Thursday, July 29, 2004

The African Union ...

... has begun to shift toward taking the Darfur atrocity seriously, which is potentially an important development. Any useful response to the crisis would probably have to include significant intervention by forces from sub-Saharan African countries (Nigeria and Rwanda have already expressed an interest), financed and logistically supported by the US and the Europeans, and probably stiffened by small contingents from western armies (which has proved to be a decisive factor in places like Liberia and Sierra Leone). Ideally, any such intervention should be authorized by the UN--an outcome that is more likely if black African countries support it rather than obstructing it.

What I find especially interesting is the fact that some of the key African countries represented at the Addis Ababa conference have made noises about intervening, if necessary, even without the consent of the Sudanese government ... which has definitely caught the attention of the government in Khartoum.

An effective response to the Darfur atrocity remains very much a long shot. This is all the more true because, as Alex de Waal points out in his piece, achieving any real political solution in western Sudan will be, at best, a very difficult, very messy, very complex, and very long-term process--but on the other hand, stopping the ongoing atrocity and preventing up to a million deaths will require very rapid, urgent, and forceful intervention. It's still seems more likely than not that the second won't happen before it's too late, but perhaps it's not entirely impossible. There has already been some movement in the last 3 months--so far, mostly at the level of talk, public attention, diplomatic activity, and Congressional resolutions ... but maybe that's a start.

Jeff Weintraub

ABC News Online
July 29, 2004

Intervention considered: The African Union says the Sudanese Government has failed to stop the bloodshed.

Intervention considered: The African Union says the Sudanese Government has failed to stop the bloodshed. (Reuters)

African Union considers Sudan peacekeeping mission

The African Union has announced it is preparing plans to send a peacekeeping force to the troubled Darfur region of Sudan.

The union has strongly criticised the Sudanese Government for failing to stop the bloodshed, which has killed more than 30,000 people.

Union delegates meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, have decided to prepare plans for the mission.

However, no final decision has been made.

The African Union is calling on the Sudanese Government stop Arab militias known as the Janjaweed from terrorising civilians.

More than 1 million people have been forced from their homes during the unrest.

Aid organisations are struggling to deal with the situation in Darfur, which the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

In other developments:

  • UN secretary-general Kofi Annan is pressing governments for more aid for the troubled Darfur region, as the Security Council considers threatening the Sudanese Government with sanctions over its role in the humanitarian crisis in the region. (Full Story)
  • A report by African observers in the Sudanese region of Darfur says civilians were chained and burned alive during an attack by Arab Janjaweed militia earlier this month. (Full Story)
  • The United States has presented a new version of its draft resolution on Sudan to the United Nations Security Council and is hoping for a vote by the end of the week. (Full Story)

Daily Telegraph
July 29, 2004

African Union plan peace force for Darfur

By David Blair, Africa Correspondent
(Filed: 29/07/2004)

The prospect of foreign troops deploying in Darfur moved closer yesterday when the African Union announced that it was planning to send peacekeepers to Sudan's war-torn region.

But the Khartoum regime rejected any outside military presence on its soil and vowed to fight if attacked.

The AU, a regional grouping of the continent's 53 countries, has broken with the tradition of solidarity between African governments by strongly criticising human rights abuses in Darfur, where up to one million people have been displaced and 50,000 killed.

Its observer team in the region has already documented numerous atrocities, including the burning alive of villagers by Arab gunmen from the Janjaweed militia.

But the AU's Peace and Security Council went further yesterday by asking the organisation's chairman to prepare a "comprehensive plan" that would "enhance the effectiveness" of its mission in Darfur.

An official statement added: "This includes the possibility of turning the mission into a full-fledged peacekeeping mission, with the requisite mandate and size."

The statement also brings the deployment of British and other western troops closer. African armies are poorly equipped and will almost certainly need foreign assistance.

No western power has promised any soldiers, although Tony Blair has not ruled out British involvement and the Army says a 5,000-strong brigade could be sent at short notice. President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria currently holds the AU's chairmanship. He has sent Gen Abdusalami Abubakar, a former Nigerian military ruler, to Sudan as his personal envoy.

Speaking in El Fasher, the capital of Northern Darfur, Gen Abubakar emphasised the responsibility of the AU, which was created last year to replace the discredited Organisation of African Unity, to deal with the crisis.

He described the conflict as "purely an African one" that "has to be resolved by the African Union".

But the Nigerian army, together with those of South Africa and Kenya, are the only forces in Africa capable of carrying out even the smallest peacekeeping mission. Western military and logistical help would still be needed if any African intervention in Darfur were to succeed.

The objective of peacekeeping troops would be to enforce agreements already made by Sudan's regime and two black African rebel groups fighting in Darfur.

They have concluded a shaky ceasefire and Khartoum pledged last month to disarm the Janjaweed and protect Darfur's civilian population.

But the rebels have walked out of more recent peace talks, calculating that the possibility of outside intervention has brought heavy pressure to bear on their enemy.

Sudan's regime gave an explicit warning that it would retaliate if foreign troops were sent. An extraordinary cabinet meeting held in Khartoum issued a statement "expressing its absolute denunciation of the deployment of [foreign] troops in Darfur".

The cabinet added: "Sudan is capable of solving its conflicts by itself."

Mustapha Osman Ismail, Sudan's foreign minister, said renewed fighting would erupt if foreign troops arrived.

But the AU already plans to deploy 300 troops to protect its observer mission in Darfur. Sudan's regime has consented to this move.

Sudan's sabre rattling is also likely to fade if peacekeepers are given United Nations backing, which is likely.

28 July 2004: Villagers burned alive in Sudan atrocity
27 July 2004: Sudan leaflets vow revenge on foreign troops


The Observer (London)
July 25, 2004

Darfur's deep grievances defy all hopes for an easy solution

The world is waking to the human disaster in Sudan. But, argues writer and world authority on the country, Alex de Waal, the crisis is far more complex than some claim - and cannot be resolved by a quick fix

· Alex de Waal is director of Justice Africa (London). An updated version of his book, Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan, 1984-5, is published by Oxford University Press this autumn.

Sunday July 25, 2004
The Observer

Darfur, the war-torn province in western Sudan where a terrible humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding, has yet more awful secrets to divulge.

In addition to 1.2 million displaced people living and dying in refugee camps in the region and across the border in neighbouring Chad, there are hundreds of thousands more struggling to survive in their homes in the vast areas held by the rebel movements fighting against the Khartoum government.

They are far from any TV cameras, and far from the comfort of aid agencies. They are surviving as their parents and grandparents did, through hardiness and skill.

They, not us, are the proven experts in surviving famine. Where a foreigner sees a wasteland of sand and mountain, a rural woman sees landscape replete with wild grasses, berries and roots.

The most ubiquitous of these is a berry known as mukheit, which grows on a small bush. It looks like a big pale pea, it's toxic and needs to be soaked in water for three days before it's edible, and even then it tastes sour. But it's nutritious, and it's in season now.

During the drought-famine of 1984-85, perhaps two million people survived on mukheit, often for months. It was a far bigger factor in survival than food aid, and it was common to see women foraging on the remotest hills, children strapped to their backs, gathering this unappetising but life-preserving crop. Then there's difra, a wild grass that grows across the desert-edge plateaux, which can be harvested in August, and up to 80 more species known to every grandmother.

Mukheit keeps adults alive, but it isn't enough for children. During the 1980s famine, infectious diseases and lack of weaning foods killed an estimated 75,000 children. As the world becomes aware of this as-yet-invisible disaster, aid agencies will demand access across the front lines. And those aid convoys will need an international protection force.

The Darfur war erupted early last year, when two armed movements - Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement - began a rebellion against a government in Khartoum that had neglected their region.

In response, the government mobilised, armed and directed a militia, known as Janjaweed ('rabble' or 'outlaws' in local dialect), using scorched earth, massacre and starvation as cheap counter-insurgency weapons. The UN has described Darfur as 'the world's worst humanitarian crisis'. On Friday, the US Congress described it as 'genocide'. The British government is considering sending in 5,000 troops.

Characterising the Darfur war as 'Arabs' versus 'Africans' obscures the reality. Darfur's Arabs are black, indigenous, African and Muslim - just like Darfur's non-Arabs, who hail from the Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa and a dozen smaller tribes.

Until recently, Darfurians used the term 'Arab' in its ancient sense of 'bedouin'. These Arabic-speaking nomads are distinct from the inheritors of the Arab culture of the Nile and the Fertile Crescent.

'Arabism' in Darfur is a political ideology, recently imported, after Colonel Gadaffi nurtured dreams of an 'Arab belt' across Africa, and recruited Chadian Arabs, Darfurians and west African Tuaregs to spearhead his invasion of Chad in the 1980s. He failed, but the legacy of arms, militia organisation and Arab supremacist ideology lives on.

Many Janjaweed hail from the Chadian Arab groups mobilised during those days. Most of Darfur's Arabs remain uninvolved in the conflict, but racist ideology appeals to many poor and frustrated young men.

Since 1987 there have been recurrent clashes between the Arab militias and village self-defence groups. Their roots were local conflicts over land and water, especially in the wake of droughts, made worse by the absence of an effective police force in the region for 20 years.

The last intertribal conference met in 1989, but its recommendations were never implemented. Year by year, law and order has broken down, and the government has done nothing but play a game of divide-and-rule, usually favouring the better-armed Arabs.

In response, the non-Arab groups (some of them bedouins too - there's a clan related to the Zaghawa that even has the name Bedeyaat) have mobilised, adopting the label 'African', which helps to gain solidarity with the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Army, and is a ticket to sympathy in the West.

The Darfur conflict erupted just as protracted peace negotiations between Khartoum and the SPLA on an end to the 20-year-old war in southern Sudan entered their final stage. Some observers have speculated that the rebellion was launched because the SPLA won its concessions by dint of armed struggle, thereby encouraging other discontented Sudanese regions to try the same.

There's an element of truth in that, and a danger that the Beja of eastern Sudan will also re-ignite their dormant insurrection. But Darfur has long-standing grievances. Even more than southern Sudan, the province has been neglected. It has the fewest schools and hospitals in the country. Promises of development came to nothing.

Darfurian radicals have long tried to start a liberation war. In 1991, the SPLA sent an armed force to Darfur to foment resistance: it failed, and an entire cadre of leftist leadership was arrested or neutralised as a result. The young SLA leaders have emerged from the shadow of this debacle.

Meanwhile, the Islamic government tried to neutralise complaints of neglect by playing the religion card. Darfur's Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes are well-known for their Muslim piety, and were attracted by the idea of being enfranchised through their Muslim faith. But this proved another hollow promise, and when the Sudanese Islamist movement split four years ago, most Darfurian Islamists went into opposition, some of them forming the JEM.

There is no quick fix in Darfur. But after the first round of mediation by the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a week ago, the elements of a settlement are coming into focus. The first of these is removing obstacles to relief operations. The second is enforcing the ceasefire, agreed by the parties in the Chadian capital of Ndjamena in April, but flouted - far more egregiously by the government and Janjaweed. For hungry villagers, the ceasefire is a survival issue, as their skill at harvesting wild foods has no value if they are confined to camps by fear of rape, mutilation or murder.

The African Union - headed by its energetic leader, the, former Malian President Alpha Konare - has put 24 ceasefire monitors on the ground so far to oversee the Ndjamena agreement. Three hundred African troops are also on their way, to ensure that the monitors can move in safety.

Providing security to civilians will need a far larger and more robust force. Even before the insurrection, Darfur was a province in arms. Every village or nomadic clan possessed automatic weapons - a necessity given that there has been no effective police force there for the past 20 years.

Last month, President Omer al-Bashir promised to disarm the Janjaweed. In doing so, he has put himself in a corner. There's overwhelming evidence, circumstantial and documentary, that Khartoum supplied the militia with arms, logistics and air support. But it doesn't follow that it can so easily rein them in. Darfur cannot be disarmed by force.

The principal Janjaweed camps can be identified and the militiamen cantonised there. This demands a tough surveillance regime, overseen by international forces. But the armed Bedouin cannot be encamped: they rely on their herds for livelihood and hence need to move, and they are too numerous and scattered to disarm. In fact, 'disarmament' is a misnomer. What will work is community-based regulation of armaments, gradually squeezing out bandits and criminals.

What to do with the Chadian Arabs will be one tricky issue. Another will be the fact that all Darfurians - Arab and non-Arab alike - profoundly distrust a government in Khartoum that has brought them nothing but trouble. Arms control can be made to work only when the scaffolding of a provincial administration and political settlement is in place.

Another issue is human rights: investigating claims of genocide and who's responsible. This issue is best parked with an international commission - perhaps a special investigator from the International Criminal Court.

A political solution can be framed as these immediate issues are tackled. At the moment the sides are far apart, their public language one of mutual recrimination.

In theory, a settlement of Darfur's provincial issues should not be too difficult. The rebels - who drop their simplistic 'African' versus 'Arab' terminology as soon as they get into details - have no desire to purge Darfur of its indigenous black Arabs.

They do not seek self-determination or separation. Their demands, for equitable development, land rights, schools and clinics, and local democracy are perfectly reasonable. Formulae for provincial autonomy are also negotiable.

The national issues are more difficult. Settling Darfur's grievances will mean revisiting many of the Naivasha formulae, which were drafted on a simplified north-south dichotomy. For example, senior government jobs have been divided between the ruling Congress Party and the SPLA: who is going to make concessions to allow Darfur its fair share?

Nonetheless, the Darfur process can be speeded up by implementing the Naivasha agreement and bringing SPLA leader John Garang to Khartoum as vice president. Garang aspires to represent a coalition of all Sudan's non-Arab peoples, including Darfurians, and it will be politically impossible for him to endorse a war in Darfur.

The African Union, with UN support, is applying lessons learned from the Naivasha negotiation. If this is to work, the US, Britain and the EU will need to use their leverage in support of the AU formula. The next meeting is scheduled for a month's time.

The immediate life and death needs of Darfur's people cannot wait for these negotiations to mature. A British brigade could make a formidable difference to the situation. It could escort aid supplies into rebel-held areas, and provide aerial surveillance, logistics and back-up to ceasefire monitoring, helping to give Darfurian villagers the confidence to return to their homes and pick up their lives.

Special report
Archived articles
More on Sudan
News guide
20.12.2001: Sudan media sources
Useful sites
Sudan News Agency
Sudan Tribune
Norwegian Council for Africa: Sudan


The Independent (London)
July 26, 2004

Richard Dowden: Darfur can best be resolved by Africans

Pushed by the growing disillusionment of their people, Africa's rulers have begun to address Africa's deeper problems

The writer is Director of the Royal African Society

26 July 2004

The last time there was a disaster in Africa on the scale of Darfur - in Rwanda and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the mid-1990s - it seemed that most of Africa was descending into mayhem and murder. Every country from Somalia on the north-east tip of the continent to Namibia in the south-west was caught up, directly or indirectly, in wars - mostly small, nasty and very lethal. Few fighters die in Africa's wars; the biggest killers are hunger and disease, when millions of poor people are driven from their homes with nothing to support themselves. Meanwhile in West Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia and great swaths of Nigeria were embroiled in vicious local conflicts.

Today, Darfur in western Sudan is the only full-scale war in Africa. Indeed the "main" conflict in Sudan - the five-decade war between north and south - is close to resolution. A ceasefire has been maintained more or less for over a year and final agreement is close. Conflicts flicker on in Congo and Somalia, Côte d'Ivoire could explode again at any minute and parts of Nigeria seem constantly on the brink of catastrophe, but elsewhere, compared to a decade ago, millions more Africans are able to get on with their lives without fear of attack. Whether a momentary pause or real peace, Africa is calmer now than it has been for decades.

This change - I would hesitate to call it transformation - has come about partly because the rest of the world is taking Africa more seriously. Thanks to America's need for West African oil, Tony Blair's determination to push Africa up the political agenda, and fears that an impoverished chaotic Africa may produce or harbour anti-Western Islamists, Western countries have become more engaged in Africa. And on the African side, its governments have become more engaged in issues outside their own countries.

The old Organisation of African Unity had become a club where Africa's boss men met, slapped each other on the back, passed fatuous resolutions and returned home to wreck their countries. Prompted by Libya and led by South Africa, African states formed a new pan-African organisation, the African Union, and gave it a vision and remit far greater than the OAU.

The old principle of non-interference in internal affairs has been superseded by demands for investigation and intervention in other countries' governance. Pushed by the growing disillusionment and anger of their own peoples and stung by the shame of Africa's global image as "a scar on the conscience of the world" or "the hopeless continent", Africa's rulers have begun to address Africa's deeper problems. That includes bringing peace to trouble spots like Darfur.

The Chairman of the AU Commission, its driving body, is Alpha Oumar Konaré, a former president of Mali, who talks reality, not rhetoric, and treats African heads of state as equals. At the AU summit earlier this month, he bluntly told Sudan's president, Omar el-Bashir, that he knew that his government was arming militias and bombing civilians. He did not want denials, he wanted it stopped. Furthermore, the summit agreed to send peacekeeping troops to back up AU observers on the ground in Darfur - even though the Sudan government opposed the idea. That would have been unthinkable five years ago. Darfur will be the test of Africa's determination to deal with its own problems. The AU's credibility depends on making peace there.

Darfur's war has its roots in a centuries-old conflict - essentially the competition for land between settled farmers and the cattle-herding pastoralists who bring their cattle south in the dry season to graze. Where once growing and grazing areas were agreed and disputes settled with a few spears and swords, today the competition for land and the alarming spread of automatic rifles means that such disputes end quickly in total war.

In Darfur, the pastoralists are Arabised Bedouin of the semi-desert zones and the settled farmers are from black African - but Muslim - ethnic groups. Although distinguished as Arab and African, outsiders would be pushed to tell the difference in looks. Intermarriage is common, making "Arab" and "African" political rather than racial labels.

Locally everyone knows who is who and whose side they are on. Now the local land disputes and rivalries are subsumed in a larger and more significant war and when there is an overall ceasefire, there will need to be hundreds of local agreements renegotiated on land rights. It will be a nightmare task.

The rebels started the war because they realised that peace was imminent in the war that has divided Sudan on and off for 50 years. Peace between the Khartoum Arab clique and the southern rebels, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, led by John Garang, looked like a stitch-up to the rest of Sudan. Areas such as Darfur, neglected and marginalised like the South, saw they would be cut off from power and the new oil wealth by this new deal. They also saw that war had got Garang into government so they copied him. In turn Bashir saw that if he even began to negotiate with them, he would be sending a message to the rest of Sudan too - war gets you a slice of power and wealth. The Darfur rebellion had to be stopped dead.

Darfur may be a remote province but its politics link directly into the government in Khartoum. What happens here may lead to a fragmentation of the whole country. A settlement on terms too favourable to the rebels could spark revolts among other marginalised peoples. The president is weaker than he looks.

It is against this tricky background that a ceasefire must be negotiated and agreement secured to allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need. Then there must be peace making and reconstruction. The lead player in all of this must be the AU. In the short term, African peacekeeping soldiers must be sent to protect the refugee camps and get food convoys across battle lines.

Tony Blair has already hinted British troops should be sent. Maybe, but only in close co-operation with the AU. This is its war and unilateral action by outsiders trying to save Africa will cause resentment and undermine this new organisation's role. British troops should certainly be kept away from the front line, not just for their own safety, but because, as British, they could be a target for Islamists. Darfur is no Sierra Leone. There, British troops were welcomed and trusted, but Darfur is one of the areas in Africa where British troops would not be welcomed because of their role in Iraq. That is an added complication Darfur does not need. The same goes for the Americans.

Britain's role should be to provide logistics and perhaps airborne surveillance. It could also provide help for a rapid reaction group that could respond quickly to hotspots. Even more important, it should support the laborious and long-term process of bringing leaders of the myriad small communities together to negotiate the competition for land and water.

Successful humanitarian aid missions can be only judged against what might have been and that is hard to quantify. This time, we see what is happening on television every night. If we are still looking at the same pictures in a month, it will not just be a humanitarian mission that failed. It will demonstrate that Africa's new bid to fix its own problems has failed, too.