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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Khartoum Triumphant: Abuja talks end without progress;  

Save the Children/UK withdraws from Darfur;
MSF worker murdered by Khartoum's forces in Labado (South Darfur);
African Union fired upon and forced to curtail monitoring activities

Eric Reeves
December 22, 2004

There should be no doubt about the extent of Khartoum's brutal triumph in
furthering its genocidal policies in Darfur over the past several weeks. Indeed,
the regime is fairly trumpeting its "successes," which culminated with
yesterday's acrimonious and ominous suspension of "negotiations" in Abuja (Nigeria):

"The head of the Sudan government delegation [to Abuja] Majzoub al-Khalifa said
talks had reached a 'successful end and we are all committed to the talks
again.'" (Reuters, December 21, 2004)

Khartoum's conclusion that the Abuja talks have been "successful" derives
primarily from the regime's not having faced any consequences for its ongoing
massive military offensive in Darfur. Following huge deliveries of weapons and
armaments to Darfur (see below), the regime began its offensive shortly before the
scheduled re-convening of the Abuja talks (December 10, 2004) and deliberately
sustained is military actions beyond the urgent deadline (December 19, 2004) set
by African Union mediators for cessation of hostilities. Associated Press
reports from Abuja:

"Sudan's government kept up attacks on rebels in Darfur on Saturday, defying a
deadline set by African Union mediators for an end to active hostilities, AU
officials said. AU mediators at peace talks being held in the Nigerian capital,
Abuja, gave Sudan and rebel delegates a 24-hour ultimatum Friday to stop
fighting by 6 p.m. Saturday [December 18, 2004] or face possible referral to the UN
Security Council. AU officials said the government continued attacks. AU
spokesman Assane Ba told reporters government helicopters were attacking the town of
Labado." (AP [dateline: Abuja], December 19, 2004)

A dispatch from Agence France-Presse was equally unambiguous:

"The African Union has been very clear in its condemnation of [the government
of] Sudan's latest actions [i.e., failure to observe the AU deadline for
cessation of all offensive attacks]. Khartoum's decision also deals a severe blow to
the AU's bid to resolve the crisis without broader international intervention
and increased the likelihood that the United Nations will be asked to take
action."

"AU spokesman Assane Ba said the 53-nation body's chairman President Olusegun
Obasanjo of Nigeria and the head of the AU Commission Alpha Oumar Konare would
be informed of the clashes and take a decision on the future of the talks. As
Saturday's deadline came and went with no sign of the government [of Sudan]
backing down, the commander of the AU observer force in Darfur told international
envoys in Abuja that government helicopters were bombarding Labado. At the same
time, from his headquarters in Addis Ababa, Konare issued a statement calling on
Khartoum 'to immediately stop its present military offensive and withdraw its
forces to their former positions.'" (AFP, December 19, 2004)

And Reuters reports on the inevitable consequences of Khartoum's indiscriminate
attacks:

"Thousands of Darfuris are fleeing the fighting, streaming towards Nyala town
from the east, bringing reports of government bombardment with helicopters and
Antonovs. They say government forces and Arab militias, known as Janjaweed,
attacked their villages and in some cases set up bases there." (Reuters, December
19, 2004)

What was Khartoum's response to these emphatic findings and urgent warning by
the African Union, at the most critical moment in the Abuja negotiations?

"'What the government is doing in these areas is actually within its sovereign
rights,' Sudan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Najib Abdulwahab said in
a statement issued by Sudan's embassy in Nigeria."
(Associated Press [dateline: Abuja], December 19, 2004)

In Khartoum's mind, "sovereign rights" include the right to ignore
international commitments, to attack civilians targets indiscriminately (the fighting in
Labado resulted in the death of an aid worker for Doctors Without
Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières: see below), indeed to commit genocide. The threat of
meaningful UN action against Khartoum has long since faded from the regime's
calculations.

This highly provocative military offensive ensured that negotiations in Abuja
had no chance of a meaningful start, even as Khartoum clearly feels it need do
no more than "commit to the talks again" at the next session (tentatively
scheduled for January 2005).

This is precisely as the National Islamic Front regime wishes: it has no
interest in genuine political negotiations, or in negotiations to resolve the
deteriorating security conditions that threaten the lives of 3 million civilians now
affected by conflict and in need of humanitarian assistance. Indeed, it is
quietly celebrating the killing of two aid workers for Save the Children/UK by a
drunken soldier of the Sudan Liberation Army (on the road north of Nyala). For
these deaths have precipitated the withdrawal of Save the Children/UK, one of
the most important international humanitarian organizations operating in Darfur.

Khartoum's military offensive has also resulted in the murder of an aid worker
for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, as reported by the
organization today:

"International medical relief organisation Médecins Sans Frontières is shocked
by the murder of one of its Sudanese aid workers in South Darfur. According to
reliable reports the aid worker was killed on Friday, December 17, during an
attack led by Government troops on Labado in South Darfur." (Médecins Sans
Frontières [Amsterdam], press release, December 22, 2004)

Khartoum's continued indiscriminate use of aerial bombing and helicopter
gunship attacks; its refusal to rein in or militarily neutralize the Janjaweed; the
regime's increasingly restrictive policies on visa and travel permits for
humanitarian workers; and the general commitment to military victory in Darfur by
genocidal means---all work to make the prospect of a total collapse in
humanitarian relief efforts frighteningly real. The consequences of such a collapse would
be catastrophic: current monthly mortality of 35,000 human beings in the
greater humanitarian theater (see mortality assessment at www.sudanreeves.org) would
grow to more than 100,000, a figure recently suggested by Jan Egeland, UN
Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs:

"[The monthly death toll could rise to 100,000] if countries did not do more to
protect aid workers and punish the guilty. 'We're ending the year more or less
how we started, with huge areas inaccessible to humanitarian workers, Mr
Egeland said.'" (Financial Times, December 16, 2004)

KHARTOUM HAS CONSISTENTLY RESISTED INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE FOR DARFUR CRISIS

The National Islamic Front has from the beginning of conflict in Darfur done as
much as possible to prevent any meaningful "internationalizing" of the crisis
in order to forestall diplomatic or political pressure; the attenuation of
international humanitarian relief presence and operational reach directly serves
this primary goal.

We must ask in this context about the motives lying behind the recent firing
upon an African Union helicopter, en route to monitor Khartoum's offensive in the
area of Labado:

"International efforts to bring peace to Sudan suffered a major setback
yesterday when the African Union suspended operations in south Darfur following an
attack on one of its helicopters amid renewed fighting. The incident in the Labado
area east of Nyala, capital of south Darfur, came as the helicopter was on its
way to investigate an upsurge in fighting between Sudanese government and rebel
forces. The AU's role is to monitor the ceasefire, which has been blatantly
disregarded in recent weeks."

"'We have to condemn this,' said Jean-Baptiste Natame, a senior AU political
officer based in Khartoum, who noted it was not the first time that an AU vehicle
has been targeted in the past few days. 'If we can't go anywhere without being
shot at, it is a serious problem for us.'" (The Telegraph [UK], December 21,
2004)

Restrictions on the movements of AU monitors clearly benefits Khartoum
disproportionally, especially in the deployment of its aerial military assets and more
conspicuous ground assets. Here we should bear in mind another recent finding
of the African Union:

"General Festus Okonkwo, the AU's chief ceasefire monitor said in Abuja last
Friday that vast quantities of [government of Sudan] weapons had poured into
Darfur in recent weeks, turning the arid region into 'a time bomb that could
explode at any moment.' 'The quantity of arms and ammunition brought into Darfur to
meet the present build-up of troops in the region is (so) astronomical that the
issue is no longer whether there will be fighting or not, but when fighting
will start,' the Nigerian general said." (UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks, December 21, 2004)

Khartoum's determination to prevail militarily, by means of conventional
military tactics as well as genocidal destruction, has never been in doubt. But
given these reports of a massive increase in arms and ammunition, in conjunction
with a clear willingness to engage in offensive military action in the midst of
"peace negotiations," it is hardly surprising that the regime is ignoring an
African Union call for a military stand-down. The firing upon the AU helicopter is
almost certainly the work of a regime fully committed to restricting the access
and deployment of international observers in Darfur.

STILL-GROWING DIMENSIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL FAILURE TO RESPOND

The failure of international resolve (particularly at the UN), the lack of
African Union capacity, the expediency of President Obasanjo of Nigeria, the
weakness of President Deby of Chad, and the duplicity of Libya and Egypt during
October's Tripoli "summit"---all have worked to ensure that Khartoum has not had to
negotiate under effective auspices, with clear prospect of diplomatic pressure.

This explains why negotiations over a military cease-fire in Darfur, first in
N'Djamena (Chad) and subsequently in Abuja (Nigeria), have never had any real
significance. For example, when early on in cease-fire negotiations the
distinguished Henry Dunant Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (Geneva) offered its
auspices, Khartoum peremptorily rejected the offer of mediation (even as the
insurgents accepted), preferring to deal only with the weak and beholden government of
Chad's President, Idriss Deby. In turn, the African Union auspices under which
the present "cease-fire" was negotiated in November (essentially a reiteration
of the April 8, 2004 N'Djamena "cease-fire") have proved similarly ineffectual.
And there is no prospect of more meaningful international engagement.

As a means of justifying its failure in Darfur, the international community
increasingly resorts to the assertion of an expedient "moral equivalence" between
Khartoum's genocidaires and the insurgents in Darfur. There have, of course,
been actions by the insurgents that deserve unambiguous condemnation. But there
has never been a conflict in which culpability lies wholly on one side. And
here we must continue to bear in mind that the UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights, following her return from a September mission to Darfur, reported to the
UN Security Council: "My mission received no credible reports of rebel attacks
on civilians as such" (Statement to the Security Council on the Human Rights
Situation in Darfur, Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, September
30, 2004).

But this doesn't prevent the UN's Jan Pronk, or diplomats from the US and the
UK, from asserting a specious equivalence. Chris Mullin, UK Foreign Office
Minister, recently declared that "news reports often [give] the impression that
'there is only one party, the government of Sudan, involved.' 'There are actually
two parties and according to UN special representative Jan Pronk, in the last
two months at least, the rebel forces have been responsible for a greater number
of violations than the government side,' Mullin told lawmakers in the House of
Commons" (Associated Press, December 14, 2004).

This account comports extremely poorly with the events of the past week, but is
muddled on many other counts as well. Mr. Mullin evidently feels no need to
include Khartoum's brutal Janjaweed militia in his larger assessment, no doubt in
part because the UK has failed, along with many others, to have the Janjaweed
included as a named party in the "cease-fires" negotiated in N'Djamena and
Abuja. But given the central role of the Janjaweed in genocidal destruction
throughout Darfur, this is simply disingenuousness on Mullin's part. Nor does Mullin
acknowledge that the African Union's ability to monitor fighting in Darfur, an
area the size of France, is hopelessly limited. The AU still has fewer than
1,000 troops, monitors, and other personnel on the ground in Darfur. It is very
badly under-equipped and simply unable to provide any quantitative assessment
that has real authority. Some contrived census of "incidents" and "violations"
can't begin to tell the real story about what is happening on the ground in
Darfur, or how human destruction is being accomplished.

Most fundamentally, Mullin and others of his expedient ilk simply refuse to
acknowledge the genocidal context that obtains in Darfur, and the increasing
desperation of Darfuris, combatants and non-combatants, over international failures
of the sort embodied in Mullin's own government. We have heard brave words
from UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, but to date there have been no actions remotely
adequate to the scale or nature of human destruction in Darfur.

To be sure, Mullin and the UK have plenty of company. In an especially
disingenuous maneuver, US envoy to the UN Stuart Holliday yesterday attempted to give
an impression of US engagement by simultaneously misrepresenting the Security
Council and laying the blame for international action on Kofi Annan's
"forgetfulness":

"After Tuesday's [UN Security Council] meeting, US envoy Stuart Holliday said
the 15-nation council took its responsibilities 'seriously' but added that Annan
should make another visit to Darfur to see the horrors of the situation
first-hand. 'The continued engagement of the secretary general on this question is
absolutely critical,' Holliday told reporters." (Agence France-Presse, December
21, 2004)

What possible evidence is there that the UN Security Council has taken its
responsibilities for Darfur "seriously"? Mr. Holliday should begin by explaining
UN Security Council failure to secure compliance with the only "demand" it has
yet made of Khartoum: that it disarm the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to
justice (Security Council Resolution 1556, July 30, 2004 [section 6]). He should
also explain why the Security Council, five months after diffidently alluding to
the possibility of sanctions against Khartoum, has not done anything to
threaten the regime for its genocidal intransigence. And he should confess that the
still mooted US proposal of an "oil embargo" is simply fatuous: China alone,
which has many allies in retarding UN Security Council action, could purchase
every barrel of Sudan's petroleum exports without the slightest difficulty.

And just why should we believe, with Holliday, that another trip to Darfur by
Kofi Annan, where "horrors" certainly abound, would make any difference? Can
anyone imagine that Khartoum would not provide an even more fully sanitized
itinerary than during Annan's previous high-profile visit (the highlight of which
was the over-night removal of all the displaced persons from a camp scheduled to
be visited by Annan and UN personnel the following morning)? Holliday seems
also to have forgotten that Khartoum promised Annan that it would disarm the
Janjaweed (Joint Communiqué, July 3, 2004), a promise notable only for being
contemptuously ignored. Just what is to be gained from another visit, other than a
contribution to the illusion that the UN is responding to Darfur's agony?

Annan for his part engaged yesterday in sanctimonious exhortation, clearly
meant to give the impression that he was making an important statement, even as his
words were without discernible implications for specific action:

"'If additional support is needed and additional action is needed, the Council
has to assume its responsibility,' [Annan] told a press conference at UN
headquarters in New York. 'After all, it has the ultimate primary responsibility for
international peace and security,' Annan said, also raising the possibility of
slapping sanctions on the war-torn nation. 'There comes a time when you have to
make a reassessment as to whether the approach you've taken is working or not,'
he said." (Agence France-Presse, December 21, 2004)

Amidst this vague sententiousness and statement of the obvious, Annan
disingenuously neglects to mention China's public and fully explicit threat to veto any
sanctions measure against Khartoum, and the lack of any evidence that a
sanctions regime might seriously affect the regime. Again, talk of an "oil embargo"
is expedient nonsense. Moreover, Annan conveniently makes no mention of other
diplomatic sources of assistance for Khartoum and its present policies: from
China, Russia, Pakistan, and Algeria within the Security Council; from an
uncritically supportive Arab League, especially Egypt; and from an equally uncritical
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Even the African Union is
divided, in addition to being without the organizational or material resources to make
good on its commitment to increase AU presence on the ground in Darfur. Here
the failure of the AU to secure from Khartoum a peacekeeping mandate for its
forces has become the symbol of political and diplomatic impotence.

THE CURRENT HUMANITARIAN SITUATION: Security Context

As part of its efforts to prevent any internationalizing of the Darfur crisis,
the Khartoum regime has long systematically denied humanitarian access,
restricting the entry and deployment of humanitarian aid workers, as well as
equipment. This behavior was first highlighted in November 2003 by Tom Vraalsen, UN
Special Envoy to Sudan for Humanitarian Affairs: he spoke at the time of the
"systematic" denial of humanitarian access to areas of the Fur, the Massaleit, and
Zaghawa---perceived by Khartoum as the ethnic base of support for the
insurgents. Khartoum has again begun to use denials of visas and travel permits as a
means of restricting current humanitarian assistance; the regime is also taking an
increasingly aggressive and hostile attitude toward humanitarian organizations
that are critical of the regime. Even Kofi Annan was obliged to note in his
December 3, 2004 report to the Security Council that,

"during the last two weeks [of November], [Khartoum's] process of issuing visas
has slowed down for the nongovernmental organizations [NGOs] compared to
previous months. In addition, some Government authorities seem to have hardened their
position towards international NGOs in allowing them to continue their work
unconditionally." (Section VII, paragraph 28)

This ominous development has continued, symbolized in the expulsion of Shaun
Skelton, Oxfam International's head of country operations for Sudan. This
followed Oxfam comments that were critical of the most recent and useless in a series
of UN Security Council Resolutions on Darfur (1574, November 19, 2004). It is
likely that in the coming weeks and months Khartoum will continue to restrict
humanitarian workers; put in place increasing numbers of obstacles designed to
impede the movement of humanitarian supplies; allow growing insecurity to
restrict humanitarian access and efficacy; and simply prevent personnel from carrying
out their work.

Indeed, though it received relatively little notice at the time (mid-November
2004), Khartoum deliberately obstructed the protection work of the UN High
Commission for Refugees, forcing the organization to withdraw key international
staff from South Darfur:

"UNHCR said today it is temporarily withdrawing some key international staff
from strife-torn South Darfur because Sudanese authorities are preventing them
from carrying out vital protection work on behalf of thousands of internally
displaced people. Jean-Marie Fakhouri, UNHCR's operations director for the Sudan
situation, said UNHCR staff had been restricted to Nyala for nearly three weeks
on orders of Sudanese officials following an incident on October 20 when UNHCR
and other UN colleagues intervened to stop the involuntary relocation of
displaced people." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, November 12, 2004)

Further killing of aid workers could also lead to the full-scale withdrawal of
essential international humanitarian aid organizations. Jan Egeland, UN
Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, warned even before Khartoum's killing of an
MSF worker in Labado that "the 7,000 aid workers in Darfur already felt they
were on the brink of being reckless, and if more such attacks occurred they would
have to withdraw, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths" (BBC, December
15, 2004). Here we must bear in mind the additional grim news that was also
included in today's press release from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF):

"[MSF emergency co-coordinator Ton Koene said, 'Other national staff members
who were present in the town [of Labado] are still missing. MSF employs 38
national staff in Labado of whom 29 are still unaccounted for today.'" (Médecins Sans
Frontières [Amsterdam], press release, December 22, 2004)

We must pray for the safety of these MSF staff, even as we must recognize that
Khartoum's murderous and indiscriminate attack on Labado may well have killed
other aid workers.

OTHER SECURITY ISSUES

Security issues take a different form in neighboring Chad, where more than
200,000 refugees have already fled from attacks by Khartoum's regular and Janjaweed
militia forces. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) recently warned
that well in excess of 100,000 additional refugees could be expected during the
first half of 2005; yesterday UNHCR gave new urgency to this warning:

"Anticipating a potential influx of refugees into Chad, UNHCR said the latest
phase of its emergency airlift had enabled it to build up an overall contingency
stock of relief items for up to 50,000 more people over and above the 200,000
who have already sought shelter in Sudan's western neighbour. 'But we are also
extremely concerned about the capacity of eastern Chad to sustain any
substantial new influx, given the chronic water shortage in an extremely arid region,'
agency spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva." (UN News Center,
December 21, 2004)

There have already been reports of serious violence in Chad as the indigenous
population and refugees compete for exceedingly scarce water and pasturage. A
large influx could spark expanded and deadly fighting.

And finally, within the camps for the displaced in Darfur, there remain no
guarantees of security. This was revealed clearly in Khartoum's decision to storm
the El Jeer (also Al Geer) camp for displaced persons in the second week of
November 2004:

"Sudanese government forces stormed a refugee camp in Darfur, attacking men,
women and children, within hours of Khartoum signing a security agreement with
rebels that was supposed to bring peace to the region. BBC television footage
showed Sudanese security forces entering the El Geer refugee camp near Nyala,
bulldozing it, firing tear gas at women and children, beating some of the male
inhabitants and moving others to a nearby camp. The violence came hours before Jan
Pronk, the UN's Sudan envoy, arrived to visit the camp, the BBC said. At one
point during his visit a plastic bullet was fired at a cameraman standing next to
a UN vehicle." (BBC, November 10, 2004)

Many of the "police" controlling the camps are simply Janjaweed militiamen who
have been recycled by Khartoum into the role of security officers, tasked with
protecting the very people they have killed, raped, and tortured, and whose
villages and livelihoods they have destroyed. The continuing violence in the
camps has been widely and frequently reported by both humanitarian and human rights
groups, particularly the raping of women and girls who search for firewood:

"A UNICEF statement said armed militias were raping girls and women in Darfur
as a tactic to terrorise and humiliate individuals as well as families and
communities. UNICEF also lamented that children had, in a series of incidents, been
loaded on to lorries and transported to a new camp without their parents, while
others had been injured during government attempts to relocate people from
camps." (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, November 23, 2004)

There is no meaningful security in Darfur, and the great likelihood is that
human and humanitarian security will deteriorate rapidly in the very near term.

THE CURRENT HUMANITARIAN SITUATION: Relief context

We can see a good deal of the context for recent developments on the ground in
a series of distressing news reports, as well as in the belated release of the
UN's Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 8. Despite its date of November 1, 2004,
this is still the most current official global view of the humanitarian crisis.

POLIO

Polio is a growing threat in Darfur, one that will be compounded by the
inability of humanitarian workers to complete what has been a very partial vaccination
program. Voice of America recently reported [dateline: Hara al-Zawiyah, South
Darfur]:

"Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) say the number of confirmed
cases of polio in Sudan has made a dramatic rebound in a country that had been
declared polio-free three years ago. [ ] Since then, WHO officials say the
number of confirmed cases of polio-induced paralysis in Sudan has soared to 54.
Because paralysis of limbs occurs in only one in 200 cases, health experts say
there is a high probability that more than 10,000 Sudanese have been infected with
the virus, prompting several UN aid agencies to issue repeated warnings that
Sudan is in the midst of a massive outbreak."

"Particularly disturbing for health workers is the virus' potential for
spreading in the crowded, festering camps of western Sudan and neighboring Chad, where
nearly two million people have sought refuge in the wake of atrocities by
pro-government Arab militias aiming to crush a rebel uprising."

[Nor is the threat confined to Darfur: the medical implications of Khartoum's
genocidal campaign are international in scope (see Voice of America report at
http://www.voanews.com/english/2004-12-15-voa27.cfm)]

DYSENTERY

To date, humanitarian organizations have been able to prevent serious outbreaks
of cholera and dysentery, two diseases that pose tremendous risk within the
terribly overcrowded camp environs. But the humanitarian organization Medair
announced in a recent press release that it is presently responding to a serious
outbreak of dysentery in West Darfur:

"8,000 villagers fled their homes in November [2004] when Arab militia came on
horseback to attack a remote part of West Darfur. These internally displaced
people (IDP's) settled a kilometre away from a Medair run health clinic in Abu
Suruj, 2.5 hours drive north of our base in the Provincial Capital, El Geneina.
In early December we received reports of a suspected outbreak of Shigella
Dysentery amongst these displaced people, as well as an acute need for shelter, safe
water, improved sanitation and food." (Medair press release, December 16, 2004)

Both dysentery and cholera pose grave dangers to the camp populations, and in
the absence of medical treatment capacity, many tens of thousands of lives could
be claimed in a matter of weeks from these diseases alone.

SECTORAL HUMANITARIAN COVERAGE

The shamefully belated Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 8 provides at least a
snap-shot of humanitarian relief coverage in Darfur through October 2004. At the
time, 57% of the targeted population received some food distribution (the
"targeted population" refers to accessible populations in Darfur; it does not refer
to the refugee population in Chad or the very large inaccessible populations in
Darfur itself). The quality, quantity, and balance within food distributions
is clearly inadequate, as a recent study by the UN World Food Program and the US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes fully clear. Moreover, while
reaching 1.3 million people in October, the World Food Program has conceded
that the figure for November was only slightly over 1.1 million. In other words,
even as the population in need of food assistance was rising sharply (it was
well over 2.5 million in the greater Darfur humanitarian theater), the provision
of food aid was falling.

Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 8 also reveal that 39% of the nominally
accessible populations had not received any shelter; 57% had no access to clean water
(a terrible harbinger of future disease); and only 52% had access to sanitary
facilities (another clear health risk). 40% had no access to primary medical
care, and this figure may decline precipitously with the withdrawal of additional
aid organizations. The loss of resources provided by Save the Children/UK will
certainly have a consequentially negative impact on humanitarian capacity.

THE DARKENING FUTURE FOR DARFUR

The humanitarian situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate, as does security
throughout the region; the international community remains effectively
paralyzed; and the genocidal Khartoum regime feels no pressure to enter into meaningful
negotiations with the insurgency groups.

Nor is there prospect for change, despite the continuing bluster from variously
embarrassed and ashamed international actors. Indeed, even the pointless
bluster has begun to fade in the interests of expediency. Jan Pronk, who has made
so many disastrous comments and negotiating blunders in dealing with the Darfur
crisis, recently declared that labeling the vast, ethnically-targeted human
destruction in Darfur "genocide" was "counter-productive." It is not clear what
counts as "productive" in Mr. Pronk's expedient mind, but the notion that the
word "genocide" should not be deployed, even if true, because of "production"
calculations is morally shocking, and suggests how fatally compromised UN thinking
about Darfur has become.

We may hope (however tenuously) that the UN Commission of Inquiry, set to
report in late January, will ignore Pronk's expedient advice and render honestly a
determination concerning genocide. There are reasons to be skeptical that such
honesty will obtain; but if it does, then there should be an immediate referral
to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The US should end its unjustified
opposition to the ICC, and support this as the only international legal forum in
which justice might be meted out in timely fashion to the genocidaires in
Khartoum, as well as to all those guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and
genocide in Darfur. Such action is all that presently suggests a way of
pressuring the regime to halt its genocidal activities.

Tragically, this opportunity is likely to prove only another measure of
international failure. If politics of expediency govern the decision of the
Commission of Inquiry, or if the US refuses to yield on its unreasonable opposition to
the ICC, then Darfur will have been betrayed yet again. At this point, there
are few Darfuris who expect anything else.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

ereeves@smith.edu
www.sudanreeves.org



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