Thursday, August 12, 2004

Khartoum's Massive August Offensive in Darfur: 

The regime's military and diplomatic initiatives ensure continuation of

Eric Reeves
August 11, 2004


In the typically politically and diplomatically fallow month of August,
the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum is taking no break from
its energetic campaign of genocidal destruction in Darfur. UN sources
on the ground in Darfur reported yesterday that "'fresh violence today
[August 10, 2004] included helicopter gunship bombings by the Sudanese
government and Janjaweed attacks in South Darfur,' the UN [Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)] said" (Reuters, August
10, 2004). The Reuters dispatch offers a grim, if all too predictable,

"Helicopter attacks, raids on refugee camps and rapes carried out by
Sudanese forces and Arab militiamen have worsened an already desperate
situation in Darfur, humanitarian and rights groups say." (Reuters,
August 10, 2004)

This offers additional context in which to judge the assessments
offered last week by Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan
Pronk: "security in the Internally Displaced Persons camps had generally
improved" [UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, August 5, 2004],"
and "[Khartoum's forces] have stopped their own military activities
against villages'" (Reuters, August 4, 2004).

For a rather different perspective, we might note that the UN's Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, with a sustained presence
on the ground in Darfur, reports:

"'Janjaweed attacks on internally displaced persons in and around
Internally Displaced Persons settlements continue to be reported in all
three Darfur states,' [according to OCHA]." (Reuters, August 10, 2004)

The UN High Commission for Refugees (Geneva) also reported yesterday on
the effects of continuing violence by Khartoum and its Janjaweed

"Meanwhile, Dafuris continue to be displaced from their homes and
villages. In recent days, hundreds of people have fled from [the
villages of] Serengabo, Taweela, Tebeldia and Qasar villages into
squalid makeshift camps near Nyala." (UN High Commission for Refugees
press release [Geneva], August 10, 2004)

The Associated Press reports additional details of these new assaults
on civilians by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies:

"UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York on Monday that
U.N. officials on the ground had reported that 'the security situation
in Darfur remains tenuous, with more violence directed at, and
displacing, civilians in North and South Darfur.' 'Militia men suspected
to be Janjaweed attacked some 35 families in Tawilla, North Darfur on
Saturday. Meanwhile, reports continue of attacks by armed men on horses
and camels, supported by uniformed men and military vehicles, in South
Darfur,' Eckhard said." (Associated Press, August 11, 2004)

The UN High Commission for Refugees also notes that it has received
reports that in camps not run by UNHCR, the rape of women and girls "is
in fact escalating" (UNCHR press release [Geneva], August 10, 2004).
This also comports poorly with UN Special Representative Pronk's comment
that "security in the camps has improved"---a comment which,
predictably, Khartoum has been extremely resourceful in exploiting.

These UN accounts are authoritatively confirmed today in a lengthy
report, based on research in the region, from Human Rights Watch
("Darfur: New Atrocities Disprove Khartoum's Claims"). The
accompanying press release reports that "civilians face further
atrocities amid growing insecurity in the region," that "rape, assaults
and looting continue daily even as more people are being driven from
their homes," and that "government troops and government-backed
Janjaweed militia members in Darfur continue to commit abuses against
civilians in total impunity." (Human Rights Watch [London], August 11,
2004; at: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/08/11/darfur9217.htm; see
fuller analysis of report below).

And even as Khartoum has recently received credit for improving
humanitarian access, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs in Darfur reported yesterday that "despite promising to improve
humanitarian access, Khartoum has been placing so many restrictions on
aid workers that access has actually got worse over the past week" (BBC,
August 10, 2004).

Even as US Agency for International Development mortality data suggest
that over 2,000 human beings are dying daily from the effects of
malnutrition and disease ("Projected Mortality Rates in Darfur,
Khartoum has engaged in obstructionist actions obliging the UN's chief
humanitarian affairs office to judge that "[humanitarian] access has
actually got worse over the past week [August 3-10, 2004]."

The BBC dispatch notes in particular that "aid agencies say they are
having difficulty recruiting local staff because of government-imposed
restrictions and delays," and most ominously that "flights operated by
the [UN] World Food Programme have been inexplicably grounded" (BBC,
August 10, 2004). This latter interference, given the critically
inadequate transport capacity in Darfur, ensures that children somewhere
in the region will die now from starvation. Certainly those children at
the stage of Severe Acute Malnutrition (a large and growing number)
could easily die from even a single day's delay in the delivery of food
and emergency food supplements.

This is not news to Khartoum; on the contrary, the regime that has
chosen "inexplicably" to ground UN World Food Program flights knows
perfectly well the consequences of such deliberate impeding of
humanitarian assistance. Years of practice in southern Sudan and the
Nuba Mountains have honed the regime's skills to razor sharpness.
Precisely because it has been credited for having recently improved
humanitarian access (which it has so long unconscionably impeded),
Khartoum has now chosen to resume highly consequential obstruction. It
will manipulate the situation in ways that produce a futile cycle of
"improvement" followed by an inevitable reneging, leaving in the
minds of an obtuse UN political leadership a muddled picture that in
fact has a crystalline clarity. Again we should recall UN Special
Representative Pronk's assessment:

"Mr. Pronk noted the Sudanese military was no longer conducting
activities against civilians there, and he says the government has
lifted all restrictions on humanitarian assistance, as it promised to do
after a visit to Khartoum by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in early
July." (Voice of America [Nairobi] August 5, 2004)

The first claim is dramatically belied by the dispatches reported
above; the latter claim reflects either ignorance or expediency, a
constant refrain in any assessment of the UN political leadership of
Kofi Annan, Kieran Prendergast (UN Under-secretary for Political
Affairs), and now Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk.
(Pronk would certainly have consulted directly with Annan before signing
on behalf of the UN.)


Just as consequential for the highly traumatized and vulnerable camps
populations is Khartoum's expanding policy of forcibly expelling or
relocating these already displaced people. Evidence of this deadly
policy continues to pour in, and yet again makes nonsense of UN Special
Representative Pronk's finding that "security in the camps has

"The UN refugee body in Geneva said on Tuesday [August 10, 2004]
Sudanese authorities were forcing traumatized refugees to return to
unsafe villages, where they being attacked again by Janjaweed. 'We have
interviewed people in hospital who tell us they have gone back to the
villages, believing the government commitment, and have been shot by
Janjaweed raiders,' said UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler." (Reuters,
August 10, 2004)

The UN High Commission for Refugees states in its August 10, 2004 press

"In West Darfur, UNHCR is concerned that the local authorities and
government of Sudan are continuing to put pressure on displaced people
to return to villages that are not safe and do not offer any possibility
of a decent life, since most of the crops and homes have been destroyed
by rampaging militias. In South Darfur, the government has said it
intends to move tens of thousands of displaced people now living in
Kalma camp and Kas town, both near Nyala." (UNHCR press release
[Geneva], August 10, 2004)

Similarly disturbing reports continue to come from the very large
Mornei camp in West Darfur, where Khartoum has declared its intention to
move people to a new camp, ominously to be called "New Mornei." This is
part of a relocation plan to "safe areas" agreed to in negotiations
between the Khartoum regime and UN Special Representative Pronk. In
creating these so-called "safe areas," we would do well to remember the
genocidal destruction that took place in another "safe area"---
Srebrenica (see below).

The results of forced expulsions from the camps is made clear in a BBC
dispatch from yesterday:

"'We have interviewed people in hospital who tell us they have gone
back to the villages...and have been shot by Janjaweed raiders,' says
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Peter Kessler in
Geneva." (BBC, August 10, 2004)

Reuters reports on the observations of yet another humanitarian aid
worker who has seen this policy in the making:

"An aid worker who just returned from West Darfur, who asked not to be
named, told Reuters: '[Expulsion from the camps] is happening and it is
not voluntary or nice. People are being forced to move.'" (Reuters,
August 10, 2004)

There are other threats to camp populations as well. Amnesty
International reports (August 10, 2004):

"Scores of people have been arrested since the end of June 2004 in
various parts of Darfur for talking to foreign government leaders,
including US Secretary of State Colin Powell and French Foreign Minister
Michel Barnier, members of the African Union (AU) Ceasefire Commission
and independent journalists or for speaking out on the crisis in Darfur."
(Amnesty International press release, August 10, 2004)

Many of the people arrested are at acute risk of torture or even
extrajudicial execution; many are from the camps whose security UN
Special Representative Pronk finds "improved." (Details of the arrests
can be found at:


There can be little if any doubt that the essential tools of Kofi
Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, are temporizing
and expediency. Even for someone so little experienced in Sudan and the
Darfur crisis, it is impossible to make the statements Pronk has without
an ulterior motive: his misrepresentations of the situation are simply
too egregious to conclude otherwise. And the ulterior motive is not
hard to discern: to rescue Kofi Annan from having to preside over a UN
Security Council that, in responding to the Darfur crisis, gives no sign
of considering "other measures" (the strongest language the US could
muster in the resolution passed on July 30, 2004)---let alone the
urgent, militarily-supported humanitarian intervention that is daily
more obviously all that can rescue as many as 1 million human beings
from genocidal destruction.

Annan's judgment is evidently that what is more important than the
people of Darfur is preventing the spectacle of a self-evidently
dysfunctional UN Security Council, unable to respond in meaningful
fashion to what all agree is the world's greatest humanitarian crisis.
For China and Russia, along with Pakistan, are insuperable obstacles to
any further Security Council action. Moreover, the Organization of the
Islamic Conference has made its political weight felt in the form of
full and unqualified support for Khartoum. The Arab League for its part
is adamantly opposed to sanctions, and even more vehemently opposed to
humanitarian intervention: Khartoum must be given more time is the
consensus view among Arab countries---knowing full well how much human
destruction will take place during the months that Khartoum has so
willingly been offered.

But the most significant consequence of Annan's expediency, his
unprincipled effort to put a fig-leaf over the UN Security Council's
callous cynicism in responding to Darfur's catastrophe, is to encourage
Khartoum to believe that for all the bluster, for all the putative
"pressure" on the regime, there is no real consequence for
recalcitrance. With an unerring nose for expediency, Khartoum sees
clearly the implications of Pronk's dismayingly weakened, less detailed,
and less urgent version of the single demand of the July 30, 2004
Security Council resolution. It will calculate its actions

This is certainly the context in which to assess Khartoum's recent
refusal to allow the deployment of African Union troops for peacekeeping
purposes. All that the regime will permit are forces with the very
limited mandate of protecting the contingent of several dozen
"cease-fire" monitors. The more promising force of 2,000 troops that
the African Union had committed to last week will not be allowed. This
humiliating fate for the inaugural effort on the part of the AU in
fashioning Africa-based peacekeeping efforts must be counted one of the
more consequential casualties of the Darfur conflict:

"The African Union has been forced to delay a decision to deploy a
2,000-man peacekeeping mission in the troubled western Sudanese region
of Darfur, after the Sudanese government raised objections. The delay
was announced after the AU Peace and Security Council met late Monday in
the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa." [ ]

"Before the meeting, the Sudanese government had told the AU it has
agreed only to receive 300 AU troops, and would not accept 2,000.
Khartoum also rejected a strengthened mandate for the AU force from
protection to full- fledged peacekeeping." (Deutsche Presse Agentur,
August 10, 2004)

Instead of working for real security and peacekeeping, instead of
demanding actions that will produce a real change in the overall
security situation in Darfur, UN Special Representative Pronk has
re-negotiated the UN Security Council resolution on terms highly favored
by Khartoum. It essentially plays directly into Khartoum's ominous
plans for Darfur.


What is Khartoum's plan for "security" in Darfur? If no international
forces will be permitted to stem the violence that continues unabated,
what is Khartoum telling the world, and UN Special Representative Pronk,
of its plans? The cynicism and danger can hardly be overstated in what
is a plan first to relocate displaced populations in "safe areas," and
then to put newly conscripted "police"---mainly Janjaweed---in charge of
security for these "safe areas." It is, as Human Rights Watch
investigator Leslie Lefkow suggests, a plan that should bring to mind
the ghastly spectacle of Srebrenica:

"Meanwhile, the United Nations prepares new documents for Khartoum's
signature in the vain hope that things will work out. The new UN plan of
action this week talks of 'safe areas' to protect civilians---an ominous
term after Srebrenica. But these planned safe zones won't even have
ineffective UN peacekeepers; they'll have no peacekeepers at all.
Instead the international community will again trust the same government
that just burned and brutalized people out of their homes to ensure
their security." (The International Herald Tribune, August 10, 2004)

Srebrenica offers all to apt a comparison. Yet again, the very people
who are the targets of genocide will be put in the hands of the
genocidaires. For the only security these desperate people will enjoy
in places like "New Mornei" and other relocation sites is what Khartoum
and the Janjaweed are willing to provide. Here it is critical to
remember what a UN inter-agency team found at the Kailek camp, near
Kass, in South Darfur State, during an April 2004 investigation (here
also the Janjaweed were the only authority). The UN team found a
"strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation," "imprisonment," a
"policy of forced starvation," an unreported "child mortality rate of
8-9 per day," and the continued obstruction of humanitarian aid for this
critically distressed, forcibly confined population.

The only point of historical reference for these seasoned humanitarian
workers was Rwanda.

The so-called "safe areas" negotiated by UN Special Representative
Pronk (cover letters to the agreement were signed yesterday [August 10,
2004] by Pronk and NIF foreign minister Mustafa Ismail) are disturbingly
similar to those announced by Khartoum's Minister for the Interior,
Major General Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein, who on July 2, 2004 stated
that the regime intended to create 18 settlements to host more than one
million displaced persons, "a plan which would 'facilitate offering
services and protection of the villagers who were previously living in
numerous scattered villages'" (Human Rights Watch, "Darfur: New
Atrocities Disprove Khartoum's Claims," August 11, 2004, page 29).

But of course the villages are "scattered" throughout Darfur because
this is in the very nature of the agricultural practices of the African
tribal groups being targeted for destruction. Denying this geographic
dispersion is denying these people the ability to be agriculturally
productive. As Human Rights Watch further noted:

"This statement [by Interior Minister Hussein] appears to match
descriptions of the 'safe areas' described in the recent 'Plan of Action'
signed by the UN Special Representative [Pronk] and the Sudanese
government." (Human Rights Watch, "Darfur: New Atrocities Disprove
Khartoum's Claims," August 11, 2004, page 29-30)

The implications are clear, and Human Rights Watch draws them with
appropriate concern:

"The prospect of this resettlement plan and the notion of 'safe areas'
raises the concern that rather than being enabled to return to their
homes and lands in safety and dignity, displaced civilians will be
forced to remain in camps or permanently resettled in new locations,
confined in their movement and unable to access their lands, effectively
consolidating the ethnic cleansing that has taken place and further
destroying their livelihoods. The prospect of 'safe areas' secured by
Sudanese government or security forces is even more troubling given the
human rights record of these groups." (Human Rights Watch, "Darfur: New
Atrocities Disprove Khartoum's Claims," August 11, 2004, page 29-30)

Here again we see the significance of the strategy of forced
displacements from camps for the displaced. These people are either
being compelled or lured back to villages that no longer exist---or
increasingly to these "safe areas," where they will be fully under
control of Khartoum and the Janjaweed. Human Rights Watch details some
of the tactics of expulsion:

"A UN report also noted the same pattern [of intimidation and
inducement] in South Darfur, stating that 'on 29 July [2004] four
[displaced] leaders were reportedly beaten to the point of requiring
hospital treatment in Kass, allegedly for not moving the [displaced
persons] back to their villages of origin.' In North Darfur, the UN
reported 'intimidation of [displaced persons] has increased in various
settlement sites including Fata Borno, Tawilla and Zam Zam." (Human
Rights Watch, "Darfur: New Atrocities Disprove Khartoum's Claims,"
August 11, 2004, page 30)

It is worth recalling that UN Special Representative Pronk gives
Khartoum high marks for increasing the number of "policemen" in Darfur,
the notional means of securing the camps and the "safe areas" he has
negotiated with Khartoum:

"Asked what evidence there was that Khartoum was complying with the
U.N. resolution, Pronk said: 'They have deployed many more policemen in
the region and they have stopped their own military activities against
villages.'" (Reuters, August 4, 2004)

But who are these "policemen"? Human Rights Watch today joins a long
list of those reporting from the ground in Darfur that the augmentation
of the "police" is little more than giving a different uniform, for
"daytime use," to the Janjaweed:

"In response to the Security Council's demand that Janjaweed militia
members be disarmed, the Sudanese government has instead begun to
incorporate them into official state security units such as the police
and semi-regular forces such as the Popular Defense Forces.
'Incorporating the Janjaweed militias into the security services and
then deploying them to protect civilian "safe areas" is the height of
absurdity,' said [Peter] Takirambudde [Executive Director for Human
Rights Watch's African Division]. 'The Sudanese government needs to
bring war criminals to justice, not recruit them into positions of
responsibility.'" (Human Rights Watch press release, August 11, 2004)

Not persuaded, Pronk today 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).


The recent actions of the Khartoum regime, even as it is supposedly
feeling enormous international "pressure," make undeniably clear that
only militarily supported humanitarian intervention can protect the many
hundreds of thousands at acutest risk. The decision not to intervene,
made passively or actively, is the decision to consign tremendous
numbers of these people to their deaths. It is a decision to acquiesce
again before genocide in Africa.

To be sure, the international community must support diplomatic efforts
in Abuja (Nigeria) between Khartoum and the Darfur insurgency groups,
even if it entails negotiating with the regime's genocidaires---though
we would do well to recall to recall the ill-fated Abuja conferences
involving Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in
1992-93. This was a signal moment in the National Islamic Front's long
history of negotiating in bad faith. And certainly the insurgency
groups---the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement and the Justice and Equality
Movement---must not be allowed to use the current climate to make
unreasonable demands. Of particular concern is the apparent demand by
the Justice and Equality Movement that the terms of the north-south
agreement signed in Naivasha (May 26 and June 5, 2004) be abrogated to
accommodate its political agenda.

But the overwhelming moral logic of humanitarian intervention must
guide all plans and actions that are to have any real meaning for the
people of Darfur. So far, the expansive 30-day window of opportunity
afforded Khartoum, and the attenuation of various benchmark demands,
says far too much about the international response. Total mortality in
Darfur is rapidly climbing toward 200,000, and may in fact exceed this
number by the time the UN Security Council returns to the fate of Darfur
on August 30. The genocide may easily claim 1 million lives if left to
extinguish itself.

There is no "August vacation" for the African tribal groups of Darfur.
Relentlessly, helplessly, agonizingly, these people slide further into
their own terrible holocaust. Those who would only look must see this
with searing clarity; those who refuse to look must be judged complicit
in the genocide.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063


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