Tuesday, April 27, 2004

An Open Letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan 

April 25, 2004

from Eric Reeves

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General
United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017

Dear Secretary-General Annan,

History has already recorded your substantial culpability during the
Rwandan genocide ten years ago, and your failure to work effectively as
head of UN peacekeeping during this terrible time. Judgment is a good
deal more severe than your own recent admission that "you could have
done more." But with your present inadequate response, as UN
Secretary-General, to the massive crimes against humanity, ethnic
cleansing, and genocide in Darfur, Sudan, you are compounding your
failures of 1994.

Without immediate, urgent, and appropriately robust UN action, your
failure to lead during this vast crisis will be beyond either
forgiveness or redemption. No subsequent apology for inaction, no claim
of ignorance, can possibly have meaning. Your legacy will be to have
twice acquiesced in the slaughter and destruction of hundreds of
thousands of innocent African civilians

For the evidence of what is now occurring in Darfur is both utterly
unambiguous and authoritative beyond possible dispute. Indeed, the
report on Darfur very recently produced by a UN human rights
investigative team ("Report of the Office of the High Commission for
Human Rights mission to Chad, April 5-15, 2004") concludes by noting
"disturbing patterns of massive human rights violations in Darfur,
many of which may constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity."

In particular, this UN assessment---suppressed during the recent debate
on Sudan and Darfur at the annual convening of the UN Commission on
Human Rights in Geneva---reports a "reign of terror in Darfur,"

"[a] Repeated attacks on civilians by Government of Sudan military and
its proxy militia forces with a view to their displacement;

"[b] The use of systematic and indiscriminate aerial bombardments and
ground attacks on unarmed civilians;

"[c] The use of disproportional force by the Government of Sudan and
the Janjaweed forces;

"[d] That the Janjaweed have operated with total impunity and in close
coordination with the forces of the Government of Sudan;

"[e] The attacks appear to have been ethnically based with the groups
targeted being essentially the following tribes reportedly of African
origin: Zaghawas, Masaalit, and Furs. Men and young boys appear to have
been particularly targeted in ground attacks; and

"[f] The pattern of attacks on civilians includes killing, rape,
pillage, including of livestock, and destruction of property, including
water sources."
("Report of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights mission
to Chad, April 5-15, 2004")

You declared on the grim anniversary date of April 7, 2004 that reports
on atrocities in Darfur "leave me with a deep sense of foreboding" and,
further, that whatever the language we use to describe the atrocities in
Darfur, "the international community cannot stand idle." You concluded
with the declaration that, "wherever civilians are deliberately targeted
because they belong to a particular community, we are in the presence of
potential, if not actual, genocide."

But this, Secretary-General Annan, is precisely what occurring in
Darfur: civilians are being "deliberately targeted because they belong
to a particular community." As you must know, with full moral
certainty, the Fur, Massaleit, Zaghawa, and other African tribal peoples
of Darfur are being targeted because of the "communities" they comprise.
In the language of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the African peoples of Darfur are
being destroyed---both directly through killings and by consequence of
deliberate displacement in this harsh land---"as such."

And yet the UN is essentially "standing idle," and doing so largely
because of clear obstructionism and obduracy on the part of the
Government of Sudan. This tyrannical and unrepresentative regime has
now twice postponed an urgent UN humanitarian assessment mission to
Darfur, even as all evidence and data clearly suggest that the
humanitarian crisis in the region is the greatest in the world today,
and has been declared such by various UN officials. During the ten-day
period (April 5 to April 15, 2004) that the UN human rights
investigative mission was on the Chad/Sudan border, Khartoum adamantly
refused the team entry into Darfur, forcing its return to Geneva.

Though this team has apparently now secured access to Darfur, there is
substantial evidence that the Government of Sudan is working furiously
to conceal as much as possible of its role in "crimes against humanity,"
"ethnic cleansing," (the language of Jan Egeland, UN
Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs), and what the language
of the Genocide Convention dictates we declare is genocide. As the US
State Department can readily confirm on the basis of surveillance and
other data, substantial military transport assets are presently being
used to move bodies from the areas of the larger known atrocities. It is
also clear from reports within Darfur that Khartoum intends to
intimidate witnesses at those sites where the regime will allow the UN
investigative team to travel, especially the concentration camps where
those confined are completely at the mercy of their government and
Janjaweed captors.

Your obligations under these circumstances could not be clearer. You
must use your leadership within the UN to move urgently for a
significantly expanded mission in Darfur, one that faces no time
constraints and no possibility of being impeded, in any way, by the
Government of Sudan. Such a team will require substantially increased
logistical and transport abilities, as well as a full complement of
Arabic-speaking translators not associated with the Khartoum government
or at risk with the departure of the UN investigative team. If the
security of this team is threatened, the UN must be prepared to provide
immediately the military protection required.

Given the substantial evidence of efforts by the Government of Sudan to
obliterate and obscure its role in countless crimes against humanity,
ethic cleansing, and genocide, the mandate of the UN team must also be
immediately expanded to include investigations of all such efforts at

Your leadership is urgently required, Mr. Secretary-General. Though
you asked on April 7, 2004 for the "establishment of a mechanism for an
early and clear warning about potential genocides," there is no such
mechanism available. But there is an overwhelming body of evidence that
makes clear the indisputable "potential" for genocide, indeed the
growing reality of genocide. In short, you don't require a further
"mechanism": it has been supplied to you by the research of Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and
many others. These are examples of the very nongovernmental
organizations that, in the ghastly wake of Rwanda, were to have had a
much larger voice in UN thinking about the threat of genocide. And yet
you are not acting in a fashion that responds in a meaningful way to the
highly detailed and authoritative accounts these organizations have

Ongoing failure to provide urgent and appropriate leadership ensures
that your role in the history of genocide will not be singular. I
believe that you will be hearing from a growing number of those who also
feel that the genocidal destruction of the people of Darfur warrants
your most serious and immediate attention. What you can be sure of is
that the same history that found you so wanting during the genocide in
Rwanda continues to watch and judge. You have very little time in which
to escape the harshest of judgments.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Transmitted via US Postal service and electronic mail, April 25, 2004

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General
United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017



(email address indicated for such communication of the UN website,

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