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Posts Tagged ‘Eric Reeves’

“Obama, Darfur, and Genocide”

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2013

“Civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region face wholesale destruction,” The Washington Post, July 28, 2013 (Sunday)

 

After years of obscurity and little reliable international reporting, the vast human catastrophe in Sudan’s Darfur region is once again in the news. It was regularly making headlines before 2008, when genocide in Darfur was already five years old and had claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives from the main African tribal groups, but a lack of sustained mainstream attention has meant that violence has surged effectively under the radar.

Few could have predicted that this remote and obscure region in western Sudan would galvanize American civil society. Then again, how could the loss of attention have been so rapid? …. [full text on-line:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/civilians-in-sudans-darfur-region-face-wholesale-destruction/2013/07/26/04953b82-ed63-11e2-9008-61e94a7ea20d_story.html

 

  • Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College and has written extensively on Sudan.
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An open letter to the Public Editor of the New York Times concerning Darfur

Posted by African Press International on June 15, 2013

  • By ERIC REEVES, USA, 11 June 2013

Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of the New York Times

 

Dear Ms. Sullivan:

I gather that my previous communication concerning the February 26, 2012 New York Times dispatch from the village of Nyuru, West Darfur (“A Taste of Hope Sends Refugees Back to Darfur”) seemed not to warrant a response.  I assume further that the NYT continues to stand by this dispatch as a legitimate representation of the nature of life in Darfur at the time.  This is such a deep and comprehensive failure of journalistic integrity that I feel obliged to circulate this second, fuller communication to you as widely as possible, and have begun by copying this email and distributing it by other electronic means.  In short, this is an “open letter.”

I am of course aware that the NYT did feel compelled to run a relatively brief item in late May of this year on the occasion of UN OCHA head Valerie Amos’ brief, heavily controlled visit to Darfur.  Indeed reporting could hardly be avoided since this was the occasion for her announcement that 300,000 Darfuris had already been newly displaced by mid-May of this year.  This is a staggering figure, especially given the fact that more than 600,000 were also newly displaced in 2010 – 2012according to the most reliable data available.   No mention was made in the May 2013 NYT report of how widely divergent the OCHA report is from what was reported by the NYT in February 2012.  And it certainly should have been the occasion for noting that, altogether, almost 3 million civilians have been displaced over the course of tens years of conflict in Darfur.

But the NYT dispatch by Jeffrey Gettleman from Nyuru offered not a picture of displacement but of people returning to their villages, and assumed that these were sufficiently numerous to suggest conflict in Darfur was ending: “the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 [is] a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.”  This was a truly extraordinary and grossly misleading conclusion, since all evidence at the time—and since the filing of the dispatch—sharply, indeed overwhelmingly contradicts such a claim.  Below is a partial reckoning of the inaccurate and poorly researched conclusions and comments in the dispatch.

For the sake of clarity, I should note first that NYT piece, misleadingly, does not consistently or clearly distinguish between Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur and refugees in eastern Chad, making nonsense of many sentences.  Both are immense populations, but while the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that there were 282,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad in February 2012; the most recent estimate, from both UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is 330,000.  In other words, despite the suggestion of Gettleman’s dispatch about the direction of refugee flows, the reality is that some 50,000 civilians have newly fled to Chad from Darfur (many of these people were originally from Chad). Within Darfur itself there are more than 2 million people displaced in camps; more are displaced without any place of refuge or relief (the resourceful and independent UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [IRIN] reported on April 19, 2013 that “an estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict”).

Despite the failure of the NYT reporting from Darfur, the broader pattern of violence, rape, displacement, and acute deprivation currently experienced by those in the Mornei region (where Nyuru is located) has been captured with remarkable detail and authority in the steady stream of reports from Radio Dabanga, widely acknowledged as the most authoritative news source for Darfur over the past several years.  Using Darfuri contacts on the ground throughout the region, the Darfuri diaspora in The Netherlands has created in Radio Dabanga an extraordinarily resourceful and geographically wide-ranging new form of electronic journalism—one evidently of no interest to the NYT or it reporters.  Indeed, even as the single NYT dispatch was being filed from Nyuru, Radio Dabanga was providing reports from West Darfur of militia attacks on displaced persons and camps, suspicious fires in camps, rapes, water and food shortages—none, it would seem, of any interest to the NYT even as context.

 

[All emphases have been added; I preserve the three-state division of Darfur in referring to events in West Darfur, from which “Central Darfur” has been arbitrarily carved, indicating with brackets where Radio Dabanga has used the new cartographic terminology.]

———————————————————————————-

First, the view from the New York Times:

“A Taste of Hope Sends Refugees Back to Darfur,” [dateline: NyuruWest Darfur], February 26, 2012

More than 100,000 people in Darfur have left the sprawling camps where they had taken refuge for nearly a decade and headed home to their villages over the past year, the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 and a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.

[Returns from camps in Chad?  in Darfur?  This is never clarified—ER]

The millions of civilians who fled into camps, their homes often reduced to nothing more than rings of ash by armed raiders, are among the most haunting legacies of the conflict in Darfur, transforming this rural landscape into a collection of swollen impromptu squatter towns.  And while the many thousands going home are only a small fraction of Darfur’s total displaced population, they are doing so voluntarily, United Nations officials say, offering one of the most concrete signs of hope this war-weary region has seen in years.

[A photograph caption accompanying the article, presumably written by the NYT correspondent or his editor, declares baldly]:

“Darfur was long known for the brutality inflicted upon its residents by militias, but [NB] peace has settled on the region.”

[On] a recent morning, thousands of Nyuru’s residents were back on their land doing all the things they used to do, scrubbing clothes, braiding hair, sifting grain and preparing for a joint feast of farmers and nomads. Former victims and former perpetrators would later sit down side by side together, some for the first time since Darfur’s war broke out, sharing plates of macaroni and millet—and even the occasional dance—in a gesture of informal reconciliation [ ] parts of Darfur finally appear to be turning around, for a few reasons. [  ]

Of course, all is not well in Darfur. More than two million people remain stuck in internal displacement or refugee camps.  But people who have been victimized and traumatized are sensing a change in the air and acting on it, risking their lives and the lives of their children to leave the relative safety of the camps to venture back to where loved ones were killed.  [  ]

[I]n the past few months, word began to trickle back to Chad that the   janjaweed were gone.

[The Janjaweed and comparable militia forces most certainly do remain in all regions of Darfur, if often recycled into various paramilitary guises (e.g., the Central Reserve Police, or Abu Tira, the Border Intelligence Forces, and the Popular Defense Forces—ER]

But, at the same time, there is a new police station standing on a hill, with a fresh coat of high-gloss blue, and there are no reports of major violence.  [  ]

[There were and continue to be many reports of “major violence”—none that the NYT bothered to read—ER]

François Reybet-Degat, the current head of the United Nations refugee office in Sudan, said that more than 100,000 people returned home to several different areas of Darfur in 2011, far more than in any year before that.

[Who are these “voluntary returns”?  Are they IDPs or refugees?  Conflating the two or leaving the issue ambiguous is utterly irresponsible—ER]

It’s an early sign of a bigger trend,” he said. “There are still pockets of insecurity, but the general picture is that things are improving.”

****

“…there are still pockets of insecurity…” but “peace has settled on the region.

This is a journalistic obscenity, a fantastically inaccurate claim, as insisted upon by every knowledgeable observer of Darfur with whom I have communicated.  New violent displacement vastly outstrips “voluntary” returns and has for years, even if we accept the problematic UN figure of “100,000 returns” over the preceding year (see below).  Indeed, violence is widespread and growing in scale as well as intensity.  This began well before February 2012, so how could the NYT have misrepresented conditions so badly?

Here we must ask first why were there no credible Darfuri voices cited by the NYT?  The all too obvious answer is that Khartoum’s Military Intelligence was fully in control of Gettleman’s very brief and highly localized visit, whether he knew it or not.  None of the many Darfuris I’ve spoken with gives the slightest credence to quotations attributed to supposed “villagers” of Nyuru.  All such quotations in the dispatch come from either a hopelessly self-interested UN and African Union presence in the region, or from people who knew that the consequences of speaking honestly, of not performing as they had been scripted, could be deadly.

So just where is the small village of Nyuru to which the NYT correspondent traveled?  And just why was it selected?  It is in West Darfur, about fifteen miles north of Mornei, the major town in the area and the center of district administration (West Darfur is geographically much the smallest of the three Darfur states; however, conditions in the larger regions are reflected in countless reports from North and South Darfur).  Shortly after the NYT dispatch, and outraged by its misrepresentations, Darfuris in the area—to which no foreign journalists other than the NYT’s Gettleman has been given access—along with researchers at Radio Dabanga began a thorough investigation.  This included an interview with the UNHCR representative for Chad, who denied that there had been any returns from Chad to Darfur.  After publishing a series of stinging rebukes of the NYT account, Radio Dabanga also asked the chief administrative officer for the Mornei district—the Farsha—to investigate the claims in the dispatch.  The NYT has seemed quite uninterested in his conclusions:

“The highest native administrator of Mornei, Izzedeen Abdurrahman, told Radio Dabanga ‘there is no voluntary return of refugees from eastern Chad to their villages in Nuri [Nyuru].‘ He added that if anybody claimed he had been to Nuri [Nyuru] and saw refugees returning ‘he must have confused trees with human beings.’ [ … ]

“The Farsha returned to Nuri [Nyuru] and found not a single returnee. He explained that he did not deal with voluntary return files, as the most pressing issue in Nuri [Nyuru] and surroundings is the lack of security: ’80% of the people from Nuri [Nyuru] are still living in refugee camps in eastern Chad.’  The rest of the people found shelter in camps in El Geneina, Mornei and Cisse: ‘These places are deserted, every school is destroyed.’”  (“Farsha of Mornei: no voluntary return of refugees to Nuri (Nyuru), West Darfur,” 10 April 2012, http://www.radiodabanga.org/node/28283

I have heard not a single dissenting Darfuri voice.

What we have heard recently from the Mornei area (again, Mornei is only about 15 miles from the NYT dateline of Nyuru)?  I include below a few excerpts from the scores of dispatches that Radio Dabanga has released over recent months with Mornei as a dateline; I also include reports from other parts of West Darfur, including excerpts which speak to humanitarian conditions on the ground in West Darfur and the relentless deterioration of human security, now frankly acknowledged by all international actors, including UNHCR.

If we want to know why almost 1 million people have been newly displaced over the past three and a half years—dwarfing even the untenably optimistic figure for returns attributed by the NYT to the UN—these are the dispatches we must read.  And if we want to know why “returns” are so difficult to assess as “successful,” there is much here as well that speaks about the steady assaults—including rape and murder—directed against returning African farmers by Arab militia forces and armed Arab groups that have seized the lands and farms of these displaced people.  As to deteriorating humanitarian conditions in West Darfur—logistically the most remote Darfur state—we must begin and end with accounts of the violence that has done so much to attenuate relief aid throughout Darfur.  Accounts of this violence were appearing regularly at the time the NYT dispatch appeared, a large percentage with a Mornei dateline—15 miles from Nyuru.

• Over 300 farms destroyed by herders near Darfur camp   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei/also transliterated “Murnei,” “Murni,” “Murnay”], March 29, 2013)

Herders “armed by the government” destroyed more than 300 vegetable farms near a West Darfur camp in retaliation to the alleged murder of two militiamen by a displaced last Monday. [Typically in Radio Dabanga dispatches, “herders” refers to nomadic Arab groups, including militias, that are almost always well-armed—ER]

Although the displaced confessed killing only of them in self-defense, families of both supposed victims have demanded to be paid exorbitant amounts of blood money. The sheikh denied it and Mornei’s residents staged mass demonstrations. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, the sheikh said the farmlands’ destruction by herders and their livestock is estimated at millions of Sudanese pounds. The sites are all located in Wadi Sula’s Jumjum, Aishbara and Kabere areas, near the camp.

On Thursday, 11 displaced women, including two babies, were attacked by pro-government militiamen in their farm near Mornei. Three of them were critically injured, and one of the babies in the hospital in coma.   ••

 Mornei: More than 10 herders’ attacks in a week   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei, West Darfur], October 15, 2012)

Residents of camp Mornei in West Darfur complained to Radio Dabanga about the recurring attacks carried out by herders against them and their farms, on Monday 15 October. According to a camp representative the displaced have been exposed to more than 10 attacks during the last week and that the most recent incident happened on Monday morning. The representative said a number of displaced persons were shot and beaten with whips when they tried to prevent herders from entering their farms in Wadi Jangary, south of Mornei. He added that beatings and looting against camp’s residents by herders have increased in the past two days, adding that on farms in all of Wadi Jangary, Arro, Toure, Korney Toura were targeted.   ••

• Abbala militants rape “3 displaced women” in West Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Mornei camp], March 25, 2013)

A group of militants raped three displaced women on Saturday in Mornei campWest Darfur. A relative of one of the victims told Radio Dabanga that the militants are Abbala tribesmen. The Abbala militants attacked the three women who were on their way back to the camp from their farms in Wadi Tour, south of Mornei, the relative added. Another source said that the Abbala militants raped the women at gunpoint and added that they released the women late Saturday night. The source revealed that the three victims were taken to Mornei hospital for treatment. Moreover, the source complained about the high percentage of attacks displaced people, women in particular, by pro-government militia.   [“Abbala” is the most common term used by Radio Dabanga for camel-herding nomadic Arab groups—ER]   ••

• Baby in coma after militia attack near Darfur camp   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], March 28, 2013)

Eleven displaced women, including two babies, were attacked by pro-government militiamen in their farm near a displaced camp in West Darfur on ThursdayThree of them were critically injured, and one of the babies is in the hospital in coma. Beating the victims with sticks, rifle butts and whips, militants warned them the land was for grazing and not for farming, the head of sheikhs and omdas of Mornei camps told Radio Dabanga.

They burned the winter crops of onions, peppers, tomatoes and okra, and threatened to kill whoever returned to the site, located in Wadi Misa, south of Mornei, the sheikh said. All of the victims were taken to the hospital. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, the sheikh affirmed that UNAMID troops stationed in the vicinity “failed” to protect the displaced, despite the “serious” events that took place in the area recently.   ••

• West Darfur displaced “unable” to farm due to presence of militias  (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], February 4, 2013)

Displaced living in Mornei, West Darfur, are complaining about their inability to cultivate their winter crops outside the camp because of the presence of pro-government militias stationed outside the area.   A camp leader told Radio Dabanga on Monday the militiamen have been based outside Mornei since the tribal clashes between the Abbala and Beni Hussein broke out in Jebel ‘Amer, North Darfur on 5 January. He said there is virtually no life outside the camp and appealed to government authorities and UNAMID to send patrols to the area so that displaced can cultivate their crops and collect firewood.  ••

• Government selling land belonging to Mornei IDPs in West Darfur   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], January 27, 2013)

Residents at internally displaced persons camp at Mornei in West Darfur complained that the land they were displaced from named Bobai Amer is being sold off as residential land. A camp leader said to Radio Dabanga the land which is used for farming, is being sold by Muhammed Arbab Khamis of the ruling National Congress Party, agreed with the chief of Bobai Amer for 200 Sudanese Pounds a piece. On Thursday 10 camp leaders met with Khamis to ask why he is selling their land and where the money is going. The witness said Khamis told them that if camp residents don’t want to return to their lands as they were invited to, the government will distribute their land. On the money question he said it was none of their business.   ••

• Five Mornei residents taken to hospital after militia attack   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], April 3, 2013)

Around 20 gunmen loyal to the government attacked ten people from Mornei camp in West Darfur.  The militia arrived on horses and camels as the displaced people were preparing coals four km outside of the camp.  Witnesses said the gunmen used whips and rifles to beat the camp residents.  They said the attack left five people seriously injured. They were taken to the hospital in Mornei for treatment.   ••

*****

§  The attempt to seize the lands and farms of the displaced extends throughout West Darfur, and indeed all of Darfur.  This process of confiscation and appropriation has continued unabated for years and indeed seems to be accelerating.  None of this is mentioned in the NYT dispatch.

 Confiscation of houses “attempt to dismantle camp” in West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [Garsila, West Darfur], May 31, 2013)

In an apparent attempt by the Sudanese government to dismantle the camp for displaced persons in Garsila, West Darfur, authorities have been confiscating the houses of displaced persons and redistributing them to military commanders and other officials. Sources told Radio Dabanga that this is being done by presenting the displaced with a bureaucratic catch-22 situation. The displaced are forced to present documents to prove ownership of the land, or to pay a SDG 500 ($115) fee “to complete the registration procedures.” Authorities have occupied the displaced houses and have redistributed them to leaders of the civil service, security, police, and army, sources told Radio Dabanga. “The authorities of the area threaten the displaced: either pay or be removed from your lands.”  [Such extortion schemes are increasingly common and take many forms—ER]  ••

 Armed men seize farms in West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], July 13, 2012)

A group of pro-government armed men assaulted a number of farmers in West Darfur. After insulting and beating them, they burned down their farms. The men driving a land cruiser attacked the farmers on Tuesday evening in Jimmaizat Babiker and Hajer Bagerwest of For Baranga. A farmer told Radio Dabanga that the militants expelled them from their lands and threatened to kill him if they returned. The farmer said the armed men warned the farmers the area is meant for grazing and not for agriculture according to our source. The commissioner of For Baranga, Suleiman Khater Zayed, visited the area on Wednesday and echoed the exact same words.  ••

 Returnees’ homes, provisions destroyed by fire in West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [Shibait Urdu, West Darfur], May 30, 2013)

Eight families that returned voluntarily to the area of Shibait Urdu from camp Abu Suruj in Sirba locality, West Darfur are suffering under poor humanitarian conditions after fire destroyed their homes, shelter, belongings and stocks of food last weekA displaced woman from Abu Suruj told Radio Dabanga that the eight families representing a total of about 80 individuals returned to Shibait Urdu because of the difficult living conditions at the Abu Suruj camp. The source says that it was their intention to grow some food by working their fields.   ••

 Armed militias seize farms in Kreinik, West Darfur   (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], July 8, 2012)

IDPs returning to their lands in Kreinik, 36 km east of Geneina, found that their properties had been seized by armed militias. A sheikh [told Radio Dabanga that] IDPs returning to cultivate their lands during the rainy season in West Darfur were stopped by militias.   ••

 West Darfur land settled by people from Niger, Chad, Central African  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], June 22, 2012)

Displaced people in camps in El Geneina, West Darfur, revealed that around one hundred thousand square feet of their lands has been occupied by new inhabitants from Niger, Chad and Central Africa. A sheikh from Mornei camp told Radio Dabanga that the occupied land included the areas of Masteri, Beida, Dowany, Kokoriya, Jory, Gubeya, Jeing, Mornei and many other areas. He also stated that the new inhabitants have started changing the names of the area, cutting down large trees, demolishing graves and farming on it in attempts to erase the former symbols of the areas.   ••

• New settlers in Darfur chase returnees from their farming lands  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], June 17, 2012)

Displaced Darfuris in camp Kendeby of West Darfur have been chased from their farming lands in the area of Sirba, north of the capital el-Geneina. They told Radio Dabanga that several returning IDP’s have been threatened with weapons while they were trying to sow their seeds. They say that settlers instead of the returnees from the area have taken the fertile agricultural lands in the localities of Miraya, Agi Ra, Kurk and Dumta. Displaced Darfuris in camp Kendeby of West Darfur have been chased from their farming lands in the area of Sirba, north of the capital El Geneina.

According to a community leader, the settlers had beaten five women who went out of camp Kendeby for farming in Dumta areas last Thursday. The settlers confiscated their seeds after beating them with a whipThe men warned them not to come back again.  ••

 Armed militias seize farms near Garsila, West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [Garsila, West Darfur], July 9, 2011)

Radio Dabanga was informed by a female refugee that displaced women from Garsila, West Darfur, are currently complaining about armed militias who apparently seized their farms, thus preventing their cultivation. The witness indicated that a group of the militia went to the Gedo, Gallinja and Gang Kosi areas, where several shepherds bring their herds, to take their land and set up their own farms with the Government’s support.   ••

•  Displaced father and son beaten by would-be rapists in West Darfur   (Radio Dabanga [Sirba Locality, West Darfur], May 28, 2013)

A displaced man and his son have been beaten by militiamen in their house at Kendebe camp in Sirba Locality, West Darfur on Sunday. Sources told Radio Dabanga that the militiamen entered the house and attempted to rape a female family member. When the man and his son intervened, the militiamen beat them severely before fleeing. The pair was taken to the camp clinic for medical treatment. Another group of militiamen attacked two displaced people from the same camp as they made their way from Bir Dageeg camp on Sunday. The camp sheikh told Radio Dabanga that when militiamen opened fire on two men one called Girba suffered a broken leg and another, Hak Murkez received a heavy beating.   ••

•  Gunmen storm house in El Geneina camp, West Darfur—three injured  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], May 20, 2013)

Three people were injured on Saturday night when gunmen stormed the home of the displaced family of Ahmed Yahiya Suleiman in Abuzer camp in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. Witnesses from the camp told Radio Dabanga that two gunmen broke into Suleiman’s house at night while he was not at home. They opened fire on his wife, his son and daughter. The three injured were transferred for treatment to a hospital in El Geneina.  •

•  UNHCR “in race against time” to deliver aid to Sudanese refugees in Chad   (Radio Dabanga [Tissi, eastern Chad], May 17, 2013)

Following the displacement of tens of thousands of people from Sudan to Chad, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is “in a race against time” to deliver aid to them before the rainy seasons begins. In a press briefing on Friday, UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton said the agency “is requisitioning aid for tens of thousands of Darfur refugees in eastern Chad amid fears that heavy rains will cut off access to the group.” This year more than 50,000 people, both Sudanese and Chadians who were living in Darfur, fled violent hostilities to Tissi, just across the border. Roads to the area become impassable during the rainy season lasting from May to November and the first rains have already fallen. The region has little infrastructure and new arrivals place a strain on the local communities.

Earlier this month Médecins Sans Frontières drew international attention to the problem: “Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed before the looming rainy season cuts off road access to many areas … time is running out.”   ••

•  [West] Darfur’s Umm Dukhun “virtually deserted” after clashes resumed  (Radio Dabanga [Umm Dukhun, West Darfur], May 30, 2013)

Umm Dukhun city in [West] Darfur, which has witnessed renewed violent tribal clashes between the Salamat and Misseriya tribes, was virtually deserted as of Thursday morning. In addition, shops and markets have been closed since hostilities resumed earlier this week. Local sources told Radio Dabanga that only about 100 families remain in Umm Dukhun, while the rest of the town’s inhabitants—about 80,000 before clashes first erupted on 4 April—fled to neighbouring Chad.   ••

§  The humanitarian crisis in the Mornei area had been deteriorating rapidly even before the bizarrely rapturous NYT account of February 2012; both previous and subsequent accounts offer a stark and inescapable picture of suffering and deprivation.  Most of this derives from the violent insecurity in Darfur that the Khartoum regime considers a strategic weapon.  The brutal conditions in which people are living throughout the camps of West Darfur, as well as South Darfur and North Darfur, have received scant attention in recent years—from the NYT or indeed any non-Sudanese news source.  Given the truly staggering number of displaced persons, the acute vulnerability of the camps, the ongoing violence and consequent human displacement, the extreme attenuation of humanitarian relief, and the growing despair of people who have endured more than ten years of genocidal conflict, this lack of attention and concern is disgraceful.

• Sudan: Harsh Weather Has Many Living Rough in Mornei Camp, West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [Mornei camp], June 7, 2013)

The displaced people of camp Mornei in West Darfur have complained of the poor conditions, in particular with regard to an acute shortage of plastic sheets. A displaced man from the camp reported to Radio Dabanga that they have not received any type of plastic sheets from the local authorities or organisations working in the field for nearly four years. “The recent rainfall and dust storms destroyed most of the plastic sheeting in the camp, and has forced some people to live in the open.” He appealed on behalf of the displaced via Radio Dabanga to all the organisations operating in Darfur to provide plastic sheets for the camp, especially as the rainy season has arrived.  ••

• Mornei camp in West Darfur facing water crisis (Radio Dabanga [Mornei camp], 11 February 2013)

Displaced residents of Mornei camp in West Darfur are facing an acute drinking water crisis, due to the lack of fuel to operate the water stations in the camp. One of the camp’s sheiks told Radio Dabanga on Sunday, 10 February, that the camp is facing a water crisis due to the lack of fuel to operate the water stations in the camp. The sheikh added the water stations have not been operating for five consecutive days due to the lack of fuel. He claims that the responsible humanitarian organization has stopped providing fuel to the camp due to the fact that UNICEF suspended its fuel support.   ••

•  UN: more than 50% water pumps broken in West Darfur camps  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], May 24, 2013)

In its latest report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that most of the water pumps in displaced camps in and around El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, are not working. “Access to water is problematic as 63 out of 93 hand pumps in the nine camps are not functioning. The nine camps have an estimated population of 119,000 people, according to the (Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission) HAC,” it was stated on Friday’s report by OCHA. The sites include Abu Zar, Adamata, Dorti, El Hujaj, El Riad, Jama Krinding One and Two and Sultan House. OCHA says the information was cross-checked with all the camps’ representatives.

OCHA further stated that an estimated 7,300 households out of 17,000 do not have latrines, while another 5,000 do not have access to communal latrines, which further depicts deterioration in the provision of acceptable sanitation facilities in the camps.

A total of eight out of 14 basic primary schools are without WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, while 20 out of 34 child friendly spaces in the camps remain closed, the UN agency declared.  ••

• El Riyadh camp: one medical clinic for 30,000 residents  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina] August 28, 2012)

Radio Dabanga was informed today that there is only one medical clinic available at the El Riyadh camp in El-Geneina, West Darfur. The camp counts 30,000 residents who claim to face a serious humanitarian crisis. A camp’s activist told Radio Dabanga that the three most serious issues in El Riyadh are lack of security, lack of water and lack of medical services. He added there is also scarcity of nurses and of midwives at the camp. The source said this situation arose after June 2011 when the Government of Sudan expelled medical international humanitarian organizations from the camp. He explained the international organizations were substituted by the Sudanese Ministry of Health.   ••

• Short rations make malnutrition rife among children in [West] Darfur camps (Radio Dabanga [Nertiti camp, West Darfur], May 30, 2013)

In the camps of [West] Darfur, displaced children are suffering from malnutrition and lack of food with no health organisations able to provide support. This is proving to be an added affliction, over and above the intense rainfall and deteriorating security situation that residents must cope with each day. A camp leader told Radio Dabanga that there are about 35 children suffering from malnutrition at Camp Khor Ramla and similar cases have been reported in Nertiti, El Salam and other camps south of Nertiti. He pointed out that due to a failure to reach an agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP), food ration distribution was suspended in the camps—a measure that has been in effect for almost two months.

The [camps’] sheiks appealed to international organisations to expedite the provision of humanitarian aid, health and tarpaulins as a matter of urgency before a veritable humanitarian disaster erupts in the camps Nertiti. “We urgently need tarpaulins and medicines to address the situation, especially as the rainy season has arrived.”   ••

• Poor health conditions leave dozens dead in Mornei   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], September 21, 2012)

Residents of Mornei camp in West Darfur are suffering from poor health conditions as diseases like malaria, typhoid and diarrhea are spreading rapidly. In addition to the rapidly spreading diseases, the residents suffer from malnutrition and a lack of health-care and medication. One of the sheikhs told Radio Dabanga that the report [composed by the camp sheikhs] revealed the death of 64 elderly and 30 children between the ages of one and five over the past two weeksIn addition, the report confirmed that the majority of deaths are a result of diseases like malaria and typhoid.   ••

§  And within weeks of the NYT dispatch, the following report appeared; the inability to transport food supplies and fuel to pump water is entirely a function of insecurity, an insecurity that Khartoum has bred by allowing the Arab militia groups to operate with complete impunity against civilians and humanitarians.

•  WFP reduces rations in El Geneina camps   (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], May 9, 2012)

A group of displaced people from 10 camps across El Geneina said the World Food Programme told them on Monday that their rations of maize will be reduced by 50 percent. They said this have caused widespread discontent in the camps that are already suffering from food shortages and hunger. A camp leader that attended the meeting told Radio Dabanga that the WFP representatives justified the reduced ration by not being able to transport the required quantities, as truck drivers are reluctant to move around with the current security situation.  ••

§   With terrifying regularity, Khartoum either expels or intolerably constrains the work of international humanitarian organizations, again something not mentioned in the NYT dispatch:

•  Sudan government halts work of 50% NGOs in West Darfur capital  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], January 23, 2013)

As of 1 January 2013, the government of Sudan halted the work of 50 percent of the NGOs working in El-Geneina camps, West Darfur’s capitalseveral sources told Radio Dabanga on WednesdayFive out of the 10 foreign organizations were informed by the government in mid-2012 that they could no longer exercise their activities at the camps [beyond the end of the year], sheikhs from 10 different sites affirmed. They emphasized the organizations were not expelled from Sudan. Instead, [the sheikhs] continued, organizations were ordered to stay in El-Geneina, hand over their resources to camps’ residents and focus their programs on voluntary return villages.  ••

And while Khartoum’s regular and militia forces have long attacked camps for the displaced, a shocking incident on June 9, 2013 gives a sense not only of civilian vulnerability, but of the danger faced by humanitarian workers:

•  UN chief: ‘shock, sorrow’ at killing of NGO worker in Nertiti North, West Darfur   (Radio Dabanga, [Nertiti, West Darfur], June 11, 2013)

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan “expresses shock and sorrow at the killing of a staff member of a humanitarian non-government organization on 9 June 2013 in North Camp, Nertiti [West] Darfur.” Radio Dabanga reported on Monday that on the previous night formations of pro-government militias and government troops (SAF) allegedly attacked camp Nertiti North for displaced people in [West] Darfurkilling a doctorinjuring 15 residents, and torching a medical nutrition centre and 54 housesDr Adam Mohamed Hamid was the medical director of the camp’s nutrition centre, which belongs to a foreign organisation that works with children.

Hussein Abu Sharati, spokesman for the association of displaced persons and refugees of Darfur, told Radio Dabanga that government forces supported by militias launched the attack from all directions. “They used Land Cruiser vehicles and opened fire, killing Dr Adam Mohamed Hamid, medical director of the nutrition centre at the camp and wounding 15 others.”

A spokesman for the displaced persons criticised UNAMID for not intervening and protecting the displaced, and concluded: “The nutrition centre belongs to a foreign organisation that provides nutrition for children. The killing of Dr Hamid and the torching of the centre proves that the government clearly does not want any organisations to assist the displaced of Darfur.”  ••

§  West Darfur is also the region in which rape of women and girls has been most frequently reported, a grim distinction given the epidemic of sexual violence in Darfur, one that figures nowhere in the NYT account of February 2012, even as it has been prominently reported not only by Radio Dabanga but a number of human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights), as well as by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).  And the Mornei area has certainly not been spared.  For an overview of these reports, a more comprehensive bibliography with links, and a soul-destroying compendium of individual sexual assaults, see “RAPE AS A CONTINUING WEAPON OF WAR IN DARFUR: Reports, bibliography of studies, a compendium of incidents.”

What should we make of the fact that none of these accounts comports with what the New York Times reported in February 2012 from Nyuru, West Darfur—none of them…? 


END

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Taking Human Displacement in Darfur Seriously

Posted by African Press International on June 5, 2013

OVERVIEW

A brief moment of shocking clarity accompanied confirmation by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that some 300,000 Darfuris have been newly displaced in the first four and a half months of 2013, an estimate first reported by Radio Dabanga on May 16, 2013, a week before other news sources:  

“In its latest report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirms that more than 300,000 people have been forcibly displaced in Darfur since the beginning of this year. It attributes the displacement to inter-tribal fighting and conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and armed rebel movements.”

[In this brief, numbers (including for mortality), names, dates, and locations are in bold throughout; italics are used for emphasis, which has always been added in quotations; spelling, transliteration, and the punctuation of quotations have often been regularized for clarity.  I have also continued to use the division of Darfur into three states: West, South, and North Darfur states.  This division is preserved in the highly detailed UN Field Atlases for Darfur: http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=3938 ]

It is worth noting a peculiar use of this staggering figure for human displacement, by both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and OHCA head Valerie Amos, in comparing it with the previous two years:

“The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have fled fighting in all of Darfur in the first five months of this year, which is more than the total number of people displaced in the last two years put together,” Amos said [in Khartoum].” (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], May 24, 2013]

The statistical claim here is highly dubious, as the data collated here suggest (see Section One below).  And to the extent the claim is meant to suggest that 2011 and 2012 were not years of extraordinary levels of violence and displacement, this was simply disingenuous.

Moreover, displacement continues at a shocking rate: even subsequent to the mid-May figure reported by OCHA, tens of thousands of additional people have been displaced.  Nor does the Secretary-General or any other voice of consequence in the international community offer meaningful and realistic proposals for halting this displacement, which over the past ten years has correlated highly with mortality.  Indeed, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has done nothing to signal that it plans to change course in beginning to draw down the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which has a UN Security Council mandate to protect civilians—including from displacement.

In their comparisons, the Secretary-General and OCHA chief appear to be continuing a pattern that has been evident since UNAMID first took up its civilian protection mandate (January 1, 2008), viz., trying to overstate previous “successes” in the face of ongoing catastrophe.  But UNAMID’s inability to provide civilian and humanitarian protection has been conspicuous from the beginning, and was all too continuous with that of the preceding and grossly inadequate African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), UNAMID’s primary source of men and equipment early on.  There is simply no sign that violent displacement will end or even diminish, or that aerial bombardments of civilians—rarely investigated by UNAMID—will cease to be a primary agency of human displacement, despite the wildly mendacious protestations of the Khartoum regime:

“‘It is absolutely not true that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) bombed civilian targets in the two regions, or in any other areas of Sudan,’ said on Thursday [May 30, 2013] foreign ministry spokesperson, Abu Bakar Al-Siddiq.” (Sudan Tribune, May 31, 2013)

[ I will soon be updating “They Bombed Everything that Moved”: Aerial Military Attacks on Civilians and Humanitarians in Sudan, 1999 – 2011
(analysis and bibliography of sources, 80+ pages with accompanying Excel spreadsheet, at www.sudanbombing.org); analysis and data spreadsheet previously updated June 5, 2012.  More than 2,000 such aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians have been authoritatively reported since 1999. ]

Section One below offers the data and reports—from the UN, non-governmental organizations, and news reports—that support the following summary of findings about human displacement in Darfur over the past six and a half years:

2007:                         300,000 civilians newly displaced

2008:                         317,000 civilians newly displaced

2009:                         250,000 civilians newly displaced

2010:                         300,000 civilians newly displaced

2011:                         200,000 civilians newly displaced

2012:                         150,000 civilians newly displaced

2013:                        320,000 civilians newly displaced as of June 1, 2013

The total for civilians newly displaced, 2007 – June 2013, is more than 1.8 million.

This figure is itself greater than the total number of IDPs, for all years, promulgated most often by OCHA (1.4 million); and of course the figure of 1.8 million does not include the figures for the years of greatest displacement, 2003 – 2006.  At the end of 2008, according to OCHA’s last Darfur Humanitarian Profile (No. 34), there were 2.7 million people in displaced persons camps. 

There is glaring, finally shocking statistical incoherence here.  Whatever over-count is reflected in the OCHA figure for the end of 2008; whatever duplication has been generated by the fact that displacement figures do not disaggregate those displaced for the first time and those who have been displaced multiple times (and on each occasion been counted as “newly displaced”); whatever the ambiguity of status for many who live in the camps but attempt to work their lands; and whatever the highly limited success of the UN push for “returns” of IDPs to their lands and homes—none of this can possibly obscure the basic statistical fact represented here: there are clearly a great many more than 2 million Darfuris presently internally displaced; and—according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and UNHCR—there are also 330,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad (as well as a significant Darfuri refugee population in Central African Republic).

There is something deeply, disturbingly inaccurate about the figure for displacement that OCHA promulgates, and that news services, for the most part, simply repeat.  OCHA sometimes acknowledges in its reports that another 300,000 people are in the IDP camps, but not being fed by the UN World Food Program.  It is quite unclear why not being fed by WFP makes a person any less displaced.  But even the figure of 1.7 million is not as great as the figure for those newly displaced since 2007—again, more than 1.8 million.  And this of course says nothing about those who remain displaced from before 2007.

Section One (below) provides detailed accounts of sources for the data summarized above, as well as explanations of inferences and representative accounts of particular episodes of displacement.  I offer as well some thoughts about why the UN has distorted this most basic reality in Darfur today.  Section Two looks at the lives of displaced persons from the standpoint of health and malnutrition reports, as humanitarian relief aid continues to shrink amidst growing insecurity.  Section Three looks at reports of attacks on displaced persons attempting to return to their lands and homes, the violent means of intimidation deployed, and other factors limiting the civilian “returns” that the UN disingenuously celebrates.

SECTION ONE: Human displacement in Darfur

Here are the data totals for the years since 2007:

• Displacement for 2007: OCHA estimated that more than 300,000 Darfuris were newly displaced (UN OCHA, Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 30: conditions as of January 1, 2008; http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-darfur-humanitarian-profile-no-30-situation-01-jan-2008

• Displacement for 2008: OCHA estimated that 317,000 Darfuris were newly displaced; (UN OCHA, Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 34: conditions as of January 1, 2009; http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-darfur-humanitarian-profile-no-34-situation-01-jan-2009  

By the end of 2008, OCHA estimated that 2.7 million Darfuris were internally displaced; this did not include the more than 250,000 Darfuri refugees then in eastern Chad.   http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-darfur-humanitarian-profile-no-34-situation-01-jan-2009 

• Displacement for 2009: In this year of humanitarian expulsions, OCHA promulgated no figure of its own, indeed ended publication of its data-rich “Darfur Humanitarian Profiles.”  But data were still being collected: the Canadian “Peace Operations Monitor” found evidence suggesting that “over 214,000 people were newly displaced [in Darfur] between January and June [2009] alone.” (http://pom.peacebuild.ca/SudanRelief.shtml)

Given the reports of violent displacement that followed June 2009, a total figure for the year of 250,000 seems conservative.

• Displacement for 2010: the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre collected data suggesting that approximately 270,000 people were newly displaced in Darfur (http://tinyurl.com/n6fzjx).  This figure was last updated on January 4, 2011, and thus is highly unlikely to have taken full account of the large-scale displacement of December 2010. The OCHA Sudan Bulletin (January 7 – 13, 2011) reported that the “overall number of people displaced during the December 2010 fighting in the area of Khor Abeche stands at 43,000.”

300,000 newly displaced for the year again seems a conservative figure;

• Displacement for 2011: There is no aggregation of the data, and what data there are cannot be considered adequate to measure the full scale of displacement; but various reports suggest that the scale of displacement certainly did not diminish dramatically, and may well have increased significantly in eastern regions of Darfur following the defection of Minni Minawi and his Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/MM) fighters from the Khartoum regime in late 2010:

§ UN IRIN (Nairobi) reports, March 16, 2011:

“Tens of thousands of people continue to flee their homes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur for the safety of internally displaced people’s camps after recent fighting between government forces and armed militias.  According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 66,000 IDPs have arrived in camps in North and South Darfur since JanuaryAt least 53,000 are in and around North Darfur State’s Zam Zam IDP Camp.”

[These OCHA figures almost certainly do not include the many Zaghawa displaced in eastern Darfur; see “Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players” (below)].

§  Radio Dabanga [Nertiti, West Darfur], 24 July 2011:
Twenty families fled from Nertiti camp to Zalingei camp in West Darfur, after repeated attacks by militias. Coordinator of the Zalingei camps, told Radio Dabanga from camp Hamidiya, that new displacements are being caused by militia attacks, as well as by members of the uniformed services. These attacks include sexual assault and abuses at farms. He told Radio Dabanga, that, this month, the two camps (north and south) near the city of Nertiti, have seen armed militias take over in the territory of the displaced. §

§  Tens of Thousands flee violence from the air and on the ground North Darfur Radio Dabanga, June 1, 2011

The aerial bombardments, killings and rapes have caused a reported 140,000 people to flee for safety since mid-December. The fighting in December already caused 40,000 people to flee from their homes. Since January, an additional 83,000 newly arrived IDPs have been reported at Zam Zam camp, and another 15,000 in camps near Nyala, Tawila and Khor Abeche. Shortage in food, water and fuel increase humanitarian suffering in the camps, where there is a sharp increase in deaths among children and infants since April. The renewed fighting began after the Sudanese government severed ties with the Sudan Liberation Army rebel faction loyal to Minni Minawi (SLA-MM). The bombardments and fighting is mainly located in the area of east Jebel Marra.  §

§  from Small Arms Survey, “Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players,” Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana, July 2012

Late 2010 and the first half of 2011 saw a significant offensive by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and militias, backed by airstrikes and aerial bombardments, targeting both rebel groups and the Zaghawa civilian population across a broad swathe of eastern Darfur. Significantly, the Government of Sudan has partly shifted away from using Arab proxy militias only to rely on newly formed (and newly armed) non-Arab proxies. This development has fundamentally changed the ethnic map of eastern Darfur, drawing on previously latent tensions between non-Arab groups over land, ethnicity, and local political dominance—and generating some of the most significant ethnically directed violence since the start of the conflict in 2003.  §

NB: There is little evidence that the UN or UNAMID took any statistical account of the displacement that resulted from Khartoum’s new orchestration of ethnically-targeted violence in eastern Darfur. 

In light of the evidence and reports presented here, the most reasonable estimate for 2011—based on inadequate data, inadequate because the UN and UNAMID refuse to collect it—is approximately 200,000 newly displaced, again a conservative estimate.

• Displacement for 2012: Again, there is no detailed aggregation of data that I am aware of that looks with any specificity at violence that displaced or killed civilians in 2012. 

[ In fact, mortality data and quantification have long been a taboo subject concerning the Darfur conflict, even as the extant data suggested that in August 2010 some 500,000 people had already died from violence as well as the disease and malnutrition that have come in the wake of the violence (http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2269).  Khartoum’s evident sensitivities over any discussion or release of data on the subject have produced a complete silence. ]

With respect to displacement, the UN appears content with a figure of 90,000 – 100,000 newly displaced civilians for the year 2012.  I believe this significantly understates the scale of displacement for the year and offer here a compendium of reports that must figure in any accounting:

Section Two, which follows, includes relevant excerpts bearing on the threats that the displaced encounter—both in flight and in the camps—as well indications of mortality among the displaced.  Section Three examines the fearsome dangers encountered by displaced persons—overwhelmingly from the African/non-Arab tribal groups of Darfur—on attempting to reclaim their homes and lands. ]

§  UNAMID: alleged air strikes cause displacement North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [el-Fasher] 21 December 2012)

A press statement issued by UNAMID on Friday, 21 December, claims that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have allegedly carried out air strikes in Shangil Tobaya and Tawila localities, North Darfur. It was added that UNAMID deployed a patrol to Dalma and Dady villages to verify the reported air strikes in the area, but was denied access by SAF. The statement said that UNAMID received reports of an increased number of displacements of civilians from Daly, Kotto, Msaleet, Nomaira, Dawa Sharafa, Dolma and Hemaida villages in Shangil Tobaya area.  §

[Other reports received by Radio Dabanga indicated] that civilians from Kunjura, Hashaba, Namira and Masal villages have fled to Argo camp in Tawila area as a result of air strikes allegedly carried out by SAF on 18 December 2012.  §

§  Displaced present demands to UNHCR (Radio Dabanga [Zam Zam Camp] December 13, 2012)

Displaced, sheikhs, omdas and camp’s representatives from Zam Zam, North Darfur, presented a package of demands and needs to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that was visiting the site, an activist told Radio Dabanga…. On the same day, the UNHCR representative and other humanitarian organizations spoke to about 1,350 displaced persons arrived from East Jebel Marra to Zam Zam, the activist said.  §

§  1,000 people flee Sigili (Radio Dabanga [Sigili], November 10, 2012)

About 1,000 people, or 140 families, from Sigili in Shawa area, North Darfur, have reportedly fled their village following the militia attack that left 13 people dead last Friday, 2 November, locals told Radio Dabanga.  According to sources, virtually all inhabitants left the Shawa area and are moving to El-Fasher and to Zam Zam camp, they explained to Radio Dabanga on Thursday, 8 November. In addition, reports concerning a new imminent attack in Sigili by a militia based in Kalimandou, have also influenced the large displacement of residents, according to witnesses.  §

§  280 displaced families arrive at Zam Zam (Radio Dabanga [Zam Zam camp], December 7, 2012)

An activist from Zam Zam camp near El-Fasher, North Darfur, announced that 280 families from East Jebel Marra have arrived at the camp on Friday, 7 December. He asserted these families are fleeing aerial bombardments and ground assaults, in addition to the looting of thousands carried out by pro-government militias around East Jebel Marra one week ago. Many of the individuals are in poor health after walking for seven days to reach the camp. §

§  More than 12,000 fled Hashaba (Radio Dabanga [Hashaba], October 19, 2012)

Residents from Hashaba, North Darfur, estimate that between 12 and 13 thousand people have fled the area due to recent attacks, Radio Dabanga was informed on Friday, 19 October. They described the region as “virtually deserted” after the militia attacks and aerial bombings last September. According to witnesses, Hashaba and surrounding areas including Umm Laota, Khashim Wadi and Tabadiya are completely abandoned…. Sources added that villages got completely burnt during the recent attacks and that the situation in the region is now tense, as fear and insecurity dominate local residents. They said the humanitarian situation in the area is critical and that it requires urgent intervention.  §

§  Arrival of more than 2,000 people fled Hashaba attacks (Radio Dabanga [Mellit], September 30, 2012)

More than 2,000 people who fled the recent attacks around Hashaba have arrived to Ba’ashim area, north of Mellit, North Darfur, on Sunday, 30 September, Radio Dabanga was informed. Sources told Radio Dabanga that these people traveled for three days by foot, hiding around mountains and valleys when it was light and moving only by night. This way, sources explained, the victims could avoid being found by pro-government militias during their journey to Ba’ashim. Witnesses said these people are suffering from fatigue, adding that they barely ate or drank anything during the three days they traveled.  They added that the 2,000 people who arrived in Ba’ashim represent only one fourth of the victims who fled the Hashaba attacks.  According to witnesses accounts, Hashaba and surrounding villages saw intense aerial bombardments last Wednesday and Thursday, 26 and 27 September. In addition, pro-government militias were also accused by sources of invading the area during the same period. The attacks allegedly resulted in more than 80 people dead or injured around Hashaba area, sources told Radio Dabanga.  §

§  Sudan army and SRF clash, bombs kill 15 (Radio Dabanga [East Jebel Marra], September 19, 2012)

Heavy clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) took place between Tabet and Khazan Tinjur, in East Jebel Marra, North Darfur, on Wednesday morning, 19 September, according to witnesses. The amount of fatal victims is not yet known.   Victims who fled their villages in east Tabet due to the SAF bombings informed Radio Dabanga on Wednesday that the Sudanese army is carrying out a retaliation campaign against them. They claimed to having been beaten, insulted and humiliated, adding that many were also arrested. Residents also said that their conditions are dire, as they have no water or food…. 

On Tuesday, 18 September, 13 people died in two separate incidents took place between Zam Zam and Tabet. Radio Dabanga was informed that both accidents were caused by bombs dropped by the SAF. On Wednesday, September 19 witnesses affirmed that SAF bombings killed a nine-year-old girl and left her mother in critical condition. They said Suad Bakr Hamid and her mother, Khadija Omar Mohammed Issa, were hit when traveling from their farm to their home in El-Kunjar, north of Tabet, on a horse cart. Another farmer was killed by an SAF bomb while working in his land in the same area, Radio Dabanga has learned.

The aerial bombardments in East Jebel Marra led to a new wave of civilian displacement from cities and villages to IDP camps, camps leaders from Dali and Rwanda told Radio Dabanga. They said that 87 families arrived in their camps, located in Tawila locality, between Saturday and Wednesday this week. The leaders pointed out that people are coming from the villages of Goz Duru, Timo, Derty and Argo in East Jebel Marra. In addition, they said the condition of these families is critical.  §

§  Hundreds displaced due to bombings in North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Jebel Marra], August 6, 2012)

Hundreds were displaced from east Jebel Mara to Tawila locality, North Darfur. According to a witness, this is the result of the Sudanese Armed Forces’ (SAF) intensive bombing on east Jebel Mara throughout the week. A source informed Radio Dabanga that residents from the villages of Arosha, Hijer, Deloomi, Humeda, Sabi, Wadi Mora, and Tangarara were moved to Tawila locality in North Darfur. One of the fugitives said that dozens of people, including a large number of women, children and elders, are still in open fields, forests and valleys. They have no food, no medicine and no shelter. He added that after the bombings pro-government militias chased and dragged the people out of their homes and plundered their livestock.  §

§  UN: 25,000 displaced by latest unrest in Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Kutum], August 10, 2012)

UN reports indicate that the entire population of Kassab IDP camp in North Darfur has fled as a result of the recent fighting. There were more than 25,000 IDPs in Kassab camp. The fighting erupted after a district chief, Abdelrahman Mohammed Eissa, was shot dead in Kutum during a carjacking attempt.  Eissa’s tribesmen retaliated by killing two displaced persons and a police officer.  §

§   Thousands displaced on border of Darfur-South Sudan (Radio Tamazuj [Juba] July 11, 2012)

Border clashes and insecurity along the border between Western Bahr El Ghazal and South Darfur have affected thousands of people in Raja County, causing displacement and sufferingaccording to the county executive.  §

§  7,000 flee after government forces raze villages in North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Khartoum], April 2, 2012)

More than 7,000 people have fled their homes in North Darfur after government forces and militants reportedly burned down their villages last week. ‘7,000 have left the villages of Adam Khatir, Nagojora, Hamid Dilli, Amar Jadid, Koyo and Duga Ferro near Donki Hosh and fled to the surrounding areas where there is no food, water or shelter,’ said a newly displaced witness to Radio Dabanga from a safe area. ‘They attacked us for three days, from Tuesday until Thursday evening. They burned down five villages, looted more than 20 and destroyed water wells and pumps,’ added the witness. §

§  3,000 displaced in North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Khartoum], March 27, 2012)

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN said on Monday that about 3,000 people from the areas of Dar Es Salam and Zam Zam camps in North Darfur have been displaced to Kalimdo and other areas with El Fasher. The FAO said that the displaced people are in need aid, food and medicines.  §

§  Heavy shelling forces villagers out of homes in North Darfur (Radio Dabanga [North Darfur], March 15, 2012)

Heavy shelling took place across five villages in North Darfur forcing residents to flee from their homes. Witnesses said an Antonov plane bombed the villages of Dika, Bain, Keda, Jok and Senagarai over the past three days and is still circling the area. They said planes dropped more than 40 bombs as ground troops in six tanks and 150 vehicles moved in to the villages beating male residents, looting and burning houses. The soldiers also reportedly raped more than 30 women and girls and arrested ten of the men. Witnesses said villagers fled to Wadi Maghrib in the desert area where they are now surrounded by government forces.  §

§  1,500 displaced need food assistance in El Daein (Radio Dabanga [El Daein], March 6, 2012)

1,500 displaced people from the villages of Uzban, Um Kurkut, Keiluk in northeast Darfurare experiencing severe lack of access to food in el-Daein, East Darfur. The group consisting mainly of women, children and the elderly, arrived in el-Daein in February last year. A witness told Radio Dabanga the World Food Programme distributed tarpaulins and tents for the displaced, and promised them food which is yet to materialise.  §

§  Abu Delik displaced families seeking refuge at UNAMID HQ (Radio Dabanga [Zam Zam camp], February 29, 2012)

120 families displaced from Abu Delik, the area that witnessed heavy fighting last week, and an adjacent area Sag Al Nagam have refused to leave the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) headquarters, in Zam Zam internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, near El Fasher. Newly displaced families were reportedly attacked by Abu Tira forced on arrival to the camp… The witness said there are 60 families currently seeking protection inside UNAMID’s HQ, and 160 families have been staying just outside the base since Tuesday. He noted that the new IDPs are mainly children, women and the elderly, and added that Zam Zam is experiencing an daily influx of IDPs traveling on foot and donkey.  §

§  Government forces storm village near El Fasher (Radio Dabanga [Abu Delik], February 24, 2012)

On Thursday, government forces attacked  Abu Delik village, southeast of el-Fasher in North Darfur, killing one person and injuring six others…. Eyewitnesses said the force stormed the area at 10:00am indiscriminately attacking, beating, and abusing villagers, who had welcomed the soldiers into the area. They said the troops killed a man, named as Salih Adam El Daw, and injured six others. The soldiers looted homes and shops before burning some of them down. Many residents fled the area.  §

Perhaps the most remarkable statement concerning displacement in Darfur came the previous year from the Humanitarian Protection Strategy section of the UN/AU mission in August 2011:

§  400,000 displaced in West Jebel Marra; region needs urgent humanitarian aid (Radio Dabanga [Jebel Marra], August 16, 2011:

Nearly 400,000 people have been displaced in West Jebel Marra areas, the Humanitarian Protection Strategy of the United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said on Tuesday. “The assessments so far conducted confirm that approximately 400,000 people are displaced in Jebel Marra area,” said Oriano Micaletti, head of the UNAMID Humanitarian Protection Strategy. “They have received very limited assistance during the last few years and are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.” There is an urgent need for humanitarian aid according to the Humanitarian Protection Strategy of the Mission.  §

There is no evidence that this extraordinarily large figure is included in UN calculations about total human displacement in Darfur; indeed, statements by former UN/AU joint special representative Ibrahim Gambari would seem almost pointedly to ignore this finding when he was busy trumpeting his successful accomplishments as JSR last summer before leaving UNAMID.

It should be emphasized that in the absence of any meaningful security provisions for Darfur, fighting between Arab tribal groups has also dramatically increased displacement in recent years, and Arab groups make up a much greater percentage of the total displaced population.

• Displacement for 2012: The total for 2012 suggested by the reports above—far from complete and with many offering no estimates of numbers displaced—appears to be between 150,000 and 200,000.  Moreover, the character and consequences of displacement are certainly much more fully represented in these dispatches than in any recent UN or UNAMID accounts.  I include in calculations for total displacement a figure of 150,000 displaced for 2012, but accept that it is only a crude estimate, based chiefly on calculations of displacement during the episodes presented above.  If this figure is even approximately accurate, given the displacement estimate for 2011 (approximately 200,000), it is not true, as claimed by Amos and Ban, that the figure of 300,000 “exceeds the total for the preceding two years”—2011 and 2012.

Accepting the UN figure of 300,000 newly displaced in 2013, and aggregating the other figures offered here for human displacement in Darfur from 2007 to the present, yields a ghastly total of approximately 1.8 million human beings newly displaced.  This is a figure greater than the current UN figure for total current displacement in all of Darfur, i.e., those displaced before and after 2007. 

Whatever qualifications must be made for double-counting (i.e., those people who have been displaced more than once), temporary displacement (the 30,000 people at Kassab camp displaced in August 2012 returned to this insecure location within a matter of weeks following brutal attacks), whatever (highly limited) success there has been in returning IDPs to their lands and homes, such a vast figure incinerates the credibility of people such as Joint AU/UN Special Representatives Aichatu Mindaoudou, who—with former JSR Rodolphe Adada and Ibrahim Gambari—has taken her place in a continuing spectacle of mendacity.  For on the basis of almost no understanding of Darfur, Ms. Mindaoudou very recently joined her predecessors in offering a culpably distorted characterization of Darfur, declaring last month that “the numbers of people affected by violence had decreased each year between 2008 and 2011.”  Such lies ensure that Darfur’s crisis will continue to intensify, and its suffering will be rendered even less visible.

Moreover, all signs are that large-scale human displacement will continue so long as security remains in free-fall in Darfur (see March 20, 2013 analysis of security conditions at http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=3838).  Even since mid-May of this year, when the UN first promulgated its figure of 300,000 newly displaced civilians in 2013, there is clear evidence of substantial, ongoing human displacement:

§  Gimr-Beni Halba clashes leave 94 dead, 6,500 displaced in South Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Katayla, South Darfur], May 30, 2013)

[The Gimr are one of the smaller non-Arab/African tribal group in South Darfur—ER]

Tribal clashes involving the Gimr and Beni Halba in South Darfur have left a total of 94 people dead and another 65 injured since they resumed in March in Katayla locality, a Gimr stronghold. A UN OCHA report released on Thursday states that an estimated 6,500 people have fled Katayla and have sought refuge in Tullus.  

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, Gimr spokesman Abkar Al Toum, added that 1,200 houses were torched, five water wells destroyed, 14 villages were set ablaze and all the property of the inhabitants stolen.  Al Toum said that 22 Gimr died in attacks on Monday and Tuesday in Kabba, Butab Abu Bashir, Umm Gutiya, Kabo, Amud Al Sah, Ati Kena, and Ajuekheen, while 32 were wounded, of whom 11 were taken to Nyala hospital on Thursday.  §

§  Central Darfur’s Umm Dukhun “virtually deserted” after clashes resumed (Radio Dabanga [Umm Dukhun], May 30, 2013)

Umm Dukhun city in [formerly West] Darfur, which has witnessed renewed violent tribal clashes between the Salamat and Misseriya tribeswas virtually deserted as of Thursday morning. In addition, shops and markets have been closed since hostilities resumed earlier this week.  §

UN figures on displacement in Darfur

In the past that both the UN and UNAMID have deliberately distorted and misrepresented displacement figures, a corruption I have addressed at several moments in recent years, including:

 “How many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are there in Darfur?” Dissent Magazine [on-line], April 28, 2011 http://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/how-many-internally-displaced-persons-are-there-in-darfur

• Updated, August 31, 2012, with a critical examination of UN statistical methodology: http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2320

Also dismaying is the repeated failure to highlight the total of Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, a population that has recently increased dramatically. There are now 330,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, a surge of some 50,000, confirmed by both the UN High Commission for Refugees and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); the latter reported from Tissi, eastern Chad (April 26, 2013): “Violent clashes in Sudan’s Darfur region have driven approximately 50,000 people across the border into southeastern Chad since early March [2013].

Even more invisibly, Darfuri refugees continue to suffer in Central African Republic, thousands of whom were only recently displaced into this exceedingly remote area:

§  UNHCR new release, May 31, 2013 (http://www.unhcr.org/51a8b7756.html)

The UN refugee agency has established contact with some 3,500 Sudanese refugees who made their way to northeast Central African Republic after fleeing inter-tribal conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region two months ago. Refugees are presently scattered in the Birao, Boromata and Roukoutou districts, which are difficult to access. UNHCR staff in Central African Republic were finally able to meet some of the refugees in Birao on May 23. The refugees said their villages in Am Djeradil district had been torched during the clashes in March and many people killed. Some families were also separated during the confusion, with hundreds heading to Central African Republic and thousands of others crossing the border into southeast Chad.  §

SECTION TWO: Displacement and Humanitarian Conditions

The fact that many people in camps are not receiving WFP food rations, or rations that are shamefully meager, should give pause and raises serious questions about the competency of WFP, OCHA, and UNAMID.  Most urgently: why is the international community not being informed about the scale of deterioration in the humanitarian conditions throughout Darfur? 

Certainly a number of the dispatches (below) from particular camps make painfully clear the severe deprivation that Darfuris are suffering.  Here it is important to bear in mind that many of the various threats faced by displaced persons are a function of the rampant insecurity throughout Darfur, which makes adequate humanitarian response impossible.  Khartoum’s security forces continue to deny access on a regular basis—to both UNAMID and relief organizations, including those of the UN.  Humanitarian conditions in the camps are clearly deteriorating rapidly, with food and clean water in particularly short supply.  This comes just as the heavy seasonal rains are about to begin, making transport extremely difficult to many locations. Conditions will become ideal for water-borne diseases; the rains will also exacerbate the problem of finding clean water and addressing acute sanitation and hygiene issues.  The potential for skyrocketing mortality is yet again clearly present.

And reports from Chad indicate that the Darfuri refugees are an increasingly invisible and under-served population.  The reports are scattered, but telling:

§   Serious water shortage in eastern Chad camp; refugees facing threat of diseases as they use contaminated water from nearby valleys (Radio Dabanga [Brejean, also Bredjing], August 9, 2012)

Nearly 45,000 Sudanese [Darfuri] refugees from the Brejean camp (eastern Chad) are suffering from acute water shortage after the water pump’s generator broke down, residents complained on Tuesday. This has resulted in refugees traveling to nearby valleys in search of water for drinking and domestic purposes. The water from the valleys is, however, not suitable for consumption. Refugees in the camp told Radio Dabanga that the water was contaminated by both human and animal waste and carcasses leading to the spread of waterborne diseases, especially among children.  §

§  Food shortage in eastern Chad camp (Radio Dabanga [Eastern Chad], August 22, 2012)

537 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad’s Gaga camp have not received their food rations since last June, a sheikh in the camp told Radio Dabanga on Monday. Sheikh Mohammed Ismail said, “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has asked the veteran refugees in the camp to share their food rations with the new arrivals until August, which should have been the next date for replenishing the food stocks.” However, the refugees were surprised when the UNHCR asked them to prolong that initiative until October. The decision was therefore vehemently rejected by the refugees. Sheikh Mohammed Ismail added, “The new arrivals were registered as refugees and must receive food on showing their food ration cards.”

From the camps in Darfur itself, Radio Dabanga yet again provides our most concrete and revealing examples—indeed, in most cases the only examples.  The selection here is representative, but hardly exhaustive.  What is indisputable is that humanitarian conditions in Darfur have been deteriorating ever more rapidly over the past year, often for reasons directly related to insecurity, especially in the transport of food:

§  22 displaced die in two weeks (Radio Dabanga, [Garsila, West Darfur], October 16, 2012)

The increasing spread of diseases in Garsila camps, West Darfur, led to the death of 22 displaced persons in the first half of October, camp representatives told Radio Dabanga, on Tuesday October 16. A camps’ sheikh told Radio Dabanga that residents of three of Garsila’s camps (Jeddah, Ardeeba and Jebelain) are facing critical health conditions as diseases like malaria, dry cough and diarrhea are spreading rapidly.

He added that mainly children and elderly are suffering.  §

§  16 deaths in Kendebe camp (Radio Dabanga [Kendebe camp] October 8, 2012)

Kendebe camp activist, in West Darfur, announced that 16 displaced persons have died in the past few weeks due to different kinds of diseases, Radio Dabanga has learned on Sunday, 7 October. He explained that many doctors prescribe medications that must be purchased from the market, instead of providing it to patients, adding that most displaced cannot afford buying medicines.  §

§  Diseases spreading rapidly in Darfur (Radio Dabanga [el-Fasher], September 16, 2012)

Health Minister of the Darfur Regional Authority, Osman El-Bushra, revealed the spread of diseases such as leprosy, scabies, tuberculosis, night blindness, river blindness, malaria, schistosomiasis and typhoid among the population of Darfur. He attributes the spread of these diseases to malnutrition, poverty, a lack of health and therapeutic institutions, and the deteriorating security situation in the region.  §

§  “Catastrophic” medical services in Darfur region (Radio Dabanga [el-Fasher], September 18, 2012)

The Minister of Health from the Darfur Regional Authority, Osman Al-Bushra, told Radio Dabanga that health and medical services in all five states of Darfur are “tragic and catastrophic.” The minister stated that West Darfur, with a population of 1,202,506 inhabitants according to the last census in 2010, is the state with the worst health conditions in the region.  §

§  Starvation in three camps of South Darfur after pull out aid organizations (Radio Dabanga [Nyala], June 22, 2012)

Children have died due to malnutrition after aid organizations pulled out of three camps, 40 kilometers outside the South Darfur capital of Nyala. Community leaders have urged aid organizations to resume health and food support in the displaced camps of Mershing, Manaoshi and Duma in South Darfur…. In the past week tens of children and several elderly people died of to malnutritionThe community leader says that starvation is the result of the aid organizations stopped providing food rations to IDPs for more than eight months. He added that since circumstances are increasingly challenging an insufficient number of health centers near the IDP camps. Camp leaders told Radio Dabanga that around 60 percent of camp residents are suffering of continuous hunger, since food rations were stopped, forcing some to go for days without a meal.  §

§  Poor health conditions leave dozens dead in Mornei (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], September 21, 2012)

Residents of Mornei camp in West Darfur are suffering from poor health conditions as diseases like malaria, typhoid and diarrhea are spreading rapidly. In addition to the rapidly spreading diseases, the residents suffer from malnutrition and a lack of health-care and medication. One of the sheikhs told Radio Dabanga that the report [composed by the camp sheikhs] revealed the death of 64 elderly and 30 children between the ages of one and five over the past two weeksIn addition, the report confirmed that the majority of deaths are a result of diseases like malaria and typhoid.  §

§   El Riyadh camp: one medical clinic for 30,000 residents (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina] August 28, 2012)

Radio Dabanga was informed today that there is only one medical clinic available at the El Riyadh camp in El-Geneina, West Darfur. The camp counts 30,000 residents who claim to face a serious humanitarian crisis. A camp’s activist told Radio Dabanga that the three most serious issues in El Riyadh are lack of security, lack of water and lack of medical services. He added there is also scarcity of nurses and of midwives at the camp. The source said this situation arose after June 2011 when the Government of Sudan expelled medical international humanitarian organizations from the camp. He explained the international organizations were substituted by the Sudanese Ministry of Health.  §

§  Several camps Darfur do not receive food aid for four months (Radio Dabanga [Khartoum], June 23, 2012)

Several camps in North Darfur have not received food aid for several months. The ten thousands of internally displaced people (IDP) of Zam Zam-camp in North Darfur and the camps of Jeddah and El Jebelayn close to the town of Garsila in [formerly West] Darfur, said the World Food Programme does not enter the camps anymore to support the families most in need. Several camps in North Darfur have not received food aid for several months. A camp leader of Zam Zam tells Radio Dabanga that the WFP has not delivered food rations to over 800 poor and malnourished families as it did in the past.  §

§  Six children die from measles in Seraf Umra camps (Radio Dabanga [Seraf Umra, North Darfur], June 6, 2012)

Six children have died from measles in over past week in Jebel, Dankoj and El Naseem camps in Seraf Umra in North Darfur. They expressed deep concern at the quick spread of diseases in the camp due to the lack of health care….  §

§  Six months with no aid for South Darfur camps (Radio Dabanga [South Darfur], June 5, 2012)

Residents of Mershing, Manaoshi and Duma camps for displaced people in South Darfur have received not humanitarian aid or support for over six months. Camp leaders told Radio Dabanga that around 60 percent of camp residents are suffering with continuous hunger, since food rations were stopped forcing some to go for days without having a meal. One leader said they have been complaining for months about the situation with no help coming from the international community….  §

§  Sheikh, displaced concerned about food distribution in Darfur camps (Radio Dabanga [Nyala], June 2, 2013)

The displaced people of Attash [also Otash] camp near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, have voiced concern about the World Food Programme (WPF) distribution plans. The WPF have decided to delegate the distribution of food to traders, while the displaced would prefer it occur via the distribution centres established by World Vision, launched on 30 May. The Sheikh of the camp Abdel Karim Abkar, explained to Radio Dabanga on Saturday that “the displaced base their rejection on their negative experience in the past with Elbadrain Charity Organization (ECO) which distributed coupons to be used for grinding corn.” “The owners of mills later refused to accept the coupons under the pretext that they had not been not been paid, as a result this led to the collapse of the project,” he addedIn camp Attash, about 3,200 newly displaced families are suffering a humanitarian crisis due to the lack of water and health services.  §

§  Abu Suruj camp: no food aid for six months (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], May 28, 2012)

Residents of Abu Suruj camp for internally displaced people said they have not received food aid for more than six months. Witnesses said the camps north of El Geneina are reaching a desperate situation and called for the World Food Programme to immediately intervene and deliver food aid to people in need of urgent assistance.  §

§  Jebel Marra residents stranded with no aid access (Radio Dabanga [Jebel Marra] May 27, 2012)

The coordinator of internally displaced person camps in North Darfur, Ahmed Atim said the situation of civilians in Jebel Marra is becoming desperate. He said civilians are stranded with no access from humanitarian organisations including the World Food Programme (WFP).  §

§  Mornei camp food rations reduced by half (Radio Dabanga [Mornei camp] May 29, 2012)

Mornay camp residents have complained that the World Food Programme have reduced food rations by half. A camp leader told Radio Dabanga that the rations were reduced without any explanation from the WFP. He appealed to the WFP to resume full rations and remember the difficulties facing displaced people in buying food from the market, amid food shortages and high prices.  §

§  WFP: 30 per cent of Darfur threatened with food insecurity (Radio Dabanga [el-Fasher] May 22, 2012)

The World Food Programme says that 30 percent of the population of Darfur is threatened with food insecurity and in need of urgent aid. The Programme conducted surveys in Darfur finding around 30 percent to be in need of urgent assistance, said WFP Field Coordinator Adham Mesallami to Radio Dabanga. He said that families told the WFP about their inability to cover their daily needs for food.  §

§  Kassab displaced describe situation as famine (Radio Dabanga [Kassab camp], May 9, 2012)

Displaced people in Kassab camp in North Darfur have described their current condition as ‘famine,’ due to the reduction in food provided by the World Food Programme and the unprecedented high prices of food at the market. An activist from Kassab told Radio Dabanga that many families are now eating berries and nuts as they are unable to survive on the reduced rations.  §

§  WFP reduces rations in El Geneina camps (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], May 9, 2012)

A group of displaced people from 10 camps across El Geneina said the World Food Programme told them on Monday that their rations of maize will be reduced by 50 percent. They said this have caused widespread discontent in the camps that are already suffering from food shortages and hunger. A camp leader that attended the meeting told Radio Dabanga that the WFP representatives justified the reduced ration by not being able to transport the required quantities, as truck drivers are reluctant to move around with the current security situation.  §

The future for the children who have known nothing but life in the camps is grim beyond description, though susceptible of some quantification:

§  Measles outbreak kills 25 children in Gereida camp (Radio Dabanga [Gereida, South Darfur], May 4, 2012)

At least 25 children have died from measles during a recent outbreak in Gereida camp in South Darfur. A camp official said there is a high rate of infection spreading amongst children. She appealed to humanitarian organisations, health officials and the World Health Organisation to immediately act to intervene and stop the disease from spreading and risking more lives.  §

§  75 per cent of Darfur’s refugee children show PTSD symptoms; study conducted by a UK journal says 38 per cent meet clinical criteria for depression    (Radio Dabanga, August 12, 2011)

75 per cent of the children in Darfur’s refugee camps met diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to an interview-based study released by The Lancet, a UK-based health journal, on Thursday. The study also concluded that 38 per cent of refugee children in camps fulfilled clinical symptoms for depression. The research carried out by the Oxford-based group is meant to add to information about mental health issues faced by refugee children.  §

SECTION THREE: Are there meaningful “returns” of displaced persons in Darfur?  What guarantees are there that the returns will be safe and voluntary?

When addressing the question of displaced persons in Darfur, the UN and UNAMID inevitably speak of their success in beginning a program of “safe and voluntary returns.”  The claims made are hotly disputed by Darfuris, and the success stories are often revealed to be shams or, worse, set-ups for violent confrontation with well-armed Arab group that have opportunistically seized farms and land; there are continuous reports of these Arab groups coming from Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, and even Mali.  Certainly the UN and UNAMID are particularly culpable in failing to report “returns” that are unsuccessful, often dramatically so. 

For such honesty would compromise a narrative that has been relentlessly and shamelessly promulgated for several years, viz., that safe and voluntary returns have begun in significant numbers, and that the UN and African Union have succeeded in Darfur.  But the frequency and detail of Radio Dabanga reports indicate that the lands of sedentary African/non-Arab tribal groups displaced by violence remain too dangerous to return to.  The numbers of “returns” the UN claims—in the tens of thousands and still but a very small fraction of the number of newly displaced persons—seem to be based on a counting method that takes little account of the violence that characteristically returning displaced:

§  Armed herders burn village of voluntary return in West Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Mesteriha], December 10, 2012)

Armed herders have reportedly injured five members of the armed forces and burnt the village of Ronja for voluntary return as well as two other villages to the grounddestroying crops and around 10 kilometers of agricultural lands, sources informed Radio Dabanga on Sunday, 9 December. Sources from the area reported that the attacks started on Friday when farmers informed the police about trespassing of herders onto their farmlands.  §

§  Armed group shoots man, expels farmers from land, (Radio Dabanga [Gereida, South Darfur] June 14, 2012)

An armed group of 30 members traveling on horses shot a man and tried to expel farmers from their land near Gereida in South Darfur. Witnesses said the men entered a village and shot Muhannad Yacob from Al Safa while he was tending to his farm. They said Yacob was taken to hospital in Gereida for treatment. They added that militias try to take over farmlands belonging to displaced people as many are still living in the camps, forgoing the right to their land.  §

§  Armed militias seize farms in Kreinik, West Darfur (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], July 8, 2012)

IDPs returning to their lands in Kreinik, 36 km east of Geneina, found that their properties had been seized by armed militias. A sheikh [told Radio Dabanga that] IDPs returning to cultivate their lands during the rainy season in West Darfur were stopped by militias.  §

Further dispatches from the past year concerning threats to returning civilians can be found, along with a conclusion to this brief, in Part 2: http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=4022

 

 

End

 

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The Collapsing Sudanese Economy

Posted by African Press International on May 30, 2013

[This essay was written in early January 2013; little has changed in the macroeconomic picture for either Sudan or South Sudan.  Recent mutual threats of an oil stoppage would of course dramatically increase the economic crisis depicted here, and which is already threatening of peace in a range of ways.  Inflation continues its relentless rise in Sudan, despite “official figures” suggesting otherwise.  The connection between fighting in Jebel Amer (North Darfur) and the Khartoum regime’s desperate need of foreign exchange currency has become steadily clearer–May 28, 2013]

December 2012 commentary on the purported “coup attempt” in Khartoum provided little in the way of consensus about how serious the “coup” was or precisely who was truly involved or how far planning had moved to an actual attempt. The timing may have been governed by President al-Bashir’s health and an inevitable diminishing of power (he has throat cancer, according to multiple sources); what the stance of the military is or will be on the occasion of a transition is unclear.  Official comments from officials in Khartoum were contradictory and showed no commitment to provide an honest account.  What can’t be doubted is that the events, insofar as we can discern them, reveal growing domestic unhappiness with the current regime, which after 23 years in power has still failed to bring peace or broadening prosperity to Sudan.  The public discontent of last June and July may now be coming to fruition.

But to date political commentary has generally failed to provide a comprehensive account of how current struggles in Khartoum take place in the context of an economy that is in free-fall.  There is some acknowledgement of distress over high prices, shortages, and lack of employment; but there has been relatively little in the way of fuller and more probing assessment of  how far advanced the economic collapse is—or what the consequences of such a collapse will be in shaping Sudan’s political future.  But any analysis of current political machinations and maneuvering will be meaningless without an understanding of how a series of critical choices—military and economic—have been forced on the regime as a whole.  These choices are inevitably interrelated, and how they are made will define the future of greater Sudan.

Discussion of Khartoum’s political elite often relies on a traditional division of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party into “moderates and “hardliners”; this is better cast, in my view, as a distinction between variously pragmatic elements within the regime who cohere in their views to a greater or lesser degree, depending on international pressures. The analytic task at hand is to capture how current economic circumstances will govern the survivalist political instincts that are common to all these ruthless men.  The advantage of a focus on “pragmatism” is that it highlights how “unpragmatic” so many recent actions and decisions have been in the economic sphere, and how these decisions actually increase the threat to regime survival.  These brutal men may control the press, the news media, the security forces and the army—at present.  But the impending maelstrom of economic disarray will bring to bear pressures that many in the regime and the military clearly have not anticipated or do not fully understand.

An overview of factors precipitating the collapse of the Sudanese economy would include the following.

[1]  A recent assessment found that Sudan is the fourth most corrupt country in the world (only Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia rank lower); corruption eats at the heart of economic growth, derails rational capital expenditures, and breeds resentment.  It has long been endemic in Sudan, and its current ranking reflects that fact.

[2]  The IMF’s most recent assessment has found that Sudan’s is the worst-performing economy in the world.  This in itself is simply extraordinary for a country with so many natural resources, including vast tracts of arable land.

[3]  The best barometer of the extent of economic collapse is the revised figure for negative growth (contraction) of the economy: the April 2012 prediction from the IMF was -7.3 percent for 2012; most recently the figure stands at -11.2 percent, a depression by some measures, strongly suggesting a continuing downward spiral.

[4]  The most current (October) estimate of Sudan’s rate of inflation is 45.3 percent, up from 41.6 percent in September, 22.5 percent in March, and 15 percent in June 2011.  In fact, this figure is already dated by the weeks intervening between data collection and present prices—and certainly understates the rate of inflation for essential commodities such as food and fuel.  The official year-on-year inflation rate for food is 48.6 percent; The Economist notes (December 1, 2012) that “the price of fool, Sudan’s traditional bean breakfast, has risen from $0.33 to $1.16.,” over 300 percent.  The inflation rate for fuel is just as high as that for food generally, with ripple effects throughout the economy.

Moreover, Yousif el-Mahdi, a Khartoum-based economist, estimated in September (2012) that the real overall inflation rate was closer to 65 percent—this when the official rate was still 42 percent.  He is far from alone in believing that in the past, the actual inflation rate has been consistently understated; but when the bad news comes fully home, it will inevitably make those holding Sudanese pounds even less trusting of the currency. [Based on a number of reports and assessments, my own current estimate (May 2013) is roughly 75 percent annually–ER]

In fact, Sudan is rapidly approaching the point at which hyper-inflation will govern economic calculations and transactions, sending the pound into free-fall as desperate bank depositors and others with cash holdings in pounds  convert to a hard currency or valuable commodities (gold, silver, even food) at almost any exchange rate.  Once hyper-inflation sets in, it is almost impossible to reverse expectations of yet more hyper-inflation, particularly if there are no resources with which to back the currency under assault.  The cash economy in Sudan will grind to a halt.  Here it seems appropriate to recall that former President Jaafer Nimieri was brought down rapidly in 1985 amidst protests generated largely by hyper-inflation.

It should also be borne in mind that Khartoum has leveraged its oil resources as much as possible, and owns only a very small percentage of the two oil development consortia operating in Sudan and South Sudan (in the form of Sudapet’s 5 percent stake, which has been challenged by Juba).  Sales of additional concession blocks have generated little income, and nothing has been held in reserve.

Gold exports have been much in Sudan news, but the quantities being talked about by the regime—and thus the hard currency purportedly to be received—have been greeted with considerable skepticism.  Reports seem to come exclusively from the regime-controlled news media in Khartoum, and have an air of desperation about them.  In any event, increased gold production alone cannot begin to reverse current trends in the near- or medium-term.

[5]  The cutting of fuel subsidies from the budget—demanded by the IMF as a condition for debt relief—has been largely abandoned in the wake of Arab Spring-like demonstrations last summer; these expensive subsidies will again represent an enormous part of the non-military/security budget, even as the expense receives no honest reckoning in public comments by the regime.  Yet budgetary realities have become ever more grim, as the Sudan Tribune notes (December 7, 2012):

“The Sudanese government tabled its draft 2013 budget before parliament this week which projects 25.2 billion Sudanese pounds (SDG) in revenues and 35.0 billion SDG in expenses leaving a deficit of 10 billion SDG ($1.5 billion) which equals 3.4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The deficit will be financed up to 87% (7.6 billion SDG) from domestic sources including 2 billion SDG from the central bank.

But the central bank has no real money, only what it prints in the way of Sudanese pounds that are rapidly declining in value.  As of December 2, 2012, $1.00 bought 6.5 pounds—a record low, and a further 3 percent decline from the previous week (the black market rate was about 5 pounds to the dollar early in the year, suggesting a decline of approximately 30 percent).  The official exchange rate is approximately 4.4 pounds to the dollar.

And while the IMF continues to insist that Sudan should cut fuel subsidies further—beyond what was cut in June—the Fund acknowledges that to do so will incur public anger and more instability of the sort seen last June, July, and August.

[6]  The reason for the continuing decline in the value of the pound is a lack of foreign exchange reserves, the direct consequence of having no oil export income.  As a result, imports purchased with Sudanese pounds are not simply more expensive—in some case prohibitively so—but harder to obtain at all, given the lack of available foreign exchange currency. Food imports are hit particularly hard, as are businesses that depend on imported parts or services.  Sudan imports some 400,000 tons of sugar annually (it is a key source of calories for many in the north); these imports will only grow more expensive, pushing the inflation rate for this particular commodity well above 50 percent.

Efforts to secure US$4 billion in foreign exchange deposits from rich Arab countries have largely failed, with the exception of Qatar, despite various claims by regime officials that large hard currency deposits have been made into the Central Bank of Sudan.  While providing temporary relief from “black market” speculation against the Sudanese pound, the long-term effect of such dishonest claims about foreign currency infusions is to diminish further the regime’s credibility about all matters financial and economic.

[7]  The oil sector as a percentage of GDP has declined precipitously following Southern secession.  Oil now provides only 20 – 25 percent of revenues going to the regime; and beyond this massive loss in revenues, the oil sector now accounts for only 3 – 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), down from about 15 percent, according to the IMF.

Oil production is also being consistently overstated by Khartoum in order to suggest that more foreign exchange will be received than is the case.  The “Medium-Term Oil Market Report 2012” by the International Energy Agency (IEA) puts current production in Sudan at 70,000 barrels per day, rising to 90,000 bpd in 2014 and dropping back to 60,000 in 2017.  And yet long-time Sudanese oil minister and NIF/NCP stalwart Awad al-Jaz claims that Sudan is currently producing 120,000 bpd, which may rise to 150,000 bpd by the end of 2012.  Gross misrepresentation of data is nothing new for the regime, but such transparently motivated manipulation of key figures is a sign of just how desperate the economic crisis is, and how urgently Khartoum feels the need to be perceived as having or receiving more hard currency than is credible.

Notably, in its April 2012 semi-annual World Economic Outlook, the IMF changed the classification of Sudan: from an oil exporter to an oil importer, making nonsense of al-Jaz’s claim.

[8]  The agricultural sector, long neglected by the regime, cannot provide enough food to avoid substantial imports; disabled by cronyism and a lack of commitment  over many years, the agricultural sector is collapsing along with the rest of the economy.  Much of the arable land between the White and Blue Niles has silted and become unusable, even as a once enviable irrigation infrastructure has badly deteriorated.  Large tracts of valuable farm land have been sold or leased to Arab and Asian concerns to provide food for their own domestic consumption.  There is simply no strategic emphasis on self-sufficiency in food, even as Khartoum counts on the UN to provide Sudan with huge quantities of food every year. As Agence France-Presse reported earlier this year (February 27):

“‘The economic situation is deteriorating further and further,’ and the economy is in crisis, says University of Khartoum economist Mohamed Eljack Ahmed. [Of Khartoum’s ‘rescue plan’] economists say the plan seems unworkable in the short term. Ahmed says agricultural infrastructure, once the country’s economic mainstay, has collapsed and neither farmers nor industrialists have an incentive to operate.”

[9]  The NIF/NCP for years has survived in large measure because it controls the security services (often overlapping) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF); estimates of what percentage of the national budget is devoted to the security services and the army vary, but range as high as 70 percent, with “over 50 percent” the closest to a consensus figure; this makes finding spending cuts in non-military sectors of the budget extraordinarily difficult.  Moreover, these military and security personnel are now being paid in Sudanese pounds that are rapidly loosing their purchasing power, and this will breed intense resentment, defections, and possibly participation in civilian insurrection.

[10]  Resentment is also felt by those in the vast—and very expensive—patronage system that has provided the regime with political support.  The patronage system has been key to regime survival.  It was built-up during the early take-over of banks and the most lucrative parts of the Sudanese economy following the NIF coup of 1989, and then extended further by the rapid increase of oil revenues that began in 1999.  Now the patronage system is simply unaffordable, and the disgruntled within it can no longer be counted on to provide political support when it is most needed.

[11]  The demographics of the “Arab Spring” are the same in Sudan as they are in the rest of the Arab world, especially in the regions in and around Khartoum: there are a disproportionately large numbers of people under 30 years of age, many educated but with little prospect of employment commensurate with their education, or indeed any form of employment at all.  They are especially vulnerable to economic hardship.

[12]  Massive external debt—estimated by the IMF at US$43.7 billion in 2012—is on track to reach US$45.6 billion in 2013, again according to the IMF.  This represents 83 percent of Sudan’s 2011 GDP.  Such debt—largely in the form of arrears accrued under the present regime—cannot be serviced by the present Sudanese economy, let alone repaid.  It is a crushing burden on the economy, and yet Khartoum shows no sign of adhering to IMF recommendations for obtaining debt relief,  Moreover, the regime’s military actions throughout Sudan should work powerfully against debt relief among the Paris Club creditors who own most of this debt.  Certainly it would be unconscionable to negotiate debt reduction with a regime that devotes so much of its budget to acquiring the means of civilian destruction—in Darfur, in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, Minister of Finance Ali Mahmud Rasul declared in October that there is growing “international acceptance to write off Khartoum’s … external debt.”  The efforts of Western, African, and Arab civil society should be to make debt relief under present circumstances thoroughly unacceptable for politicians in Washington, London, Berlin, and Paris.

Current Minister of Finance Ali Mahmud Rasul also declares, despite these grim realities, that “the 2013 budget shows that we have overcome the secession of South Sudan.”  But former Minister of Finance Abdel Rahim Hamdi—whatever his own role within the regime during the 1990s—felt compelled to speak out about the current extraordinary mismanagement of the economy.  Sudan Tribune reports his broadest assessment: the current regime “is no longer able to manage the economy and lacks solutions to handle the crisis.”  Hamdi noted that “conflicting economic policies [have] led to soaring inflation levels and astronomical increases in prices. Speaking at the Islamic Fiqh Council, Hamdi pointed out that 77 percent of revenues goes to cover salaries and wages as well as federal aid to states.”  He was  also scathing in his assessment of projected revenues, which the regime has consistently oversold in a ploy to keep the psychology of inflation from taking hold (e.g., in celebrating artificially high estimates of gold production, boasting of hard currency transfers from Arab countries that never materialize).  Current Minister of Finance Rasul speaks to none of this.

For those not living in the world of self-serving mendacity from which regime pronouncements about economic development emerge, the truth is conspicuous: the economy is in a complete shambles, and hyper-inflation is relentlessly approaching. The brute economic realities outlined above cannot be talked away or cajoled into more palatable form.  Indeed, if the current budget needs—including a substantial continuation of subsidies for fuel—are not met with real revenues, the regime will be compelled to turn on the printing presses and create an even more precipitous decline toward hyper-inflation.

Why Does Khartoum Pursue Policies so Destructive of the Economy?

Despite the already acute and growing danger of complete economic implosion, the regime persists with immensely expensive and unproductive policies, including war in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, as well as hostile actions along the North/South border, and the supplying of renegade militia groups inside South Sudan.  For a regime that is ruthlessly survivalist, this makes no rational sense: current economic realities are diminishing the chances that the regime will survive.  So why is it persisting in policies and actions that work against a resumption of transit fees for oil originating in South Sudan and passing through the northern pipeline to Port Sudan?  Why is the regime creating a situation in which the generous transit fees that Juba is willing to pay have been forgone?  This seems even more peculiar, given the grasping nature of Khartoum’s greed, revealed earlier this year when Southern engineers discovered a covert tie-in line to main oil pipeline, capable of diverting some 120,000 bpd of Southern crude.  This subterfuge has not been forgotten by the South, and only makes more exigent the question: why has Khartoum put oil transit revenues in jeopardy?

At full capacity—350,000 bpd—these pipeline revenues could do a great deal to close the yawning budget gap that Khartoum faces; and this is on top of Juba’s agreement to assist Khartoum financially during a difficult transition and also to allow the regime to keep the more than $800 million sequestered during the stand-off over transit fees (the amount of oil was peremptorily calculated by Khartoum on the basis of its outrageous $36/barrel fee proposal).  What keeps Khartoum from finalizing the deal on oil transport, thereby creating further doubts in the minds of Southerners that this pipeline will remain a viable means of export?  Why does Khartoum continue to wage a brutal economic war of attrition against South Sudan, which should be its largest and most important trading partner?  The reality of lost oil income is inescapable:

Prior to [the secession of South Sudan], about three-quarters of crude production came from the south and accounted for more than 85 percent of Khartoum’s export earnings, which reached $7.5 billion in the first half of 2011, according to the World Bank.  ‘They’ve lost that (oil) income. It’s gone for good,’ an international economist said, declining to be identified.”

Here again the common distinction between “moderates” and “hardliners” is better understood as referring to differences within a regime that is at various times more and less pragmatic, or at least has very different views of what is “pragmatic.”  Ali Osman Taha, for example, is often cited as a “moderate” because of his central role in the Naivasha peace talks; it is rarely remarked that in February 2004, a year before those talks  would culminate in the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Talks, Taha left Naivasha to “address the Darfur crisis.”  As anyone who followed the course of events through 2004 and into 2005 knows, this was the period marked by the very height of genocidal violence and destruction.  An October 24, 2004 report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service notes:

“In February 2004, First Vice President Ali Osman Taha, the government [of Sudan’s] chief negotiator [in Naivasha], told the mediators that he had to leave the talks to deal with the Darfur problem. In February 2004, the government of Sudan initiated a major military campaign against the Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement and declared victory by the end of the month.  Attacks by government forces and the Janjaweed militia against civilians intensified between February and June 2004, forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee to neighboring Chad.

As we know now, many tens of thousands of people were also killed by the violence of this period, and the killing continued long after Taha’s intervention, with total  mortality now in the range of 500,000.[22] The number of internally displaced persons would, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, grow to 2.7 million.  The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that more than 280,000 Darfuris remain in eastern Chad as refugees.  That Taha the “moderate” played such a central role in the Darfur genocide is far too infrequently acknowledged, suggesting again that within the NIF/NCP “pragmatism” may take many forms.

After much shifting in language and positions, Khartoum would now have the world believe that it will uphold the agreement on oil transport only if Juba agrees to various “security arrangements.”  But of course just what these arrangements are keeps changing, even as Khartoum ignores the most fundamental requirement for security in both Sudan and South Sudan: a fully delineated and authoritatively demarcated border.  This of course should have been achieved in the “interim period” of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (January 9, 2005 to July 9, 2011).  That it was not is almost entirely the fault of Khartoum, which evidently thought—and still thinks—it can extort borderlands from the South and incorporate them into Sudan.  The military seizure of Abyei (May 2011) was simply the opening salvo.  Military ambitions may in fact extend to seizing more Southern oil fields and arable land.

More recently, Khartoum’s demanded “security arrangements” have come to include Juba’s disarming of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North, an utterly preposterous notion—indeed, so preposterous that it must be viewed as a means of stalling negotiations. In this respect it is very similar to Khartoum’s initial proposal of a US$36/barrel transit fee proposal during negotiations on that issue: this was not an opening gambit, not a serious proposal from which compromise could be reached.  It was meant to halt negotiations and indeed resulted in Juba’s decision to shut down oil production altogether.

So, too, the current “security arrangements” proposal is meant to put a hold on negotiations by demanding what the South cannot possibly offer or provide, even as senior officials in Khartoum continue to insist that they will not negotiate with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, insisting that the “alliance” between Juba and the SPLM/A-N must first be ended.  And yet no evidence of substance is offered to suggest any military alliance.  We may understand why the NIF/NCP wishes the army of South Sudan to disarm northern rebels, primarily in the Nuba: Abdel Aziz al-Hilu’s forces are manhandling SAF troops and militias, chewing up entire battalions and parts of some brigades and in the process acquiring a great deal of ammunition, weaponry, fuel, and other supplies (despite this, Ahmed Haroun—indicted war criminal and governor of South Kordofan—insists that the SAF will achieve victory soon).  But  does anyone living in the real world think that Juba will help to disarm the SPLA-North?  These are former comrades in arms, deeply connected by the years of suffering and fighting together, and by a deep mutual suspicion of Khartoum.  In the absence of any substantial  evidence that Juba is aiding the rebels in the Nuba in a significant way, we must conclude that something else is going on here.

It is important to remember that while the regime has been in power for 24 years, individual members and factions of this regime have relentlessly jockeyed for power, often ruthlessly pursuing their own interests, and have found themselves on occasion in significant ascendancy or decline.  The most recent example appears to be Salah Abdallah “Gosh,” once head of the extremely powerful National Intelligence and Security Services; further back, we have the sharp split between al-Bashir’s cabal and Islamic ideological leader Hassan al-Turabi in the late 1990s.  But ambition within the regime’s central cabal has never, in any quarter, been “moderated” by a desire to do what is best for the people of Sudan.

The most notable recent ascendancy is that of key senior military officials in decision-making about war and peace; this too has gone insufficiently remarked, despite very considerable evidence that on a range of issues, military views have prevailed.  The nature of this ascendancy, and the motives behind it, were first emphasized by Sudan researcher Julie Flint in an important account from in August 2011, based on an extraordinary interview with an official in Khartoum.  The official, whose account has been corroborated by other sources, warned that a silent military coup was already well under way in Khartoum before the seizure of Abyei (May 2011). There seems little doubt that if this official’s account is accurate, and there has in fact been a successful military coup from within, then there will be very little room for civilians in the new configuration of power when it comes to issues of war and peace:

“[A] well-informed source close to the National Congress Party reports that Sudan’s two most powerful generals went to [Sudanese President Omar al-] Bashir on May 5, five days after 11 soldiers were killed in an SPLA ambush in Abyei, on South Kordofan’s southwestern border, and demanded powers to act as they sought fit, without reference to the political leadership.”

“They got it,” the source says. “It is the hour of the soldiers—a vengeful, bitter attitude of defending one’s interests no matter what; a punitive and emotional approach that goes beyond calculation of self-interest. The army was the first to accept that Sudan would be partitioned. But they also felt it as a humiliation, primarily because they were withdrawing from territory in which they had not been defeated. They were ready to go along with the politicians as long as the politicians were delivering—but they had come to the conclusion they weren’t. Ambushes in Abyei…interminable talks in Doha keeping Darfur as an open wound….  Lack of agreement on oil revenue….”  “It has gone beyond politics,” says one of Bashir’s closest aides. “It is about dignity.”

How well borne out by subsequent developments is this assessment?

When the senior and quite powerful presidential advisor Nafie Ali Nafie signed on June 28, 2011 a “Framework Agreement” with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, it seemed for a moment in which war in the Nuba and Blue Nile might be averted.  Three days later President al-Bashir emphatically renounced the breakthrough agreement, declaring after Friday prayers (July 1, 2011) that the “cleansing” of the Nuba Mountains would continue.  This was clearly a declaration made at the behest of the generals, specifically Major General Mahjoub Abdallah Sharfi—head of Military Intelligence—and Lt. Gen. Ismat Abdel Rahman al-Zain— implicated in Darfur atrocity crimes because of his role as SAF director of military operations, he is identified in the “Confidential Annex” to the report by the UN panel of Experts on Darfur (Annex leaked in February 2006).

These men and their military colleagues are the ones whose actions have ensured that Abyei will remain a deeply contentious issue in growing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan; certainly they knew full well the implications of taking military action in Abyei—military action that directly contravened the Abyei Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This action ensures that Abyei will continue to fester and may yet lead to confrontation if—as is likely—both the African Union and the UN Secretariat and Security Council continue to temporize over the AU proposal on the permanent status of Abyei, a proposal subsequently endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council but rejected by Khartoum.  And as long as Abyei festers, negotiations over other issues are made gratuitously more  difficult, and it becomes ever less likely that sustained oil transit revenues from use of the northern pipeline will resume.  After losing almost a year’s worth of oil revenue, the South will certainly proceed with plans for an alternative export route.  Khartoum’s sequestration of  almost a billion dollars of oil revenues due to the South since independence (July 9, 2011) left Juba feeling deeply uneasy about any viable long-term arrangement with the current regime, despite the decision to allow Khartoum to keep the oil revenues it had illegally sequestered.

From the standpoint of a rational management of the economy, the military decisions made have been consistently disastrous.  This is true whether we are speaking of genocidal destruction (and economic collapse) in Darfur; renewed genocide in the Nuba Mountains, which has prompted a ferociously successful rebel military response; massive civilian destruction and displacement in Blue Nile; the military seizure of Abyei; the extremely ill-considered assaults on forces of the SPLA-South in the Tishwin area of Unity State in March/April of this year; support for renegade militia groups in South Sudan; the growing assertion of unreasonable claims about the North/South border; and the repeated bombings along the border over the past year and a half, including the “Mile 14″ area of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal.  This is an extraordinary catalog of offensive military actions.  And none of them reflects a concern for economic problems that may well bring down the regime.  On the contrary, these decisions represent a bitter, vengeful desire to “get even” with South Sudan for exercising its right to self-determination.  But vengeance will not rescue the failing northern economy, and absent the resumption of oil transport income, the economy will continue in free-fall, with hyper-inflation daily more likely.  Normal corrective measures in economic policy are impossible in the context of current military commitments; corrections that would in any event have been highly challenging in light of the precipitous cut-off of oil revenue are now unavailable.

So long as decisions about war and peace are being made in Khartoum by the generals, without regard for the effects of continuing and renewed fighting on the broader economy, Sudan will remain both brutally violent and ultimately untenable under present governance.

International Response

There is one decision the international community, and Paris Club members in particular, can take, which is not to engage in any discussions of or planning for debt relief for Khartoum until the regime disengages from all military campaigns that target civilians, and ceases military actions so indiscriminate as to ensure widespread civilian destruction such as we have seen most recently in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, previously in Abyei, and for very nearly ten years in Darfur.  The international banking system as well as international financing resources should do nothing that will convince Khartoum it may escape paying a heavy price for its continuing atrocities in these regions.  For its part, the regime continues to speak confidently about its prospects for international debt relief.  It’s hard to know whether this proceeds from expediency—even the artificial prospect of partial debt relief would help the northern economy immensely—or cynicism: the international community has capitulated before Khartoum’s demands, has accepted the validity of its commitment to signed agreements, on so many occasions that the regime may calculate it will prevail yet again.

This must not happen.  The international community has failed greater Sudan for too many years now, has accommodated a murderous, finally genocidal regime in Khartoum since June 1989, and now is a moment for moral clarity and principled decision: will the world fund this regime?  Will it accept massive atrocity crimes in Sudan in the interest of something other than the well-being of the Sudanese people themselves?

Civil society in those countries most significantly represented in the Paris Club are obligated by these circumstances to lobby their governments to state publicly that the unqualified priority in Sudan policy is ending civilian destruction throughout greater Sudan. Unequivocal evidence that this “priority” obtains in national policies must be demanded; despite the excessive caution that typically governs the imposition of multilateral sanctions, such are what vast numbers of people from greater Sudan wish, as do many well-informed friends of the region.

It is a simple “ask”: no debt relief for a regime that continues to commit atrocity crimes against civilians on a wide scale.  This debt was accrued in large measure by profligate military expenditures on weapons that are even now being deployed against hundreds of thousands of noncombatant civilians.  Yet as simple and apparently reasonable as such an “ask” is, there are very good historical reasons to believe that it will be refused; rather, some factitious “occasion” will be found to provide Khartoum with a financial life-line—a decision defined by its expediency, not its moral intelligibility.  There could be no more irresponsible use of international economic and financial resources.

– Scott Ross served as lead editor for this article

*Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. 

 

 

End

 

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A Key Report on Darfur by UN Panel of Experts Consigned to Oblivion

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2013

  • Eric Reeves, USA

To understand the surging violence in Darfur over the past year, a lengthy and highly authoritative “unofficial” report covering most of 2011, from former members of the UN Panel of Experts onSudan (Darfur), is critically important. Why does the UN continue to keep it confidential? The answer lies in the incompetence and political bias of successors on the Panel, and the failure of the “unofficial” report to square with the highly distorted UN/African Union narrative about Darfur.

 

Reporting on Darfur by non-Sudanese news organizations has picked up significantly in recent months as violence accelerates dramatically, massive new human displacements occur continually in all three major regions of Darfur, and large-scale fighting continues between the Khartoum regime’s regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), along with its militia allies, and rebel forces that have become stronger and more aggressive. These dispatches have come from Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and the IRIN. Although not allowed into Darfur for a number of years, journalists are finding that enough information is making its way out that reporting has become obligatory. To be sure violence in Darfur has long continues, at much higher levels than the UN and African Union have reported, either via the UN/AU “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) or the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator George Charpentier set the terrible precedent of refusing to speak honestly about humanitarian and security conditions on the ground, declaring with an utterly shameful mendacity:

“‘UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to the Institute for War and Peace reporting (IWPR)].” (“UN Accused of Caving In to Khartoum Over Darfur: Agencies said to be reluctant to confront Sudanese government about obstructions to humanitarian aid effort,” January 7, 2011) (all emphases in all quotations have been added)

This statement was and is patently untrue, and was contradicted at the time by UN officials speaking on and off the record, and by non-UN relief workers in confidential interviews. But Charpentier set the tone, and international non-governmental humanitarian organizations were forced to follow suit or face expulsion by the Khartoum regime—a regime that has expelled a great many organizations over the years, and made the work of many others impossible.

The UN and AU continue their disingenuous ways, but no longer do we see such deeply misleading reporting as appeared in The New York Times just over a year ago. With a dateline of Nyuru, West Darfur (less than 20 miles north of the major town of Mornei), the Times dispatch (“A Taste of Hope Brings Refugees Back to Darfur,” February 26, 2012) provides an astonishingly misleading account of realities in Darfur:

“More than 100,000 people in Darfur have left the sprawling camps where they had taken refuge for nearly a decade and headed home to their villages over the past year, the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 and a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.”

A UN official cited in the dispatch declared simply: “there are pockets of insecurity in Darfur.”

“‘It’s amazing,’ said Dysane Dorani, head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission [UNAMID] for the western sector of Darfur. ‘The people are coming together. It reminds me of Lebanon after the civil war.'”

“On a recent morning, thousands of Nyuru’s residents were back on their land doing all the things they used to do, scrubbing clothes, braiding hair, sifting grain and preparing for a joint feast of farmers and nomads. Former victims and former perpetrators would later sit down side by side together, some for the first time since Darfur’s war broke out, sharing plates of macaroni and millet—and even the occasional dance—in a gesture of informal reconciliation.”

In fact, what is “amazing” is not the returns, many of whom do not, in fact, stay in areas to which they have “returned” because of security concerns; the UN makes no mention of these, although Radio Dabanga has repeatedly. What is truly of note is the number of newly displaced civilians—more than 1.2 million since UNAMID took up its mandate on January 1, 2008 (see Appendix One). Some fifty thousand people have recently not returned from but fled to eastern Chad from Darfur, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees and Doctors without borders/Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF), increasing the number of Dafuri refugees in eastern Chad from 280,000 to 330,000 (see Appendix One). For those interested in the realities of Darfur—instead of the UN propaganda to which the Times correspondent succumbed during his highly controlled visit to one location in West Darfur—Radio Dabanga and the Sudan Tribune have long reported in detail on developments relating to both security and humanitarian conditions. In a series of contemporaneous articles, Radio Dabanga offered detailed research and interviews with people from the Nyuru region that completely undermined the credibility of the Times’ claimed findings. Highly informed Darfuris with whom I spoke and communicated directly expressed their disbelief that a distinguished American newspaper could so misrepresent the situation in Darfur.

It should be noted in this context that Radio Dabanga has become a truly extraordinary resource, offering both a substantive and textured sense of what is occurring on the ground in Darfur. Developed by Darfuris, operating out of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Radio Dabanga has an astonishing number of contacts on the ground in Darfur, including sheikhs, omdas, nazirs, camp leaders, and the leadership of the various rebel factions. The standards of their journalism continue to improve at a rapid rate, with particularly valuable instruction coming from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which has co-produced Radio Dabanga since its initial reporting in late 2008. For every disingenuous, misleading, or mendacious declaration by the UN and AU leadership, Darfuris have been able to respond in their own voices.

But there was in fact also much in the “unofficial” report from the former members of the Panel of Experts that sharply and directly contradicted the UN’s politically motivated official accounts, especially from eastern regions of Darfur. From January 2011 through August 2011 three members of the UN Panel of Experts on the Sudan (Darfur) conducted the last professional investigation as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005): (1) monitoring the arms embargo on Darfur and (2) monitoring compliance with the Security Council “demand” that the Khartoum regime cease all aerial military assaults on Darfur. Following their resignation from the Panel in August and September 2011, weapons experts Mike Lewis (Britain) and Claudio Gramizzi (Italy), and Darfur and Chad specialist Jérôme Tubiana (France) prepared a last, extensive report on their findings. This document has, unfortunately, not been widely circulated outside the UN (where it remains “confidential”), even as it remains the most authoritative account we have from any international investigators on the ground in Darfur. It also provides a clear warning of what was to come in the following two years. What appears now a vast and incoherent mélange of violence has a great deal more intelligibility if we examine closely this highly detailed, professional, ground-based research from 2011. 

The Document

In a significant scoop, the highly authoritative Africa Confidential provided the first account of the report in April 2012 (along with the URL for the report itself):

“UN clash over Beijing bullets claim: UN experts’ reports differ over Darfur arms violations,” Africa Confidential, 13th April 2012:

“A seismic diplomatic row is rumbling at United Nations headquarters in New York over the circulation of a damning report by former UN experts pointing to the supply of Chinese-made ammunition to the Sudan government for use against civilians in Darfur. The row exposes fresh divisions on Sudan at the UN Security Council and disarray in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office. It may also unpick Beijing’s careful diplomacy as it seeks to realign its relations between Sudan and South Sudan.

“The report, which is circulating clandestinely at UN headquarters, was written by three of the original members of the UN’s Panel of Experts, which monitors violations of the UN arms embargo in Darfur. It argues that the Darfur crisis, far from winding down as Khartoum and some press reports suggest, is worsening, with new incidents of ethnic cleansing, arms deliveries and aerial bombing. Africa Confidential has obtained two separate reports on Darfur (available to download at the end of this article), one commissioned by Ban’s Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, which is highly conservative in its findings, and a more forthright, detailed unofficial version by the three specialists who resigned from Pascoe’s appointed Panel on Darfur in 2011.

“Weapons experts Mike Lewis (Britain) and Claudio Gramizzi (Italy), and Darfur and Chad specialist Jérôme Tubiana (France) resigned, Africa Confidential has learned, after Pascoe’s department declined to take seriously their complaints about the standards of competence and neutrality on the Panel. The trio have now sent their own report—with lengthy annexes—to the Security Council. This unofficial report details Sudan army ammunition found in Darfur that appeared to be Chinese-made. Some may have been made in the Sudan Technical Centre, a Sudanese military company in Khartoum. The findings upset China, which says the report is not an official document and should not be given a hearing. Diplomats from the United States and Britain are nonetheless backing the report in private.”

I have also written previously (April 17, 2012) about this report and its striking contrasts with the “official” UN Panel of Experts report submitted by the highly politicized Panel that succeeded that of Gramizzi, Tubiana, and Lewis. This “official” report is, by comparison, a travesty:

[1] The “official” Panel of Experts offered only a very superficial account of events in eastern Darfur, especially in the Shangal Tobay region, where violence flared viciously in the wake of Minni Minawi’s defection from the Khartoum regime in late 2010. But the Panel experts who resigned investigated much more fully, spent much more time on the ground in the region, and interviewed a much greater range and number of witnesses. On the basis of this extensive research, they concluded that the attacks on Zaghawa civilians were deliberate (Minawi is the Zaghawa leader of the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi, or SLA/MM) and that the evidence was sufficiently compelling to characterize the violence as “ethnic cleansing” by the Khartoum regime and militia proxies.

[2] The “official” Panel of Experts offers only a few weak conclusions—and even less research—about violations of the UN arms embargo on Darfur (again, monitoring this embargo and the ban on offensive military flights are the primary mandates for the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, per UN Security Council Resolution 1591). For its part, on the basis of wide and impressively deep research, the “unofficial” Panel of Experts finds overwhelming evidence that weapons and ammunition manufactured after 2005 in Russia and China continue to make their way to Khartoum and then onto Darfur. Unsurprisingly, resistance to discussion of the “unofficial” Report comes primarily from these two veto-wielding members of the Security Council.

[3] Nowhere is the contrast between the two reports greater than in the broader generalizations drawn about insecurity on Darfur. Again, it must be stressed that in character and quality of field research, depth of analysis, annexes, footnotes, and time on the ground, there is simply no comparison between the two reports. Indeed, the official report of the UN Panel of Experts has five factitious and skimpy annexes. The fifth is simply make-work—a “Summary of the Outgoing Communications Sent by the Panel of Experts” (e.g., we learn that on “February 18 Ethiopia [was contacted] for visa assistance”).

By contrast the report of the Experts who resigned has twenty-eight key annexes. It also has more than 150 detailed footnotes for references. For its part, the “official” Panel of Experts typically provides trivial and often meaningless sourcing, a large majority of them baldly citing UNAMID (e.g., Footnote 50, on the important subject of carjackings over the past four years has simply, in toto, “UNAMID source”; Footnote 46 declares equally baldly, “Figures provided by UNAMID”). Indeed, the entire report by the “official” Panel of Experts reads like an uninspired, uninformed, and dismayingly listless political exercise, allowing the UN and AU to check off a box on the “to do list.”

The conclusions drawn about human security are correspondingly, and unsurprisingly, at odds in the two reports. On the basis of what is finally paltry evidence from the ground, the “official” Report concludes that:

“there has been a clear and relatively positive change compared to the [security] situation in the previous years. Significant and tangible changes have taken place in the political and security situation. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) has set in motion a peace process that has been garnering support from the Darfur population at large.”

These conclusions are simply preposterous: all evidence suggested that even at the time of this statement violence was significant and expanding; it has continued to escalate dramatically. And reports from Darfuri leaders in the camps make clear that the Doha agreement is a dead letter, a blue-print for nothing other than the perpetuation of the status quo. This “agreement” is purely expedient UN political posturing in the face of a situation in which it has made no progress either diplomatically or in providing human security. Indeed, the Sudan Tribune reports April 25th, 2013 that relations between Khartoum and the one small rebel group to sign the peace “agreement” in July 2011 (el-Tigani Seisi’s “Liberation and Justice Movement”) are on the verge of collapse—a collapse that cannot be averted by the recent signing on to the agreement by a justice and equality movement splinter group.

By contrast, the report from the Experts who resigned notes:

“Nonetheless, from their [the authors’] experience and direct observation elsewhere in Darfur, and from information and testimonies gathered from sources in Darfur, Khartoum and countries neighboring the Republic of Sudan, the Members of the Panel consider that some elements emerging from the Shangal Tobay case-study represent a reliable illustration of more generic trends of the recent evolution of the conflict in neighboring areas of the same region [i.e., the area of Shangal Tobay, between el-Fasher and Nyala and east], straddling the border between North and South Darfur. Members of the Panel also found that the most intense violence in Darfur during their mandate happened in those areas of eastern Darfur, and in particular Shangal Tobay area.” [ ]

“Members of the Panel found that government officials and forces under the control of the Government of Sudan had a primary role in the violence in Shangal Tobay” [though, they note, some officials also tried to stop the violence].”

The scandalous lack of even desk research by the “official” Panel of Experts is constantly in evidence. So too is the inadequacy of desk research, given the reporting patterns of UNAMID. The “unofficial” report, for example, notes that,

“…events [the former members of the Panel] witnessed alongside UNAMID personnel were not fully reported in UNAMID Patrol Reports or Situation Reports.”

The largest conclusion of the “unofficial” Report of the Experts on Darfur is reflected in the violence that has been exploding in Darfur since last July:

“UNAMID forces have not been able to protect Zaghawa or other civilians, including those already living in IDP camps, from attacks, harassment, and displacements, some of which took place just in front of Shangal Tobay UNAMID team site.”

These Experts also note that the failure to understand sufficiently the “chain of violence” in Shangal Tobay was due to “under-reporting or deliberately omitting to report some incidents.” This has been true for years and includes the dramatically inadequate and misleading reporting by the AU and UN leadership (again, see Appendix Two for some of the most telling examples). UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Secretariat as a whole, in various reports on UNAMID and Darfur, have been either spectacularly credulous or disgracefully disingenuous. One revealing example: in the first two reports on Darfur and UNAMID in 2012, Ban’s report mentions not a single incident of sexual violence—not one—even as the epidemic of rape continues unabated; reporting by Radio Dabanga also makes clear that UNAMID refuses to respond to threats or acts of rape.

This “under-reporting or deliberately omitting to report” has contributed greatly to the failure of the international community to understand the dynamics by which violence has escalated to the point where there is simply no security anywhere in Darfur, and mass civilian displacements from violence are reported on an almost daily basis. This comparison of the two reports will be continued in subsequent briefs. Of particular significance for this period, the “unofficial” report of the Panel of Experts estimates that approximately 70,000 people were newly displaced from the greater Shangal Tobay/Khor Abeche region during their time on the ground in 2011:

“This cycle of violence provoked one of the most significant displacements that Darfur has experienced since the height of the conflict between 2003-2005, with the reported registration of around 70,000 new IDPs…. Most of those new displaced persons belong to the Zaghawa group.”

Presently human displacement is surging throughout Darfur and into Chad; MSF reports some 50,000 new refugees in eastern Chad in recent weeks, including 40 percent of the major town of Umm Dukhum in West Darfur. Altogether, many hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes within Darfur over the past months and years into highly uncertain circumstances, amidst rapidly decreasing security 

 

Despite overwhelming evidence of a rapidly deteriorating security environment—posing a wide range of acute dangers for civilians, both in the camps and rural areas—the UN and African Union continues to minimize the scale of current violence, as it has done for many years now; this is true even as UNAMID’s performance continues to deteriorate and morale falls. It is especially revealing that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and its Undersecretary Hervé Ladsous, continues to claim that circumstances on the ground actually permit a draw-down of peacekeeping forces. There is evidently no inclination within UN DPKO to continue funding at present exorbitant levels a peacekeeping force that is performing so poorly, given other acute needs for peacekeepers around the world.

Realities

The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) has very recently offered not only a more realistic assessment of the total number of displaced—2.3 million in Darfur and Chad—but cites an estimate by the International Monitoring Centre:

“An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict. A number of peace agreements – most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur—have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region…. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.” (April 19, 2013)

Many additional tens of thousands of people have been displaced since violence began to accelerate so dramatically last July, producing a figure of newly displaced that dwarfs highly dubious UN claims about the number of “returning” displaced persons (see Appendix One). An epidemic of rape continues to surge throughout Darfur amidst a climate of complete impunity; displaced persons camps are increasingly attacked or subject to brutal, often violent extortion schemes by militias and the feared Abu Tira (Central Reserve Police); major roads are too insecure for travel except with the heaviest of armed escorts. Relief efforts are ever more endangered, and there is a steady increase in reports of food shortages, food inflation, lack of clean water and primary medical care, and a lack of livelihoods. In many cases, returns by displaced persons to their villages and lands is impossible because they are now occupied by Arab pastoralists—typically armed and threatening—including groups from Chad and Niger.

Indiscriminate aerial bombardment continues unabated, particularly in the Jebel Marra region, but in a great many other locations in Darfur. UNAMID confirms virtually none of these, in part because it is so frequently denied access by the security forces of the Khartoum regime. Humanitarian access—both because of insecurity but also because of Khartoum’s denial of access—continues to deteriorate rapidly. Assaults on camps and even in towns have become more frequent and more indiscriminate. Basic services, including water and always sparse electricity, continue to be degraded. And there is no end in sight to the violence. But current realities have a history, and our most detailed account for 2011 comes from the reporting work of Mike Lewis, Claudio Gramizzi, and Jérôme Tubiana. §

§ The report of the former members of the Panel of Experts, with its highly defined mandate, is amply supplemented by a report from the Small Arms Survey by Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana. They have provided a remarkably full overview of this violence in a report from the Small Arms Survey (Geneva): “Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players,” (July 2012). Their report is based on field research conducted from October 2011 through June 2012, and supplemented by extensive interviews, a full desk review of available reports, and a wide range of communication with regional and international actors.

APPENDIX ONE: Displacement, “returns,” and current trends (a compendium of reports; see also, “How many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are there in Darfur?” Dissent Magazine [on-line], April 28, 2011):

It is important to realize that the UN, in totaling the number of returning IDPs, takes no obvious account of those who must abandon their attempt to regain their lands and way of life. For example,

“[Seven] families who came back to the Guldo region [West Darfur] in the framework of the Sudanese Government’s voluntary repatriation initiative were found in an extremely worrying state. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that they were part of 25 families who left Kalma Camp (South Darfur) as a part of the Voluntary Return program. However, the journey was too dangerous, and 18 families were forced to travel back to their original camp in South Darfur. Furthermore, they reported to Radio Dabanga that the remaining families did not receive any support from the province of West Darfur, even though it organized the deportation. They now call for international action to save these families, who are currently in a critical state.” (Radio Dabanga, July 26, 2011, “Voluntary Repatriation: 7 families found in a critical state”)

Displacement and returns have been central issues in Darfur since the beginning of major fighting in 2003. Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 34 (representing conditions as of January 2009) was the last that OCHA produced. Its release in March 2009 came just as Khartoum was expelling thirteen distinguished international humanitarian organizations and closing three important Sudanese relief organizations—altogether roughly half the humanitarian capacity in Darfur. This last Profile found that there were “nearly 2.7 million Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur.” An accompanying graph showed a slow but steady increase, much of it clearly the result of massive civilian destruction and attacks such as had occurred in the Muhajeriya area of South Darfur (October 2007) and the regions north of el-Geneina in West Darfur (February 2008), the latter described in brutal detail by one of the last meaningful UN human rights reports on Darfur (March 20, 2008):

“Military attacks in Sirba, Silea and Abu Suruj (8 February), involved aerial bombardments by helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft, accompanied by ground offensives by militia and SAF. Consistent information gathered by UNAMID Human Rights Officers indicated that these actions violated the principle of distinction stated in international humanitarian law, failing to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives. Moreover, the scale of destruction of civilian property, including objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, suggests that the damage was a deliberate and integral part of a military strategy. Information on extensive pillaging during and after the attacks was also gathered. In addition, consistent and credible accounts of rape committed by armed uniformed men during and after the attack in Sirba were collected.”

Such reports worked to explain the steady rise in IDPs that had featured prominently in news and human rights reporting on Darfur; both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center used the 2.7 million figure. But OCHA issued a massive (and unexplained) “correction” in July 2010, tied to no public or private report. As of July 2010 OCHA referred to 1.9 million IDPs—800,000 people had suddenly become “undisplaced” . The only “source” offered by OCHA for this radical downsizing of an intensely distressed population was buried in a terse footnote, referring simply to work by the intergovernmental International Organization for Migration (IOM): “IOM Sudan (2009).” There was no indication of precise date, title, researchers, links, or anything that would allow a reader to understand what was signified by this reference.

The IOM did not announce a publication or completed study on displacement in Darfur; nor did OCHA subsequently explain what IOM had uncovered that justified such an enormous decline in the population considered “displaced.” IOM’s 2009 annual report makes no reference to research on IDPs in Darfur, although the report does note that Khartoum prevented IOM missions from traveling to South Darfur for much of the year (in summer 2010 Khartoum expelled two senior IOM officials for no reason).

What had happened? Since 2009, many within the humanitarian community in Darfur had thought some recalibration of IDP numbers was necessary, for a variety of reasons: double-counting of people registered in two locations; manipulation within the camps of UN World Food Program ration cards; the many deaths (but of course also many births) that had occurred in the camps; and confusion over whether a person already displaced counted for one or two “IDPs” if displaced a second time.

But the new IOM “figure” was relevant for the year 2008, not 2010, even less for 2011, 2012, and 2013. Moreover, during the period of study IOM’s database was significantly incomplete. For example, only 488,997 IDPs were registered with IOM in South Darfur, a region with half of Darfur’s total population (6.5 million). Some camps and concentrations of IDPs had never been registered. This was not an issue of bad faith on the part of IOM, which was simply doing the best it could with limited data (including data from the UN World Food Program). For the beginning of 2008, a figure of 1.9 million was at least representative of the data available to IOM. IOM made clear to OCHA that the figure was a work-in-progress with very significant limits; OCHA ignored this and peremptorily reduced the figure on the basis of the “IOM Sudan (2009)” reference. IOM had no intention of the figure of 1.9 million IDPs replacing earlier assessments, precisely because of the issues that are raised here, according to former IOM officials.

The Data Extant

To gain any true sense of scale of displacement in Darfur, we should also bear in mind UN and other figures for total displacement, of all kinds, in the immediately preceding years.

• OCHA estimated that 300,000 Darfuris were newly displaced in 2007;

• OCHA estimated that 317,000 Darfuris were newly displaced in 2008;

• In 2009—the year of humanitarian expulsions—OCHA promulgated no figure of its own, but the Canadian “Peace Operations Monitor” found evidence suggesting that “over 214,000 people were newly displaced [in Darfur] between January & June [2009] alone  Given the reports of violent displacement that followed June 2009, a total figure for the year of 250,000 seems conservative;

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre collected data suggesting that in 2010 approximately 300,000 people were newly displaced. The OCHA Sudan Bulletin (January 7 – 13, 2011) reported that the “overall number of people displaced during the December 2010 fighting in the area of Khor Abeche stands at 43,000.” 300,000 newly displaced for the year again seems a conservative figure;

UN IRIN (Nairobi) reports, March 16, 2011:

“Tens of thousands of people continue to flee their homes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur for the safety of internally displaced people’s camps after recent fighting between government forces and armed militias. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 66,000 IDPs have arrived in camps in North and South Darfur since January. At least 53,000 are in and around North Darfur State’s Zam Zam IDP Camp.”

On March 27, 2012 Radio Dabanga reported a finding by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (these are precisely the sorts of stories—accounts from UN humanitarian agencies—that so rarely figure in international reporting on Darfur):

“The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN said on Monday [March 26, 2012] that about 3,000 people from the areas of Dar Es Salam and Zam Zam camps in North Darfur have been displaced to Kalimdo and other areas with El Fasher. The FAO said that the displaced people are in need aid, food and medicines.”

• Radio Dabanga reported, April 2, 2012:

7,000 flee after government forces raze villages in North Darfur

“More than 7,000 people have fled their homes in North Darfur after government forces and militants reportedly burned down their villages last week. ‘7,000 have left the villages of Adam Khatir, Nagojora, Hamid Dilli, Amar Jadid, Koyo and Duga Ferro near Donki Hosh and fled to the surrounding areas where there is no food, water or shelter,’ said a newly displaced witness to Radio Dabanga from a safe area. ‘They attacked us for three days, from Tuesday until Thursday evening. They burned down five villages, looted more than 20 and destroyed water wells and pumps,’ added the witness. She appealed to the UN and humanitarian organisations to protect them and provide them with desperately needed assistance.”

• Radio Dabanga reported, April 16, 2012:

5,000 South Sudanese forced out of Darfuri camp (Sharef [South Darfur] 16 Apr 2012)

“South Sudanese citizens living in a camp in the Sharef area of East [formerly South] Darfur had their homes burned down and destroyed on Monday by a group of militia. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga their camp was completely looted yesterday including the clothes they were wearing. They said today the militants came back and indiscriminately burned down their homes forcing the traumatised camp residents out into the surrounding areas.”

UN OCHA reported, April 29, 2012:

“According to IOM [the International Organization for Migration], some 3,400 newly displaced people have been verified and registered in Zamzam IDP camp, North Darfur. These newly displaced people fled their homes because of inter-tribal fighting between Zaghawa and Birgid tribesmen in Alauna village (approximately 25km north of Dar el Salam, North Darfur) that started on 22 February.”

August 5, 2012: a report from a highly reliable and experienced source on the ground in North Darfur (received via e-mail):

“Kutum town has been overrun by Arab militia since last Thursday [August 3, 2012]…all of the INGOs [International Nongovernmental Humanitarian Organizations] and UN offices in the area have been thoroughly looted and their staff relocated to el-Fasher. All of the IDPs from Kassab IDP camp have been displaced [approximately 30,000 civilians—ER]. The markets in Kutum and in Kassab have both been thoroughly looted.”

Radio Dabanga reported, August 9, 2012:

“Representatives of the Kassab and Fatta Barno camps in North Darfur, revealed on Wednesday that the situation in both camps remains critical and over 70,000 IDPs fled so far. UNAMID promised to provide support to both camps within 24 hours.”

Radio Dabanga reported, September 30, 2012:

“[M]ore than 2,000 people who fled the recent attacks around Hashaba have arrived to Ba’ashim area, north of Mellit, North Darfur, on Sunday, 30 September. Sources told Radio Dabanga that these people traveled for three days by foot, hiding around mountains and valleys when it was light and moving only by night. This way, sources explained, the victims could avoid being found by pro-government militias.

“Witnesses said these people are suffering from fatigue, adding that they barely ate or drank anything during the three days they traveled. Upon arrival in Ba’ashim, a remote area, most people were transferred to Mellit city where there are enough facilities to support them, sources explained. They added that the 2,000 people who arrived in Ba’ashim represent only one fourth of the victims who fled the Hashaba attacks.”

UN IRIN reported February 8, 2013:

“The Darfur-based Radio Dabanga reported on 6 February that some 16,000 newly displaced people had arrived in the North Darfur towns of Kabkabiya and Saraf Omra following threats by rival tribal militias. Many of the displaced are living on the streets with no humanitarian support.”

Reuters (AlertNet), reported (February 13, 2103):

“The latest violence left more than 100 people dead and forced some 100,000 to flee their homes in what aid agencies say is the largest displacement in recent years inside Sudan’s troubled western region of Darfur. The United Nations said in mid-January it was alarmed by confirmed reports of killings of civilians, as well as the burning of more than three dozen villages.”

Radio Dabanga reported (March 19, 2013):

“Some 4,000 people in South Darfur were displaced after having their villages ‘burnt by aerial bombings by the Sudanese air force’ during last week’s battles.” 

Radio Dabanga reported, March 26, 2013:

“A Nertiti camps activist disclosed on Tuesday [February 26, 2013] that between 23,000 and 25,000 families [likely over 100,000 civilians] have arrived in the area fleeing the battles between government and rebel forces in [formerly West] Darfur that erupted on 23 December last year. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, he noted that some 15 or 20 families continue arriving in the camps every day from Golo and the Jildu garrison area in West Jebel Marra, where much of the fighting took place. Nertiti is already home to more than 42,000 displaced persons according to the UN OCHA.”

Radio Dabanga reports, April 23, 2013:

“Pro-government militias reportedly attacked 300 civilians who were fleeing battles between government forces and rebels in South Darfur on Monday. The displaced were heading to El Salam camp near the state’s capital which has received ‘7,000 families’ [perhaps more than 30,000 civilians] since March.”

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported, April 26, 2013:

“TISSI, CHAD/NEW YORK, APRIL 26, 2013—Violent clashes in Sudan’s Darfur region have driven approximately 50,000 people across the border into southeastern Chad since early March, where a lack of food, water, shelter, and basic services is developing into a humanitarian crisis, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.”

UN IRIN reported, April 19, 2013:

“An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict. A number of peace agreements—most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur—have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region…. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.”

Radio Dabanga reports, April 26, 2011:

2,200 families fleeing Sudan army, rebels battles arrive in camp (KALMA CAMP)

“In line with “preliminary assessments” at least 2,200 families have arrived in a South Darfur camp over the last month due to clashes between Sudanese and rebel troops in two states of the region.”

NB: the IRIN figure in its April 19 dispatch evidently includes much of what is excluded from the commonly cited UN figure of “1.4 million internally displaced in Darfur”:

330,000 refugees in Chad;

300,000 IDPs registered in camps, but not registered for feeding by the UN’s World Food Program; it is this population that when omitted yields the figure of 1.4 million displaced that OCHA itself has done far too much to promulgate without qualification.

• Recently displaced persons who figure in no census—perhaps as many as 200,000, judging from reports from the UN, Radio Dabanga, and other sources (see above);

• Those displaced but living with host families or villages, not in camps; early in its reporting, the UN Darfur Humanitarian Profiles estimated this figure to be as high as 600,000.

This readily available data, in aggregate suggests that more than 1.2 million civilians have been newly displaced since January 1, 2008, the official beginning of UNAMID’s mandate. Indeed, the figure may be much greater than 1.2 million. Yet despite these data, most news reports continue to cite a figure of “1.4 million” as “remaining displaced” in Darfur; this is a gross misrepresentation of realities on the ground. Even so, the new UN/AU Joint Special Representative Aichatu Mindaoudou claims on the basis of this figure that “the numbers of people affected by violence had decreased each year between 2008 and 2011.” It did not take Ms. Mindaoudou long to learn the mendacious ways of UNAMID (see Appendix Two below).

 

UN and African Union misrepresentations of Darfur’s realities

[ It is worth noting here that the spokesman for UNAMID, Aicha Elbasri, resigned on April 23, 2013, as Radio Dabanga and the Sudan Tribune reported:

“The spokesperson of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Aicha Elbasri, announced her resignation on Tuesday eight months after her appointment, saying she was blocked from accessing information. ‘I resigned from my post because I wasn’t receiving the support I needed in terms of access to information in a timely manner, including the accurate and up-to-date information the media was asking for,’ Elbasri told Radio Dabanga.”

A “rogue’s gallery” of UN and AU commentary:

• August 2009 statement by departing head of UNAMID forces Martin Agwai: “as of today, I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur, [but rather] very low intensity engagements.”

[In 2009 data suggest that some 250,000 Darfuris were newly, and typically violently displaced—ER]

• Departing UN/AU special representative to UNAMID, Rodolphe Adada (August 2009):

“‘I have achieved results’ in Darfur. [ ] ‘There is no more fighting proper on the ground.’ ‘Right now there is no high-intensity conflict in Darfur. Call it what you will but this is what is happening in Darfur—a lot of banditry, carjacking, attacks on houses.”’ 

• UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Georg Charpentier offered a similarly optimistic assessment of Darfur in early 2011: “We are seeing a ‘trend of decreasing overall violent incidents in Darfur.'” (January 20, 2011)

• In a truly despicably moment of mendacity, Charpentier declared: “‘UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to the Institute for War and Peace reporting (IWPR)].” (January 7, 2011)

• A year and half ago former JSR Ibrahim Gambari gave a statistical account of UNAMID’s success: “Our figures have shown that the number of armed attacks in all three Darfur states has fallen by as much 70 percent over the past three years, which has resulted in more displaced people returning to their homes.” (Radio Netherlands International, September 14, 2011)

• In an interview with Radio Dabanga (May 20, 2012), the spokesman for the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Christopher Cycmanick, “described the security situation in Darfur as ‘relatively calm.'”

• Former JSR, “I am gratified to note that barely 31 months on, all the objectives I set out to meet have largely been met.”

Fearing no contradiction, UN and AU officials—including senior UN officials in New York—have deliberately and disastrously understated the scale of insecurity and humanitarian need in Darfur.

End

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One on One with Sudan Deputy Ambassador to Norway Mr Onour Ahmed Onour

Posted by African Press International on April 26, 2013

African Press International and Sudan Deputy Ambassador to Norway H.E. Onour Ahmed Onour discuss the political situation in his country, the insecurity within the border between South Sudan and Sudan, the insecurity and killings in Darfur, the International Criminal Court‘s indictment of President Al Bashir. Also the relationship between Kenya and Sudan in relations with the ICC indictments of the leaders in both countries, namely President Al Bashir (Sudan) and President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto respectively. The deputy ambassador also speaks out about the bilateral relations between Norway and his country Sudan which he says is useful to both countries..

www.africanpress.me/ - SUDAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO NORWAY MR ONOUR AHMED ONOUR

http://www.africanpress.me/ – SUDAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO NORWAY MR ONOUR AHMED ONOUR

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According to the Deputy ambassador the relationship between his country Sudan and the government of South Sudan has improved of late. His government with the help of former South African President Thabo Mbeki has initiated talks now taking place in Addis Ababa between the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N rebels.
On the question of Darfur the Deputy ambassador denies that there is a huge crisis. He was reacting to an article written by Mr Eric Reeves of the United States where he writes ” There is in Darfur no end in sight for conflict, murder, rape, assaults on displaced persons camps, agricultural and village destruction, brutal extortion schemes and continued violent human displacement.”

Direct Interview with the Deputy Ambassador H. E. Onour Ahmed Onour:

Mr Reeves claims further that the primary targets of the mayhem is overseen by the National Islamic Front / National Congress Party regime in Khartoum targeting civilians from African tribal groups, who are forced to survive tenuously in an increasingly chaotic Darfur. He continues to point out that it is the cruelest of counter-insurgency strategies since the military opponents of the regime are rebel groups that refuse  to accept a peace agree farmers and landholders.”

According to Mr Reeves, Khartoum seeks to subdue Darfur by means of war of attrition in which impunity, chaos and inter-ethnic violence serve the regime’s ultimate military and political purposes.

The Sudanese Deputy Ambassador dismisses Mr Reeves allegations, saying he is being alarmist.

In the question of the ICC and indictment of President Al Bashir, Mr Onour says the court is there to be used to punish African leaders citing that in Kenya the newly elected president Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto face the same fate, The Deputy Ambassador says that the trend is scary because it seems the court is used by the west to punish African leaders and now no one knows who the next target in Africa will be, adding that the Sudan government does not recognise the International Criminal Court.

End

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Khartoum Orchestrates Violence in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, South Sudan

Posted by African Press International on April 5, 2013

A number of very recent, highly credible, ground-based reports indicate that Khartoum‘s regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Arab militia proxies have attacked the Kiir Adem area of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State, South Sudan. What makes these attacks—which have killed a number of Southern civilians and police officers—so alarming is that they have occurred in the immediate wake of the Government of South Sudan‘s complying with the agreement brokered in Addis Ababa to withdraw its military forces from this border area, even as Khartoum committed to a simultaneous withdrawal of its own forces. There have been several such attacks in recent days, and we should recall that the Kiir Adem area has been a dangerous flashpoint for conflict over the past two and a half years, going back to the bombing of the region on December 14, 2010. Khartoum of course denied the bombing, as it denies all bombing attacks on civilians, even when UN observes or international journalists are present. The Kiir Adem bombing, for example, was witnessed by an Associated Press reporter who was present at the time and reported in detail on what she saw. (For a full account of Khartoum’s record of bombing South Sudan since the signing of the CPA, see “They Bombed Everything that Moved.”)

The most recent attack on Kiir Adem could hardly be a more provocative—an armed assault on a region supposedly in the process of being demilitarized by both parties. And yet the UN seems unwilling to investigate or report what it has been told by those on the ground. Neither the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan (UNMISS) nor the UN peacekeeping force in Abyei (UNISFA) has regarded the attacks as sufficiently threatening or urgent to confirm, this despite the fact that the Sudan Tribune first reported attacks on March 26, 2013 (see below).

Expedient myopia in the present instance is of a piece with the broader failure of the international community to see connections between the various intensifying crises throughout greater Sudan; this failure continues a pattern that extends back decades. Rapidly escalating violence and insecurity in Darfur, ongoing genocide by attrition in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, and more than two years of provocative assaults along the North/South border are all related. And if there is no straight-line connection between them, the common denominator is the ruthless survivalism of the National Islamic Front/ National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime in Khartoum. The regime is more deeply threatened than at any time in recent history, and we may be sure that efforts at survival by these brutal men will entail using whatever means are necessary, certainly including prevarication, opacity of public declarations, contradiction between statements by various officials, outright mendacity—and of course reneging on signed agreements.

Thus with an almost formulaic predictability, the regime has succeeded in making just the right number of promises, apparent concessions, and public relations efforts to deflate international outrage at the collective assault on the people of Sudan, including also the long-suffering people of eastern Sudan and Nubia in the far north. The remoteness of Kiir Adem from the oil regions evidently ensures that it will not be central to international concerns about continuing North/South conflict.

The scale of Khartoum’s dissimulation should be shocking—certainly if we look closely at the realities in Darfur. Zambian jurist and International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recently declared “we must not forget victims of the Darfur genocide,” reminding us of what has produced arrest warrants for senior Khartoum regime officials on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Current realities—unfiltered by the anodyne and disingenuous reports of the UN/African Union (“hybrid”) Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)—reveal human security is in free-fall (see March 10, 2013 account). The consequences of this rapid increase in violence, over the past nine months and more, are a further deterioration of humanitarian capacity and access, and a corresponding deterioration in provision of food, clean water, and primary medical care (see overview of February 11, 2013). UNAMID is powerless to provide the civilian and humanitarian protection that is central to its mandate; indeed, it is repeatedly prevented by Khartoum from undertaking either the assessment or protection missions that are so urgently required. The epidemic of rape that continues to rage throughout the region is passed over with virtually no notice. The recent convening of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) in Darfur produced not a frank assessment, but a shamefully bland final statement that was emphatic chiefly in its thanks to Khartoum for permitting this highly controlled visit.

In the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and in Blue Nile, Khartoum continues to bomb civilians and civilian targets—including agriculture—with merciless frequency and intensity. The regime also maintains its complete embargo on international humanitarian relief aid, sending more than 200,000 refugees into South Sudan and tens of thousands more into refugee camps in Ethiopia. The brutality of this campaign of extermination continues despite, indeed in large measure because of the inability of regular and militia ground forces to seize the military initiative, especially in the Nuba. Khartoum is quite simply prepared to starve the people of these regions as a means of subduing the insurgency.

The UN, African Union, and Arab League offered a plan for international access to the regions well over a year ago; it has so far yielded nothing, largely because none of these organizations is prepared to pressure Khartoum over the issue, and the broader international community has responded to this extraordinarily cruel human destruction with nothing more than tepid words of condemnation. Negotiations are continually urged, but Khartoum refuses to engage with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N). There are no plans in place to create humanitarian corridors into either region, and the rainy season once again approaches. Once roads are flooded, there will be no opportunity to move food in large quantities to most parts of the two regions. Given the exceedingly poor sorghum harvest this year, starvation will soon accelerate rapidly; children in particular are already dying from malnutrition.

Khartoum has repeatedly assaulted South Sudan with air attacks, both before and after the self-determination referendum of January 2011. There were repeated, confirmed attacks in November and December 2010, and an attack within days of the referendum itself. In November 2011 Khartoum deliberately bombed the large refugee camp in Yida (Unity State, South Sudan), as well as camps in Upper Nile. Moreover, there have been continual cross-border assaults in the wake of the military seizure of Abyei (May 2011). Here we must remember that if the “residents of Abyei” had been allowed to vote in their own self-determination referendum—as guaranteed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005)—they would have voted overwhelmingly to join the South. Despite Khartoum’s outrageous violation of the CPA, the international community’s response was muted, emboldening the regime to go forward with its assaults in South Kordofan (June 5, 2011) and Blue Nile (September 2011).

International outrage was stirred only a year ago when, after a series of provocative military actions by Khartoum’s SAF along the South Kordofan/Unity State border—including two assaults on the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) garrison at Tishwin—Juba struck back and seized the crucial Heglig oil station, in the area from which the SAF had launched its attacks (March/April 2012). Geographic ignorance, indeed outright error, about the nature of the border dispute in this region was accompanied by an intemperate international condemnation of Juba. In fact, Juba’s account of the chain of events was essentially confirmed by UN observers on the ground, part of the excessively constrained UNMISS. Although the SPLA withdrew, the asymmetric nature of the international response to Juba’s supposed “provocation” left a bitter taste in the mouth of Government of South Sudan (GOSS) officials. All this was made even more distasteful by the concurrent misrepresentation of what had, and had not, been determined by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (The Hague) in its July 2009 decision concerning Abyei’s boundaries.

So it is hardly surprising that we are hearing so little of the recent assaults on Kiir Adem in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, from which the SPLA has withdrawn its forces in accord with the cease-fire agreement and provision for a demilitarized zone between the forces of Sudan and South Sudan; the SAF has not. UNMISS regards the area as “contested” and thus beyond its reporting mandate, at least in conducting first-hand investigations. And so far, the third UN peacekeeping force in greater Sudan—the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA)—has proved unable or unwilling to patrol and investigate this flash-point to the west of their mandated area of responsibility.

Amidst apparent agreement on the resumption of oil production and transport, the international community—the UN and AU in particular—seems willing to take whatever Khartoum offers as further signs that peace is about to break out. Thus the announcement that Khartoum’s President al-Bashir will visit Juba; the expediently timed announcement that the regime will release some political prisoners (who may of course easily be re-arrested); the vague suggestion that the regime might be willing to negotiate with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N); the shift in rhetoric within the state-controlled media; and the African Union Peace and Security Council’s upbeat assessment of Darfur following its recent mission to the region—all this is hastily and unambiguously welcomed by various international actors, and no one is asking what is signified by the attack on Kiir Adem.

But if Khartoum truly wishes to make peace with Juba, it knows what it must do—and attacking an area from which the SPLA has recently withdrawn as part of a cease-fire agreement is profoundly counter-productive. Killing civilians and policemen no longer defended by the army of South Sudan sends all the wrong signals to Juba, as Khartoum well knows. The provocation is deliberate, and all evidence to date argues that this is no free-lance action, but an operation with senior army approval. Juba’s anger is not factitious but grows out of repeated failures by the international community to hold Khartoum accountable for its military provocations.

To date, this is what has been reported in public sources (primarily the Sudan Tribune) and confidential sources on the ground and by the SPLA/M. The most recent and complete overview is provided by Sudan Tribune (April 1, 2013, Juba: “South accuses Sudan of launching attack ahead of Bashir’s visit”):

• “South Sudan on Monday accused neighbouring Sudan of ‘deliberately’ launching a new ground attack on its border state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, underlying the level of suspicion with which the two countries still view each other, despite a recent thawing of relations. Local authorities and security sources said in series of interviews with Sudan Tribune on Sunday that the attack took place in Kiir Adem, an area that falls within the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) which the two sides agreed to establish under African Union mediation in September last year, but only implemented recently. One policeman was killed and seven others reportedly wounded during the attack….

“James Monday, the spokesperson of South Sudan Police, also confirmed the attack, but said the situation was brought ‘under control’ and that the police are ready to protect the lives and properties of the population in the area. The commissioner for Aweil North County, Kuol Athuai Hal, said the attack was jointly organised by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), armed Arab nomads and paramilitary forces.

“‘This attack did not come as a surprise to us and the people of the area. We knew it would happen especially after they were defeated on 26 of March when they launched a similar attack. We alsodo not think that this attack will be the last, Hal told Sudan Tribune by phone Sunday. He anticipates attacks could occur, given what he describes as a political scheme by the Sudan government ‘designed to execute in order to claim territory control and eventual annexation into territory.'”

• Voice of America reports from Juba (March 29, 2013):

“South Sudan said Friday that Khartoum is doing nothing to stop attacks by Arab nomads on communities near the border of the two countries, adding that it has filed a complaint with the United Nations security forces about the attacks. Earlier this week, members of the Rezigat tribe, which is from Sudan, killed three people, including two police officers, in a raid in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Last month, the Sudanese Miseriya tribe raided a community in Unity State, killing three people and wounding five. The deadly attack by the Rezigat came days after South Sudan completed its withdrawal of troops from the border, in line with an agreement signed with Sudan.”

• Also on March 29, Radio Tamazuj reported (“Aguer: Armed group ‘linked to SAF’ killed 3 at Kiir Adem”):

“Philip Aguer, South Sudan’s army spokesman, said yesterday that an armed group on horseback, allegedly linked to the Sudanese military, killed three people in an attack on the disputed border area of Kiir Adem.Speaking to Radio Tamazuj, Aguer reported that the attack took place yesterday and a policeman was amongst the victims. The South Sudanese government considers Kiir Adem to be part of its Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state.Given that both Sudan and South Sudan have withdrawn their armies from the border area in order to create demilitarized zones, Aguer claimed that the attack must have been with the assistance of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).‘They carried out attack on citizens while riding horses and killed two civilians and a policeman. According to us, any armed person from the republic of Sudan is linked and have a relations with Sudanese forces where the Mujahideen or popular defence forces or even militias of Baggara and Reizegat because they got the guns from SAF,’ Aguer claimed before adding that the attack constitutes a violation of the demilitarisation agreement.

“‘We have raised a complaint to UNISFA forces and African Union forces over what happened in Kiir Adem … The same violation also happened in the Renk area of Adham where elements of the Sudanese forces appeared with three vehicles loaded with heavy guns machines and opened fire in the space,’ added the spokesman.”

• Sudan Tribune had earlier reported (March 27, 2013, “Three dead in Reizigat attack on Mile 14, says official”):

“Members of Sudan’s nomadic Arab Reizigat tribe have launched a deadly attack on South Sudanese civilians in the disputed Mile 14 territory in North Bahr-el-Gazal on Tuesday. The incident, which took place at about 4pm (local time), led to the death of two policemen and one civilian….

“Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday in Juba, police spokesman Col. James Monday Enoka called on the African Union (AU) to take action, saying the deadly incident had occurred just two weeks after the SPLA’s withdrawal from Mile 14. ‘It is very unfortunate that the Reizigat took advantage of [the] withdrawal of the SPLA from the area and launch[ed] the attack,’ he said. ‘[The] South Sudan National Police Services strongly condemns this attack and appeals to the African Union monitoring and verification teams to take action,’ he added.”

• The Sudan Tribune had reported the previous day (March 26, 2013: “Sudan: South Accuses Sudan of Killing Three People in Northern Bahr El Ghazal”):

“South Sudan has accused the government of neigbouring Sudan of launching a heavy and coordinated attack on its Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, killing at least three innocent civilians and wounding several others in Rual Horic, east of the disputed Kiir Adem area, local people and county authorities said on TuesdayAweil North county commissioner, Kuol Athuai Hal said Sudan was using armed border tribes and auxiliary forces to launch provocative attacks in an attempt to derail efforts to peacefully implement a cooperation agreement signed in September 2012.

“After months of stalling the two sides agreed to implement the deal, which will create a demilitarised buffer zone 10 km either side of the tense and contested oil rich border, as well as allow South Sudan to resume exporting its oil through Sudan for the first time in over a year. ‘The Sudanese armed forces have been increasingly active in the area this week. The activity zone of the Sudanese armed forces has expanded considerably from last week, immediately realising that SPLA forces have completely pulled out of the area. Their activities in the area are becoming serious security concern not only to the civil population but also us in the government,’ Hal told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday from Gokmachar, the area’s administrative headquarters.

“The official said three people were killed when armed Arab tribes backed by the Sudan Armed Forces collaborating with their aligned militia carried out a raid on the area. ‘They killed three civilians who have gone to fish. They [the civilians] were found at the fishing site when they were killed. None of them had survived. This incident occurred today at around 11:30am. It was in Rual Horic, east of Kiir Adem. Another attack was carried out by the Sudanese armed forces themselves in Kiir Adem against civilians. They just opened fire on civilians. The civilians were unaware. They did not know. It was a surprised and well-organised attack. The intention is to chase civilians away from the area,’ Hal said….”

“There is a United Nations mission in South Sudan with a strong chapter seven mandate to protect civilians but policing the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) is due to be monitored by the UN peacekeeping force in Abyei—the main disputed border region—as part of a Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) with military officials from both nations. ‘There was another attack today. Three people have been killed in Rual Horic, East of Kiir Adem The Sudanese armed forces are taking advantage of the withdrawal of SPLA forces from the area. They have moved into the area in full capacity. Instead of withdrawing they are deploying and carrying out attacks and killing of innocent civilians. What is happening is a political strategy by the government of Sudan so that civilians can flee the area. This is clear a clear tactic,’ explained Achien.

“‘Why [do] the Sudanese Armed Forces continue to remain in the area which is supposed to be arms free? Why is the international community keeping quiet? Why is the African Union? We will hold [them] responsible for the loss of lives,’ Achein said.”

Questions that cannot be ignored

These last questions remain unanswered, even as the reports I have received from the ground confirm what Sudan Tribune and others have reported.

Is there a discernible strategy in these actions on the part of the regime’s regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and its Rizeigat militia allies? Certainly in assessing the consequences of its actions on the basis of international silence, the regime has concluded that it can be credited with a cease-fire and separation of forces agreement even while blatantly violating that agreement. Moreover, it is unlikely that the SAF will cease its various actions along a border that is much too long to be effectively monitored with present resources and mandates. UNISFA’s initial failure in Kiir Adem is a sign of what is to come, with grim parallels to UNAMID in Darfur.

There seem to be two most likely explanations for the attacks on Kiir Adem, neither of them encouraging for a broader peace:

[1] These are the actions of a regime determined to keep international attention focused on North/South issues, at the expense of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur, and other marginalized regions of eastern Sudan and Nubia in the far north. Khartoum is calculating that if the North/South border remains sufficiently “hot”—but not so hot as to convince Juba once again to suspend oil production and transit—then all real international efforts, diplomatic and political, will stay focused narrowly on avoiding war between Khartoum and Juba. A strategy very much like this was deployed by the regime during the final months of the CPA: all negotiating issues of substance were settled by May 2004, and only narrowly technical issues remained. But the genocidal counter-insurgency in Darfur was then at its height, and Khartoum was determined that international attention remain focused on the talks in Naivasha (Kenya); and there was in fact a disgraceful muting of criticism for many months before the CPA was finally signed in January 2005.

In 2010 the regime again saw that the U.S. was so focused on securing the January 2011 self-determination referendum for the South that it essentially abandoned Abyei—demanding that Juba “compromise” further over the final status of the region despite the explicit terms of the Abyei Protocol in the CPA and the July 2009 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Current Secretary of State John Kerry—then Senator Kerry but serving as an ad hoc Obama administration envoy—went so far as to declare that the CPA should not be held hostage to “a few hundred square miles” of disputed territory (Reuters [Khartoum], October 25, 2010). Not only was Kerry egregiously in error about the size of Abyei—it is only slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut, which neighbors Kerry’s own Massachusetts—but as subsequent events would dramatically prove, Abyei was at the very center of the viability of the CPA from the perspective of the South. The Obama administration’s willingness to trade it out on the basis of ignorance and expediency was not lost on Juba—or Khartoum.

Certainly Khartoum hopes that in any final delineation and demarcation of the North/South border, Kiir Adem and a number of other areas in Northern and Western Bahr el-Ghazal (e.g., the Kafia Kingi enclave) will be placed in the north. And as Abyei reveals, Khartoum is perfectly willing to seize militarily what it cannot win by diplomacy. But at the present time, a strong case can be made that the attacks on Kiir Adem and other areas along the border (Unity and Upper Nile states in particular) are meant to be provocative, meant to convince the international community that the agreements on oil and a demilitarized zone along the border are not guaranteed, and that further diplomatic resources and commitment are required. These will inevitably come at the expense of the Nuba, Blue Nile, Darfur, and other marginalized regions of Sudan.

[2] It is also distinctly possible that the attacks on Kiir Adem are further evidence of the depth of the split within the regime—between the security “hard-liners” and army generals on the one hand, and the political officials who have been ascendant for most of the NIF/NCP tyranny on the other. Here it is important to recall again the extraordinarily revealing dispatch by Julie Flint in summer 2011 after the assault on the Nuba had begun, making clear there would be very little room for civilians in the new configuration of power:

“[A] well-informed source close to the National Congress Party reports that Sudan’s two most powerful generals went to [Sudanese President Omar al-] Bashir on May 5 [2011], five days after 11 soldiers were killed in an SPLA ambush in Abyei, on South Kordofan’s southwestern border, and demanded powers to act as they sought fit, without reference to the political leadership.” [These generals are named below—ER]

“‘They got it,’ the source says. ‘It is the hour of the soldiers—a vengeful, bitter attitude of defending one’s interests no matter what; a punitive and emotional approach that goes beyond calculation of self-interest. The army was the first to accept that Sudan would be partitioned. But they also felt it as a humiliation, primarily because they were withdrawing from territory in which they had not been defeated. They were ready to go along with the politicians as long as the politicians were delivering—but they had come to the conclusion they weren’t. Ambushes in Abyei…interminable talks in Doha keeping Darfur as an open wound…. Lack of agreement on oil revenue….’ ‘It has gone beyond politics,’ says one of Bashir’s closest aides. ‘It is about dignity.'” (Daily Star [Lebanon], August 2, 2011)

The power of the army soon became clear when a “Framework Agreement” between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) and Khartoum—represented by the powerful presidential aide Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e—was abruptly abrogated. Committing the regime to negotiate a cease-fire and address political grievances in South Kordofan (Blue Nile was not yet caught up in the conflict), the June 28, 2011 agreement might have been the basis for ending what is now a conflict affecting more than 2 million people—perhaps 1 million of them refugees or internally displaced, and more than 1 million people facing increasingly stark food shortages. But despite Nafi’e’s putative authority, three days later—clearly under pressure from the same powerful army generals—President al-Bashir renounced the agreement (July 1, 2011), declaring that the “cleansing” operation in the Nuba would continue:

“[al-Bashir] directed the armed forces to continue their military operations in South Kordofan until a ‘cleansing of the region is over,’ SUNA quoted Bashir as telling worshippers during Friday prayers.”

The commitment to civilian destruction as a means of conducting counter-insurgency had once again been embraced by the NIF/NCP regime (see also my contemporaneous analysis at Dissent,A Creeping Coup in Khartoum,” August 10, 2011).

There has been considerable subsequent evidence of the ascendancy of the military, specifically a cabal of generals who have a record of extreme brutality and callousness, and who will surely end up in The Hague if the regime falls:

• Lt. General Ismat Abdel Rahman al-Zain: he is implicated in Darfur atrocity crimes because of his role as SAF director of operations (Khartoum); he is also identified in the “Confidential Annex” to the report by UN panel of Experts on Darfur (the Annex was leaked in February 2006); Ismat was one of the two generals who in May 2011 confronted al-Bashir, demanding that the military take over decisions about war and peace in Abyei and other border regions.

• Major-General Mahjoub Abdallah Sharfi: he is head of the brutally efficient Military Intelligence, and was the second of the two generals who in May 2011 confronted al-Bashir.

• Major General Bakri Salih: he is the former Defense Minister and now a very powerful senior minister for presidential affairs. The current political environment in Khartoum is one that suits him particularly well.

• General Awad Ibn Auf: he is the former head of Military Intelligence and gave the order for the SAF and Janjaweed “to destroy everything” in Darfur (2003).

• Major General Ahmad Khamis: he was commander of the 14th Sudan Armed Forces infantry division in Kadugli during the large-scale atrocity crimes committed in June–July 2011).

If these are the men making the decision about whether or not to pursue peace, about whether the agreement about border demilitarization will be honored, then the attack on Kiir Adem has even grimmer implications. Their commitment to a military solution to outstanding issues between Juba and Khartoum may well include the ambition to seize Southern oil fields, both in Unity State and Upper Nile. Any such military move would guarantee a return to full-scale, unfathomably destructive war.

What is notable is that the international community hasn’t a clue as to which of these two explanations for the Kiir Adem attacks—coming at such a crucial moment—is the right one. The solution seems to be simply to ignore the issues altogether, and continue to focus on negotiations which may be undermined by the very narrowness of focus that governs talks in Addis Ababa. We have seen this pattern too many times before.

APPENDIX: Economic circumstances govern in complex ways

The backdrop for any understanding of Khartoum’s military decision-making must remain an economy that continues in sharp decline. Even with the excessively optimistic predictions about the resumption of oil exports from Port Sudan, and the desperately needed foreign exchange currency which that oil will bring, there is no chance that growing economic hardships will fade away. These hardships will govern decision-making in any number of ways, but it is essential to understand their scale in making sense of regime decisions, especially in light of the circumstances of previous civil unrest and regime changes in Sudanese history.

Inflation increased to 46 percent in February 2013—and this is according to the figures released by the regime; real inflation, especially for food, is well in excess of 50 percent and continuing to rise. Indeed, even the official figures acknowledge an 86 percent year-over-year increase in the price of meat.

• Agence France-Presse reported at length last month (March 7) on the immensely costly “brain drain” from Sudan, which is accelerating, especially in important professional fields:

“The mounting exodus among medical workers is ‘a real brain drain from Sudan.’ said Al Shaikh Badr, a doctor with the health ministry. The outflow coincides with a worsening economy since South Sudan separated nearly two years ago, taking with it about 75 per cent of united Sudan’s oil production…. Estimates of unemployment range up to 40 per cent.”

• In an effort to stem worker unrest, the regime announced a doubling of the minimum wage at the end of 2012 (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], December 30, 2012); however, this was not reflected in the budget that had been submitted, and can be paid only with the printing of more Sudanese currency, thus further increasing inflation. And with inflation already over 50 percent, that “doubling” of the minimum wage won’t last long before it is entirely overtaken by loss of purchasing power. Various budget machinations can fool the public over the short term, but cannot change basic economic and financial realities pushing toward much higher inflation.

• The loss of foreign exchange currency reserves means that many domestic industries and enterprises are cutting back on production. Again last month, Sudan Tribune reported:

“Sudan’s largest flour company has been forced to cut its production by 50% because of foreign currency shortage, Sudan Tribune has learned.Sayga Flour Mills, which is part of DAL Group, relies on Byblos Bank, Abu Dhabi National Bank and Saudi Sudanese Bank to provide Guarantee Letters for the purposes of importing wheat and other production items.” (March 10, 2013)

There are other consequences of the economic shambles and lack of forex:

Royal Dutch Airline KLM has announced that effective March 31 of this year they will halt flights between Amsterdam and Khartoum, citing unsatisfactory performance of the route. There has been speculation if Khartoum’s harsh economic environment, which saw allocation of foreign exchange to repatriate ticket sales suspended—in spite of existing international agreements which ordinarily exempt airlines from such measures—or if simply the increasing isolation of the regime has led to the decline now seen.” (March 25, 2013)

• The Gezira agricultural project—long a promising part of Sudan’s economy—has been run into the ground by successive regimes, including the present one for almost a quarter of a century. In the remarkably outspoken words of the Gezira state governor:

The governor of Sudan’s Gezira state al-Zubair Bashir Taha slammed a government law adopted in 2005, saying it has done nothing to improve productivity of the country’s largest agricultural scheme that contains one of the world’s biggest irrigation projects.” (Sudan Tribune, March 12, 2013)

• External debt now exceeds US$45 billion—a staggering amount vastly in excess of what Khartoum can service, let alone repay. The regime counts on debt relief, and yet violence, insecurity, humanitarian blockades, and diplomatic obduracy make this impossible for even the most soft-minded countries.

• In a desperate effort to garner foreign exchange currency, the regime has lurched in various directions, including a rashly precipitous effort to boost gold production, with exclusive regime control of sales and exports. One consequence of this rashness is violence in Darfur: Sudan Vision, a regime propaganda organ, announced at the end of 2012 (December 30):

“Minister of Minerals has revealed the existence of 4,000 gold mines in Jebel Amir Area in North Darfur State which produce 15 tons per year at the rate of 70 kg a day. Kamal Abdul Latif told reporters after the meeting of the consultative council of the ministry of minerals that the meeting reviewed the plan for 2013, saying his ministry will continue to develop minerals to boost national economy.”

There has been no independent confirmation of this spectacular claim, or clarification of what exactly constitutes a “mine.” But the Jebel Amir area is in the Beni Hussein Locality of North Darfur, and what has transpired in the past three months has been shocking new violence, this time between two Arab tribal groups, the Beni Hussein and the Northern Rizeigat (which provided a disproportionate number of militia recruits to Khartoum in the early years of the war). More than 100,000 people of various ethnicities have been displaced in the Jebel Amir region, and many hundreds have been killed. Without the ability or inclination to respond seriously to escalating violence throughout Darfur, Khartoum doesn’t really care how the gold of Jebel Amir is mined—so long as it is sold to the regime for export. Additional victims include migrant artisanal workers drawn to Jebel Amir by regime declarations.

The regime has become desperate, and that desperation certainly makes it more difficult to assess the motives behind any course of action. We catch a glimpse of the extremity of response in a recent dispatch from Sudan Tribune. The issue is not unimportant, but the paranoia—along with entomological and meteorological ignorance—tells us too much about the men in Khartoum in the death throes of their tyranny:

“The Sudanese government launched a fierce attack on the Food and Agricultural organization of the United Nations (FAO) accusing it of conspiring against the country.The Secretary General of the General Administration for Protection of Plantation Khidir Gibreel said at a meeting in Sudan’s North State that FAO is plagued with politics.He singled out FAO’s Executive Secretary of the Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central Region Mamoon Alalawi whom he said is leading the conspiracy. Gibreel said that Sudan will seek to have Alalawi removed from his post over his hostile stance against Sudan. He said that his position is backed by the federal agricultural minister and the president.

“He claimed that Alalawi blocked a $25 million grant from Saudi Arabia in the form of vehicles and other equipments. Furthermore, the FAO official sent a spying device to Sudan that is disguised as one used for locust control.

“The head of the pro-government Sudanese Journalists Union Moyideen Titawi suggested in an op-ed last month that Israel is behind the locusts which attacked the country. ‘I don’t rule out much that the first and last enemy of our country and our people and our products Israel and its agents [a hand] in the launch of this scourge on our country in order to impoverish us and strike our production of food, especially wheat, beans, pulses and dates’ Titawi wrote in the right-wing al-Intibaha newspaper.”

Anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel run deep in this Sudanese regime, and we may expect that as the economy inflicts greater hardship on the citizenry, we will see much more in this vein. But beyond the preposterous claims and accusations, we should feel the desperation to which this dying regime has been driven, and worry about the consequences.

 

End

 

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