Thursday, March 02, 2006

Darfur Held Hostage (Eric Reeves)

The Economist began a recent piece on Sudan by correctly noting:
Anyone following events in western Sudan over the past three years, even casually, must be depressed about the world. In that span, many of Darfur's 6m inhabitants have been raped and massacred by militias armed by their own government. Some 300,000 people have died in the conflict; over 2m have been herded into camps. America described this as genocide well over a year ago. Yet it continues, fiercer than ever.
In recent weeks there have been some signs that the so-called "international community" might actually be gearing up to do something serious about the ongoing atrocity in Darfur. Eric Reeves, who is one of the most knowledgeable and acute analysts of this catastrophe, has been skeptical about whether this encouraging talk would turn into effective action. He is now even more skeptical. Meanwhile, the urgency of the situation, and the horrific consequences that will follow from further cynicism, inaction, and outright complicity by the "international community," remain unchanged.
Exported genocidal violence in eastern Chad, as well as ongoing conflict in Darfur itself; complete lack of effective pressure on Khartoum; increasingly compromised security for humanitarian operations; donor fatigue; serious breaks in the food pipe-line; and paralyzing seasonal rains that will begin in less than four months, with little sign that sufficient food and other critical supplies will be pre-positioned, especially in West Darfur: These are the undeniable realities.
Forsyth is certainly right to ask that we---“realists” and “moralists”---consider the consequences if “the Khartoum government succeeds in completing the Darfur genocide.” For that “success” looms ever closer.
--Jeff Weintraub

Darfur Held Hostage: Khartoum Adamantly Rejects UN Peacekeeping Force
The National Islamic Front exports targeted ethnic destruction to Chad
Eric Reeves
March 1, 2006

[Some highlights follow, but read the whole thing. --JW]

Even as security conditions for civilians and humanitarian operations in Darfur continue to deteriorate, the lack of international resolve in responding to massive, ethnically targeted human destruction throughout this vast region has never been more conspicuously on display. Khartoum’s overwhelmingly dominant National Islamic Front (NIF) has, with growing confidence, aggressively rejected a UN peacekeeping force (itself only a distant and almost certainly inadequate means of protection); the African Union (AU) appears to be reconsidering its commitment---“in principle”---to a UN handover of the Darfur mission; and at the UN Security Council, an entirely predictable obstruction of meaningful action on Darfur by veto-wielding China and Russia demonstrates just how little diplomatic preparation and commitment accompanied the US assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of February. At the same time, as Human Rights Watch has reported with terrifying authority, genocidal violence is now being exported wholesale to neighboring Chad by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies.
In an extraordinarily brazen show of contempt, various senior officials of the NIF-dominated “Government of National Unity” have threatened the UN deployment of peacekeepers that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has described as “inevitable.” These threats takes various forms---some more oblique than others; but they collectively make clear that Khartoum is prepared to insist that the radically inadequate AU monitoring force remain the sole source of civilian and humanitarian protection in Darfur, as well as along the chaotically violent Chad/Darfur border, where conflict threatens to put many more hundreds of thousands of civilians beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance.
Associated Press reports (February 28, 2006) that Khartoum’s justice minister, Mohamed Ali Al Mardhi,
“warned on Monday that UN peacekeepers could be at risk if they were deployed to its conflict-wracked Darfur region. According to reports, justice minister Mohamed Ali Al Mardhi told the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Sudan, that it would be difficult to provide protection for such forces.”
More bluntly, NIF President Omar el-Bashir,
“warned Darfur would become a ‘graveyard’ for any foreign military contingent entering the region against Khartoum's will, newspapers reported on Sunday. ‘We are strongly opposed to any foreign intervention in Sudan and Darfur will be a graveyard for any foreign troops venturing to enter,’ [el-Bashir said]. His comments came amid stepped-up efforts by the international community to send UN peacekeeping forces to war-torn Darfur in place of AU troops, which have failed to quell the three-year-old bloodshed.” (Agence France Presse, February 26, 2006)
AFP reports that “Beshir was also dismissive of the AU, which has hinted it would not oppose its own replacement by a UN contingent in Darfur. ‘The AU forces can leave the country if they believe that they have failed to carry out their duties,’ Beshir said.” [....]
Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad” (February 2006) offers a terrifying picture of growing violence and anarchy on both sides of the 800-mile border between Chad and Darfur, with potentially catastrophic consequences for humanitarian operations, and for many hundreds of thousands of desperate civilians on both sides of the border. This courageous document deserves the closest attention from those who regard genocide in Darfur as deplorable but ultimately a matter of “tribal war” in western Sudan (as US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick would have it). This document should also be read by those such as US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer who would minimize the significance of the violence that has escalated steadily since September 2005 ("[Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer] cautioned against dwelling too much on the current level of violence [in Darfur]"---Washington Post, November 4, 2005).
From the HRW executive summary:
“The crisis in Darfur, Sudan, which has been trickling into Chad for the better part of three years, is now bleeding freely across the border. A counterinsurgency carried out by the Sudanese government and its militias against rebel groups in Darfur, characterized by war crimes and ‘ethnic cleansing,’ has forcibly displaced almost two million civilians in Darfur and another 220,000 people who have fled across the border into Chad. The same ethnic ‘Janjaweed’ militias that have committed systematic abuses in Darfur have staged cross-border raids into Chad, attacking Darfurian refugees and Chadian villagers alike, seizing their livestock and killing those who resist. The government of Sudan is actively exporting the Darfur crisis to its neighbor by providing material support to Janjaweed militias and by failing to disarm or control them, by backing Chadian rebel groups that it allows to operate from bases in Darfur, and by deploying its own armed forces across the border into Chad.”
What Human Rights Watch calls “ethnic cleansing” reflects an unfortunate unwillingness by this distinguished human rights organization to consider the implications of its own findings, which make clear that there is abundant evidence of “genocidal intent” in the very command structure of Khartoum’s military, intelligence, and political hierarchy (see my analysis of HRW’s deeply misguided claim that determining whether the Khartoum regime has had “genocidal intent” “requires access to government documents and to those in the leadership who planned and coordinated the campaign in Darfur”).
But certainly for current developments in Chad, Human Rights Watch is persuasive in finding that,“attacks on Chadian civilians accelerated dramatically in the wake of a December 2005 assault on Adré, in eastern Chad, by Chadian rebels with bases in Darfur and supported by the government of Sudan.”
This support for Chadian rebels by the “government of Sudan”---by the National Islamic Front security cabal---portends major instability, which may easily spread throughout the region, involving Libya, the Central African Republic, southern Sudan, and potentially other parts of Africa. [....]
“The Janjaweed raiding parties have targeted villages in Chad and willfully killed Chadian civilians, in particular those from the Masalit and Dajo ethnic groups (non-Arab cross-border tribes that have also been the targets of Janjaweed attacks in Darfur). Due to the attacks in Chad, civilians have been forced from their homes, and their few possessions, mostly livestock, have been looted. People living along the Chad-Sudan border, already among the world’s poorest, have little access to national or international humanitarian assistance. On some occasions, the Janjaweed attacks appear to be coordinated with those of the Chadian rebels. On other occasions, Janjaweed militias have carried out attacks inside Chad accompanied by Sudanese army troops with helicopter gunship support.” [....]
That Janjaweed militia forces “have carried out attacks inside Chad accompanied by Sudanese army troops with helicopter gunship support” fully internationalizes the catastrophe in Darfur and makes clear just how spectacularly incompetent the UN’s Pronk is in declaring that “it was uncertain who was giving orders to support [the Janjaweed] militarily” (Reuters [dateline: United Nations, New York], February 28, 2006). Indeed, as Human Rights Watch has earlier established (“Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur,” December 2005):
“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.”
“The Sudanese government is extremely hierarchical in many respects, and functions through a tight network of ruling party insiders. Although further investigation to establish the details of the involvement of key national officials is necessary, the role of top Sudanese officials in coordinating the ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign is evident when the major offensives are analyzed. Even clearer is the pivotal role of President El Bashir himself, whose public statements were precursors to the call to arms and peaks in the violence, and no doubt echoed the private directives given to the civilian administration, military, and security services.”
This is the regime that the international community refuses to confront, refuses to sanction, and whose genocidal assault on the non-Arab or African tribal populations of Darfur and eastern Chad the world is allowing to proceed unimpeded. The AU is powerless to stop escalating violence, though this has not prevented the AU from hesitating at the critical moment in passing authority for civilian protection to the UN. While we must rely on the expedient and confused Mr. Pronk for too many details, Reuters reports him as saying, “‘We do not know if AU will confirm its own earlier decision,’ [Pronk] said. AU foreign ministers were to meet on Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to decide on the transition, agreed to earlier in principle, but they postponed the session on Tuesday for a week” (February 28, 2006). Khartoum---with strong support from the Arab League, especially Egypt and Libya---is seeking by various means to discourage the AU from going ahead with its decision “in principle” to hand over the Darfur mission to the UN. The week delay suggests that the regime is making progress in Addis Ababa and in various AU capitals.
[....] overall mortality in the Darfur conflict, from all causes, very likely exceeds 400,000 (see my “DARFUR MORTALITY UPDATE: August 31, 2005; Current data for total mortality from violence, malnutrition, and disease” ).
To be sure, press and wire reports in the main continue to base their mortality figure for the Darfur genocide on a UN figure of 180,000, promulgated a year ago (March 2005), which at the time did not include violent mortality but rather represented deaths mainly from disease and malnutrition in camps for displaced persons (the figure was calculated in March 2005, simply by the multiplying 18 previous months of the crisis by a mortality rate of 10,000/month---a rate deriving from a September 2004 UN World Health Organization study of mortality from disease and malnutrition in accessible camp populations throughout Darfur).
Beyond this figure of 180,000---which a subsequent WHO-overseen mortality study (June 2005) suggests has grown by over 50,000 during the past year---we must assess violent mortality over more than three years of enormously destructive conflict. Extant data strongly suggest that such violent mortality is well in excess of 200,000. This is the implication of comprehensive data compiled by the Coalition for International Justice (CIJ) (“Documenting Atrocities in Darfur,” based upon almost 1,200 carefully conducted interviews at various locations along the Chad/Darfur border in August 2004, ). Though not as comprehensive, more recent data from Physicians for Human Rights are strongly corroborative of CIJ findings. [....]
While rightly celebrating the extraordinary, life-saving humanitarian achievements from July 2004 through 2005, DHP 22 ominously declares:
“The question now is whether these achievements can be safeguarded in 2006. With no political solution in sight and the conflict slipping further into chaos, and with a possible donor fatigue translating into shortages of funding and staffing of the humanitarian organizations, the gains made in 2005 may well be reversed. Despite the favorable weather conditions, and despite the fact that crops have been harvested [from a highly limited spring 2005 planting, and after massive destruction of crops and cropland---ER], over 2.7 million people were still in need of external food aid in December. World Food Program current stocks in Darfur and those heading to Darfur will meet requirements until mid-April. Shortages of some non-cereal commodities will start immediately afterwards, and major [food] pipeline breaks will start in May. Food needs to be pre-positioned between now and June to ensure that the population’s needs are covered during the rainy season (July to September), which also coincides with the hunger gap, when needs are greatest.”
The significance of a “major break” in the food “pipeline” (defining the course of movement of food from point of origin outside Sudan to the point of delivery in Darfur) cannot be overstated. These people have, overwhelmingly, lost all their food reserves, all their cattle, all their resources. And insecurity prevents their deploying superb coping skills normally available in times of drought and scare food.Accelerating insecurity and further humanitarian withdrawals and evacuations argue that human destruction in Darfur on its greatest scale may only now be looming. Despite these conspicuous and terrifying realities, the international community continues to defer to Khartoum, even as the regime exports these realities to eastern Chad, with the clear potential for expanded fighting in Darfur.
As Human Rights Watch notes:
“For Darfur, what this situation [along the Chad/Darfur border] could mean is that its conflict will become more difficult to resolve as more actors are drawn in from its unstable neighbor, with their own agendas. The Janjaweed, moving with Sudanese government help into Chad, will expand their power and resource base, and their alliance with Chadian rebels will strengthen both. Even more fighting in Darfur may result if a Chadian civil war is brought, once again, inside Darfur.”
There is still no evidence that the international community is prepared to intervene in a timely and urgent fashion to halt genocide in Darfur. Despite posturing by various Bush administration officials, and apparently strong words from the President and his UN ambassador, there is no substantial commitment or willingness to expend the political and diplomatic capital necessary to move effectively at the UN Security Council or in Brussels. Indeed, the US State Department is prepared to engage in outright mendacity in explaining US policy on intervention in Darfur.
What is notable here is that even if the moral case for humanitarian intervention in Darfur falls on deaf ears in Washington and Brussels, even if we accept that anguished declarations of “never again” are mere rhetorical contrivance, there is a compelling geostrategic case to be made for intervention. James Forsyth makes just this case in “Realism and Darfur” (The New Republic, March 1, 2006). Directed at “foreign policy realists,” Forsyth’s argument intelligently highlights the dangerous consequences of ignoring Chinese economic activities in Africa and its political support for corrupt and evil regimes on the continent (the US must “thwart the rise of [China,] its strategic competitor in Africa”). He speaks about the unhappy political effects “if the Khartoum government succeeds in completing the Darfur genocide”: “other African pariahs will marvel at the benefits of coming under the Chinese umbrella."
But Forsyth’s arguments are simply inadequate to compel the urgency appropriate to a crisis in which hundreds of thousands of human lives may soon be lost. “Realism,” as Forsyth deploys the term, cannot generate the near-term political and diplomatic force necessary to compel China’s acceptance of an appropriate military force to protect civilians and humanitarians in Darfur. For only the deployment of Western troops and resources, with NATO as the only realistic option, can forestall the massive human destruction that is clearly impending.
Exported genocidal violence in eastern Chad, as well as ongoing conflict in Darfur itself; complete lack of effective pressure on Khartoum; increasingly compromised security for humanitarian operations; donor fatigue; serious breaks in the food pipe-line; and paralyzing seasonal rains that will begin in less than four months, with little sign that sufficient food and other critical supplies will be pre-positioned, especially in West Darfur: These are the undeniable realities.
Forsyth is certainly right to ask that we---“realists” and “moralists”---consider the consequences if “the Khartoum government succeeds in completing the Darfur genocide.” For that “success” looms ever closer.