Sunday, June 25, 2006

Darfur - Continuing betrayal and accelerating catastrophe (Eric Reeves)

Eric Reeves, "The UN Security Council and a Final Betrayal of Darfur" (June 16, 2006):
Over two weeks ago Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian chief, warned of “a catastrophic situation developing in Darfur unless international donors act soon to bolster a beleaguered African peacekeeping force in the Sudanese province. ‘We either get good news in the next few weeks, or we have catastrophic news later,’ Jan Egeland [said]” (Associated Press [dateline: Brussels], May 30, 2006). No reasonable reading of statements or developments of the past two weeks by UN, US, or European officials---or any other international actors---suggests that any “good news” is in the making. Khartoum remains obdurately opposed to the kind of force necessary to halt genocidal destruction in Darfur and the increasing bleeding of ethnic violence into Chad. Egeland’s “catastrophic news” will not be long in coming.
Eric Reeves, "Khartoum Adamantly Refuses Urgently Required UN Forces in Darfur " (June 24, 2006):
For those vaguely hopeful that genocidal destruction in Darfur might somehow be halted by a UN peace support operation, or that there would be good faith observance of the terms of the Abuja (Nigeria) “Darfur Peace Agreement,” this has been a very bad week. Blaming a conspiracy of Jewish groups for the large chorus now calling for humanitarian intervention in Darfur, President Omar al-Bashir felt particularly unconstrained in expressing his views about a UN peace support operation in the increasingly violent region:
“Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has escalated his rejection of the UN deploying peacekeepers in Darfur, saying they would be neo-colonialists and accusing Jewish organizations of pushing for their deployment.”
Speaking of a UN deployment, al-Bashir declared:
"‘This shall never take place,’ al-Bashir told reporters at a press conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki Tuesday. ‘These are colonial forces and we will not accept colonial forces coming into the country.’
Back at the beginning of May, when a "peace agreement" was signed in Abuja, Nigeria between the Sudanese government and one of the main rebel groups in Darfur, Eric Reeves offered a pessimistic--though not entirely dismissive--assessment of the probable consequences of this agreement, "Why Abuja won't save Darfur". His main point was that although some of the provisions of this agreement looked promising on paper, the key question was whether the Khartoum government would actually implement any of them, especially since it had never complied in good faith with any similar agreements it had signed in the past. In particular, this agreement meant nothing unless a serious international peacekeeping force was actually sent to Darfur to protect the victims of the ongoing slow-motion genocide and to monitor and enforce the terms of the agreement. He argued that there was little reason to feel confident that this would actually happen.

Unfortunately, the answer is now clear. The Khartoum regime has no intention of allowing this to happen, and the so-called "international community" shows no signs of seriously pressuring them to abide by the agreement..

=> Some other serious analyses written at the time of the Abuja agreement took a slightly more hopeful view (mostly because all the available alternatives looked so totally awful). Two of the most substantial and convincing of these assessments were offered by the journalist Julie Flint, one of the best informed and most authoritative analysts of the Darfur atrocity (co-author, with Alex de Waal, of the indispensable Darfur: A Short History of a Long War), and by the consistently intelligent and perceptive Jonathan Edelstein, who blogs under the pseudonym The Head Heeb.

On May 11 Edelstein sent me his "analysis of what the Abuja treaty does and doesn't include, and what needs to be done going forward" ("Darfur: Treaties and Beyond"). This was my response at the time.
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Thanks. Your analysis is, as usual, sharp and well informed. In some ways, it dovetails with an assessment that Julie Flint recently published in the Lebanon Daily Star, and Flint is an exceptionally knowledgeable and seriously concerned analyst of the Darfur atrocity.

But the tone of your analysis strikes me as over-optimistic ... essentially for the reasons suggested by Eric Reeves. Your basic point is that the agreement doesn't look that bad on paper, IF it is actually implemented. But that's the rub. I notice that the Khartoum regime has still not agreed to the presence of a UN "peacekeeping" force to monitor, let alone enforce, this agreement. (Which means that, if it does eventually agree, it will try to make sure to impose conditions that render any such force toothless and ineffective.) Without outside intervention, the record of the Khartoum regime suggests that the old cliché probably holds--i.e., that the agreement will turn out not to be worth the paper it's written on.

Furthermore, your second point, "provide for the refugees," points to a crucial missing dimension. So far, this is an agreement between the Khartoum government and some of the rebel groups. But the core of the conflict long ago turned into something different--namely, an all-out assault on the "African" civilian population. They matter more than either of the parties to the "agreement," and so far they remain outside its scope.

So the basic question really remains what it was before this "agreement" was signed--trying to protect the civilian population against further mass murder & the threat of starvation, and trying to create the conditions that will allow the survivors to return home. It's clear that this will require sustained outside pressure and involvement. If this agreement helps facilitate that, then it might turn out to be part of the solution. If it serves as a substitute for, or distraction from, this kind of outside involvement, then it may simply provide a cover for the Khartoum regime to continue exterminating the Darfuris without interference.

My impression is that we should hope for the best, but not expect it.
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=> Well, now we know. Conditions on the ground have not improved, the outside world has proved unable and/or unwilling to take effective action, and the Khartoum government has increasingly dropped any pretense that it intends to comply with the Abuja accord.. All this was already becoming apparent a month ago. For example, a May 30 editorial in the Washington Post (see Darfur - The killing continues) began by emphasizing these realities.
It's been more than three weeks since a Darfur peace accord was signed, bringing hope for an end to the genocide in Sudan's western territory. Since then the news has been terrible. The two rebel factions that refused to sign the peace deal have continued to snub it. Violence between rebel factions has generated blood-curdling attacks on civilians. Human Rights Watch has reported fresh evidence of atrocities committed by government-backed Janjaweed death squads across the border in Chad. The cash-strapped U.N. World Food Program has been forced to reduce the already meager rations it distributes to 6 million Sudanese, including 3 million in Darfur. And Sudan's government has waffled on the crucial question of whether it will allow in an expanded peacekeeping force, without which violence, hunger and mass death are likely to continue.
And now the Khartoum government has stopped waffling and has made it unambiguously clear that it will not accept any serious peacekeeping force in Darfur.

=> These developments and their significance are laid out in two recent analyses by Eric Reeves, both of which deserve to be read in full: "The UN Security Council and a Final Betrayal of Darfur" (June 16, 2006) and Khartoum Adamantly Refuses Urgently Required UN Forces in Darfur (June 24, 2006). Some highlights follow.
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"The UN Security Council and a Final Betrayal of Darfur" (June 16, 2006):

Despite rapidly escalating violence throughout Darfur and eastern Chad, the UN Security Council refuses to push for urgent measures to protect civilians and humanitarians. Instead, deferential Council members have repeatedly insisted that the genocidaires of the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum will determine whether an international force deploys to Darfur, even as the regime continues to send explicit signals that it has no intention of allowing for such deployment. In short, all evidence suggests that the only protection for a region the size of France will continue to be a radically inadequate African Union (AU) force---and that most of eastern Chad will continue to be without security of any kind. This continuing exclusive reliance on the AU, whose performance has recently deteriorated badly, comes even as “reports from the UN and the AU indicate that violence against civilians in Darfur has doubled since the May 5 peace deal” (Associated Press [dateline Khartoum], June 7, 2006).
The AU itself increasingly recognizes that it simply cannot provide the security required in Darfur or implement the merely notional “Darfur Peace Agreement,” which has been overwhelmingly rejected by Darfuris in the camps and elsewhere as wholly inadequate in addressing their security concerns” [....]
But even were the Security Council to find the political will, over Khartoum’s objections and a menacing Chinese veto threat, to pass a resolution authorizing deployment of a UN peace support operation with Chapter 7 authority, the timeline is unconscionably long. As UN peacekeeping head Jean-Marie Guehenno recently confessed:
"‘A six-month timeline between the decision to deploy and the deployment is a more practical timeline especially if you think of the logistical conditions in Darfur,’ [Guehenno ] said. ‘January 2007 is a much more realistic date.’" (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 12, 2006)
But half a year from now hundreds of thousands of Darfuris may have died from the consequences of previous genocidal destruction and the increasingly likely evacuation of humanitarian workers who are also victims of the chaotic violence. [....]
At the same time, humanitarian conditions in Darfur are becoming increasingly desperate. In an extremely ominous development, a cholera outbreak has been reported in South Darfur [....]
THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESPONSE
With this vast tableau of human suffering and destruction as backdrop, with uncontrolled violence threatening ever more acutely thousands of humanitarian workers and critical aid operations, the UK ambassador to the UN Security Council offers these words to the people of Darfur and eastern Chad:
“The leader of the Security Council delegation, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, said the envoys spent the day trying to reassure Sudanese officials. ‘There is no question this is an intervention force,’ he said. ‘We gave the clear message that any force will be here with the consent and cooperation of the Sudanese government.’” (Los Angeles Times [dateline: Khartoum], June 7, 2006) [....]
Mr. Parry is entirely representative of the UN Security Council in putting the need for Khartoum’s “consent,” as well as its claims of national sovereignty, before the desperate security and humanitarian needs of the almost 4 million conflict-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad. [....]
The timing of this perverse deference is savagely ironic, coming just as the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo has offered an update on the ICC investigation of massive crimes against humanity in Darfur---crimes which, under the principle of an international “responsibility to protect” unanimously accepted by all countries at the September 2005 UN World Summit, should incinerate Khartoum’s claims of national sovereignty in determining how Sudan’s civilians are protected.
“The UN-backed court probing war crimes in Darfur has documented thousands of civilian deaths, hundreds of alleged rapes and a ‘significant number’ of massacres that killed hundreds of people at once, the [ICC] top prosecutor said Wednesday [June 14]. Many witnesses and victims have reported that three ethnic groups in particular---the Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa---had been singled out for attack in Darfur, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a report to the Security Council.” [ ]
“‘In most of the incidents...there are eyewitness accounts that the perpetrators made statements reinforcing the [ethnically] targeted nature of the attacks, such as “we will kill all the black” and “we will drive you out of this land,’” his report said.” (Associated Press [dateline: UN, New York], June 14, 2006)
We should compare these findings with the extant documentary evidence urging genocide, of the sort reported by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal in their superb “Darfur: A Short History of a Long War” (2005):
“The ultimate objective in Darfur is spelled out in an August 2004 directive from [Janjaweed paramount leader Musa] Hilal’s headquarters: ‘Change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.’” (page 39) [....]
KHARTOUM’S RESPONSE
Having granted Khartoum the power to veto any UN deployment, the UN Security Council might have expected an appropriately conciliatory response from Khartoum. Instead, as the following compendium suggests, the regime’s genocidaires have made clear they have no intention of allowing an international force into Darfur. This ensures the genocidal status quo. [....]
KHARTOUM AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
The issue here is essential, since Khartoum has long demonstrated its willingness to flout the will of the international community when assured of support from China, Russia, and the Arab League. Only such support emboldens Khartoum in its continuing refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court: [....]
CATASTROPHE
Over two weeks ago Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian chief, warned of “a catastrophic situation developing in Darfur unless international donors act soon to bolster a beleaguered African peacekeeping force in the Sudanese province. ‘We either get good news in the next few weeks, or we have catastrophic news later,’ Jan Egeland [said]” (Associated Press [dateline: Brussels], May 30, 2006). No reasonable reading of statements or developments of the past two weeks by UN, US, or European officials---or any other international actors---suggests that any “good news” is in the making. Khartoum remains obdurately opposed to the kind of force necessary to halt genocidal destruction in Darfur and the increasing bleeding of ethnic violence into Chad. Egeland’s “catastrophic news” will not be long in coming.
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Khartoum Adamantly Refuses Urgently Required UN Forces in Darfur (June 24, 2006):

For those vaguely hopeful that genocidal destruction in Darfur might somehow be halted by a UN peace support operation, or that there would be good faith observance of the terms of the Abuja (Nigeria) “Darfur Peace Agreement,” this has been a very bad week. Blaming a conspiracy of Jewish groups for the large chorus now calling for humanitarian intervention in Darfur, President Omar al-Bashir felt particularly unconstrained in expressing his views about a UN peace support operation in the increasingly violent region:
“Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has escalated his rejection of the UN deploying peacekeepers in Darfur, saying they would be neo-colonialists and accusing Jewish organizations of pushing for their deployment.”
Speaking of a UN deployment, al-Bashir declared:
"‘This shall never take place,’ al-Bashir told reporters at a press conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki Tuesday. ‘These are colonial forces and we will not accept colonial forces coming into the country.’ [....]
“Jan Pronk, the top UN envoy in Sudan, said in a statement Wednesday that [head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie] Guehenno and the Security Council delegation had stressed that ‘the UN will not intervene in the country,’ nor will it deploy troops, without the consent of the Sudanese government.” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], June 21, 2006)
“[Jean-Marie Guehenno] also insisted that UN peacekeepers would ‘only go to Darfur in full cooperation from the Sudanese government.’” (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum], June 22, 2006)
“So long as the government of Sudan is not prepared to accept a peacekeeping operation in Sudan, there is no peacekeeping operation in Sudan---just as simple as that,’ [Guehenno] said.” (UN transcript of press conference by the AU and UN Technical Assessment Mission to Darfur [Khartoum], June 22, 2006)
“The AU’s top diplomat, Alpha Oumar Konare, visited Darfur on Tuesday and said nothing could be done without the consent of the Sudanese government. ‘Nobody can impose anything on Sudan,’ he told reporters in El Fasher.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 20, 2006)
Convinced by these repeated professions that it may reject any UN deployment that has a real ability to halt the violence in Darfur---or to undertake the various critical tasks of civilian and humanitarian protection, or to arrest war criminals and genocidaires on behalf of the International Criminal Court---Khartoum has the luxury of contemplating a range of responses, presciently outlined in the recent International Crisis Group (ICG) report:
“Over the longer term, Khartoum’s delaying tactics seem intended to achieve one of three possible outcomes, all of which would be disastrous for the people of Darfur:
“[1] Prevent a transition from [the AU mission] to a UN mission. Khartoum is aware that this is probably not realistic, given the international environment, but continues to hedge, presumably to extract concessions on the mandate, composition and operations of the eventual UN force.
“[2] Limit a UN mission to a Chapter VI mandate, which would severely compromise its capacity to protect civilians and probably render compliance with the DPA entirely voluntary, while denying the force meaningful capacity to prevent or respond to ceasefire violations. Given the likely persistence of violence in Darfur for the foreseeable future, it would also expose peacekeepers to higher risk.
“[3] Postpone deployment long enough for the DPA to unravel or become unenforceable. Khartoum enjoys military superiority and has divided the rebels during the negotiations. It may seek to buy time and relative freedom of action to alter the situation on the ground significantly before UN deployment.” (page 16)
THE DARFUR PEACE AGREEMENT ALREADY COMPROMISED
Al-Bashir’s vicious bombast of this past week did much to obscure what is perhaps the more significant news: the Khartoum regime has missed the first key deadline stipulated in the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), signed in Abuja on May 5, 2006 (with additional days added to the “starting time” as the AU futilely sought to make the agreement more inclusive of the Darfuri rebel movements). Thus by June 22, 2006 Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime was obliged to,
“present to the Ceasefire Commission a comprehensive plan for neutralising and disarming the Janjaweed/armed militia specifying actions to be taken during all phases of the Ceasefire. This plan shall be presented before the beginning of Phase 1 (i.e., within 37 days of the signing of this Agreement [i.e., June 22, 2006]) and implemented within the timeframes specified in this Agreement.” (Paragraph 314, Darfur Peace Agreement).
“This plan shall include milestones to be achieved by the Government of Sudan and certified by the AU Mission in Sudan in accordance with the timelines in this Agreement. These milestones shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
“[a] The Government of Sudan shall restrict all Janjaweed/armed militia and [the paramilitary] Popular Defense Forces to their headquarters, garrisons, cantonment sites or communities and take other steps to contain, reduce and ultimately eliminate the threat posed by such forces.
“[b] The Government of Sudan shall completely disarm the above forces of heavy weapons.
“[c] Consistent with Article 30, paragraph 457, the Government of Sudan shall ensure that no Janjaweed/armed militia pose a threat to the Movements’ assembly and disarmament.” (Paragraph 315, DPA)
Not only has this “comprehensive plan” not been presented by Khartoum, two days after the deadline---and almost two years after the UN Security Council first “demanded” that Khartoum disarm the Janjaweed---but there is no sign that such a detailed “plan” will be forthcoming. And if a “plan” is eventually presented, there is simply no reason to believe that it will govern Khartoum’s actions any more than an explicitly stipulated deadline of the DPA has. In its predictable fashion, Khartoum is testing the international waters to see what the response will be to missing the first significant deadline in the peace agreement. Given the resounding silence from the UN, the EU, and the US, the regime will draw the only conclusion possible: the DPA is a document that needn’t be taken seriously, and it changes military realities in Darfur only on paper.
Other DPA deadlines have slipped as well, further reflecting a lack of AU administrative capacity and Khartoum’s notorious ability to stall and forestall meaningful international action. [....] The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks provides a useful overview of the rapid collapse of the Darfur Peace Agreement:
“‘There is nothing, there is no progress on the implementation of the DPA,’ Hafiz Mohamed, Sudan programme director for the London-based advocacy group Justice Africa, said. ‘That is a great worry---a lot needs to be done.’” [....]
Julie Flint, an extraordinarily well-informed source on Darfur and co-author of “Darfur: A Short History of a Long War,” noted recently:
“The government's behavior in the 40 days since it signed the agreement has been equally deplorable. On June 10, [2006] as the United Nations Security Council met in Fasher, government forces and Janjaweed attacked Galol in central Darfur. One of the founders of the SLA, a man who supports peace, e-mailed me that day: ‘Thirty civilians have been killed and many injured while the UN ambassadors are in Fasher. The government does not respect or care about the international community.’” (Daily Star [Lebanon], June 20, 2006)
It is not simply that Khartoum does not “respect or care about the international community”: the regime has nothing but contempt for the UN and other international actors. A brutally destructive attack on civilians the very day the UN Security Council was meeting in el-Fasher (capital of North Darfur) is entirely in character.As ICG notes in its report, despite Khartoum’s signing of the DPA the regime continues to flout its terms and previous international commitments [....]
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Something has to change. It is clear that the Khartoum government has no intention of stopping the Darfur atrocity, so the responsibility falls on the rest of us.
--Jeff Weintraub

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