By Eric Reeves
May 23, 2016 (SSNA) — The real nature of the domestic crises throughout Sudan seems evidently beyond the comprehension of those international actors that continue to embrace, with increasing warmth, the ruling National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime. The economy is a shambles and in terminal decline, surviving largely because of financial assistance from countries like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, commercial relations with a cynically indifferent China, and continuing economic and financial activity in Sudan by European companies and banks. But the economy also survives because of diplomatic and political assistance that comes in many other forms, from many countries and international actors. Sudan’s fundamental realities, as well as the serial atrocity crimes that constitute the regime’s primary method of counter-insurgency warfare, simply do not register in a way commensurate with their significance for the people of Sudan.
Repression of the growing political opposition and the increasing numbers of dissidents is extreme, with newspaper seizures now virtually daily events; arrests, as well as the use of violence in breaking up demonstrations, have grown dramatically since the demonstrations over rising bread and fuel prices in September 2013. Then, in order to put down the spreading demonstrations, the regime issued “shoot to kill” orders, regardless of the actions of demonstrators; this was definitively established by Amnesty International on the basis of morgue visits. Throughout Sudan—not just Khartoum/Omdurman—hundreds were killed. “Shoot to kill” is not a difficult phrase to understand; what is difficult to understand is the international meekness in response to the conspicuous evidence of such viciousness (the number of fatal wounds to the head and torso was significantly higher than would be expected in the absence of “shoot to kill” orders). That the regime has enjoyed what amounts to impunity following this extraordinary display of violent repression augurs poorly for the fate of those leading the next truly popular demonstration.
Perversely, the legitimizing of a wholly illegitimate regime makes survival by that regime all the easier. It does so most notably by signaling that savage domestic repression—as well as the brutally criminal conduct of war in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile—is not an obstacle to international acceptance. Accepting the Khartoum regime on present terms emboldens these canny survivalists in their of increasingly ruthless behavior.
EXPEDIENCY CAN BE COSTLY AND EMBARRASSING
The world as a whole is evidently guided by the December 2011 declaration by former Obama administration Special Envoy for the Sudans, Princeton Lyman:
“Frankly, we do not want to see the ouster of the [Sudanese] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Princeton Lyman’s response to a question by the respected Arabic news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat concerning Sudan and the “Arab Spring,” December 3, 2011)
Notably, this statement creates for the Obama administration an impending decision that will be revealing in several ways: the Khartoum regime has applied to the U.S. State Department for a visa allowing President Omar al-Bashir to attend the annual UN General Assembly meeting in September 2016 (Agence France-Presse, May 20, 2016). Application was made by Khartoum last year, but late enough that the Obama administration was able simply to ignore it, despite coming on behalf of a nominal head of state. Having learned their lesson, regime officials are applying very early, making it difficult for the Obama administration to skirt a decision: either violate UN diplomatic protocol or admit to the U.S. a man facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for multiple counts of genocide in Darfur, as well a warrant for multiple counts of crimes against humanity. Both of these warrants had been issued prior to Lyman’s statement that the U.S. government “does not want to see the ouster of the [Sudanese] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.”
Will the Obama administration, deferring to UN diplomatic protocol, admit a man conspicuously responsible for the worst imaginable atrocity crimes? Or will the international embrace stop short of welcoming this ruthless génocidaire to American soil? Al-Bashir knows he is forcing this difficult decision upon the Obama administration, and will relish the decision whatever it is. He can walk with the world’s leaders in New York City, heading the diplomatic delegation from Sudan—or he can use a U.S. denial of entry as a stick with which to lash out at the U.S., the ICC, and those in the West and elsewhere who support the ICC. Much rides on the decision Obama and his team make; given the value this administration places on the supposed counter-terrorism intelligence Khartoum provides, it would seem more likely that deference will be shown to “diplomatic protocol,” whatever disgrace al-Bashir brings upon the U.S. and the UN.
In any event, it is sadly true that not only the U.S. but also most of those in the EU and the UN find it convenient to believe in Lyman’s preposterous vision of what can be achieved politically while the NIF/NCP remains in power. For their part, the African Union and the Arab League have only parochial interests in the “stability” supposedly guaranteed by the regime’s continued monopoly on Sudan’s national wealth and power. But such attitudes, even if “convenient,” inevitably support the legitimacy of the NIF/NCP, and thus actually work against democratic change in Sudan. Moreover, Lyman’s nonsense is too blatant to be a function of ignorance; a commitment by any party to believe the NIF/NCP can be an agent for “carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures” in Sudan represents nothing other than cynicism or expediency.
The “international embrace” has been too well reported not to be obvious to any who will simply survey what has been reported: Appendix A here comprises a compendium, drawn from the previous two parts of this analysis, as well as the most salient recent news dispatches. Collectively, they suggest the scope and significance of the new international attitude toward the Khartoum regime. I provide very brief annotations concerning the implications of such a widespread embrace for a regime that has never—in 27 years—held legitimate national elections, or abided by any agreement reached with any Sudanese party or actor. Moreover, it is a regime increasingly dominated by the most ruthless elements from the military and security forces, and this increasing militarization is perhaps the most important internal development within the regime over the past five years (see below).
An accurate picture of what has been reported cannot be included with any comprehensiveness even in this 10,000-word analysis. In addition to Appendix A, however, there are four other appendices containing a tremendous amount of reporting assembled from Nuba Reports, Sudan Tribune, Radio Dabanga, al-Hurriyat, wire reports, as well as UN dispatches and reports. In many cases, the reports in these Appendices are supplementary to, even redundant of those within this analysis; my annotation is therefore light:
Appendix A – Members of the international community most conspicuously embracing the Khartoum regime | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ty
Appendix B – How Darfur’s realities were rendered invisible, 2009 – 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1TO
Appendix C – Evidence of continuing economic decline in Sudan and peril to the civilian population | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1TC
Appendix D – The growing scale and severity of repression throughout Sudan | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1TE
Appendix E – Current military activities throughout Sudan and their implications for humanitarian relief efforts | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1TI
THE REAL DARFUR
The international embrace of Khartoum is further animated by a growing—and dismayingly convenient—belief that somehow the catastrophe in Darfur, because no longer reported with any prominence in Western news media, is not the violent, savagely destructive campaign of ethnically-targeted destruction it has been for the past thirteen years. The narrative of “improvement” in Darfur has grown over more than six years, and despite being deeply at odds with the information at hand and the realities that have unfolded, it carries far too much influence in shaping international perceptions.
Notably, late 2011 and early 2012 marked the beginning of a dramatic acceleration of violence not only in Darfur, but Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile—an acceleration that has continued for five years, culminating in the current destruction of the people of Jebel Marra in the center of Darfur. The “narrative of improvement” can make no sense of these realities, and has left the international community thoroughly unprepared to confront the massive current suffering of Darfuris, as well as the destruction of their livelihoods, that is the direct consequence of Khartoum’s means of waging war.
The list of those who have contributed significantly to this “narrative of improvement” in Darfur is long and includes the African Union, advisors to the AU, UNAMID leadership, and prominent journalists. In turn, this deeply misleading narrative feeds into or supports decisions being made by the EU, the UN, and the U.S. But if surveyed retrospectively, the narrative reveals a disastrous series of errors, miscalculations, and deeply misguided assessments (see Appendix B).
THE MILITARIZATION OF THE KHARTOUM REGIME
In August 2011, noted Sudan researcher Julie Flint published an astonishing insider’s account of what had happened to the regime in the wake of South Sudan’s vote for independence (January 2011), called simply “The Nuba Mountains war isn’t going away”:[A] well-informed source close to the National Congress Party reports that Sudan’s two most powerful generals went to [Sudanese President Omar al-] Bashir on May 5, five days after 11 soldiers were killed in an SPLA ambush in Abyei, on South Kordofan’s southwestern border, and demanded powers to act as they sought fit, without reference to the political leadership.
[The two generals are reported by a highly reliable source to have been Lt. Gen. Ismat Abdel Rahman al-Zain and Major General Mahjoub Abdallah Sharfi, both now central figures in the increasingly militarized regime—ER]
“‘They got it,’ the source says. ‘It is the hour of the soldiers—a vengeful, bitter attitude of defending one’s interests no matter what; a punitive and emotional approach that goes beyond calculation of self-interest. The army was the first to accept that Sudan would be partitioned. But they also felt it as a humiliation, primarily because they were withdrawing from territory in which they had not been defeated. They were ready to go along with the politicians as long as the politicians were delivering—but they had come to the conclusion they weren’t. Ambushes in Abyei…interminable talks in Doha keeping Darfur as an open wound…. Lack of agreement on oil revenue….’ ‘It has gone beyond politics,’ says one of Bashir’s closest aides. ‘It is about dignity.’” (The Daily Star (Lebanon), August 2, 2011 | http://www.dailystar.com.lb//Opinion/Commentary/2011/Aug-02/145189-the-nuba-mountains-war-isnt-going-away.ashx#axzz1UM7rRXZF)
We catch an important glimpse of the implications of what Flint reveals in her article in the “agreement” of June 2011 between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) and the NIF/NCP regime. Khartoum’s chief negotiator, Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, had enjoyed a position of extraordinary power since his appointment as head of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in the early 1990s. He made “ghost houses” (buyut al-ashbah) a word of household terror, and though dismissed from his post in 1995, he had by 2000 regained tremendous authority as a “presidential advisor.”
On June 28, 2011 Nafi’e signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the SPLM/A-N, committing the regime to negotiate with the rebel forces. Three days later (July 1, 2011) President al-Bashir, just returning from China and acting on the advice of his generals, renounced the MOU and called for a “cleansing” of the Nuba Mountains. It was a humiliating undercutting of Nafi’e, and he has never regained the authority he had prior to the MOU signing. Decisions about war and peace negotiations are now firmly under the control of al-Bashir’s generals. (In this connection, see especially the leaked minutes of an August 31, 2014 meeting of senior security and military officials in Khartoum, speaking specifically to the war in South Kordofan; decisively authenticated, these minutes give us a clear picture of where power now lies | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1wk/).
DOMESTIC CONSEQUENCES OF MILITARIZATION IN KHARTOUM
The current leadership clearly neither understands nor really cares about economics, and as a consequence the Sudanese economy is in steep decline (the August 31, 2014 minutes are particularly revealing on this score). Khartoum finds that it is unable to buy adequate supplies of key staples, including wheat and cooking fuel—this for lack of foreign exchange currency (Forex). The precipitous drop in oil revenues with the secession of South Sudan in 2011 was eminently predictable, but the regime made no plans. As a consequence, inflation in food prices is skyrocketing, along with prices for imported refined petroleum products—even pharmaceuticals are too expensive for ordinary citizens and now go primarily to those who are rich and/or connected to the regime in a vast system of cronyism. And yet the international community continues to accept uncritically the “cooked” economic and financial data that are periodically produced by the regime-controlled Central Bureau of Statistics.
This is true in particular of the International Monetary Fund, which has cycled in and out statistical garbage about Sudan for almost two decades. The gross disparity between the official exchange rate between the Sudanese Pound and the dollar and the rate on the black (“parallel”) market is only the most conspicuous sign of what amounts to wild distortions promulgated as economic realities—“data.” What is referred to as the “Sudanese economy” is in fact much better understood as a vast network of cronyism, which enables the regime to function as a kleptocracy on a monumental scale (see “Kleptocracy in Khartoum: Self-Enrichment by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party, 2011 – 2015” | Enough Project Forum Report | http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/enough-forum-release-kleptocracy-khartoum/).
Perhaps the most revealing recent example of this brazen and deeply destructive cronyism is the successful effort by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to secure a highly lucrative monopoly on the milling of wheat into flour, assisted in this effort by the regime’s manipulation of exchange rates (see also below). Saiga Mills was effectively forced to shut down, despite desperate shortages of wheat and milling capacity. The manipulations that created this monopolistic environment were first reported by al-Hurriyat (the leading Arabic-language Sudanese newspaper in exile), and subsequently in English by Radio Dabanga (August 2, 2015):
The Saiga Company, one of the largest flour suppliers in Sudan, shut down its mills on 25 July after a dispute with the government. The move was the result of a dispute last month between Saiga and the Khartoum government about the dollar rate set for wheat imports, the independent electronic newspaper al-Hurriyat reported on Friday. The newspaper stated that the much higher US dollar rate on the black market, currently sold for SDG9.60, is causing major losses to the flour mills. Adel Mirghani, secretary-general of the Bakers Union of Khartoum state confirmed to al-Hurriyat that Saiga stopped its flour production a week ago. He said that people in many districts of the capital are now suffering from a “crippling shortage of bread,” as the bakeries now depend on distribution by Seen Flour Mills alone.
The newspaper stated that the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has now become the sole provider of flour to the bakeries, as Seen Flour Mills is owned by the security apparatus.
In March of 2013 Sudan Tribune reported earlier regime efforts to compromise Saiga’s financial integrity:
Saiga Flour Mills, which is part of DAL Group, relies on Byblos Bank, Abu Dhabi National Bank and Saudi Sudanese Bank to provide Guarantee Letters for the purposes of importing wheat and other production items. Those banks informed Saiga that the Bank of Sudan did not inject the needed Forex supply in their accounts to issue new Guarantee Letters.
The consequences of this cruelly monopolistic appropriation of milling capacity have been all too conspicuous, particularly this year, and make nonsense of regime claims about an inflation rate in the range of 11 – 12 percent. In just the past three months, Radio Dabanga has reported:
‘Four million Sudanese at food crisis levels’: FEWS NET | March 13, 2016 | EN NAHUD / KHARTOUM
No breakfast for six million Sudanese basic school students | March 13, 2016 | KHARTOUM
Staple food prices rise across Sudan | March 25, 2016 | MELLIT / HAJAR EL ASA
No bread in parts of Sudan capital | March 3, 2016 | KHARTOUM
Flour crisis ongoing in Sudan | February 25, 2016 | SUDAN
Sudan’s flour shortage: schools suffer from hunger | March 8, 2016 | OMDURMAN / EL GEZIRA
Basic commodity prices continue to rise in Sudan | March 10, 2016 | PORT SUDAN / NYALA / KHARTOUM
Growing discontent over food prices in Darfur | March 18, 2016 | DARFUR
Khartoum queues for bread as flour shortage bites | February 29, 2016 | KHARTOUM
East Darfur fuel and food prices rising | February 26, 2016 | ED DAEIN
Imported goods ‘unaffordable’ in Sudanese markets | March 15, 2016 | EL OBEID / NYALA
Prices continue to rise in South Darfur capital | March 13, 2016 | NYALA
Higher price for staple foods in North Kordofan | March 1, 2016 | SODARI
‘Difficult to obtain food’ in West Kordofan | April 5, 2016 | LAGAWA / MUGLAD
The consequences of wheat and flour shortages, and ultimately food shortages, are immense. Malnutrition rates for children in Sudan are shocking, among the world’s very worst: UNICEF estimated in 2014 that 2 million children were moderately or severely malnourished. Of these more than half a million were severely malnourished. The widespread stunting of children that follows years of substantial malnutrition is one of the grimmest legacies of the 27 years of rule by the NIF/NCP. These malnutrition figures have been subsequently confirmed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNet). Various other failures to invest in infrastructure have contributed to a crumbling of the agricultural sector; the crown jewel of this sector, the Gezira Scheme, is now a shambles. And increasingly agricultural land is sold to Arab and Asian interests concerned only about their own national food security. This is the height of irresponsibility by the regime.
Lack of medical care is also a consequence of relentlessly profligate military and security services expenditures
One medical assistant for 100,000 villagers in Abu Ajura, South Darfur | January 27, 2016| ABU AJURA (Radio Dabanga)
[There is a very large and threatening emigration from Sudan by medical professionals, especially to Saudi Arabia; indeed, Sudan has the highest percentage in all of Africa of those in professional ranks wishing to emigrate—ER]
Health services deteriorating in Port Sudan | January 27, 2016 | PORT SUDAN (Radio Dabanga)
‘Sudan runs short on medicines’: pharmacy director | January 22, 2016 | KHARTOUM (Radio Dabanga)
Further, as a direct consequence of the regime’s policies of self-enrichment, whatever the costs to the country as a whole, infrastructure investments have been minimal for most Sudanese over the past 27 years. Unsurprisingly, water shortages have skyrocketed in the past couple of years. Most recently, for example, Radio Dabanga reported:
Drinking water disrupted in Port Sudan, West Kordofan | May 20, 2016 PORT SUDAN / EL ODEYA – Districts in Port Sudan have been coping with an increase in water and power outages. Drinking water scarcity in West Kordofan has resulted in a steep price for a barrel of water.
Eastern Sudan: No water in Aroma, no bread in Kassala | March 17, 2016 | AROMA / KASSALA
Water supply disrupted in Sudanese towns | March 15, 2016 | EL GEDAREF / RIVER NILE / KHARTOUM
Drinking water scarce in Sudan’s Blue Nile, River Nile [States] | March 2, 2016 | ROSEIRES / SHENDI
No water in El Gedaref districts, eastern Sudan | March 9, 2016 | EL GEDAREF
‘South Darfur city lacks water until rainfall’: corporation | April 1, 2016 | NYALA (South Darfur)
‘No basic services’ in eastern Sudan’s Haya | March 20, 2016 | HAYA
Sudanese, cattle suffer from water service disruptions | March 18, 2016 | TULLUS / EL GENEINA / SENNAR
Eastern Sudan: No water in Aroma, no bread in Kassala | March 17, 2016 | AROMA / KASSALA
Water tariff increase in East Darfur | March 1, 2016 | ED DAEIN
Thirst in North Darfur’s Tabit, eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref | February 25, 2016 | TABIT / EL GEDAREF[See also, “Water Crisis Spreads throughout Sudan” | June 2015]
Notably, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has become, under the current regime, steadily more dependent upon the regime’s survival to protect its own business and economic interests. As one recent analysis put the matter, “the current regime has expanded SAF’s role in the economy and in business, while at the same time weakening it as a professional army.”
The response of the regime to water shortages is not to improve services or infrastructure but to increase dramatically the cost of water for families that are already struggling with very large increases in the prices of food and cooking fuel (Sudan Tribune, June 22, 2015 | Khartoum):
The director general of Khartoum State Water Corporation (KSWC) has been relieved of his post following recent protests over water cuts in various parts of the Sudanese capital. Water supply has been recently disrupted in large parts of the state leading to several protests the latest being in Al-Fitaihab and Abu Si’id neighbourhoods in Khartoum twin city of Omdurman. Also, Halfayat al-Molok neighbourhood in Khartoum North saw similar protests last week.
The KSWC has more than once called for increasing water rates due to high operating costs. A source within Khartoum state disclosed in June 2014 that several proposals were made to raise the water rate…
One of these proposals was “to raise the water rate by 322% (190 pounds) for the first degree consumers, 380% (120 pounds) for the second degree consumers and 366% (70 pounds) for the third degree consumers.” Another proposal called for … increasing the water rate by 288 pounds for the first degree consumers, 144 pounds for the second degree consumers and 84 pounds for the third consumers. It should be recalled that the current water rate stands at 45 pounds for the first degree consumers, 25 pounds for the second degree consumers and 16 pounds for the third degree consumers.
These represent staggering price increases for lower income families (half of Sudan citizens live below the international poverty line). They are being made to pay for years of neglect and deeply misguided priorities.
OBSTRUCTING HUMANITARIAN RELIEF
The most recent “Fact Sheet” from the U.S. Agency for International Development (May 23, 2016) estimates that 5.6 million people in Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance (the figure comes from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). Despite this staggering figure, it is important to understand that the Khartoum regime has a long history of providing virtually nothing in the way of humanitarian resources for marginalized Sudanese in desperate need; it has an equally long history of abusing, expelling, attacking, and compromising international relief efforts throughout greater Sudan. Certainly it has been true since the beginning of humanitarian operations in Darfur that relief workers have been assaulted, harassed, denied travel permits, and otherwise obstructed.
Denials are now more frequent, even as insecurity prevents travel to many desperately needy locations. There has been no adequate assessment of the Jebel Marra region, although we know much from the reports of those who have fled the mountainous region. Reports filtering out suggest that the number of newly displaced people is now perhaps 200,000. Starvation faces those who remain in Jebel Marra, including children; disease is rampant; and there is the continual danger of further predations by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other Khartoum militia proxies.
One very recent dispatch from Radio Dabanga gives us a sense of how bad conditions are for those who have fled Jebel Marra, and how despite this Khartoum allows it militias to impose roadblocks, including of water trucks, as a means of extortion. The UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has again proved helpless in the face of this outrageous assault on civilian wellbeing, as militiamen kill, rape, and loot with impunity:
UN condemns killing of displaced in Darfur’s Sortony | Radio Dabanga | May 10, 2016 | KABKABIYA
Six displaced people, including two children, were killed in attacks in Sortony, near the UNAMID team site in Kabkabiya, on Monday evening. A UNAMID peacekeeper was injured in a gunfight between UNAMID and the attackers. Two young displaced women were reportedly raped during a raid by gunmen in Sortony, a site adjacent to the UNAMID base in the area, where a large number of displaced people from Jebel Marra have taken refuge in the past months. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that militiamen, driving three vehicles mounted with Dushka machineguns, and others on camels and horses, attacked the eastern side of Sortony at 6pm on Monday. They seized a number of cows from the camp residents, claiming that the animals belong to them.
Armed herders block water tankers
Tensions in Sortony have been escalating starting 2 May, when herders accused members of the displaced community of stealing their livestock and demanded the return of their cattle, UNAMID reported today. Subsequently, the armed herders established an intermittent blockade on the Kabkabiya-Sortony road, an essential route for the provision of water and humanitarian aid.
A camp coordinator explained to Radio Dabanga how the people in Sortony suffer from the blockade. “Militiamen have prevented tankers carrying drinking water and other vehicles from reaching the camps near Kabkabiya. They have done so for three days in a row. A number of UNAMID tankers loaded with drinking water left for Sortony on Tuesday, but I am not sure whether they have been allowed to pass the militiamen. This has made the humanitarian situation for the displaced people tragic.”
This dispatch was very recently updated:
Militiamen’s road block causes water shortage in Sortony, North Darfur | May 23, 2016 | KABKABIYA (Radio Dabanga)
In the same vein, Radio Dabanga reports very recently from elsewhere in North Darfur:
Sudanese medics denied access to North Darfur camp | May 17, 2016 | EL FASHER – A medical team representing several organisations was prevented from practicing their daily work in Zamzam camp for displaced people, near El Fasher city, on Monday. Members of the security apparatus prevented the team of Sudanese medics from entering the camp and treating the displaced people. A camp coordinator reported to Radio Dabanga that security agents stationed at the gate of El Fasher denied access to the medics, who work for the State Ministry of Health, on Monday morning. “They said the doctors did not have permission from the authorities.”
For Khartoum’s militia proxies, the suffering of displaced Darfuris has long proved lucrative, and the assault on Jebel Marra is no exception:
Darfur Sheikhs assaulted, kidnapped | (Radio Dabanga, May 11, 2016 | SARAF UMRA / TABIT) – New reports have reached Radio Dabanga of kidnappings by militiamen in Darfur, with the intention of extorting ransom.
[In situations of violent and chaotic flight, such as we have seen in Jebel Marra, sheikhs have a particularly important role to play, and they are consequently prominent kidnap targets—ER]
Nor is kidnapping confined to Jebel Marra and East Jebel Marra: it remains a lucrative means of extortion by Khartoum’s militia proxies throughout Darfur:
Fourteen displaced kidnapped by South Darfur militiamen | (Radio Dabanga, May 20, 2016 | GIREIDA) – A number of displaced people from a camp in Gireida locality, South Darfur, were kidnapped during a shooting in the camp on Thursdaymorning. The abductors, members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, arrived in Foreka camp in five vehicles at 9am. They drove to a water pump and opened fire into the air, scaring the displaced people gathered there. Witnesses said that the perpetrators abducted 14 people by force of arms to their headquarters in the area of Shanga, 5 kilometres south of Gireida. The kidnap comes against the backdrop of militia members who demanded the displaced community to pay SDG10,000 ($1,630) to them beforeWednesday evening.
Another very recent dispatch from Radio Dabanga paints an all too characteristic picture of Khartoum’s indifference. Displaced persons—including unaccompanied children—flee the horrific slaughter in Jebel Marra only to confront ghastly new challenges:
The Coordinator explained that the ages of the children separated from their parents range from three to 17 years. “These children are currently living with foster families in camp Shaddad.” The displaced in the camp complain of the outbreak and spread of summer diseases, malnutrition, and lack of medicine and health care in the camp. The Coordinator told Radio Dabanga that eight children have died of malnutrition this week. He said the Rural Development Network counted 53 children suffering from malnutrition, and 43 with coughs. (May 12, 2016 | SHANGIL TOBAYA)
Beyond indifference, Khartoum has repeatedly demonstrated a callous hostility to international relief efforts in Sudan, a hostility that takes many forms. In what is only the most recent expulsion of a humanitarian organization without cause,
EU concerned about Sudan’s closure of Tearfund | January 20, 2016 | KHARTOUM (Radio Dabanga)
[Tearfund was expelled from Darfur and other areas critically in need in Sudan; the regime offered no vaguely credible explanation for the expulsion, nor has it ever for the more than two dozen such expulsions of the past 13 years. Last year Merlin/UK and MSF-Belgium were forced to withdraw—ER]
EU expressions of “concern” have proved utterly meaningless to Khartoum, and expulsions continue. There was only the slimmest news reporting of the May 2012 expulsion of seven humanitarian organizations from Eastern Sudan, a region with some of the most disturbing humanitarian indicators in the entire country. Again, no meaningful explanation was offered by the regime, despite the enormous impact of these expulsions on the lives of Sudanese civilians.
The same was true when in February 2014 the regime officially suspended all activities by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), including in Darfur, citing only factitious “technical issues.” Throughout Sudan, the ICRC was at the time serving some 1.5 million Sudanese in need; it has been a mainstay of the continually shrinking humanitarian presence in Darfur; and it is the very embodiment of neutrality among international humanitarian organizations (to be sure, this did not prevent the organization from being repeatedly targeted my Khartoum’s military aircraft during the long north/south civil war (1983 – 2005).
Yesterday (May 22, 2016) another expulsion was effected by the regime:
Statement attributable to the Humanitarian Country Team in Sudan on the de facto expulsion of UN senior official and OCHA Head of Office Mr. Ivo Freijsen | Khartoum, 22 May 2016.
The Humanitarian Country Team in Sudan today expressed shock and disappointment at the de facto expulsion by the Government of Sudan of one of its senior UN officials, the Head of Office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Ivo Freijsen. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the United Nations in Sudan that Mr. Freijsen’s annual stay permit will not be renewed when it expires on 6 June 2016. This is despite the request for a 12-month extension of his stay permit, as per routine process, which was submitted on 10 April 2016. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided no official explanation in writing for this decision.
Beyond humanitarian expulsions and obstructionism, Khartoum also maintains humanitarian embargoes on large areas of Darfur, as well as areas controlled by the SPLM/A-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (see below).
When confronted with evidence of the severity of the multiple humanitarian crises that are causing such immense suffering and destruction in Sudan, the regime simply denies the validity of the evidence, whether from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, international relief organizations, or other UN agencies:
Sudan says UN OCHA report about famine in Sudan is inaccurate | March 15, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese governmentTuesday questioned the accuracy of a presentation by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNCHA) of a report about food insecurity in Sudan and wondered about its purpose.
[The regime of course has itself conducted no meaningful assessment of food insecurity during its entire time in power—ER]
Sudan questions accuracy of reports on Darfur IDPs number | February 29, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s foreign minister has dismissed reports on the number of persons fleeing the recent clashes between the Sudanese army and the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) in Darfur area of Jebel Marra.
[The SLA figures of February roughly comported with those used by refugee and displaced persons organizations; there is good reason to believe than since mid-January, some 200,000 people have been newly displaced in the Jebel Marra region, bringing the total IDP population in Darfur (using January 2016 figures OCHA figures for internal displacement) to approximately 3 million people—the highest number since conflict began in 2003. And more than 300,000 Darfuris remain refugees in eastern Chad—ER]
‘UN displacement figures inaccurate’: Sudan Foreign Ministry | March 1, 2016 | GOLO / KHARTOUM (Radio Dabanga) – The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed reports by the UN on the number of people who have been displaced by the fighting between the army and rebel forces in Darfur’s Jebel Marra since 15 January. An official stressed the operations have ended…
[Violence in Jebel Marra is far from ended; see Appendix E for an extensive survey of the violence and destruction that has occurred since the March 1 date of this dispatch—ER]
More ambitious plans for ending the international humanitarian presence in Sudan are clearly in the offing:
Sudan Committee urges review of foreign aid | February 10, 2016 | KHARTOUM (Radio Dabanga) – The Sudanese Foreign Aid Supreme Committee has called for a review of foreign aid to the country. The Minister of International Cooperation, El Fateh Ali Siddig, said in a press conference held by the Foreign Aid Technical Committee on Monday that the size of foreign aid provided to Sudan in all fields needs to be re-determined.
Foreign aid groups work in Darfur “unsatisfactory”: official – May 3, 2016 (EL-FASHER) (Sudan Tribune) – The deputy governor of North Darfur state Adam al-Nahla said the work of the foreign aid groups active in the state was unsatisfactory and has met only 12% of …
[These dispatches are a clear prelude to further reductions in the presence of INGOs in Sudan—ER]
As part of this military campaign against civilians, Khartoum has imposed a humanitarian embargo on all areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile that are under the control of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLA/M-N). The embargo, which denies all humanitarian assistance to many hundreds of thousands of civilians, has been in place since summer 2011. An agreement on humanitarian access was put forward in early 2012 by the UN, the African Union, and the Arab League: it was immediately signed by the SPLM/A-N, and yet to this day, Khartoum refuses to reach an agreement.
This is the face of the regime that so many have chosen to embrace with renewed enthusiasm, however various in motivation and in the impact of their support. Serbia may be alone in its distinctive exuberance, deciding that President Omar al-Bashir is worthy of the “Serbian National Medal of Honor.” Given Serbia’s own grim history in the 1990s, however, it’s unclear whether the arrest warrant for al-Bashir issued by the International Criminal Court, charging him with multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, figured in the list of “achievements” for which he was celebrated.
But more consequential than the Serbian award have been the decisions by African countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and most recently Uganda—all signatories to the Rome Treaty that is the statutory basis for the ICC—to allow al-Bashir to travel to their countries without threat of arrest. Many other countries, in Africa and other continents, have also scorned the fact of ICC arrest warrants for al-Bashir. European countries, virtually all signatories to and supporters of the Rome Treaty, have so far held the line against travel to the EU zone. But given enough time, these countries too may soon be hosting an indicted génocidaire.
INTERNTIONAL RESPONSES TO CURRENT CURRENT MILITARY REALITIES IN SUDAN
As I stressed in Part Two of this three-part analysis, military efforts on the ground are directed primarily against civilian targets, or are so indiscriminate as to make “targeting” an irrelevant question. And the civilian targets remain overwhelmingly from the African populations of the marginalized areas so savagely under assault: the Fur, Tunjur, Massalit, Zaghawa, Birgid, and others in Darfur; the tribal groups that make up the Nuba in South Kordofan; and in Blue Nile, yet again the targets are of African ethnicity.
The racial/ethnic animus is particularly conspicuous in the ongoing epidemic of rape, targeting girls and younger women. In Darfur it has long been the case that rape, typically gang-rape and sometimes over many hours, is animated by hatred that is made explicit with such derogatory epithets as abid (slave), Nuba (referring broadly to “African”), or Zurga (“dirty black”). This has been repeatedly documented by human rights and humanitarian groups going back to 2005. My recent analysis of the rape of girls, primarily in the area of East Jebel Marra, has been partially overtaken by the almost inconceivable brutality of rape, murder, plunder, and village destruction that is ongoing in Jebel Marra. (“Continuing Mass Rape of Girls in Darfur: The most heinous crime generates no international outrage” | January 2016
Particularly important in revealing the nature of rape as a weapon of war is the February 2015 report by Human Rights Watch (“Mass Rape in Darfur: Sudanese Army Attacks Against Civilians in Tabit”), which establishes authoritatively that from October 30 – November 1, 2014, regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)—acting on the orders of the local SAF garrison commander—raped more than 200 girls and women in the town of Tabit, North Darfur (ethnically the population of Tabit is primarily Fur, the largest of the non-Arab/African tribal groups in Darfur). Various Western international actors and the UN Secretariat reacted at the time of the initial UNAMID report, demanding that the hopelessly compromised (and deceitful) UNAMID investigation that took place on November 10, 2014 be supplemented by an unfettered investigation. Khartoum refused, and the threat of a Chinese or Russian veto at the UN Security Council ensured that the UN would not act—nor would EU or the U.S. The failure to take truly seriously the mass rapes at Tabit by regular Sudanese troops acting on the orders of a garrison commander sent a clear signal to Khartoum: impunity continues to reign in Darfur.
Indeed, Khartoum has never taken seriously what amounts to merely moral exhortation by the UN and Western nations. Unlike most observers of Sudan, the Khartoum regime took very seriously the comments of former UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, the UK’s Sir Kieran Prendergast, who declared when interviewed for a 2007 CBC/Frontline documentary about the UN response to Darfur (“On Our Watch,” November 2007):
NARRATOR: Principles the UN put on paper would not translate into concrete action to save the people of Darfur [referring to the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council votes in favor of the UN Summit Outcome Document for September 2005, including Paragraphs 138 and 139, outlining a commitment to “the responsibility to protect” (R2P)]. Veteran U.N. officials were candid in their skepticism [about R2P].
[UN Under-secretary General for Political Affairs] Sir KIERAN PRENDERGAST: We don’t mean it when we say that we’re not going to accept other Rwandas, further Rwandas. But I never thought we did mean it. And that’s a very—it’s a very sad conclusion, but I don’t think there’s any evidence to sustain the view that we did mean it. We may have meant it as a kind of, you know, a level of generalized indignation. But when it comes to accepting the consequences of that, we don’t.
Prendergast’s words were certainly understood my Khartoum to mean that there would be no non-consensual international effort to halt genocidal counter-insurgency in Darfur, and has over the past decade acted accordingly.
The failure to hold Khartoum accountable has continued for more than a decade. Efforts by the International Criminal Court (ICC) have run into roadblock after roadblock, particularly by African nations, despite the fact that the UN Security Council authorized the ICC to investigate atrocity crimes in Darfur in March 2005 (UN Security Council Resolution 1593).
Khartoum has been held accountable for none of its atrocity crimes. Indeed, the same African countries that have refused to speak honestly about realities on the ground in Darfur have come to scorn the ICC: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” The UN does nothing because of the permanent paralysis created by veto-wielding Russia and China in the Security Council and the utterly feckless leadership of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Arab League—including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States that have been so supportive of the regime—says nothing about what is occurring in the marginalized regions of Sudan.
Qatar cynically claims to be sympathetic to the people of Darfur, but provided the auspices for a diplomatic travesty, the July 2011 “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur” (DDPD). Although there was no meaningful civil society support for the agreement, and no buy-in by any of the major rebel groups, Western nations, the UN, the AU have for the past five years cleaved to the DDPD because of its African Union imprimatur and an unwillingness to commit the diplomatic and political resources necessary for a genuine peace process. Only very recently has the DDPD been openly acknowledged as the failure it transparently is.
Violence in Darfur has been at levels that rival the worst years of the genocide (2003 – 2005), particularly in North Darfur (East Jebel Marra most noticeably; see below). Now Jebel Marra (Central Darfur) is enduring the same brutally violent assault. Violence in other regions of Darfur is also at shocking levels but that receives almost no coverage from Western news sources. Even so, a report from Human Rights Watch (September 2015) give us a clear view of the nature of the violence and the militia force now primarily responsible for carrying out Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency, the “Rapid Support Forces” (RSF): (“Men With No Mercy”: Rapid Support Forces Attacks against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan” | September 9, 2015 | https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/09/09/men-no-mercy/rapid-support-forces-attacks-against-civilians-darfur-sudan/).
The Rapid Support Forces (al-Quwat al-Da’m al-Sari’ in Arabic, or RSF) is a Sudanese government force under the command of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). The RSF was created in mid-2013 to militarily defeat rebel armed groups throughout Sudan.
The RSF led two counterinsurgency campaigns in the long-embattled region of Darfur in 2014 and 2015 in which its forces repeatedly attacked villages, burned and looted homes, beating, raping and executing villagers. The RSF received support in the air and on the ground from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and other government-backed militia groups, including a variety of proxy militias, commonly known as Janjaweed.
The first campaign named “Operation Decisive Summer” took place primarily in South Darfur and North Darfur between late February and early May 2014. The second, “Operation Decisive Summer II,” took place primarily in and around Jebel Marra, the mountainous region located primarily in Central Darfur, between early January 2015 and the onset of the rainy season in June 2015.
Exemplary human rights reporting by chief researcher and writer Jonathan Loeb begins with a single example, distilling the experience of Darfur’s non-Arab/African tribal populations over more than 13 years:
“[The government soldiers] confiscated our belongings. They took our livestock. They beat the men. And then they raped us. They raped us in a group. Some women were raped by 8 or 10 men. Seventeen women were raped together. All of us were raped. Even the underage girls were raped.”– Mahassan , 38, resident of the Golo area, July 2015
Perhaps the most chilling moment in the Human Rights Watch report comes in a recounting of words from regime Second Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman (by a paramilitary recruit who had defected):
Ahmed, a 35-year-old officer in the Border Guards, spent two weeks at a military base in Guba in December 2014 before being sent to fight rebels around Fanga. Two senior RSF officials, the commanding officer, Alnour Guba, and Col. Badre ab-Creash were present on the Guba base.
Ahmed said that a few days prior to leaving for East Jebel Marra, Sudanese Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman directly addressed several hundred army and RSF soldiers: “Hassabo told us to clear the area east of Jebel Marra. To kill any male. He said we want to clear the area of insects. … He said East Jebel Marra is the kingdom of the rebels. We don’t want anyone there to be alive.”
“kill any male,” “We don’t want anyone there to be alive,” “clear the area of insects”—we have heard such language before.
The January 2015 campaign focused on both Jebel Marra proper and the area of North Darfur know as “East Jebel Marra” (see “‘Changing the Demography’: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015,” December 1, 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4/). It is the current (2016) campaign that focuses primarily on the Jebel Marra massif itself. Reports from Radio Dabanga paint a familiarly grim picture of rape, murder, village destruction (including the burning and bombing of deserted villages, to ensure residents are not tempted to return), looting, and obstruction of humanitarian assistance. There are also credible reports of atrocities far exceeding in brutality what Radio Dabanga has been able to convey (Military Intelligence and the NISS have shut down nearly all satellite and conventional mobile phone service in Jebel Marra, making first-hand accounts difficult to come by).
The assault on the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan continues unabated. Aerial bombardment of civilians is relentless, and the most recent update appears in Foreign Policy, which almost alone among major news magazines and journals takes issues of atrocity crimes in Sudan seriously enough to report on them at length. Notably, the most recent issues comes from Nuba Reports authors Tom Rhodes and Musa John, who speak from the ground with terrifying authority about what officials in Khartoum are deliberately ordering. This is the truest face of the NIF/NCP regime, which for the second time is trying to annihilate the Nuba people. This is the reality from which the international community has chosen to avert its eyes as it embraces that regime:
“The Shrapnel Finds Us Wherever We Hide,” Foreign Policy, May 19, 2016 (Nuba Mountains, Sudan | http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/19/the-shrapnel-finds-us-wherever-we-hide-sudan-nuba-mountains/)
“They surrounded us, killed kids and women, burnt the village. We waited until nightfall, and then we escaped to the mountains,” said Kawthar Ali Adelan, who sought refuge from a March offensive by Sudanese armed forces in a remote mountain cave. “We can’t go to get water because we still hear the shelling and see the planes flying around.” The 25-year-old mother was wedged in a rock crevice with her cooking materials laid out before her. “The shrapnel finds us wherever we hide,” she said.
Assaults like the one on Adelan’s village, Alazrak, coupled with near-daily air bombardment by President Omar al-Bashir’s forces are the new normal in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. For five years now, the government has sought to defeat the rebel fighters who once fought alongside South Sudanese secessionists and now demand greater autonomy in their remote border region. Neither side has been able to gain the upper hand on the battlefield, resulting in a brutal, grinding conflict in which the rebel’s civilian communities are the ultimate victims…
This year, the annual offensive that typically accompanies the beginning of the dry season — when vehicles can once again maneuver over the region’s swampy terrain — came several months later than expected. When it finally got underway, Sudanese forces were flanked by an unusually large number of heavily armed RSF forces, which are less accountable for the civilian casualties they inflict. In late March, these fighters took the lead in launching a massive attack on multiple rebel fronts, including the key towns of Alazrak, Um Serdiba, and Angarto, where fighting is ongoing.
“When they came into Alazrak, they burnt houses [and] food storages of the civilians; some older people who could not flee were killed with machetes,” said Omar Ibrahim, a rebel soldier who estimated the number of pro-government fighters in Alazrak at roughly 6,000.
As was the case in the long north/south civil war, Khartoum has repeatedly used its aerial military assets to target humanitarian operations—outrageous war crimes that receive only token condemnation. The MSF hospital in Frandala, South Kordofan was attacked twice, despite the organization’s providing Khartoum their GPS coordinates precisely to protect themselves from attack. The first attack came four days after a strongly worded statement from U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who
…condemned “in the strongest possible terms” attacks she said were being carried out by the Sudanese government and its rapid support forces against ordinary people. Ground and air attacks have increased since April, with hundreds of barrel bombs and other ordnance dropped on towns and villages, deliberately targeting hospitals and schools, she said. (Agence France-Presse [UN/New York], 13 June 2014)
And Khartoum, to make sure the world understood this was no accidental bombing, attacked the Frandala MSF hospital again in January 2015, this time with a Russian-built Sukhoi-25, an advanced air-to-ground military aircraft. It was not a stray bomb, but an entirely deliberate targeting of a civilian hospital by a highly capable military aircraft. A Sukhoi-25 was also responsible for one of the multiple attacks on Our Mother of Mercy Hospital near Kauda, in the heart of the Nuba Mountains. (See “Khartoum’s Aerial Attacks on Civilians and Humanitarians in Sudan’s Marginalized Areas: What the international community is embracing” | May 2, 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1T4/). MSF has been rightly outraged by the (likely accidental) bombing of its hospitals elsewhere in the world (Afghanistan, Syria); but the organization has been remarkably quiet about this deliberate attack on its facility at Frandala by Khartoum’s military aircraft. MSF is dominated by France in its geopolitics, and the quiet acceptance of the bombing of Frandala might rightly be seen by the Khartoum regime as having broader meaning.
Just as ominously, Khartoum appears to have set its military sights on food production in the Nuba Mountains, something that is openly discussed in the August 31, 2014 leaked minutes (se especially the comments of General Siddiq Amer, Director General of Intelligence and Security. This is war by starvation:
South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, Sudan Produced by the South Kordofan and Blue Nile Coordination Unit | HUMANITARIAN UPDATE – April 2016
The SAF spring offensive continued throughout April after its multipronged attack in both Areas at the end of March. As a result of the fighting, according to initial reports from CU monitors to be verified, an additional 13,000 households have been displaced, particularly in Heiban County which experienced intense fighting and increased aerial bombardment throughout the reporting period. Recent SAF offensives appear to be targeting major food producing areas. The fighting in large parts of Umdorein (Karkarai and Umserdiba), Heiban (Al Azrak), and Dalami (Mardess) is expected to have medium term effect on the supply of sorghum in the coming year, as farmers are unable to prepare land for the upcoming season. As this area supplies markets throughout South Kordofan, lower production will have wide spread impact. The outbreak of fighting in Karkarai and Alazrak will have immediate effects on current food supply if IDPs were not able to move their food stocks when they fled the area. The upcoming May CU/FSMU household level data collection and analysis will shed more light on this matter.
Of the gravest and immediate concern remain the populations in Kau-Nyaro-Warni in Southern Kordofan who are cut off from all contact by fighting on all sides. There is no new information from that area since the FSMU published a report in March flagging that “As many as sixty four percent (64%) of households in the area are severely food insecure; and a further thirty six percent (36%) are moderately food insecure (total 97%)” and that 242 people had died between July and December as a result of food insecurity. The already poor food security of the estimated 65,000 civilians there is assumed to be deteriorating.
Similarly, increased conflict during the period normally used for land preparation in the enclaves of Rashad-New Tagali and the Western Jebel (Alsunot, Habila, Dilling and Lagwa counties) of South Kordofan is expected to have medium term impacts on the humanitarian situation there. The ongoing fighting has serious humanitarian implications given last year’s poor harvest and dwindling food stocks. Local populations are counting on preparing land for a new harvest this 2016-2017 season.
In the far north, Nubians have seen their lands ruthlessly and sometimes violently expropriated by the regime as part of a vast dam-building program along the Nile River well to the north of Khartoum. In eastern Sudan, the so-called Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (October 2006) has meant nothing for the people of this severely marginalized region, particularly the non-Arab Beja people. Civil discontent is rising extremely rapidly.
This is the context in which the Sudanese economy and domestic climate must be assessed. Again, Western news coverage has been shockingly inadequate and sporadic, given the attention devoted to crises in other countries. For example, the more than 300,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad—many there for more than a decade and now living on a fraction of the daily kilocalorie minimum—are invisible, even as we have almost daily reports about refugees from Syria and Iraq. Indeed, to the extent that there is Western engagement with the regime in Khartoum on refugee issues, it has been motivated by a desire to prevent Sudan becoming either a transit country to neighboring Libya or itself a point of refugee departure.
THE CHOICE REMAINS THE SAME
This lack of accountability ensures that despite occasional condemnations, the Khartoum regime feels fully confident, and entirely undeterred, in its ability to continue military campaigns defined by mass atrocity crimes. The Obama administration, despite the fulsome promises of candidate Obama, has failed at every critical moment to halt Khartoum’s military onslaughts and renewed military campaigns (see “Obama’s Second ‘Rwanda Moment,'” June 13, 2011 | http://sudanreeves.org/2011/06/13/obamas-second-rwanda-moment/). Whether he are speaking about Abyei, Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, or Khartoum’s continuing assaults on the sovereign territory of South Sudan, Khartoum has had its savage way and is still embraced by the international community.
If the Obama administration has kept most of the sanctions that were put in place in the 1990s, it has loosened some, and shows signs of weakening on others. The administration has publicly declared that on the key bilateral issue between Khartoum and Washington—counter-terrorism intelligence in exchange for a lifting of U.S. sanctions and removal of Sudan from the State Department list of “state sponsors of terrorism”—it is willing to deal, and that this dealing will be “de-coupled” from the plight of Darfur. This was done in part on the basis of a badly distorted representation of realities in this vast western region (see Appendix B).
The Europeans have embraced Khartoum openly (see Appendix A), certainly making it more difficult for the Obama administration. But Obama has not openly or forcefully sought EU help in pressuring Khartoum—economically and financially—to make serious efforts at peace. In Darfur, Khartoum’s strategy has always been to wait out international attention and concern—and that patience is soon likely to pay large dividends. In addition to the massive expulsion of humanitarian capacity, the UN/African Union “Hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) seems to be dying in place, whether or not its mandate is rolled over for another year by the UN Security Council at the end of June. South African troop contributions have already been withdrawn:
South Africa to withdraw ‘unsupported’ troops from Darfur mission | May 12, 2016 | CAPE TOWN, South Africa – South African Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says a decision has been taken to withdraw the South African defence forces from Darfur in Sudan, due to difficult working conditions. The Minster announced this when she tabled the department’s Budget Vote in the National Assembly, on Wednesday. “The Sudanese government made it increasingly difficult for us to provide logistic support to our troops, and impossible for our forces to protect the women and children of that country,” she said. The Minister said as a result of unfavourable conditions, a decision was taken to withdraw the force with effect from 1 April. (Radio Dabanga)
Burkina Faso will also be withdrawing significant forces:
Last week, Chief of General Staff of Burkina Faso army, General Pingrenoma Zagre, disclosed that he asked the President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré to withdraw their 850 soldiers participating in Darfur peacekeeping mission. Zagre pointed to the growing security threats posed by Jihadist groups in the Sahel and Western Africa region. (Radio Dabanga, Sudan sticks to UNAMID exit from Darfur: minister | May 19, 2016 | KHARTOUM)
Darfur presents us with the grimmest possible spectacle: ongoing genocide, which has largely succeeded in its counter-insurgency ambitions; an almost total lack of meaningful international peacekeeping capacity on the ground; the slow strangulation of remaining humanitarian capacity in the region; and a ban on all journalists and human rights reporters, ensuring that the spectacle of suffering and destruction remains within Khartoum’s well-crafted “black box.”
Given this spectacle, there could be no greater moral failing than to engage with the regime that is responsible for this and so much else in Sudan—a regime that understandably sees present rapprochement and “engagement,” particularly from the European Union, as signs of weakness and lack of will.
Appendix A – Members of the international community most conspicuously embracing the Khartoum regime | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ty
Appendix B – How Darfur’s realities were rendered invisible, 2009 – 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1TO
Appendix C – Evidence of continuing economic decline and peril to the civilian population | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1TC
Appendix D – The growing scale and severity of repression throughout Sudan | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1TE
Appendix E – Current military activities throughout Sudan and their implications for humanitarian relief efforts | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1TI
Part One – http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Sf
Part Two – http://wp.me/p45rOG-1SO
Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for the past seventeen years. He is author of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012.