Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The World’s Abandonment of Darfur,” The Washington Post, May 16, 2015

By Eric Reeves
The Darfur genocide in western Sudan—the first genocide of the 21st century and the longest one in more than a century—is about to achieve another distinction. It will be the first genocide in
which the victims are abandoned. An international peacekeeping force designed to halt violence against civilians and humanitarians—the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, or UNAMID—is on the verge of being gutted and perhaps eliminated altogether.
This is so despite the fact that some 3 million people have been internally displaced or turned into refugees; almost 500,000 were displaced last year alone. Mortality estimates vary, but we must of necessity speak of several hundred thousands of deaths—perhaps half a million—from violence and its consequences, and mortality rates are rising. The victims come overwhelmingly from the non-Arab tribal groups that have been targeted from the beginning of Khartoum’s brutal counter-insurgency against rebel forces.

Although it’s been reported on only fitfully, planning for UNAMID’S diminished future is well underway. Among the planners? The gĂ©nocidaires of the regime in Khartoum, who insist that the “exit strategy”—agreed to in principle by the U.N. Security Council in August—be executed
as rapidly as possible. The force has already been cut by 10,000 and stands at approximately at 17,000 uniformed personnel. The regime wants another 15,000 gone this year.
Criticism of UNAMID is longstanding; indeed it preceded deployment of the civilian-protection mission in January 2008. For the mission was set up to fail, largely because Khartoum was given excessive control over the deployment of personnel and equipment. This led to poor troop quality, with the regime rejecting many highly qualified peacekeeping contributions (such as a Swedish-Norwegian engineering battalion). Essential weaponry and aircraft were also denied. Despite a status-of-forces agreement that was supposed to give UNAMID unrestricted access, Khartoum has systematically obstructed, delayed or compromised countless protection and monitoring missions.

As badly as UNAMID has performed, however, it is all that allows international humanitarian organizations to remain in Darfur. If UNAMID withdraws, or is hopelessly compromised, these organizations may well be forced to end their work. To date, some 25 to 30 international relief organizations have been expelled by Khartoum or withdrawn because of insecurity. This has occurred against a backdrop of extreme malnutrition in many locations, a desperate lack of clean water and sanitation, and a rapidly collapsing system for providing primary medical care.
Decisions about reconfiguring UNAMID are being made at this very moment, and yet we hear nothing of significance from the Obama administration about the urgency of preserving key elements of the force. Yes, a facile international chorus has declared “Darfur won’t be abandoned,” but there are reasons to be skeptical. Leading this chorus is the expedient HervĂ© Ladsous, head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, who not so long ago argued that a drawdown of UNAMID was justified by improved security conditions, even as violence has escalated for three years. Read more >>>>>>>>