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


Good blog. Keep it running!
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