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The Collapsing Sudanese Economy: Political and Military Implications, International Obligations

By Eric Reeves

December 8, 2012 (SSNA) -- Recent commentary on the purported "coup attempt" in Khartoum has been quite various, sometimes even fanciful, with little in the way of consensus about how serious the "coup" was or precisely who was truly involved.  There seems to be just as little consensus about precisely how far planning had moved toward an actual attempt, how its timing may have been governed by President al-Bashir's health and control of power (he has throat cancer, according to multiple sources), and what the stance of the military is or will be on the occasion of a transition.  Official comments from Khartoum are contradictory and show no commitment to provide an honest account.  What can't be doubted is that the events, insofar as we can discern them, reveal growing domestic unhappiness with the current regime, which after 23 years in power has still failed to bring peace or broadening prosperity to Sudan.  The public discontent of last June and July may now be coming to fruition.

But to date political commentary has generally failed to provide a comprehensive account of how current struggles in Khartoum take place in the context of an economy that is in free-fall.  There is some acknowledgement of distress over high prices, shortages, and lack of employment; but there has been relatively little in the way of fuller assessments of how far advanced the economic collapse is—or what the consequences of such a collapse will be in shaping Sudan's political future.  Any analysis of current political machinations and maneuvering will be meaningless without an understanding of how a series of critical choices—military and economic—have been forced on the regime as a whole.  The choices are  inevitably interrelated, and how they are made will define the future of greater Sudan.

Discussion of Khartoum's political elite often relies on a traditional division of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party into "moderates" and "hardliners"; this is better cast, in my view, as a distinction between variously pragmatic elements within the regime who cohere in their views to a greater or lesser degree, depending on international pressures. The analytic task at hand is to capture how current economic circumstances will govern the survivalist political instincts that are common to all these ruthless men.  The advantage of a focus on "pragmatism" is that it highlights how "unpragmatic" so many recent actions and decisions have been in the economic sphere, and how these decisions actually increase the threat to regime survival.  These brutal men may control the press, the news media, the security forces and the army—at present.  But the impending maelstrom of economic disarray will bring to bear pressures that many in the regime and the military clearly have not anticipated or do not fully understand.

An overview of factors precipitating the collapse of the Sudanese economy would include the following (see also a fine review of the situation by Armin Rosen in The Atlantic, "It's basically over," September 27, 2012):

[1]  A recent assessment found that Sudan is the fourth most corrupt country in the world (only Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia rank lower); corruption eats at the heart of economic growth, derails rational capital expenditures, and breeds resentment.  It has long been endemic in Sudan, and its current ranking reflects that fact.

[2]  The IMF's most recent assessment has found that Sudan's is the worst-performing economy in the world (BusinessReport, December 9, 2012).  This in itself is simply extraordinary for a country with so many natural resources, including vast tracts of arable land.

[3]  The best barometer of the extent of economic collapse is the revised figure for negative growth (contraction) of the economy: the April 2012 prediction from the IMF was -7.3 percent for 2012; most recently the figure stands at -11.2 percent, a depression by some measures, strongly suggesting a continuing downward spiral.

[4]  The most current (October) estimate of Sudan's rate of inflation is 45.3 percent, up from 41.6 percent in September, 22.5 percent in March, and 15 percent in June 2011.  In fact, this figure is already dated by the weeks intervening between data collection and present prices—and certainly understates the rate of inflation for essential commodities such as food and fuel.  The official year-on-year inflation rate for food is 48.6 percentThe Economist notes (December 1, 2012) that "the price of fool, Sudan’s traditional bean breakfast, has risen from $0.33 to $1.16.," over 300 percent.  The inflation rate for fuel is just as high as that for food generally, with ripple effects throughout the economy.

Moreover, Yousif el-Mahdi, a Khartoum-based economist, estimated in September (2012) that the real overall inflation rate was closer to 65 percent—this when the official rate was still 42 percent.  He is far from alone in believing that in the past, the actual inflation rate has been consistently understated; but when the bad news comes fully home, it will inevitably make those holding Sudanese pounds even less trusting of the currency.

In fact, Sudan is rapidly approaching the point at which hyper-inflation will govern economic calculations and transactions, sending the pound into free-fall as desperate bank depositors and others with cash holdings in pounds convert to a hard currency or valuable commodities (gold, silver, even food) at almost any exchange rate.  Once hyper-inflation sets in, it is almost impossible to reverse expectations of yet more hyper-inflation, particularly if there are no resources with which to back the currency under assault.  The cash economy in Sudan will grind to a halt.  Here it seems appropriate to recall that former President Jaafer Nimieri was brought down rapidly in 1985 amidst protests generated largely by hyper-inflation.

It should also be borne in mind that Khartoum has leveraged its oil resources as much as possible, and owns only a very small percentage of the two oil development consortia operating in Sudan and South Sudan (in the form of Sudapet's 5 percent stake, which has been challenged by Juba).  Sales of additional concession blocks have generated little income, and nothing has been held in reserve.

Gold exports have been much in Sudan news, but the quantities being talked about by the regime—and thus the hard currency purportedly to be received—have been greeted with considerable skepticism.  Reports seem to come exclusively from the regime-controlled news media in Khartoum, and have an air of desperation about them.  In any event, increased gold production alone cannot begin to reverse current trends in the near- or medium-term.

[5]  The cutting of fuel subsidies from the budget—demanded by the IMF as a condition for debt relief—has been largely abandoned in the wake of Arab Spring-like demonstrations last summer; these expensive subsidies will again represent an enormous part of the non-military/security budget, even as the expense receives no honest reckoning in public comments by the regime.  Yet budgetary realities have become ever more grim, as the Sudan Tribune notes (December 7, 2012):

"The Sudanese government tabled its draft 2013 budget before parliament this week which projects 25.2 billion Sudanese pounds (SDG) in revenues and 35.0 billion SDG in expenses leaving a deficit of 10 billion SDG ($1.5 billion) which equals 3.4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The deficit will be financed up to 87% (7.6 billion SDG) from domestic sources including 2 billion SDG from the central bank."

But the central bank has no real money, only what it prints in the way of Sudanese pounds that are rapidly declining in value.  As of December 2, 2012, $1.00 bought 6.5 pounds—a record low, and a further 3 percent decline from the previous week (the black market rate was about 5 pounds to the dollar early in the year, suggesting a decline of approximately 30 percent).  The official exchange rate is approximately 4.4 pounds to the dollar.

And while the IMF continues to insist that Sudan should cut fuel subsidies further—beyond what was cut in June—the Fund acknowledges that to do so will incur public anger and more instability of the sort seen last June, July, and August.

[6]  The reason for the continuing decline in the value of the pound is a lack of foreign exchange reserves, the direct consequence of having no oil export income.  As a result, imports purchased with Sudanese pounds are not simply more expensive—in some case prohibitively so—but harder to obtain at all, given the lack of available foreign exchange currency. Food imports are hit particularly hard, as are businesses that depend on imported parts or services.  Sudan imports some 400,000 tons of sugar annually (it is a key source of calories for many in the north); these imports will only grow more expensive, pushing the inflation rate for this particular commodity well above 50 percent.

Efforts to secure US$4 billion in foreign exchange deposits from rich Arab countries have largely failed, with the exception of Qatar, despite various claims by regime officials that large hard currency deposits have been made into the Central Bank of Sudan.  While providing temporary relief from "black market" speculation against the Sudanese pound, the long-term effect of such dishonest claims about foreign currency infusions is to diminish further the regime's credibility about all matters financial and economic.

[7]  The oil sector as a percentage of GDP has declined precipitously following Southern secession.  Oil now provides only 20 – 25 percent of revenues going to the regime; and beyond this massive loss in revenues, the oil sector now accounts for only 3 – 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), down from about 15 percentaccording to the IMF.  

Oil production is also being consistently overstated by Khartoum in order to suggest that more foreign exchange will be received than is the case.  The "Medium-Term Oil Market Report 2012" by the International Energy Agency (IEA) puts current production in Sudan at 70,000 barrels per day, rising to 90,000 bpd in 2014 and dropping back to 60,000 in 2017.  And yet long-time Sudanese oil minister and NIF/NCP stalwart Awad al-Jaz claims that Sudan is currently producing 120,000 bpd, which may rise to 150,000 bpd by the end of 2012.  Gross misrepresentation of data is nothing new for the regime, but such transparently motivated manipulation of key figures is a sign of just how desperate the economic crisis is, and how urgently Khartoum feels the need to be perceived as having or receiving more hard currency than is credible.

Notably, in its April 2012 semi-annual World Economic Outlook, the IMF changed the classification of Sudan: from an oil exporter to an oil importer, making nonsense of al-Jaz's claim.

[8]  The agricultural sector, long neglected by the regime, cannot provide enough food to avoid substantial imports; disabled by cronyism and a lack of commitment over many years, the agricultural sector is collapsing along with the rest of the economy.  Much of the arable land between the White and Blue Niles has silted and become unusable, even as a once enviable irrigation infrastructure has badly deteriorated.  Large tracts of valuable farm land have been sold or leased to Arab and Asian concerns to provide food for their own domestic consumption.  There is simply no strategic emphasis on self-sufficiency in food, even as Khartoum counts on the UN to provide Sudan with huge quantities of food every year. As Agence France-Presse reported earlier this year (February 27):

"'The economic situation is deteriorating further and further,' and the economy is in crisis, says University of Khartoum economist Mohamed Eljack Ahmed. [Of Khartoum's "rescue plan"] economists say the plan seems unworkable in the short term. Ahmed says agricultural infrastructure, once the country's economic mainstay, has collapsed and neither farmers nor industrialists have an incentive to operate."

[9]  The NIF/NCP for years has survived in large measure because it controls the security services (often overlapping) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF); estimates of what percentage of the national budget is devoted to the security services and the army vary, but range as high as 70 percent, with "over 50 percent" the closest to a consensus figure; this makes finding spending cuts in non-military sectors of the budget extraordinarily difficult.  Moreover, these military and security personnel are now being paid in Sudanese pounds that are rapidly loosing their purchasing power, and this will breed intense resentment, defections, and possibly participation in civilian insurrection. 

[10]  Resentment is also felt by those in the vast—and very expensive—patronage system that has provided the regime with political support.  The patronage system has been key to regime survival.  It was built-up during the early take-over of banks and the most lucrative parts of the Sudanese economy following the NIF coup of 1989, and then extended further by the rapid increase of oil revenues that began in 1999.  Now the patronage system is simply unaffordable, and the disgruntled within it can no longer be counted on to provide political support when it is most needed.

[11]  The demographics of the "Arab Spring" are the same in Sudan as they are in the rest of the Arab world, especially in the regions in and around Khartoum: there are a disproportionately large numbers of people under 30 years of age, many educated but with little prospect of employment commensurate with their education, or indeed any form of employment at all.  They are especially vulnerable to economic hardship.

[12]  Massive external debt—estimated by the IMF at US$43.7 billion in 2012—is on track to reach US$45.6 billion in 2013, again according to the IMF.  This represents 83 percent of Sudan's 2011 GDP.  Such debt—largely in the form of arrears accrued under the present regime—cannot be serviced by the present Sudanese economy, let alone repaid.  It is a crushing burden on the economy, and yet Khartoum shows no sign of adhering to IMF recommendations for obtaining debt relief,  Moreover, the regime's military actions throughout Sudan should work powerfully against debt relief among the Paris Club creditors who own most of this debt.  Certainly it would be unconscionable to negotiate debt reduction with a regime that devotes so much of its budget to acquiring the means of civilian destruction—in Darfur, in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, Minister of Finance Ali Mahmud Rasul declared in October that there is growing "international acceptance to write off Khartoum's … external debt."  The efforts of Western, African, and Arab civil society should be to make debt relief under present circumstances thoroughly unacceptable for politicians in Washington, London, Berlin, and Paris.

Current Minister of Finance Ali Mahmud Rasul also declares, despite these grim realities, that "the 2013 budget shows that we have overcome the secession of South Sudan."  But former Minister of Finance Abdel Rahim Hamdi—whatever his own role within the regime during the 1990s—felt compelled to speak out about the current extraordinary mismanagement of the economy.  Sudan Tribune reports his broadest assessment: the current regime "is no longer able to manage the economy and lacks solutions to handle the crisis."  Hamdi noted that "conflicting economic policies [have] led to soaring inflation levels and astronomical increases in prices. Speaking at the Islamic Fiqh Council, Hamdi pointed out that 77 percent of revenues goes to cover salaries and wages as well as federal aid to states."  He was also scathing in his assessment of projected revenues, which the regime has consistently oversold in a ploy to keep the psychology of inflation from taking hold (e.g., in celebrating artificially high estimates of gold production, boasting of hard currency transfers from Arab countries that never materialize).  Current Minister of Finance Rasul speaks to none of this.

For those not living in the world of self-serving mendacity from which regime pronouncements about economic development emerge, the truth is conspicuous: the economy is in a complete shambles, and hyper-inflation is relentlessly approaching. The brute economic realities outlined above cannot be talked away or cajoled into more palatable form.  Indeed, if the current budget needs—including a substantial continuation of subsidies for fuel—are not met with real revenues, the regime will be compelled to turn on the printing presses and create an even more precipitous decline toward hyper-inflation.

Why Does Khartoum Pursue Policies so Destructive of the Economy?

Despite the already acute and growing danger of complete economic implosion, the regime persists with immensely expensive and unproductive policies, including war in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, as well as hostile actions along the North/South border, and the supplying of renegade militia groups inside South Sudan.  For a regime that is ruthlessly survivalist, this makes no rational sense: current economic realities are diminishing the chances that the regime will survive.  So why is it persisting in policies and actions that work against a resumption of transit fees for oil originating in South Sudan and passing through the northern pipeline to Port Sudan?  Why is the regime creating a situation in which the generous transit fees that Juba is willing to pay have been forgone?  This seems even more peculiar, given the grasping nature of Khartoum's greed, revealed earlier this year when Southern engineers discovered a covert tie-in line to main oil pipeline, capable of diverting some 120,000 bpd of Southern crude.  This subterfuge has not been forgotten by the South, and only makes more exigent the question: why has Khartoum put oil transit revenues in jeopardy?

At full capacity—350,000 bpd—these pipeline revenues could do a great deal to close the yawning budget gap that Khartoum faces; and this is on top of Juba's agreement to assist Khartoum financially during a difficult transition and also to allow the regime to keep the more more than $800 million sequestered during the stand-off over transit fees (the amount of oil was peremptorily calculated by Khartoum on the basis of its outrageous $36/barrel fee proposal).  What keeps Khartoum from finalizing the deal on oil transport, thereby creating further doubts in the minds of Southerners that this pipeline will remain a viable means of export?  Why does Khartoum continue to wage a brutal economic war of attrition against South Sudan, which should be its largest and most important trading partner?  The reality of lost oil income is inescapable:

"Prior to [the secession of South Sudan], about three-quarters of crude production came from the south and accounted for more than 85 percent of Khartoum's export earnings, which reached $7.5 billion in the first half of 2011, according to the World Bank.  'They've lost that (oil) income. It's gone for good,' an international economist said, declining to be identified." (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], February 26, 2012)

Here again the common distinction between "moderates" and "hardliners" is better understood as referring to differences within a regime that is at various times more and less pragmatic, or at least has very different views of what is "pragmatic."  Ali Osman Taha, for example, is often cited as a "moderate" because of his central role in the Naivasha peace talks; it is rarely remarked that in February 2004, a year before those talks would culminate in the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Talks, Taha left Naivasha to "address the Darfur crisis."  As anyone who followed the course of events through 2004 and into 2005 knows, this was the period marked by the very height of genocidal violence and destruction.  An October 24, 2004 report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service notes:

"In February 2004, First Vice President Ali Osman Taha, the government [of Sudan's] chief negotiator [in Naivasha], told the mediators that he had to leave the talks to deal with the Darfur problem. In February 2004, the government of Sudan initiated a major military campaign against the Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement and declared victory by the end of the month.  Attacks by government forces and the Janjaweed militia against civilians intensified between February and June 2004, forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee to neighboring Chad."

As we know now, many tens of thousands of people were also killed by the violence of this period, and the killing continued long after Taha's intervention, with total mortality now in the range of 500,000. The number of internally displaced persons would, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, grow to 2.7 million.  The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that more than 280,000 Darfuris remain in eastern Chad as refugees.  That Taha the "moderate" played such a central role in the Darfur genocide is far too infrequently acknowledged, suggesting again that within the NIF/NCP "pragmatism" may take many forms.

After much shifting in language and positions, Khartoum would now have the world believe that it will uphold the agreement on oil transport only if Juba agrees to various "security arrangements."  But of course just what these arrangements are keeps changing, even as Khartoum ignores the most fundamental requirement for security in both Sudan and South Sudan: a fully delineated and authoritatively demarcated border.  This of course should have been achieved in the "interim period" of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (January 9, 2005 to July 9, 2011).  That it was not is almost entirely the fault of Khartoum, which evidently thought—and still thinks—it can extort borderlands from the South and incorporate them into Sudan.  The military seizure of Abyei (May 2011) was simply the opening salvo.  Military ambitions may in fact extend to seizing more Southern oil fields and arable land.

More recently, Khartoum's demanded "security arrangements" have come to include Juba's disarming of the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North, an utterly preposterous notion—indeed, so preposterous that it must be viewed as a means of stalling negotiations. In this respect it is very similar to Khartoum's initial proposal of a US$36/barrel transit fee proposal during negotiations on that issue: this was not an opening gambit, not a serious proposal from which compromise could be reached.  It was meant to halt negotiations and indeed resulted in Juba's decision to shut down oil production altogether. 

So, too, the current "security arrangements" proposal is meant to put a hold on negotiations by demanding what the South cannot possibly offer or provide, even as senior officials in Khartoum continue to insist that they will not negotiate with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, insisting that the "alliance" between Juba and the SPLM/A-N must first be ended.  And yet no evidence of substance is offered to suggest any military alliance.  We may understand why the NIF/NCP wishes the army of South Sudan to disarm northern rebels, primarily in the Nuba: Abdel Aziz al-Hilu's forces are manhandling SAF troops and militias, chewing up entire battalions and parts of some brigades and in the process acquiring a great deal of ammunition, weaponry, fuel, and other supplies (despite this, Ahmed Haroun—indicted war criminal and governor of South Kordofan—insists that the SAF will achieve victory soon).  But does anyone living in the real world think that Juba will help to disarm the SPLA-North?  These are former comrades in arms, deeply connected by the years of suffering and fighting together, and by a deep mutual suspicion of Khartoum.  In the absence of any substantial evidence that Juba is aiding the rebels in the Nuba in a significant way, we must conclude that something else is going on here.

It is important to remember that while the regime has been in power for 23 years, individual members and factions of this regime have relentlessly jockeyed for power, often ruthlessly pursuing their own interests, and have found themselves on occasion in significant ascendancy or decline.  The most recent example appears to be Salah Abdallah "Gosh," once head of the extremely powerful National Intelligence and Security Services; further back, we have the sharp split between al-Bashir's cabal and Islamic ideological leader Hassan al-Turabi in the late 1990s.  But ambition within the regime's central cabal has never, in any quarter, been "moderated" by a desire to do what is best for the people of Sudan.

The most notable recent ascendancy is that of key senior military officials in decision-making about war and peace; this too has gone insufficiently remarked, despite very considerable evidence that on a range of issues, military views have prevailed.  The nature of this ascendancy, and the motives behind it, were first emphasized by Sudan researcher Julie Flint in an important account from in August 2011, based on an extraordinary interview with an official in Khartoum.  The official, whose account has been corroborated by other sources, warned that a silent military coup was already well under way in Khartoum before the seizure of Abyei (May 2011). There seems little doubt that if this official's account is accurate, and there has in fact been a successful military coup from within, then there will be very little room for civilians in the new configuration of power when it comes to issues of war and peace:

"[A] well-informed source close to the National Congress Party reports that Sudan's two most powerful generals went to [Sudanese President Omar al-] Bashir on May 5, five days after 11 soldiers were killed in an SPLA ambush in Abyei, on South Kordofan’s southwestern border, and demanded powers to act as they sought fit, without reference to the political leadership."

"'They got it,' the source says. 'It is the hour of the soldiers—a vengeful, bitter attitude of defending one’s interests no matter what; a punitive and emotional approach that goes beyond calculation of self-interest. The army was the first to accept that Sudan would be partitioned. But they also felt it as a humiliation, primarily because they were withdrawing from territory in which they had not been defeated. They were ready to go along with the politicians as long as the politicians were delivering—but they had come to the conclusion they weren't. Ambushes in Abyei…interminable talks in Doha keeping Darfur as an open wound…. Lack of agreement on oil revenue….'  'It has gone beyond politics,' says one of Bashir’s closest aides. 'It is about dignity.'"

How well borne out by subsequent developments is this assessment?

When the senior and quite powerful presidential advisor Nafie Ali Nafie signed on June 28, 2011 a "Framework Agreement" with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, it seemed for a moment in which war in the Nuba and Blue Nile might be averted.  Three days later President al-Bashir emphatically renounced the breakthrough agreement, declaring after Friday prayers (July 1, 2011) that the "cleansing" of the Nuba Mountains would continue.  This was clearly a declaration made at the behest of the generals, specifically Major General Mahjoub Abdallah Sharfi—head of Military Intelligence—and Lt. Gen. Ismat Abdel Rahman al-Zain— implicated in Darfur atrocity crimes because of his role as SAF director of military operations, he is identified in the “Confidential Annex” to the report by the UN panel of Experts on Darfur (Annex leaked in February 2006).

These men and their military colleagues are the ones whose actions have ensured that Abyei will remain a deeply contentious issue in growing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan; certainly they knew full well the implications of taking military action in Abyei—military action that directly contravened the Abyei Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This action ensures that Abyei will continue to fester and may yet lead to confrontation if—as is likely—both the African Union and the UN Secretariat and Security Council continue to temporize over the AU proposal on the permanent status of Abyei, a proposal subsequently endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council but rejected by Khartoum.  And as long as Abyei festers, negotiations over other issues are made gratuitously more difficult, and it becomes ever less likely that sustained oil transit revenues from use of the northern pipeline will resume.  After losing almost a year's worth of oil revenue, the South will certainly proceed with plans for an alternative export route.  Khartoum's sequestration of almost a billion dollars of oil revenues due to the South since independence (July 9, 2011) left Juba feeling deeply uneasy about any viable long-term arrangement with the current regime, despite the decision to allow Khartoum to keep the oil revenues it had illegally sequestered.

From the standpoint of a rational management of the economy, the military decisions made have been consistently disastrous.  This is true whether we are speaking of genocidal destruction (and economic collapse) in Darfur; renewed genocide in the Nuba Mountains, which has prompted a ferociously successful rebel military response; massive civilian destruction and displacement in Blue Nile; the military seizure of Abyei; the extremely ill-considered assaults on forces of the SPLA-South in the Tishwin area of Unity State in March/April of this year; support for renegade militia groups in South Sudan; the growing assertion of unreasonable claims about the North/South border; and the repeated bombings along the border over the past year and a half, including the "Mile 14" area of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal.  This is an extraordinary catalog of offensive military actions.  And none of them reflects a concern for economic problems that may well bring down the regime.  On the contrary, these decisions represent a bitter, vengeful desire to "get even" with South Sudan for exercising its right to self-determination.  But vengeance will not rescue the failing northern economy, and absent the resumption of oil transport income, the economy will continue in free-fall, with hyper-inflation daily more likely.  Normal corrective measures in economic policy are impossible in the context of current military commitments; corrections that would in any event have been highly challenging in light of the precipitous cut-off of oil revenue are now unavailable.

So long as decisions about war and peace are being made in Khartoum by the generals, without regard for the effects of continuing and renewed fighting on the broader economy, Sudan will remain both brutally violent and ultimately untenable under present governance.

Advocacy Recommendation

The one decision the international community, and Paris Club members in particular, should make is not to engage in any discussions of or planning for debt relief for Khartoum until the regime disengages from all military campaigns that target civilians, and ceases military actions so indiscriminate as to ensure widespread civilian destruction such as we have seen most recently in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, previously in Abyei, and for very nearly ten years in Darfur.  The international banking system as well as international financing resources should do nothing that will convince Khartoum it may escape paying a heavy price for its continuing atrocities in these regions.  For its part, the regime continues to speak confidently about its prospects for international debt relief.  It's hard to know whether this proceeds from expediency—even the artificial prospect of partial debt relief would help the northern economy immensely—or cynicism: the international community has capitulated before Khartoum's demands, has accepted the validity of its commitment to signed agreements, on so many occasions that the regime may calculate it will prevail yet again.

This must not happen.  The international community has failed greater Sudan for too many years now, has accommodated a murderous, finally genocidal regime in Khartoum since June 1989, and now is a moment for moral clarity and principled decision: will the world fund this regime?  Will it accept massive atrocity crimes in Sudan in the interest of something other than the well-being of the Sudanese people themselves?

Civil society in those countries most significantly represented in the Paris Club should lobby their governments to state publicly that the unqualified priority in Sudan policy is ending civilian destruction throughout greater Sudan.  Unequivocal evidence that this "priority" obtains in national policies must be demanded.  As presumptuous as this may seem to some, it is what vast numbers of people from greater Sudan wish, as do many well-informed friends of the region.

It is a simple "ask": no debt relief for a regime that continues to commit atrocity crimes against civilians on a wide scale.  This debt was accrued in large measure by profligate military expenditures on weapons that are even now being deployed against hundreds of thousands of noncombatant civilians.  Yet as simple and apparently reasonable as such an "ask" is, there are very good historical reasons to believe that it will be refused; rather, some factitious "occasion" will be found to provide Khartoum with a financial life-line—a decision defined by its expediency, not its moral intelligibility.  There could be no more irresponsible use of international economic and financial resources.

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.

Growing Violence in Darfur Deserves Honest Reporting, Not More Flatulent UN Nonsense

By Eric Reeves

December 1, 2012 (SSNA) -- UN and UNAMID leadership, including Acting JSR for UNAMID Aichatou Mindaoudou, the UN High Commission for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Displaced Persons—all seem content to paper over Darfur's rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and security crisis with unctuous words and feckless declarations.  In place of meaningful responses to this desperate situation, they offer anodyne pronouncements, glib "proposals" without substance or detail, and silence on key issues of human security—preeminently rape, widespread murder, violence in the camps and towns, and the ongoing appropriation of arable land by Arab militia groups, often by violent means.  In the absence of reporting by international news organizations, and given the denial of all access for human rights investigators—now for many years—Darfuris have made Radio Dabanga their voice.  That voice, reporting largely on the basis of eyewitness accounts, deserves all possible amplification.

Eric Reeves, 30 November  2012

Events have finally compelled the UN and the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to acknowledge that violence is escalating in Darfur, a sharp reversal of the self-congratulatory statements by the likes of former heads of UNAMID Rodolphe Adada and Ibrahim Gambari.  For example, Gambari recently celebrated his retirement as UNAMID Joint Special Representative (JSR) by declaring that he was "gratified to note that barely 31 months on, all the objectives I set out to meet have largely been met." But of course this is despicably dishonest and self-serving, given the dramatic increase in the level of violence, vast human displacement, and the deterioration of humanitarian access and resources that accelerated under Gambari's tenure.  UNAMID—with an unforgiveable belatedness—now acknowledges some of these realities, although with a deeply disingenuous timeline.  UNAMID leaders and spokespersons would have us believe that this sharp upswing in violence is quite recent; in fact, it has been accelerating dramatically since late 2010. 

I and others have chronicled the massive evidence of increasing violence in Darfur since late fall 2010, when Minni Minawi defected from the regime in Khartoum.  Minawi was the only rebel signatory to the disastrous Darfur Peace Agreement (Abuja, Nigeria, May 2006) and belatedly rues his decision.  For not only was he completely marginalized within the regime, his defection from the figurehead position he occupied has made his Zaghawa people the target of ethnic violence that is almost completely unreported by UNAMID or any other source.  

Fortunately—at least for the sake of any historical account—Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana have provided a remarkably full overview of this violence in a report from the Small Arms Survey (Geneva): "Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players," (July 2012).  Their report is based on field research conducted from October 2011 through June 2012, and supplemented by extensive interviews, a full desk review of available reports, and a wide range of communication with regional and international actors.  The opening paragraphs in their Executive Summary gives a sense of what UNAMID chooses not to see:

"Since 2010 Darfur has all but vanished from the international agenda. The Sudanese government has claimed that major armed conflict is essentially over, that armed violence of all kinds has declined significantly, and that such violence is now dominated by criminality rather than by military confrontation [ ]. This view has been bolstered by statements from the leadership of the joint United Nations–African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur and by those invested in the under-subscribed 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, who have hailed declining violence and wider regional transformations as conducive to a final resolution of the conflict [citation of statements by Ibrahim Gambari]. 

"Notwithstanding such celebratory assertions, Darfur’s conflict has moved largely unnoticed into a new phase. While several parts of Darfur have become demonstrably more peaceful since 2009—particularly as the geography of conflict has shifted eastwards away from West Darfur and the Sudan/Chad border—late 2010 and the first half of 2011 saw a significant offensive by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and militias, backed by airstrikes and aerial bombardments, targeting both rebel groups and the Zaghawa civilian population across a broad swathe of eastern Darfur." 

In fact, events have overtaken this generalization, which while accurate as a characterization of eastern Darfur does not do enough to take note of the violence that is now most conspicuous in North Darfur, but which has seriously escalated in South and West Darfur as well (some of this occurred after the time-frame of the report).  I have for over the past two years, at regular intervals, chronicled this broader escalation of violence in some twenty analyses (see Appendix 1).  What we are seeing was eminently predictable, and the character of the violence has been in evidence during this entire period.  Despite various assurances that the "security situation is relatively calm," that "violent incidents are decreasing," that there is unfettered access to civilians, and that there is "no major fighting," just the opposite is true. 

Camps have become free-fire zones, an epidemic of rape continues to plague women and girls, murders are common, and aerial bombardment of civilian targets has been relentless (see  Perhaps most tellingly, more than 1 million people have been newly displaced since UNAMID took up its mandate on January 1, 2008; and as has been the case since the beginning of conflict in Darfur, the greatest cause of displacement is violence.  The scale of this new displacement has never been acknowledged by UNAMID, which prefers instead to celebrate the small-scale "returns" of displaced persons that are optimistically measured in the tens of thousands.  And the engine of displacement—ethnically-targeted violence in camps and rural areas, rape, and land appropriation by Arab groups taking advantage of this displacement—continues to race.  Radio Dabanga provides daily updates that find no place in the infrequent and disgracefully uninformed and unrevealing reports from UNAMID. 

Indeed, UNAMID and UN officials—including the Secretary General in his reports on Darfur—no longer even mention the reality of massive sexual violence against women and girls.  Nor is UNAMID able to confirm the vast majority of bombing attacks reported by Radio Dabanga: concentrated recently in the eastern Jebel Marra areas, these attacks have caused tremendous numbers of civilian casualties, as well as large losses of livestock.  UNAMID cannot gain access to Jebel Marra, or any number of other locations where violence has been reported. Instead, the mission offers only silence, which then perversely becomes evidence of an improved security environment. Only Radio Dabanga, on the basis of interviews conducted with eyewitnesses to the countless attacks that continue throughout the IDP camps and rural areas, provides any meaningful account of what is occurring.

Recent statements by UN and UNAMID officials, along with the familiar mendacity of the Khartoum regime, appear efforts to make the current situation seem one of growing concern but "manageable," even by a UNAMID that has begun to draw down its forces.  This is simply not true, even with present resources; moreover, it is shameful to suggest that such proposals as have been made concerning human security and humanitarian access amount to anything new or substantial.  These "proposals" are no more than vague exhortations.

Acting UNAMID Joint Special Representative Aichatou Mindaoudou seems especially gifted in offering sympathy and little else, even as she continues her predecessors' perverse deference to Khartoum's demands and expectations:

"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. The process is based on cooperation with various parties in order to access some of the targeted areas and remedy the escalating violence...  [Mindaoudou] demanded the state government to urgently grant UNAMID and humanitarian organizations access to the targeted areas in Darfur. She added that granting access will prevent the issue from having a negative impact on the donors’ conference." (Radio Dabanga, November 29, 2012)

This occurs as UNAMID is withdrawing security personnel from the mission and recent news reports confirm that Ethiopia has withdrawn its five critical (if only briefly deployed) helicopter gunships from the mission, as of October 2012.  Unsurprisingly, no details of this "new strategy" have been provided; they are, however, likely to depend entirely on the good will and agreement of the increasingly embattled National Islamic Front/National Congress regime in Khartoum.  In fact, the regime is already setting the stage for refusing its terms:

"The government of North Darfur State voiced reservations over a security strategy that the United Nations-African Union Peacekeeping Mission in the region aims to adopt in order to protect civilians in Sudan’s western region, saying it undermines national sovereignty.  North Darfur governor Osman Kibir told a UNAMID delegation headed by the mission’s Acting Joint Special Representative Aichatou Mindaoudou on Wednesday that the protection of the state’s citizens is considered a direct constitutional responsibility of the government and the state’s security committee. He warned against interfering with that responsibility and stressed that the government will reject the strategy should it undermine national sovereignty." (Sudan TribuneNovember 28, 2012

"Reservations" is simply Khartoum's way of declaring "irreversible objections."  Of course Khartoum has its own policies for "civilian protection" in Darfur (and areas such as South Kordofan and Blue Nile); they consist mainly of orchestrated violence against these very civilians populations.  As propaganda cover, the regime also offers absurd agreements, mendacious declarations, and announcements of "campaigns."  For example, on the critical threat of sexual violence, which the regime vehemently denies is an issue in Darfur, the problem will be resolved bureaucratically:

"The State Minister of Welfare and Social Security, Ibrahim Adam Ibrahim, said the national campaign to combat violence against women will start on Sunday in Khartoum under the auspices of Vice President Al-Haj Adam Yousuf….  He said Sudan had recognised women’s rights since time immemorial and the Islamic faith has promoted and guaranteed women’s rights and dignity.  He said the campaign will begin on 25 November and last for 16 days" (Sudan Vision [state-controlled], November 23, 2012)

"Vice President, Dr. Al-Haj Adam, has affirmed state's commitment to protect women, combat violence against them and remove all legal impediments preventing the establishment of women police and courts." (Sudan Vision [state-controlled], November 25, 2012)

In fact, it remains virtually impossible for women in Darfur to report rape to legal authorities, and UNAMID has ceased to investigate these war crimes.  For a sense of how pervasive rape is in Darfur, and how complete the impunity is for those guilty of these brutal crimes, see my lengthy overview of available data and research ("Rape as a Continuing Weapon of War in Darfur," March 4, 2012 at  Khartoum's words are utterly meaningless—a perverse substitute for holding accountable the pro-regime militia elements responsible for the vast majority of sexual violence.

West Darfur has seen a staggering number of rapes in recent years.  And yet during her time in the region UNAMID AJSR Mindaoudou said nothing about sexual violence, indeed was not able to meet with senior officials in el-Geneina, capital of the region.  Instead, meeting with orphans in West Darfur, she declared:

"Supporting children is close to my heart. They are the future of their communities, they can only be a positive influence if they know their rights and respect the rights of others, said Ms. Mindaoudou." (Radio Dabanga, November 28, 2012)

What about the children who see their sisters—some as young as seven or eight—raped, along with their mothers?  What about the children born to women who have been raped?  What about children whose mothers have suffered grave or incapacitating trauma during rape?  What about the families that are torn apart by the fact of a woman's having been raped?  How likely are these children to "know their rights and respect the rights of others"?  This is moral pabulum, served up to people desperate for more than unctuous words—people, certainly including children, who need nothing so much as the security Ms. Mindaoudou's UNAMID has proved utterly incapable of providing.

For his part, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Chaloka Beyani, was equally vacuous in his suggestions, making no specific proposals and offering only the most obvious of generalities. 

"'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,' said UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons [Chaloka Beyani] at the end of his nine-day mission to Sudan from 14 to 22 November 2012.  'Concerted efforts are needed in order to meet these and other assistance and protection needs of IDPs, to create an enabling environment in which to achieve new political solutions, and put in place practical measures to ensure the implementation of agreements that have already been signed.'" ("Durable solutions and respect of internally displaced persons' rights, key for peace and stability," African Press Organization news release, November 26, 2012) 

"'I urge the Government of Sudan to adopt a comprehensive approach to durable solutions, which facilitates voluntary returns as well as local integration and resettlement,' [Beyani] said. 'I also encourage the Government and the international community to integrate displacement-affected communities into urban planning, development, and livelihood projects." (APO, November 26)

"Durable solutions"?  What, specifically, does Mr. Beyani propose?  Does he even recognize why people remain displaced in Darfur, some for almost ten years?  Why won't he say as much—explicitly?  "Concerted efforts" of what sort, one must ask Mr. Beyani?  And by whom?  It is Khartoum that denies access to UNAMID, denies humanitarians space in which to work, and at the same time denies that it is restricting relief activities in any way.  It is the Khartoum regime that sustains a climate of impunity ensuring that no "durable solutions" to the profoundly distressing problems of Darfur will be found.  Of course, such undirected exhortation frees Beyani from speaking the difficult truths about Khartoum's vigorous efforts to prevent just such "an enabling environment."  His refusal—and that of the UN generally—to speak honestly about Khartoum's actions, including deliberately creating a brutally hostile "environment," is craven and morally dishonest.

One wonders what fantasy version of Darfur Beyani has created when he declares:

"Special Rapporteur Beyani highlighted the ongoing efforts of the international community to restore peace and security and find lasting solutions to internal displacement in Sudan."

"A UN human rights expert has expressed happiness with the progress so far made in observing the human rights of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur, Sudan, but stressed that 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, [said Special Rapporteur Beyani]….important opportunities currently existed to address the needs of many IDPs in Sudan, [he said]." (PANA [Khartoum], November 24, 2012)

What of substance do we learn here and in other UN pronouncements?  Absolutely nothing.  What is the international community able to show for its "ongoing efforts to restore peace and security in Darfur"?  The Darfur genocide commenced in earnest in April 2003, almost a decade ago.  And still the victims of murder, arson, brutal robbery, rape, violent extortion, and land appropriation are overwhelmingly from the non-Arab or African tribal groups.  How can one speak of "progress so far made" almost ten years after Darfur's nightmare began?  It was only this past October that Khartoum-allied Arab militia forces—extremely heavily armed, according to UN sources—mounted a well-planned ambush against a substantial UNAMID patrol on its way to investigate atrocity crimes committed by these same militia forces and SAF troops in Hashaba, North Darfur.  The investigation still has not been undertaken, and the victims of Hashaba remain unaccounted for—only the most recent example of civilians being slaughtered without any investigation or accountability.  Khartoum's preposterous account of events (November 22, 2012) will stand as the last word on this terrible incident.

It is also worth noting that Khartoum denied Beyani access to Kassab camp in North Darfur, scene of much of the worst violence in Darfur over the past four months.  Is this not worth highlighting?  Is this not entirely consistent with the denial of access to Hashaba?  Does yielding to such denial—by the UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons—not make of his office a travesty?  No place in Darfur has seen more abuse than Kassab, although it certainly has many rivals—and yet the Special Rapporteur accepts denial of access quietly, as the UN does uniformly.

Throughout the diplomatic discourse and posturing about Darfur, the one constant is celebration of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (July 2011).  And yet no peace agreement ever made in Sudan had fewer contributions from representative civil society leaders or indeed the rebel combatants with real power in the field.  The agreement was signed on behalf of all Darfuris by a completely factitious "Liberty and Justice Movement," now widely reviled by Darfuris, even as the DDPD has been universally rejected by those most affected.  "Doha," as one highly informed observer and negotiator has remarked, "is Abuja replayed as farce."  But like the Abuja agreement, the DDPD has the potential to intensify violence, and to convince Darfuris that the international community is simply not serious about securing a meaningful peace for the region.  Khartoum of course has a nose for such diplomatic expediency, and if we wish to understand the current escalation of violence, we can do no better than examine the complacency with which the UN, the AU, the U.S., and the European Union have all accepted the DDPD as the basis for bringing peace to Darfur.

It cannot do so, though it certainly emboldens Khartoum, which not only sees international expediency but can claim, with justice, that it is one of the two signatories to the DDPD—no matter that the other signatory is a "rebel group" with no real power on the ground, no political support, and that is deeply resented as a merely diplomatic artifice, not a legitimate negotiating party.  And an emboldened Khartoum sees no reason to halt its intense aerial bombardment of civilians, no need to rein in the Central Reserve Police (Abu Tira), or permit access to UNAMID or humanitarians trying to reach desperate civilians.  UNAMID is being relentlessly weakened: not only is the force being drawn down, not only has Ethiopia quietly demanded that its five helicopter gunships be returned, but UNAMID morale is plummeting as the death of 43 courageous comrades weights deeply; the number and effectiveness of patrols has fallen commensurately.  In short, conditions are all too conducive to the widespread violence that Radio Dabanga continues to report, on the basis of eyewitness accounts and an extraordinary determination not to allow the world to silence Darfuri voices.

Realities provided by Radio Dabanga:

In aggregate, the dispatches below—from just the past two weeks—suggest how pervasive violence is, how constrained humanitarian organizations are—even the UN's World Food Program—and how complete the reign of impunity remains.  Notably, a great deal of the violence reported here occurred in West Darfur, which the New York Times found to be a harbinger of peace in March of this year, this on the basis of an extremely limited, fully controlled trip to Nyuru, West Darfur (southeast of el-Geneina).  Some of the violence reported here (at Mornei camp, for example) is quite close to Nyuru.

An extraordinarily full account of violence in Tabet, North Darfur was offered by Radio Dabanga just today; it should be borne in mind that "clearances" of the sort referred to here are Khartoum's euphemism for ethnic destruction and displacement, in Darfur, in Blue Nile, and in South Kordofan:

• Rapes, violence and looting reported in Tabet

TABET, North Darfur (30 November 2012) - Intensive looting, rapes and violence were reported in Tabet, North Darfur, by several witnesses who spoke with Radio Dabanga on Friday, 30 November. They said that pro-government militias from Kutum and El-Waha localities are targeting citizens who come from 'all areas of East Jebel Marra' to shop and trade at the weekly Tabet market. The 'Friday market' is the largest in the region, attracting thousands of citizens from the surrounding areas every week.

'At least seven raped'

Numerous witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the militias 'positioned themselves on all main roads leading to Tabet' on Thursday early morning. They explained that all streets leading to Tabet connect at least 30 villages to the market each. On Friday, sources continued, the militias began looting all citizens heading to and from Tabet, 'stripping them of all of their possessions.' In addition, at least seven women were raped in front of their families and bystanders, they asserted.   The militias also beat, tortured, insulted, and accused civilians of being Torabora (rebel movements), leaving several injured. Onlookers explained that, at this point, it is difficult to assess the exact number of victims.

The victims

According to reports, the first rape took place at Galab Street, located one kilometer from Tabet. In this event, three girls aged between 12 and 13 years old were 'collectively raped by a group of militiamen.' Witnesses declared the second assault occurred on Karafullah Street, in which four women aged around 18, 19 or 20 years old, were the victims. Onlookers said that several other women were attacked, but they could not yet assess the exact number of victims. They explained this is because there are many streets leading to the 'Friday market,' with thousands of people passing by, what makes it difficult for them to keep track of the correct amount of casualties. 


Other witnesses informed Radio Dabanga that the militia Janjaweed is responsible for the looting, which they affirmed was backed-up by an Antonov airplane flying over the streets leading to Tabet. [ ] Victims told Radio Dabanga that the militias beat and then and stole all of their belongings, including the goods they were going to sell at the market. Afterwards, the perpetrators brought the stolen items to their main base located near Tabet, sources recounted. Some of the witnesses affirmed these are the same militias who carried out the attacks in Hashaba last September [and October]. 

Civilian clearances

Several sources stressed to Radio Dabanga that while beating them, militiamen were screaming that they are following official instructions to [NB] 'clean and crush the whole of East Jebel Marra.'  Besides, the militiamen were instructed to 'clear the roads between El-Fasher and Nyala,' according to testimonies. Witnesses affirmed the instructions came from the Minister of Defense Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein and Sudan's first Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha. The federal authorities, sources recounted, reportedly ordered the militias to 'clean up the area within three months and report back to them once the job is done.' In addition, the armed groups brought very sophisticated weapons from Kutum, which were used during the looting 'to make the locals poor' according to their systematic policy, sources said.

'Largest of its kind'

This is reportedly the second large attack carried out by militias at the 'Friday market'; the first occurred earlier this year during the month of Ramadan. Sources reported to Radio Dabanga that during the previous assault militias looted citizens in front of the Sudanese army, which was based in the region by then. Onlookers stressed that this is the largest incident of its kind at the Tabet market, in which thousands of people were targeted. Citizens and local residents urgently called on the UN to protect them. They affirmed to have 'lost everything and declared they cannot flee to El-Fasher as the roads leading to it are being guarded by militias.' The militias, victims completed, are shooting everyone in the area and are claiming their properties belong to them.  

• Camp activist: 'No food distribution for 5 months'

ARGO CAMP / DALI CAMP, North Darfur (21 November 2012) - Displaced residents from Argo and Dali camps in North Darfur have complained about the stop in food ration distribution over the past five months, Radio Dabanga learned on Tuesday November 20. A camp activist claims that food rations have not been distributed in Argo and Dali camps since last July. He revealed that the World Food Programme apologized for not delivering the rations to the two camps. In a meeting with camp representatives on Friday, the organization explained that the security situation in the region does not permit WFP to deliver the food rations, despite the fact that the region is under government control.

• UN denied access to Kassab camp

KASSAB CAMP, North Darfur (20 November 2012) - Sources from North Darfur announced that Sudanese authorities denied UN Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani access to Kassab camp, in Kutum locality, on Saturday, 17 November, they told Radio Dabanga. Beyani, who is currently in Sudan, was scheduled to visit various sites of displacement and return, and meet with displaced persons, local authorities and affected communities. Leaders and sheikhs from Kassab had reportedly prepared a reception to welcome the rapporteur to the camp, but were 'surprised' when UNAMID informed them that Sudanese authorities did not grant Beyani permission to visit the camp and assess the local conditions.

• Militants allegedly kill two and rape three

GEREIDA, South Darfur (27 November 2012) – Two displaced persons were killed and another four injured when an alleged pro-government militia opened fire on them in the village of Kobe at approximately four kilometers from Gereida in South Darfur on Monday morning, November 26, sources told Radio Dabanga. In addition, the militants reportedly raped three girls, after killing and injuring a group of displaced persons. Witnesses, who fled the scene, described the militia as 'loyal to the government' and added that the group consisted of about 18 gunmen on camels and horses. The militants crossed the group of displaced persons, who were working at their farms in the village of Kobe near to Gereida, and randomly opened fire on the displaced without any warning. The witnesses explained that the random firing resulted in the death of Omer Abdel Kareem and Ali Abdel Kareem, both residents of Sabi camp. Additionally, the firing resulted in the injuring of Mariam Dawood Hamad, Haleema Dawood Hamad, Abdullah Abdel Kareem and Nimeiri Abdel Kareem from Gigi camp. [ ]

They added that the gunmen raped three girls between 18 and 25 years old, after randomly shooting at the group of displaced. The witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the incident caused fear and panic among the displaced women and explained that both the police and UNAMID were informed about the incident.

• Armed group reportedly rapes displaced women

MUKJAR CAMP, West Darfur (25 November 2012) - An armed group reportedly raped three displaced women from Mukjar camp in Burgi area, Central Darfur, on Friday November 23, sources told Radio Dabanga. A source told Radio Dabanga that one of the victims is a 14-year-old girl. A relative of one of the victims, describing the armed group as a 'pro-government militia,' said that the gunmen attacked the three displaced women while they were on their way back from the farms in the area of Burgi, approximately four kilometers west of Mukjar.

• Herders critically injure four displaced, sources

MORNEI, West Darfur (29 November 2012) - Four residents from camp Mornei in West Darfur were critically injured after being heavily beaten by herders on Wednesday, 28 November, eyewitnesses informed Radio Dabanga. The herders had allegedly invaded the victims' farm in Wadi Balah, West Mornei, to graze their cattle, and the displaced were beaten after attempting to release the livestock. Onlookers affirmed the victims, beaten with rifle butts and whips, were transferred to a Mornei hospital for treatment. According to camp's residents, the herders' cattle completely destroyed the farm.

[By "herders" Radio Dabanga means to suggest the typically nomadic Arab herders of camels and cattle; the displacement of farmers from their lands (see immediately below) is indeed the "greatest threat to peace in Darfur," and yet UNAMID and the UN are doing nothing to reverse this extremely dangerous trend—ER]

• 'Settlements largest threat to peace in Darfur'

SARAF OMRA (18 November) - Residents from Dankoj, Naseem and Jebel camps in Saraf Omra locality, North Darfur, disclosed to Radio Dabanga on Friday November 16 that new settlers have changed the names of their villages of origin. The name changes have been made after the indigenous population has been displaced as a result of attacks by the Government of Sudan (GoS) and its militias, a displaced person added. A displaced person explained in an interview with Radio Dabanga that the new settlers have caused a widespread demographic change in the area of Wadi Barry, which connects North Darfur to Central Darfur.

He disclosed that some villages' names have been changed, for example: Jebel Kadees is now called Alwaha, Singo became Doha, Bordeau is now called Jimal Lummat, Buram Buram became Waha East, Albela village is now called Riyadh, and Tubou Jerto became Almalumma, Aotorreh is now called Nagah, and Timber village became Alraigeen.  Additionally, the camp resident blamed the international community for reportedly ignoring the issue of the new settlers and the demographic change it has created, which has been imposed by the Government of Sudan and its militias. He explained that the settling constitutes the largest threat to peace in Darfur….

• Herders accused of killing 3 farmers

KEREINEK, West Darfur (13 November 2012) - Gunmen, who witnesses believe to be herders, were accused of having shot dead two residents from camp Kereinek, West Darfur, on Monday morning, 12 November. On a separate incident, witnesses have accused herders of killing another farmer recently in West Darfur. The displaced, Adam Ahmed Ibrahim, and his son were shot inside their own farm, located about three hours away from the camp, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. According to reports, the perpetrators had entered the victims’ farm at nighttime with their livestock and the displaced got shot when they tried expelling the gunmen from their land.

• Gunmen kill elderly woman in North Darfur

UMM LAOTA, North Darfur (27 November 2012) - A 70-year-old woman was killed inside a farm in Umm Laota, North Darfur, as a result of random shots fired by members of the Sudanese Central Reserve Forces and pro-government militias, witnesses told Radio Dabanga on Tuesday, 27 November. According to testimonies, the armed groups were driving seven vehicles and were coming from Kutum. Upon their arrival in Umm Laota on Tuesday morning, they began shooting indiscriminately towards the villages. [Eyewitnesses] added that besides killing Hawah Yahia, the armed groups also killed horses and donkeys. Local sources explained that as a result of the attacks, they are prevented from going to their farms, to water wells and to fetch firewoodResidents from the villages of Tabarik, Karfalah, Koto, Dali Umm Tretir, Hashaba, Shroufa, Tabeldiya, Dalma, Kunjara, Kouchna, Watrodona, Goz Dor and Timo are now living in fear as they do not know what will happen.

 Herders kidnap police, injure displaced

SARAF JIDAD, West Darfur (20 November 2012) - A group of herders reportedly kidnapped three members of the community police after raiding their station at a displaced camp in Saraf Jidad area, in Sirba locality, West Darfur, on Sunday morning, 18 November, a resident told Radio Dabanga. The source added that the same group has tortured more than 60 camp residents, severely injuring 11, in two consecutive days of attacks. [ ]

Onlookers said that herders looted homes, shops and cattle and beat and tortured more than 60 people, severely injuring 11, between assaults that took place on Sunday and Monday. According to sources, before attacking the camp on Monday morning, perpetrators fired heavily in the air and then began beating the residents. Witnesses who managed to escape the area told Radio Dabanga that the perpetrators also carried out assaults in the areas of Banjedid and Moro on Monday

• Armed herders accused of stabbing displaced persons

BENDESSEY CAMP / MUKJAR CAMP, West Darfur (26 November 2012) – Armed herders are being accused of stabbing a displaced resident from Bendessey [also Bindisi] camp and another one from Mukjar camp in Central [formerly West] Darfur on Friday November 23, witnesses told Radio Dabanga.

• Armed herders accused of killing farmer

KENDEBE CAMP, West Darfur (26 November 2012) - Adam Abkar, a displaced person from Kendebe camp in West Darfur was allegedly shot dead by armed herders inside his farm on Sunday evening, November 25, Radio Dabanga has learned. A witness told Radio Dabanga that the armed herders reportedly opened fire on the farmer and shot him in the head and chest. The farmer was killed on the spot when he tried to chase the herders from his farm in Wadi Jughana at about 1 kilometer from Kendebe camp.

• Third day of attacks in Saraf Jidad

SARAF JIDAD, West Darfur (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 learnedAn armed group of herders attacked Saraf Jidad camp in Sirba locality on Sunday morning and allegedly kidnapped three policemen. The 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. [ ]

[An advisor to the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said that] 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.

• Gunmen ambush displaced men

KASSAB CAMP, North Darfur (29 November 2012) - Gunmen, alleged members of a pro-government militia, looted the belongings of two displaced persons from Kassab camp near Kutum in North Darfur. [Again, it was to Kassab camp that Khartoum denied access to the UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Displaced Persons—ER]

• Herders accused of killing 4 farmers

KODILL, North Darfur (23 November 2012) - Herders were accused of killing four farmers in two separate incidents in the last few days in North Darfur, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. The latest incident took place on Friday evening, 23 November, at 7pm, in Kodill village, east of Korma in which armed herders shot and killed the farmers Morheyedin Abdallah Farrah and Suleiman Hassan Omar. The herders had invaded the victims' farm with their livestock, and the displaced got shot when asking them to leave, sources recounted. Omda Ahmed Ateem, North Darfur camps' coordinator and the local omda, condemned the incident and affirmed that these things occur often in the region. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, Ateem asserted the herders were armed by the government of Sudan, adding that nobody was yet held accountable for the latest events.  The other incident took place in the Birka Saira area, Saraf Omra locality, according to witnesses' accounts. They told Radio Dabanga that a group of camels' owners attacked farmers on Tuesday evening, leaving two of them dead and another 10 injured.

• Militants kill camp resident

DANKOJ CAMP, North Darfur (19 November 2012) Residents from camp Dankoj in Saraf Omra locality, North Darfur, accused a pro-government militia of killing a displaced man on Sunday night, 18 November, they told Radio Dabanga. The displaced Idriss Issa Nahar was killed at the eastern sector of the camp when two gunmen driving a motorcycle, opened fire on him, according to an eyewitness. He said the perpetrators went to the victim's home at 9:40pm and, calling out his name, asked him to come outside. The moment Nahar stepped out, the witness continued, he was shot dead and the perpetrators fled. According to the source, such incidents, along with looting, happen continuously at the camp.

• 'Continuous attacks' in Saraf Omra camps

SARAF OMRA (16 November 2012) - Displaced persons from Saraf Omra camps in North Darfur have complained about the high level of insecurity in the area due to the continuous attacks executed by pro-government militias, they told Radio Dabanga on Friday, 16 November.   Residents from the Naseem, Dankoj and Jebel camps affirmed that pro-government militias carry out armed robberies and fire random shots targeting the camps.  A camps activist told Radio Dabanga that security is lacking in the area, stressing that the lives and properties of local residents are constantly under threat.

• Bombardment East Jebel Marra kills two

EAST JEBEL MARRA (November 15, 2012) - An aerial bombardment in East Jebel Marra on Wednesday morning, November 14, reportedly killed two people, Radio Dabanga was informed. The aerial bombardment was said to be carried out by the Sudanese Air Forces in several villages in East Jebel Marra. Mustafa Tambour, military spokesperson of Sudan's Liberation Movement-Abdelwahid Nur, disclosed to Radio Dabanga that the heavy shelling started at nine in the morning and lasted for approximately two hours. Tambour said that the areas of Vanaga, Jebel Hareez and East Jebel Marra were exposed to bombardments. He added that the shelling resulted in the death of a number of civilians and appealed to the UN Security Council for an intervention to stop the bombardments targeting civilians, Tambour added to Radio Dabanga from the field. At the same time, witnesses from Zam Zam camp told Radio Dabanga they heard sounds of shelling and aerial bombardments coming from Wadi Murrah and Tangarara. The witnesses added they saw at least 20 aircrafts take off from El-Fasher airport in the direction of East Jebel Marra, they added to Radio Dabanga from Zam Zam camp.

• Sources: SAF bombs East Jebel Marra EAST JEBEL MARRA (13 November 2012)

Witnesses and sources from East Jebel Marra informed Radio Dabanga that around of 25 shells were dropped by the Sudanese Air Forces (SAF) on Monday November 12. The witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the shells were dropped in the area south of Abu Zereiga and northeast of Shangil Tobay, Lamina and Wadi Murrah.


APPENDIX 1   Violence in Darfur has been growing significantly for a great many months, and the evidence has been unambiguous.  All analyses of violence listed here may be found on my website ( or Sudanese news sites, especially the Sudan Tribune.  Many also appear at Genocide Prevention Advisory Network (  or  Dissent Magazine:

[1]  "Violence in Hashaba, North Darfur: A brutal portent, another UN disgrace"
[2]  "Darfur: UN Failure and Mendacity Culminate in an Avalanche of Violence"
[3]  "Darfur Moves Yet Deeper into the Shadow of Lies"

[4]   "Darfur Update: All the News that’s Fit to Ignore"
June 15, 2012,

[5]  "They Bombed Everything that Moved"
Aerial military attacks on civilians and humanitarians in Sudan and S. Sudan, 1999-2012
June 5, 2012, substantial update to original May 2011 monograph and data spreadsheet) (
[6]  "Darfur in the Still Deepening Shadow of Lies"
May 25, 2012,
[8]  "The Seen and the Unseen in Darfur: Recent Reporting on violence, insecurity, and resettlement,”
February 29, 2012,
[9]  "Darfur: The Genocide the World Got Tired Of"

[10]  "Humanitarian Obstruction as a Crime Against Humanity: The Example of Sudan," African Studies Review, Volume 54, Number 3 (December 2011), pp. 165 – 74

[11]  "Darfur: No Way Forward from a Dangerous and Unsustainable Situation"
August 30, 2011,

[12 – 13]  "Darfur Pushed Further Into the Shadows: Contrived and Disingenuous Optimism by African Union and UN Officials" (Parts 1 and 2)
July 27, 2011,  and                                             
[14]  "How many in Darfur Have Died?" Dissent Magazine (on-line), May 21, 2011

[15]  "Amidst Accelerating Darfur Violence: Human Rights Reporting by Darfuris"
March 23, 2011,

[16]  "Darfur: No Way Forward from a Dangerous and Unsustainable Situation"

[17]  "UN Collaboration in the Silencing of Darfur," Dissent Magazine, September 5, 2010,

[18]  "Accommodating Genocide: International Response to Khartoum's 'New Strategy for Darfur,'" Dissent Magazine (featured on-line article, October 8, 2010)
[19]  For my most complete assessments of human security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur, see the relevant sections and topical annexes in
Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012  (

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.

Demand that the Obama administration speak about the fate of the Nuba Mountains (South Kordofan) and Blue Nile: Silence is acquiescence

By Eric Reeves

Will the Obama Administration declare its position on Khartoum's policy of deliberate starvation in the Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan and Blue Nile?

This question that must be forced upon President Obama and his foreign policy team, in all forums:

"Are you prepared to continue deferring to the Khartoum regime's specious claims of national sovereignty while hundreds of thousands of people are starving to death in South Kordofan and Blue Nile?  This vast assault on human lives and livelihoods is now clearly deliberate and relentless.  What will you do, Mr. Obama, to stop the dying—dying that is already well begun and poised to accelerate dramatically in coming months?"

Brief background:

November 29, 2012 (SSNA) -- On February 2, 2011 the United Nations, the African Union, and the Arab League proposed a "tripartite agreement" on humanitarian access to civilians caught in rebel-held areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.  A week later, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North accepted the agreement without qualification.  Months passed and Khartoum did not respond.  There have been feints of a response by the regime—in June and then again in August—but the most recent authoritative voices out of Khartoum hardly surprise when they declare that the agreement is "invalid" because it has "expired"—"expired" even though it was never in fact accepted by Khartoum (see below). 

Ten months after the initial proposal for humanitarian access to many hundreds of thousands of highly distressed civilians in the two border areas, there is no still no humanitarian access, and relief workers are preparing for a new onslaught of refugees in South Sudan.  Some 250,000 have already fled Blue Nile and South Kordofan.  Small quantities of surreptitious aid provided by the U.S. have been welcomed by people of the Nuba (none reached the people of Blue Nile); but it provided only a very small fraction of what is needed.  The dry season has begun and it is once again possible to move food, medicine and other supplies on the ground; but without secure access, this improvement in transport conditions is meaningless.

Given the grim timetable of refusal on Khartoum's part, the question about humanitarian access is squarely and urgently before the Obama administration.  It is time to demand answers: silence is acquiescence. 


[The assessment from Khartoum is shameless medacity: state-controlled media report, Sudan Vision, November 12, 2012

“Sudanese government declared a new initiative to deliver the humanitarian assistance to the affected citizens in the rebel-controlled areas in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan States, following the elapse of the tripartite initiative which became invalid after November 3rd, 2012. HAC Commissioner, Suleiman Abdul Rahman said that the new initiative will provide the humanitarian and medical assistance, adding that the initiative represents a favourable opportunity for the participation of international and regional organization to distribute the humanitarian assistance. Abdul Rahman added that the tripartite initiative did not achieve its objectives as admitted by the partners (UN, AU, AL). The partners emphasized that they faced harassment from the so-called SPLM-N which set deplorable conditions.” ]


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.

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