Saturday, January 14, 2006

Khartoum Escalates Conflict in Eastern Sudan, Southern Sudan, and Darfur

As the process of mass murder in Darfur continues unabated, the intensity of the larger crisis in and around Sudan is also increasing, leading to possibilities of a wider war. See these recent pieces by Eric Reeves and Nicholas Kristof ("A Tolerable Genocide" and "Genocide in Slow Motion"). As Kristof says in the last piece (New York Review of Books, February 9, 2006):
The basic lesson from that long negotiation is that Sudan's leaders will brazenly lie about their repressive use of power, and you will get nowhere in dealings with them unless you apply heavy pressure—and you have to be perceptive about what kind of pressure will work.
In the case of Darfur, the solution is not to send American ground troops; in my judgment, that would make things worse by allowing Khartoum to rally nationalistic support against the American infidel crusaders. But greater security is essential, and the African Union troops that have been sent to Darfur are inadequate to the task of providing it. The most feasible option is to convert them into a "blue-hat" UN force and add to them UN and NATO forces. The US could easily enforce a no-fly zone in Darfur by using the nearby Chadian air base in Abeché. Then it could make a strong effort to arrange for tribal conferences—the traditional method of conflict settlement in Darfur—and there is reason to hope that such conferences could work to achieve peace. [....]
The most obvious response to genocide—strong and widely broadcast expressions of outrage—would also be one of the most effective. Sudan's leaders are not Taliban-style extremists. They are ruthless opportunists, and they adopted a strategy of genocide because it seemed to be the simplest method available. If the US and the UN raise the cost of genocide, they will adopt an alternative response, such as negotiating a peace settlement. Indeed, whenever the international community has mustered some outrage about Darfur, then the level of killings and rapes subsides.
But outrage at genocide is tragically difficult to sustain. [....]
The slogan "Never Again" is being transformed into "One More Time."
Some excerpts from Reeves's report are below. But read the whole thing.
--Jeff Weintraub
Khartoum Escalates Conflict in Eastern Sudan, Southern Sudan, and Darfur
Kofi Annan belatedly acknowledges the need for robust international intervention to replace AU force in Darfur
Eric Reeves
January 14, 2006

A wide range of recent news and policy reports clearly reveal the consequences of ongoing international failure to confront Khartoum’s National Islamic Front, the dominant force in Sudan’s nominal “Government of National Unity.” For the NIF continues to escalate a series of militarily-driven crises in Africa’s largest country, all of which imperil the widely heralded north/south peace agreement of a year ago. Physicians for Human Rights and the International Crisis Group have released particularly important reports: on the aftermath of genocidal violence in Darfur; on the growing military confrontation in eastern Sudan; and on Khartoum’s continuing support for the destabilizing Lord’s Resistance Army in southern Sudan and northern Uganda. Yet other reports suggest that a border war between Chad and Sudan, in areas that are filled with desperate refugees and internally displaced persons, may break out at any time.
The common thread in all of these crises is the National Islamic Front (NIF), which has sought to re-name itself, euphemistically, the “National Congress Party.” But the leadership, ambitions, and power structures of the NIF and the “National Congress Party” are essentially unchanged, with the complex exception of Islamist ideologue Hassan al-Turabi, who was expediently sidelined in 1999. The only point of this attempted name change is to obscure as fully as possible the ugly history of the NIF, which seized power from an elected government by military coup (June 1989) in order to abort Sudan’s most promising chance for peace since independence in 1956. Sadly, all too many in the international community are eager to accept a change in name as signaling a change in character. [....]
To be sure, there is an argument that ideology is now for the NIF ultimately an instrument of power, rather than the representation of real belief or commitment. But for the purposes of political, diplomatic, economic, and military assessment, this distinction is not telling: the NIF is a ruthlessly survivalist regime, which has surrendered virtually no power under the working terms of the “Government of National Unity,” and has repeatedly shown itself willing to use genocide as a domestic security policy. This policy will soon be in evidence again in eastern Sudan, directed primarily against the non-Arab Beja peoples of the region. This is ominous in the extreme, as military conflict between Khartoum’s regular forces and SPLM forces still in the east, which have been allied with Eastern Front rebels, could very well re-ignite war in the south (see below).
Recent news wire dispatches have reported in detail on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s shamefully belated acknowledgement of what has long been obvious: the African Union force in Darfur is radically inadequate to the security crisis on the ground. Yet support for the AU monitoring mission has been the default international response to genocide in Darfur for over a year and a half---by Annan himself and his special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk; by the US; by the European Union; by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan; and by every other international actor of significance.
Rather than mount the humanitarian intervention that might have saved as many as 200,000 lives (see my February 25, 2004 Washington Post op/ed “Unnoticed Genocide” , the international community has relentlessly indulged the deadly fiction that unobserved cease-fires and a conspicuously inadequate AU force could stop massive genocidal destruction directed against the non-Arab or African populations of Darfur. Many of the consequences of violence orchestrated by Khartoum---from 2002 through 2004, into 2005, and presently continuing---are detailed authoritatively by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) (“DARFUR: Assault on Survival; A Call for Security, Justice, and Restitution,” January 11, 2006).
Genocidal violence in Darfur, chronicled by PHR and other human rights organizations, has destroyed the livelihoods of over 2 million Darfuris, and has led to overall human mortality that likely exceeds 400,000 (see my August 31, 2005 morality assessment). But PHR has led the way in establishing, in meticulous detail, how the actions by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies massively contravene the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (particularly Article 2, clause [c]):
“By eliminating access to food, water and medicine, expelling people into inhospitable terrain and then, in many cases, blocking crucial outside assistance, the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed have created conditions calculated to destroy the non-Arab people of Darfur.” (Executive Summary)
In order to halt the genocide, PHR recommends that the Security Council “immediately authorize a multinational intervention force in Darfur,” three times the size of the present ineffectual AU force, and that this force operate “under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter,” i.e., with peacemaking (not merely peacekeeping) authority. Exercising Chapter 7 authority requires heavily armed, substantially equipped soldiers, with robust rules of military engagement in confronting belligerents.
It is this recommendation---which has recently come from many quarters---that Kofi Annan this week appears to have accepted, if with a circumspection that hints at various political and diplomatic difficulties the UN leadership is unlikely to overcome. The most conspicuous of these difficulties are Khartoum’s already announced opposition to any non-AU force (dismayingly articulated by Foreign Minister and SPLM member Lam Akol) and China’s likely veto threat (see below).
But the military essentials are clear from Annan’s reported comments: he spoke of the need for “an expanded force with troops from outside Africa” and went on to say:
“Any new force would have to be a mobile one with tactical air support, helicopters and ‘the ability to respond very quickly.’ Asked if this would include rich countries, like the US and European nations, Annan said, ‘Those are the countries with the kind of capabilities we will need, so when the time comes, we will be turning to them.’ ‘We will need very sophisticated equipment, logistical support. I will be turning to governments with capacity to join in that peacekeeping operation if we were to be given the mandate.’” (Reuters, January 13, 2006)
As context for this belated recommendation, Annan invoked previous genocides, including one for which he bears a central responsibility:
"‘Today, as we recall our collective failures in places like Rwanda and Srebrenica, it remains my hope that we may never again be found wanting where so many lives hang in the balance,’ Annan said.” (Inter Press Service [dateline: United Nations], January 12, 2006)
These words must ring with a terrible hollowness for the millions of ethnically targeted people of Darfur, who for over two years have found the international community shamefully “wanting.”
Moreover, even in making his recommendation, Annan has deferred in all too many ways to the political sensibilities of the AU and others. Before any UN deployment,
“Annan said that first the Sudan government, the 15-member Security Council, and the AU, which has sent the only foreign troops to Darfur, had to agree to a UN operation.” (Reuters, January 13, 2006)
But it is clear that the AU will surrender its singular role in Darfur not because it is incapable of providing security, or because it troubled by its inability to mount a force remotely approximating the one Annan describes. The AU will allow the UN to take over only if it runs out of money, which will happen shortly: [....]
The most basic truth is that the AU has neither the requisite manpower, resources, nor ability to absorb such resources. Most tellingly, it is without political courage to demand of Khartoum an appropriate mandate for Darfur, one that would permit aggressively active (as opposed to narrowly reactive) civilian and humanitarian protection. The AU has failed and appears now interested mainly in securing a stamp of “mission achieved” on its exit visa. As Samantha Power wrote in a recent edition of The New Yorker, “soon, this stopgap [AU] mission will fail not only those in need of protection but all the other interested parties as well.” In particular, Power reported that, “the AU is looking for a peg to hang success on so it can walk away gracefully,’ one UN official told me” (The New Yorker, November 28, 2005).
These truths have not been lost on the European Union, which (in the organization of funding tasks by Western nations) bears primary responsibility for AU operational costs in Darfur. Though much has been made, rightly, of the ham-fisted US Congressional refusal to authorize an additional $50 million for the AU mission, the real problem lies not in Washington but in Brussels. The US State Department has signaled that it can, if necessary, find the $50 million in other accounts (though at costs to other important international operations). But the EU leadership in Brussels seems distinctly disinclined to commit more money to AU operations. [....]
In short, because the AU has stubbornly refused to ask for the help it so obviously needed---only for more money---the only recourse in the minds of many who wish to see the operation in Darfur brought under UN control is to cut off funding, quietly and inconspicuously. This, too, is far from “dignified,” and reveals finally a contemptible diplomatic cowardice.
On the other hand, because the UN cannot possibly mount an effective intervening force by March, there will be a last-minute infusion of temporary funds to sustain the AU---in an amount determined by the likely expedient calculations of UN planners, who will be trying to determine when they might do at least marginally better than the AU. [...] But a look at southern Sudan suggests that the chances of timely UN deployment are remote:
“Last week, Annan complained about the slow deployment of troops by the UN peacekeeping mission currently underway in southern Sudan. ‘The pace of the UN military deployment has increased but remains behind schedule, owing to delays in the force-generation process,’ Annan said in a report to the Security Council. As of mid-December [nine months after the UN Security Council authorizing resolution], the number of troops with the UN Mission in the Sudan stood at only 4,291, or 40% of an expected total of some 9,880-10,000 troops.” (Inter Press Service [United Nations], January 12, 2006).
In particular, Russia and China---consistently obstructionist forces on the UN Security Council in responding to Sudan’s crises---are consequentially reneging on their commitments:
“Russia and China have delayed promised helicopters and medical units to a UN peacekeeping force in [southern] Sudan, thereby causing other countries to postpone sending troops, [UN’s Jan Pronk] said.” (Reuters, January 14, 2006)
The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations had two years to plan and prepare for a peace in southern Sudan, and now has failed to deploy in a timely way, even as there are acute observational needs (the oil regions, Abyei, as well as Juba, Wau, Malakal, and other towns from which Khartoum, unobserved by monitors, has not withdrawn its troops as scheduled).
But how likely is it that a force for Darfur such as Annan describes will actually be approved by Khartoum and the UN Security Council---both approvals stipulated by the Secretary-General as requirements for a UN mission? [....]
“Sudan on Friday rejected a suggestion by [ ] Kofi Annan that US and European troops be sent to Darfur, saying the international community should give more cash to African forces already on the ground. ‘We [the “Government of National Unity”] think that the AU is doing a good job and so far they have not said they are unable to do that job,’ Foreign Minister Lam Akol [said]. ‘Naturally what should happen is to give them the money they want, not to complicate matters by involving another force on the ground.’” [....]
But no powers of diplomacy can change the fundamental political reality in Sudan: so long as the NIF controls virtually all national wealth and power---political and military---peace will never come to this tortured land (see my Washington Post op/ed “Regime Change in Sudan,” August 23, 2004).
In Darfur, we continue to see signs of the real character of this regime. Khartoum has recently increased its troop strength along the border with Chad, and a “hot” war seems increasingly likely, one that holds the potential to destabilize much of the region, a threat made explicitly by AU Commission Chairperson, Alpha Oumar Konare. (See Angola Press [dateline: Brazzaville, Congo], January 10, 2006).
Revealingly, Khartoum’s regular forces in Darfur continue their practice of disguising themselves as AU peacekeepers, a violation of international law that clearly increases the risk to AU personnel, who have recently suffered additional casualties in Darfur:
“Sudanese troops are disguising themselves as African peacekeepers to launch surprise attacks on rebels in the country's troubled Darfur region, the AU chairperson charges. In a report to be submitted to the AU's Peace and Security Council on Thursday, AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare said the Sudanese troops were painting their vehicles white, the colour of AU peacekeepers' vehicles ‘to disguise their identities and launch surprise attacks on their opponents.’” (News 24, South Africa [dateline: Addis Ababa], January 12, 2006)
In its duplicity, its contempt for international efforts to halt war in Sudan, and in its supreme callousness, this vignette offers us the perfect portrait of the National Islamic Front today.