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 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4/]
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 continuing widespread rape of non-Arab girls and women. The Jebel Marra offensive displaced some 200,000 people in Central Darfur and was accomplished in part with the use of chemical weapons—something that neither Ambassador Dumond, nor any of his EU colleagues, nor any UN agency, nor any voice in the African Union demanded be investigated. And yet the Amnesty Internationalreport provides overwhelming—and in my view indisputable—evidence of chemical weapons use (“Sudan: Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air: Sudanese Government Forces Ravage Jebel Marra, Darfur,” September 29, 2016 | AFR 54/4877/2016 | https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/4877/2016/en/):
“Babies screaming with pain before dying, young children vomiting blood. The images we have seen are truly shocking.” (Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Response)
The Obama administration was silent, as was the Government of Canada. Collectively the effect—with only silence coming from the EU, AU, and UN as well—was that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), instead of investigating, welcomed the Khartoum regime to its Executive body.
Yes, Ambassador Dumond, “There are some tough and hard nuts still to crack in Darfur—this is beyond doubt.” But telling the truth about Darfur’s agony seems an even greater challenge, and not only for Dumond. Fortunately for him and others there is a ready substitute for the truth, and that is the articulation of principles that are daily flouted in Darfur on a vast scale:
“For the EU it is vital that return or local integration of the displaced people, are carried out on a voluntary, informed and dignified basis, and in a conducive environment. An impartial, credible and participatory intention survey has to be conducted.”
Mere rhetorical flatulence. There is nothing “voluntary,” “informed,” or “dignified” about the life of Darfuri displaced persons and refugees—nor is there ever an escape from the supremely oppressive insecurity that defines their lives and places of habitation. The recent assault on Kalma camp near Nyala has no place in Dumond’s characterization or vision of Darfur, but it has an all too persistent reality. Days after the attack by Khartoum’s security forces on Kalma, Radio Dabanga reported:
The death toll among the victims of the demonstration near Kalma camp for displaced people on Friday “has now reached nine as more people died due to bullet wounds sustained during the attack,” according the Swiss Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC). “The number of victims of injuries that currently need medical attention stands at over 30 people, some of them in critical health condition… At present, the security forces are besieging the main entry points to Kalma camp thus preventing free movement of people to and from the camp.”
Despite the overwhelming brutality of Khartoum’s security forces in Darfur, despite that continuing assaults on IDP camps—extending back to 2004—despite the arrests of those who speak out honestly about conditions on the ground, Dumond speaks blandly about Darfuri voices being heard:
“Hence, our very strong request and proposal to make sure that the outputs and the results of these locality-level consultations are heard, and become part of the wider and higher political peace talks on Darfur.”
“Wider and higher political peace talks on Darfur”—but between which parties? Radio Dabanga correctly points out that the EU remains, incomprehensibly, a supporter of the utterly irrelevant Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD; July 2011), which has achieved nothing, yielded none of the results that Dumond speaks of, and no longer guides even U.S. thinking about a peace process for Darfur. The DDPD is the consummate diplomatic “dead letter,” representing no buy-in from either the militarily significant rebel groups or Darfuri civil society. Indeed, Khartoum insisted that the latter not be meaningfully represented in Doha (Qatar), a fact that seems not to trouble Dumond or others from the EU, the UN, or AU.
Dumond goes even further into the history of irrelevant Darfur peace negotiations and declares EU support for “a sustainable cessation of hostilities on the basis of the road map defined by the African Union High Implementation Panel.” He is here referring to the meaningless, unimaginative, and ill-informed “road map” promulgated by the corrupt Thabo Mbeki, head of the original African Union Panel on Darfur, in 2009—now eight years ago, and similarly unencumbered by the views of Darfuri civil society or the demands of the rebel groups. Absurdly, the African Union High Implementation Panel remains the major diplomatic actor, despite the fact that Mbeki has colluded with the Khartoum regime and that the “implementation” giving name to the AU diplomatic task force has been as irrelevant and useless as the “roadmap” Mbeki concocted (a 100-page document with no citations or references).
Clearly Dumond and the Europeans simply don’t care about meaningful peace negotiations, which must include meaningful Darfuri civil society representation to have any chance of success. Fine words, disingenuously selective history, tendentious claims about current realities—this is the essence of the European diplomatic response to the current situation in Darfur. It is difficult to recall that in September 2004 the Parliament of the European Union declared in a virtually unanimous statement that human destruction in Darfur was “tantamount to genocide.”
What we see now from the EU is an example of how genocide can be elided by specious words, vague promises, and a lack of real moral commitment.
On issues of humanitarian access and civilian protection, Dumond and the EU are similarly disingenuous and misleading. Dumond declares:
“The EU is keen to see the mandate of UNAMID [UN/African Union “hybrid” Mission in Darfur] fulfilled; especially as regards a political agreement, and the protection of civilians. We need to see progress in these areas in order to proceed with an exit strategy discussion.”
But of course the countries of the EU on the UN Security Council voted, with broad European support, in June 2017 to renew UNAMID’s mandate, though only after acceding to Khartoum’s demand that the already badly compromised Mission be essentially gutted: as noted above, currently 44 percent of the military personnel are deploying out of Darfur (and turning their bases over to the Khartoum regime to be used as these génocidaireswish) and 30 percent of the police personnel are being deployed out of Darfur, critically weakening security in many IDP camp locations. The “mandate” of the Mission, particularly with respect to the protection of civilians, is being abandoned at a rapid pace.
Moreover, the withdrawal of military personnel will have an enormous impact on humanitarian access. As one operational INGO recently stressed to me, the UN’s “Humanitarian Air Service” (UNHAS) will fly only to areas where there is military protection; withdrawing UNAMID military personnel greatly diminishes the number of areas to which UNHAS can fly, often the only way to transport humanitarian personnel and resources, especially during the rainy season.
There will be no “discussion” of an “exit strategy,” as Dumond disingenuously suggests, if Khartoum can simply compel the UN Security Council to gut UNAMID on an annual basis with “re-authorizations” that entail further large cuts to UNAMID personnel. Moreover, as Dumond should certainly know, Khartoum has regularly flouted from the beginning of UNAMID’s deployment the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by the regime in January 2008. The free movement by ground and air assets of UNAMID was denied from the very first and there was no pushback by the UN—and certainly not by the likes of EU Ambassador Dumond.
All too predictably, in the Radio Dabanga dispatch we also hear from the current UNAMID Joint Special Representative, Jeremiah Kingsley Mamabolo—who joins his grossly incompetent and corrupt AU predecessors in his assessment of UNAMID:
UNAMID Joint Special Representative Jeremiah Kingsley Mamabolo further underscored the importance of this process for the sustainability of peace in Darfur in line with the DDPD, “We remain committed to the facilitation of humanitarian access and the protection of civilians in addition to supporting all mediation efforts in Darfur,” he said.
Again, the DDPD is simply a diplomatic irrelevancy, something frankly acknowledged by those in the U.S. government who actually know something about Darfur. And as for UNAMID’s “commitment” to “humanitarian access and the protection of civilians, this is a commitment without meaningful resources or will.
The failure of UNAMID to fulfill its mandate quickly became evident following its official deployment in January 2008—and by 2014 was notorious. The evidence of incompetence, ineffectiveness, mendacity, corruption, and a total breakdown in leadership and morale had been gathering for years, but with the revelations by Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy(April 7, 2014) and others, including Aicha Elbasri, former spokeswoman for this disastrous mission (Radio France Internationale interview, January 24, 2014), there was simply no possible doubt of its failure to protect the civilians and humanitarians in Darfur—its primary mandate.
Indeed, it is worth recalling the degree of hostility to UNAMID the Khartoum regime has long expressed in various forms. Reuters reported in January 2011:
UNAMID spokesman Kemal Saiki confirmed the bombing [of civilians] was by “the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) air force.” Later on Wednesday [January 26, 2011], a group of 200 Sudanese government soldiers in 40 vehicles arrived at UNAMID’s camp in the nearby settlement of Shangil Tobay [North Darfur], UNAMID said. “(The soldiers) surrounded the team site’s exit as well as the adjacent makeshift camp, where thousands of civilians recently displaced by the December 2010 clashes have settled,” read the statement. The Sudanese army detained four displaced people at the camp, said UNAMID. “The SAF commander at the scene … then threatened to burn down the makeshift camp and UNAMID team site, if the peacekeepers continued to interfere.” (Reuters [Khartoum], January 27, 2011)
[See also “Darfur and Human Security: UNAMID’s failure forces the essential and inescapable question,” Sudan Tribune | Eric Reeves, 1 August 2014 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1nF/]
Further, the various attacks on UNAMID by armed elements in Darfur can virtually all be definitively traced back to Khartoum’s militia forces. See |
• Killing UN Peacekeepers: A Ruthless Proclivity of Khartoum’s SAF, Militia Proxies | 9 May 2013 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-11S
• The Killing of Seven UNAMID Peacekeeping Personnel in Darfur: a terrible tragedy, a clear warning | 14 July 2013 | http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=4122 ]
• Attack on UNAMID Forces in Darfur: The Khartoum Regime is Responsible | July 12, 2008 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-zN
• Human Security in Darfur, Year’s End 2012: North Darfur | 17 January 2013 | http://wp.me/s45rOG-3736
None of this really matters to Dumond and the Europeans. Instead of pressing urgently for greater humanitarian access and resources—supplies of food and medicine are inadequate (in some locations grossly so); there are no specific resources for girls women who have suffered extreme sexual violence; and the unacknowledged cholera epidemic continues to rage, exacerbated by poor sanitation in many locations—the EU is now parroting the demands first made by the Khartoum regime in its cynical “New Strategy for Darfur” (September 2010), viz. that the international humanitarian organizations in Darfur move from humanitarian assistance to development work that simply isn’t possible under prevailing conditions in most of Darfur.
[See my contemporaneous analysis of this “New Strategy” in “Accommodating Genocide: International Response to Khartoum’s ‘New Strategy for Darfur,'”Dissent Magazine (on-line), October 8, 2010 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-AN
Europe’s Real Interest in Darfur and Accommodating Khartoum
What accounts for this bizarrely accommodating EU stance on Darfur? It is only when the subject turns to African migration to the European continent that we catch a glimpse of what the real concern is:
The EU ambassador referred as well to migration, “an important element of our engagement with the Government of Sudan (GoS). “There are considerable flows of cross border migrants emanating from or passing through Darfur.” The EU is seeking to work with the GoS on this issue, in particular with the Sudanese Migration Coordination Mechanism, which is yet to be fully constituted. This work will be carried out in full respect of International Conventions and Human Rights, and in accordance with the robust EU accountability mechanisms. “Our support, as is the case for all our work in Sudan, will be channelled via relevant UN organisations, EU Member State Agencies and Non-Government Organisations in close coordination with the Sudanese government, Dumond concluded his speech.
What does this vague language mean? In May 2016, Germany’s Der Spiegel published a remarkable exposé based on leaked EU documents: “Questionable Deal: EU to Work with [Sudan’s] Despot to Keep Refugees Out” http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/eu-to-work-with-despot-in-sudan-to-keep-refugees-out-a-1092328.html/. It began by stating all too accurately:
In an effort to help keep refugees from Africa at bay, the EU is planning to deliver personal registration equipment to Sudan, whose president is wanted on war crimes charges. Germany is leading the way.
Speaking specifically of Sudan’s grim record of genocide, gross human rights abuses, and support for international terrorism, the Der Spiegel article thoroughly belies the claim by German leader Angela Merkel that the interest is in helping “improve peoples’ living conditions.”
Minutes from the March 23 meetings and additional classified documents obtained by SPIEGEL and the German public television station ARD show “Report Mainz” show that the focus of the project is border protection. To that end, equipment is to be provided to the countries in question [including Sudan and the Khartoum regime].
War Crimes and Torture
The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges relating to his alleged role in genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict. Amnesty International also claims that the Sudanese secret service has tortured members of the opposition. And the United States accuses the country of providing financial support to terrorists.
Nevertheless, documents relating to the project indicate that Europe want to send cameras, scanners and servers for registering refugees to the Sudanese regime in addition to training their border police and assisting with the construction of two camps with detention rooms for migrants. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has confirmed that action plan is binding, although no concrete decisions have yet been made regarding its implementation. The German development agency GIZ is expected to coordinate the project. The organization, which is a government enterprise, has experience working with authoritarian countries.
That “experience working with authoritarian countries” is an important qualification in coordinating the project would seem indeed to make GIZ the perfect “project” coordinator. But even within the EU, the Der Spiegel dispatch points out, the plan is “controversial”:
The “risks” listed in the action plan includes the fact that equipment financed by the Emergency Trust Fund could be abused by repressive regimes and used in the oppression of the civilian population. A general with Sudan’s Interior Ministry told SPIEGEL and ARD that technology would not just be used to register refugees, but also all Sudanese. The regime’s goal appears to be the absolute surveillance of its people.
Experts like [Marina] Peter [an expert on the Horn of Africa region at the German relief organization Bread for the World] also express doubts about whether Sudanese leader al-Bashir is prepared to take serious action against migrant smugglers. Human Rights Watch has claimed in reports that the Sudanese regime itself works together with criminal networks. The report alleges that the police and military have sold refugees to human traffickers.
The European Commission, meanwhile, has warned EU ambassadors in a classified memo that Sudan is primarily interested in polishing its image abroad.Germany and the other EU member states nevertheless seem determined to push ahead with their pact with the despot. Sudanese authorities say there have been numerous visitors from Germany in recent weeks who were there to discuss the construction of closed camps. When questioned about its role, Germany’s GIZ issued a written reply that there were no concrete plans in the country yet.
Let’s be clear about what these “closed camps” are: they are camps in which people are incarcerated, from which they will not be able to leave without permission from the Khartoum authorities, and in which people will inevitably be “concentrated” on the basis of ethnicity, place or country of origin, and perhaps religion. Germany, of all countries, will be building what are literally “concentration camps” in Sudan, overseen by Khartoum’s security services, newly outfitted with European high-tech surveillance and registration equipment. Little wonder that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini was worried at the time about maintaining the secrecy of these efforts:
The ambassadors of the 28 European Union member states had agreed to secrecy.“Under no circumstances” should the public learn what was said at the talks that took place on March 23rd, the European Commission warned during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee. A staff member of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini [and certainly representing her views] even warned that Europe’s reputation could be at stake.
This should mark an especially embarrassing moment in Der Spiegel’s revelations, but all too predictably we see no signs of that embarrassment in the recent remarks of EU Ambassador Dumond.
The UN: Not to be Outdone
One would never know that ethnically-targeted violence and intimidation continues on a region-wide basis in Darfur after hearing the comments of UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Marta Ruedas, who “hailed the collaboration between various stakeholders supporting the Darfur Internal Dialogue and Consultation (DIDC) process.” But how full is such collaboration likely to be when the DIDC has made no serious attempt to address the central issue of violent expropriation of non-Arab/African farmland, the continuous assaults on and harassment of IDP camps, and the steady reports of serious violence across Darfur? On this score, see my two very recent compendia:
• As UNAMID deploys out of Darfur: ethnically-targeted violence continues on a wide scale | A weekly compendium, No. 1 | October 14, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-27b
• As UNAMID deploys out of Darfur: ethnically-targeted violence continues on a wide scale | A weekly compendium, No. 2 | October 21, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-27p
Ruedas, in a fatuous and highly inappropriate political assessment, praised the Trump administration decision to lift economic sanctions on