Go to Original Darfur: Genocide Without Witnesses
By Jacky Mamou Libération
Monday 24 April 2006 Khartoum
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By Jacky Mamou Libération Monday 24 April 2006
Khartoum is deliberately hindering international humanitarian action. While the international community commemorates the twelfth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda – and, hand on heart, swears "Never again!" – murders, rapes, pillages and the forced displacement of black African populations, the Fur, Massalit, and Zaghawa, have continued for over three years in western Sudan.
The Khartoum government has strengthened its military by arming Janjaweed militias recruited from nomadic tribes that claim Arab ethnicity to subdue the little-armed groups that have emerged from those populations. The repression is of an unheard-of ferocity: apart from massacres, Islamist National Front partisans in power organize slow death through hunger and disease. The death toll is terrible: 300,000 deaths, more than two million displaced persons who survive thanks to international humanitarian aid, 250,000 refugees in Chad and the Central African Republic. The number of Darfur inhabitants is estimated to be six million, of whom the larger half is black African (the remainder considered "Arab"). That means that, counting the dead and those displaced from their lands, more than two thirds of the black peoples of Darfur are involved. They are truly dislocated.
Faced with this drama amply documented by innumerable reports, even if there are few photographs, the international community, well curbed by Khartoum's self-interested allies – Russia and especially China – has delegated an observation mandate to the African Union. With a presence of 7,000 soldiers in Darfur – a region as large as France – the African Union has found its mission systematically hindered by Khartoum: paralysis in the delivery of armored vehicles, refusal to supply airplane fuel, Sudanese government vehicles painted white to pass them off as African Union vehicles. And all the while, the exactions go on…. Let us recall that the United Nations investigation on the ground concluded that war crimes and crimes against humanity were taking place. The International Criminal Court, referred by the Security Council, pursues its investigations of 51 Sudanese leaders suspected of having organized these horrors. All observers, led by the UN's special envoy, Jan Pronk, say – diplomatically, of course – that the African Union mission is a failure.
In an attempt at remediation, the Security Council planned to prepare a mission transfer on March 24 from the African Union to the Blue Helmets. But a six month postponement followed, to respect the recent African Union decision to see the mission through. In April 1994 in Rwanda, Blue Helmet numbers fell drastically right at the beginning of the genocide. Today, we allow six additional months for "the dirty work to go on." And no one responds to the threats of Sudanese President Bechir, who promises "to make Darfur a cemetery" for the Blue Helmets sent to protect civilians. While the official in charge of UN peace-keeping missions, Jean-Marie Guéhénno, declared: "Obviously, it's a mission that will deploy with the consent of the Sudanese government …"
On the ground, the situation is alarming. The High Commission for Refugees (HCR) announced a 44% reduction in its operations the beginning of March because of the deterioration of security conditions. Jan Pronk declared a few days ago that "in southern Darfur, militias continue their cleansing operations, village after village." Murders, rapes, lootings increase without pause, while the World Food Program (WFP) sounds a death knell in the face of new floods of refugees in Chad, who flee combat from both sides of the border. This situation, the UN agency advises, threatens aid to millions of people fleeing the violence. For its part, UNICEF, in charge of children, estimates that insecurity prevents humanitarian agencies from reaching 500,000 people. UNICEF indicates that if, for the moment, the nutritional situation within the displaced persons camps is stable, in two northern Darfur camps (Mellit and Hay Abassy), the threshold of a malnutrition emergency has been breached, with malnutrition reaching 18%.
This whole situation has been deliberately organized by the Sudanese government, which wants to create a situation of no-return. One must acknowledge the Sudanese government's true talent for hindering humanitarian action, a practice in which it already excelled during the long decades of its war against the southerners.
But they have now gone a step further with the refusal to allow UN Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland to go to Darfur and with the expulsion of the Norwegian NGO, National Refugees Council (NRC), which has been intervening in Darfur's largest refugee camp. What does Khartoum want to hide? The Swedish Cooperation Minister, Carin Jomtin, had already been prevented from going to the region, while two offices of a Sudanese association, the Organization for Sudan's Social Development (Sudo), were closed by the military in the eastern state of Darfur. These closings must be seen as part of a policy of intimidation and harassment of all humanitarian or human-rights actors operating in Sudan. Organizing matters so that there are no more witnesses thus seems to be the Sudanese authorities' main line of conduct.
Every minute lost in sending the Blue Helmets in to protect civilians in Darfur is consequently time gained by the Sudanese government to maintain what Kofi Annan called "hell on earth" there. France has long demonstrated a certain caution – some would say connivance – with respect to the Islamist regime in Khartoum. The confiscation of power by war and terror by a government that itself issued from a coup d'état cannot be eternal. A re-equilibration will someday take place in terms of greater participation in government by southern animist black Africans and Christians, the Beja populations in the east, and Darfur populations in the west. If not, the risk of the country's partition, and ensuing chaos, will be great. The very strong tension with neighboring Chad illuminates the risks of a regional conflagration.
A jolt is therefore urgently necessary from the international community, first to allow humanitarian access without delay to the populations. The African Union must be considerably reinforced on the levels of logistics and communications and new life must be breathed into it to protect populations in the case of immediate danger. We must demand that Sudan dissolve its militias, arrest the authors of atrocities and cooperate with the ICC. France, a Security Council member, has the opportunity to demonstrate the new role it wishes to play in (non-Francophone) Africa. It must hold to that role … resolutely. ——–
Jacky Mamou is president of the Emergency Darfur collective and former president of Doctors of the World.