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Recent Video: People in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan Are Living in Caves—and Slowly Starving

By Eric Reeves

See October 2012 Report and Video Clip from NUBA REPORTS (http://www.nubareports.org//reports/hidden-hunger-life-caves-nuba-mountains; video also available at http://youtu.be/aKIUc6WOYSc )---

November 20, 2012 (SSNA) -- Marriam Teia pointed to a bag of grain near the doorway of her home, a small inlet in the caves of the Nuba Mountains. "This is the last sack for the kids," she told Nuba Reports. When it runs out, she said, there will be nothing left. Marriam, along with an estimated 100,000 others, have fled their homes in the volatile border region of South Kordofan and sought shelter in the rocky folds of the nearby mountains.

[Note by Eric Reeves: Because Khartoum has permitted no humanitarian access to either the Nuba Mountains or Blue Nile, figures for the number of displaced and those endangered by deteriorating humanitarian conditions can only be estimates.  The two estimates below, from two UN agencies, are almost certainly low—in part because they do not include data or reports from the past several months.  It should also be noted that some 250,000 civilians have fled Blue Nile and South Kordofan for South Sudan and Ethiopia, a number that will soon rise sharply as hunger bites more deeply and Khartoum continues its relentless aerial assault on civilian targets.  For all their uncertainty, these numbers are staggeringly large:

  • UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), SUDAN HUMANITARIAN UPDATE 3rd Quarter 2012: (While UN OCHA acknowledges that it has no presence in areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile controlled by the SPLM/A-North, it nonetheless has aggregated a range of figures, concluding that):

 

"This brings the estimated number of people displaced or severely affected by this 16-month conflict to 908,000."

  • Displacement was estimated in August to have exceeded 500,000 people in South Kordofan alone:

"Around 520,000 people have fled fighting in South Kordofan alone, Mark Cutts, the acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan told reporters in Khartoum." (Reuters [Khartoum] August 8, 2012)

NUBA REPORTS continues: As fighting between the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) increases, and the Sudan government continues scorched earth tactics across South Kordofan, citizens of the region are forced out of their lands. Abandoning farms, livestock and goods, their new home offers little: foul water, no crops, and diminishing hope. Our newest video, "A Hidden Hunger: Life in the Caves of the Nuba Mountains" exposes a population on the verge of starvation.

Eighty per cent of households in the Nuba Mountains survive on one meal per day, according to an evaluation by an independent NGO. That number is up from zero percent just two years prior and malnourishment among children is soaring.

In September, Nuba Reports spoke to Dr. Raphael Veicht with German Emergency Doctors. He noted a spike in severely malnourished children arriving at this clinic in the Nuba Mountains. "I haven't seen any food aid recently," he said. "There's no aid from anyone, from any UN agency or any foreign government."

NGO's working in the region say the humanitarian crisis is the direct result of broken promises from the Sudan government. The Tripartite Humanitarian Agreement, signed August 4th by the United Nations, African Union and League of Arab States, assured the release of food aid to South Kordofan. Months later, relief remains nonexistent.

Khartoum denies accusations it is withholding aid, but parties outside the government say otherwise. Amor Almagro, a spokesperson for the World Food Programme, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism earlier this month that despite such claims, "access has not been granted for us to carry out an assessment and deliver much needed food assistance…"

Frequent bombing by the Sudan government continues to threaten civilians' safety. More than 100 bombs fell in South Kordofan in October, according to Nuba Reports journalists. Attacks on the ground are also a concern for citizens as the SAF burns villages as part of the violent campaign against areas under Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) control.

For many, the journey to Yida refugee camp in South Sudan is a daunting choice. With over 65,000 people inhabiting a camp intended for 15,000, living conditions are poor, food stocks are low and the long walk there is dangerous.

Life in the mountains is not a solution for displaced people, however. Cave life is unsustainable, especially without land to harvest or hope for food aid. Violence surrounds the mountains but their home villages are destroyed or in too dangerous a region to which to return.

Marriam Teia told Nuba Reports that not only does she have no way to get to Yida, but it is a place she's never been before--far from her home in Tess, a village recently burned by the SAF. "I don't know where to put my heart," she said. "I'm in the middle. I want to go home."

****************

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

UNAMID Evacuates Wounded SAF Soldiers in Darfur: Larger Implications

By Eric Reeves

November 18, 2012 (SSNA) -- On November 13, 2012 the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) made the decision to provide "medevac" (medical evacuation) to approximately twelve Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers following heavy fighting with rebel forces in North Darfur. One report puts the number of evacuated wounded soldiers at two dozen.  The injured were taken to the city of el-Fasher, location of the primary SAF military base in Darfur.  Such military clashes between the SAF and rebel forces have been escalating for many months, as has violence against civilians, especially by Khartoum's proxy forces in Darfur; all this occurs even as UNAMID has resolutely insisted that fighting and violence have diminished, thus justifying a draw-down in forces.  But the grim truth is that UNAMID can't sustain an adequate security presence for the vast majority of locations in Darfur facing threats of violence by Khartoum-allied militia forces.  We might well wonder, then, why UNAMID would choose to deploy its conspicuously inadequate resources to evacuating Khartoum's combatants, especially since such medevac forms no part of UNAMID's mandate—indeed, "evacuating combatants" is neither mentioned nor suggested anywhere in the UN delineation of that mandate (running to over 1,300 words, included below as Appendix A).  Nor is the task of evacuation, by aircraft or ground vehicles, anywhere mentioned in the very lengthy and highly detailed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed by Khartoum and the UN/AU force in February 2008.

To be sure, UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick is narrowly accurate in declaring that this medevac is justified by International Humanitarian Law (the medevac was "completely in line with International Humanitarian Law"), and several of the Geneva Conventions are explicit on the question of the legality of such medical evacuation.  But Cycmanick seriously misrepresents the situation by declaring that medical evacuation of SAF soldiers is in any way part of the "core requirement of international humanitarian law, which falls under the Mission’s mandate" (UNAMID press release, November 13, 2012).   International Humanitarian Law certainly governs the UNAMID mandate and the actions of UNAMID; but again, there is not one word about medical evacuation of combatants.  On the contrary, the meaningful language of the mandate is given overly entirely to specifying the obligations of the peacekeeping force to protect civilians and humanitarians—this is the "core" task, and to suggest otherwise is simply disingenuous.  The mandate does also speak vaguely about UNAMID's assisting in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (May 2006); but the DPA had long been irrelevant when the language of the mandate was drafted, and it was simply convenient for a UN peacekeeping force to have at least a nominal "peace agreement" to be presiding over (the absurdly negotiated and widely rejected "Doha Document for Peace in Darfur" now serves as an equivalent placeholder).

Moreover, the real question here is not a legal one—it concerns the implications of UNAMID's consequential decision to use scarce transport resources for a military medevac on behalf of a regime that has an abysmal record of itself defying International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in any number of situations.  Here it should first be pointed out that UNAMID has in the past been highly selective in its use of transport resources for medevac purposes.  Cycmanick claims that UNAMID has in the past provided such services to rebel wounded and civilians; however, this is a highly questionable assertion, one borne out by pitifully little in the way of reporting from the region, including from UNAMID itself.  It is hardly surprising that one of the main rebel groups vehemently protested the medevac, since they are quite aware that their own wounded would never be accorded such assistance.  Nor would such wounded rebel combatants enjoy the protection of IHL, even in hospitals supposedly enjoying UNAMID protection.

This only highlights the perversity of invoking International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as a defense for the recent action by UNAMID.  For such defense opens UNAMID itself to any number of awkward questions:

• Why have the UN and African Union leadership done so painfully little to condemn confirmed instances of Khartoum's violations of IHL as well as International Human Rights Law (IHRL)?  These include painting military aircraft "UN white," aircraft departing directly from the air base at el-Fasher, location of UNAMID headquarters.  The previous UN Panel of Experts on Darfur—before Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat expediently sabotaged the mission—repeatedly confirmed this gross violation of IHL.  Now neither the completely inept current Panel nor UNAMID reports anything of this ongoing crime, one that endangers all humanitarian aircraft and, because unrebuked, has spread to the North/South border regions.

• Why has the UN and African Union leadership done so little to overcome Khartoum's relentless obstruction of shipments of food and medicine from Port Sudan to Darfur, another egregious violation of IHL?  Why do humanitarian organizations continue to face denial of visas and travel permits for their workers?  Why do these workers continue to face intimidation, harassment, severe limitations in movement, and explicit threats of violence or actual violence?  These are all serious violations of IHL that continue unabated, and the current Yellow Fever epidemic in West Darfur is again demonstrating the deadly consequences of humanitarian obstruction and denial of access.  This frequently fatal disease is likely to spread quickly in areas to which Khartoum continues to deny access, especially parts of Jebel Marra adjacent to the main outbreak.

• Why have UN and AU condemnations of aerial bombardment of civilians been so very occasional and so completely ineffectual?  Why has Khartoum paid no price for aerial attacks on civilian targets that continue to be a standard part of its military campaign in Darfur?  The most recent bombing attack, yet again on eastern Jebel Marra, killed two (Radio Dabanga, November 15, 2012), but there have been many hundreds since UNAMID took up its mandate on January 1, 2008 (see www.sudanbombing.org).  Why has there been no pressure to halt a practice that has been continuous on the part of the present regime for well over a decade?

• Why have the UN and AU not been more forceful in their condemnation of the humanitarian blockade of the populous Jebel Marra region, which has had no remotely adequate relief access for three years?  Again, this is an extraordinary violation of IHL.

• Why does complete impunity continue to obtain for even the most brutal violators of both IHL and IHRL in Darfur?  Why is the continuing epidemic of rape in Darfur never mentioned by UNAMID?  or even by the UN Secretary General?  This silent acquiescence gives every sign of being a decision made to appease Khartoum.

• Why do so many camps for displaced persons report chronic violence, threatening civilians in a variety of ways?   Present levels of insecurity in the camps represent a fundamental failing on the part of UNAMID in taking responsibility for its mandate.  Radio Dabanga reported on November 16, 2012 an all too typical account:

"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."

•  Why have there been no comparably urgent efforts to evacuate wounded civilians during countless violent assaults in which a UNAMID base was nearby—assaults often entailing violations of both IHL and IHRL?  The massacre of civilians in Tabarat was perhaps the most egregious failure.  The attack on Tabarat, very near Tawila in North Darfur, occurred on September 2, 2010 and was conducted by an Arab militia force allied with Khartoum and the SAF.  More than 50 African men and boys were executed, many by gunshot at point-blank range.  Scores of others were wounded, and desperate survivors made their way to nearby Tabarat to plead for assistance.  The assistance never came.  Six days after the attack, on September 8, 2010, UNAMID issued a terse statement confirming that Khartoum's forces were blocking all access to Tabarat, including assisting the many wounded and dying: "On 7 September, a UNAMID [mission] on its way from El Fasher to Tarabat [sic] was stopped by an SAF convoy and were informed by the commanding officer not to return before two days due to ongoing SAF operations in the area" (UNAMID press release [el-Fasher], September 8, 2010).

Again, many scores of African villagers had been slaughtered or wounded in this notorious event; help for these civilians was desperately needed.  And yet there was no evacuation, only silence and a shameful failure even to report on events at Tabarat.  This stands in stark contrast with the extraordinarily detailed account by Reuters in the immediate aftermath of the Tabarat massacre (see Appendix B below); the dispatch contains a number of interviews with survivors who recounted the horror of what they had seen and the desperation with which they pleaded with UNAMID personnel for medical help and evacuation of the wounded (UNAMID has a significant base in nearby Tawila).  This is the most telling context in which to understand UNAMID's decision to medevac SAF troops, and the ensuring justification for such a mission simply because it did not conflict with IHL.  What do Mr. Cycmanick and the UNAMID political leadership think about the relationship of IHL to the various events at Tabarat?

But there are many other such examples.  Much more recently UNAMID has been blocked from investigating reports of atrocities committed against civilians in the Hashaba area of North Darfur (October 2012).  The same was true in early August, when Arab militia forces overran the major town of Kutum, looting and destroying humanitarian supplies and resources, as well as newly displacing the entire population of nearby Kassab camp for IDPs ( http://www.sudanreeves.org/2012/08/13/3376/).

In Hashaba, Radio Dabanga reports eyewitness accounts suggesting that several hundred civilians were killed or injured in the period from September 26 through October 2. The attacking forces were repeatedly described by these eyewitnesses as Arab militia forces backed by SAF aerial military assets.  The reports continued to describe the attackers on the ground as belonging to "pro-government militias."  Here again, thousands of civilians were newly displaced.

Even more disturbing and significant, however, is a subsequent attack on the follow-up investigation, an unusually robust UNAMID patrol comprising 16 vehicles in all.  On October 17, 2012 a very heavily armed militia group—which had carefully anticipated the route of the UNAMID convoy traveling to Hashaba—fired from elevated ground down upon the highly vulnerable UNAMID forces.  UNAMID returned fire, but faced very intimidating weaponry and overwhelming tactical disadvantage; with the killing of one UNAMID soldier and the wounding of three others (one critically), the force retreated back to Kutum.  The South African soldier killed was the 43rd to die in a mission that has been consistently poorly led and betrayed by the political unwillingness of UNAMID leaders to confront Khartoum over its actions, and those of its proxies.

The character of the weapons used in the attack on UNAMID forces was reported in uncharacteristic detail (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], October 22, 2012):

"'[The attackers] used arsenals of high-calibre weapons that were never used before,' UNAMID spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri said in a written reply to AFP questions. ‘This includes mortars, medium machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47 rifles, and anti-tank guns.'"

Edmond Mulet, deputy head of UN peacekeeping operations, would later declare in an October 24 briefing of the UN Security Council that the attacking force used "heavy machine guns," a fearsomely destructive weapon when fired with the advantage of significantly higher ground position.

This was no ordinary militia assault: it is clear that the UNAMID convoy was attacked, on the basis of advance intelligence, so as to prevent the investigation of atrocity crimes and egregious violations of IHRL reported from Hashaba.

UNAMID's invoking of IHL on the occasion of its medevac operation for SAF soldiers could hardly be more specious with this as context.  As UNAMID knows full well, Khartoum has blocked humanitarian and medical access to civilians in desperate, even emergency need on countless occasions; often these are civilians who have been wounded or raped during actions by Khartoum's forces and militias, further conspicuous violations of IHRL.  At such moments, so relentlessly persistent over the five years of UNAMID presence in Darfur, we hear nothing or virtually nothing from UNAMID's Cycmanick about either IHL or IHRL.

IHL and Khartoum's military operations elsewhere in greater Sudan

If we look further afield, there are a great many more questions that provide context for UNAMID's deplorable decision to medevac SAF soldiers, using scarce aerial resources that have not been deployed on those occasions when civilians were clearly at risk or had been reliably reported as wounded:

• Is UNAMID not aware that on August 2, 2011 the SAF refused to allow for the urgent medevac of three mortally wounded UN peacekeepers in Abyei (the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, UNISFA)?  Despite repeated attempts to secure permission from the SAF in Kadugli (South Kordofan) for helicopter evacuation, the UN was rebuffed on each occasion until it had become too late. One of the mortally wounded soldiers would have likely survived if he had reached Kadugli in timely fashion. Alain Le Roy, then head of UN peacekeeping, declared bluntly that, "We didn't get the clearance for the Medevac helicopter to take off immediately. They [Khartoum's SAF] prevented us to take off by threatening to shoot at the helicopter." 

• Is UNAMID unaware that in June 2011 UN human rights observers in Kadugli observed the SAF and its proxies kill a great number of civilians because of their Nuba ethnicity?  Is UNAMID leadership unaware that some 7,000 civilians were removed from UN protective custody in Kadugli by Khartoum's Military Intelligence and have never subsequently been accounted for?  Is UNAMID unaware of assaults by SAF forces on UN employees in Kadugli, detailed in a leaked UN human rights report?

"The attacks on [UN Mission in Sudan, Kadugli], its staff and assets are so egregious that condemnation is insufficient. The conduct of the SAF, the PDF, the Central Reserve Police Force, and the Government Police, singularly and collectively, has frustrated and weakened the capacity of the UNMIS to implement in Southern Kordofan a mandate given to it by the UN Security Council. The conduct has also resulted in loss of life and injury of UN staff." (§74)

The UN report specifically invokes both IHL and IHRL in expressing its outrage at the acts committed by Khartoum's SAF and its proxies; the report also demands a UN investigation and strongly suggests that there be a referral to the International Criminal Court:

"The international community must hold the Government of Sudan accountable for this conduct and insist that those responsible be arrested and brought to justice. [This] report further recommends that an independent and comprehensive investigation be conducted, into violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws in Southern Kordofan with the view to bringing those who bear the greatest responsibility to justice, including referral as appropriate to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)." (Executive Summary)

There has of course been no such investigation—merely lip-service support for such an investigation from the likes of present U.S. special envoy Princeton Lyman and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

• Is UNAMID unaware that, in outrageous violation of IHL, Khartoum continues to deny humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains (South Kordofan) and Blue Nile more than 17 months after hostilities were initiated by the regime?  A million people face slow starvation and pressure to flee their homes and lands because of this deliberately destructive violation of IHL.

• Is UNAMID unaware that there are numerous, redundantly corroborated reports of the systematic destruction of food supplies in the Nuba?  Many of these extraordinary violations of IHL and IHRL have been conducted by the infamous "Match Brigade," such as the complete destruction of Um Bartumbu village in March 2012 (www.NubaReports.org has posted a "screen grab" from this action, reportedly found on the body of a Popular Defense Forces militia member in the Jebel Toma area later the same month).  I have received reports from the Nuba of an increased use of incendiary bombs by Khartoum in an effort to inflict greater damage on the harvest still underway; the seasonal rains no longer prevent wildfires among what little there is in the way of mature crops, especially sorghum.

•  Is UNAMID unaware that Khartoum deliberately bombed refugee camps in both Upper Nile and Unity states in South Sudan on November 8 and 10, 2011?  This entailed multiple egregious violations of IHL, IHRL, and other key tenets of international law.

• Is UNAMID unaware that Khartoum has again been repeatedly and highly credibly accused of using military aircraft painted "UN white," both for reconnaissance purposes along the North/South border and in delivering supplies to renegade militia leader David Yau Yau, the man presently most responsible for terrible civilian destruction in Jonglei State and a widespread inflaming of ethnic tensions—a campaign he may soon bring to Upper Nile State?

• Is UNAMID unaware of how many times Khartoum denied humanitarian access to South Sudan during the civil war, leaving millions of people at greatly increased risk?  How many times Khartoum's military aircraft deliberately attacked hospitals, feeding facilities, even humanitarian relief sites clearly marked as belong to the International Committee of the Red Cross?

The question of UNAMID awareness or ignorance of the larger context for their decision to medevac SAF soldiers is essential here; but UNAMID spokesman Cycmanick seems oblivious and the interim head of UNAMID, Aichatou Mindaoudou, seems content to issue anodyne statements about Darfur on the occasion of her first, highly controlled visit to the region.  She has said nothing publicly about the UNAMID decision to medevac SAF troops, or indeed anything of consequence about UNAMID's mandate: "continued fighting is a dead end that only harms the people of Darfur."  Concerning IHL and IHRL she indulges a familiar "moral equivalence" that betrays the people of Darfur and contributes to what virtually all Darfuris see as a continuing climate of impunity, deliberately maintained by Khartoum:

"'Ms. Mindaoudou urges all sides to cease hostilities immediately, respect international human rights and humanitarian law, and engage fully in the peaceful settlement of Darfur conflict,' UNAMID added in a news release." (UN News Centre, November 12, 2012)

In connection with the very recent murder and displacement of many civilians in the Sigili area of North Darfur, Ms. Mindaoudou places no blame but only generally deplores "all forms of violence in Darfur":

"'I am dismayed by these deaths, and very concerned over the repeated incidents that have led to the killing, injury of the local population, as well as their displacement," said UNAMID's Acting Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator Aichatou Mindaoudou. 'I reiterate my strong condemnation of all forms of violence in Darfur, especially the attacks against civilians, which constitute serious crimes,' she added in a news release.' [ ] 'I urge all the parties to avoid violence and choose the path of peace and negotiated settlement,' Ms. Mindaoudou stated." (UN News Centre, November 3, 2012)

Khartoum certainly feels that it has prevailed if it confronts only such incontrovertible assessments, and "urgings" that have no political support; moreover, Mindaoudou fails to assign responsibility for the violence, despite a great deal of evidence about who carried it out.  Much more usefully, Radio Dabanga reports—on the basis of eyewitness accounts—that Khartoum-allied militia forces were responsible for the violence at Sigili (southeast of el-Fasher):

"About 1,000 people, or 140 families, from Sigili in Shawa area, North Darfur, have reportedly fled their village following the militia attack that left 13 people dead last Friday, 2 November, locals told Radio Dabanga.  According to sources, virtually all inhabitants left the Shawa area and are moving to El-Fasher and to Zam Zam camp, they explained to Radio Dabanga on Thursday, 8 November. In addition, reports concerning a new imminent attack in Sigili by a militia based in Kalimandou, have also influenced the large displacement of residents, according to witnesses. [ ] Witnesses and activists appealed to UNAMID and to the international community to protect the civilians stranded with their livestock and who are threatened to be attacked once more by government militias." (November 10, 2012)

Claims that the medevac of SAF soldiers is a "core responsibility" of UNAMID because of IHL obligations ring hollow when such reports of civilian endangerment and casualties are essentially ignored.

Why would UNAMID decide to conduct the medevac?

UNAMID's poorly timed and even more poorly justified decision to medevac Khartoum's combatants raises serious questions about consequences as well as about motives.  Certainly the action will further alienate both Darfuri civil society—already contemptuous of UNAMID—and the Darfur rebel groups, which have long felt, with good reason and considerable evidence, that UNAMID was not impartial and had taken sides with the regime in Khartoum.  Increased Darfuri hostility towards its mission and personnel is the last thing UNAMID needs as it scales back the size of the force, claiming as justification improved security on the ground.  But the real issue is why UNAMID would decide as it did.  In fact, it is highly likely—although UNAMID will never admit as much—that SAF commanding officers demanded that their soldiers be medevac'd, threatening UNAMID with grave consequences if it did not comply.

Such threats of reprisal cannot be taken lightly.  Here we should also recall the history of SAF hostility to and obstruction of UNAMID, as well as many explicit threats of violence against this UN-authorized force.  A report by the Secretary General from November 16, 2010 notes:

"In the context of this ongoing violence, freedom of movement continues to be a serious concern for UNAMID and many of the agencies in Darfur. Since January 2009, there have been at least 42 incidents in which a UNAMID patrol was denied passage by a Government official, including incidents in which Government officials specifically threatened the safety of UNAMID staff and equipment." (page 3)

One example cited in the report is particularly telling:

"On 29 September 2009, an SAF representative in Shaeria locality informed UNAMID that the failure to provide authorities with prior notification of a patrol would result in the patrol being attacked." (page 4)

In its report of January 28, 2011 on Darfur, Human Rights Watch noted that, "The Government of] Sudan has continued to restrict UN and humanitarian agencies from accessing conflict-affected areas, including Tabit, the site of the January 25 [2011] clash."  This restriction occurred during what represents perhaps the most egregious violation of IHL in Khartoum's response to UNAMID's efforts to fulfill its true mandate:

"UNAMID spokesman Kemal Saiki confirmed the bombing was by 'the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) air force.' Later on Wednesday [January 26, 2011], a group of 200 Sudanese government soldiers in 40 vehicles arrived at UNAMID's camp in the nearby settlement of Shangil Tobay, UNAMID said. '(The soldiers) surrounded the team site's exit as well as the adjacent makeshift camp, where thousands of civilians recently displaced by the December 2010 clashes have settled,' read the statement. The Sudanese army detained four displaced people at the camp, said UNAMID. 'The SAF commander at the scene ... then threatened to burn down the makeshift camp and UNAMID team site, if the peacekeepers continued to interfere.'"  (Reuters [Khartoum], January 27, 2011)

Reuters had reported two days earlier (January 25, 2011) the UN had confirmed "Sudanese soldiers fired warning shots when they saw a UNAMID patrol on Saturday [January 22, 2011] near the north Darfur settlement of Dar el-Salam and stopped it from entering the area, a UN source said."

Dismayingly, access issues were made into a political football by the Obama administration's special envoy for Sudan, Scott Gration, who declared shortly before he ended his disastrous tenure: "'The Government of Sudan has taken great steps to lift restrictions on UNAMID,' he said. 'We’ve seen great improvement of access for UNAMID and for the international NGOs'" (Reuters, February 11, 2011).  Gration—who predicted peace would come to Darfur by the end of 2009 and that the 2010 national Sudanese elections would be "as free and fair as possible"—bears major responsibility for the collective decision to acquiesce before Khartoum's intransigence and its ruthless evisceration of UNAMID capacity.

UNAMID's real mandate

The language of the UNAMID mandate is included in its entirety below, but the mission's key terms of reference begin with these four charges:

[1]  "protect its personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its own personnel and humanitarian workers;

[2]  "support early and effective implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, prevent the disruption of its implementation and armed attacks, and protect civilians, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan. 

[NB: the mandate was emended per UN Security Council Resolution 2003 to refer instead to the "Doha Document for Peace in Darfur," an agreement as untenable as the DPA and almost universally rejected by Darfuri civil society, political leadership, and the rebel groups—ER]

[3]  "To contribute to the restoration of necessary security conditions for the safe provision of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate full humanitarian access throughout Darfur;

[4]  "To contribute to the protection of civilian populations under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks against civilians, within its capability and areas of deployment, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan."

UNAMID's failure in all these tasks has been abject.  It has been no more successful in taking on other parts of the stipulated mandate:

[5] "To monitor, observe compliance with and verify the implementation of various ceasefire agreements signed since 2004, as well as assist with the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements."

Monitoring has consistently been limited by a lack of resources, a lack of leadership and commitment, and because Khartoum has engineered a climate so threatening that UNAMID is now largely paralyzed.  Its weak efforts to monitor "compliance" with the "various ceasefire agreements signed since 2004" have had no chance for success, given the regime's relentless denial of access to places where the "ceasefires" have been violated.

UNAMID is to "assist in the promotion of the rule of law in Darfur, including through support for strengthening an independent judiciary and the prison system."  Again, there has been no progress whatsoever during the five years of UNAMID's deployment.  Incarceration, however arbitrary, is the prerogative of Khartoum's Military Intelligence, as it has been since conflict began.

UNAMID is also to "contribute to a secure environment for economic reconstruction and development, as well as the sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes."  But a great many more civilians have been newly displaced since UNAMID took up its mandate (well over 1 million people) than have fully returned to their homes (fewer than 100,000, even if one accepts the UN's dubious reckoning of this figure).

"Means" for implementing the mandate

It becomes painfully clear in reading the language of the mandate that it is almost circular: goals and means are articulated in the very same terms.  Even so, the emphasis continues to fall decisively on civilian protection:

The mandate demands that UNAMID "contribute to the promotion of respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Darfur."  This demand stands as an appallingly grim joke in Darfur.

Other "means" for UNAMID to fulfill its mandate:

"To promote the re-establishment of confidence, deter violence and assist in monitoring and verifying the implementation of the redeployment and disengagement provisions of the Darfur Peace Agreement, including by actively providing security and robust patrolling of redeployment and buffer zones, by monitoring the withdrawal of long-range weapons, and by deploying hybrid police, including formed police units, in areas where internally displaced persons are concentrated, in the demilitarized and buffer zones [there are no such "zones" in Darfur—ER], along key routes of migration and in other vital areas, including as provided for in the Darfur Peace Agreement."

No "long-range weapons" have been withdrawn from Darfur; on the contrary, weapons and ammunition of primarily Chinese manufacture continue to pour into Darfur, as the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur—charged with monitoring the UN-imposed arms embargo—made painfully clear during the first five years of its existence.  As noted above, the Panel has since degenerated into a meaningless and utterly uninspired fig-leaf put in place for political reasons by the UN Secretariat.  "Robust patrolling" has never been a significant part of UNMID's activities, and such patrols are now increasingly rare.  Formed Police Units (FPU) are present in only a few camps, and these are some of the first elements of UNAMID to be deployed out.

UNAMID also has as part of its mandate "To monitor, verify and promote efforts to disarm the Janjaweed and other militias."  The UN Security Council first "demanded" that Khartoum "disarm" the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice in July 2004 (Resolution 1556).  There has been absolutely no progress on this front over more than eight years.  Some former Janjaweed have been recycled into other paramilitary guises (e.g., the Border Intelligence Police and Abu Tira, or Central Reserve Police).  In turn, the Abu Tira in particular are implicated in a tremendous amount of the continuing violence against civilians.

UNAMID is also to:

"…contribute to the creation of the necessary security conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate the voluntary and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes;

"…to ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations-African Union personnel, humanitarian workers and Assessment and Evaluation Commission personnel, to prevent disruption of the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement by armed groups andwithout prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks and threats against civilians;

"…to assist in harnessing the capacity of women to participate in the peace process, including through political representation, economic empowerment and protection from gender-based violence."

As noted above, UNAMID no longer even reports on the avalanche of sexual violence—and fear of such violence—that continues to sweep across Darfur and dominate the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Darfuri women and girls, overwhelmingly from the non-Arab or African tribal groups. 

And critically, UNAMID has been charged "…to monitor through proactive patrolling the parties' policing activities in camps for internally displaced persons, demilitarized and buffer zones and areas of control." In this last task, UNAMID has disgracefully, abjectly failed. As the report from the Saraf Omra camps in North Darfur (see above) makes clear, along with countless similar reports, violence is pervasive and uncontrolled in the camp areas, where living conditions continue to deteriorate.

UNAMID is at once the most expensive UN peacekeeping operation in the world and the least effective.  Given the urgent needs for peacekeeping resources elsewhere, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has decided that it will draw down the force substantially.  Although Hervé Ladsous, head of UN peacekeeping, has declared that the force reduction has been dictated by changed "realities on the ground" (i.e., improved security), this claim is nothing more than a cynical bit of face-saving mendacity.  The tremendously challenging operation in Darfur was the first undertaken by the then relatively newly formed African Union Peace and Security Council.  The initial failure of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), though widely acknowledged, seemed not to faze the AUPSC leadership; instead, earlier failure led in the end not to an effective UN protective force (per the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1706, August 2006), but a force acceptable to Khartoum—a "hybrid" UN and African Union force that was to be "predominantly African" in makeup.  No matter that this ensured the force would comprise a great many poorly trained and ill-equipped personnel from many different countries that had not previously worked together; no matter, in short, that such capitulation before Khartoum's demands ensured the disaster to which we have been witness.  The regime's obduracy has prevailed, and neither the African Union nor the UN will challenge the regime. The have much company.

This unwillingness to challenge the regime has steadily emboldened the ruthless men in Khartoum, and their military representatives in Darfur.  When the SAF demanded that UNAMID medevac its wounded soldiers—as it almost certainly did—there was again no resistance.  Instead, we heard only the deplorably disingenuous invoking of "International Humanitarian Law" by spokesman Cycmanick.

UNAMID is on the verge of collapse; certainly its ability and capacity to take on the primary responsibilities specified in its mandate have all but vanished.  As a consequence, we may expect what is already massive violence against civilians to continue to increase in the coming months.

Eric Reeves is author of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012, at www.CompromisingWithEvil.org ] 

Appendix A: Full text of UNAMID mandate:

UNAMID Mandate

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council, by its resolution 1769 of 31 July 2007 decided that UNAMID is authorized to take the necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities in order to:

•protect its personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its own personnel and humanitarian workers;

•support early and effective implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, prevent the disruption of its implementation and armed attacks, and protect civilians, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan.

•The Council also decided that the mandate of UNAMID shall be as set out in paragraphs 54 and 55 of the report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission [S/2007/307/Rev.1 of 5 June 2007, namely as follows:

•To contribute to the restoration of necessary security conditions for the safe provision of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate full humanitarian access throughout Darfur;

•To contribute to the protection of civilian populations under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks against civilians, within its capability and areas of deployment, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan;

•To monitor, observe compliance with and verify the implementation of various ceasefire agreements signed since 2004, as well as assist with the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements;

•To assist the political process in order to ensure that it is inclusive, and to support the African Union-United Nations joint mediation in its efforts to broaden and deepen commitment to the peace process;

•To contribute to a secure environment for economic reconstruction and development, as well as the sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes;

•To contribute to the promotion of respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Darfur;

•To assist in the promotion of the rule of law in Darfur, including through support for strengthening an independent judiciary and the prison system, and assistance in the development and consolidation of the legal framework, in consultation with relevant Sudanese authorities;

•To monitor and report on the security situation at the Sudan’s borders with Chad and the Central African Republic.

In order to achieve these broad goals, the operation’s tasks would include the following:

Support for the peace process and good offices:

•To support the good offices of the African Union/United Nations Joint Special Representative for Darfur and the mediation efforts of the Special Envoys of the African Union and the United Nations;

•To support and monitor the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and subsequent agreements;

•To participate in and support the major bodies established by the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements in the implementation of their mandate, including through the provision of technical assistance and logistical support to those bodies;

•To facilitate the preparation and conduct of the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation, as stipulated in the Darfur Peace Agreement;

•To assist in the preparations for the conduct of the referendums provided for in the Darfur Peace Agreement;

•To ensure the complementary implementation of all peace agreements in the Sudan, particularly with regard to the national provisions of those agreements, and compliance with the Interim National Constitution;

•To liaise with UNMIS, the African Union Liaison Office for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and other stakeholders to ensure complementary implementation of the mandates of UNMIS, the African Union Liaison Office for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the hybrid operation in Darfur;

[ UNMIS no longer exists, and UNAMID does not liaise with UNMISS, the successor force—ER ]

Security:

•To promote the re-establishment of confidence, deter violence and assist in monitoring and verifying the implementation of the redeployment and disengagement provisions of the Darfur Peace Agreement, including by actively providing security and robust patrolling of redeployment and buffer zones, by monitoring the withdrawal of long-range weapons, and by deploying hybrid police, including formed police units, in areas where internally displaced persons are concentrated, in the demilitarized and buffer zones, along key routes of migration and in other vital areas, including as provided for in the Darfur Peace Agreement;

•To monitor, investigate, report and assist the parties in resolving violations of the Darfur Peace Agreement and subsequent complementary agreements through the Ceasefire Commission and the Joint Commission;

•To monitor, verify and promote efforts to disarm the Janjaweed and other militias;

•To coordinate non-combat logistical support for the movements;

•To assist in the establishment of the disarmament, demobilization andreintegration programme called for in the Darfur Peace Agreement;

•To contribute to the creation of the necessary security conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate the voluntary and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes;

•In the areas of deployment of its forces and within its capabilities, to protect the hybrid operation’s personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, to ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations-African Union personnel, humanitarian workers and Assessment and Evaluation Commission personnel, to prevent disruption of the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement by armed groups and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks and threats against civilians;

•To monitor through proactive patrolling the parties’ policing activities in camps for internally displaced persons, demilitarized and buffer zones and areas of control;

•To support, in coordination with the parties, as outlined in the Darfur Peace Agreement, the establishment and training of community police in camps for internally displaced persons, to support capacity-building of the Government of the Sudan police in Darfur, in accordance with international standards of human rights and accountability, and to support the institutional development of the police of the movements;

•To support the efforts of the Government of the Sudan and of the police of the movements to maintain public order and build the capacity of Sudanese law enforcement in this regard through specialized training and joint operations;

•To provide technical mine-action advice and coordination and demining capacity to support the Darfur Peace Agreement;

Rule of law, governance, and human rights:

•To assist in the implementation of the provisions of the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements relating to human rights and the rule of law and to contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to respect for human rights and the rule of law, in which all are ensured effective protection;

•To assist all stakeholders and local government authorities, in particular in their efforts to transfer resources in an equitable manner from the federal Government to the Darfur states, and to implement reconstruction plans and existing and subsequent agreements on land use and compensation issues;

•To support the parties to the Darfur Peace Agreement in restructuring and building the capacity of the police service in Darfur, including through monitoring, training, mentoring, co-location and joint patrols;

•To assist in promoting the rule of law, including through institution-building, and strengthening local capacities to combat impunity;

•To ensure an adequate human rights and gender presence capacity, and expertise in Darfur in order to contribute to efforts to protect and promote human rights in Darfur, with particular attention to vulnerable groups;

•To assist in harnessing the capacity of women to participate in the peace process, including through political representation, economic empowerment and protection from gender-based violence;

•To support the implementation of provisions included in the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements relating to upholding the rights of children;

Humanitarian assistance:

•To facilitate the effective provision of humanitarian assistance and full access to people in need.

• In its most recent resolution 2003 of 29 July 2011, the Security Council underlined the need for UNAMID to make full use of its capabilities and prioritize the protection of civilians; safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access; and to complement efforts to promote the peace as well as the political process negotiated in Doha, Qatar. It demanded that all parties to the conflict, including all armed movements, immediately end the violence and make every effort to reach a permanent ceasefire and a comprehensive settlement under the Doha Document.

 Appendix B: Reuters account of the Tabarat massacre of September 2010

On September 2, 2010 in the market area of the village of Tabarat, some 20 kilometers west of Tawila (which is south of Kutum and site of a UNAMID base), more than 50 ethnically African men and boys were killed, most by gunshots at point-blank range. Despite desperately urgent reports carried by survivors to the UNAMID force stationed at nearby Tawila that evening, UNAMID refused either to intervene or to evacuate the scores of wounded, many of whom subsequently died of their wounds. Reuters reported (Khartoum, 17 September 2010) various eyewitness accounts from Tabarat, which give us some sense of what likely occurred in Hashaba.  Khartoum’s security forces prevented UNAMID from investigating events in Tabarat for over a week, and it is still the case that what we know comes primarily from a series of Reuters interviews with survivors of the massacre:

“Darfuri men were shot dead at point blank range during a surprise Arab militia raid on a busy market this month in which at least 39 people were killed and almost 50 injured, eyewitnesses said on Friday. The attack on civilians was reminiscent of the early years of the counter-insurgency operation in Sudan’s west, which took up arms against the government in 2003, complaining that the region had been neglected by Khartoum. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has since issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes in Darfur, charges he denies.

“Details of the September 2 attack on the market in the village of Tabarat have not previously come to light. The government prevented peacekeepers from visiting the site until days later. But five survivors of the attack told Reuters that heavily armed Arab militia had targeted male victims and shot many at point blank range. One diplomat said the militia were likely from among those armed and mobilized by the government to quell the rebels. Those militia, known as Janjaweed, were responsible for mass rape, murder and looting. Many of the tribal militia still support the government but Khartoum has lost control over some.

“In Tabarat, men were rounded up by militia wearing military uniforms who rode into the market on horses and camels pretending to be buying goods before spraying the shops with gunfire. Then vehicles mounted with machine guns and carrying militia fighters appeared and rounded up some of the men, survivors said.

“‘They laid them down and they came up close and shot them in their heads,’ Abakr Abdelkarim, 45, told Reuters by telephone from the town of Tawilla, where many of the victims had sought refuge and medical help. ‘(Those killed) were all men and one woman—some men were tied with rope behind the cars and dragged until they died.’”

RUN FOR HIS LIFE

“Adam Saleh said he had run for his life and hidden in nearby fields to watch from afar. ‘They were targeting men—all of them were shot in the head and chest, only those who were running away got shot in their legs and arms.’ Nour Abdallah, 45, said the attackers let most of the women run away. She could not escape and so lay face down in the dirt. ‘They told me not to lift my head up or I would be shot too.’

“Saleh and others said after the attack they had gone to the joint U.N.-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping base in Tawilla to ask peacekeepers to come to Tabarat but they had refused. ‘They also refused to come and help us recover the bodies,’ Saleh added. UNAMID has said both rebels and the government prevented it getting access to the area.

“A UNAMID spokesman said he could not comment on the witness reports but an internal document seen by Reuters showed UNAMID had received similar witness reports of men being executed. The only aid agency working in Tawilla, Médecins Sans Frontières, said it could confirm 39 people died and it had treated 46 injured, many with ‘serious gunshot wounds.’ ‘We saw only men,’ said MSF head of mission Alessandro Tuzza. He said he could not comment on how the victims were shot but that MSF was still negotiating with the government to get access to the area in North Darfur province.

“The witnesses said they had buried 41 bodies in common graves but more were still in the bushes around the market. Sudan’s army denied involvement in the attack and said the local government was investigating. ‘The North Darfur government have formed a security committee to investigate this.’ Presidential adviser Ghazi Salaheddin visited the area on Friday on a fact-finding mission.” (Opheera McDoom for Reuters [Khartoum], September 17, 2010)

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

International Acceptance of Khartoum's Continuing Campaign of Extermination

Fate of the "Tripartite Agreement" on Humanitarian Access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile

By Eric Reeves

November 12, 2012 (SSNA) -- For well over a year, the world has known fully—from a wide rangThe e of sources—about military efforts by Khartoum to starve more than one million civilians in South Kordofan, and subsequently Blue Nile—overwhelmingly people of the African tribal groups in these two regions.  These people are perceived by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime as the civilian base of support for the indigenous political and military rebellion by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-North).  The means of destruction have been various, but starvation is the potent weapon of mass destruction that is every day more fully deployed, not only in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, but in the refugee camps in South Sudan (and to a lesser extent in Ethiopia) to which some 250,000 people have fled (OCHA Sudan Humanitarian Bulletin, October 22 – 28, 2012).  Many have died during this flight or in camps that have been nearly overwhelmed by the challenges of providing humanitarian assistance in these remote regions, particularly Upper Nile State.  Many more have died invisibly in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Humanitarian indicators, discussed below in overview, are terrifying and rapidly growing worse.

Again, the international community has known full well what was occurring, and why, since late June 2011.  The consequences of Khartoum's initiation of hostilities in Blue Nile (September 1, 2011) have been equally clear from countless reports, despite the lack of access to most of the region.  Refugees have told horrifying stories that have become unforgivably familiar.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization had declared in early October 2011 that harvests would "largely fail" because of the violence Khartoum had initiated and purposefully directed at civilians and agricultural production.  By December 2011 the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNet) was predicting "near-famine conditions" in the Nuba Mountains by the following March (2012).  And yet there were no consequential actions or commitments by the international community until early February 2012.  On February 2, the United Nations, the African Union, and the Arab League jointly proposed a humanitarian access agreement, designed to provide critically needed food and medical deliveries in those areas controlled by the SPLA-North. A week later, the SPLM-North accepted the proposal without qualification.  Since that time—over nine months ago—there has been no further movement toward actual implementation of the agreement: Khartoum continues to refuse all international humanitarian access.  To be sure, the regime has changed its explanation for refusing to implement the agreement, to which it had nominally committed last June, and again in August.  But the most recent comments from the regime-controlled press in Khartoum suggest retreat into a wholly predictable obduracy.

This obduracy is captured all too well in a November 12 dispatch from Sudan Vision, which fairly trips over itself in piling lie upon lie:

"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." (Sudan Vision, November 12, 2012, "Sudan Announces New Initiative to Address Humanitarian Situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile")

It says something profoundly dismaying that the Khartoum regime feels so emboldened by international inertia and expediency that it can indulge in this bizarre concatenation of outright lies.  The "tripartite initiative" (of the UN, AU, and Arab League) has not become "invalid": it is as valid and a great deal more urgently needed than when it was first proposed over nine months ago.  On the other hand, Khartoum's "new initiative" to assist "affected citizens in the rebel-controlled areas" will quite certainly be a re-packaging of previous and wholly inadequate proposals, none of which begins to address the vast humanitarian crisis confronting more than 1 million people.  The UN, AU, and Arab League initiative was never implemented: it is absurd to declare that it "did not achieve its objectives," a judgment certainly not rendered by any spokesperson for these organizations.  Similarly, there has been no public utterance by any spokesperson to the effect that these organizations "faced harassment from the so-called SPLM-N, which set deplorable conditions."  The SPLM-North set no conditions, and again signed within days of the initial "tripartite proposal" last February.

And yet despite Khartoum's mendacity and brutal obduracy, the international response will almost certainly be a reprise of unctuous handwringing and declarations of "demands" that humanitarian corridors be opened.  At the same time, we should expect continuing "engagement" with Khartoum, engagement that extends even to discussion of lifting sanctions and providing debt relief—all this because of the agreement signed with Juba on September 27 and a deeply compromised implementing of the Southern self-determination referendum.  Like Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile have been "de-coupled" from the Obama administration's Sudan policy, and other international actors have been content to follow suit.

I received today from Dr. Tom Catena, the only surgeon remaining in the Nuba, more of the photographs that chronicle the effects of relentless Antonov bombing attacks in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  The victims on this occasion were two women, both in their sixties; like so many other photographs taken by Dr. Catena of his patients, they are stomach-churning.  I asked him in a reply email about the view from inside the Nuba Mountains of the "tripartite agreement" and the international provision of humanitarian aid; his reply cuts through a great deal of the self-serving bluster from the likes of U.S. special envoy Princeton Lyman, UN head of humanitarian operations Valerie Amos, the AU's chief mediator Thabo Mbeki, and a range of voices from the European Union:

"Most people here aren't aware of the tripartite agreement, and the SPLA-N leadership feels the Khartoum government will always find a way to prevent aid from reaching us.  Really no one has any hope that humanitarian aid will come here as long as the [NCP regime in Khartoum] are in control." (email received November 12, 2012)

The world has done nothing to convince these people that their assessment requires any revision.

THE TRIPARTITE AGREEMENT: A time-line

February 2, 2012: The United Nations, the African Union, and the Arab League jointly propose a reasonable and critically needed arrangement for the provision of international humanitarian assistance to acutely distressed civilian populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

February 9, 2012: The SPLM-North formally accepts the tripartite proposal.

February 14, 2012: The members of the Security Council,

"…call upon the Government of Sudan to allow immediate access to United Nations personnel, including access to conduct a needs assessment.  The members of the Security Council further called upon the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-Northern Sector (SPLM‑N) to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations, and ensure, in accordance with international law, including applicable international humanitarian law, and guiding principles of emergency humanitarian assistance, the safe, unhindered and immediate access of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel, as well as the delivery of supplies and equipment, in order to allow such personnel to efficiently perform their task of assisting conflict-affected civilian population in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States." (SC/10543; AFR/2336)

March 21, 2012Sudan Tribune reports that Khartoum "has decided to withhold consent to an initiative proposed by the United Nations, African Union, and the Arab League on delivery of aid to South Kordofan pending further assessment."

May 2, 2012: The UN Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 2046, "Expressing deep concern at the humanitarian situation created by the fighting between Sudan and South Sudan, and the continued fighting in the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, in Sudan."  The resolution makes a series of demands, of both Khartoum and Juba; Khartoum for its part simply ignores virtually all of these demands.

Under Chapter 7 authority, the resolution:

"Strongly urges Sudan and the SPLM-N to accept the tripartite proposal submitted by the African Union, the United Nations and the League of Arab States, to permit humanitarian access to the affected population in the two areas, ensuring in accordance with applicable international law, including applicable international humanitarian law, and guiding principles of emergency humanitarian assistance, the safe, unhindered and immediate access of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel, as well as the delivery of supplies and equipment, in order to allow such personnel to efficiently perform their task of assisting the conflict-affected civilian population."

May 14, 2012: Khartoum reiterates its rejection of all negotiations with the SPLM-North.

June 2012:  Khartoum claims to have accepted the tripartite agreement, but in fact this acceptance is wholly specious.  Even the excessively cautious Valerie Amos, UN humanitarian chief, declares at the time:

"While the Sudanese Government announced its acceptance of the Tripartite Proposal of the African Union (AU), the Arab League and the UN for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, the Government has laid out operational conditions that do not allow for the delivery of assistance by neutral parties in SPLM-N-controlled areas, Ms. Amos noted."

"'I therefore continue to call on the Government of Sudan to deliver on its stated commitment: that assistance can reach all Sudanese people in need,' Ms. Amos said, reiterating the UN's commitment to work with all parties to 'find an acceptable solution for the immediate delivery of assistance to all people in need.'" (UN News Centre, June 29, 2012)

Amos made clear that the whole purpose of the tripartite agreement had been vitiated:

"…the Government has laid out operational conditions that do not allow for the delivery of assistance by neutral parties in SPLM-N-controlled areas."

In fact, the conditions laid out by Khartoum were such that nothing changed on the ground, and the regime retained complete control over humanitarian delivery,

"….based on the nine principles as mentioned below on the distribution of humanitarian aid to be carried out by the Sudanese Red Crescent (SRC) and any other NGOs approved by the Government of Sudan and observed by World Food Program (WFP) and the implementation modalities to be agreed upon." (Khartoum’s statement from Addis Ababa, June 27, 2012)

August 4, 2012: In a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Addis Ababa by the SPLM-North, the Khartoum regime, and representatives of the UN, AU, and Arab League, the SPLM-North reiterates its commitment to the Tripartite Agreement, although registering concern that "the whole operation is dependent on the consent of the Government of Sudan on access to the SPLM/North-controlled areas."  This reservation has proved to be more than amply justified.  From the August 4 document:

[1] "The Tripartite team will immediately deploy to make an assessment of the size and needs of the civilian population affected by the war within a maximum of two weeks starting from the date of signing of this memorandum;

[2]  "The government of Sudan agrees to a cessation of hostilities during the process of assessment and distribution of humanitarian assistance;

[3] "The Government of Sudan and the tripartite partners, that is the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations hereafter referred to as the two parties, agree on this Memorandum of Understanding for assessment and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the war-affected civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States."

These terms have simply been ignored by Khartoum; nothing here specified has been accomplished; Khartoum has faced no consequences.

September 25, 2012Sudan Tribune reports:

"Over 120 international organizations have submitted a signed letter on 21 September to the United Nation Security Council demanding that humanitarian aid to be delivered to rebel-held areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile state's in Sudan. [ ] The letter stressed Khartoum's slow response to proposals to secure humanitarian access to the states, or to meet deadlines set by the international community.

"The letter to UNSC reminded Khartoum of the consequences of Resolution 2046, which states that under article 41 of the UN charter; 'all parties who fail to meet their enforced obligations should face strong consequences, including the imposition of sanctions.'

"The letter states: 'On August 5, 2012, Khartoum finally signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tripartite Partners that sets out deadlines related to the planning for and distribution of international humanitarian assistance. To date, the government has ignored the deadlines laid out in the memorandum and exhibited no indication that it intends to allow the full and unhindered delivery of aid throughout South Kordofan and Blue Nile.'"

[ Againin May the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, had called on Khartoum to accept a proposal put forward jointly by the UN with the African Union an Arab League to allow humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile. ]

October 4, 2012: U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice declares: "It's long past time for the government of Sudan to take the steps necessary to implement the tripartite agreement on humanitarian access for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the situation clearly remains dire and unacceptable."

October 9, 2012: McClatchy News reports from Nairobi:

"U.S. special envoy Princeton Lyman said he'd keep pushing for aid to reach the rebel-held areas—some way, somehow.  'What we want is the tripartite agreement. Because that is the best way to get the most aid to the most people,' Lyman said Sept. 27 in a phone interview from Ethiopia, after Sudan and South Sudan signed their deal. 'The question for the international community is what do we do if that doesn’t happen?'"

Lyman neither answered his own question nor spoke to the larger question of why the international response to such a vast humanitarian crisis continues to be governed by the actions of a regime guilty of unending atrocity crimes.

October 19, 2012: Agence France-Presse (Khartoum) provides an update on the tripartite agreement:

"War in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states has affected an estimated 900,000 people, but more than a year of talks has failed to get food aid into rebel zones, the UN said on Friday [October 19, 2012]. 'In Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) areas, no humanitarian staff have been able to enter from within Sudan and no food aid has been delivered, despite intensive negotiations that have been going on now for more than 16 months,' the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

"In one of its most strongly worded statements on the situation in the two states bordering South Sudan, OCHA said a joint initiative by the UN, Arab League and African Union for assessment and aid delivery throughout the war zone is still awaiting a 'green light.' 'Efforts to gain access to war-affected civilians have been relentless,' said OCHA. Two months ago, the government and rebels each signed memorandums with the Tripartite group to facilitate aid delivery. 'Despite various different detailed action plans that have been presented by the Tripartite since then, neither the government nor the SPLM-N have yet formally agreed on a concrete plan of action for assessment and delivery of aid,' OCHA said. 'The Tripartite has made clear that it is ready to facilitate the immediate provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance once the government and the SPLM-N agree to the plan and provide the necessary security guarantees."

"Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid, a senior official of the ruling National Congress Party, told AFP the government is not delaying."

November 3, 2012: Sudan Tribune reports: "South Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun vowed Saturday that no talks will be held with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) until the defeat of the rebel group."

November 6, 2012:  In Khartoum, the regime announces "the end of working according to Tripartite Agreement on Humanitarian Assistance for the two regions" (Al-Ayam).

Agence France-Presse reports from Khartoum: "There is no humanitarian crisis in war-torn South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, Sudan said on Tuesday as an international plan to get aid into the area expired without any food reaching the hungry. Despite months of talks about how to get assistance into rebel-held areas of the two border states, where fighting began more than a year ago, the number of people affected by the war has continued to increase."

November 7, 2012: Sudan Tribune reports:

"The three parties of the humanitarian initiative for South Kordofan and Blue Nile said [they were] concerned following statements by a Sudanese officials saying his government will not extend a three month deal to reach civilians in the rebel-held areas in southern Sudan. Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) failed to implement a deal brokered by the African mediators signed with the UN agencies, African Union and Arab League last August. The three-month agreement provides to deliver food and other humanitarian needs to the civilians in the areas held by the SPLM-N in South Kordofan's Nuba Mountains and some areas in Blue Nile."

November 12, 2012: Sudan Vision reports:

"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." (Sudan Vision, November 12, 2012, "Sudan Announces New Initiative to Address Humanitarian Situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile")

There is presently no alternative in sight.  Clandestine U.S. efforts earlier this year were reported by McClatchy News in October:

"…the U.S. rolled out a clandestine plan to send thousands of tons of food from South Sudan by road, until rains made the sole dirt track north impassable in July.  U.S. officials haven’t publicly acknowledged the cross-border aid operation, but in an interview last month with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, the Nuba Mountains rebel leader, Abdelaziz al Hilu, credited the American food aid with saving lives. 'Thanks to the American people, to the American government, that they have channeled food somewhat, and they saved thousands and thousands of lives. But it was not enough. It was not enough.'"

Not enough, indeed—not nearly enough.  And although Lyman and the Obama administration have made a factitious attempt to represent this as a "clandestine effort," it is clear that they wished to appear to be doing something, as opposed to remaining utterly inert.  But when Abdel Aziz says "it was not enough," this is gross understatement, though he understandably does not wish to seem ungrateful.

There are, according to UN estimates, approximately 1 million displaced and acutely vulnerable civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and in transit to the South—and their needs are enormous.  Yet one authoritative source with very substantial experience at USAID has indicated to me that no more than 3,000 tons of food were delivered into the Nuba during this year's dry season, and nothing into Blue Nile, which may in fact be the larger of the two inter-linked humanitarian crises (email received November 6, 2012).  With the beginning of the serious part of the rainy season in late June, transport into South Kordofan became impossible.

For some perspective here, humanitarian logisticians estimate that roughly 1,700 metric tons of food per month are required per 100,000 of population in need.  Using the current UN figures for South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and not including Upper Nile and Unity, this means roughly 3,000 tons per week are required.  This may well exceed the total amount delivered by the U.S. to the entire distressed population over the past nine months.

HUMANITARIAN CONDITIONS: A selection from recent reports

[1]  Letter from Nuba People, Nuba Mountains  November 5, 2012

Dear Leaders of the International Community,

"We write to you from inside the Nuba Mountains and on behalf of the men, women and children who have waited in vain for your help. Since June 2011, we have been under constant attack by the Bashir regime.  Hundreds of bombs have dropped on us, and missiles as well as attacks by soldiers and militia are a constant threat.  In the last two weeks, bombardment by the Khartoum regime has increased intensively.  Since Friday, October the 26th, the bombardment has become more brutal and covered more than a dozen of our villages. Many people have been killed, and livestock and several houses and fields of crops have been burned and destroyed.  The intense bombing has begun again this week and it is a daily activity in the area.

"As it is well known to you, we do not have access to food, medicine, healthcare and other basic necessities.  We look around at what is left of our homes and see our family and friends weak from hunger and disease.  Everywhere we look, we see children, the elderly and other vulnerable people lying on the ground helpless.  The number of people dying from starvation and disease is disturbing and increasing.  It is very hard for us to explain to our children what is happening when they ask us, 'Does anyone in the world know what we are going through? Why is it that no one cares about us?' For 17 months, we have been hearing you talk about us.  We've heard you say that our situation is critical and that you are gravely concerned; however, we have almost given up hope that your words mean anything. [ ]

"While we appreciate your commitment to remain 'actively seized on the matter,' we are worried—based on our experience—that your commitment will not save our lives and the lives of our children, who have suffered long enough.  Our question remains unanswered, why doesn't anyone care about us? We have a right to be protected from a brutal government and to be rescued from genocide.  We have a right to have access to food and medicine like everyone else in the world. Innocent lives are being taken day and night including children, women, and the elderly right before our eyes and the world's silence is unbelievable."

But the world has frequently been silent in the face of a range of vast atrocity crimes committed by Khartoum, and relentless aerial bombardment of civilians and civilian agricultural production has long been one of the most egregious of these crimes.

[2]  There is an increasingly uncontrollable outbreak of Hepatitis E in the refugee camps in the border regions of South Sudan.  The UN High Commission for Refugees reported from Juba (November 9, 2012):

"The UN refugee agency on Friday warned that its capacity to contain an outbreak of hepatitis E among the refugee population in South Sudan was increasingly stretched at a time when funding for its emergency operation was depleted. 'The risks will grow if, as currently anticipated, we see fresh inflows of refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in neighbouring Sudan,' spokesman Adrian Edwards added. Due to insecurity and worsening humanitarian conditions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, UNHCR staff on the ground expect thousands of new refugees to cross in the next weeks as roads become passable after the rainy season. UNHCR and its partners, including South Sudan's national health authorities, are already fighting an outbreak of hepatitis E in Upper Nile and Unity states, two regions where the disease is endemic…."

[3]  "Fighting is still going on in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, where rebels are battling the government. Due to the escalating conflict, the UNHCR says it expects between 30,000 and 40,000 new refugees to cross into South Sudan in the coming weeks, as soon as the rainy season ends and roads become passable. (Voice of America [Geneva], November 9, 2012)

[4]  MSF Press release (October 31, 2012) on the psychological consequences of a war of extermination:

"MSF psychologist Julia Stempel leaned over to see what the girl was drawing. A picture of a large airplane covered most of the paper. 'The children are asked to draw what frightens them the most, and almost everyone draws an airplane,' Stempel said. 'They say it's the airplanes [Antonov "bombers"] that forced them to flee.' Stempel works with five other psychosocial counselors and ten community workers to help children and others find ways to express the feelings that come with their circumstance." [ ]

"The chronic stress many refugees live with can manifest itself in psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. And these ailments can affect not only individuals, but whole families. 'A grandmother in one of the families was suffering from a very bad depression, and just spent her day lying passive in the hut, doing this for the last three months,' Stempel said. 'The whole family lived around her in that hut, and her condition, the experiences of fleeing, plus the living conditions in the camp were so stressful for the family that one of her granddaughters stopped talking, lost appetite, and started showing depressive symptoms too. Having two members of the family suffering in that way put an extra level of stress on the family, who are already under a lot of pressure.'"

[5]  The UN High Commission for Refugees (September 25, 2012), on the arduous trek made by many refugees in South Sudan:

"Women, children and families fled along routes that due to conflict and the rains were dangerous and often inaccessible. Many of those who made the crossing were children and the elderly. A family of blind people crossed the border led by other village members. Women made the crossing with their newborns. They arrived in South Sudan exhausted. As the rainy season set in and the land turned into a vast swamp, UNHCR prioritized getting people from border areas to the safety of camps. 'Had the group not been relocated urgently, we would have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of lives,' says Mireille Girard, UNHCR's South Sudan representative." (YUSUF BATIL, South Sudan, September 25, 2012)

In fact, many thousands of people have already died in the greater humanitarian theater; we may not have the data to create a true mortality assessment, but it is unreasonable—on the basis of evidence available—to suggest that mortality has not reached to at least this grim threshold.

[6]  Norwegian Refugee Council, September 7, 2012:

"One of more than 100,000 Sudanese refugees in Upper Nile state in northern South Sudan is community leader Sila Mousa Kangi. There is no optimism or hope in Silas' voice as he explains the current situation for refugees originating from Blue Nile state, across the border in Sudan.  'I am 54 years old and I have only seen peace in very short doses. I fear that our children will suffer the same fate,' says Sila Mousa Kangi, sitting in front of his shelter made from straw and covered by a piece of plastic sheeting. 'We want sustainable peace so we can live like other people with a house and a livelihood. It is not good for people to keep asking for assistance. Many here have lost all hope.'" [ ]

"'When we fled, we were a total of 155 people in our group, but elderly people died on the road of starvation,' says 47 year old Issa Simat, a local leader, from the Baow area in Blue Nile. The exhausted group arrived in Yusuf Batil camp on 23 May this year after a 15-day journey on foot."

[7]  UN IRIN (September 13 and 21):

"Stanlake Samkange, East and Central Africa director for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), expects more inflows into the camps as routes currently blocked by floods dry up.  'We are certainly planning for up to 30,000 more people coming in 2012. But there are many more people on the other side of the border than that,' he told IRIN.  'My biggest concern is that if this number increases significantly, then it will put additional pressure on our efforts,' he added."

"Sheikh Hamis Hamadin Isa Zaag arrived at Gendrassa refugee camp, in South Sudan’s Maban County, two weeks ago. He spoke to IRIN about fleeing the violence in Blue Nile. 'The journey was very tiresome and long. I even left most of my people behind to come alone. It took me 20 days as I was helping one of my elder relatives.'

"'On the way [from Markana, Damazin], I saw that most of the refugees had left most of their parents and old people behind, as many were running from air bombardments or fighting. There was also a lot of fighting. I saw people killed in front of me. The refugees went into a village and were killed by soldiers. They were killing everyone, mostly with knives. Most of the men were slaughtered using knives. At the moment, it seems some of my family have been killed—that's the information I've received—and the others have scattered. There is no way for the peace to come, but I wish there was peace coming to this country. There is nothing to eat in Blue Nile—just roots and leaves and wild fruits. There is no food, and even if you try and get out to get some food, you will be found and jailed. There is so much insecurity. It is difficult for them to move and cross the border.'"

[8]  And more refugees are on the way, according to John Ging, head of OCHA in South Sudan.  Ging recently warned that the crisis is far from over, or even diminishing, declaring that "we anticipate up to 350,000 Sudanese will be hosted in South Sudan by the end of 2013."  This would almost double the present refugee population, putting even greater strains on relief operations that are already stretched to the breaking point.

[9]  Unity State is also poised to receive a great many more refugees, mainly from South Kordofan:

Hundreds Flee Fresh Air and Ground Attacks and Cross to South Sudan

"The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that fresh air and ground attacks in Sudan's South Kordofan state are causing a renewed population influx to South Sudan. 'About 100 refugees a day are arriving in the border town of Yida, in Unity state,' a spokesperson said, adding that the 'refugees are in poor health and without any belongings.' Some refugees told UNHCR they had also fled because of acute food shortages in South Kordofan. Many said they planned to build a shelter in Yida refuge camp before returning across the border to fetch family members." (25 September 2012, Juba [South Sudan], UN High Commission for Refugees)

[10]  Other recent reports on the growing humanitarian crisis in the border regions:

The October 18 humanitarian assessment by the Enough Project makes clear just how inadequate the response has been: the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate is at the emergency threshold in the Nuba Mountains; 81.5 percent of families survive on one meal a day (the figure was 9.5 percent last year and 0 percent the year before); Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is over 3 percent in all population groups sampled.  SAM is a critical medical condition and without therapeutic and supplementary feeding, most children and even adults will die.  The results of the daring Enough assessment were carefully reviewed by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health prior to publication.

Moreover, the Enough findings have been confirmed by a localized but highly detailed and revealing independent humanitarian assessment, including a finding that "the levels of 'severe' hunger reported in Western Kadugli are particularly high, hovering at 85.4 percent for resident households and 87.5 percent for displaced household" (confidential report: "South Kordofan Food Security Monitoring Report #1," Results from interviews conducted with households, market participants, and key informants in South Kordofan State; from the period of August 4 to August 28, 2012).  Most respondents felt food security was deteriorating.  The headlines to the Executive Summary of the Report tell us much that we already know, but with much greater authority:

• "Food security is a concern in all locations";

• "Displaced households have been less successful in planting than resident households";

• "The outlook on the anticipated harvest is poor";

• "Health facility closures are reported in all Localities, although the numbers vary by Admin unit";

• Access to drinking water varies across Admin units but appears to be particularly limited in the localities of Umm Durrain and Western Kadugli";

• "The heaviest and sustained conflict is most prevalent in the localities of Um Durrain and Western Kadugli"

We know that Khartoum will not honor its commitments to provide humanitarian relief to these people—we know this.  Will this knowledge translate into action that puts human lives—hundreds of thousands of human lives—ahead of the claims of national sovereignty by a genocidal regime?  Past evidence could not be more discouraging of such hope.

-- 

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

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