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Posts Tagged ‘Khartoum’

Yesterday the Dutch government decided to offer debt relief to Sudan

Posted by African Press International on December 7, 2013

5 December 2013:


Yesterday the Dutch government decided to offer debt relief to Sudan, an extraordinarily misguided action, the more so since Sudan was the only country favored by such relief.  The decision is bad for many reasons, but most conspicuously because of the encouragement it gives the present regime in Khartoum to believe that other nations and institutions will offer similar relief; indeed, according to some observers this was the thinking on the part of some in the Dutch parliament.  The amount to be forgiven is relatively small— €150 million or about $US200 million—given the massive debt that has accrued largely under the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime: some $45 billion, according to the IMF.  Debt was only a fraction of this before the military coup that brought the NIF/NCP to power in 1989.  And despite gross mismanagement of the economy, the regime now believes there is hope it will be given a lifeline by which to survive current civil unrest in the country.

Let’s be clear: There is simply no country in the world less deserving of debt relief than Sudan—not one.  Coincidentally, two days earlier, Transparency International released the results of its Global Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013.  Sudan ranked at 174 out of 177 countries surveyed, with only Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia faring worse in the Index.  Moreover, Sudan’s score actually declined this past year; there is absolutely no sign of improvement.  This is important because many of the reasons for Sudan’s external indebtedness derive from corruption, which takes various forms: the vast system of cronyism that provides political support to the regime; the illegal appropriation and sale of valuable farmland to foreign companies; the impunity afforded to the security services in extortion and asset-stripping of humanitarian organizations and “non-Arab” Sudanese; and the monumental graft that has defined the regime for more than two decades—all of these have compelled unneeded or misdirected borrowing…. [ English original continued at]

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Government of Sudan and LJM: UNAMID’s Head welcomes the signing of final security arrangements between the two parties.

Posted by African Press International on November 21, 2013

KHARTOUM, Sudan, November 20, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The AU– UN Joint Special Representative/ Joint Chief Mediator (JSR/JCM) for Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, attended the signing ceremony of the final security arrangements between the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), stipulated under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), in the afternoon of 20 November 2013 in Khartoum.

The JSR/JCM welcomed the signing of these arrangements and expressed his hope that they would constitute a significant step towards the implementation of the DDPD. He also congratulated the Government of Sudan and the LJM for the commitment, flexibility and concessions both sides have demonstrated during the negotiations, which have brought them to this important moment.

In his brief remarks at the ceremony, Dr. Chambas reflected by saying “With this signing, a new chapter will begin for the LJM. The commencement of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of their forces will offer new opportunities for many of their troops; whether this is to join the Government forces or to seek a civilian future. It is this future away from war that the DDPD was intended to secure.”



United NationsAfrican Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)


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Humanitarian assistance for over a million people

Posted by African Press International on November 19, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – People are suffering the effects of intercommunal violence over natural resources and land in Darfur, and of occasional fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups. So far this year, the ICRC has helped over a million people.

“We’ve scaled up our emergency response because of rising violence in Darfur, where people face increased hardship,” said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan. “We’ve brought vital assistance to violence-affected areas.”

The ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent Society have been working hard to deliver relief rapidly. Intercommunal clashes in Jebel Amer, North Darfur state, caused thousands to flee in January and February. The two organizations jointly distributed 1,600 tonnes of food, blankets, jerrycans, tarpaulins, sleeping mats, clothes, buckets, soap and kitchen utensils to over 124,000 people, both the displaced and their host communities. As people wounded in Jebel Amer reached hospitals in Al Sireaf, Saraf Omra, Al Junaina and Al Fashir, the ICRC provided the hospitals with medical supplies. It also facilitated the evacuation by helicopter of 33 casualties from Al Sireaf to Al Fashir for treatment in the Ministry of Health hospital.

The ICRC worked with the Sudanese Red Crescent to help people in the flood-stricken Nile Valley, where thousands were left homeless in August. The two organizations distributed household and shelter items to over 30,000 people in Khartoum and Blue Nile states, in the Dongola region, and in Mereo and Wadi Halfa in Northern state. An emergency water system for 5,800 people was set up in Al Gezera state, and 10 hand pumps were installed to supply drinking water for the population of Jebel Awliya, south of Khartoum.

Darfur has seen not only increased violence but also a surge in crime. In August, unknown armed men seized eight ICRC staff in central Darfur. While they were all released within two weeks, their two trucks have still not been recovered. “Incidents like this have an effect on the humanitarian work we do for people who are suffering,” said Mr Sandoz. “We are grateful to the government authorities, and the tribal and community leaders who helped bring about the release of our colleagues.”

While Darfur remained the focus of the ICRC’s action, access to conflict-stricken areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan states remains pending. “We have offered to carry out an impartial assessment of the needs in these areas, and to provide relief to the people most severely affected,” said Mr Sandoz. “So far, however, we have not been granted access there”.

Despite the challenges, the ICRC has spared no effort to help people in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan. Highlighted below is some of the work we did between January and September.

Emergency aid for people suffering the effects of violence


•    supplied household and shelter items for over 129,000 people displaced by violence, including 111,000 from Jebel Amer;

•    delivered enough medical supplies to 19 hospitals in Darfur, South Kordofan and Khartoum for them to perform 5,100 operations and treat 1,350 casualties;

•    provided essential drugs, medical supplies and furniture for the health centre in Garra Za Wia, Jebel Amer, which serves a population of 8,000;

•    repaired 38 hand pumps, upgraded a water point and installed six water tanks for the use of over 24,000 people in areas where displaced people from Jebel Amer had gathered;

•    trained 80 Red Crescent volunteers in first aid.

Helping people fend for themselves

•    With the onset of rains in July, around 460,000 people (mainly in and around the Jebel Marra area) received farming tools, plus groundnut, sorghum and vegetable seed. Another 16,575 families received farming tools only.

•    Over 15,600 families received donkey ploughs.

•    The ICRC distributed over 4,000 tonnes of food to help people cope with a food shortage and enable them to set aside seed for planting.

Improving access to water


•    repaired 327 hand pumps, 33 water points and four wells, maintaining a reliable water supply for over 473,000 people;

•    trained 92 technicians in hand-pump maintenance, ensuring that communities would continue to have water.

Providing health care

The ICRC supports seven health centres that serve 138,000 people in Central and South Darfur states.

Between January and September:

•    health-centre staff saw over 49,300 patients, including 7,450 expectant mothers, and performed 26,400 childhood vaccinations;

•    the ICRC provided logistical support for Ministry of Health immunization campaigns that resulted in the vaccination of over 101,300 people, including children under five;

•    when September’s protests against the withdrawal of fuel subsidies resulted in numerous casualties, the ICRC provided hospitals in Khartoum with enough intravenous fluids, bandages and other medical supplies to treat over 150 people;

•    the ICRC sponsored the training of 44 midwifery students from villages in Darfur, to reduce deaths among mothers and children.

Supporting physical rehabilitation services

Almost 5,000 people received prosthetic or orthotic devices, crutches or physiotherapy from six ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation centres, a mobile workshop run by the National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics, and the Khartoum Cheshire Home centre for the rehabilitation of disabled children.

Vaccinating animals

•    The ICRC and the State Ministries of Animal Resources and Fisheries vaccinated over 860,000 animals belonging to more than 17,000 (mainly nomadic) families in Darfur.

•    A hundred animal-health workers received training in such skills as disease reporting and animal vaccination. Their services are expected to benefit more than 14,600 families.

•    Facilitating the release of detainees

The ICRC is often called upon to serve as a neutral intermediary when government or armed opposition groups release soldiers or civilians.

Between January and September:

•    five South Sudanese prisoners of war were repatriated following their release by the Sudanese authorities;

•    a total of 35 civilians and 27 Sudanese armed forces personnel held by armed opposition groups in Darfur were transferred home;

•    ICRC staff visited detainees held in Jebel Marra by the Sudan Liberation Army – Abdel Wahid faction.

Restoring contact between family members

Between January and September, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent:

collected and delivered nearly 8,400 Red Cross messages and organized over 800 telephone calls between members of dispersed families;

clarified the whereabouts of dozens of people reported by their families as missing or captured in connection with conflict, and received 437 new tracing requests. In addition, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent reunited a child found in South Sudan with his family in Sudan.

The ICRC has been working in Sudan since 1978. In 2003, it extended its operations to Darfur, where we are helping people suffering the effects of armed conflict and other violence.



International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)


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Seeking the right to vote – Abyei

Posted by African Press International on November 4, 2013

Seeking the right to vote

NAIROBI,  – The contested region of Abyei recently held a “unilateral” referendum to determine whether it will remain part of Sudan or be restored to South Sudan, a move analysts fear could fuelconflict in the region.

The 27-29 October referendum on Abyei followed repeated delays in the vote, which was initially planned for January 2011 as part of a deal under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) designed to bring the civil war in Sudan to an end.

The sticking point has been Khartoum’s insistence that Misseriya pastoralists, many of whom served alongside Sudan’s government forces during the civil war, and who spend six months of the year in Abyei’s pastureland, be allowed to take part.

The Ngok Dinka community, Abyei’s main permanent residents who largely backed the southern rebels during the war, overwhelmingly voted to join South Sudan in the poll. “The referendum committee has announced the results, and the number of people who have chosen to become part of South Sudan is 99.9 per cent of the vote,” Kenya’s Daily Nation quotes Luka Biong, the spokesman for the Abyei Referendum High Committee, as saying.

Those allowed to vote were the Ngok Dinka and others with permanent abode in Abyei, as recommended by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in 2009, according to a Small Arms Survey (SAS) report.

The Misseriya on 29 October said they would hold a counter-referendum in November, according to Radio Miraya, a Juba-based UN radio station.

Warnings over unilateral action

Before the vote, the UN Security Council had urged Sudan and South Sudan “to refrain from any unilateral action that could heighten tension between the two neighbouring countries or impede a solution regarding the contested, oil-rich border region of Abyei.”

The African Union (AU) in a statement, following a failed visit to Abyei on 26 October said: “[The AU] reiterates its deep concern at the prevailing situation in Abyei, and stresses the need for active and continued African involvement in support of the efforts aimed at addressing the challenges at hand in Abyei. [It] further reiterates that its visit to Abyei is aimed at defusing tension on the ground, including averting any unilateral actions, and creating a conducive environment for the peaceful resolution of the final status of Abyei…

“[It] warns all stakeholders in Abyei to refrain from taking any unilateral action likely to complicate the situation, and, in this regard, calls for maximum restraint.”

Once the referendum had been held the AU described it as “unacceptable and irresponsible”.

“Political statement”

The vote, according to Abyei leaders, was spurred by growing frustration at perceived international inaction.

“The Dinka Ngok did not want to take this path but what can they do since they have been denied the opportunity repeatedly. The Dinka Ngok people were promised an internationally recognized referendum but it has been repeatedly delayed since January 2011. They cannot be expected to fold arms and wait indefinitely”

“It was the AU which made the proposal to hold a referendum in October 2013. However what has been the benefit of attending summits and meetings on Abyei, considering that the AU’s own delegation was recently not allowed to enter the area by the Sudanese government?” asks Ngor Arol Garang, a South Sudanese journalist based in Juba writing in the Sudan Tribune (based in Paris).

“The Dinka Ngok did not want to take this path but what can they do since they have been denied the opportunity repeatedly. The Dinka Ngok people were promised an internationally recognized referendum but it has been repeatedly delayed since January 2011. They cannot be expected to fold arms and wait indefinitely,” adds Garang.

Writing in African Arguments, Sudan expert Stephen Arrno says: “What is now considered an “empty” move by the nine Ngok Dinka chieftains to hold a unilateral plebiscite that will get no recognition is in fact a political statement by a community that found itself caught in a cyclical political conundrum.

“Through taking the law in hand via a unilateral referendum, the people of Abyei have reached out to all actors to express their disaffection for a decade of indecisiveness and the suffering, humiliation and displacement – endured twice during the CPA period.”

The referendum, adds Arrno, has also raised “serious questions regarding the complexities in the Abyei protocol, giving no options for the Ngok people but to be at odds with regional and international bodies…

“Indeed the Abyei protocol which is part of the… CPA remains and will currently go [down] in history as the only protocol that has never been implemented since it was signed in 2004. Moreover, the Abyei protocol remains the only open protocol in the CPA that is constantly modified to accommodate serious hiccups arising between the two parties.”

Fears of conflict

The referendum has elicited fears of possible conflict and other adverse effects.

“The Misseriya, increasingly alienated from the GoS [Government of Sudan] and worried about losing crucial grazing land in Abyei -especially given that many of their routes into South Sudan have been blocked in recent years – could clash with the Ngok Dinka over the referendum,” says SAS.

“Even if the initial declaration of the referendum results does not lead to clashes, the upcoming annual migration will present a stiff test to both sides, as a putatively independent Ngok Dinka administration in Abyei will have to decide on how to handle a Misseriya migration amid massive numbers of returnees.”

“Through taking the law in hand via a unilateral referendum, the people of Abyei have reached out to all actors to express their disaffection for a decade of indecisiveness and the suffering, humiliation and displacement – endured twice during the CPA period”

The AU in a separate statement warned that the poll poses a threat to peace in Abyei and could “trigger an unprecedented escalation on the ground, which could negatively affect the continuing normalization of relations between Sudan and South Sudan, with far-reaching consequences for the region as a whole…

“Such escalation could also put the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) peacekeepers in a very dangerous position,” added the AU.

South Sudan condemns referendum

Besides conflict concerns, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS), which has also condemned the vote, is protecting its economic interests.

“The GRSS believes that no further headway can be made in negotiations with the GoS over the situation in Abyei, and is also aware that siding with the Ngok Dinka over the referendum could destabilize relations with Sudan, lead to a disruption of vital oil flows, and further conflict,” notes SAS.

“By pressing the AU to take the lead over Abyei, the GRSS hopes that the AU might try to force the GoS to accept the referendum results, while preventing the consequences that could result from South Sudan taking such a position.”

South Sudan’s government relies on oil profits to pay its public sector workers and the army.

GoS has also dismissed the poll results.

Regarding the impasse over Abyei, Zacharia Diing Akol, the director of training at the Juba-based Sudd Institute states: “The facts in this case are very clear… Abyei belongs to the Ngok Dinka and these people deserve to voluntarily decide under the international system that recognizes their right to self-determination where they should belong.

“The nomadic Misseriya community, which seasonally comes to Abyei and South Sudan’s neighbouring states for grazing and pasture, has the secondary right recognized by the PCA’s ruling. This, however, does not and should not at all be confused with the idea of permanent abode, which the court has identified as forming the sole basis upon which all other Sudanese citizens can participate in the referendum,” states a 29 October Sudd Institute report.

According to SAS, the “unilateral” referendum “is a high-risk strategy, and, in the best-case scenario, leaves Abyei voting to join a country that did not publicly condone the referendum, and leaving a country that refuses to recognize the referendum’s results.”

aw/cb  source

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Disputed Abyei Region now votes to join South Sudan

Posted by African Press International on November 1, 2013

The residents of disputed Abyei region has voted to join South Sudan in an unofficial referendum, election officials. There is however warning that the vote may inflame tensions in the region.

“The referendum committee has announced the results, and the number of people who have chosen to become part of South Sudan is 99.9 per cent of the vote,” Mr Luka Biong told the press.



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Civilian Destruction in Jonglei: Khartoum’s Role in Arming David Yau Yau’s Militia

Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2013

  • Eric Reeves, 22 August 2013

There is a great deal of biased attention when it comes to international assessments of the ongoing ethnic strife in Jonglei.  UN reports from the ground, primarily from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), suggest a recent diminishment of violence, and humanitarian access may be improving.  Both UNMISS and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) are performing more effectively, and a very recent UN assessment indicated that tensions between the SPLA and civilians was diminishing.  Certainly the situation is far from stabilized; ethnic tensions remain high, particularly between the Murle and the Lou Nuer; and it must be emphasized that the previous behavior of the SPLA has entailed very serious violations of human rights and a failure to distinguish between Murle civilians and those Murle who have joined David Yau Yau’s rebellion.

But let us be clear as to why Yau Yau’s group has been able to create the havoc it has, why it has been able to engage in a kind of provocative guerilla warfare that makes distinguishing civilians and combatants particularly difficult, and why it is unlikely to cease action despite the generous offer of amnesty from Juba.  This rebel group, deep in South Sudan’s Jonglei State, has been repeatedly armed by Khartoum as part of a larger effort to destabilize the South.  Armaments have come overland, but also have been airlifted by Khartoum’s Antonov aircraft to Yau Yau.  Again, this effort is an extension of a broader war of attrition that has as its goal the collapse of the state of South Sudan.  Certainly Jonglei would not present nearly the challenges it does without the activities of Yau Yau’s group; and Yau Yau’s group would not be able to operate—without a political agenda and trading almost exclusively on ethnic grievances—without substantial military support from Khartoum.

Despite these facts, international condemnation over developments in Jonglei has fallen almost exclusively on Juba.  I have myself been publicly critical of SPLA human rights abuses in Jonglei (, but would hope such criticism is seen within the broader assessment of the causes of violence against civilians in Jonglei.  That so little is said on this score by the UN, the U.S., the EU, the African Union and others signals both expediency and disingenuousness.

I have discussed at length the evidence that Khartoum is supporting Yau Yau’s group and—by contrast—the complete absence of evidence for the regime’s claim that  South Sudan is supporting rebel groups within Sudan (“The arming of rebels in Sudan and South Sudan: What is the evidence?” 17 June 2013,  I survey a great deal of evidence from recent years, and little has change in the intervening months to change the conclusions reached.

Moreover, a new study by the Small Arms Survey provides even more detailed evidence that armaments used by Yau Yau’s group are purposefully sent by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party in a desperate effort to undermine South Sudan before Sudan’s own continuing economic implosion sweeps this corrupt and desperate regime from power.  Although relatively brief, the detail and authority of the evidence and conclusions is overwhelming. It is also clear that Khartoum has begun an aggressive effort to disguise the origins of weapons by grinding off identifying numbers.  I can do no better than to cite the key findings of this critical report (see website for high resolution photographs; all emphases are added)—

Small Arms Survey, “Weapons Captured from David Yau Yau’s Militia, July 2013″

During the first half of 2013, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces operating in Jonglei seized a variety of weapons and ammunition from rebel forces under the  command of David Yau Yau. The Small Arms Survey previously documented weapons with a group of Yau Yau’s men who defected under the leadership of James Kubrin in December 2012.

This report expands on the findings of the initial fieldwork. The Small Arms Survey and the independent research group Conflict Armament Research visited SPLA divisional headquarters in Paryak, Bor County, on 5 July 2013 to view a range of weapons that the SPLA had captured subsequent to the February site visit. These weapons, which are described below, are identical in type to those documented earlier in the year. They also include many of the same weapon and ammunition types that have been documented in the hands of Khartoum-backed rebel forces elsewhere in South Sudan, including the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A) under the leadership of George Athor, and Johnson Olony’s Shilluk militia.

Among the most striking findings of the July fieldwork in Jonglei was the significant increase in the number of weapons seen with removed serial numbers and factory marks. The most logical explanation for the increase is that actor(s) in the supply chain wish to obscure their sourcing.  These designs are consistent with types observed in the Survey’s February 2013 site visit of weapons. They are also of the same type observed with returning South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) forces in Mayom (May 2013), Johnson Olony’s forces in Lul, Upper Nile (July 2013), those collected from George Athor’s forces (February 2012), and seized from the SSLA in April 2011. In all cases, respective rebel forces report that the weapons have been supplied through Khartoum, though this cannot be independently corroborated. The weapons are similar in design to Iranian RPG-7-pattern models.

The trigger assemblies feature no viable identifying marks although a serial number (formerly positioned on the launch tube above the sight bracket) appears to have been removed by grinding and later painted (see images below). One example of many Chinese CQ assault rifles viewed, with associated 5.56 x 45 mm magazine and ammunition (addressed below). The rear sight housing/carry handle of the weapon has been deformed by a bullet impact. In all cases observed, identifying factory marks—which typically appear on the left-hand side of the magazine housing—have been removed by milling, indicated by the bright metal observable in the images above and below. In the left-hand image below, black paint was evidently applied after milling, although the paint has abraded with use. The weapons, and mode of milling, are identical to examples documented with Yau Yau’s forces (February 2013), returning SSLA forces in Mayom (May 2013), and Johnson Olony’s forces in Lul (July 2013). A number of these rifles were seized in Pibor [Jonglei] in July 2013.

This weapon is identical to PKM-pattern weapons documented in service with a range of Khartoum-backed rebel forces in South Sudan. Weapons of this kind have been identified bearing the model designation ‘M80’ (see HSBA Tracing Desk Report ‘Weapons seized from the forces of George Athor and John Duit,’ December 2012) although this particular weapon’s model designation and additional marks have been removed by grinding (see images below). This 5.56 x 45 mm small-calibre ammunition is identical to types documented with Yau Yau’s forces. [end]

Of an international community that is bringing pressure to bear on Juba over its military actions in Jonglei and failing to take seriously the implications of such authoritative findings—and in turn bringing appropriate pressure to bear on Khartoum—we must say again that this represents shamefully expedient accommodation of a regime that survives only because of its unlimited capacity and willingness to generate vast human destruction.






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Flood victim in Sudan says his house has completely collapsed

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2013

KHARTOUM,  – More than half a million people in 16 of Sudan’s 18 states have been affected by flooding since early August. The worst affected is Khartoum State, where some 36,000 homes are thought to have been destroyed or damaged.

Among those to lose their house is Mohannad Hamdnallah, a 36-year-old construction worker from Marabie al-Shareef in Sharq al-Nile locality, in the east of Khartoum State.

“I was left here alone, as you see, to rebuild the house, because the only assistance we have got so far is a tent from the Red Crescent, and it’s not safe for all of our [12] family members to stay in.

“Our father is getting old. He worked as a labourer, but doesn’t work now because he is diabetic. I am staying here in this tent, along with some of my friends, so as to rebuild the house, which we only built six months ago.

“There is a complete absence of officials, and they only focus on appearing in the media and making promises; we cannot wait for a long time.

“Our house consisted of two bedrooms, a guest room and two latrines; all these have completely collapsed.

“I just got married three months before the floods. My wife and I live together with my family, parents, brothers and sisters.

“I’m a construction worker. Now I’m forced to stop work to rebuild our own house and in the meantime we have no other income.

“We are planning to build one room first so as to be able to complete the rest of the house, but I’m not sure if we can.”

ai/am/cb  source

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Conflicts causing deaths presents another data dilemma for mortality statisticians.

Posted by African Press International on August 18, 2013

BANGKOK, 16 August 2013 (IRIN) – Varied death tolls emerging from Egypt’s latest clashes are a reminder that obtaining mortality statistics in emergencies is still a disputed, complicated and, at times, politicized task. But tallied correctly, researchers say mortality data can b oost aid efficacy and improve funding decisions.

“Funding to save people, in the aftermath, is driven by death tolls,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), noting that death tolls are also a good indicator for survivors who need life-saving assistance.

Unlike mortality data from natural disasters, the number of dead from armed conflict can be used for political purposes and thus become subject to manipulation or misuse, according to CRED, which has maintained an “emergency events” database on the occurrence and effects of more than 18,000 mass disasters worldwide from 1900 to the present.

The politics of numbers

In Egypt’s current political crisis, death tolls have differed wildly depending on the source. In the hours following the forcible clearing of a mass sit-in of Muslim Brotherhood supporters by government forces on 14 August, the Brotherhood’s initial death toll was 500, while state TV said four people had been killed.

The government’s toll has since risen to more than 600 while the opposition’s toll is more than three times as high.

Many of the dead in Egypt were taken to makeshift hospitals run by the Brotherhood movement itself, which made outside verification of the figures difficult. The official death count is based only on bodies that passed through a hospital.


Sudan’s Darfur conflict, which broke out 10 years ago and for which a ceasefire was signed in 2010, has generated a significant debate on death counts. The UN estimates some 300,000 died, while Khartoum puts the number closer to 10,000. In 2006 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published an analysis of mortality estimates from Darfur to examine the methodology behind death tallies.

In Darfur lack of access to some regions of the conflict, inaccurate population data and varied manipulations of baseline mortality rates (death rates in times of non-crisis) led to data shortcomings and disputed death estimates, the analysis concluded.

The US Department of State reported that between March 2003 and January 2005 a total of 98,000 to 181,000 people died, while five other studies produced estimates ranging up to nearly 400,000 people between February 2003 and August 2005. The GAO study judged none of the death tolls accurate, although it noted some estimates were more reliable than others.

A recent analysis (2010) of mortality estimates in Darfur based on retrospective mortality surveys estimated that the overall number of “excess” deaths (those attributable to crisis conditions and not just direct conflict) in Darfur between early 2003 and end of 2008 was some 300,000 people.

However, the authors acknowledged that the limits of data and problems over its interpretation that plagued earlier death tolls, persisted in theirs.


The Syrian conflict presents another data dilemma for mortality statisticians.

In a complex armed conflict as is the case of Syria, fatalities can be at the centre of political controversy with each party to the conflict wanting to downplay civilian deaths.

In August 2011 the UN Human Rights Council established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights and international law violations in Syria. But lack of access hampered the commission’s efforts, whose investigations have been forced to rely primarily on interviews with people in camps and hospitals in countries neighbouring Syria.

“Initially, we adopted a methodology that required one of two things for us to count the casualty, A) our eye-witness actually saw the deceased and knew his/her name or, B) our witness was a family member, and knew that his/her family member was deceased,” said Vic Ullom, legal adviser of the Commission of Inquiry (COI).

“For us, that was an appropriately high bar to get over those accounts that are fabricated or exaggerated. However, we only received a small percentage of the overall numbers of casualties, because we could only interview a small percentage of the refugee population,” he added.

According to the Centre for Documentation of Violations in Syria, an opposition website, the fatalities since the beginning of the conflict number some 69,000 people while the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, run by a Syrian who fled 13 years ago who is now based in the UK, puts the conflict’s casualties closer to 106,000 people. Both networks report on casualties from both sides and say they gather their information from human rights groups and activists in Syria.

However, experts warn that in a conflict like Syria’s, while a reliable network on the ground can provide decent statistics, it can also be challenging.

“They’ve got to be active and mobile, and they themselves [must] have good networks in the area that they cover. Being on the ground during a war, they will be very susceptible to all kinds of pressure, including to manipulate the numbers in favour of their political objectives,” said Ullom of COI, who added that it will be “extremely” difficult for such monitors to have access, but not favour either side.

Standard death toll tallying

In humanitarian emergencies, proper gathering, interpretation and use of mortality data can save lives as this database is the basis on which to plan a humanitarian response, say researchers.

Mortality rate is defined “as the number of deaths occurring in a given population at risk during a specified time period, also known as the recall period”. In emergencies it is usually expressed as deaths per 10,000 persons per day.

Crude mortality rate (CMR) and under five mortality rate (U5MR) are important indicators to assess and monitor the severity of an emergency situation, and are expressed per day.

CMR refers to the number of deaths among all age groups and due to all causes, while U5MR refers to the deaths of children under five years of age, out of 1,000 live births during a specified year.

According to the humanitarian guidelines known as SPHERE standards a CMR or an U5MR that is double the pre-crisis mortality rate indicates a “significant” public health emergency.

But one longstanding challenge of tallying death tolls in armed conflicts is whether to count deaths from “war-related causes”, including starvation due to lack of access to farmland in the line of fire, or from treatable diseases and minor wounds when patients cannot get treatment.

Several efforts have been made to standardize methodologies including the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART), a network of organizations and humanitarian practitioners that has published a protocol for nutrition and mortality assessments.

But getting practitioners on the ground to apply these standards under duress is another matter.

Scarce resources, security concerns hamper data collection

CRED’s Guha-Sapir added: “At this time, there is no agreed-on methodology or even guidelines that could help operational workers who are on the ground to estimate the dead.”

The Harvard Project on monitoring, reporting and fact finding has been researching for the past two years guidelines on a common investigative methodology for mortality statistics. The project targets the work of fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry mandated by the UN and entities such as the European Union.

A major challenge for such missions is they do not compile raw data, but rather, rely on often unreliable casualty statistics compiled by other organizations.

“Commissions of inquiry frequently operate under broad mandates under scarce resource and time constraints,” Rob Grace, program associate at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at the School of Public Health at Harvard University, told IRIN.

“For this reason, they tend to lack the capacity to undertake a comprehensive examination of all incidents that have occurred in the relevant context. Most commissions of inquiry mandated to gather information about violations of human rights endeavour to gather information about certain incidents that are emblematic of the patterns of violations that have occurred. The task of gathering accurate quantitative information about fatalities is not typically included in mandates for commissions of inquiry.”

Security restrictions are another added worry.

“Other challenges involve lack of territorial access in situations in which the host country has not granted the commission on-the-ground access, and ad hoc territorial access restrictions imposed, for example, by armed groups that control territory,” said Grace.

For Guha-Sapir, a systematic review of how governments and organizations, including the Red Cross and UN, calculate their death tolls is crucial.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not conduct mortality surveys during conflict, but rather relies on mortality data from health centres it supports, according to its health unit. For non-conflict mortality data, it relies on national health authorities, local civil society groups, and both national and international NGOs.

“They [governments and organizations] undoubtedly do their best in very chaotic conditions but it is first important to know how they do it. This can give some important insights into what the constraints are and also build from experience,” Guha-Sapir said.

fm/pt/cb  source

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The government of the self-declared republic of Somaliland will stiffen penalties to curb smuggling and human trafficking

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2013

Smugglers are increasingly kidnapping migrant Somaliland youths for ransom

HARGEISA,  – The government of the self-declared republic of Somaliland will stiffen penalties for people smuggling and human trafficking to stem irregular migration, particularly by the region’s youths.

“Of course there is an article in Somaliland’s penal code dealing with this issue, but we think it is not deterrent enough. For this reason, the government plans to pass new laws to prevent human smuggling,” Mohamed Osman Dube, Somaliland’s administrative director in the interior ministry, told IRIN.

At present, Article 457 of Somaliland’s penal code identifies the selling and purchasing of humans as slaves as offences punishable by prison terms of 3 to 12 years. Article 466 further provides for a three-year prison term for those found guilty of engaging in physical abuse, according to Mustafe Mahdi, a Somaliland lawyer.

The new laws are aimed at reducing irregular migration from Somaliland to Ethiopia and onwards to Sudan, Libya and Europe. When passed, they are expected to include tougher punishments for smugglers and to provide ways to rehabilitate youth migrants, added Dube.

While solid figures on people smuggling and human trafficking in Somaliland are not available, in late June, Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Silanyo) nominated a ministerial committee to address the problem, expressing concern over growing youth mass migration and related deaths.

According to a recent survey by the community-based Somaliland Youth Ambition Development Group (SYADG), for example, at least 15 Somaliland youths died in May in the Sahara desert, between Libya and Sudan, either from being shot dead by smugglers or due to the harsh conditions. The 15 were part of a group of 325 youths, from which 31 are still missing, with 83 and 80 others in Libyan and Tunisian prisons, respectively, according to SYADG spokesperson Ahmed Jamal.


Most of the youths migrating from Somaliland have been from poorer families, but those from better-off families are increasingly risking the perilous journey to Europe.

“When I was looking for my son, I received a phone call from a stranger asking me to speak my son. The stranger told me to pay him US$5,000 in smuggling fees. I said, ‘I will look for the money’, but unfortunately, my son was shot dead,” Mohamed Da’ud, the director of planning in Somaliland’s interior ministry, told IRIN.

“My son is among youths who have been killed by smugglers or [who] died in the Sahara after they tried to run away from smugglers.”

According to Wafa Alamin, a human rights activist based in Khartoum, Sudan, “Illegal immigrants are treated like animals by the smugglers in the Sahara, between Sudan and Libya.”

Smugglers are also increasingly kidnapping migrant Somaliland youths for ransom.

“The youths are asked about their parents’ properties and jobs. If the smugglers identify that the family of the person can pay a ransom, they take him or her across the border without any payment only to later force the client to call his or her family to demand a ransom,” explained Abdillahi Hassan Digale, the chairman of the Ubah Social Welfare Organization (USWO).

Abdillahi Omar’s sons are among the smugglers’ victims.

“If the smugglers identify that the family of the person can pay a ransom, they take him or her across the border without any payment only to later force the client to call his or her family to demand a ransom”

“My two sons graduated from high school in 2011 and had no reason to risk their lives,” said Omar. “I sent one of them to university in Ethiopia, but he saved up the money I used to send him to make the risky journey to Libya. On different occasions in Sudan and Libya he was held hostage by smugglers who demanded a ransom, and I spent $14,500 on him. But he is lucky he reached Europe.”

Omar’s other son, the younger one, is now in Libya. “I don’t know what to do. I sold everything I had. My problem is not only being bankrupt but that I don’t know how to bring him back,” he said.

Way forward

The government, civil society and international organizations have been engaging in public awareness campaigns to sensitize the Somaliland population on the dangers of irregular migration.

But more needs to be done.

“Even though a lot of campaigns have been done, [especially] in the last several weeks, and youth migrants have decreased from 15 per day to eight per day, we believe that there are local smugglers connected to other smugglers based in Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya, and we don’t think it will stop soon,” said a Somaliland border immigration official who preferred anonymity.

The high rate of unemployment in Somaliland must be addressed amid an increasing number of university graduates, according to USWO’s Digale. “For this reason, there is a need for interventions by both the government and the local business community, as well as international partners working in Somaliland,” he said.

A past survey by the Somaliland National Youth Organization found about 75 percent of the youths there to be unemployed.

At present, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is implementing a regional mixed migration programme covering Djibouti, Ethiopia, Puntland, Somaliland and Yemen. In mixed migration, refugees, asylum-seekers, economic migrants and even victims of human trafficking use the same routes, means of transport and smuggling networks to reach shared destinations, but with different claims to protection and humanitarian assistance.

“The overall objective of this programme is to strengthen the protection of – and provide emergency assistance to – irregular migrants in Somaliland, Puntland [and] Djibouti, and potential migrants and returnees in Ethiopia, including the assisted voluntary return of the most vulnerable,” said IOM Somalia. Ethiopia is a leading source country of irregular migrants from the Horn of Africa region heading to the Arabian Peninsula.

IOM Somalia is also urging Somaliland to accede to the Palermo protocol, which aims to prevent the smuggling of migrants, promote cooperation among state parties, protect the rights of smuggled migrants, and prevent the worst forms of exploitation, which often characterizes the smuggling process.

On 17 July, Somaliland officials prosecuted 11 people on human smuggling charges. The Gabiley Regional Court “found the 11 men guilty of smuggling youths from Somaliland to Ethiopia en-route to Libya”, said an official with Somaliland’s immigration department. The arrests and prosecutions are the first of their kind in Somailland.

maj/aw/rz  source


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The Killing of Seven UN Peacekeeping Personnel in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on July 23, 2013

All evidence to date strongly suggests that the armed force responsible for the killing of seven Tanzanian members of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a Khartoum-allied militia force led by Hamouda Bashir (seventeen peacekeeping personnel were wounded, some very seriously).  Radio Dabanga reports today (July 18, 2013), on the basis of a series of interviews with witnesses on the ground, the following (all emphases have been added; there are a few very small edits for clarity, chiefly punctuation):


• The UN says the identity of the armed group that ambushed a UNAMID patrol in South Darfur on Saturday morning “has not yet been established”; however, witnesses have told Radio Dabanga that “UN vehicles” were spotted in the area being driven by members of a known government militia.

• During his daily press briefing in New York on Monday, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky…said that “the peacekeepers were attacked when they were undertaking a routine confidence-building patrol. The peacekeepers were outnumbered four to one by their attackers who numbered between 100 and 150.  [The attackers] had trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Nesirky said the “the UN is conducting its own investigations and calls on the Government of Sudan to identify and bring to account those responsible.”

• Various witnesses from South Darfur have reported to Radio Dabanga that “two UN cars were spotted on Saturday being driven by members of the government Central Police Reserve, nicknamed Abu Tira.”

• “The soldiers driving the cars were dressed in uniforms with the distinctive ‘eagle insignia’ on their shoulder,” they said. Apparently, the vehicles had “at least five uniformed members of the Central Police Forces of Sudan on each side of the back.”

• Observers say that the vehicles were driven from Hamada Forest (Khaba Hamada), through the area of Manawashi, across the bridge of Musko (Wadi Abu Hamra) in the direction of Shengil Tobaya. “When they reached Shengil Tobaya, they turned west towards one of militia’s bases in Jebel Afara, just cross the border in North Darfur.” The UN vehicles are now reportedly parked in the fenced base in Jebel Afara. The witnesses also confirmed that “nine Abu Tira vehicles” were at the market of Manawashi early on Saturday early morning to buy food. [The UN reported] that about ten vehicles were involved in the attack on the Tanzanian force—ER]

• “They bought meat before driving off in the direction of the Hamada Forest, a bush area that lies a few kilometres off the main road connection between El Fasher and Nyala.”

• Over the past few days, several people have reported in detail to Radio Dabanga that the local Abu Tira commander, Hamouda Bashir, was recognised.  Bashir is the right-hand man of Ali Kushayb, one of the main commanders of the Abu Tira [and who] has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes.

• The local population of the villages who testify to the presence of Abu Tira on Saturday morning mainly consist of Arab tribes and people from the Birgid, Barno and Tama tribes. They confirmed to Radio Dabanga that no SLA-MM troops were present.

Only several furgan (tent encampments) of traditional nomad camel caravans of the three main Arab tribes of Irigat, Awlad Beni Mansour, and Itifad roam this area.

• UNAMID has confirmed that the ambush occurred about 25 kilometres north/northwest of the Mission’s Khor Abeche base [i.e. a few kilometers off the main Nyala/el-Fasher road (see above)—ER]. “The UNAMID patrol was a relatively small one. It was ambushed by a large group, so we were completely outnumbered. We came under heavy fire from machine guns and possibly from rocket-propelled grenades,” a spokesman told Radio Dabanga. Several UNAMID vehicles, including armoured patrol vehicles and Land Cruisers had to be towed from the scene. The wheels of the patrol vehicles were all blown.


This account comports with previous reports I have received from the region, which have made the same claims about responsibility for the attack.  And yet the story of this outrageous crime is about to disappear into the abyss of UN expediency.  For the simple fact is that neither the UN nor the AU has any interest in an investigation that clearly establishes Khartoum’s responsibility.  For all the vigorous rhetoric that has come from various UN officials and others, it is merely rhetoric (an exception may be Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete).  Past behavior makes clear that neither element of the UNAMID “hybrid”—the UN and the AU—has any stomach for confronting Khartoum.  This was made especially clear following the deadly attack on a UNAMID convoy traveling to Hashaba in North Darfur last October, a mission that had as its task the investigation of a civilian massacre in the Hashaba area.  The attack was clearly the work of Khartoum-allied militia, as a great deal of evidence made clear (see “Violence in Hashaba, North Darfur: A brutal portent, another UN disgrace” at  To date, there has been no assignation of responsibility, and the rhetoric of the moment has proved entirely empty. 

There is a compelling historical precedent here.  For the same failure to assign responsibility for a deadly attack defined the response of the UN Secretariat and Security Council following an extraordinarily fierce attack on a UNAMID patrol on July 8, 2008 by what were clearly Khartoum-allied militia forces.  During a three-hour fire-fight near the village Umm Hakibah, North Darfur (approximately 100 kilometers southeast of el-Fasher), seven UNAMID personnel were killed and 22 wounded, some critically (see  This remains the highest casualty total among the many attacks on UNAMID over the past five and a half years.  The head of the UN peacekeeping at the time, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, was explicit about responsibility in his July 11, 2008 briefing of the Security Council (we have had nothing comparable from the current head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous):

[1] Guéhenno told the Security Council that the attack on UN-authorized peacekeepers “took place in an area under Sudanese government control and that some of the assailants were dressed in clothing similar to Sudanese army uniforms. He also said the ambush was ‘pre-meditated and well-organized’ and was intended to inflict casualties rather than to steal equipment or vehicles” (Voice of America [UN/New York], July 11, 2008). The peacekeepers who were attacked reported seeing approximately 200 fighters, many on horses—a signature feature of the Janjaweed (often translated as “devil [or spirit] on horseback”).

[2] Agence France-Presse reported: “Guéhenno was quoted as saying that the ambush was designed ‘to inflict casualties’ and was carried out with ‘equipment usually not used by (rebel) militias'” (UN/New York], July 11, 2008). Separately and confidentially, a UN official went further in confirming to me that some of the arms used, including large-caliber recoilless rifles, have never been seen in the arsenals of the rebel groups. This official said that Guéhenno, who is retiring, had rarely been so explicit in assigning responsibility for attacks in Darfur.

There was additional conviction that the Janjaweed—armed and in this case almost certainly directed by Khartoum’s military command—were responsible for this attack on 61 Rwandan soldiers, 10 civilian police officers, and two military observers, who were returning to their el-Fasher base after investigating the killing of two civilians:

[3] Agence France-Presse reports from Khartoum on the views of UN and African Union officials on the ground in Darfur: “Officials in the African Union and UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, said on Wednesday [July 9, 2008] that suspected Janjaweed militia, who have fought with the state [i.e., Government of Sudan], were behind the attack that killed seven peacekeepers” (July 10, 2008).

Why, then, is this UN-authorized peacekeeping force so intimidated by Khartoum?  Why has the regime not been directly confronted over these brutal, criminal attacks?  For the same reason that the UN has deferred on so many other occasions to sensibilities of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party: because a direct accusation of Khartoum would likely prompt a crisis in which the regime, particularly the more militaristic elements, would demand that UNAMID withdraw.  And with an environment that had suddenly become “non-consensual,” UN instincts would almost certainly be to use this as an excuse for abandoning a mission that has failed and has been targeted for “draw-down” on the basis of supposedly improved security “conditions on the ground” (this was Ladsous’ assessment this past April).

This in turn would almost certainly lead to wholesale withdrawal by international non-governmental humanitarian organizations, and UN security regulations would restrict all UN agencies to exceedingly small areas of Darfur.  Nearly all the displaced persons camps would be beyond reach.  Without strong support from international actors such as the U.S., the EU, and individual African nations, this scenario would play out with a grim relentlessness.

This is why the UN and AU—despite the rhetoric—wish for nothing so much as that this story disappear and that some suitably ambiguous report be accepted as “definitive.”  Its most likely form will be to acknowledge the fact of Khartoum’s claiming that the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/MM) is responsible—but that there is “other evidence” on the ground that contradicts this claim.  The language of the report (if in fact one is issued) will be as irresolute, as ambiguous, and as non-confrontational as possible.

This is the UN and AU tribute to the courage of the seven Tanzanian personnel who lost their lives, and the seventeen who were wounded in the attack of July 13, 2013.


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“Sudan’s Third Civil War: In Medias Res,” Dissent Magazine, July 10, 2013

Posted by African Press International on July 10, 2013

      By Eric Reeves

In December 2011 I wrote for Dissent about “the early history of Sudan’s third civil war.” Some judged my comments gratuitously pessimistic, others shared my concerns (if more privately), and still others worried about self-fulfilling prophecies. But in fact the war had already begun, battle lines were taking shape, and on at least two subsequent occasions Sudan and newly independent South Sudan came perilously close to renewed all-out war. An incident in April 2012 in the highly volatile oil region along the border between Unity State (South Sudan) and South Kordofan (Sudan) led to major fighting between the Khartoum regime’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). For over a month violence flared, including Khartoum’s repeated, indiscriminate aerial attacks on Bentiu, capital city of Unity (the South has no meaningful military air force).

But the actors in this third civil war are not simply on two sides, except insofar as all armed movements in greater Sudan have the Khartoum regime, as well as its SAF and security services, as their target. This has resulted in a loose and probably untenable alignment of forces known as the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF); it includes the increasingly potent Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N, based primarily in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan); it also includes several Darfuri rebel movements, most notably the well-armed Justice and Equality Movement and factions of the Sudan Liberation Army. The geography of conflict has greatly expanded, and the SRF attacked a major town (Umm Rawaba) in North Kordofan this past April, a northern state that had heretofore seen no fighting. A rebel force in eastern Sudan has also made cause with the SRF.

Heightening military tensions is Khartoum’s decision to halt the flow of oil from land-locked South Sudan to Port Sudan in the north, denying both economies desperately needed foreign exchange currency. Hyperinflation is poised to strike, although its consequences for the more developed, import-dependent, and integrated northern economy may well be greater than in the south. A range of other agreements between Khartoum and Juba, the capital of South Sudan, have come to nothing, including the most recent agreement (made in March) to resume oil transit.

It is difficult to find evidence of progress anywhere in greater Sudan since South Sudan became independent in July 2011; African Union (AU) mediators dutifully present various “agreements” that Khartoum refuses to sign, or signs and then violates; there is no effective international support for negotiations. An agreement to permit critical humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile—proposed in February 2012 by not only the AU but the UN and the Arab League—has gone nowhere: the SPLM/A-N signed on almost immediately, but Khartoum has dithered, reneged, and finally declared the agreement “superseded.” Meanwhile, more than 1 million people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are in increasingly desperate condition; hundreds of thousands have suffered acute malnutrition for almost two years, and more than two hundred thousand have fled to refugee camps in South Sudan, often in locations that are poorly situated for water and sanitation. Tens of thousands of civilians from Blue Nile have fled to Ethiopia.


The situation in Darfur—until very recently almost totally absent from news coverage of the region—is especially shameful, given the appalling conditions that have prevailed so long within the displaced persons camps, the steep rise in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, and the escalating violence and insecurity. Relief organizations are withdrawing expatriate workers and suspending many operations. UN and nongovernmental organizations are increasingly restricted by both Khartoum’s Military Intelligence and expanding violence. The UN/AU “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has failed abysmally. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations—already vastly overstretched and funding three separate peacekeeping forces in greater Sudan—is looking to draw down UNAMID, but rather than speak honestly about its failure, the UN has made the disingenuous claim that “circumstances on the ground” permit such a withdrawal of forces. This at least was the judgment of Hervé Ladsous, head of UN peacekeeping—a judgment he now refuses to defend publicly.

International journalists have been almost completely excluded from Darfur for many years, as have independent human rights investigators. According to humanitarians on the ground, Khartoum has made of Darfur a “black box genocide.” There has been only one significant dateline from rural Darfur in several years, a story by the New York Times in February 2012; it declared on the basis of a single, tightly controlled visit to a “Potemkin Village” in West Darfur that “peace had settled on the region.” So-called “returns” of refugees and IDPs were a “sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.” In fact, every available indicator of human security and well-being was, in aggregate, deteriorating, and the level of violence in various regions accelerated sharply. “Returns”—nominally safe and voluntary—have mostly been neither.

Violence has ebbed and flowed in Darfur for more than ten years now. A dramatic surge began following the December 2010 defection from Khartoum by Minni Minawi, the only Darfuri signatory to the ill-fated 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement; the authoritative Small Arms Survey (Geneva), on the basis of courageous and detailed ground-based research, reported an escalation of violence against the (non-Arab) Zaghawa, the tribal group from which Minawi came. In the latter half of 2012, violence exploded in North Darfur, particularly near the Jebel Amir region, which has significant gold mines. The regime, desperate for a source of foreign exchange to buy parts and supplies from abroad, gave free rein to the Aballa tribal groups from which the Janjaweed, infamous for carrying out attacks in Darfur in the first decade of the twenty-first century, had been so heavily drawn. This meant attacking the Beni Hussein, the Arab group within whose administrative area Jebel Amir lies. The fighting killed hundreds, perhaps thousands—including a number of UN peacekeepers traveling to Hashaba town, site of reported mass killings by Khartoum’s forces. Peacekeepers themselves were clearly targeted by Khartoum in order to forestall such an investigation.

Militias have became increasingly aggressive, especially the notorious Abu Tira—nominally the “Central Reserve Police,” but now little more than a semi-autonomous fighting force that has attacked and extorted IDP camps and sexually assaulted countless women and girls. An even greater problem is seizure of the lands of African farmers by Arab militias and armed groups—some clearly from Chad, Niger, and Central African Republic. Farmers attempting to return are violently warned off or simply killed; women working their former lands have been raped and killed. The “returnees” that the UN celebrates are constantly being forced to return to IDP camps.

Moreover, figures for new displacement in Darfur dwarf even the most optimistic UN/UNAMID estimates for returnees. UN data, supplemented by that of NGOs, provide strong evidence that more than 1.5 million people have been newly displaced since January 1, 2008, when UNAMID officially took up its mandate. The head of UN humanitarian operations was recently obliged to report that 300,000 Darfuris had been newly displaced between January and mid-May of this year alone. The refugee surge into Chad is again growing: the figure had remained at approximately 280,000 for a number of years, but in the past half year 50,000 more people have fled to Chad, according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières—nearly all in desperate condition.

Human Rights Watch reported on June 18 satellite photographic confirmation of Janjaweed attacks on villages in South Darfur—attacks led by Ali Kushayb, the Janjaweed “colonel of colonels” indicted by the International Criminal Court for massive crimes against humanity:

Satellite images confirm the wholesale destruction of villages in Central [formerly South] Darfur in an attack in April 2013 by a militia leader sought by the International Criminal Court….The images show the town of Abu Jeradil and surrounding villages in Central Darfur state almost completely burned down….Villagers who fled the area told Human Rights Watch in May that Sudanese government forces, including the militia leader Ali Kosheib, had attacked the area. More than 42 villagers are believed to have been killed and 2,800 buildings destroyed.

Darfur teeters on the edge of a complete humanitarian collapse and uncontrollable violence. Rebel fighters have recently gained the upper hand in many areas of fighting, and the callous leaders in Khartoum seem willing to let Darfur sink into destructive chaos, so long as gold from Jebel Amir continues to make its way to the capital.


Satellite photography has also revealed a great deal about Khartoum’s conduct of war in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the latter the most inaccessible of the three contested areas between north and south (including Abyei). According to an important report recently released by Amnesty International,

New satellite imagery and eyewitness testimonies from rebel-held areas in Sudan’s Blue Nile State show that Sudanese military forces have resorted to brutal scorched earth tactics to drive out the civilian population….“We had no time to bury them”: War crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State documents how bombings and ground attacks by Sudanese military forces have destroyed entire villages, left many dead and injured, and forced tens of thousands to flee—with many now facing starvation, disease and exhaustion.

None of this should be surprising, given Khartoum’s May 2011 military seizure of Abyei, now the most dangerous flash-point for renewed war along the entire north/south border. The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) provided detailed satellite photography showing a steady build-up by the SAF and its Misseriya Arab allies over several months in early 2011. The scale of destruction in Abyei town was also made clear by follow-up satellite images.

Subsequent photography indicated that South Kordofan would be the next site of major violence, and on June 5, 2011 the SAF struck again. The nature of this assault was immediately apparent, and clear patterns emerged in early reports. Human Rights Watch confirmed that Khartoum’s regular military and militia were undertaking a campaign of house-to-house roundups of Nuba (African) civilians in the capital city of Kadugli. Many of these people were hauled away in cattle trucks or summarily executed; dead bodies littered the streets of Kadugli. Nuba were also stopped at checkpoints grimly similar to those in Rwanda; those suspected of SPLM/N or “southern” political sympathies were arrested or shot. One aid worker who escaped from South Kordofan in the first weeks reported on militia forces patrolling further from Kadugli: “Those [Nuba] coming in are saying, ‘Whenever they see you are a black person, they kill you.’” Another Nuba aid worker reports that an Arab militia leader’s orders were “to just clear.”

Charges of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” were coming ever more insistently from Nuba civilians, observers on the ground, and church groups with strong ties to the region. News reports confirmed that some 7,000 Nuba had been moved forcibly by Khartoum’s security services (disguised as Red Crescent workers) from the UN security perimeter in Kadugli to a soccer stadium; they were never heard from again. Mass graves were later confirmed both by UN human rights reporters who had observed events from the ground in June 2011 and by satellite photography from SSP.

At the same time, Khartoum renewed its blockade of humanitarian assistance to the people of the Nuba, hundreds of thousands of whom had already fled into the mountainsides. Two years later the blockade continues in the Nuba Mountains and rebel-controlled areas of Blue Nile. In Darfur and these two areas, Khartoum is denying adequate food, water, and medical care to more than 3 million people. Moreover, bombing of civilians and civilian agriculture has largely destroyed the last two harvests in both the Nuba and Blue Nile; malnutrition indicators long ago reached the emergency level; children and the elderly have begun to die, and many more will die soon. The trip to precarious safety in South Sudan is too arduous for many, and many more will not leave family members to starve alone.


As these events unfolded, the Obama administration has been engaged primarily in diplomatic damage control. Policy has focused on the realization of southern independence at the expense of other issues, including critical and unresolved implementation disputes arising from the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The administration has essentially abandoned Darfur—“de-coupled” was the word chosen by a senior administration official. It has remained largely mute on the military takeover of Abyei, and initially refused to credit reports of genocide in the Nuba Mountains.

On PBS’s NewsHour in 2011, Obama’s special envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman scoffed at the idea that the Nuba Mountains might become “another Darfur”: “Nuba Mountain people are fighting back and I don’t think the North is capable of dislodging large numbers of people on an ethnic basis….That’s the reality on the ground. Second, I’m not sure that’s the objective of the government….” Two years later, we know that Khartoum is not only destroying the civilian base of support for the SPLM/A-N, but doing so deliberately. The same is true in Blue Nile. The SPLM/A-N have no weapons that can defend against high-flying Antonov cargo planes, which need aim only at sorghum fields to be effective (they have no militarily useful bombing precision).

A second comment by Lyman has proved more dangerous. When asked in a December 2011 interview with the important pan-Arab news outlet, Asharq al-Awsat, about whether the United States would welcome the Arab Spring in Sudan, Lyman declared, “This is not part of our agenda in Sudan. Frankly, we do not want to see the ouster of the regime, or regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.”

But all true democratic forces—in Sudan and in exile—are committed to regime change, including those who insist that the change must be effected by nonviolent means. Lyman made clear that this broad-based democratic ambition is not consistent with U.S. goals and policy. Did he really believe that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime could preside over the “democratic” transformation of Sudan via “constitutional measures”? After twenty-four years of ruthless and comprehensive tyranny, the idea is preposterous.

Sudanese overwhelmingly want regime change, while a repressive security apparatus keeps the current cabal in power. But its survival also depends upon acquiescing before the decisions of key hardline generals—concerning the seizure of Abyei, the refusal to negotiate with the SPLM-N or allow for humanitarian access in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the abandonment of Darfur to chaos and increasing destruction, and—in an act of economic self-destruction—halting the transit of oil from the south to Port Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir has survived by siding with the most ruthless and militaristic elements in the regime (see my 2011 Dissent post “Creeping Coup in Khartoum”).

No real or just peace can emerge from negotiations with such a regime, as evidenced by the feckless efforts of the AU and the absence of unified international commitment. In the case of the Obama administration, the reasons for keeping the regime intact are all too clear: Khartoum’s putative provision of counterterrorism intelligence. The U.S intelligence community clearly puts tremendous value on the new embassy in Khartoum as a listening post (it was completed in 2010). Although we have no ambassador to Sudan, we do have a $175 million embassy, with nine buildings and more than 200 staff—and that’s before “top-shelf” spying equipment and personnel had been moved in.

Former Senator Russ Feingold, while chair of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was ideally positioned to assess the price we were paying for intelligence from Khartoum. In May 2009, he said:

I take serious issue with the way the report [on international terrorism by the U.S. State Department] overstates the level of cooperation in our counterterrorism relationship. A more accurate assessment is important not only for effectively countering terrorism in the region, but as part of a review of our overall policy toward Sudan.

For those wondering why U.S. policy toward Sudan has been so ineffective during the Obama years, why special envoys have been so inept and disingenuous, why so little has been said about ongoing atrocity crimes and genocide, and why Khartoum feels no need to abide by agreements it has signed, Senator Feingold’s comment provides the most authoritative glimpse at what is done—and ignored—in the name of “national security.”

Eric Reeves is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide and Compromising with Evil:  An Archival History of Greater Sudan, 2007—2012.




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Lives being destroyed inBlue Nile State, Sudan – AU and the UN expected lead by example

Posted by African Press International on June 13, 2013

Lives destroyed (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – The UN and the African Union must step forward and take decisive action to stop Sudan from committing war crimes against civilians in Blue Nile State, says a new Amnesty International report, dismissed as “false” by Khartoum.

“There has been no acknowledgement by the [UN] Security Council of the fact that Sudan is carrying out indiscriminate aerial bombardment. They need to press Sudan to stop,” Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher, told IRIN.

He said the international community had a responsibility to press Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has indicted President Omar al Bashir and six others over crimes committed in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.


“Much of what we are seeing in Blue Nile and South Kordofan follows a similar pattern to the Darfur conflict and Sudan’s decades-long conflict with South Sudan. The people responsible for government policy in those conflicts – President Bashir, Defence Minister Abdel Rahman Hussein and Ahmad Harun, who is now [the] Southern Kordofan governor – are still in charge, and unless the ICC’s arrest warrants are implemented, there is little deterrence for present crimes,” he said.

The conflict in Blue Nile State is closely linked to – and started soon after – the 2011 conflict in South Kordofan between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudanese government. The SPLM-N objects to the marginalization of the region’s people and delays in “popular consultations” to determine the future of the two states; these consultations had been agreed to in 2005 under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement(CPA).

More than 200,000 people from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have fled into South Sudan and Ethiopia, according to the UN. The fighting has displaced or severely affected some 275,000 people in government-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and another 420,000 in rebel-held areas, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Amnesty’s new report – “We had no time to bury them”: War Crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State – contains new satellite imagery and eyewitness testimonies from rebel-held areas of the state that allegedly prove that the Sudanese Armed Forces has used scorched-earth tactics to expel the civilian population.

Scorched earth tactics

“The Ingessana Hills, the birthplace of rebel leader Malik Agar, have been particularly hard hit. During the first half of 2012, the Sudanese government carried out a deliberate scorched earth campaign of shelling, bombing and burning down civilian villages in the area, and forcibly displacing many thousands of people. Some civilians who were unable to escape were burned alive in their homes; others were reportedly shot dead,” the report states, adding that “now, the only signs of life in these villages are Sudanese military positions”.

Amnesty urged the Sudanese government to “immediately cease indiscriminate aerial bombings and deliberate ground attacks on civilian areas” and “initiate prompt, effective and impartial investigations into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

In a statement to the government-run Sudan News Agency, SAF spokesperson Col Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad said Amnesty’s allegations were “false and lacking evidence”.

The statement said the “reality of the situation on the ground” contradicted Amnesty’s report, which it said was geographically inaccurate, out of date and lacking in “scene of the crime” evidence.

This was because “there was no scene of the alleged crime” the statement cited Saad as saying, adding that the Sudanese military had in fact provided security to citizens and farmers in Blue Nile to protect their harvests.

Rebel-held areas are cut off from humanitarians (file photo)

Media reports indicated that on 11 June, Sudan’s oil ministry ordered oil companies to block the export flow of South Sudanese oil on orders from al-Bashir over South Sudan’s alleged support of the SPLM-N. The government of South Sudan denies any support to the rebels.

Matthew Leriche, a Sudan expert who visited Blue Nile in December 2012 and says he found civilians there “living in constant fear”.

“The most apparent [crime] is the use of what is essentially a terror campaign to freeze the population and render them unable to take care of the basics of daily life. This terror campaign is causing persistent hunger and suffering and has been the direct cause of displacement of populations and prevented people from returning to their homes,” he told IRIN in an email. “This massive displacement appears to be a clear tactic, that is to clear any peoples in any way connected to opposition groups from Sudan.”

He added: “The rudimentary nature of these aerial bombers – basically rolling makeshift explosive devices out the back – means the targeting must be of a general nature. That is to say, they are dropping them on populated areas and any areas with any buildings; this means schools, markets, and such. This kind of indiscriminate attack is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

Amnesty’s Gallopin said they had noted some violations by SPLM-N, especially the use of refugee camps to forcibly recruit men into their ranks and to divert food aid, but “the scale of the crimes committed by the Sudanese government can be considered war crimes and might be crimes against humanity”.

In May, Valerie Amos, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, said she hoped direct talks between the government and the SPLM-N would “resume soon and that they will lead to a resolution of the conflict so that people can return to their homes and start to rebuild their lives”.

Demanding peace, access

Leriche says the AU and UN should demand that Khartoum abide by its existing obligations under the CPA. “There was a clear agreement that has been consistently flouted by the government in Khartoum. As key guarantors of the CPA, the UN and AU need to press Khartoum to stop accosting and terrorizing its own people,” he said.

“A transformation of the state, as the CPA should have brought about, is what is needed for there to be real peace. The various opposition political parties and groups have to be allowed to be a part of the power structure in Khartoum, and people need to be allowed to live without consistent attack and harassment,” he added. “As a minimum starting point, the government should allow humanitarian access not just to areas it controls but to the entire state.”

As the conflict continues, hundreds of thousands of civilians remain without access to humanitarian support. An August 2012 Memorandum of Understanding among the Khartoum government, the SPLM-N, and a tripartite mediation group of the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States and the UN failed to secure safe passage of relief supplies to areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile controlled by the rebels.

The Amnesty report noted that in the interim, and as a matter of urgency, UN agencies and international agencies needed to be allowed access to civilian populations in need in all areas of Blue Nile “to facilitate the provision of all necessary assistance to civilians affected by the conflict, including food, shelter and medical care”.

kr/aei/rz source


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Taking Human Displacement in Darfur Seriously

Posted by African Press International on June 5, 2013


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: ]

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; 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;

• 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;  

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. 

• 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.” (

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 (  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 (  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  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

• Updated, August 31, 2012, with a critical examination of UN statistical methodology:

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 (

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:





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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. 





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Killing UN Peacekeepers: A Ruthless Proclivity of Khartoum’s SAF, Militia Proxies

Posted by African Press International on May 11, 2013

  • By Eric Reeves, 9 May 2013, USA

The recent (May 4, 2013) deaths of two UN peacekeepers in Abyei have a chilling familiarity, though to this point there has been no firm establishment of responsibility. Familiar also are the formulaic declarations of outrage coming from various quarters when UN peacekeepers are killed in greater Sudan. There are three large peacekeeping missions there—operating at tremendous expense, and limiting peacekeeping capacity throughout the world. Two of these peacekeeping missions have experienced serious losses because of actions on the part of the Khartoum regime’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and its militia and paramilitary proxies, typically armed and directed by the SAF and the security apparatus in Khartoum, especially Military intelligence (MI).

The SAF has not been especially discreet in making its contempt for UN peacekeepers known. On August 2, 2011 SAF officers, with brutal callousness, denied medical evacuation to three mortally wounded Ethiopian peacekeepers in Abyei (see below). And in Darfur the threats against the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) have been constant and extremely serious. Reuters reports, for example, on one such instance from January 2011:

“UNAMID spokesman Kemal Saiki confirmed the bombing was by ‘the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) air force.’ Later on Wednesday [January 26, 2011], a group of 200 Sudanese government soldiers in 40 vehicles arrived at UNAMID’s camp in the nearby settlement of Shangil Tobay [North Darfur], UNAMID said. ‘(The soldiers) surrounded the team site’s exit as well as the adjacent makeshift camp, where thousands of civilians recently displaced by the December 2010 clashes have settled,’ read the statement. The Sudanese army detained four displaced people at the camp, said UNAMID. ‘The SAF commander at the scene … then threatened to burn down the makeshift camp and UNAMID team site, if the peacekeepers continued to interfere.'” (Reuters [Khartoum], January 27, 2011)

By “interference,” of course, Khartoum and its SAF meant UNAMID’s fulfilling the mandate of its mission, authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1769 (July 2007).

What we know

The present account offers a brief history of those incidents in which Khartoum’s responsibility for the killing of UN peacekeepers has been well established.

[ The three UN peacekeeping missions in greater Sudan are:

• UNAMID (UN/African Union Mission in Darfur), established in July 2007 by Security Council Resolution 1769; it was formed initially from its virtually impotent predecessor force, the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS);

• UNMISS (the UN Mission in South Sudan), successor to the woefully infective UNMIS (UN Mission in Sudan); UNMISS was authorized in July 2011 by UN Security Council Resolution 1996;

UNISFA (the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei), deployed to Abyei following military seizure of the regime by Khartoum in May 2011; it comprises an Ethiopian armed brigade, and was authorized in June 2011 by UN Security Council Res. 1990 ]

• Deaths of UNISFA peacekeepers May 4, 2013—Abyei:

The details of the recent killing of two Ethiopian peacekeepers in Abyei, along with Paramount Chief of the Dinka Ngok, Kuol Deng Kuol, are not fully clear (an Appendix provides relevant excerpts from newswire reports and other accounts). But the details as rendered by various parties strongly suggest that some leaders of the Arab Misseriya militia forces, likely at Khartoum’s suggestion or encouragement, deliberately provoked an armed confrontation that resulted in the killings. Certainly the killing of Paramount Chief Kuol creates an immediate political crisis in South Sudan and has the effect of making immensely more difficult any peaceful resolution of the ongoing Abyei crisis. This has been Khartoum’s goal since the Abyei self-determination was aborted—a decision announced by senior presidential advisor Nafie Ali Nafie, now headed to the U.S. (see

Khartoum seized Abyei militarily in May 2011; this followed the regime’s conspicuous and well-documented military build-up in the areas abutting Abyei—as well as inside the region—over the preceding months. Although UNISFA deployed subsequently—an Ethiopian armed brigade—it has been unable to secure the region sufficiently for the indigenous Dinka Ngok to return. Virtually the entire population—some 110,000 civilians—had fled to various locations in South Sudan following Khartoum’s May 2011 military seizure. That military action created a de facto annexation of Abyei, and Khartoum has regularly declared that “Abyei has always been part of the north,” thus defying the terms of the Abyei Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005). Moreover, the June 2011 UN/AU-brokered agreement between Juba and Khartoum on an interim administration of Abyei has provided yet another example of contemptuous reneging by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime.

The military seizure of Abyei was accomplished using both regular SAF forces and Misseriya militia allies. The latter remain and serve as a highly threatening military presence, deterring the vast majority of Dinka Ngok from returning, certainly to areas north of Abyei town (which is in the south of Abyei and very close to the Warrap state in South Sudan). The Misseriya have been heavily armed and some of its political leaders have been seduced by Khartoum’s propaganda or money—or both. What is clear is that some Misseriya leaders do not want a resolution of the Abyei crisis on the terms formally proposed by African Union diplomats, terms fully endorsed by the African Union Peace and Security Council. There could be no more effective way of short-circuiting further negotiations than killing Kuol Deng Kuol.

Beyond the death of a good man critical to any settlement of the Abyei crisis, there have been many recent instances of killings, village burnings, and lootings in Abyei. In responding to the death of Kuol Deng Kuol, Foreign Affairs minister Nhial Deng declared:

“‘The killing of [the] chief was not just an incident. It was preceded by reports of regular killings in the area. The list of those who have been killed has been filed and the United Nations has the details and we believe the killing of the chief will not be taken lightly nor [do] we expect the international community to consider [Kuol’s death] a normal thing or usual business … We hold the government of Sudan responsible because those who killed the chief are under the control of the government of Sudan. They are no stranger to Sudan,’ he added.”

The weakness of the UN in responding to such incidents, implicating the Khartoum regime, has for many years been contemptible. Despite the strong words from Nhial Deng, little is likely to change—and when it suits its purposes, the Khartoum regime will again kill or allow for the deaths of UN peacekeepers.

• Refusal to allow the medevac of critically wounded UNISFA peacekeepers, August 2, 2011—Abyei:

An incident of August 2, 2011 is revealing of Khartoum’s contempt for the lives of UN peacekeepers. On that date the SAF refused to allow for the urgent medical evacuation (medevac) of three mortally wounded UNISFA peacekeepers in Abyei (their vehicle had run over a mine). Despite repeated attempts to secure permission from the SAF in Kadugli (South Kordofan) for helicopter evacuation, the UN was rebuffed on each occasion until it had become too late. One of the mortally wounded soldiers would have likely survived if he had reached Kadugli in timely fashion. Alain Le Roy, then head of UN peacekeeping, declared bluntly that, “We didn’t get the clearance for the Medevac helicopter to take off immediately. They [Khartoum’s SAF] prevented us to take off by threatening to shoot at the helicopter.”

“They [Khartoum’s SAF] prevented us to take off by threatening to shoot at the helicopter.” This extraordinary refusal should have been the occasion for consequential outrage; it was not, even as there could hardly be a more revealing moment in the recent history of peacekeeping in greater Sudan.

• Attack on heavily armed UNAMID convoy, October 17, 2012—traveling to Hashaba, North Darfur (scene of major atrocity crimes involving SAF and militia forces):

The village of Hashaba North and its environs (approximately 55 kilometers northeast of Kutum in North Darfur) was attacked from September 26 through October 2, 2012 by what were repeatedly described—by eyewitnesses—as Arab militia forces and SAF aerial military assets. Very high civilian casualties figures were soon reported by Radio Dabanga (“between 250 and 300 people,” October 4, 2012), along with repeated descriptions of the attackers on the ground as belonging to “pro-government militias.” Many thousands of civilians were newly displaced at the time, and total displacement in North Darfur alone since August is now well over 100,000 civilians.

Even more disturbing and significant, however, was a subsequent attack on the follow-up investigation, an unusually robust UNAMID investigative patrol comprising 16 vehicles in all. On October 17, 2012 a very heavily armed militia group—which had carefully anticipated the route of the UNAMID convoy traveling to North Hashaba from Kutum—fired from high ground down upon the vulnerable UNAMID forces. UNAMID returned fire, but faced very intimidating weaponry and was at an overwhelming tactical disadvantage; with the killing of one UNAMID soldier and the wounding of three others (one critically), the force retreated back to Kutum. The South African soldier killed was the 43rd to die in UNAMID.

The character of the weapons used in the attack on UNAMID forces was reported in revealing and unusually detailed fashion (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], October 22, 2012):

“‘[The attackers] used arsenals of high-calibre weapons that were never used before,’ UNAMID spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri said in a written reply to AFP questions. ‘This includes mortars, medium machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47 rifles, and anti-tank guns.'”

Edmond Mulet, deputy head of UN peacekeeping operations, later declared in an October 24 briefing of the UN Security Council that the attacking force used heavy machine guns,” a fearsomely destructive weapon when fired with the advantage of significantly higher ground position.

This was no ordinary militia assault: it was immediately clear that the UNAMID convoy was attacked, on the basis of advance intelligence, in order to prevent the investigation of atrocity crimes reported from Hashaba. Indeed, although the UN merely hinted at this reality, I am aware of no analyst not connected with the UN or UNAMID who has disputed this conclusion or offered a plausible alternative explanation. UNAMID declared that it would proceed with a subsequent mission to investigate the crimes at Hashaba; in the event, however, this did not occur within a reasonable time-frame. As on countless previous occasions, after Khartoum’s proxies finish sanitizing the site there was little left in the way of evidence from the attacks of late September/early October.

Further, this attack on the UN must be seen in light of the regime’s repeated, utterly false claims about human security in Darfur, viz. that there is no major fighting in Darfur and that civilians are secure and able to return safely to their homes and lands. In the words of Deputy Governor of North Darfur, al-Fateh Abdel Aziz Abdel Nabi, uttered on the day the UNAMID force was attacked:

“‘[T]here is very good improvement in the security situation’ compared with its peak in 2004, he said, with incidents limited to Kutum and Mellit. ‘And they are isolated and they are under control.'” (Agence France-Presse [el-Fasher], October 17, 2012)

We may reasonably infer that the assault on UN Security Council-authorized peacekeepers was designed in part to ensure that this perverse narrative was preserved as much as possible, at least with respect to civilian massacres and other atrocity crimes.

Indeed, the evidence was so clear in this attack on civilians in Hashaba, and in the subsequent assault on UNAMID, that only one issue remains undetermined: what was the nature of command responsibility for the specific atrocities in Hashaba on this particular occasion? How far up the Military Intelligence (MI) chain-of-command did foreknowledge of the attack on Hashaba go? (MI long ago took the lead in organizing “security” for Darfur.) This has not been determined and is highly unlikely to be. But the more important question is how far up the MI chain-of-command did foreknowledge of the assault on UN peacekeepers go? Again, we can’t be sure, but given evidence of growing powers for the military and security elements within the NIF/NCP regime, it is highly unlikely that such an action would have been undertaken without at least tacit prior approval from someone senior in the Army or Military Intelligence/Khartoum.

The alternative is to believe that a field officer for MI with foreknowledge of the attack felt it to be insufficiently important to report back to Khartoum. For certainly some MI officers in North Darfur were involved in or at least knew of the attack, especially given the nature of the weaponry. Again, a UNAMID spokesperson has spoken of “arsenals of high-calibre weapons that were never used before,” and deputy head of UN peacekeeping operations Edmond Mulet reported specifically on the attackers use of heavy machine guns. This kind of weaponry simply could not have gone unnoticed, and yet the UN is characteristically diffident in drawing the most obvious of conclusions.

Further, Radio Dabanga reported in late September that the governor of North Darfur had been warned of the impending militia attack on Hashaba by a local official from the town itself, Abdella Rifa:

“Rifa blamed the Janjaweed militias for carrying out the ‘barbaric attack’ [on Hashaba] and held the government responsible for the incidents. [ ] Rifa said that the leader of the Janjaweed militia that carried out the attack is called Al-Nur. He also said that the group moved to attack from their base in Damrat Al-Quba. According to Rifa, they knew beforehand that the militia was going to attack and they informed the authorities including the governor of the state, Mohammed Osman Kibir, ‘but they did nothing.'” (Radio Dabanga, September 28, 2012)

[ For a highly detailed account of the locations and purposes of bases such as that at Damrat al-Quba, see Sudan Tribune (October 1, 2012): “Darfur war crimes, changes in demographic composition, and ethnic displacement,” by Hamid Eltgani Ali of the American University in Cairo.]

In short, the UN—by refusing to do more than plead with Khartoum to investigate crimes committed by the regime’s own proxies forces—remains complicit in an appalling silence despite clear evidence that Khartoum is responsible for a brutal attack on a major UN peacekeeping convoy.

• Attack on UNAMID, October 2, 2012—near el-Geneina, West Darfur:

On October 2, 2012, four UNAMID soldiers were killed and eight injured in West Darfur, approximately a mile from their main base in (regime-controlled) el-Geneina, capital of West Darfur—and very close to a Khartoum-allied militia checkpoint. Although the evidence is only circumstantial, it points clearly to SAF or allied militia forces.

Reuters reported (October 2, 2012) a UNAMID statement that the force “came under fire from all sides”; it is unlikely that a rebel force could have deployed in this way so close to el-Geneina and a Khartoum-allied militia checkpoint.

Subsequently we heard from the UN:

“In a statement to the press, Council President Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala said the Council members called on the Sudanese Government to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

And from the U.S. State Department:

“The State Department said on Thursday [October 4] it was ‘appalled’ by an attack that killed four Nigerian peacekeepers and wounded eight others earlier this week in Sudan’s western Darfur region. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States condemns the ambush on UNAMID personnel that occurred on October 2, and called for an investigation into the attack and for those responsible for the violence to be held accountable.”

The European Union completed the familiar refrain with its own entirely predictable statement (October 4, 2012):

“[EU High Representative Catherine Ashton] deplores the attack on UNAMID peacekeepers that left four Nigerian peacekeepers dead and eight others injured in an ambush in El Geneina, West Darfur. She strongly condemns the attack and calls on the Government of Sudan to work closely with UNAMID to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Almost as if to emphasize the impotence of this condemnation and demand, Ashton also spoke vaguely about “reports of a violent incident in Hashaba,” the very “incident” that would lead to a UNAMID investigating force, and the brutal assault upon that force by Khartoum-allied (and likely -armed) militia forces:

“The High Representative is also deeply alarmed at reports of a violent incident in Hashaba in North Darfur, which appears to have cost the lives of large numbers of civilians, including through aerial bombardment. She calls for UNAMID to be allowed immediate access to the area and urges all Parties to end the cycle of violence in Darfur and to pursue a comprehensive and inclusive peace settlement.”

Only diplomats are trained to such euphemistic usage: “incident” for “large-scale atrocity crimes,” the reality that was already clear by the date Ashton spoke (see, for example, and Radio Dabanga, September 28, 2012). And the effect of these unctuous condemnations and “demands” for accountability? Agence France-Presse reported (October 22, 2012) comments by various officials on investigations of previous attacks on UNAMID:

“The dead South African is the 43rd peacekeeper from UNAMID to be killed in hostile action, but UN sources have said they were unaware of anybody previously being brought to justice for the attacks.”

• Attack on UNAMID, January 7, 2008—near Tine, West Darfur/North Darfur border, across the border from eastern Chad:

At approximately 10pm on January 7, 2008 Khartoum’s regular Sudan Armed Forces attacked, deliberately and with premeditation, a UNAMID convoy. The convoy, comprising more than 20 cargo trucks and armored personnel carriers (APCs), came under heavy, sustained fire near Tine, just inside North Darfur near the border with West Darfur and eastern Chad. One truck was destroyed, an APC was damaged, and a driver was critically wounded with numerous bullet wounds. The SAF assault on the convoy lasted 10-12 minutes, during which time UNAMID military personnel did not return fire. The motive for the attack, certainly ordered by senior SAF military commanders, was to inhibit the movement of UNAMID ground and air forces during night hours. In other words, the attack was meant to serve warning that UNAMID would be restricted in the same ways that the impotent African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) was restricted from the time of its initial deployment in 2004.

Evidence that the SAF attack was deliberate and premeditated was overwhelming, a conclusion shared by the head of UN peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and many others within the UN, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in particular. In his January 9, 2008 briefing of the UN Security Council, Guéhenno offered a number of compelling details, details amplified in confidential interviews conducted with UN officials by this writer. The most basic facts of the attack and its circumstances made unambiguously clear that Khartoum lied at every step of the way in its account of events, including initially denying that its forces were in any way involved in the attack on the UNAMID convoy:

[1] The transport trucks and APCs were painted in UN white, with clear UN markings on the vehicles. Even at night it is impossible to mistake UN white for the camouflage green used by rebels, who do not travel with either the configuration or the makeup of the UNAMID convoy. Rebel groups typically move using 4×4 Landcruisers and pick-up trucks, and at high speed. The UNAMID convoy, with heavy transport vehicles and APCs, was moving very slowly to allow the APCs to pick their way in the dark. There was simply no ambiguity as to the identity of the convoy vehicles.

[2] Critically, UNAMID had carefully notified all relevant SAF commanders, including the general at the base near Tine where the attack occurred (the convoy was on its way from Umm Baru to Tine). Redundant notification of the SAF by the UN was designed to forestall precisely any misunderstanding about the nature, location, and timing of this convoy mission, one of UNAMID’s very first.

[3] The convoy did not return fire during the entire 10-12 minute assault by SAF forces, an extraordinary and quite revealing act of restraint given the length of time the firing continued. Moreover, the commanding SAF officer who accepted responsibility for the attack (responsibility initially denied by senior officials in Khartoum and the regime’s ambassador to the UN) had the rank of general: in other words, he was no junior or inexperienced officer, and would not have ordered the attack on his own authority—nor would he have countenanced such an attack by young or frightened officers. Senior SAF military officials ordered the attack, even if the specifics of duration and degree of firepower were left discretionary (both automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades were used).

In the absence of a seized cable or other intercepted communication, there could of course have been no definitive proof that Khartoum ordered what had all the hallmarks of a deliberate and premeditated attack. But the likelihood that this was an independent military action, given the political and diplomatic stakes, is vanishingly small. This was certainly the conclusion of Jean-Marie Guéhenno and other informed officials at the UN in New York. UN career officers understood full well that Khartoum had engaged in a relentless war of obstruction in opposing effective deployment of UNAMID, and equally well understood that this convoy attack was part of the regime’s larger campaign.

Khartoum’s goals in ordering the attack can be readily discerned by noting issues that at the time remained outstanding in the deployment of UNAMID:

[1] The regime refused to grant night flight rights to UNAMID except for medevac purposes. But as UN and African Union peacekeeping officials continually emphasized, the mandate to protect civilians and humanitarians did not and could not be allowed to end at sunset. Khartoum was able to impose curfews, flight restrictions, onerous aircraft re-certification requirements, and a host of other crippling measures on AMIS. These extended to the brazen commandeering of AMIS aviation fuel supplies for use by Khartoum’s helicopter gunships in attacks on civilians. The attack on the convoy near Tine was a way of signaling that UNAMID would face the clear prospect of attack, harassment, and obstruction if it persisted in traveling at night.

[2] The regime had refused at the time to grant landing rights to heavy transport aircraft, the sort that can move large quantities of logistical supplies, as well as heavy vehicles. Initially Khartoum insisted that the runways at el-Fasher and Nyala—the two key destinations—could not handle such heavy aircraft. This was patently false. Subsequently the regime insisted that aircraft could not land at night because of a lack of lights—an easily remedied engineering problem.

[3] Khartoum also refused to allow for the deployment of helicopters—or the construction of critically necessary maintenance hangars—until UNAMID completed an upgrading of the runways at el-Fasher and Nyala. Although there were no helicopters to deploy, and none in prospect—a disgraceful betrayal of Darfur by militarily capable UN member states—there was no way that they would be allowed to deploy under the circumstances that obtained at the time. Of the importance of helicopters in Darfur, particularly in the face of attacks by combatants, Undersecretary Guéhenno declared at the time in his Security Council briefing:

“‘If we had had helicopters capable of flying at night and quickly reinforcing a convoy under attack, of course we would have been in a position to deter, probably the attack [near Tine] would never have occurred,’ Guéhenno said.” (Agence France-Presse [UN/New York], January 9, 2008)

[4] Most generally, Khartoum at the time had still refused to enter into a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the UN and African Union. This was the agreement designed to govern the mutual understanding between Khartoum and the UN/African Union about the mandate, actions, and prerogatives of UNAMID. (The SOFA was not signed until February 2008—over half a year after UNAMID received UN Security Council authorization.) Well-placed UN officials indicated at the time that the issues holding up conclusion of a SOFA were various and continually changing: Khartoum would relent in one area, only to raise a new issue in another area. There was a continuous and debilitating changing of the terms of negotiations; the continual switching, shuffling, and disingenuousness on the part of the regime was clearly designed to forestall completion of the SOFA for as long as possible.

As a result, issues such as night flights, night movement of resources and personnel, land rights for bases (an acute problem in West Darfur), adequate access at Port Sudan—all remained unresolved at the time UNAMID officially took up its mandate (January 1, 2008). Khartoum also demanded that it be notified of all UNAMID movements and actions beforehand, and that UNAMID accept Khartoum’s right to suspend all communications within UNAMID while the regime is conducting military operations. These conditions were completely unacceptable to the UN. The overall effect was to create a crisis outlined in the direst possible terms by then-Under-secretary Guéhenno:

“The top United Nations peacekeeping official today [January 9, 2008] warned the Security Council that the new, critically under-manned and under-equipped mission in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region faced ‘probably the greatest risk’ to a UN operation in more than a decade. [ ] ‘Today we have the convergence of three factors which put UNAMID at great risk, probably the greatest risk since the 1990s,’ he said after briefing the Council, citing the ongoing war in Darfur, the lack of a clear signal from the parties that they want a robust mission, and the mission’s own ‘tragic’ lack of essential resources. Under-manned UN missions in the 1990s were unable to prevent the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the massacre of Bosnian Moslems in Srebrenica in 1995.” [ ]

“‘Five months after the adoption of Resolution 1769 (setting up UNAMID), we do not yet have guarantee or agreements from the Government [of Sudan] on the basic technical issues,’ [Guéhenno said]. ‘And finally, the mission itself will not have the personnel or assets in place to implement its mandate for many months even in the best case scenario,’ he added, noting that no offers for essential transportation and aviation assets had been made, including 24 helicopters.”

“‘When you combine those factors you see that you have the possibility of failure unless the political situation is rectified, unless the war situation is ended and a strategic choice is made by all the parties that it is not by military action that peace will be brought to Darfur but by negotiation, and unless there is a decisive reinforcement of the mission,’ he told journalists after the Council session.” (UN News Center [UN/New York], January 9, 2008)

It is difficult to imagine a fuller or clearer indication of Khartoum’s attitude toward the deploying peacekeepers of UNAMID—or the fatal nature of the weaknesses of characterizing the mission—than by examining the history of the attack on Tine.

Janjaweed attack on UNAMID, July 8, 2008—Umm Hakibah, North Darfur:

On July 8, 2008, at approximately 2:45pm local time, heavily armed Janjaweed militia attacked a UNAMID joint police and military patrol in an area approximately 100 kilometers southeast of el-Fasher, near the village of Umm Hakibah (North Darfur). In a firefight that lasted approximately three hours, seven UNAMID troops and police were killed and twenty-two were injured, seven of these critically. Ten vehicles were destroyed or taken during the attack. Although there was initial uncertainty about the identity of the attacking force, this uncertainty was quickly eliminated in the course of an urgent investigation. In addition to various published reports, UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Guéhenno again offered a compelling July 11, 2008 briefing to the Security Council (in closed session), making a number of telling observations that point unambiguously to Janjaweed forces as those responsible:

[1] Guéhenno told the Security Council that the attack on UN-authorized peacekeepers “took place in an area under Sudanese government control and that some of the assailants were dressed in clothing similar to Sudanese army uniforms. He also said the ambush was ‘pre-meditated and well-organized’ and was intended to inflict casualties rather than to steal equipment or vehicles” (Voice of America [UN/New York], July 11, 2008). The peacekeepers attacked reported seeing approximately 200 fighters, many on horses—a signature feature of the Janjaweed.

[2] Agence France-Presse reports: “Guéhenno was quoted as saying that the ambush was designed ‘to inflict casualties’ and was carried out with ‘equipment usually not used by (rebel) militias'” (UN/New York, July 11, 2008). Separately and confidentially, a UN official went further in confirming to this writer that some of the arms used, including large-caliber recoilless rifles, have never been seen in the arsenals of the rebel groups. This official said that Guéhenno, who is retiring, had rarely been so explicit in assigning responsibility for attacks in Darfur.

[3] Agence France-Presse reported from Khartoum on the views of UN and African Union officials on the ground in Darfur: “Officials in the African Union and UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, said on Wednesday [July 9, 2008] that suspected Janjaweed militia, who have fought [together] with the state [i.e., Government of Sudan], were behind the attack that killed seven peacekeepers” (July 10, 2008).

[4] The motive for the attack was not been established, but an assessment of who benefitted from an attack of this scale and intensity could leave no doubt as to responsibility. The rebels knew full well that such an attack would make insecurity in Darfur all the greater; and UNAMID—predictably—pulled back significantly from patrolling and investigating operations. Some deployments of additional forces were put on hold because of the attack (Australia, for example, announced at the time that it was suspending deployment of nine much-needed military specialists).

• Darfur rebel attack on UNAMID, September 2007—Haskanita, North Darfur

Some have made facile comparison of the July and January 2008 Khartoum-directed attacks on UNAMID to the attack in September 2007 on the African Union mission base in Haskanita (the mission was then known as the African Union Mission in Sudan, or AMIS). The motive for the earlier rebel attack appeared at the time to be the taking of weapons and supplies from an AU force that had long been perceived by the rebels as siding with Khartoum, particularly in excluding from ceasefire meetings the rebels groups not party to the ill-conceived Abuja peace agreement (May 2006). Indeed, in the case of Haskanita the attacking rebels—not one of the major factions, but probably an ad hoc collaboration of breakaway elements—may have mistakenly believed that the AU post was passing on bombing coordinates for rebel positions to Khartoum’s regular military forces.

But however irresponsible the rebels have been—and they have a fearsome list of offenses and abuses to answer for—all the larger factions urgently wanted a larger UN security presence, to protect both civilians and humanitarians. Rebel leader Abdel Wahid el-Nur, who had an enormous following in the camps for displaced persons, made such a security presence his condition for participating in any renewed peace talks. The Sudan Liberation Movement/Unity—with forces closest to the location attacked—was also the most responsible of the rebel factions, and certainly realized that the attack was a disaster for the people of Darfur. For the rebels knew full well that it would make insecurity in the region all the greater.

The killing will continue

Altogether approximately 50 United Nations peacekeepers have been killed in greater Sudan over the past five years, and a great many more seriously wounded. This is in large measure because of international refusal to support the missions, especially UNAMID, with sufficient transport aircraft, adequate surveillance and communications capacity, and—most significantly—pressure on Khartoum to allow unfettered access and freedom of movement to UNAMID forces—guaranteed by the February 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Given the lack of consequences for its murderous ways with UN peacekeepers, Khartoum’s regular and militia forces will almost certainly kill more peacekeepers. Most—as long been the case—will occur in circumstances that do not permit full determination responsibility without much greater investigative determination. Yet we have seen enough incidents in which responsibility is fully established to make reasonable inferences about a number of the cases in which UNAMID has offered—at least publicly—only a confession of ignorance about the perpetrators of these war crimes.

Calls for “accountability” coming from the U.S., the EU, the AU, and the UN have proved continually worthless—indeed, they are worse than worthless: for every time that the men of National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime hear such “demands,” they look back on the long history of previous “demands” that they have ignored…and simply smile complacently.

APPENDIX: Reports on the killing of UN peacekeepers and Paramount Chief of the Dinka Ngok in Abyei on May 4, 2013:

The event—details report from Agence France-Presse:

“The United Nations said the ‘attack by a Misseriya assailant on a UNISFA convoy’ also seriously wounded two of its peacekeepers.” [One of the two wounded soldiers later died from his wounds—ER]

“Despite negotiations, ‘a clash happened when a UNISFA soldier shot one of the Misseriya who was readying his weapon,’ said the Misseriya chief who asked to remain anonymous. During the resulting clash, the Dinka leader’s car was hit by an explosion and he and his driver were killed.'”…

“Negotiations continued ‘for a long time’ until a Misseriya youth, shouting and armed with a weapon, climbed onto the roof of [the Paramount Chief’s] car, the resident said, declining to be named.” (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], May 5, 2013)

Given the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place for UNISFA, there should have been no negotiation over the passage of either a UNISFA convoy or an important political interlocutor in the Abyei crisis. That “negotiations” were prolonged is highly suspicious. And that the car carrying Kuol Deng Kuol was hit by an explosion suggests it had been particularly targeted by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

On the timing of the killings:

On May 4, 2013 Sudan Tribune reported the UN decision allowing…

“UN personnel to access the contested oil-producing region of Abyei, using any travel means available. Nhial Deng Nhial, the country’s Foreign Affairs minister, said the move was in line with last year’s Status of Force Agreement (SOFA), signed by both Sudan and South Sudan, allowing UN to access Abyei without placing conditions. UN personnel, as part of the SOFA, are allowed to travel to the disputed region, either for immediate assessment, or to conduct and respond to daily needs of the humanitarian related activities in the region. But the world body insists it has often been difficult for its personnel to obtain visa approval, mainly from the Sudanese Foreign Affairs ministry, despite the agreement, which the two countries signed.”

This was the same day that UNISFA peacekeepers were killed.

The killings also occurred the same day as a meeting held between members of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC), a development that some Misseriya leaders have been encouraged by Khartoum to see as threatening.

Evidence of responsibility:

Reuters reports (Khartoum, May 5, 2013):

“Kuwal Deng Mayok [Kuol Deng Kuol], the top Dinka leader in Abyei, was killed by members of the Misseriya, another Dinka leader told Reuters, asking not to be named. ‘The Misseriya targeted him after he had held a meeting in Abyei town with Misseriya leaders,’ he said. ‘The Misseriya opened fire on his convoy and killed him and another person.'” [Reuters is extremely unlikely to use a witness they have not vetted—ER) “A Misseriya official, Saddiq Babu Nimr, confirmed the death of Mayok but blamed it on a shooting incident with Ethiopian UN peacekeepers, which administer Abyei.”

That the attack occurred after Kuol held a lengthy meeting with Misseriya leaders in Abyei town strongly suggests that forces within the Misseriya opposed to such meetings ensured that they would not occur again. This comports fully with Khartoum’s determination to keep the Abyei crisis festering, a means of distracting or commandeering international diplomatic attention. Diplomacy—whether involving the AU (Thabo Mbeki in particular), the UN, or Western actors—has been singularly ineffective in resolving the Abyei crisis (see This is in large part a legacy of the terrible decision by the Obama administration in fall 2010 to pressure Juba to make further “compromises” on Abyei—beyond those already reflected in the Abyei Protocol of the CPA (2005) and the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (July 2009).

Sudan Tribune (May 7, 2013) reports on the reaction of the Government of South Sudan:

“‘The killing of [the] chief was not just an incident. It was preceded by reports of regular killings in the area. The list of those who have been killed has been filed and the United Nations has the details and we believe the killing of the chief will not be taken lightly nor [do] we expect the international community to consider [Kuol’s death] a normal thing or usual business … We hold the government of Sudan responsible because those who killed the chief are under the control of the government of Sudan. They are no stranger to Sudan,’ he added.”

And just what will the UN do with these “details”? The most cynical skepticism is fully warranted.

Motives for the killings:

Kon Manyieth, a former head of physical infrastructure in the Abyei Area Administration, described a meeting with Government of South Sudan cabinet member Deng Alor Kuol:

“‘Our meeting with cabinet affairs minister Deng Alor Kuol was fruitful. We briefed him about general situation of the area, particularly about the massive settlement plan of members of the Misseriya who are getting direct support from the government of Sudan to the area. The other matter and the main reason of the visit is the continued killing and raiding of cattle and burning of villages in the area by the government of Sudan backed militia group,’ Kon told journalists Thursday [May 2, 2013].” (Sudan Tribune, May 3, 2013)

The timing of this dispatch is well worth noting, with its report of a “massive settlement plan of members of the Misseriya who are getting direct support from the government of Sudan to the area. The other matter and the main reason of the visit is the continued killing and raiding of cattle and burning of villages in the area by the government of Sudan backed militia group….”

May 3: the day before Kuol Deng Kuol Deng was killed following negotiations over precisely such attacks, inter alia.

In scrambling for Misseriya political support, in sustaining controversy over the fate of Abyei and uncertainty concerning the delineation and demarcation of the North/South border, Khartoum is more than willing to let the Misseriya militias have their way, not only in Abyei but elsewhere. For the border regions are rich in arable land and pasturage, and this—not oil—is what matters most to the vast majority of people who live there.


Sudan Tribune reports (May 7, 2013):

“South Sudan on Monday lodged a strongly worded complaint to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) over the killing of Abyei tribal leader Kuol Deng Kuol, warning that until the perpetuators are identified and brought to justice, it is no longer ‘business as usual.’ South Sudan’s minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, Nhial Deng Nhial, said his country takes the death of the paramount chief of the Dinka Ngok ‘more seriously’ and will not tolerate the case being taken lightly by the international community. ‘We have started with clear procedures, legal steps. We have now officially filed and deposited our complaint about this brutal act which violates not only the international law but also humanitarian law. Chief Kuol Deng Kuol was not in combat; he was not carrying a gun, not in possession of any weapon. He was purely [an] unarmed civilian killed in the hands of the United Nations. His security and safety was in the hands of the United Nations,’ Nhial said, while addressing thousands of mourners who turned out for Kuol’s burial on Monday in Abyei town.”

All this Khartoum well knew.




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