US and Britain offer a token Security Council sanctions resolution, which is promptly rejected by China, Russia, and Qatar
April 18, 2006
The international community seems to have an inexhaustible capacity for disingenuousness, expediency, and bad faith in responding to resurgent genocide in Darfur and eastern Chad. Even as all humanitarian indicators strongly suggest that human mortality and displacement are rapidly accelerating, there is no action in prospect---diplomatic or military---that might address the acute insecurity that threatens civilians and continues to attenuate humanitarian capacity and operations. This growing insecurity ensures that the deaths of huge numbers of innocent children, women, and men will continue through the coming rainy season and hunger gap (May through September)---and well beyond.
The UN took its turn this week with a telling display of small-minded irrelevance. In response to UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005), authorizing targeted sanctions, and in light of a report made months ago by a UN panel of experts, the US and Britain finally proposed sanctioning four individual Sudanese: a Janjaweed militia member, two rebel officials, and a mid-level member of the National Islamic Front. The stature of the “middle-ranking member of the Sudanese government” designated for sanctioning was reported by Associated Press last week (April 13, 2006 [dateline: UN, New York]). The dispatch cited “Security Council diplomats” as the source of information.
Such a very small list of actors---and none of them senior members of the National Islamic Front regime---was sufficiently embarrassing to prompt both the US and UK ambassadors to the UN to insist that this was only a “down-payment” on some larger sanctions effort. But even the “down-payment” proffered yesterday (April 17, 2006) was rejected by veto-wielding Security Council members China and Russia, along with the only Arab League member of the Security Council, Qatar.
The US, the UK, and other supporters of the sanctions measure were certainly well aware that their effort was directed at none of those most responsible for genocide in Darfur. The UN panel-of-experts list of those who should be sanctioned, per UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (again, March 2005---over a year ago) was leaked in February 2006; it is a matter of public record that those judged responsible by the panel for “impeding the peace process” and for “failure to take action to neutralize and disarm non-state armed militia groups in Darfur” (the Janjaweed) include:
*Major General Saleh Abdallah Gosh, head of the National Security and Intelligence Service;
*Elzubier Bashir Taha, Minister of the Interior;
*Major General Abdel Rahmin Mohamed Hussein, former Minister of the Interior and current Defense Minister;
*Major General Ismat Zain al-Din, Director of Operations for the Sudanese Armed Forces in Khartoum (where Darfur military actions are planned).
(Notably, NIF President and Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Omar el-Bashir, is also named for “possible future designation”; the logic of his current exclusion---given his relation to those who are explicitly designated by the panel---is incomprehensible.)
Far from imposing travel bans or assets freezes on these men, the UK recently allowed Saleh Gosh to travel to London, ostensibly for medical treatment. This accommodation was made for a man who bears immense responsibility for the denial of all medical care to hundreds of thousands of civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad, people now beyond humanitarian reach because of the violence that Gosh has helped to orchestrate.
Despite the centrality of these men in efforts to sustain targeted ethnic destruction in Darfur and eastern Chad, despite their roles in obstructing humanitarian relief, and despite their directives to impede the operations of African Union forces on the ground in Darfur, none was targeted for sanctions. The expedient calculation of the UK, the US, and others was evidently that if none of the “big fish” were named in a sanctions resolution, China and Russia would accept this, and a “moral victory” on behalf of Darfur could be claimed. But expediency on Darfur was a clear signal of weakness, one easily sniffed out by the seasoned Chinese and Russian diplomats at the UN. And dismayingly, the inevitable effect of an ignominious defeat for such a modest sanctioning effort will be to convince Khartoum’s genocidaires that they have nothing more to fear from the UN Security Council than they do from the International Criminal Court, which has been contemptuously stiff-armed by Khartoum.
The performance at the UN was as cynical as President Bush’s claim that the US is committed to “NATO stewardship” for Darfur security operations...when this turns out to mean nothing more than some “dozens” of NATO advisors for Darfur. The Bush administration told the Washington Post (April 10, 2006) that it had,
“settled on the idea of sending up to several hundred NATO advisers to help bolster African Union peacekeeping troops in their efforts to shield villagers in Sudan's Darfur region from fighting between government-backed Arab militias and rebel groups, administration officials said. The move would include some US troops and mark a significant expansion of US and allied involvement in the conflict.”
The Bush administration implied to the Washington Post that the number could be as great as 500. But the same day that the Washington Post article was published, the word from NATO was remarkably at variance:
“NATO spokeswoman, Carmen Romero, declined to comment on a report by the Washington Post newspaper that said the US backed a proposal to send several hundred NATO advisers to support an African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur. ‘We are not talking of a NATO force in Darfur, this is out of the question,’ she said, adding any personnel would be involved only in logistical support or training.” (Reuters [dateline: Brussels], April 10, 2006)
“Officials at alliance headquarters said the US would struggle to persuade allies to commit so many troops. One official said the military planners were looking at dozens rather than hundreds of NATO experts to support the AU.” (Associated Press [dateline: Brussels], April 10, 2006)
It is important to bear in mind here that in its Darfur policy, the National Islamic Front regime has fully marginalized the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, nominally part of the “Government of National Unity.” SPLM “foreign minister” Lam Akol has proved a willing tool of the NIF genocidaires, and the Movement has yet to find its voice on Darfur in any significant fashion. At the same time, the NIF feels no significant pressure from the international community: the threats of “NATO stewardship” are patently hollow; the NIF has denied, without consequence, access to Darfur for a UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations assessment mission (Washington Post, April 10, 2006; Agence France Presse, April 17, 2006); and in his most recent report on Darfur (April 5, 2006), Secretary-General Kofi Annan again reports on Khartoum’s continued disguising of its military aircraft as belonging to the African Union:
“On 31 January, a Government [of Sudan] helicopter was spotted in Tine, North Darfur, with the inscription “AMIS” [African Union Mission in Sudan] on it; and a similar sighting was reported the same day in Zalingei, West Darfur.” (Monthly report of the Secretary-General on Darfur,” April 5, 2006, paragraph 7)
This follows numerous previous reports, by both the UN and the AU, of Khartoum’s deliberately disguising the military identity of its aircraft and combat ground vehicles. The results will likely soon be tragic, and bring additional security pressure on humanitarian operations. Annan also reports in the same paragraph that, “on February 7 , shots were fired at a UN helicopter in the Jebel Marra area of West Darfur” (paragraph 7).
Certainly Khartoum is feeling no meaningful pressure to relent in its escalating war on humanitarian operations in Darfur. Notable recent events have included the denial of access to Jan Egeland, head of UN humanitarian operations, and the expulsion of the distinguished Norwegian Refugee Council, the lead organization at the giant Kalma camp outside Nyala, South Darfur (see analysis by this writer at http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=99).
The collective effects of these concerted efforts to block, harass, and threaten humanitarian relief in Darfur are analyzed further below, even as they have been chronicled by various UN and nongovernmental humanitarian organizations for almost three years.
“A CULTURE OF IMPUNITY”
What human rights and UN officials have described as a “climate of impunity” in Darfur was again highlighted last month by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Sudan reported:
“A culture of impunity still reigns in Sudan's western Darfur region, and a special Sudanese court set up to try perpetrators of war crimes in the three-year-old Darfur conflict has failed to prosecute any suspected war criminals, according to a UN envoy in Khartoum. Sudan set up its own special criminal court for Darfur last spring to counter a call from the international community call for Khartoum to send Darfur war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.”
“Sudan refused international intervention and formed the court to illustrate that it could try war criminals internally. But Sima Samar, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, told reporters in Khartoum Monday [March 6, 2006] that the local courts have failed to try those responsible for war crimes. ‘There has been not much accountability for the serious crimes that have been committed in Darfur. A special court established to bring people to justice has so far not accused or prosecuted anyone with command responsibility,’ she said.”
“Samar said the security situation on Darfur is worsening and accused both rebels and Sudan government forces of violating ceasefire agreements.
She painted a bleak picture of the human rights situation in Sudan, charging that arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture were still commonplace throughout the country. The expulsion of two American aid agencies from the eastern Kassala region earlier this week is a stark reminder that conflict threatens to engulf both the west and east of the Islamist country.” (Deutsche Presse Agentur [dateline: Khartoum], March 7, 2006)
We must increasingly depend upon fewer and fewer international officials to report on realities in Darfur, as Khartoum continues to punish brutally those who would speak to foreigners, especially foreign news reporters. As Kofi Annan notes in his most recent report to the Security Council:
“From December 2005 to the present, the UN Mission in Sudan has documented six cases of local leaders being arrested for raising concerns about internally displaced persons or providing information to ‘foreigners.’ In three of the cases, charges were brought against the leaders in local courts. This has resulted in internally displaced persons being reluctant to share concerns with the international community for fear of reprisals. Harassment and arbitrary arrests of community leaders by police and national security personnel are contributing to a climate of intimidation in Southern and Western Darfur.”
“Civilians who share the same ethnicity as the rebel groups in Darfur continue to be targeted for arbitrary arrest and detention by national security organs. Detainees are arrested on suspicion of supporting the rebels and held for periods of up to five months without formal charge. Detainees interviewed during a visit to Ed Deain prison reported being subjected to torture or threats of torture during interrogation. Fair trial protections, including the right to be informed of criminal charges and to be brought to trial without undue delay, are enshrined as unconditional rights in the Interim National Constitution and cannot be suspended even in times of emergency.” (paragraphs 15 and 16)
The power of the security services in Sudan remains supreme, and will so long as they and the military forces are dominated completely by the National Islamic Front.
KHARTOUM AND CHAD: LARGER POLITICAL AND HUMANITARIAN IMPLICATIONS
The attack last week on N’Djamena, capital of Chad, by rebel groups supported by Khartoum continues to have very significant humanitarian implications, even as it raises the specter of instability in the Central African Republic (which has closed its border to Sudan because the CAR was used by Khartoum-backed rebels to enter Chad), and possibly even Cameroon and Nigeria. There is also well-placed fear that the “United Front for Democratic Change” (FUC) rebel groups will be Khartoum’s agents for targeted ethnic destruction in eastern Chad. The courageous and distinguished Sudanese human rights expert Suliman Baldo of the International Crisis Group is cited by Reuters:
“Analysts say the rebel United Front for Democratic Change (FUC), a loose but fractious alliance of opponents of Deby who carried out the attack on N'Djamena, includes Chadian Arab groups who are pro-Khartoum and rivals to the Zaghawa clan. ‘If they take power in Chad, they are likely to cooperate with Khartoum militarily to attack the refugees in Darfur...Khartoum is backing them precisely for this purpose,’ Suliman Baldo, Africa program director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, told Reuters. ‘There is a real threat of ethnic cleansing,’ he added.” (Reuters [dateline: N’Djamena], April 16, 2006)
Further, there is grave concern on the part of the UN World Food Program that Chad might retaliate against Khartoum by sealing the border presently used by food convoys from Libya:
“Every month, around 6,000 tonnes of food is trucked by relief agencies from Libya through Chad and into western Darfur---enough to feed some 400,000 people or about 20 percent of those who have fled their homes but remain in camps in Sudan. ‘If the border is closed, we may not be able to send supplies in,’ Etienne Labande, head of the UN World Food Programme in eastern Chad, told Reuters.” (Reuters [dateline: Abeche, eastern Chad], April 17, 2006)
Further, the military actions in eastern Chad---by not only the Chadian rebels but the Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militias, as well as Khartoum’s regular military forces---have produced intolerable levels of insecurity. The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks reports (April 13, 2006):
“The UN, which has already evacuated non-essential staff from N’djamena to Yaounde in Cameroon, announced to staff on Thursday [April 13, 2006] afternoon that non-essential personnel from field stations in the east [of Chad] would be evacuated on Saturday morning [April 15, 2006], said UN employees in Chad. A convoy of 150 aid workers from outlying areas in the east gathered in Abeche late Thursday in readiness for their departure, said an aid worker. The UN refugee agency UNHCR, which on Tuesday [April 11, 2006] pulled staff back from two refugee camps in the east after one of the camps was occupied overnight by [Chadian] rebel fighters, is also pulling staff out of its Forshana field office, an hour’s drive from Adre [eastern Chad]. That office supports four camps in the region, and a nearby sub-office at Guereda.” (dateline: N’Djamena, April 13, 2006)
The IRIN dispatch concludes ominously:
“UN aid workers have warned that the current instability is a particular threat in eastern Chad which is nearing the end of a short window of opportunity to build up food stocks, before the rainy season makes roads impassable from the end of June.”
The fighting in eastern Chad could also lead to a catastrophic increase in violence in Darfur, a fact recently highlighted by a spokeswoman for the distinguished Irish humanitarian organization Concern:
“Angela O’Neill, Concern’s regional director for Sudan, told RTE radio: ‘The crisis in Darfur has been going on now for over three years and the insecurity there is just getting worse and therefore delivering aid and operating in the area is becoming increasingly more and more difficult.’”
“She said heavy gunfire and mortar shelling had been heard in the area by aid workers on Thursday [April 13, 2006]. ‘The worry is that the rebels fighting the Chadian government will cross the border, if they are not successful, back into Darfur. There is the a possibility of the Chadian government soldiers will come after them.’ She said the resultant battle could lead to a response by Sudanese soldiers, with the region then descending into chaos.”
“Ms O’Neill said all aid agencies were currently on standby to evacuate its staff.” (Irish Independent, April 15, 2006)
“Ms O’Neill said all aid agencies were currently on standby to evacuate its staff”---this is the situation to which Western countries propose responding by means of a few “dozens” of NATO advisors to the hopelessly outmanned and outgunned African Union force. In the face of such realities, UN debates about an inconsequential list of potentially sanctioned individuals seem obscenely irrelevant.
THOSE WHO WILL DIE
The number of civilians that are inaccessible to humanitarian relief now far exceeds half a million in the greater Darfur/eastern Chad humanitarian theater; it could conceivably reach to almost 1 million in the very near term. An assessment by UNICEF in March 2006 concluded that:
“Over 100,000 internally displaced persons and 71,000 conflict-affected people in host communities cannot be reached due to ongoing conflict in North Darfur. In West Darfur, the situation is worse, with more than 184,000 displaced people and about 209,000 members of host communities isolated by poor security.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: Nyala, South Darfur], March 9, 2006)
To this figure of over 550,000 must be added those who are inaccessible in South Darfur, as well as the growing number of conflict-affected and displaced civilians in eastern Chad. Speaking of the situation in South Darfur in his most recent report to the Security Council, Kofi Annan reports:
“In North and South Darfur, all of the parties to the conflict have pursued a deliberate strategy of targeting civilians in an effort to stem alleged support for enemy groups. This has provoked further movements of populations, including from the Shearia, Mershing and Gereida areas of South Darfur. The increase in abuses and violations perpetrated against civilians has been compounded by the reduced capacity of international actors to contribute to their protection, as increased insecurity has severely curtailed safe access.” (paragraph 10)
Altogether, about one-third of the displaced population within Darfur---more than 2 million human beings---have no access to humanitarian relief:
“Because of a lack of security and dwindling funding, relief agencies say they can’t reach 30 percent of the refugees in Darfur, the lowest level of access in two years. ‘We have no security for our work,’ Jan Egeland, the United Nations’ emergency relief coordinator, said Friday in Nairobi. ‘We are witnesses to massive attacks against the civilian population.’” (Knight Ridder news [dateline: Nairobi], April 7, 2006)
The same dispatch highlighted deliberate obstruction of humanitarian efforts by Khartoum’s genocidaires:
“Astrid Sehl, a spokeswoman at the [Norwegian Refugee Council/NRC] headquarters in Oslo, [ ] said NRC and other relief agencies have faced a number of obstacles from the [Sudanese] authorities. Recently, authorities would allow foreign aid workers permits to travel to Darfur for only three days at a time, Sehl said. They also restricted the amount of fuel that the workers could transport to Darfur, severely limiting relief operations in a region with almost no infrastructure.”
“Sehl said the council had estimated the amount of time its staff in Sudan lost in dealing with the bureaucracy as one month for every year. ‘In the past four to five months, the whole situation for humanitarian organizations has been worse and worse, and our ability to access the beneficiaries has become more and more difficult,’ she said.”
In Chad, the number of civilians beyond the reach of humanitarian efforts could explode at any moment, since all relief comes from the west. The attack by Khartoum-back FUC rebels in the Boz Beida area is the most ominous portent:
“On Monday [April 10, 2006] armed rebels also thought to be with the FUC seized Goz Amer refugee camp outside the village of Koukou [ ] close to the Sudan border---host to 18,000 refugees from the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. ‘The rebels occupied the camp and accused us of kidnapping the refugees,’ an aid worker in the camp who asked not to be named told IRIN by satellite phone on Tuesday. ‘They stayed in the camp until the morning, took food and stole satellite phones.’”
“The rebels told the aid worker they were going on to Am Timan 300 kilometres west of the camp before striking the capital N'djamena before presidential elections on 3 May. The aid worker estimated that the FUC forces had up to 150 vehicles in the area. The UN High Commission for Refugees told IRIN that it will pull staff out of the Goz Amer camp and another nearby refugee camp at Goz Beida.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: N’Djamena], April 11, 2006)
A broader assessment of the implications of the attack on Goz Amer was offered by UN High Commission for Refugees spokesman Ron Redmond. The New York Times (dateline: N’Djamena]) reports:
“The janjaweed militias that have been supported by the Sudanese government and have set fire to so many villages in Darfur are now extending their reign of terror into Chad, displacing Chadians from their homes. Attacks by janjaweed gunmen have even been launched on some of the refugee camps in Chad. ‘It's impossible to comprehend that the innocent victims of the violence and abuse in Darfur could yet again suffer as a result of this situation,’ said Ron Redmond, the spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency in Geneva.” (April 14, 2006)
Even before this attack, the UN’s World Food Program has warned of the consequences of insecurity for eastern Chad:
“The UN's World Food Programme warned in late March that spreading violence in the deserts of eastern Chad could severely hamper humanitarian aid for over a quarter-million Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians.”
After the Goz Amer attack, the UN High Commission for Refugees gave an especially grim assessment of humanitarian operations. UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis:
"‘We always look at a worst-case scenario,’ [Pagonis] said. ‘But, in this case [eastern Chad], it is particularly difficult to almost imagine how one could cope with that. This is an extremely hostile region of the world. It is a desert region. It has been one of the major challenges that we have faced of even find sites for camps where refugees can have water. So, where they would flee to, if the situation deteriorated is a question that is unanswerable at the moment, and, indeed, we feel it incredibly acutely that the options are very, very limited.’” (Voice of America [dateline: Geneva], April 14, 2006)
“We feel it incredibly acutely that the options are very, very limited”---these are the “options” that the international community has offered to the people of eastern Chad, and Darfur, and to the courageous humanitarians who seek to save lives. The UN High Commission for Refugees today estimated that there are approximately 220,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad and 40,000 internally displaced Chadians (press release, Abeche, eastern Chad, April 18, 2006). The number of conflict-affected Chadians is much greater yet, though there has been no effective humanitarian assessment because of insecurity.
As of march 30, 2006 only 20% of the funding for the UN’s Humanitarian Action in Darfur (required by end of December 2006) had been secured: $131 million had been pledged, leaving a shortfall of over $470 million (2006 Work Plan for Sudan: Funding Overview, March 30, 2006). Donor fatigue has set in and the consequences will be disastrous, compounding the effects of limited humanitarian access. In the grim calculus that defines the world of humanitarian funding, Khartoum’s denial of access to UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland has enormous consequences:
“Sudan risks losing funding for its millions of people in need of aid because of its refusal to allow UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland to visit crisis areas, a senior UN official said on Thursday. ‘If people feel that our capacity to operate is restricted so much...all these things make donors think maybe it’s better to use the money in other places,’ said Manuel Aranda da Silva, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Sudan.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], April 6, 2006)
Of course the terrible irony is that in the eyes of Khartoum, the loss of funding only furthers its genocidal goals, and works to remove international eyes as witnesses to ongoing, ethnically-targeted human destruction and the cruelly calculated denial of humanitarian aid. But there should be no mistaking the near-term consequences of this funding short-fall: Kofi Annan recently warned in his report to the Security Council that,
“UN World Food Program stocks in Darfur and supplies now on their way will only meet requirements until mid-April . Shortages of some non-cereal commodities will start at that time, and major pipeline breaks will begin in May, two months before the start of the hunger season.” (paragraph 21)
Over a month ago UN IRIN reported (March 13, 2006):
“A ‘critically slow’ response to appeals for emergency operations in Sudan has forced the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to reduce rations of pulses [greens and leguminous], sugar and salt for some 3.5 million beneficiaries in that country. While supplies of some commodities such as cereals, which form the major part of general food-distribution rations, have not yet been affected, complete breaks in the supply of other rations are now imminent, WFP said in statement released on Friday [March 10, 2006].”
IRIN provided a critical overview at the same time:
“Many of the major donors [for Darfur] have announced reductions in funding for 2006, and instead of expanding humanitarian assistance from camps to under-served rural areas, aid agencies are struggling to maintain their current levels of services.”
And yet the dispatch continued: “protection of civilians outside the camps has never been so bad. Never been so terrible.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [dateline: Nyala, South Darfur], March 9, 2006)
HOW MANY ARE DYING EVERY DAY?
As deadlocked peace talks grind on in Abuja---holding out less and less hope that any possible signed “agreement” can halt the escalating violence---and as the international community signals to Khartoum and there will be no international force on the ground to protect civilians or humanitarians, nor any serious punishment for the crime of genocide, the question becomes increasingly insistent: how many will die? How will the daily consequences of our inaction be measured in human destruction?
It is a question had that obtruded itself over two years ago, and does so now in terribly similar fashion. Words by this writer published in February 2004 are as true today as they were then:
“Khartoum has so far refused to rein in its Arab militias; has refused to enter into meaningful peace talks with the insurgency groups; and most disturbingly, refuses to grant unfettered humanitarian access. The international community has been slow to react to Darfur’s catastrophe and has yet to move with sufficient urgency and commitment. A credible peace forum must rapidly be created. Immediate plans for humanitarian intervention should begin. The alternative is to allow tens of thousands of civilians to die in the weeks and months ahead in what will be continuing genocidal destruction.” (“Unnoticed Genocide,” The Washington Post, February 25, 2004)
“Tens of thousands of civilians” did indeed die in subsequent weeks and months, as genocide continued unchecked and unacknowledged. Now it seems equally obvious that hundreds of thousands will die in the coming months---before the very eyes of a fully apprised international community. The people of Darfur and eastern Chad have no way to leave, no way to protect themselves---only a slender humanitarian lifeline that daily grows more tenuous, and could soon snap entirely.
We have left these people in a timeless setting of destruction and suffering. A grim vignette offered by a UNICEF worker in Darfur also hearkens back to two years ago:
“Every day, I used to sense a slight improvement in the general situation compared to how it felt in August 2004 when I first came to the field, but now I worry we are heading back to where we were two years ago. Indelible images of suffering are now deeply rooted in my mind: Endless queues of women wait for food rations under a sizzling sun. They carry crying children on their backs. Other kids wander around them, closely watched so they don’t disappear. A child dying of malnutrition sits on his mother’s lap. Children scream, watching strangers come and go in the camps. All they dream of at night are the horsemen who destroyed their villages.” (Eman Musa Eltighani, April 17, 2006 [Darfur] UNICEF press release)
The horsemen are still there, still destroying villages, and attacking those who dare to return to their lands and what remains of their homes. They are doing the bidding of Khartoum’s genocidaires, as they have for the past three years. And they will continue to kill, rape, and destroy because there is nothing to stop them. Nothing.