A Permanent Lifting of U.S. Sanctions on Khartoum? Report Card Number Two

President Barack Obama provisionally lifted U.S. economic sanctions on the Khartoum regime by Executive Order on January 13, 2017; Obama cited “positive actions” and his UN Ambassador Samantha Power went so far as to declare that there had been a “sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access in Sudan. These sanctions were first imposed on the regime in 1997 and strengthened during the administration of President George W. Bush.

The Obama Executive Order stipulated the conditions for a permanent lifting of economic sanctions, which are essentially twofold:

[1] Significant improvement in humanitarian access to Darfur as well as South Kordofan and Blue Nile (the “Two Areas”) and,

[2] End organized violence in the regions, including a halt to the indiscriminate aerial bombardment that has defined Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency in Darfur for fourteen years and for over almost six years in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

What this second criterion does not address is Khartoum’s continuing support for militia proxies in Darfur, which have come to control the region, creating what has recently been quite accurately described as a “militia state.” The U.S. government seems intent on minimizing this defining military reality—and for its distorted representation has been sharply corrected by Hamid Nur, one of the most distinguished and knowledgeable Darfuri civil society leaders:

“Darfur fully dominated by militias”: civil society leader | Radio Dabanga | April 16, 2017 | KHARTOUM | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/darfur-fully-dominated-by-militias-civil-society-leader

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 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 government militiamen known as janjaweed, recruited from Bedouin groups in the region and over the past couple of years also from neighbouring countries, are enjoying full immunity,” he stated. “They can do whatever they want without any accountability. The Khartoum government has given them full political, military and economic dominance, while it denies the other entities in Darfur their basic, legitimate rights. Nur said that the Darfuri people, “in their homes or in the camps for the displaced, are humiliated and oppressed by the militiamen on a daily basis. There is no opportunity to complain or resort to justice because of the immunity enjoyed by these militias.

“Displaced returning to their areas of origin for farming in the rainy season have to hand half of their yields to militias in the area. In other instances, militiamen force displaced farmers to work on their farms as slaves,” he explained. “This situation can never lead to peace, because of the complete absence of justice and accountability.”

Unless these issues are addressed, a U.S. sanctions review will be meaningless, at least for the vast majority of the people now suffering continuing violence and acute deprivation. Appendix A collects those dispatches from the past month bearing on the increasingly insistent threat by the Khartoum regime of camp closures and dismantling. But the violence that makes voluntary returns by displaced persons impossible has been substantially documented, including in numerous dispatches from the past month.

I will continue issuing periodic “report cards” assessing the regime’s performance in meeting U.S. government criteria for a permanent lifting of economic sanctions. This present “report card” focuses on reports from Radio Dabanga and Sudan Tribune since the last “report card (April 8, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-22o/); Khartoum’s grade continues to be an “F”—failing.


[1] Improve humanitarian access in Darfur as well as South Kordofan and Blue Nile (the “Two Areas”) [all of my comments on these dispatches appear in blue italics, followed by my initials, ER]

• Sheikh foresees “humanitarian disaster” as thirst grips North Darfur camp | Radio Dabanga, May 10, 2017 | SORTONY camp | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/sheik-foresees-humanitarian-disaster-as-thirst-grips-north-darfur-camp

Sortony camp for the displaced in Kabkabiya, North Darfur, is heading for a ‘humanitarian disaster’ unless a solution is found for the water crisis that has lasted more than two months. One of the camp Sheikhs told Radio Dabanga that the price of a tin of water has soared to SDG 6 ($0.90). He pointed out that the displaced in the camp are currently receiving drinking water from Kabro and Goli areas, which entails a six-hour round trip on the backs of animals.

He said there are four water tankers operating once a day for to bring water to the camp which houses more than 22,000 displaced people. The Sheikh says he foresees “a severe humanitarian disaster by the end of the summer unless the authorities and organisations resolve the problem.”

Last month, a number of displaced people in Sortony told Radio Dabanga that the severe drinking water shortage was caused by the reduction in the number of water tankers carrying water to the camp: from 17 vehicles per day to two vehicles.

[There are many ways for Khartoum to obstruct humanitarian relief in Darfur, including the denial of adequate numbers of critical transport vehicles—ER]

• Lacking resources, equipment cause surgery backlog at North Darfur hospital | Radio Dabanga | May 10, 2017 | EL FASHER | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/lacking-resources-equipment-cause-surgery-backlog-at-north-darfur-hospital

Health authorities in North Darfur have revealed that there is a waiting list of 24 people who require surgery for urinary fistula* at the obstetrics and gynaecology section of El Fasher hospital.

[In Darfur, by far the most common cause of fistulas is violent sexual assault, specifically rape—ER]

The director of the fistula centre of the El Fasher hospital in the North Darfur capital, Dr Salih El Tahir Salih, told Radio Dabanga that the lack of material resources, medical devices, and equipment, is preventing the operations from being carried out.

[This lack of equipment occurs despite the reality of many tens of thousands of girls and women victimized by rape used as a weapon of war, deployed by Khartoum’s militia and regular military forces for over fourteen years: see | http://sudanreeves.org/2016/04/03/update-to-continuing-mass-rape-of-girls-in-darfur-the-most-heinous-crime-generates-no-international-outrage-january-2016/ —ER ]

• Thirst growing in Darfur camps | Radio Dabanga | April 23, 2017 | | SORTONY / ZAMZAM / GIREIDA | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/thirst-growing-in-darfur-camps

Displaced living in the Sortony and Zamzam camps in North Darfur complain about a severe drinking water shortage. Residents of the Gireida camps for the displaced in South Darfur suffer from thirst as well. Several displaced told Radio Dabanga from Sortony that two weeks ago the number of water tankers carrying water to the camp was reduced from 17 vehicles per day to two vehicles, resulting in a severe water crisis for the about 63,000 people in the camp. “We cannot afford to buy water for SDG5 ($0.70) per jerry-can, sold by the owners of the donkey carts,” a camp resident said. “And when we leave the camp to get water from a well, we more often than not are assaulted by militiamen.”

[The significance of Darfur having become a “militia state” can hardly be overstated—ER]

In the Zamzam camp, south of the north Darfur capital El Fasher, people also complain about shortages of drinking water and high prices. A Zamzam camp elder told this station that 39 of the 79 pumps in the camp are not operating. He expressed his fear that “Our thirst may become fatal in the summer, when the water level in the wells decreases, and it will be more difficult to collect enough water.” He said that the price of drinking water doubled recently. “We now pay SDG30 ($4.20) to have a water tank filled.”

In Gireida in South Darfur, the price for a barrel of water has risen from SDG12 to SDG20 ($2.80), a resident of the Forika camp reported. “Since last Sunday, five of the water pumps in the camp have stopped working because of a lack of fuel.” He called on the South Darfur authorities and humanitarian organisations to provide fuel to the camps.

[Refusing to allow humanitarian organizations to repair pumps, or to supply them with adequate supplies of fuel, is one way in which Khartoum is increasing pressure on residents of IDP camps to leave—ER]

• Critical water shortage in Port Sudan, North Darfur camp | Radio Dabanga | April 19, 2017 | PORT SUDAN / NYALA | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/critical-water-shortage-in-port-sudan-north-darfur-camp


The displaced people of camp Otash in Nyala, South Darfur, have complained of a severe drinking water crisis due to a lack of fuel, and the breakdown of a number of pumps and water wells. One of the Sheikhs told Radio Dabanga that WEST water organisation in the camp told them that the cause of the crisis is a lack of fuel to run the pumps, depletion of water levels in a number of wells, and non-operation of wells at 4 Sanatir. He said the organisation has asked the displaced to contribute financially to resolving the problem

• Water outages in hospitals in North Darfur capital | Radio Dabanga | April 18, 2017 | EL FASHER | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/water-outages-in-hospitals-in-north-darfur-capital

People in El Fasher face an acute lack of water because of ongoing outages in the city's electricity sector. Two hospitals are facing problems. The academic hospital and the Gynecology and Obstetrics Specialist hospital have witnessed continuous water shortages, listeners in the city reported to Radio Dabanga. On Monday, the general directorate of drinking water services in North Darfur confirmed its commitment to address the problem for both hospitals. The service wants to provide them with permanent water supply lines, and wants to re-operate the water tanks that are spread through districts of El Fasher and supply water to the residents. A month ago the Minister of Urban Planning of North Darfur announced the repair of a number of water pumps in the city and to drill seven new wells, so as to prepare for the coming summer period. South of El Fasher in Zamzam camp for displaced people, community leaders have also called upon local organisations to avert the looming drinking water crisis.

[Denial of humanitarian access has knock-on effects, including the denial of critical supplies to hospitals and clinics in Darfur—ER]

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