Khartoum is given free rein to obtain its "perfect ending" ("Misk al-Khitam")
By Eric Reeves
November 12, 2010 (SSNA) — The relationship between Darfur and Southern Sudan has never been well understood by the Obama administration, largely because of the incompetence of the president’s special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force General Scott Gration. Gration came to the position in early 2009 without any significant diplomatic experience or familiarity with the extraordinary complexities of Sudan—Africa’s largest and most diverse country; he touted as background only his birth in Africa to missionary parents and an apparent facility in Swahili (of no use anywhere in Sudan). But he has enjoyed until recently the full support of President Obama, and this has made informed, tough-minded engagement with the Khartoum regime impossible.
The consequences of this failure are increasingly evident in proliferating news coverage of the critical and unresolved issues between the regime in Khartoum and the southern leadership in Juba. Unsurprisingly, as the scheduled referenda for southern Sudan and Abyei draw nearer, there has been a corresponding proliferation of commentary, nearly all of it from sources as belated as the Obama administration itself in recognizing the dangers looming in Sudan. What these commentaries most conspicuously lack is any sense of the relationship between events in Darfur and Khartoum’s stalling on the southern electoral process.
THE COST of US belatedness in responding to the electoral calendar leading to the two southern referenda has been extraordinarily high(http://www.dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=303 ). With less than two months until the January 9, 2011 date on which the votes are to occur, Khartoum has successfully run out the clock and is in a position to extract significant concessions from the US—sweeteners to persuade the regime to allow the referenda to occur as guaranteed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which in January 2005 ended more than twenty years of unfathomably destructive civil war. Desperate to avoid the diplomatic catastrophe of a CPA collapse, the Obama team has been significantly expanded in recent weeks and months; however, it is far from clear that there is enough time to prevent war from re-igniting, the same war ended by the CPA almost six years ago. Warnings unheeded for well over a year have only now set off all the alarm bells; in turn, the most significant part of the US response has been to offer Khartoum more and more in the way of incentives.
But even this belated and unseemly piling up of goodies for a genocidal regime may not be enough—particularly for securing the Abyei referendum, which Khartoum seems determined to make impossible (there is still no Abyei Referendum Commission, or agreement on the contentious issue of who is resident in the region and thus allowed to vote in the referendum). The purpose of the delay is clearly to allow Khartoum to retain this referendum as a point of leverage in ongoing negotiations with the US and other international actors.
As the consequences of CPA failure have registered ever more fully, the Obama administration has pushed Gration aside and in his place sent Senator John Kerry to Khartoum to conduct urgent negotiations—twice in the past three weeks. The Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—whose record on Sudan is hardly sterling—had been authorized by the President to offer Khartoum expedited removal from the US list that designates Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, but only if the regime plays ball on the southern referendum (increasingly used in the singular by the administration).
This is a very large carrot, though it may still not be enough to satisfy Khartoum’s génocidaires. But what made the offer particularly significant was that it was tendered with the understanding that the deal excluded from consideration any actions in Darfur, genocidal or otherwise (both Senators Kerry and Obama voted in July 2004 to declare genocide to be occurring in Darfur; candidate and President Obama has a number of times reiterated this declaration, on occasion in vigorous language). But at a State Department background briefing on November 8, a "senior administration official" declared that in order to secure cooperation from the regime on the referenda, "the US is prepared to accelerate the removal of Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism list." Specifically, in its now desperate effort to rescue the referenda, the administration "would also be decoupling the state sponsor of terrorism from Darfur and the Darfur issue." (http://geneva.usmission.gov/2010/11/09/senior-administration-officials-on-developments-in-sudan/ )
The "Darfur issue": what fantastically euphemistic language for what had previously been "genocide"! "Decoupling"—yet more euphemism! But the significance of the decision here can hardly be obscured. The leverage deriving from what is certainly the biggest carrot the US has to offer Khartoum will no longer be available for resolution of intensifying armed conflict in Darfur and deteriorating humanitarian conditions affecting more than 4 million civilians, the majority of them displaced from their homes. To be sure, these "senior administration officials" were at pains to point to other sanctions that will remain in place until the "Darfur issue" is resolved (though in fact some have recently been lifted). But the message here has not been lost on the brutally calculating men in Khartoum: in extremis, the US will choose the southern CPA over ending genocidal violence and attrition in Darfur. There is every reason to believe, given past history, that having surrendered on one key issue, the US will be pressured by Khartoum to give yet more. Hence the regime’s decision to leave the Abyei referendum unresolved, no matter how conspicuously obstructionist its tactics. Perversely, by yielding on the issue of state sponsorship of terrorism—and so clearly under duress—the Obama team has given the regime an incentive for extended bargaining, on Abyei at the very least. But even more importantly, the willingness to allow Khartoum to dictate the pace of events provides additional time for the regime to complete its own resolution of the "Darfur issue."
So just what are the costs to Darfur of these diplomatic calculations made under self-inflicted time pressures? What might follow from the US decision to "decouple" Darfur? What is happening in Darfur right now?
"The Perfect Ending"
"Misk al-Khitam" is an Arabic phrase—from the Qur’an—that has reportedly been given by the Khartoum regime to the massive offensive military actions underway in many parts of Darfur and North Kordofan. One rendering of this phrase into English is "The Perfect Ending," perhaps the equivalent of the Latin "Finis Coronat Opus," "The End Crowns the Work." Certainly numerous reports from the region confirm that Khartoum is undertaking a vast movement of arms, men, and materiel into Darfur, and is again recruiting and deploying the Janjaweed as brutal militia proxies, often in the guise of paramilitary "Border Guards." The UN/African Union “hybrid” force in Darfur has proved impotent in investigating these reports, but they are too numerous, widespread, and consistent to be construed as anything other than the beginning of "Misk al-Khitam."
One well-informed Darfuri has written to me that “evidence of mobilization in Darfur is everywhere: airports, convoys leaving large cities and towns, heading toward villages in North and West Darfur” (email received November 2, 2010). This source continues: “Many tanks, troops were seen in North Darfur near Kutum, Kornoi, and al-Tina. Additionally, Janjaweed gatherings were seen in the West Darfur areas of el-Geneina and Kulbus.” And further, “Loads of pro-Government of Sudan volunteers landed in Kutum (North Darfur) airport.” When asked who they were and where they were going, one enthusiast replied, “We are mujahideen and the government told us we have to fight the infidels and supporters in Darfur. We came to clean Darfur.” The same source reports that a family member in Nyala has observed a sharp uptick in military flights out of Nyala airport.
Much of the weaponry and ammunition used by the regime’s forces in Darfur comes from China, despite a UN arms embargo on the region. At the UN in New York, Beijing is attempting to suppress a current report by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur (charged with monitoring the arms embargo under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1591, March 2005). But much of report has been leaked and the findings are damning:
• "Twelve of these [ammunition] samples bear markings consistent with markings applied by manufacturers in the People’s Republic of China."
• "Foreign post-embargo produced ammunition was recovered from the positions of the attackers at all three of the sites of attacks on UNAMID (U.N./African Union peacekeepers) personnel — including the attack in which three Rwandan UNAMID peacekeepers were killed near Nertiti in West Darfur in June 2010."
• "The majority of small arms ammunition cartridges which the Panel encountered in Darfur have markings consistent with those applied by Chinese manufacturers." (Reuters [Dateline: UN/New York], October 27, 2010)
For its part, Khartoum has done little to conceal its ongoing violation of the arms embargo—or its use of military aircraft in combat operations, also in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1591. Indeed, so brazen is the regime that even during a recent Security Council visit to el-Fasher,
“Ground attack jets of the kind that a UN report says may have been used by Sudan’s government in strikes in Darfur in violation of an arms embargo were in plain view of Security Council diplomats during their visit this month to Sudan’s conflict-torn region. Sudan has acquired 15 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-25 ‘Frogfoot’ jets from Belarus since 2008….”
“A Reuters reporter accompanying the delegation took the photograph of the Su-25s in full view of Sudanese and UN security officials and Security Council diplomats. Several envoys in the delegation also noticed the jets and voiced surprise that Sudan’s government left them on the tarmac near a UN plane that was taking the envoys to the capital Khartoum.”
The jets in the photograph were identified by three experts, including Gareth Jennings, managing editor of Jane’s Missiles and Rockets. “They are specifically designed to attack ground targets and are the Russian equivalent of the US Air Force A-10 Warthog,’ Jennings said in a statement to Reuters.” (Reuters [dateline: UN/New York], October 22, 2010)
And of course air-to-ground combat has been extremely intense and immensely destructive throughout the Darfur conflict; such combat has also involved helicopter gunships, Antonov bombers, and even MiG-29’s. That such attacks have been repeatedly confirmed, even by the largely incompetent UN/African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID), as well as by countless reports from the ground by Darfuri sources, presents a spectacle of UN impotence and failure that would be difficult to surpass in a peacekeeping context.
Heavy fighting has occurred off and on since January, especially in the populous eastern Jebel Marra region of central Darfur (Khartoum has imposed a near total humanitarian blockade of the region since February). So too have Janjaweed assaults on non-Arab civilians: in early September Janjaweed forces attacked the village of Tabarat in North Darfur, executing 58 unarmed African men and boys, and wounding 86, according to the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (http://www.acjps.org/Publications.html ). But fighting over the past two months—and especially the past two weeks—has become even more destructive of civilian lives and livelihoods, as Human Rights Watch very recently reported:
“[Khartoum’s] forces have carried out a series of attacks on civilians since August 2010 in Jebel Marra…. Credible accounts from witnesses to the attacks indicate that Sudanese government forces committed serious laws-of-war violations during attacks in August, September, and October on populated areas around Deribat, Jawa, and Soni in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur. The attacks resulted in civilian deaths and injuries, mass displacement, and destruction of property. In the first week of November, government forces continued the attacks, targeting villages to the south of Soni, causing further destruction and displacement.”
“On September 30, government Antonov airplanes and helicopters dropped bombs and rockets on the town of Jawa, setting fire to the market and killing six civilians, including the imam of the mosque and a woman and her two sons, one a six-month-old baby, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. The same day, government soldiers and militias entered the town and surrounding villages and looted civilian properties….”
“In the first week of October, government forces bombed numerous villages on the road from Deribat to Soni, and a cluster of villages south of Soni, including Feina, destroying hundreds of homes, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. Government troops in the area have prevented civilians from returning to their farms…. The attacks, which continue to date, caused tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes, mostly to scattered settlements in rebel-controlled areas that the government has made off-limits to UN and humanitarian organizations. Sources on the ground told Human Rights Watch that the health conditions of displaced populations are deteriorating. The total number of casualties in the recent attacks is not known.” (Human Rights Watch, “Halt Wave of Attacks on Civilians in Darfur,” November 11, 2010, at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/11/11/sudan-halt-wave-attacks-civilians-darfur )
For its part, Radio Dabanga—now the primary source of detailed news from the ground in Darfur—has recently provided dozens of additional reports. These come from places with names unfamiliar to most, but give some sense of the geographic ambition of the current offensive:
“The Military headed toward the areas of Kirkey Towleh and [D]onki Derissa [from Nyala, South Darfur].” (Dateline: Nyala, November 9, 2010)
“The rebel Justice and Equality Movement engaged in three straight days of fighting and offensive movements in [northeast] North Darfur, South Darfur, and North [Kordofan].” (Dateline: al-Majrur, November 7)
“The…battle was fought Saturday, November 6, at Darma, 25 kilometres northeast of Kornoi [northwest North Darfur]…. Rebels claim that [Khartoum’s] Kornoi battalion fled the battlefield leaving behind more than 100 dead, scores of war prisoners, 32 vehicles…and 10 supply trucks.” (Dateline: al-Majrur, November 7, 2010; JEM provided a detailed breakdown of the captured vehicles, including mounted heavy weapons)
“Government fuel convoy attacked by rebels near South Darfur city: More than 50 government soldiers were killed in battle while dozens of others were injured, according to reports from South Darfur. The battle raged near the railway line yesterday, at Khor Ta’an area, which lies along the road between Ed Daein [eastern South Darfur] and Nyala, the largest city in Darfur.” (Nyala, November 4, 2010)
The Sudan Tribune reports (November 5, 2010):
“Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Friday [November 5, 2010] clashed with the Sudanese army in North Kordofan, two days after similar fighting in South Darfur. JEM military spokesperson said today a government mobile force mounted on 147 vehicles attacked their troops at Hamari, south of Ghibaisha town in North Kordofan. Ali Alwafi further said they captured 35 vehicles and destroyed other 12.”
The rebel movements—augmented by a number of recent defections from Khartoum’s Arab militia allies and by huge captures of ammunition, vehicles, fuel, and arms—have fought Khartoum’s offensive vigorously, and—while suffering many defeats—have administered what appear to be a series of substantial military blows to the regime’s forces, including shooting down a MiG-29 (the most advanced fighter jet in the regime’s arsenal; with servicing and training, it cost this debt-ridden and famine-prone country $30 million—and Khartoum has purchased 24).
For its part, Khartoum baldly and characteristically lies, declaring through Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Hussein that, “Darfur is free of insurgency” (http://www.shrig.org.sd/news-archive/darfur-news/2352-defense-minister-declares-darfur-free-of-insurgency-.html ). But of course such mendacity changes nothing, whatever its domestic political purposes. And inevitably it is Darfuri civilians who pay the all-too-real price for any rebel victory. Those such as Obama administration envoy Gration—who has claimed that there are “only remnants of genocide” in Darfur—should review carefully a number of recent reports on ethnically-targeted violence in the region:
“Today November 9th, Government forces and allied militia paid a reprisal visit to the town of Bia Kida near Boba [North Darfur], the site of their last defeat at the hands of JEM. Government of Sudan force committed a multiple rape of three girls, took away 7 men to an unknown destination and tortured 30 citizens of all ages and gender including aged and children. They also killed 120 sheep and drove away with 200 heads of camels.” (This JEM press release[http://www.sudanjem.com/2009/archives/37471/en/#more-37471 ] came over the name of Suleiman Jamous, humanitarian coordinator for the rebel group; he is without question the most reliable and honest of rebel interlocutors.)
Intense fighting in the northwest area of North Darfur is also part of a campaign of civilian destruction, directed at non-Arab tribal groups, as reported to me by a Darfuri in the diaspora with excellent contacts on the ground in Darfur (lightly edited for clarity):
“Civilians in the area say that the plan of the Government of Sudan is to depopulate specific areas in North Darfur: There was heavy bombings around the water wells in the vicinities of Kornoi (northwest of Kutum).  The khazan of Doba (khazan means water reservoir) was bombed 24 hours ago. This is one of [the] large reservoirs of water in North Darfur. The rainy season has just ended last month; the rain water accumulated in this reservoir [and is] expected to last till May. Now by this damage, the civilians and their livestock are expected to migrate to other places, probably to Chad for water and security reasons.” (email received November 6, 2010)
Radio Dabanga reported from Tawilla (North Darfur east of el-Fasher) that,
“Uniformed gunmen killed four (4) people and injured 24 in Tawila in central Darfur. The victims were displaced people who had made the town their temporary home. Among the dead is a child. The gunmen were dressed in military uniforms and rode on camels. They opened fire indiscriminately at people on the way to Konji Market of Ronda Camp, in Tawila of North Darfur State.” ([dateline: Tawilla], November 2, 2010)
The victims were all from African tribal groups, as were those in Jebel Kargo (South Darfur):
“A force of 12 Land Cruisers and 3 tanks attacked Kailik camp [ ] in Jebel Kargo yesterday. The attack led to the killing of 17, the wounding of others and the burning of villages and neighboring farms, which caused residents to flee into the mountains, according to rebel commander Hamid Ibrahim.” (Radio Dabanga, November 12, 2010)
And from Tawilla, el-Fasher, and Shangil Tobaya Radio Dabanga reports:
“Thousands of people displaced from East Jebel Marra are fleeing toward the camps of El Fasher, Tawila and Shangil Tobaya. Hundreds of families reaching the camps have included some cases of fatigue and severe fatigue as a result of the long days spent on the perilous journey. They left after their villages were burned and their property destroyed by aerial bombardment and ground offensive by the army. Local activists told Radio Dabanga that hundreds of families that have reached the camps in Tawila, Shangil Tobaya and El Fasher are living in the open without shelter or food.”
“A rebel faction thought to have controlled the area said that it had no forces in the area during the offensive. The Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid Al Nur said that its forces were absent from the areas devastated in the offensive. The movement’s spokesman Ahmed Ibrahim described what happened in East Jebel Marra as genocide. He said that civilians in these areas were targeted deliberately, systematically, and in a planned way, through extensive bombing of their villages to ashes.” (October 19, 2010)
The ethnic targeting that produced these massive displacements had been reported by Radio Dabanga several days earlier:
“Witnesses who are ethnically Fur described atrocities and hardships facing inhabitants of eastern Jebel Marra. They said their villages were destroyed by aerial bombardment by Antonov planes and ground offensive by government forces, killing large numbers of civilians and displacing thousands of people. Witnesses who spoke to Radio Dabanga described what happened in the area of Bom Boli in East Jebel Marra. They said their region was subjected to a campaign of mass rapes by government forces described as Janjaweed. A witness who managed to escape and access a safe area after marching for days on foot described what happened for the Saturday broadcast.”
“The witness affirmed that all areas and villages destroyed by aircraft in East Jebel Marra had no presence of fighters from the armed movements. She said that displaced women had figured out how to use their radio on low frequencies to listen to talks taking place between captain of the Antonov aircraft and others on the ground to determine which sites to be bombed. She explained that once they select the sites they then shell the villages and populated communities. She related that someone asked how much the distance was between Java and Suni and then another said to him four kilometers, and then said to him, ‘bomb, bomb this place,’ and those were all areas where there were villages of civilians.”
This genocidal destruction marks an acceleration in the campaign begun in September. Radio Dabanga reported on September 28, 2010:
“57 killed, 6 villages burnt in Sudan army attack: Darfur rebels—the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahed Al Nur announced that 57 people were killed and 25 others wounded during an offensive by the Sudanese government in central Darfur.”
“SLM…controls the highlands of central Darfur. The movement said that six entire villages were burnt in East Jebel Marra by intensive aerial bombardment by government aircraft that were supporting ground troops in the region. The rebel spokesman called on the UN Security Council, the European Union and the United States of America to investigate independently the intensive aerial bombardment by the government on the villages of the Jebel Marra mountains….”
No such investigation has been undertaken, but the many eyewitness accounts, including those cited by Human Rights Watch, leave little doubt about what has been occurring.
Beyond military actions and large-scale civilian destruction—portending a major push toward “the perfect ending”—there has been a very sharp escalation of smaller-scale attacks on civilians, including rape and torture, both in camps and rural areas; and there has been a corresponding increase in the arrests of traditional leaders (especially in the camps) and Darfur human rights leaders elsewhere in the country. This has been accompanied by a widespread and severe crackdown on news media, including the offices of Radio Dabanga in Khartoum (Radio Dabanga broadcasts from The Netherlands). Fourteen people, including human rights workers, lawyers, and journalists, were arrested on October 20, 2010. In Nyala four children were among those sentenced to death for their ties to one of the rebel movements and a charge of carjacking (http://www.acjps.org/Publications/Press%20releases/2010/27-10 10SpecialCourtsinDarfur.html ). The regime in Khartoum has never been more repressive. Even the UN-sponsored Miraya Radio is being blocked from broadcasting (http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article36887 ); this follows the forced closing of BBC and Radio France International radio stations broadcasting in Arabic from Khartoum.
It would be difficult to overstate how brazen the regime has become in its present drive to complete work in Darfur. Just hours prior before the arrival of a UN Security Council delegation in el-Fasher (North Darfur), an army spokesman for the regime announced an offensive in eastern Jebel Marra (Reuters [dateline el-Fasher], October 7, 2010). The results are grimly chronicled above in this analysis. Following the Council visit to a displaced persons camp near el-Fasher in North Darfur, some of those brave enough to speak with UN ambassadors and staff were arrested and others immediately went into hiding. So far the Security Council has done nothing to secure the release of these individuals or to protect those still at large. And in a characteristic bit of UN disingenuousness, the new top UN humanitarian official, Valerie Amos, declared on her own subsequent visit to the same area, “I hope that there is no fear”—this after camp leaders (sheiks) from al-Salam camp refused to meet with her (Agence France-Presse [dateline: al-Salam camp, North Darfur], November 7, 2010). “Hope” indeed.
At the same time, humanitarian conditions throughout Darfur continue to deteriorate as access and capacity are further diminished—as does information about humanitarian conditions and security. During its time in Darfur, the UN Security Council delegation was scheduled to receive briefings from some of the UN agency heads about protection issues; but these critical briefings were cancelled and commentary was instead circulated in paper, with no opportunity for follow-up questioning. Georg Charpentier, the head of UN relief efforts in Darfur, refuses to release reports on humanitarian conditions, effectively silencing nongovernmental relief organizations as well; he also allows his own public statements to be vetted by Khartoum, and refuses to speak out on urgent humanitarian issues. His silence on the regime’s July expulsion of senior officials of the UN High Commission for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Office for Migration was all too conspicuous.
None of this shows any sign of changing. Indeed, as I’ve recently noted, (http://www.dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=297 ), Nils Kastberg, UNICEF representative in Sudan, recently admitted to Radio Dabanga that,
“[T]he Sudanese government ‘very often’ bars the release of data on child malnutrition in Darfur. Sudanese security services have also hindered or delayed UNICEF’s access to camps in Darfur, [Kastberg said]: ‘Part of the problem has been when we conduct surveys to help us address issues, in collaboration with the ministry of health, very often other parts of the government such as the humanitarians affairs commission interferes and delays in the release of reports, making it difficult for us to respond timely.’”
To this must now be added a shocking charge from former US special envoy for Sudan, Richard Williamson:
“[When] Khartoum kicked out 13 international humanitarian NGOs from Darfur [March 2009] that were providing badly needed assistance, again the Obama team’s response was weak. Days later, the administration praised Khartoum for letting three of the NGOs back into Darfur. Meanwhile, for more than a year US government reports of inadequate humanitarian aid to Darfur have been covered up in Washington, according to two people familiar with the documents.” (Foreign Policy [on-line], November 11, 2010, at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/11/how_obama_betrayed_sudan?page=0,0 )
As Radio Dabanga suggests, because Washington provides the most aid to Darfur, “it [has] extensive insider access to unpublished reports by humanitarian groups that have been largely silenced since put under threat of expulsion in March 2009.” And contrary to the disingenuous suggestion about NGO returns to Darfur by the Obama administration—including special envoy Gration and Senator Kerry—there was a permanent, substantial reduction in humanitarian capacity, leadership experience, and logistical ability. The organizations expelled (e.g., Save the Children/USA, the largest humanitarian actor in West Darfur) were not allowed back in. Yes, several of these NGOs were replaced by another national section of the organization (in the case instanced here, Save the Children/Sweden); but they arrived belatedly, and with nowhere near the capacity, experience, or institutional memory of the organizations expelled. We will never know how many lives have been lost because of these unconscionable expulsions—too many to bear contemplating.
But if Richardson’s more ominous charge is true, it signals a despicable acquiescence in war crimes and crimes against humanity—for that is what Khartoum’s widespread, systematic denial and obstruction of humanitarian assistance over seven years amounts to. Any cover-up or suppression of information, deliberately denying to the broader international community an understanding of the scope of humanitarian distress in Darfur, betrays all that Obama has said as senator, candidate, and president, and has contributed to the loss of innocent lives.
THROUGH INCOMPETENCE, misprision, and disingenuousness, the Obama administration has created the potential for diplomatic catastrophe—the collapse of the southern referenda and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The most urgent of measures are required if Khartoum is to be persuaded to allow a peaceful and fully honored referendum for the South, as well as a referendum for Abyei—or at the very least a negotiated arrangement on Abyei that is satisfactory to Juba (a highly unlikely diplomatic achievement). And this would still leave extraordinary tensions between the indigenous Ngok Dinka and nomadic Misseriya Arabs, as well as an uneasy cease-fire between insufficiently disciplined military forces on both sides of the North/South border. Abyei will remain a flashpoint for renewed conflict indefinitely, especially since the UN peace support operation in the South has proved as feckless and incompetent as its counterpart in Darfur.
But if only for the sake of history, let us be clear about why the diplomatic situation is so desperate, and how that desperation translates into an incentive for Khartoum to complete its “Perfect Ending” in Darfur, a project now fully underway.
Eric Reeves is a professor of English at Smith College. He has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. His book on Darfur—A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide—was published in 2007.