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Humanitarian Organizations Working in Darfur Continue to be Targeted for Expulsion

By Eric Reeves

April 20, 2014 (SSNA) -- On Friday, April 18 Radio Dabanga reported that Khartoum had expelled yet another critical humanitarian organization working in Darfur, this time Merlin (UK).   The reason?  Because Merlin had merged with Save the Children, which Khartoum had earlier expelled from Darfur on absurdly contrived grounds (March 2009).  For according to Khartoum's Humanitarian Aid Commission, this merger violated "Sudanese law." Merlin—active in Sudan since 1997—has been providing medical assistance to some 600,000 people, including running 28 permanent health facilities.

At the end of January of this year, Khartoum announced that it was suspending the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the very embodiment of international neutrality and humanitarian assistance.  The reason?  The ICRC refused to accommodate Khartoum's extortionate demand that funds and resources be transferred to the Sudan Red Crescent.  For a range of principled, as well as practical, reasons the ICRC declined to be a victim of Khartoum's extortion and its immensely important and wide-ranging work was halted.

On March 19, 2014 Radio Dabanga reported that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime was expelling the French organization Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development  (ACTED) from Darfur:

ACTED provides support to the displaced people in Zalingei, including water and sanitation for the camps and the surrounding villages before the rain season starts. “At least 50 members of the national staff are employed in the Central Darfur office,” a local staff member said. According to its website, the programme has 83 national staff and 3 internationals working in Sudan. “The action against ACTED comes at a critical time,” the [ACTED] staff member told Radio Dabanga.

These and other expulsions, as well as the creation of impossible working conditions, follow the massive March 2009 expulsion of thirteen distinguished international relief organizations, including two sections of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam/Great Britain, Save the Children/US, and a number of others.  Several Sudanese humanitarian organizations were also shut down.

At the time, according to a highly knowledgeable UN official, this represented roughly half the humanitarian capacity in Darfur, and left many areas and humanitarian sectors without effective management or oversight; a great deal of local knowledge and institutional memory was lost.  The international community tried to find its voice in demanding that the decision be revoked.  But this soon came to nothing in the face of Khartoum's obduracy, and the huffing and puffing died down quickly, to be replaced in the case of the U.S. with a policy of expedient accommodation. Then-Senator John Kerry, representing the Obama administration as well as the Senate, mendaciously declared on April 17, 2009 that full restoration of humanitarian capacity would be a matter of weeks:  "We have agreement [with Khartoum] that in the next weeks we will be back to 100 percent capacity."  This capacity was in fact never recovered, and is now even less than it was at the time of the expulsions.  And Kerry went further, holding out the promise of rewards for a regime that had just grossly violated international humanitarian law on innumerable counts:

Kerry, who says a new dialogue has been brought about by Obama's special Sudan envoy Scott Gration, suggested diplomacy could eventually result in a lifting of sanctions against Sudan and its removal from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism. 'Absolutely. That is entirely on the table. I can't tell you when, that’s a decision President Obama makes," said Kerry. (Reuters [el-Fasher], April 17, 2009)

Moreover, with the expulsion of relief organizations and the consequent denial of humanitarian assistance to desperately needy civilians, the regime was perpetrating what amounted to "crimes against humanity" (see "On the Obstruction of Humanitarian Aid" in African Studies Review).  Such unseemly haste to make a deal with the very men who had orchestrated this massively consequential humanitarian expulsion defines both Kerry and the Obama administration's Sudan policy.

Subsequently there would be other expulsions: Médecins du Monde, for example, the only medical NGO serving the people of Jebel Marra, was expelled in early 2010.  And in May of 2012 the regime expelled, again without meaningful explanation, seven international humanitarian organizations working in eastern Sudan, one of the poorest and most severely marginalized of all the regions in Sudan.  Sudan Tribune reported at the time:

Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) [Suleiman Abdel Rahman] has ordered seven foreign aid groups to suspend their humanitarian activities in eastern Sudan following the findings of an assessment study reporting infractions they allegedly committed. [The decision ended] the humanitarian activities of the seven aid groups in the three states of Eastern Sudan region: Kassala; Red Sea and Gadaref states.  [The seven organizations are] Accord, Goal, Triangle, Save the Children, Plan Sudan, Malo, a British demining group, and a Japanese aid group.  [The charge was that] the groups exceeded their license and roles.

We get a chilling sense of Khartoum's attitude toward foreign humanitarian assistance from words of Nafie Ali Nafie earlier that month, also from Sudan Tribune:

Earlier in May, addressing a rally organised in Port Sudan to provide support to the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie denounced calls for the return of NGOs to South Kordofan and described them [as] "trumpeters of conspiracy." "Those who covet that foreign aid groups [secure] a foothold in the East (Sudan) … should know there is no place for them," he further said.

This absurd propaganda—part of a long-term campaign to demonize international aid organizations as fronts for spies, Zionist infiltrators, and self-enriching opportunists—was designed to cover the regime's real motives, which include a primary desire that there be as few foreign eyes on the ground in Sudan as possible bearing witness to gross negligence and the most egregious violations of international law.  There was also a desire to punish and weaken the people of eastern Sudan for their support of the South during the long civil war.   This is what lies behind a more recent suspension of humanitarian activities in eastern Sudan, in this case a UN jobs and assistance project ("UN aid programmes suspended in east Sudan," Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], March 26, 2014):

The programme's beneficiaries are among 6.1 million people – 18% of the population – needing humanitarian assistance in Sudan.

Yet again, no reasonable explanation was offered.  There is a supreme viciousness in using lies and propaganda in an effort to justify starving civilians to death; for eastern Sudan has long had some of the worst malnutrition indicators anywhere in Sudan.

Even before the mass expulsions of March 2009, organizations had been compelled to depart Darfur, forced by the threat of armed violence, or by working conditions that Khartoum deliberately made intolerable.  And the threats of expulsion hang constantly in the air, along with more brutally physical threats.  An earlier and shocking event tells all too much about the attitude of the regime—and the license it has given police and security forces of all kinds:

Aid workers have described how they watched helplessly as Sudanese police officers dragged a female United Nations worker from an aid agency compound in Darfur and subjected her to a vicious sexual attack. Staff say they feared for their lives when armed police raided their compound in Nyala, dragging one European woman out into the street by her hair and savagely beating several other international staff before arresting a total of 20 UN, aid agency, and African Union staff. [ ]

A UN official in Darfur said: "If the people responsible for beating and molesting the aid workers and UN staff are not punished, others will think they can get away with such crimes and it will happen again. Should the security situation for international aid workers not improve and the overall safety of our staff be assured, we will be forced to withdraw from Darfur.” (The Telegraph [UK] [Nyala, Darfur], January 28, 2007)

The "people responsible" were of course not punished; and while most organizations did not withdraw, their numbers of expatriate workers have plummeted in subsequent years.  Normally about ten percent of a major international humanitarian operation, expatriate aid workers in Darfur now make up only about three percent of the personnel.  Khartoum has created a set of conditions in Darfur—including engineering a lack of relief capacity—that keeps foreign eyes and observation out even as it punishes a large majority of Darfuris.  And by design, this is felt with particular force by the non-Arab/African populations in displaced persons camps as well as in rural and urban areas throughout Darfur.  We know, we may be certain from the previous ten years of grim experience in Darfur, that Khartoum has decided upon a strategy of disrupting and compromising humanitarian work as part of its broader counter-insurgency campaign, taking the form of supply delays, visa and travel permit issues (including denial), confiscations, extortion, physical violence—and expulsion whenever it is thought to be "needed."

Past inaction—along with the duplicity of actors such as current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the fecklessness of most European countries—has only encouraged more of the same on Khartoum's part.  The fact that violence in Darfur is more complex, and that there is more often very serious inter-Arab tribal fighting, doesn't obscure the regime's clear strategy of denying adequate humanitarian capacity as an indirect means of weakening rebel forces.  And this will continue until it is stopped.

The World Accommodates Khartoum's Savagery, Political Repression, and Economic Mismanagement: Why?

Why, then, can't the international community muster the courage to halt these expulsions?  Why haven't there been threats of clear and punishing economic sanctions, directed against all that supports the regime in this ghastly genocide by attrition?  Such a strengthened sanctions regime would take the primary form of European countries declaring that they will suspend all commercial, business, and construction projects in Sudan until the war on humanitarian relief has clearly and decisively ended.  The Europeans should also follow the U.S. in making use of the European banking system, and the Euro in particular—this in order to make Khartoum's monetary and economic transactions as difficult in Euros as they now are in dollars.  At the very least, all talk of debt relief for this most profligate of regimes must end, an issue on which several European countries have spoken with an obscene callousness.  By far the largest portion of external debt, now some US$45 billion, has been accrued over the past 25 years while the regime indulged in hugely expensive wars against its own people, in profligate weapons acquisitions (including some two dozen advanced Russian MiG-29s), heavy investment in a domestic arms industry, and in self-enrichment schemes and pay-offs to political supporters.

Every care should be taken that those most economically weak in Sudan be protected from the effect of sanctions, were they to be imposed.  Members of the regime and their political supporters should be the targets, and hit as precisely as possible.  But it should be clear to all that the regime is presiding over an imploding economy, and that it has contributed pitifully little to the welfare of the marginalized populations of Sudan over so many years of brutal, self-enriching, and tyrannical rule—especially in Darfur and eastern Sudan (as well as the humanitarian embargo imposed on large areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile that remain under control of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North).  The regime has crippled the agricultural sector during its years in power, and instead of having vast tracts of land that might serve as Africa's breadbasket, Sudan now must import food, in particular wheat for baking bread (a food staple in the lives of many poorer Sudanese).  Recent bread lines and bread shortages were caused by a lack of foreign exchange currency (Forex) with which to purchase wheat abroad.  And this shortage of Forex is only one symptom of the catastrophic state of the economy that is the inevitable outcome of regime corruption and misrule:

•  Real inflation is running at well over 50 percent, and likely closer to 70 percent in the view of many economists who have actually looked seriously at the Sudanese economy.  Coupled with the plunging value of the Sudanese Pound, imports of goods and services will only become more expensive—when they are obtainable.  Hyperinflation continues to be a distinct possibility.

•  Unemployment and under-employment is very high, especially among the educated young. Sudan's demographics are those of Arab Spring countries; and given the desperate economic plight of the country, this is a formula for the kind of dissatisfaction the led to the September/October 2013 popular uprisings.  These uprisings, in a number of cities and towns, were crushed only because the regime gave the military, security, and police forces "shoot to kill" orders from the very first (Amnesty International, September 26, 2013).  Making protests so dangerous may have halted them for now; but anger only grows on the part of Sudanese waiting for the opportunity to bring down the regime, their explicitly stated goal.

•  The regime is engaged in costly military conflicts in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, Blue Nile—and may soon feel itself obliged to take sides in deciding militarily who will control the Melut/Paloich oil fields of Upper Nile (South Sudan).  If production is halted in this, the only currently producing region in South, then Khartoum will lose the hefty transit fees (in hard currency) from oil transported to Port Sudan.  Production is now officially at 165,000 bpd, though Luke Patey, author of The New Kings of Crude, believes the real figure to be closer to 135,000 bpd.  But even at this reduced production rate, on an annual basis Khartoum stands to lose huge amounts in hard currency if the revenue stream dries up.

•  Various international banks, airlines, and other commercial operations have ceased doing business with Sudanese banks and the Central Bank of Sudan (including the central bank of Egypt, banks in Saudi Arabia, and some European banks) and will extend the regime no credit for purchases.  This is not done out of moral conviction but the simple fact that Sudan can't pay its bills in hard currency; and as all are aware, the Sudanese Pound may soon be of exceedingly little value, indeed utterly without value if hyper-inflation begins.

•  Although Khartoum claims that Qatar has deposited $1 billion into Sudan's Central Bank some weeks ago, there are reasons for skepticism, especially given Khartoum's disposition to lie and past Qatari reneging on such commitments.  The announcement itself, of course, cost nothing (although no doubt rankled Egypt) and yet had the potential to ease pressure on the Sudanese Pound.  But clearly the black market in currency isn't convinced: the Pound sank last week to an all-time low of 8.85 to the dollar in Khartoum trading.

•  Sudan is widely perceived to be an extremely corrupt country, most conspicuously within the ranks of regime officials.  Transparency International/The Global Coalition Against Corruption ranked Sudan at the bottom of its 2013 list: 174th on a list where last place was 175.  This is immensely discouraging to economic development, especially in the total absence of Forex.

•  Sudan is also widely known for its extreme repression of media freedoms and freedom of expression.  Reporters Without Borders ranked press freedom in Sudan extremely low: 170th of 179 countries (2013 World Press Freedom Index).  This is hardly a surprise, since the Khartoum regime's survival strategy entails shutting down all meaningful political opposition and the expression of opposition views.

The people of Sudan have received—and can expect—very, very little help from Khartoum, whether or not economic sanctions are imposed.  Those who have benefited from the boom years of oil exports—in the regime itself, within the various security services and bureaucracies, and among those who have been politically loyal cronies—long ago made clear that they would pass on none of these benefits to the vast majority of Sudanese who typically live impoverished and very often malnourished lives.  Figures and statistics that should be the shame of any government, and of a world that continues to allow the terrible human suffering reflected in these numbers, include:

•  Malnutrition: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports in its most recent issue of Humanitarian Bulletin/Sudan (April 13, 2014):

On 10 April 2014, the United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) said that some 3.3 million Sudanese are currently suffering from food insecurity, with numbers likely to rise to 4 million in the coming months. This is due to a combination of increased conflict and displacement in Darfur, refugee movement from neighbouring South Sudan, poor harvests and spiraling food prices. This means one out of every nine Sudanese will be food insecure. In some areas of Sudan, existing crisis levels of food insecurity are expected to deteriorate to emergency levels in the coming few weeks, bringing an even higher degree of acute malnutrition with devastating consequences for vulnerable groups, FAO said.

•  Rapid inflation in food and fuel prices falls, as always, disproportionately on the poor.  Bread shortages are a sign of what is to come, and occurs among those who will suffer most.

•  A recent study by UNICEF found that:

…survey results show a mix of very different realities across the country with high levels of stunting (chronic malnutrition) and low levels of coverage for safe water and sanitation in some areas. Poor child feeding practices are a problem across the country, with localities in Kassala and Gedaref states among the most critical. The Eastern region and the three Kordofan states have the lowest coverage of safe drinking water and improved latrine facilities, while the Red Sea, Blue Nile and the Darfur region show the highest prevalence of diarrhoea.

UNICEF also reports in the study that it expects more than 200,000 cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Sudan for the present year.  SAM among children under five is typically fatal if not treated with emergency nutritional measures (UNICEF, April 3, 2014).

A recent UN World Health Organization ("Sudan Health Sector Fact Sheet"/2014) found that: "5.75 million people in Sudan are in need of basic health services. The number of health personnel in Darfur is five times lower than the WHO benchmark."  These people live overwhelmingly in the marginalized regions of Sudan.

Last year Sudan Tribune reported that "Sudan languished at the lower end of the latest Human Development Index (HDI) published recently by the United Nations, ranking 171 out of 187 countries included world-wide" (March 18, 2013).

And most fundamentally: the number of displaced persons (including Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile) is now well over 3 million human beings.

Khartoum has simply made no effort to improve the lives of those living in marginalized regions.  Instead, it continues to deplete agricultural resources by selling or renting land to Arab and Asian countries looking to establish their own food security.  Radio Dabanga reports (March 30, 2014) that the regime recently sold 100,000 acres of farmland to Bahrain, only the most recent of a great many sales and "agreements," over many years, transactions that mortgage Sudan's agricultural future even further.

And this is the regime that the world community allows to harass, attack, obstruct, and expel those working courageously in international humanitarian aid operations, attempting to do for the people of Sudan what the regime simply refuses to do itself.

Darfur in extremis

But it is the looming humanitarian crisis in Darfur that must command our most immediate attention: if UNAMID continues to perform as poorly as it has to date, and if the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations does decide to begin down-sizing this protection force (as has again been recently suggested), this may well be the final signal to humanitarian organizations that it is time to withdraw.  Although 97 percent of the staff of these organizations are Sudanese nationals, and these people will struggle to sustain what they can, withdrawal of international organizations means withdrawal of their resources and oversight.  It will be a catastrophe.  Indeed, the consequences of more than a decade of ethnically-targeted destruction are already catastrophic.  This is why we saw more than 400,000 people newly displaced in 2013, and an additional 250,000 people as of April 2014, according to OCHA.  Altogether, far more than 2 million people have been newly displaced, many for the second or third time, in the six years since the deployment of a tragically incompetent UNAMID.  Displacement and violence have always correlated extremely highly in Darfur, and we must accept that these displacement figures are our best indication of levels of violence, despite the self-serving lies by various officials of UNAMID.

UNICEF Representative in Sudan Geert Cappelaere declared in a press conference (February 3, 2014):

Half of the children in Darfur are out of school, and 40 percent of them suffer from chronic malnutrition, the Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Sudan revealed on Monday [February 3]. UNICEF Representative Geert Cappelaere on Monday briefed the press about the conclusions of a study carried by UN agencies in Sudan. He stated that minors constitute 65 percent of the population in Darfur. Most of them are living in camps for the displaced. A total of 1.2 million children in Sudan’s western region do not have access to basic services. Only six women out of 100 give birth in health centres. 300 out of 100,000 women die in childbirth.

Forty percent of children in Darfur are suffering from chronic malnutrition.  And yet the UN refuses to release data about the more serious Global Acute Malnutrition rates, a sign that Khartoum has made very clear that it does not wish the world to know the extent of extreme food insecurity in Darfur.  This is a catastrophe, and the world needs to take seriously the possibility that hundreds of thousands of additional deaths in Darfur will begin to occur during the coming rainy season and the latter part of the "hunger gap," which will end only with a successful autumn harvest, something that appears increasingly unlikely.  The world must take this possibility seriously, as well as the desperate plight of many hundreds of thousands in Blue Nile and South Kordofan who continue—now for almost three years—to be denied all humanitarian access by Khartoum's génocidaires.

How can such barbarism be tolerated?  Why are there so few voices speaking specifically to Khartoum's devastating war of attrition against humanitarian relief in Darfur?  Why do international actors of consequence—including the U.S., the EU, and most dismayingly the UN and the AU—refuse to acknowledge how deep the current crisis is?  and how devastating a continuation of Khartoum's assault on relief assistance will be?

I hear no answers, nor do the people of Darfur—merely the unctuous reiterations of past platitudes about a "deep concern" that takes no meaningful form.  Again and again and again, in most of their dispatches, Radio Dabanga publishes desperate pleas from Darfuris on the ground—desperate for protection, food, medical care, and clean water.  They are anguished pleas, and they are rightly uncomprehending of why their voices are not heard. Why are they not?

The world will not outlive this shame.  Far too much has been recorded not to shock those who in the future look back on this time and wonder how we could possibly have allowed such terrible human destruction and suffering to continue before our very eyes for more than a decade.

Eric Reeves' new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 - 2012;

Darfur: A Bibliography of Violence and International Indifference

By Eric Reeves

April 13, 2014 (SSNA) -- The accelerating avalanche of violence that continues to sweep across Darfur has finally compelled acknowledgement by the international community, which inevitably refers to this as a "recent" development.  This is despicably disingenuous.  UNAMID, the UN, and all international actors have long had available voluminous evidence of extreme violence in Darfur that goes back years. To be sure, we know from the superb account by Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy (April 7, 2014) that UNAMID and the UN did a great deal by way of obscuring, hiding, or failing to report the evidence of this violence that they had in hand.  This is shameful beyond reckoning, and Part One of Lynch's searing account of UNAMID ("They Just Stood Watching") concludes with a quote that sums up the cynicism of UNAMID, in particular its special representatives for the UN and African Unity—Rodolphe Adada, Ibrahim Gambari, and currently Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

[Former UNAMID spokesperson Aicha] Elbasri says that she raised concerns about UNAMID's refusal to acknowledge the government role with one of the peacekeepers' local commanders, Maj. Gen. Wynjones Matthew Kisamba. She still remains shaken by his answer. The UNAMID forces, she recalls Kisamba saying, had to occasionally massage the truth. "You know, sometimes we have to behave like diplomats," he told her. "We can't say all what we see in Darfur."

As culpable as such an attitude may be, responsibility also lies with news organizations that did not press UN and UNAMID officials nearly hard enough about the realities with which they were being presented.  There is no other way to account for the grotesque caption to a photograph in a piece by the New York Times ("A Taste of Hope Sends Refugees Back to Darfur," dateline: Nyuru, West Darfur; March 2, 2012): it reads in part, "peace has settled on the region."  The correspondent, according to all my Darfuri sources—some of them from this region of Darfur—was quite simply taken in by Khartoum's and the UN/AU's version of a "Potemkin Village" (see my account based on Darfuri sources and reports from Radio Dabanga at   Notably, this is the last dateline by a major news organization from an area significantly away from the urban areas and displaced persons camps—over two years ago.

There are notable exceptions: see below my discussion of the Reuters dispatch reporting on the massacre of non-Arab/African civilians at Tabarat (North Darfur) in September 2010.  But since that time, reports of such honesty and detail have rarely been produced by journalists "covering" Darfur.

As a means of demonstrating just how much evidence has been available, I have organized a "bibliography of violence and indifference" below, in roughly chronological order.  Pieces range from formally published articles of 1,000 – 2000 words to lengthy analyses as long as 10,000 words.  Detailed and often lengthy sourcing, referencing, and quotation account for the longer word counts.  My ambition has been archival in many respects, an obligation that has come to seem increasingly important as the UN and African Union try to sanitize the unspeakably grim history of Darfur, especially since deployment of UNAMID (January 1, 2008).  UNAMID refuses, for example, to acknowledge or speak about the total number of Darfuris displaced on its watch: more than 2 million civilians according to UN data from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (see "Taking Human Displacement in Darfur Seriously"—below).  Coupled with the Obama administration's decision to "de-couple Darfur" from the key bilateral issue between Washington and Khartoum, Darfur's fate appears sealed and the shame that should attend that failure will not be felt adequately unless we have a substantial archive of all that has managed to be reported.

I have frequently assigned responsibility for particular developments in Darfur, including to individuals as well as organizations and governments.  I have argued for robust action of a sort that long ago became politically impossible.  Indeed, we should note the recent comments by the present head of UNAMID (Mohamed Ibn Chambas) who spoke yet again of a drawdown in UNAMID, even as violence surges and insecurity for civilians and humanitarians increases by the day.  The reasoning by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is evidently that with so many peacekeeping needs worldwide, it would be foolish to commit continuing full support to an enormous—and enormously expensive—peace support operation that is failing.  This is a tacit but clear admission of failure, despite various claims by African Union leaders that the AU was up to the task of bringing peace or at least security to Darfur.  Chambas is here simply the messenger for the grim calculus of a cynically led UN DPKO.

Many will disagree with my assessments.  And there is the inescapable fact that were UNAMID withdrawn entirely, or even substantially, humanitarian organizations would take this as a signal that they should depart as well, leaving millions of people completely vulnerable to violence, hunger, and disease.  Having allowed UNAMID to continue so ineffectively, so disingenuously, so fecklessly for so long, the international community now has no good options, even at the moment when there appears to be growing acknowledgement that the Darfur genocide never ended, it simply changed in character.  Moreover, the violence we have seen recently involving the Rapid Response Forces (essentially former Janjaweed), working in clear concert with Khartoum's regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), has been likened by many observers to that of the most violent period early in the genocide.  Sources include, inter alia, personnel for the remaining humanitarian organizations, who can speak only indirectly, through outside channels, for fear of expulsion by Khartoum.  Here we should keep in mind the regime's recent suspension of the work the International Committee of the Red Cross as part of a crude extortion scheme.

But I wish to emphasize that the question here is not whether one agrees with my conclusions or judgments.  The question is rather how—with so much information about widespread, ethnically-targeted human destruction readily available—Western nations, the African Union, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and many other international actors of consequence were able to pretend for so long that such information as has guided my analyses did not exist.  Such pretense, and the necessary actions it worked to prevent, deserve the profoundest opprobrium.

What cannot be doubted is that the world has either known or deliberately chosen not to know about the brutal human destruction and suffering in Darfur, orchestrated by the National Islamic Front/National Congress party regime in Khartoum; the archival evidence offered here is simply overwhelming.

The failure in Rwanda of twenty years ago continues in slow motion throughout Darfur.

The following bibliography extends back only to August May 2011; though lengthy as it stand, it might easily have been extended much further back in time (see Many entries were first published in Dissent Magazine or in the Sudan Tribune—as well as other Sudanese news websites—though this is not always indicated.  The main body of entries are organized in chronological order, although a dozen or so particularly telling pieces, mainly from the past year, are put in primary position as a means of highlighting various moments that are particularly telling of Darfur's agony.  The other materials here have in many cases been distilled into various chapters and annexes of my October 2012 book, Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012 (available for downloading at no cost:

The original texts, with all links and formatting preserved, may be searched for at

• "Civilians in Sudan's Darfur region face wholesale destruction," The Washington Post, July 28, 2013 (Sunday)   /

Darfur: An inside look at massive, deliberate UN misrepresentation of human suffering and destruction, January 24, 2014: A Radio France Internationale interview with former UNAMID spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri at

Radio Dabanga: The Voice of Truth Amidst a Sea of UN Mendacity, Sudan Tribune, December 14, 2013   /

• What We Learn of UNAMID from the September 2010 Tabarat Massacre, September 18, 2011   /

Massive Air and Ground Attacks Against Civilians in Darfur: New Reports from the Satellite Sentinel Project, March 28, 2014   /

• Events in Darfur Rapidly Spiraling Out of Control as Security Continues to Collapse, Sudan TribuneAugust 28, 2013   /  

Malnutrition Data for Darfur Still Being Withheld, Sudan Tribune, February 10, 2014   /

Khartoum's Suspension of Activities by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sudan Tribune, February 1, 2014   /

See Appendix at

Taking Human Displacement in Darfur SeriouslySudan TribuneJune 3, 2013   /

Humanitarian Conditions in Darfur: The most recent reports reveal a relentless deterioration (Two Parts), May 3, 2013   / 

• RAPE AS A CONTINUING WEAPON OF WAR IN DARFUR: Reports, bibliography of studies, a compendium of incidentsMarch 4, 2012   / 

[See also lengthy Appendix at:

• Rape as a Weapon of War in Darfur, November 20, 2011:]

Janjaweed in Darfur Reconstituted as the "Rapid Response Force," Sudan Tribune, February 28, 2014   /

Khartoum's Assault on Humanitarian Organizations in Darfur Continues, March 19, 2014   /

• April 2014: The Twentieth Anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide: What has been learned?  April 6, 2014 (Two Parts), Sudan Tribune  /

("PART TWO: Darfur, the early responses" may be found at:

Darfur: The Genocide the World Got Tired Of, Sudan Tribune, November 24, 2011   /

• A Grim 10th Anniversary: "Unnoticed Genocide [in Darfur]," The Washington Post, February 25, 2004

Painfully little of this ten-year-old account needs updating: “Unnoticed Genocide,” The Washington Post  (February 25, 2004, ) 



• "They Bombed Everything that Moved," May 9, 2011

“They Bombed Everything that Moved: Aerial military attacks on civilians and humanitarians in Sudan, 1999 – 2011 (a comprehensive report/database,

Dissent Magazine, May 9, 2011   /

• "How many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are there in Darfur?" Dissent Magazine, April 28, 2011   /

The UN has finally acknowledged that figures for displacement promulgated by former UN] humanitarian coordinator Georges Charpentier are untenable, and for a many months has given no figure but simply declared: "IDPs in Darfur – figures are fluctuating and are being reviewed."

What we do know is that UN data make clear that since the official deployment of UNAMID on January 1, 2008, more than 2 million Darfuris have been newly displaced.  This excludes the some 330,000 Darfuri refugees who remain displaced in eastern Chad.

See above: "Taking Human Displacement in Darfur Seriously," June 3, 2013: darfur-seriously/

• "Darfur and Ban Ki-moon's Bid for a Second Term," Dissent Magazine, June 10, 2011   /

• Khartoum is preparing for a new round of humanitarian expulsions in Darfur, June 11, 2011   /

• "Darfur: Life in the Darkening Shadows," Dissent Magazine, May 18, 2011   /

• "Ongoing Aerial Assaults in Sudan Against Civilians and Humanitarians: An Update," June 25, 2011   /

Original report and data

• A compendium of recent reports from Darfur by Radio Dabanga, July 17, 2011   /

• Darfur Pushed Further Into the Shadows (Two Parts), July 27, 2011   /

[Part 1: Analysis of what has limited our knowledge of Darfur and the continuing human suffering and destruction;

Part 2: A lengthy collection of dispatches from Radio Dabanga ( giving a true sense of the violence confronting Darfuris, including continual attacks on rural populations as well the millions displaced internally and as refugees in eastern Chad;

• "Reporting Darfur: Radio Dabanga and the 'Black Box' Genocide," African Arguments, August 18, 2011   /

• Darfur: No Way Forward from a Dangerous and Unsustainable Situation, August 30, 2011   /

• "Darfur and the Consequences of Impunity for Sudan," Dissent Magazine, September 9, 2011   /

• The UN's Man in Darfur: The Expedient Mendacity of UNAMID Chief Ibrahim Gambari, September 19, 2011   /

• "The UN Panel of Experts on Darfur Disappears," Dissent Magazine, September 27, 2011   /

• "They Bombed Everything that Moved," report and data update as of October 15, 2011   /

Also updated January 12, 2012SudanTribune:

• "Evil and Ignorance: The Case of Darfur," Dissent Magazine, January 26, 2012   /

• UNAMID Chief for Darfur Attends Celebration Hosted by Top Janjaweed Leader, Sudan Tribune, February 1, 2012   /

• The Seen and the Unseen in Darfur: Recent Reporting on violence, insecurity, and resettlement, Sudan Tribune, February 29, 2012   /

• "Darfur and the Diplomacy of Abandonment," Dissent Magazine, March 16, 2012   /


See also lengthy critique of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, "Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur: A critical analysis" (Part One of Two), February 2, 2005

• Former Members of the UN Panel of Experts for Darfur Offer a Damning Alternative to the "Official" Report, April 17, 2012   /

• Darfur in the Still Deepening Shadow of Lies, Sudan Tribune, May 24, 2012   /

See also July 22, 2102 extension of this analysis:

Darfur: UN Failure and Mendacity Culminate in an Avalanche of Violence, Sudan Tribune, August 12, 2012   /

• "Darfur's invisible violence," ReutersAlert, August 28, 2012   /

The UN's Moral Rehabilitation of the Khartoum RegimeAugust 31, 2012   /

The Avalanche of Violence Continues to Accelerate in Darfur, Sudan Tribune, October 12, 2012   /

Violence in Hashaba, North Darfur: A brutal portent, another UN disgrace, Sudan Tribune, October 30, 2012   /

• "Darfur: Peacekeeping and Atrocity Crimes Don't Mix," Enough Project, November 21, 2012   /

UNAMID Evacuates Wounded SAF Soldiers in Darfur: Larger Implications, Sudan Tribune, November 18, 2012   /

• Growing Violence in Darfur Deserves Honest Reporting, Not More Flatulent UN Nonsense, December 1, 2012   /

• Human Security in Darfur, Year's End 2012: West Darfur, December, 27, 2012 (Part One of Three)   /

• Human Security in Darfur, Year's End 2012: South Darfur (Part Two of Three), Sudan Tribune, January 12, 2013   /

• Human Security in Darfur, Year’s End 2012: North Darfur, Sudan Tribune, January 17, 2013 (Part Three of Three)   / 

Humanitarian Conditions in Darfur: The most recent reports reveal a relentless deterioration, Sudan Tribune, February 10, 2013   /  

UN Security Council Ignores Realities of Aerial Attacks on Civilians in Darfur, Sudan Tribune, February 18, 2013   /

(Part 2 at

• Human Security in Darfur Enters Free-Fall, Sudan Tribune, March 20, 2013   /

A Key Report on Darfur by UN Panel of Experts Consigned to Oblivion, Sudan Tribune, April 27, 2013    /

THE DARFUR GENOCIDE AT TEN YEARS: A Reckoning, Sudan Tribune, April 19, 2013   /

Appendix at:

Some reflections on the invisibility of Darfur, Sudan Tribune, May 11, 2013   /

Displacement, returns, and current trends in Darfur—A compendium of reports, May 10, 2013/

Killing UN Peacekeepers: A Ruthless Proclivity of Khartoum's SAF, Militia Proxies, Sudan Tribune, May 19, 2013   /

An open letter to the Public Editor of the New York Times concerning Darfur, Sudan Tribune, June 11, 2013, from Eric Reeves   /

• The Killing of Seven UNAMID Peacekeeping Personnel in Darfur: a terrible tragedy, a clear warning, Sudan Tribune, July 15, 2013   /

[See update at]

Humanitarian Conditions in Darfur: Relief Efforts Perilously Close to Collapse (Two Parts)August 15, 2013   /

Part 2 at:

Appendices at:

Humanitarian Conditions in Darfur: A Climate of Violence and Extreme Insecurity, Sudan Tribune, August 4, 2013   / 

Appendices at:

• "They Bombed Everything that Moved: Aerial Military attacks on Civilians and Humanitarians in Sudan, 1999 – 2011" (updated September 2013)   /

Human Mortality in Darfur: What is Unspoken, and What This Silence Means, Sudan Tribune, September 7, 2013   /

 See extensive mortality analysis of August 2010, concluding that some 500,000 Darfuris—in Darfur and in eastern Chad—had as of that date died from violence or the consequences of violenceQUANTIFYING GENOCIDE: Darfur Mortality Update, August 6, 2010,

Darfur Destroyed: A week in the life of a dying land, November 27, 2013   /

An Open Letter to President Obama on the Bombing of North Sharafa, East Jebel Marra (Darfur), from Eric Reeves, Sudan Tribune, November 30, 2013   /

How is the International Community Complicit in Antonov Attacks on Civilians in Sudan? December 2, 2013   /

Darfur: Violence and Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan Further Obscure Relentless Suffering and DestructionJanuary 12, 2014   /

In the Shadow of South Sudan's Catastrophe, Khartoum's Actions Are Escaping Scrutiny, Sudan Tribune, February 23, 2014   /

Khartoum: A criminal regime in its death throes lashes out with more violence, Sudan Tribune, March 14, 2014   /

Eric Reeves' new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 - 2012; Review commentary at:

April 2014: The Twentieth Anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide: What has been learned? (Part 1)

By Eric Reeves

6 April 2014 (in two parts) ("PART TWO: Darfur, the early responses" may be found at:

Rwanda at twenty years

April 6, 2014 (SSNA) -- Roméo Dallaire offers a number of painful, indeed excruciating observations in his searing account of the Rwandan genocide that claimed the lives of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus beginning on April 7, 1994.  As UNIMAR commander during the months leading up to and during the genocide, Dallaire provides an almost day-by-day account of what he saw, what he heard, what he smelled, and what he was compelled to imagine and dream.  And he was compelled also to confront the almost unimaginable failure of the international community in responding to what was clearly genocide.  Despite the now infamously disingenuous parsings of the word (and acts of) "genocide" by the U.S. State Department, there are very few who then or now dissent from the view that this was clearly genocide.  And yet there was no effort to halt or control the ethnically-targeted mass slaughter—by the UN, by the U.S. or by the European nations that had so solemnly vowed "Never again!" 

Perhaps "never again in Europe," although this requires an explanation of what occurred in the Balkans during the 1990s, atrocity crimes for which the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia convicted a number of individuals on charges of genocide.  Particularly conspicuous in 1994 were the failures of Kofi Annan, then head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and subsequently UN Secretary-General; of President Bill Clinton, who would later admit that his failure to respond to the Rwandan genocide was the greatest of his presidency (he actively worked against an international response); and of the European Union, where the leadership was simply dismal. Annan's failure is in some ways most telling, as Philip Gourevitch makes clear in his devastating indictment of Annan's refusal to respond meaningfully to a crisis clearly in the making, certainly as far back as January 1994—the date of the infamous "Genocide Fax" (See Appendix One).

In his Preface to Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Dallaire offers his largest assessment of what he proceeds to recount over the course of more than 500 pages of text:

The following is my story of what happened in Rwanda in 1994.  It's a story of betrayal, failure, naiveté, indifference, hatred, genocide, war, inhumanity and evil. Although strong relationships were built and moral, ethical, and courageous behavior was often displayed, they were overshadowed by one of the fastest, most efficient, most evident genocides in recent history. In just one hundred days over 800,000 innocent Rwandan men, women, and children were brutally murdered while the developed world, impassive and apparently unperturbed, sat back and watched the unfolding apocalypse or simply changed channels.  Almost fifty years to the day that my father and father-in-law helped to liberate Europe—when the extermination camps were uncovered and when, in one voice, humanity said, "Never again"—we once again sat back and permitted this unspeakable horror to occur.  We could not find the political will or the resources to stop it.  Since then, much has been written, discussed, argued, and filmed on the subject of Rwanda, yet it is my feeling that this recent catastrophe is being forgotten and its lessons submerged in ignorance and apathy.  The genocide in Rwanda was a failure of humanity that could easily happen again.

There is an eerie prescience to Dallaire's words—published in 2003 but written before what was occurring in Darfur was known to any but a very few—those working in the region or following Sudan very closely.  Dallaire's book, which won Canada's highly prestigious Governor General's Prize for non-fiction, is utterly unsparing, including of Dallaire himself.  It is thus all the more appalling that in their efforts at self-exculpation, so many have sought to lay blame on Dallaire himself.  Most egregiously, the Belgian government determined that Dallaire was responsible for the ten Belgian UN peacekeepers in Kigali who were killed in the opening days of the genocide; this ignores the fact that extremist Hutu elements well understood that such killings would compel the precipitous withdrawal of the 450-man Belgian contingent from Rwanda, essentially crippling Dallaire's small UNAMIR force.  Attacks on Europeans would have come sooner or later, if only to forestall Western military intervention.  Blaming Dallaire also ignores Belgium's own significant role in the recent and more distant events in Rwanda's often grim history.  In its blaming of Dallaire, Belgium is also painfully exclusive in its concern for its own nationals in Rwanda.  Indeed, the extraction of foreign nationals was the only real concern that European nations and the U.S. demonstrated.

After the fact, and in the face of such massive failure, scapegoats are much in need; and no one was in greater need than the Belgians.  Scapegoating, however, can't take the place of assigning true responsibility.  And the real question is how we have assessed responsibility for some 800,000 lives lost, countless more civilians raped and displaced, and continued instability throughout the region, for which, to be sure, the present government in Kigali bears far too much responsibility.  And there are difficult questions that linger still: what should the UN have done in responding to the massive refugee flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo, knowing that among these Hutu refugees were some of the worst elements of the infamous Interawheme?  knowing that these brutal men continued to be a threat, to those in the camps and possibly—if reconstituted as a force—to Rwanda itself?  Such questions had to be answered in the context of hopelessly inadequate resources and enormous urgency, given the desperate state of those arriving in DRC and their urgent need for "safety."

We must also bear in mind how little time was available once the genocide began, which makes Annan's dilatory and disingenuous role as head of UN peacekeeping all the more culpable (again, see Appendix A with its note on Philip Gourevitch's "The Genocide Fax").  If warnings from Dallaire, beginning in January 1994, had been taken seriously, if an unaccountably unconcerned Annan had argued passionately for what needed to be done, events might well have been altered or deflected in significantly different ways.  But here we pass into speculation, even as the present day realities of Darfur require a similar assessment of responsibility and of the myriad failures of the international community: the African Union, the Arab League, the UN, the Organization of Islamic Conference, Russia and China, the countries of the EU, and of course the United States.

PART ONE: Darfur, ten years later

If the extraordinary speed with which some 800,000 people were killed in roughly 100 days remains the single most shocking fact of the Rwanda genocide, Darfur presents us with a very different spectacle of international failure, but one equally shocking.  Large-scale, ethnically-inflected violence in the region has now entered its second decade, already having claimed some 500,000 lives (see August 2010 mortality assessment at  More than 2 million people are internally displaced and over 300,000 remain refugees in Chad.  Humanitarian operations can barely continue amidst the violence that the Khartoum regime continues to sanction, indeed encourage; and with the recent mobilization of its newest Janjaweed militia ally, the Rapid Response Force, we are seeing violence of the sort that defined the earlier years of what most observers have judged to be genocide.  Wholesale destruction of the villages of non-Arab or African tribal groups has accelerated over the past two years—but never really ceased.  What we see now is a crescendo of violence directed against increasingly vulnerable civilians, much of it revealed by the Satellite Sentinel Project (  This is how the men of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime have chosen to conduct counter-insurgency war against armed forces rebelling against decades of political marginalization, chronic insecurity, and economic deprivation.

The use of rape and gang-rape as a weapon of war has long been a central element of the Darfur genocide—often revealingly accompanied by hateful racial epithet (see "Rape and Sexual Violence Ongoing in Darfur" by Doctors Without Borders/MSF-Holland, March 2005).  Radio Dabanga continues to report frequently on aerial military forces directing their attacks against civilians or deploying these forces in an utterly indiscriminate manner.  Bombardment has been relentless, and nowhere more than in the Jebel Marra region in the center of Darfur.  There have been more than 600 confirmed aerial attacks on civilians since the beginning of the conflict, continuing a pattern established in the long North/South civil war and now extended to the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan State and Blue Nile State.  The actual number of bombing attacks in Darfur is almost certainly many times the number confirmed (see updated data at  Each such attack is a war crime under international law; in aggregate, they are (according to the terms of the Rome Statute) crimes against humanity (see original analysis of this issue, May 2011, at

In all of the military arenas of greater Sudan, the aircraft of choice for Khartoum is the Russian-built Antonov cargo plane, retrofitted to be a crude "bomber" from which shrapnel-loaded barrel bombs are simply pushed out the cargo bay at very high altitudes and without aid of a bomb-siting mechanism, or indeed any way of ensuring that bombs drop within a radius extending hundreds of meters.  As military weapons they are useless; as a means of attacking the civilians perceived to be supporting the rebel forces in these various areas, they have proved devastatingly effective.  In concert with a total blockade of humanitarian assistance to rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State, the bombing campaign has crippled food production in the two areas and forced millions to flee, or remain and face the increasing likelihood of starvation.

All this comes at a time when South Sudan is in the throes of convulsive self-destruction following the ominous political events of December 2013, events that have led to widespread ethnic killings, retaliatory killings, and yet further revenge killings, auguring a terrifying cycle of continual inter-ethnic violence that threatens to destroy the new nation.  Millions now face famine, according to the most recent UN assessment, which could not be grimmer. 

In a perverse irony, news about South Sudan, which is accessible to intrepid journalists, makes Darfur even more invisible, especially since Khartoum allows neither a news nor human rights reporting presence in its western region.  The UN and African Union "hybrid" force (UNAMID) has been deeply negligent and dishonest in its accounts of what is occurring; so, too, have some UN humanitarian officials, most notoriously George Charpentier (see May 25, 2012 account at  A catalog of the statements by officials from both sides of the UN, as well as successive AU heads of UNAMID, reveals a steady pattern of denial, disingenuousness, concealment of data and reports, and outright mendacity in downplaying the continuing catastrophe in Darfur (see We know this chiefly because of hundreds of reports from the ground conveyed through Radio Dabanga, and until recently the reports of courageous humanitarians on the ground who defied both the UN and Khartoum in reporting directly on what they had seen (see, for example, analysis of August 11, 2012).

Like the morally dissolute response to the 100 days of genocide in Rwanda, the international response in Darfur has failed for more than ten years to be remotely adequate to the threats and realities of human destruction—destruction that may well eventually surpass that of Rwanda.  As humanitarian operations and personnel are continually more restricted, both by insecurity and Khartoum's denial of access, millions of people are at increased risk from malnutrition, disease, and the life-threatening challenges of further displacement.  Clean water is becoming an even scarcer commodity in this arid land.  And despite its various manipulations of the figures for displacement, the UN itself indicates that more than 200,000 people have already been displaced this year.  The UN figure for 2013 was 400,000 newly displaced civilians. And since UNAMID officially deployed (January 1, 2008), more than 2 million people have been newly displaced, staggering evidence of the Mission's abysmal failure. The last issue of the UN's "Darfur Humanitarian Profile" (No. 34, representing conditions as of January 1, 2009) reported a figure of 2.7 million displaced in IDP camps.  The current UN estimate of those surviving in tenuous conditions as refugees in eastern Chad is 330,000, also reflecting a recent and sharp uptick in the number of those escaping violence, in this case by crossing an international border.

And yet despite these overwhelming numbers, as recently as August of last year the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was promulgating a figure of "1.4 million displaced" in such fashion that it was used by important news organizations.  The BBC, for example, reported on May 23, 2013 that “As many as 1.4 million remain homeless after the decade-long conflict," and Agence France-Presse reported “[this newly displaced 300,000 as of May 2013] adds to an existing displaced population of 1.4 million in Darfur."  The figure of "1.4 million" grossly misrepresents the true total of those who have been driven from their homes, some on multiple occasions, by violence and the threat of violence. OCHA is evidently doing some statistical soul-searching, as there has been no figure for IDPs offered in the weekly Sudan Bulletin for a number of months; instead, an insert appears declaring: "IDPs in Darfur: figures are fluctuating and are being reviewed."

In recent weeks, villages have been destroyed in startlingly high numbers.  Much of this is captured in Satellite Sentinel Reports of March 27, 2014 and March 28, 2014; given the ongoing and extremely high levels of violence, we may expect that many more such reports will be forthcoming.  Radio Dabanga has also doggedly reported widely on what it hears from its legion of contacts on the ground in Darfur.  The most ominous of recent reports detail the attacks on displaced persons camps, something that has a long history, but which now occurs with terrifying frequency and immensely greater destructiveness.  Here it may be useful to recall a typical incident from September 2005—a date that falls well outside the "2003-2004" window often used to designate the "real" genocide in Darfur.  The following formal statement comes from Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, at the time Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Darfur (essentially he was the head of an AU observer mission):

On 28 September 2005, just four days ago, some reportedly 400 Janjaweed Arab militia on camels and horseback went on the rampage in Aru Sharo, Acho, and Gozmena villages in West Darfur. Our reports also indicate that the day previous, and indeed on the actual day of the attack, Government of Sudan helicopter gunships were observed overhead. This apparent coordinated land and air assault gives credence to the repeated claim by the rebel movements of collusion between the Government of Sudan forces and the Janjaweed/Arab militia. This incident, which was confirmed not only by our investigators but also by workers of humanitarian agencies and nongovernmental organizations in the area, took a heavy toll resulting in 32 people killed, 4 injured and 7 missing, and about 80 houses/shelters looted and set ablaze. 

The following day, a clearly premeditated and well rehearsed combined operation was carried out by the Government of Sudan military and police at approximately 11am in the town of Tawilla and its Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in North Darfur. The Government of Sudan forces used approximately 41 trucks and 7 land cruisers in the operation which resulted in a number of deaths, massive displacement of civilians, and the destruction of several houses in the surrounding areas as well as some tents in the IDP camps. Indeed, the remains of discharged explosive devices were found in the IDP camp. During the attack, thousands from the township and the IDP camp and many humanitarian workers were forced to seek refuge near the AU camp for personal safety and security.  (Transcript of press conference by Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Darfur Khartoum, October 1, 2005)

That such attacks have continued for almost a decade without serious interruption should be the occasion for serious reflection by those arguing that the violence in Darfur was largely over by the end of 2004.

To be sure, it must be emphasized that not all the civilian victims are non-Arabs/Africans.  Arab tribal tensions have been markedly increasing in recent years, and inevitably Khartoum chooses sides to create an ally and sustain its "divide and conquer" strategy (an excellent overview from 2010 was provided by Julie Flint for the Small Arms Survey, "The Other War: Inter-Arab Conflict in Darfur").  Flint sets out to investigate "the background to and the development of the fighting between camel-herding Abbala and cattle-herding Baggara." The motive for fighting vary: sometimes it is something as specific as competition over access to the gold mines of Jebel Amir in North Darfur (gold exports by the regime have become a critical part of its effort to secure foreign exchange currency (Forex)).  More often fighting is over land that has been abandoned by African populations; and frequently it is an extension of growing competition for the increasingly scarce natural resources of Darfur, mainly water and land that is arable or pasturable.  Much of this fighting has long historical antecedents.

But the overwhelming number of those living in the camps are African; those who have died in the hundreds of thousands are African; the many tens of thousands of girls and women who have been raped and gang-raped are overwhelming African; the targets of aerial bombardment and helicopter gunship attacks have been almost exclusively African.  Ignoring the conspicuous ethnic inflection of conflict over the past eleven years is either a function of ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation of the fundamental character of the violence involving civilians.  Certainly there has been much deliberate misrepresentation by the UN, including the politically, morally, and methodologically corrupt UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (UN COI, report issued January 2005).

One investigating member of the UN COI team, Deborah Bodkin, has told me directly that despite claims by Commission chair Antonio Cassese that they were not impeded by the Khartoum regime, the team did not in fact visit or attempt to investigate the claims of mass graves in the Wadi Saleh and Mukjar areas of West Darfur (see my notes of this interview).  Indeed, according to Ms. Bodkin, the forensic specialists with the team did not put a single spade in the ground or do any forensic investigating.  She also makes a series of specific accusations about the incompetence and political corruption of the investigation, reported by Samuel Totten and included here as Appendix Two (my own extensive critique of the contents of the report presented to the Secretary-General appears here). The specific location in Wadi Saleh was in one case identified by a survivor of one of the mass executions who reported the incident to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and to me (by telephone from Nyala, South Darfur; April 2004). 

The Human Rights Watch account is painfully blunt in announcing its report on sustained mass executions specifically targeting Fur men and boys (the Fur are the largest non-Arab/African ethnic group in Darfur):

The 22-page [HRW] report, "Targeting the Fur: Mass Killings in Darfur," documents in detail how the Sudanese government and its allied Janjaweed militias have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur with impunity. These crimes include the round-up, detention and execution in March of more than 200 Fur farmers and community leaders in West Darfur’s Wadi Saleh and Mukjar provinces.  (January 25, 2005 press release; full report at

Targeted mass murder has continued without cessation during the Obama administration, and remains directed overwhelmingly against African tribal populations even as it is sanctioned by the Khartoum regime. 

It was with full knowledge of all this that candidate Barack Obama declared, using a politically appealing rhetoric that would be fully abandoned once he was elected President:

"When you see a genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia or in Darfur, that is a stain on all of us, a stain on our souls . ... We can't say 'never again' and then allow it to happen again, and as a president of the United States I don’t intend to abandon people or turn a blind eye to slaughter." (Video recording available at:

Despite these strong words, early in his first term Obama appointed as special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, a former Air Force Major General who had been very helpful to Obama with military people during the presidential campaign.  Gration also had clear designs on the ambassadorship to Nairobi.  Gration had no appropriate qualifications for this extremely difficult assignment, no diplomatic experience, spoke no relevant languages other than a less than fluent English, had no significant knowledge of Sudan—and yet he was rewarded, at a critical moment in Darfur's history, with a Sudan "stint" that would provide the diplomatic experience to enable him to become ambassador to Kenya, which he did shortly after resigning.  On leaving Gration had—by all non-administration accounts—done irreparable harm to greater Sudan and to U.S. efforts to work effectively for a just peace in Darfur. 

It was Gration who failed in March 2009 to develop an adequate U.S. response to Khartoum's expulsion from Darfur of thirteen of the world's finest humanitarian organizations, cutting overall relief capacity by roughly 50 percent at a stroke. It was Gration who quickly endorsed Khartoum's "New Strategy for Darfur" (September 2010), which was little more than a euphemism for forced "returns" of IDPs from the camps, enabling Khartoum to shut down these embarrassing reminders of violence and displacement; this something for which humanitarians had already taken Gration to task when he pushed this ambition for "returns" prematurely. It was Gration who, among other acts of mindless diplomatic gambling, pushed for the "de-coupling" of Darfur from broader U.S. Sudan policy.  And it was Gration who led the charge to push South Sudan into compromising yet further on Abyei, despite the explicit terms of the Abyei Protocol of the CPA and the glaring fact that both Khartoum and Juba had accepted the binding resolution to the Abyei boundary issue issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (July 2009).

Although the very embodiment of diplomatic incompetence, Gration would receive—with jovial Senate confirmation—his appointment as ambassador to Nairobi; he was fired by the State Department within a year for what amounted to incompetence.

Gration's successor, Princeton Lyman, nominally presided over U.S. policy during the seizure of Abyei and the all too predictable subsequent assaults by Khartoum on South Kordofan and Blue Nile. There was painfully little outrage or even dismay conveyed by Lyman, who also remained perversely skeptical about the realities of what was occurring in South Kordofan beginning June 5, 2011.  Moreover, he was wholly ineffectual in helping to ensure that the African Union plan for humanitarian access to these two regions was accepted by Khartoum.  And he was content to leave Darfur "de-coupled." In short, Lyman was weak, often disingenuous, but at least revealed the fundamental premise of the Obama administration's Sudan policy.  In a December 2011 interview with the influential English-language Arabic news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat, Lyman said in response to a question

Frankly, we do not want to see the ouster of the [Sudanese] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures. We want to see freedom and democracy [in Sudan], but not necessarily via the Arab Spring. (December 3, 2011 at

It appears not to have mattered to Lyman or the Obama administration that the overwhelming majority of Sudanese—and not just Darfuris—have long wanted regime change, and have grown increasingly explicit in expressing this goal.  Their seriousness can be measured by the increasing willingness to risk their lives and well-being to achieve such change.  More than 300 people were killed during demonstrations calling for regime change in September/October 2013; they died when security forces in Khartoum and elsewhere immediately began firing with what Amnesty International concluded were "shoot to kill" orders. On July 31, 2012 scores of student demonstrators were gunned down in Nyala (South Darfur) by Khartoum’s security forces—ultimately under control of the regime—using automatic rifles.  And there have been many other clear signs of popular support for regime change.  An imploding economy has created shortages and long lines for bread, a food staple for many, and also for cooking fuel; inflation is running at an unsustainable 70+ percent when realistically assessed, and this hits hardest the poorest and most economically vulnerable.

But the expedient and disingenuous declaration that the U.S. wants "to see the regime carry out reform via constitutional democratic measures" is finally so preposterous as to serve only as a measure of how morally bankrupt the Obama administration’s Sudan policy has become.  There is not a shred of historical evidence that the NIF/NCP has the slightest interest in "reform via constitutional measures"—and Lyman and the Obama administration know this full well.  There are all too clearly other considerations in Obama's Sudan policy, and they hinge in large part on the putative value of counter-terrorism intelligence the regime can provide—this despite the fact that the regime is clearly still in the terrorism business (see analysis of March 7, 2014).  Certainly nothing else explains the massive new U.S. embassy in Khartoum, which when fully completed and equipped as a listening post for northern Africa will have cost the American taxpayers several hundred million dollars.

The U.S. response to Darfur and greater Sudan under President Obama will continue to be a "stain on our souls," and for this alone he deserves his full measure of opprobrium.

Eric Reeves' new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 - 2012;

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