Darfur, Now the Most “Successful” Genocide in a Century—and “on our watch”

Two dispatches over this past weekend offer powerful insight into the the final form of the Darfur genocide—recognized as such since 2004 by dozens of political officials and bodies (including the U.S. Congress and the EU Parliament), human rights groups, a wide range of genocide and human rights scholars, and such commemorative bodies as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Vad Yashem in Israel (for an extensive but still partial list of those declaring Darfur to be the site of genocide, see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-22A/).

Darfur in 2005: a searing, iconic photograph taken by Brian Steidle, a military observer with the feeble African Union Mission in Darfur, the predecessor to UNAMID

The annihilating character of attacks on non-Arab/African civilians and villages in Darfur; the systematic denial of humanitarian aid to these ethnic populations; and the pointed pronouncements of various officials and proxies of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime—all made “genocide” the inevitable characterization. Only political diffidence or disingenuousness kept the characterization from being universally accepted.

The outlines of the genocidal ambition were articulated with remarkable clarity in a memorandum originating from the headquarters of notorious Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal in Misteriya, North Darfur at the height of the violence. Julie Flint and Alex de Waal were among those who reported on this extraordinary memorandum:

The ultimate objective in Darfur is spelled out in an August 2004 directive from [Janjaweed paramount leader Musa] Hilal’s headquarters: “change the demography” of Darfur and “empty it of African tribes.” Confirming the control of [Khartoum’s] Military Intelligence over the Darfur file, the directive is addressed to no fewer than three intelligence services—the Intelligence and Security Department, Military Intelligence and National Security, and the ultra-secret “Constructive Security,” or Amn al Ijabi. (Julie Flint and Alex de Waal, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War, Zed Books, 2005) (all emphases in quoted passages in bold have been added—ER)

The notorious Musa Hilal, whose spirit lives on in the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) described so comprehensively by Human Rights Watch

Lest we think Musa Hilal as only a “man of letters,” we should recall that he was identified by numerous eyewitnesses as having presided at the February 2004 slaughter at Tawila, North Darfur. More than 100 people were killed, 350 girls and women were abducted, and more than 100 women were raped. A number of the women and girls were raped in front of their fathers, who were then killed (see | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article11358/). This was Musa Hilal’s idea of “demographic change.” And this was only one of many atrocities that he either directed or orchestrated.

In September 2015 Human Rights Watch provided the world a clear, authoritative, and deeply researched report on the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), by then the dominant militia force in Darfur, called by some the “new Janjaweed” (“Men With No Mercy: Rapid Support Forces Attacks Against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan” | September 9, 2015 | https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/09/09/men-no-mercy/rapid-support-forces-attacks-against-civilians-darfur-sudan/). This report is more important than ever as we survey the “militia state” that Darfur has become; and the report provides compelling evidence that Musa Hilal’s ambitions continue to animate the violence orchestrated by the Khartoum regime against non-Arab/African tribal populations. The voice of particular significance in this report is that of Vice President of the regime, Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman:

Ahmed, a 35-year-old officer in the Border Guards [another of Khartoum’s powerful militia proxies in Darfur], spent two weeks at a military base in Guba in December 2014 before being sent to fight rebels around Fanga. Two senior RSF officials, the commanding officer, Alnour Guba, and Col. Badre ab-Creash were present on the Guba base.

Ahmed said that a few days prior to leaving for East Jebel Marra, Sudanese Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman directly addressed several hundred army and RSF soldiers: “Hassabo told us to clear the area east of Jebel Marra. To kill any male. He said we want to clear the area of insects. … He said East Jebel Marra is the kingdom of the rebels. We don’t want anyone there to be alive.”

Ahmed said he was then given direct orders from Colonel Badre, who explained that they were going to attack the area of Fanga and the orders were to kill all the rebels and all of the civilians because they were supporting the rebels. Badre told the officers that if they found any women they were allowed to do anything they want to them, which Mohamed interpreted to mean rape.

“Hassabo told us to clear the area east of Jebel Marra. To kill any male. He said we want to clear the area of insects. … He said East Jebel Marra is the kingdom of the rebels. We don’t want anyone there to be alive.”

Vice President of the Khartoum regime Hassabo likened the rebels, and their civilian “supporters—overwhelmingly from Darfur’s non-Arab/African ethnic groups—to “insects.” The echoes of Rwanda have not registered in meaningful fashion with those seeking rapprochement with the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, despite its long history of genocidal counter-insurgencies animated by the views Hassabo gives voice to.

I am astonished that these words by Khartoum’s Vice President have not registered in a consequential way with those formulating various policies of accommodation with the regime, particularly since they define so precisely the nature of the violence that accelerated from 2012 through the militarily successful campaign against the Jebel Marra massif in Central Darfur in 2016 | see these short monographs:

“‘Changing the Demography’: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015″ | December 1, 2015 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4

“Continuing Mass Rape of Girls in Darfur: The most heinous crime generates no international outrage” | January 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1QG

[Arabic translation of this report | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Rr ]

The Jebel Marra campaign, which included the use of chemical weapons against clearly civilian populations in the region, denied rebels forces in Darfur their last significant military redoubt. The genocidal counter-insurgency has—after fourteen years of unspeakable violence, destruction, and deprivation—has succeeded.

The use of chemical weapons against children seems to matter in Syria—not in Darfur, despite overwhelming evidence of such use assembled by Amnesty International (“Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air: Sudanese Government Forces Ravage Jebel Marra, Darfur,” September 2016 | http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/scorched-earth-poisoned-air-sudanese-government-forces-ravage-jebel-marra-darfur

In the wake of such victory, Khartoum is eager to begin dismantling the camps for displaced persons that have done so much to define destruction and suffering during the Darfur genocide. UN figures suggest that approximately 3 million people remain displaced from their homes, some 300,000 as refugees in eastern Chad (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/03/19/internally-displaced-persons-in-darfur-the-invisible-catastrophe/). They are overwhelmingly people from the non-Arab/African tribal populations of Darfur. Extant mortality data and reports, while limited in many ways by Khartoum, when aggregated strongly suggest that well over 500,000 people have been killed directly or indirectly by the violence Khartoum has so effectively orchestrated (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/01/05/quantifying-genocide-darfur-mortality-update-august-6-2010/).

Since the world seems not to care about the number of violent deaths in Darfur, desperate Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad have attempted to keep at least some records of the human destruction

Many tens of thousands of girls and women have been raped as sexual violence continues to be deployed as a brutal weapon of war (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/03/07/continuing-mass-rape-of-girls-in-darfur-the-most-heinous-crime-generates-no-international-outrage-january-2016//).

Non-Arab/African girls and women of marriageable age have been, overwhelmingly, the targets of a brutal deployment of rape as a weapon of war in Darfur. Many of the girls raped and gang-raped are under the age of ten, often in front of their families.

Deprivation is unspeakable in many locations; indeed, the best estimate is that 30 percentof the population in Darfur that remains inaccessible to humanitarian relief operations because of Khartoum’s obstructionist policies. This represents a population of almost 1 million people, as the UN has recently estimated that Darfur’s population in need is 3.3 million people (UN OCHA, Sudan Bulletin 6 | February 2017 | http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-humanitarian-bulletin-issue-6-13-26-february-2017-enar/).

Some of the Darfuris who fled their homes in 2014 as the Rapid Support Forces swept through their villages. Violence from 2014 through 2016 was as intense as that of the early years of the genocide (2003 – 2005), making nonsense of claims by UNAMID heads Gambari and Adada about reductions in violence. These are some of the 3.3 million people that OCHA estimated in February 2017 were in need of humanitarian assistance.

I offer in a recent analysis representative examples of camps and locations that remain inaccessible despite the claim by former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powerthat there has been a “sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access in Sudan. This is a preposterous falsehood, and yet it stands uncorrected by any U.S. government official—past or present. It is a particularly outrageous falsehood, given the fact that in addition to obstructing humanitarian relief in Darfur, Khartoum continues to impose a total humanitarian blockade on the large and highly distressed populations in rebel-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. By crediting Khartoum with a “sea change” of improved humanitarian access, Power’s statement perversely works to diminish incentives for the regime actually to make such improvements.

Former Obama administration Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power; she claimed that there has been a “sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access in Sudan. There has been no public correction of her egregious falsehood by any official of either the Obama administration or the Trump administration. In short, her statement stands as the most prominent U.S. government assessment of this critical issue, affecting literally millions of human beings in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile.

All this makes clear that, given the terms set by President Obama for a permanent lifting of U.S. sanctions on Khartoum—which include prominently an improvement in humanitarian access—the regime is failing badly (see my recent assessment of Khartoum’s failure to adhere to the terms stipulated | http://wp.me/p45rOG-22o/).

The badly malnourished child in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan has seen nothing of the “sea change” in humanitarian access Ambassador Power spoke of. Dr. Tom Catena, the only surgeon working in the Nuba Mountains, has written to me repeatedly to insist that “not a grain of sorghum, not a bit of medicine” has reached the people he serves from his hospital near Kauda.

What does Darfur look like in the wake of this ghastly “success”?

The character of Khartoum’s success in Darfur is revealed in two dispatches from Radio Dabanga this past weekend (see below) and a recent report from the Enough Project (“Border Control from Hell: How the EU’s migration partnership legitimizes Sudan’s militia state” | April 2017

| http://www.enoughproject.org/files/BorderControl_April2017_Enough_Finals.pdf/). What they have in common is the characterization of the region as a “militia state,” one in which security has essentially been turned over to the militia forces that have fought for Khartoum and which will sustain themselves primarily by continuing predations on civilians and permanent, violently ensured expropriation of farmlands and pasturage.

This Human Rights Watch report is our definitive account of the savage predations of the Rapid Support Forces through September 2015; see also my monograph on the RSF and other militia forces in Darfur: “Changing the Demography”: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015″ | December 1, 2015 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4

Hamid Nur, a man known to me as someone of extraordinary knowledge, integrity, and humanity, is reported by Radio Dabanga to have offered the following assessment:

Sudan’s western region is politically, militarily, and economically dominated by militias, says the head of the Darfur Civil Society Platform. The Darfur displaced and refugees have no way to return to their [homes and farms] as the places are occupied by militiamen and their families. In an interview with Radio Dabanga, Hamid Ali Nur, head of the Darfur Civil Society Platform, called the repeated statements by the Sudanese government and the recent report by the US military attaché about the improved security situation in Darfur inaccurate and incorrect.

According to the civil society leader, the Khartoum government has, to a large extent, succeeded in changing the Darfur population itself. “Militiamen and their families have occupied the villages and farms left by fleeing Darfuris during all these years.”

The civil society activist said that the government’s options given to the Darfur displaced, either to return to their villages of origin, or integrate them into the local communities by re-structuring the camps, are fake. “As the displaced are not able to return, Khartoum’s policy is aimed at permanently displacing them from their homes, lands, and heritage.”

The new U.S. military attaché in Khartoum, John Bung, has negligible knowledge of or experience in Darfur, and yet—

According to SUNA, the Military Attaché John Bung said he witnessed great developments in North Darfur, and lauded the coordination between the state and federal security bodies to maintain the security situation in the region. (Radio Dabanga, April 10, 2017 | El Fasher/Tullus)

Of course Military Attaché Bung saw only what Khartoum permitted him to see, and would have been quite unprepared for the manipulations of appearances at which Military Intelligence and the National Intelligences and Security Services (NISS) have become so expert in Darfur. And while there is good reason to be deeply skeptical of the accuracy of the SUNA account—“the news agency” is little more than an extension of the regime’s elaborate propaganda apparatus—the views attributed to Bung comport all too well with U.S. Sudan policy under the Obama administration and so far under the Trump administration.

The angry response of Darfuris to the reported characterization by Bung was made most bluntly and directly by camp officials and displaced persons (Radio Dabanga, “‘Militiamen living in our villages, using our lands’: Darfuri displaced” | April 17, 2017 | BELEIL / ZALINGEI

The continued announcements of the Sudanese government and the recent declaration of the US military attaché in Khartoum about the improved security situation in the region are “false propaganda,” according to the displaced people in Darfur. “These statements about security in Darfur have no basis in reality,” Hussein Abu Sharati, the spokesman for the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association, commented to Radio Dabanga.

“In terms of security and stability, the situation in Darfur is now more serious than three years ago. As the region is currently under the control of those who fought alongside government forces against the people, and chased them from their villages. The government rewarded them by letting them occupy our lands.”

Abu Sharati explained that the displaced and refugees do not refuse to return voluntarily. “On the contrary, they are longing to return to their places of origin. It is imperative however, to achieve a comprehensive peace, to restore security, disarm the militias, expel the militiamen and their families from the occupied lands, and bring those who have committed crimes against civilians in Darfur to justice.

“Otherwise, we have nothing to do with any re-planning of camps, nor with the so-called voluntary return as it is promoted by the government,” he added.

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According to El Shafee Abdallah, Coordinator of the Central Darfur camps and one of the members of the Darfur Camps Coordination Committee, the government’s announcement of security in Darfur and the possibility for the displaced people in the camps to return to their villages is “baseless propaganda.”

“The lands and villages of the displaced people are currently occupied by militiamen, from the region or neighbouring countries, who are allied with the government,” he said. “They daily prevent the displaced from leaving the camps to collect firewood and straw, let alone to return to their villages.”

He explained that “The government aims to keep the displaced people where they are, after a so-called re-planning of the camps.

“If the camp areas are annexed to the towns and the displaced registered as town residents, they will deprived from the possibility to reclaim their land. Thus the way to legalising the new settlers’ ownership of our lands will be paved.”

“That is why the displaced people will never accept the re-planning of the camps and their integration into the towns,” he said.

The inaccurate and distorting characterization offered by Military Attaché Bung will undoubtedly inform and guide U.S. participation in the June 2017 UN Security Council debate on re-authorizing the absurdly expensive and disastrously under-performing UN/African Union “hybrid” peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID). There will be unctuous words about the importance of “protecting innocent civilians in Darfur,” but in the end the U.S. will vote to reduce, and thus weaken, UNAMID. The vote will be justified as the only way in which to avoid a Russian or Chinese veto of UNAMID reauthorization, which is vehemently opposed by Khartoum (the regime is continually demanding of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations an “exit strategy” for UNAMID and will insist that there be at the very least significant cuts to the force, an insistence that will be supported by Russia and/or China).

As the debate about the need to reauthorize UNAMID nears, we would do well to recall the various accounts of “improved security” in Darfur and the “success of UNAMID” that preceded Military Attaché Bung’s assessments—it is have an ominous history. In 2008 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon first appointed as Joint Special Representative to UNAMID the bombastic and incompetent Rodolphe Adada of Congo. Although achieving virtually nothing in strengthening UNAMID as a force on the ground, or improving security, Adada did set the tone for UNAMID’s claims about its achievements, declaring at the end of his brief tenure:

“I have achieved results in Darfur. [ ] There is no more fighting proper on the ground.’ ‘Right now there is no high-intensity conflict in Darfur. Call it what you will but this is what is happening in Darfur—a lot of banditry, carjacking, attacks on houses.”

Not to be outdone, UNAMID head Ibrahim Gambari, on the occasion of the end of his tenure in 2011, declared:

“I am gratified to note that barely 31 months on, all the set goals and objectives have largely been met. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) was signed in July 2011.” (UN Forum | Sept 15, 2012)

“…all the set goals and objectives have largely been met.” What utterly despicable mendacity.

Violence against IDP camps continues, and indeed has become more frequent and more destructive—increasing the need for humanitarian assistance that Khartoum continues to block