. Currently more than 1 million of the more than 4.5 million conflict-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad are without humanitarian access altogether; at least another 1 million people have only tenuous access. These numbers are rising rapidly. From among this vast and increasingly desperate population will come the hundreds of thousands of deaths that now seem inevitable in 2007. We have been warned, and warned yet again, and then yet more urgently warned yet another time---by the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jan Egeland; by current UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres; by humanitarian workers on the ground; and by senior officials of humanitarian organizations speaking confidentially, but urgently, about the disaster that looms. News reports and authoritative accounts of conditions on the ground in Darfur have been replete with both detail and general trends:

“The UN’s most recent figures of humanitarian access levels in Darfur show more than a third of Darfur is effectively out of bounds to aid agencies. Evacuations and new violence in December [2006] mean access levels are now even lower.” (Oxfam International press release, December 15, 2006; “Darfur: New violence threatens world’s largest aid response”)

This statement was made several days before the December 18, 2006 attack on humanitarian organizations serving Gereida (South Darfur), the largest concentration of displaced persons in all of Darfur, approximately 130,000 human beings (see above).

Humanitarian access is now so limited that Manuel Aranda da Silva, humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, reported that, “in November [2006] relief agencies had managed to reach only 62 percent of the 4 million or so people who needed food and other aid to survive.” (Reuters [dateline: Geneva], December 14, 2006). In other words, over 1.5 million people were not reached, and access declined substantially further in December.

A UNICEF “statement on Darfur” (December 13, 2006) reports:

“Over 70 per cent of the population is experiencing food insecurity, and the coverage of lifesaving interventions such as measles vaccination are still below the level required to prevent outbreaks. Six other localized nutrition surveys have highlighted areas of Darfur where more than one in five children under the age of five years are acutely malnourished.”

Children under five represent the most sensitive barometer of food insecurity: that 20% of children in the survey locations are “acutely malnourished” portends imminent large-scale mortality.


Continuing attacks on defenseless non-Arab or African villages are reported almost daily, even in the absence of international journalists and effective surveillance by the African Union monitoring force that remains the only security presence on the ground in Darfur. We may be sure that unreported violence is widespread, with readily surmised and horrific consequences for civilian populations. Particularly in South and West Darfur, there is little to prevent continuing Janjaweed predations of the most vicious sort.

Khartoum’s primary responsibility for sustained violence involving the Janjaweed militias has been repeatedly and authoritatively established for several years. Recently the African Union reported:

“In a confidential report presented to the Joint Ceasefire Commission, seen by Agence France-Presse, the commander of the [African Union mission in Darfur] peacekeeping force, Nigerian General Luke Aprezi, testified that the Janjaweed had recently increased their attacks. In the six-page report, the general states that ‘the re-emergence of the Janjaweed also negatively affected the security situation.’ The AU also assessed in its official statement that ‘the security situation in Darfur is fast deteriorating, mainly because of the re-emergence of the Janjaweed militias who seemed to have been re-supplied and rearmed.’” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Addis Ababa], December 15, 2006)

Despite these findings, the AU seems unable to confront Khartoum except in the form of vacuous exhortations:

“The African Union called on the Sudanese government to ‘immediately disarm’ the pro-government Arab Janjaweed militias in the war-torn Darfur region or face sanctions. After a meeting of the Joint Ceasefire Commission on Darfur in Addis Ababa, the deputy head of the peace mission, Monique Mukaruliza, said: ‘The participants recommended that disarmament of the Janjaweed be started immediately.’ ‘The disarmament depends on the political will of the Sudanese government,’ Mukaruliza explained. ‘The government of Sudan has the means to disarm them, it has weapons, but it is up to them to disarm them.’ She said the process of putting the militias’ weapons beyond use should already have started, according to the agreements already signed in Abuja.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Addis Ababa], December 15, 2006)

The conclusions of the AU echo those of a UN Panel of Experts assembled to track the Darfur crisis, and which reported this past September (2006):

“The [UN] Panel [of Experts] has credible information that the Government of the Sudan continues to support the Janjaweed through the provision of weapons and vehicles. The Janjaweed/armed militias appear to have upgraded their modus operandi from horses, camels and AK-47s to land cruisers, pickup trucks and rocket-propelled grenades. Reliable sources indicate that the Janjaweed continue to be subsumed into the Popular Defence Force in greater numbers than those indicated in the previous reports of the Panel. Their continued access to ammunition and weapons is evident in their ability to coordinate with the Sudanese armed forces in perpetrating attacks on villages and to engage in armed conflict with rebel groups.” (Report of the UN Panel of Experts, August 31, 2006, paragraph 76)

The hand-in-glove military relationship between Khartoum and the Janjaweed is perhaps most authoritatively established by Human Rights Watch in its December 2005 report (“Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur,” December 2005, at http://hrw.org/reports/2005/darfur1205/).

There simply can be no doubt whatsoever about the role of Khartoum in sustaining the Janjaweed in their ongoing campaign of ethnically-targeted atrocity crimes against civilians; the only question is whether these realities are of significance to the political powers at the UN and militarily capable Western countries.


Darfur represents the defining moment for what has been described by many as an “emerging international legal norm” of a “responsibility to protect civilians” whose governments refuse to provide them such protection. During the September (2005) UN World Summit, all member states declared in the Summit “outcome document” that they were,

"prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case by case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law." (UN World Summit “outcome document,” Paragraph 139)

UN Security Council Resolution 1674 (unanimously passed in April 2006) “reaffirms the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the World Summit Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

And yet by all accounts, the civilians in Darfur continue to be victims of precisely these crimes, with overwhelming responsibility---established beyond any reasonable doubt---belonging directly to the Khartoum regime and its proxy forces.

Some 500,000 Darfuris have died since the outbreak of major violence in February 2003, now almost four years ago (see my mortality analysis of April 29, 2006 at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article102.html). Hundreds of thousands of additional lives will almost certainly be lost in the coming months without the deployment of a very substantial international force to Darfur. Without intervention, genocidal destruction will continue before the eyes of the world, an unsurpassably grim spectacle of impotence and hideous human destruction. The evidence of a defining ethnic feature in the atrocity crimes committed as part of Khartoum’s counter-insurgency strategy has long been provided by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and others reporting from the ground in Darfur. Indeed, it was on the basis of such substantial evidence that this writer declared, three years ago:

“It is intolerable that the international community continues to allow what all evidence suggests is genocide. [ ] The present realities in Darfur must urgently be rendered for the world to see and understand---fully, honestly, and on the basis of much greater information than is presently available. In turn, these realities must guide a humanitarian effort that will not allow Khartoum’s claim of ‘national sovereignty’ to trump the desperate plight of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians caught up in a maelstrom of destruction and displacement. That no such efforts are presently being undertaken---[UN] Ambassador [Tom Eric] Vraalsen declared (December 8, 2003) that humanitarian operations in Darfur have ‘practically come to a standstill’---is of the gravest concern.”

“Indeed, the logic of the situation is so compelling that one can only surmise that the failure of the international community even to speak of the possibility of a humanitarian intervention in Darfur derives from some morally appalling failure of nerve, and an unwillingness to roil the diplomatic waters with a [north/south] peace agreement so close between Khartoum and the SPLM/A. But this latter concern represents exactly the wrong way to view both Darfur and its relation to the last major issue outstanding in the present peace negotiations between Khartoum and the south, viz. the status of the three contested areas of Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and Southern Blue Nile. For unless the international community shows its concern for the various marginalized peoples of Sudan, peace will be only very partial and ultimately unsustainable.” (December 30, 2003, from Africa InfoServe [Sudan publications of AfricaFiles.org]

“The responsibility to protect”---as embodied in Paragraph 139 of the UN World Summit “outcome document” (and re-affirmed with passage of UN Security Council in Resolution 1674)---was explicitly framed so as to supersede claims of national sovereignty such as the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum continues to assert. How is it, then, that the robust force authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006) has, four months later, devolved into a slow-motion deployment of a handful of UN personnel, who by themselves cannot begin to effect a significant change in the security dynamic in Darfur? How is it that the follow-on deployment of a large number of troops and civilian police has been allowed to be held hostage to a “Tripartite Commission” that includes not only the UN and the AU, but the Khartoum regime? How is it that the international community, in seeking to halt genocide in Darfur, has effectively granted veto-power to Khartoum’s génocidaires? By what conceivable logic can any observer surmise that the regime’s motives in sitting on such a commission will be any but obstructionist?

These questions can be answered if we ask about the events leading up to passage of Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006), and the subsequent failure of nerve that allowed the provisions of 1706 to be systematically stripped away in the face of Khartoum’s continuing obdurate defiance. We must look not only at the work and public assessments of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations prior to 1706, but the feckless abandonment of the force contemplated in the Resolution by Kofi Annan’s incompetent Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk. At the same time, the conspicuous lack of commitment by the militarily capable nations of the West (excluding Sweden and Norway) must also figure in the demise of 1706.

This demise was fully confirmed at a “High Level Consultation on the Situation in Darfur,” convened by the UN and the African Union (November 16, 2006, African Union headquarters, Addis Ababa). Subsequently, the African Union Peace and Security Council (Abuja, November 30, 2006) endorsed the “Conclusions” document produced in Addis.

Although subject to frequent misreporting, the Addis document was not an “agreement.” This serious misrepresentation was certainly encouraged by disingenuous statements on the part of the UN Secretariat, as well as the US State Department. But the AU for its part, as a key player in what was occurring in Darfur, did nothing to make publicly clear that the organization itself was well aware that no “agreement” had been secured. Given this quiet disingenuousness, it was all too predictable that AU endorsement of the Addis document---which did not commit Khartoum to a specific force level, to UN command, or to the deployment in Darfur of non-AU forces---would lead to ambiguities. These ambiguities, partly a function of Kofi Annan’s own dissembling ways, proved thoroughly intractable. The Secretary General spent the last month of his tenure in office trying to bring Khartoum to agree, clearly and specifically, to a credible UN plan for security to the Darfur region. His efforts were in vain.


Instead, the last word goes to NIF President Omar al-Bashir, in a letter to Annan dated December 23, 2006. It is a letter remarkable for its vagueness, given that its occasion was Annan’s request that Khartoum resolve outstanding ambiguities on various key issues in deploying what the Secretary-General had tried to describe as a UN/AU “hybrid force,” but which the National Islamic Front leadership insisted was a “hybrid operation.” The distinction here is crucial. For of course what constitutes a “hybrid operation” is much more variable than what constitutes a “hybrid force.” But it was the phrase “hybrid operation” that Khartoum insisted be included in the November 16, 2006 Addis Ababa “Conclusions” document; and it is to this phrase that all spokesmen for the regime continue to cleave. Only with such ambiguity in play, effectively endorsed by the AU in Abuja, can we understand al-Bashir’s statement to Annan:

“Your letter, as well as our telephone conversation, confirm that we have been of the same mind that the conclusions of the 16th November [2006] High-Level Meeting in Addis Ababa and the 30th November [2006] AU Peace and Security Council Communiqué in Abuja constitute a viable framework for peaceful settlement to the conflict in Darfur.”

Al-Bashir goes on to note the UN Security Council Presidential statement (December 18, 2006), which Khartoum had explicitly requested of December’s Security Council President (and Arab League member) Qatar:

“Our common understanding has been confirmed by the Security Council Presidential Statement (Rev. 5) on 18th December 2006 which endorsed the Addis Ababa Conclusions and Abuja Communiqué.”

This is the preamble to al-Bashir’s most significant language in the letter:

“Within the context of the above, I would like to reaffirm the readiness of the Government of Sudan to start immediately, through the Tripartite Committee, the implementation of the Addis Ababa Conclusions and the Abuja Communiqué.”

As many have already remarked, Khartoum’s participation in the “Tripartite Committee” would effectively confer veto-power on the very regime responsible for genocidal destruction in Darfur. Those reaching this conclusion include UN officials, according to Reuters:

“UN diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, welcomed [the opening statement in al-Bashir’s letter], which they said appeared to provide a legal basis for UN troops in Darfur. But they expressed concern about Bashir’s statement that deployment of the hybrid force [sic] would be carried out through the Tripartite Committee, a body on which Sudan served alongside the United Nations and the AU. UN officials have in the past warned that empowering the Tripartite Committee in this way appeared to give the Khartoum government veto power over AU-UN moves.” (Reuters [dateline: UN/New York], December 26, 2006)

Understandably, Kofi Annan sought to downplay such concerns, declaring that,

“the size of the hybrid force [sic] should be determined by an on-the-ground assessment undertaken jointly by the AU and the UN. ‘It’s not a political issue; it’s a technical determination,’ [Annan] said.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], December 27, 2006)

But this is profoundly wrong: security issues in Darfur are for the Khartoum regime the ultimate determinants of political survival. Nothing could be clearer than that this ruthless cabal of génocidaires is determined to retain its stranglehold on national power and wealth by any means possible. Fundamental in this bid for survival is completing the process of genocidal destruction in Darfur, even if this entails massive human destruction through slow starvation and increasing disease among Darfur’s badly weakened rural populations. Khartoum is also quite prepared to see this destruction eventually visited upon camps for displaced persons, more and more of which are beyond humanitarian access, even as they are increasingly subject to assault by Janjaweed militia forces.

Again, in understanding how efficiently Khartoum has calculated its policy of ethnically-targeted human extinction in Darfur, it is important to recall that the phrase “hybrid force” used by the Reuters correspondent appears nowhere in the text of al-Bashir’s letter, nor in the Addis Ababa “Conclusions” document to which al-Bashir refers. It is the phrase “hybrid operation” that al-Bashir insistently uses, as does the Addis “Conclusions” document. It is this phrase that also twice appears in the Communiqué issued by African Union Peace and Security Council Meeting (66th meeting, Abuja, Nigeria, November 30, 2006); and the phrase also appears prominently in the UN Security Council Presidential Statement that Khartoum successfully sought from its Arab League ally and Security Council President for December 2006, Qatar:

“...and a hybrid operation in Darfur....” (S/PRST/2006/55, December 19, 2006)

Also of note in this Presidential Statement from Qatar is an additional verbal sleight-of-hand, one that has gone unchecked by other members of the UN Security Council: the Statement uses the phrase “per the Addis Ababa and Abuja Agreements.” But the Addis Ababa “Conclusions” document is not an “agreement,” contains no firm commitments on critical issues, and bears no signatures. In fact, the word “agreement” appears nowhere in the Addis Ababa “Conclusions” document; nor does the AU Communiqué of November 30, 2006 refer to any such “agreement.”

Revealingly, there was no objection to this fundamental change in a key phrase from the US or other Western powers that understand quite well the significant difference between an “agreement” and a “Conclusions” document that speaks primarily in terms of “general principles,” “concerns,” and “proposals.”

How, in particular, has Khartoum made particular use of the distinction between a “hybrid force” (which would entail UN troops and civilian police) and a “hybrid operation” (which might include only UN resources)? Here we should recall the first words from the National Islamic Front foreign ministry on the occasion of Annan’s envoy arriving in Khartoum to receive from al-Bashir his letter to the Secretary-General:

“[Foreign Ministry spokesman Sadeq] Al-Magli said his government accepted [the third] phase [of deployment] but insisted the number of troops would be negotiated by the force commander and delegates from the UN, the AU, and Sudan.” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], December 22, 2006)

The Foreign Ministry spokesman went on to say:

“[Foreign Ministry spokesman] Sadeq al-Magli didn’t specify Friday how many troops would be accepted, but said the UN would mainly provide technical assistance, consultants and military and police experts. He added that the force would be commanded by the African Union.” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], December 22, 2006)

This echoed comments that had been coming from senior officials of the Khartoum regime for over a month, including from al-Bashir on the occasion of the Abuja meeting (November 30, 2006) of the AU Peace and Security Council:

“Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, speaking after a closed-door AU summit, rebuffed African leaders advocating a compromise proposal for an expanded peacekeeping mission that would include blue-helmeted UN soldiers in Darfur. ‘We can take technical, advisory and financial support from the UN, but no UN force,’ al-Bashir said. ‘We want an Africa force.’” (Associated Press [dateline: Abuja, Nigeria], December 1, 2006)

“Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said he would accept UN ‘political, financial, logistics and technical’ support for an African peace force in Darfur. Asked what kind of support he would like, he replied: ‘Political, financial, logistics and technical.... Not the command but advising the command.’” (Reuters [dateline: Abuja, Nigeria], November 30, 2006)

All that has happened in recent days is that this rejection has been rhetorically “re-packaged” in a way that provides political cover for those nations at the UN who never had any intention of providing the resources called for in Resolution 1706. And if we were in any doubt about the official line, al-Bashir’s canny ambiguities in his letter to Annan are bluntly eliminated by statements coming from Khartoum’s Foreign Ministry as well as from the regime’s Ambassador to the UN:

“Government officials [in Khartoum] spoke instead of a heavier support package to the AU from the United Nations, denying there had been agreement on a joint force. ‘We have agreed on three phases of support from the United Nations to the African Union...financial, technical and personnel,’ foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig told a news conference in Khartoum. Asked if there was agreement on a joint force, three government ministers at the news conference said: ‘No.’” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], December 27, 2006)

The same emphatic rejection was declared at the UN in New York:

“Sudan [UN] Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem told reporters on Wednesday [December 27, 2006] evening that the hybrid force must be smaller and have no UN peacekeepers, only UN technical and logistical experts supporting African troops. ‘The force is African, the leader is an African,’ he said. ‘There is support and logistical support staff by the UN, wearing their own helmets, but they are not going to engage in peacekeeping activities.’” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], December 28, 2006)

“Ambassador Abdalhaleem flatly said Sudan would not accept UN peacekeepers. ‘There is no blue helmet peacekeepers in Darfur. There is support, logistical support staff by the United Nations, wearing their own helmets. But they are not going to engage in peacekeeping activities.’”

“He said Sudan envisions a hybrid force as being staffed by African Union troops under African command, with UN personnel involved only in logistical and technical duties, not peacekeeping. ‘It is not a joint force. Let there be no confusion about it. We are not talking about any joint force by the United Nations and the African Union,’ he said.” (Voice of America [dateline: UN/New York], December 28, 2006)


Such a bald rejection will be surprising only to those who have not been listening to fully explicit statements by the National Islamic Front for months now. Indeed, here we should recall a previous letter from President al-Bashir to Kofi Annan, of last August 2nd, outlining a massive deployment of military and security forces. At the time, the actual scale of Khartoum’s proposed deployment was consistently misreported by news agencies. But the force proposed was immense: 26,500 troops and military elements from the Sudan Liberation Army (Minni Minawi faction). This was reported to the Security Council by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi on August 17, 2006. Khartoum’s “security plan” made clear it had no intention of allowing in UN forces without strenuous diplomatic pressure, pressure that never materialized, despite the posturing and hand-wringing in various international quarters. Annabi declared unambiguously:

“[The Government of Sudan] plan does not indicate a willingness on the part of the Government of Sudan to agree to a transition to a United Nations operation in Darfur. In addition, the plan seeks to address the security situation outside the framework of the relevant Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) bodies. In particular, it envisages the combined deployment of 26,500 additional Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM)/Minni Minawi troops to Darfur by the end of the year. As members of this Council will appreciate, this would not only be inconsistent with the DPA’s restriction on military deployments outside of agreed areas of control, but would also violate the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council in paragraph 7 of resolution 1591 (2005).” (Report to the UN Security Council by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi on August 17, 2006, Paragraph 8)

The force outlined here comprised the primary elements of the massive military offensive launched by Khartoum in North Darfur at the end of August 2006, and which continues fitfully even now, despite punishing losses at the hands of the increasingly unified National Redemption Front, a coalition of non-signatory rebel groups. Indeed, Ambassador Abadalhaleem gives recent indication of even more troop deployments by Khartoum, even if not entirely consistent with the August 2, 2006 plan outlined to Annan by al-Bashir:

“[Khartoum’s ambassador] Abdalhaleem said that under the Darfur Peace Agreement the government and one rebel group signed in May, a 20,000-strong force from the government and former rebels will be created. That force plus 7,000 troops from the AU will provide ‘an overwhelming number’ that can ensure security, he said.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York], December 28, 2006)

Reuters notes a further comment by Ambassador Abdalhaleem:

“[Abdalhaleem] said that Khartoum saw no need for thousands of extra troops since its own army and the 7,000 African Union soldiers provided enough security in Darfur.” (Reuters [dateline: UN/New York], December 28, 2006)

This is the language of a preemptive deployment by Khartoum, and is consistent with statements last month by President al-Bashir that perhaps only another couple of battalions might be needed in Darfur (between 1,000 and 1,500 troops). Clearly the ground is being laid for a further refusal of UN or even a substantial number of AU troops into Darfur; Khartoum will simply claim to have deployed sufficient forces itself. Indeed, we catch a clear hint of this method of forestalling meaningful deployment of international forces in al-Bashir’s more recent (December 23, 2006) letter to Annan, in which he declares:

“It is also worth mentioning that 90% of crimes and looting in Darfur is committed by loose banditry groups. As a legitimate authority with responsibility to protect the civilian population and maintain law and order in the country, it is only natural that the Government [of Sudan] undertakes the appropriate measures to contain the situation.”

If “90%” of the security crisis in Darfur can be chalked up to banditry, then it becomes logical to insist that the size of any UN-assisted AU force be adequate only for the remaining “10%” of the security crisis. In a grotesque irony, al-Bashir is using the language of “protection of the civilian population” as a means of forestalling deployment of the international force that might actually provide such protection. That none of this is highlighted by members of the UN Security Council is hardly surprising, given the ease with which Khartoum has reneged on previous commitments and ignored earlier UN demands. On July 3, 2004---for the first of many times---the National Islamic Front regime committed to disarming the Janjaweed, this in a Joint Communiqué signed by both Khartoum and Kofi Annan. Later that month, in Resolution 1556 (July 30, 2004), the Security Council “demanded” that Khartoum disarm the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice.

Neither the “demand” nor the “commitments” have meant anything. Seeing such lack of determination, such purely hortatory behavior, Khartoum inevitably draws the appropriate conclusion: there is no international “responsibility to protect” civilians except in the convenience of irrelevant and self-congratulatory documents.


What is being described as the “third,” or “heavy,” phase of the deployment to Darfur is based on UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which specifies 17,300 UN troops, 3,300 civilian police and 16 Formed Police Units (perhaps another 2,000 reinforcement personnel). This force is closely based on a July 2006 UN peacekeeping assessment of the personnel and resources required in Darfur in the context of security conditions that prevailed at the time. In the intervening half year, security has deteriorated markedly, and force requirements---particularly in responding to the crisis in Chad---are significantly greater.

Notably, UN deployment of the force specified in Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006) was to have been “rapid”; moreover, its mandate was comprehensive and clearly specified:

“Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, [the Security Council] (a) decides that UN Mission in Sudan is authorised to use all necessary means, in the areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities:

*to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, to ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel, humanitarian workers, assessment and evaluation commission personnel, to prevent disruption of the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement by armed groups, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan, to protect civilians under threat of physical violence,

*in order to support early and effective implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, to prevent attacks and threats against civilians,

*to seize or collect, as appropriate, arms or related material whose presence in Darfur is in violation of the Agreements and the measures imposed by paragraphs 7 and 8 of [UN Security Council] Resolution 1556, and to dispose of such arms and related material as appropriate” (Paragraph 12)

The Resolution also spoke directly to other key security issues:

“To assist in addressing regional security issues in close liaison with international efforts to improve the security situation in the neighbouring regions along the borders between the Sudan and Chad and between the Sudan and the Central African Republic, including through the establishment of a multi-dimensional presence consisting of political, humanitarian, military and civilian police liaison officers in key locations in Chad, including in internally displaced persons and refugee camps, and if necessary, in the Central African Republic, and to contribute to the implementation of the Agreement between the Sudan and Chad signed on 26 July 2006” (Paragraph 9 [d])

“To maintain, in particular, a presence in key areas, such as buffer zones established pursuant to the Darfur Peace Agreement, areas inside internally displaced persons camps and demilitarised zones around and inside internally displaced persons camps, in order to promote the re-establishment of confidence, to discourage violence, in particular by deterring use of force” (Paragraph 8 [d])

To examine the detailed and explicit language of Resolution 1706 is so see just how disgracefully compromised current language and actions are. Indeed, the November 16, 2006 Addis “Conclusions” document has nothing remotely comparable to language concerning mandate, merely a couple of brief and vague sentences that constitute the entire section B, “The Mission of the peacekeeping force”:

“[The force] should be capable of contributing to the restoration of security and protection of civilians in Darfur through the implementation of the security aspects of the Darfur Peace Agreement. It should also ensure full humanitarian access.” (Paragraph 29)

But not only does Khartoum itself continue to impede, threaten, and harass humanitarian operations---in a wide range of ways consistently reported by humanitarian actors on the ground; additionally, the violence the regime persists in orchestrating is the primary obstacle to creation of the security needed by humanitarians (although rebel groups certainly continue to bear a large share of blame). There is finally nothing but vague and meaningless exhortation in language declaring that a force in Darfur “should also ensure full humanitarian access.”

Notably, Khartoum insisted that security in Darfur be defined in terms of the disastrous Darfur Peace Agreement of May 5, 2006 (Abuja)---and it is not hard to see why this is so, or why one of the very earliest “conclusions” in the Addis document is the blunt declaration that:

“The Darfur Peace agreement is the only basis for [a political process to resolve the conflict in Darfur] and should not be re-negotiated.” (Paragraph 2)

The phrase “Darfur Peace Agreement” (DPA) appears ten times in this brief document, a clear reflection of Khartoum’s insistence that the security and other protocols of the DPA govern not just any future political process, but current efforts to address the crisis on the ground. For the most fundamental feature of the DPA is that the only guarantor envisioned for the various security agreements is the African Union---already overwhelmed on the ground, and failing in ever more conspicuous fashion. The DPA stipulated a number of new tasks and mandates for the AU, as well as formation of a welter of commissions and committees. The DPA also set a time-line for creation of buffer zones, demilitarization, and most critically, disarmament of the Janjaweed.

But none of this has any value unless the security provisions are implemented, and as Khartoum’s re-mobilizing and re-arming of the Janjaweed reveals, it has no intention of abiding by the various terms of the DPA. By insisting that a hopelessly inadequate “agreement” serve as the “only basis” for a Darfur peace process, Khartoum ensures that such a process cannot be “re-energized,” as the Addis “Conclusions” document would have it.


Certainly Khartoum is taking no chances that it will be forced to accept either a peace process or even a cease-fire that does not come on its own vicious terms. A recent statement from the African Union speaks volumes about Khartoum’s intentions in Darfur (here by way of an Associated Press dispatch [dateline: Khartoum], December 31, 2006):

“Sudanese forces bombed two rebel locations in Darfur just days after the head of the African Union’s peacekeeping force visited the area to urge the rebels to join a cease-fire agreement, the AU said yesterday [December 30, 2006]. A Sudanese government aircraft on Friday [December 29, 2006] bombed Anka and Um Rai in North Darfur province where Gen. Luke Aprezi had met on Wednesday [December 27, 2006] with rebels, an AU statement said. ‘When a bombing is made after I have visited an area, my credibility is involved,’ Aprezi told The Associated Press by telephone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. ‘To that group, I don’t have any credibility anymore.’”

This, of course, was precisely Khartoum’s goal in bombing the site of negotiations between non-signatory rebel groups and the AU (the bombing also represented a calculated attempt to kill some of the rebel negotiators). Khartoum wishes for neither a re-negotiation of the failed Darfur Peace Agreement, nor a working cease-fire with the potent rebel military forces that are presently concentrated in North Darfur:

“The incident jeopardizes efforts to bring additional groups into the cease-fire that a single rebel faction and the government signed in May 2006, the AU said. [ ] The AU obtained consent from Sudanese officials in Darfur and the capital ahead of meeting the rebels, it said in the statement. It called Friday’s [December 29, 2006] attack ‘a seriously disturbing development.’”

Indeed, as the African Union itself declared in a Statement by the Chairman of the Ceasefire Commission (Khartoum, December 30, 2006):

“[The localities that were attacked] are the places where [Major General Luke Aprezi, Chairman of the Ceasefire Commission] held a meeting with the SLA/National Redemption Front Commanders on Wednesday [December 27, 2006] and obtained their commitment to a Ceasefire.”

“This attack by the Government of Sudan is a seriously disturbing development, especially given that the Government of Sudan Representatives at the level of Darfur and Khartoum gave their consent to this meeting, and assured [the African Union mission] Leadership not to attack unless attacked. It also has the potential to derail the current efforts to broaden the support base for the Darfur Peace Agreement process and make it more inclusive.”

These specifically targeted bombing attacks could not have been ordered except at the highest levels of political and military leadership in Khartoum. The National Islamic Front regime is not interested in peace in Darfur; it is interested only in what will contribute to its survival in Khartoum. If actions that deliberately sabotage the prospects for a cease-fire are required, then the regime is more than willing. If the orchestration of insecurity is necessary to strangle humanitarian access and capacity, then so be it, the regime has callously decided. If acts of harassment, intimidation, and obstruction will contribute, then these, too, become weapons in the genocidal arsenal.

Despite manifest bad faith on Khartoum’s part; despite the regime’s willingness to sustain “genocide by attrition” as a means of retaining political power; despite the abysmal record of non-compliance with UN demands and agreements secured, the National Islamic Front security cabal continues to be treated as a legitimate and acceptable interlocutor in negotiations concerning the fate of Darfur’s people. Assured of such expedient and cowardly deference, the NIF has no incentive to change its ways.

2007 gives all signs of being the most destructive year to date in the Darfur genocide.

* 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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