Monday, September 04, 2006

"The genocidal end-game has begun in Darfur" (Eric Reeves)

One of the most depressing and excruciatingly frustrating aspects of the slow-motion genocide in Darfur is the way that this gigantic crime has unfolded remorselessly and predictably over the past several years, in full view of the world, while no one in the so-called "international community" has done anything serious to stop it, and few have even taken it very seriously. There have been intermittent bursts of attention from governments and public opinion in some parts of the outside world, but so far none of these has been sustained or effective. There have been very brave humanitarian efforts--now increasingly in danger of collapse--and some half-hearted initiatives by the US government, some African governments, and a few other international actors, but at most they have been able to postpone or modulate some elements of this atrocity without doing much to affect its overall trajectory. There have also been periods of apparent diplomatic hyperactivity, but these have all amounted to nothing.

At this point, the targeted ethnic groups in the black African population of Darfur have all been either murdered or ethnically cleansed, and the survivors are likely to be exterminated at leisure unless something serious is done to prevent it--which appears increasingly improbable. Around half a million civilians have already been murdered, and several million more are trapped in refugee camps, entirely dependent on on outside assistance and steadily dying from malnutrition, disease, and ongoing violent attacks. Meanwhile, the Khartoum government and its proxy Janjaweed militias have been targeting humanitarian workers and organizations increasingly blatantly to force them to suspend operations and pull out--with increasing success. The collapse of the humanitarian effort will not only doom hundreds of thousands of victims who depend on already insufficient food and medical aid, but will also remove most of the remaining witnesses from the outside world, since the Khartoum regime has been effective in keeping out journalists (especially with TV cameras).

=> For several months a range of voices have been warning with increasing urgency that conditions in Darfur and neighboring eastern Chad, which were already overwhelmingly awful, were--incredibly enough--on the verge of taking a dramatic turn for the worse. .Humanitarian and human-rights NGOs as well as the UN humanitarian officials, from Undersecretary Jan Egeland on down, warned that the entire humanitarian effort was "hanging by a thread". As Eric Reeves summed it up on July 17 [see Darfur - Going over the edge? (James Smith & Eric Reeves)]:
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.
Furthermore, the Khartoum regime has shown increasing signs that it felt it could now stop playing diplomatic games and resume a full-scale military assault with impunity. (See Darfur - Last Chance or Final Solution?) Eric Reeves again sounded the alarm on August 26 (Darfur: The Final Decision):
The final moment of diplomatic truth for Darfur has at last arrived. All evidence suggests that the international community is prepared to acquiesce before the military onslaught Khartoum’s National Islamic Front is preparing for North Darfur, an offensive that will target both rebel military forces and non-Arab civilians who do not support the deeply flawed “Darfur Peace Agreement” (May 5, 2006, Abuja, Nigeria). [....]

If under these circumstances the international community is unwilling even to threaten non-consensual intervention to protect civilians and humanitarians in Darfur, then Khartoum may rightly, in full throat, exult in its savage triumph. It is a triumph that has been long in coming; one that might have been stopped with sufficient will at any point; but one that is now terribly close to culmination.
=> Well, now the moment of truth has arrived. On Thursday, August 31 the UN Security Council passed a phony resolution authorizing a UN peacekeeping force to be sent to Darfur to maintain security. (See the Reuters report here.) Even this resolution failed to gain the support of the Russia, China, or the Arab state represented on the Security Council, Qatar. They abstained rather than voting against the resolution, but part of the deal to gain their abstentions was a provision that rendered the resolution a joke--the UN force cannot be deployed until the genocidal government in Khartoum agrees.

Unsurprisingly, the Khartoum government has refused. Furthermore, the mandate ot the (thoroughly inadequate) African Union "peacekeeping" force currently in Darfur runs out on September 30, and the Khartoum government has announced that it wants the AU forces to leave, too. The Sudanese government clearly feels it has won, and that the need for further diplomatic charade is over.

The upshot is captured in the title of Eric Reeves's latest report (Sunday, September 3):
UN Peacekeeping Resolution Greeted by Khartoum's New Darfur Offensive:
Civilians and humanitarian operations will not be protected except by National Islamic Front genocidaires


The implications are clear.
--------------------
If the world community is truly serious about Darfur---and it has shown no sign to date that it is---then the decision about non-consensual deployment can no longer be skirted, as it has been by not only US, European, UN officials, as well as members of the US Congress, but by human rights, policy, and advocacy groups, and editorial pages. [....] The question inescapably before the international community is whether the will exists to act if Khartoum continues to refuse the large and robust UN force essential to protect civilians and humanitarians who now have no meaningful security anywhere in Darfur. [....]

But let us be clear about the consequences of refusing to intervene in Darfur; let us look squarely and unflinchingly at the massive human suffering and destruction that are inevitable without such intervention. In doing so, we are best guided---yet again---by UN aid chief Jan Egeland, the conscience of the world on Darfur. In his most recent report to the UN Security Council, made the very day (August 28, 2006) that Khartoum launched its brutal military offensive in North Darfur, Egeland was unsparing in his depiction of impending realities:
“Our entire humanitarian operation in Darfur---the only lifeline for more than three million people---is presently at risk. We need immediate action on the political front to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe with massive loss of life. Since 2004 we have seen tens of thousands of deaths each year. If the humanitarian operation were to collapse, we could see hundreds of thousands of deaths. In short, we may end up with a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale in Darfur. Several factors point to this.”
In fact, UN estimates of conflict-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad now approach 4 million (3.6 million in Darfur; over 350,000 in eastern Chad). And mortality to date in the Darfur genocide is approximately 500,000 human beings (see my mortality assessment of April 28, 2006). [....]
“First, since May there has been a dramatic increase of violence, sexual abuse, and displacement. [....] Farmers in North and West Darfur are reporting that they are being harassed, beaten, whipped, and in some cases shot and killed to prevent them from cultivating the land. [....] The second factor pointing toward the abyss is more deadly attacks on humanitarian staff than ever before. [.... ] If this continues, one organization after the other will be leaving Darfur because we cannot expose our staff to such unacceptable risks to their lives. [....] Thirdly, there has been a dramatic reduction in access. Access is at its lowest levels since it all started in 2003-2004. The World Food Program [WFP] have reported that 470,000 people across Darfur did not receive their monthly rations in July, up from the 290,000 who could not be reached in June." [....]
“[The humanitarian gains of the past two years in Darfur] can all be lost within weeks---not months. I cannot give a starker warning than to say that we are at a point where even hope may escape us and the lives of hundreds of thousands could be needlessly lost. The Security Council and member states around this table with influence on the parties to the conflict must act now. [....]

The ghastly clock of human destruction continues to tick in Darfur, unaffected by Security Council exhortation, by pity or anger or anguish---or by the apparently inexhaustible capacity for disingenuousness, expediency, and outright mendacity on the part of the international “community.” Hundreds of thousands of human beings will die without a fundamental change in these shameful realities. There will be no progress in saving Darfur until the world finds the will to take seriously the need to deploy a significant, robust protection force to Darfur, with or without Khartoum’s consent [....]
--------------------

Reeves's whole report should be read closely and carefully, but some highlights are below.

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
Eric Reeves (Sudan Research, Analysis, and Advocacy)
Sunday, September 3, 2006
UN Peacekeeping Resolution Greeted by Khartoum's New Darfur Offensive:
Civilians and humanitarian operations will not be protected except by National Islamic Front genocidaires


On Thursday, August 31, 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1706, “inviting” the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum to allow a large and robust UN to enter Darfur with the primary goal of protecting acutely vulnerable civilians and humanitarians. This force (between 23,000 and 24,000 troops, police, and Formed Police Units) could at the very least begin to halt the accelerating slide toward cataclysmic human destruction, destruction that UN aid chief Jan Egeland warned the Security Council on August 28, 2006 could reach to hundreds of thousands of human deaths.

The same day that Egeland issued his terrifying warning---and while US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer continued her humiliating two-day wait to meet with National Islamic Front President Omar el-Bashir---Khartoum launched its long-anticipated military offensive in North Darfur. Early reports from the ground suggest that the offensive is massive (see August 30, 2006 dispatch from el-Fasher, North Darfur by New York Times correspondent Lydia Polgreen); and already there is clear evidence that the offensive entails serious violations of international law and war crimes. Amnesty International reports that Khartoum’s military strategy is following the same pattern of destruction that characterized offensives during the most violent phase of the genocide (2003-2004) [....]

This is Khartoum’s bluntest answer to the UN “invitation” to allow into Darfur a meaningful international peacekeeping force. To be sure, there have been public responses from Khartoum’s genocidaires as well. In the words of the BBC, “the Sudanese government has vehemently rejected a UN Security Council resolution that would send a UN force to Sudan’s Darfur area”; the BBC cites a report from the state-controlled SUNA news agency: “‘The Sudanese people will not consent to any resolution that will violate its sovereignty’” (BBC [dateline: Khartoum], August 31, 2006). [....]

HOW THE US AND UK WOULD “SPIN” THESE REALITIES

Despite Khartoum’s launching of a major military offensive in North Darfur shortly before passage of the UN Security Council peacekeeping resolution, despite the regime’s continuing adamant refusal to accept a UN peacekeeping force, both the US and the UK (co-sponsors of the resolution) feel obliged to celebrate their diplomatic “success.” [....]

“‘There is a real danger that a Security Council resolution authorizing a UN force to protect civilians in Darfur will be an empty promise,’ said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. ‘The resolution even risks being counterproductive because it gives the appearance of action when in fact the Khartoum government will have veto power over the UN's role in providing security.’” (Human Rights First press release, August 31, 2006)

The blunt truth is that nothing of significance has changed with the passage of Security Council Resolution 1706. While the peacekeeping force detailed in the resolution holds the potential to mitigate vast human destruction and to provide critical security for civilians and humanitarians, this potential will be realized only if there is sufficient international commitment to the UN force contemplated, and political will to act without Khartoum’s consent. There are no other alternatives. Suggestions that sanctions, targeted or otherwise, might cause Khartoum’s genocidaires to re-calculate their present actions are not based on any realistic assessment of the vulnerabilities of the regime.

To be sure, sanctions should be imposed on senior NIF officials. But in “urging the Security Council to apply targeted sanctions to the Sudanese officials responsible for blocking UN efforts to protect civilians in Darfur” (in the “event that Sudan does not consent to a UN force”), Human Rights Watch (August 28, 2006) is not offering a serious means of changing the situation on the ground in Darfur in a reasonable period of time. Even were such sanctions to be imposed (over Chinese and Russian objections), they would simply take too long to bite with any fierceness or efficacy. [....]

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is similarly right to urge significant punishment of Khartoum’s genocidaires:

"‘The regime will only change its behaviour in response to realistic threats of punishments,’ the ICG's Nick Grono and John Prendergast wrote recently. ‘UN member states must change the calculus of self-interest for the Sudanese regime, and one of the most effective ways of doing this is to target its sources of illicit income and unravel the Sudanese leadership's shadowy web of commercial interests.’” (Globe and Mail [Canada], September 1, 2006)

But the implicit time-frame here does not correspond at all to the overwhelming urgency of the Darfur crisis. As a longer-term strategy for confronting NIF tyranny, it should certainly be pursued vigorously, though there is little prospect of any real effect without significant cooperation from European nations, heretofore entirely missing.

The question inescapably before the international community is whether the will exists to act if Khartoum continues to refuse the large and robust UN force essential to protect civilians and humanitarians who now have no meaningful security anywhere in Darfur. To date, exceedingly few have had the courage of Senator Barack Obama, now traveling in Chad and witnessing first-hand some of the devastation Khartoum has wrought in Darfur and eastern Chad:

"[Senator Barack] Obama suggested the US needs a special envoy to focus on the issue [of Darfur] and the United Nations might possibly have to move in without Sudan's permission." (Associated Press [dateline Mile Refugee Camp, eastern Chad] September 2, 2006)

If the world community is truly serious about Darfur---and it has shown no sign to date that it is---then the decision about non-consensual deployment can no longer be skirted, as it has been by not only US, European, UN officials, as well as members of the US Congress, but by human rights, policy, and advocacy groups, and editorial pages. In the grim shadow of Iraq, and following the crisis in Lebanon, there can be little doubt that the political odds of non-consensual deployment, even to halt ferociously renewed genocidal destruction, are very long against. And there are already many who insist upon seeing any such forceful intervention through the lens of Iraq, rather than in the ghastly wake of international failure in Rwanda.

CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION

But let us be clear about the consequences of refusing to intervene in Darfur; let us look squarely and unflinchingly at the massive human suffering and destruction that are inevitable without such intervention. In doing so, we are best guided---yet again---by UN aid chief Jan Egeland, the conscience of the world on Darfur. In his most recent report to the UN Security Council, made the very day (August 28, 2006) that Khartoum launched its brutal military offensive in North Darfur, Egeland was unsparing in his depiction of impending realities:

“Our entire humanitarian operation in Darfur---the only lifeline for more than three million people---is presently at risk. We need immediate action on the political front to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe with massive loss of life. Since 2004 we have seen tens of thousands of deaths each year. If the humanitarian operation were to collapse, we could see hundreds of thousands of deaths. In short, we may end up with a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale in Darfur. Several factors point to this.”

In fact, UN estimates of conflict-affected persons in Darfur and eastern Chad now approach 4 million (3.6 million in Darfur; over 350,000 in eastern Chad). And mortality to date in the Darfur genocide is approximately 500,000 human beings (see my mortality assessment of April 28, 2006, at http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=102).

Egeland continued:

“First, since May there has been a dramatic increase of violence, sexual abuse, and displacement. The fighting between, on one side, Government [of Sudan] forces and SLA-[Minni] Minawi, and on the other, the rebels who did not sign the DPA, has resulted in hundreds of deaths, despicable gender based violence, systematic looting, and an estimated 50,000 displaced in the last 8 weeks. The International Rescue Committee issued a press release last week reporting that more than 200 women and girls have been sexually assaulted in the last five weeks alone around only one camp, Kalma in South Darfur.” [ ]

“Farmers in North and West Darfur are reporting that they are being harassed, beaten, whipped, and in some cases shot and killed to prevent them from cultivating the land. Humanitarian agencies have carried out seed distributions in many areas, but as a result of insecurity and population displacement too little planting has taken place to avoid massive humanitarian needs in Darfur well into 2007.”

“The second factor pointing toward the abyss is more deadly attacks on humanitarian staff than ever before. Attacks against humanitarians are at an all-time high, with 9 humanitarian workers killed in the month of July alone. More than 25 UN or NGO vehicles have been ambushed or hijacked in the last two months, with one organization losing three vehicles to hijackings in a two-day period. If this continues, one organization after the other will be leaving Darfur because we cannot expose our staff to such unacceptable risks to their lives.”

“Thirdly, there has been a dramatic reduction in access. Access is at its lowest levels since it all started in 2003-2004. We have no access at all to large areas in the Jebel Marra, northern North Darfur, and northern West Darfur, and inaccessible areas are expanding by the day. Even in some areas where we do have access, organizations have been forced to suspend all but the most essential operations as a result of insecurity.”

“[Humanitarian nongovernmental organizations] in North Darfur are largely confined to the capital [el-Fasher]. Again, key organizations feel paralyzed and have raised the prospect of full withdrawal. Hundreds of thousands would then be left without any humanitarian assistance. The World Health Organization has reported that 40% of the population in North Darfur are not receiving health care as its NGO implementing partners have been forced to withdraw from numerous locations across the state. Vaccinations in the state have dropped from 90% in 2005 to a mere 20% in 2006. The World Food Program [WFP] have reported that 470,000 people across Darfur did not receive their monthly rations in July, up from the 290,000 who could not be reached in June. We can expect that once again this month [August] half a million people will not receive the food on which they depend for their very survival.” [ ]

“The final piece of this bleak scenario is humanitarian funding. Humanitarian requirements in Darfur are facing a shortfall of almost $300 million for this year alone. The humanitarian component of the Work Plan for Darfur is only 63% funded, with many sectors less than 35% funded. The WFP was forced to cut rations to 50% in May, but thanks to some important contributions announced while I was in Darfur, in early June, they were able to raise rations back up to 85%. Without new contributions in the coming weeks, WFP recently warned that it may be forced to introduce new dramatic cuts in rations in October [next month] in order to stretch limited resources into the early months of 2007.”

“In the past months I have repeatedly called for attention to the deteriorating situation in Darfur. As you have heard today our warnings have become a black reality that calls for immediate action: insecurity is at its highest levels since 2004, access at its lowest levels since that date and we may well be on the brink of a return to all-out war. This would mean the withdrawal of international staff from Darfur, leaving millions of vulnerable Darfuris to suffer their fate without assistance and with few outsiders to witness. A return to war would not just affect Darfur. It would severely impact on neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic, further destabilizing and endangering the entire region.” [ ]

“[The humanitarian gains of the past two years in Darfur] can all be lost within weeks---not months. I cannot give a starker warning than to say that we are at a point where even hope may escape us and the lives of hundreds of thousands could be needlessly lost. The Security Council and member states around this table with influence on the parties to the conflict must act now. Hundreds of humanitarian organizations from around the world are watching what you will be doing or may refrain from doing in the coming weeks.”
(Briefing by Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the humanitarian situation in Darfur Source, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 28, 2006)

This is no ordinary briefing or update; Egeland offers us the starkest, most unforgiving account of what will ensue if the international community does not provide meaningful security to Darfur in the near term. A very great deal of human destruction is now inevitable, and has been for months. But if deployment of a UN force is governed by Khartoum’s dilatory time-table and obstructionist proclivities, it simply will not occur at all. Unconscionable delay is already built into the UN time-table: Hedi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, has made clear in a recent briefing of the Security Council (August 17, 2006) that a UN force could not deploy before January 2007---at least not without a significant commitment of NATO-quality logistics and transport resources that are nowhere in sight.

But the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is indifferent to political delay and expediency. In the absence of a large, well-equipped, and robust security force, with an appropriate protection mandate, Egeland has made ferociously clear what we will soon see---and much the sooner with Khartoum’s current and impending military offensives:

“Our entire humanitarian operation in Darfur---the only lifeline for more than three million people---is presently at risk.”
“If the humanitarian operation were to collapse, we could see hundreds of thousands of deaths.”
“as a result of insecurity and population displacement too little planting has taken place to avoid massive humanitarian needs in Darfur well into 2007.”
“If this [violence against humanitarian workers] continues, one organization after the other will be leaving Darfur because we cannot expose our staff to such unacceptable risks to their lives.”
“[humanitarian] access is at its lowest levels since [large-scale violence] started in 2003-2004.”
“[Humanitarian nongovernmental organizations] in North Darfur [where Khartoum has launched its current military offensive---ER] are largely confined to the capital. Again, key organizations feel paralyzed and have raised the prospect of full withdrawal. Hundreds of thousands would then be left without any humanitarian assistance.”
“WFP have reported that 470,000 people across Darfur did not receive their monthly rations in July, up from the 290,000 who could not be reached in June. We can expect that once again this month half a million people will not receive the food on which they depend for their very survival.” [ ]
“We may well be on the brink of a return to all-out war. This would mean the withdrawal of international staff from Darfur, leaving millions of vulnerable Darfuris to suffer their fate without assistance and with few outsiders to witness.”
“A return to war would not just affect Darfur. It would severely impact on neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic, further destabilizing and endangering the entire region.” [ ]
“[The humanitarian gains of the past two years in Darfur] can all be lost within weeks---not months. I cannot give a starker warning than to say that we are at a point where even hope may escape us and the lives of hundreds of thousands could be needlessly lost.”

KHARTOUM UNCONSTRAINED

International acquiescence before the violence that has produced this catastrophe has not gone unnoticed in Khartoum. Indeed, it is almost impossible to overstate the current confidence of the National Islamic Front regime in conducting ongoing genocidal counter-insurgency warfare. The self-abasing spectacle of the US attempting to turn a hortatory Security Council resolution into a diplomatic triumph only reveals to Khartoum weakness, not strength or resolve. For again, the only real effect of Resolution 1706 is to confer determination of a time-table for UN deployment upon the very genocidaires who have just begun a ghastly new exercise in targeted human destruction.

The evidence of NIF brazenness is everywhere. In particular, the intimidation of humanitarian organizations continues unchecked and very little criticized. [....]

THE GRIMMEST CALCULUS

The ghastly clock of human destruction continues to tick in Darfur, unaffected by Security Council exhortation, by pity or anger or anguish---or by the apparently inexhaustible capacity for disingenuousness, expediency, and outright mendacity on the part of the international “community.” Hundreds of thousands of human beings will die without a fundamental change in these shameful realities. There will be no progress in saving Darfur until the world finds the will to take seriously the need to deploy a significant, robust protection force to Darfur, with or without Khartoum’s consent (on non-consensual humanitarian intervention, see my op/ed in today’s Washington Post, “Genocide Accommodated”).

The genocidal end-game has begun in Darfur. Given current diplomatic inertia, there will be little to do but estimate the number of dead and dying---and it will be a “long day’s dying” indeed.

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