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.