Tuesday, June 22, 2004

In response to the question, 'Is the Darfur conflict genocide?' 

"In response to the question, 'Is the Darfur conflict genocide?' [,]
if we strictly apply the provisions of the 1948 Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, there is no
doubt that the answer is yes." (Justice Africa [UK], June 18, 2004]

Eric Reeves
June 21, 2004

Justice Africa (UK) has produced regular analyses of the "Prospects for Peace
in Sudan" for a number of years. Though occasionally misguided in assessing US
Sudan policy and politics, the organization has some of the world's strongest
Sudan research capacity, especially on northern Sudan. In speaking on June 18,
2004 to the question of whether Khartoum's conduct of war in Darfur constitutes
genocide, Justice Africa declared unambiguously, explicitly referencing the
1948 UN Genocide Convention;

"there is no doubt that the answer is yes"
("Sudan: Justice Africa Analysis,"

Contrary to the claims of some nongovernmental organizations, a few weakly
informed newspaper editorials, and the most recent press release from the John
Kerry presidential campaign, a determination concerning genocide in Darfur is of
very considerable significance---morally, politically, and legally (particularly
given the obligations of the various contracting parties to the 1948 UN
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, including the

For it is clear that effective UN Security Council action concerning the crisis
in Darfur---in particular the authorization of humanitarian intervention to
save hundreds of thousands of lives acutely at risk---is already far overdue, and
is daily less likely. Since the only alternative is multilateral humanitarian
intervention without UN auspices, such intervention must have some clearly
established basis in international law and treaty.

Certainly the question here can't be about the urgent necessity of such
humanitarian intervention, which must provide immediate protection to over 1.3 million
displaced civilian persons in Darfur and the Chad border area, especially those
in concentrations camps. Intervention must also secure adequate transport
capacity and corridors for urgently needed food, in massive quantities, as well as
medical supplies. The number of war-affected persons is 2.2 million and
growing. Shelter materials, water purification, and other humanitarian materials are
also in desperately short supply. This will be a large and difficult
undertaking, and will require a substantial commitment of military protection forces.

Given the political realities that have followed in the wake of the US war in
Iraq, and the shameful moral inertia of the UN Security Council, it is simply
wrong to suggest that a finding on the question of genocide is inconsequential or
inappropriately timed. On the contrary, it is distinctly the most credible and
urgent basis for the humanitarian intervention that has heretofore been only
implicitly recognized in calls for UN authorization under Chapter VII of the UN
Charter (this is the basis for forceful UN military intervention). To ignore
such conspicuous political realities reflects either a deep misunderstanding of
the nature of the Darfur crisis or internal institutional and organizational
politics---or sheer moral diffidence.

Certainly Kofi Annan's declaration of June 17, 2004 that he had seen no report
that suggested to him that the realities in Darfur reflect either genocide or
"ethnic cleansing" is a perfect illustration. Annan is either ignorant or
capitulating before UN Security Council politics or expediently maneuvering to avoid
blame. Here it should be said that UN responsibility must be shared, not only
by Annan and a Security Council that refuses to act in meaningful fashion, but
by those in the international organization that have perversely underestimated
the extent of the crisis (the UN High Commission for Refugees in Chad comes
immediately to mind), as well as other UN political figures in New York
headquarters. Kieran Prendergast, United Nations Under-secretary for Political Affairs and
Kofi Annan's political first-in-command, has been witheringly destructive of
possible UN action behind the scenes in New York.

This professional pessimist, like his UK partner in acquiesce Alan Goulty,
refuses to countenance even discussion of humanitarian intervention. Prendergast
claims the world isn't ready for such intervention, even as such pronouncements
of course make appropriate action less likely. Goulty (UK special Sudan envoy)
has callously declared: "[Humanitarian intervention in Darfur] would be very
expensive, fraught with difficulties and hard to set up in a hurry" (The
Telegraph [UK], May 31, 2004)---as if the difficulty of intervention trumped the moral
obligations to prevent genocide.

Moreover, various UN Security Council members are behaving with primary
interests in Sudan that are clearly not the people of Darfur. As yet another superbly
detailed and informed Washington Post editorial suggests ("As Genocide
Unfolds," June 20, 2004):

"China and France both have oil investments in Sudan and do not wish to
alienate the government; Russia and some non-permanent members of the Security Council
such as Pakistan view a [robust UN] resolution as an infringement of
sovereignty. In ordinary times, the United States might be able to prod these countries
in the right direction. But the Bush administration is devoting its very
limited diplomatic capital to Iraq, and there is little left for Darfur. That is
why the UN resolution may take weeks." (Washington Post, June 20, 2004)

But Darfur doesn't have weeks, not with the full rainy season beginning,
overland transport capacity already severely curtailed, and Khartoum continuing to
impede humanitarian access. Hundreds of civilians are now dying daily, as the
effects of acute malnutrition, especially among children, begin to bite deeper
into the displaced populations of displaced (see below). At least 80,000 have
already died, and conditions by all accounts continue to deteriorate rapidly,
with grossly inadequate pre-positioned food and medical supplies. Water-borne
diseases are now beginning to explode in the camps, which will soon be awash in
human excrement.

This is a moment that requires strong international leadership. US Secretary
of State Colin Powell declared on June 11, 2004 that the US is already engaged
in a legal determination of whether what is now officially described as "ethnic
cleansing" rises to the level of genocide (New York Times, June 12, 2004). But
ten days later there has been no further announcement other than that the legal
determination is continuing. Given the extreme urgency of the situation, and
the rising daily mortality rate, this is already too long. The legal issues
have been vetted before, and the factual evidence is all too comprehensive. A
determination of genocide cannot be withheld for political reasons---to ascertain,
for example, where UN political chips may fall. This, of all legal
determinations, must be made strictly on its merits---and in the very near term.

But this is also a moment for the campaign of Senator John Kerry to demonstrate
leadership, and to give American voters and the world as a whole a sense of how
the senator would respond as president to an urgent international crisis.
Yesterday's press release (June 20, 2004) continues a Kerry policy on Darfur of
excessive caution, even disingenuousness. The release declared: "Now is not the
time to debate whether to call this catastrophe a genocide. Now is the time for
swift and strong action."

But again, given the political context for any decision concerning humanitarian
intervention, and given the overwhelming evidence at hand, now is precisely the
time to make a determination about genocide. The Kerry campaign must know how
unlikely UN action is: would Senator Kerry as President be prepared to act
without UN authorization? At the very least Senator Kerry must declare whether he
would be prepared to act under the obligations of Article 1 of the Genocide
Convention to "prevent genocide," which of course would not require a
determination that genocide is actually occurring, but only that it is clearly threatened.
Nothing has been articulated that confronts the real difficulties of US
leadership in this difficult international political situation.

The Kerry campaign does speak of the need to "be ready to take additional
measures to pressure the Sudanese government," but without specifying what these
"additional measures" are. The Khartoum regime is thoroughly familiar with such
vague and typically empty threats. This does nothing to help the people of
Darfur, however well it may politically position candidate Kerry on this issue.

Darfur is not, of course, an exclusively American or UN responsibility. The
countries of the European Union and Canada have so far been largely worthless in
moving toward decisive action to save hundreds of thousands of lives; indeed,
Great Britain has done a great deal to retard such movement.


How does such political failure play out in the context of current military
developments in Darfur? The answer could hardly be more grim. For while some may
be encouraged by yesterday's widely reported announcement from National Islamic
Front president Omer Beshir, declaring in Khartoum that the regime's army will
now engage in a campaign to disarm the Janjaweed militias, closer consideration
gives reason for deep concern:

"President Omar el-Bashir said in a statement Saturday said he was ordering a
'complete mobilization' of all Sudanese army and security forces to disarm all
Darfur's warring parties, including the janjaweed---nomadic Arab militia that
the government has been accused of supporting." (Associated Press, June 20, 2004)

But for months the Janjaweed have been increasingly incorporated into or moved
within the ambit of Khartoum's regular forces in Darfur (this has been reported
by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the US State Department, the
International Crisis Group, and many others). The Janjaweed have been armed by
Khartoum, protected by Khartoum, given uniforms and provisions by Khartoum, and
taken orders from Khartoum. For its part, the Janjaweed have been the primary
instrument of human destruction. Are we to believe that this will change with a
simple pronouncement, under duress, by Beshir?

Let us recall that it was Beshir who in early February 2004 shamelessly lied
about Darfur, brazenly declaring that the military situation was "fully under
control." Months of intervening military violence, directed primarily against
civilians, proves how profound Beshir's lie was.

As a further measure of the integrity of pronouncements from Khartoum on the
military state of affairs in Darfur, we should recall recent pronouncements from
NIF Vice President Ali Osman Taha:

"Taha accused the international media of deliberately magnifying the scale of
the humanitarian problem in the region. He also claimed that the conflict was
fabricated by the West." (Agence France-Presse [Cairo], June 16, 2004)]

This regime lies repeatedly, shamelessly, egregiously---and without
consequence. Why, then, should it not lie now and simply say what the international
community wishes to hear---and thereby be relieved from any responsibility to act
meaningfully? But more than simply a lie, Beshir's statement is almost certainly
an effort to conceal a major new offensive in Darfur. This would be a
full-scale response to realities reflected in a much less widely reported statement
yesterday from one of the two main insurgency movements in Darfur, the Sudan
Liberation Movement/Army (unrelated to the southern SPLM/A):

"One of the two main rebel groups in Sudan's western region of Darfur said on
Sunday it had extended its control to areas abandoned by government forces since
a cease-fire agreement signed in April. The official of the rebel Sudan
Liberation Movement (SLM), who asked not to be named because he is based in the
Sudanese capital Khartoum, said the movement had armed and trained new supporters in
areas previously outside its control.

"'There are areas in which there is no government presence but in which we have
supporters, so we have moved in to provide protection for these supporters,' he
told Reuters. 'The areas include Geraida and Labadu towns in South Darfur state
and Kurma and Shingul Tubay in North Darfur.'

"The government says the April 8 cease-fire banned moving forces into new areas
and that the aim of a government campaign to disarm the rebels is to restore
the April status quo. The SLM official, denying it was violating the truce, said
the group was partly responding to government forces activities.

"'We are not moving forces. People are joining up because of what the
government is doing to them. We are only arming and training them and they are
establishing garrisons in their villages and towns.' He said about 300 villagers joined
up his group after government forces bombed Tabit in Northern Darfur state,
enabling the SLM to take control of Shingul Tubay." (Reuters, June 20, 2004)

Since Khartoum's continued use of its aerial military assets after the April 8
cease-fire has been repeatedly confirmed, and since bombing efforts are so
often associated with continuing Janjaweed attacks on villages, it is hardly
surprising that the insurgency campaign is strengthening in isolated and threatened
rural areas. These consolidations of military resistance, not the Janjaweed,
will be the real targets of Beshir's "complete mobilization of all Sudanese army
and security forces." Indeed, this offensive will certainly make full and
brutal use of the Janjaweed militia allies. As the authoritative Justice Africa
noted in its recent analysis, the campaign in Darfur is distinguished by the
"ruthlessness with which the security elite at the heart of the Government of Sudan
have operated, and their readiness to turn Darfur into an ethics-free zone"
("Sudan: Justice Africa Analysis,"

Since the only force presently monitoring the merely notional April 8, 2004
cease-fire (long since in tatters) is a very small group of African Union
monitors, there is nothing to prevent Khartoum from following such a strategy in the
vast majority of Darfur (an area the size of France) that remains inaccessible to
international humanitarian workers, news reporters, and the monitoring force
itself. Inexcusably, the international community seems content with this
absurdly small force, which will grow to only 120, and this only by the end of July.
It is completely inadequate to the task at hand, a mere fig-leaf for absence of
meaningful monitoring. (Today's EU announcement that it may send 6-9 observers
[Reuters, June 21, 2004] does nothing to change this picture of absurd

Unsurprisingly, the most recent fact sheet from the US Agency for International
Development "Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency" (June 18, 2004) chronicles the
military violence that has been continuing even before Beshir's announcement:

"In north Darfur, during the week of June 14, the UN reported clashes involving
the Jingaweit militias and the SLM/A, in particular west of El Fasher [capital
of North Darfur]. Ongoing attacks and harassment of civilians have also been
reported in Debatuga, Senahaye, and El Halif. Clashes between the Jingaweit and
the SLM/A were also reported south of El Fasher along the road to Nyala
[capital of South Darfur]."

"According to UN reports, increasing fighting in South Darfur from June 10 to
16 has resulted in higher numbers of Internally Displaced Persons. Jingaweit
militia attacks were reported in at least 18 villages between 8 and 45 kilometers
northwest of Nyala, and near Mallam."
(Fact Sheet #10 from the US Agency for International Development
"Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency," June 18, 2004)

These are obviously extremely limited views of the ongoing violence in Darfur,
into which Khartoum has now justified the intrusion of large-scale activities
by its regular military forces, which had been at least partially constrained
previously by the April 8 cease-fire. All that can halt this continuing
violence, and allow for civilians to feel some measure of security, is humanitarian
intervention that includes a large and robust military force.


In ways that have been predicted now for months, the humanitarian situation
continues to deteriorate rapidly. This is largely because of Khartoum's past and
ongoing deliberate impeding of humanitarian access. Humanitarian and other
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continue to be confronted by delays and a
determined policy of obstructionism on Khartoum's part:

"NGOs continue to face delays in obtaining visas for their international
technical staff. Some NGO staff members have been waiting for more than eight weeks
for visas without any progress. [The US Agency for International Development]
is concerned that this problem continues to undermine NGO capacity and hamper
the international community's ability to meet the needs of Internally Displaced
Persons throughout Darfur."
(Fact Sheet #10 from the US Agency for International Development
"Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency," June 18, 2004)

The failure of the international humanitarian community to surmount Khartoum's
obstructionism is noted with deep frustration in a press release today (June
21, 2004) from Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF),

"[Darfur's] displaced have been entirely dependent on external aid for several
months, but the assistance necessary for them to survive has not materialized.
Already, 200 people die in Mornay every month, and there is nothing to indicate
that assistance will arrive in time or in sufficient quantities to avoid a
massive human catastrophe."

A present mortality rate of 200 per month in the Mornay camp alone---and this
is a camp with "humanitarian access." There are now scores of camps, most
without humanitarian access; the latter have become de facto concentration camps,
defined by imprisonment and extermination through starvation and lack of water
and sanitary facilities. The aggregate daily mortality rate for all of Darfur is
now almost certainly in excess of 500 human beings, highly disproportionately
children. Moreover, as MSF reports, even in camps for the displaced where there
is "access," the risks to civilians remain inordinate:

"The same militias who carried out the initial attacks now control the camp's
periphery, virtually imprisoning people who live in constant fear. Men risk
being killed if they leave, and women have been beaten and raped looking for food
and other essential items outside the camp. In the past nine weeks, MSF medical
teams have treated 132 victims of such violence."
(Press release from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF),
June 21, 2004 [Paris/Khartoum])

This is a glimpse from a camp with humanitarian "access"; for an understanding
of how much worse conditions are in camps without "access," see analysis of the
Kailek concentration camp by this writer ("African Auschwitz: The Concentration
Camps of Darfur," May 12, 2004; available upon request).

Nutritional surveys completed by other humanitarian organizations with some
access in Darfur continue to report shockingly high and growing Global Acute
Malnutrition (GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rates. For example in the
Abu Shouk camp for Internally Displaced Persons in North Darfur, the GAM is 39%
and the SAM is 10% (a GAM rate of 15% is considered the "emergency threshold";
approximately a third of all those in the SAM category will die).
(Fact Sheet #10 from the US Agency for International Development
"Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency," June 18, 2004)


With remorseless logic, Darfur's genocide continues to accomplish
itself---hidden by euphemism, diffidence, callous "Realpolitik," and unforgivable ignorance.
The mortality rate will soon reach to 1,000 innocent human beings per day, and
will continue to soar, reaching in excess of 4,000 per day by December. The
robust humanitarian intervention that can mitigate this massive human destruction
is nowhere in sight, and indeed seems only to recede as a politically and
logistically viable enterprise.

Eventually those who now say that a genocide determination does not matter will
be right. The dying will at long last end, with perhaps a million or more dead
from famine, disease, and violence. For the dead and the bereft, calling it
genocide or an "accident of history" will not matter---not in the slightest. At
this future moment, such a "determination" will matter only as a means for
history to remind us how badly we failed, again, in refusing to confront genocide

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

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