REEVES: Glimpses of Continuing Slow-Motion Genocide in Darfur: Recent Reports of Ethnically-Targeted

Military efforts by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Darfur continue to be animated by the ambition articulated with such brutal forcefulness by former Janjaweed militia leader Musa Hilal:

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)

Musa Hilal 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. This is Musa Hilal’s idea of “demographic change.” This was only one of many atrocities…

In many ways the demography of Darfur has in fact already been profoundly changed by violent displacement and mortality. The population of the region prior to Khartoum’s initiation of genocidal counter-insurgency tactics in 2003 was somewhere between 6 and 7 million, according to the most credible estimates (there has been no meaningful census taken of the region for decades)—the majority of the people non-Arab/African. Of course ethnic distinctions of this sort are overly broad, especially in urban areas, where inter-marriage is more common, and where even in rural areas tribal groups have mixed for generations. But the generalization holds all to well when we look at the targets of militia and regular army violence: they are members of the Fur, Zaghawa, Berti, Massalit, and others of traditionally non-Arab/African ethnicity. It is to these “African tribes” that the Northern Rizeigat (Arab) leader Musa Hilal was referring.

And while the occupational distinction between non-Arab/African “farmers” and Arab “pastoralists” or “herders” is also overly broad, it has too much discriminatory power to be ignored, tells us too much about how to read dispatches referring to “farmers” attacked by “herders,” as is typically the case for Radio Dabanga, which relatively infrequently refers to tribal identities, even as the eyewitnesses with whom they communicate often speak of “Arab” militias, or “Arab” herders.

What is beyond reasonable dispute is that people in Darfur continue to be attacked, on a wide scale, on an ethnic basis. Of the pre-war population of 6 to 7 million, over half have been violently displaced or died as a result of violence. Some 320,000 Darfuris—overwhelmingly non-Arab/African—remain in eastern Chad, too fearful to return—and now facing a decision by the UN High Commission for Refugees to pressure this population to give up on the idea of returning to their homeland and farms, and assimilate into the culture of eastern Chad (Sudan Tribune, May 25, 2018 | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article65484 ). Those who attempt to return typically face unsustainable threats of violence, as Radio Dabanga reports in two recent dispatches but very frequently in recent years:

Dozens of displaced families forced back to camps in North Darfur | May 30, 2018 | KABKABIYA

On Sunday, approximately 250 displaced families were forced to return once again to camps in Kabkabiya in North Darfur after mediation attempts with new settlers in their home villages failed. Some of the returnees had traveled all the way from refugee camps in eastern Chad and temporarily settled in Kabkabiya in anticipation of the voluntary repatriation project in Sabarna area. Most families have been displaced since the start of the war in Darfur in 2004

Militiamen attack group of returnees in Tawila, North Darfur | May 11, 2018 | TABIT

Militiamen beat a number of displaced people west of Tabit in North Darfur and caused them varying injuries on Wednesday. The attackers threatened to kill the victims were they to return to the area. The attack in Dugwa area, Tawila locality, involved about 35 armed men driving vehicles and riding on motorcycles. They attacked 25 displaced people who were collecting straw and firewood at Dugwa. One of the injured told Radio Dabanga that the attackers beat them with sticks. “Mohamed Omar Suleiman and Adam Yahya Haroun were badly wounded and taken to hospital.”

The UN estimates that some 2.7 million people are internally displaced in Darfur, again overwhelmingly non-Arab/African. This estimate includes the roughly 2.2 million people in camps for the displaced and another 500,000 who have found host families or villages, or are simply gathered in collocations of displaced populations, large and small, without services or humanitarian access. The extant data strongly suggest that mortality from fifteen years of violence has killed, directly or indirectly, some 600,000 Darfuris, again overwhelmingly from the non-Arab/African populations. The UN has not offered a mortality estimate for Darfur in over a decade, yielding to pressure from Khartoum not to address the issue.

The total here of those displaced and/or killed is roughly 3.5 million. The demography of Darfur has indeed been profoundly “changed,” and even if the killing were to stop and those displaced were allowed to return to their lands—an impossibility given prevailing security—demography and land ownership will never be at all what they were before the genocidal war.

And the most destructive phase of the genocide may be yet to come: if the Khartoum regime follows through on its ever more insistently announced goal of dismantling camps for displaced persons—most recently (May 16, 2018) reiterated by President al-Bashir—then catastrophe will follow. For if the camps are dismantled with no place for the displaced to go, they will be completely at the mercy of the attacks that continue to be so common (a compendium of such attacks for the past month is assembled below). Moreover, humanitarian groups—long the target of Khartoum’s harassment, obstruction, and overt hostility—will find it impossible to depend on the logistical and organizational advantages of the camps, particularly for food distribution and medical care. Those without the resources of the camps may face a hostile environment in which water is unavailable or too dangerous to access.

Al-Bashir and others in the regime have promised ample resources for the displaced after the camps are dismantled. This is preposterous. Over the past fifteen years, services and resources for the displaced have come overwhelmingly from international relief organizations; Khartoum’s cruel indifference has been all too conspicuous. Moreover, the Sudanese economy is imploding and there is no chance whatsoever that the regime will devote national resources to fulfill the grotesquely implausible promises of a return to the Darfur before the “demographic change.” Al-Bashir knows that his promises and offers are nothing but expedient lies:

“We would work to return the IDPs and refugees [to their original villages] and provide them with the necessities of a decent life in order to return voluntarily,” [a-Bashir] said. (Sudan Tribune, May 16, 2018 | Khartoum)

A victim of the Nierteti massacre, January 1, 2017–a brutal image of what al-Bashir means by “providing for” the displaced

In all too many cases—several thousand at least—there are no villages left to return to: they have been comprehensively destroyed by the Janjaweed, the regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and more recently by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the Arab militia force that has now been officially incorporated into the regime.

As many villages as have been destroyed, a great many others are now occupied by various armed Arab groups, some from Chad, Niger, and Mali (Arab settlers whose immigration was facilitated by the regime in various ways). Even the farms that some non-Arabs/Africans attempt to work from the relative safety of their camps are increasingly dangerous, having been seized by armed Arab groups as pasturage for their livestock, primarily cattle and camels. Farm owners attempting to work their farms are murdered, tortured, and raped—as are girls and women who gather water and firewood at any distance from the camp environs.

[See | “Changing the Demography”: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015,” Eric Reeves, author; Maya Baca, research and editing (December 1, 2015) | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P

Without the highly compromised safety of the camps—the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has failed miserably in this regard, and attacks on camps are regularly reported—people will be defenseless against the predations of marauding armed Arab groups, and their access to humanitarian resources will be attenuated if not eliminated altogether. Mortality in the worst case could equal what the Darfur genocide has seen to date.

In the coming month, the UN Security Council will vote on whether to renew the mandate of the hugely expensive and extraordinarily ineffective UNAMID. Inevitably, the renewal, if it occurs, will come with further reductions in personnel. In June 2017 the UNSC reduced the force strength and geographic presence of UNAMID dramatically: 44 per cent of its troop strength and 30 percent of its police forces, as well as eliminating 13 operating bases. The only question is how much further UNAMID will be reduced. Given the efforts to declare violence in Darfur to have been reduced to virtual insignificance, we may expect large cuts. Only the recent extreme violence on the part of the Rapid Support Forces in large areas of Jebel Marra and East Jebel Marra (especially as it extends into South Darfur) might give the Security Council pause. But still there will be more significant cuts, the non-Arab/African population of Darfur will be left even more vulnerable, and a further weakened UNAMID will face yet greater losses of morale and confidence in confronting Khartoum-sanctioned violence.

The Continuation of Ethnically-Targeted Killing and Displacement

Far from ending, the war in Darfur has simply changed in its murderous character. Non-Arab/African villages are still attacked and destroyed; many are murdered in the process, and yet more displacement ensues, often to camps that are vastly overcrowded. The epidemic of rape and sexual violence directed against non-Arab/African girls and women continues unabated, and with complete impunity. Here it is worth recalling the recent findings of UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten (here as reported by Radio Dabanga (March 1, 2018 | NEW YORK | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/un-special-representative-on-sexual-violence-in-conflict-calls-for-end-to-culture-of-denial-in-sudan

“A key observation from my visit to Sudan is the existence of a deep-seated culture of denial which enhances and feeds the culture of silence about sexual violence. Unlike victims of other crimes where perpetrators are condemned, it is usually the victims of sexual violence who are shamed or stigmatised. As a result, victims of sexual violence are very often fearful of reporting the crime or seeking assistance, further compounding their suffering. Because sexual violence is so vastly underreported, the lack of reported cases cannot be equated with the absence of violence. It deeply saddened me to hear interlocutors in Sudan doubting and questioning victims as well as the appalling nature of these crimes. The pervasive culture of denial is the most serious obstacle to eradicating this heinous crime.”

Special Representative Patten observes in her statement that in many of her meetings, “senior government officials explained that there is no sexual violence in Sudan because such violence is strictly prohibited by the Islamic religion.”

“In El Fasher, I met with the Prosecutor General of the Special Court for Darfur, which has jurisdiction over conflict-related crimes committed in Darfur since February 2003. I was dismayed to learn that, to date, the Special Prosecutor’s Office has not investigated a single case of conflict-related sexual violence.

(A fuller excerpt of Patten’s findings appears as APPENDIX A)

Special Representative Patten’s comments were reported (aside from regional news sources) only by Inter Press News Service, a measure of just how invisible Darfur has become in the decade since the election of Barack Obama in 2008. But whether reported to Western and international readers or not, the violence continues. Indeed, there are several reports of a military build-up by Khartoum in the Central/South Darfur area where recent fighting has occurred. Actual military conflict between Khartoum’s regular and militia forces is focused on the last strongholds of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army of Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM/A-AW):

Sudanese army forces building up in Jebel Marra | Sudan Tribune, May 13, 2018 (KASS)

The Sudanese army has deployed more troops in South and Central Darfur states in what seems a preparation for a large-scale offensive on rebel positions in Jebel Marra area. Fighters of the Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW), which does not commit itself to a cessation of hostilities, since last March have clashed with the government forces in several positions of the mountainous area.

In a statement released on Saturday, the rebel group said they clashed with the government forces in several positions in Jebel Marra area which spans over North, Central and South Darfur states. Sudanese official on Sunday told Sudan Tribune that more than 1500 troops including militiamen of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been deployed in Kass locality of South Darfur in order to attack the SLM-AW positions in Jebel Marra. The sources said additional sources have been massed in Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur to take part in the military operations.

But Khartoum’s forces, especially its militia forces, have engaged in violence that deliberately targets civilians, including civilians nowhere near the remaining elements of SLM/A-AW. Perversely, the rebel movement gives Khartoum a pretext for assaulting civilians and declaring that it is fighting rebels. The dispatches below make clear that this is the case.

We must be grateful to Sudan Tribune and particularly Radio Dabanga for the countless eyewitness and first-person accounts of violence the world is content to ignore. The past month has been all too characteristic, and I have assembled headlines and brief excerpts below:

[It is worth noting how widely geographically distributed the datelines are for the following dispatches, as well as the number of civilians affected, given the absurd declaration by UNAMID chief Mamabolo: “The general security situation in Darfur remains calm, except for sporadic clashes between the Sudan Liberation Army of Mr. Abdul Wahid [Abdelwahid El Nur], government forces and nomads in Jebel Marra” (UN News, May 10, 2018 | https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/05/1009402 ). This is a truly despicable misrepresentation, part of an effort to justify what Mamabolo knows is the coming further reduction in UNAMID by the Security Council in June.

All emphases in bold or bold red have been added; my interpolated commentary is in bold blue—ER]

Dozens of displaced families forced back to camps in North Darfur | Radio Dabanga, May 30, 2018 | KABKABIYA, North Darfur

On Sunday, approximately 250 displaced families were forced to return once again to camps in Kabkabiya in North Darfur after mediation attempts with new settlers in their home villages failed. Some of the returnees had traveled all the way from refugee camps in eastern Chad and temporarily settled in Kabkabiya in anticipation of the voluntary repatriation project in Sabarna area. Most families have been displaced since the start of the war in Darfur in 2004.

Two farmers wounded in Jebel Marra attack | Radio Dabanga, May 29, 2018 | DUBO EL OMDA

Two women were wounded in an attack by gunmen on their farms in eastern Jebel Marra on Sunday morning. Farmers reported to this radio station that armed men, driving two Land Cruisers with machine guns mounted on the top, along with gunmen on seven motorcycles and about 36 others on camels and horses, opened fire on a group of farmers.

The farmers had come from Dubo El Omda, Dubo El Madrasa, and Mashrou Abu Zeid to clean their farms. The attackers beat a number of the farmers and drove them off from the farms. Mariam Ishag Yagoub and Yasmin Haroun were wounded.

Displaced farmer killed in South Darfur attack | Radio Dabanga, May 28, 2018 | GIREIDA, South Darfur

A resident of the Gireida camp for the displaced was killed and four others were wounded by militiamen in South Darfur on Sunday.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, a relative of one of the victims reported that about 20 gunmen on horses attacked a group of displaced people from Gireida camp who were working on their farms near Ibdos village, 5 km west of Gireida, on Sunday morning “They opened fire at the farmers. Ibrahim El Nur, aged 50, died instantly,” he said.

“Abdelwahid Saboun, his son Saddam, Osman Ahmed, and Ahmediya Suleiman were injured, and were taken to the Hospital of Gireida.”

Fighting flares up in Jebel Marra, as IDPs continue to flee Sudan tribune, May 27, 2018 (ZALINGEI, Central Darfur)

Sources in South and Central Darfur states, on Sunday, confirmed the renewal of fighting between the Sudanese government forces and the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) in Jebel Marra, triggering the displacement of thousands of civilians who fled the clashes.

Eyewitnesses in Nyala and Zalingei told Sudan Tribune that Sudanese army warplanes flew low over the capitals of South and Central Darfur and Kass town in South Darfur. Adam Abkar Guiga, a humanitarian representative of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur, said the fighting between the government forces and the SLM-AW fighters is continuing in Jebel Marra, adding thousand have fled their villages in the mountainous area.

“More than 3,000 people have been forced to flee the Gubo, Kor and Alnaqi areas, south-west of Jebel Marra, on the border between the states of South and Central Darfur states, to the village of Karlanbaj, in East Jebel Marra locality,” said Guiga.

Darfur woman loses legs in Jebel Marra blast | Radio Dabanga, May 27, 2018 | JEBEL MARRA

A woman lost both legs on Friday after government forces shelled Sabun El Fagur in Jebel Marra with heavy artillery. Relatives of Halima Khalil (35), told Radio Dabanga that a shell fired from the government militia base Kara area in southern Jebel Marra, exploded near a well where Khalil was drawing water. Khalil lost both her legs, and the blast also killed her donkey. They said the government forces and militia stationed at Kara area fired heavy artillery on Sabun El Fagur, 30 kilometres north of Kass on Friday morning.

Violent herder clashes in Darfur| Radio Dabanga, May 27, 2018 | TAWILA, North Darfur

On Friday morning, twenty-year-old Hawa Younes was wounded and 30 year-old El Safi Hamid was kidnapped by armed herders at the Argutogo area, 10 km west of Khazan Tunjur of Tawila locality in North Darfur. Relatives of Younes told Radio Dabanga that a number of armed herders in two Land Cruisers and four motorcycles opened fire on a group of residents as they were collecting straw near Argutogo area and wounded Younes in one of her legs. They explained that the herders took Hamid to an unknown destination. Younes was taken to the medical unit of Katur garrison.

Higher toll of wounded in Central Darfur camp attack | Radio Dabanga, May 25, 2018 | GARSILA, Central Darfur

New information about the deadly attacks in Aradeiba camp in Central Darfur claims that the people killed in the camp in the past days had been shot in the presence of police and security forces. One of the camp sheikhs in Aradeiba in Wadi Saleh locality said that among the attackers on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning was an officer of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), named Shabur. The sheikh claimed that the attack took place on a group of mourning people while members of the police and security service were present at the scene. Three people were killed and the sheikh reported that seventeen people sustained injuries.

Yesterday’s witness reports stated that three displaced people were killed and 12 others were injured by a group of RSF members. The paramilitaries were stationed in the vicinity of Aradeiba.

Militia attack Central Darfur camp: Three displaced dead, 12 injured | Radio Dabanga, May 24, 2018 | GARSILA

Three displaced people were killed and 12 more injured in two attacks, allegedly by Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militiamen on Aradeiba camp in Garsila in Central Darfur. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, three displaced people were killed and 12 others were wounded in two attacks by the militias.

El Shafee Abdallah, the coordinator of Central Darfur camps told Radio Dabanga that a group of RSF stationed at the eastern gate of Garsila launched an attack on Abuja market at the Aradeiba camp and fired live ammunition at the displaced people on Tuesday and Wednesday. He explained that the attack resulted in killing Mousa Daoud (27) Zakariya Yongour (29), and Maryam Abdelrahim (35), and wounded 12 others. He reported that the RSF continued to fire and besiege the camp throughout Wednesday.

The Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association held the government of Central Darfur and the militias fully responsibility for the separate attack on Monday that killed one and wounded at least 10 displaced persons at Aradeiba camp. Hussein Abusharati, the spokesman for the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association, described the attack on Aradeiba and Khamsa Dagayeg camps as an indication to the government’s lack of seriousness in the disarmament campaign.

More 3 IDPs killed in Central Darfur: rebels | Sudan Tribune, May 23, 2018 (KHARTOUM)

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) killed three displaced people in Ardiba camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Garsila area of Central Darfur state, said two armed groups in Jebel Marra on Wednesday.

This attack on IDPs is the second of its kind in the Central Darfur state, after the killing of a displaced woman residing in a camp in Zalingei on Monday. Two rebel groups, Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdel Wahid (SLM-AW) and SLM-Transitional Council said the government militiamen opened fire on two civilians at Abuja market in Ardiba camp of Garsila, because they tried to prevent them from looting their belongings.