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Monday, May 03, 2004

Further Yet Into the Abyss of Human Destruction 

Khartoum Expands Its Genocidal War into Chad, Threatening Relief
Efforts

Eric Reeves
May 3, 2004

Reports continue to stream in from the Chad/Darfur (Sudan) border, and
from within Darfur itself, making clear that the nominal cease-fire of
April 8, 2004 exists chiefly as an example of yet another worthless
piece of paper bearing the signature of the Khartoum regime. Amnesty
International reports that "on 28 April [2004] Sudanese planes bombed
Kolbus village in Chad and the Janjawid attacked refugees and Chadian
civilians across the border" (Amnesty International, Public Statement,
April 30, 2004). The US State Department reported aerial attacks in
Darfur by Khartoum the first day of the cease-fire (April 12, 2004).
There are numerous other highly authoritative reports on violations of
the cease-fire by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia over the last three
weeks.

The BBC recently reported on particularly serious instances of
Khartoum's escalation of the conflict into neighboring Chad, where
120,000-130,000 refugees have fled Khartoum's violence against the
African civilian populations in Darfur:

"Chadian troops have deployed on their border after a clash with Sudan
forces.
A Chadian government spokesman said the troops would protect local
civilians and refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan who are
sheltering in the area. The clash is the first to involve army troops
since Sudanese civilians began fleeing into Chad a year ago. The
incident occurred after Arab militia staged a cross-border raid in Chad.
Chad troops pursued them until they encountered Sudanese forces.

"Chadian official Allami Ahmat, who helped to negotiate a ceasefire in
the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur earlier this
month, said the incident was proof that the Janjaweed militia had not
been disarmed as promised by the Sudanese government delegation at the
peace talks. 'This situation is all the more unacceptable because the
Sudanese army tolerates and offers land and air backup to the Janjaweed
militias,' he said. The UN has accused Sudan of backing Arab militias in
a campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' against black residents in Darfur."
(BBC, April 30, 2004)

But in addition to the continuously reported cross-border raids by the
Janjaweed, attacking fleeing civilians and refugees, there are now
extremely credible reports from the ground in Chad indicating that
Khartoum is preparing for much greater military incursions. Indeed,
within the humanitarian community on the ground in Chad, there are
increasing concerns about the larger implications of escalating military
tensions along the Chad/Darfur border. The growing number and
seriousness of these military incursions into Chad, by both Khartoum's
regular forces and its Janjaweed militia allies, not only threaten
refugees but also threaten humanitarian aid personnel. We must bear in
mind that the area from Abeche to the Chad/Darfur border is quite
remote, and that it will be very difficult to control and patrol this
part of the country if Khartoum decides to make international
humanitarian presence untenable by creating excessive levels of
insecurity.

And this appears to be precisely the goal. A humanitarian official in
Chad has reported to this writer a conversation in which a Khartoum
official was heard declaring that, "Abeche will not be made into another
Lokichokio." This strongly suggests that Khartoum has decided that
Abeche (90 miles from the Chad/Darfur border) will not serve as a
humanitarian staging area, as Lokichokio (northwest Kenya) now is for
southern Sudan, through the UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan. Khartoum's
counter-insurgency strategy of destroying the civilian base of support
for the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM) requires that there be no viable base for
humanitarian operations near the border area.

Khartoum's long history of obstructing humanitarian aid in southern
Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, and its present "systematic denial" of
humanitarian aid within Darfur (this is the assessment of senior UN
officials), make all too clear the likelihood of a policy of
humanitarian interference in Chad. Indeed, there is increasingly
persuasive evidence that such interference is rapidly moving further and
further into Chad toward Abeche, and that Khartoum is prepared to carry
out military operations well within Chadian territory. Evidence also
suggests that it is highly likely that covert military intelligence
operations are now underway.

This should hardly be surprising given the impunity with which Khartoum
is violating the present (unmonitored) cease-fire agreement. Amnesty
International reported on April 30, 2004:

"Attacks on villages continue; indiscriminate and deliberate killings
of civilians continue; looting continues and rapes continue. Most
detainees imprisoned because of the conflict have not been released. The
African Union monitors designated to investigate every ceasefire
violation are not yet in place.

"This is not an unavoidable ethnic conflict. It is a tragedy
deliberately created by the government's support for the Janjawid and
fuelled by total impunity for grave violations of human rights."
(Amnesty International, Public Statement, April 30, 2004)

Because Khartoum enjoys impunity in its continuing violations of the
cease-fire agreement---moderating its genocidal campaign with what can
only be described as tactical curtailments of certain military
actions---there is no chance whatsoever that civilians remaining in
Darfur will be able to take advantage of the very few days left before
present seasonal planting must be completed (the UN is now acknowledging
as much). Rather, instead of returning to their lands, the African
peoples of Darfur continue to stream into Chad, unwilling to confront
the relentless menace of Khartoum and its Janjaweed allies. The UN News
Center recently reported from Bahai (site of the northernmost of the UN
refugee camps in Chad) that:

"200 to 300 Sudanese refugees have been crossing weekly from the Darfur
region into Chad since the beginning of April, an agency spokesman said
today. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman, Ron
Redmond, said in Geneva that new refugees in the town of Bahai, joining
the 7,000 already registered there, told the team that they fled after
Sudanese militia members attacked them on 2 April, looting and burning
their homes."
(UN News Center, April 27, 2004)

The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reports today:

"More refugees continue to arrive at Tolom daily [the north-central
sector of the UN refugee camps]. 'Everyday new people are coming on
foot, on donkeys, in convoys,' Alfred Demotibaye the Tolom camp manager,
who works for the Chadian branch of Caritas, told IRIN." (UN Integrated
Regional Information Networks, May 3, 2004)

******************

The response of the international community, both to the humanitarian
crisis and to the genocidal ambitions that have created this crisis,
remains disgracefully inadequate. Instead of speaking with urgency and
focus about the nature of the humanitarian intervention that is so
clearly required, both the UN and the Western democracies continue to
speak as if there is still time to avert catastrophe. To be sure, their
pronouncements are not without some accuracy:

"The United Nations warned today that the crisis in Darfur, western
Sudan, will worsen dramatically unless security there is immediately
improved and humanitarian agencies have better access to those in need."
(UN News Service (New York), May 1, 2004

But this does not tell the fuller and more consequential story. For
even with immediately improved security---and there is not a shred of
evidence that this is in prospect---the crisis will worsen dramatically.
The UN and the rest of the international community have simply waited
too long. With the onset of seasonal rains (alluded to later in this UN
dispatch), there is no way that adequate supplies---especially of
food---can be pre-positioned. This can occur now only with robust
humanitarian intervention (see outline by this writer of a plan for such
intervention using Sudan's rail system; available upon request).

A much more appropriate sense of urgency is captured in the April 28,
2004 public statement by Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans
Frontieres (MSF), presently operating heroically, under extremely
difficult circumstances, in West Darfur (Zalinge, Mornay, Kerenik,
Garsila, Um Kherr, Bindisi, Mukjar, Deleig, and Nyertiti):

"Without an urgent response and the massive and immediate
pre-positioning of food, medicines and shelters, the threat to the
survival of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons will increase
when the rainy season begins in May and roads become impassable, further
hindering the delivery of assistance. Urgent action is required." (MSF
Press Release [New York], April 28, 2004)

But it is already May, the rains are beginning, and there is nothing
remotely approaching what will be required to feed the more than 1
million food-dependent civilians in Chad and Darfur for a year or more.
With characteristically blunt honesty, MSF declares:

"Despite announcements of forthcoming aid, assistance is utterly
inadequate. Mobilization of aid efforts is slow and the few
organizations operating in Darfur cannot meet the full range of needs."
(MSF Press Release [New York], April 28, 2004)

Most of the world continues to speak as though this crisis can be
managed with present plans, with prospective supplies, and with the
transport scheme presently in use. But this is simply not the case.
The road between the Chadian capital of N'Djamena and Abeche will soon
be cut by the rains and the subsequently flooded wadis, as will the road
from Abeche to the Darfur/Chad border. And those transport vehicles
that might be able to make the journey from Abeche to Darfur, over the
next few weeks and during the next dry season, are now clearly
threatened by the growing insecurity deliberately being engineered by
Khartoum. There must be an alternate transportation route, and time is
of the essence. MSF again presents an unvarnished account of the
realities presently obtaining:

"The Health of Hundreds of Thousands of Displaced People Worsens
Dramatically (press release headline):

"Because of the lack of appropriate, urgently needed aid, the health of
displaced people in Sudan's Darfur region---particularly children---is
radically worsening. MSF teams also see a drastic decline in people's
nutritional status, particularly among children."

"People in the region are completely dependent on aid to survive."

"The food pipeline is drying up, with up to one million people trapped
with no protection, little assistance, and little food or shelter." (MSF
Press Release [New York], April 28, 2004)

A region terrorized by uncontrolled marauding militia forces, with no
harvest in sight for next fall, with road access from Chad on the verge
of being severed, facing Khartoum's "systematic denial" of humanitarian
aid, and without any adequate pre-positioning of food, Darfur is poised
for utter, cataclysmic disaster. Figures from the US Agency for
International Development suggest that hundreds of thousands may die
from famine and disease over the next year; at the peak of the projected
famine (December 2004) perhaps 2,500 people will be dying every day (see
data at
http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/cmr_darfur.pdf).

There is only one question that honesty and any real concern for the
people of Darfur can permit: are we prepared to allow the brutal and
unrepresentative National Islamic Front regime to assert "national
sovereignty" and thereby ensure the deaths of hundreds of thousands? Or
is the international community prepared to ignore this absurd claim of
"sovereignty" by Khartoum's genocidaires and work urgently,
insistently, and resourcefully to diminish as much as possible the
already inevitable catastrophe in Darfur?

Human Rights Watch, in a powerful letter (April 28, 2004) to the UN
Security Council, recalls the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

"In his April 7 [2004] speech to the Commission on Human Rights,
coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the onset of the genocide in
Rwanda, Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that 'the risk of genocide
remains frighteningly real' in Darfur: 'It is vital that international
humanitarian workers and human rights experts be given full access to
the region, and to the victims, without further delay. If that is
denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and
appropriate action. By action in such situations, I mean a continuum of
steps which may include military action.'" (Letter to UN Security
Council members from Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, and Joanna
Weschler, UN Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch, April 28, 2004)

But we have heard no more from Kofi Annan, certainly nothing of this
"continuum of steps"---or even what the first step must be. Mr.
Annan has said nothing recently that speaks to the terrifying urgency of
the crisis; rather he has retreated into banal comments, bland
expressions of concern, and meaningless "urgings" (see April 27, 2004
statement: http://allafrica.com/stories/200404270339.html).

But silence, inconsequential pronouncements, and continued inaction
change nothing on the ground in Darfur. The world's greatest
humanitarian crisis, growing directly out of Khartoum's genocidal
conduct of war, continues to gather pace. Will the international
community intervene to save hundreds of thousands of African lives at
the most acute risk?

This is the question. No one is asking it aloud.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
ereeves@smith.edu

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