Saturday, December 17, 2005

Khartoum Triumphant: Managing the Costs of Genocide in Darfur (Eric Reeves)

Once again, this urgent and informative piece by Eric Reeves needs to be read in full (and in conjunction with his other recent report, Darfur Betrayed). Some highlights follow. --Jeff Weintraub
Khartoum Triumphant: Managing the Costs of Genocide in Darfur
Eric Reeves
Posted by on Dec 17, 2005 - 10:46 AM

The National Islamic Front is poised to renew its special place in history as a regime that has successfully deployed genocide as a tool of domestic political and security policy. It joins the Turkish government, which was responsible for the genocidal destruction of perhaps a million Armenians during World War I, and the Nigerian government, which during the late 1960s was responsible for the genocidal destruction of more than a million Ibo people in the Biafra region of southern Nigeria. But unlike the earlier Turkish and Nigerian regimes, the National Islamic Front has been successful in its genocidal efforts on multiple occasions, including its previous genocides in the Nuba Mountains (beginning in 1992) and in the southern oil regions (beginning in 1997). These are the ghastly precedents for current genocide in Darfur.
Moreover, unless there is a fundamental shift in the political, economic, and military circumstances presently obtaining in eastern Sudan--among the Beja and Rashaida peoples of Red Sea and Kassala Provinces--we may see “national security” yet again take the form of genocide. [....]
The National Islamic Front, which has disingenuously (if understandably) sought to rename itself the “National Congress Party,” is a regime that took power under circumstances, and with ambitions, that make a genocidal domestic security policy entirely intelligible. The NIF seized power by military coup in June 1989, deposing the elected government of the Umma Party’s Sadiq el-Mahdi. To be sure, Sadiq was hardly representative of Sudan as a whole, and had in many ways increased the brutal deployment of Arab muraheleen militia in southern Sudan, particularly in using slavery as a weapon of war (see Jok Madut Jok’s authoritative “War and Slavery in Sudan” [University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001]). But Sadiq had been elected, and political pressures, including from the rival Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), had brought a peace agreement in the north/south war to the brink of fruition.
It was precisely to stop this peace agreement that the NIF timed its military coup for June 30, 1989. The men responsible for this coup, and for deliberately aborting the nascent peace agreement, came to power with a ruthlessly determined Islamizing and Arabizing agenda. Very little has changed in the intervening 16 years, despite the wishful thinking of many who have tired of, or wish to avoid, the difficulties of confronting the NIF. To be sure, Hassan al-Turabi---mastermind of the coup, and certainly the most aggressive Islamicist---has been in many ways expediently sidelined by the NIF. But all other important coup participants remain in positions of supreme power, in particular President Omar el-Bashir and Vice President Ali Osman Taha. [....]
With only a distracted and irresolute international community as guarantor of the Machakos cornerstone agreement, and with self-determination the sine qua non of true peace in southern Sudan, the renewal of war in southern Sudan seems only a matter of time.


The most recent report from Human Rights Watch (“Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur,” December 2005 at ) offers an extraordinarily well-researched account of the mechanics of genocide---of just how the NIF has organized the destruction of non-Arab or African tribal populations in Darfur. It also presents substantial new evidence for what has long been clear, but in this report is established beyond reasonable doubt: that senior NIF leadership has directly overseen Darfur’s genocidal destruction. [....]
HRW conclusions about NIF responsibility deserve extended citation. HRW asserts that Khartoum’s policy of human destruction in Darfur “was strategic and well-planned”:
“Since early 2003, the leadership in Khartoum has relied on civilian administration, the Sudanese military and Janjaweed militias to implement a counterinsurgency policy that deliberately and systematically targeted civilians in violation of international law. Ultimate responsibility for the creation and coordination of the policy lies in Khartoum, with the highest levels of the Sudanese leadership, including President Omar El Bashir, Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, and key national ministers and security chiefs.” [....]


Despite the thorough and authoritative nature of the indictment rendered by Human Rights Watch, the report fails on a number of counts. In these failures, we catch glimpses of the larger failure of the international community, and may discern something of the nature of Khartoum’s ultimate genocidal victory.

[1] The HRW report offers no recommendations both adequate to the current acute security crisis and likely to be accepted by the parties exhorted. It is, of course, obligatory for such a human rights report to “recommend” that the Government of Sudan “suspend from official duty, investigate, and fully prosecute all civilian and military personnel [ ] implicated for individual or command responsibility for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur” (page 3). But as the very power of the HRW indictment of senior “Government of Sudan” officials makes compellingly clear, short of self-prosecution, this recommendation is simply boilerplate exhortation.
But even when speaking of recommendations to the UN Security Council, the African Union, the International Criminal Court, and to the US, the EU and Canada, HRW offers little more than exhortation to strengthen an AU force in Darfur that is radically inadequate to the critical security requirements of civilians and humanitarians. The AU has neither the resources nor the capacity to absorb resources urgently required for civilian and humanitarian protection. And recommending that the UN Security Council pass hortatory resolutions and move more expeditiously on targeted sanctions against the NIF genocidaires (per UN Security Council Resolution 1591) has a distinct air of irrelevance given the crisis on the ground. [....]

[Reeves's next point is worth emphasizing, since it runs counter to some widespread beliefs that are often well-meaning but entirely fallacious. Earlier this year there was a dispute in the UN Security Council about referring the Darfur atrocity to the International Criminal Court. This dispute received wide coverage, not least because it provided an opportunity to bash the Bush administration about its (characteristically extremist) hostility to the ICC; it also offered a welcome distraction from having to actually confront the Darfur problem itself. The ICC is in principle a worthy institution, but it is entirely irrelevant to the question of how to interfere with the ongoing process of ethnic cleansing, mass rape, and genocidal mass murder unfolding in Darfur. It has been evident from the start that referring Darfur to the ICC is a misplaced legalistic priority, and that the governments which supported this step have done so mostly as an alternative to taking serious action to stop the atrocity itself. --JW]

[3] HRW recommends that the International Criminal Court “investigate and prosecute senior civilian officials at all levels of government, including President Omar El Bashir” (page 5). Without acknowledging the extraordinarily difficult context in which the ICC has been forced to operate by obdurate “senior [NIF] officials,” this recommendation risks distorting fundamental truths about the chances for justice via the ICC. So long as the NIF remains in power, there can and will be no prosecution---or even extradition---of those responsible for genocide. Indeed, the very existence of an ICC investigation creates incentives for the NIF to sustain prevailing levels of insecurity in Darfur as a means of hampering possible investigation, even as such insecurity is now the most powerful tool of human destruction.
This is of course an uncomfortable reality for HRW, which lobbied hard this past March for a UN Security Council referral of Darfur to the ICC. Indeed, HRW went so far as to argue that such referral would have a deterrent effect on the ground in Darfur, an argument thoroughly undermined by realities of the past several months. For of course those who have committed genocide are well aware of the fact, and are hardly to be deterred from future acts of ethnic violence, violations of international law, or obstructionism simply because of an ICC referral: having committed the ultimate crime---or at the very least what HRW euphemistically calls “ethnic cleansing”---what possible incentive is there for NIF officials to alter behavior in ways consistent with the “deterrent” effect HRW predicted?
The truth of the situation was recognized early on by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo: investigation of the NIF would actually increase threats against both potential witnesses and humanitarian workers in Darfur. [....]
Given the NIF’s sense of impunity, despite overwhelming evidence of its culpability, it is disingenuous for HRW to call baldly for the ICC to “investigate and prosecute senior civilian officials at all levels of government”; indeed, this recommendation comports with the peculiarly disingenuous claim made twice by Juan Mendez, UN special advisor on the prevention of genocide, in his otherwise excellent October 2005 report to the Security Council: “it is in the self-interest of the Government of Sudan to cooperate with the ICC prosecution as a way of creating an atmosphere conducive to reconciliation” (Report of October 4, 2005, Paragraph 36).
It is not in the self-interest of genocidaires to cooperate in their own prosecution, and to suggest otherwise creates the impression of either dangerous naiveté or fear of speaking the truth. [....] The simple truth is that with control of the army and the security forces, members of the NIF will be extradited only when they have been removed from power (see my “Regime Change in Sudan,” The Washington Post, August 23, 2004).


All reports make clear that insecurity and violence continue to escalate throughout Darfur. A grim, wide-ranging overview was recently provided by the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (December 12, 2005). [....] Nor is there any end in sight: Khartoum’s genocidaires, the architects of this human destruction, have no incentive to halt the catastrophe, nor any significant fear of consequences. Those most powerful are those most culpable: what chance does justice have so long as power and guilt are simply obverses of one another in Sudan? [....]
Genocide in Darfur is fully the responsibility of the National Islamic Front. There are no domestic political forces that can presently wrest Darfur policy from the NIF. To equivocate on this point, to suggest that the NIF and the SPLM somehow share political responsibility going forward, represents a deep failure, or refusal, to understand why the genocide began and what has sustained it for more than two and a half years. Genocide began in Darfur as the instinctive response to threat by Khartoum’s entrenched security cabal; it can be ended only by an international willingness to oppose, with all necessary resources, this most vicious of instincts.
Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063