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Sudan: Credibility Gap

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Nov 22, 2004 (041122)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

At a high-profile United Nations Security Council meeting in Nairobi last week, the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army pledged to complete their agreement for peace in southern Sudan by December 31. If successful, diplomats claimed, the agreement could provide a model for ending the violence in Darfur as well. But the Council failed to impose any sanctions on the Sudanese government for blatant continuing violence in Darfur, despite the presence of monitors from the Africa Union.

It remains to be seen whether the meeting will mark a step towards peace or serve to widen the already large credibility gap on Sudan for international institutions as well as the Sudanese government.

News and commentary on the most recent developments are available at and For critiques of the Security Council resolution from Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, see

If there are grounds for hope, note some observers, they rest both on coordinated multilateral pressure on the Sudanese government and on divisions within the Sudanese government over the relative advantages of war and peace. Two recent detailed analyses that explore these issues are the October-November issue of the Justice Africa briefing on Sudan
( and the September report on his mission to Sudan by Francis M. Deng, the representative of the UN Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, who is a highly respected Sudanese scholar and diplomat based in Washington at the Brookings Institution. His 27 September report to the Economic and Social Council is available through a search on the UN website ( under document number E/CN.4/2005/8.

This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a new report from Amnesty International (AI) released just before the Security Council meeting. The AI report systematically documents the involvement of Sudanese forces with aircraft and other imported weapons in atrocities carried out by government-backed militia, identifies the governments supplying arms to Sudan, and calls for a comprehensive arms embargo. The full report and other AI reports on Sudan are available at

For previous issues of the AfricaFocus Bulletin on Sudan, see


Many thanks to those of you who have recently sent in a voluntary subscription payment to support AfricaFocus Bulletin. If you have not yet made such a payment and would like to do so, please visit for details.

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Amnesty International

Sudan: Arms trade fuelling human rights abuse in Darfur

Press Release

AI Index: AFR 54/142/2004 (Public)

16 November 2004

The helicopter pilots deliberately and indiscriminately attacked the informal internally displaced persons' settlement knowing very well that there were innocent civilians. - African Union Commission Ceasefire Violation report on the attack in Hashaba and Gallab Villages on 26 August 2004

The only thing in abundance in Darfur is weapons. It's easier to get a Kalashnikov than a loaf of bread. - Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, 1 July 2004

Amnesty International today revealed details of the uncontrolled arms exports that have fuelled massive human rights abuses in Sudan, including the killing, rape, torture and displacement of more than a million civilians since the Darfur conflict began in February 2003.

"Governments must stop turning a blind eye to the immediate and long term consequences of this totally irresponsible trade. They must ensure that the UN Security Council imposes a mandatory and rigorously monitored arms embargo on all parties to the conflict in Sudan including the government's armed forces. The embargo should aim to stop all exports of arms that are likely to be used to commit human rights violations," said Elizabeth Hodgkin, Amnesty International's Sudan researcher.

At a news conference in Nairobi ahead of this week's meeting of the UN Security Council in the same city, Amnesty International delegates presented a report identifying the main types of arms sent to Sudan and the governments that have deliberately or unwittingly allowed them to be sent.

The report, Sudan: Arming the perpetrators of grave abuses in Darfur shows how Sudanese government forces and their militia allies have used such arms for grave human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Two Antonov aeroplanes, five helicopters and two MIGs attacked our village at around 6am. Five tanks came into town. The attack lasted until 7pm...Eighteen men and two children from our family were killed when fleeing." Testimony given to Amnesty International in May 2004 by Aziza Abdel Jaber Mohammed and her half sister Zahra Adam Arja on the attack of Kornoy in North Darfur in December 2003.

Based on the testimony of hundreds of survivors gathered by Amnesty International as well as commercial documents, UN arms trade data and other sources - the report's main findings include:

  • Military aircraft and components sold to Sudan from the Russian Federation, China and Belarus, with helicopter spare parts from Lithuania, despite repeated use of such aircraft to bomb villages and support ground attacks on civilians;
  • Tanks, military vehicles and artillery transferred to Sudan from Belarus, Russia and Poland, even though such equipment has been used to help launch indiscriminate and direct attacks on civilians;
  • Grenades, rifles, pistols, ammunition and other small arms and light weapons exported to Sudan from many countries, but mainly China, France, Iran and Saudi Arabia;
  • The recent involvement of arms brokering companies from the UK and Ireland attempting to provide large numbers of Antonov aircraft and military vehicles from Ukraine and pistols from Brazil;
  • Military training and cooperation offered by Belarus, India, Malaysia and Russia.

"Some governments such as Bulgaria, Lithuania and the UK have already begun to take action to halt the arms flows to Sudan, and the European Union has imposed an embargo, but other governments show no sign of wanting to turn off the tap that is fuelling these atrocities", said Brian Wood, Amnesty International's research manager on the arms and security trade

Amnesty International is appealing to the UN Security Council to impose a mandatory arms embargo to halt exports of arms likely to be used to commit human rights violations. The embargo should be accompanied by rigorous UN monitoring both inside and outside Sudan.

The organization is calling on all states mentioned in the report to take immediate concrete steps to suspend all transfers of those types of arms and related logistical and security supplies that are being used for grave human rights violations in Sudan.

To prevent the arms trade from contributing to such disasters, Amnesty International is also campaigning for all states to establish much more rigorous controls on conventional arms, including the establishment of an Arms Trade Treaty which would prohibit arms exports to those likely to use them to violate international human rights and humanitarian law.

For a full copy of the report, Sudan: Arming the perpetrators of grave abuses in Darfur, please see:

Amnesty International

Sudan: Arming the perpetrators of grave abuses in Darfur

Background excerpts from introduction to full report

Governments of countries named in this report that have allowed the supply of various types of arms to Sudan over the past few years have contributed to the capacity of Sudanese leaders to use their army and air force to carry out grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Foreign governments have also enabled the government of Sudan to arm and deploy untrained and unaccountable militias that have deliberately and indiscriminately killed civilians in Darfur on a large scale, destroying homes, looting property and forcibly displacing the population. Amnesty International has received testimony of gross human rights violations from hundreds of displaced persons in Chad, Darfur and in the capital, Khartoum.

The tragedy of Darfur is that the international community, already heavily engaged in the north-south peace process in Sudan, took far too long to recognize the state-sponsored pattern of violence and displacement and failed to act earlier to protect the population. Yet what has happened in Darfur is just a more horrific and accelerated version of what had already happened in many parts of southern Sudan. Antonov aircraft, MiG fighter jets and helicopter gunships bombed villages, killed civilians and forced the people to flee their homes in Darfur. In the previous 20 years Antonovs and helicopter gunships had bombed villages, killed civilians and forced people to flee their homes in the southern Sudan. In Darfur, government-armed militias, usually known as the Janjawid,(2) drawn from mostly nomad groups and commonly armed with Kalashnikov AK47 assault rifles, and also often using rocket-propelled grenades and doshkas (machine guns mounted on jeeps), attacked, displaced and killed thousands of rural civilians. From 1985 to 2003, the government supported nomad militias (the murahelin) which were used to attack, kill and displace many of the rural population in Bahr al-Ghazal and Unity State (Western Upper Nile).

Now, over a large area of Darfur, villages are destroyed or emptied of their population, the people driven out have swollen the numbers in towns or gathered in camps for displaced persons; some have fled to Chad, Khartoum or elsewhere inside or out of Sudan. Similarly, large areas either side of the north-south border in Sudan have been cleared of their population: in Unity State the countryside is empty, the former herders and farmers are grouped together in towns or larger villages such as Rubkona, Pariang and Bentiu; in the lowlands bordering the Nuba Mountains, the land previously farmed by Nuba is now used for large farming enterprises run by northerners; and in Abyei, only the main town has many Dinka living in it - the villages were emptied of their population and people have not yet dared to return.

In recent months, there has been unprecedented international attention given to the crisis in Sudan notably by the UN Security Council and the African Union (AU). Yet, despite UN Security Council demands that the Sudan government rein in the militias in the region of Darfur, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sudan, Jan Pronk, reported in October 2004 that the government had not stopped attacks by militias against civilians nor started to disarm these militias.

On 5 October 2004, Jan Pronk told the Security Council that "there were still breaches of the ceasefire from both sides - attacks and counter-attacks, revenge and retaliation. There were attacks by the army, sometimes involving helicopter gunships, though less frequently towards the end of the month." In his report to the Security Council of 4 November he stated that the situation had deteriorated and tension had risen 'to a level unprecedented since early August'.

The mandate of the AU ceasefire monitors, who are intended to oversee the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement between the government of Sudan. the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), signed in N'Djamena, Chad, on 8 April 2004, was initially limited to reporting on ceasefire violations. However, for the AU reports of ceasefire violations to be made public, all sides have to agree. So the violators often stifle reports of ceasefire violations. After a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council on 20 October, the AU announced that it was going to increase its forces in Darfur to 3,320 personnel among them 450 observers. The mandate of the expanded force includes monitoring and verifying the provision of security for returning internally displaced persons (IDPs) and in the vicinity of IDP camps; monitoring and verifying efforts of the government of Sudan to disarm government-controlled militias; and observing, monitoring and reporting the effective service delivery of the local police. The mandate of the force also includes the protection of civilians in certain circumstances: the African Mission in Sudan (AMIS) "shall protect civilians whom it encounters under imminent threat and in the immediate vicinity, within resources and capability, it being understood that the protection of the civilian population is the responsibility of the government of Sudan".

The government of Sudan has nevertheless failed to bring suspected perpetrators of gross human rights violations to justice. Some people have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed. However, none of those brought to justice is known to have been involved in government-supported militia attacks on villagers. There appears to be no action to systematically investigate all allegations of human rights violations and bring those suspected of being responsible including those who may have ordered such actions - to justice. The government continues to describe the Darfur conflict as essentially "a tribal war" and has denied that government forces not only failed in their obligation to protect the civilian population but actively participated in killings, forced displacement and rape. A climate of impunity remains.


In this context, Amnesty International is appealing to all states mentioned in this report to immediately suspend all transfers of arms and related logistical and security supplies to Sudan that are likely to be used by the armed forces or militias for grave human rights violations. Moreover, Amnesty International specifically requests member states of the UN Security Council to impose a mandatory arms embargo on Sudan to stop those supplies reaching the parties to the conflict in Darfur, including the government forces, until effective safeguards are in place to protect civilians from grave human rights abuses.


Amnesty International

AI Index: AFR 54/144/2004 (Public)

16 November 2004

Sudan: Arming the perpetrators of grave abuses in Darfur

Testimonies (excerpts)

"I was living with my family in Tawila and going to school when, one day, the Janjawid came and attacked the school. We all tried to leave the school, but we heard noises of bombing and started running in all directions... The Janjawid caught some girls: I was raped by four men inside the school... When I went back to town, I found that they had destroyed all the buildings. Two planes and a helicopter had bombed the town. One of my uncles and a cousin were killed in the attack." -- testimony of a 19-year-old woman, describing the attack on Tawila in February 2004 in testimony given to Amnesty International (AI) in Zam Zam Camp, North Darfur, 6 October 2004.

"The Janjawid came in uniforms on horses and vehicles and the army came too. They came with vehicles and with helicopters that dropped fire. They killed many, we don't know how many. They killed men, women and children. They killed my husband. The Janjawid looted camels, cows and horses -- I saw them. I know many of them. The helicopters shot us as we were fleeing." -- testimony of a woman from Nuri village, which attacked in December 2003, who is now living in Durti Camp near al-Jeneina, interviewed by AI in September 2004.

"Again on our way, we were stopped by Janjawid. They searched us around the waist. He asks: 'Don't you have any money?' When you answer back: 'No', he says: 'OK, give me the child, I will kill him'. When you say: 'No don't kill him', they say: 'OK, then give us money'. They start to beat you severely and let you leave with empty pockets. We got tired because we were moved so much. There were people on horses attacking on the ground and Antonovs bombing from the air and people falling down." -- testimony given by Zenab in Ryad camp, September 2004.

"Armed men on horses, camels and vehicles came, accompanied by Sudanese government soldiers, and surrounded the village at midday. Two hours later, one Antonov plane and two helicopters flew over the village and shot rockets. The attackers came into the houses and shot my mother and grandfather. The attack lasted for two hours and everything was burnt down in the village. Thirty-five people were killed during the attack - five women, 17 children and 13 men; and they were not buried." -- testimony given in Abu Jihad village, North Darfur, which was attacked on 28 June 2003.

"Janjawid and soldiers of the forces of the government, both in uniforms, came and attacked. First they came with Antonov and helicopters [ ...], in the morning of 11 October, they dropped 17 barrels of shrapnel from the Antonov. Then they came, the Janjawid on horses and the government army in cars. It was many, many of them, maybe even 6,000. More than 80 people were killed during the attack and they took all the cattle and burned down everything." -- testimony from refugees from Tanako, south of Fur Baranga, Darfur, interviewed in Goz Amer Camp, Chad, in May 2004.


"They arrived on camels, horses and by vehicles; some 150 men in khaki. Two Antonov planes also took part in the attack. About 65 men were praying at the mosque. The horses, camels and cars surrounded the mosque and started shooting. All the men in the mosque were killed. The Janjawid beat up the women, set fire to everything and took away the cattle. The women and children fled towards Um Baru, where they stayed for one month; they then went to Kornoy walking for ten days and then another 15 days up to the border. At Tina, they stopped for one month. Between Goz Na'im and Tina, five people (three women and two children) died of thirst, hunger and exhaustion." -- testimony of a woman from the village of Goz Na'im, some 80km from Abu Gamra, describing an attack at 6am on Sunday 29 of the month of "toum" (May 2003), which was carried out by both Janjawid and government soldiers, to AI.


"First the government soldiers came with the vehicles and started shelling the villages with RPG [rocket propelled grenades] and heavy weapons, and then the Janjawid came and shot at everybody. More than 60 were killed from Bindisi on 16 August [2003]. On 17 August, Sunday, after most of us arrived in Mukjar, they attacked Mukjar (and the villages Katodo, Mukjar-Daba, Kudom and Birgi). They shot at everybody -- women, children, men and more than 70 people were killed." -- Testimony from refugees in Goz Amer, Chad, May 2004.


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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