Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Kofi Annan tells the Khartoum regime [June 30, 2004], 

"that he wants to see progress within the next 24 to 48 hours"
(UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, July 2, 2004)

Eric Reeves
July 5, 2004

What "progress" have the last five days revealed in the Khartoum
regime's willingness to resolve conflict in Darfur and to improve
desperately needed humanitarian access? What has been done to rein in
the brutal Janjaweed militia that is the instrument of so much civilian
terror and destruction? The day following UN Secretary-general Kofi
Annan's reported demand, Khartoum gave a partial answer. The UN's
Integrated Regional Information Networks reports (July 5, 2004) that
"several villages [Marla, Labado and Muhajiriyah] in rebel-held areas
of Southern Darfur State were bombed on Thursday [July 1, 2004], relief
workers said."
(UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [IRIN], July 5, 2004)

IRIN also reports:

"Helicopter gunships had flown over Kalma camp, outside Nyala, the
capital of Southern Darfur, on Wednesday evening [June 30, 2004], one of
the relief workers told IRIN. On Thursday [July 1, 2004], the same
gunships again flew very low over Kalma camp, pausing for effect, then
traveling east to an unknown destination in the late morning and

"Displaced people in Kalma later told relief workers that they 'saw'
and 'heard' explosions to the east, IRIN was told. Local sources said
they believed that the government could have commenced a military
operation against the rebels to the east of Nyala."
(UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, July 5, 2004)

Though promises have recently been abundant on Khartoum's part, so too
have reneging and outright lies. These military assaults are but
another example. Presumably this is not what Kofi Annan expected by
"progress" in Darfur.

On the issue of security for the displaced populations in Darfur's many
concentration camps, Jan Egeland, UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian
Affairs, is reported by the Washington Post as warning that:

"the Janjaweed must not be incorporated into the Sudanese army or used
to guard citizens that they had earlier attacked, a development aid
workers fear is already happening. Some of the militia fighters were now
wearing government uniforms, aid workers said. 'You don't want a case
where the wolf is guarding the sheep,' Egeland said. 'We will have to
monitor this closely.' (Washington Post, July 4, 2004)


But it is not at all clear how the behavior of Khartoum's "wolves" can
be comprehensively monitored. Nonetheless, in a moment of welcome
forthrightness, Egeland did stress the importance of humanitarian
intervention, supported by military capacity (i.e., a peacemaking
force), without which the international community cannot respond
effectively to the Darfur catastrophe:

"'But we are putting plasters on the wound here,''" Egeland said,
"'What we need is a robust peacemaking program.'" (Associated Press,
July 4, 2004)

It will be of considerable significance if Egeland continues to adhere
to this telling phrase "robust peacemaking." For the moment, the
international community is dependent upon several dozen monitors from
the African Union, nominally free to move about Darfur but without
transport capacity. In a modestly encouraging development, the African
Union announced on the eve of its annual summit (July 5, 2004) that it
is prepared to send several hundred troops to Darfur to augment this
monitoring force. But African Union ambitions as reported by Reuters
suggest how even a force of this size is woefully inadequate to the
challenges presented by Darfur (and this presumes, problematically, that
Khartoum will agree to the deployment and grant unrestricted movement):

"[AU Director of Peace and Security Sam] Ibok said an initial
deployment of 300 troops would likely be sent to guard an eventual 60 AU
peace monitors as well as to patrol refugee camps and border areas
between Sudan and Chad, where some 200,000 Sudanese have fled to safety
from attacks by Arab militias." (Reuters, July 5, 2004)

But the tasks that must be undertaken include not only protecting
cease-fire monitors, monitoring the extremely volatile border areas
between Chad and Darfur, as well as encampments in Chad near the border,
but also providing security to the camps where the Janjaweed are the
only authority. Though a small move in the right direction, the African
Union contingent must be massively reinforced if anything approaching
real monitoring is to take place and if camp populations are to be
afforded any sort of meaningful security. For the present, it is clear
that Egeland's concern ("You don't want a case where the wolf is
guarding the sheep") is all too well founded.


What prevents truly meaningful international humanitarian intervention
in Darfur? What prevents deployment of a force of 5,000 to 10,000
well-equipped military and security personnel? Why is the world left to
accept Khartoum's vague promise that it will send an unidentified 6,000
soldiers and police to control the Janjaweed and provide security to the
camps? Why is the very regime that armed and instigated the Janjaweed
now given the responsibility to disarm them, even as there are numerous
credible reports that the Janjaweed have been incorporated into
Khartoum's military and security forces? What prevents "robust UN
peacemaking" of the sort Egeland has referred to?

Here we come to the essential questions and Kofi Annan has given us an
honest if extraordinarily expedient answer:

"But without firm commitments on troops or logistical support from
major powers like the U.S., Annan has a dilemma to deal with. 'It is
more dangerous to threaten and not go through with it,' [Annan] said
Friday [July 2, 2004]. We 'can't go around saying "send in the cavalry,
this is genocide," raise the hopes of the victims...and we are not able
to go through with it.'" (Associated Press, July 3, 2004)

At last some real honesty from Secretary-general Annan. For the clear
implication of these words is that use of the term genocide is not
governed by realities on the ground, but rather is being held hostage to
the lack of "cavalry" forces---the failure of the international
community to provide "firm commitments on troops or logistical support."
But it would seem extraordinarily presumptuous for Mr. Annan to speak
of what the hopes of the "victims" of genocide might be---and to presume
that such hopes don't include a determination of genocide by the
international community, for fear that "we are not able to go through
with it."

This conspicuous politicization of a genocide determination is morally
repugnant in the extreme. If the realities on the ground in Darfur
justify a determination of genocide, if there is evidence of this
ultimate crime, then such determination cannot be withheld for any
reason. Nothing could be more profoundly undermining of the 1948 UN
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
than such calculation as Mr. Annan here offers.

To be sure, the UN and the international community will look helpless
and shockingly irresponsible if genocide is declared and there is no
response. But can the international community look any worse than if it
refuses to use the word genocide out of expedient calculation, and the
terrible reality is then clearly revealed in the future? And despite
Khartoum's ongoing efforts to conceal sites of atrocities, to obscure
mass gravesites, and to transport bodies to remote locations---practices
at this point well established---the truth will out. The genocidal
realities so clearly established in what is now massive human rights
reporting on Darfur will not disappear, will not vanish simply because
of inconvenience to the conscience of the international community.

Such expediency is all too well understood by Khartoum, which has an
unerring sense in these matters. Whatever the regime's fears of
resolute, uncompromising international response to the catastrophe in
Darfur, such fears dissolve in the wake of pronouncements like Annan's
and Colin Powell's flaccid comments to National Public Radio (June 30,
2004) on leaving Khartoum (transcript at:

For this reason, as Reuters reports, Khartoum's promise of sending
forces to disarm the Janjaweed and restore security in Darfur has been
greeted with considerable skepticism:

"Sudan's promise has been greeted with skepticism by some human rights
groups, which have joined US officials in accusing the militia of
carrying out ethnic cleansing campaign against black Africans.
Underlining that skepticism, the rebel Sudanese [sic] Liberation
Movement (SLM) said it feared Khartoum planned a new offensive from
Nyala, the capital of Southern Darfur state. 'The movement knows that
under the cover of what is being termed "the disarmament of the
Janjaweed," the government is preparing a new ethnic cleansing push
after the mobilization of a large force from Nyala,' the SLM said in a
statement." (Reuters, July 4, 2004)

And such a new military offensive does indeed seem to be in the offing,
as suggested by the regime's very recent use of Antonov bombers and
helicopter gunships in the area (see above). Though the African Union
has declared its willingness to send monitors, and forces from Nigeria
and Rwanda are apparently at the ready, it is extremely unlikely that
Khartoum will permit timely deployment of AU forces and equipment.


It is in this context that we must assess the most recent dispiriting
round of bad news on the humanitarian situation in Darfur. Here,
despite some upbeat comments, the situation is growing relentlessly more
grim. In addition to the more than 100,000 who have already died (see
assessments of retrospective mortality data from this source, June 28
and July1, 2004; available upon request), current and prospective
mortality data present a ghastly picture of remorseless human
destruction. US Agency for International Development data (at
indicate that more than 1,000 people are now dying every day---every
day. There is little to suggest that the peak of the famine (at the end
of 2004) will not in fact claim 20 human lives per day per 10,000 of
affected population: over 4,000 people dying every day from Khartoum's
"deliberately inflicting on the [African] groups [of Darfur]
conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction
in whole or in part" (Genocide Convention, Article 2, clause [c]).

Other data is equally dispiriting. The World Health Organization
recently warned in Geneva that,

"Some 10,000 people in Darfur could die of cholera and dysentery in
July alone unless a massive aid operation can be set up to helicopter in
food and medicines. 'We anticipate that if things go ahead as at the
moment, 10,000 people will die in the next month,' David Nabarro, head
of the World Health Organization's unit for health action in crises,
told a news briefing in Geneva after a trip to Darfur." (Reuters, July
2, 2004)

The chances of adequate helicopter transport being provided for such
medical relief, when the World Food Program can't secure enough trucks
for food, would seem to be vanishingly small.

The World Health Organization also warned that,

"A cholera epidemic could break out within weeks now that heavy rains
have begun, striking 200,000 to 300,000 of the more than one million
displaced in the troubled western area of Sudan, a top WHO official told
a news briefing. Cholera is an extreme form of watery diarrhoea which
killed tens of thousands of Rwandans who fled genocide in 1994,
according to the WHO. Dysentery, a bloody form of diarrhoea which is
harder to treat, and malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, would be
expected to follow in August." (Reuters, July 2, 2004)

This is not a natural disaster, this is not a massive case of
conflict-related "collateral damage": these are the entirely
predictable and fully intended consequences of Khartoum's "deliberately
inflicting on the [African] groups [of Darfur] conditions of life
calculated to bring about their physical destruction." The campaign,
now over a year in the making and defined by relentless and continuing
determination, is coming to fruition.

The logistical challenges that should have been clear and energetically
addressed months ago, before the rainy season that is now severely
affecting aid delivery, are coming ever more clearly into focus. The
Voice of America (July 5, 2004) reports that,

"the World Food Program estimates that, by the end of June, it had
reached 700,000 of the 1.2 million people in Darfur in need of
assistance. The agency is intensifying its activities, in order to reach
the remaining half million people in need in the next two months."
(Voice of America, July 5, 2004)

But the most recent US Agency for Development "fact sheet" on the
Darfur crisis notes that "security concerns, limited access, and
logistical constraints continue to hamper World Food Program food
deliveries" (US Agency for International Development, "Darfur:
Humanitarian Emergency fact sheet," July 2, 2004).

Transport difficulties are in fact multiplying. US AID also notes
that, "the World Food Program is reporting there are Jingaweit attacks
every week in the surrounding villages [of the Jebel Marra area] and
that six villages have been completely destroyed"; "UN agencies reported
that the route linking Nyala and Mornei and Geneina has been cut off
since June 25 [2004] following heavy rains in Zalingei, and access to
the area may be limited until October [Nyala is the capital of South
Darfur state, al-Geneina of West Darfur state]"; "the UN also reported
that increased fuel prices will likely impact truckers sub-contracted
for the transport of relief commodities in other areas of Darfur" (US
Agency for International Development, "Darfur: Humanitarian Emergency
fact sheet," July 2, 2004).

And these are only a few of the obstacles that ensure Khartoum need do
far less now to impede humanitarian access: time, the rainy season, and
the consequences of international belatedness are all on the regime's

A World Food Program spokesman spoke of the "massive logistical effort"
necessary to move food:

"'If you consider that a truck, which is loaded in Port Sudan takes
three weeks essentially to get to Darfur, it has to cross a region the
size of Western Europe and on roads that are, certainly towards the end,
absolutely appalling,' [the WFP spokesman] said. 'We've already had
reports of trucks having difficulty crossing rivers." (Voice of America,
July 5, 2004)

Because of poor UN planning, poor financial commitment (especially by
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the richer Arab countries), and the
failure to pre-position foodstocks, these difficulties have become
insuperable. For though the World Food Program speaks of a target
population of 1.2 million, and was able to provide food for only 700,000
in June, the appropriate target figure is much higher, as suggested in a
UN press release today:

"UN agencies estimate that at least 2 million people in Darfur need
humanitarian relief, including basic food aid, because of the
(UN Press Release July 5, 2004; at

These are present, not deferrable needs: no one can eat "logistical
problems"; no one can be treated by "transport difficulties." Hundreds
of thousands of people, already badly weakened, will die without food
and medical assistance. It is no more complicated than this. Months of
underestimating humanitarian need and logistical requirements, as well
as mortality data and indicators, have brought us to this terrible

There is a grim truth to Khartoum's official assessment of the
humanitarian situation, offered here by the regime's "Humanitarian
Affairs Minister," Ibrahim Mahmud Hamid:

"Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ibrahim Mahmud Hamid told reporters on
Wednesday [June 30, 2004] in Al-Fashir, the capital of Northern Darfur
State, that problems in the region were 'getting smaller.' [ ] 'The
humanitarian situation in Sudan is getting better,' he said, adding that
enough humanitarian aid was available in the area. 'What [aid] is now
present is enough, even [until] past the rainy season.'" (UN Integrated
Regional Information Networks, July 2, 2004)

"What aid is now present is enough": in the minds of Khartoum's
genocidaires, this is no doubt true. There is more than enough aid.

If we refuse to accept this vicious conclusion, and if we make a
serious assessment of the gross mismatch between current (and rapidly
growing) humanitarian need and current (vastly inadequate) humanitarian
capacity, the logic of humanitarian intervention is inescapable. Even
without a finding of genocide in Darfur we must not accept the
relentless destruction of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

What would such intervention entail? Basic transport of food tonnage
(approximately 35,000 metric tons per month for 2.2 million people), as
well as medical and shelter supplies, requires an immediate
internationalizing of the rail line from Port Sudan to Nyala in Darfur;
urgent track and rail-car repairs must be planned and executed as soon
as the intervention begins. Given the long-term food dependency of this
immense population, current (and planned) transport capacity is clearly
not sustainable. Military forces in sufficient number, with
sufficiently robust rules of engagement, must free the camps from the
tyranny of the Janjaweed and ensure unfettered humanitarian access to
all locations. Finally, the task of intervention is incomplete until
the disarming of the Janjaweed has been assured.


How likely is such intervention? As Kofi Annan has made clear, with an
honesty betraying a breathtaking expediency, the chances are slim. But
we must be prepared, then, to live with the Darfur crisis for years,
though with a population much reduced by genocidal destruction. As Jan
Egeland observed:

"'If we cannot disarm these groups, this will go on for ever. So these
next months are really the moment of truth for Darfur and for Sudan, and
we have to hold the authorities to their promise that indeed the armed
groups will be demobilised, disarmed and brought under control.
[Otherwise,] this will be a crisis for years to come.'" (UN Integrated
Regional Information Networks, July 2, 2004)

Is the world prepared to live for years with Darfur as a terrible
reminder of moral failure? We have increasingly little choice.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

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