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Sudan: Questions of Responsibility

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jul 22, 2004 (040722)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"There has been a great deal of tough talk since the visits of Mr. Powell, Mr. Annan and others, but the UN Security Council so far has failed to act decisively [on Darfur]. It is time to move directly against regime officials who are responsible for the killing." - John Prendergast, New York Times, July 15, 2004

Evidence continues to mount both of continuing atrocities and of the Sudanese government's failure to stem attacks by governmentbacked militia in western Sudan, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell have issued repeated warnings to the Sudanese government. International humanitarian efforts continue to grow. But even the UN's humanitarian appeal is $200 million short of its full funding. Action on the security and political fronts faces even more obstacles.

There is rising pressure, particularly in the U.S. Congress, for explicit condemnation of the atrocities in Darfur as genocide and for stronger action, including targeted sanctions. Press reports, such as a front-page article in the Washington Post on July 18, are now beginning to name specific Sudanese officials thought to be responsible for supporting the militias. So far, however, the cumulative pressure is still falling far short of that needed to produce real changes in Khartoum's policies.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from several recent reports relevant to questions of responsibility for the current situation and for action to stem the loss of life. These include (1) a report from Human Rights Watch documenting the complicity of government officials, (2) reports from the UN on the status of UN initiatives, and (3) a Justice Africa report that addresses the issue of divisions on Dafur within the government of Sudan.

For earlier bulletins on Sudan and links to additional sources, see


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Human Rights Watch

Sudan: New Darfur Documents

Ties Between Government and Janjaweed Militias Confirmed

[For the full report and additional material from HRW on Sudan, see]

(New York, July 20, 2004) "Sudan government documents incontrovertibly show that government officials directed recruitment, arming and other support to the ethnic militias known as the Janjaweed," Human Rights Watch said today. The government of Sudan has consistently denied recruiting and arming the Janjaweed militias, including during the recent visits of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Human Rights Watch said it had obtained confidential documents from the civilian administration in Darfur that implicate high-ranking government officials in a policy of militia support.

"It's absurd to distinguish between the Sudanese government forces and the militias - they are one," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Africa Division. "These documents show that militia activity has not just been condoned, it's been specifically supported by Sudan government officials."

Human Rights Watch said that Sudanese government forces and government-backed militias are responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes and "ethnic cleansing" involving aerial and ground attacks on civilians of the same ethnicity as members of two rebel groups in Darfur. Thousands of civilians have been killed, hundreds of women and girls have been raped and more than one million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and farms in Darfur.

In a series of official Arabic-language documents from government authorities in North and South Darfur dating from February and March 2004, officials call for recruitment and military support, including "provisions and ammunition" to be delivered to known Janjaweed militia leaders, camps and "loyalist tribes."

A particularly damning February directive orders "all security units" in the area to tolerate the activities of known Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal in North Darfur. The document "highlights the importance of non-interference so as not to question their authority" and authorizes security units in a North Darfur province to "overlook minor offenses by the fighters against civilians who are suspected members of the rebellion".

Another document calls for a plan for "resettlement operations of nomads in places from which the outlaws [rebels] withdrew." This, along with recent government statements that displaced persons will be settled in 18 "settlements" rather than in their original villages, raises concerns that the ethnic cleansing that has occurred will be consolidated and that people will be unable to return to their villages and lands.

Human Rights Watch called for Sudan government officials implicated in the policy of militia support to be added to the U.N. sanctions list included as part of a pending U.N. resolution. It also called for international monitoring of the disarmament of the militia groups and the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the abuses committed in Darfur by all parties to the conflict.

"Sudan has launched a major public-relations campaign aimed at buying more time for diplomatic initiatives to work," said Takirambudde. "But at this point and with our new evidence, Khartoum has zero credibility. To date, the government of Sudan has only used more time to consolidate the ethnic cleansing in Darfur."

While the government has committed itself to disarming "outlawed" groups, including the rebel insurgency, it is unclear whether the government considers the Janjaweed militias it has supported as among the groups to be disarmed. There are increasing reports that Janjaweed militia members are being absorbed into the new police forces deployed by the government to "protect" civilians in Darfur.

Human Rights Watch said that under no circumstances should Janjaweed members who have participated in attacks, murders and rapes of civilians in Darfur be included within the police and military forces the government is now using to protect the population.

Human Rights Watch called for an immediate, strongly worded U.N. resolution that sanctions Khartoum and government officials responsible for crimes against humanity.

"The ambiguity in the government's statements shows that independent monitoring of the disarmament process is crucial," said Takirambudde. "The African Union and other international monitors must pay close attention to resettlement plans and ensure that militias are not only disarmed, but withdrawn entirely from the civilian areas they took over." ...

Life-saving UN relief operations in Sudan face $200 million budget gap - Annan

UN News Service
21 Jul 2004

The United Nations has received just $145 million so far of the $349 million in funds it has requested to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis engulfing Sudan's Darfur region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today, explaining the world body particularly needs helicopters and other equipment to deliver aid.

Mr. Annan also told a press conference at UN Headquarters that the Sudanese Government has not taken "adequate steps" to meet its commitments to disarm the Arab-dominated Janjaweed militias that have conducted deadly attacks against Darfur's black African population. ...

"The Sudanese Government doesn't have forever" to meet the pledges - such as disarming the Janjaweed and punishing those responsible for human rights abuses - it made on 3 July in a joint communiqu‚ with the UN, the Secretary-General added.

He said the UN may move to take tougher action against Sudan if it is not satisfied that the Government is making enough headway towards achieving its targets.

So far progress has been uneven, he said, although he praised Khartoum for improving access to humanitarian agencies previously restricted from operating in Darfur. ...

Mr. Annan said the international community has a responsibility to step up pressure on Sudan to meet its commitments and on all sides to negotiate a peace agreement "in good faith." But he noted that foreign donors are well behind in meeting the UN appeal for funds for Darfur and Chad.

"We need money and more resources for humanitarian efforts. We need them now, not tomorrow. Tomorrow may already be too late," he said. "We are $204 million short. I appeal to donors to make good on the pledges they have already made, and to increase their assistance."


Mission to Darfur will see whether Sudan is meeting pledges - UN envoy

UN News Service

21 Jul 2004

New York, Jul 21 2004 6:00PM - A joint mission of United Nations staff, ambassadors and Sudanese Government ministers and officials will travel to the troubled Darfur region in the next week to observe first-hand whether Khartoum is making progress in its pledges to disarm the militias attacking black Africans and to improve security so that displaced civilians can return to their homes.

After briefing the Security Council behind closed doors today, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, told reporters that the mission will spend three days in Darfur assessing three questions: the degree of security; the current state of the Arab-dominated militias, known as the Janjaweed; and the future of the more than one million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The mission has been organized under the auspices of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), a body set up after the UN and Sudan issued a communiqu‚ on 3 July outlining their commitments to alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Darfur.

"On the basis of their findings, we will have a new meeting" of the JIM, Mr. Pronk said, adding that meeting will discuss what measures, if any, may be necessary to stop the Janjaweed.

The envoy said the mission has been established partly because of the conflicting nature of reports about what is happening in Darfur, a region the size of France that is beset by fighting between Sudanese Government forces and two rebel groups, and the deadly Janjaweed attacks against civilians.

"Much of the information cannot be tested because we have information [and] we have counter-information," he said.

More than a million people are internally displaced and another 180,000 live as refugees in neighbouring Chad because of the fighting and the militia attacks, creating what senior UN officials have described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Pronk said it was a positive step that Darfur rebel leaders and Sudanese officials have agreed to meet in Geneva tomorrow to discuss how to revive peace negotiations, which stalled over the weekend. ...

Before briefing the Council, Mr. Pronk told reporters that it should "give teeth" to the JIM, adding the UN's humanitarian and political efforts in Darfur will gain strength if the Council demonstrates its support. ,,,

So far, Mr. Pronk said, Sudan has shown progress in improving access for humanitarian workers, but no improvement in security for the IDPs who remain fearful of further attacks by the Janjaweed if they return to their home villages. ...

Prospects for Peace in Sudan Briefing

June-July 2004

Justice Africa

[Excerpts only; the full Justice Africa briefing should be available soon on]

Darfur: The War

16. The level of violence in Darfur fell after the ceasefire agreement of April. But this decline was only relative to the exceptional intensity of the violence during February-April, and the fact that the militias have already destroyed most of the accessible targets. More than 300 villages have been destroyed. There are disturbing indications of a continuing level of atrocity and indeed a more recent re-escalation in violence. ...

17. African Union ceasefire monitors arrived in Khartoum at the beginning of June. They face many obstacles. One of them is the absence of provisions for encampment of the parties' armed forces during the ceasefire. In the vast territory of Darfur, monitoring a ceasefire will be impossible unless the team can monitor the movements of the parties. The AU-led mission includes representatives from the parties, Chad, the UN, the US and the EU. It is important that the monitors make their presence felt in the field without delay.

18. President Bashir has announced on several occasions that the Janjawiid would be disarmed, in response to pressure from AU, U.S. and UN leaders. This statement has to be treated with some scepticism, given the poor record of adherence to commitments by the GoS. If carried out, however, it would be the single most important step towards a real ceasefire and the establishment of security for the civilian population.

To date, there are no indications of GoS action on this commitment, and indeed to the contrary, there are signs of continuing armyJanjawiid cooperation, and there is a real possibility that Janjawiid members will simply be given police uniforms and presented to the world as a civilian police force. A number of Janjawiid leaders have been moved from Darfur to Khartoum and other cities, a move intended to demonstrate the GoS's readiness to distance itself from them, but in reality an indication of close government control over their movements.

Darfur: Humanitarian

21. The opportunity for a large-scale humanitarian operation before the rains make many roads impassable has now been lost. International agencies are painfully re-learning the lessons of how to operate in western Sudan. Important opportunities have been missed, for example for comprehensive immunisation programmes. Elevated mortality across Darfur cannot now be prevented.

Published estimates by NGO workers and USAID indicate that excess mortality is likely to be in the region of 100,000-350,000 over the next 12 months. These figures are credible, though we need to be vigilant over the inflationary tendency in some aid agencies' public predictions. Other visitors to the region have been more cautious in their projections for malnutrition and mortality.

22. After considerable international pressure, the GoS lifted some of the restrictions on humanitarian access to Darfur at the end of May. This came after the absurdity of a three-day travel permit being combined with a three-day delay in the ability to travel-a ruse illustrative of the GoS's long experience in manipulating humanitarian access in conflict zones.

Further promises have been made during the visits of Colin Powell and Kofi Annan. Will we see a protracted cat-and-mouse game between the GoS and humanitarian organisations over the latter's operations? This is a dispiriting prospect. It also suggests that there will be major hindrances in addressing the longer-term humanitarian imperative of returning the displaced Darfurians to their homes. ...

24. The focus on international relief efforts obscures the fact that the Sudanese government and citizens can do far more than foreign aid agencies. Sudan has a surplus of one million tons of grain, almost all of it in storage in eastern Sudan. Thus far the GoS has made no efforts to mobilise this immense resource. People in Darfur rely far more on their own efforts, including gathering wild foods, than on food assistance.

The single most effective measure to support survival would be to permit freedom of movement. That in turn would require security. ...

Darfur: Political


26. The GoS is thus far refusing to treat Darfur with the urgency and seriousness it deserves. One element in this internal GoS disunity, with serious differences at the heart of government and the Congress Party. A majority of government members are undoubtedly against the war strategy, including senior ministers, members of the Congress Party and regional figures.

However, a powerful cabal of senior advisors and security officers retains control of the Darfur policy. The prominence of Gen. Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, shadow head of the army at the time of the 1989 coup, is symbolic of this. This means that the GoS leadership still prefers to characterise proposals for peacekeepers as an international conspiracy, and is showing no enthusiasm for engaging in peace initiatives. ...

28. The African Union is handicapped by its low level of human and financial resources, and the fact that statements from the U.S. and others indicating support to the AU role have so far seemed rather pro forma. The AU Peace and Security Council was inaugurated at Heads of State level on 25 May (Africa Day).

Sudan, as a member of the PSC, was represented by President Omer al Bashir, who followed PSC procedure and withdrew for the closed-door discussion of Sudan. Before this, Pres. Bashir succeeded in deflecting criticism of the GoS by proposing a High Level Independent Committee to investigate reports of human rights abuses. The AU PSC responded by directing the African Commission on Human and People's Rights to investigate. ...

The Genocide Question

35. If the international community decides that the events in Darfur constitute genocide, they will do so in accordance with the definition of the crime in the Genocide Convention, and the interpretations of that in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. (Of particular interest in this regard is the ruling of the ICTR in the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu, which determined that an ethnic group can be identified as 'a stable and permanent group whose membership is determined largely by birth'. This will get round the problem that there are no national or religious differences between groups in Darfur, no discernible racial differences and ethnicities are historically fluid-despite the language of the current generation of political leaders on both sides, who have adopted the 'African versus Arab' dichotomy.)

The Genocide Convention has a much broader definition of genocide than the common lay definitions, which focus on the Holocaust and more recently on Rwanda as well. The worry among major international powers is that once they have diagnosed genocide, they will be obliged to intervene militarily. However, this does not follow. The Genocide Convention is silent on the means that should be used to prevent and punish genocide. Military intervention is one option but not the only option. In the case of Darfur, prudential considerations may militate against military intervention, while other options for political action are also open.

36. If the UNSC or other international bodies are to describe the events in Darfur as 'genocide', a key consideration will be the intent of the perpetrators. An important feature of the Darfur campaign has been that while it is as yet impossible to ascertain genocidal intent at the highest level of government, it is clear that such intent has existed at important levels of the command structure of the militia and the security organs of the state.

While genocide has typically been a state crime in modern history, the responsibility of the highest leadership of the state is not a necessary condition in fact or in law for the crime to be committed. In the case of Darfur, it is clear that most members of the Government and Armed Forces have not supported the genocide, and in many cases have opposed it and worked to prevent it.

However, there is a clique within the security establishment that has the capacity, will and opportunity to perpetrate genocidal crimes. It is notable that the same individuals' names recur whenever responsibility for serious human rights violations is mooted, ever since the NIF took power in 1989 and in some cases from earlier. The U.S. government has also named seven militia leaders as the targets for punitive sanctions, and is considering naming some of their backers in Khartoum as well.

37. If the highest leadership of the GoS is indeed not guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide in Darfur, the way for it to prove this fact is to institute legal proceedings against those that are indeed guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. This would be an international 'first': the first occasion on which a government has prosecuted its own servants for these crimes. If the GoS were to pursue this course of action, it would be a powerful indication that it has indeed made a genuine commitment to peace and human rights. ...

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.

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