How Genocides Are Made to Disappear

A lengthy Radio Dabanga dispatch today manages to capture an extraordinary amount of the bad faith, disingenuousness and culpable ignorance on the part of those actors who are most responsible for allowing Darfur’s agony to continue for over fourteen years. Some 3 million people still displaced from their homes, villages, and lands, and some 600,000 have died from the direct and indirect causes of violence loosed my the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party Khartoum regime in its ethnically-targeted counter-insurgency throughout Darfur, extending into eastern Chad. The Radio Dabanga dispatch in its unedited entirety appears at the end of this analysis; but immediately below is a detailed, parsing analysis of the perverse pretenses, lies, understatements, and willful ignorance that are cited throughout the dispatch.

I would begin my noting that nowhere in the comments from European Union, UN, and African Union actors is there anything approaching an honest acknowledgement of the costs of many years of violent expropriation of no-Arab/African farmlands—by Khartoum’s various Arab militia allies (some non-Sudanese), by proxy forces, and by those armed groups that continue to operate without fear of arrest by Khartoum. For all the expedient talk about the transition from humanitarian assistance to development assistance, there is nothing from the EU Ambassador to Sudan or others about this critical obstacle to returns by the displaced.

[For a detailed, data-driven analysis of the issue, looking at Darfur as a whole from November 2014 – November 2015, see my monograph: “‘Changing the Demography’: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015″ | December 1, 2015 |]

Instead of acknowledging this central problem in any meaningful and lasting peace agreement for the people of Darfur, we have only glib acknowledgement of challenges still facing “voluntary returns”:

“There are some tough and hard nuts still to crack in Darfur—this is beyond doubt,” said [EU Ambassador Jean-Michel Dumond]…

But instead of solutions to difficult problems, Ambassador simply changes the subject:

“The climate change is a reality,” Dumond continued. “Demographic pressure is there. If the right to return is to be respected, we also know that many of the displaced people will not return to their villages. That is why we are considering new programmes focusing on the creation of job opportunities for the displaced people in urban dwellings around the big cities in Darfur.” [all emphases in bold in quoted text have been added—ER]

There is no doubt that climate change has had an influence on demographic issues and tensions in Darfur, although these began well before the explosion of violence in 2003; and demographic pressures have long been felt in Darfur. But the notorious statement by then chief Janjaweed militia leader Musa Hilal in August 2004 is of considerably more relevance than Ambassador Dumond’s in explaining why so many non-Arab/African people can’t return to their villages, why Khartoum is so clearly intent on dismantling the camps for these displaced persons, and why farming is not in their future:

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)

Dumond’s notion that somehow this attitude does not still prevail is finally a form of mendacity, deliberately distorting the truth about what is possible, and what Khartoum is and is not willing to commit to salvage the lives and livelihoods that it has for fourteen long years attempted to destroy. The vast majority of non-Arab/African Darfuris cannot return to their villages because the have been destroyed or because insecurity is intolerably great. The same is true of the 320,000 overwhelmingly non-Arab/African Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad.

The EU’s Partner in Sudan

The savage irony of Khartoum’s Second Vice-President leading Khartoum’s efforts in the “operationalisation of the humanitarian-development nexus” is either lost on Dumond or all too conveniently forgotten. Just how much concern about “development” possibilities for the displaced—overwhelming non-Arab/African—can we expect from Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman? It was Hassabo who spoke so bluntly to Rapid Support Forces and other militia elements before the 2015 campaign in East Jebel Marra I write about in “Changing the Demography”:

Ahmed, a 35-year-old officer in the Border Guards, spent two weeks at a military base in Guba in December 2014 before being sent to fight rebels around Fanga… 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.”

(“‘Men With No Mercy’: Rapid Support Forces Attacks Against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan,” Human Rights Watch | September 9, 2015)

The overwhelmingly non-Arab/African populations that were subject to massive violence in East Jebel Marra in 2014 – 2015, and the “demographically” comparable population of the Jebel Marra massif itself in 2016, are likened to “insects,” even at Hutus likened Tutsisto “cockroaches” in Rwanda in 1994. “We don’t want anyone there to be alive”: does Ambassador Dumond really need this to be glossed?

Moreover, it is Hassabo who has served as point-man for the regime in pronouncing on the “disgrace” and embarrassment of IDP camps in Darfur, and the need for them to be dismantled—a process that is likely to accelerate with the dramatic drawdown of UNAMID military and police personnel (44 percent and 30 percent respectively):

In a speech delivered before the representatives of former rebel groups and IDPs in El-Fasher, North Darfur on Monday, [Second Vice-President Hasabo Mohamed Abdelrahman] said Darfur has “completely recovered from the war and is now looking forward to achieve a full peace, stability and development.”

“IDP camps represent a significant and unfortunate loss of dignity and rights of citizens in their country” he said and called on the displaced “to choose within no more than a month between resettlement or return to their original areas.”

He further reiterated his government’s commitment to take all the measures and do the needful to achieve this goal, stressing that “the year 2016 will see the end of displacement in Darfur.” Abdel Rahman told the meeting that he has just ended a visit to Karnoi and Tina areas in North Darfur, adding the two areas which were affected by the conflict have totally recovered. He said his visit with a big delegation to the two areas “is a message sceptics in the fact that security and stability are back in Darfur”… (Sudan Tribune, December 28, 2015 | El Fasher, North Darfur)

The mendacity here is of course fantastic. What 2016 “saw” was large-scale violent displacement, attacks on IDP camps, and the contin