Thursday, January 25, 2007

Genocide in Darfur - The next stage (Eric Reeves)

A key feature of the ongoing catastrophe in Darfur, which Eric Reeves aptly termed "Rwanda in slow motion" as far back as 2004, is that the process of genocidal mass murder has developed in stages rather than in a single orgy of slaughter. The complexity of this process seems to have confused some outsiders about what is really going on, and has helped some of them to conclude that this is not really a case of genocide, so it may be worth spelling out how this sequence of stages has unfolded.

The first stage was an intense assault by Sudanese military forces and Janjaweed militias during 2003-2004, peaking in a crescendo of violence during 2004, in which hundreds of thousands of people were murdered, millions of others were driven as refugees into the deserts of Darfur and neighboring eastern Chad, and the entire social fabric of the African tribal peoples of Darfur was demolished. In addition to straightforward mass murder, villages were looted and burned to the ground, women were gang-raped, children were abducted into slavery, crops and trees were destroyed, wells were poisoned or choked with corpses, and so on. Refugees who tried to return home, or even to leave the refugee camps to obtain water or firewood, continued to be targeted for murder, rape, and mutilation.

The result was that almost the whole surviving black African population of Darfur wound up trapped in huge refugee camps, totally dependent on on outside assistance for food, medical care, and other necessities. Everything else has followed from that.

The second stage has been an ongoing process of genocide by gradual attrition rather than rapid extermination. A massive humanitarian aid effort by the UN and a range of NGO's has saved millions of people from immediate starvation. But hundreds of thousands have continued to die from malnutrition, disease, and sporadic violence.

In the third stage, which we have been witnessing over the course of 2006 and 2007, escalating violence and other pressures against these humanitarian organizations have sabotaged and restricted their operations, forcing some of them to suspend or actually stop their activities, and increasingly threaten to shut down the entire humanitarian aid operation in Darfur. If and when that happens, millions of people could die in a relatively short time, and the process of genocidal mass murder would be completed.

=> How far are we from this genocidal endgame? In December 2006 UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland warned of an impending collapse of humanitarian operations in Darfur and eastern Chad, due to a "meltdown in security," unless urgent action was taken.
Citing a "dramatic deterioration" of the situation in Darfur, the top U.N. humanitarian official said a crisis is approaching for the region in Sudan that could cost millions of lives.

"I was there in 2004 when there was 1 million people in need," Jan Egeland, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, told reporters. "2005, 2 million ... in the spring, 3 million. And now there are 4 million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance." [....]

In a report from Reuters, Egeland also accused Sudan of deliberately hindering relief aid in Darfur, attacking villages and arming brutal militia to combat rebels and bandits.

Egeland told the Security Council that international relief operations were threatened by government obstruction and members needed to talk to Sudanese officials immediately as well as put pressure on those sending arms to rebels.

"The next weeks may be make or break for our lifeline to more than 3 million people," Egeland said in the Reuters report. "This period may well be the last opportunity for this Council, the government of Sudan, the African Union, the rebels, and all of us to avert a humanitarian disaster of much larger proportions than even the one we so far have witnessed in Darfur."

Part of the problem, Egeland said, is a "meltdown in security. The humanitarians are confined to the towns. We cannot even reach many of the camps."
Since then there has been no serious response from the alleged "international community." As Eric Reeves explains (below), the result is that the current horrifying situation is, "almost incomprehensibly," on the verge of getting much worse.

--Jeff Weintraub
Guardian on-line, "Comment is Free" web-page
January 14, 2007
A tragedy without end
By Eric Reeves

Almost incomprehensibly, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur continues to deepen, threatening the millions of people the UN describes as "conflict-affected". Security throughout the humanitarian theatre, including much of eastern Chad, is deteriorating badly. Aid operations now operate among high levels of danger. Hundreds of thousands of civilians may die if there is no significant improvement in security.

More than a million human beings have no access to basic humanitarian aid - food, medical care and clean water. Oxfam International reported in December that more than a third of Darfur's worst-affected population was "effectively out of bounds to aid agencies." This news came as Unicef reported that nutritional studies revealed over 70% of the population is experiencing food insecurity, and localised studies found acute malnutrition affecting 20% of children under five.

There were eight emergency evacuations of humanitarian workers in December alone, involving 400 personnel throughout Darfur. The same number were also evacuated from aid operations in eastern Chad, the scene of rapidly accelerating ethnic violence, most of it by Khartoum's Janjaweed proxies or Chadian rebel groups supported by the National Islamic Front regime.

Humanitarian access is at its lowest ebb since early 2004, the most violent phase of the Darfur genocide. Withdrawals by major humanitarian organizations continue, with a steady erosion of relief capacity. In turn, there are fewer international witnesses to the ethnic crimes that define the conflict in Darfur. Khartoum's crackdown on journalists traveling to the region has also reduced the means of chronicling the accelerating genocide.

This is the context in which to understand President Omar al-Bashir's insistence that Khartoum will not allow UN troops into Darfur - indeed, that Darfur doesn't need UN troops. Asserting that Khartoum's "experience with UN operations in the world is not encouraging," al-Bashir went on to declare: "There are sufficient forces in the Sudan from African countries to maintain order and they can provide order. All we need is funding for the African troops."

It is a political and moral failure of the first order that this mendacity should be the obstacle to deployment of the UN forces needed to protect the collapsing humanitarian operations and vulnerable population. Acquiescence to al-Bashir's defiance makes a mockery of the world's "responsibility to protect" civilians in places such as Darfur. This responsibility was a centerpiece of the September 2005 UN World Summit and was unanimously reaffirmed in UN Security Council Resolution 1674 of April 2006.

Politically savvy, al-Bashir and the National Islamic Front regime realized that their defiance of the UN needed a public relations complement. This was the real significance of the 60-day ceasefire announced during the visit of the US politician and presidential aspirant Bill Richardson, who recently traveled to Sudan - to be followed by Jan Eliasson, UN special representative of the secretary-general. Although packaged as a breakthrough by both Richardson and Khartoum, the reality is that a ceasefire has been nominally in place for more than two years, but has proved meaningless since it began in April 2004.

Moreover, Khartoum's regular forces have been badly mauled recently by rebel groups that did not sign the disastrous Darfur peace agreement in Abuja last year. A ceasefire will allow the regime to regroup its depleted military units in both north and west Darfur. The regime's Janjaweed forces have also suffered significant losses, chiefly at the hands of the potent rebel alliance called the National Redemption Front.

There is no reason to believe that this ceasefire can be monitored any more effectively than the previous one: the African Union (AU) will still do little more than file reports on those few violations it has detected. Khartoum will also continue to hamstring monitoring by denying the AU mission fuel supply for its aircraft, by creating bureaucratic burdens and by imposing flight restrictions.

Moreover, any ceasefire violations that are reported will certainly be justified by Khartoum as "defensive actions," the excuse it repeatedly offers for attacks on civilians. And what will be the consequences for ceasefire violations that are confirmed? What is the AU in a position to do now that it could not do under the terms of the previous ceasefire? What credible penalties are spelled out? There are no encouraging answers.

The non-signatory rebel groups will be watching Khartoum's behavior with a justified skepticism. Violations, whether by the regime's regular forces or militia, will not be accepted passively. The likelihood of the ceasefire holding is exceedingly remote, as are the prospects for meaningful negotiations. Khartoum has ensured that the flawed Darfur peace agreement remains the only basis for further talks. Since the security provisions of the agreement, in particular disarming of the Janjaweed, depend largely upon Khartoum's goodwill, this will be unacceptable both to rebel groups and to those in the refugee camps.

The miserable compensation provisions of the agreement - $30m in the first year, with nothing further guaranteed - would also be preserved if the Abuja agreement is a starting point for renewed negotiations. This represents less than $8 per affected person, compared with the millions of people who have lost everything over the past four years. For Darfuris this is hardly an acceptable basis for negotiations, even as Khartoum successfully insists on enshrining the terms of the agreement - including as a condition of its accepting the new ceasefire.

Khartoum's adamant rejection of the large UN force and robust mandate authorized by Security Council Resolution 1706 remains unchallenged. The consequences will be further deterioration in security for humanitarian operations in Darfur, as well as in eastern Chad. This in turn may trigger increasing evacuations or even total withdrawal by aid groups from Darfur. Civilian mortality will be catastrophic.

This is the grim syllogism of genocidal destruction in Darfur. There is no evidence that the terms have changed or will in the foreseeable future. Until the international community - in particular, China - finds the will to confront Khartoum, a savage genocide by attrition will continue indefinitely.