Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 15 January 2008

Khartoum’s Military Forces Deliberately Attack a UNAMID Convoy


UN Security Council offers criticism, but does nothing to halt the
regime’s ongoing war of attrition against this failing UN-authorized
protection force

By Eric Reeves

January 14, 2008 — At approximately 10pm on January 7, 2008 Khartoum’s regular Sudan Armed
Forces (SAF) attacked, deliberately and with premeditation, a convoy
belonging to the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The
convoy, comprising more than 20 cargo trucks and armored personnel
carriers (APC’s), came under heavy, sustained fire near Tine, West
Darfur. One truck was destroyed, an APC was damaged, and a driver was
critically wounded with numerous bullet wounds. The SAF assault on the
convoy lasted 10-12 minutes, during which time UNAMID military personnel
did not return fire. The motive for the attack, certainly ordered by
senior SAF military commanders, was to inhibit the movement of UNAMID
ground and air forces during night hours. In other words, the attack
was meant to serve warning that UNAMID would be restricted in the same
ways that the impotent African Union mission in Darfur (AMIS) was
restricted from the time of its initial deployment in 2004.

Evidence that the SAF attack was deliberate and premeditated is
overwhelming, a conclusion shared by the head of UN peacekeeping,
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and many others within the UN, and the Department
of Peacekeeping Operations in particular. In his Wednesday (January 9,
2007) briefing of the UN Security Council, Guéhenno offered a number of
compelling details, details amplified in confidential interviews
conducted by this writer. The most basic facts of the attack and its
circumstances make unambiguously clear that Khartoum has lied at every
step of the way in its account of events over the past week, including
initially denying that its forces were in any way involved in the attack
on the UNAMID convoy:

[1] The transport trucks and APCs were painted in UN white, with clear
UN markings on the vehicles. Even at night it is impossible to mistake
UN white for the camouflage green used by rebels, who do not travel with
either the configuration or the makeup of the UNAMID convoy. Rebel
groups typically move using 4x4 Landcruisers and pick-up trucks, and at
high speed. The UNAMID convoy, with heavy transport vehicles and APCs,
was moving very slowly to allow the APCs to pick their way in the dark.
There was simply no ambiguity as to the identity of the convoy

[2] Critically, UNAMID had carefully notified all relevant SAF
commanders, including the general at the base near Tine (West Darfur)
where the attack occurred (the convoy was on its way from Umm Baru to
Tine). Redundant notification of the SAF by the UN was designed to
forestall precisely any misunderstanding about the nature, location, and
timing of this convoy mission, one of UNAMID’s very first.

[3] The convoy did not return fire during the entire 10-12 minute
assault by SAF forces, an extraordinary and revealing act of restraint
given the length of time the firing continued. Moreover, the commanding
SAF officer who accepted responsibility for the attack (responsibility
initially denied by senior officials in Khartoum and the regime’s
ambassador to the UN) had the rank of general: in other words, he was no
junior or inexperienced officer, and would not have ordered the attack
on his own authority---nor would he have countenanced such an attack by
young or frightened soldiers. Senior SAF military officials ordered the
attack, even if the specifics of duration and degree of firepower were
left discretionary (both automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades
were used).

In the absence of a seized cable or other intercepted communication,
there can of course be no definitive proof that Khartoum ordered what
has all the hallmarks of a deliberate and premeditated attack. But the
likelihood that this was an independent military action, given the
political and diplomatic stakes, is vanishingly small. This is
certainly the conclusion of Jean-Marie Guéhenno and other informed
officials at the UN in New York. UN career officers understand full
well that Khartoum is engaged in a relentless war of obstruction in
opposing the effective deployment of UNAMID, and equally well understand
that this convoy attack is part of the regime’s larger campaign.

Khartoum’s goals in ordering the attack can be readily discerned by
noting the issues that remain outstanding in the deployment of UNAMID:

[1] The regime refuses to grant night flight rights to UNAMID except
for medevac purposes. But as UN and African Union peacekeeping officials
continually emphasize, the mandate to protect civilians and
humanitarians does not and cannot be allowed to end at sunset. Khartoum
was able to impose curfews, flight restrictions, onerous aircraft
re-certification requirements, and a host of other crippling measures on
AMIS. These extended to the brazen commandeering of AMIS aviation fuel
supplies for use by Khartoum’s helicopter gunships in attacks on
civilians. The attack on the convoy near Tine was a way of signaling
that UNAMID will face the clear prospect of attack, harassment, and
obstruction if it persists in traveling at night. Again, with precisely
this threat in mind, UNAMID authorities provided redundant notifications
of the convoy movement, including to the commander of the SAF base that
was responsible for the actual attack and to el-Fasher, headquarters for
the SAF in Darfur. Khartoum officials deny that such notification was
made; they are lying.

[2] The regime refuses to grant landing rights to heavy transport
aircraft, the sort that can move large quantities of logistical
supplies, as well as heavy vehicles. Initially Khartoum insisted that
the runways at el-Fasher and Nyala---the two key destinations---could
not handle such heavy aircraft. This is patently false. Subsequently
the regime insisted that aircraft could not land at night because of a
lack of lights---an easily remedied engineering problem. Currently
there is no cogent explanation offered for the refusal to grant landing
rights to heavy transport aircraft, a state of affairs that defines
negotiations between the UN and Khartoum over most outstanding issues.

[3] Khartoum also refuses to allow for the deployment of
helicopters---or the construction of critically necessary maintenance
hangars---until UNAMID completes an upgrading of the runways at
el-Fasher and Nyala. Although there are no helicopters to deploy, and
none in prospect---a disgraceful betrayal of Darfur by militarily
capable UN member states---there is no way that they would be allowed to
deploy under current circumstances. Nor is there any evidence that
Khartoum is closer to yielding on these key issues. This is likely to
delay for an extended period of time deployment of any helicopters that
may be committed to UNAMID, since the construction of maintenance
hangars is required before deployment. Of the importance of helicopters
in Darfur, particularly in the face of attack by combatants,
Undersecretary Guéhenno declared at his Wednesday briefing of the
Security Council:

"‘If we had had helicopters capable of flying at night and quickly
reinforcing a convoy under attack, of course we would have been in a
position to deter, probably the attack [near Tine] would never have
occurred,’ Guehenno said.” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: UN/New
York], January 9, 2008)

The most basic fact about Khartoum’s obstruction of UNAMID is that it
reflects a clear political decision, and cannot possibly be construed as
disagreement over “technical issues,” no matter how widely this
rubric is stretched. This fundamental reality was belatedly but
explicitly acknowledged by the British ambassador to the UN this past
Wednesday after the Security Council briefing by Guéhenno (Deutsche
Presse Agentur [dateline: UN/New York], January 9, 2008).

[4] On the eve of the turnover of authority from the African Union
mission in Darfur to UNAMID, Khartoum again raised the issue of whether
UNAMID forces would wear the distinctive blue helmets and berets of the
UN---or the green of the African Union. Although this issue had been
raised and apparently resolved months ago---the UN Department of
Peacekeeping Operations was adamant about this mission wearing UN blue
helmets/berets and insignia---Khartoum chose to raise the issue again at
the last possible moment. The issue remains outstanding, another key
sign that the regime has made the fundamental political decision to
refuse UN authority, insisting instead that the mission is still
essentially an African Union effort.

This in turn explains why there is still no progress on securing from
Khartoum final acceptance of a roster of troop-contributing countries.
Khartoum remains insistent that these countries all be African, with the
exception of close allies China and Pakistan. Khartoum has formally
rejected contributions from Sweden and Norway, which have now withdrawn
their offer to deploy a highly sophisticated military engineering
battalion, urgently needed for a range of challenging tasks in the
difficult terrain of Darfur:

“Sweden and Norway said on Wednesday they had withdrawn a plan to
send about 400 troops to Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region because of
opposition from the Sudanese government. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl
Bildt and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a joint
statement that their countries were being prevented from contributing to
an effort to create safety. ‘Sudan must bear the full responsibility
which has now arisen,’ the statement said. A Swedish Foreign Ministry
official said both countries regretted the Sudanese position. ‘We’ve
been preparing this for a long time,’ the official said. ‘We regret
this.’” (Reuters [dateline: Stockholm], January 9, 2008)

Two Nepalese first-response units have also been refused by Khartoum:
these are the forces whose task it is to respond when UNAMID military
elements face superior forces or threats to their operations. Had the
Nepalese forces been deployed in late September, the deadly attack on
African Union forces at Haskanita in North Darfur could have been
repulsed and lives saved. As the January 7 attack on the UNAMID convoy
again demonstrates, the Nepalese forces (units of which have performed
well in the Democratic Republic of Congo) are an essential part of the
overall plan for UNAMID deployment.

The UNAMID operation entails far more than simply depositing the
authorized 20,000 troops and 6,000 civilian police in Darfur; a clear
sequencing of forces, resources, and abilities required. Well aware of
this sequencing requirement, Khartoum has refused to accept a final
roster of troop- and police-contributing countries in an effort to deal
a potentially crippling blow to the mission.

[5] Khartoum has refused to enter into a Status of Forces Agreement
(SOFA) with the UN and African Union. This is the agreement that is
supposed to govern the mutual understanding between Khartoum and the
UN/African Union about the mandate, actions, and prerogatives of UNAMID.
Well-placed UN officials indicate that the issues holding up conclusion
of a SOFA are various and continually changing: Khartoum will relent in
one area, only to raise a new issue in another area. There is a
continuous and debilitating changing of the terms of negotiations; the
continual switching, shuffling, and disingenuousness on the part of the
regime is clearly designed to forestall completion of the SOFA for as
long as possible.

As a result, issues such as night flights, night movement of resources
and personnel, land rights for bases (an acute problem in West Darfur),
adequate access at Port Sudan---all remain unresolved. Khartoum has
also demanded that it be notified of all UNAMID movements and actions
beforehand, and that UNAMID accept Khartoum’s right to suspend all
communications within UNAMID while the regime is conducting military
operations. These conditions are completely unacceptable to the UN.
The overall effect is to create a crisis that was outlined in the direst
possible terms by Undersecretary Guéhenno:

“The top United Nations peacekeeping official today [January 9, 2008]
warned the Security Council that the new, critically under-manned and
under-equipped mission in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region faced
‘probably the greatest risk’ to a UN operation in more than a
decade. [ ] ‘Today we have the convergence of three factors which put
UNAMID at great risk, probably the greatest risk since the 1990s,’ he
said after briefing the Council, citing the ongoing war in Darfur, the
lack of a clear signal from the parties that they want a robust mission,
and the mission’s own ‘tragic’ lack of essential resources.
Under-manned UN missions in the 1990s were unable to prevent the Rwandan
genocide of 1994 and the massacre of Bosnian Moslems in Srebrenica in
1995.” [ ]

“‘Five months after the adoption of Resolution 1769 (setting up
UNAMID), we do not yet have guarantee or agreements from the Government
[of Sudan] on the basic technical issues,’ [Guéhenno said]. ‘And
finally, the mission itself will not have the personnel or assets in
place to implement its mandate for many months even in the best case
scenario,’ he added, noting that no offers for essential
transportation and aviation assets had been made, including 24

“‘When you combine those factors you see that you have the
possibility of failure unless the political situation is rectified,
unless the war situation is ended and a strategic choice is made by all
the parties that is not by military action that peace will be brought to
Darfur but by negotiation, and unless there is a decisive reinforcement
of the mission,’ he told journalists after the Council session.”
(UN News Center [dateline: UN/New York], January 9, 2008)


Despite Khartoum’s military attack on the UNAMID convoy, the UN
Security Council has continued in its ineffectual ways, either
indifferent to or insufficiently concerned by the consequences of
UNAMID’s potential failure. In a non-binding statement concerning
Khartoum’s military attack on an authorized peace support operation,
Security Council members could not agree to speak even the truth clearly
in evidence. The statement “dropped an earlier reference to the
attack having targeted ‘a clearly marked UNAMID’ convoy” (Agence
France-Presse [dateline: UN/New York], January 11, 2008). But of course
the convoy was “clearly marked,” and notification had been provided
redundantly to Khartoum’s armed forces. The Security Council weakened
its statement yet further, according to the Associated Press:

“According to [US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay] Khalilzad and other
diplomats, [Khartoum’s UN ambassador Abdelmahmood Abdalhaleem] had
tried unsuccessfully to remove a reference to the attack having been
carried out by Sudanese armed forces. The council finally agreed to
include in its statement qualifying language that the attack was carried
out ‘by elements of the Sudanese armed forces, as confirmed by the
United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur.’” (Associated Press
[dateline: UN/New York), January 11, 2008)

But such vague language---referring only to “elements of the Sudanese
armed forces”---works to exonerate those who in fact ordered the
attacks. As the absurdly and shamelessly mendacious Abdelmahmood
Abdalhaleem declared gleefully:

“‘We don’t think that there is condemnation against our government.
The text itself is speaking about “elements”---“elements” can
mean anything.’” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York), January
11, 2008)

All too true, and the unwillingness to assign responsibility where it
belongs continues a pattern of deference and dishonesty on the part of
the Security Council. The same Security Council that authorized UNAMID
has now adopted a conciliatory statement concerning those who
deliberately and with premeditation attacked a UNAMID convoy.

This also is the same Security Council that in a March 2005 resolution
(1593) referred massive “crimes against humanity” in Darfur to the
International Criminal Court (ICC), but now refuses to offer even
rhetorical support to lead ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in his
efforts to compel Khartoum to cooperate with international justice
efforts. Of course central to this shameful acquiescence is China’s
perpetually wielded threat of a Security Council veto (see a full and
excellent analysis [January 11, 2008] by Katy Glassborow of the
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, at

Nothing does as much to explain Khartoum’s posture of defiance and
its relentless obstructionism than the monumental failure of the
Security Council to show a willingness to impose any sanctions measure
on the regime, no matter how outrageously it flouts Security Council
resolutions and demands. Confident that China will veto any sanctions
or punitive measure, Khartoum has yet to suffer any consequences for its
continued obstruction of both UNAMID and ICC investigations of atrocity
crimes in Darfur---even as the Security Council authorized both.

The context for understanding the consequences of this deep hypocrisy
on the part of the Security Council includes a security environment in
Darfur that, almost inconceivably, continues to deteriorate. In his
Wednesday briefing of the Security Council, Guéhenno declared that
“there has been ‘a grave deterioration of the security
situation’ [in Darfur] since his last briefing to the council a
month ago [December 2007]” (Associated Press [dateline: UN/New York],
January 9, 2008). Secretary Ban Ki-moon has also spoken recently of
“‘the ongoing deteriorating situation in Darfur’” (Reuters
[dateline: UN/New York], January 7, 2008).

The continuing deterioration in security and the obstruction of UNAMID
threatens millions of Darfuris as well as the humanitarian operations
upon which so many of these people depend. And yet the Security Council
continues to accept Khartoum’s refusal to renew the “Moratorium”
on restrictions governing nongovernmental humanitarian workers in
Darfur. In just over two weeks (January 31, 2008) the Moratorium
expires, and Khartoum will be able to resume fully its campaign of
delaying visas, travel permits, and other documents required for work in
Darfur. The campaign of harassment never ceased, but a failure to
secure renewal of the Moratorium ensures a bureaucratic chaos that will
bring humanitarian operations in Darfur to a grinding halt. Although
this issue has been brought forcefully to the attention of Security
Council members, there is as yet no indication that the grave
consequences of a lapse in the “Moratorium” have been appreciated.

Humanitarian indicators continue to show alarming developments, and one
major relief organization has recently recorded significant increases in
the Global Acute Malnutrition rates for children under five, the most
sensitive barometer of overall human health and nutrition. Another aid
worker was killed in Fur Buranga two weeks ago, and morale continues to
plummet among these courageous workers who have been betrayed by
Security Council cowardice and callousness. China in particular
continues to distinguish itself by its adamant refusal to characterize
Darfur’s realities honestly---and by offering unflinching support to
the Khartoum regime within the Security Council.

Liu Guijin, Beijing’s public relations appointment for the Darfur
crisis, continues to weigh in with a series of shamefully disingenuous
representations. Most recently,

“Liu denied that Beijing was complicit in allowing atrocities that
have included razed villages and rapes. ‘China’s government has never
supported a massacre of Sudanese citizens by their government. Of
course, we acknowledge that because of conflict and war and because of
reasons related to both the government and rebels, there has been
unnecessary deaths and a humanitarian crisis.’” (Associated Press
[dateline: Beijing], January 10, 2008)

Characteristically, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians
from Khartoum-orchestrated violence, disease, and malnutrition have been
reduced to vague and indeterminate “unnecessary deaths.” Moreover,
China’s vast provision of weapons and weapons technology over more
than a decade has indeed given Khartoum the military power to conduct
“massacres.” Chinese military trucks, for example, have been
implicated by Amnesty International in some of Darfur’s worst ethnic
massacres, including the infamous slaughter of Fur men and boys at Wadi
Saleh, West Darfur. Chinese weapons continue to be transported into
Darfur by Khartoum in violation of the arms embargo imposed by UN
Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005). These violations have
been authoritatively documented by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur,
also appointed by the Security Council.

Further, many billions of dollars of Chinese commercial and capital
investments in the Khartoum-dominated economy have insulated the regime
from the consequences of presiding over a disastrous accumulation of
more than $25 billion in external debt---debt which could not be
serviced without Chinese investments. The overall effect of Chinese
investment is to consolidate Khartoum’s stranglehold on Sudanese
national wealth and power. It is preposterous for Liu to claim that
“‘China is helping Sudan’s development and creating wealth for
Sudan’s people’” (“China Defends Role in Sudan Against Olympic
Critics,” Reuters [dateline: Beijing], January 10, 2008). The people
of Darfur and other marginalized areas, Sudan’s poorest people, have
never seen the benefits of Chinese investments. Even oil revenues
finally making their way to the Government of South Sudan are far from
adequate to compensate the people of the South for years of
scorched-earth clearances in the oil regions---clearances that killed or
displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians and have destroyed the
agricultural economy of much of Upper Nile Province. China was present
and actively supporting the Khartoum military during the brutal years of
the “oil wars” (1997-2004).

Liu is equally disingenuous in claiming that the “heart of the
problems in Darfur is lack of development,” an argument made just as
speciously by Jeffrey Sachs, special economic advisor to Ban Ki-moon.
Such arguments would have us ignore the political and ethnic history of
Darfur, ignore the ways in which Khartoum has fanned ethnic hatred,
ignore the genocidal use of Janjaweed militias to destroy the perceived
civilian base of support for the insurgency that emerged fully in 2003,
and ignore the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian relief as an
extension of genocidal policies.

And yet it is the threat of a Chinese veto at the Security Council that
has done so much to paralyze the international response to unfathomable
human suffering and destruction. In response to the plea for a Security
Council Presidential Statement in support of ICC investigations of
atrocity crimes in Darfur, China insisted that the language of such a
Statement be rendered toothless. Indeed, Britain’s ambassador to the
UN, John Sawyers, declared bluntly that he was, “‘confident that if
the Chinese had not taken such a firm line against the statement, it
would have been adopted’” (African Report, Institute for War and
Peace Reporting [dateline: The Hague], January 11, 2008).

The current implications of China’s refusal to see international
justice done were laid out by lead ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo:

“In his report [to the UN Security Council], Prosecutor Luis
Moreno-Ocampo spoke of a ‘calculated, organised campaign by Sudanese
officials to attack individuals and further destroy the social fabric of
entire communities,’ as well as an increasing number of attacks
against humanitarian personnel and peace keepers. He gave examples of
the joint attack on the town of Muhajiriya by allied Government of Sudan
and Janjaweed forces on October 8, 2007 in which 48 civilians praying in
a mosque were rounded up and slaughtered, as well as a Sudanese airforce
bombing of Adilla in August [2007] which displaced a further 20,000
people.” (African Report, Institute for War and Peace Reporting
[dateline: The Hague], January 11, 2008)

But China’s threat to use its veto in defense of Khartoum’s
génocidaires has evidently paralyzed most members of the Security
Council in responding to Moreno-Ocampo’s urgent appeal for support:

“At the time [of debate about the Presidential Statement concerning
the ICC and Darfur], the then president of the UN Security Council,
Italy’s ambassador Marcello Spatafora, described the contents of
Moreno-Ocampo’s report as ‘very disturbing.’ Following the
prosecutor’s briefing, he said a UN Security Council declaration
should be drafted. ‘We cannot stay silent, and have to send a strong
message [to the Sudanese authorities] so we propose this to the members
and ask the countries to circulate a draft. It is now under
consideration,’ he said. Slovakia, Italy, UK, France, and Belgium
then proposed a statement, citing the ICC arrest warrants for [Janjaweed
leader Ali] Kushyb and [former junior interior minister and current
minister for humanitarian affairs Ahmed] Harun, and urged Khartoum to
cooperate with the ICC ‘in respect of these individuals.’”

“However, on December 7, 2007, after two days of discussions between
the 15 members of the UN Security Council, the statement was suddenly
abandoned. In an apparent about-turn, Spatafora told journalists that a
statement was ‘not needed’ because UN Security Council members had
already been ‘loud and clear’ about their views that the Government
of Sudan should cooperate with the ICC.” (African Report, Institute
for War and Peace Reporting [dateline: The Hague], January 11, 2008)

Of course this is shameful disingenuousness on the part of Spatafora
and Italy: a Security Council Presidential Statement could not be more
urgently needed, given Khartoum’s refusal to cooperate in any fashion
with the ICC. Instead, Moreno-Ocampo and the ICC must continue to
struggle without any clear indication that their efforts are supported
by the very body that referred to them Darfur’s atrocity crimes. The
suggestion that the Security Council has spoken “loudly and clearly”
about the role of the ICC in serving justice in Darfur is pure
mendacity. Indeed, the demise of the proposed Presidential Statement
received only the scantest of news coverage. The current dangers in
Darfur articulated by Moreno-Ocampo were barely reflected in
contemporaneous news coverage, even as ICC indictee Ahmed Haroun is
Khartoum’s liaison for UNAMID as well as minister for humanitarian

The history of UN Security Council failure in responding to the Darfur
genocide cannot easily be summarized. But there are many moments of
egregious failure that give a sense of why the Khartoum regime treats
the ICC and UNAMID with such contempt. We may go back to 2003, a time
during which there was no response to desperate accounts of Khartoum’s
systematic denial of humanitarian access or to what the UN humanitarian
coordinator for Sudan reported as “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur. But
it is the serial failure of the UN Security Council to ensure compliance
with its own demands and measures that provides the basis for a grim
synoptic history:

?Resolution 1556 (July 2004) “demanded” that Khartoum disarm the
Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice. This “demand” has been
contemptuously ignored for three and a half years, including during some
of the most violent months of the genocide. No action has been taken by
the Security Council.

?Resolution 1591 (March 2005) imposed an arms embargo on Darfur,
requiring that Khartoum apply to UN authorities for any movement of
weapons or military supplies into Darfur. As the UN Panel of Experts on
Darfur has repeatedly reported, Khartoum has in almost three years not
made a single application per the terms of the Security Council
resolution, even as it has transported large quantities of military
weapons, equipment, and supplies into Darfur during the entire time of
the arms embargo. No action has been taken by the Security Council.

?Resolution 1593 (March 2005) referred to the International Criminal
Court massive evidence of “crimes against humanity” in Darfur,
charging the ICC to investigate and bring charges against those in
violation of international law. Last month, the Security Council failed
to muster the strength to pass a non-binding Presidential Statement
supporting the efforts of the ICC in pursuing justice for Darfur.

?Resolution 1706 (August 2006) authorized a robust UN peace support
operation to protect civilians and humanitarians in Darfur, and to
staunch the flow of genocidal violence from Darfur into Eastern Chad and
Central African Republic. Khartoum, supported by China, refused to
accept the UN mission, creating a terrible precedent: for the first time
in UN peacekeeping history, an authorized mission did not deploy because
of objections from the nominal “government” of the country in which
large-scale civilian destruction was ongoing.

?Resolution 1769 (July 2007) authorized UNAMID, though only after its
mandate had been weakened by China. The evidence to date (see above)
strongly suggests that Khartoum’s obstructionist tactics will
ultimately lead to a fatally compromised mission.

Ultimate responsibility for the fact that the Darfur genocide is
entering its sixth year lies squarely with the UN Security Council, and
particularly China, which has continually compromised or eviscerated
efforts to halt the violence. By relentlessly threatening to use its
veto to block a meaningful international response, China has provided
ample diplomatic protection for Khartoum’s flagrant and contemptuous
flouting of Security Council resolutions.


Evidently destined to take perpetual second-billing to the massive
crisis in neighboring Darfur, the human catastrophe in Eastern Chad now
clearly threatens many tens of thousands of lives as well as long-term
disruption of the agricultural economy of the region. As in Darfur, the
greatest threat to much of the civilian population is withdrawal by
humanitarian organizations, which daily looms closer. Fighting on both
sides of the Chad/Darfur border continues to increase, with a complex
mix of combatants that rivals that of Darfur. Insecurity has increased
dramatically with the onset of the dry season in October, and a true
“hot war” between the forces of N’Djamena and Khartoum seems
imminent. Both have backed as military proxies the rebel groups
threatening the two regimes. Chadian president Idriss Déby has recently
ordered the sustained bombing of Khartoum-backed Chadian rebels in far
western Darfur, near el-Geneina, and Khartoum is preparing retaliatory
measures. Khartoum is also reported today (January 14, 2007) to be
bombing civilian targets in West Darfur near el-Geneina, clearly in
retaliation for recent military advances by the forces of the Justice
and Equality Movement. The impact on humanitarian operations is all too

“‘West Darfur has been much worse over the past couple of weeks,’
said a worker for an aid group that operates in [West Darfur state].
‘Because of the (Chadian) bombing and the Justice and Equality
Movement offensive, everything is pretty much on hold at the moment.’
‘All the roads around el Geneina are no-go areas right now,’ said
Emilia Casella, spokeswoman for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).
‘The humanitarian community in general is being prevented from
doing its job.’” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 14, 2008)

Reports from the region (a number have come to this writer in recent
weeks) paint a complex and uncertain picture of future violence. But
there can be little doubt that a major escalation in fighting will
precede deployment of the long-delayed European Union force to Eastern
Chad known as EUFOR, which is unlikely to make a significant difference
on the ground before March, if then. EUFOR has a complex mandate that
cannot be understood apart from that of the United Nations Mission in
the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), a UN operation
designed to bolster the police presence and training levels in Eastern
Chad, as well as the Central African Republic. The authorizing UN
Security Council Resolution (September 2007) specified that MINCURAT was
to “enhance the capabilities of Chadian police and gendarmes to
provide effective police service to the population in eastern Chad
affected by the Darfur crisis, including refugees, Internally Displaced
Persons, and humanitarian workers.” The same UN Security Resolution
authorized EUFOR, both to protect MINCURAT operations and personnel and
to secure rural areas in which violence threatens civilians and
humanitarians. The goal of MINCURAT is to train and deploy to Eastern
Chad some 850 police officers.

An informed overview of the relation between MINCURAT and EUFOR is
offered by the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks ([dateline:
N’Djamena, Chad], January 11, 2008):

“The EUFOR and MINURCAT are two separate bodies, both mandated by the
same Security Council resolution, marking the first time in the world
that an EU military force and a UN mission are combined in a single UN
mandate, [acting head of MINURCAT Ousseni] Compaoré said. MINURCAT is
charged with training police and reinforcing judicial infrastructure,
such as prisons and courts, so that local police are able to deal with
‘daily life.’ It will deploy inside camps for refugees from the
Darfur region of Sudan and sites for displaced Chadians in the east, and
offer police escorts for aid agencies working in the region. It will
complement the work of Chadian police and troops that have largely
failed to prevent the camps from sometimes being militarised by rebels
from Sudan, or to keep aid workers safe. Aid agencies in Chad have been
plagued by insecurity, including frequent hijackings, shootings and
kidnappings of national and international staff. In December 2007 alone
six attacks on UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
were recorded.”

“EUFOR is expected to provide general security for civilians whilst
MINURCAT will provide security in the eastern zone outside the refugee
and displaced people’s camps. EUFOR is authorised to use military
force. Part of its mandate, for example, is to prevent incursions into
the area, Compaoré said. According to the UN Security Council resolution
which created the dual-mission system, EUFOR and the UN mission are
broadly meant to stabilise the volatile region so that the over 175,000
Chadians who have fled from their homes over the last three years can
return home.” [This is in addition to the approximately 240,000
Darfuri refugees.]

To be sure, there has yet to be a sufficiently well articulated mission
concept formulated by EUFOR, including the critical “rules of
engagement.” As EUFOR has struggled to find the resources for
deployment (originally scheduled for late October 2007, the beginning of
the “dry season”), it has become ever more French-dominated, which
will create the potential for Chadian rebel groups to see the diverse
European force as nonetheless allied with the regime of Idriss Déby,
which these groups seek to overthrow. Chad is a former French colony;
France also has a permanent military presence in Chad, and actively
opposed the rebel assault on N’Djamena in November 2006. But the
greatest concern among humanitarians presently is not Chadian rebel
groups but banditry and uncontrolled violence by opportunistic armed
elements in the region. A range of highly authoritative reports, both
public and confidential, depict a rapidly declining security environment
for aid workers, with an immense contraction of humanitarian reach.
Active planning for evacuation to Abéché, and even N’Djamena

Even though EUFOR is, in the eyes of UN peacekeeping analysts, only
about a quarter the size it should be for the immense task along the
Chad/Darfur border, and despite the dangers from a perceived lack of
neutrality, it is clear that without a dramatic improvement in the
security situation, both civilians and humanitarians will face
intolerable risks. Facile sniping from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins
Sans Frontières (MSF) seems entirely inappropriate, particularly since
the organization disingenuously claims to be neutral with respect to
political and military decisions about security operations in Darfur and
Eastern Chad:

“‘We have our questions about the deployment,’ said Guinlhelm
Molinie, head of Médecins Sans Frontières Luxembourg, which works in
northeastern Chad. ‘We don’t know if it’s to protect humanitarians,
refugees, the areas of return, the east of Chad. The official line
varies.’ ‘We are waiting to see how this force will act on the
ground and whether it will do any good. We have some doubts about it,
that’s for sure.’” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
[dateline: N’Djamena, Chad], January 11, 2008)

We should recall that it was MSF that previously arrogantly chided
other nongovernmental humanitarian organizations for not moving
aggressively enough into insecure areas of Eastern Chad. But if
security from EUFOR and MINCURAT will permit other humanitarian
organizations to deploy, or stay, in the region, then MSF’s argument
about these security forces seems incoherent---the more so since on
several occasions MSF has had to withdraw personnel and suspend
operations in Eastern Chad because insecurity became intolerable. Not
for the first time, MSF would have us believe that they are strictly
neutral in theater, focused only on the delivery of humanitarian aid and
taking no position on issues such as the wisdom of particular force
deployments or the realities of ethnically-targeted destruction. In
fact, a shameful hypocrisy emerges again and again.

To be sure, the identities of various security and humanitarian
personnel will be difficult for the civilian populations to discriminate
between, particularly involving French nationals. But it is hardly a
problem that is insurmountable, and both MINCURAT and EUFOR are making
significant efforts to clarify their respective roles. But we should be
clear about the alternative to the deployment of the these two
UN-authorized missions: rapidly declining security that will create
intolerable conditions for humanitarian operations---including those of
MSF---and wholesale withdrawal that could come very rapidly.


Chadian rebel groups pose a clear threat to the corrupt and tyrannical
regime of Idriss Déby. But the rebel groups have never been able to
articulate a clear set of political goals, and are held together only by
hatred of Déby and a lust for power. For just this reason they have
long been actively and substantially supported by the Khartoum regime,
in ways that have included both material support and the provision of
rear bases inside Darfur. In recent weeks, Déby has decided to take the
fight to rebel camps in Darfur. This follows the predicted fighting the
emerged in November 2007 with the collapse of a meaningless cease-fire
cobbled together by Libya. But by bombing Chadian rebel strongholds in
Darfur, Déby has brought about the very real prospect of a “hot war”
with Khartoum. Both the National Islamic Front leadership and Libyan
President Muamar Gaddafi have made clear their deep opposition to EUFOR,
and behind the scenes have threatened to support the Chadian rebels even
more substantially as EUFOR actually deploys. It is this turn of events
that Déby is currently attempting to forestall by hurting the rebels as
badly as possible before they mount another offensive inside Chad.

The language from N’Djamena could not be more blunt:

“Chad’s government said on Tuesday [January 8, 2007] its armed forces
were ready to carry out further bombing raids over the border in Sudan’s
Darfur region on Chadian rebels. The United Nations said on Monday that
Chadian planes had bombed rebel positions near el-Geneina, the capital
of Sudan’s western Darfur state, on Sunday, adding to tensions between
the two countries. ‘If that’s the case, it means there were rebels in
those localities which were bombed,’ Chad’s Communication Minister
Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor told French radio RFI when asked about the
reported strikes on the villages of Goker and Wadi Radi. Asked if there
would be further air strikes, he said: ‘We will continue as long as
there is a threat of attack coming from Sudan.’” (Reuters [dateline:
N’Djamena], January 8, 2008)

The threat represented by these attacks could affect not only EUFOR and
MINCURAT, but UNAMID in Darfur:

“Chadian planes have bombed Chadian rebel positions near the capital
of Sudan’s Western Darfur state, a UN report said of the second reported
cross-border incursion in two weeks. Six Chadian ‘opposition
members’ were killed in the attacks on villages in Darfur early
Sunday, said the report seen by Reuters on Monday. Rodolphe Adada, head
of the African Union-United Nations force for Darfur, said he was
watching growing tensions along the Chad-Sudan border with deep concern
and said they could negatively affect the deployment of the long-awaited
joint Darfur peacekeeping mission. In a statement, Adada said he was
‘concerned that if the situation is not immediately brought under
control, great numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees will
likely be the first victims of any further escalations.’” [ ]

“Chad’s government issued a statement saying that Chadian
‘mercenaries’ were integrated into the ranks of the Sudanese
army. It said it viewed any attack from Sudanese territory as an attack
by the Sudanese army and reserved the right to respond. ‘All our air
and ground forces are mobilised to guarantee the security of our
national territory with the aim of blocking any mercenary presence or
bases on either side of the border with Sudan,’ the statement said. [
] Sunday’s [January 6, 2008] reported strikes came a day after Chadian
President Idriss Déby threatened to send his armed forces into Sudan to
destroy rebel fighters he accuses Khartoum of supporting. [ ] The air
strikes are likely to enrage Sudan, which has repeatedly denied
supporting Chadian rebels and warned Chad not to take military
action.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], January 7, 2008)

Although Khartoum does in fact “deny supporting Chadian rebels,”
Agence France-Presse reports:

“The head of one group in the [Chadian rebel] Alliance, the Union of
Forces for Democracy and Development-Fundamental (UFDD-F), acknowledged
his base in Sudan was hit on Sunday. ‘I was bombed on December 28
[2007] and yesterday (Sunday [January 6, 2008]) by Chadian aircraft
inside Sudan,” Abdelwahid Aboud Makaye said, reached by satellite
telephone from Libreville, admitting his headquarters are on the
Sudanese side of the border. Chadian military sources told AFP Monday
[January 8, 2008] that the air force had bombed several rebel bases
south of El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, about 200 kilometres
(125 miles) across the desert from Abeche, the main town in eastern
Chad. They also said the same area was hit on Sunday [January 6,
2008].” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: N’Djamena], January 8,

It should be noted that some humanitarians in West Darfur are concerned
that Déby might eventually direct bombing attacks against el-Geneina
itself, on the pretext of a Chadian rebel presence. Even more worrisome
are the reports of a Chadian build-up of forces on the ground just to
the west and southwest of el-Geneina. For its part, Khartoum is
reportedly building up its military assets in el-Geneina in preparation
for possible attack, and in an aggressive effort to re-arm Chadian
rebels as heavily as possible before they re-enter Chad.

Even as the threats posed by Chadian rebel groups---and military
responses by N’Djamena---grow more ominous, recent military actions by
the Justice and Equality Movement in far western West Darfur, again near
the state capital of el-Geneina, raise a series of difficult questions
about the fate of security in this most remote part of Darfur. This is
partly a reflection of the changing role of Arab groups in the Darfur
conflict and the growing tendency of these groups to abandon Khartoum,
which has failed to honor its various commitments to its Arab militia
allies. Indeed, Khartoum looms as an ever more destructive threat to
the lives of all Darfuris, African and Arab.

Khartoum has long depended on its Arab militia allies, the Janjaweed
(including in their various paramilitary guises); its own military
forces are poorly trained, often poorly equipped, and typically badly
demoralized, without any belief in the genocidal war they are being
forced to prosecute. But Arab dissidents are growing in number,
attempting to work across tribal lines, and militarily aligning
themselves with various of the rebel groups long associated almost
exclusively with the Fur, Massaleit, and Zaghawa. This latter
phenomenon may be in evidence in a recent impassioned press release from
the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which is bearing down on
el-Geneina from the North:

“December 25, 2007: In a breathtaking development in Darfur, numerous
Arab groups have visited JEM headquarters in the past week and
officially joined JEM. The groups included seven Arab Emirs (princes)
and 22 top Arab commanders. It is to be noted that each Emir presides
over around five Umdas (Mayors) while each Mayor has numerous village
and hamlet sheikhs under his jurisdiction.”

“The 22 Arab military commanders include some who previously acted as
Janjaweed leaders or enlisted under the infamous Border Guards. Arab
members of the State of Western Darfur were particularly forceful in
their allegiance to JEM. That, they have communicated very succinctly to
Sudan’s Chief Intelligence [official] Salah Gosh and Interior Minister
Abdel Rahim Mohamed [Hussein]. These two were on a desperate tour to
West Darfur with the mandate for revamping government support among the
Arabs of Darfur. To their dismay, they have counted no less 23 Arabs
ethnic groups in the State of Western Darfur alone who regard themselves
as official members of JEM.”

The evidence suggests that el-Geneina faces military threats deriving
from the presence of Khartoum’s regular forces, the proximity of
Chadian rebels, the ominous cross-border concentration of Chad’s
ground and air forces, and the enclosing presence of JEM forces. It is
a new and highly combustible mixture of military actors, with the
potential for a massive explosion, one that would compel the emergency
evacuation of humanitarian personnel and put hundreds of thousands of
highly vulnerable Darfuri civilians at the greatest possible risk.


The Security Council long ago abandoned any real commitment to the
Darfur crisis, and for this reason---a year and a half after the UN
Department of Peacekeeping Operations proposed the essential elements of
a peace support operation for Darfur---a vast cataclysm of human
suffering and destruction seems virtually inevitable. The slim chance
to mitigate this impending catastrophe---urgent deployment of UNAMID,
with particular emphasis on civilian police---has been squandered in the
face of Khartoum’s intransigent obstruction of UNAMID deployment and,
most recently, the regime’s deliberate and premeditated attack on a
UNAMID convoy. Assured by China that it will suffer no consequences,
National Islamic Front tyranny sees that the genocidal status quo works
to its advantage, eliminating a vast and growing part of Darfur’s
population that might support rebellion.

This occurs before the very eyes of every member, past and present, of
the UN Security Council. There has been no lack of detailed accounts of
precisely what was being done; there has been ample time to respond.
Current and past failures define, in the profoundest of ways, what the
Security Council is and represents.

* Eric Reeves is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. He can be reached at ereeves@smith.edu. www.sudanreeves.org

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  • 17 January 2008 02:07, by Mohanad

    What gives you the right to make such unfounded accusations, how in the world can you ascertain with out doubt that government troops did not mistake the convoy for rebels, and even further what evidence do you have that the attack was ordered by senior army commanders, tell me how come when the US Gun happy soldiers in Iraq decide it would be interesting to blow up a few British tanks it is considered as friendly fire but Sudan is judged differently, why does the US get the benefit of the doubt. It was night time when the attack happened and undoubtedly there was complacence involved, but there is no evidence or reason to suggest that the Sudanese army believed that they were UN troops, when the army realised that they were UN troops they let them pass.
    But you knowingly come to a deceptive conclusion, for the past few years you have profiteered and gained a name from the manipulation and misinterpretation of the Darfur situation, and in turn have knowingly mislead people about what is happening in Darfur, you as well as I know that the Darfur conflict is more a political conflict rather then an ethnic one, you do not wish to see an end to the conflict, but like right wing Americans use it as a way to topple the government or at least insure that Sudan is weakened. The Sudanese government is by no means perfect but if it was a government that was pro American, pro Israeli, Sudan would have not had a pharmaceutical plant bombed that ended in the death of thousands due to lack of medicine, Sudan would not have got the blame for the attempted assassination of Housny Mubarak, even though there was no evidence to link Sudan with it, Sudan is one of the few countries in the world not under the us sphere of influence and you and your right wing buddies can not bear that.
    If you or the united states government really cared about Darfur, you would not ignore the role of the rebels in this conflict, you would not support them through Chad, you would not claim that there actions were committed by the Sudanese government, rebels leaders are given benefits in France encouraging more and more rebel groups, the fact why Darfur is such a priority for the US is because it distracts you from your own global crimes Guantanamo Abu graib Iraq with 600,000 dead, Somalia which you with the help of Ethiopia in stabled and brought back to war after seeing the fruits of peace just because you are not comfortable with their government as well as this Darfur is a way to weaken and break up an anti American country, so you and your republican friends can continue your profiteering from the destructive conflict in Darfur but let it be on your conscious, and that’s probably me being naive because this for you was never about morality.

    repondre message

    • 3 February 2008 10:29, by Sewy

      Mohanad, by getting carried away and immaturely making sweeping accusations about the author due to his nationality and academic background, you have completely discredited your arguments. It may be true that the SAF force genuinely mistook the convoy for rebels, however, if you think about the ground level practicalities, it seems unlikely. 10-12 minutes is not a short time for a ground attack, and cannot be compared to the air-surface mistakes made in Iraq. Isn’t 10-12 minutes a long time for an asymmetrical fire-fight? especially considering that the convoy’s presence had been officially notified to the local SAF commander. These facts cannot be glossed over by purporting that all western academics are consciously fabricating fallacies over the crisis to further their countries’ supposed foreign policies and create work for themselves: an absolutely ludicrous assertion, that suggests that you could be in denial?

      repondre message

    • 6 February 2008 09:32, by Moses Kuocgoor

      Mr. Mohanad

      Where on earth you could link the Sudan government? If you support the Khartoum government in killing innocent civilian in Darfur region, then, you are dead wrong. When you have a look at all the governments in the world, you could not find a government like Khartoum government, a government controls by hatred, people who do not think of human rights on behalf of their citizens. They do not respect the rule of laws, people who do not think about development. People who always envy the world of christianity, people who think what they do is right but always wrong in God’s eyes. They always prefer bloodshed in their own countries. Look, you have talked about America and Israel, which are not against Islam and Arabs. I hope that my advice to you is to stop fueling the fire that is almost to go off. May be there will be a time to look in the problems of Khartoum government in which you will take shield to protect them in what crimes they committed. This government needs regime changed like Iraq, and hopefully, it will be process any time possible. Keep defending and killing the innocent civilians. The world is watching and your ass will be hung like Saddam, the former dictator of Iraq. If I make research about you may be you are not Sudanese, you just extremist who defends bad government because of Tedi bear doctrines

      repondre message

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