South Sudan News Agency

Saturday, Dec 20th, 2014

Last update01:30:53 AM GMT

You are here: Opinion Analyses

"Stop the Planes"—Now!

By Eric Reeves

February 23, 2013 (SSNA) -- The plea could hardly be simpler, or more urgent: "Just stop the planes." This cry for help came from "Khadija," a woman interviewed by Amnesty International (see below) while standing in front of the bombed remains of her home in a small village in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan.  

"Just stop the planes."

And yet more than twenty months after Khartoum launched its military assault on the Nuba people of South Kordofan, the bombing continues relentlessly.  The same is true in neighboring Blue Nile State.  And yet neither Amnesty International nor Human Rights Watch nor the International Crisis Group nor any other major organization analyzing and reporting on the situation in South Kordofan has proposed actions or policies that will oblige the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum to "stop the planes."  In its latest analysis (February 14, 2013), besides offering the obvious urgings, ICG pleads for a comprehensive response to greater Sudan's interlocking crises.  But its specific recommendation to non-Sudanese parties amounts to a referral to incompetence and ensures inaction

"To Members of the UN Security Council, AU Peace and Security Council, Council of the League of Arab States, and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the Government of Ethiopia: Demand and work for a single, comprehensive solution to Sudan’s multiple conflicts…."

For its part, the Obama administration has for more than four years responded weakly and irresolutely to the crises most pressing in greater Sudan, including those in the Nuba and Blue Nile.  The administration has done little more than tepidly condemn, with a weary repetitiveness of language, the bombing of civilians by Khartoum; certainly these "condemnations" have been without discernible effect.  Khartoum's aerial attacks have been directed, relentlessly, against civilians in Darfur since 2003, in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan since June 2011, and in Blue Nile since September 2011. These areas are all in (northern) Sudan, but there have also been many attacks directed against civilians in South Sudan—bombings confirmed by UN investigators as well as journalists present during the attacks.  On one occasion (November 2011) Khartoum's military attacked the Yida refugee camp, housing tens of thousands of civilians who had fled the Nuba for the relative safety of the South.  One bomb landed just outside a school where hundreds of children had been in attendance (it malfunctioned); journalists for the BBC and Reuters were present at the time.  The most recent bombings were in the Kiir Adem area of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal in November and December 2012, killing more than a dozen Southern civilians (including women and children) and wounding many more.  Khartoum baldly denies all such attacks, despite confirmation my UN investigative teams and journalists who are eyewitnesses to these extraordinary violations of national sovereignty and international law.

In the Nuba and Blue Nile, attacks have as their primary purpose not direct violent killings—though these occur frequently—but a relentless destruction of agricultural production in the regions.  I spoke recently with Tom Catena, a courageous American physician who has functioned as the only surgeon in the Nuba Mountains since the beginning of conflict.  The shrapnel wounds he has treated and photographed are stomach-turning, but they are also significant because of what they represent to the people of the Nuba (the Nuba are an African tribal grouping, who follow—with remarkable mutual accommodation—both Islam and Christianity).  The ghastly shrapnel wounds and killings have instilled such fear that people are afraid to farm their lands, staying close to the shelter of caves, ravines, and rocky outcrops.

The sorghum harvest this year—the staple crop of the region—was very poor, according to Dr. Catena.  People in large numbers are on the verge of joining more than 200,000 refugees who have already fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia.  Many spot nutritional surveys reveal Severe Acute Malnutrition above the emergency threshold; the most recent of these found a 30 percent Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate among children under five; this is double the international threshold for a humanitarian emergency (see below).  Moreover, a frightening percentage of children under five are experiencing Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), a condition typically fatal without therapeutic intervention.

Let us be perfectly clear: all this is intentional.

It is a campaign of annihilation in response to military rebellion by the indigenous Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N).  The SPLA-N has repeatedly mauled Khartoum's regular and militia forces, especially in the Nuba, and the response has been a systematic aerial campaign to destroy agricultural production.  It is on the verge of success, as people are simply too fearful to plant, tend, or harvest most of their larger fields.  At the same time, Khartoum maintains a complete humanitarian embargo on regions under rebel control (the great majority of territory in the Nuba).

The weapon of choice is the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Antonov "bomber."  Of course the Antonov is not a military bomber, but rather a retrofitted Russian cargo plan from which crude but deadly barrel bombs are simply rolled out the cargo bay, spreading a hail of shrapnel in all directions on impact.  The have no militarily purposeful precision, but they are extraordinarily efficient in creating civilian terror.  Early on in the conflict, Khartoum also deployed Sukhoi-25 military jet aircraft, also based at el-Obeid, but Dr. Catena told me that the SAF has settled into a pattern of sufficient regularity with Antonovs to keep fear so high that people are unable to farm.

Khartoum is presently concluding a deal with Ukraine to purchase five more Antonovs.

The conspicuous precedent here is the genocidal campaign against the Nuba in the 1990s, which very nearly succeeded in destroying them.  Current efforts are neither surprising not out of character for this regime.  And yet former U.S. special envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman, in a moment of outrageously ignorant presumption, declared in late June 2011 that,

"Nuba Mountain people are fighting back and I don't think the North is capable of dislodging large numbers of people on an ethnic basis….  Second, I'm not sure that's the objective of the government." 

Lyman has been proved profoundly wrong on both counts of his assessment, and yet there has been no accountability for his egregious misjudgment, even as it sent to Khartoum a signal that has at the very least has prolonged and extended the bombing campaign.  That the regime's goal is to "dislodge large numbers of people on an ethnic basis" certainly can no longer be doubted.

As reported by Amnesty International, "Khadija" did not say "send troops to the Nuba," or even "send food," desperately hungry though her people are.  She demanded only that the world "stop the planes"—and allow her and others to farm their lands.  The Nuba are a fiercely independent people, but they have no way to "stop the planes" and resume agriculturally productive lives.  Despite these cruel realities, all that has come from the Obama administration are perfunctory condemnations of Khartoum's aerial barbarism; here it has much company, including the UN, the EU, the African Union, and other regional and international actors of consequence.  Indeed, so perfunctory have the "condemnations" been that they serve only to convince the regime it will pay no real price for these continued aerial assaults on civilians, all of which are war crimes—and which in aggregate constitute crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute that is the treaty basis for the International Criminal Court.

Many others—individuals and organizations—have called for an end to the bombings, but without offering politically or militarily realistic means for changing Khartoum's behavior.  And until Khartoum is convinced it will pay an unacceptably high price for the bombings, they will continue.  It's long past time to make unambiguously clear that this is intolerable, and that the planes will be stopped.

What must be done

After seeking what international support might be available (likely little), the Obama administration should issue an ultimatum: "Every time there is a confirmed aerial military attack on civilians in the Nuba Mountains or Blue Nile, we will destroy one of your military aircraft at the el-Obeid air base, using a cruise missile or other precision-guided ordnance.  This will continue seriatim until the bombing stops."  Khartoum will certainly test whether there is any resolve underlying the ultimatum—but will likely do so only once or twice.  Their military aircraft are simply too valuable to them, and they have lost many over the past several years.  If the attacks are carried out in the very early morning, chances for collateral damage are minimal.  Firing from the Red Sea off Sudan's northeast coast would entail no violation of any other international border.

A bold gambit?  No doubt, but with a clear chance for success.  Are there risks from retaliation by Khartoum?  Certainly—and most likely such retaliation will be directed against those most vulnerable: international humanitarian efforts in various regions of Sudan.  Contingency planning for any such retaliation must be serious and detailed.  We should bear in mind, however, just how abusive of international humanitarian operations this regime has already been during its 24 years of tyranny.  First in South Sudan during the UN-coordinated Operation Lifeline Sudan, where aid was constantly manipulated and the bombing of hospitals was routine (the Nuba was subject to a total humanitarian embargo, as both it and Blue Nile are today).  Subsequently efforts in Darfur were targeted, where more than twenty major humanitarian organizations have been expelled or forced out of the region in the past four years, and those that remain have an increasingly tenuous presence outside the major urban areas.  Further, just last year the regime expelled from eastern Sudan—one of the poorest and most marginalized of Sudan's peripheral regions—four international humanitarian organizations, including Save the Children/Sweden and Ireland's Goal.  The reasons given were wholly factitious.

Things could certainly be made worse, especially in Darfur; here the responsibility for confronting this challenge should fall to the large, extravagantly funded, and hopelessly ineffective UN/African Union Mission in Darfur.  But it has proved so inept and ineffective that serious concerns must be registered about its adequacy to protect humanitarians (exceedingly few of whom are expatriate) and the UN's World Food Program food pipeline.  A UN response should be forced by the U.S. and EU at the Security Council if Khartoum attacks humanitarian operations, either directly or through its militia proxies.

There are considerable risks here.  But the question is whether we are prepared to allow the people of the Nuba and Blue Nile to be held hostage to what this viciously resourceful regime might do, given the indisputable realities now prevailing in these regions.  Here one would hope that the U.S. would find considerable international support in confronting men who are in fact serial génocidaires, and who feel comfortable using pressure on or violence against humanitarian relief efforts as a means of waging war.

For those uneasy about the unilateral use of U.S. military power, a simple question must be answered: "with no other means of stopping the bombing of civilians and civilian agricultural production, how do you propose halting the attacks?"  Cries of outrage are easy; committing to serious action is the hard part, and so far the Obama administration and others have shown no stomach for such seriousness.  To be sure, President Obama last April convened an "Atrocities Prevention Board" with stirring words from his August 2011 Presidential Study Directive:

"Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States. Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods.  America's reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide. Unfortunately, history has taught us that our pursuit of a world where states do not systematically slaughter civilians will not come to fruition without concerted and coordinated effort."  (Presidential Study Directive 10, August 4, 2011)

But the "Board" so sanctimoniously announced has been inaccessible, inert, and indeed invisible. To date it has been an instrument of "atrocity prevention" in name only.  But halting further atrocities in the Nuba and Blue Nile—and Darfur—can't be stopped by bureaucracy or committee; it can be accomplished only by actions that Khartoum takes seriously.  No such actions have been proposed by the U.S. or any other international actor of consequence.

Why we must act

The UN estimated last October that almost 1 million people had been displaced or deeply imperiled by Khartoum's aerial campaign—almost 1 million people, and the number has surely grown significantly in the past four months.  Moreover, a great many children, the elderly, the infirm, and others are simply too weak to make the arduous trek southward to join more than 200,000 others who have already fled to refugee camps in Unity State and Upper Nile State in South Sudan (tens of thousands of others have fled from Blue Nile into Ethiopia).  Those who must remain will simply be waiting to starve if current circumstances continue to prevail.

Dr. Catena witnessed a very poor sorghum harvest this November/December, and a great many people are fully prepared to move when their meager food supplies are exhausted.  For over a year, accounts of people reduced to eating leaves, bark, and insects have become a commonplace in reports from both Blue Nile and the Nuba:

• Declaring the situation "incredibly alarming," John Ging, director of operations for UN OCHA, declared last month of Blue Nile and South Kordofan: "nearly one million people are in dire need, but out of reach of aid workers, forcing some to rely on roots and leaves for food." (January 8, 2013)

• Eight months ago reporter Tristan McConnell declared following a trip into the Nuba: "Without any crops, they've started eating leaves. To see a woman sitting down and cooking supper for her eight children and all she's got in the pot is a load of boiled leaves is just horrendous. That sort of thing just shouldn't happen." (PBS NewsHour, May 9, 2012)

• Almost a year ago the warnings were fully explicit: "Local officials say the conflict [in the Nuba] has severely affected agricultural production, and estimate that the next harvest will be only 20 percent of normal, leaving most of the population dependent on outside aid. They warn that unless supplies are brought in within the next few weeks, the onset of the rains will make it virtually impossible to distribute the relief, just when the annual pre-harvest hungry season reaches its peak" (IRIN, March 22, 2012).  Only minimal food aid was provided, and the 2012 sorghum harvest was even poorer than expected.

• Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times reported from the Nuba last June: "Perhaps hundreds of thousands of people here have no food and are reduced to eating leaves and insects, as Sudan's government starves and bombs its own people in the Nuba Mountains. Children are beginning to die."

• Mukesh Kapila, former UN humanitarian coordinator for all of Sudan and now working with Aegis Trust (UK), reported on the results of his second courageous assessment mission into the Nuba and Blue Nile regions: "Malnutrition rates in Sudan's war-torn border states have doubled to 30 percent as starving people, denied humanitarian aid, eat just one meal every three days, activists said on Friday as they urged the African Union (AU) to launch an inquiry into what they called 'crimes against humanity.'

"'This is one of the world’s biggest humanitarian and human rights disasters,' said Mukesh Kapila of the Aegis Trust lobby group, which campaigns against genocide and crimes against humanity, after returning from a 10-day trip to the region. The 30 percent malnutrition rate refers to the percentage of children under five who are deemed to be critically malnourished. This is double the World Health Organisation's 15 percent emergency threshold for acute malnutrition, which should trigger a humanitarian response." (Reuters AlertNet [Nairobi], January 18, 2013)

Given this exceedingly grim picture of malnutrition, plans for opening an emergency humanitarian corridor into both the Nuba and Blue Nile should begin immediately; indeed, such planning is long overdue.  But these will require both security on the ground and protection from aerial assault.  And for this, the world must first "stop the planes."



January 2013

By Alex Neve

Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

"Just stop the planes." That was the plea made by the feisty, determined Khadija when I interviewed her in front of the remains of her home in a small village in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state last week.  If only it could be that simple. It certainly ought to be.

A month earlier a lumbering Sudanese Antonov aircraft had passed overhead and unleashed a deadly cargo of five bombs in rapid succession. Khadija was at the nearby market at the time and therefore escaped injury. But when she hurried back to her home, pure horror awaited her. One elderly woman, unable to run, had been literally blown apart and Khadija later undertook the grim task of collecting her neighbour's body parts.

A woman in her twenties, mother to five children and pregnant with her sixth, was cut in half by the vicious and totally unpredictable shrapnel that is the greatest peril of these cruel Antonov bombs. Khadija also found that her tukul had been burned by the bomb and that all of her clothing and worldly possessions had been destroyed. Another woman, just passing by at the time, lay with a shrapnel injury in her foot.

Khadija's story is one among very many that I heard. This campaign of death, fear and destruction against the civilian population of Southern Kordofan has been ongoing for close to 20 months now. Indiscriminate bombs are wantonly rolled out of the back of the Antonovs, flying high above, with no ability to guide them to proper military targets. And, inevitably, many of the bombs fall where civilians live, sleep, grow food, go to market, fetch water, pray or attend school.

I travelled through numerous villages in the parts of Southern Kordofan now under the control of the armed opposition, the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and everywhere the accounts and visible evidence of the aerial bombardments were the same.

Sometimes, fortunately, no one had been hurt. Other times nearly entire families had been killed. There was no community I visited that has been spared. And in none of the sites I inspected was there indication of a valid military target anywhere remotely close by [all emphases added—ER]. A father told me of his 10 and 5-year-old sons who ran to hide under the branches of a fruit tree when they heard the unmistakeable drone of an approaching Antonov in mid-November. This time the bomb fell almost directly beside the tree, killing them both. I saw the damage done, massive branches sheared off the tree and the bomb crater only 2 or 3 metres away.

Another man took me to his home at the top of a hill. On 26 December 2012 he was a short distance away from his own house visiting his brother when the Antonov arrived. His home was in sight, but he could not reach it in time. On its first fly-pass the plane dropped three bombs and then returned to drop another three. The first of that second batch of bombs fell in his compound as he watched helplessly from an adjoining hill top. When the plane had left and he was able to rush to his home he found his mother, wife and 5-month-old daughter all dead.

They had made it to the hoped-for safety of their foxhole, but the bomb itself landed less than a metre from where they were hiding. They did not stand a chance.

Neither did the five people – a woman, her daughter, two nieces and a neighbouring boy – who hoped that a foxhole would keep them safe when an Antonov dropped two bombs on 18 December. It was chilling to stand where they would have been hiding and see how close the bomb had fallen: only four or five paces away.

This relentless campaign of death raining down from the skies has killed or injured untold numbers of people over the past 20 months. Its impact, however, is more insidious than the harrowing toll of deaths and injuries alone. Because by now the mere mention of an Antonov, let alone the sound of its approach, is a source of panic and terror. People run for the nearest foxhole (nearly everyone has dug one in their compound) or they run for the safety of rocks and caves in the region’s Nuba Mountains. And they hide and they wait.

And everything about their lives is turned upside down. While fleeing and hiding they cannot tend crops. They cannot look out for livestock. And day by day, therefore, food supplies have dwindled to nothing. Add to that the Sudanese government’s cruel refusal to allow independent humanitarian access to this area so that food and other relief can be distributed and the gravity of this crisis has become beyond measure.

There is absolutely no doubt that this indefensible bombing campaign violates international humanitarian law—the repeated indiscriminate air attacks, as well as possibly direct attacks on civilians, by the Sudanese armed forces, constitute war crimes. So why does it attract so little international attention? Security Council resolutions urge and encourage but do not condemn and deplore what is happening. The Sudanese government plays games with UN, African Union and other officials, promising that aid access will open up, but consistently failing to follow through.

I was asked "why" at every turn. "Why don't we matter? Why doesn't anyone care about us?"

Or, as Khadija put it, why doesn't someone just stop the planes. That is precisely what has to happen.

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, is author most recently of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012;

UN Security Council Ignores Realities of Aerial Attacks on Civilians in Darfur

UN Security Council Ignores Realities of Aerial Attacks on Civilians in Darfur: Resolution 2091 (February 14, 2013) badly weakens key language prohibiting Khartoum's military flights in the region

By Eric Reeves

February 18, 2013 (SSNA) -- The retreat on the part of the United Nations Security Council in responding to Khartoum's continuous aerial military assaults on civilians in Darfur could not be clearer.  In Resolution 1591 (March 2005) the Security Council had "demanded,"

"that the Government of Sudan, in accordance with its commitments under the 8 April 2004 N’djamena Ceasefire Agreement and the 9 November 2004 Abuja Security Protocol, immediately cease conducting offensive military flights in and over the Darfur region, and invites the African Union Ceasefire Commission to share pertinent information as appropriate in this regard with the Secretary-General, the Committee, or the [UN] Panel of Experts established under paragraph 3(b)."

On February 14, 2013—eight years and 500 UN Security Council resolutions later—this was reduced to the vague and tepid "demand,"

"that the [combatant] parties to the conflict exercise restraint and cease military action of all kind, including aerial bombardments…."

Rather than note the number of aerial attacks that have occurred, and their destructiveness within the civilian population—particularly in the Jebel Marra area, but throughout Darfur—aerial bombardment was simply one among many kinds of "military action."  No mention was made of the fact that literally hundreds of aerial attacks have been conducted in violation of Resolution 1591.  In turn, this silence sends a clear message to Khartoum: "although we are obliged to say something publicly, we will not hold you accountable for these attacks, and will do as much as we can to equivocate in linking them to military actions by rebel groups."  Indeed, the language preceding mention of "aerial bombardments" was predictably equivocal, as the Resolution spoke to a new topic that focused mainly on the rebel groups:

Expressing concern about the political and military links between non-signatory armed groups in Darfur and groups outside Darfur, and demanding that any form of direct or indirect external support for such groups ceases, and condemning any actions by any armed group aimed at forced overthrow of the Government of Sudan."

No matter that the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) is now broadly representative of the marginalized populations of Darfur, Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and eastern Sudan—and is working explicitly for regime change.  The SRF comprises not only Darfuri rebel groups, but also the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North (South Kordofan and Blue Nile), and the Eastern Front.  Moreover, in an historic alliance, the coalition of political forces in northern Sudan known as the National Consensus Forces (NCF) signed a political agreement with the SRF in Kampala on January 5, 2013.  It commits the coalition to removing the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime by political and military means. 

In repudiating such broadly representative efforts by the Sudanese people to escape twenty-four years of vicious tyranny, the UN Security Council has decided that it will support Khartoum's génocidaires and the principle of "national sovereignty" rather than those who suffer and die as a result of the regime's continuing barbarism.  It is this same commitment to "national sovereignty" that has immobilized the Security Council in the face of Khartoum's continuing blockade of humanitarian relief to almost 1 million people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  And it is this same commitment that leads to the Security Council's looking away from more than a year and a half of relentless aerial attacks on civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  On February 17, 2013, on behalf of the SPLA-N, Yasir Arman issued a statement that speaks precisely what the UN chooses to ignore:

"The Sudanese army and their allied militia have re-started a military dry season campaign beginning February 14th up to this morning, February 17th, in a heavily populated area with internally displaced civilians at Muffa Village and the surrounding area, 21 kilometers southwest of Kurmuk.  The fighting has gone on for the last three days with heavy aerial bombardment from Sudan's air force on the displaced camps in the village that resulted in putting 8,000 civilian displaced populations on the run towards the Ethiopian and South Sudan borders.  It is to be noted seriously that the aerial and ground bombardment of the Sudanese army and their allied militia resulted in the displacement of more than 70 percent of the inhabitants of the rural Blue Nile, and as of now, nearly 200,000 from the civilian populations are refugees in Ethiopia and South Sudan."

Such aerial attacks are now a constant, and extend well back in time.  In December 2010 Khartoum bombed Kiir Adem (Northern Bahr el-Ghazal)—shortly before the Southern self-determination referendum (January 9, 2011); Khartoum denied the attack, but an Associated Press journalist present at the time confirmed the bombing.  In November 2011—five months after it had begun its bombing campaign in South Kordofan, Khartoum's military forces bombed the Yida refugee camp in Unity State, South Sudan.  Khartoum again baldly denied the attack, but it was confirmed by a UN team on the ground, as well as by reporters for the BBC and Reuters who were present during the actual bombing attack. UN cowardice and disingenuousness, however, leave Khartoum's UN ambassador unembarrassed as he makes the most absurd claims.  Following the bombing of the Yida refugee camp,

"The Sudanese UN ambassador, Dafalla Haj Osman vehemently denied that SAF carried out any bombings inside their southern neighbour’s territories. "There is no aerial bombardment; we did not exercise any kind of military activity outside our borders," he told reporters following the UNSC session on Sudan.  Asked about confirmation from the BBC and Reuters correspondents at the scene, the Sudanese envoy suggested that the two are 'biased media' outlets that are favouring rebels." (Sudan TribuneNovember 11, 2011)

In surveying the civilian destruction and suffering in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, one must conclude that the "Responsibility to Protect," embodied in the Outcome Document unanimously adopted by the General Assembly (September 2005) and subsequently by the Security Council itself, has no legal or moral force:

"The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity." (International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect)

Darfur has now entered its second decade of enduring "genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."

Following passage of Resolution 2091 Khartoum's Permanent Representative to the UN Daffa Alla Alhag Ali Osman indulged in characteristic, which is to say obscene mendacity:

"[Daffa Alla] further denied that Sudan uses technical assistance for military purposes, describing the statement [concerning aerial bombardment] as a 'fallacious' claim, saying Sudan used its air capacities only 'for peaceful and civilian purposes.'" (Reuters and Sudan Tribune, February 14, 2013)

In fact, there have been altogether more than 700 hundred confirmed aerial attacks on civilians in Darfur since the beginning of the conflict—more than 500 since UN Security Council Resolution 1591 was passed in March 2005 (a detailed spreadsheet, with specific incidents, casualties, sources of confirmation, as well as a broader analysis are available at:

In Darfur the rebel forces have no aircraft of any kind.  The more than 500 hundred attacks by the Khartoum's Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) since March 2005 have been carried out overwhelmingly by highly inaccurate and inherently indiscriminate Antonovs (retrofitted cargo planes from which crude barrel bombs are rolled out the cargo bay).

Dismayingly, Khartoum is on the verge of completing a deal with Ukraine to purchase five more of these Antonovs (Reuters [Khartoum], February 13, 2013).  Moreover, reliable sources in South Sudan report that Khartoum continues to use Antonovs to ferry supplies to the increasingly vicious Murle militia force of David Yau Yau in Jonglei State (South Sudan).  Yau Yau's forces were responsible for the February 8, 2013 attack on Walgar (Jonglei), in which some 120 people were killed, more than 100 of them civilians, including women and children.  Yau Yau's forces were reportedly wearing the uniforms of Khartoum's Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).  A UN investigative team has presumably filed its field report from Walgar, but we may be sure that it will not likely be made public.  Nor will it place blame where it belongs for supplying the arms, ammunition, and equipment that allow Yau Yau's forces to remain so potent in an area where re-supply of any sort is extremely difficult. Khartoum's arming of the rebel forces is a flagrant violation of international law and a clear attempt to destabilize the South by exacerbating ethnic tensions.

None of this figures in the quarterly updates provide by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who in his October 2012 report mentions only a single bombing attack (§16: July 8, 2012 south of Tawila, North Darfur).  And yet dozens of aerial bombing attacks against civilians have been reported by eyewitnesses during the period covered by Ban's report.  The UN Secretary-General has essentially ignored the relentless and well-reported bombing of civilians in Darfur and thus egregious violations of the "demand" made by UN Security Council Resolution 1591.  Moreover, there is nothing in Ban's report about the campaign of annihilation that animates Khartoum's relentless bombing campaigns in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains: it is as if there were no connection between what is occurring in Darfur and these regions.  And nothing about Khartoum's violation of the airspace of South Sudan to supply a renegade military force that is without a political agenda and trades almost exclusively on ethnic grievances that Yau Yau has deliberately inflamed.

Of course in the case of Darfur Ban has precious little data provided to him by UNAMID: the force is completely intimidated by Khartoum's SAF and its militia allies, and has access only to those few regions of Darfur that Khartoum's Military Intelligence designates.  This most certainly does not include Jebel Marra, especially eastern Jebel Marra, where the bombing has been most intense.  But the implicit suggestion that mentioning only a single aerial attack does justice to the relentless terror, destruction, and displacement experienced by many tens of thousands of human beings is a measure of Ban's character as well as UNAMID's dismal performance.

The UN's New Fig-leaf: A reconstituted "Panel of Experts" for Darfur

At least partially in response to the outrageous disparity between what is occurring and what is being reported within the UN system, Resolution 2091 also "renews" the mandate of the so-called "UN Panel of Experts on Darfur."  But this is little more than a fig-leaf, if we are to judge by the most recent efforts of this politically eviscerated Panel.  The highly authoritative Africa Confidential reported last April:

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

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

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

("UN clash over Beijing bullets claim: UN experts' reports differ over Darfur arms violations," Africa Confidential 13th April 2012)

China is used to throwing its weight around at the UN, especially when it finds itself the target of criticism, which it clearly was in the reporting of the original Panel of Experts.  As a consequence, Under-secretary Pascoe and Secretary-General Ban ensured that the make-up of the new Panel of Experts would be completely unthreatening because completely incompetent in the tasks demanded.  I offer a detailed, side-by-side comparison of the weak "official report" that the UN has chosen to accept and the extraordinarily detailed and authoritative report by Mike Lewis (UK), Claudio Gramizzi (Italy), and Darfur specialist Jérôme Tubiana (France), the report that created such an angry response from China because it was so compelling in its findings.

What we are about to see, then, is the nominal renewal of mandate for the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, but for a Panel that will in all likelihood be a reincarnation of the incompetent and politically pliable last Panel.  Moreover, Resolution 2091 makes no explicit reiteration of the mandate of the UN Panel of Experts to monitor aerial military flights in Darfur. That more recent Panel was notable among other things for its laziness and lack of ambition: time on the ground in Darfur was minimal, and members of the Panel offered virtually no push-back when Khartoum denied them access, even as such access has been guaranteed by Khartoum in yet another (dishonored) agreement.

We should also be troubled by the recent assessment from UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Mashood Adebayo Baderin, who claims that here has been "some significant progress towards the promotion and protection of human rights by the Government [of Sudan]" (Geneva, February 15, 2013). This is utterly preposterous, a gross misrepresentation that expediently ignores what has been reported by every single credible human rights group and news organization over many years.  Baderin offers not a shred of evidence that justifies such a claim because of course there is none: praise is meant simply as a gesture to Khartoum to ensure future access to the country (during his first mission to Sudan, Baderin was denied entry to Darfur). 

Baderin was sufficiently honest to point out a basic violation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), a farce the UN and the rest of the international community pretend is a viable arrangement for peace despite a complete lack of support among Darfuri civil society and consequential rebel groups:

"Darfur war crimes are being tried by ordinary courts, said on Sunday [February 10, 2013] UN expert on human rights in Sudan Mashood Adebayo Baderin who expressed concern over the lack of special courts. In accordance with the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), a Special Court for Darfur will be established to try gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Darfur, since February 2003." (Sudan Tribune, February 10, 2013)

This ensures that no justice will be rendered and impunity will continue to prevail for Khartoum's militias and proxies in the region (see below).  There is no good news for Darfur from the UN; on the contrary, having given the illusion of doing something meaningful, the UN—the Secretariat, the Security Council, and the Human Rights Council—are likely to turn away from the worsening military and humanitarian situation in Darfur at precisely the wrong time.

Current realities:

I recently offered a lengthy overview of humanitarian conditions in Darfur (February 10, 2013, at  In just the intervening weekthe reports from Radio Dabanga, Agence France-Presse, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) make clear there has been yet further acceleration of the violence and threats to all humanitarian relief efforts:

§  Critical humanitarian aid delivery continues to be blocked by Khartoum using various means:

• Aid delivery is in jeopardy for an estimated 100,000 people affected by violence in Sudan's Darfur region unless authorities grant better access, the United Nations warned on Thursday. One humanitarian agency has said the number of displaced people is the largest in recent years in Darfur, where a decade of civil war has been compounded by inter-Arab violence, banditry and tribal fighting.

But the true extent of the problem is unclear because UN workers have had only limited access to the affected area of Jebel Amir, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said in its weekly bulletin. Foreign aid workers, diplomats and journalists routinely face restrictions on their movement in Sudan's far west. "The UN has informed the Sudanese authorities that it will not be able to continue providing food and other relief unless the relevant UN officials in North Darfur are permitted to travel to the area to register those in need of assistance and to carry out a comprehensive assessment," OCHA said. (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], February 14, 2013)

§  Some relief organizations have quietly withdrawn from various camps; others have been re-directed by Khartoum from humanitarian work to "resettlement" of displaced persons; many camps are bereft of critical food and medical supplies:

• Nine West Darfur camps dire conditions after agencies left: sources

Residents of nine displaced camps near El-Geneina, West Darfur, are facing dire conditions after humanitarian agencies left the sites months ago, sheikhs, leaders and activists told Radio Dabanga on Thursday [February 14, 2013]. UNAMID has reportedly halted its night patrols around the camps since the beginning of January, the sources said.

In addition, the distribution of grains has stopped for two months and the camps' residents are now "receiving only lentils, sugar and salt." Health centers are "lacking medicines," the sources continued, explaining that medical organizations left the camps six months ago before the ministry of health took responsibility for running the establishments. Representatives of the following camps spoke with Radio Dabanga: Kirendink 1 and 2, Ardamata, Dorety, Riyadh, El-Sultan, Abuzer, Alhujaj and Jamiaat Zalingei. (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], February 14, 2013)

§  Increasing displacement of civilians inevitably adds to the crushing burden facing relief organizations:

• Tens of thousands of people flee fighting in Darfur in massive new displacement

Tens of thousands of people who have fled fighting in the largest displacement in western Sudan's restive region of Darfur in recent years, face a severe shortage of clean water and sanitation services, Oxfam warned Thursday [February 14, 2013]. The international agency has called for increased access for humanitarian aid agencies in the El Sireaf, Garra Zawia and Kebkabiya areas of North Darfur following the fighting around Jebel Amir in January. "Tensions in the El Sireaf area are still high and have the potential to spread more widely. We are worried that there will be more displacement and we are already struggling to meet the needs of those who have already been forced to flee their homes," El Fateh Osman, Oxfam's Sudan Country Director, said. "We need key roads to be opened and for the authorities to allow for a full assessment of what the humanitarian needs are," it said. 

According to the UN, the displacement from Jebel Amir area in the past weeks has been more than the number displaced through all of 2012. "People are really in a panic and very fearful of more violence. Those who have been able to flee are not sure when they will return to their home areas, many of which have been destroyed in the fighting," Oxfam's Humanitarian Coordinator for North Darfur, Hamouda Kanu, said. "They have inadequate shelter for this colder time of year and are forced to defecate in the open. This could lead to the spread of disease," he added….

An estimated 60,000 people have been displaced from surrounding villages to El Seraif town. Oxfam and [and it national Sudanese humanitarian partner] are attempting to send materials to construct 200 latrines in El Sireaf together with two technical experts but called on government authorities to improve access for humanitarian groups that so far has been limited.

Oxfam said the road linking Kebkabiya to El Sireaf town must be immediately opened to allow for bulky aid supplies to be transported to the area in order to help prevent the humanitarian situation there from worsening. The agency also warned that the areas affected by the new surge in fighting may also experience food shortages. Farmers were preparing for a good harvest this year but many crops in the area were burned in the conflict. Last year’s poor harvests in North Darfur have left people vulnerable. "The world has moved on from this entrenched conflict and humanitarian work is already severely under-funded. We are struggling to meet already existing needs even as more are pushed into crisis," Osman said. "This conflict in Darfur is now 10 years old and we need to see a renewed effort to bring about stability and peace in this devastated area." (PANA [Dar Es Saalam], February 15, 2013)

• Mornei camp in West Darfur facing water crisis

Displaced residents of Mornei camp in West Darfur are facing an acute drinking water crisis, due to the lack of fuel to operate the water stations in the camp. One of the camp's sheiks told Radio Dabanga on Sunday, 10 February, that the camp is facing a water crisis due to the lack of fuel to operate the water stations in the camp. The sheikh added the water stations have not been operating for five consecutive days due to the lack of fuel. He claims that the responsible humanitarian organization has stopped providing fuel to the camp due to the fact that UNICEF suspended its fuel support. (Radio Dabanga [Mornei Camp], 11 February 2013)

§  Zam Zam camp (just outside el-Fasher, headquarters for UNAMID) has been particularly distressed in recent months:

• North Darfur camp closed for one week due to "constant attacks"

Displaced living in Zam Zam near El-Fasher in North Darfur are complaining the camp has been closed for one week due to constant attacks by pro-government militias and Central Reserve Forces (known as Abu Tira). Assaults began on 5 February at the camp when Abu Tira forces reportedly looted eight shops and fired random shots in the air in and outside the camp. Sources told Radio Dabanga they believed the incursion was in retaliation of the murder of two of their forces by "unknown gunmen" at a water station earlier that day. (Radio Dabanga [Zam Zam Camp], February 13, 2013)

• Tawila residents North Darfur complain about lack of medicine

Citizens from Tawila locality, North Darfur, have complained about scarcity and lack of medicine due to the restrictions imposed by government authorities on bringing medicine from El Fasher. Besides, the citizens complained about the deterioration of health services in the region. A number of patients from Tawila complained to Radio Dabanga about the scarcity and lack of medicine in addition to the poor health services being offered in the region. They revealed that the locality's only health center, which is managed by Doctors Without Borders, receives more than 300 patients a day. It was added that the center's staff informed patients that the authorities only allows them to bring medicine from El Fasher once every three months and that the medicine runs out in less than a month. (Radio Dabanga [Tawila], February 10, 2013)

§  In what me be the greatest threat to any peaceful resolution of the Darfur conflict, the lands of displaced African farmers continue to be appropriated by Arab groups from Darfur, but also Chad, Niger, and most ominously, Mali:

• Herders "settling" in displaced home-villages, West Darfur

[By “herders” Radio Dabanga typically refers to nomadic Arab groups, often heavily armed and part of the pro-regime militias—ER]:

Displaced living in different El-Geneina camps, West Darfur's capital, are claiming that new herders' groups have recently began settling in their home-villages and are threatening farmers to "voluntarily hand over their lands or die." The areas, where the civilians lived before fleeing to camps, include Mujamra, Teriya, Mara, Kajan Kising, Habila and Kanary, they told Radio Dabanga on Friday. They are all located south of El-Geneina. A camp's leader denounced the threats by the herders, calling them "unethical and irresponsible." He appealed to the new comers to "resort to the voice of reason and dialogue" with the lands' owners instead of using riffles. The leader called on state authorities to address the problem "before it turns into a disaster." (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], February 15, 2013)

• Mali militants on 200 vehicles arrive in Kutum, North Darfur: sources

Multiple sources assert that 200 Land Cruisers with Islamist militants from Mali fleeing the hostilities in their country have arrived in Kutum, North Darfur, in the past 10 days. They told Radio Dabanga on Monday the groups are stationed in three different areas around Kutum, adding they are "inciting a state of fear and terror" among citizens. The first group can be found just one kilometer north of camp Kassab for displaced, the second in Jebel Mari, seven or eight kilometers northeast of Kutum, and the third in Sijana, about 10 kilometers north of Kutum, sources affirm. Upon arriving in Kutum, the militants' vehicles were covered with thick green tarps and they were carrying heavy artillery, eyewitnesses pointed out. Some of the alleged Malian militants have "long beards, wear outfits resembling those found in Western Sahara and black shawls." Witnesses added a number of them speak French and most do not speak Arabic. These groups go shopping at the Kutum market on a daily basis and use sign language to purchase goods, considering they do not speak the local language. They were last seen at the market on Monday and eyewitnesses claim they use Francs (savah), a currency mostly used in western African countries, while others use US dollars.

Displaced living in Kassab told Radio Dabanga they do not feel safe to leave the camp to collect firewood or to fetch water due to the presence of militants from Mali nearby.

Civilians are urging local and federal authorities to expel these groups from Sudan and keep them away from the country. They further urged the UN and international organizations to intervene. (Radio Dabanga [Kutum], February 11, 2013)

§  Fires have been a constant in camps for displaced persons, a great many of them of suspicious origin:

• Fire destroys 25 homes in South Darfur camp, Abu Tira blamed

A fire broke out on Monday night in the Dreige camp in Nyala, South Darfur, destroying 25 homes. The displaced are blaming the Sudanese Central Reserve Forces (known as Abu Tira) for setting the area ablaze. The accusations come after a member of the Abu Tira threatened to burn the camp just hours before the fire due to a discussion with a young man in a shisha place, sources informed Radio Dabanga. Families whose homes were destroyed are living out in the open and are in "urgent need of assistance." Meanwhile, fellow camp's residents have pledged to help them rebuild their houses. Displaced say Abu Tira are responsible for much of the insecurity around the camp, noting the forces periodically fire shots in the air in the evenings. Dreige's activists stressed they cannot press charges at the police for fear of being murdered if identified by the perpetrators.  (Radio Dabanga [Dreige Camp], October 14, 2013)

§ Spillover violence from the fighting in the Jebel Amer area continues to plague ordinary citizens, even as Khartoum seems content with the status quo.  The regime has squarely aligned itself with one of the Arab groups in the conflict, the Northern Rizeigat (Abbala) 

• Series of "killings, lootings" by Abbala militias in North Darfur

Abbala militias "armed by the Sudanese government" have been carrying a series of killings and lootings in North Darfur in the past two days, multiple sources affirm. On Tuesday [February 12, 2013], they opened fire on two high school students who were collecting hay killing them on the spot, the relative of one the victims told Radio Dabanga. The victims are Bashir Hammad Gassim and Abul Qasim Mohamed Abdul Rahman, who is deaf, the source noted.

Saraf Omra: five injured

Also on Tuesday, five people were injured in a two separate incidents in Saraf Omra, local sources informed Radio Dabanga. They alleged that Abbala militiamen stormed the city's market late in the afternoon and started firing fiercely in the air. Two citizens were injured and the market was closed until Wednesday, according to eyewitnesses. About 500 citizens marched to the locality's headquarters protesting against the market's incident and demanding security. Guards responded by firing shots in the direction of the "angry" demonstrators wounding three of them, sources noted. Four out of the total five wounded victims were transferred to a hospital in Saraf Omra and the fifth was taken to a hospital in El-Geneina due to his serious injuries….


A passengers' vehicle on Tuesday was stopped in an area called Jebel Ireinat by Abbala militias, who stripped the commuters of all of their belongings, including their money and mobile phones, sources said. The vehicle belonged to a certain Ahmad Jelab and was traveling from Saraf Omra to Al-Sref Beni Hussein. On Wednesday, Abbala tribesmen looted a total of 80 cows and 320 goats in the areas of Korguleh north and Umm Khojara, Al-Sref Beni Hussein locality, sources reported. Members of the Arab Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes firstly clashed on 5 January in Jebel 'Amer, Al-Sref Beni Hussein locality, over control of gold mines in the region. Thousands were displaced as a result and the UN stated the tribal clashes led to the biggest forced displacement in Darfur in years, estimating that about 100,000 people fled their homes.  Civilians fled mainly to the nearby towns of Al-Sref Beni Hussein, Saraf Omra, Kabkabiya and Abu Gamra. (Radio Dabanga [Seraf Omra], February 13, 2013)

§  The scale of the displacements continues to be extraordinarily great, with no end in sight:

• Abbala attacks in [West] Darfur "displace thousands" in 3 days

Attacks by Abbala militants have led to the displacement of thousands of people in the last three days in Central Darfur, sources allege, adding that three people were killed in the assaults. The three victims, who include two police officers, were killed in Umm Shalaya locality while several others were wounded. Sources speaking to Radio Dabanga on Friday from Mornei locality in West Darfur, assert that thousands of people fleeing the Abbala assaults have arrived in the area in the past three days. "Hundreds of families," composed mostly of women and children traveling by foot or on the backs of horses and donkeys have been arriving in the locality's capital, sources say. The displaced are now living in the outskirts of Mornei, without shelter or food, according to witnesses' reports.

Other families reportedly fled to Zalingei. Clashes between the Arab Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes over control of a gold mine in North Darfur in the beginning of January spilled over into other states of Darfur. Coalition groups supporting each tribe were formed and also [formerly West] Darfur has witnessed a series of attacks in the past month. In addition, sources in West Darfur informed Radio Dabanga about the "increasing" presence of militias after the tribal clashes erupted. (Radio Dabanga [Umm Shalayla], February 15, 2013)

§  The level of impunity enjoyed by Khartoum's militia and paramilitary allies is strikingly clear in the following incidents:

• North Darfur civilian killed for asking militia "to speak politely"

Four pro-government militiamen shot a civilian dead who asked them to speak politely to him at a Kabkabiya market in North Darfur. Onlookers said the gunmen wanted to purchase fuel at the city's market on Thursday and asked the victim Adam Adam to remove his car from in front of the pump and give way to them.   Adam asked the militia to speak to him "politely" prompting the gunmen to shoot him two times on the chest.

The victim, a resident of the Kirekir village, passed away upon arriving at the Kabkabiya hospital. (Radio Dabanga [Kabkabiya], February 15, 2013)

• SAF leader refuses to hand over alleged rapist to court, [West] Darfur

The leader of a Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) military base in Bindissey, [formerly West] Darfur, is reportedly refusing to hand over a colleague to court who is accused of raping two displaced girls last December. According to previous reports the girls were abducted at gunpoint and dragged outside the Bindissey camp where they were raped. The victims knew who the perpetrators were and their family pressed charges against them at the police station. On Wednesday, policemen announced one of the alleged perpetrators was scheduled to appear in court, but the local army commander said he would not hand over his soldier. He claimed not to recognize the testimonies provided by the victims, nor the accusations by the police or the court.  (Radio Dabanga [Bindessey, West Darfur], February 13, 2013)

• Militants attack livestock traders in Kutum, North Darfur

A pro-government militia has been accused of beating four livestock traders in the area of Sandou, northern part of Kutum in North Darfur. Besides, the militants have been accused of looting the money the traders were carrying, 65 sheep and four mobile phones after beating them and stripping them of their clothes and shoes at gunpoint. The victims claim that several of the gunmen threatened them at gunpoint to remove their clothes. They added that they were held, without their clothes, for more than three hours, while the remaining gunmen took the money and livestock and fled. (Radio Dabanga [Kutum], February 18, 2013)

• Gunmen threaten to arrest Bindissey camp's sheikhs, [West] Darfur

The Zakat Chamber in Bindissey locality, [formerly West] Darfur has threatened to arrest the sheikhs and omda's of Bindissey camp unless they collect zakat (alms) from the camp's residents. A camp activist informed Radio Dabanga that seven gunmen in a Land Cruiser vehicle arrived in the camp on Friday, 15 February, to arrest the camp's sheikhs for not collecting zakat from the camp's residents, as instructed by the Zakat Chamber. He stated that the displaced intervened and were able to prevent the arrests from taking place. The activist explained that the camp’s sheikhs and omda's informed the Zakat Chamber previously that the displaced deserve to receive alms and are not able to give them. (Radio Dabanga [Bindissey, West Darfur], February 18, 2013)

§  Fighting is not, as press reports often suggest, confined to North Darfur—both West Darfur and South Darfur have seen heavy fighting and aerial bombardment:

• Fierce battles erupt in South Darfur between Sudan army and SLA-MM

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan Liberation Army of Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM) have clashed in different parts of South Darfur on Thursday [February 14, 2013] amid reports of heavy casualties. The deputy South Darfur governor Amin al-Sakin in remarks before a student convention in the state confirmed that fighting broke out in Oum-Gounga, which lies south of the capital town of Nyala…. [M]ultiple sources told Sudan Tribune that SAF suffered heavy losses in the battle and that the rebels managed to seize a number of army vehicles.

In Nyala, tension was growing among the residents amid rumors that rebels are closing in on the city. The local government has started mobilising paramilitary units to secure the state and stop any possible rebel attack. Saleh Abakr, a spokesperson of Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), of which SLA-MM is a member, claimed that they are now in control of Oum-Gounga, Baleel locality and South Railroad region. He said that they have inflicted heavy losses on SAF and captured 11 military vehicles and a large cache of ammunition. (Radio Dabanga [Khartoum], February 14, 2013)

§  And aerial bombardment, which apparently warrants only a single instancing in the October 2012 Darfur report of the UN Secretary General, is relentless:

• Rebels: shelling kills 12 in [West] Darfur, thousands displaced

The military spokesman of the Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdel Wahid (SLM-AW) is accusing the Sudanese government of shelling the Gidu village in West Jebel Marra, [formerly West] Darfur and killing 12 civilians on Thursday. Mustafa Tambour said an Antonov airplane bombed Gidu around 3:00pm, burning nine homes and all 12 civilians in them. He added three of the victims were children. In addition, more than 20 people were injured due to the shelling; some of them are in critical conditions. Tambour declared the Sudanese government is bombing civilians' areas and called on the UN Security Council to establish no-fly zones over Darfur. Gidu residents fled the attacks and are hiding around valleys and mountains, he said.

9,000 displaced

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs affirms that recent fighting in West Jebel Marra has led to a new wave of civilian displacement with over 9,000 people arriving in Nertiti over the past week, bringing the total to 17,000. Nertiti is already home to 42,000 displaced, OCHA reported.  (Radio Dabanga [Gidu, West Darfur], February 14, 2013)

• "Airstrike South Jebel Marra leaves several dead"

An airstrike by the Sudanese Air Forces in the area of Narwa, South Jebel Marra on Sunday, 17 February, has left several people killed and injured. Also, a number of livestock was killed as a result of the airstrike. Sources from the area told Radio Dabanga that an Antonov warplane dropped more than 10 bombs in two separate bombings on Sunday afternoon. According to the sources, several people have been killed and wounded as a result of the bombings in the area of Narwa, South Jebel Marra. Witnesses added that they were not able to count the number of dead and wounded victims as people fled in all directions. They pointed out that most of the people fled in the direction of Yama, on the way from Nyala to Zalingei. (Radio Dabanga [Narwa, South Jebel Marra], February 18, 2013)

§  The avalanche of rape, unreported by the UN, also continues to sweep across Darfur; again Ban Ki-moon's report is wholly inadequate to this widespread and vicious brutality that goes completely unpunished:

• "Nine raped" in just over a week in Gereida camps, South Darfur

Displaced camps around Gereida in South Darfur have witnessed nine rapes in just over one week by pro-government militias, sources say, adding the general security situation at the camps is "worsening." The first incident occurred on 5 February when seven militiamen raped three women from the Hashaba camp in Gereida while they were collecting firewood. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga two of the victims were minors. Six women who were also collecting firewood were raped by the same faction on 7 February. According to sources these victims live at camp Foreeka. Females suffer the most from the lack of security around camps, a source explained. Besides, he noted that pro-government militias commonly invade camps at night and start firing shots "at random."  The source demanded state and local authorities to provide security and protection to displaced persons. He further demanded UNAMID to establish patrols so women can collect firewood. (Radio Dabanga [Gereida, South Darfur], February 13, 2013)

• Militants rape displaced woman in West Darfur

Pro-government militants raped a displaced woman from Sirba locality in West Darfur on Saturday and wounded four other displaced women, sources informed Radio Dabanga. A witness claims that pro-government militias on horses attacked the neighborhood of "Shafo Helou" and beat the village's residents in addition to seizing their belongings and livestock. After beating and looting residents, approximately nine militants raped an 18-year-old displaced woman in turns, the witness continued. (Radio Dabanga [Sirba], 11 February 2013)

• Militants kidnap displaced girl near Garsila, [West] Darfur

A pro-government militia kidnapped a displaced girl on Saturday from Garsila camp in Wadi Saleh locality, [formerly West] Darfur. It was reported that the child was taken to an unknown destination. A sheikh from Garsila camp told Radio Dabanga that the militants arrived on camels and attacked a group of children, aged between six and 13. Among the group were seven displaced girls. The sheikh added they were attacked while they were on their way back to the camp from collecting firewoodHe stated that the girl is still missing, while the other children returned to their homes on Saturday evening. (Radio Dabanga [Garsila, South Darfur], February 18, 2013]

§ Khartoum has sent a clear signal to the embryonic Panel of Experts in an account that comes from the UN itself:

• UN Spokesman: "On 26 September 2012, two Sudanese Armed Forces helicopters flew at low altitude over a UNAMID patrol that was returning from an assessment mission to Thabit (North Darfur). The authorities claimed the aircraft mistook the patrol for an armed movement convoy. The patrol, which was clearly displaying UNAMID/United Nations insignia, returned to base safely.  The mission was a pre-planned verification patrol that a Panel of Experts member availed himself of the opportunity to join." (Inner City Press UN/New York], February 14, 2013)

This was no mistake or accident: it was the clearest possible signal to the UN and its new "Panel of Experts" that they will travel only to those areas that Military Intelligence designates.

Why Khartoum believes it has succeeded

Despite its open contempt for various elements of the UN, Khartoum too often continues to have its way within the UN.  In one of the most bizarre and morally incomprehensible decisions every made by any UN body, Khartoum appears poised to head the committee charged with monitoring humanitarian access:

"A UN subcommittee dealing with economic and social matters selected Sudan to chair a special session in Geneva in July on the promotion of humanitarian assistance, prompting European and other Western governments to request the decision be reversed and that Sudan be given a less controversial assignment, diplomats told Turtle Bay. Nestor Osorio, the president of the UN Economic and Social Council, was expected to announce Sudan's selection for the post tomorrow at a meeting at UN headquarters. But European governments requested that a decision be postponed as government scrambled to convince Sudan to abandon its quest for the job. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, spoke with Osorio this week to express Washington's concerns about the selection of Sudan.

"Western powers are concerned that appointment of Sudan would set the stage for another embarrassing UN spectacle in which a country routinely denounced for denying access to humanitarian aid workers is given the job of advocating for their interests. The move comes against a background of troubled relations between Khartoum and humanitarian aid workers. In March 2009, one day after the International Criminal Court accused Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir of committing genocide, his government expelled 13 international relief agencies from Darfur. Sudan has also prevented international aid workers into the restive Sudanese regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where conflict has displaced nearly 700,000 people and forced more than 200,000 to flee to Ethiopia and South Sudan.  (Colum Lynch, Turtle Bay, February 14, 201)

Khartoum persists in its barbaric ways because the world refuses to take the suffering and destruction in Darfur seriously, and nowhere is this more conspicuous than within the United Nations.  The National Islamic Front/National Congress Party long ago calculated that it could simply outwait the international community on "changing the demography of Darfur," in the words of notorious Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal.  It has taken a full ten years, but success for Hilal and his partners in Khartoum is now in sight.

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, is author most recently of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012;

A breadbasket strategy for South Sudan

By Asha Farag Injeri

February 13, 2013 (SSNA) -- South Sudan depends highly on the export of oil to pay its imports and to finance government expenditure. This dependency needs urgently to be reduced, for several reasons: South Sudan's oil is a finite, a limited resource: The oil production has already reached its peak in 2011 and is declining steadily until it will be negligible in 2035. Oil incomes are also due to unforeseeable price fluctuations that make a country depending on those vulnerable. Furthermore, oil production does not create sizeable local employment, as it depends mainly on relatively highly skilled labour that is not available locally and is also very capital intensive. Thus, oil production does not directly contribute to poverty reduction through employment creation. More generally, as oil is only pumped out of the soil and directly exported, it has very little linkages to the local economy which would stimulate the overall national economy.

This is very different for South Sudan's agriculture. First, most people depend on agriculture and are employed in it. More than 80% of all South Sudanese live in rural areas. Agriculture is also very labour intensive, that is, much labour is used per output unit. It also meets the very first need of people: food. People spend almost 80% of their income on food. Before meeting any other needs of people, they must be able to eat. Furthermore, the sector can produce food exports for the region (which is characterised by food shortages) and beyond. In a time of rising demand for food worldwide this can be a perfect income creator. And specifically for South Sudan, agricultural production must realistically be the backbone of any strategy to overcome the oil dependency and diversify the economy.

However, currently agriculture is almost only practised with very low-level technologies and with very limited output. The country is not able to feed itself: food imports were nearly half (43%) of all imports in 2012, while food exports were negligible. And poverty is concentrated in rural areas. Many reports state that 'only 4% of the country's fertile land is used', while the country is only sparsely populated (13 people per square kilometre).

For all these reasons, agricultural development must be given highest priority: to feed the country's people, to provide income creating employment, to develop non-oil exports to pay for imports and to incresingly be a base for government's incomes through taxes. Agriculture is also very well placed to stimulate other economic sectors through its typically strong linkages to other activities: forward linkages (industries processing agricultural products), backward linkages (industries providing agricultural inputs: tools and machinery) and consumer linkages (meeting the consumption needs of the rural population).

As South Sudan is a latecomer to development, it can learn from past experiences of others. However, it is best to learn from own experiences, as development depends in the first place on local conditions and strategies appropriate to these. And there are these experiences, in particular in the 1970s where an ambitious 'breadbasket strategy' was tried in Sudan, of which South Sudan was a part - and this was the most peaceful period of the joint Sudan as well. Nevertheless, the breadbasket strategy largely failed. There are in fact a number of lessons that can and should be learnt from this experience. South Sudan can ill afford to repeat these mistakes again.

The strategy was designed in the wake of the first 'oil shock' which suddenly provided the Arab oil producers with huge cash. Idea of the strategy was to invest this capital in Sudan's agriculture in order to reduce the Arab region's high food deficits. Modern technologies were to be used to open up the vast savannahs of the country, mainly in its West, through mechanised farming systems (MFS).

Key document of the strategy was the 'Basic programme for Agricultural development 1976-85'. Its comprehensive and ambitious formulations influenced Government's Six-Year Plan (1976/77-1982/83) and it’s Food Investment Strategy (1977-85). The programme based on assumptions about the huge agricultural potential of Sudan: an irrigable area of 9.0 m. feddan (1 feddan is 0.42 hectares), a potentially cultivable area under rainfed conditions of 71.0 m. feddan, of which only 33% and 17% resp. were presently under cultivation. Realization of this potential would make possible high production increases: from less than 2.0 m. tons (1972/73) to 27 m. tons (1985) in grain production, from less than 1.0 m. tons to 12.0 m. tons in oil seeds (mainly ground nuts, sesame and cotton seeds), cotton from 0.6 to 3.6 m. tons, fruits and vegetables from less than 1 m. to over 7 m. tons, pulses from 35,000 to 250,000 tons, and 110,000 to 2, 7 m tons of sugar. On top of this, even after full implementation of these increases the potential in meat production was estimated to be 8-10 times the present level (from 4-500,000 to 3.5 m. tons).

Overall, the Basic Programme planned for a quite phenomenal increase in agricultural output. Furthermore, a substantial degree of diversification was planned away from the high concentration on cotton: Its share in agricultural export earnings was to fall from 60% (1970-73) to 23% in 1985. While the production of grains, oil seed crops, livestock products and gum Arabic would expand, new export commodities were to become prominent: sugar, wheat, rice, fruits, and vegetables. Except for cotton and gum Arabic, all these exports were particularly interesting for the Arab market. However, the geographical concentration of investments on North-East Sudan was not planned to be altered significantly: only 24% was targeted on the West and only 4% (!) on the South.

The approach of the Basic Programme relied on two key assumptions:

1. Availability of a surplus of 'unused' land with heavy under population;
2. Feasibility of expanded MFS.

However, both of these assumptions were questionable and actually questioned by several critics at the time. In fact, the vast savannahs of West Sudan had been appropriately used in the past by systems of rotational farming, combining animal husbandry and monadic cattle breeding. This extensive way of land use can be seen as appropriate for the relatively unfavourable climatically and geological conditions of much of West Sudan. Already in the 1960s experts had pointed out that 'statistical under population has little correspondence with reality'. Indeed, it was found that in reality, a lot of many already pointed to a condition of acute and increasing shortage of land. Intensification of land use and increasing population density had started to disturb the fragile ecological balance of the western savannahs since the 1930s.

These problems were only exacerbated by the establishment of modern sector projects in irrigation and mechanised farming that were reported to almost always cause a high level of expulsion of native peasants and nomads from the ecologically most favourable areas. Government statements of basically empty land only waiting for investors contrasted with long time phenomena of overgrazing, over-cultivation and soil erosion registered mainly in the West (Darfur and Kordofan), but also in Red Sea Province, the Butana and even the South. Government statements inviting investors were basically a policy aiming at a maximisation of exports without consideration of effects on traditional producers. They were to bear the opportunity cost of expansion of the modern sector that Government declared to be about zero.

Concerning the feasibility of expansion of MFS to the Western savannahs and other areas, doubts existed with regard to technical, economic, ecological, and social considerations. MFS are extensive cultivation with high capital costs. Start-up costs of new farms (1000-1500 fd each) were estimated of as US$ 27,000 of foreign exchange for machinery. Yield levels were typically high after initial clearing but declining after a short time. For sorghum that covered more than 90% of mechanised farms initial yields might be 1000 kg/fd, but would quickly reduce to 100-200 kg/fd. For this reason, farmers would leave their land after few years and move to new farms.

In comparison to traditional farming, MFS achieved at best slightly higher yields, but the production costs were almost double as high. Thus, the return on MFS were higher only because higher sales prices, or even lower than in traditional farming, as some studies found. In sum, the yields/cost relationship in MFS was precarious. These figures reflect the risky character of MFS, characterised by wide fluctuations in yields. The low yield had to be compensated by area expansion. In sum, MFS did not offer comparative advantages.

However, government - favouring development based on MFS - subsidised the sector by provision of land at a nominal rent, credits to be repaid over 25 years at well below market interest rates and by a dual exchange rate that allowed producers to import inputs at the artificially low official rate, while exporting at a higher 'incentive rate'. An additional indirect subsidy were the high losses of the two government bodies supporting agricultural development, the Mechanised Farming Corporation (MFC) and the Agricultural Bank of Sudan, caused by a very low capital repayment performance.

Thus, the actual profits of leaseholders were estimated to be much higher than the critical return on farming. In addition to the various subsidies a second source of profits was the own marketing of crops by producers outside the production area, which actually created local shortages. A third source was the premium prices paid for Sudanese sorghum in Saudi Arabia, well over the world market price (on which the Sudanese sorghum was not competitive). For these reasons MFS were financially profitable for investors, but not in a strict economic sense for the country.

On top of this, serious side-effects on the fragile ecological balance of the savannahs were observed. These areas were often characterised by poor soils and low rainfall. Former MFS land was often found to be lost to desert.

Most importantly, in the MFS the investors, mainly traders, were interested in quick returns on the large investments, rather than long-term consolidation and sustained yields. Instead of sustainable farming, with land having practically a price of zero and government giving incentives to expand, the farmer-traders were inclined to move to new areas.

A lot of expansion, especially in marginal land, was completely uncontrolled. But even the expansion supervised by the MFC was carried out without the necessary technical support of lad surveys and soil studies to determine suitability and stability of production over extended periods. This was because the MFC proved unable to enforce its rotation rules. Overall, the financial logic of the trader-investors, aiming at profit rates similar to those in trading, proved to be stronger than the MFC's aim to combat desertification.

Last not least, the social effects of MFS were alarming. In contrast to the picture given by government that the land was practically empty, in fact all land was used to a lower or higher degree by traditional producers. Thus, MFS disrupted these systems whose overriding objective is food security and whose farmers are more interested in a long-term sustained production.

Furthermore, MFS could not compensate its disruption by offering employment, because the new large-scale farms were rather capital-intensive than labour intensive.

In sum, the implementation of the breadbasket strategy as envisaged in the 1970s was neither compatible with ecological nor with social aims stated in national development plans, nor was it economically feasible for the country. Although doubts with respect to the technical, economic, social and ecological feasibility were expressed quite early on, these were ignored for long as vested special interests push forward its implementation. Only the arising debt crisis in the late 1970s put a brake on it. The dream that you could push a country forward simply by injecting huge sums of money and applying modern technology in ignorance of the existing producers did not last long.

Nevertheless, such experiences of replacing traditional producers and their rights by external investors for whom the profit interest is predominant and supersedes the interests of the existing producers and other social, ecological, and wider economic interests, continue. In particular now there is a new rush for such 'land grabbing' based on high hopes of quick wins - for government or only privileged individuals who can evade control because of in transparent and weak governance systems.

The lessons South Sudan should take from Sudan's own experience are obvious:

In fact raising the technological level and institutional environment of agriculture (infrastructure, markets, inputs, credit systems) - in short, its modernization - is vital and urgent.

However, there is no shortcut by simply replacing those who cultivate the land (or use it for husbandry) by external investors. Instead, the local community should be fully involved in the modernization process. If possible, they should be the farmers who are helped to modernize. If not, they should at least benefit through employment and upgrading of the local environment.

Properly established land rights are an indispensable basis for agricultural modernization. Traditional land rights need to be transformed into modern rights and officially registered by local administration. This will not only provide incentives, it will also provide the basis, as it can be used as collateral to raise bank credit.

Extending the road network will reduce prices of imports and help making agricultural produce competitive.

Probably most important, transparency in the process of land ownership, land allocation and land sales must be created in order to stop individuals who abuse positions of power and conditions of in transparency to benefit illegitimately from sale or use of South Sudan's prime resource, land.

If the lessons from Sudan's first 'Breadbasket Strategy' are learnt, South Sudan's new Breadbasket Strategy can be the basis of its way out of poverty.

Asha Farag Injeri (PhD) is university Ass/professor of Economics and Development Studies, and a consultant with numerous regional and international organizations. She is also Secretary, Information, Public Relations of the recently established South Sudan Economic Association (SSEA). She is reachable at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

More Articles...

Page 49 of 114

Our Mission Statement

To bring the latest, most relevant news and opinions on issues relating to the South Sudan and surrounding regions.

To provide key information to those interested in the South Sudan and its people.