Monday, June 26, 2006

Darfur - "a steady drip of death" (Julie Flint & Mick Hartley)

I noted in a previous post [Darfur - Continuing betrayal and accelerating catastrophe (Eric Reeves)] that Julie Flint was one of the more serious and well-informed analysts of the Darfur atrocity to argue that the Abuja "peace agreement" might possibly be made to work. But at best this was a hope more than an expectation. As Mick Hartley points out, she is rapidly giving up this hope.
Julie Flint, one of the most knowledgeable writers on Dafur, and [co-]author of Darfur: A Short History of a Long War , in Lebanon's Daily Star:
It's time to say it, loud and clear: The newborn Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) is on its death bed. Without determined action to save it, the war in Darfur will continue - a steady drip of death, more or less according to the season and the mood of the Sudanese government, while hundreds of thousands of Darfurians become permanent residents of displaced camps where the Janjaweed roam.

The crucial point is that whatever the DPA says on paper, it was an agreement between two sets of war criminals, one big and one small--the Khartoum government, which is the prime architect of the Darfur genocide, and one of the least representative rebel groups. The real victims of the conflict, the black civilian population of Darfur, were not represented. And unless this agreement is is seriously enforced and monitored by the outside world, it is clear that it will do nothing at all to protect them.

You can read the rest of Flint's Daily Star article below.

Mick Hartley also quotes from a recent BBC report on the process by which the Darfur catastrophe has been spreading to neighboring Chad:
The BBC, meanwhile, report on increased Janjaweed attacks in Chad:

As Sudan's feared Janjaweed militia step up their cross-border attacks into Chad, there is worrying new evidence that some Chadians have joined forces with the Janjaweed to attack their own countrymen.
Victims of attacks say that some Chadians are acting as "guides" to the Janjaweed, directing them to certain villages and suggesting which cattle to steal.
Many victims also say that some Chadians are taking part in the actual killings. [...]
Some people believe they are now being attacked by the Janjaweed as revenge for having helped their Sudanese neighbours in the past.
As is often the case in such conflicts, the humanitarian price is high.
Many of the displaced, who are camping on the outskirts of Sudanese refugee camps for security, have little access to food, clean water or shelter.
The displaced Chadians tell very similar stories to their Sudanese refugee neighbours.
"There is no security," said Aze Hamat, 23, who lost her father and two brothers in an attack.
"They take our cattle, kill men, even rape women," she said.
"If they find a pretty woman they will take her across the border, where she is raped. Sometimes the women are dumped back in the bush afterwards. Sometimes they are never seen again."


--Jeff Weintraub
Daily Star (Lebanon)
June 20, 2006

A moribund peace between war criminals
By Julie Flint

It's time to say it, loud and clear: The newborn Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) is on its death bed. Without determined action to save it, the war in Darfur will continue - a steady drip of death, more or less according to the season and the mood of the Sudanese government, while hundreds of thousands of Darfurians become permanent residents of displaced camps where the Janjaweed roam.

The two signatories of the DPA are those in whom Darfurians have least trust - Sudan's government and the faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) controlled by Minni Minawi. Sudan's leaders are serial war criminals; Minawi is a brutal dictator - increasingly rejected even by his own Zaghawa tribe. Neither has changed its spots since signing up for peace.

On May 20, two weeks after signing the DPA, Minawi ordered the detention of Suleiman Gamous, who, as humanitarian coordinator of the SLA, made it possible for NGOs to work in rebel areas, allowing tens of thousands of civilians to survive away from the crowded and insecure displaced camps of government-controlled Darfur. Gamous gave the SLA some credibility with the international community. He also helped hundreds of foreign journalists move safely around rebel-controlled areas. But Gamous was critical of Minawi's leadership and like most Darfurians reportedly doubts whether this peace can work. Relatives who visited Minawi's chief of staff to ask why he had been seized were told: "I can shoot Gamous and sodomize you. We will force the peace on you!" They were then tied, pistol-whipped and burned with cigarettes.

Gamous has been held in solitary confinement and without charge for a month now. He is injured - whether by accident or enemy action is not yet clear.

The government's behavior in the 40 days since it signed the agreement has been equally deplorable. On June 10, as the United Nations Security Council met in Fasher, government forces and Janjaweed attacked Galol in central Darfur. One of the founders of the SLA, a man who supports peace, e-mailed me that day: "Thirty civilians have been killed and many injured while the UN ambassadors are in Fasher. The government does not respect or care about the international community. Please do your best to show that."

But it is those who forced the DPA through who should be condemning - publicly - all the violations of their partners in peace. Unless they do so, starting today, they and their peace will lose all credibility, all virtue. The DPA has value, but it is weak on implementation. Few believe the international community has the will - or perhaps even the weapons - to force Khartoum to honor an agreement which, if implemented, will see it lose the political game when Darfurians elect their own representatives in three years' time. Darfurians have to be shown that this peace, although flawed, can work for them. This means meeting deadlines, forming committees, stopping Khartoum's security officials from taking them over and, above all, shouting from the rooftops every time a signatory steps out of line. It is not enough to slap wrists behind closed doors. The people of Darfur need to hear the "peacemakers" being called to account or they will never have any faith in the peace.

Instead we have a deafening silence. There has not been a word of condemnation about the attack on Galol; not a word of reproach to Minawi. The government and Minawi are now the good guys, to be coddled. Those who doubt the peace - admittedly for a very mixed bag of reasons - are the bad guys, to be bullied, condemned and threatened with sanctions.

As US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told doubters in the final 24 hours of the Abuja process: "I am a good friend and I am a fearsome enemy." Pity the Darfurian refuseniks: slaughtered by the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed, and now on the receiving end of Zoellick's fearsome enmity.

Washington's support for Minawi - especially within the fragmented Zaghawa environment - appears to be based on the assumption that he is the strongman of Darfur, the man who can deliver peace. Nothing could be further from the truth. Minawi's Zaghawa tribe comprises, at most, 8 percent of the population of Darfur and is itself divided, with more and more rejecting Minawi's leadership.

The Fur, historic rulers of the sultanate which gives Darfur its name, make up 26-30 percent of the population. If either of the SLA's two factional leaders has a political vision it is Abdul Wahid Mohammed al-Nur, the Fur chairman of the SLA. If either has support outside his own tribe, it is Abdul Wahid. (Not one of Abdul Wahid's key negotiators in Abuja was Fur; Minawi's, by contrast, were all Zaghawa.) As a leader of the independent Darfur Forum said in March: "All the main tribes are against Minni Minawi. Minni is a thug, Abdul Wahid is an innocent. But he is a good man and still has the solidarity of most of the tribes of Darfur."

The bias to Minawi is just one of the reasons why the peace agreement will fail unless steps are taken to redress it. Minawi is weak - in everything except his weapons and his willingness to use them - and has been for months. Today he controls only a few pockets of territory in North Darfur, the land of his own Zaghawa tribe, and has difficulty connecting the rump of his forces there with the bulk of his forces in South Darfur. The list of commanders and localities he has lost since signing the DPA is lengthening with every passing day - Biz Maza, Sayyah, Jebel Issa, Kulkul. The abuses of his men, hundreds of kilometers outside their own borders, have isolated the Zaghawa as they have never been isolated before. Minawi's acceptance of the peace agreement is reason enough for most Darfurians to reject it.

If the DPA is to survive, those who forced it across the finish line must turn their attention to the commanders who, unlike Minawi, have popular support. Rather than antagonize them, they must help them unite, organize and join an inter-communal dialogue that can put right some of what is wrong with the DPA. Without this, the DPA will be what Zaghawa are already calling it: "the Ila Digen peace" - the peace of Minawi's clan.

Julie Flint has written extensively on Sudan. She is the author, with Alex de Waal, of "Darfur: A Short History of a Long War." She wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.