Darfur in 2014: A nightmare impossible to "slumber" through
A detailed timeline for events leading to present intensifying threats of displacement and violence against civilians throughout Darfur
By Eric Reeves
Overview (all references are in the detailed timeline that follows in two parts; the two parts of this account may be found, with all links and formatting preserved, at
PART ONE: http://wp.me/p45rOG-1y6
PART TWO: http://wp.me/p45rOG-1y3
December 30, 2014 - There have been no meaningful or consequential statements from the international community about the broad character of the latest phase of Darfur’s ongoing catastrophe, or about the strategy of the Khartoum regime in orchestrating a policy of destruction of the region by military and political means. The former entails loosing the "new Janjaweed"—the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—and regular army units in widespread village destruction reminiscent of the early years of the genocide. The massing of SRF forces in North Darfur, reported only by Radio Dabanga, can have only one purpose, one made clear by numerous recent attacks and widespread destruction. Much of the recent activity has been reported near Tabit (scene of a massive sexual assault on girls and women by Khartoum’s regular army forces) and Tawilla, which has long been the center of violence and displacement in North Darfur. Scores of villages have been destroyed in recent months, and the campaign is far from over. Political means for the destruction of Darfur are discussed below.
[I have rendered in bold names, phrases, locations, and dates of significance, often repeatedly; emphases in quotations have all been added.]
Fatou Bensouda, the Gambian jurist who serves as the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, recently declared to the UN Security Council that she was "hibernating" the investigation and prosecution of atrocity crimes in Darfur because she had received so little support from the Security Council, despite the Council’s having referred to the ICC the task of investigating and prosecuting violations of international law (March 2005). Whatever the understandable frustration Ms. Bensouda has felt in working without international support, she has given the Khartoum regime and President Omar al-Bashir (indicted on multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity) what is being claimed as a "victory," and has certainly emboldened Khartoum going forward.
Certainly he has little to fear from the disastrously conceived UN/African Union "hybrid" Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Indeed, the feckless response of UNAMID to the mass rape of women and girls in Tabit, North Darfur (October 31 – November 1, 2014) is emblematic of the Mission’s character. UNAMID was denied access to the site, and only reached the town a week later. Their public report indicated that there were no problems, no rapes, and peaceful relations between the townspeople and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) stationed nearby. A leaked internal UN report, however, has made clear that the investigation was meaningless because of the extreme intimidation of witnesses and victims, many of whom had already fled Tabit.
The UN Security Council demanded that there be a new investigation, but Khartoum refused; subsequent Security Council acquiescence after this refusal represents yet another capitulation before the regime’s obduracy, which includes defiance of the terms of some 17 UN Security Council resolutions, going back to the beginning of the genocide. Some of the Resolutions have been flouted with particularly dire consequences. Resolution 1556 (July 2004) "demanded" that the Janjaweed (named as such in the resolution) be disarmed and that those most culpable in the genocidal destruction be brought to justice. Khartoum’s contemptuous ignoring of this "demand"—without meaningful Security Council response—prefigured the fate of all other resolutions concerning Darfur, as well as other parts of greater Sudan.
Khartoum’s current strategy in resolving its "Darfur problem" also takes the form of a severe political crackdown, diplomatic intransigence, and increasingly hostile moves against the nongovernmental humanitarian organizations and the UN, both in its humanitarian capacities and in its peacekeeping presence in the form of UNAMID. The International Committee of the Red Cross saw its operations suspended by the Khartoum regime from early February 2014 through late September 2014. Two senior UN officials were expelled this past week, including the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ali al-Za’atari, and Yvonne Helle, the UN Development Program’s country director.
This continues a well-established practice of expelling individual relief officials as well as organizations. Khartoum had earlier this year expelled other UN officials as well as British Merlin and the French Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED). These are only two of the most recent victims of a pattern that has seen more than two dozen organizations expelled or threated sufficiently to compel withdrawal. Thirteen of the world’s finest humanitarian organizations were expelled at once in March 2009, with no meaningful international response. Many of the expelled organizations experienced severe "asset stripping" at the hands of the regime on leaving Sudan—assets and resources that could have been used in other humanitarian emergencies around the world.
This continues a policy of harassment, threats, obstruction, and expulsions that has defined the regime’s response to international relief efforts from the beginning. Signs of the continuing contraction in the provision of food, primary medical care, medicines, and clean water are everywhere, with significant mortality totals in the camps reported on a regular basis, if again only by Radio Dabanga. Assistance is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous to provide, and this is likely to increase dramatically as Khartoum compels UNAMID to use the last six months of its current authorization to draw down remaining forces, already reduced by the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UN DPKO) in tacit recognition of how ineffective the force is in protecting civilians and humanitarians, tasks given a re-emphasized priority in the most recent Security Council authorizations for continuing the mission.
For it is highly unlikely that the Mission will have its mandate renewed in meaningful fashion or with significant troop levels as the June 30, 2015 termination date approaches. Recent comments by Russia make clear that it will side with the Khartoum regime, which has recently demanded that UN DPKO make a final and formal exit strategy for the Mission. And as UNAMID is forced to contract, the fig-leaf of protection that it has provided will be stripped away and international nongovernmental humanitarians organizations (INGOs) will withdraw. Many are already perilously close to leaving Darfur in any event, with a taut trip-wire for the event(s) that would prompt urgent withdrawal. While 97 percent of the workers for these organizations are Sudanese nationals, withdrawal will be not so much of personnel but of resources, oversight and management, and the protection provided by the name of the organization.
Without that meager protection, current workers will be at acute risk and there may be widespread retribution against Sudan aid workers by the regime, which has long had extremely hostile views of these organizations. UN agencies—primarily the World Food Program—have already been hit hard by a lack of implementing partners in food distribution, sometimes resorting to local food "brokers," an exceedingly poor expediency.
UNAMID is rapidly disintegrating as a credible protection force anywhere in Darfur, and support for its continuation is weak within the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations. And yet in spring 2012 Hervé Ladsous, head of UN DPKO, disingenuously claimed that "conditions on the ground" in Darfur justified a substantial drawdown of UNAMID forces, and 4,000 have in fact been withdrawn (the Mission never reached 100 percent of its authorized total, and a great many units have never met UN peacekeeping standards). Ladsous’ expedient assessment was made even as violence, especially in North Darfur, was escalating rapidly and has continued to do so.
Khartoum’s demand that the UN prepare an exit strategy is very unlikely to be a bluff, although it certainly provides immediate leverage in any negotiation about what truncated version of UNAMID might be allowed to remain, as well as a re-negotiation of its mandate and the Status of Forces Agreement signed in February 2008 (which had no impact on Khartoum’s restrictive behavior).
All this has been continuously reported by Radio Dabanga, Sudan Tribune, Radio Tamazuj, sources on the ground, occasionally by the larger wire services, and very occasionally by UNAMID. The mass rapes at Tabit commanded a disproportionate amount of news attention because of its extremity and because of the publicly demonstrable failure of UNAMID. The timing of this failure couldn’t have been worse for the Mission, coming shortly after a UN review of UNAMID performance that essentially whitewashed a long record of incompetence, mendacity, cowardice, and indifference. This report also became news, often including blisteringly critical commentary from regional experts.
Thus when U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN David Pressman tells the Security Council that "we must collectively and urgently wake from our slumber" (12 December 2014) his metaphor is perversely inept. It is not from a "slumber" that we must "urgently awake": it is from a refusal to acknowledge realities continuously and authoritatively reported from Darfur; it is from an indifference to a humanitarian crisis as great as any in the world, although with little of geostrategic significance at stake; it is from the conscious willingness to be bystanders to a genocide explicitly labeled as such by the Obama administration, as well as by Senator and candidate Obama. The nightmare in Darfur is impossible to "slumber" through if one only looks at what can be known of the immense human suffering and destruction
Through this all—and now including Tabit, which has predictably fallen off the Security Council agenda, despite feeble claims to the contrary—we have had more than enough credible reports from the ground to supplement what has been reported publicly. The notion that somehow the international community has not been aware of Darfur’s continuing agony in recent years, that we have fallen "asleep" amidst the brutality and destruction that define life in Darfur, is mere expediency.