Friday, November 25, 2011

Darfur: The Genocide the World Got Tired Of

Amidst precarious humanitarian conditions, human security is increasingly threatened in Darfur—by Khartoum’s military as well as by variously re-cycled militia forces, and in particular by the increasingly savage Abu Tira (Central Reserve Police). The UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a conspicuous failure, and yet continues to represent the entirety of international efforts in confronting the “responsibility to protect” acutely endangered civilians

Eric Reeves
November 24, 2011

News coverage of the Darfur region of western Sudan, including eastern Chad, has all but vanished. Were it not for the efforts of the Sudan Tribune and Radio Dabanga, two extraordinary journalistic enterprises by Sudanese in the diaspora, Darfur would be largely reduced to the feeble visibility provided by media releases from UNAMID (the UN/African Union peacekeeping force in the region). These stultifying, self-serving dispatches convey nothing of the continuing violence and destruction that afflict Darfuris, both in the camps and rural areas, as well as in towns. The victims continue to be overwhelmingly from the African tribal groups of the region, who make up the vast majority of the more than 2 million people who remain uprooted, most from the most intense phase of Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency effort (April 2003 into early 2005). During the past eight and a half years, some 500,000 people have died from violence or the consequences of violent displacement.

Insecurity and deprivation also define the lives of the Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, most of whom fled early in the conflict. There, as Human Rights authoritatively established with reports in 2006 and 2007, Khartoum pursued ethnically African Darfuris with Antonov bombers, and turned loose their savage Janjaweed militias (see especially “‘They Came Here to Kill Us’: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern Chad,” January 2007 and “Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad,” February 2006). And yet eastern Chad is, if possible, even less visible than Darfur. But the crisis there continues to be enormous: the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates this year that there are some 285,000 refugees who remain near the Chad/Darfur border; these people are no closer to safe returns in substantial numbers than they were five years ago.

The figure for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur has been badly politicized, particularly by the UN’s Georg Charpentier, who lowered the UN estimate for IDPs from 2.7 million to 1.9 million in July 2010—justifying this only on the basis of a footnote reference to a report by the International Organization for Migration that did not exist, and still is not complete (the undertaking is in partnership with the UN World Food Program as part of an overdue re-registration effort in the camps). This was utterly disingenuous on Charpentier’s part, as is the consistent UN suggestion that the population of IDPs is equivalent to the populations in the camps. This is not so. It should be noted first that camp are populations highly fluid, especially during agriculturally important times of the year, and especially if lands abandoned are in walking distance. But the status of many other displaced persons is even more ambiguous, and a great many people have taken shelter with host families or villages, often far from their homes. This is an enormous population that has never shown up in the census calculations of IDP numbers based solely on camp registrations (this is true of the Darfuri refugee population in eastern Chad as well). To omit the figure for displaced persons not in the camps—without even acknowledging that this population exists, and that it is very substantial—is but another form of disingenuousness on the part of Charpentier and the UN/AU joint special representative for Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria.

Security for these displaced persons remains appallingly inadequate. Despite Gambari’s fatuously self-serving public claims, UNAMID is almost completely dysfunctional in protecting civilians. Certainly Darfuris are uniformly scathing in their assessment of UNAMID’s performance and protection abilities. It is true that large-scale armed conflict between Khartoum (along with its Arab militia allies) and the rebel groups has declined in recent months; but we have seen such declines a number of times over the past eight years, and invariably fighting has resumed (moreover, two ominous recent reports indicate that dry season fighting may be about to begin). Khartoum has for the present re-deployed a great many of its military air assets to el-Obeid (North Kordofan), to South Kordofan, and to Blue Nile—including a newly expanded air field near recently captured Kurmuk (southern Blue Nile). This expansion includes helipads for combat helicopters, both gunships and troop-ferrying aircraft. From these locations, Khartoum’s military aircraft are engaged in what all accounts suggest is daily bombardment and aerial attacks on civilians, including refugees from South Kordofan who have made it to South Sudan.

Reduced fighting in Darfur, almost certainly temporary, thus gives the world an excuse to pretend that UNAMID is somehow an adequate international response to the violence and continued displacement; in fact, it is yet another in a long line of obscene failures to make the “responsibility to protect” something more than a feel-good exhortation. It is worth noting that since UNAMID officially took up its mandate on January 1, 2008, almost 1 million Darfuris have been newly displaced, according to figures from the UN High Commission for Refugees. This vast number in itself makes nonsense of Charpentier’s claim that the number of IDPs may be reduced by over 800,000, a claim that Khartoum delights in.

The realities of human security in Darfur are simply not represented in any meaningful fashion by a thoroughly intimidated UN; this in turn offers special representative Gambari the opportunity to make any number of absurd claims about the success of the mission he now oversees, and which he clearly hopes to use as a stepping-stone in his career (much as his disastrous performance in Burma won him appointment by Ban Ki-moon to his present position). But the causes for concern are many, and the daily violence experienced by Darfuris, even without major fighting or regular aerial bombardment, needs some meaningful accounting. There should be, for example, major concerns about the mercenaries who have returned to Darfur from Libya, with their substantial weaponry. These men could easily become an additional source of insecurity for civilians, but UNAMID has said nothing that suggests it even perceives a threat.

Further, the epidemic of rape that has stalked Darfur for more than eight years continues; Radio Dabanga provides continuing accounts on this immensely destructive phenomenon, which is rippling cruelly through families and generations. (See below for a compendium of recent reports on the continuing outrage of widespread rape, including the rape of girls, with no accountability.) Camps continue to be attacked, rural farms seized, civilians casually murdered, and arson is deployed more frequently as a means of destroying key institutions, including schools.

The Central Reserve Police, or Abu Tira, are now Khartoum’s primary instrument of destruction and intimidation, and they operate throughout Darfur with total impunity, sustaining a climate of fear and violence that at once endangers humanitarian operations and presents intolerable threats to civilians. Julie Flint offers a perspicuous overview of this force

“A gendarmerie officially under the Interior Ministry, although more likely at the behest of the [former] National Intelligence and Security Service of Salah Gosh, the Central Reserve Police has become increasingly active in the conflict in Darfur (and neighbouring Kordofan). Some analysts believe this is a result of the reduced effectiveness of the Popular Defence Forces, a paramilitary group that has taken on a political dimension that makes it more useful as a political rallying tool than a fighting force; others link it to restrictions imposed on Sudan Armed Forces by the Darfur Peace Agreement. In 2004, the Central Reserve Police opened a training centre in Musa Hilal’s Misteriha barracks in North Darfur.” (“Beyond ‘Janjaweed’: Understanding the Militias of Darfur,” Small Arms Survey [Geneva], June 2009)

It was Musa Hila, the most notorious of the Janjaweed leaders, who announced in 2004 the ambition that still animates Khartoum’s efforts in Darfur: “change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.”

None of this is suggested anywhere in UNAMID’s representation of conditions in Darfur.

“Peace for our time”? Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

1 comment:

Jean said...

I haven't been following this but have watched "The Devil CAme on Horseback" and I am wondering what is happening now and have we, the U.S., or anyone else, done anything about iT?