Impending Assault on Kalma Camp (South Darfur) by Khartoum's Military and Security Forces, 31 October 2014
Eric Reeves, 31 October 2014
Highly reliable sources in Darfur report the ominous prospect of a wholesale assault by Khartoum's military and security forces on Kalma camp for displaced persons, near Nyala, capital of South Darfur (contact details for an Arabic speaker receiving this information as well are available upon request). The pretext will be the "need to conduct searches" of the camp, according to a UN account from last month (see 14 September 2014 OCHA report); but this will be merely pretext. And judging by previous assaults, including the recent assault on nearby al-Salam camp, we may expect serious violence and human rights abuses. In al-Salam, too, the "need to search" was asserted by Khartoum's forces, but despite a brutal and humiliating ransacking of the camp, nothing was found.
In the case of Kalma—the largest and most notoriously abused of the camps—the prospect of a "search" is especially alarming. For Kalma has a long and horrific history of violence against its displaced civilians. If the assault occurs this weekend or next week, as my Darfuri source indicates, there may be a very serious number of casualties, killed and wounded. This will not be without precedent. A military attack on Kalma occurred in August 2008, and was without meaningful response by the UN on the ground. Using public and confidential sources, I wrote (with Mia Farrow) the following:
At 6am on the morning of August 25,  Kalma camp, home to 90,000 displaced Darfuris, was surrounded by Sudanese government forces. By 7am, 60 heavily armed military vehicles had entered the camp, shooting and setting straw huts ablaze. Terrified civilians—who had previously fled their burning villages when they were attacked by this same government and its proxy killers the Janjaweed—hastily armed themselves with sticks, spears and knives. Of course, these were no match for machine guns and automatic weapons. By 9am, the worst of the brutal assault was over. The vehicles rolled out leaving scores dead and over 100 wounded. Most were women and children.
The early morning attack ensured that no aid workers were present as witnesses. Doctors Without Borders did manage to negotiate the transportation of 49 of the most severely wounded to a hospital in the nearby town of Nyala. But beyond this, aid workers have been blocked from entering the camp. Military vehicles have now increased in number and massed around Kalma. They have permitted no humanitarian assistance to reach the wounded. People already hard hit by recent floods and deteriorating sanitary conditions have received no food, water or medicine since Monday. The dead cannot even be buried with the white shrouds requested by the families of the victims. (Wall Street Journal, 6 September 2008)
No one was held accountable, and the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) proved helpless, despite significant protection resources nearby. We should recall that the primary mandate of UNAMID is to protect civilians. Shielded from international criticism by the UN and the African Union at every turn, UNAMID continues to be the largest, most expensive, most disastrous failure in UN peacekeeping history. Even Ban Ki-moon was recently obliged to note that UNAMID failed to report serious human rights abuses and atrocity crimes (UNAMID provides the information that serves as the basis for the Secretary-General's quarterly reports on the mission and Darfur). But the report was a necessary whitewash, coming in response to the extremely serious charges of malfeasance reported earlier this year in a devastating three-part report in Foreign Policy ("They Just Stood Watching," 7 April 2014); it was based largely on observations made on the ground in Darfur by former UNAMID spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri. The first installment ends with might have served as an epigraph:
Elbasri says that she raised concerns about UNAMID's refusal to acknowledge the government role with one of the peacekeepers' local commanders, Maj. Gen. Wynjones Matthew Kisamba. She still remains shaken by his answer. The UNAMID forces, she recalls Kisamba saying, had to occasionally massage the truth. "You know, sometimes we have to behave like diplomats," he told her. "We can't say all what we see in Darfur."
Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy (2014 October 29) provides an excellent account of why we should take such comments seriously—and as characteristic of UNAMID behavior (UN Secretary-General admits only five cases in an unreleased report—a ludicrous figure, given what has been reported by multiple highly reliable sources).
Picture 2- UNAMID watching militia attack
UNAMID inert in the face of a militia attack on civilians near Kutum, North Darfur
There have been other examples of UNAMID's complete failure to protect civilians, even when their assistance is urgently requested. In the village of Tabarat, North Darfur, Reuters alone reported on the 2 September 2010 slaughter of villagers that UNAMID neither halted nor investigated (indeed, no report was ever produced by UNAMID):
Darfuri men were shot dead at point blank range during a surprise Arab militia raid on a busy market this month in which at least 39 people were killed and almost 50 injured, eyewitnesses said on Friday. The attack on civilians was reminiscent of the early years of the counter-insurgency operation in Sudan's west, which took up arms against the government in 2003, complaining that the region had been neglected by Khartoum The International Criminal Court in The Hague has since issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes in Darfur, charges he denies. Details of the September 2 attack on the market in the village of Tabarat have not previously come to light. The government prevented peacekeepers from visiting the site until days later. But five survivors of the attack told Reuters that heavily armed Arab militia had targeted male victims and shot many at point blank range.
In Tabarat, men were rounded up by militia wearing military uniforms who rode into the market on horses and camels pretending to be buying goods before spraying the shops with gunfire. Then vehicles mounted with machine guns and carrying militia fighters appeared and rounded up some of the men, survivors said. "They laid them down and they came up close and shot them in their heads," Abakr Abdelkarim, 45, told Reuters by telephone from the town of Tawilla, where many of the victims had sought refuge and medical help. "(Those killed) were all men and one woman—some men were tied with rope behind the cars and dragged until they died."
Adam Saleh and others said after the attack they had gone to the joint U.N.-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping base in Tawilla to ask peacekeepers to come to Tabarat but they had refused. "They also refused to come and help us recover the bodies," Saleh added. (Opheera McDoom for Reuters [Khartoum], 17 September 2010)
The most recent attack, which included members of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) as well as allied militia forces, was a savage assault on al-Salam camp, reported only by Radio Dabanga:
"Military raid on South Darfur’s El Salam camp"
Radio Dabanga (5 August 2014 [El Salam Camp, Bielel Locality, South Darfur])
A large military force stormed El Salam camp for the displaced in Bielel locality, South Darfur, on Tuesday morning [5 August 2014]. The army troops searched the camp and detained 26 displaced. “At 6.30am on Tuesday, army forces in about 100 armoured vehicles raided El Salam camp,” Hussein Abu Sharati, the spokesman for the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association reported to Radio Dabanga on Tuesday afternoon. “The soldiers searched the camp, treating the displaced in a degrading and humiliating way. They assaulted the people, treating them as suspects, and detained 26 camp residents. The market was pillaged, and the personal belongings of many displaced disappeared.”
According to Abu Sharati, the search for criminals, motorcycles, vehicles without number plates, and weapons in the camp, was done.