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Alex de Waal and Sudan: A brief history one man’s destructive misrepresentations

By Eric Reeves

April 17, 2015 (SSNA) -- Al Jazeera America is currently airing a two-part documentary that attempts to represent the character and causes of the catastrophe that has overtaken South Sudan following the explosive outbreak of violence in mid-December 2013 (“South Sudan: Country of Dreams”). It comprises a considerable number of interviews—of ordinary South Sudanese victims, a few of South Sudan’s officials on both sides of the terrible ethnic divide that now splits the country and the former national army (but no interviews with senior government officials)—and a number of Sudan “experts.” I, along with Ted Dagne and John Prendergast, are put on one side of the implicit narrative argument in this painfully unbalanced documentary; Alex de Waal, a long-time commentator and activist on Sudan represents the other side of this “argument.”

The film itself is often poorly or confusingly edited, even for someone who knows a fair bit about what occurred in South Sudan before and after December 15, 2013, when violence exploded, precipitating a brutal civil war that immediately took on a vicious ethnic character. It will be more confusing for those who do not know the history of South Sudan. The documentary is marred by key omissions, an imbalanced representation of the two “sides” in the conflict, and tendentious characterizations of Dagne, Prendergast, and myself. At one point we are described as giving our “devotion to the new rebel army in the South.” But the “new rebel army” came into being with the notable uprising in Bor (Jonglei State) in 1983, long before any of us began our work on bringing a just peace to all of Sudan. And it was to this just peace that we were “devoted,” not the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) (the “Movement” part of the title is almost always omitted by de Waal and the documentary, even as it is a clear sign of a nascent political vision).

This is only one sign of the weakness of historical understanding evident in the first installment of the documentary. It mentions almost in passing that the three of us wrote a very open letter to Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan, in July 2013, warning in emphatic detail of the catastrophe that would likely unfold if Kiir and the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) did not address a number of key issues, including inter alia corruption, the absence of development, and the lack of progress toward a more democratic form of governance in the South. Although the filmmakers were informed by each of us that the letter was only the last, and perforce public, communication with Kiir and the GOSS—that we had been privately raising these issues with the government and working to help address them for several years prior—this fact is not noted in the brief reference to the July 2013 letter. This letter was widely circulated among South Sudanese, and received extensive coverage in the Sudan Tribune. A great many South Sudanese celebrated the letter as precisely what was needed from longtime friends of South Sudan.

The second installment of the documentary airs this coming Monday (April 20) and there seems little reason to hope for a more accurate or historically informed presentation. Interviews with Dagne, Prendergast, and myself will continue to be truncated and misleadingly edited. This is not likely to be true for Alex de Waal, however, who is repeatedly given the opportunity to express his views in extended interview segments. Indeed, the filmmakers have chosen to promote the documentary with a very extended, self-serving, and deeply misleading interview with de Waal. I offer here a substantial correction to the errors and misrepresentations that define de Waal’s interview.

I should say that more broadly, I will be offering two further surveys of de Waal’s actual record of engagement on Sudan, both north and South, a record that has led to his current position as Executive Director of the modestly named World Peace Foundation at Tufts University. For his career has been marked by participation in various diplomatic failures around Sudan’s conflicts, by highly inaccurate characterizations of conditions prevailing in various parts of Darfur, and by a notably abrupt change in his views on whether Darfur was the site of genocide—this shortly prior to his becoming an advisor to the African Union, which adamantly rejects the characterization of Darfur as the site of genocide. The AU provided diplomatic auspices for negotiation of the ill-fated Abuja (Nigeria) peace agreement for Darfur, an agreement that de Waal continued to defend long after it had become clear that the regime in Khartoum had no intention of fulfilling its obligations under the agreement. Moreover, it soon became evident that the agreement had exacerbated splits within the ranks of the Darfuri rebel groups, leading to an upsurge of much more chaotic violence.

For more than a decade I have commented publicly on a number of telling moments in de Waal’s career—commentary that has appeared in Dissent Magazine, The New Republic, The Guardian (UK), The Washington Post, Sudan Tribune, and a number of other academic and news venues. A partial bibliography appears here as Appendix C. The present analysis will focus exclusively on the interview given to Al Jazeera since its misrepresentations and factual errors are so numerous.

Southern Independence

De Waal declares that,

“The chief culprit for the independence of South Sudan is the government of northern Sudan. The government of President Bashir was unable or unwilling to fulfill basic promises to make unity attractive, to invest in South Sudan. The residual option, the fullback option of a vote of self-determination, including the option of independence emerged slowly over time to become the default option.”

This is inaccurate and highly misleading. A self-determination referendum, with secession as an option, had long been the goal of John Garang and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement. Indeed, one way of looking at the history of Sudan since independence in 1956 is the slow but ineluctable move of the South towards an insistence on self-determination. The United States actively opposed a self-determination referendum, and in early 2002 former Senator and then Presidential Special Envoy for Sudan John Danforth told John Garang that the SPLA/M needed to take the referendum off the negotiating table (Danforth had just been speaking with the Egyptians, who were strongly opposed to Southern independence). Garang defiantly said he would not, no doubt startling the emissary of President George W. Bush. Garang held resolutely on the issue, and in July 2002 the landmark Machakos Protocol was signed by the Khartoum regime and the SPLA/M; it guaranteed precisely, as part of any final peace agreement, a self-determination referendum with the option of secession.

When I made my only trip to Sudan six months later in January 2003 (a decade-long struggle with leukemia has prevented a return trip), I visited a number of towns in South Sudan (Rumbek, Lui, Marial Bai, Yei, Mundri) as well as the Nuba Mountains. I spoke to a great many people, in the SPLA/M, civil society, and ordinary South Sudanese. Every single person—every person—made clear that he or she was in favor of secession from (north) Sudan, typically in emphatic fashion. My experience was in no way unique. And when the opportunity finally came to vote on the issue in January 2009, all evidence pointed to an overwhelming, indeed virtually unanimous vote for secession. And yet de Waal, in commenting on this palpable political reality, can only bring himself to say snidely, if incoherently:

“The elections of 2010 were fraudulent in the South. Not much doubt about that. And indeed [so was] the referendum of January 2011—there are very, very few places in the world you could get a vote of 99 percent, and Western countries and democracy advocates would be applauding it. Most of them would be looking, more carefully they'd be saying, ‘There must be something fishy here.’”

This is de Waal at his most disingenuous, conflating the political elections of 2010 that occurred throughout Sudan (north and South) and the specific electoral event that was the self-determination of January 9, 2011. Salva Kiir would certainly have won the presidency of the interim South Sudan in 2010 with or without political machinations: he was head of the SPLM and no other political group had yet to emerge with power significant enough to challenge him. Moreover, the 2010 elections in the South were overseen by regional and international monitors. But to suggest by insinuation, as de Waal does, that the 98.7 percent vote for independence was anything but an expression of the deepest desire of the people of South Sudan is tendentious and perversely inaccurate, and belied by every image we have of the response of South Sudanese to the voting results. He has no company in his assessment, and the evidence he presents—“[there are] very, very few places in the world you could get a vote of 99 percent, and Western countries and democracy advocates would be applauding it”—is at once accurate and completely irrelevant to the unique situation of South Sudan. Nowhere is his lack of experience in South Sudan, or understanding of its people, more conspicuous.

He briefly and very generally notes the failure of the regime to abide by the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), but mainly as a way of leading to his tendentious and historically inaccurate claim that “the fullback option of a vote of self-determination, including the option of independence emerged slowly over time to become the default option.” Here it is particularly important not to offer such facile generalizations, but to see clearly the many ways that Khartoum failed to make Sudanese unity an attractive option for Southerners; rather, the regime defiantly refused to meet the essential benchmarks of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (see my extended analysis of this failure, “The Slow Collapse of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for South Sudan,”). Whether the issue was Khartoum’s military withdrawal from the south, disarming its proxy militia in the oil regions and elsewhere, accepting the findings of the Abyei Boundary Commission, equitably sharing oil wealth from production in South Sudan, or creating a meaningful partnership in national governance, the regime failed to meet its obligations and promises—failed the essential challenge that had been clearly laid out for them: “make the continued unity of Sudan attractive to Southerners,” and to do this through abiding by the terms of the CPA.

To take but one example: the failure to abide by the Abyei Protocol of the CPA led to Khartoum’s military seizure of the region in May 2011. Instead of the promised Abyei self-determination referendum, the region historically defined by the presence of the Dinka Ngok has been slowly, relentlessly annexed by Khartoum following its military seizure. It remains a dangerous flash-point because of the diplomatic failure to halt what were Khartoum’s clearly impending actions—a failure of the international community and the African Union’s chief Sudan diplomat Thabo Mkebi that may yet lead to renewed war. Neither the Al Jazeera documentary nor de Waal has mentioned Abyei, which suffered terribly during the long civil war because the people of the region have long identified culturally, ethnically, and politically with the South. Indeed, if the terms of the Abyei Protocol had been followed, Abyei would today be part of South Sudan. Its exclusion is another example of tendentiously selective history.

At one point de Waal declares, with supporters of South Sudan in mind: “I'm guessing that when people identify personally with a cause, they can very easily lose their objectivity.” But ironically it is de Waal, with his own “cause” and willfully arbitrary history, who lacks objectivity.

Human Rights Abuses During the Civil War (1983 – 2005)

This lack of objectivity is most conspicuous in an extraordinary claim made by de Waal that gets to the heart of his clear animus against the SPLA/M and John Garang:

“The human rights record of the SPLA throughout the entire war has at no time been any better than the human rights record of the Sudan government. And those who advocated on behalf of the SPLA knew it, they knew it perfectly well.”

Both sentences here are slanderously inaccurate. It should be noted first that the SPLA was hardly a coherent army, especially after the defections to Khartoum in 1991 by Riek Machar (of the Nuer tribe and now nominally leading the rebellion in the South) and Lam Akol (of the Shilluk tribe, who was Sudan’s Foreign Minister for several years following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005). These self-serving defections—both men were treated royally by Khartoum and in return they signed the wholly factitious Khartoum Peace Agreement (1997)—created the conditions for an ethnic bloodbath, and one of the first notable events following the defections was the infamous Bor Massacre of 1991, in which many thousands of Bor Dinka were killed by Riek’s Nuer forces. But the central claim by de Waal—“The human rights record of the SPLA throughout the entire war has at no time been any better than the human rights record of the Sudan government”—is deeply, perversely inaccurate and distorts human rights history in the region in a most culpable fashion. The examples of asymmetry are numerous and highly consequential.

Only Khartoum had (and has) an air force, and it bombed—relentlessly and indiscriminately—civilians and humanitarians during the entire time it conducted war against the South (1989 – 2005), and indeed continues to bomb civilians in the South to this day. Hospitals in Equatoria were a favorite target, and yet despite his claim to have spent time in this, the most southerly part of South Sudan, de Waal finds no time to note this most barbarous of human rights abuses; yet each such attack was manifestly an atrocity crime.

Serious recording of such bombing attacks began with a report by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in 2000. MSF-Switzerland (which operated a medical facility in Kajo Keji, Central Equatoria), had conducted a survey of bombing attacks against civilians in South Sudan and reached unambiguous conclusions. In 1999, the year MSF won the Nobel Peace Prize, the organization found that Sudan Armed Forces aircraft bombed the Kajo Keji hospital 10 times, dropping a total of 66 bombs. After experiencing repeated attacks on its hospital, MSF began an investigation of several reported bombing sites in Equatoria. Even though its investigation covered only 15 of the sites where civilian bombings allegedly occurred, MSF documented 60 separate raids on civilian and humanitarian

targets during 1999 alone.

The authors concluded that Khartoum’s military dropped almost 400 bombs on these targets. MSF’s investigation found that (a) “the bombings are aimed at the civilian population and civilian targets, in particular hospitals and schools”; (b) the Khartoum regime appeared to be using chemical weapons and cluster bombs on civilian populations; (c) the bombing campaign was part of a “policy of terror which provokes new displacements of the population and increases the precariousness of the civilian population” (Médecins Sans Frontières, Living under aerial bombardments: Report of an investigation in the Province of Equatoria, Southern Sudan, February 20, 2000). Just yesterday, Human Rights Watch reported on Khartoum’s use of cluster bombs in its campaign against civilians in the Nuba Mountains:

“The evidence that Sudan’s army has used cluster bombs in Southern Kordofan shows the government’s total disregard for its own people and civilian life,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Sudan should immediately stop using these horrendous weapons, destroy its stockpiles, and respect the prohibition on cluster munitions by joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions.” (Human Rights Watch, “Cluster Bombs Used in Nuba Mountains” April 16, 2015)

Does Alex de Waal find anything equivalent to this in the conduct of the SPLA during the civil war? Of course not. But specific examples of Khartoum’s unconstrained use of aerial munitions abound, and as Khartoum continues to bomb civilians in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and indeed South Sudan, we know that there are now more than 2,000 confirmed incidents of aerial attacks deliberately targeting civilians and humanitarians and humanitarian resources (see The actual number of aerial attacks is almost certainly many times this figure. For example, Nuba Reports calculates (February 2015) that more than 3,000 bombs have been dropped on the Nuba Mountains alone since June 2011.

A few days in the lives of the people of South Sudan will give some sense of what was represented by Khartoum’s aerial savagery. On May 22, 2002 Norwegian People’s Aid reported from the village of Rier (in what was then Western Upper Nile): the village was bombed, in the middle of the night, by a high-flying aircraft, without any bomb-siting mechanism; some twenty civilians were killed and almost 100 wounded. Nearby Tam was bombed the following day (May 23, 2002) and relief workers in Lokichoggio (Kenya) reported that Khartoum had also bombed the village of Lil (also in what was then Western Upper Nile) on May 21, 2002, killing another 17 people (information from Reuters [Nairobi], May 24, 2002).

How brutal were these attacks? In addition to deliberate attacks by high-flying Antonov cargo planes (crudely retrofitted as “bombers,” with no absolutely no militarily useful accuracy)—targeting organizations such as MSF and the International Committee of the Red Cross—Khartoum also used helicopter gunships acquired from Russia to effect brutal civilian clearances, as it has in Darfur and South Kordofan. One incident, witnessed at close range by workers for the UN’s World Food Program at Bieh, in the heart of the oil development region of Western Upper Nile—an area that was being “ethnically cleansed”—makes clear how grotesque de Waal’s claim of “moral equivalence” between the SPLA and Khartoum’s military.

On February 20, 2002 the target was the village of Bieh (in the middle of Oil Concession Block 5a), just to the east of construction of an all-weather road for heavy drilling equipment. The village was scouted by two SAF Mi-24 helicopter gunships; both had flown over Bieh twice earlier in the day. On the final pass, in broad daylight, one gunship hovered overhead and conducted precautionary reconnaissance. The other helicopter gunship moved to a low hover position and then directed machine-gun fire and numerous rockets into a crowd of mainly women and children who had gathered for a WFP food distribution. Twenty-four civilians were killed (including children), scores were injured, and many fled into the bush without food. A former high-level Western official who was camped near Bieh on an assessment mission at the time of the attack reported that even more casualties were discovered burned to death in the village tukuls that had been attacked with rockets.

Humanitarian sources confirmed that there was no military presence in or near Bieh. Moreover, the faces of the pilot and gunner could be clearly seen from the ground by WFP workers; the gunner and pilot, in turn, could clearly see that they were firing on noncombatants. This was made explicit at the time by Laura Melo, WFP spokeswoman in Nairobi:

"The helicopter was flying low enough that our staff could see inside the helicopter and a man inside firing a machine gun. How could they not see that there was food being distributed, that women and children were receiving food?” Melo said. (Associated Press [Nairobi], February 28, 2002)

Moreover, as Melo also pointed out, WFP had informed Khartoum officials of the food distribution (“All [humanitarian] interventions are cleared ahead of time and this one was also cleared”); the UN compound in Bieh was also well-marked and well-known. The facts are simply indisputable (a photographic record was made by relief workers at the time), and it is all too clear that the SAF intention was to kill civilians gathered for food aid and disrupt humanitarian relief in Bieh (there was of course an immediate withdrawal of all humanitarian personnel).

The burden is on de Waal to offer examples of similar barbarism and “human rights abuses” by the SPLA.

De Waal also makes no mention of the fact that the SPLA was much more humane in its treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs) during the civil war, and this continued up to and beyond the signing of the CPA. This was also true during the fighting around Heglig (April 2012) in the disputed western oil region, and has even been true during much of the current violence. Dagne, who has much more experience with this issue than de Waal, is emphatic about how poorly Southerners were treated by their Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) captors. Indeed, a recent vignette in South Kordofan captures all too well the SAF attitude toward “rebel POWs,” who were often summarily executed. Ahmed Haroun, Khartoum’s governor in South Kordofan and indicted by the International Criminal Court for massive crimes against humanity in Darfur, was captured on camera in March 2012 telling his forces that they were not to bring back any prisoners alive: “bring back no prisoners and clear the area out of all burdens.” (A video of this outrageous command to commit war crimes is available at:

It is worth noting that de Waal himself has previously described the nature of Khartoum’s conduct of war in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile (present-day Unity State) as “genocidal,” which creates a rather embarrassing asymmetry with his claim that “The human rights record of the SPLA throughout the entire war has at no time been any better than the human rights record of the Sudan government.” Or perhaps he simply omitted the accusation that the SPLA also committed genocide—and perhaps the omission comes because there is no evidence of such a campaign by the SPLA. But in August 2004 in The London Review of Books (“Counter-insurgency on the Cheap”) de Waal concluded his assessment of the crisis in Darfur in the following terms:

This [counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur by Khartoum] is not the genocidal campaign of a government at the height of its ideological hubris, as the 1992 jihad against the Nuba Mountains was, or coldly determined to secure natural resources, as when it sought to clear the oilfields of southern Sudan of their troublesome inhabitants. This is the routine cruelty of a security cabal, its humanity withered by years in power: it is genocide by force of habit.”

De Waal would conveniently disown these words about Darfur shortly before taking a position as an advisor to the African Union, which as I’ve indicated is adamantly opposed to the characterization of Darfur as the site of “genocide.” But his description of what occurred in Western Upper Nile—“[a genocide] coldly determined to secure natural resources, as when [the Khartoum regime] sought to clear the oilfields of southern Sudan of their troublesome inhabitants”—has far too much truth in it to be disowned, even by de Waal.

Engineered Famine

De Waal’s claim that “the human rights record of the SPLA throughout the entire war has at no time been any better than the human rights record of the Sudan government” is also belied by countless other features of Khartoum’s unspeakably barbarous military campaign. Although the causes of the 1998 famine in Bahr el-Ghazal were several, our most authoritative assessment of this event—which cost perhaps 100,000 lives—comes from Human Rights Watch. And although Human Rights Watch points to SPLA human rights abuses as being one of the causes of the famine, the far greater responsibility lies with Khartoum’s regular and proxy forces (see Appendix A).

Khartoum also used the notorious “peace camps” as a means of fighting the SPLA by controlling, or starving, the population of the Nuba Mountains during the 1990s. Again, Human Rights Watch provides our best account of these camps and the brutal humanitarian embargo imposed by the regime on the people of the Nuba. In 1998 Congressional testimony, the Human Rights Watch witness spoke of the way in which the Khartoum regime (then the National Islamic Front, a name that became too much of a burden by 1999) sustained a humanitarian embargo that threatened hundreds of thousands of innocent Nuba civilians:

This time the government uses the pretext of an ambush killing three relief workers that must be investigated before anything else happens; responsibility for the ambush is not clear. Many see the UN's failure to push for equal access to the rebel areas of the north as colluding in the government's attempts to starve the Nuba into submission. At the same time as it delays food relief for the needy in SPLA areas of the Nuba Mountains, the government is engaging in scorched earth tactics against this civilian population, looting animals and crops, and burning what abductees cannot carry. It also displaces those living in fertile valleys into the higher and less fertile land. Now hunger is driving Nubas to the garrison towns and peace camps, in search of food and clothes. Because the Nuba Mountains are isolated from any international border or SPLA area, the government has successfully cut off most ordinary commerce to the area, so basic items such as used clothes, salt and sugar are rarely available, at any price. [See also Appendix B]

Precisely the same tactics are being used in the Nuba Mountains today—precisely the same tactics. There was and is no equivalent tactic on the part of the SPLA or SPLA-North (the SPLA/M-North comprises the remnants of two divisions of the SPLA that were based in South Kordofan and Blue Nile; the SPLA and SPLA-North are not the same entity). De Waal knows this but finds it inconvenient to mention.

John Garang, SPLA/M leader

The animus, indeed hatred that de Waal feels for SPLA/M leader John Garang is extraordinarily intense and often mindless in the claims it leads to. Ted Dagne, John Prendergast and I all met with Garang on a number of occasions, and held substantial discussions. Dagne had by far the closest connection, perhaps of anyone in the United States, and holds de Waal’s assessment of Garang in utter contempt. None of us believes that de Waal ever had a serious meeting with Garang, although it is impossible to be certain. Garang would certainly have known of de Waal’s attitudes towards him and would have been highly unlikely to see the benefit of meeting someone with such views.

I was fortunate to meet with Garang on more than half a dozen occasions, twice for extended one-on-one discussions of South Sudan and the broader issues of Sudan, once in his home in Nairobi. I found Garang highly intelligent, clear in vision, disciplined in his thinking, and ultimately charismatic, a word I am not accustomed to using. I was and am well aware of the accusations of an authoritarian bent in Garang, and I don’t doubt it. Given the challenges of conducting a guerilla war against a genocidal regime, and at the same time preparing for the possibility of an eventual Government of South Sudan, Garang was under enormous pressure. He was demanding, insistent, but always disciplined; I know of no evidence of a man possessed by demons or given to gratuitous violence. De Waal, whose animus toward Garang is of longstanding, sees him as “ruthless” (a word he uses twice), “completely intolerant of dissent” (a judgment de Waal is simply not in a position to make), and most tellingly declares that:

And [those who advocated on behalf of the Garang and the SPLA/M knew perfectly well that] leader John Garang [merely] spoke the language of equality, of democracy, of freedom. Now, other liberation movements around the world—take the ANC of Nelson Mandela—have insisted that they should hold themselves to a higher moral standard than their adversaries. They will not sink to the level of the oppressor. They will behave better. They will have deeply entrenched principles of human rights, during the struggle, they will not postpone morality, freedom, progress until they win.

This ecstatic representation of the African National Congress will be troubling to many who have watched the ANC, after the dismantling of apartheid and the retirement of Nelson Mandela from public life, become something other than an exemplar of freedom and tolerance, or ideal supporter of human rights (consider South Africa's relationship with Mugabe's Zimbabwe). But de Waal has no time to consider qualifications as he hastens on to the judgment he is so eager to render:

"Not [so] the SPLA, and the 'International Friends of the SPLA.' Instead of holding the SPLA to a higher standard than its adversary, they forgave it its crimes because of the perceived justice of its cause. They held it to [sic] high esteem but to low standards."

Historical accuracy again seems to have slipped away from de Waal here as in his anger he apparently conflates the SPLA/M of today with John Garang, who died in a helicopter crash ten years agoten years ago. To hold him accountable for the undoubted mistakes, corruption, and human rights abuses of the SPLA/M of today is simply perverse. There is no telling what the fate of South Sudan would have been had Garang not died, but it is worth recalling that on his first visit to Khartoum (July 2005) as First Vice President of Sudan he was greeting with wild enthusiasm by more than 1 million people, a great many of them not people displaced from the South, although the reaction of Southerners as recorded by all news agencies was of joy, happiness, and relief.

The SPLA/M, Past and Present

It is all too clear that de Waal, in speaking about current events, is still disposed to allow his animus toward Garang to produce distorting conflations with the SPLA/M leadership of today. It also leads him to deeply and consequentially inaccurate characterizations of the Khartoum regime. Speaking of past U.S. “practical moral, political support to the SPLA, including a host of measures intended to isolate and weaken Khartoum,” de Waal immediately proceeds on to a claim of surpassing disingenuousness, indeed mendacity:

“And even though events have changed—Khartoum stopped supporting terrorism, Khartoum signed peace agreements—the SPLA did not turn out to be a force democracy and human rights.”

However we assess the SPLA/M of today, it is important to note how inaccurate de Waal’s claim about Khartoum is, and how absurd it is as a basis for judging the SPLA/M.

A wealth of evidence makes clear that Khartoum does in fact still supports terrorist groups, radical Islamist groups, jihadis, and extremists of various sources. Sudan is one of only three countries that will remain on this year’s U.S. State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism (along with Syria and Iran, with which the Khartoum regime leadership desperately wants a “strategic relationship,” despite supporting Saudi Arabia in its fight against the Tehran-backed Houthis in Yemen). Khartoum has allowed Sudan to be used as a conduit for weapons from Iran to Hamas in Gaza, and still allows Hamas to operate openly in Sudan.

But it is de Waal’s casual noting that “Khartoum signed peace agreements” that marks out a deeply disturbing willingness to abuse facts. Khartoum has indeed signed a host of peace agreements, and like all agreements the regime has signed over the past 25 years, they have proved worthless. The National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime has never abided by a single agreement it has signed with any Sudanese party—not one, not ever. And de Waal knows this full well.

Khartoum’s bad faith is clear whether we are speaking of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (abrogated on multiples accounts by Khartoum, most egregiously the Abyei Protocol, but also including border delineation, wealth- and power-sharing before secession, and a range of security measures); or the Darfur Peace Agreement (Abuja, 2006); or the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (October 2006); or the agreement known as the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (July 2011); or the Status of Forces Agreement with the UN/African Union Peacekeeping Force (UNAMID); or various humanitarian access agreements—the list goes on and on. To adduce the fact that Khartoum has simply signed agreements as evidence of anything having changed in Sudan, or the regime, is intellectually dishonest, indeed a disgrace. It is thus the height of arrogant self-righteousness for de Waal to conclude his interview with Al Jazeera by declaring:

I think when the advocates for South Sudan, both inside the government and outside the government, reflect on the role they've played over the last 20 years, they need to ask themselves some very, very searching questions about their own responsibilities for enabling the South Sudanese political, military elite to construct such a profoundly corrupt and abusive system of government. It's really quite shocking.

What de Waal Ignores

This strident assignment of blame ignores a great many features of the history of the ten years since John Garang’s death and indeed the decade preceding. Most notably it ignores the efforts by Dagne, Prendergast, and myself—separately and together—to speak forcefully and publicly to the leadership of the Government of South Sudan and the leadership of the SPLA/M, as well as to offer advice on economic development most likely to avoid the temptations of corruption in the face of sudden, massive oil revenues—a formula for disaster in too many Africa countries. It ignores the efforts of many “advocates for South Sudan,” a number of them based in the region—including, importantly, the churches and the South Sudan Council of Churches in particular—to speak out against corruption. It ignores the efforts by NGOs and others to bring pressure to bear for reform. It ignores the work of human rights groups over the past several years in calling attention to abuses, especially Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. And it ignores the broader efforts on behalf of the marginalized regions of Sudan that have distinguished our work, our advocacy, and the numerous occasions on which we have testified before the Congress. All of Sudan has been our concern, not just South Sudan, as de Waal would have it.

De Waal is unaware of the quiet work behind the scenes because he was nowhere on the scene in South Sudan. Otherwise he might know that in 2006, shortly after the death of Garang, Dagne, Prendergast and I pushed for a meeting with the leadership. Dagne (as Chair), Roger Winter (another signatory of the June 2013 open letter to Savla Kiir, and a champion of South Sudan for more than twenty-five years), Hilde Johnson of Norway (former Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan), and Congressman Donald Payne, Sudan’s most loyal friend in the U.S. Congress—all met with the SPLM Political Bureau in Juba to discuss precisely the issue of corruption about which de Waal’s claims to be concerned.

Such efforts were of longstanding. In 1994 Prendergast was primary author of a Human Rights Watch monograph that chronicled the human rights abuses of both the Khartoum regime and the SPLA. For his efforts Prendergast was actually jailed by the SPLA for a period of time. He has been no less critical of the SPLA on human rights issues subsequently, if speaking more often behind the scenes, as is the case, perforce, for myself. Dagne drafted a resolution in 1993 while an aide to Congressman Harry Johnston of Florida; in the Resolution the following language appears:

Whereas all factions of the Sudan People's Liberation Army also are responsible for serious abuses of human rights, including the killing in September 1992 of 4 foreign citizens, the reported killing of 87 civilians by the Nasir faction of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army in January 1992 in Pagarau, and the reported killing of 200 “deserters” by the Torit group near Tonj in Bahr al-Ghazal;

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring),

That the Congress,

(1) strongly condemns the Government of Sudan for its severe human rights abuses, and calls upon that government to improve human rights conditions throughout the country;

(2) deplores the internecine fighting among the Sudan People's Liberation Army factions which has caused untold suffering for the people of southern Sudan;

(3) calls on all factions of the Sudan People's Liberation Army to cease hostilities and resolve their differences through peaceful means;

(4) urges the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army factions to provide full access for and to cooperate with relief organizations... (House Concurrent Resolution 131, August 3, 1993)

Dagne authored other letters in the 1990s concerning human rights abuses by the SPLA, letters that Johnston and other Congressmen would sign and deliver. All these efforts are excluded from de Waal’s distorted narrative.

Perhaps most tellingly, de Waal does not know of Dagne’s devoted, personally costly, and dangerous efforts to head up efforts to address corruption in the Government of South Sudan and the SPLA/M elite following the CPA, something that he and I had been discussing for several years, with our concerns expressed directly to the GOSS. Indeed, Dagne finally went to Juba—as de Waal most certainly did not—having given up his job at the Congressional Research Service precisely to address as fully and vigorously as possible the problem of corruption. It was highly dangerous work because of the vested interests of those who had profited from and continued to profit from corruption—Dagne’s life was repeatedly threatened, and he was once forcibly expelled from South Sudan by the armed force of a corrupt government official. In my own view, Dagne’s efforts were nothing less heroic.

De Waal’s word “advocates” appears to be directed primarily at Dagne, Prendergast and myself, as well as a few other Americans, accusing us of a “shocking” enabling of a “profoundly corrupt and abusive system of government.” What is shocking is that such efforts as we have made mean nothing to de Waal because they don’t fit his pre-packaged narrative about Sudan and South Sudan. He declares at one moment in the Al Jazeera interview: “[a] simplified moral script makes a very bad policy.” But dishonesty and ignorance make for even worse policies. I will have a good deal more to say about de Waal’s own “scripts” and narratives—and ignorance—in subsequent analyses.


Appendix A: Bahr El Ghazal and the Famine of 1998, Human Rights Watch (1999):

Systematic human rights abuses were the direct cause of the famine in Bahr El Ghazal. The famine agents are the government of Sudan, including the muraheleen or militia of the Baggara (Arab cattle nomads), and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The Dinka warlord Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, who has twice changed sides in one year, provoked famine mostly as the leader of a government militia. The Bahr El Ghazal famine affected—and continues to assail—approximately one million people, a majority of them Dinka, the largest ethnic group in Sudan....

The civil war is waged by means that expressly violate human rights and humanitarian law—the laws of war. The government’s counterinsurgency plan in Bahr El Ghazal, the central Nuba Mountains, and elsewhere is to attack civilians as a means to destroy the rebels social base, displacing, killing, or capturing civilians and stripping them of the meager assets that provide the means of survival in a harsh land. An important instrument of this policy are ethnic militias armed by the government to divide southerners against each other and enable non-southerners to attack southern civilians perceived to support rebel groups. The impoverished Baggara militias who help carry out the plan in Bahr El Ghazal are motivated by the prospect of booty: Dinka cattle, grain, children, and women. The Baggara, who live north of the Bahr al Arab River (which the Dinka call the Kiir River), also saw they could freely use the traditional Dinka lands in northern Bahr El Ghazal and southern Kordofan, which have good grazing land and water sources, if the Dinka were displaced from them.

Appendix B: Human Rights Watch, Congressional Testimony of July 28, 1998: “The Looming Famine In The Nuba Mountains, Central Sudan”:

The National Islamic Front [NIF, currently the National Congress Party—ER] wages a war of attrition by starvation and displacement of the Nuba. Having failed to defeat the SPLA militarily, in 1992 the NIF declared jihad or holy war on opposition Nuba, even the Muslims-and Nuba commander and governor Yousif Kuwa is a Muslim (although his children are Christians, which he has never opposed; this tolerance is typical of the Nuba in SPLA territory).

In 1992 the government set up "peace camps" ringing garrison towns and forced rural Nuba it captured to live there, under guard lest they escape to their homes. In the camps, women and girls are subjected to sexual abuse by [Khartoum’s] PDF [Popular Defense Forces] and soldiers. All family members are punished if one manages to escape. International relief is provided in the Nuba Mountains, but only on one side: the government side. Some food, usually an inadequate amount, goes to peace camps.

The government has refused and delayed all UN efforts to conduct even a needs assessment in SPLA areas, despite the most recent pledge (May 1998) to UN Secretary Kofi Annan that such a mission could proceed. After a compromise was reached regarding the composition of the assessment team and their point of departure, the government denied permission for the team to proceed, and the visit has now been postponed indefinitely. This time the government uses the pretext of an ambush killing three relief workers that must be investigated before anything else happens; responsibility for the ambush is not clear. Many see the UN's failure to push for equal access to the rebel areas of the north as colluding in the government's attempts to starve the Nuba into submission.

At the same time as it delays food relief for the needy in SPLA areas of the Nuba Mountains, the government is engaging in scorched earth tactics against this civilian population, looting animals and crops, and burning what abductees cannot carry. It also displaces those living in fertile valleys into the higher and less fertile land. Now hunger is driving Nubas to the garrison towns and peace camps, in search of food and clothes. Because the Nuba Mountains are isolated from any international border or SPLA area, the government has successfully cut off most ordinary commerce to the area, so basic items such as used clothes, salt and sugar are rarely available, at any price.

Appendix C: Over many years I have expressed many profound disagreements with Alex de Waal, particularly on the catastrophe that continues, indeed deepens in Darfur. I have assembled below a bibliography of those publications that do most to distinguish my views from de Waal’s. While only a few are directed specifically at de Waal, I have highlighted with an asterisk [*] those publications that seem to establish clear differences of view and understanding. Those with a particularly direct bearing on our differences have been highlighted with two asterisks [**].

** On Alex de Waal's view of the uprising in Sudan: A brief critique, Sudan Tribune, 17 October 2013 |

** A Note on the Assessment of Darfur by Alex de Waal: “How was Darfur so badly understood and terribly mismanaged by the international community?” (An Appendix to"Completing the Darfur Genocide: Tens of thousands in Khartoum's death grip; the killing has begun in earnest" | | 7 January 2015

** A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide (Key Publishing, 2007) (review commentary at

**Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012 (October 2012 in eBook format, (review commentary at

** “Regime Change in Sudan,” The Washington Post, August 23, 2004

* “Unnoticed Genocide,” The Washington Post, February 25, 2004

** “Genocide by Attrition in Sudan," The Washington Post (Sunday), April 6, 2008

** “Khartoum Collapses Darfuri Civil Society Peace Effort,” The Christian Science Monitor, May 27, 2009

** “Darfur, an ICC Arrest Warrant, and the Humanitarian Imperative,” The International Herald Tribune, March 22, 2009

** “Global Justice Challenged in Darfur,” The International Herald Tribune, September 1, 2008

“U.S. experts set out major advantages of South Sudan railway option,” MENA Rail News, July 13, 2013 (with Sharon Hutchinson, University of Wisconsin/Madison)

** “Sudan, South Sudan, and the Oil Revenues Controversy: Khartoum’s Obstructionism Threatens War,” Fair Observer (South Africa), April 201

* “A Scandalous International Hypocrisy on Sudan,” Issue Brief on Sudan (Council on Foreign Relations), April 26, 2012

“Humanitarian Obstruction as a Crime Against Humanity,” African Studies Review, Volume 54, Number 3 (December 2011), pp. 165 – 74

** “Shame Without End: Darfur and ‘the Responsibility to Protect,’” Yale Journal of International Affairs (2011, Volume 3, Issue 2)

** “Obama, Sudan, and the ‘De-Coupling’ of Darfur,” February 2011 web column for Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

** “Failure to Protect: International Response to Darfur Genocide,” The Harvard International Review, Issue on “Failed States, Vol. 29 (4), Winter 2008

** “Darfur and Genocide,” Embassy Magazine (Canada), June 8, 2005

** “Darfur and the International Criminal Court,” Middle East Report (on-line), April 29, 2005

** “Prospects for Peace in Sudan: The Challenge of the Machakos Process,” Global Dialogue (South Africa), Spring 2003

* “No Further Evasion of the Essential Question: What will we do in Darfur?” Tinabantu: Journal of African National Affairs, Volume 2, No. 1, 2004

* “Peace or War? The Moment of Truth for Sudan,” Mediterranean Quarterly (Duke University Press), Fall 2002

* “On Genocide in Darfur,” December 30, 2003 at Africa InfoServe (Sudan publications of;

From Dissent Magazine (quarterly print edition)

** “Refusing to Save Darfur,” Dissent Magazine (Fall 2008)

** “Genocide Without End: The Destruction of Darfur,” Dissent Magazine (Summer 2007)

** “Darfur: Watching Genocide, Doing Nothing,” Dissent Magazine (Fall 2006)

** “The Future History of Darfur,” Dissent Magazine (Fall 2005)

** “Darfur: Genocide by Attrition,” Dissent Magazine (Winter 2005)

** “Darfur: Ongoing Genocide,” Dissent Magazine (Fall 2004)

From Dissent Magazine on-line

** “Accommodating Genocide: International Response to Khartoum’s ‘New Strategy for Darfur,’” Dissent Magazine, October 8, 2010

** “Sudan’s Elections: Responding to an Electoral Travesty,” Dissent Magazine, April 22, 2010 (featured article)

** “Darfur End Game: Peace or Justice in Sudan,” Dissent Magazine, February 17, 2009 (featured article)

** “How many in Darfur Have Died?” May 21, 2011

** “The Promise and Peril of an Independent Republic of South Sudan,” February 3, 2011

** “The Referenda for Southern Sudan: The Cost of Belatedness,” November 3, 2010

** “The Annoyance of International Justice,” July 26, 2010

From The New Republic on-line:

** "Darfur: The Disappearing Genocide,” The New Republic, August 20, 2010

** “Why Abuja Won’t Save Darfur, The New Republic, May 10, 2006 |

* “Wishful Thinking: Why the State Department wants you to think the genocide in Darfur is over,” The New Republic, February 9, 2006

* “Accommodating Genocide,” The New Republic, October 27, 2005

** “Untimely Death” [on the death of John Garang] The New Republic, August 2, 2005

From The Guardian (UK) (“Comment is Free”)

** “On the Re-writing of the Darfur Narrative,” The Guardian, June 15, 2006

** “Doomed to failure: Darfur Peace Talks in Sirte, Libya” The Guardian, November 2, 2007

** “How Many Deaths in Darfur?” The Guardian, August 20, 2007

* “Darfur’s Downward Spiral,” The Guardian, August 11, 2006

From The Huffington Post:

* "Bombing Civilian Hospitals: A Khartoum 'Tradition,'" The Huffington Post, January 23, 2015

** "Completing the Darfur Genocide: Khartoum's Renewed Ambition," The Huffington Post, January 13, 2015

* "Khartoum Announces a Campaign to Starve the People of the Nuba Mountains," The Huffington Post, October 7, 201

* "Darfur: The Genocide the World Got Tired Of," The Huffington Post, August 16, 2014

** "South Sudan Slips Into Vicious Chaos Amidst International Belatedness, Lack of Commitment," The Huffington Post, May 22, 2014

** "Sudan's Bloody Crackdown on Civilian Protestors: Does the U.S. Have Anything to Say?" The Huffington Post, October 7, 2013

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for the past sixteen years. He is author of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012 (September 2012).

Darfur: Radio Dabanga, News Digest Number 7 | 12 April 2015

By Eric Reeves

April 12, 2015 (SSNA) -- This is the seventh installment of a digest containing what I believe to be the most important stories reported by Radio Dabanga in the previous week. Radio Dabanga has been by far our most important and reliable source of information about what is occurring in Darfur, and provides a great deal more than the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the largely worthless quarterly reports of the UN Secretary-General.

This digest looks back a few days further to pick up important stories not included in the last installment of this digest; still, the oldest story here is dated April 2, 2015. On the eve of Sudan’s electoral travesty, referred to absurdly by the National Congress Party regime as “elections,” a considerable amount of news has been reported by both Radio Dabanga and Sudan Tribune; and while the number of primary stories included here, from both sources, is the usual ten, there are a considerable number of related stories that are important in their own right and have been included in subsidiary positions under various rubrics. This is still perforce highly selective.

There is a separate, concluding section on this week’s elections; perhaps the most important story comes today from Radio Dabanga:

Sudanese civil society call for nation-wide intifada, April 12, 2015 | Khartoum

The Civil Society Initiative stressed that the road chosen by the Sudan Appeal signatories, after the Sudanese government declined to accept the AU invitation to discuss the process of a broad national dialogue in the Ethiopian capital on 29 March, is a mass intifada. It called “on all sectors in the rural and urban areas” to support the Sudan Appeal and the uprising. “Only a nation-wide uprising can release Sudan from the grip of the corrupt ruling National Congress Party, restore peace, rights and freedoms, and rebuild the country based on democracy and equal citizenship,” the statement reads.

These words raise the prospect of extreme violence, as the regime has again given orders for its security forces to use live ammunition in controlling any demonstrations during the election period (“Any demonstration to be fired at with live ammunition”—President and Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir, as reported in minutes for September 10, 2014 meeting of senior military security officials). Hundreds were killed by security forces during the September 2013 demonstrations; Amnesty International has established that these forces were given “shoot to kill” orders from the beginning of the demonstrations.

All dispatches have been edited to some degree for length; any editorial comments on my part appear italicized in [brackets] and in blue; all emphases within the cited texts have been added. The reporting on the election appears at the end of this digest.

Eric Reeves, 12 April 2015

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 1 |

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 2 |

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 3 |

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 4 |

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 5 |

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 6 |

Darfur: Radio Dabanga Digest, Number 7 |—and below


Sudan Tribune |Bashir says Darfur does not need peacekeepers

April 8, 2015 | El Fasher

The Sudanese president Omer Hassab al-Bashir said that Darfur region does not need the hybrid peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), adding that local traditions and customs are enough to resolve conflicts in the region. [Al-Bashir is speaking her from the capital of North Darfur, scene of the worst violence the region has experienced since the early years of the genocide. That al-Bashir’s comments here are, on their face, ludicrous mendacity shows a wider contempt for the people of Darfur, of Sudan, and the international community as a whole.]

Following media reports late last year about mass rape in Tabit, a village 45km southwest of North Darfur capital El-Fasher, Sudanese authorities loudly criticised UNAMID for echoing the news. They were also angered after remarks by UN officials who called for further investigation, pointing to the heavy presence of military and police during the first probe. Since then, Sudan refused to authorise a second investigation and called publicly to speed up the finalisation of an exit strategy for the joint mission from Darfur.

[The mass rape of more than 200 girls and women at Tabit (North Darfur) by regular army forces has been authoritatively established in a lengthy report by Human Rights Watch; Khartoum’s denying the UN the opportunity for further investigation only works to make clear how dismayed the regime is at the uncovering of some of its atrocity crimes in North Darfur. This is the real reason for the increasingly energetic calls that the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) be withdrawn. If the force is withdrawn, it will precipitate a complete breakdown in humanitarian operations.]

Addressing an electoral rally in El-Fasher on Wednesday, Bashir expressed regret over the killing of dozens during recent clashes between Berti and Zayadia tribes in North Darfur state... He said the conflict between the two tribes was not due to normal differences but a result of a conspiracy that aimed at destabilising the region and sabotaging elections.

The Sudanese president warned Darfur people against allowing Satan to fuel discord among them through tribalism and regionalism, saying there is no difference between Arab and African tribes. [No one is more responsible for exacerbating ethnic tensions and violence than al-Bashir and his National Congress Party regime. His infamous Janjaweed militia commander Musa Hilal conveyed the views of the regime all too well in an August 2004 memorandum: “Change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.” The effort to “change the demography” of Darfur is nowhere more energetically pursued than in North Darfur, the location of al-Bashir’s campaign speech.]

“Do you need anyone to reconcile among you? Do you need UNAMID? Do you need the AU, UN or IGAD?” he said. [Al-Bashir would have this heard as a rhetorical question; for most Darfuris it is anything but.]

Bashir praised steadfastness of the residents of El-Fasher and their resistance to the rebellion for 12 years, vowing to uproot rebellion during a brief period of time. [The same vow was made over eleven years ago, with the same arrogance and contempt—and inaccuracy.]

He congratulated the residents of El-Fasher for the Al-Inghaz Al-Gharbi highway, pledging to complete renaissance and development in the region. [Members of al-Bashir’s regime are utterly shameless in offering promises they know they can’t keep.]

“Darfur does not need UNAMID protection”: Al Bashir

April 9, 2015 | El Fasher

Concluding his electoral campaign in the five states of Darfur, President Omar Al Bashir told supporters in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on Wednesday that the Darfuris do not need to be protected by foreign peacekeepers. He stressed that Darfur has a long tradition in resolving disputes... “Do you need someone to tell you how to find reconciliation between yourselves? Do you need UNAMID? Do you need the African Union? Do you need the UN?” Al Bashir asked hundreds of supporters. [It is true that Darfur had traditionally been blessed with mechanisms for reconciliation, compensation, and adjudication of disputes between tribal groups; al-Bashir’s genocidal counter-insurgency campaign has destroyed these almost completely.]

“Despite the rebels’ claim that Darfur is marginalized, they continuously impede the government's efforts to build schools and dig wells.” [This is pure fabrication, a shameless lie in an effort to deflect blame for what all recognize has been a decades-long marginalization of Darfur and other peripheral regions.] “[The rebels] are trading the cause of Darfur, following a foreign agenda.” He said that the rebels will soon be eliminated. “No post will be obtained with a gun anymore.” [This comes from a man who seized power by military coup in June 1989 and has never since participated in a meaningful election.]

The president’s visit to the North Darfur capital was preceded by tight security measures. The town’s Grand Market and the shops at the main roads were shut, a merchant informed Radio Dabanga. He said that men in civilian clothes ordered the shop and stall owners to attend the speech of Al Bashir. One of the sheikhs of the Zamzam camp for the displaced near El Fasher told Radio Dabanga that most of the camp residents boycotted the visit of Al Bashir, “except for a few people who joined the ruling National Congress Party in an attempt to meet some of their needs.” He compared the president’s visit to Darfur with “a murderer who visits the cemetery to dance on gravestones of his victims.”

• Sudan Tribune | Sudanese warplanes kill 14 civilians in Central Darfur

April 7, 2015 | Khartoum

Sudanese army warplanes killed 14 civilians during an airstrike carried out in Central Darfur state a week ago, said the UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. “The Joint AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is able to confirm the dropping of 10 bombs which led to the killing of 14 civilians and the wounding of 18 others in Rowata, Central Darfur, on 1 April,” Dujarric said at a press conference at the UN Headquarters on Tuesday. [We must be grateful for this extraordinarily rare confirmation from UNAMID of an airstrike that not only violated UN Security Council 1591 (March 2005), banning all military air flights in Darfur, but clearly—given the nature of the attack—is a war crime. In aggregate, the bombing attacks on civilians in Darfur—of which only a miniscule fraction have been investigated by UNAMID—are crimes against humanity (see ).

[The] government recently intensified the airstrikes in Darfur ahead of general elections, which will take within a week. The rebel groups vowed to disrupt the electoral process in solidarity with a campaign launched by the opposition forces calling to boycott the elections. Dujarric said the army continues its attacks, adding [that] bombs dropped in the area failed to kill peacekeepers who were present in the area on Monday. “Yesterday, a verification patrol was dispatched to Rowata; while it was in the village, the team witnessed another aerial bombardment, consisting of five bombs dropped close to where they were standing,” he said. The UN mission strongly condemns such aerial bombings, which cause widespread death, destruction and displacement of populations, he further said. [And “condemnation” is all the UN and African Union are prepared to offer the people of Darfur; there is absolutely no plan to compel a cessation of attacks that have been ongoing for twelve years. In turn, the sense of total impunity on Khartoum’s part is only more fully confirmed if nothing of consequence follows from aerial attacks that were actually witnessed while in progress by UNAMID observers.]


Gang-rape, beatings, robberies in Kutum, North Darfur

April 7, 2015 | Kutum Locality

A group of militiamen gang-raped a girl (15) of Kassab camp for the displaced in Kutum locality on Sunday. In two separate incidents, other Kassab camp displaced were beaten and robbed... [A] Kassab camp activist reported that militiamen riding on camels attacked four young women who were collecting firewood and straw five kilometres north of the camp. “They beat three of the women with their whips, and kept them silent at gunpoint, while they seized the fourth, and raped her alternately,” she said. “The victim was transferred, severely bleeding and in a bad mental state, to a health clinic in the vicinity.”

Other Kassab camp residents were intercepted by militiamen on the same day, when they were collecting firewood southwest of the camp. “They beat and whipped them, and robbed them of their money, mobile phones, three donkey carts, and the axes and ropes used for collecting the wood,” a camp elder said. In Kutum town, gunmen entered the premises of Kutum Hospital on Sunday evening. One of the guards told Radio Dabanga that “a group of gunmen took a double-cabin vehicle belong to the Ministry of Health at gunpoint, and headed northwards.” [These brazen, vicious assaults give some sense of the complete lawlessness and lack of security that dominates much of Darfur—and threatens all of it.]

Two gang-raped in North Darfur’s Tawila

April 7, 2015 | Tawila Locality

Three militiamen raped two young women in Tawila locality on Monday. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, a listener reported that the two women, aged 21 and 17, from Karkar village, 20 kilometres south of Tawila town, were collecting firewood in the area of Riheid See Sawa. “Three Janjaweed riding on camels and wearing military uniforms ambushed the women, and repeatedly raped them at gunpoint.” [The reason Khartoum was so sensitive about an investigation of the mass rapes at Tabit is the success the regime has had in making of rape, used systematically as a weapon of war, something that is rarely reported by UNAMID or adequately noted by the UN Secretary General; local authorities—even those who are willing—cannot halt the ongoing epidemic of sexual violence. Here again years of impunity for these brutal crimes ensures that they will continue. No international actor of consequence has spoken out on a consistent basis for what are, in aggregate, crimes against humanity.]

Militiamen kill two in Mellit, child dies by bombing in North Darfur

April 3, 2015 | Mellit / Fanga / Kass

Two men were shot dead at the hands of pro-government militiamen in Malawi area, close to Mellit, North Darfur, on Thursday. The killing took place against the backdrop of the raids in Mellit locality earlier this week, in which militiamen reportedly killed and injured at least 48 people. [These murderous attacks will continue until the international community finds the will to bring real pressure on the regime to stop; such pressure is nowhere in sight or even mooted by those nations with the ability to ensure that there are painful consequences for such continuing barbarism.] Thursday also witnessed an aerial bombardment in East Jebel Marra, resulting in the death of a child.

In Kass, a man was shot dead by militiamen. A relative of one of the dead reported to Radio Dabanga that the militiamen, driving five vehicles mounted with Dushka guns, were on their way to Kabkabiya after participating in the raids on several villages in Mellit last weekend and from Monday to Wednesday. [The militiamen—likely Rapid Response Forces (RSF)—also operate with a sense of total impunity, knowing that they are doing what the regime wishes them to.]

A child died by an explosion when the Sudanese Air Force bombed an area near Fanga, in East Jebel Marra, on Thursday. A number of livestock were killed, too, and large tracts of farmland were burned down. A witness told Radio Dabanga that an Antonov aircraft flew over Burgo area, north of Fanga, for a long time, before it dropped seventeen bombs. The 8-year-old Saleh Goma Saleh was killed inside her house. Twelve cows and donkeys did not survive the bombardment either. “The latest attack sparked panic amongst the residents in the area, who have fled into the woods and mountains. [The displacement caused by relentless aerial bombardment, in areas to which humanitarians and UNAMID have little or no access, has produced a significant undercounting of those recently displaced in the region.]

Ten die in North Darfur armed robbery

April 8, 2015 | Ailliet Locality

Ten people were reportedly killed and eight others wounded in an ambush on a passenger lorry in the area of Abu Sufyan in Ailliet locality on Tuesday. A relative of one of the victims reported to Radio Dabanga that the passengers were returning from the market of Abu Sufyan to Ed Daein, capital of East Darfur. “At about 8pm, a group of gunmen riding on motorcycles and camels opened fire at the lorry. Nine passengers, among them three children and a woman, were killed instantly. Nine others sustained various bullet wounds

Two dead in Border Guards’ attack in North Darfur

April 8, 2015 | El Kuma Locality

Two people were killed in an attack by paramilitary Border Guards on Tofai village, El Kuma locality, on Monday. “Haroun Daoud and Abdallah Idris Hamid, nicknamed Jigeira, were shot dead in the attack,” a villager told Radio Dabanga from Tofai. “They took Nureldin Abakar Ibrahim and Ishag Bashir Mohamed with them to an unknown destination,” [he] added, explaining that the Border Guards, supported by militia troops of the Central Reserve Police (Abu Tira), had raided the village, located 7 kilometres west of El Kuma, before. “In the former raid, they stole our mills engines, and plundered all the shops.”

Abbala extort villagers in Kabkabiya, North Darfur


Militant Abbala tribesmen [abbala—“camel herder—indicates an Arab tribal group] have demanded payment for the protection of farmlands south of Kabkabiya. A farmer told Radio Dabanga from Numu village that one of the omdas in the area began to collect grain from the villages of Numu, Halaga, Kandag, and Dimri last Monday. “Each village is supposed to pay 60 (100kg) sacks of sorghum to the Abbala militia commander in the area, in exchange for the protection of our crops until the harvest,” he reported, calling the move “unfair and unjust.” [Such extortion schemes are increasing rapidly throughout Darfur.]

Insecurity hampers aid in Mellit, North Darfur

April 6, 2015 | MELLIT

Humanitarian operations in North Darfur’s Mellit locality have been adversely affected by insecurity caused by violence between the Berti [one of the African tribal groups in the region] and Ziyadiya [one of the Arab tribal groups]... [Violence began] on 27 February, according to the latest report issued by the UN Humanitarian Office. Fighting was reported between 26 and 28 March in villages surrounding Mellit town. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported the displacement of an estimated 8,000 people (1,600 families) who have arrived in Saiyha town and surrounding area and an estimated 135 people (27 families) who have arrived at Abassi camp. Some aid agencies have limited their activities due to the security situation. The Sudanese Red Crescent suspended operations in the 11 health facilities they run in the area, and the World Food Programme (WFP) postponed its displaced profiling exercise. Some organisations withdrew their staff from the area. Humanitarian organisations are planning to undertake a rapid fact-finding mission to assess the situation on the ground. Aid agencies continue to provide assistance to people displaced following fighting between government forces and armed movements in North Darfur’s Tawila locality and some parts of the Jebel Marra area. The agencies have verified 31,800 newly displaced people, of whom the IOM has registered 29,500. [The actual number of displaced in this general region is certainly much greater than the 31,800 verified by IOM; lacking access to large areas, many are uncounted—and left without humanitarian relief.]

Militias return from North Darfur raids with food, cattle

April 3, 2014 | Kutum / Mellit

Militias continued to pass through Kutum locality in North Darfur on Wednesday and Thursday, allegedly returning from attacks they committed in Mellit in the previous days. A source said that at least 48 people were killed and injured during these raids, northwest of El Fasher locality. [This extreme level of murderous violence is beyond the control of anything other than a robust international peace-making force; this was just as true in 2006 when Khartoum rejected the force proposed by the UN Department of Peacekeeping operations; it was true as well in July 2007 when UNAMID was officially authorized by the UN Security Council; and it was true as the incompetent and ill-equipped UNAMID officially took up its mandate on January 1, 2008.] Several witnesses told Radio Dabanga that pro-government militias that participated in the attacks in Mellit locality were on their way to the military bases in Kutum town. “About 60 vehicles loaded with food items, household furniture and other items drove by.” One of them said that 25 vehicles went to Damirat El Gubba, 22 drove to Kutum town with one of the leaders of the Central Reserve Forces, and 15 vehicles went to El Ghireir area. Another group of militia members on camels and horses passed on Thursday with more stolen livestock. “About 40 camels and ten herds of sheep,” according to a witness. [Looting on a large scale, a hallmark of the early years of the genocide, has resumed with a vengeance.]


Woman, baby die in Darfur village attack

April 5, 2015 | Deribat, eastern Jebel Marra

Aisha Idris and son Musa Ibrahim were killed when a mortar shell fell on her house in East Jebel Marra on Sunday afternoon. The two died outright when a salvo of mortars was fired on the area, allegedly from the military garrison in Deribat. Their home was completely destroyed in the ensuing fire. Other villagers have taken cover in the surrounding wadis out of fear for repeat attacks.

Darfur wood collector kidnapped, vehicle hijacked

April 5, 2015 | East Jebel Marra

A man has been kidnapped, together with his vehicle, while collecting wood in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that on Thursday, Saddam Musa drove his Land Rover from Zamzam camp to the area of Tarni to collect firewood. He was intercepted by a group of militiamen. They forced the passengers to disembark, and then drove-off with Musa and his vehicle to an unknown destination.

Two killed by bomb explosion in Darfur's Jebel Marra

April 10, 2015 | Fanga

One child and one 23-year-old died in a bomb explosion south of Fanga, East Jebel Marra, on Thursday. A relative of the victims told Radio Dabanga that Bishara Abdelrahman Adam (14 years) and Mariam Saleh Omar (23 years) were riding on donkeys on their way to a garden, 3 km south of Fanga. Their movement triggered an unexploded grenade to detonate. Both Bishara and Mariam died on the spot, along with their donkeys. The relative explained that parts of their bodies were scattered. They were collected and buried on the same day.
*Years of conflict have left Darfur and other parts of Sudan littered with potentially deadly explosives and munitions (UXO), such as missiles and grenades. Radio Dabanga appeals to listeners throughout Darfur (and elsewhere in our reception area) not to touch any “unexploded” grenades or other ammunition found in the field. Mark its position clearly to alert others, and report it immediately to a camp elder, UNAMID and/or the local police---RD.


Three dead, 115 houses destroyed in South Darfur fires

April 8, 2015 | El Radoom / Gereida, South Darfur

Three people burned to death in El Radoom locality in South Darfur on Tuesday. The massive fire destroyed 85 houses. In El Nasr district in Gereida, 30 houses went up in flames, as well as a mosque and a Koran school. “Two children and an adult died in the fire that broke out in the area of Wad Hujam,” a villager who escaped the inferno told Radio Dabanga. “85 houses burned to the ground.” In El Nasr district of Gereida town, a fire broke out in a house at 2.30 pm on Tuesday. “It spread quickly owing to the heavy wind. 30 houses went up in flames, as well as a mosque and the adjacent Nur El Hoda Koran School, that hosts 230 Koran students and teachers,” a resident of the neighbourhood reported. [As I have noted previously, Radio Dabanga is constantly reporting fires, many of a highly suspicious nature. Arson is always a difficult crime to prove, but there can be no doubting that fires often serve the regime’s purposes, particularly when they occur in camps for displaced persons, which Khartoum is eager to see dismantled in any event.]

More than 60 homes destroyed in Central Darfur inferno

April 9, 2015 | Deleig

A massive fire near Deleig [Toja village] in Central Darfur destroyed more than 60 houses, agricultural crops, and killed a large number of livestock on Tuesday. The people did not manage to contain the flames with water and sand, because of heavy winds. “Apart from the destruction of 62 homes, and several stores with agricultural crops, large numbers of sheep, goats, donkeys, and chicken burned to death.”

“Gunmen carjack UNDP vehicle in South Darfur”

Sudan Tribune, 9 April 2015 | Nyala, South Darfur

Gunmen carjacked a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) vehicle in Nyala the capital of South Darfur state on Thursday, a UN official said. While he was collecting an employee residing in Hay Almattar neighborhood in Nyala, the driver of a UNDP minibus was intercepted by three armed men who ordered him at gun point to drive the vehicle outside the town and headed into unknown destination," the source told Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity. The commissioner of the state governor affairs, Abdel Mutalab Ali Idriss confirmed the car-theft crime.... [South Darfur] is known for criminal activities and robbery committed by armed gangs.

30 East Darfur policemen dismissed

April 8, 2015 | Ed Daein (formerly part of South Darfur]

The Sudanese Ministry of Interior dismissed 30 East Darfur policemen on Tuesday, who refused to be transferred to South Kordofan. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, a listener explained that the policemen refused to join their colleagues in South Kordofan, on the ground that they have repeatedly performed their duty in the war-torn southern region, while others have not been sent to the battlefields at all. The source considered the dismissal as "targeting a specific group,” and explained that the 30 policemen are all from Abu Karinka, Adila, and Sharif. [Recruitment efforts, despite promises of unaffordable salary increases, are flagging badly, even as the Sudan Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces continue to struggle militarily in South Kordofan. It seems highly unlikely that the (second) “final campaign” to seize all of South Kordofan, including the Nuba Mountains, will succeed. And with the passage of time, the costs of war continue to accrue, morale deteriorates, and fewer and fewer are motivated by the call to “jihad.”]


3.5 million kg of ‘carcinogenic sugar’ distributed in South Darfur

April 9, 2015 | Nyala

The total load of contaminated sugar recently distributed in South Darfur reportedly consists of 70,000 sacks of 50kg. A source revealed to Radio Dabanga that prominent South Darfuri members of the ruling National Congress Party, in agreement with market traders, transported the contaminated sugar to Nyala, and stored it in the Kenana Sugar Company stores in the city. The source reported that each of the 21 localities in the state has received 100 sacks, while the rest has been distributed at the markets. “The expired sugar is currently sold for the price of SDG240 ($40) per sack, which is SDG70 ($12) lower than the real market price.” He commented that “though the NCP leaders in South Darfur received millions of pounds for the election campaign, they are not satisfied, and want to earn more by selling carcinogenic commodities to the people.” [An object lesson in who joins the National Congress Party and why.]

No salaries for 300 teachers in South Darfur

April 9, 2015 | Nyala

300 teachers in South Darfur demand the immediate payment of their February and March salaries. The names of about 500 teachers disappeared from the payroll after the Ministry of Finance had computerised the salary administration, Mohamed Hassan Haroun, a secondary school teacher in Nyala explained to Radio Dabanga. “At the end of February, we were surprised to learn that the state could not pay our salaries, because our names were missing in the new system. The authorities managed to settle the salaries of 200 teachers. The others are still waiting for their entitlements for February and March,” he said.

On 31 March, the state’s medical personnel staged a sit-in at the state Ministry of Health in Nyala, demanding payment of their February and March salaries. An administrative staff member of the Ministry told Radio Dabanga that about 2,160 names of medics disappeared from the financial records. [Corruption runs deep in all branches of the regime, and skepticism about the “accidental” deletion of names is certainly warranted.]


Sudanese civil society call for nation-wide intifada

April 12, 2015 | Khartoum

The Civil Society Initiative stressed that the road chosen by the Sudan Appeal signatories, after the Sudanese government declined to accept the AU invitation to discuss the process of a broad national dialogue in the Ethiopian capital on 29 March, is a mass intifada. It called “on all sectors in the rural and urban areas” to support the Sudan Appeal and the uprising. “Only a nation-wide uprising can release Sudan from the grip of the corrupt ruling National Congress Party, restore peace, rights and freedoms, and rebuild the country based on democracy and equal citizenship,” the statement reads. [Regime change will come to Sudan only when fear of the brutal security forces is overcome by anger at the tyranny, corruption, economic mismanagement, and denial of human rights that have marked the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party from the beginning of its rule in June 1989.]

Sudanese opposition step up anti-election campaign

April 9, 2015 | Ed Damazin (Blue Nile State)

The mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW) and the Sudan Congress Party are calling on the Sudanese to “stand up and topple the Khartoum regime.” The displaced and refugees of Blue Nile state have announced their boycott of the election.

In a statement on Wednesday, the leader of the SLM-AW, Abdel Wahid El Nur, appealed to “all Sudanese, of all military, political, and civil sectors, to join the “Oust!” campaign and stage an uprising to prevent the re-election of criminal Omar Al Bashir. He called for mass civil disobedience actions throughout Sudan to “free our people from dictatorship, and build a nation based on equal citizenship, and individual and collective freedoms, bring the murderers and criminals to justice in national and international courts, and write a new history of our country, without discrimination and exclusion.”

In Sodari, North Kordofan, Ibrahim El Sheikh, the head of the Sudan Congress Party called for a general boycott of the election. At a symposium on Wednesday, he urged the Sudanese to stand up to prevent the re-election of “liar Al Bashir and his affiliates, who shamelessly robbed the country’s resources and used them for their personal gains.” Dr Bashir Adam Rahama, Foreign Relations Secretary of the Popular Congress Party (PCP), led by Dr Hassan El Turabi, described the general election, scheduled to take place between 13 and 15 April, as “a one-horse race by the ruling NCP.” He told Radio Dabanga that his party will not participate in the election, through nomination or voting, as the outcomes are “predetermined.”

The Blue Nile displaced and refugees announced in a statement on Wednesday that they will not cast their votes or recognise the electoral results. They wonder how they can participate in election organised by a government that severely hampers efforts of humanitarian organisations to provide aid, while continuing their attacks on the population “aerial bombardments, shelling, and internationally prohibited chemical weapons.” In their Declaration of the 2015 Election Boycott, the war-affected call for a broad national constitutional conference “to reach a comprehensive solution to the problem of Sudan, prosecute all offenders of justice, headed by President Al Bashir, and compensate the victims, in accordance with national and international standards.” The statement also demanded the release of political detainees in the detention centres of the security apparatus, popularly known as “ghost houses”, and the abolition of all laws restricting freedoms and which violate international conventions on human rights, including the National Intelligence and Security Service Act and the Public Order Bill.

[It has long been clear that only regime change can rescue Sudan from its continuing descent into economic chaos, increasing violence, and ever more savage political repression. This is now the mainstream opinion of most Sudanese parties, and all major opposition parties. Over a decade ago I argued as much, suggesting that the international community had an obligation to compel regime change, given the genocidal nature of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party cabal. Given the deeply misguided U.S. efforts to effect regime change in Iraq, the timing for such an argument was not auspicious. It nonetheless makes for interesting reading more than ten years later | The Washington Post, August 23, 2004.

Darfur displaced call for nation-wide protest during election

April 8, 2015 | Kalma Camp / Cairo

The Coordination Office of the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association has called for a nation-wide boycott of the general election scheduled for 13-15 April. “We call on all the Sudanese not to cast their vote next week, and to stage mass demonstrations instead, in protest against the rigged election and the brutal regime in Khartoum,” Yagoub Mohamed Abdallah, head of the Coordination Office told Radio Dabanga. He stressed that the Darfur displaced and refugees are all convinced that unless the regime is overthrown, there will be no stability in Sudan. “Toppling the National Congress Party government is simply our duty. We have to stop the ongoing attacks, aerial bombardments, and rapes in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile.”

The head of the National Umma Party, El Sadig El Mahdi, also stressed the need for a popular uprising, which, he said, is “the only option left against the tyranny in Sudan.” In a statement on Tuesday, El Mahdi accused the Sudanese government of reneging from its prior consent to participate in the preparatory National Dialogue meeting with opposition forces in Addis Ababa on 29 March. He attributed the government's changed position to the momentum it gained by joining the Saudi alliance against Houthi rebels in Yemen on 25 March. “By refusing to attend the pre-dialogue meeting in the Ethiopian capital, the regime has left us no other option than a broad mobilisation for the Leave! Campaign, and launch a third Sudanese intifada,” El Mahdi said. Sudan witnessed two popular uprisings after its independence on 1 January 1956. A professional unions’ strike, throughout Sudan, led to the dissolution of Gen. Ibrahim Abboud’s military rule in October 1964. More than a decade later, in March 1985, people took to the streets in protest against the policies of President Jaafar Nimeiri. His regime was ousted on 5 April.

Sudan’s opposition forces renew call to boycott April election

April 6, 2015 | Khartoum

Opposition ‘Sudan [Call]’ forces have added their voices to the swelling call to boycott the election scheduled of 13 April. In a statement issued to mark the 30th anniversary of 6 April 1985 popular uprising which ended the rule of general Jaafar Numeiri, the coalition of the political and armed opposition forces said the government obstructed the African Union brokered pre-dialogue meeting and aborted the German initiative to facilitate a negotiated settlement. The statement continued that by said by doing so the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) insists to move forward in the path of war and rejects a negotiated solution, leaving the choice of a peaceful uprising for the opposition forces. “Thus the Sudan Call forces appeal on the masses of our people to escalate the resistance against the fraudulent elections and overlook its, results and to continue the resistance campaigns until the overthrow of the regime...”

The Sudan Call forces said they agreed to develop their activities and intensify efforts to reunite the opposition forces. The statement, signed by NUP chairman El Sadig El Mahdi, Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) chief Malik Agar, National Consensus Forces (NCF) representative Mohamed Mukhtar El Khateeb and civil society groups delegate, Babiker Ahmed El Hassan.

Red Cross, Crescent plan for casualties during Sudan's election

April 11, 2015 | Geneva

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) expects demonstrations against the backdrop of the upcoming election to end up in clashes, and has set up an emergency plan for the polls next week, and their possible aftermath. An Emergency Plan of Action, released on the eve of the “election silence” on 11 and 12 April, contains worst-case scenarios and the description of activities for preparing first aid posts and volunteers in a number of “high-risk states.” “Given the history of the country and existing political tensions in many areas there is a high risk of violence around the elections, as the government continues to ignore opposition calls to postpone the vote and form a transitional government,” the emergency plan for the 'Dref' operation of the IFRC reads.

Disaster scenarios

The SRCS has prepared three scenarios in case of disaster. It expects that the most likely to occur are protests that end up in riots or clashes. In this scenario, the IFRC thinks most casualties will happen in the high-risk states. “It is estimated that 50,000 persons will be affected. SRCS will provide First Aid assistance, evacuation, rescue, [and] PSS as it has volunteers all over the States of risk.” If the situation turns worse, the IFRC moves to scenario 2, “loss of lives,” and 3, with the possibility of population movement or displacement.

No support from EU, Sudan Troika

A rally by students in Khartoum who reject the election was dispersed with tear gas, rubber bullets, and beatings by the security apparatus on Thursday. Anti-election protests in the capital of Sudan and the Northern State on Wednesday and Thursday resulted in the detentions of many demonstrators. The European Union has stated that it will not support the Sudanese general election, scheduled to start coming Monday. According to the members of the Sudan Troika (Norway, the UK, the US), an environment conducive to a participatory and credible election in Sudan does not exist.

My own commentary on Sudan’s elections---

“Sudan: Where Elections Matter for the Wrong Reasons”

Sudan Tribune, April 10, 2015

by Eric Reeves

Sudan holds national elections in the coming days, including for the office of President. The result is a foregone conclusion, indeed to speak of the voting process that will occur as an “election” is deeply misleading. The present National Congress Party (NCP) regime has gone to great lengths to predetermine the results, particularly the re-election of President Omar al-Bashir. It was al-Bashir who nominally led the military coup of June 1989 that brought the National Islamic Front to power, although geopolitical tact produced the re-designation as the NCP. But the actors are the same, the men who wield real power are largely the same, although more of the top leaders come from the military and intelligence community. If there is a difference between this electoral farce and that of 2010, it is that many more preparations have been taken to ensure victory, and that this victory have a specious sheen of legitimacy.

But leaked minutes from a meeting on August 31, 2014 make clear the extent of the political machinations that are the real story behind these elections. Ibrahim Ghandour, recently invited by the Obama State Department to Washington for negotiations, offered some impressively specific comments on his multifarious achievements. They include bribes, voter manipulation, fraud, and the threat of violence.

But there are other reasons that the impending elections will be meaningless and can do nothing to reflect the will of the Sudanese people. There are three areas of the country where there is simply too much violence to conduct elections: Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Indeed, ballots destined for South Kordofan were recently seized by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N), a measure of their determination to show the world they will not sit idly by while tyranny perpetuates itself.

And they are not alone: in December 2014, a coalition of opposition groups and forces, including the SPLM/A-N signed the “Sudan Call,” a political declaration that urged voters to boycott the election, describing it as "façade intended to falsify the national will and legitimise the regime.”

Radio Dabanga, our only reliable source on the situation on the ground in Darfur, reported (April 7, 2015):

The Coordination Office of the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association has called for a nation-wide boycott of the general election scheduled for 13 – 15 April. “We call on all the Sudanese not to cast their vote next week, and to stage mass demonstrations instead, in protest against the rigged election and the brutal regime in Khartoum.”

Boycotts are being staged, some quietly, in many locations around the country, and the NCP regime is doing its own part in attenuating the voter list and candidates. Sudan Tribune, which does the best job of reporting broadly on news from greater Sudan, filed a dispatch on April 7, 2015 noting that “Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party has dismissed all its members running as independents in next Monday’s general elections.”

It’s still not clear who, besides the Arab League, will monitor the election. A consortium of East African countries known as IGAD says it intends to, but IGAD is short on capacity and finds itself overwhelmed with involvement in efforts to halt the civil war in South Sudan. Any presence during the elections would be skeletal at best. For its part, the Arab League will ratify the elections; but this means little, given the organization’s history of antipathy toward fair elections and its mindless solidarity with Khartoum. Perhaps the African Union will follow through on an earlier commitment, but it is highly doubtful they could mount a significant monitoring presence in a country as large as Sudan in the time remaining.

Why should we care?

Why should be care that the world is witnessing another electoral travesty, a thoroughly grotesque version of the democratic process? The main reason is that the regime’s “victory” may give certain Western countries a reason for warmer relations with Khartoum, responding to the sheen of legitimacy that even profoundly fraudulent elections will produce. The U.S. in particular may be tempted to turn a blind eye to the illegitimacy of these elections, for the Obama administration still wants closer cooperation with Khartoum on counter-terrorism and wants access to its massive, wildly expensive new embassy in Khartoum, designed to be the “listening post” for North Africa. Right now, the regime is saying no, and the leaked minutes reveal deep hostility to the U.S.

But a recent visit by Steven Feldstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, may have had all these issues front and center in talks. Feldstein’s comments on departure suggested that he and the U.S. credit, at least partially, the farce Khartoum has called the “National Dialogue,” a supposedly broad-based effort to provide greater political openness and the basis for a reformed, more democratic Sudan. But the “National Dialogue” is distinguished mainly by how few have joined; an overwhelming number of opposition groups, of all sorts, believe this is just more trickery by the regime, designed to give only the appearance of greater political legitimacy. Still, Feldstein mentioned the phrase twice in his brief departing remarks, and one can all too easily imagine this administration turning a blind eye to Sudan’s ghastly realities in order to further counter-terrorism cooperation.

While he was still a senator, Russ Feingold made a particularly well-informed assessment of what the U.S. was getting from this putative “cooperation.” Since he sat on the Intelligence Committee and also chaired the Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he was uniquely positioned to assess the trade-offs with Khartoum that began under the Bush administration, and have continued under the Obama administration. In this trade-off, Khartoum provides counter-terrorism “intelligence” and in exchange the U.S. will adopt a more conciliatory attitude toward Khartoum, despite its ongoing policies of genocidal counter-insurgency. Feingold made clear his own skepticism about Khartoum’s behavior in cooperating on counter-terrorism:

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 with Sudan, a nation which the U.S. classifies as a state sponsor of terrorism. 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, including U.S. pressure to address the ongoing crisis in Darfur and maintain the fragile peace between the North and the South. (Statement by Senator Russell Feingold, May 1, 2009)

Everything has borne out Feingold’s assessment of six years ago, and yet the U.S. continues to woo the regime. And armed with the “legitimacy” conferred by these elections, this regime will certainly continue to conduct campaigns of ethnically-targeted destruction in the Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan regions of Sudan. 13-year-old girls will continue to be raped; bombs wills continue to fall on purely civilian targets; villages of non-Arab/African populations will be destroyed because they are perceived as supporting the rebels Khartoum can’t defeat militarily; and desperately needed humanitarian relief will continue to be denied to well over one million people at acute risk.

Let us hope that the Obama administration understands these elections for what they are. They certainly should not confer the “legitimacy” that the regime has so often spoken of in its secret meetings as the ultimate goal of their electoral charade. But “should” is a word the Obama administration has had a difficult time understanding in its dealings with Sudan. And the sense of an imperative, tragically, is much more likely to come from the Obama administration intelligence community than from those who care about the lives and livelihoods of the Sudanese people.

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for the past sixteen years. He is author of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012 (September 2012).

Economic Woes Compel a Shift in Khartoum’s “Strategic Alliance with Iran”

By Eric Reeves

March 30, 2015 (SSNA) -- Sudan Tribune reports today a remarkable declaration by the Khartoum regime’s foreign minister, Ali Karti: “We were never allies with Iran: Sudan Foreign Minister”

The Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti vehemently denied that his country was ever an ally of Iran and described reports saying otherwise as baseless and stressed that relations between Khartoum and Tehran did not exceed the traditional diplomatic framework.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday following the return of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir from Sharm el-Sheikh where he participated in the Arab summit, Karti said that what links Sudan to Arab countries is neighbourhood and Arabism and that Khartoum is on board in its alliance with the Arabs away from Tehran.... Karti said that relations with Tehran were nothing more than "normal" explaining that when Iranian expanded their cultural presence in Sudan the government closed these centers last year.

"I have been in the foreign ministry for some time and never heard of an alliance [with Iran],” he said.

But Sudan Tribune concludes with what is surely the real explanation for the radical shift from Khartoum's well-documented “strategic alliance” with Iran:

[R]ecent visits by Bashir to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates appeared to signal a strategic shift by Khartoum from Iran in favour of oil-rich Arab Gulf states with the resources to support Sudan’s beleaguered economy.

That this “shift” has entailed a profound disavowal of previous assertions about Iran as a “strategic ally” is clear from any examination of the leaked minutes of a meeting of the most senior military and security officials, as well as two senior political officials, on 31 August 2014 (notably, Karti was not included in the meeting). The minutes for this meeting have been fully authenticated by a very wide range of sources (see; they reveal a relationship between Khartoum and Tehran of which Karti is either ignorant or about which he is lying. The latter is the more likely.

The minutes also reveal a painful ignorance of the state of the Sudanese economy on the part of nearly all in attendance—but a very clear understanding that there is money to be had from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The crushing effects of an almost total lack of foreign exchange currency (Forex) has made imports impossible in a great many cases, including yet again imports of wheat to be ground into flour for bakeries to make into bread. There been numerous reports of bread lines and bread shortages going back almost two years.

As the excerpts below reveal, the economic pain caused by a lack of Forex, high inflation, high unemployment, low revenue generation, and overwhelming external debt (some US$48 billion) has forced Khartoum into a dramatic about-face in its relations with Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States on the other. This certainly extends to reversing what had previously been Khartoum’s support for the Houthi insurgents in Yemen: Sudan is one of the Arab countries providing military assistance to Saudi Arabia in its campaign against the Houthis as they march on to Aden.

Examples of statements about Khartoum’s relationship with Iran, and with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf State, from the 31 August 2014 meeting. These are brief excerpts; substantially fuller excerpts providing greater context for these statements may be found at |

• Major General Bakri Hassan Salih, First Vice President (arguably the most powerful figure in the regime after al-Bashir):

A primary recommendation: Maintain and protect the relationship with Iran. Managing this relationship through the military and security agencies.

• General Abdalla al-Jaili, Popular Defense Forces General Coordinator:

We have been targeted for the last twenty-five years because of our relationship with Iran. Both revolutions are committed to Islam. There is no country, other than Iran, who has the courage to say no to the whole West. Iran is an essential partner to the National Salvation Revolution. It was Iran who provided us with free and unlimited support, whereas Saudi Arabia was supporting Garang and the National Democratic Alliance. We shall be testing the credibility of these Gulf States, despite my belief that they are pro-America.

• General Siddiq Amer, Director General of Intelligence and Security:

I think we should improve the relation with the Saudis and benefit from them, but it must be clear that they are not trustworthy. At the same time we maintain our strategic relationship with Iran.

• General Yehya Mohammed Kheir, Minister of State for Defense:

Our relationship with Iran is strategic. We will inform [Iran] of our intention to close down their cultural centers for security reasons; because there is a threat to these centers from some Sunni radical groups who may target them and cause conflict. But again we must take a similar step towards the Wahabi group, to avoid any misinterpretation by the Iranians of these measures as targeting only the Shiite group.

• Major General Mohammed Atta, Director General of National Intelligence and
Security Services:

As soon as the incident [attack on a Shi’ite proselytizer in Darfur] happened, I received a call from the Iranian Security Advisor and the Chief of Republican Guards. We agreed to separate between the two issues: The strategic military and security relationship on one side, and the cultural relationship on the other. After that they reported the agreement to their leadership.

I say that our relationship with Iran is strategic and should be above all other interests. Anyone who wants to sabotage it doesn’t understand the art of keeping balances and lacks the necessary information.

• General Abd al-Rahim Mohammed Hussein, Minister of Defense:

I shall start with our relationship with Iran and say it is a strategic and everlasting relationship. We cannot compromise or lose it. All the advancement in our military industry is from Iran. They opened the doors of their stores of weapons for us, at a time the Arabs stood against us. The Iranian support came when we were fighting a rebellion that spread in all directions including the National Democratic Alliance. The Iranians provided us with experts and they trained our Military Intelligence and security cadres. They also trained us in weapons production and transferred to us modern technology in the military production industry.

• Major General Hashim Abdalla Mohammed, Chief of Joint General Staff:

We rule the people by power, not all the people support us and it is possible that some radicals can create problems like what happened in Western Sudan, when they killed a Shi’ite over religious differences. So let us separate between the two issues... the strategic relation [with Iran] and the Shi'ia Cultural Centers.

We have a problem with Saudi Arabia because they found out about the weapons we sent by way of the Red Sea to Abd al-Malik Al-Huthi’s Shiia group in Yemen [the Houthis are supported by Iran—and formerly by Khartoum].

• General Imad al-Din Adawy, Chief of Joint Operations:

Libya border is totally secured, especially after the victory of our allies (Libya Dawn Forces [Libya Dawn is a radical Islamist organization in Libya]) in Tripoli. We managed to deliver to them the weapons and military equipment donated by Qatar and Turkey and we formed a joint operations room with them under one of the colonels in order to coordinate and administer the military operations.

• General Abd al-Qadir Mohammed Zeen – National Service Coordinator:

The balance in our relationship with Iran on one side and the Gulf States on the other side is important, but my question is: Will Saudi Arabia change its position after it has classified the Muslim Brothers as terrorists? On the other hand, our relationship with Iran is linked to our relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood International Organization. Accordingly, we must consult with Iran and the rest of our Islamist group, before taking any step in this regard, specially that the relationship with the Saudi Arabia Kingdom is not guaranteed, despite their knowledge that we are in a position to threaten their rule.

• General Salah al-Tayeb, DDR Commissioner:

We should set our military and security relationships with Iran apart.

• Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail, Political Secretary of the regime’s National Congress Party (former foreign Minister in the regime):

In my personal view our relationship with Iran is strategic in the areas of defense and security... I suggest that we maintain good relations with the Gulf States in principle, yet work strategically with Iran, in total secrecy and on a limited scale, through Military Intelligence and security. Thus, diplomatic relationships remain the same.

We have security and political agreements with Iran and they might refuse the suggestion of fresh relationships with the Gulf States, especially that Saudi has concerns regarding the Iranian military presence in Sudan.

• Ibrahim Ghandour, Deputy Chairman of the regime’s National Congress Party:

The relationship with Iran is one of the best relationships in the history of the Sudan. Accordingly, the management of this relationship requires wisdom and knowledge of all its details. The assistance we received from Iran is immeasurable. The commonalities between us are many. People should not limit their concern to the aspect of converting to Shi'ism only. There are many infiltrators who are working to see us lose our relationship with Iran. We must note that Iran is a friend to all the Islamic movements worldwide. We need to conduct internal consultations first and then we put our Iranian partners in the picture about all the details.

Eric Reeves is the Author of Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007-2012

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