Saturday, August 28, 2004


Current data for total mortality from violence, malnutrition, and disease

Eric Reeves
August 27, 2004


Current statistical assessments of the crisis in Darfur continue to diverge
widely in several key respects; nowhere is this more striking than in total
mortality for the past 18 months of extremely violent conflict---conflict that has
produced vast numbers of displaced persons. Indeed, so great are the present
differences in assessments of mortality, morbidity, and insecurity---within camps
for the displaced and in rural areas---that some effort must be made to account
for these divergences, and their larger significance. This is especially true
of statistical assessments coming from the UN, which are both internally
contradictory and typically offered without sufficient context or explanation.

Much can be attributed to the fact that the "United Nations" is not a single
organization, functioning smoothly, with its various agencies working seamlessly
together. On the contrary, UN agencies are highly variable in several
respects, including function, size, and relation to the Khartoum regime that ultimately
determines who operates in Darfur, and on what terms. Some UN agencies have
performed well in Darfur and Chad; others have a mixed record; still others have
performed poorly. They clearly do not always communicate well with one

But the essential effort to push for more effective international response in
Darfur and Chad demands both greater moral clarity, as well as regular and
unsparing critical scrutiny of statistical assessments in key areas.

For the Darfur crisis will not end in the foreseeable future. The Abuja
(Nigeria) peace talks between the National Islamic Front and the Darfur insurgency
groups have predictably stalemated on central issues; Khartoum's Janjaweed
militia proxy continues to be given a free hand by the regime, creating pervasive
insecurity; in turn, the resumption of agricultural production is nowhere in
sight, leaving a vast and growing food-dependent population. Huge numbers of people
will be entirely food-dependent for a year or longer, even as the UN and other
organizations are now adequately reaching far fewer than half those in need.

Any understanding of the nature of continuing insecurity (and consequent lack
of prospective food production) must take note of an important Human Rights
Watch report on the Janjaweed, issued today (August 27, 2004) in anticipation of
the August 29, 2004 deadline imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1556.
Human Rights Watch, in extremely authoritative detail, reports on a number of
active Janjaweed camps in Darfur, several with a substantial presence of Khartoum's
regular army forces and military resources:

"The government of Sudan is permitting abusive Janjaweed militia to maintain at
least 16 camps in the western region of Darfur"; "despite repeated government
pledges to neutralize and disarm the Janjaweed, Human Rights Watch investigators
in West and North Darfur were able to gather information on the militias'
extensive network of bases"; "throughout the time Khartoum was supposedly reining in
the Janjaweed, these camps have been operating in plain sight,' said Peter
Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch";
"five of the 16 camps, according to witnesses, are camps the Janjaweed share with
the Sudanese government army." ("Sudan: Janjaweed Camps Still Active," Human
Rights Watch [New York], August 27, 2004; report available at:

Despite clear evidence of the sort provided by Human Rights Watch, and the open
contempt for the international community and the UN expressed so recently by
senior members of the regime, the UN Security Council gives no sign of meaningful
action, but rather will almost certainly extend the 30-day "deadline" issued on
July 30, 2004 in Resolution 1556---without imposing sanctions or "other
measures." The African Union has been unable to secure permission from Khartoum to
deploy a sizeable force with a peacekeeping mandate (though in a deft diplomatic
change of subject, Khartoum has indicated it is willing to accept AU forces
with a mandate to disarm the insurgency groups).

In short, the engine of vast human destruction remains running in high gear,
and it is imperative that we seek to understand the dimensions of the catastrophe
its is generating.

This "mortality update" builds on the analysis of August 13, 2004 (available
upon request). The figure of 180,000 deaths suggested in this previous analysis
is a statistical extrapolation, with a very large margin of error. The present
analysis, like its predecessor, attempts to quantify mortality from both
violence and from disease and malnutrition; it is based on UN and non-UN sources.
The chief source for estimating deaths from disease and malnutrition is the
epidemiological work of the US Agency for International Development ("Projected
Mortality Rates in Darfur, 2004-2005"
presently the only tool for global assessment of such mortality in Darfur.


Any analysis of violent deaths in Darfur must begin with the data assembled by
Doctors Without Borders/MSF (June 2004, the Mornei area of West Darfur), and
the final report (August 6, 2004) of UN Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial,
summary, and arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir. But we must also take
particular cognizance of the findings of a study commissioned by the US State Department
as part of its official (and shamefully dilatory) determination of whether
genocide is occurring in Darfur.

The New York Times reports (August 25, 2004) a shocking statistic for the
number of refugees reporting witnessing the killing of a family member:

"The study, conducted by State Department officials together with outside legal
experts, found that nearly one-third of the refugees interviewed reported
hearing racial epithets while under attack, and that nearly 60 percent of them
reported having witnessed the killing of a family member."
(New York Times, August 25, 2004)

Those who have fled to Chad may in many cases have been especially victimized
by violence; but the very large number of (randomized) interviews, yielding a
figure of "60 percent of [refugees] reported having witnessed the killing of a
family member," is of enormous significance. This suggests a rate much higher
than the rate suggested by a different sort of statistic from Doctors Without

"A recent survey conducted by MSF and the epidemiological research center
Epicentre in the town of Mornei, West Darfur State, where nearly 80,000 people have
sought refuge, found that one in 20 people were killed in scorched earth
attacks on 111 villages from September 2003 until February 2004." (Doctors Without
Border/MSF, "Emergency in Darfur, Sudan: No Relief in Sight," June 21, 2004)

This writer has previously derived from the very limited MSF data a global
figure of 80,000 violent deaths for Darfur over the 18 months of the conflict.
This is an estimate that presumed (ultimately arbitrarily, but presumably
conservatively) that the Mornei region was characterized by 50% more violent deaths
than the rest of Darfur with respect to an averaged figure for global internal
displacement. But the New York Times account of the State Department-team's
findings suggests that, on the contrary, the MSF figures for Mornei may actually
understate the global level of violence. The inescapable statistical inference
from the two reports, viewed in conjunction with one another, is that there have
been well over 100,000 violent deaths in Darfur over the course of the

This inference is given strong support by the findings of Asma Jahangir, the UN
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who
reported at the end of June 2004 that the "number of black Africans killed by Arab
militias in the Darfur region of Sudan is 'bound to be staggering'":

"Ms. Jahangir said that during her visit, 'nearly every third or fourth family'
she spoke to in the camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) within Darfur
had lost a relative to the militias. 'It's very hard to say [accurately] how
many people have been killed,' she said, but interviews with IDPs indicated it
would be 'quite a large number. They are bound to be staggering.'" (UN News
Centre, June 29, 2004)

It becomes increasingly difficult to resist the implications of such findings,
as well as the extremely numerous ad hoc reports of violent deaths coming from
sources throughout Darfur for well over a year. More than 100,000 people have
died violent deaths---and perhaps a very great many more.

In thinking of the nature of violent deaths in Darfur, we must remember that
deaths from wounds suffered during attacks must be included in this figure; so
too must deaths from the trauma of extremely violent rape and gang-rape (suffered
by girls as young as 8-years-old); so too must the deaths of children, the
infirm, and the elderly who perished very quickly on fleeing violent attacks. Huge
numbers of victims were able to take nothing in the way of water and food, and
died rapidly on fleeing within areas subject to what UN Under-secretary for
Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has called a "scorched-earth campaign of ethnic
cleansing." They too must be considered victims of deadly violence.

Moreover, as a physician with extensive experience in Darfur has pointed out,
relying on eye-witness accounts of Janjaweed attacks will likely lead to
underestimating mortality, given the nature of the conflict: "some villages will have
been exterminated in their entirety, or their entire populations will have died
in the mountains after fleeing"; confidential source).

Though clearly we do not know enough about the level of violent deaths in
Darfur, we cannot know more without much greater access and assessment resources
than are presently available. Moreover, Khartoum persists in obstructing all such
efforts of inquiry, even as it continues to use very significant military and
paramilitary resources (including the Janjaweed) to obscure sites of mass
atrocities and executions. Air and ground transport capacity has been tasked with
moving the bodies of those killed; gravesites and other evidence of genocidal
violence have also been obscured with the clear intent of preventing any accurate
final census of violent deaths.

In this context, given the scale of continuing violence reported so
authoritatively for so many months by human rights investigators (working in both Darfur
and Chad), agnosticism about the number of violent deaths is not morally
acceptable. The evidence such as we have it must guide our best efforts at
extrapolation and inference. A figure of over 100,000 seems a minimum in this context.


There are very different views of the current success of humanitarian efforts
in responding to the crisis in Darfur. The range is partially suggested in the
following citations:

"I feel we are slowly but surely getting on top of the health crisis [in Darfur
and Chad]," spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Operations in Khartoum, August 19, 2004

"The [humanitarian situation] is slipping out of control," Mark Zeitoun, water
engineer for Oxfam, on the ground in a refugee camp in Chad, August 15, 2004

"The UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Manuel Aranda Da Silva,
[declared] "we could see the amount of people needing help rise exponentially over the
next weeks and months." (UN News Centre, August 25, 2004)

"The UN's World Health Organization bulletin [August 17, 2004]
registered 363 [sic] deaths in the camps [with a total population of over
800,000] in the five weeks up to the end of July," (Reuters, August 17, 2004) [This
represents a daily mortality rate less than that for a developing country
experiencing no conflict, displacement or food shortages---ER]

"'Conditions [in the camps] are drastic. People are not getting enough water.
Teams must be put together to clean latrines as it is very ad hoc now and not
really managed by anyone,' International Organization for Migration spokeswoman
Niurka Pineiro told a news briefing." (Reuters August 13, 2004)

"'There certainly has been a marked improvement over the last month,'
[International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson Julia] Bassam said" (Associated
Press, August 27, 2004)

"'The humanitarian situation in Darfur is still extremely worrying, and by all
accounts could deteriorate further,' said Poul Nielson, EU Commissioner for
Humanitarian Aid and Development." (Agence France-Presse/EU Business Wire, August
25, 2004)

"Stefanie Frease of the Washington-based Coalition for International Justice,
which oversaw the [US State Department] study [of possible genocide in Darfur]
with a grant from the US Agency for International Development [ ] said that in
her personal view, 'If you read the (1948) Genocide Convention, and you look at
the definition [ ] you can definitely see the indicators there. It's not Rwanda
and it's not the Holocaust. It's probably a different, slower sort of
genocide." (Knight Ridder news service, August 25, 2004)

The range of views on the food crisis is perhaps less extreme (and more
generally pessimistic), but finally malnutrition and health are inseparable in Darfur.
If we are to assess the value of the epidemiological work of the US Agency for
International Development ("Projected Mortality Rates in Darfur,
2004-2005")---which suggests statistically that approximately 130,000 people have already
died from malnutrition and disease---we need to look closely at the basic
methodology of the US AID projections (see separate Appendix to this analysis;
available upon request), and at the current provision of food, medical treatment, clean
water, and shelter for an immense "war-affected" population. Any final
estimate of current mortality based on the US AID projections requires a figure of
"war-affected" persons that is an appropriate denominator; this in turn requires
an assessment of the primary engine that is generating "war-affected" persons,
viz. displacement through violence and intimidation, as well as loss of food and
agricultural capacity.


The first task is to estimate the number of displaced persons, in Darfur and
Chad, and secondarily to estimate the necessarily greater number of

How many internally displaced persons are there in Darfur? and refugees in
Chad? The number in Chad may soon climb by 30,000 according to the UN High
Commission for Refugees, as the highly vulnerable camp population in the Masteri area
of West Darfur is poised to join the hundreds of others who have recently fled
into Chad to escape continuing predations by the Janjaweed:

"The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned Friday [August 20, 2004] that a
further 30,000 displaced people were poised to flee over the border into
neighboring Chad, joining 200,000 refugees already there, because of the continuing
depredations by the militias." (Agence France-Presse, August 21, 2004)

The BBC reported that "500 Darfuris crossed the border close to the Chadian
village of Berak as a result of renewed violence in the Darfur region" (BBC,
August 16, 2004). Earlier reports speak of many additional tens of thousands of
displaced civilians within 50 kilometers of the Chad/Darfur border, who are also
ready to flee the Janjaweed. In short, the number of refugees is presently in
excess of 200,000 but could soon be in excess of 250,000.

Within Darfur itself, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) recently released an estimate of "more than 1.2 million" Internally
Displaced Persons (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, August 19, 2004);
in OCHA's eyes this represented an increase of 200,000 from the July figure.
But this "newly" proffered figure does not comport, as presented, with a rather
different history of the figure for IDPs in Darfur, one that can easily be
traced from April 2004 using the UN's own public statements. That this in turn
reveals a large understatement of the total number of current IDPs that should be
cause for serious concern.

The IDP figure stood at 1 million in late April 2004, according to OCHA (UN
Integrated Regional Information Networks [Nairobi], April 21, 2004). That figure
was raised by the UN to 1.2 million in late June, and on July 8, 2004 Tom
Vraalsen, the UN's special envoy for humanitarian affairs to Sudan, declared that
"more than 1.2 million [are] internally displaced" in Darfur (Reuters, July 8,
2004). But on July 20, 2004 OCHA estimated that the population of Internally
Displaced Persons in Darfur had increased by 100,000 "over the past month" (UN
Integrated Regional Information Networks, July 20, 2004), suggesting (in concert
with Vraalsen's July 8, 2004 statement) that the total figure already stood at
approximately 1.3 million in the third week of July.

In the intervening five weeks, there have been continued reports of violence
and village destruction, and accompanying human displacement; large influxes of
displaced persons have been reported in the camps. Given the rate of increase
from the end of June to the end of July, it may be reasonably inferred that
another 100,000 have been displaced, bringing the present figure to approximately
1.4 million. Even on its own terms, the OCHA figure of "more than 1.2 million"
is a serious understatement.

But as UN sources admit privately, even a figure of 1.4 million Internally
Displaced Persons does not represent the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons
in areas controlled by the insurgency movements, or regime-controlled areas too
dangerous for a humanitarian presence of any sort. In July 2004 the internal
working number for this unassessed population at the UN's World Food Program was
300,000. Many who have traveled recently to Darfur put the number far higher,
with some estimates ranging up to 1 million. Thus the total displaced
population in Darfur could be well over 2 million.

In the absence of a more compelling and consistent account from the UN, a
conservative figure for the total of Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur and
refugees in Chad is 2 million.


To be displaced or made into a refugee is ipso facto to be "war-affected" (and
inevitably food-dependent). But the number of "war-affected" persons is
clearly much larger than the total of displaced persons and refugees. Many host
families are struggling to accommodate displaced persons, with foodstocks
diminishing or consumed; many more have not been displaced but are unable to be
agriculturally productive, or even to forage for foods that normally make up a survival
diet during famine conditions.

Again, we have no way of determining with any precision a total of
"war-affected" persons. But a useful point of reference is the figure of 2.2 million
"war-affected" persons cited in a joint communiqué signed at a donors conference in
Geneva on June 3, 2004 (signatories were representatives of the UN, the
European Union, and the US). This figure continues to be cited by the UN's Integrated
Regional Information Networks (whose materials are copyrighted by OCHA):

"The UN has described the conflict in Darfur as the worst humanitarian crisis
in the world, at the moment. An estimated 2.2 million people are in urgent need
of food, medicine and other basic items of survival." (UN Integrated Regional
Information Networks [Nairobi] August 16, 2004)

If we use the number in the June 3, 2004 joint communiqué as a base figure,
then the current estimate must be in the range of 2.5 million, and this does not
include the population of over 200,000 refugees in Chad. Violence has
continued, displacement has continued, and insecurity has prevented agricultural
production or the deployment of survival skills in rural areas. "The number of people
in critical need of humanitarian assistance has skyrocketed in Darfur in recent
months, UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Manuel Aranda Da Silva. [With
new assessments underway], we could see the amount of people needing help rise
exponentially over the next weeks and months." (UN News Center, August 25,

This is in large part because foodstocks for times of need continue to dwindle.
The Janjaweed have burned or destroyed huge quantifies of grain reserves, as
well as looting vast numbers of livestock, which are also a key form of food
insurance. This systematic destruction of food, food insurance, and the ability to
be agriculturally productive, continues to increase---through primary and
secondary effects---the number of "war-affected."

The International Crisis Group, which has followed the Darfur crisis extremely
closely for over a year, is currently using a figure of "more than 2.2 million"
war-affected persons ("Darfur Deadline: A New International Action Plan," page
1, August 23, 2004; available at:

Though OCHA in Khartoum has suggested a much lower number, it does so without
addressing any of the issues raised here (especially the total number of
displaced persons), and without responding to previous UN estimates. The effect is

"Meanwhile, the number of number of people in need of humanitarian assistance
in Darfur is now estimated at 1.48 million, the UN Office for Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. These included 1.2 internally displaced persons
(IDPs) and 270,000 in host communities." (UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks, August 18, 2004)

The figure, with its peculiar and quite unattainable precision, suggests some
severe and problematic attenuation of the figure used by the UN (as well as the
European Union and the US) in Geneva, by the UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks, and by the International Crisis Group. As it stands, it is not


If we use a figure of 2.3 million to 2.5 million "war-affected" persons as the
denominator in the US Agency for International Development "Projected Mortality
Rates in Darfur, 2004-2005"---which currently indicates a Crude Mortality Rate
of 13 per day per 10,000 of affected population---the daily mortality rate is
very approximately 3,000 and the total mortality figure is well over 200,000
(presuming a total for violent deaths that is well over 100,000---see above). The
number of deaths in Chad significantly increases this total.

It must be stressed again that this is a statistical extrapolation from
severely inadequate data---data that cannot improve until the international community
has much greater access to Darfur. But the severity of the Darfur crisis
demands some effort at global inference---the more so given the existence (and
continual citation) of other mortality figures, figures that may seriously mislead.

The largest alternative figure for total mortality is that offered by Roger
Winter, Assistant Administrator at the US Agency for International Development:
80,000 deaths from malnutrition and disease, as well as violence (Deutsche Presse
Agentur [Washington, DC], July 29, 2004). This is an extremely large figure in
itself, though it makes no concerted effort to include a comprehensive figure
for violent deaths. It does not address the findings of Doctors Without
Borders/MSF. Moreover, the final report of UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial
Executions Asma Jahangir and the preliminary report from the State Department
assessment team on the Chad/Darfur border were unavailable at the time that Winter
made his estimate. If the number here estimated for violent deaths---well over
100,000---is used in conjunction with Winter's more specific estimate of 50,000
dead from malnutrition and disease, the result is a total mortality figure of
over 150,000 (at the bottom end of the margin of error suggested here).

The current UN figure of 30,000-50,000 was offered---without context,
explanation, or differentiation in causes of death---by Jan Egeland, UN Under-secretary
for Humanitarian Affairs, in late July 2004. This in turn represents a
significant jump from the implausibly low number of 10,000, first offered by the UN in
March 2004, and which remained unchanged for four months, through most of July
2004. It is deeply troubling that the UN as a whole has made so little effort
in synthesizing and updating all available data to provide a more persuasive
figure for total mortality, as well as some explanation of methodology and the
data deployed.

The absence of a definitive "body count" will be an insuperable obstacle for
some in accepting the estimate here offered, despite a margin of error
acknowledged to be very wide. Of course the UN has no "body count" either, and its
figure of 30,000-50,000 is no less an inference, though from what data is entirely
unclear. There can be no further help at present in overcoming this obstacle, if
"counted bodies" are what is required. The great preponderance of deaths to
date are from violence and the effects of malnutrition in inaccessible areas or
areas in which Khartoum actively prevents assessments that might lead to
mortality calculations. And even in the camps mortality data is often not kept with
any real care (other tasks are too demanding), and is typically not kept in a
fashion that permits easy collation with data from other camps. Moreover, little
effort is made to ensure the possibility that data may be shared and used

But for anyone who has read the innumerable dispatches, wires reports, and
human rights documents that have been appearing steadily for well over a
year---chronicling endless, remorseless human destruction---the need for such a count may
be less urgent.


The figures for displacement and the number of war-affected in this analysis
are attempts to render a global picture for all of Darfur. This includes areas
to which there is access, as well as the huge swathes of the region that are
completely inaccessible. Here again it is important to note that most estimates
of total population for Darfur are between 6 million and 7 million (though some
are lower, and there are a number of complicating demographic issues); and
estimates of the percentage belonging to the targeted African tribal populations
are generally around 70%. This suggests that there is a
population---systematically attacked and displaced over a period of 18 months---that is greater than 4
million human beings.

Aerial and satellite imagery, as well as reports from humanitarian
organizations on the ground and from Darfurian sources, suggest that well over 50% of the
African villages have been destroyed (see International Crisis Group, "Darfur
Deadline: A New International Action Plan," page 1, August 23, 2004). Some
estimates are over 75%. And many more people who haven't been directly displaced by
violence have simply abandoned vulnerable villages in anticipation of attacks
by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia.

Where are all these people?

They certainly aren't in the camps, which hold over 1 million people at this
point (including the camps in Chad), but well under 1.5 million. Where are the
other 2.5 million to 3 million people of the African tribal groups that are
trying to survive without food or humanitarian assistance? These people have been
left without the ability to use traditional foraging methods and coping
strategies because of the threat posed by marauding Janjaweed forces. If we address
this large issue honestly, the mortality projections from the US Agency for
International Development are much more readily comprehended (again, see separate
Appendix to this analysis; available upon request).

The humanitarian response in Darfur has begun to address the issue, as
suggested by an important shift in emphasis by the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) from the camps to presently inaccessible villages:

"Dominik Stillhart, head of the ICRC's delegation in Sudan, told reporters in
Geneva that up to a quarter of the 4-5 million people still living in Darfur's
villages were 'extremely vulnerable and in urgent need of aid.'" (Reuters,
August 27, 2004)

This reference to "villages" outside the context of their massive, systematic
destruction throughout all three states in Darfur Province is seriously
misleading, but there can be no doubting the huge number of former inhabitants of these
villages who are not in camps, who are without resources, and who are in
extreme need of humanitarian assistance.

Still another part of the grim picture of total mortality in Darfur is what a
physician with extensive experience in the region calls "deferred mortality."
This derives from the consequences of "lifelong impairment after experiencing
severe malnutrition"; in the case of mothers, this will result in future
distortions of the lactating cycle: "a second child will receive breastfeeding before
the first child is ready to wean"; confidential source). This same physician
points out that chronic undercounting of children under the age of one in regions
like Darfur (where infants are often not named until they reach the age of one)
is also likely to skew present and subsequent mortality estimates, since this
undercounting creates an artificially low infant population base figure.


Even if we assume a margin of error as large as 30% in the total mortality
figure offered here, this nonetheless presents the world with an exceedingly grim
number: at least 150,000 people have died in Darfur and Chad to date---and the
number grows relentlessly, with huge additional mortality threatened by disease
(Hepatitis E, now apparently chronic in the camps, cholera, which has still not
made its appearance but could at any moment, dysentery, and malaria, which is
now exploding), and the cumulative effects of intensifying malnutrition.

The UN World Food Program fell short of reaching the 1 million people targeted
for food assistance in July; August deliveries were to have been to 1.2 million
but are unlikely to reach as many people as were helped in July---and the
figure for September, another very rainy month, is now 2 million (this does not
include refugees in Chad). Logistical and transport capacity problems are
increasing, even as the rains intensify. There is nothing approaching the monthly
capacity to move the required 35,000-40,000 metric tons of food and critical
non-food items into and within Darfur and Chad. The rail line into Nyala, in a
chronically poor state of repair, recently collapsed over a rain-swollen wadi.
International donor response continues to be woefully inadequate, and all major
humanitarian initiatives are badly under-funded.

Without the ability to forage (because of insecurity), these people simply have
no way to feed themselves. Children, already weakened by months of trauma and
displacement, will be especially vulnerable and will inevitably continue to die
in huge numbers. Because no improvement in the security situation is in
prospect, we may expect mortality to continue to rise at extreme rates, rates far
greater than the international community is prepared at present to admit.

We apparently will not offer the people of Darfur even the dignity of
acknowledging their deaths. Their genocidal destruction has been refused the face of
its true horror. This is genocide variously assisted by understatement,
euphemizing, self-exculpation, and political weakness. It is beyond disgrace, and
certainly beyond forgiveness.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Impending Failure in Abuja, UN Security Council Inaction 

Humanitarian Deterioration: The Darfur Crisis out of Control

Eric Reeves
August 24, 2004


As Darfur enters its moment of greatest crisis, as engineered genocidal
destruction is poised to accelerate uncontrollably during present August rains, the
Khartoum regime remains intransigent. The international community, for its part,
is failing both in diplomacy and in bringing pressure to bear on an obdurate
National Islamic Front. At the same time, international humanitarian efforts are
falling far short in providing for huge numbers of the increasingly desperate
displaced populations of this vast region.

At the UN in New York, there is no sign that meaningful action will follow upon
the expiration of the August 29, 2004 deadline set by Security Council
Resolution 1556 (passed July 30, 2004). Permanent Security Council member Great
Britain has signaled that the Security Council is set to accept the status quo in
Darfur; this is in large part because Kofi Annan and his special representative
for Sudan, Jan Pronk, have negotiated away the only meaningful demand in
Resolution 1556, viz. that within 30 days Khartoum must "disarm the Janjaweed militias"
and bring to justice those guilty of "human rights and international law

Pronk and Annan evidently hope that their renegotiation of this key "demand"
can be muffled or obscured by vague commitments from Khartoum, part of a nebulous
"Plan of Action" Pronk signed on August 5, 2004. But the "Plan of Action" is
without sufficiently clear deadlines or benchmarks, and is susceptible of
various interpretations on key issues. The document certainly provides Khartoum
with all the maneuvering room it could have hoped for.

To be sure, Annan and Pronk hoped that a substantial African Union force might
be deployed to obscure the inability of the Security Council to act under
Chapter VII of the UN Charter (Resolution 1556 had Chapter VII auspices). But this
hope has also been thwarted, largely because the evisceration of Resolution
1556 ensures there is no effective means for bringing UN pressure to bear on
Khartoum. Thus in peace talks in Abuja (Nigeria), Khartoum is refusing to
countenance an African Union force of several thousand peacekeepers.

This in turn creates an insuperable obstacle in negotiations with the two
Darfur insurgency groups: they understand full well that insecurity in Darfur cannot
be diminished without a forceful international presence of precisely the sort
that Khartoum is blocking. UN expediency has perversely worked to create a
diplomatic stalemate, despite the clear willingness of African Union members
Nigeria and Rwanda (and perhaps Tanzania) to work to bring security to Darfur.

Meanwhile, misleading and disingenuously optimistic comments from some quarters
in the UN about an "improving" humanitarian situation in Darfur also work to
lessen pressure on Khartoum. Indeed, the effect of these comments is to give
credence to a series of preposterous claims about Darfur by regime officials
intent on downplaying the scale of the catastrophe. Such comments also encourage
Khartoum's ominous plans to empty the camps of displaced persons, forcing them to
return to burned-out villages and a countryside that remains highly insecure
because of Janjaweed predations.

But despite such skewed UN pronouncements, other voices from the UN and
humanitarian organizations---especially when recorded off-the-record and without fear
of running afoul of the UN political line on Darfur---make clear that the
situation continues to deteriorate badly, and that the scale of human suffering and
destruction is expanding.

Present failures are compounding egregious previous failures, and the
consequences will inevitably be measured in Darfuri lives. Whether we look at
diplomatic efforts (especially in supporting deployment of African Union forces with a
true peacekeeping mandate), efforts at forcing Khartoum to improve security in
Darfur, or efforts to improve overall humanitarian capacity and delivery, we see
dangerous failures. The successes of the intrepid and courageous humanitarian
organizations with a real presence on the ground in Darfur are being
overwhelmed by the size of the catastrophe, by the paralyzing rains (now at their
height), and by the slow withering of human resources among those displaced and
traumatized by violence.

This analysis looks at diplomacy in Abuja, at the security situation as
revealed by a flurry of recent dispatches from Darfur and Chad, and briefly at the
realities of humanitarian need and the still-growing mismatch between need and


Unless the international community commits to humanitarian intervention in
Darfur---an increasingly unlikely prospect---or at the very least commits to full
support for the deployment of an African Union peacekeeping force of at least
several thousand troops, it is unclear how progress can be made in saving the
many hundreds of thousands of civilian lives at acutest risk in Darfur. The huge
transport and logistical requirements for more than 2 million war-affected
persons are nowhere in sight, and security issues---both in the camps and the rural
areas---compound an already catastrophic humanitarian crisis. The only way
forward is to secure agreement from Khartoum on the deployment of African Union
peacekeeping forces, and a commitment from the international community to do all
that is necessary to provide adequate transport capacity into and within

But meaningful agreements from Khartoum do not exist, nor are they in prospect.
Khartoum, which has an extremely long history of violating or reneging on every
agreement ever signed with a southern Sudanese party, is preserving this record
of bad faith in Darfur. The regime has now reneged on various agreements: the
April 8, 2004 cease-fire agreement (signed in N'Djamena, Chad), the commitments
in a joint communiqué signed in the presence of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
on July 3, 2004 (in Khartoum), and the commitments made to US Secretary of
State Colin Powell (again in Khartoum). And of course Khartoum has failed to
respond to the only demand of Resolution 1556, a demand contained in the original
April 8, 2004 cease-fire agreement.

This is the context in which to assess current negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria,
which commenced on August 23, 2004. As of this writing, Khartoum is
predictably holding fast to its refusal to allow an African Union peacekeeping force into
Darfur. All the regime will permit is a force with a mandate to protect the
120 planned "cease-fire" observers. Lead NIF negotiator (Agriculture Minister
Majzoub al-Khalifa) made Khartoum's position perfectly clear on the opening day of
the negotiations, and echoed previous statements by senior NIF officials
(including the especially hard-line army spokesman, General Mohamed Bashir Suleiman):

"'Nobody agreed about that (a peacekeeping force). There was an agreement about
a force to protect observers,' Agriculture Minister Majzoub al-Khalifa Ahmad
said. 'The security role is the role of the government of Sudan and its security
forces.' He said Sudan might consider an expanded African Union role later.
'If there's a need, it will be discussed.'" (Associated Press [Abuja, Nigeria],
August 23, 2004)

This vague promise to revisit the issue of an African Union peacekeeping force
in the unspecified future is the direct result of insufficient international
pressure on Khartoum. The diminishment of pressure, in turn, is primarily the
responsibility of Kofi Annan and Jan Pronk, who expediently negotiated away the
singular "demand" of Resolution 1556.

For their part, the insurgency groups refuse to disarm so long as the Janjaweed
remain a force of terror and continuing human destruction and displacement:

"'We're an independent movement and we're fighting for our people and our
rights. This force is our guarantee. How can we disarm them?' said Abdelwahid
Muhamed El Nur, chairman of the Sudan Liberation Army rebel group." (Associated Press
[Abuja, Nigeria], August 23, 2004)

Khartoum won't permit a peacekeeping force into Darfur to disarm the Janjaweed,
or at least protect civilians from ongoing attacks by these brutal militia
forces. At the same time the regime---which previously had refused to acknowledge
the reality of the Janjaweed, let alone their military coordination with the
militia forces---admits it can't do so itself in the foreseeable future. And the
rebels won't disarm as long as the Janjaweed remain such a potent threat. This
is diplomatic stalemate.

Either the international community devises means of pressuring Khartoum in
highly concerted fashion, without UN support, or this stalemate will continue
indefinitely. Extreme insecurity will continue to be a major source of displacement
and death, and will prevent a resumption of agricultural production in Darfur.
Insecurity will also continue to pose major threats to humanitarian aid
workers, as well as humanitarian operations and transport.


The connection between insecurity and humanitarian operations is on vivid
display in various camps. There are numerous and continuing reports of forcible
expulsions from camps, as well as violent treatment (including torture) of those
resisting expulsion. Aid workers are also confronting the effects of
insecurity. Khartoum's security forces shut down the huge Kalma Camp (near Nyala) for
several days in mid-August following the killing of a worker identified by camp
residents as a Janjaweed collaborator. Khartoum's soldiers prevented aid
workers from entering, even as many people within the camp---especially severely
malnourished infants---were put at extreme risk by this action.

The camp at Kass was also closed by Khartoum's security forces on August 17,
2004. And there are reports that the normally intrepid Doctors Without
Borders/MSF has been forced to withdraw from Mukjar Camp in West Darfur. If true, this
would be an especially disturbing development, given MSF's early and courageous
presence in Darfur.

A British official traveling with UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw today gave a
terse but telling account of insecurity in the immediate environs of the Abu
Shouk Camp in North Darfur:

"A British official traveling with Straw described the area around the Abu
Shouk camp as 'bandit country' and said the Janjaweed were 'doing what they want,
where they want, when they want to non-Arabs.'" (Reuters [Abu Shouk Camp]
August 24, 2004)

The Janjaweed are "doing what they want, where they want, when they want to
non-Arabs." This tells us far too much about the reality confronting displaced
Darfuris and the risks facing those who do not enjoy even the tenuous security of
the camps. Other recent global assessments are just as discouraging; Kitty
KcKinsey, spokesperson for the UN High Commission for Refugees in Chad, recently
noted that:

"'We have seen some people who have tried to go home to their villages, but
when they go home, they said the security was very bad and they either flee to be
displaced once more inside Darfur or they cross over into Chad.'" (Voice of
America, August 17, 2004)

The UN is reported by Reuters as "concerned by Sudan's lack of progress in
bringing security to Darfur," noting insecurity in the camps for the displaced in

"'We are still concerned, very much so, by the lack of progress on the ground,'
[UN] spokeswoman Radhia Achouria told reporters in Khartoum, referring to camp
security." (August 18, 2004)

Another recent dispatch from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks
provides the same grim view:

"'Protection and security remain of paramount concern to Internally Displaced
Persons,' [UN spokeswoman Jennifer] Abrahamson noted. 'General insecurity
persists on the ground with continued violence carried out by various armed groups in
addition to incidents of banditry and ongoing lawlessness,' she added. She
quoted Internally Displaced Persons as telling a UN team that visited Zam Zam camp
[North Darfur] on 16 August [2004], that Janjawid militias had moved closer to
El Fasher town and were hiding at Jamena village, 4 km south of the town." (UN
Integrated Regional Information Networks, August 18, 2004).

Another recent dispatch, from Agence France-Presse, reports on the sexual
violence and exploitation of women in camps for the displaced. AFP focuses in
particular on the "police" charged with providing security in the camps. As many
reports from the ground have made clear, the ranks of these "police" have been
greatly increased as Khartoum simply gives paramilitary or police uniforms to
the Janjaweed. According to a UN report released August 14, 2004, women in the
camps are "reporting increasing incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation in
Abu Shouk Camp near El Fashir committed by police officers"; "the police are
exploiting women's inability to venture outside of the camp to collect firewood out
of fear of Janjaweed attacks, by collecting firewood for the women in exchange
for sexual favours' the UN report said"; "'[the displaced women] further report
that some police officers had followed the women to the forests and threatened
to beat them unless they succumb to their demands'" (Agence France-Presse,
August 15, 2004).

Even the expedient Jan Pronk has been forced by the undeniable realities of
Darfur to admit that "there is no improvement in terms of safety, there is more
fighting, the humanitarian situation is as bad as it was" (New York Times, August
16, 2004).

Moreover, there are a growing number of camps, spontaneously created by the
most bereft of the displaced, to which no humanitarian organizations are permitted
and in which security is non-existent. And there will be more of these camps
as Khartoum continues with its announced policy of forcing displaced persons to
return to their burned-out villages. Encampments like Otash and Siref, near
Nyala (South Darfur), are "unauthorized," according to Khartoum, and the regime's
Humanitarian Affairs Commission has,

"refused permission for the international agencies to operate [in these camps].
That decision is being partly modified, but apart from the charity CARE putting
in water at Otash, there has been no change to the appalling conditions." (The
Independent (UK), [Nyala], August 14, 2004)

There are also a great many concentrations of displaced persons, in Khartoum-
and insurgency-controlled territories, that are completely unregistered and
unassessed. These are the people dying helplessly and invisibly.

Further, as a recent and superbly authoritative report from the International
Crisis Group reports:

"Many of the displaced [persons in Darfur] are restricted from relocating and
are effectively trapped, often in poorly run government camps, without their
normal means of survival in difficult times." ("Darfur Deadline: A New
International Action Plan," International Crisis Group, August 23, 2004; available at

This raises the issue of the so-called "safe areas" that were negotiated by
Pronk in the August 5, 2004 "Plan of Action." What sort of security will be
afforded these areas, reminiscent in all too many ways of the "safe area" that was
Srebrenica? We catch a glimpse in a recent Reuters dispatch reporting on
conditions at Sani Deleiba in South Darfur---one of the places NIF Foreign Minister
Mustafa Ismail designated a "safe area" on August 16, 2004:

"Villagers returning to their homes in Sudan's Darfur region are living in fear
of the Arab militiamen who initially drove them away, the UN says in a report
received by Reuters. [ ] 'A UN team reported on August 12 [2004] that it found
approximately 2,700 returnees in Sani Deleiba that lived in fear due to heavy
Janjaweed presence in the area,' the UN said in a weekly report on the situation
in Darfur." (Reuters, August 16, 2004)

Camp insecurity is also an issue that may send tens of thousands of already
displaced Darfuris fleeing into Chad. The Masteri Camp in West Darfur is a site
of particular concern:

"The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned Friday [August 20, 2004] that a
further 30,000 displaced people were poised to flee over the border into
neighboring Chad, joining 200,000 refugees already there, because of the continuing
depredations by the militias. 'We are concerned that such an influx of 30,000
refugees in one single spot along the Chad-Sudan border, if it were to
materialize, would put a strain on our ability to care for and feed refugees in our camps
there,' the UN agency said."

"'This group of displaced people said they want protection from UN
peacekeepers,' the agency's statement said. 'If they do not get international security
guarantees, they said they will all cross to Chad as soon as the rain-swollen river
that marks the border with Sudan dries up.' Most of the displaced people in
the Masteri camp fled attacks on their own villages earlier this year, but are
still prey to state-sponsored Arab militias, the UNHCR said." (Agence
France-Presse, August 22, 2004)

These huge numbers of refugees would be in addition to the many hundreds who
have very recently entered Chad. Approximately 500 Darfuris crossed the border
close to the Chadian village of Berak as a result of "renewed violence in the
Darfur region" (BBC, August 16, 2004). Further north, in the Bahai region,
additional new refugees "describe attacks by Sudanese government planes and militia
on horseback," and their testimonies indicate "the campaign against Sudanese of
African descent continues" (BBC, August 16, 2004).

We must bear in mind that conditions for the more than 200,000 refugees in
Chad, as well as their Chadian host communities are extremely difficult. Indeed,
in many ways conditions are worse in Chad than in Darfur itself--- "appalling"
is the word used most frequently by camp workers. Child malnutrition rates are
36-39% (the range in Darfur is 16% to 39%); a very high percentage of women are
no longer able to breast-feed their infants; and transport and logistics are
extraordinarily difficult, even judged by the standards of this crisis. As Mark
Zeitoun, a water engineer for Oxfam, recently wrote in the International Herald
Tribune, "the situation is slipping out of control" (International Herald
Tribune, August 15, 2004)

The reality is that insecurity in and around camps for the displaced in Darfur
remains extremely severe and threatens the survival of hundreds of thousands.
This is so despite the comment by Jan Pronk on August 5, 2004 (the same day he
signed, on behalf of Kofi Annan and the UN, the "Plan of Action"):

"[Pronk] said that security in the Internally Displaced Persons camps had
generally improved." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, August 5, 2004)

We may be sure that so long as Khartoum believes the UN capable of such absurd
and expedient statements, it will be commensurately less responsive to
international demands, confident that the UN political leadership is not serious about
bringing meaningful pressure to bear.


Reports from displaced persons on insecurity in the rural Darfur areas are
numerous, extraordinarily consistent---and ominous in the extreme. They make clear
that Khartoum has not begun to make good on the demand of Resolution 1556 that
it "disarm the Janjaweed." Instead of such effort, Khartoum has made a series
of promises: first 6,000 "police," then 10,000---then for good measure 20,000.
It has promised to reduce its paramilitary forces in the region by 30% (a tacit
admission that these have been part of the security problem). But there is
nothing that responds meaningfully to the extreme violence of the Janjaweed
militia and the general lawlessness that follows in its wake of widespread

The refugees that have newly fled to Chad (see above) report that they "have
tried to go home to their villages, but when they go home they said the security
was very bad and they either flee to be displaced once more insider Darfur or
they cross over into Chad" (Voice of America, August 17, 2004). Obviously with
every forced movement these populations of civilians become weaker and more

The same Voice of America dispatch reports that instead of improving security,
Khartoum is employing violent means to create an appearance of restored order:

"Aid workers in Chad and Darfur say the situation appears to be deteriorating,
not improving. Unnamed sources within UN relief organizations have been quoted
as saying they believe [Khartoum's] government troops are preventing many more
terrorized civilians from fleeing Darfur in an effort to show the government is
restoring stability in the region." (Voice of America, August 17, 2004)

The fact that Khartoum continues to coordinate militarily with the Janjaweed
has been reported in many news dispatches, including this from the New York Times
(dateline: Bahai, Chad):

"The latest refugee influx [ ] is an alarming barometer of continuing violence
inside Darfur. [ ] United Nations officials here, relying on accounts by
refugees, have been documenting new attacks by the Sudanese military and their proxy
Arab militias, the Janjaweed. On August 6 [2004], these [UN] officials said,
Janjaweed forces attacked a displaced peoples camp near the Darfur village of
Ardjah. On August 10 [2004], the [UN] agency said, cargo planes dropped bombs on
a section of the Djabarmoun mountains commonly used as a hiding place for
villagers trying to flee the fighting." (New York Times [Bahai, Chad], August 20,

The date "August 6" reported here was the day after the Khartoum regime signed
the "Plan of Action" that Jan Pronk had presented on behalf of the UN. Aerial
attacks on civilians by Khartoum's air force, one day after the "Plan of
Action" went into effect, make clear how much meaning this "Plan" has for the regime.


A fuller account of the present humanitarian situation in Darfur will be
offered in conjunction with a fourth update by this writer on total mortality in
Darfur (forthcoming August 27, 2004). Particular attention will be devoted to
several highly disturbing and misleading assessments offered by UN agencies and
spokespersons. Especially disturbing is the suggestion that the number of
"war-affected" persons has declined from 2.2 million to under 1.5 million. (In fact,
the number of "war-affected" persons has grown considerably since the UN, the
EU, and the US expressed deep concern for 2.2 million "war-affected" persons in
a joint communiqué [Geneva, June 3, 2004].) Further, a preposterously low
total mortality figure of 363 deaths among over 800,000 displaced persons, over a
five-week period (to August 17, 2004), has been put forward by the UN's World
Health Organization. This figure will be subjected to vigorous scrutiny.

The general assessment offered by Mike McDonagh, who manages the Darfur relief
effort for the Khartoum office of the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), offers a clear, if troubling, point of reference: "I feel
we are slowly but surely getting on top of (the health crisis" (Knight Ridder
news service [Khartoum], August 19, 2004). For a closer look at the health
crisis and the humanitarian situation, we must leave the Khartoum office of OCHA
and hear the comments coming from those unencumbered by either UN bureaucracy or
politics. These voices, guided by no ulterior motives, are our best means of
understanding what the situation is currently.

The outbreak of Hepatitis E in camps in both Darfur and Chad continues to be
cause for extreme concern, especially given the very high weekly rates of
increased infection. Hepatitis E---a disease for which there is no vaccine, cure, or
treatment---has an incubation period of 28-40 days; the feces of an infected
person can carry the virus for over 2 weeks (Gerald Mandell, et al, "Principles
and Practice of Infectious Diseases"). This suggests that the outbreak of
Hepatitis E that we are seeing (rare in epidemic form, especially for a region in
which the disease is not endemic) may prove a major health catastrophe.

Mortality among pregnant women can be 20-25%. But even the lower mortality
rates of 1 to 4% suggested by medical personnel in the humanitarian theater are of
extreme concern, given the incubation period and the duration of fecal
infection. This may not be one of the major killers that still lurks (cholera,
dysentery), as camps have become open sewers following the near daily rains. But it
could claim a great many lives beyond those it has already, and could spread
much more widely. There are already concerns that the disease has jumped from
refugee camps in Chad to host communities (UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks, August 20, 2004). Last week the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) warned that,

"unless immediate action was taken to avert the spread of the disease
[Hepatitis E] in Darfur, it could spread quickly among the hundreds of thousands of
Internally Displaced Persons living in camps with poor sanitation." (UN Integrated
Regional Information Networks, August 20, 2004)

But of course there are no additional resources in place to make possible this
"immediate action." The disease seems destined to become yet another source of
trauma, another factor in the general debilitation of the huge populations of
displaced persons.

Darfur and Chad have also entered the high malaria season and between July 3
and August 6, 2004 the World Health Organization reported "104,859 cases in
Internally Displaced Persons camps." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks,
August 20, 2004)

Malaria, too, is a debilitating disease that even among survivors can mean
increased vulnerability to other diseases.

Polio represents yet another threat, especially since so many children in
Darfur were not part of the recent vaccination campaign because of insecurity. The
Associated Press reports today that "epidemiologists fear a major [polio]
epidemic this fall---the start of the polio 'high season'---leaving thousands of
African children paralyzed for life, [the UN] World Health Organization has said"
(Associated Press, August 24, 2004). This is yet another grim feature of the
terrible autumn of suffering and dying in Darfur and Chad that is so clearly in

More globally, Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam/Great Britain, declared
following a recent assessment trip to Darfur that "large swathes of north-western
Sudan still remain inaccessible to aid organizations" (The Independent, August
15, 2004). This key issue---the huge numbers of inaccessible people in the very
large areas with no humanitarian presence---must loom large in any
comprehensive understanding of Darfur's crisis.

Richard Lee, a spokesman for the UN World Food Program, gives a sense of the
magnitude of the key task by noting that the number of people assessed as in need
of food assistance "is expected to rise to two million by September [2004]"
(Voice of America, August 18, 2004). Lee also declared that the heavy rains had
contributed to the creation of a "logistical nightmare," and that "more areas
[are becoming] inaccessible" (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, August
18, 2004). This should not be surprising, since this is typically the month of
heaviest rains in Darfur; it does highlight yet again the failure of the World
Food Program in not pre-positioning large stocks of food in Darfur before the
rainy season.

Another World Food Program spokesman, Peter Smerdon, is reported as saying that
WFP fell short of its target of 1 million people in July 2004, and that the
organization would have trouble in August reaching even July's total because of
difficulties in reaching West Darfur (Knight Ridder news service, August 19,
2004). This augurs extremely poorly for the 2 million people the WFP estimates
will need food assistance in September, another very rainy month.

Significant shortfalls have defined the WFP response in Darfur for months now,
with a number of gaping holes in the delivery system that have been only very
partially closed:

"The world's biggest international relief effort has delivered less than one
third of the special food needed for acutely malnourished children in Darfur, the
United Nations said yesterday. [ ] According to [the UN] World Food Program
figures, 8,220 tons of corn and soya blend were needed to feed malnourished
children between April and last month. But only 2,455 tons were delivered, barely 30
per cent." (The Telegraph [UK], August 18, 2004)

Doctors Without Borders/MSF reported in late July that "in one big camp around
El Geneina, only 35% of the displaced people even have a card entitling them to
food from the UN. And the last time they received any was at the end of
May---over seven weeks ago." (MSF press release, July 26, 2004)

The Washington Post reports that a recent survey by the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention found that "four out of ten Sudanese refugee children
younger than five in Chadian camps are acutely malnourished" (Washington Post
[Bahai, Chad], August 22, 2004).

On top of all this, Khartoum continues to impede humanitarian
relief---deliberately increasing both morbidity and mortality among these terribly weakened
populations. The most recent "fact sheet" from the US Agency for International
Development records several UN and other aid group findings on this score:

"On August 17 [2004] the UN reported that the Government of Sudan [GOS] had
imposed additional bureaucratic obstacles that limit humanitarian access and
relief agencies' capacity to respond to the emergency. The GOS recently denied
access to an aircraft carrying relief supplies on the basis that the aircraft was
more than 20 years old. A non-governmental organization already working in
Darfur reported that one of its vehicles was denied customs clearance by the GOS
Humanitarian Aid Commission. Other nongovernmental organizations reported
restrictions on the hiring of national medical staff and additional delays in customs
clearance for essential equipment." (US AID, fact sheet #19,
"Darfur---Humanitarian Emergency, August 20, 2004)

This is genocide by attrition---no less destructive ultimately than attacks on
civilians of the sort reported by the intrepid journalist Kim Sengupta, whose
dispatches from Nyala have been some of the most revealing by any news reporter
working in Darfur:

"On 30 July [2004], three weeks after the United Nations Secretary-General,
Kofi Annan, announced that he had reached agreement with the Sudanese President,
Omar al-Bashir, on ending the violence, the village [of Silaya] came under
sustained and murderous attack from government troops and their Janjaweed allies. [
] More than 100 people were killed in one raid. Most of them were shot, but 32
were tied up and burned alive. Twenty-five young women and girls were taken
away; the bodies of some were found later. Also discovered were the remains of
many who fled the onslaught but were pursued and slaughtered."

"Survivors say that the raiders had specific, targeted victims whom they hunted
down and set alight---teachers, clerics and those who had returned after
further education in the cities." (The Independent [UK], August 22, 2004)

Genocide by attrition amidst the world's greatest humanitarian crisis, genocide
by violent destruction and cultural obliteration, genocide by means of
diplomatic and political intransigence. Khartoum's regime presents all aspects of
genocidal ambition.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Monday, August 23, 2004

Regime Change in Sudan  

The Washington Post

By Eric Reeves

Monday, August 23, 2004; Page A15

The horrors in Darfur mark this century's first great venture in genocide, but
they are not the first such action perpetrated by the National Islamic Front
(NIF) regime ruling Sudan. That distinction goes to the jihad directed against
the various African peoples of the Nuba Mountains beginning in 1992. Genocide
began again in the vast oil concessions of southern Sudan in 1998, when the
African peoples of the region became targets of a systematic policy of scorched-earth
clearances. Many hundreds of thousands were killed or displaced.

Khartoum's genocide in Darfur is both familiar and different. It is, as
seasoned Sudan analyst Alex de Waal has argued, "the routine cruelty of a security
cabal, its humanity withered by years in power: it is genocide by force of habit."
Confronted with a surprisingly robust military insurgency in Darfur -- growing
out of decades of economic marginalization and a near-total breakdown in
civilian security -- the government in Khartoum instinctively responded by organizing
and deploying the Janjaweed Arab militia, which has brutally and systematically
destroyed the means of agricultural production throughout Darfur, focusing
almost exclusively on African tribal groups. These people now confront "conditions
of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction": They face

No reasonable world order can tolerate a serially genocidal regime that rules
only by virtue of ruthless survivalism. Yet this is what the United Nations
appears prepared to do. A July 30 U.N. Security Council resolution on Darfur was an
exercise in temporizing. Veto-wielding China and Russia, as well as Pakistan
and Algeria, resisted all meaningful action; both China and Pakistan abstained in
the final vote, signaling that nothing further will be done when the Security
Council takes up Darfur again on Sunday.

In the distorting shadow of the Iraq war, this is an exceedingly difficult
moment to argue for "regime change" in Khartoum. But regime change alone can end
genocide as the domestic security policy of choice in Sudan. And it is the only
thing that can avert the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Darfur. The mismatch
between humanitarian need and capacity grows more deadly each day. And Khartoum
is strenuously resisting deployment of any peacekeeping force, even from the
African Union.

The moral logic of regime change could not be clearer. The NIF came to power by
military coup in 1989, deposing an elected government and aborting the most
promising peace process since Sudan's independence in 1956. The only arguments
against regime change are those of realpolitik (the regime is Sudan's de facto
government) and practicability (how can Sudan's governance be taken into
international receivership?).

But years in power cannot legitimize genocide: This will only encourage regimes
like Khartoum's to believe they are invulnerable and act accordingly. Even from
the realpolitik perspective, acceptance of rule by those who commit genocide is
counterproductive to regional and world order; it also offers encouragement to
other regimes tempted to use genocide as a political weapon.

To the second objection -- how will it be done? -- there are certainly no easy
answers. But one consequence of the Iraq war (though of course not a
justification in itself) is that public discussion of regime change by the United States
will resonate much more deeply in Khartoum's despotic thinking. If it is
coupled with serious efforts to work with our European allies to squeeze Khartoum by
means of comprehensive economic sanctions, as well as sanctions targeted
against NIF leaders, we may first be able to secure a permissive environment for
humanitarian intervention in Darfur, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

If regime change is not to be chaotic, it must be organized by a consortium of
international actors, including regional governments; efforts must be made to
reach out to all opposition parties throughout the country and in exile. A
proportionately representative interim governing council must be created externally
but be ready to move quickly to take control when the NIF is removed by
whatever means are necessary. The great risk is an implosion of the military that
sustains NIF power, but this risk is as great without any effort of regime change.

The challenges adumbrated here are daunting and politically risky. The
consequences of failing to accept these challenges are continuation of genocidal rule and additional hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The writer is a professor at Smith College.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Ten Days Before the UN Security Council Resumes Consideration of Darfur 

The Grim Political Realities and Prospects

Eric Reeves
August 19, 2004


Darfur's bleak future is coming more fully into focus ten days before
the UN Security Council returns to SC Resolution 1556, which demands
that the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum "disarm the Janjaweed
militias" and bring to justice those guilty of "human rights and
international law violations." It has been clear from the date of the
resolution's passage on July 30, 2004 that Khartoum had no intention of
complying with this singular demand.

More disturbingly, it was clear within days following the resolution's
formal adoption that the UN political leadership in New York had no
intention of holding Khartoum to this demand. Jan Pronk, Kofi Annan's
newly appointed special representative in Sudan, first commended
Khartoum for its good faith in responding to Darfur, and for "improving
security" in the camps for displaced persons; he then re-negotiated the
Security Council resolution in a way that substitutes for a clear demand
that the Janjaweed be disarmed a series of vague benchmarks and

On the basis of these various benchmarks, and Kofi Annan's assessment
of Khartoum's performance in meeting them, the Security Council will on
August 29, 2004 almost certainly renew the 30-day "deadline" originally
set on July 30, 2004. There will be much rhetorical bombast about
continued Security Council concern for the people of Darfur, and
whatever language emerges will again be stuffed with various
"welcomings," "reiteratings," "stressings," expressings,"
"recallings," "urgings," "emphasizing," "condemnings," "notings,"
"determinings." But there will no clear "demands," beyond some
muffled reiteration of what was contained in the original resolution.
Kofi Annan has decided that Darfur and the genocide destroying the
African tribal groups of the region must not be allowed to reveal the
Security Council as hopelessly incapable of responding meaningfully to
the crisis.

Annan's present strategy for Darfur is governed by the calculation that
since the Security Council, and in particular veto-wielding China, will
never move effectively on Darfur, it is better that the key issues of
security and humanitarian intervention simply not arise in meaningful
fashion. Nor will there be further discussion that spells out the vague
"other measures" threatened in the original resolution (the US was
forced to withdraw language threatening "sanctions" because the
resolution would have failed in a vote).

The only political uncertainty at the Security Council is whether the
US and the other sponsors of the original resolution decide to force the
issue and reveal that what is nominally the world's most powerful
political body cannot respond in any effective way to the world's
greatest and most urgent humanitarian crisis---a humanitarian crisis
that grows directly out of Khartoum's genocidal conduct of war. John
Danforth, US Ambassador to the UN, talked tough following the passage of
Resolution 1556 on July 30th: will there be any stomach for a
politically futile effort on the part of the US come August 29th?

There may indeed be, if only because the Bush administration has no
plan of its own for humanitarian intervention. Mid-level officials from
various parts of the executive branch admit as much privately. Perhaps
by way of deflecting blame from its own inability to stop genocide and
respond to massive humanitarian need, the Bush administration will
introduce a new resolution, or resume a call for "sanctions" that are
finally useless in the critical near term, knowing perfectly well the
futility of such efforts.

But nothing changes the political bottom-line: there will be no help
for Darfur from the Security Council. China is the preeminent spoiler,
both because of concern for its oil investments in Sudan and because of
concern over setting any precedent for humanitarian intervention that
claims an authority greater than national sovereignty. China will
receive all the political help it needs from Russia (which also wields a
veto in the Security Council), Pakistan, Algeria, and Brazil---as well
as external diplomatic support from the Arab League and the Organization
of the Islamic Conference.

But if not the UN Security Council, where will help for Darfur come
from? There seems to be no willingness on the part of nations that are
signatories to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment
of the Crime of Genocide to accept obligations under Article 1 to
"prevent" genocide. Though all the current members of the Security
Council are signatories to the Genocide Convention, this only makes more
conspicuous the growing danger that the Genocide Convention has become
irrelevant. Those countries most obligated under the Convention
(because most capable of prevention)---in particular the US---seem
willing to forego a timely determination of genocide; and in the case of
the US, the State Department is going to considerable lengths to insist
that a genocide determination would have no meaning in any event.

In a State Department press briefing of July 20, 2004, an official who
refused to be identified by name declared, quite extraordinarily, that
the only "firm US obligation" under the Genocide Convention would be to
arrest a perpetrator of genocide who ventured onto US soil. More recent
comments have been no more encouraging of a belief that the State
Department is seeking anything but the narrowest possible construal of
obligations under the Genocide Convention.

For this and other reasons, Darfur may mark the demise of the Genocide
Convention as a basis for international action. 10 years after Rwanda,
56 years after the Convention came into existence and almost 60 years
since the end of the Holocaust, the Convention has evidently become a
relic except in international tribunals---a guide for sentencing and
determining the degree of opprobrium after the genocidal facts.


The African Union (AU), which presently has roughly 120 "cease-fire"
observers in Darfur and a very recently deployed contingent of 155
Rwandan soldiers to protect them, holds out the tenuous possibility for
a modest intervention---and perhaps international efforts can be built
on this AU bridgehead (another 150 Nigerian soldiers are to be deployed
shortly). But precisely because of this possibility, Khartoum has
resolutely refused to countenance any deployment of AU troops that has a
peacekeeping mandate. Unless this changes, international intervention
in Darfur has no obviously viable form.

Insofar as there is presently a practical test of international
resolve, it takes the form of a willingness to support the African
Union, both financially and diplomatically. All necessary equipment and
transport must be supplied; all possible diplomatic pressure must be
brought to bear on Khartoum to accept the AU forces, with a peacekeeping
mandate. The principle of international peacekeeping as critical to
Darfur's security is either established in the very near term, or there
will be nothing to halt the current genocidal free-fall.

Comments from Khartoum's master of mendacity, Foreign Minister Mustafa
Ismail, have in recent days sounded slightly more accommodating of an
African Union peacekeeping force:

"Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said his government might agree
'if the African Union convinces us of the importance of a
peacekeeping force.'" (Agence France-Presse, August 18, 2004)

But these comments are in all likelihood a disingenuous effort to avoid
even greater international pressure on the regime over the issue of
peacekeeping forces, and at the very least represent an effort to ensure
that only African peacekeepers are deployed in Darfur. They are also
dramatically at odds with statements from other senior Khartoum
officials (see below).

Though potentially of considerable value, a purely African Union
force---given its lack of logistical and transport capacity--could not
possibly change the fundamental dynamic of diminishing humanitarian
capacity in Darfur (as measured in terms of humanitarian need). Such
increased logistical and transport capacity is the fundamental
requirement of any humanitarian intervention that is to respond
adequately to the acute threat to more than 2 million civilians. It is
essential that we not lose sight of this fundamental reality in the
crisis Khartoum has deliberately precipitated, exacerbated, and


It is in the prospect of an African Union peacekeeping force that Kofi
Annan sees his only opportunity to forestall criticism over UN Security
Council inaction. Though he knows full well that such a force cannot
possibly answer to the desperate humanitarian needs of Darfur, he is
evidently calculating that deployment of AU forces may diminish
international pressure sufficiently that the inevitably dysfunctional
response of the Security Council will not translate into a perceived UN
failure. This is certainly what lies behind the remarks earlier this
week by Jan Pronk, Annan's special representative for Darfur. Pronk
declared (August 16, 2004) that the present number of military observers
deployed in the Darfur is not nearly sufficient to monitor whether
Khartoum is fulfilling its negotiated pledges to the UN:

"Jan Pronk, the UN secretary general's special representative to Sudan,
told the Financial Times on Monday [August 16, 2004] that there needs to
be 'thousands' of observers and supporting forces in Darfur if human
rights violations and a ceasefire are to be effectively monitored
throughout the region." (The Financial Times, August 18, 2004)

Noting the current force of about 120 observers and 155 Rwandan
soldiers, as well as the impending deployment of another 150 Nigerian
soldiers, Pronk declared further:

"It will need a far bigger mission to adequately ensure the government
is taking the necessary steps to protect civilians, Mr Pronk said. 'What
has been decided now on the basis of the action plan in all these areas
cannot be monitored effectively with the present African Union force,'
Mr Pronk said. 'We have to test lots on the ground, we can test with our
own people, but we do not have enough. We need many more observers.'"
(Financial Times, August 18, 2004)

Mr. Pronk here sounds a good deal less like the man who only a couple
of weeks ago was quoted as declaring that security in Darfur's camps for
the displaced had "generally improved," that there had already been
"positive progress in implementing last month's agreement between the
UN and Sudan on improving security in Darfur" (BBC, August 3, 2004), and
who erroneously asserted that the "Sudanese military was no longer
conducting activities against civilians" and that "the government has
lifted all restrictions on humanitarian assistance, as it promised to do"
(Voice of America, August 5, 2004). Indeed just last week Pronk
declared that, "so far in all my talks I am meeting a government [i.e.,
the Khartoum regime---ER] that is seriously trying to keep the promises
made" (Reuters, August 11, 2004).

Perhaps Darfur's ghastly realities, and Khartoum's chronic bad faith,
have had a sobering effect on Mr. Pronk; perhaps he has simply started
to read the numerous reports from various UN agencies that reveal how
absurdly disingenuous or ignorant his earlier assessments have been.
But it is clear in any event that Pronk (and Annan) are trying now to do
by way of the African Union what can't be done by way of the Security

The danger in such a strategy is obvious: Khartoum sees clearly that
this is the plan and is energetically engaged in creating the impression
that no sizeable peacekeeping force is necessary. This is what lies
behind the preposterous declaration by Mustafa Ismail that 20,000
additional "police" will be deployed to Darfur:

"Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said in Nigeria on
Tuesday Sudan planned to double to 20,000 the number of police in Darfur
to provide security." (Reuters, August 18, 2004)

This is an utterly meaningless promise: Khartoum doesn't begin to have
the manpower, resources, or means of supporting such a deployment of new
"police." Indeed, we should recall that Khartoum originally promised an
equally untenable 6,000 additional "police"; reports from the ground in
Darfur made clear that this "addition" consisted mainly of incorporating
the Janjaweed militia and other paramilitary forces into the "police."
In turn, as this was deemed an insufficient commitment, Ismail and
others started speaking of 10,000 additional "police"; now the number is
20,000. The easy numerical augmentation is possible because there is
simply no commitment behind it. The whole point, as a Reuters dispatch
makes clear, is to diminish the size of any African Union deployment:

"'The African Union, whatever number is going to come, they are going
to be for building confidence to encourage people to go to their homes,'
[Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said. 'We are going to increase the
number of police to maybe 20,000 police in Darfur.'" (Reuters, August
17, 2004)

This is no accidental conjunction of statements but a clear indication
of how Khartoum plans to keep the African Union deployment as small as
possible--"for building confidence," not providing security.

But of course, as all evidence indicates, Khartoum has made no effort
to improve security. On the contrary, a series of recent reports from
various UN organizations reveal a continuing situation of extreme
insecurity, and undiminished threats to civilian populations within and
outside the camps (see below, as well as the analysis by this writer of
August 6, 2004; available upon request).

This is the context in which to assess Khartoum's strenuous, even
bizarre resistance to an African Union deployment, reflected today in a
government-controlled newspaper:

"Writing in the daily newspaper Al-Rai Al-Am, Rashed Abderrahim warned
against the spread of the HIV virus which the Rwandan soldiers could be
carrying and considered the troops could 'carry on in Sudan their
experience of ethnic cleansing.'" (Agence France-Presse, August 19,

Such "domestic concerns" will be marshaled in increasing number to slow
any further deployment, especially from Rwanda in light of President
Paul Kagame's forthright declaration of the rules of engagement for
Rwandan troops (see below).


Despite Khartoum's predictable resistance, indeed precisely because of
it, all possible pressure must be brought to bear to create a large and
robust African Union peacekeeping force. It must have the rules of
engagement articulated by Rwandan President Paul Kagame:

"'Our forces will not stand by and watch innocent civilians being
hacked to death like the case was here in 1994,' Mr Kagame said,
referring to UN troops who did not intervene to prevent the Rwanda
genocide. 'If it was established that the civilians are in danger, then
our forces would certainly intervene and use force to protect
civilians.'" (Associated Press, August 17, 2004)

These and previous comments have provoked, of course, ominous threats
from Khartoum, suggesting that Rwanda's presence would no longer be
accepted if its forces were actually guided by these rules of

"The Sudanese army spokesman, Gen Mohamed Bashir Suleiman, in a
statement issued from the capital, Khartoum said the task of the AU
force would be 'confined to the protection of the 80-man African
cease-fire monitoring team, currently deployed in the states of Darfur
and Ndjamena,' Sudan News Agency reported. The task of the 300-strong
force, he added, would 'not include conducting any military action
against any of the conflict parties in the case of ceasefire violations,
contrary to reports which were published in some media.'" (UN Integrated
Regional Information Networks [Nairobi], August 16, 2004)

This assertion was amplified in another statement from a senior member
of the National Islamic Front:

"Sudan's state minister for foreign affairs, Abdelwahad Najeb, says
that as far as Khartoum is concerned, the protection force in Darfur has
only one purpose. 'The mission for those forces is very clear;
protection for the monitors. As far as the civilians, this is the
responsibility of the government of Sudan, and this is very clearly
stipulated in the resolution of the African Union in its meeting on the
8th of July in Addis Ababa. I think the president of Rwanda was there in
the summit of the AU, and he knows what is the mandate of the Rwandan
troops.'" (Voice of America [Nairobi], August 16, 2004)

But as Human Rights Watch has rightly declared:

"The Rwandan government deserves praise for deploying troops to Darfur
and pledging to protect civilians. Now the international community
should increase pressure on Sudan to accept peacekeepers with a mandate
for protecting civilians, and it should provide the support that's
urgently needed for this mission." (Human Rights Watch statement [New
York], August 17, 2004)

Such support---from most European countries, the US, Canada, Japan, and
many other international actors---is presently inadequate, even as there
is no willingness to contemplate or propose alternatives. If this does
not change, especially with greatly heightened near-term diplomatic
efforts, Khartoum will calculate that a larger deployment, with a fully
established peacekeeping mandate, can be avoided. Over the near- to
medium-term, the international community must make available all
necessary transport and communications equipment to AU forces. Such
significantly increased support looks only vaguely possible, and
Khartoum is calculating accordingly. The most likely prospect is that
even as the UN Security Council proves useless, the African Union
initiative---unprecedented on the continent---will wither for lack of
sufficient support, another casualty of the Darfur conflict.


Insecurity remains the greatest part of the threat now facing over 2
million people in Darfur and in refugee camps in Chad. The UN's
Integrated Regional Information Networks reported earlier this week that
more than 500 new refugees had fled from Darfur into Chad this past
weekend---a sharp uptick---and that humanitarian workers are reporting
"cross-border raids by pro-government Janjawid militias were
increasing again and [they] expressed fears that the Sudanese government
was trying to prevent many more refugees from crossing the border" (UN
Integrated Regional Information Networks, August 16, 2004).

Voice of America reports from Chad the following statement by UN High
Commission for Refugees spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey:

"'We have seen some people who have tried to go home to their villages,
but when they go home, they said the security was very bad and they
either flee to be displaced once more inside Darfur or they cross over
into Chad.'" (Voice of America, August 17, 2004)

The UN is reported by Reuters (August 18, 2004) as "concerned by
Sudan's lack of progress in bringing security to Darfur," noting
insecurity in the camps for the displaced in particular:

"'We are still concerned, very much so, by the lack of progress on the
ground,' [UN] spokeswoman Radhia Achouria told reporters in Khartoum,
referring to camp security." (August 18, 2004)

This hardly comports well with Jan Pronk's comments of "generally
improved security" in the camps.

Other ominous reports of insecurity from the UN make clear that the
Janjaweed continues to be unconstrained, and that there is no
functioning "police," despite Khartoum's claim to be in the process of
massively augmenting this force:

"'Protection and security remain of paramount concern to Internally
Displaced Persons,' [UN spokeswoman Jennifer] Abrahamson noted. 'General
insecurity persists on the ground with continued violence carried out by
various armed groups in addition to incidents of banditry and ongoing
lawlessness,' she added. She quoted Internally Displaced Persons as
telling a UN team that visited Zam Zam camp [North Darfur] on 16 August
[2004], that Janjawid militias had moved closer to El Fasher town and
were hiding at Jamena village, 4 km south of the town." (UN Integrated
Regional Information Networks, August 18, 2004).

Another UN report speaks to the continuing threat of rape and violence
against women in the camps, particularly by the "police" officers touted
by Foreign Minister Ismail:

"'Internally Displaced Persons report increasing incidents of sexual
abuse and exploitation in Abu Shouk Camp near El Fashir committed by
police officers,' said a UN weekly update on the humanitarian situation
in North Darfur." (Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2004)

Perhaps most troubling is a report from the Sudan Organization Against
Torture (SOAT) on the arrest and torture of Internally Displaced Persons
at the Kalma camp (near Nyala, South Darfur) for refusing to assist
Khartoum in its new policy of forcing displaced persons from the camps
(Khartoum very recently denied all humanitarian aid workers access to
the huge Kalma Camp for several days):

"On 15 August 2004, the police forces, security forces and armed
forces, arrested 50 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Kalma IDP
camp, 17 kilometres east of Nyala, southern Darfur state. The men were
detained by the military for one day. On 16 August 2004, the IDP's were
transferred to Nyala Wasat (central) police station. The 50 IDPs alleged
that they were tortured by the armed forces during their arrest from
camp. The were beaten with sticks and hands on all over their bodies and
flogged on their backs and shoulders to extract their confession that
the men encouraged and abetted the IDPs in the camp to refuse to return
back to their village."
(Sudan Organisation Against Torture press release,17 August 2004
["Arrest and torture of IDP's from Kalma Camp"])

This policy of violently enforced expulsions from camps for the
displaced poses the greatest threat to these desperate people: if they
are forced from the camps, most have no villages to return to (these
have been destroyed by Khartoum's regular and Janjaweed proxy militia
forces). They are also at acute risk of attack by the Janjaweed, with
no means of protection.

There are countless other reports indicating extreme insecurity
throughout Darfur. This level of insecurity ensures that there is no
possibility of agricultural production resuming for the foreseeable
future: Darfur's people, overwhelmingly the African tribal populations
of the region, have become utterly dependent on international food aid.
Available and foreseeable food aid is dramatically inadequate to present
and prospective need; those dying invisibly from the effects of
malnutrition are growing in number at a terrible rate, and will continue
to do so in the absence of a vast increase in transport and logistical
capacity---an increase that cannot come from any deployment by the
African Union, no matter how large or robust.


Human destruction in Darfur has become genocide by attrition: the
heaviest seasonal rains have arrived and it is only a matter of time
before there are huge explosions of cholera and other water-borne
disease. Food deliveries throughout Darfur are woefully inadequate and
may not reach 40% of those in need this month (August). Huge numbers of
people have no humanitarian access and no prospect of access.
Conditions in the camps in Chad, swollen with still-arriving Darfurian
refugees, are a horror along the border, especially the northern sector.

An outbreak of Hepatitis E (unprecedented for Darfur) is an extremely
ominous harbinger of cholera and dysentery (over a thousand cases of
Hepatitis E have been reported this week, as opposed to 625 last
week---an increase of over 60% in a disease for which there is no cure
or vaccination). The same contaminated water that spreads Hepatitis E
can spread much more potent and explosive diseases, especially cholera.
Moreover, malaria is starting to accelerate as mosquito hatches have
increased dramatically; the World Health Organization has reported
almost 20,000 cases, and this greatly understates even current

Compounding purely medical concerns is the fear, already being
expressed by humanitarian organizations, that the outbreak of Hepatitis
E (or some other outbreak in other camps) may provide Khartoum with a
pretext for emptying the camps of displaced persons, even as they
clearly have no place to which they might return. This comports all too
well with other evidence of Khartoum's intention of emptying the camps
for the displaced, forcibly or otherwise (see SOAT account of Kalma Camp

Humanitarian conditions in some camps are improving slowly because of
valiant efforts by overwhelmed aid organizations; but camp numbers
continue to grow ominously and far outstrip humanitarian capacity.
Moreover, there are a growing number of camps, spontaneously created by
the most bereft of the displaced, to which no humanitarian organizations
are permitted. There will be more of these camps as Khartoum continues
with its announced policy of forcing displaced persons to return to
their burned-out villages. Spontaneous encampments like Otash and
Siref, near Nyala (South Darfur), are "unauthorized," according to
Khartoum, and the regime's "Humanitarian Affairs Commission" has,

"refused permission for the international agencies to operate [in these
camps]. That decision is being partly modified, but apart from the
charity CARE putting in water at Otash, there has been no change to the
appalling conditions." (The Independent (UK), [dateline Nyala], August
14, 2004)

There are of course a great many camps like Otash and Siref, invisible
to humanitarian organizations and certainly not figuring in mortality
assessments (a new mortality assessment by this writer will be
forthcoming August 27, 2004, and will speak to recent UN figures and a
recent UN World Health Organization mortality estimate).

All too predictably, transport and logistics have become a "nightmare"
at the height of Darfur's rainy season; various excessively optimistic
estimates of food deliveries and other relief efforts will continue to
be trimmed as seasonal realities continue to make themselves felt (see
yesterday's gloomy account from the UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks at http://allafrica.com/stories/200408180398.html). The UN's
World Food Program (WFP), having failed terribly in the effort to
pre-position food in Darfur, is increasingly relying on highly expensive
airlifts and airdrops. In short, humanitarian costs are rising even as
deliveries are falling. And WFP, presently struggling to reach 1
million people for August, is now estimating that the number of people
in need of food aid will rise to 2 million in September (Voice of
America, August 18, 2004). And this is just in areas to which there is
humanitarian access: the number in need for all of Darfur is much

Given the failure of the international community to respond adequately
to funding appeals, something must give---and it will all too clearly be
the lives of the people of Darfur. It is perversely obvious, though not
for that reason sufficiently compelling: people simply cannot survive
without food, especially when because of insecurity there is no
opportunity for them to use their superb foraging abilities and coping


One of the most compelling recent dispatches on the Darfur crisis was
filed yesterday (August 18, 2004) by the Washington Post correspondent
Oure Cassoni on the Chad/Darfur border (based on interviews with
surviving refugees from the African tribal groups that have been
targeted by Khartoum's genocide, as well as interviews with human rights
investigators). The picture that emerges is of the regime's concerted
effort to kill teachers and the educated among the Fur, Massaleit, and

"Human rights investigators have called the assault on the educated an
attempt to silence the residents of Darfur and a way to erase the
community's collective memory and destroy its political strength. 'If
you are a farmer, they will take your crops and kill you. If you are a
woman, they will rape you. But if you are a teacher, then you have to
run,' said Sharif Ishag, who once taught geography and now helps run the
camp's food distribution center for the International Rescue Committee.
'They think anyone who can read and write and who can organize people
and inspire minds are rebels.'"

"Schools have been burned, desks broken and books shredded. In some
areas, children have not been able to attend classes for nearly two
years. Olivier Bercault, a Human Rights Watch team member who spent
three weeks touring Darfur, called the targeting of teachers and schools
'a nasty way to stop a culture and prevent people from being educated.'"
(Washington Post, August 18, 2004)

Do we require more evidence of genocidal intent than this barbaric
effort "to erase the community's collective memory and destroy its
political strength"? To be sure, we need only look honestly at the
relentless, systematic, and widespread destruction of all means of
agricultural production---destruction that has overwhelmingly targeted
the African tribal groups of Darfur---to see that these efforts have
been deliberate, have been intentional. But Khartoum is clearly bent on
destroying not only African people and livelihoods, but the means of
cultural self-preservation.

International inaction and indifference toward Darfur seem destined to
prevail; genocide, even such comprehensive genocide, seems incapable of
galvanizing a meaningful response. We are left only with the tenuous
hopes sustained by an African Union force of 300 soldiers, in an area
the size of France, without a peacekeeping mandate. A response adequate
to the genocidal destruction that has occurred in Darfur, and is so
clearly in prospect, seems nowhere in sight.

This is "darkness visible."

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063


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