By Eric Reeves
February 25, 2016 (SSNA) — Both the UN and the Swiss-based Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) now report that more than 100,000 people have been displaced in the Jebel Marra region of central Darfur, driven from their homes and villages by the brutal onslaught of Khartoum’s regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the regime’s primary Arab militia forces, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The figure is likely a good deal higher, since so many of the locations to which people have fled are being denied access by Khartoum, even for humanitarian assessment purposes. Those who fled west or southwest or higher into the Jebel Marra, are largely unaccounted for and completely without assistance.
This denial of humanitarian assistance for those who have not fled east to North Darfur, which is now largely under Khartoum’s control, is in effect a campaign of civilian destruction. We know from as series of reports by Radio Dabanga that many—especially children—have died from hunger or exposure or from relentless and indiscriminate aerial bombardment (see assemblage of reports from Radio Dabanga in Appendix A). All such aerial attacks violate the explicit terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005), set out under Chapter 7 terms eleven years ago. Khartoum has contemptuously ignored the resolution—without consequence—for the entire period. Notably, the UN Security Council has never spoken seriously about Khartoum’s violation of this or many other Security Council resolutions. And to date, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council have been appallingly silent on the Jebel Marra crisis, leaving all UN statements to come from the UN humanitarian chief in Sudan.
In short, in a little over a month—the campaign began in earnest in mid-January—we have seen an enormous explosion of newly displaced people in one of the least served areas of Darfur. The total displaced population in Darfur likely exceeds 2.8 million—the greatest total since genocidal counter-insurgency began in 2003, thirteen years ago. Most of the newly displaced have fled to the region immediately to the east of Jebel Marra in North Darfur, known as “East Jebel Marra.” Yet alarmingly, for the past three years East Jebel Marra has been scene of the worst of widespread genocidal destruction, deterred not at all by the presence of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
Moreover, UNAMID is suddenly facing the loss of all personnel from one of its key troop- and personnel-contributing countries, South Africa. The precipitous withdrawal was reported by Agence France-Presse on February 24, 2016:
South Africa has told the United Nations it is withdrawing its troops from the joint UN-African Union mission in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur, a UN official said. “The government of South Africa decided to withdraw its troops from the mission,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The 850 troops will end operations on April 15.
This will leave a gaping whole in a Mission that is already almost wholly ineffective—constantly impeded and abused by Khartoum, operating with immense deficits in men and equipment, and burdened by extremely poor morale. South Africa’s move may also prompt other African nations to withdraw their peacekeepers, effectively ending any protective role for UNAMID.
The scale of recent violence in the East Jebel Marra region of North Darfur is recorded statistically and analytically in my report “’Changing the Demography’: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015″ (December 13, 2015). What we are seeing now in Jebel Marra is simply the extension of Khartoum’s efforts to “Change the Demography” of Darfur. Rebel resistance by the Sudan Liberation Army faction of Abdel Wahid el-Nur, which is based in Jebel Marra, has proved one of the most difficult military obstacles to Khartoum’s control of Darfur, and is now the target of an assault that gives every sign of being a “final solution” to Khartoum’s “Darfur problem.”
The response of those countries with the power to influence Khartoum’s behavior has been either deafening silence (the European Union in particular) or expedient equivocation (the Obama administration has continued its policies of accommodation, suggesting a moral equivalence between the actions of the rebel forces and Khartoum’s genocidal onslaught, which targets both rebel forces and innocent civilians with equal viciousness (see On Jebel Marra: Obama Administration Sudan Policy Remains Expedient, Guided by a Perverse “Moral Equivalence,” Eric Reeves | September 18, 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Rh ).
Khartoum scents victory in Darfur, and thus the ability to devote more military force to crush the popular rebellions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which have seen diminished violence this fighting season, although recent reports suggest this attenuation is already ending (see report of February 26, 2016 from South Kordofan Blue Nile Coordinating Unit). And they have been encouraged as well by the promise of military assistance from Saudi Arabia, this in return for Khartoum’s breaking of relations with long-time strategic ally Iran, and assisting the Saudis in their fight against the Houthi rebels in Yemen (immediately to the south of Saudi Arabia and directly across the Red Sea from Sudan).
There is skepticism in some quarters about the report from Sudan Tribune: Saudi Arabia gives Sudan $5 billion in military aid http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?iframe&page=imprimable&id_article=58095
February 22, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Saudi Arabia has granted five billion dollar military assistance to Sudan initially dedicated to the Lebanese army, multiple sources told Sudan Tribune on Monday. The diversion of military aid to Sudan comes as the Saudi Press Agency announced on Friday 19 February the cancellation of a $3 billion aid package for the Lebanese army and the remainder of $1 billion in aid it had earmarked for Lebanon’s security service.
The military aid to Sudan was announced to President Omer al-Bashir by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, during a two-hour visit to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, seemingly in return to his total political and military support to Saudi Arabia in the regional confrontation against Iran.
But in fact there is a clear logic to the deal, even if the numbers are smaller, pushed further into the future, or made contingent in ways unspecified. Moreover, the Sudan Tribune, aware of this skepticism, nonetheless remains confident in its sources. Surely some significant military assistance from the Saudis is in the pipeline—this to help prop up a regime that currently presides over a collapsing civilian economy, brought to its knees by obscenely excessive military and security expenditures and a gross mismanagement of the economy [See my two Forum reports on the Sudanese economy for the Enough Project: