Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Darfur in the Deepening Shadow of Auschwitz, Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda
Oct 24, 2005

A series of extraordinarily dire warnings have recently been issued by various UN officials, a last desperate attempt to force the international community to take urgent cognizance of Darfur’s deepening crisis. Full-scale catastrophe and a massive increase in genocidal destruction are imminent, and there is as yet no evidence that the world is listening seriously. The US in particular seems intent on taking an expediently blinkered view of the crisis (see forthcoming analysis by this writer at The New Republic [on-line], www.tnr.com). But European countries and other international actors with the power to speak the truth are little better; the absence of an effective voice emerging from the Blair government is especially dismaying in light of British willingness to intervene in Iraq.

Even so, there is no possible escape from the most basic truth in Darfur: Khartoum’s National Islamic Front, ever more dominant in the new “Government of National Unity,” is deliberately escalating the level of violence and insecurity as a form of “counter-insurgency” warfare, with the clear goal of accelerating human destruction among the African tribal populations of the region.

In failing to respond to this conspicuous and now fully articulated truth, the world is yet again knowingly acquiescing in genocide. But as the shadows of Auschwitz and Treblinka, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Rwanda fall more heavily over Darfur, we cannot evade this most shameful truth:
we know---as events steadily, remorselessly unfold---more about the realities of ethnically-targeted human destruction in Darfur than on any other previous such occasion in history. So much the greater is our moral disgrace.


UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres is reported by Reuters ("World has just weeks to save Darfur, says UN High Commissioner for Refugees”) as declaring that the Darfur “cease-fire was falling apart,” and that the “African Union peace force was hopelessly under-manned, under-equipped, and the world appeared to have lost interest” (Reuters, October 21, 2005). “Everything is getting out of control; [ ] the critical moment is from now to the end of the year. We are close to a moment in which a new major tragedy might occur in Darfur. [Such a tragedy] would have a major impact on [Darfur’s] neighbors...and on the whole African region.”

Guterres continued:
“Even our [humanitarian] staff can barely move. There is no security. What we are witnessing on the ground is a very serious deterioration.” (Reuters, October 21, 2005)

“[Guterres warned] that the cease-fire [Darfur] is unraveling, which could lead to a catastrophic increase in deaths in coming weeks and spread instability in sub-Saharan Africa. [ ] ‘People are dying, and dying in large numbers.’” (Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2005)

Subsequent to Guterres’ remarks, Reuters reported that “heavy gunfire in West Darfur’s main town [al-Geneina] kept [humanitarian] aid staff locked in their homes”:

“George Somerwill, a UN spokesman, confirmed there was gunfire in the town but could give no further details. ‘There was gunfire heard during the night in el-Geneina town and aid workers were confined to their houses,’ he said. The government [i.e., the National Islamic Front] often threatens aid agencies with closure if they comment on the security situation in Darfur. Authorities [in Khartoum] have arrested senior Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers and ordered heads of British aid agencies Oxfam and Save the Children to leave the country for publishing information on Darfur.” (Reuters, October 23, 2005)

This gunfire in el-Geneina, capital of West Darfur, comes after an unprecedented evacuation of non-essential UN personnel because of violence in the region. All roads from el-Geneina remain “red no-go” because of insecurity, paralyzing humanitarian organizations and leaving more and more vulnerable civilians completely cut-off from food, medicine, and water (for example, many tens of thousands of displaced persons depend upon water that is pumped by engines requiring fuel, which cannot now be transported). The UN has offered contradictory numbers on the numbers of affected people in West Darfur, but the area coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in West Darfur, Andy Pendleton, would seem to have particular credibility:

"‘With each passing day we are in a race against time to get assistance to over half a million people to whom we have lost regular access,’ Andy Pendleton, area coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in West Darfur, said in el-Geneina on Sunday. ‘The situation is desperate, more desperate than ever before,’ he warned.” (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [el-Geneina], October 12, 2005)

That the violence throughout Darfur is accelerating, and indeed reaching unprecedented levels in various respects, is confirmed in many other UN accounts. Two weeks ago, Juan Mendez, UN special advisor on the prevention of genocide, declared of the attack on Aro Sharow camp for displaced persons: “Until last week, there have never been concerted, massive attacks of an indiscriminate nature against civilians in camps in Darfur” (Washington Post, October 10, 2005). What we must remember is that the attack on Aro Sharow, a camp of some 4,000-5,000 displaced people from African tribal groups, was conducted by Khartoum’s military proxy, the Arab militia force known as the Janjaweed. The collusion between the Janjaweed and the National Islamic Front, which retains full control of the military and intelligence services in Sudan, was recently underscored by the African Union:

“On 28 September 2005, just four days ago, some reportedly 400 Janjaweed Arab militia on camels and horseback went on the rampage in Arusharo, Acho and Gozmena villages in West Darfur. Our reports also indicate that the day previous, and indeed on the actual day of the attack, Government of Sudan helicopter gunships were observed overhead. This apparent coordinated land and air assault gives credence to the repeated claim by the rebel movements of collusion between the Government of Sudan forces and the Janjaweed/Arab militia. This incident [ ] was confirmed not only by our investigators but also by workers of humanitarian agencies and NGOs in the area.” (Transcript of Kingibe press conference, Khartoum, October 1, 2005)..................


It is important to bear in mind that hundreds of attacks by Khartoum and the Janjaweed, such as those reported by the AU’s Kingibe, have already been chronicled---by the AU, human rights groups, the UN, humanitarian organizations, news reporters on the ground, and other observers over the past 32 months of major conflict. This very substantial chronicling, in aggregate (see bibliography in Appendix 1), allows us to understand how it is that between 80-90% of all African villages have now been violently destroyed. This percentage range is the overwhelming consensus among Darfuris in exile, many with excellent and continuing contacts on the ground inside Darfur.

The reports of attacks are relentlessly, agonizingly similar in nature, conveying not only sheer terror on the part of the defenseless victims who survived to tell their tales, but the comprehensive nature of the destruction inflicted: men and boys are killed; women and girls are raped, with many abducted; dwellings, mosques, schools, clinics, and markets are burned; food- and seed-stocks are destroyed, along with agricultural implements; fruit trees are cut down; cattle and livestock, along with valuable possessions, are looted; water wells and irrigations systems are poisoned or destroyed. Attacks are typically accompanied by hateful racial epithets, as well as incomprehensible cruelty. An all too representative attack was graphically rendered over a year ago in the Washington Post by George Wolf of Refugees International:

“Ibrahim told Refugees International about a week after the attack that among those captured during the assault were four of her brothers and six young children, including three of her cousins. As Ibrahim watched in horror, several of the attackers began grabbing the screaming children and throwing them one by one into a raging fire. One of the male villagers ran from his hiding place to plead for their lives. It was a fatal error. The raiders subdued the man and later beheaded him and dismembered his body. All six of the children were burned. Ibrahim's four brothers have not been heard from since.” (Washington Post, July 31, 2004)

Along with the highly systematic nature of village destruction throughout Darfur, clearly reflecting ethnic targeting of African tribal groups, rape is the crime in Darfur that most dramatically reflects a racial/ethnic animus. A powerful study of sexual violence in Darfur published in October 2004 by Tara Gingerich, JD, MA and Jennifer Leaning, MD, SMH (“The Use of Rape as a Weapon of War in the conflict in Darfur, Sudan,” Harvard School of Public Health and the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/fxbcenter makes a central claim that continues to stand without meaningful challenge:

“Our findings suggest that the military forces attacking the non-Arab people of Darfur, the Janjaweed in collaboration with forces of the Government of Sudan, have inflicted a massive campaign of rape as a deliberate aspect of their military assault against the lives, livelihoods, and land of this population.” (page 1)


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