Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
More on politics & human rights |
economy & development |
peace & security |
Print this page
Sudan: Action on Darfur?
Apr 7, 2004 (040407)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"American officials should not focus on whether the killings [in
Darfur, Sudan] meet the definition of genocide ... they should
focus instead on trying to stop them" - Samantha Powers, New York
Times, April 6, 2004. Despite increasing attention from the media
and international community, however, there are so far few
indications that this will be sufficient to spark a meaningful
Op-ed pages around the world are featuring many variations on the
pledge "Never Again" this month as the 10th anniversary of the
Rwandan genocide is commemorated. But the political will needed to
give substance to such pledges remains as doubtful as ever. In
particular, high-level U.S., European, and African officials have
yet to focus significant attention on Western Sudan.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin includes two brief UN news releases and
excerpts from a new report from Human Rights Watch on the situation
in Darfur. For additional background and links see also AfricaFocus
Bulletin for March 6
(http://www.africafocus.org/docs04/sud0403.php), the late March
report on Darfur from the International Crisis Group at
an April 3 interview with UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Sudan: UN human rights fact-finding team begins work as conditions
6 April 2004 - A United Nations fact-finding mission on the human
rights situation in Sudan's Darfur region began its work today as
UN staff in the country reported that conditions in the war-scarred
region, where a senior UN official has said black Africans are
suffering from ethnic cleansing, are deteriorating.
The mission, led by Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the UN Human
Rights Office in New York, has started in neighbouring Chad, where
tens of thousands of Sudanese have fled over the past year to
escape the violence.
The team will interview Sudanese refugees taking shelter there
before travelling to Darfur itself to assess the situation. The
mission is expected to last about 10 days, a UN spokesman told
reporters today in New York.
Bertrand Ramcharan, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights,
set up the mission to investigate reports that systematic human
rights abuses are occurring against civilians in Darfur.
Last Friday Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said a
coordinated, "scorched earth" campaign of ethnic cleansing was
taking place in Darfur, which is in Sudan's west.
Mr. Egeland said the region's black African population, especially
the Fur, Zaghawas and Massalit ethnic communities, were being
forcibly driven away from the area by militia groups allied to the
Militia groups, the Sudanese Government and rebel groups have been
fighting in Darfur for just over a year.
As the fact-finding mission begins work, the UN Office in Sudan is
reporting that conditions in Darfur have worsened in some areas, a
UN spokesman said.
He said outbreaks of communicable diseases, such as measles, are
increasing because of the rising number of internally displaced
people moving to relatively urban areas in Darfur. Some 200 cases
of measles have been confirmed in one camp alone.
Humanitarian agencies say they cannot provide enough food, clean
water, shelter and health care to internally displaced Sudanese
because of the lack of security in Darfur.
Chad-Sudan: After a Week of Standstill, Darfur Talks Could Be
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 6, 2004
One week after arriving in Chad for peace negotiations, the Sudan
government and two armed movements in Darfur province have still
not held direct talks on how to end a bitter armed conflict which
has brought misery to more than a million people.
A senior official of the Chadian government, which is trying to act
as mediator between the two sides, said on Tuesday that this
impasse could force Chad to abandon its efforts to bring the
warring parties to the negotiating table.
"Unfortunately, we haven't had any direct talks. There is an
indirect dialogue. We have the feeling that opinions are
converging", Ahmad Allammi, the official spokesman at the
negotiations, told IRIN by telephone from the Chadian capital
But Allammi, a political advisor to Chadian President Idriss Deby,
warned: "If in the next fewl hours we don't progress, we could be
forced to suspend the negotiations."
So far Chadian diplomats have been shuttling between different
floors of a N'djamena hotel, trying to convince delegations from
the Sudanese government, and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and
Movement for Justice and Equality (MJE) rebel movements, to sit at
the same table.
"They are under the same roof, but not at the same table", Allammi
If Chad suspends its mediation, it would prolong what the United
Nations has called the "worst humanitarian crisis" in the world.
Allammi said the Chadian mediators had presented both sides with a
draft ceasefire-agreement which had been agreed to in principle.
However, the sticking point in the talks is the suggested presence
of Western diplomats as observers.
Without giving details, Allami said the Sudanese government
delegation was refusing to allow the presence of " a western
The rebels favoured having as many international observers as
possible, he added.
The rebel groups say they are fighting for greater political and
economic rights for Darfur, Sudan's western region, which borders
They accuse the government of neglecting the remote and arid region
which is now plagued by conflict between pro-government Arabs and
The conflict, which began early last year, has caused more 110,000
Sudanese to seek refuge in neighbouring Chad and has internally
displaced more than 750,000 villagers with Darfur.
It has led to countless rapes and killings of civilians as villages
are burned and looted.
Human Rights Watch has accused the government and its Arab militia
allies of using a scorched-earth policy as a fighting tactic.
Human Rights Watch
Sudan: Massive Atrocities in Darfur
Almost One Million Civilians Forcibly Displaced in Government's
(New York, April 2, 2004) "The Sudanese government is complicit in
crimes against humanity committed by government-backed militias in
Darfur", Human Rights Watch said today in a new report. In a
scorched-earth campaign, government forces and Arab militias are
killing, raping and looting African civilians that share the same
ethnicities as rebel forces in this western region of Sudan.
The report, "Darfur in Flames: Atrocities in Western Sudan,"
describes a government strategy of forced displacement targeting
civilians of the non-Arab ethnic communities from which the two
main rebel groups - the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and
the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - are mainly drawn. Human
Rights Watch found that the military is indiscriminately bombing
civilians, while both government forces and militias are
systematically destroying villages and conducting brutal raids
against the Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.
"The Sudanese military and government-backed militias are
committing massive human rights violations daily in the western
region of Darfur," said Georgette Gagnon, deputy director for the
Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The government's campaign
of terror has already forcibly displaced one million innocent
civilians, and the numbers are increasing by the day."
Human Rights Watch called on the government of Sudan to immediately
disarm and disband the militias, and allow international
humanitarian groups access to provide relief to the displaced
The government has recruited and armed over 20,000 militiamen of
Arab descent and operates jointly with these militias, known as
"janjaweed," in attacks on civilians from the Fur, Masaalit, and
Zaghawa ethnic groups. In the past year, nearly one million
civilians have fled their rural villages. Most are displaced into
towns and camps where they continue to be murdered, raped and
looted by the militias.
Although Arab and African communities in Darfur for decades have
intermittently clashed over land and scarce resources, the current
conflict began 14 months ago when two new rebel groups emerged. The
Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM) demanded that the Sudanese government stop arming
the Arab groups in Darfur and address longstanding grievances over
underdevelopment in the region.
In response, the government launched a massive bombing campaign
which, combined with the raids of the marauding militias, have
forced more than 800,000 people from their homes and sent an
additional 110,000 people into neighboring Chad.
In a scorched-earth campaign, government forces and militias have
killed several thousand Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit civilians,
routinely raped women and girls, abducted children, and looted tens
of thousands of head of cattle and other property. In many areas of
Darfur, they have deliberately burned hundreds of villages and
destroyed water sources and other infrastructure, making it much
harder for the former residents to return.
"The militias are not only killing individuals, they are decimating
the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families," Gagnon said.
"The people being targeted are the farmers of the region, and
unless these abuses are stopped and people receive humanitarian
relief, we could see famine in a few months' time."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan should request the Office of the
High Commissioner on Human Rights to immediately dispatch a mission
of inquiry to investigate the situation in Darfur, Human Rights
Watch said. The mission should report back to the U.N. Commission
on Human Rights, currently meeting in Geneva, before the end of its
session on April 23. Human Rights Watch urged the U.N. Commission
on Human Rights to adopt a resolution - under item 9 - to appoint
a special rapporteur for human rights in Sudan.
The report describes how government forces allow the janjaweed to
operate with full impunity. Government forces fail to protect
civilians even when these unarmed people have appealed to the
military and police forces, warning that their villages were about
to be attacked. Government forces and janjaweed have also
obstructed the flight of civilians escaping to Chad.
"The Khartoum government has tried to repress this rebellion with
lightning speed in hope that the international community wouldn't
have time to mobilize and press the government to halt its
devastation of Darfur," added Gagnon, "But the Sudanese government
will still have to answer for crimes against humanity that cannot
The Sudan peace talks in Kenya convened by the Inter-Governmental
Authority on Development (IGAD), an intergovernmental body of East
African countries, are limited to the two main parties to the
20-year conflict in Southern Sudan. The peace talks do not include
Darfur or the Darfurian rebels. Taking advantage of the
internationally regulated ceasefire in the south, the Sudanese
government has shifted its attack helicopters and other heavy
weapons, purchased with oil revenue from the south, to the western
region of Darfur.
The government's indiscriminate bombing, scorched-earth military
campaign, and denial of access to humanitarian assistance in Darfur
reflects the same deadly strategy employed in the south, with yet
more rapid dislocation and devastation than witnessed or
Darfur in Flames: Atrocities in Western Sudan
Human Rights Watch April 2004
[In addition to the sections excerpted below, the full report from
Human Rights Watch includes extensive details on deliberate human
rights abuses, primarily by government and government-allied
forces, and an update on current humanitarian conditions both in
Western Sudan and across the border in Chad, See
Responses to the Darfur Conflict
Response of the Government of Sudan
One of the keys for resolution of the conflict in Darfur is control
of the militias and other armed gangs who now roam the region with
impunity. Some observers have doubts whether the Khartoum
government retains control over the "monster" it has created, but
others consider this "monster" a foreseeable and designed result of
Regardless, to date the Sudanese government has given no signs
whatsoever of its intention to pursue accountability. As long as
the government continues to recruit members for its janjaweed and
paramilitary units, it sends a clear signal that it will continue
with its campaign of terror despite peace talks in Chad at the end
of March, 2004.
Response of the Government of Chad
The conflict in Darfur poses serious challenges for the Chadian
president, trapped as he is between his Khartoum mentors and the
different groups within the Chadian Zaghawa constituency. Deby's
position is further complicated by fractures within the Zaghawa
community and by pressure from the Chadian Arab population, far
larger than the Zaghawa, with whom he is unpopular. This
population, following the precedent set by several previous Chadian
regimes, could try to use Darfur as a staging base for an armed
insurgency against the Chadian government. Deby is also under
pressure from the large influx of Sudanese refugees in the east,
which threatens to bring the ethnic tensions of Darfur over to Chad
because the janjaweed and sometimes Sudanese government forces have
raided the Sudanese refugees and their Chadian neighbors. Local
versus refugee tensions, so far dormant because of ethnic
similarities, may be exacerbated by the continuing drain on
resources and the minimal international interest in assisting the
Sudanese refugees in Chad.
Well aware of the risks inherent in any course of action, the
Chadian government is engaged in a delicate balancing act as it
tries to maintain control of the domestic situation as well as
resolve the Darfur conflict. So far it has provided the only
international forum for negotiations acceptable to the government
of Sudan and the rebel groups. The September 2003 ceasefire was
brokered by the Chadian government and despite reluctance on the
part of the rebel groups to continue with Chad as the mediator
since they view Chad as not neutral, a new round of negotiations
began there on March 31, 2004.
In 1990, Human Rights Watch published a report entitled "The
Forgotten War in Darfur Flares Again," that described quite similar
patterns of conflict, Sudanese government strategies inflaming the
crisis, and total international ignorance and indifference although
that 1990 crisis was much smaller in scale. Sadly, throughout 2003,
the Sudanese government, under the same president now as in 1990,
reverted to much the same destructive strategies, though with some
key differences. International attention to Darfur has been slow to
mobilize, partly due to several factors: the remoteness of the
region, the lack of access by international humanitarian agencies,
journalists, and other observers, and the news blackout imposed
by Khartoum. Perhaps most critically for many governments, Darfur
is considered an unhelpful distraction from the ongoing peace
negotiations to settle the twenty-year conflict in southern Sudan.
Darfur is viewed as a potential threat to the success of those
peace talks as the demands of the Darfur rebellion underlined what
critics of the talks have said; that the IGAD negotiations could
not lead to real peace because they involved only the government
and the southern-based SPLA rebels. Implied also was the threat of
the Sudanese government to abandon peace with the south if it would
not be allowed to pursue the war in Darfur.
It was only in January 2004 that growing international media
attention and increasing criticism by U.N. agencies began to
mobilize Western governments and organizations to become more
concerned about the sharp humanitarian deterioration and
intensified war in Darfur.
The European Union (E.U.), the United States, and others, including
many U.N. agencies lead by calls from the U.N. resident
representative in Khartoum, Mukesh Kapila, have gradually voiced
concern. While many in the diplomatic community including in
Khartoum seem to be apprised of some of the facts in Darfur, in
part thanks to active Darfur representatives in the National
Assembly and others in Khartoum, the diplomatic community is not united on a response.
As a result the Sudanese government has been able to escape serious
international pressure, while speeding up the war in the
expectation of achieving a military victory and presenting the
international community with a fait accompli. At the end of the
January 2004 military campaign, President El Bashir prematurely
announced victory and declared the war at an end on February 9,
2004, stating that the armed forces had restored law and order and
that arrangements for the return of refugees from Chad could now
commence, among other points. The rebels, it appeared, merely
reverted to guerrilla tactics and faded into the countryside,
avoiding capture and destruction. They soon resumed ambushes and
attacks on military posts. The government, however, managed to
recapture many of the border areas.
President El Bashir also pledged full humanitarian access to
Darfur, responding minimally to international pressure from the
donors. This statement was quickly reversed in practice, however,
as is common with such government promises. International relief
workers were still waiting six weeks before being granted visas to
enter Sudan in March 2004 with more protracted negotiations
awaiting each individual's permission to travel to limited areas
for limited time periods, among many other impediments.
The U.S. appears to take a more vigorous position than its allies,
emphasizing that its six sets of economic sanctions now in place on
Sudan ranging from concerns with human rights to terrorism cannot
be totally lifted if abuses continue as they are in Darfur.100
Several groups of high-ranking State Department and USAID officials
have made their way to Khartoum in February 2004, and reportedly
pressured the Sudanese government not only to conclude the peace
talks with the south and to conclude a ceasefire and enter into
negotiations with the Darfur rebels.
The U.S. and the U.K. insist that the U.S.-created and sponsored
Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) be deployed to monitor
attacks on civilians and their infrastructure in Darfur. The CPMT
was put in place in 2002 in Khartoum and Rumbek, southern Sudan,
pursuant to an agreement between the SPLA and the government of
Sudan to refrain from targeting civilians and civilian objects
followed up by the Verification Monitoring Team (VMT), reporting to
IGAD. So far Khartoum has adamantly refused all CPMT or VTM
deployment to Darfur.
The U.K. and other European powers interested in Sudan, however,
such as Germany and the Netherlands, seem to be less interested in
pushing for an early solution to the Darfur crisis, despite intense
lobbying by nongovernmental humanitarian agencies and others. They
view the success of the peace talks between the Sudanese government
and the southern rebels as the highest priority, and those talks,
in progress with forceful mediation by the "Troika" of the U.S.,
U.K., and Norway, appear to be foundering as various deadlines come
and go. Tension continues to build as the parties negotiate,
finalizing power sharing, security, and implementation/enforcement
provisions, that should extend the negotiations into mid- 2004 at
least or longer, if Khartoum senses that it can escape pressure on
Darfur by drawing out the southern peace talks.
The power sharing arrangements initialed by the parties so far
include the SPLA as a partner in government, with decision-making
power at the highest levels. The Europeans and others consider or
hope that the SPLA, once it is part of the government, will prevail
on the NIF/National Congress to abandon the war in Darfur.
This strategy is unlikely to prove successful in the short-term,
however, if at all. As of the writing of this report, the situation
remains in flux with the international community being called on to
take action by Kapila and a growing number of voices in the
international media. Whether the international community will meet
the challenge remains unclear. What is clear is that a more united
diplomatic front and greater international muscle is essential to
bring the suffering of the enormous numbers of affected civilians
to an end, and to prevent further atrocities.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with
a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see