Monday, July 17, 2006

Darfur - Going over the edge? (James Smith & Eric Reeves)

Some highlights are below, but both pieces should be read in full. Conditions in Darfur and neighboring eastern Chad, which are already overwhelmingly awful, are--incredibly enough--on the verge of taking a dramatic turn for the worse. As Eric Reeves concludes:
The continuous decline in security in Darfur since last September, and the corresponding attenuation of humanitarian access and capacity, has culminated in a precipitous fall-off that cannot now be reversed. It is, as Jan Egeland has repeatedly declared, only a matter of time before humanitarian operations collapse, both in Darfur and eastern Chad---and the time-frame is continually foreshortened by events. Camps for displaced persons are unstable tinderboxes of rage and despair. [....]
As the rainy season deepens in Darfur and eastern Chad, exacerbating the already acute logistical difficulties of humanitarian relief, malnutrition is increasing and compromised water sources are becoming more numerous. The threat of a now well-established cholera presence also continues to loom large. Massive human destruction, on an unprecedented scale, is impending throughout Darfur.
--Jeff Weintraub

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James Smith, "The clock ticks. Sudan heads for disaster" (London Times - July 11, 2006)

A countdown of less than 90 days has begun until the vulnerable people of Darfur are abandoned by world leaders who cannot make a decision — whether to protect them or leave them at the mercy of a Government that has killed at least a quarter of a million and driven millions more from their land. The scene is set for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis to tip from bad to worse.
The head of the African Union mission to Darfur, Baba Gana Kingibe, has said it is willing to hold the fort in Darfur until the end of the year. But if there is no date soon for the UN to deploy troops in Darfur, then the African Union mission will not wait; the 7,000 African soldiers will be pulled out on September 30.
For the past three years the Government of Sudan has supported its proxy, the Janjaweed Arab militia, to perform a brutal genocidal operation closely backed by Sudanese forces. Darfur Africans cannot farm for fear of attack. No harvests mean that more than three million are dependent on international food aid. In the absence of the African Union and with no certainty that the UN will protect them, a few million hungry people will predictably turn to the only forces showing an interest in their survival — one of several rebel factions. [....] An escalation of fighting will prevent access for aid agencies and the media, and Khartoum will have the excuse it needs for a resumption of air attacks on Darfuris.
The Janjaweed leaders have had time to reflect that they have not achieved their mission to rid Darfur of black Africans. The onslaught by the mounted militia three years ago led to thousands of villages being burnt. Their aim of destroying the Darfuris will be easier now that two million people are congregated into refugee camps because they will argue that, as the camps are recruitment grounds for rebels, they are legitimate targets. [....]
The UN Secretary-General is visibly frustrated, especially with the powerful nations of the world. “A certain political will is required for action — and I don’t think we have that kind of political will,” Kofi Annan stated last week at the African Union summit in Gambia. Political will may only be induced if the public demand that their leaders protect Darfur. [....]
At the World Summit in September 2005, leaders declared that “The international community . . . has the responsibility . . . to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” They also stated: “We are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner . . . should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations.”
Peaceful means are clearly inadequate and the national authorities in Sudan are manifestly failing to protect their populations. With time ticking toward a disaster that could dwarf the 1994 carnage in Rwanda, the UN Security Council must fulfil its duty and exercise its authority to sanction the deployment of a protection force, with or without Sudan’s consent. [....]

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Eric Reeves, "Darfur Security in Freefall: Humanitarian Collapse May Occur Any Moment" (July 11, 2006):

The multiples failures of the African Union mission in Darfur have for the past week been spectacularly on display, even as the security challenges in protecting civilians and humanitarian operations grow daily greater. The AU has virtually collapsed as an effective force in much of Darfur, almost on the eve of a donors’ conference in Brussels that is supposed to determine how to sustain AU operations---financially and politically. [....] It is demoralized, fearful, and attempting less and less in the way of civilian protection. At the same time, the AU leadership is shamefully refusing to speak publicly about the widening violence in North Darfur, which increasingly involves military cooperation between the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction of Minni Minawi and Khartoum’s regular forces. [....]
The [Abuja] agreement, doomed from the beginning when only Khartoum and the Minawi SLA faction signed, has collapsed, and Darfur is on the verge of massive and anarchic violence. This not only puts the lives of some 2.5 million displaced persons and refugees at risk; it endangers the humanitarian operations on which almost 4 million people in Darfur and eastern Chad are precariously dependent. Just this week Oxfam International became the most recent humanitarian organization to suspend operations (those of its two offices in North Darfur).
Yet again the head of UN humanitarian operations, Jan Egeland, has sounded the most urgent warning about the intolerable levels of insecurity in Darfur. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times (July 9, 2006) quotes Egeland declaring, ''‘We cannot play with the lives of our own staff beyond a certain limit.’ ‘Our people in the field are increasingly desperate.’ ‘I think we're headed toward total chaos,’ Egeland said. ‘Will we have collapse in nine days, nine weeks, nine months? I don't know. But the situation is unsustainable.'” [....]

CATASTROPHE
The continuous decline in security in Darfur since last September, and the corresponding attenuation of humanitarian access and capacity, has culminated in a precipitous fall-off that cannot now be reversed. It is, as Jan Egeland has repeatedly declared, only a matter of time before humanitarian operations collapse, both in Darfur and eastern Chad---and the time-frame is continually foreshortened by events. Camps for displaced persons are unstable tinderboxes of rage and despair. Ethnic hatred has been successfully fanned by Khartoum, and this would seem the real legacy of the Darfur Peace Agreement, approved by only a rump of the Zaghawa-dominated SLA faction of Minni Minawi. The African Union is now completely ineffectual on the ground, and has become the target of ever-greater resentment and hatred on the part of the people they are supposed to protect. The AU has no political vision for Darfur, no ability to make the DPA work, and is belatedly desperate for a UN turnover, even as the UN Security Council shows no signs of responding to the current catastrophic chain of events.
As the rainy season deepens in Darfur and eastern Chad, exacerbating the already acute logistical difficulties of humanitarian relief, malnutrition is increasing and compromised water sources are becoming more numerous. The threat of a now well-established cholera presence also continues to loom large. Massive human destruction, on an unprecedented scale, is impending throughout Darfur.

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