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South Sudan and the East African Community: Pros, Cons and Strategic Considerations

By Laura Nyantung Beny and Matthew Snyder*

December 26, 2012

Editor's note: * Laura Nyantung Beny is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. Matthew Snyder graduated from the University of Michigan Law School with a J.D. in 2012 and is currently an LLM candidate at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. This is an abbreviated version of a longer report, researched between 2011 and 2012 by Matthew Snyder and Laura Beny. The longer report is available upon specific request to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Introduction

December 29, 2012 (SSNA) -- In November 2012, a technical committee of the East African Community (the “EAC”) recommended to the body’s Council of Ministers that South Sudanese admission be delayed until the country is able to satisfy various economic and institutional pre-conditions to membership.[1] However, there is little doubt that South Sudan will eventually join the EAC. Given that EAC membership is inevitable, we argue that South Sudan should conduct a careful analysis of the implications of joining the EAC and, with its findings in hand, astutely negotiate the terms of its EAC membership.

We first offer a brief overview of South Sudan’s development challenges. Next, we provide a short history of the EAC – its origins, demise and subsequent resurrection – followed by a description of the current EAC framework. We then address potential advantages and disadvantages for South Sudan from EAC membership. Finally, we suggest that South Sudan should carefully study the pros and cons and develop a well-considered strategy to optimize the benefits and mitigate the costs of EAC membership.

South Sudan’s Economy and Development Challenges

South Sudan is very rich in natural resources, including but not limited to oil. However, it faces significant economic challenges that largely stem from the fact that the country overwhelmingly depends on oil for public revenues (98% is the commonly-cited figure) and the fact that the country is land-locked with poor infrastructure.

Pursuant to the “Dutch Disease” process, a massive influx of oil revenues can cause real exchange rate appreciation and thus cause a shrinkage in the domestic tradeable goods sector (i.e., export), while increasing the country’s reliance on imports.  This is detrimental to the country’s trade deficit and to economic diversification. Oil dependence also exposes the economy to international commodity price volatility, negatively impacting South Sudan’s ability to engage in long-term fiscal planning.[2]

In contrast, diversification of South Sudan’s economic base will generate substantial benefits, such as increased employment and income opportunities in urban and rural areas and lower consumer prices.[3]

Economic theory and evidence underline the importance of export-led growth. Such growth is most effective when it centers on sectors in which the country has a competitive advantage, meaning it can produce those goods at relatively lower opportunity cost than its trading partners. In South Sudan, one of the most promising sectors is agriculture.  The country’s “green belt” provides a fertile ground for a productive agricultural sector. 

Not only would development of the agricultural sector contribute to export-led growth, but it would increase South Sudan’s food security and lower dependence on agricultural imports from neighboring countries, like Uganda and Kenya. It would also create income and employment opportunities in rural areas of South Sudan, which desperately need economic vitalization. Other highly promising economic sectors in South Sudan include livestock, animal products, and timber. Consumer demand for these products, like agricultural goods, is high in the region.[4] National investment and trade policy should focus on these sectors in which South Sudan has a potential competitive advantage.

However, South Sudan faces considerable challenges in developing these sectors and promoting their exports. Such challenges include real exchange rate appreciation (“Dutch Disease”, as described above), poor transportation infrastructure inside South Sudan and between South Sudan and neighboring countries, and South Sudan’s poor capacity in value-added production. Poor transportation infrastructure increases the cost and time required to export goods abroad. Outdated capital stock and shortages of skilled labor currently hinder development of competitive industries. 

Cross-border trade is also stifled by institutional constraints, such as multiple (and often arbitrary) checkpoints and roadblocks and other burdensome customs regulations. Insecurity, violence and crime also increase the cost of transporting goods. As we explain below, EAC membership could help South Sudan to overcome several of the foregoing hindrances to trade.

A Short History of the East African Community

The current EAC framework dates back to common market structures created by the British during colonial times. The aim was to link the economies of the present day countries of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, the latter occupying a position of prominence within the colonial market system. Following independence, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya continued to maintain close ties and, in 1967, entered into a treaty formally establishing the first EAC. 

The main goal of the first EAC was to establish an East African Common Market. To this end, the three members promulgated agreements prohibiting quantitative restrictions on members’ exports and eliminating tariffs on intra-member trade. The first EAC also provided for coordinated efforts towards external trade, including a common external customs tariff and limitations on members' ability to enter into trade agreements with non-member countries.

While the main focus of the first EAC was economic, members also envisioned it as a pathway to wider regional integration. For instance, the first EAC supported the common provision of certain services to member countries through the development of regional corporations such as East African Airways, East African Telecommunications, and East African Railways.

EAC members also envisioned that certain national governmental functions would eventually be delegated to common administrative organizations like the East African Customs and Excise Department, East African Income Tax Department, and East African Civil Aviation Directorate. They also discussed possibilities for harmonizing fiscal and monetary policies and creating an East African Authority to perform the Community's executive functions. Indeed, some countries viewed the first EAC as a stepping-stone towards comprehensive Pan-African integration.

The first EAC was also designed as an instrument to promote regional development.  The organization institutionalized a system of unequal resource distribution in order to bring all member countries to the same level of development. For instance, notwithstanding provisions forbidding intra-member tariffs, less developed members were permitted to impose a transfer tax on manufactured goods in order to remedy trade deficits vis-à-vis more developed members. In addition, the East African Development Bank (EADB), an institution created to provide financial and technical assistance to members and help promote development efforts, was required to invest a greater percentage of its funds in less developed members' projects.

While the first EAC was initially viewed as a great success, it gradually atrophied amid disagreements over unequal distribution of economic benefits, administration of common services, and differing political ideologies. The first EAC collapsed in 1977, reversing regional integration at great expense to the former members.

Aspirations of regional integration eventually resurfaced as the region returned to stability. Such aspirations were eventually solidified in 1993 when the Presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda signed the initial protocols to revive the EAC. The EAC was officially re-established through creation of a Secretariat in 1996 and completion of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community ("The EAC Treaty") in 1999. 

Following ratification by the three member states in 2000, the EAC was inaugurated in 2001 and was expanded to its current five-country membership through the accession of Rwanda and Burundi in 2007. As of 2010, the Community represented a single market of around 133.5 million people with a total output of 74.5 billion USD. Current members include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. South Sudan is expected eventually to join.

Like the first EAC, the goals of the current EAC extend beyond the economic sphere. According to the EAC Treaty, integration includes “cooperation among the Partner States in political, economic, social and cultural fields, research and technology, defence, security and legal and judicial affairs"[5]  We shall focus on the EAC’s framework for trade cooperation: the Customs Union.[6]

Current EAC Framework for Regional Trade Integration: Customs Union

The EAC has moved towards trade integration through the establishment and partial implementation of a Customs Union.[7] The Customs Union is jointly administered through a decentralized administrative structure. While national authorities in each EAC member country oversee functions such as revenue collection, a central administrative body established under the EAC Secretariat is tasked with setting common policies. 

The purpose of the Customs Union is to promote efficient production within the EAC; liberalize trade among EAC members; enhance domestic, intra-EAC, and foreign investment in member countries; and promote economic development and diversification within the EAC.[8] EAC Customs Union agreements[9] have established several mechanisms for implementing the Customs Union, including a Common External Tariff (CET), gradual elimination of internal tariffs and non-tariff barrier regulations, among others.[10]

  • Common External Tariff (CET)   

Pursuant to the Customs Union, goods imported into the EAC from outside the EAC are subject to a Common External Tariff (CET). According to the CET, imports to the EAC are subject to one of three CET rates. First, primary goods and capital goods are not subject to duties.[11] Second, intermediate goods that require additional processing are subject to 10 per cent tariff rates. Third, finished goods that require no additional processing before consumption are subject to 25 per cent tariff rates.[12]

In addition, EAC partner states have agreed on a list of sensitive products produced and exported within the EAC for which importation from outside the EAC could have a negative impact on production within the EAC.[13]  Goods designated as sensitive face higher tariff rates than other products and such rates are not limited by the standard CET schedule outlined above. As of 2009, 58 sensitive products had been singled out for increased protection and elevated tariffs, which reach 100 percent in some cases (Id.). Examples of sensitive goods include milk and cream (CET rate is 60%), rice (CET rate is 75%) and Sugar (CET rate is 100%).[14] 

However, goods in transit and some important goods (such as certain medical equipment, seeds, fertilizers, and mosquito nets) are not subject to duties.[15]  In addition, new partner states entering the EAC may in theory stay application of CETs on a provisional basis[16] and a framework for granting provisional exemptions from CETs to established EAC partner states also exists.[17]  These provisions, as we explain below, could be of critical importance to South Sudan.

  • Gradual elimination of internal tariffs

Tariffs between EAC partner states are to be eliminated through the EAC Customs Union. However, in recognition of partner states' differing development levels, the EAC Treaty allowed unequal treatment among EAC members. In addition, intra-EAC tariffs between the three original partner states were gradually, rather than immediately, phased out. Thus, while tariffs on exports between Uganda and Tanzania, and exports from these two countries to Kenya were removed, certain exports from Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania initially remained subject to tariffs. 

Gradual reductions thus allowed the three original EAC partner states time to reduce dependence on tariff collection and provided their domestic industries time to adjust to changes. South Sudan’s EAC negotiators should keep this option in mind, as we note below.

Potential Advantages of EAC Membership for South Sudan

South Sudan's accession to the EAC could have significant positive economic effects on the region.[18] For example, South Sudan is one of the most lucrative markets for Ugandan goods and services, and South Sudan’s EAC membership would further expand Uganda’s access. Furthermore, South Sudan’s oil and mineral wealth and agricultural potential may present attractive investment opportunities for the entire region.  

EAC membership also promises many benefits to South Sudan, several of which follow.

  • More efficient border clearance and information exchange

EAC integration would result in the harmonization of regional standards and the reduction of customs clearance procedures. As discussed above, regional trade between South Sudan and its neighbors is often constrained by inefficient border clearance procedures. It is also hindered by disparate product standards, and imperfect communication and information exchange between producers and traders on one side and markets and consumers on the other. 

If, as expected, EAC membership results in harmonized procedures, better communications and information exchange, it will make regional trade cheaper and more efficient for South Sudan.

  • Lower transportation costs, transit times and dependence on Sudan

A landlocked country, like South Sudan, could greatly benefit from access to deepwater ports and urban population centers in EAC countries like Uganda and Kenya. Uganda, in fact, has begun construction of a railroad linking Kampala to Juba and Kenya has proposed construction of a regional pipeline to transport oil from South Sudan to Kenyan oil refineries and ports on the coast.[19] 

Access to other regional corridors through EAC membership could dramatically increase South Sudan's competitiveness and revenue. Moreover, such access may be essential if the Republic of the Sudan persists in imposing high transport fees on certain South Sudanese exports, particularly oil.[20]  However, these benefits are contingent on the success of other EAC integration programs, such as implementation of harmonized standards, more efficient customs clearance procedures, and reduction of non-tariff barriers.

  • Support for infrastructure and financial development

EAC cooperation programs on the provision of power, transport, and water could spur infrastructure development in South Sudan. The 2006-2010 EAC Development Strategy, for instance, emphasized the importance of adequate and reliable provision of infrastructure "through the sharing of the production, management, and operations of infrastructure facilities." The Strategy also listed energy, road, and information and communication technology infrastructure provision as a priority. Improved physical and information infrastructure would reduce production and distribution costs for South Sudan, making its producers more competitive.

In addition, EAC membership would give South Sudan the ability to join and buy shares in the East African Development Bank (EADB), which would help strengthen the country's financial infrastructure and provide South Sudanese entrepreneurs with access to technical and financial assistance.[21] Relatedly, financial services investment from Uganda and Kenya could decrease borrowing costs for South Sudanese entrepreneurs and thereby aid in poverty reduction.[22] 

  • Knowledge transfer to South Sudan from other EAC partners

EAC membership could result in knowledge transfer from partner states to South Sudan. Kenya, for instance, possesses expertise in financial services, while Tanzania has expertise in investment facilitation and Uganda has competence in coffee production.[23]  Transfer of some of this know-how to South Sudan would aid the development of domestic industries. Finally, educational services investment from EAC partners is likely to increase educational opportunities and the quality of educational instruction in South Sudan.[24]

  • Regional market for South Sudan’s exports and services

EAC membership offers the prospect of an important regional market for South Sudanese exports and services. According to some commentators, Uganda has the potential to become a significant importer of South Sudanese products like coffee and gold.[25]  In addition, EAC countries are likely to buy South Sudanese oil, if given the opportunity. Regional demand and protective EAC tariffs could also support growth in South Sudan’s agricultural sector, which is critical, as discussed above. Given high CETs on agricultural products, trade among EAC partners is somewhat shielded from non-EAC competition.[26] 

Moreover, as implementation of the EAC Common Market continues, citizens of South Sudan would benefit from increased employment opportunities in other EAC Partner States, more efficient and harmonized processes for issuing work permits, and freer movement within the EAC.  In addition, increased remittances from more South Sudanese working in EAC countries could help promote rural development and serve as an important source of revenue for rural families. 

  • Promotion of investment and competitiveness

EAC membership would support the development of predictable, consistent and transparent regional economic policy frameworks and thus promote investment in the region, including South Sudan. For example, planned harmonization of EAC partner states' taxes and investment incentives is likely to attract foreign investment.[27] More generally, greater openness and economic integration may increase South Sudan's overall economic competiveness.[28] 

Moreover, various EAC cooperation programs could help increase political stability and improve security in South Sudan, resulting in both economic and non-economic benefits.  In particular, enhanced EAC cooperation to prevent terrorism, armed robbery, and drug smuggling has decreased crime and resulted in increased security in the region.[29]  Some have also argued that an EAC security infrastructure program currently being discussed could "act as a deterrent against Khartoum's aggressive stance towards Juba."[30]  

Other EAC cooperation programs target important issues such as natural resource management and conservation, provision of health services, and food security.[31]  If these programs increase regulatory harmonization throughout the region, they may reduce the costs of economic exchange between South Sudan and other EAC countries.[32]

  • Positioning of South Sudan as regional corridor for EAC exports to non-EAC countries

EAC membership could position South Sudan as a regional corridor for EAC exports to non-EAC countries. Rwanda, for instance, has predicted that EAC membership will help it become a regional corridor for trade between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the “DRC”) and the EAC.  Given its location, South Sudan could also become a regional corridor between EAC and non-EAC countries in the region, such as the DRC and Ethiopia. This would allow South Sudan to generate revenue through transportation support services and other related enterprises. 

South Sudan could also possibly become a critical conduit for trade between the region and the Republic of the Sudan, possibly increasing its political and economic bargaining power with its northern neighbor.

  • Stronger international negotiating leverage for South Sudan

EAC membership is likely to strengthen South Sudan’s relative position within the world system. EAC membership provides partner states a stronger, collective negotiating position that could result in deeper bilateral and multilateral trade concessions vis-à-vis non-EAC members. The EAC, for instance, is currently negotiating a collective Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).[33] The EAC's negotiating power could also be leveraged in future multilateral and bilateral negotiations, thus resulting in better benefits for all partner states.[34] Also, as noted above, EAC membership could strengthen South Sudan’s bargaining stance vis-à-vis the Sudan.

Potential Disadvantages of EAC Membership for South Sudan

While regional integration may offer many benefits for South Sudan, there are also several potential disadvantages, a few of which follow.

  • Reduction in trade and investment autonomy and tariff revenues

The EAC economic bloc requires uniform standards across partner states. As partner states have differing trade capacities and differing development strategies, compromises are necessary. Uganda, for instance, was forced to adjust its export-oriented growth model and increase its external tariff rates to comply with the CET.[35]  Kenya and Tanzania, in contrast, were forced to reduce protective external tariffs in response to CET.[36]

While some reservations and exemptions are possible, South Sudan may need to at least partially adjust its trade, investment, and development policies in response to common EAC goals. In addition, conversion to the CET and elimination of intra-EAC tariffs could result in lost tariff revenue and limit South Sudan's ability to implement autonomous trade and investment promotion programs.

  • Increased prices for critical consumption goods

EAC membership may have negative effects on South Sudanese consumers. For instance, certain products such as rice, fresh and concentrated milk, maize, sugar, and wheat are currently designated as "sensitive" and thus face higher CET tariff rates.[37]  Higher CETs on imports of such fundamental consumption goods is likely to increase their prices and therefore the cost of living. This effect occurred in Rwanda, especially in urban areas. 

Needless to say, a higher cost of living could make EAC membership politically unpopular among the population.

  • Competitive disadvantage of domestic producers and entrepreneurs

The required elimination of intra-EAC tariffs and non-tariff restrictions could result in an influx of goods and services imports from more developed countries like Uganda and Kenya. Domestic producers already have a difficult time competing with producers from other East African countries in production, distribution, and access to finance.[38] Even the agricultural sector, which has great natural potential, is currently unable to compete with neighboring producers.

And, this effect may be magnified when South Sudan joins the EAC. If so, some domestic producers in South Sudan will lose out.  Some experts, in fact, have expressed concerns that South Sudanese accession to the EAC within a few years of independence would undermine the development of domestic industry.[39] 

One way that South Sudan might mitigate this effect is by negotiating temporary exemptions to protect emerging domestic industries, as we discuss below.

  • Trade diversion rather than trade creation, and limited gains from trade

Some commentators have questioned the utility of EAC trade integration generally, since partner states' economies are neither very complementary nor very competitive.[40] As a result, they predict, trade gains from regional trade will be the result of trade diversion rather than trade creation.[41] If these commentators’ predictions are correct, not all EAC members will benefit from greater trade integration and South Sudan, as a less developed EAC member, may be particularly susceptible.[42] In addition, some partner states have questioned whether regional markets in the EAC are large enough to support economic growth in the region. Rwanda and Kenya, for instance, have begun to explore parallel opportunities in other regional blocs like COMESA and SADC due to a realization that the EAC market alone may be too small to sustain economic growth.[43]

Even if South Sudan would gain from intra-EAC trade, non-tariff barriers (NTBs) may limit its realization of these benefits. While low intra-EAC tariffs may promise theoretical trade gains, commentators have noted that actual trade benefits are limited by EAC partner states' continued use of NTBs.[44] NTBs in particular have prevented regional welfare gains, employment creation, and poverty reduction from being fully realized and have negatively impacted the flow of goods and services by increasing the costs of intra-EAC trade.[45]

  • Political and economic tensions within the EAC, reducing benefits from integration

Domestic political interests in EAC partner states may complicate EAC integration efforts. In the words of one commentator, "[t]he EAC still suffers from significant institutional weakness, lack of political will and the absence of a shared common vision for its future integration trajectory."[46]

In fact, EAC partner states' implementation of certain regional integration programs of potential benefit to South Sudan has been delayed because of domestic political resistance. For example, resistance from local political groups has obstructed implementation of the Common Market Protocol and the resulting free movement of skilled and unskilled labor across partner state borders.[47]  Implementation of infrastructure cooperation programs has also been slow because of a lack of technical support.[48]

In addition, regional tensions could also limit the actual benefits of EAC membership. In other words, even if partner states eliminate formal barriers to cross-border trade, the positive effects of such actions may be limited because of disagreements and disputes across borders. Some, for instance, have argued that some South Sudanese harbor a strong distrust of Ugandan traders.[49]  Specifically, commentators note that many South Sudanese feel that they are unable to profit from trading opportunities because the market is dominated by Ugandans.[50]  Thus, even if formal barriers to trade between Uganda and South Sudan were eliminated, such distrust and animosity could constrain the efficient flow of goods between the two countries.

Finally, although unlikely, political differences could eventually lead to the unwinding of regional integration programs, as happened with the first EAC. While integration efforts have been promising, some harmful competition between EAC partner states remains difficult to eliminate.[51] If the diverging interests of EAC partner states become irreconcilable, reversal of certain integration programs may become necessary. As in the first EAC, this could result in significant costs for EAC partner states.

Recommendation: A Multi-Step Strategy for South Sudan

While the total benefits to South Sudan may be greater than the total costs of joining the EAC, it is by no means certain. Thus, South Sudan should undertake a comprehensive economic analysis to investigate the potential advantages and disadvantages of membership, as well as the country's likely role as a member of the EAC. To accurately assess the impact of EAC membership and mitigate any negative effects of such membership, we recommend South Sudan to engage in a four-step process, as outlined below. 

  • Step 1: Determine the costs and benefits of EAC membership

With regard to accession negotiations, South Sudan is potentially at a disadvantage vis-à-vis other EAC partner states. Unlike South Sudan, current partner states have had the chance to incorporate their national interests into common policies, programs, and institutions at earlier stages. With the exception of the Political Federation, negotiations concerning the formation of other institutions (including the Customs Union, Common Market, and Monetary Union) may already be concluded by the time South Sudan joins the EAC. Therefore, accession will likely mean implementation of a variety of agreements that South Sudan was not able to negotiate and that may not be in its best interest. 

As we demonstrate in greater detail in our longer report, Rwanda entered into EAC accession negotiations with a clear understanding of how membership would affect its national priorities, welfare, and capacity. Before agreeing to membership, the country engaged in substantial research to determine the economic and non-economic opportunities and losses that could result from EAC membership. After such studies, Rwanda decided that EAC membership would on net facilitate and promote its national policy objectives and took steps to mitigate the costs of such membership. South Sudan would do well to follow suit.

  • Step 2: Poll local stakeholders

South Sudan should focus on polling and educating its local stakeholders on the effects of EAC membership, since public support is going to be critical.  To ensure that all aspects of EAC integration are considered and addressed, South Sudan should consult a diverse range of stakeholders, including ordinary citizens, bureaucrats, politicians, business community members, and civil and professional organizations.  As we illustrate in our longer report[52] each group of stakeholders may have different expectations and fears regarding EAC integration. 

Rwanda provides a useful model. In 2008, the Rwandan government established the Ministry of East African Community ("MINEAC"). MINEAC conducted consultations with stakeholders across the country and engaged in a two-month long sensitization campaign to educate Rwandans on EAC integration and EAC projects and programs. South Sudan could follow a similar approach.

Consultations with local stakeholders could help South Sudan safeguard stakeholder interests as well as lessen any negative impact of EAC membership.  Rwanda, for example, was able to safeguard its local small businesses through identifying and addressing weaknesses in advance of EAC integration, by means of the government’s consultations with stakeholders (see Box 7.2 in our longer report).  

Through stakeholder consultations, Rwanda learned that its small and medium enterprises ("SMEs") were less competitive than those of its regional neighbors and would likely suffer when Rwanda entered into the EAC common market. Consequently, Rwanda established a detailed national SME development policy that focused on strengthening and developing the domestic SME sector in advance of EAC integration.

  • Step 3: Devise strategies to mitigate the negative effects of EAC membership

After engaging in a comprehensive study and polling stakeholders, South Sudan may find that EAC membership would be beneficial overall, but detrimental to certain national interests. If so, South Sudan should explore strategies to mitigate the negative effects of EAC accession. In this regard, at least three strategies may be relevant.

First, South Sudan should consider the possibility of offsetting increases in the prices of critical consumption goods through subsidies or other public programs (e.g, tax and redistribution policies). However, such measures will not be feasible if the government of South Sudan continues to be in a financial bind due to a self-imposed oil embargo.[53]

Second, South Sudan should develop a priority list of national policies and important non-EAC consumer goods and negotiate temporary reservations or exemptions, as other EAC members have done upon joining the EAC. Rwanda, for example, was able to successfully exempt certain non-EAC tariff rates and investment incentive programs during its EAC accession negotiations. 

In particular, Rwanda negotiated a list of specific industrial raw materials, key agricultural products, and other sensitive products for which different tariff rates other than the CET would apply. The country also successfully negotiated the continuation of certain existing investment incentives and facilities for domestic manufacturers and investors.

However, Rwanda agreed that its reservations and exemptions would expire in two years after its accession to the EAC when it would be required to fully implement its EAC commitments. Similarly, it is unlikely that South Sudan would receive permanent reservations or exemptions from EAC requirements.

As a third option, therefore, South Sudan might consider gradual implementation of its EAC commitments. Following accession to the EAC, for example, both Burundi and Rwanda were given two years to fully implement their commitments.[54] 

However, two caveats should be noted. First, given the economic disparity between South Sudan and EAC partner states and the extensive programs to be implemented upon South Sudan's accession,[55] South Sudan may desire a much longer implementation period than granted to Rwanda and Burundi. But partner states may be reluctant to agree to this. Second, while delayed implementation would allow South Sudan to mitigate the harmful effects of certain EAC commitments, complete elimination of such effects may be impossible. 

Fortunately, it seems that South Sudan will have more time (albeit by default) to develop its domestic industries before acceding to the EAC. As noted above, an EAC technical team has recently advised against South Sudan’s admission, pending its “setting up proper market and governance institutions[.]”[56]

South Sudan would be well advised to use the additional time to pursue the necessary economic and governance reforms, as well as to encourage the development of domestic industry.

  • Step 4: Determine whether EAC cooperation programs will realistically be implemented 

As discussed above, EAC cooperation programs cover a variety of economic and non-economic issues. If properly implemented, such programs could greatly benefit South Sudan. However, as also discussed, domestic political resistance has delayed or frustrated implementation of several EAC initiatives and programs.

Thus, South Sudan should critically assess the probability that important cooperation programs will be implemented as planned. For programs in which timely implementation is uncertain, South Sudan should determine the extent to which EAC partner states would agree to definite, binding commitments and defined implementation schedules in conjunction with accession negotiations. 

Alternatively, if EAC partner states are unlikely to agree to binding commitments, South Sudan could persuade EAC partner states to incorporate important cooperation initiatives into the multi-year EAC Development Strategy. While such commitments would not be binding, they could nonetheless have an influence on future EAC discussions and spending. 

Conclusion

EAC membership is likely to generate both benefits and costs for South Sudan. It is presently unknown whether the benefits will outweigh the costs. South Sudan should thus carefully study costs and benefits in advance in order to position the country to negotiate membership terms that maximize the net benefit to South Sudanese from joining the regional body. 

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Human Security in Darfur, Year's End 2012: West Darfur

Intolerable human insecurity and threats to humanitarian operations in Darfur remain largely invisible; an overview in three parts: West Darfur (Part 1b) (Part 1b at http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=3684)

By Eric Reeves

December 27, 2012 (SSNA) -- The distinguished Gambian jurist Fatou Bensouda, who took up her appointment as Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in June, has brought with her a startling honesty in speaking about Darfur, here to the UN Security Council on December 13, 2012:

"The words of the Government of Sudan representatives, promising further peace initiatives, are undermined by actions on the ground that show an ongoing commitment to crimes against civilians as a solution to the Government's problems in Darfur."

"It should be clear to this Council that the Government of Sudan is neither prepared to hand over the suspects nor to prosecute them for their crimes."

"There are no words to properly express the frustration of Darfur's victims, which we share, about lack of any meaningful progress towards arresting those indicted by the Court. The failure of the Government of the Sudan to implement the five arrest warrants seems symbolic of its ongoing commitment to a military solution in Darfur, which has translated into a strategy aimed at attacking civilian populations over the last ten years, with tragic results. [ ] Victims of Darfur crimes can hardly wait for the day that fragmentation and indecision will be replaced by decisive, concrete and tangible actions they expect from this Council."

"I must reiterate that these alleged ongoing crimes, similar to those already considered by the Judges of the International Criminal Court on five separate applications, may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide." (UN News Centre, December 13, 2012)

Associated Press reports (December 13, 2012):

"Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council that crimes continue to be committed under Sudan's 'government-avowed goal of stopping the rebellion in Darfur.'  She said the incidents under investigation include bombings and bombardments, the blocking of distribution of humanitarian aid and 'direct attacks on civilian populations.'"

And Reuters reports further (December 13, 2012):

"The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court accused the United Nations Security Council on Thursday of doing too little to bring Sudanese genocide suspects to justice. [ ] Addressing the Security Council in New York, Fatou Bensouda, the court's prosecutor, said similar crimes continued to be committed in Darfur. She said her team had identified an 'ongoing pattern of crimes committed pursuant to the government-avowed goal of stopping the rebellion in Darfur.'" (all emphases in quotations have been added)

Agence France-Presse reports (December 13, 2012):

"'[The UN Security Council] should be even more concerned about the situation in Darfur, given that crimes continue to be committed, including by those already indicted by the Court.  The question that remains to be answered is, how many more civilians must be killed, injured and displaced for this Council to be spurred into doing its part? [Bensouda asked].'"

Bensouda of course echoes much of what was declared by the previous ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo of Argentina, who was often dismissed as a "tool of Western imperial justice," with an unreasonable focus on African countries.  This can hardly be said of Bensouda, and yet we have heard nothing from those voices within the African Union that were so critical of Moreno Ocampo.  The AU's record of hypocrisy and expediency remains fully intact.  This is no doubt one reason that aside from wire reports following Bensouda's Security Council presentation, nothing more of her damning assessment has been heard.

But her words do find an unexpected echo in the departing words of U.S. special representative for Darfur, Dane Smith.  Smith was expediently assigned an impossible task: implement the wildly unpopular Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (July 2011), and improve security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur with only the assistance of UNAMID.  Smith acknowledged the failure of his mission in words that could not be clearer in implication: 

"'My biggest disappointment, a year and a half after the signature of the Doha agreement, is that we have seen very limited implementation, particularly of those provisions that bring tangible benefits to the IDPs (internally displaced people) and refugees,' he said. He pointed to the lack of money for a fund set up for reconstruction and development in Darfur, and the government's lack of action to disarm militias as the treaty requiresMilitias were 'more and more seemingly out of control,' particularly in North Darfur, Smith said, although other 'disturbing' incidents had occurred in Nyala in South Darfur and Misterei in West Darfur this month. The Doha treaty suffered another blow last week when the Liberation and Justice Movement [the small and unrepresentative rebel group that is the sole signatory to the DDPD] accused the government of attacking its forces and spreading false reports about the assault."

"'We have to say, quite honestly, that the rule of law is absent from Darfur," Smith added. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials on charges of war crimes and genocide in the region—accusations the officials dismiss as politically motivated fabrications. Smith said attacks on the African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) had also hindered efforts to bring peace to the region. The government had shown 'very little interest' in seriously investigating the crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice, he added. 'For some lawless elements of the population this means there's a perception that it’s open season on UNAMID.'" (Reuters [Khartoum], December 12, 2012)

The evidence at hand makes clear that when perpetrators of attacks on UNAMID can be identified—for example, those who participated in the powerfully armed and well-planned attack on a large UNAMID investigative convoy as it moved toward Hashaba (North Darfur)—they are pro-regime militias.  This is the same Khartoum regime that has for years constrained, abused, and harassed UNAMID and its predecessor mission AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan).  Notably, there has never been a prosecution for any attack on UNAMID forces, even as 43 courageous soldiers have lost their lives since the mission began January 1, 2008.  As Smith puts it, "the government has announced investigations, but 'there never are any results.'"

Smith also notes what has long been the case but which he highlights at a critical moment: "[international humanitarian relief] donors, including the United States, face an 'increasingly difficult' time getting staff into Darfur to assess and supervise their aid projects, Smith said."

Here, unfortunately, Smith understates the gravity of the situation: aid organizations are already withdrawing from Darfur, and many are right now deciding—on the basis of a deteriorating security situation and increasing regime restrictions on movement—whether to stay.  An email from a senior and experienced worker for an important humanitarian organization communicated to me his highly informed assessment (email received December 18, 2012):

"It now looks like our work [in Darfur] may not continue. The government restrictions on us are increasing by significant leaps again for the future and we are in the process of deciding whether we can live with them. My vote is 'no' but I’m not sure what the NGO will decide."

"The Sudanese government is deciding who we can hire (especially foreigners, but also to some extent locals), where we can work (no rebel areas), what we can do, and [imposes] controls on our daily movements. This is unacceptable and we can no longer be 'neutral and independent.' There are many ethical issues to process. If we are only allowed to do what they want, I think we are in some ways being complicit with helping them achieve their ends. I want no part of that."

The rapidly increasing denial—direct and indirect—of humanitarian access is an issue affecting millions of civilian lives and should command serious attention from Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  Instead, we hear only her silence.  From other UN officials we hear vague exhortations or noncommittal and thus vacuous assessments.  Following a late November assessment mission (during which he was denied access to IDPs in North Darfur, Chaloka Beyani, the Special Rapporteur with the UN on IDP human rights, declared:

"…much remains to be done to fully implement the rights of hundreds of thousands of people living in camps in the region, the size of France. 'A key step in this direction is addressing the very dire situation of IDPs in terms of safety, and their basic rights to adequate food, shelter, health, education, water and livelihoods.'" (PANA [Khartoum], November 24, 2012)

But how do mere statements advance the "implementation" Beyani speaks of?  What do we gain knowing that he believes "that important opportunities currently existed to address the needs of many IDPs in Sudan"?  What specifically is he talking about?  How does he propose overcoming Khartoum's resistance to precisely the recognition of these "rights"?

For her part, Aichatou Mindaoudou, Acting Joint Special Representative of UNAMID, announced that the Mission is in the process of developing a "new strategy" to protect civilians in the regions.  But the strategy could hardly be more vaguely defined: "The process is based on cooperation with various parties in order to access some of the targeted areas and remedy the escalating violence" (Radio Dabanga, November 29, 2012).  

It would also seem that Ms. Mindaoudou is ignorant of Khartoum's own "New Strategy for Darfur," officially promulgated in late summer 2010.  This document is little more than a grim outline for compelling IDPs to return, without regard for their safety, and moving from humanitarian to "development" work—this in a transparent effort to eliminate the rationale for the continuing presence of international humanitarian organizations, with their eyes and ears on the ground.  Whatever the regime may say to Ms. Mindaoudou or her successor (the well-respected Mohamed Ibn Chambas of Ghana), it is the ominous earlier "Strategy for Darfur" that will prevail. 

What have we heard about Darfur from the Independent Expert for Human Rights in Sudan, Mohamed Osman Chande?  Precisely nothing, in part because he can gain no access to the region, in part because he has shown he has no stomach for confronting the Khartoum regime on human rights.  And what about Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights?  She is mentioned as having had a statement read for her in Darfur on December 11, 2012; other than that, there has been nothing of substance for months.

For its part, the European Union has made only vague condemnatory noises, but has done nothing to change conditions on the ground.  The AU, which foolishly staked its reputation on the UNAMID mission, has been silent about the comments from Bensouda and Dane Smith—a silence that represents complicity with Khartoum.  And the Obama administration, along with its two special envoys for Sudan—Scott Gration and Princeton Lyman—have made clear that they wish to see Darfur as a "stand alone" issue, an issue that is (in the words of a senior U.S. State Department official) "de-coupled" from broader U.S. policy towards Sudan.

It does seem fair to add that the new UN Expert on Sudan sanctions, Ghassan Schbley, should be forgiven for his silence: though possessing a valid visa, issued by Khartoum, Schbley was denied entrance to Sudan by the regime (which has publicly acknowledged that he is "blacklisted" for his previous work on Somalia and Eritrea).  As is customary of the U.S. at the UN, there was predictable bluster but no meaningful action:

"…unfettered access for Panels of Experts is a fundamental principle. It is unacceptable that Sudan or any country would prevent a member of a Panel of Experts from conducting his or her work as mandated by the Security Council,' said US Mission's Deputy Spokesperson Payton L. Knopf."  (Inner City Press [UN/New York] December 7, 2012)

Another UN Security Council diplomat also fulminated in futility:

"'The turning back of the Expert at Khartoum airport despite his being in possession a valid visa was totally unacceptable, particularly since the reason given was that the Expert had been "blacklisted" because of his previous work on the Somalia/Eritrea Monitoring Group.'" (Inner City Press [UN/New York] December 13, 2012)

It is doubtful in the extreme that we will ever learn anything about Darfur or Sudan from the work of Mr. Schbley.

Darfur's Realities: Rendering them invisible doesn't change them

Despite its obstruction of journalists, human rights investigators, humanitarian assessments, as well as its intimidation of UN and nongovernmental relief organizations, Khartoum has found no way to silence Radio Dabanga, and those few courageous individuals on the ground who can speak authoritatively to current security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur (the two are inextricably linked).  The realities of human suffering and destruction are unspeakably grim—and getting worse.  Again, as ICC Prosecutor Bensouda stresses in her remarks to the Security Council:

"The words of the Government of Sudan representatives, promising further peace initiatives, are undermined by actions on the ground that show an ongoing commitment to crimes against civilians as a solution to the Government's problems in Darfur."

"The failure of the Government of the Sudan to implement the five arrest warrants seems symbolic of its ongoing commitment to a military solution in Darfur, which has translated into a strategy aimed at attacking civilian populations over the last ten years, with tragic results."

"I must reiterate that these alleged ongoing crimes, similar to those already considered by the Judges of the International Criminal Court on five separate applications, may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide."

"'[The UN Security Council] should be even more concerned about the situation in Darfur, given that crimes continue to be committed, including by those already indicted by the Court.  The question that remains to be answered is how many more civilians must be killed, injured and displaced for this Council to be spurred into doing its part?'"

Despite the power of this indictment, Darfur's suffering has become less, not more visible.  Khartoum's massive interdiction of humanitarian efforts has resulted in an acute lack of primary medical care and critical medicines, deterioration of water supplies and the diminishment of food portions, and an inability to respond to accelerating epidemics, including Yellow Fever (which has already claimed many lives), malaria, diarrhea and hepatitis—and yet the international community continues to acquiesce before the regime's brutal "genocide by attrition." 

For the victims of this campaign of humanitarian obstruction are overwhelmingly the non-Arab or African tribes of the region, especially those—more than two million—displaced into camps or host families and villages (and more than 280,000 Darfuris remain in eastern Chad refugees, again overwhelmingly from the African tribes of Darfur) .  Despite widespread ethnically targeted violence, despite the continuing epidemic of rape, despite violent land appropriation by armed Arab groups, the international community simply watches as a hopelessly dysfunctional and ill-equipped UNAMID force becomes steadily weaker.  And perhaps most shamefully, given previous international demands—including from the UN Security Council—Khartoum continues a relentless and utterly ruthless aerial bombing campaign against civilians. 

Darfur's invisibility derives at least in part because of its remoteness and unfamiliar geography; this unfortunate geographical fate has over ten years created a blurred sense of what is occurring and where, with the inevitable effect of diminishing the power of the reporting that does manage to continue, especially by Radio Dabanga.  In response, I am presenting representative accounts form Radio Dabanga from the past three months, organized by region and beginning with West Darfur.  Along the way I offer detailed cartographic data and nomenclature, administrative divisions, and precise locations of particular incidents. As preface, I offer here a summary account of some key features of Darfur's geography.

Darfur delineated

I should emphasize that I preserve in this account the old administrative division of Darfur into three states, instituted in 1994 by the National Islamic Front as a means of weakening the Fur politically (the non-Arab, or African, Fur are the largest ethnic group in Darfur).  These states are West Darfur, North Darfur, and South Darfur.  Khartoum's further administrative division of Darfur last year—creating an "East Darfur" and a "Central Darfur"—has no basis in history or logic.  It is wholly expedient, the administrative version of "divide and conquer."  Areas in this factitious "Central Darfur" were essentially carved from the old West Darfur, and in speaking about areas and locations of this notional "Central Darfur" I have consistently preserved the older state designation of West Darfur

In addition to state administrative boundaries, there are Locality and Rural Council boundaries.  These are best represented in what is unquestionably the most comprehensive extant set of Darfur maps and place names; it was produced by the Humanitarian Information Centre for Darfur in 2005.  These three "Field Atlases," one for each state, are indispensible, both cartographically and as gazetteers with latitude and longitude data (available at West Darfur,  North Darfur, and South Darfur).

Still, there is ambiguity and confusion: sometimes the wide range of transliterations from Arabic makes it difficult to identify specific locations in the Field Atlases; sometimes places that appear in the Atlas gazetteers do not appear on the maps, and sometimes appear on one map but not another (there are a dozen or so maps in each atlas).  Sometimes locations are not mentioned at all and can only be estimated on the basis of proximity to a known location.  Sometimes there are repeated uses of the same name (e.g., the seven "Habila's" in West Darfur alone).  Sometimes the definite article (al- or el-) appears, sometimes it does not, sometimes if appears one way and other times another way.  There are a great many errors in the data for latitude and longitude, and even in identifying locations.  Still, the detail of these comprehensively researched Field Atlases permits sufficient accuracy that we may gain a clear sense of where most events are occurring and thus see patterns emerging.

One such pattern is the determination of Arab militia forces and armed groups to seize land previously owned and farmed by non-Arab/African tribal groups.  This accounts for a tremendous amount of the current violence, and is clearly accelerating.  Crops are burned, farms themselves are burned, farmers attempting to return to their lands are murdered, women and girls in their families are raped, and intimidation in various forms makes clear that the violent seizure of arable and pasturable land is far from over, and that the armed groups allied with the Khartoum regime continue to have an overwhelming advantage in land disputes.  This can only fuel further fighting by rebel groups.  Thus despite a decade of conflict, the dynamic of violence is largely unchanged.  The failure of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur adds a grim emphasis to this basic fact.

A second pattern emerges from the growing number of attacks by Arab militia forces and heavily armed bandits on local police forces, a few of which have been more responsive to the needs of local people than Khartoum's SAF or Military Intelligence.  The impunity that allows such brazen attacks on police stations to continue—resulting in loss of life, as well as the heisting of arms and valuables—is largely condoned by Khartoum and the Sudan Armed Forces.  No serious effort has been made to halt this highly consequential threat to regional security.

A third pattern evident is the relentlessness of the aerial assault on civilian life in Eastern Jebel Marra, a populous region of Darfur that has proved largely impregnable to Khartoum's ground assaults, except for Deribat and Golo (the latter recently captured by one element of the Sudan Revolutionary Front [SRF]).  In turn, the international community has simply refused to hold Khartoum accountable for its continuing and egregious violations of international law—the targeting or indiscriminate bombing of civilian sites—and the demands of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005), which prohibit all military flights over Darfur—flights of the sort chronicled relentlessly by Radio Dabanga on the basis of eyewitness reports.

The reports on West Darfur below, all from Radio Dabanga, are identified by Locality and Rural Council location, and I have highlighted peripheral villages, camps, and towns that are identified by name within the Radio Dabanga dispatches.  A good overview map of Darfur, with nearly all these major geographical markers, can be found in a UN planning map (PDF).  This map will allow a reader of the dispatches below to see clearly just how widespread violence and acute humanitarian distress are, and where civilian insecurity is greatest.

Importantly, I have combined the Radio Dabanga reports on West Darfur with those on "Eastern Jebel Marra," even when this is not strictly the geographical case.  For the Jebel Marra massif lies at the point where the three states of Darfur come together, although the strikingly elevated topography of Jebel Marra is primarily in West Darfur and North Darfur.  When a Radio Dabanga report refers to bombing in "Eastern Jebel Marra," it is often to sites that lie very close—twenty miles or less—to the densely populated West Darfur/North Darfur border.  The Sudan Armed Forces do not discriminate between the two states in their attacks, even as they do not discriminate between civilian and military targets.  Since the subsequent brief on violence in North Darfur will be the most extensive of the three, I have decided that it makes most sense to include all bombing attacks on "Eastern Jebel Marra" in the present West Darfur brief, even if the targets are simply very close to the West Darfur/North Darfur border, as in the case of Suu SawwaTaradonaKatoor, and others. 

There is a larger issue here in offering an overview of West Darfur. UNAMID and the international community have finally found it impossible to continue accepting the rosy picture of Darfur as painted by the likes of former UN/AU special representatives to UNAMID Ibrahim Gambari and Rodolphe Adada.  International actors of consequence now find it untenable to accept claims by the former chief UN humanitarian officer in Darfur, Georg Charpentier, viz., that Khartoum does not interfere at all with humanitarian access and that security is actually improving.  But in moving away from this wholly unwarranted optimism, indeed outright distortion, the face-saving strategy has been to emphasize only violence in North Darfur.  Thus, for example, as recently as mid-September 2012, Dane Smith declared: "West Darfur is relatively stable although there are some problems with criminality there" (Interview with Radio Dabanga, September 21, 2012).

While events since late July justify a particular concern for North Darfur—especially in the areas near Kutum, Mallit, Hashaba, and Tabit—this should not work to obscure the obscene violence that continues in both South and West Darfur.  This is one reason I have begun this three-part overview with a survey of violence and the loss of humanitarian access in West Darfur, and the adjacent region of Eastern Jebel Marra.

Geographical overview of security and humanitarian issues in West Darfur

West Darfur has seven Localities (Kulbus, el-Geneina, Zalingei, Mukjar, Jebel Marra, Habillah, Wadi Saleh); each of these has several Rural Council areas, which will be important identifiers in the accounts that follow (Radio Dabanga frequently uses "Rural Council" and "Locality" interchangeably, which can be a source of some confusion; I have consistently followed the nomenclature of the Darfur Field Atlases).  All this information can be found on the "Administrative Units" page of any one of the Darfur Field Atlases.  What is striking in examining in the dispatches from Radio Dabanga is how dispersed and widespread the violence is in West Darfur, and the foolishness of assessing the region as a whole on the basis of one highly controlled visit to a single location—a visit which in any event would certainly have been permitted only if the Khartoum regime felt it advantageous to have this location seen.

It will be useful, then, to begin with Nyuru (also Nurei and Nuri), the dateline for a New York Times dispatch of February 26, 2012.  Nyuru is in West Darfur, el-Geneina Locality, Mornei Rural Council area (located at 13.19/latitude and 22.83/longitude). The Times dispatch seems an all too fitting example of what happens when the geography of Darfur is ignored, or when excessive generalizations are made on the basis of a very highly limited geographic perspective.  The Times dispatch began by claiming,

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

This claim about "returns" has been comprehensively rebutted by highly informed Darfuris, including the (omdachief administrator for the Mornei Rural Council area following his fact-finding trip to Nyuru to assess the findings of the Times dispatch.  Much of the evidence adduced by Darfuris has to do with the striking geographical improbability of such returns to this particular location, certainly in a way that could manage to go undetected by the Mornei community.  In fact, the only source for the Times on the ground was a hopelessly compromised and powerfully self-interested UNAMID.  The "villagers" interviewed by the Times were almost certainly—as Radio Dabanga later reported—not Darfuri Africans returning to their village but Arab land grabbers, performing as required on the occasion of this visit under the severe scrutiny of Military Intelligence (which has taken the lead intelligence role throughout the Darfur conflict).

The implied claims about returns from Chad, also in the Times dispatch, were decisively rejected by the representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Chad.  But since the New York Times is so influential, and because the newspaper—including its foreign editor—insisted on standing by this story, it will be worth noting the proximity to Nyuru of recent violence and insecurity in West Darfur. Now ten months old, the Times dispatch is still the most recent news dispatch with a Darfur dateline outside one of the three state capitals. 

The Times seems entirely ignorant of earlier reports on claimed "returns" of displaced non-Arab civilians:

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

Nor does the Times make mention of repeated reports that the area of Nyuru has not seen resettlement by those native to the land, but rather by Arab groups from Darfur, from Chad, even from Mali and Niger.  Months before the Times dispatch Radio Dabanga had reported:

"Complaining farmers from Guido Camp (West Darfur [Jebel Marra Locality]) pointed out the deliberate destruction of their farms by shepherds [i.e., nomadic Arab herders]. According to them, the shepherds intentionally set out their cows  [i.e., cattle, as opposed to camels] in the farms, setting chaos and destructing their properties. Protesters are immediately beaten up, and women are raped, making them reluctant to return to their fields. Several female farmers reported the incidents to the local authorities, but no action was apparently taken. They now call on UNAMID and the UN to provide them with the necessary protection." (July 26, 2011)

More recently Radio Dabanga reports that a Khartoum official is selling the land of IDPs in Mornei, West Darfur (about 15 miles south of Nyuru):

"Residents at internally displaced persons camp at Mornei in West Darfur complained that the land they were displaced from named Bobai Amer is being sold off as residential land. A camp leader said to Radio Dabanga the land which is used for farming, is being sold by Muhammed Arbab Khamis of the ruling National Congress Party [as residential land] …. " (27 January 2012)

Most tellingly, Radio Dabanga also reports on the villages and farm areas that have been taken over by Arab groups from their displaced owners—and Nyuru is prominent among these:

New settlers in West Darfur chase displaced people from their lands

EL GENEINA, WEST DARFUR (15 July 2012):  Displaced people returning to their farmlands in West [ ] Darfur were chased from their lands by the new settlers. Sheikh Daoud Arbab Ibrahim Younis, head of the high committee for IDPs of the West Darfur state, told Radio Dabanga this issue is especially prevalent in the villages of Hashaba, Kuka, East Kuka, Krobbe and Ajabun. Some of these areas are completely occupied such as Affen Dibbi, Nurei …

[NB: Nurei is the alternative spelling for NYURU in the West Darfur Field Atlas]

…Tankoa and Takuda and many other areas surrounding El Geneina and For Baranga. Arab settlers, coming from Chad and Niger, moved to these lands after the outbreak of the war in Darfur in 2003 Sheikh Daoud told Radio Dabanga. IDPs often temporarily return to their lands for agriculture during the rainy season only to be threatened or forced to pay a sum of 100 Sudanese Pounds by the new settlers."

This is what the Times correspondent saw at Nyuru in February 2012, and yet there has been no correction or even acknowledgement that there is a problem with the original story.  And the process of violent land appropriation continues:

Armed men seize farms in West Darfur

EL GENEINA, WEST DARFUR (13 July 2012):  A group of pro-government armed men assaulted a number of farmers in West Darfur. After insulting and beating themthey burned down their farms. The men driving a land cruiser attacked the farmers on Tuesday evening in Jimmaizat Babiker and Hajer Bager, west of For Baranga. A farmer told Radio Dabanga that the militants expelled them from their lands and threatened to kill him if they returnedThe farmer said the armed men warned the farmers the area is meant for grazing and not for agriculture according to our source."

It becomes difficult to resist the conclusion that the Times correspondent was allowed to travel to Nyuru only because it could be made to seem a sign of "decisive cooling" in the Darfur conflict.  This was a fabrication in which UNAMID was shamefully complicit with the Khartoum authorities, and makes a mockery of the Mission's professed concerns for civilian protection, including safe returns of the displaced and peaceful resolution of land disputes.

Certainly the dispatches from Radio Dabanga in the intervening months, and the past three months in particular, suggest no "decisive cooling" of violence in Darfur, which remains directed primarily against civilians.  Indeed, one of the most recent and disturbing Radio Dabanga dispatches reports on the efforts by Ali Kushayb to recruit new troops for his militia in West Darfur.  Ali Kushayb—also known as Ali Mohammad Ali Abdalrahman, and aqid al oqada, or "colonel of colonels"—has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on 42 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.  He was brutally active in West Darfur during the years of worst atrocity crimes:

"Ali Kushayb…has started to mobilize new people, eyewitnesses have told Radio Dabanga. They saw the former Janjaweed commander in the locality of Taham and Umm Nunu at the border of West and South Darfur. He was rallying on Sunday and Monday together with men who were together with him when they allegedly committed war crimes between 2003 and 2005.  [Kushayb] was mainly active in West Darfur (Wadi Salih and Mukjar). Apparently Kushayb is now openly recruiting a new militia." (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], December 24, 2012)

Responsible for thousands of killings and rapes, Kushayb is the emblem of the most violent phases of the Darfur genocide; his return to active militia recruitment is ominous in the extreme.

In short, West Darfur and Eastern Jebel Marra provide some of the starkest rejoinders to the Times article, entitled "A Taste of Hope Brings Refugees Back to Darfur"; all the following accounts come from Radio Dabanga.  They have been edited for length; what has been eliminated most often are the desperate pleas for international help (from UNAMID in particular) and the grimly repetitive reports of state and national officials failing to take action in the face of the most brutal crimes, with UNAMID powerless or unwilling to provide protection.

[1]  Farmers attacked by armed herders

MUKJAR (19 December 2012):  A number of farmers from the area of Jerny north of Mukjar in [formerly West] Darfur have reportedly been exposed to severe beatings by armed herders on Tuesday morning, 18 December. Sources told Radio Dabanga that more than 15 armed herders [NB:"herders" is the term typically used by Radio Dabanga to identify nomadic Arab groups and militias—ER], allegedly loyal to the government, attacked a group of 30 farmers while they were working on their farms. It was reported that the herders fired heavily in the air before beating the farmers with whips, crutches and rifle butts. According to onlookers, more than 10 farmers were injured. The herders reportedly released their cattle onto the farms with the purpose of destroying the harvest, the onlookers continued. They added that the farmers reported the incident to the police, but so far no action was taken. 

'Unprecedented instability'

In West Darfur, villages in a number of areas are facing 'unprecedented' instability in the security situation. Sources attributed the reason for the instability to the early start of the outdoor season for herders before completion of the harvest. This has led to frictions between farmers and herders and has already claimed dozens of lives, a source added to Radio Dabanga.

[Again, Radio Dabanga regularly uses the terms "shepherds" and "herders" to refer to nomadic Arab groups, typically heavily armed—ER]

[Jerny is in Mukjar Locality, Mukjar Rural Council]

[2]  More than 10 herders' attacks in a week

MORNEI (15 October 2012):  Residents of camp Mornei in West Darfur complained to Radio Dabanga about the recurring attacks carried out by herders against them and their farms, on Monday 15 October. According to a camp representative the displaced have been exposed to more than 10 attacks during the last week and that the most recent incident happened on Monday morning. The representative said a number of displaced persons were shot and beaten with whips when they tried to prevent herders from entering their farms in Wadi Jangary, south of Mornei. He added that beatings and looting against camp's residents by herders have increased in the past two days, adding that on farms in all of Wadi Jangary, Arro, Toure, Korney Toura were targeted.

[Mornei camp is in el-Geneina Locality, Mornei Rural Council; it is approximately 15 miles from Nyuru, dateline for the New York Times story, "A Taste of Hope Brings Refugees Back to Darfur"]

[3]  Third day of attacks in Saraf Jidad

SARAF JIDAD (21 November 2012): Armed herders allegedly attacked the area of Saraf Jidad, Sirba locality, in West Darfur on Tuesday November 20 for the third day in a row, Radio Dabanga has learned. An armed group of herders attacked Saraf Jidad camp in Sirba locality on Sunday morning and allegedly kidnapped three policemenThe reason for the attack, according to the perpetrators, is because they believe members of the community police killed a herder. They claimed to have found his body at Mruro area, five kilometers north of Saraf Jidad on Saturday. Additionally, the herders are being accused of torturing more than 60 camp residents and looting of homes, shops and properties. Omda of Saraf Jidad, Yahya Umla, described the situation in the region as 'chaotic'. He claims that militias have been roaming the area since Friday and are still present, causing residents to flee, while others stay inside their homes in fear and panic.

Bashir al-Sanosi, adviser to [the Justice and Equality Movement] leadership, told Radio Dabanga that the militants attacked the area of Saraf Jidad after looting the local police station. Sanosi said he holds the state authorities responsible for the attacks, adding that 'the perpetrators are loyal to the National Congress Party and their arms are supplied by the regime as well.' The adviser continued that the state authorities are also responsible for burning farms in the areas of Bir Dagig and Kendebe about two weeks ago. He accused the government of West Darfur of 'knowing about the burning of farms on forehand, with the purpose of starving residents and displacing them, to make room for new settlers,' he added to Radio Dabanga from el-Geneina.

[Seraf Jidad is in Kulbus Locality, Sirba Rural Council]

[4]  Radio Dabanga Sudan: Fire Destroys Large Areas in Sirba

SIRBA (10 November 2012): A fire has reportedly destroyed large farm areas belonging to residents from the Kendebe and Bir Dagiq camps in Sirba locality, West Darfur, on Wednesday evening, 7 November. The fire, which began at 6pm and lasted until Thursday, started at Wadi Naxos and Namaty, Bear Dagiq, and expanded to Adel Tina, Kendebe, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. They said areas of about three to four square kilometers of millet and sorghum farms got completely destroyed. Locals accuse herders of starting the firewhich they said was the biggest—and the fifth—in a period of 10 days. A resident appealed to the Sirba commissioner and to state authorities to intervene and stop fires and attacks carried out by herders in the area.

[Kendebe camp is in Kulbus Locality, Sirba Rural Council]

[5]  Armed herders burn village of voluntary return in West Darfur

MESTERIHA (10 December 2012):  Armed herders have reportedly injured five members of the armed forces and burnt the village of Ronja for voluntary returns as well as two other villages to the ground, destroying crops and around 10 kilometers of agricultural lands, sources informed Radio Dabanga on Sunday, 9 December. The locality of Mesteriha in West Darfur has witnessed a series of attacks which reportedly started on Friday and continued until Sunday evening. Sources from the area reported that the attacks started on Friday when farmers informed the police about trespassing of herders onto their farmlands. [ ]

[Witnesses said] the herders attacked a truck en route from El Geneina and seized large quantities of sugar, flower and 22 thousand Sudanese pounds. They explained that the herders continued towards the village of Ronja for voluntary return near Mesteriha, and assaulted villagers before burning down the village. [ ] Witnesses [also] stressed that the incidents caused widespread fear among residents in the area. They added that residents fear renewed attacks by herders on Mesteriha and neighbouring villages.  They added to Radio Dabanga that the incident has prompted residents to consider fleeing to Chad, in search of safety and protection. 

[Mesteriha is in Mukjar Locality, Mukjar Rural Council]

[6]  Herders burn farms around Sirba camps

SIRBA (6 November 2012):  Residents of Sirba camps in West Darfur complained about herders' attacks on their farms, pointing out that some farms were burned down, Radio Dabanga has learned on 6 November. The herders, armed and riding camels, also stole cows and sheep from the farms in the areas of Ajre, Denta, Goz Siggiat in western Kendebe area, in addition to burning four millet farms in the southern area of Kendebe, according to residents.

[Sirba camps are in Kulbus Locality, Sirba Rural Council]

[7]  Farmer gets seriously injured by herder

DELEIJ (8 November 2012) A farmer from Deleij area in Wadi Saleh locality, [formerly West] Darfur, got seriously injured after a herder attacked him in his own land, an eyewitness told Radio Dabanga. Abbas Ishaq was reportedly attacked when he tried stopping the armed herder from entering his farm on Monday evening, 5 November. The herder, who was riding a camel, hit the farmer's head with an ax, according to the onlooker. The witness, who reported the incident to the police, also complained to Radio Dabanga about the repeated attacks on farmers carried out by herders in the area.

[Deleij is in Wadi Saleh Locality, Garsila-Deleige Rural Council; latitude 12.48/ longitude 23.25]

[8]  Tensions continue in Mesteriha, man killed

MESTERIHA (10 December 2012): A resident from the area of Mesteriha, West Darfur, was killed by armed herders on Sunday, 9 December, eyewitnesses told Radio Dabanga. Moreover, tensions continue in the locality of Mesteriha following attacks in the area over the weekend, according to testimonies.   At 5pm on Sunday a group of armed herders opened fire on Abdullah Mohamed Abker, killing him on the spot, as he was returning home from his farm, sources recounted. In the meantime, a witness asserted to Radio Dabanga that the situation in Mesteriha 'remains tense'. He added that local residents expect the tensions to 'escalate at any time' due to the gatherings of armed herders in the area. Radio Dabanga reported that the locality of Mesteriha has witnessed a series of attacks, which sources claim to have occurred between Friday and Sunday. They suggested the events were triggered when farmers informed the police about trespassing of herders onto their farmlands. The attacks left five members of the armed forces injured, sources declared. Besides, they said herders burnt three villages to the ground, including the village of Ronja for voluntary return. Residents from Mesteriha and neighbouring villages have not left their homes since Friday until Monday evening as a result of the 'tense situation', a source informed Radio Dabanga. He added that the main roads leading to El Geneina, Foro Baranga and Habila are all blocked

[Mesteriha is in Mukjar Locality, Mukjar Rural Council]

[9]  Herders trespass farms in Umm Dukhum, sources

UMM DUKHUM (10 December 2012): Herders have reportedly trespassed farmlands in several locations in Central Darfur to graze their livestock, a source from Umm Dukhum told Radio Dabanga on Sunday, 9 December. When farmers tried stopping the livestock from entering their land, herders threatened them at gunpoint, the source continued. The farms invaded by herders are located in the following villages: Tagore, Hajar Sultan, Hillat Adam Fur, Geneina, Kemejr and Guntur, according to the source. He stressed that the police and joint forces were informed about the incident; however, no action has been taken so far.  

[Umm Dukhum is in Mukjar Locality, Umm Dukhum Rural Council]

[10]  Farmers complain about herders' attacks

ABU SURUJ (25 October 2012): Farmers from Abu Suruj camp in West Darfur complained about their farms' exposure to repetitive attacks carried out by herders, they told Radio Dabanga on Tuesday October 23. A displaced woman from Abu Suruj told Radio Dabanga that the herders enter their cattle into the farms by force. She pointed out that the herders abuse the farmers who try to prevent them from entering their cattle into the farms. It was added that the farmers informed local authorities, as well as the local commissioner, about the attacks but no action has been taken to stop the herders.

At the same time, farmers from El-Geneina and Sirba localities complained about abuse and death threats by herders wearing military uniforms. In addition, they complained about the herders entering their cattle into the farms by force. A source disclosed to Radio Dabanga that 3 herders, wearing military uniforms, amputated the hands of a farmer named Abdullah Nour Ahmed at Bear Kilab area. He added that they beat and whipped a number of other farmers in several areas of Sirba locality, threatening to kill them if they tried to stop their cattle from grazing.

[Abu Suruj camp is in Kulbus Locality, Sirba Rural Council]

[11]  Attacks against women rise in Hamidiya

HAMIDIYA (5 October 2012):  Displaced women living at Hamidiya camp in Zalingei, [formerly West] Darfur, have complained about the rise of pro-government militias' assaults against them recently. The women said that dozens of them were attacked in the past two weeks, adding that the last attack happened on Wednesday, 3 October, against a woman and her daughter. According to witnesses the victims were working on their farm near the camp when gunmen riding camels shot them after they resisted a rape attempt. Both women got severely injured and are now in a Zalingei hospital for treatment, witnesses explained. A female camp's leader told Radio Dabanga that women are commonly assaulted by pro-government militia when working in farms, collecting firewood, at markets and on roads. She added attacks include rapes, beating, whipping and looting.

[Hamidiya camp is in in Zalingei Locality, Zalingei-Traige Rural Council (latitude 12.92/longitude 23.48)]

[12]  Two women raped in East Jebel Marra

EAST JEBEL MARRA (5 October 2012):  Eye-witnesses said that a 12-year old girl and a 28-year old woman were raped near the village of Suu Sawa, in East Jebel Marra, North Darfur [less than 20 miles from the West Darfur/North Darfur border—ER] , on Friday afternoon, 5 October. They told Radio Dabanga that members of the Sudanese armed forces were behind the attacks. Witnesses said a convoy of 13 vehicles belonging to the government forces, which was coming from El-Fasher, drove towards a well at about 3pm where some women were fetching water.

NB: Sources recounted that while some forces just stood on the side laughing, others approached them and said they had orders to rape all women suspected of having links with the rebels.  The soldiers added that everyone in the area, including the rebels, should die and that their bodies must be disposed, sources continued. 

The incident took place about 15km north of Kunjara area, east Khazam Tinjur, in East Jebel Marra, where the government troops have a base.  Local residents also blamed Al-Khadi, a pro-government militia leader, for inciting all the crimes and violations in the area. They said he is the "eye of the government" and should be brought to the ICC, in The Hague.

[13]  Series of assaults in Bindissey, two raped

BINDISSEY (11 December 2012): Residents of camp Bindissey in [West] Darfur have witnessed a series of assaults carried out by members of the security services and the Sudanese army last week, they told Radio Dabanga on Tuesday, 11 December. They added two sisters were raped. A camp's activist said that last Wednesday, two members of the security services abducted the sisters at gunpoint, took them out of the camp and raped them. The sisters' family reported the incident to the police; however, they did not take any action against the perpetrators, even though they had been identified by the victims.

[Bindissey is in Wadi Saleh Locality, Bundis Rural Council]

[14] Sudanese soldier rapes 15-year-old girl

TENDELTY (30 October 2012): A Sudanese army soldier reportedly raped a secondary school student in the area of Tendelty west of El-Geneina in West Darfur on Monday evening October 29, Radio Dabanga has learned. A witness told Radio Dabanga that the soldier found the girl, who is 15 years of age, studying near the village, and forced her to come with him to a farm nearby. He said that the Sudanese soldier raped the girl at a farm near the village.  [ ] The witness complained to Radio Dabanga about the repetitive violations and abuse, sexual harassment in particular, by Sudanese army soldiers and pro-government militiamen in the area.

[Tendelty is in el-Geneina Locality, Masteri Rural Council]

[Hamidiya camp is in in Zalingei Locality, Zalingei-Traige Rural Council (latitude 12.92/longitude 23.48)]

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day's Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. His new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 - 2012) is available in eBook format, at no cost. www.CompromisingWithEvil.org

Why the Armed Forces of South Sudan Shot Down a UN Helicopter

By Eric Reeves

December 22, 2012 (SSNA) -- On December 21, 2012—in a deeply tragic accident—military forces of South Sudan shot down a UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) MI-8 helicopter with four Russian pilots aboard.  The incident occurred in Jonglei state, in a region where there has seen heavy military activity by the Khartoum-supported rebel militia force of David Yau Yau, a brutal and merciless military commander.  Inevitably, the event brought strong condemnation and various demands were made of the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Unfortunately, as the event is being reported, far too little context is provided for this incident, and the most significant events preceding it. But there is very considerable context, and there are many events—some very recent—that have a direct bearing on our answer to the question of why this helicopter was shot down.  To be sure, as part of this question, we and the SPLA must ask about command-and-control measures, precautionary procedures for the use of all anti-aircraft weaponry, communications issues, and individual responsibility in this particular case.  But these are not the essential questions: the essential question is what must have been in the minds of the soldiers who fired the shots that brought down the helicopter.  And here there is much that demands consideration.

Most recently the UNMISS confirmed that in the very same area, a Russian Antonov was observed by its own personnel dropping supplies to David Yau Yau:

"The United Nations confirmed its troops spotted a white plane dropping packages in an area where South Sudan said a Sudanese aircraft supplied weapons to rebels, a day before the countries' presidents were to meet. A Sudanese Antonov plane air-dropped weapons and ammunition to the militia led by David Yau Yau, which is fighting South Sudanese troops in Jonglei state, South Sudan said on September 22 [2012]."

"'There was a white fixed-wing aircraft that was observed by UMISS troops dropping packages,' UN Mission in South Sudan spokesman Kouider Zerrouk said today by telephone from Juba, South Sudan’s capital. 'But UNMISS is not in a position to confirm what was in them and who dropped them.'" (Bloomberg, September 24, 2012)

But of course the UN knows full well that the account asserted at the time by South Sudan is correct: this was an SAF Antonov engaged in a re-supply delivery to David Yau Yau.  What other possible explanation could there be?  South Sudan has no Antonovs of any kind, and the UN would certainly know after the fact if one of its own aircraft had been in the area.  This leaves only Khartoum's Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) as responsible for this extraordinarily provocative flight.  And as one seasoned regional expert put the matter to me, based on communications with SPLA intelligence, the SAF flight route is in fact easy to deduce:

"The aircraft that delivered supplies to Yau Yau [on September 22], was an Antonov-12 (4 turbo propellers), the same aircraft that the UN World Food Program used during Operation Lifeline Sudan. It came from El Obeid though Unity State (on the Abiemnom side) and as it entered South Sudanese airspace it would have been able to melt into the UN aircraft traffic and be confused for one of them. The aircraft would then have returned by following a route along the Ethiopian border, where there is no tracking system, up to the tip of Upper Nile State, and then fly back to El Obeid in Sudanese airspace. An Anonov-12 can fly 2000 km." (email received from Juba, September 24, 2012; lightly edited for clarity)

We may be sure that this is what happened, even as we know that fighting between Yau Yau's forces and the SPLA has been intense since August—much more intense and with more frequent military encounters than have been reported publicly, especially around Gumuruk and Likuangole in Jonglei State (it was near Likuangole that the helicopter was shot down).

Khartoum has regularly violated Southern Sudanese airspace over the past two years—for bombing attacks on Southern territory, for military reconnaissance purposes, and for the re-supply of Southern renegade militia groups.  There have many public reports, such as the following, and even more that have been kept confidential by UNMISS:

"South Sudan's army on Thursday accused the army of neighbouring Sudan, of carrying out renewed aggression in its territory despite the ongoing negotiations on security arrangements between the two parties in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The spokesperson of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Col. Philip Aguer, in a press statement issued on Thursday said that warplanes belonging to Khartoum have hovered over Unity and Upper Nile states over the last two days in violation of South Sudanese airspace." (Sudan Tribune, September 13, 2012)

"Warplanes allegedly belonging to Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on Tuesday carried out aerial bombardments, killing at least five civilians in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, the spokesperson for South Sudan army (SPLA) said. Those killed, according to Philip Aguer, were mainly women and children. 'Kiir Adem in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State came under heavy and aggressive aerial bombardments by the Sudanese armed forces today.'" (Sudan Tribune, November 20, 2012)

The UN mission refuses to investigate these latter attacks because they lie in the ill-conceived "Mile 14" section of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State (south of the River Kiir/Bahr el-Arab River). This is so despite a great many eyewitnesses to the bombings.  Such failure to investigate seems, of course, incomprehensible to Juba.

There have also been repeated reports from many authoritative sources that Khartoum has attempted to disguise its aircraft as if belonging to the UN, an outrageous and highly dangerous violation of international law.  This tactic has been well reported by the former UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, indeed confirmed by photographic evidence of disguised aircraft on tarmacs in el-Fasher and elsewhere.  It is the height of hypocrisy for Ban Ki-moon, given Khartoum's egregious violation of international law with such disguising, to "strongly condemn the attack" on the "clearly marked" helicopter, and on this basis to call for Juba to "immediately carry out an investigation and bring to account those responsible for this act."  Why no similar demand for accountability on the part of the SAF for its deliberate disguising its aircraft as belonging to the UN?  What possible meaning can "clearly marked" have in an environment in which the presence of disguised aircraft has been authoritatively established.  This violation of international law, for military purposes, clearly endangers UN and other humanitarian aircraft.

All evidence suggests that the shooting down of the UN helicopter was an accident: the SPLA has no motive whatsoever for military hostility toward UNMISS, indeed needs all the help it can get in dealing with the unrest in Jonglei.  And we have no reason to dispute the account of SPLA military spokesman Philip Aguer:

"'We regret the incident,' army spokesman Philip Aguer said, adding an
artillery unit had spotted a plane landing in an area where Yau Yau
forces were operating. 'We saw a white plane landing and asked UNMISS whether they had any flight in the area but they denied it. The army opened fire because it thought it was an enemy plane supplying Yau Yau with weapons,' he said. 'We later heard UNMISS had a flight there. They should have informed us.'" (Reuters [Juba], December 21, 2012)

Here we might also wonder why we heard so little from the UN about the well-reported, explicit SAF threat to shoot down a UN medevac helicopter that was attempting the rescue of eleven UN peacekeepers in Abyei, four of whom had been mortally wounded by a land mine their vehicle had run over:

"In the first deaths for the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), a landmine killed four Ethiopian peacekeepers and wounded seven as they patrolled the village of Mabok in the disputed Abyei territory [August 2, 2011]. A UN Medivac helicopter sent to collect the wounded was delayed for three hours in Kadugli, South Kordofan's main city, when Sudanese forces threatened to shoot at it. (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], August 3, 2011)

Where was Ban Ki-moon's moral outrage at the time?  Evidence suggests that at least one of the soldiers might have been saved if Khartoum had not delayed the medevac by means of military threats.

To be sure, we also know that the SPLA is capable of making terrible mistakes: in September, South Sudanese soldiers killed at least 10 of their own troops when they shot and sank one of their own military riverboats in a remote region after mistaking it for an enemy craft.  But this was obviously an accident, even as the SAF grounding of the UN medevac helicopter and medical team was grimly deliberate.

The UN Mission in South Sudan: Speaking out only when it wishes

The extensive intelligence network employed by UNMISS along the North/South border provides the Mission with a great many reports, some of which are investigated, some not (for reasons that are unclear and inherently suspicious).  We have a particularly revealing example of this in an Associated Press report from earlier this year (July 24, 2012), in which a confidential UNMISS investigation of a highly significant bombing attack was revealed on the basis of a leaked report:

"Six bombs that Sudan maintains were aimed at rebels in its own territory instead landed across the border inside South Sudan, according to a United Nations report. UN observers who visited the site found six bomb craters 1.16 kilometers (.72 miles) inside South Sudan’s territory, according to the internal report obtained by The Associated Press. The UN team said the six bombs created small craters where they came down in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state early Friday. 'The craters are almost in one line, possibly indicating a bombing run by an aircraft. Bomb fragments and debris was visible in and around the craters. The smell of gunpowder was also evident,' the report said." (Associated Press [Nairobi], July 24, 2012)

Why would Khartoum engage in such a provocative attack, and justify it after the fact with the ludicrous claim that the attack was directed at the Darfuri rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)?  The attack—according to the SPLA—occurred around 3am on the morning of July 20, when darkness would have been complete.  Antonovs have no militarily purposeful precision, even in daylight: they are retrofitted Russian cargo planes from which shrapnel-laden barrel bombs are simply rolled out the back cargo bay.  An attack in complete darkness by an Antonov is the very embodiment of "indiscriminate."

So, who ordered this attack?  Ban Ki-moon certainly didn't bother to ask, and UNMISS suggested no motive.  But we may be sure that an attack so consequential was not ordered on the initiative of a regional military officer but on the basis of an order from Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) headquarters in Khartoum.  And these senior officers would certainly have known at the time both that the UN Security Council deadline for an agreement on oil revenues was approaching—and that such an attack would be provocative in the extreme.  Unsurprisingly, it led the GOSS delegation to break off direct talks with the Khartoum regime leadership, even as it was in the process of making a generous offer on the issue of oil revenues.  There is good reason to believe that senior military officers, increasingly ascendant without Khartoum's inner security cabal, wished to derail negotiations essential to peace.

There is a larger issue here that also bears on yesterday's shooting down of a UN helicopter.  Because the UN would not make public its findings about the July 20 bombing—or many other bombings confirmed or reported—the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) has been left to conclude that the international community simply doesn’t want to hear about such attacks, even when there are civilian casualties. This deep asymmetry in the attribution of responsibility, this refusal to be honest about what the UN knows of Khartoum's military actions, only works to increase the level of mistrust on the part of the GOSS and the SPLA. 

The UN seems to have worked hard to encourage this mistrust.  One casually cynical UN diplomat in Juba declared—after Khartoum's military seizure of Abyei in May 2011 and after the steady bombing campaign against Southern civilian and military targets that began in November 2010—"the SPLA is paid to be paranoid."  In other words, commenting on Southern concern about Abyei, about Khartoum’s support for renegade militias, and about potential aspiration to seize the oil regions of Upper Nile or Unity State—and about ongoing aerial military action against South Sudan's territory—this UN diplomat had the audacity to declare simply: "The SPLA is paid to be paranoid" (Bloomberg, July 7, 2011).

Such cynicism is rampant in the UN system and is a significant part of the context for yesterday's shooting down of an UN helicopter.  So, too, is the refusal of the UN to report incidents that may have significance for humanitarian and reconnaissance flights.  For example, in mid-September 2011 a MI-26 helicopter belong to the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was shot at by SPLA forces near Pankuech (Unity State), according to a highly reliable regional source.  The helicopter was apparently delivering food from Bentiu (capital of Unity State) to Yida refugee camp (also in Unity State, and the site of an extraordinarily barbarous SAF aerial attack in November 2011).

Why was this incident not made public?  Would it not have been useful to the Russian helicopter crew to know that a UNISFA helicopter had been fired upon by the SPLA in another case of mistaken identity?  Because SAF violations of South Sudan's sovereign air space are so regular, if unreported publicly by UNMISS, it is finally not surprising that there will be cases of aircraft whose identity is confusing.

Let us be clear, even if UNMISS cannot bring itself to be so: it is Khartoum that is violating South Sudanese airspace.  SAF aircraft have bombed locations all along the North/South border for the past two years; they have used high-flying Antonovs for military reconnaissance purposes; they have deployed Iranian drone aircraft over the South (one was shot down over Unity State in March of this year); and as UNMISS confirmed in September, the SAF is also responsible for supplying by air a brutal militia force that trades on ethnic tensions and is responsible for a great deal of civilian mayhem.  The Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment Project of the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, in its brief report update on Yau Yau, notes in its concluding paragraph:

"Pibor county officials told the media that Yau Yau's forces have killed and raped civilians, looted property, and slaughtered the livestock of those who will not join the rebellion. Yau Yau forces reportedly killed one Murle sub-chief in late September because he was encouraging his community to resist recruitment." (Yau Yau is himself a member of the Murle tribe) (December 17, 2012)

This is the force that Khartoum is supplying by means of aerial drops in Jonglei, far inside the sovereign territory of South Sudan.  Knowledge of this is always with the SPLA and was certainly so yesterday.  This is what UN officials seem unwilling to acknowledge, even as their own complicity in yesterday's tragic events is directly tied to this unwillingness to be honest. Yau Yau's is, of course, part of a much larger pattern of Khartoum's extensive military support for renegade militia groups in South Sudan; this has also been established authoritatively in many reports from SAS

The failure to confront Khartoum over illegal use of military aircraft  

If Ban Ki-moon wishes to express outrage and to demand accountability, his efforts would be much better directed at Khartoum than Juba, as he well knows but refuses out of cowardice and expediency to acknowledge.  Here it is imperative to note the incomprehensibly shameful and irresponsible refusal of the UN and the international community to bring pressure to bear on Khartoum to cease its aerial assaults on civilians in Southern territory, in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, and in Darfur.  I have chronicled more than 2,000 confirmed aerial attacks on civilian targets in greater Sudan since 1999 (www.sudanbombing.org), and what is most evident—beyond the staggering numbers—is the relentlessness of the attacks and the utter failure of the UN to put in place any measures that will deter the regime from continuing an aerial campaign that is inherently indiscriminate, and has claimed—in aggregate—many tens of thousands of lives.  Indeed, for all the ferocity and brutality of the Assad regime in Syria, Khartoum's aerial war on Sudanese civilians has claimed many times the number who have died in Syria over the past year and a half.

Human Rights Watch has recently released an authoritative report on aerial attacks in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile (December 2012), and it makes for horrific reading.  The report ("Under Siege: Indiscriminate Bombing and Abuses in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States") is based on five fact-finding missions and more than 200 interviews (conducted in Arabic and local languages).  It finds that:

"Since the conflict started, Sudanese forces have carried out indiscriminate aerial bombardment and shelling in populated areas, killing and injuring civilians and causing serious damage to civilian property including homes, schools, clinics, crops, and livestock. Government forces, including Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Popular Defense Forces (PDF), have also conducted ground attacks on villages during which they deliberately burned and looted civilian property, and arbitrarily detained people. Soldiers have also assaulted and raped women and girls."

"The evidence documented suggests that the Sudanese government has adopted a strategy to treat all populations in rebel held areas as enemies and legitimate targets, without distinguishing between civilian and combatant. This apparent approach lies at the heart of the serious violations of international humanitarian law documented in this report."

"Large areas of land in Blue Nile state in particular, are now abandoned. Sudan's abusive tactics, reminiscent of those used in Darfur and during the long civil war, including the de facto blockading of humanitarian assistance, have worsened already poor conditions."

"In the 18 months between June 2011 and December 2012, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have carried out hundreds of bombings, shelling, and rocket attacks on civilian areas across the Nuba Mountains where the rebels have control. The strikes varied in frequency and intensity, from several times per month to several times per day."

"The bombings have killed, maimed, and injured civilians in their homes, while farming, fetching water, or attending village markets, and have destroyed homes, crops, livelihoods, clinics, and schools, and forced people to abandon their homes and livelihoods. The persistent bombing has terrorized the population; most families have dug foxholes near their homes or moved to sheltered areas…."

"The vast majority of bomb victims that Human Rights Watch documented are civilians. Most of these are women, children, and the elderly."

"In all incidents investigated, witnesses and victims told Human Rights Watch that there were no military targets, such as a rebel presence, in the vicinity at the time of the bombings."

This, Ban Ki-moon, is where your moral outrage and demand for "accountability" should be directed.  It is to the people of Heiban, Un Sirdiba, and from countless other locations throughout greater Sudan that you should be explaining why you are silent or indulge only in perfunctory condemnations of ongoing and undeterred aerial assaults on civilians:

"Examples of civilian victims wounded by use of indiscriminate bombing include Huwaida Hassan, mother of seven, who was seriously injured by a bombing on the Heiban market around mid-day on October 2. The bomb fragments sliced into her belly. Two elderly women and a teenage girl were among the others injured. Fadila Tia Kofi, a woman in her 70s, was injured by bomb fragments at around 11am on September 11, 2012, while working at her garden near her home in Lima village, western Kadugli locality. 'I heard the sound of a plane and I fell to the ground. A big piece of metal cut my toes,' she told Human Rights Watch at her home in October 2012. 'I don’t know why the bombs come. I work, I farm. Now I crawl.' All the toes of her right foot were amputated and she can no longer walk."

"Five members of a single family—including three teenaged sisters—died when shells hit and set ablaze their home outside of Um Sirdiba in Um Durein locality, on the night of February 17, 2012. Four sisters sleeping in one room burned to death. Their father, Samuel Dellami, died soon afterward. His brother told Human Rights Watch in April, 2012: 'Before he died, he said 'where are my daughters?"'"

In thinking about the tragedy of yesterday's helicopter shooting and the death of four Russian pilots, we should bear in mind the dying agony of Samuel Dellami.

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day's Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. His new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 - 2012) is available in eBook format, at no cost. www.CompromisingWithEvil.org

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