Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Stopping Genocide in Darfur: What Must Be Done 

Eric Reeves
May 17, 2004

All reports from Darfur, public and confidential, make clear that the
massive humanitarian crisis continues to deepen at an alarming rate.
The region, including the border region inside Chad, is slipping further
into a famine that will claim hundreds of thousands of lives. This is
the predictable, indeed designed outcome of Khartoum's genocidal conduct
of war in Darfur over many months, both with its regular forces and by
means of its Janjaweed allies.

Notably, in a BBC interview following a recent meeting with British
Foreign Minister Jack Straw, Khartoum's Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail
pointedly described the Janjaweed militia as in military "alliance" with
the regime in conducting war in Darfur (BBC, May 13, 2004). Ismail is
also reported by Agence France-Presse as asserting that "pro-government
militias in strife-torn Darfur region would not be disarmed as long as
weapons remained in the hands of rebel forces" (Agence France-Presse
[Cairo], May 14, 2004). It is of course the Janjaweed that are
responsible for so much civilian destruction, for creating conditions of
utter terror in the rural agricultural lands, and that have so willingly
become the "Gestapo" forces in the ghastly concentration camps that
continue to grow and multiply.

[In a shameless, if unsurprising, contradiction, Ahmed Mohamed Haroun,
National Islamic Front state minister for internal affairs, said today
that "the Darfur region was stable after the military quelled a revolt
there and security would now be maintained by police" (Reuters, May 17,

The "systematic" denial of humanitarian access (the characterization is
that of the UN and virtually all humanitarian organizations); the
burning of thousands of villages; the destruction of foodstuffs, seeds,
agricultural implements and donkeys; the dynamiting, bombing, and
poisoning of wells and irrigation systems; the looting of herds of
cattle; and the creation of what a UN human rights team recently called
a "reign of terror" in the rural areas, precluding any planting prior to
the rainy season, and thus ensuring that there will be no harvest in the
fall: these are the weapons of genocidal war that are now taking a toll
that is increasing daily. Without humanitarian intervention, the death
rate will rise to between 2000 and 3000 civilians per day by December.
Total casualties may exceed 400,000 human beings (see data for
"Projected Mortality Rates in Darfur," from the US Agency for
International Development:
and Congressional testimony of US AID Assistant Administrator Roger
Winter at

There is no longer any credible alternative to humanitarian
intervention, given the paucity of pre-positioned foodstocks and medical
supplies in Darfur and the impending seasonal rains that will soon sever
the road corridors from Chad into Darfur. There will be no harvest next
fall and the likelihood of a fall planting for next spring depends
wholly on the ability of the international community to disarm the
Janjaweed and restore security to the rural agricultural areas. If
there is no planting in the fall, hundreds of thousands of acutely
vulnerable people will have their vulnerability extended for many
months. There will be many, many more deaths.

An overland transport route capable of supplying humanitarian aid must
be secured in the very near-term, as the dwindling foodstocks in Nyala
and al-Fashir are almost exhausted. Air transport of food and supplies
is really only a stop-gap measure for a crisis of this magnitude, and is
not practicable over the longer-term. Leaving aside diplomatic
considerations of the sort that have done so much to obscure both the
urgency of the crisis and the culpability of the Khartoum regime, and
ignoring the callous inclinations and abysmal performance of the UN
Security Council to date, the most obvious route from a logistical point
of view is the rail line that runs from Port Sudan to Khartoum and on to
Nyala via El Obeid. This presents a series of difficult
problems---logistical, military, and of course diplomatic (see
below)---even as it holds promise of fully adequate transport capacity.

But we can no longer avoid the necessity of deciding whether or not we
will intervene to save the hundreds of thousands of lives that will be
lost without robust action. As Gareth Evans, President of the
International Crisis Group, courageously wrote several days ago:

"The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has called it 'ethnic cleansing.'
President George W. Bush has condemned the 'atrocities, which are
displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.' Others are starting to
use the word genocide. Whatever you want to call what is going on today
in Darfur, in western Sudan, the time for forceful outside intervention
is unmistakably approaching." (The International Herald Tribune, May
14, 2004)

Evans went on to make clear that in all likelihood it will be necessary
for the UN Security Council to "authorise the application of military
force on 'responsibility to protect' principles" and "[provide] the
necessary political will and military resources to hold [the Khartoum
regime] comprehensively to account." (The International Herald Tribune,
May 14, 2004)

But while the Security Council must certainly be urged to act, and
given a chance to act, such action is highly unlikely. That Pakistan is
currently chairing the Security Council gives but an inkling of how long
the odds are against any "authorization of the application of military
force" that is opposed by Khartoum.

But inaction by the United Nations must not mean that there is no
international response on the basis of the "responsibility of protect"
principles that Evans articulates in his analysis. Racially/ethnically
animated slaughter and starvation in Darfur continue and must be
stopped. But they can be stopped only with humanitarian intervention.
This is the context in which we should note the growing urgency of the
comparisons to Rwanda. The US Committee for Refugees recently added its
voice to many others, declaring:

"In 1994 President Clinton failed to act to stop genocide in Rwanda
when 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. The world knew about
Rwanda then and it knows about Darfur now. Visiting Rwanda in 1998,
Clinton 'apologized,' saying we 'did not immediately call these crimes
by their rightful name: genocide.' For the sake of his name in
history, Mr. Bush must avoid ever having to make a similar apology over
Darfur." (US Committee for Refugees, Washington, DC, May 12, 2004)

The moment of historical truth has arrived: either we act now to
mitigate this growing catastrophe, or we will see the horrific mortality
projections of the US Agency for International Development realized.
For the numbers at risk from genocidal destruction are not diminishing,
despite the growing visibility of Darfur, but rather continue to grow:
the UN recently raised its estimate of the number of Internally
Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur to over 1 million (Paragraph 13,
"Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Situation of human
rights in the Darfur Region of the Sudan," May 7, 2004). Refugees
International has recently urged that the number of refugees in Chad be
revised up dramatically from the UN figure of 110,000 (a figure now over
two months old, even as refugees have continued to stream across the
Darfur/Chad border at many points):

"The number of refugees who have fled to Chad to escape fighting in the
Darfur area of western Sudan could be has high as 200,000, nearly double
the official estimate of 110,000, Refugees International reports. The
sharply higher figure is based on the observations of Refugees
International advocates in Chad, as well as informal estimates by the
United Nations. UN officials in Chad told Refugees International that
the number of refugees in Chad may be approaching 200,000, as violence
and starvation in Darfur continue to drive refugees out."

"Refugees International strongly urges the UN and aid agencies to
revise their figures for Darfur refugees in Chad upwards to 200,000.
Current UN planning is based on a figure of 110,000, and with the rainy
season looming, failure to pre-position supplies based on the actual
figure will leave refugees vulnerable to shortages of food and medicines
in the coming months." (Refugees International, May 11, 2004; see

Christine Foletti of the International Committee of the Red Cross told
an Australian news agency that "over the past two weeks one refugee camp
had grown from 7,000 to 24,000 people" (AAP, May 16, 2004). But these
frightening increases are being reported even as there is not nearly
enough presently funded transport capacity to move existing refugee
populations further into Chad and away from the dangerous border areas,
or to provide these camps with food, water, and medical supplies. With
the rains imminent, transport opportunities will shortly end.

Highly authoritative reports from within South and West Darfur reaching
this writer also indicate that more and more of those displaced within
Darfur are being forced into concentration camps of the sort recently
reported by the UN at Kailek (see analyses of the brutal conditions in
the Kailek camp by this writer; available upon request). Unless control
of these camps is very soon secured by international military
intervention, tens of thousands of people will be exterminated through
starvation, lack of water, disease, and executions. Moreover, a growing
number of those seeking to report on the terrible conditions in Darfur
are being imprisoned, as Amnesty International recently reported:

"Nureddin Mohammad Abdel Rahim, omda (mayor) of Shoba; Bahr al-Din
Abdullah Rifah, omda of Jabalsi:

"The two men named above, each of whom is the omda (mayor) of his
village, were reportedly arrested in North Darfur state on 9 May [2004]
after a meeting called by the International Committee of the Red Cross,
where they had given information on burnt villages, killings and mass
graves in a region where many villages have been destroyed and villagers
killed in attacks by government aircraft and, particularly, by
government-supported militias. The two have no access to lawyers or
their families, and are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment."
(Amnesty International, May 10, 2004)

Further, unless there is a humanitarian intervention, the increasingly
explosive military situation along the Chad/Sudan border threatens to
spark a full-fledged international conflict. Highly authoritative
reports from the ground inside Chad suggest that a number of factors
could dramatically escalate the violence already occurring on a regular
basis. The destabilizing effects of such violence in Chad should be of
considerable international concern. Of particular note are the reports
of growing numbers of Janjaweed incursions into Chad (see UN Integrated
Regional Information Networks, May 14, 2004).


What are the advantages and the difficulties of a humanitarian
intervention that takes the form of [1] internationalizing the rail line
from Port Sudan to Nyala, and [2] taking military control of all camps
for the displaced in Darfur and creating of them true safe havens for
the displaced and the imprisoned?


Rail transport has huge capacity, and could easily manage even the vast
quantities of food that will be required to avert major famine in Darfur
over the next year or longer. Tens of thousands will die no matter what
the international response, already shamefully belated. But hundreds of
thousands of lives can be saved. Rail is also the cheapest form of

Distribution from Nyala to the camps nearby and to more outlying areas
could be accomplished by overland routes where possible (using
four-wheel-drive trucks) and by air where this is not possible. Since
the rail line runs through El Obeid, site of a major air base and a
location already being used by the UN's World Food Program (WFP), air
transport would be possible using even the largest of the WFP's
transport planes (e.g., the giant Hercules aircraft that are the
backbone of airlift operations in southern Sudan). Smaller capacity
planes could use the airport in Nyala for more targeted air drops. Such
air drops would require the presence of humanitarian personnel in places
presently too insecure; consequently, there must be a sufficient
military presence to protect all aid workers deployed throughout the

Securing the concentration camps and ensuring that they are safe havens
for the displaced and imprisoned is of critical importance; this will
save many thousands of lives, possibly tens of thousands of lives that
are now at growing risk from starvation, lack of water, disease (set to
increase dramatically with the onset of the rains), and execution. More
broadly, security throughout the agricultural areas of Darfur is the
only long-term solution to the region's food problems. But taking
control of the camps is the first essential step in creating this

Over the longer term the international community must force Khartoum to
disarm the Janjaweed, despite what Foreign Minister Ismail calls the
regime's "alliance" with these murderous predators. If Darfur is to
become self-sufficient in food, such disarmament is essential.


Internationalizing and securing the rail line from Port Sudan to
Darfur, if Khartoum proves intent on militarily opposing this plan, will
require considerable military resources. These will not be so much for
military security on board the trains themselves, but for preventing the
track lines from being cut by explosives. Khartoum's regular and
militia forces are both likely sources of risk if the regime is
determined to resist the transport of humanitarian supplies. Moreover,
substantial amounts of rail line repair equipment and supplies must be
on hand to minimize the impact of the rail line being cut at any point.
Fast-moving aerial military resources, with sophisticated communications
and "look-down" ability, will be essential in this task. Khartoum must
also be put on notice that various of its unrelated military resources
will be struck if the regime attacks, directly or by proxy, the rail

The rail line already needs substantial work between Ed Da'ein and
Nyala. Moreover, the trains themselves are in critical need of
American-made spare parts. These must be supplied on an urgent basis,
requiring that President Bush exempt these parts from current US
sanctions against Sudan. A detailed inventory of such parts must be
kept and the parts themselves removed if the crisis in Darfur ends and
Khartoum is still subject to US sanctions.

Internationalizing the rail line must mean that it will be used only
for humanitarian transport: no non-humanitarian items would be permitted
on the trains.

The Janjaweed have been heavily armed by Khartoum, and could present a
significant threat to humanitarian operations and personnel in Darfur.
But there is also good reason to believe that the Janjaweed would cease
military resistance quickly if confronted with a well-trained,
appropriately armed, and sufficiently robust military contingent with
forceful rules of engagement. Confrontations would be inevitable, but
the Janjaweed are no match for professional Western soldiers. Disarming
the Janjaweed as well as the interdiction of further armaments flowing
from Khartoum should be a clear part of the mandate of any international
military force stationed in Darfur itself.

Where would the necessary military resources come from? One
possibility would be an emergency assembly of one of the "battle groups"
that were approved today by the European Union defense ministers. To be
deployed to "international hotspots," these 1500-strong military
contingents "would be deployable within 10 days and able to stay on the
ground for a few months" (EU BusinessWire, May 17, 2004; at
http://www.eubusiness.com/afp/040517132350.cr0bwv7s). Strikingly, an
aide to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said just today:

"A typical scenario in which they would be deployed would be in
response to a UN request, said an aide to Solana. 'If the UN Security
Council for example asked for support to protect a humanitarian mission
in Darfur, Sudan, we would be ready to respond to the request.'" (EU
BusinessWire, May 17, 2004)

Given the critical situation in Darfur, there must be urgent planning
for an ad hoc creation of just such a "battle group"---of appropriate
size, utilizing the EU military planning to date, with an emergency
assembly of troops and equipment. And even if the UN Security Council
fails in its moral assessment of what is demanded in Darfur, there are
other possibilities for sponsoring multilateral humanitarian


There are other difficulties that will confront any form of
humanitarian intervention; these will be addressed in subsequent
analyses. And there are also alternative overland transport routes
presently under consideration (from Libya, for example). But the
logistical difficulties presented, and the lack of adequate transport
capacity, seem insuperable problems if the international community is
determined to avoid hundreds of thousands of deaths. Given the immense
human stakes, it is critically important that humanitarian need define
political/military possibilities, and not the reverse.

And because present and impending deaths are so numerous, and because
of the abstraction that attends so much discussion of how to respond to
the crisis in Darfur, the question to the international community should
be framed in two ways:

More generally, "Are we prepared to acquiesce in Khartoum's engineered
famine---a massive episode in human destruction that is genocidal in
nature? have we really learned nothing from Rwanda?"

More particularly, "Are we prepared to accept countless versions of the
story of Kaltuma Hasala Adan?" (from The Economist, May 13, 2004):

"Her children's bodies were rotting in the village wells, where Arab
militiamen had thrown them to poison the water supply. But Kaltuma
Hasala Adan did not flee her home. Leaving her crops and livestock would
condemn the rest of the family to death, she reasoned. So she stayed put
for four months, despite her government's strenuous efforts to terrorise
her into flight.

"Her village was first attacked in January. An air raid caught her
unawares: as the bombs fell, she ran around in confusion. When
[Khartoum's] bombers had completed their return pass, the horizon
filled with dust, the ground shuddered, and a host of mounted militiamen
charged through the village, killing all the young men they could find.
During that first attack, Kaltuma's 18-month baby, Ali, was killed by
shrapnel. Two weeks later, her oldest son, Issa, 15, was made to kneel
in line with other young men before being shot in the back of the head.
Her husband disappeared the same day.

"For four wretched months, Kaltuma lived with both ears strained for
the faint drone of bombers, poised to dash with her three surviving
children to a hiding place in a dry river bed. Then the janjaweed---an
Arab militia that kills for the Sudanese government---rode up to finish
the job. They razed her village entirely. She fled from the embers of
her hut and trekked for four days through the desert."

The comparisons between Rwanda and Darfur are indeed being made more
frequently, more urgently; but this only makes present inaction the more
profoundly inexplicable. Certainly such comparisons by themselves are
of little use to Kaltuma Hasala Adan, and the many hundreds of thousands
who have also been forced to flee into the desert. If she could frame
for us her one question, it would certainly be, "why will you not help
me?" We are, shamefully, without an answer.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?