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Darfur Held Hostage: Khartoum Adamantly Rejects UN Peacekeeping Force; The National Islamic Front exports targeted ethnic destruction to Chad

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Eric Reeves

March 1, 2006

Khartoum’s overwhelmingly dominant National Islamic Front (NIF) has, with growing confidence, aggressively rejected a UN peacekeeping force (itself only a distant and almost certainly inadequate means of protection); the African Union (AU) appears to be reconsidering its commitment—“in principle”—to a UN handover of the Darfur mission; and at the UN Security Council, an entirely predictable obstruction of meaningful action on Darfur by veto-wielding China and Russia demonstrates just how little diplomatic preparation and commitment accompanied the US assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of February. At the same time, as Human Rights Watch has reported with terrifying authority, genocidal violence is now being exported wholesale to neighboring Chad by Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies.

In an extraordinarily brazen show of contempt, various senior officials of the NIF-dominated “Government of National Unity” have threatened the UN deployment of peacekeepers that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has described as “inevitable.” These threats takes various forms—some more oblique than others; but they collectively make clear that Khartoum is prepared to insist that the radically inadequate AU monitoring force remain the sole source of civilian and humanitarian protection in Darfur, as well as along the chaotically violent Chad/Darfur border, where conflict threatens to put many more hundreds of thousands of civilians beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance.

Associated Press reports (February 28, 2006) that Khartoum ‘s justice minister, Mohamed Ali Al Mardhi, “warned on Monday that UN peacekeepers could be at risk if they were deployed to its conflict-wracked Darfur region. According to reports, justice minister Mohamed Ali Al Mardhi told the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Sudan , that it would be difficult to provide protection for such forces.”

More bluntly, NIF President Omar el-Bashir, “warned Darfur would become a ‘graveyard’ for any foreign military contingent entering the region against Khartoum ‘s will, newspapers reported on Sunday. ‘We are strongly opposed to any foreign intervention in Sudan and Darfur will be a graveyard for any foreign troops venturing to enter,’ [el-Bashir said]. His comments came amid stepped-up efforts by the international community to send UN peacekeeping forces to war-torn Darfur in place of AU troops, which have failed to quell the three-year-old bloodshed.” (Agence France Presse, February 26, 2006)

AFP reports that “Beshir was also dismissive of the AU, which has hinted it would not oppose its own replacement by a UN contingent in Darfur . ‘The AU forces can leave the country if they believe that they have failed to carry out their duties,’ Beshir said.”

These comments reveal clearly that NIF contempt extends not only to the UN and its so far ineffectual effort to authorize a peacekeeping mission, but to the AU force, which despite its manifest and ultimately crippling shortcomings, has at least put troops in the field in an effort to diminish the scale of ongoing genocide. That Bashir speaks so flippantly about the AU withdrawing its mission is entirely in character with the attitudes of a genocidaire—someone who has nothing but racial/ethnic contempt for the people his army has sought to destroy with the aid of its murderous Janjaweed militia proxy. XXX


“Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad” (February 2006, offers a terrifying picture of growing violence and anarchy on both sides of the 800-mile border between Chad and Darfur, with potentially catastrophic consequences for humanitarian operations, and for many hundreds of thousands of desperate civilians on both sides of the border. This courageous document deserves the closest attention from those who regard genocide in Darfur as deplorable but ultimately a matter of “tribal war” in western Sudan (as US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick would have it). This document should also be read by those such as US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer who would minimize the significance of the violence that has escalated steadily since September 2005 (“[Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer] cautioned against dwelling too much on the current level of violence [in Darfur]”—Washington Post, November 4, 2005).

From the HRW executive summary:

“The crisis in Darfur , Sudan , which has been trickling into Chad for the better part of three years, is now bleeding freely across the border. A counterinsurgency carried out by the Sudanese government and its militias against rebel groups in Darfur, characterized by war crimes and ‘ethnic cleansing,’ has forcibly displaced almost two million civilians in Darfur and another 220,000 people who have fled across the border into Chad. The same ethnic ‘Janjaweed’ militias that have committed systematic abuses in Darfur have staged cross-border raids into Chad , attacking Darfurian refugees and Chadian villagers alike, seizing their livestock and killing those who resist. The government of Sudan is actively exporting the Darfur crisis to its neighbor by providing material support to Janjaweed militias and by failing to disarm or control them, by backing Chadian rebel groups that it allows to operate from bases in Darfur, and by deploying its own armed forces across the border into Chad .”

What Human Rights Watch calls “ethnic cleansing” reflects an unfortunate unwillingness by this distinguished human rights organization to consider the implications of its own findings, which make clear that there is abundant evidence of “genocidal intent” in the very command structure of Khartoum’s military, intelligence, and political hierarchy (see my analysis of HRW’s deeply misguided claim that determining whether the Khartoum regime has had “genocidal intent” “requires access to government documents and to those in the leadership who planned and coordinated the campaign in Darfur,”

But certainly for current developments in Chad , Human Rights Watch is persuasive in finding that,

“attacks on Chadian civilians accelerated dramatically in the wake of a December 2005 assault on Adré, in eastern Chad , by Chadian rebels with bases in Darfur and supported by the government of Sudan .”

This support for Chadian rebels by the “government of Sudan “—by the National Islamic Front security cabal—portends major instability, which may easily spread throughout the region, involving Libya , the Central African Republic , southern Sudan , and potentially other parts of Africa . Ominously, the weak and corrupt government of Chadian President Idris Deby responded militarily to the Khartoum-backed threat by consolidating its limited armed forces along the border region, thereby exposing large civilian populations:

“Although the Chadian rebels were not targeting Chadian civilians, the December attack, combined with a wave of Chadian military defections to Chadian rebel groups based in Darfur, had the consequence of prompting the Chadian army to redeploy its forces, leaving long stretches of the border with Sudan undefended. Janjaweed militias exploited this gap, staging raids into eastern Chad with increasing frequency and complete impunity.”

“The Janjaweed raiding parties have targeted villages in Chad and willfully killed Chadian civilians, in particular those from the Masalit and Dajo ethnic groups (non-Arab cross-border tribes that have also been the targets of Janjaweed attacks in Darfur). Due to the attacks in Chad , civilians have been forced from their homes, and their few possessions, mostly livestock, have been looted. People living along the Chad-Sudan border, already among the world’s poorest, have little access to national or international humanitarian assistance. On some occasions, the Janjaweed attacks appear to be coordinated with those of the Chadian rebels. On other occasions, Janjaweed militias have carried out attacks inside Chad accompanied by Sudanese army troops with helicopter gunship support.”

That Janjaweed militia forces “have carried out attacks inside Chad accompanied by Sudanese army troops with helicopter gunship support” fully internationalizes the catastrophe in Darfur and makes clear just how spectacularly incompetent the UN’s Pronk is in declaring that “it was uncertain who was giving orders to support [the Janjaweed] militarily” (Reuters [dateline: United Nations , New York ], February 28, 2006). Indeed, as Human Rights Watch has earlier established (“Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur ,” December 2005 at

“Since early 2003, the leadership in Khartoum has relied on civilian administration, the Sudanese military and Janjaweed militias to implement a counterinsurgency policy that deliberately and systematically targeted civilians in violation of international law. Ultimate responsibility for the creation and coordination of the policy lies in Khartoum , with the highest levels of the Sudanese leadership, including President Omar El Bashir, Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, and key national ministers and security chiefs.”

Exported genocidal violence in eastern Chad, as well as ongoing conflict in Darfur itself; complete lack of effective pressure on Khartoum; increasingly compromised security for humanitarian operations; donor fatigue; serious breaks in the food pipe-line; and paralyzing seasonal rains that will begin in less than four months, with little sign that sufficient food and other critical supplies will be pre-positioned, especially in West Darfur: These are the undeniable realities.

Forsyth is certainly right to ask that we—“realists” and “moralists”—consider the consequences if “the Khartoum government succeeds in completing the Darfur genocide.” For that “success” looms ever closer.

Eric Reeves

Smith College

Northampton , MA 01063