Monday, May 31, 2004

Massive atrocity unfolding in western Sudan

Nick Kristof (NYTimes):

But there's a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it's all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region.
New York Times
May 29, 2004


Bush Points the Way


I doff my hat, briefly, to President Bush.

Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons "George Bush" because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe — although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan's north and south after two million deaths.

If the peace holds, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved, millions of refugees will return home, and a region of Africa may be revived.

But there's a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it's all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region. Darfur is unaffected by the new peace accords.

I'm still haunted by what I saw when I visited the region in March: a desert speckled with fresh graves of humans and the corpses of donkeys, the empty eyes of children who saw their fathers killed, the guilt of parents fumbling to explain how they had survived while their children did not.

The refugees tell of sudden attacks by the camel-riding Janjaweed Arab militia, which is financed by the Sudanese government, then a panic of shooting and fire. Girls and women are routinely branded after they are raped, to increase the humiliation.

One million Darfur people are displaced within Sudan, and 200,000 have fled to Chad. Many of those in Sudan are stuck in settlements like concentration camps.

I've obtained a report by a U.N. interagency team documenting conditions at a concentration camp in the town of Kailek: Eighty percent of the children are malnourished, there are no toilets, and girls are taken away each night by the guards to be raped. As inmates starve, food aid is diverted by guards to feed their camels.

The standard threshold for an "emergency" is one death per 10,000 people per day, but people in Kailek are dying at a staggering 41 per 10,000 per day — and for children under 5, the rate is 147 per 10,000 per day. "Children suffering from malnutrition, diarrhea, dehydration and other symptoms of the conditions under which they are being held live in filth, directly exposed to the sun," the report says.

"The team members, all of whom are experienced experts in humanitarian affairs, were visibly shaken," the report declares. It describes "a strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation being enforced by the GoS [government of Sudan] and its security forces on the ground." (Read the 11-page report here.)

Demographers at the U.S. Agency for International Development estimate that at best, "only" 100,000 people will die in Darfur this year of malnutrition and disease. If things go badly, half a million will die.

This is not a natural famine, but a deliberate effort to eliminate three African tribes in Darfur so Arabs can take their land. The Genocide Convention defines such behavior as genocide, and it obliges nations to act to stop it. That is why nobody in the West wants to talk about Darfur — because of a fear that focusing on the horror will lead to a deployment in Sudan.

But it's not a question of sending troops, but of applying pressure — the same kind that succeeded in getting Sudan to the north-south peace agreement. If Mr. Bush would step up to the cameras and denounce this genocide, if he would send Colin Powell to the Chad-Sudan border, if he would telephone Sudan's president again to demand humanitarian access to the concentration camps, he might save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Yet while Mr. Bush has done far too little, he has at least issued a written statement, sent aides to speak forcefully at the U.N. and raised the matter with Sudan's leaders. That's more than the Europeans or the U.N. has done. Where are Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac? Where are African leaders, like Nelson Mandela? Why isn't John Kerry speaking out forcefully? And why are ordinary Americans silent?

Islamic leaders abroad have been particularly shameful in standing with the Sudanese government oppressors rather than with the Muslim victims in Darfur. Do they care about dead Muslims only when the killers are Israelis or Americans?

As for America, we have repeatedly failed to stand up to genocide, whether of Armenians, Jews, Cambodians or Rwandans. Now we're letting it happen again.


Boston Globe
May 29, 2004

US holds key to peace in Sudan

SUDAN'S Islamist government and the secular Sudan People's Liberation Army have passed another milestone in a long and tortuous peace process. On Wednesday, Vice President Ali Osman Taha and SPLA Chairman Colonel John Garang signed the last of six protocols that collectively constitute a framework for a comprehensive peace agreement for Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. They are now poised to conclude negotiations by establishing modalities for implementation and international monitoring.

On paper, the protocols appear to lay the foundation for an end to 21 years of apocalyptic civil war between successive Arab-Muslim-dominated governments and the predominantly black, non-Muslim rebels of Southern Sudan. The South is due to receive autonomous, Shariah-free government during a six-year interim period. Free elections are scheduled within three years. Southern Sudan is promised a referendum on independence at the end of that period.

The greatest beneficiary of peace should be the South. There, the war assumed genocidal proportions: Over two million black non-Muslims perished, over four million were displaced, and tens of thousands enslaved. For Southern Sudan, the protocols open a door to economic development and self-determination. They also provide the North with a historic opportunity to free itself from a destructive jihad declared against restive non-Muslim communities.

The Bush administration deserves credit for creating conditions for a serious peace process. Despite a parade of initiatives over the years, no significant progress had been made until 2001 when President Bush appointed former Senator John Danforth as special envoy. Congress also played a crucial role. With broad bipartisan support, it passed the Sudan Peace Act in 2002. This legislation identified Sudan's government as the perpetrator of acts of "genocide" and gave the president the carrots and sticks he needed to ensure progress.

The key question now is whether the six protocols will lead to stability, or become, like the Oslo Accords, a byword for failed diplomacy. The biggest obstacle to success is the belief of Northern Sudan's ruling class in its manifest destiny to Islamize and Arabize the multicultural country. Cultural and religious assimilation in Sudan is the legacy of 1,300 years of Arab colonialism and has been pursued by successive governments since independence in 1956. General Bashir's dictatorship promotes Islamization and Arabization in the context of a totalitarian ideology of jihad. Fundamental ideological change in Khartoum is a precondition of sustainable peace.

Khartoum's war against Muslim black African tribes in Darfur demonstrates its lack of commitment to peace. Since the end of last year, government offensives have displaced over one million civilians, and have resulted in the death of tens of thousands. Captive women and children are subjected to ritual gang-rape. UN officials now use terms such as "war crimes," "crimes against humanity," "reign of terror," and "ethnic cleansing" to describe the deeds of Bashir's troops.

The continuing enslavement of tens of thousands of black non-Muslims and Khartoum's persistent denial of this "crime against humanity" is further indication that institutionalized racism and religious bigotry have not been overcome. In December 2002, Danforth identified the eradication of slavery as vital. Yet Khartoum has made little progress in facilitating the liberation of slaves -- despite having received millions of US dollars from the international community for that purpose.

In the South, the greatest long-term danger to peace comes from the possibility of nonaccountable government, a breakdown of the fragile institutional and economic infrastructure, and a descent into tribalism. Khartoum expects this and is prepared to exploit the poverty of the South, using its immense power of patronage over key Southern politicians and tribal militias -- to undermine the peace process, especially future implementation of the right of self-determination.

If these enormous obstacles to a lasting peace are overcome, it will be because of continuing US engagement. The Bush administration must compel Khartoum to end all campaigns of terror. It should also advance representative and secular constitutional government, in accordance with Bush's declared commitment to encourage democracy. As long as Sudan's pro-democracy movement and substantial religious and ethnic minorities are marginalized, peace will be very fragile indeed.

President Bush should be prepared to employ throughout the interim period the punitive measures provided by the Sudan Peace Act to ensure that both sides honor their word. The eradication of slavery will require an effective monitoring mechanism at the State Department. Without a strong US commitment to guarantee the six protocols, a lasting peace in Sudan is likely to prove illusory.

John Eibner, a member of the human rights organization Christian Solidarity International, and Joe Madison, a Washington-based syndicated radio commentator, are co-founders of the Sudan Campaign coalition.

May 27, 2004

Peace in the south, war in the west

From The Economist print edition

A breakthrough in one civil war; the other still rages

THE world's longest-running war is ending. After 2m deaths and matchless misery, Sudan's southern rebels have come to terms with the government in Khartoum. On May 26th, John Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and Ali Osman Taha, the country's vice-president, signed protocols removing the last obstacles to a formal peace deal, which should follow within weeks. The 4m people displaced by the war, which has raged on and off since independence in 1956, can finally go home. It is time to celebrate.

But not unreservedly, for two reasons. One is that the soon-to-be-formed transitional regime is unlikely to be a pleasant one. After six years, the mostly non-Muslim south will hold a referendum on whether to secede from the Muslim north. But in the meantime, the government and the SPLA will share cabinet posts and oil revenues. Neither party has ever shown much respect for democracy, and both have striven to minimise the share of power allotted to unarmed civilians in the transitional government. Still, autocracy is better than war.

The other, even bigger problem is that a separate civil war in western Sudan, which began last year, is getting worse by the day, and spilling over into neighbouring countries (see article). To crush a revolt by black Africans in the western region of Darfur, the government has armed an Arab militia and ordered it to drive blacks out of their homes. More than a million have fled. In much of Darfur, the ethnic cleansing is complete. Our correspondent, riding for four days across the savannah last week, encountered village after burned and gutted village, but fewer than a dozen civilians. The rest had run away, either into miserable camps within Sudan, where the government sometimes deliberately starves them, or into neighbouring Chad. Aid workers have been permitted only limited access to the displaced. Some say that hundreds of thousands of people will die in the next few months if the government continues to obstruct relief efforts.

Morality, and danger

The West should pay attention to Sudan. Mostly it should do so for moral reasons: Darfur is probably the world's worst humanitarian crisis. But self-interest is also at stake: Sudan used to host Osama bin Laden, and is now exporting the kind of chaos that could provide cover for his acolytes. Terrorists with alleged links to al-Qaeda are already using the mountains of northern Chad as a base. Chad's government, which is currently working with America to flush them out, is threatened by the war in Darfur.

Sudanese rebels and refugees have crossed into Chadian territory: the militiamen who kill for Khartoum have pursued them, and come to blows with the Chadian army. There was a coup attempt in Chad last week, almost certainly linked to the Darfur conflict. Unchecked, Darfur's war could destabilise the whole sub-region, from the Libyan desert down to the rainforests of the Central African Republic.

It was a combination of exhaustion and western pressure that persuaded Khartoum to make peace with the south. More pressure could help pacify Darfur. The first priority is to get aid to the displaced, to prevent them from starving. There needs to be a proper ceasefire in Darfur, monitored by the UN's blue helmets. Khartoum must rein in its militia and address the grievances of the rebels there. It should be rewarded with aid if it does, and chastised with sanctions if it does not.