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Darfur - the humanitarian case and the necessity of international protection by Abdelmonim Abotiffa

1/25/2006 3:40 pm

No doubt that what is happening in Darfur may be considered to be the biggest human crisis witnessed in the current era, according to the expression used by the United Nations. Therefore an action to put an end to this crisis is a responsibility borne by all human beings which are represented by the United Nations. The atrocities, the crimes against humanity, the war crimes and the crimes of genocide perpetrated by the war machine of the Khartoum Government, and the Janjaweed militia against the Darfur people still continue since February 2003. Suddenly in March 2004 the world was taken by surprise to learn of the worst humanitarian crisis which was covered-up by the Khartoum Government.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations proposed international intervention in Darfur to restore order and to stop the crimes of murder, burning of villages, rape of women, genocide and displacing people. But international intervention has now become an absolute necessity due to the failure of all of the impressive diplomatic and political efforts to stop the massacre in Darfur:

1. Under international pressure, the admission by the Khartoum Government that the armed organizations in Darfur fighting against the Government, had cause for fighting and were are not just "thieves" as the Khartoum government used to call them. Following that, the Khartoum Government agreed to sit with the Darfur fighters at the negotiating table in N'Djamena, Chad, reaching a cease-fire agreement in April 2004.

2. The African Union accepted the mission to act as observers of the cease fire between the Khartoum government and the Darfur armed forces, and sent African forces amounting to nearly 7,000 to the region.

3. The agreement of the Khartoum Government to negotiate with the Darfur armed forces in Abuja, Nigeria in order to reach a comprehensive peace agreement in Darfur.

4. The signing of the agreement between the United Nations and the Khartoum Government to facilitate the entry of personnel and materials belonging to humanitarian organizations in order to render humanitarian relief to the Darfur people.

5. The declaration of the Khartoum Government of its commitment to disarm Janjaweed under Resolutions 1556 and 1564 of the United Nations Security Council.

6. The appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Sudan to monitor the implementation of the Security Council resolutions for Darfur.

7. The diplomatic and territorial pressure applied by the Arab League against international intervention in Darfur.

8. The issuance of Security Council Resolution 1593 referring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Darfur to the International Criminal Court relating to Darfur crimes.

Now the questions raised here are whether the protection of Darfur people have been achieved as a result of such diplomatic actions; and whether order has been restored in Darfur; and whether a comprehensive peace now meets the demands of Darfur people and puts an end to the political, economic and cultural marginalization that is the heart of the problem.

The answer surely is no, for the following reasons.

1. Following the lapse of two years since these actions were taken and with the lessening of international pressure whilst concentration has been turned to other hot issues in the world, the Khartoum Government has returned to the same military-police habits, and has repeatedly violated the cease-fire agreement that was signed in N'Djamena. And it has repeatedly violated the Security Preparation Agreement signed in Abuja. Such violations were reported by the African Union Military Mission in Sudan despite its partiality to the Khartoum Government, and were also reported repeatedly by the UN Special Representative in Sudan.

2. Regarding the African Union forces assigned to Darfur, they have fallen short of their mission due to the partiality of some of its elements to the Khartoum Government in their reports on the cease-fire and the crisis, reached the extent of standing by as the Khartoum Government forces used vehicles and uniforms with the same color as the UA forces, thereby disguising themselves as African Union forces.

The leaders of the African Union are saying that the Khartoum Government simply used the African Union colors on their cars, while the Darfur armed forces have said that the vehicles and uniforms were "rented" from African Union forces. Moreover some African Union personnel inform Government forces on the movement of the Darfur armed forces.

No doubt the Khartoum Government has ample experience in corruption and in the corruption of others, which raises a strong presumption that the Khartoum Government has been able to corrupt some African Union elements. Add to that (and according to reports from African Union Military Mission in Sudan itself ) the forces of African Union in Sudan do not have the necessary personnel or equipment to accomplish their mission properly.

On the other hand, AMIS (the African Mission in Sudan), according to its mandate, should only observe the cease-fire and not protect civilians, i.e. it is an observation force and not a peace-keeping force. Therefore AMIS is not in a position to protect the Darfur people against the assaults of the Janjaweed and Government forces on the villages and on the refugee camps: its real mission is to be only a witness to the violations committed, and might usually only be a false witness.

3. Regarding the Abuja negotiations, they are still spinning in circles without any progress, and now it has become very clear to observers that the Khartoum Government is applying delaying tactics to the Abuja negotiations in order to prolong them as long as possible and hopefully until the end of the term of the provisional government, to hold on to its remaining power of 52%. The concrete evidence of that is its refusal to give the Darfur people a Vice President and as well as its refusal to reunify Darfur as a single region, following its division into three states, and its further refusal to restore the Darfur boundaries of 1956 when the Khartoum Government, in an unprecedented and unconstitutional action, amputated the Karabaltom region from Darfur and annexed it to the North State, transferring with it much of the benefit of the external trade between Libya and Sudan from Darfur, thereby severing an important economic artery of the Darfur people.

And no doubt that the demands of Darfur armed forces in Abuja negotiations constitute the minimum demands of Darfur people, and that such demands being fair and lawful.

Had the Khartoum regime had the political will and seriousness to reach a peace agreement with the Darfur armed forces, this would have been achieved in the previous session, before the current seventh session.

The Nifasha agreement could and should be taken as a model for a peace agreement, with appropriate changes to take account of the Darfur situation. And that is what the Darfur negotiators are looking for. But unfortunately and regretfully the Khartoum Government is using this agreement as an obstacle to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with Darfur armed forces.

Last but not least comes Al Fasher, an "un-"comprehensive conference, as a desperate attempt to create a new negotiating table in lieu of Abuja and to create new negotiators in the place of the Darfur armed forces.

4. Regarding the agreement signed between the United Nations and the Khartoum Government to facilitate the mission of humanitarian organizations, the Khartoum Government began to disembowel the agreement by authorizing Janjaweed to annoy the personnel of humanitarian organizations to an extent that has led some of them to stop working in West Darfur state due to lack of security. In addition humanitarian organizations in West Darfur cannot even venture out of the town of Al Geneina to render their services to the internally displaced people who are wandering the face of West Darfur.

5. Regarding the commitment of Khartoum Government to the resolutions of Security Council to disarm Janjaweed, the reports of both the United Nations and AMIS confirm that Janjaweed is still killing innocent civilians and burning villages and robbing the property of the people and raping women, and they are increasingly well-armed and increasing in number. Many of them have been incorporated in the Government's police, military forces and irregular militia.

6. Regarding the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Jan Pronk, he reached the conclusion after his two year mission in Darfur that crimes against humanity and the actions of murder, burning and rapes are still being committed daily and denounced the short-coming of the AIMS and the failure of the United Nations mission in Darfur, recommending an armed international protection forces of between 10 000 and 20 000 soldiers.

7. Regarding the role of the Arab League in supporting the Khartoum regime against international intervention, that role has now expired, having been found to be false because it became clear that the cause of Darfur is a humanitarian cause and has no relation with the Arab-Israeli conflict as the Arab League thinks.

8. Regarding Security Council Resolution 1593 referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, this has so far not stopped the human butchery in Darfur. In order to put this resolution into effect, the prosecutor should visit Darfur and see facts on the ground, and this cannot be done effectively other than under international protection.

From all of the above, it is clear that the international protection of the Darfur people has become an ethical duty at the neck of every freedom-loving person in the world. And any delay in rescuing the Darfur people would be a scandal on the forehead of the international community, because now half of the Darfur people are internally displaced, living in camps that lack the minimum basic living requirements, and the other half is exposed to all kinds of atrocities and crimes against humanity.

Horror and terror surround every person in Darfur.

How long must the people of Darfur wait for mercy from their torturers? What possible meaning can "national sovereignty" have for the Darfur people other than human dignity to mere existence? If national sovereignty is the pride of the country and the dignity of its people, then national sovereignty must evoke pride in the country and dignity in its people. Therefore national sovereignty requires the national political will to defend the dignity of the people. If such national or even African will is lacking, then for the sake of the dignity of the people, and especially the Darfur people, to their existence, let us welcome the international will.

Abdelmonim Abotiffa
[email protected]

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