Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What next for the African Union in Darfur?

Before I share the briefing paper, I wrote for work, I want to share this editorial piece from the NY Times by Nicholas Kristof - viewer discretion is advised due to a few pictutres posted on the site:

Photos don't normally appear on this page. But it's time for all of us to look squarely at the victims of our indifference.

These are just four photos in a secret archive of thousands of photos and reports that document the genocide under way in Darfur. The materials were gathered by African Union monitors, who are just about the only people able to travel widely in that part of Sudan.

This African Union archive is classified, but it was shared with me by someone who believes that Americans will be stirred if they can see the consequences of their complacency.

The photo at the upper left was taken in the village of Hamada on Jan. 15, right after a Sudanese government-backed militia, the janjaweed, attacked it and killed 107 people. One of them was this little boy. I'm not showing the photo of his older brother, about 5 years old, who lay beside him because the brother had been beaten so badly that nothing was left of his face. And alongside the two boys was the corpse of their mother.

The photo to the right shows the corpse of a man with an injured leg who was apparently unable to run away when the janjaweed militia attacked.

At the lower left is a man who fled barefoot and almost made it to this bush before he was shot dead.

Last is the skeleton of a man or woman whose wrists are still bound. The attackers pulled the person's clothes down to the knees, presumably so the victim could be sexually abused before being killed. If the victim was a man, he was probably castrated; if a woman, she was probably raped.

There are thousands more of these photos. Many of them show attacks on children and are too horrific for a newspaper.

One wrenching photo in the archive shows the manacled hands of a teenager from the girls' school in Suleia who was burned alive. It's been common for the Sudanese militias to gang-rape teenage girls and then mutilate or kill them.

Another photo shows the body of a young girl, perhaps 10 years old, staring up from the ground where she was killed. Still another shows a man who was castrated and shot in the head.

This archive, including scores of reports by the monitors on the scene, underscores that this slaughter is waged by and with the support of the Sudanese government as it tries to clear the area of non-Arabs. Many of the photos show men in Sudanese Army uniforms pillaging and burning African villages. I hope the African Union will open its archive to demonstrate publicly just what is going on in Darfur.

The archive also includes an extraordinary document seized from a janjaweed official that apparently outlines genocidal policies. Dated last August, the document calls for the "execution of all directives from the president of the republic" and is directed to regional commanders and security officials.

"Change the demography of Darfur and make it void of African tribes," the document urges. It encourages "killing, burning villages and farms, terrorizing people, confiscating property from members of African tribes and forcing them from Darfur."

It's worth being skeptical of any document because forgeries are possible. But the African Union believes this document to be authentic. I also consulted a variety of experts on Sudan and shared it with some of them, and the consensus was that it appears to be real.

Certainly there's no doubt about the slaughter, although the numbers are fuzzy. A figure of 70,000 is sometimes stated as an estimated death toll, but that is simply a U.N. estimate for the deaths in one seven-month period from nonviolent causes. It's hard to know the total mortality over two years of genocide, partly because the Sudanese government is blocking a U.N. team from going to Darfur and making such an estimate. But independent estimates exceed 220,000 - and the number is rising by about 10,000 per month.

So what can stop this genocide? At one level the answer is technical: sanctions against Sudan, a no-fly zone, a freeze of Sudanese officials' assets, prosecution of the killers by the International Criminal Court, a team effort by African and Arab countries to pressure Sudan, and an international force of African troops with financing and logistical support from the West.

But that's the narrow answer. What will really stop this genocide is indignation. Senator Paul Simon, who died in 2003, said after the Rwandan genocide, "If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have been different."

The same is true this time. Web sites like and are trying to galvanize Americans, but the response has been pathetic.

I'm sorry for inflicting these horrific photos on you. But the real obscenity isn't in printing pictures of dead babies - it's in our passivity, which allows these people to be slaughtered.

During past genocides against Armenians, Jews and Cambodians, it was possible to claim that we didn't fully know what was going on. This time, President Bush, Congress and the European Parliament have already declared genocide to be under way. And we have photos.

This time, we have no excuse.

The following is a briefing paper I wrote discussing the situation of the African Union mission in Dafur and recommendations as to what the international community needs to do:

Over the course of the last year and a half, it is estimated that a campaign of ethnic cleansing has killed more than 200,000 people and as many as 10,000 people are dying each month in the Darfur region of Sudan. In addition, according to UN estimates, more than 200,000 refugees have been registered in neighboring Chad and more than 1.8 million people are internally displaced in Sudan itself.

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry that was appointed by the UN Secretary General with the support of the Security Council to investigate the crisis in Darfur concluded in its January report that the Sudanese Government and the Janjaweed militias were largely responsible for the violence and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

On April 8, 2004, the Sudanese government and Darfur-based rebel movements agreed to a ceasefire but neither party has held on to their end of the bargain. The New Year began on an optimistic note for Sudan: on January 9, 2005, representatives from the Sudanese government and the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed an agreement to end the two-decade long civil war between North and South Sudan. Unfortunately, the signing of the historic peace accord has done nothing to abate the atrocities in Darfur committed by the Government-sponsored Janjaweed militia.

The conflict in Darfur has to be resolved immediately or it may lead to the complete collapse of the North-South peace accords, according to Jan Pronk, the U.N. special representative for Sudan. Meanwhile, new tensions are rising in the east, where government security forces opened fire on demonstrators last month. Establishing peace and security in Darfur will not only lead to political, economic and social stability in Sudan but will also have a positive impact on neighboring countries and the region. Moreover, if peace is not achieved throughout Sudan, it could emerge as a failing state and provide a breeding ground for terrorism and international crime, such as those orchestrated by Al-Qaeda. A prime example is how the Sudanese government provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden in the 90’s; therefore, preventing destabilizing events in Sudan is in the interests of the United States and the rest of the world.

African Union Mission – Current Situation

• On May 25, 2004, the African Union (AU) committed a ceasefire monitoring mission to the Darfur region. As the mission currently stands, the mandate of the African Union (AU) troops is to monitor the ceasefire and protect the monitoring force on the ground. Their mandate does not extend to the protection of civilians whose lives are in constant danger: it can only protect civilians if it “encounters” them when they are “under imminent threat.”

• To date, the AU has deployed approximately 1,700 of 3,200 troops and military observers to Darfur; the rest of the troops are not expected to be deployed until April. While the AU is receiving increased support from donors and has seen an improvement in its transportation and other capacities, there remain considerable gaps in accommodation for observers and police forces and in communication support.

• Villages in Darfur continue to be bombarded by the Sudanese government, killing scores of civilians in clear violation of the ceasefire. Although the Sudanese government has persistently denied they are responsible, African Union officials have hinted to the contrary since the Janjaweed militia does not have an air force. A bi-partisan congressional delegation comprised of Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Diane Watson (D-CA) that returned from Darfur in January, infuriated that an aerial bombing had taken place during their visit, killing about 150 people and rendering scores of others homeless. In addition, pillaging of villages, raping of women and the displacement of families continues unabated.

• Access to humanitarian assistance is in decline: due to the constant fighting and dire economic situation in the region, the number of people at risk has increased faster than the resources available for humanitarian assistance. Moreover, there has also been an increase in the abduction of local humanitarian staff which disrupts the distribution of food and aid creates an air of insecurity. This has forced vital humanitarian organizations to pull out, including Save the Children, the Norwegian Church Aid, and many others due to human losses and a deteriorating security situation.Recommendations

• The international community must keep up the pressure on the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militias to halt the carnage. According to John Prendergast, Special Advisor to the President of the International Crisis Group, the raping and pillaging had slowed down during the summer due to apprehension over the forthcoming African Union mission and visits to the region by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. However, the Janjaweed militias view the current mission as “toothless” and perceive no real threat of sanctions or other action by the international community; as such there has been an upsurge in violence and human rights abuses.

• The international community should encourage the AU to expand its current mandate and increase the number of troops to at least 8,000, and should also pressure the Government of Sudan to accept the expanded mission and ensure its unrestricted access. The logistical capacity for such a mission would require massive and prompt support from donors to expand accommodation of camps and contribute vehicles, helicopters and communications support.

• The international community should pressure the Sudanese government and its allied militias not to attack the monitoring force and to give the monitors access to all areas of Darfur in order for it to function effectively. For instance, in January, not only were AU officials denied access to investigate the ceasefire violation caused by an aerial bombing in Shangil Tobai by the Janjaweed militia, but an AU patrol was later fired upon while investigating the bombardment.

• Expand the mandate and size of the African Union monitoring force. As an immediate first step, the Security Council needs to give the AU force a Chapter 7 mandate to protect civilians, and facilitate an expansion of the force. In the short run, expanding the mandate and increasing the number of troops on the ground will help deter violence, even if the AU force does not have the capacity to enforce a broader mandate immediately. In the longer term, developed countries must support the AU force through commitment of funds, assistance with command and control, provision of communications capacity and other high-value contributions that can increase its effectiveness.

• At the moment, about 80% of direct casualties are caused by aerial bombardments and it is crucial to ensure the Sudanese government halts its aerial raids. The international community and the African Union should work with the Sudanese government to enforce a “no-fly zone” agreed in the ceasefire. The Security Council should pass a resolution authorizing NATO involvement in the event of a violation.

• On February 3, 2005, Secretary General Kofi Annan formally stated that the United Nations should push for a peacekeeping mission in Sudan to maintain the North-South ceasefire according to the Naivasha peace agreements signed in January to end the two-decade civil war in Sudan. He requested that member states contribute about 10,000 troops and 700 civilian police, of which a portion of which should be sent to Darfur for the protection of civilians. Since the African Union lacks the resources and logistics to operate as a peacekeeping mission, the international community should support the Secretary General and pass a resolution to start the process.

Role of the international community

Following the holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and countless other horrific acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing the world has vowed “Never Again,” but the killing continues today yet again in Darfur. The U.S. administration and Congress declared genocide in September 2004, but little action has taken place since then to end the killing. "Too little, too late" has become the rule rather than the exception. The conflict in Darfur is an opportunity for the United States and the international community to take a strong stance and demand the Sudanese government to halt atrocities in Darfur.

Lists of experts consulted

Lt. Col Michael J. Bittrick, Africa Bureau/Regional Affairs, Dept. of State
Col. Michael Larmas Smith, MLS Consulting
Gayle Smith, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress