Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Pretending Darfur Isn’t: the world continues to avert its eyes from accelerating human suffering and destruction

Eric Reeves, 31 May 2014

The international community is by now quite experienced in pretending that the massive humanitarian crisis in Darfur doesn’t really exist, or exists in some acceptable and remediable form, destined to improve with time. The world has been encouraged in this dangerously expedient ignorance by the likes of Ibrahim Gambari and Rodolphe Adada (both former special representatives of the UN and AU to UNAMID); U.S. special envoy Scott Gration; former UN humanitarian coordinator Georg Charpentier, and UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick. All have suggested, some dismayingly recently, that things aren’t really so bad in Darfur. Charpentier and Cycmanick supported the claims by UNAMID as recently as 2011 that the fighting was minimal. Adada claimed at the end of his tenure in 2009 that there was merely “low intensity” fighting and some carjackings; Gambari claimed at the end of his tenure in September 2012 that he had “achieved all he set out to do” as special representative, and minimized fighting, mortality, displacement, and human suffering. Scott Gration was taken to task by an inter-agency humanitarian group for suggesting (July 2009) that conditions were ripe for returns by Darfuri IDPs.

The history of misrepresentation is long and ugly. Current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (then Senator and unofficial presidential representative) declared in April 2009 that Khartoum’s expulsion of half the humanitarian capacity in Darfur—thirteen of the world’s finest humanitarian organizations—would be replaced in “a few weeks.” Cynically, he declared that he had Khartoum’s promise on the matter, as if the regime’s promises have somehow meant something in the past. This was an anticipation of the Obama administration’s subsequent “de-coupling” of Darfur from U.S. Sudan policy, and the appointment of a diplomatic lightweight as special envoy for the region (Dane Smith).
Some within the UN system have begun to speak out, and the truths at last spoken are terrifying in their implications:
“Entire generation may be lost in Darfur”: UNICEF Representative in Sudan (Radio Dabanga, KHARTOUM, 12 May 2014) – The UN children’s rights and relief organisation, UNICEF, has warned that an entire generation in Darfur may be lost as a result of more than ten years of violence in the region. “Life in the camps might produce a new generation without ambition,” the UNICEF Representative in Sudan, Geert Cappelaere, said in a press statement issued on Saturday. “In particular as about 60 percent of the displaced in Darfur are minors.”
 
It requires a willful blindness not to see what is occurring in Darfur, unless one is willing to dismiss entirely the reports that come from the ground—by way of Radio Dabanga, Sudan Tribune, and Radio Tamazuj, and the UN itself on notable occasions. But even the dismissing of these repeatedly confirmed and highly detailed accounts does not explain the silence that has followed the most dire warning from a range of humanitarian organizations still working in Darfur. It is a silence, or near silence, that accompanies even such extraordinary announcements as these about the work in Darfur and Sudan of the International Committee of the Red Cross:
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has expressed regret for Sudan’s suspension of its activities, saying it has led to negative humanitarian implications. ICRC also announced it is laying off 195 employees of its local staff while imploring on Khartoum to reverse its decision and allow it resume its work to help the affected population. Last February, the Sudanese government ordered the ICRC to halt its activities in the country saying that the aid organisation needs to comply with the humanitarian work guidelines and the voluntary work law in order to continue operating in the country.
 

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