Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Quantifying Genocide in Darfur: A Summary and Update  

Eric Reeves
June 28, 2004

The grim task of quantifying what can be known at present of genocide in Darfur is important for a variety of reasons. Certainly the more the world community learns about the scale of Khartoum's engineered human destruction of the African tribal peoples of Darfur, the more likely there will be a response that supports humanitarian efforts financially and puts pressure on the organizations of the United Nations to plan more cogently for the growing catastrophe. European nations such as France and Germany, where skepticism is greatest about genocide in Darfur, are among those that have failed most strikingly in providing funds for UN relief efforts.

But some of the reasons that genocide must be quantified are dismaying in the extreme, especially the need to overcome the culpably ignorant belief that a finding of genocide somehow demands an appropriately large "body count," or the even more shamefully ignorant belief that there must be evidence of an intent to kill all members of the African tribal groups in Darfur if we are to speak of genocide. The first error ignores a key clause in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part" (Article 2, clause [c] of the Convention). The second error ignores the twice-repeated insistence of the Convention that genocide entails specified acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole ***or in part***" [emphasis added] (Article 2 [introductory sentence] of the Convention).

These perverse errors often accompany one another, thus doubly obscuring the reality of genocide in Darfur. The effect is to exclude from consideration what are now extraordinary volumes of evidence of racially/ethnically-animated human destruction---destruction that has produced a war-affected population of over 2.2 million, according to the US, the European Union, and the UN. This is roughly half the African tribal population of Darfur---a very significant "part." Perhaps 30% of this population will die, according to mortality data from the US Agency for International Development. The best statistical data available suggests that the number of victims of genocide is already approaching (and has perhaps exceeded) 100,000 (see below).

Of course both statistical quantification and legal arguments concerning genocide (which are critical despite their abstraction) inevitably obscure the human face of suffering and death. But there are a growing number of personal narratives and photographs that allow us to catch a glimpse of what life has become for so many in Darfur, especially children. For a single image, one that suggests how tenuous is the line between life (life governed by "conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction") and death, readers are encourage to view the powerful photograph accompanying the Newsweek International headline story on Darfur at: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5305453/.
Such scenes, mainly far from photographers and medical assistance, will be repeated in unforgivably great numbers in the near future. Only humanitarian intervention can keep the number from growing to hundreds of thousands.


Beyond its relevance in making the case for urgent humanitarian intervention in Darfur, an effort to "quantify genocide" on the basis of currently available data serves another purpose. Given the degree of inaccuracy in news media reporting on Darfur, the patent staleness of many of the figures being used, it is important to keep quantitative information (including statistically-based projections) as reflective of realities on the ground as possible. Further, news media reports have repeatedly failed to acknowledge that the figures presently used for Darfur (which sometimes change rapidly) may dramatically understate the desperate realities in this huge region, especially for the number of war-affected, internally displaced, and the current mortality total.

As UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Colin Powell both travel to Khartoum and Darfur this week, it is clear that this is the defining moment in fashioning any meaningful international response to mitigate the rapidly accelerating human catastrophe. Dismayingly, Annan's skepticism about the number of nations willing to "send in the cavalry" is not misplaced (though this is a tonally disturbing phrase, perhaps concealing Annan's belief that humanitarian intervention doesn't warrant his investment of diplomatic capital). But with the human stakes so high, the international community faces an irreducibly simple and searingly clear moral choice: rapidly begin the planning and authorization for humanitarian intervention in Darfur, or acquiesce in the genocidal destruction of the hundreds of thousands who will die without such intervention.

This writer has previously distributed an analysis of the available data defining genocide in Darfur ("Quantifying Genocide in Darfur: Numbers/Statistics/Projections; What We Know and How We Know It," June 11, 2004; full 6000-word report available upon request). The data were analyzed in a number of categories, with as much relevant statistical information as was available.

Following is a summary of the statistical conclusions from this previous analysis, synopses of the primary sources, as well as an updating of figures on the basis of new or revised data from the past 17 days (during which time more than 10,000 people have died according to the US AID mortality data referred to above).


[1] Gross mortality figure in Darfur conflict/humanitarian crisis:

JUNE 11, 2004 FIGURE: 80,000 dead

[Primary sources: Sudan Focal Point/Africa, January 2004 Sudan Briefing (for gross mortality figure as of early January 2003 [no credible rival figure is available] and the Briefing's implied mortality rate of 1,000 per week); US Agency for International Development "Projected Mortality Rates in Darfur, Sudan 2004-2005:
http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/cmr_darfur.pdf; assessments of malnutrition rates by humanitarian relief organizations such as Save the Children (UK), Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF); see for example; http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/pr/2004/05-20-2004.shtml).]

CURRENT FIGURE: over 90,000

The US Agency for International Development "Projected Mortality Rates" indicates that the current Crude Mortality Rate is 4 people/10,000 per day for an affected population of 2.2 million---or over 6,000 people per week. Since June 11, 2004, more than 12,000 have died according to these data.
Moreover, since the critical Global Acute Malnutrition Rate continues to increase more rapidly than originally predicted in the US AID "Projected Mortality Rates," it is reasonable to assume that the Crude Mortality Rate is rising more rapidly as well.

[2] Projected mortality figure for Darfur:

JUNE 11, 2004 FIGURE: 350,000 to 1 million
[Primary sources: summary assessment by Amnesty International researcher Annette Weber, recently back from the Chad/Darfur border area:
"'There are 350,000 people who are most likely to die in this period [the rainy season].'" (The Guardian [UK], June 4, 2004);

Comments by Andrew Natsios, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development:

"'We estimate right now if we get relief in, we'll lose a third of a million people, and if we don't the death rates could be dramatically higher, approaching a million people,' said US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Andrew Natsios after a high-level UN aid meeting [in Geneva]." (Agence France-Presse, June 3, 2004)
Natsios's comments are based on US AID's "Projected Mortality Rates in Darfur, Sudan 2004-2005:
http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/cmr_darfur.pdf; again it is important to note that various current humanitarian assessments of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) are rising faster than projected on the US AID's "Mortality Rates" graph, suggesting a commensurately more rapid increase in the Crude Mortality Rate (CMR).]

CURRENT FIGURE: unchanged (350,000 to 1 million)

But the general humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, pushing the probable mortality total steadily beyond the low-end approximate figure of 350,000. Khartoum continues to impede humanitarian relief efforts in highly consequential ways; the rains are spreading relentlessly northward, cutting more and more road arteries; a large number of Internally Displaced Persons camps will soon be largely or entirely inaccessible until October (see map of these camps at: http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/darfur.html).

Humanitarian capacity (see below) remains dramatically inadequate to the human needs of the internally displaced, the refugees in Chad, and the larger population of war-affected. There is not nearly enough pre-positioned food, medicine, or shelter; there are not nearly enough UN workers on the ground to make effective use of resources; the UN's World Food Program has consistently missed its monthly targets for food delivery and recently announced (June 25, 2004):

"[The U.N. World Food Programme said on Friday] at least 300,000 people driven from their homes could go without food this month because of insecurity and lack of funds." (Reuters, June 25, 2004)

We may certainly presume the accuracy of the general assessment of Ramiro Lopes da Silva, UN World Food Program Country Director for Sudan: "the situation in Darfur is becoming more critical every day; the worst is still to come" (Agence France-Presse, June 7, 2004).

[3] The number of persons displaced, within Darfur and into Chad.

[a] Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within Darfur

JUNE 11, 2004 FIGURE: 1.1 million IDPs
[Primary sources: UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had reached a figure of 1 million by April 21, 2004, even as reports of continued large displacement continued subsequently:
"The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan's western region of Darfur has risen to one million, the United Nations said on Tuesday." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [Nairobi], April 21, 2004);
The number is also supported by research from the UN World Health Organization, the International Rescue Committee, and other humanitarian and human rights organizations.

Many had continued to report large increases in internal displacement through June 11, 2004. For example, US AID reported that according to its workers in Darfur, "large numbers of IDPs have recently fled violence east of Geneina, West Darfur" (US AID "Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency, June 4, 2004 fact sheet).]

CURRENT FIGURE: 1.15 million IDPs

Reports of internal displacement because of military violence on the part of Khartoum's Janjaweed militia continue to stream in. For example, the UN World Food Program (WFP) very recently reported that:

"Jingaweit attacks occur regularly against the villages that surround Guildu and Gulu towns in the far north of South Sudan. WFP has been distributing food to these areas and reports that six villages have been destroyed in the past two weeks. As a result, IDP's have been steadily moving to Gulu where the population near the towns faces critical shortages of health services and water." (US AID "Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency," June 25, 2004 fact sheet)
Given the rate of internal displacement over the past 50 weeks, and the level of continued violence, insecurity in rural areas, and increasing desperation for food, it is statistically likely that another 50,000 have been displaced since June 11, 2004

[b] Refugees in Chad

JUNE 11, 2004 FIGURE: approximately 200,000

[Primary sources: in late May 2004, Refugees International released a report of its research on refugees in Chad fleeing from Darfur:

"'After completing a two-week assessment mission to eastern Chad, Refugees International has concluded that the real number of Darfur refugees there is around 200,000, not the 110,000 planning figure that has been used by the United Nations and aid agencies,' said Refugees International. Donors would also need to respond with urgency to the appeal, [the organization] added." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [Nairobi] May 21, 2004)

This figure was indirectly confirmed by the World Food Program:
"Laura Melo, a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme (WFP), said the organisation was 'currently revising its appeal and its working figures' to address the increasing needs in Chad. 'The budget revision that is prepared targets a number close to the one [200,000 refugees] referred to by Refugees International,' she said, adding that the document was not finalised yet." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [Nairobi] May 21, 2004)]

CURRENT FIGURE: approximately 200,000

The UN High Commission for Refugees is now using a figure in excess of 180,000 for the population of Darfurian refugees inside Chad. This brings UNHCR much closer to the figure generated in May 2004 by Refugees International. It remains the case that an accurate census of refugees, given the remoteness of this region, is impossible. This is especially true of the northern border sector (from Koublous to Tine and north to Bahay). The number of refugees crossing the border has slowed dramatically in recent weeks, but there are still large pockets of people unaccounted for or simply unseen. The UNHCR figure is still likely well short of the total number of refugees.

Approximately 110,000 refugees have been moved to camps further inside Chad, but this leaves approximately 90,000 to be relocated or integrated into host villages with clan relations in the border area. The border area remains militarily highly volatile, and dire conditions in camps are described by Jean-Charles Dei, deputy director of the UN World Food Programme in Chad:
"[Dei] said the rains would also bring inevitable outbreaks of disease, including cholera and measles. 'There will be a tragedy if nothing happens. [ ] I don't think any of the children under the age of five will make it, and the pregnant women too. For those who are under five there is no chance. They will die from starvation.'" (The Scotsman [dateline: Chad/Darfur border], June 10, 2004)

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres has declared of these Chad refugee camps that:

"malnutrition inside the refugee camps is actually worse than outside because they are so overcrowded. Sanitation facilities in most of the camps were also 'totally inadequate,' said the agency last week. In one camp there was one latrine per 400 refugees. 'This is 20 times greater than the international standard of a maximum of 20 people per latrine. It's absolutely unacceptable.' (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [Nairobi] May 21, 2004)

[4] Total number of "war-affected" persons:

JUNE 11, 2004 FIGURE: 2.2 million

[Primary sources: joint communiqué by UN, European Union, and US in Geneva, June 3, 2004:

"Describing the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Sudan's Darfur region as being 'of extraordinary gravity, magnitude and urgency,' the United Nations, donor countries and aid agencies today wrapped up a meeting by appealing for at least $236 million to help an estimated 2.2 million victims of the war and forced ethnic displacement." (UN News Centre, June 3, 2004)
"War-affected" people were defined as those in need of humanitarian assistance because of the level of civilian and agricultural destruction defining the conflict in Darfur.]


As foodstocks continue to be depleted, without corresponding increases in humanitarian food assistance, more and more of the populations in Darfur, even those not displaced, are at risk of malnutrition, severe malnutrition, and malnutrition-related diseases. The rainy season will bring about a huge increase in water-borne diseases (especially cholera and dysentery), as well as an exploding epidemic of malaria. Measles are proving a significant problem among child populations, and the ominous specter of a polio epidemic in the fall now shadows Darfur as well.

As general levels of health and nutrition continue to decline throughout the region, more and more civilians are directly affected by the war and in need of medical and food assistance. Given the rate at which this population has increased in recent months, a reasonable statistical inference is that there has been an increase of 100,000 war-affected persons in Darfur since June 11, 2004. Since there is virtually no food production in Darfur, the famine will begin to affect Arab tribal groups as well.

[5] Camp populations in Darfur

JUNE 11, 2004 FIGURE: 600,000 to 700,000 for all of Darfur
[Primary sources: confidential conversations with humanitarian workers, and government aid officials.]

CURRENT FIGURE: 700,000 to 800,000

The pressures on displaced persons to enter camps only grow more intense. Though the camps typically are without water, food, or sanitary facilities, they offer at least the feeble hope of physical security. There is no consensus figure on the populations in the camps, largely because there is no clear or decisive means of determining what constitutes a "camp." The Washington Post reports that "there are 129 such camps across Darfur, 31 of which are inaccessible" (Washington Post, June 27, 2004). These numbers comport with those being used by the UN, but are particularly suspect. When does a collection of displaced persons become a "camp"? When does a village contain so many displaced persons seeking out relatives or kinfolk as to become a "camp"? Such numbers, as reported, suggest a clarity and definitiveness that are not currently possible.

There are indeed many very large concentrations of people, such as the camp at Mornei (in West Darfur, with over 80,000 people) and the camp at Kutum (North Darfur, with over 100,000); but there are also temporary encampments, overcrowded villages, and at hoc assemblages. It makes no sense to say that there are only 31 camp locations to which there is no access, even as it makes no sense to speak so precisely of 129 camps. To be displaced (again, the number of Internally Displaced Persons now reaches to over 1.1 million) is not, ipso facto, to be in a camp of clear definition and thereby included in this list of 129.

Moreover, to imply that there is humanitarian access to 98 camps (129 minus 31) is also misleading. Access can be merely notional, especially given UN and nongovernmental failures to respond with adequate resources. At other times, access is precipitously denied or curtailed by Khartoum's forces or the Janjaweed. Many of the ad hoc camps that don't figure in the total of 129 are without access. And the rains have already or soon will make many camps either totally inaccessible, or inaccessible for days at a time (see map of these camps at: http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/darfur.html).

Highly informed aid officials admit that in any event, fewer than 50% of those in need are receiving humanitarian assistance, and the percentage is trending downward despite belated efforts to ramp up capacity.

[6] Humanitarian requirements/humanitarian capacity:

A survey of humanitarian logisticians indicates that food requirements for the war-affected populations of Darfur are approximately 16,000 metric tons per month per million people (some estimates were in the range of 15,000 metric tons, one estimate was 17,500). The total food requirement for 2.3 million people (see above) is thus approximately 37,000 metric tons per month. During the three-plus remaining months of the rainy season, assuming (unreasonably) that the war-affected population does not increase, the food required will be approximately 120,000 tons. Such quantities of food, and the transport capacity to move them, are simply not in evidence (the plan announced by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice [June 27, 2004] to use trucks from Libya seems both incongruous and highly unlikely to change the transport capacity problem in any fundamental way). Moreover, the WFP continues to miss its projected deliveries by significant amounts---indeed, it has missed on every single delivery projection for Darfur. Again, Reuters:

"[The U.N. World Food Programme said on Friday] at least 300,000 people driven from their homes could go without food this month because of insecurity and lack of funds." (Reuters, June 27, 2004)

But this is disingenuous, both in refusing to acknowledge inadequate planning and urgency on WFP's part, and in refusing to acknowledge that WFP has not pre-positioned nearly enough food for delivery during the coming difficult months.

To be sure, some of this is not directly the responsibility of the WFP or UN agencies (though they have failed badly in holding Khartoum accountable for its deliberate obstruction of humanitarian relief efforts):

"The primary constraints to full food distributions continue to be transportation and access. At present, the Government of Sudan has not allowed the UN World Food Program to tender contracts from foreign trucking companies, insisting that WFP use local transporters that often have limited capacity [ ]. Additionally, WFP reports that 30% of distribution locations remain inaccessible." (US AID "Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency," June 10, 2004 fact sheet)

But the World Food Program is in many ways a bureaucracy, with many of the characteristics of inefficiency, confusion, and listlessness that define bureaucracies. Excerpts from recent US Agency for Development "fact sheets" for the Darfur crisis give a sense of how important it is to see the difference between plans, projections, promises, on the one hand, and actual food deliveries on the other:

"According to the US AID/DART, WFP does not appear to have sufficient capacity at present to pre-position three months'-worth of rations in West Darfur. Monthly food requirements in West Darfur are approximately 4,500 metric tons. To date, WFP has only 500 metric tons of food stockpiled in Geneina, and while WFP continues to urge truckers to move quickly, security incidents on the key roads been Ed Da'ein and Nyala will likely affect truckers' willingness to travel unescorted, or without security guarantees from the UN."
"Transporting sufficient quantities of food to Nyala, and then on to West Darfur, has been a significant challenge for WFP. Food monitors for SC-US waited in Foro Burunga, West Darfur, for two weeks for WFP to deliver the May rations, which were to be distributed on June 4 and 6, but the quantities were not sufficient and some commodities were missing."

(US AID "Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency," June 10, 2004 fact sheet)

But beyond these particular logistical shortcomings is the vast problem of sheer incapacity: the overall humanitarian resources and transport capacity required to address the Darfur crisis are simply not present. Nor will they be without humanitarian intervention, almost certainly requiring the internationalizing of the Port Sudan-Khartoum-Nyala rail line and clearly obliging provision of military protection for the internally displaced populations now at such acute risk in concentrations camps. Without such military protection, we will continue to see the Janjaweed rape, beat, torture and execute those in the camps, as well as pillage humanitarian food deliveries (the Janjaweed also need food more urgently, as do the insurgency forces).

The problem of sheer incapacity is highlighted by the World Food Program's nominal "plan" to move "approximately 52,000 metric tons of commodities to Darfur to meet the needs of approximately 1 million beneficiaries from June to August" (US AID "Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency," June 4, 2004 fact sheet). But 52,000 metric tons, even if delivered as planned, represents only half what is required during this time for the 2.2 million people now described by the UN, the US, and the European Union as "victims of the war and forced ethnic displacement" (UN News Centre, June 3, 2004; this number, as suggested above, has grown to 2.3 million).


The solution to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is not to redefine "war-affected" in such a way that the food needs of half of these people are not required to be met (let alone their medical and shelter needs). The solution is to recognize why such vast numbers among the African tribal groups of Darfur are without food, without shelter or homes, without emergency medical care, without the ability to resume agricultural production. The reason is Khartoum's "deliberately inflicting on these groups conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part."

The reason is genocide.

Those who are contracting parties to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide have a solemn obligation to prevent genocide, per Article 1 of the Convention. The UN Security Council, whose members are all contracting parties to the Convention, are poised to do nothing of significance (Pakistan, Algeria, and permanent member China are particular obstacles). It will soon be clear that only a humanitarian intervention without UN authorization can mitigate the scale of genocidal destruction. Here, too, the international community seems poised to do nothing of significance.

The grim task of quantifying genocide will remain, then, for many, many shameful months to come; and we will be able to measure with hideous clarity the increments in our moral failure.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

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