Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Acquiescing Before Unambiguous Genocide in Darfur: 

The United Nations, Europe, Canada, the Arab League, the African Union

Eric Reeves
June 1, 2004

Continued expressions of doubt about the reality of genocide in Darfur
are now little more than ignorance, factitious maneuvers of moral
self-defense, or a desperate desire not to honor the obligations for
international action that are part of Article 1 of the 1948 UN
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:

"The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in
time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law
which they undertake to prevent and to punish."

That the intention of the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum to
destroy the African peoples of Darfur---"as such," in the key phrase of
the Genocide Convention---can no longer be doubted, nor can the
catastrophic consequences of this animating intention be denied by
anyone who will only look at the overwhelming body of evidence now
clearly before us. In addition to very substantial regional
investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and various
UN teams, there is now virtually daily confirming evidence coming in the
form of news dispatches from Darfur. And there is remarkable, and
chilling, congruence and similarity between all these accounts.

[Recent authoritative reportage and analyses can be found at:








What these and scores of other dispatches and reports reveal is
unambiguous evidence of genocide. Indeed, we can do no better by way of
summarizing the intent and effects of Khartoum's regular military and
Arab militia (Janjaweed) attacks on the African peoples of Darfur than
to recall a key clause from Article 2 of the Genocide Convention:

"deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part" (clause [c])

In the case of Darfur, the African tribal groups of the region have had
their foodstocks destroyed, their cattle looted, their villages burned,
their wells dynamited, bulldozed, or poisoned, their seeds and
agricultural implements destroyed. Women and girls are gang-raped and
branded, often before their families; men and boys are rounded up for
mass executions. Moreover, Khartoum has "systematically" (the
characterization is that of senior UN officials) denied humanitarian
access to these terribly distressed peoples.

Those who survive are forced to flee into the desert to escape further
attacks by the Janjaweed and Khartoum's regular military forces---or
vainly to seek refuge in camps like that at Kailek in southern Darfur,
where a UN inter-agency investigative team found in late April 2004 "a
strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation," a policy of
"imprisonment," a "policy of forced starvation," an unreported
catastrophic "child mortality rate of 8-9 per day," and the continued
obstruction of humanitarian aid for this critically distressed, forcibly
confined population. This assessment led these professional
humanitarian aid workers to make explicit comparison to the Rwandan
("Report: A United Nations Inter-Agency fact-finding and humanitarian
needs assessment mission, Kailek, South Darfur, 24 April 2004")

Can there be a shred of intellectually respectable doubt that such
actions do not have as their intention "deliberately inflicting on these
groups conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical
destruction in whole or in part"? We should bear in mind here that the
targeted African tribal groups include---in addition to the more often
cited Fur, Massaleit, and Zaghawa---a number of smaller African groups.
The Minority Rights Group (UK) rightly reminds us in a May 19, 2004
report that this list includes, for example, the Kietinga, the Dajo, the
Medoob (also Midob and Midop), and the Tungor. These groups are also
"victims of the current atrocities."

Some perhaps demand even more explicit evidence of genocidal "intention"
than Darfur so abundantly offers. Such a perverse evidentiary standard
substitutes an impossible (and thus useless) legal requirement for
common sense. In dealing with questions of "intention" to commit
genocide in Darfur, we are hardly confronted with any complex legal
issues, or philosophical questions about states of mind. For the
purposes of moral judgment and political action, we must do what we
always do when there are no explicit declarations of intent---no text,
for example, in which Khartoum makes explicit its plans for a "final
solution" to its "African problem" in Darfur. We infer intent from
actions; the more actions, the more evidence of intent. The more
relentlessly and exclusively the African tribal groups in Darfur are
targeted for destruction, the more reasonable the inference that this
destruction is intended to destroy them---"as such."

We have enough such evidence; we have more than enough.

Why should it be necessary to belabor the issue of whether or not the
destruction of the African peoples of Darfur is genocide? Why shouldn't
it be enough that senior UN officials, the US State Department and
Agency for International Development, Human Rights Watch, and many, many
others have found that what is occurring in Darfur is "ethnic
cleansing"? Why shouldn't it be enough that the International Crisis
Group has found that as a result of ethnic cleansing,

"in the best-case scenario, 'only' 100,000 people are expected to die
in Darfur from disease and malnutrition in the coming months; sadly,
there is little reason for even this desperate optimism" ("End the
slaughter and starvation in western Sudan," May 16, 2004).

Why shouldn't it be enough that recently updated data from the UN on
the number of "war-affected," along with data on morality rates from the
US Agency for International Development, suggest that as many as 500,000
people will be die from engineered famine and epidemics in the coming
months? For what none can possibly deny is that the impending cataclysm
of human destruction is no natural disaster, but derives directly from
the way in which Khartoum has chosen to wage war against the insurgency
in Darfur, viz. destroying the entire civilian base that might provide
support for the groups comprising the insurgency forces.

Why isn't all this enough, even without a finding of genocide?

The answer lies in the shameful acquiescence within the international
community that is now all too evident. Darfur, so long as it doesn't
reach the perverse "gold standard" of genocide, does not oblige the
"contracting parties" of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention to
"undertake to prevent and to punish" genocide. Since the
"contracting parties" include the US, Canada, the countries of the
European Union, and most countries in the Arab League and the African
Union, none of these is obliged to act under the Genocide Convention.
Rather, they can continue to speak of Darfur as if it were a purely
humanitarian crisis, rather than a massive reflection of the
consequences of genocidal warfare. Or if shame obliges some response,
Khartoum will be subject to a further parade of comments "deploring,"
"urging," "condemning," "requesting" and "calling on."

Of course none of this matters now. Moreover, such moral
self-congratulation only encourages expediency and disingenuous of a
sort embodied in Alan Goulty, Britain's special envoy for Sudan. Goulty
is one of those most responsible for muting international criticism of
the Darfur catastrophe in the interests of getting a deal done in
Naivasha between Khartoum and the SPLM/A. This expedient diplomatic
strategy of course back-fired, disastrously, giving Khartoum powerful
incentive to delay for months final conclusion of an agreement with the
south. For as long as Khartoum was able to make it appear that a deal
in Naivasha was imminent, the regime felt confident that it could
continue its genocidal campaign in Darfur without any robust
international criticism from the UK or the US. This accounts for a
shamefully great deal of international belatedness in responding to

But Goulty even now is determined to accommodate Khartoum's
genocidaires rather than move aggressively to save the hundreds of
thousands of lives at risk. The Telegraph (UK) yesterday reported
Goulty as dismissing efforts to impose targeted sanctions against
Khartoum's leadership as "dithering"; but he casts his reasoning in
bizarrely incongruous terms:

"'In the long term, threats of sanctions don't seem likely to produce
immediate action and immediate action is what we need,' Goulty said."
(The Telegraph [UK], May 31, 2004)

"Immediate action" is indeed what is needed, but that hardly means that
the present, credible threat of targeted UN sanctions against senior
National Islamic Front leaders (directed at overseas travel and overseas
assets) would not have immediate effects. Goulty here is either not
thinking or has become too careless in his expediency.

Even more disturbing is Goulty's dismissal of humanitarian intervention
to ensure the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Darfur and the
creation of safe havens for the more than 1 million internally displaced
persons presently at extremely acute risk:

"[Humanitarian intervention] would be very expensive, fraught with
difficulties and hard to set up in a hurry." (The Telegraph [UK], May
31, 2004)

Yes, humanitarian intervention to save hundreds of thousands of lives
would be "very expensive, fraught with difficulties and hard to set up
in a hurry," as this writer has repeatedly stressed in calling for
humanitarian intervention. But is the "difficulty" of such intervention
reason for not attempting what alone will provide the food, medical
supplies, and security necessary to save hundred of thousands of lives
from genocidal destruction? What moral universe does Mr. Goulty inhabit
that such "difficulties" become insuperable obstacles?

And to be sure, intervention will be very expensive (though likely no
more expensive than piece-meal efforts to provide humanitarian aid for
so many people over such a large area for over a year without efficient
access): how much are African lives worth, Mr. Goulty? Perhaps a
budget, or moral calculus of "dollars per life," can be provided so that
the world knows how much is too much for people who have the misfortune
of being the victims of genocide in Africa.

And yes, such a humanitarian intervention will be very difficult to set
up in a hurry---the more so because of callous comments such as those by
Mr. Goulty.

If we wish to understand the importance of declaring the realities of
Darfur by their appropriate name---genocide---we can do no better than
to examine closely what lies behind Mr. Goulty's refusal to work for or
support humanitarian intervention, or threaten sanctions against the
genocidaires in Khartoum.


But temporizing by Goulty and his ilk within the international
community can do nothing to halt the relentless movement of the seasonal
rains toward Darfur and the Chad/Darfur border, or to halt the
continuing brutal predations of the Janjaweed, or to obscure Khartoum's
recent aerial attacks against villagers in flagrant violation of the
terms of the April 8, 2004 cease-fire, or to retard spiking mortality
rates in the concentration camps, or to improve humanitarian access in
Darfur, which Khartoum is now restricting by new means. Darfur's
catastrophe continues to accelerate, and an abyss of human suffering and
destruction opens ever more widely, despite all efforts to temporize.

Of extremely urgent concern is the impending loss of road corridors
from Chad to Darfur because of the rains that have now begun. The
consequences of this seasonal development are captured in a dispatch
from the UN News Centre of several days ago ("Rains in Chad interrupt
refugee transfers from Darfur, Sudan, UN agency says," May 28, 2004):

"The United Nations refugee agency got the first indication of how the
rainy season could block the transfer of thousands of Sudanese refugees
from the insecure Chadian border when two of its teams had to stop
driving their vehicles for safety's sake after downpours lasting less
than an hour.
Heavy rain fell for just 45 minutes yesterday in the Abeche area of
eastern Chad and one UNHCR team had to stop travelling on one side of a
seasonally dry riverbed, or 'wadi,' because of the sudden rushing
The team was soon joined by other UNHCR staff members, returning to
Abeche from Farchana camp, who walked from the other side of the wadi
after abandoning their vehicle to avoid having it sink into mud and
'This signals the sort of challenges we're going to face as the rainy
season sets in,' said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis at a news
briefing in Geneva." (UN News Center, May 28, 2004)

The dispatch continued by noting that "the situation is especially
urgent as the cross-border attacks [by Khartoum's Janjaweed militia]
have continued, UNHCR [UN High Commission for Refugees] said" (UN News
Centre, May 28, 2004).

The Guardian (UK) also reports today on the threat posed by the
seasonal rains that have now arrived and are slowly encompassing more of
the regions affected by war in Darfur and Chad:

"An ominous blue bubble on an aid agency map, for a remote conflict in
an even remoter part of Africa, could mean mass starvation before June
is out. The map, published on the web by the Famine Early Warning System
Network, shows the 'rain timeline' for the seasonal monsoon now moving
northwards into eastern Chad and the Darfur region of western Sudan. Day
by day more territory now suffering from hot winds and blowing dust will
bear the even heavier burden of rainstorms which turn roads into swamps
and wadis into torrents." (The Guardian, June 1, 2004)

As overland corridors from Chad are severed by these rains, the
necessity of finding alternative land routes into Darfur becomes ever
more urgent. For there is not nearly enough food, or medical supplies,
pre-positioned for distribution by the humanitarian personnel that
Khartoum is only now gradually and partially allowing into the region.
These aid workers will arrive and almost immediately begin overseeing
what The Guardian correctly reports as the high likelihood that there
will be "mass starvation before June is out."

Moreover, since there has been no spring planting, and thus no fall
harvest, famine affecting a huge percentage of Darfur's total population
will continue into 2005. This catastrophe, so clearly and remorselessly
advancing, can be mitigated only by the most robust and urgent
humanitarian intervention---one that in the next few weeks
internationalizes the rail line running from Port Sudan through Khartoum
and El Obeid and on to Nyala (South Darfur, but strategically located
for distribution to many key areas).

Security for the more than 1 million internally displaced persons, many
in highly threatening concentration camps, must also be a key part of
any humanitarian intervention. For even as Khartoum's "systematic"
denial of humanitarian access has done so much to prevent food and
medicine from reaching the displaced African populations of Darfur, the
regime continues to give free rein to its Janjaweed militias in
attacking these same populations---producing yet greater displacement
and subsequent swelling of camp populations. The UN's Integrated
Regional Information Networks reports today:

"[The US Agency for International Development] said that armed Janjawid
militia were continuing to attack civilians in all three states of
Darfur and that killings, rapes, beatings, looting and burning of homes
were still being reported. In Northern Darfur State, attacks on villages
had only decreased because 'a significant number' of villages had
already been destroyed, while attacks on camps for internally displaced
persons were continuing." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks,
June 1, 2004)

Khartoum is also continuing with its aerial attacks on civilian
targets. One such attack was widely reported several days ago by
various wire services, and additional details of the attack were
forwarded to this writer by Eltigani Ateem Seisi, former governor of
Darfur. Reuters reports:

"The witnesses [from a village in West Sudan] told Reuters by mobile
and satellite telephone from the area that an Antonov plane and
helicopters bombed the village of Tabit, about 25 miles southwest of
al-Fashir, the capital of Northern Darfur state. [ ] 'There were two
helicopters and one Antonov and they started bombarding the market,'
said one witness, asking not to be identified." (Reuters, May 28, 2004)

Agence France-Presse provided additional detail:

"Government air strikes on a market near Al-Fasher, capital of west
Sudan's war-torn North Darfur State, left 20 people dead and 17 wounded.
An Antonov jet and two helicopter gunships were used in Friday's attack
on the market in the town of Tabet, said Muhammad Mersal, who heads the
office of SLM secretary general Mani Minaoui, in a telephone call from
Darfur." (Agence France-Presse, May 28, 2004)

Eltigani Ateem Seisi has provided yet further information on the basis
of contacts on the ground in Darfur, indicating that "22 villagers will
killed in the market place" as they prepared for Friday evening prayers;
the names of many of the civilians killed in the attack were also
provided (e-mail, received May 29, 2004).

Humanitarian access continues to be impeded in highly consequential
ways, despite Khartoum's promise of a week ago to expedite visas for
humanitarian personnel. Though partially fulfilling this particular
pledge, and though the UN is obviously trying to encourage Khartoum to
provide more access by celebrating very limited achievements, another
report today from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks
(IRIN) makes clear that Khartoum has simply resorted to other means in
restricting humanitarian access and the delivery of food and medicine to
those most critically in need. A good example of the regime's ongoing
intent to deny humanitarian supplies to the population is the
contrivance of various bureaucratic obstacles:

"The advocacy group Refugees International (RI) said last week that
'Khartoum was continuing to place obstacles' in the way of agencies
seeking to respond to the Darfur crisis by requiring relief supplies to
be transported on Sudanese trucks and distributed by Sudanese agencies.

"[This obstruction occurs even as Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans
Frontieres] warned last month that the entire population of Darfur,
numbering several million, was 'teetering on the verge of mass
starvation' as a direct result of the conflict."

"A further problem was Khartoum's insistence that all medical supplies
being shipped into Sudan needed to be tested before they were used,
Refugees International added." (UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks, June 1, 2004)

Nothing could better indicate Khartoum's unfathomable callousness than
the "insistence that all medical supplies being shipped into Sudan
needed to be tested before they were used." Children are dying in
numbers that constitute "catastrophic mortality rates," according to
MSF, and dying often from lack of medical supplies, including
inoculations, antibiotics, and surgical kits and supplies. This is the
context in which Khartoum is insisting that all medical supplies be
tested, with delays of unforgivable length.

IRIN also reports:

"A more serious impediment to the delivery of aid was the reported
'requirement' by Khartoum that agencies only use local NGOs to
deliver aid, he told IRIN. The new policy had 'hampered effective
distribution of assistance, including food,' the UN reported last week,
stating that the existing local NGOs were limited in number and lacked
the necessary capacity." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks,
June 1, 2004)

Khartoum is of course well aware of how severely its insistence on
"local" nongovernmental organizations will adversely affect efficient
food delivery; indeed, this is precisely the point. The tactful words
of the UN obscure how this deliberate inefficiency is, in effect, the
continuation of genocide by other means.

Today's IRIN report also gives a synopsis of a recent US Agency for
International Development Assessment:

"The US Agency for International Development (USAID) reported last week
that Khartoum was 'interfering' in humanitarian aid efforts. Government
officials had questioned relief workers on their reporting of human
rights abuses, told agencies not to carry out protection activities, and
threatened to expel organisations failing to comply with restrictions.
Khartoum also required 72-hour advance notification for passengers
travelling on UN flights to Darfur, which was 'an impediment to the
rapid deployment of emergency staff and equipment,' USAID added."
(UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, June 1, 2004)

All this is in addition to the continued denial of access to some aid
workers from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs;
the deliberate "[delaying of] some relief assistance, equipment and
vehicles essential to the delivery of aid"; and the requirement that all
"staff already in Darfur still had to give the local humanitarian aid
commissioners 24-hour notice when they were travelling outside the three
main towns of Nyala, Al-Junaynah and Al-Fashir" (UN Integrated Regional
Information Networks, June 1, 2004). This latter policy ensures that
there is no real independence of movement, even as it is part of
Khartoum's larger policy---still in effect---of denying all humanitarian
access to the very large areas of rural Darfur controlled by the
insurgency groups (the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice
and Equality Movement).


What is the international response to genocide in Darfur? What means
are being contemplated to provide humanitarian assistance that can truly
respond to the needs of the 2 million the UN now estimates are
"war-affected" and at acute risk? What is the world prepared to do
to save hundreds of thousands of lives at risk because of another
African genocide?

The UN Security Council has registered its "grave concern."

The African Union will be deploying all of 10 cease-fire monitors to
Darfur this Wednesday (June 2, 2004), with vague possibilities of
expansion. (Darfur is an area roughly the size of France, and the
cease-fire nominally to be monitored has largely collapsed.)

Germany and France seem to be doing their best to offer nothing more
than unctuous hand-wringing, and are finding plenty of company in the

Canada continues to mouth the platitudes of "soft power," which for
Darfur amounts to little more than vague moral drooling.

The UK as represented by Alan Goulty is committed to a "quiet diplomacy"
with Khartoum's genocidaires that will certainly work to convince the
regime that it has nothing to fear from continuing its violent and
intransigent ways.

The US, for all its commitment to Sudan, is yet to determine upon a
well-articulated course of fully adequate humanitarian response---and
has yet to explain why such a response will not inevitably entail
humanitarian intervention.

And the Arab League seemed content in its recent Tunis summit to do
nothing meaningful to stop the slaughter of Muslims in Darfur, though
there has been some belated public recognition that something quite
terrible is happening in the western part of Arab-League member Sudan.

But the rains have arrived; the aggregate mortality rates from camps
and a compilation of statistics from various humanitarian assessments
suggest that the weekly civilian death toll is well above 2,000 human
beings, primarily children; there is not nearly enough food or medicine
in place or moving along a corridor that will remain open once the rains
begin in earnest. And the grim mortality projections from the US Agency
for International Development make clear that hundreds of thousands will
die if more is not done in the very near future.

If we wish to quantify the "slow-motion" Darfur genocide of 2003-2005,
we may at present either look back to the 40,000 to 60,000 who have
already died---or ahead to the 300,000 to 500,000 who will die without
humanitarian intervention.

There can be no forgiveness for the acquiescence that has already seen
tens of thousands die. There can be no moral comprehension of the
refusal to act when hundreds of thousands may yet be saved.

In the end, it appears that the only lesson of the grim 10th
anniversary of the Rwandan genocide is that the world has learned no
lesson about genocide in Africa.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

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