Thursday, October 20, 2005

A murderous response to Sudan’s ‘new era’

By Nat Hentoff
In a Sept. 28 Washington Times Op-Ed article, "An optimistic future; The beginning of a 'new era' in Sudan," Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed, chief of mission for Sudan in Washington, wrote: "Every reliable report coming out of Darfur indicates that the situation has stabilized and the mortality rate has returned to pre-war levels. ... It is the beginning of a new era in Sudan." The grisly facts on the ground, however, refute the ambassador's public-relations ploy.

On Sept. 28, the Associated Press, reporting on the increasing violence in Darfur, also directed at humanitarian operations, quoted Jan Egeland, under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator:

"If it continues to be so dangerous on humanitarian work, we may not be able to sustain our operation for 2.5 million people requiring lifesaving assistance. ... It could all end tomorrow — it's as serious as that." (There are currently no plans for the United Nations to leave, but there is much concern that Darfur is sliding into chaos).

Opponents of the Khartoum government perpetrate some of the violence; but the chief perpetrators are the savage Arab militia, the Janjaweed, supported by and often in company with the armed forces of the Khartoum government.

The African Union (AU), with 7,000 troops in Darfur, has been courageously trying to stabilize the continuing genocide (as George W. Bush once accurately called it). But on Oct. 1, there was a denunciation of the Sudan government by Baba Gana Kingibe, the African Union's special representative to Sudan.

Kingibe told the Associated Press that "Government forces have 'resorted to violent, destructive and overwhelming use of force not only against rebel forces, but also on innocent civilian villages.'"

The Khartoum government has, of course, denied his charges, as they continually deny that they have any operational connection with the Janjaweed, who destroy villages, and, after they murder their husbands, gang rape the women.

Buried in the Oct. 2 New York Times -- which, aside from its invaluable columnist, Nicholas Kristof, has not paid much continuing attention to Darfur — there was this Reuters report, datelined Khartoum:

"The African Union accused the Sudanese government on Saturday of coordinating with Arab militias (the dread Janjaweed) in attacks on civilians in the Darfur region, and it said all sides in the conflict were violating cease-fire agreements."

Also, with regard to what Khartoum calls the "new era" in Sudan, on Oct. 3, the Sudan Tribune Web site (, with Khartoum as the dateline, disclosed: "Laurens Jolles, head of the mission for the UN refugee agency in Darfur, said 34 men have been killed in raids carried out by 250 to 300 Arabs against the Aro Sharow camp for displaced people in West Darfur." (Again, the murderous Janjaweed.)

Meanwhile, an Oct. 3 Reuters dispatch from Khartoum emphasized, from a source in the African Union, that "a summit of the 53-nation African Union scheduled to be hosted by (the government of) Sudan in January could be changed to another venue as a form of protest (to the continuing violence in Darfur) from around the continent."

The African Union is so troubled that it has sent its deputy chairman, Patrick Mazimhaka to Khartoum. Said AU spokesman Adam Thiam to Reuters: "He is going to express the concern of the pan-African organization in the light of the recent development in Darfur and demand explanations over recent attacks on villages and refugee camps in Darfur in which 32 people were killed." (The United States supported the AU's decision to investigate the attacks.)

Furthermore, as attacks on humanitarian organizations in Darfur also continue, Eric Reeves — the most authoritative continuing analyst on Darfur — points out on Oct. 1: "If humanitarian personnel are forced to withdraw on an emergency basis, there will be immediate and devastating consequences for the provision of food, medicine, water, shelter and the security that has derived simply from the presence of humanitarian workers. Any restarting of humanitarian operations would be extraordinarily difficult and slow-moving."

On Oct. 4, during National Public Radio's "News and Notes" with Ed Gordon, Professor Nat Irvin of Wake Forest University, recalled "how far we have come from last September when then Secretary Colin Powell had given a speech about the very positive prospects for peace to actually occur in the Sudan. ... now here we are faced with having to reiterate the saying of 'Never again' (as world leaders who allowed the genocide in Rwanda said so piously so late.)

But Sudan's chief of mission in Washington, Khidir Haroun Ahmed, heralding Sudan's "optimistic future," charges that "some observers fail or refuse to see things as they are."

Things as terrifying as they are in Darfur have once more exposed the uselessness of the United Nations in ongoing genocide -- and the absence of a new coalition of willing democratic nations, including the United States, to support the African Union more substantively because the AU cannot stop the killing without such help.

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.

and author of many books, including "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance" (Seven Stories Press, 2003).

Copyright 2005, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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