Monday, October 04, 2004
"Leadership vacuum leaves Darfur in peril"
By Eric Reeves | October 3, 2004
THE WORLD has finally awakened to the horrors of genocidal destruction in the
Darfur region of western Sudan, but an effective response is nowhere in sight.
The United Nations Security Council is paralyzed by the narrow self-interest of
China, Russia, and others. Secretary General Kofi Annan refuses to declare the
basic truth of the conflict: Khartoum's National Islamic Front regime is
directly responsible for attacks on tribal populations perceived as supporting two
insurgency groups. The United States, having expended its diplomatic capital on
Iraq, has been unable to lead effectively.
By default, international response has taken the form of increasing
humanitarian assistance and supporting the deployment of an expanded African Union force
with a robust mandate of civilian protection. Both efforts are failing. Despite
heroic efforts by some humanitarian organizations, there is far too little aid
on the ground, and it has arrived not simply too late, but in the midst of the
region's paralyzing rainy season.
The capacity to move and distribute more than 40,000 metric tons of food and
essential medicine, shelter, water purification equipment -- needed every month
for the foreseeable future -- is nowhere in sight. Mortality rates are climbing
and may still explode with outbreaks of water-borne diseases (cholera and
dysentery); camps for the displaced are lacking in sanitary facilities and clean
water, and heavy rains turn them into open sewers. Untreatable Hepatitis E is
spreading, and malaria is claiming many lives. Malnutrition is dangerously high.
More than 200,000 have died.
An African Union force tasked with monitoring a nonexistent cease-fire has been
badly hindered by a lack of adequate transport and communications equipment.
Khartoum also constrains the force by refusing to provide fuel when it wants to
keep the observers grounded. The regime has declared its willingness to accept
more observers, but refuses to accept any force with a peacekeeping mandate. UN
urgings have been ineffectual, and African Union plans to strengthen the
present mandate have been unsuccessful.
In Nigeria talks between Khartoum and the insurgency groups have collapsed. The
two movements refuse to give up their arms before a political settlement is
reached. Khartoum insists on precisely such disarmament and the "cantonment" of
the insurgents. Such concentrations of defenseless former combatants would make
them easy targets for Khartoum and its deadly Janjaweed allies.
There are few political responses that address this gridlock of issues and
obstacles. The genocidaires in Khartoum, unless confronted with serious
international pressure, will conclude that there are no real consequences to their
destruction of the African peoples of Darfur. Here they are encouraged by the impunity
enjoyed during previous, less well-reported genocides of the last 12 years --
in the Nuba Mountains and the southern oil regions. Ominously, the arduously
negotiated peace agreement reached in Kenya between Khartoum and the southern
military opposition seems on the verge of unraveling: the regime refuses to
complete final elements of a formal peace settlement while seeking a final solution in
Darfur. Military tensions are increasing, and resumption of all-out war in the
south is possible.
The most urgent task is humanitarian intervention in Darfur, with or without UN
authorization. An expanded African Union force, with robust rules of
engagement, should initiate such intervention even if Khartoum objects. In addition to
protecting the highly vulnerable populations in the camps for displaced persons,
this force should be the means for initiating a massive increase in
humanitarian transport and logistical capacity, provided by the US and European allies.
The longer term goal must be to dismantle the National Islamic Front: No true
peace will come to Sudan so long as this ruthless regime of Arab supremacists
rules Africa's largest country. In the interim, the United States and others
should work to impose sanctions directed against Khartoum's leaders and isolate the
regime. A widely representative government-in-waiting should be assembled.
Finally, ordinary Americans and Europeans should support a fledgling divestment
campaign targeting the large European and Asian multinational corporations
whose investments prop up Khartoum's genocidal tyranny. Many have stocks that trade
on American exchanges, and are represented in numerous mutual funds and pension
funds. These corporations must be forced to suspend commercial relations with
Khartoum until genocide in Darfur has ended and a comprehensive peace agreement
is reached with southern Sudan. Stripped of this immoral economic support, the
regime will become far more vulnerable to international pressure, and
susceptible to the dismantling desired by the overwhelming majority of Sudanese
desperate for new leadership.
Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College.
from In These Times
"Despairing for Darfur" --
Despite increasing coverage, the press has failed to impart the extent of the
By Eric Reeves | September 30, 2004
While there is growing attention to ongoing genocide in Darfur, this has not
translated into either a meaningful international response or an accurate
rendering of the scale and evident course of the catastrophe.
On September 18, the U.N. Security Council passed another ineffectual
resolution, trimmed to avoid a Chinese veto. (China abstained from the resolution,
declaring publicly it would veto any future resolution that called for sanctions
against Khartoum's National Islamic Front.) No consequences are threatened in the
resolution if Khartoum refuses to rein in its brutal Arab militia forces (the
Janjaweed), even though the regime promised as much to Kofi Annan on July 3. Nor
is there a mechanism to secure an increase of African Union (AU) forces in
Darfur, or -- most critically -- to strengthen their mandate to include
peacekeeping and civilian protection.
This leaves a present AU contingent of just 400 men -- "cease-fire" monitors,
and troops to protect the monitors. This force has been stymied by Khartoum at
every turn. The men are often prevented from operating because fuel is withheld
from their helicopters. Various AU officers have recently gone public,
describing how Khartoum has prevented the force from investigating village burnings,
mass executions and other atrocities. The refusal of the AU political leaders to
object publicly to Khartoum's actions augurs poorly for anyone making forceful
demands of the regime.
This is important because an AU peacekeeping force has become the default
international "policy response" to the violence that is again escalating in Darfur,
to the continued insecurity that confronts civilians in camps for the
displaced, and to the deteriorating security of humanitarian workers. An "AU policy" is
not working, and cannot succeed without massive international pressure on
Khartoum. Despite much posturing at the United Nations, such pressure is nowhere in
At the same time, news reports on Darfur do not provide an accurate sense of
the crisis, despite an ongoing stream of reports from humanitarian and human
rights groups. In its reporting, the media have used stale and unchanging figures.
Current data suggests that far more than 200,000 have already died, though the
figures cited in wire reports and news accounts are typically between 30,000
and 50,000. Approximately 2 million have been displaced in Darfur or made
refugees in Chad, but news reports continue to speak of "more than 1 million driven
from their homes." The World Health Organization found that 10,000 are dying
every month in camps to which there is humanitarian access; but elsewhere in Darfur
the mortality rate is much higher.
Nor have the media reported on the near-term prospects for many hundreds of
thousands of increasingly desperate civilians. The consequences of months of
genocidal violence directed against African tribal populations are almost never
rendered with a view to the future: food production has come to a halt, and
traditional agricultural society in Darfur has been largely destroyed. There is little
sign that it can be rebuilt, or that the consequences of genocidal land
clearances will be reversed. Camps for the displaced are likely to become long-term
human warehouses, as extreme insecurity prevails throughout rural areas. The
camps and their environs are themselves clearly dangerous, as Janjaweed militia are
recycled into the "police force" that is stationed in most camps.
Current humanitarian requirements for Darfur dictate that the international
community provide 40,000 metric tons per month of food and critical non-food items
such as medicine, shelter and water purification supplies. However, there isn't
half the transport and logistical capacity to meet this monthly need, which is
likely to grow for the foreseeable future. (Further, breaks are predicted in
the food "pipeline" -- shortfalls in food supplies that can be predicted on the
basis of present resources and projected need.) Rich nations such as France,
Italy, Japan, Saudia Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have shamelessly
failed to substantially support to the aid effort.
With a woefully inadequate AU force, a meaningless U.N. resolution, and much
bombast from various nations trying to substitute unctuous talk for concrete
action, the future of Darfur is bleak. As the catastrophe accelerates, the
international community has yet to make a meaningful response and the news media have
yet to render comprehensively the genocidal realities. Our failure could not be
Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College. He has testified several times
before Congress on the ongoing crisis in Sudan. His writings on the subject have
appeared in The Nation, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and many