By Eric Reeves,
10 February 2013
Violence continues to rage throughout Darfur, indeed has dramatically accelerated in recent weeks. This has created an insecurity that endangers not only millions of civilians—within and outside the camps for displaced persons—but humanitarian personnel. Most transportation corridors are unsafe without the heaviest of escorts. Whole sections of Darfur—e.g., Jebel Marra—remain subject to Khartoum’s humanitarian embargo. The National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime relentlessly obstructs not only humanitarian personnel and operations but any meaningful investigations of atrocity crimes attempted by the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Dismayingly, humanitarian assistance now faces another disturbing obstacle. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) warned on January 25, 2013:
"The moratorium on restrictions on humanitarian aid in Darfur is expected to expire on January 31, potentially complicating the delivery of emergency assistance and implementation of early recovery programs in Darfur. Renewed annually by HAC since 2007, the moratorium expedites bureaucratic approvals that allow international organizations to conduct humanitarian assistance activities in Darfur, including processing of travel permits and visas for international staff." (USAID Fact Sheet #2, FY 2013, January 25, 2013)
The moratorium has in fact expired according to several sources within the humanitarian community. This is most likely to affect international nongovernmental humanitarian organizations registered only in Darfur (as opposed to Sudan generally). But a number of these organizations are key implementing partners for both the UN’s World Food Program and USAID. It is once again "open season" for Khartoum in the harassment, abuse, obstruction, and denial of access to those working to provide food, primary health care, shelter, and clean water to desperate civilians.
[ In early February 2013 NIF/NCP President Omar al-Bashir pardoned Mubarak Mustafa, a man convicted of assisting in the escape of four men who in 2008 brutally murdered USAID official John Granville and his driver, Abdurrahman Abbas Rahma. The message to the U.S. in al-Bashir’s pardon was clear, as was the regime’s complicity in the escape of the assassins. ]
International response to Khartoum’s most recent decisions is unclear and indecisive. But unless the moratorium is renewed—at least nominally securing what are in fact standard humanitarian operating conditions in virtually all countries—we may be sure that people will suffer and die as a consequence.
For its part, the U.S. issued yet another perfunctory statement, "calling on the Sudanese government to grant UN agencies unrestricted access to all areas of Darfur [in order to meet humanitarian needs, State Department spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland said" (Statement of February 8, 2013, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC). Nuland also urged Khartoum "to cease aerial bombardments," an urging that will have as little impact on the regime’s thinking as the many previous such perfunctory statements. Indeed, as with all such "urgings," there is no evidence that Khartoum hears or cares about U.S. statements, since they have never amounted to more than posturing when it comes to Darfur. The fact that all military flights in Darfur have been banned by the UN Security Council (Resolution 1591, March 2005) is equally inconsequential. Unless there are clear and credible consequences to continued indiscriminate aerial attacks on civilians, they will continue—as they have for more than 20 years (see www.sudanbombing.org).
Already we have seen signs of what is to come with international failure to secure renewal of the moratorium on restrictions of humanitarian assistance:
"As of 1 January 2013, the government of Sudan halted the work of 50 percent of the NGOs working in El-Geneina camps, West Darfur’s capital, several sources told Radio Dabanga on Wednesday. Five out of the 10 foreign organizations were informed by the government in mid-2012 that they could no longer exercise their activities at the camps [beyond the end of the year], sheikhs from 10 different sites affirmed. They emphasized the organizations were not expelled from Sudan. Instead, [the sheikhs] continued, organizations were ordered to stay in El-Geneina, hand over their resources to camps’ residents and focus their programs on voluntary return villages.
The emphasis on returns by Khartoum has a grim but simple logic: if there are no longer displaced persons in the camps, the rationale for an international humanitarian presence disappears. Moreover, the regime has not hesitated to restrict, re-direct, or expel organizations that don’t follow this re-fashioned mandate, even organizations such as these:
The Swiss Human Being’s Earth, the French Triangle, the International Medical Corp, and the Canadian War Child are the organizations ordered to alter their programs. While working at displaced camps, these NGOs offered services such as health, education, medicine, distribution of non-food items, kindergartens, water services and livelihood programs."
Again, Khartoum has re-defined these critical humanitarian tasks, "ordering [these organizations] to stay in El-Geneina, hand over their resources to camps’ residents and focus their programs on voluntary return villages." ("Sudan government halts work of 50 percent NGOs in West Darfur capital," Radio Dabanga, el-Geneina, 23 January 2013) (all emphases in all quotes have been supplied—ER)
Compounding the challenges facing humanitarian efforts in Darfur, the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur has recently seen extremely intense clashes between two Arab groups: the Beni Hussein (who for the most part have sought to stay out of the Darfur conflict and Khartoum’s genocidal assault on non-Arab populations) and the Northern Rizeigat, particularly the Um Julal subsection from which a great many Janjaweed were drawn, including the most notorious of Janjaweed leaders, Musa Hilal. The fighting has been over the newly significant gold mines that lie in Beni Hussein land, but which—according to one Darfur expert who has recently been on the ground in Darfur—
"…Hilal’s ’Border Guards’ consider it their own. It’s not unsimilar to the latest Hashaba incidents—according to local sources, the Um Jalul Border Guards killed 80 civilians there, but most [of them] were not from the area but gold searchers from other parts of Sudan." (email received February 4, 2013)
[For a detailed account of the Hashaba fighting, see: www.sudanreeves.org/?p=3525 ]
With the Sudanese economy imploding, in large measure for lack of foreign exchange, the Khartoum regime has given gold mining and gold sales to the Central Bank of Sudan inordinate importance. This has skewed attitudes towards land tenure and toward other areas of potential economic development (e.g., the regime has allowed the agricultural sector to decline for more than two decades). And it has created powerful incentives for violent seizure of territory. According to UNAMID, more than 100 Beni Hussein civilians were killed in recent fighting near the gold mine region of Jebel Amir, which began accelerating in early January 2013. Unsurprisingly, humanitarian sources told Agence France-Presse that the toll was much higher than that reported by UNAMID (January 31, 2013).
In a compelling and timely report, Amnesty International cites a source who, while requiring anonymity for safety, said the violence in Jebel Amir "was the worst example of inter-Arab violence to emerge in the past two years as government-linked Arab groups got ’out of control’ and turned on each other." In this connection AFP cites another humanitarian source who said the Beni Hussein had refused to pay newly imposed government mining fees that added up to "huge, huge money." In short, this was another regime-sanctioned extortion racket in Darfur. Amnesty noted in particular:
"Reports that members of Sudan’s security forces were involved in January attacks that left up to 200 people dead near a goldmine in Darfur must urgently be investigated, Amnesty International said today. Fighting broke out on 5 January between members of Beni Hussein, an Arab tribe that lives locally and the pastoralist Rizeigat community, when a Rizeigat leader, who is also an officer in Sudan’s Border Guard, reportedly laid claim to a gold-rich area in Beni Hussein territory.
"Gunmen driving government vehicles are alleged to have opened fire on people in the mostly Beni Hussein area of Kebkabiya using grenades and heavy machine guns. While many among the local population own automatic rifles, heavier weaponry of the sort used in these attacks is not normally available to civilians. These events come as the government is attempting to exert greater control over licensing and export of gold, in a context of fiscal crisis, depleted foreign exchange reserves, and widespread gold smuggling.
"Residents of Kebkabiya identified individual officers of the Border Intelligence Brigade (BIB, known as ’Border Guards’) as being among the instigators of the violence. The Border Guards are part of Sudan’s Military Intelligence. Other villages were also attacked by Rizeigat tribesmen and Border Guards. One witness told Amnesty International that 53 residents of his village in Martam Bay were killed in the early hours of 9 January. He said the attack was carried out by a group of gunmen in eight vehicles which included Border Guard officers whom he identified by name." (Amnesty International, January 30, 2013)
Amidst this rising violence, humanitarian conditions in a broader sense are rapidly deteriorating in ways the UN refuses to clarify or even speak about. This in turn makes it impossible for international nongovernmental relief organizations (INGOs) to speak out or promulgate their own data and findings: for they know that if they get ahead of the UN in speaking honestly about conditions, they will be expelled by Khartoum. Difficulties in obtaining visas to Sudan and the required travel permits for Darfur are particularly daunting at present—a blunt reminder by Khartoum that it full controls access to the region.
All this has been confirmed again and again, publicly and privately, by those working for the UN and for INGOs, and yet the UN leadership and that of UNAMID refuse to speak fully and honestly about these grim facts.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, has offered in his most recent report on Darfur and UNAMID (October 2012) what can only be considered a pusillanimous and misleadingly limited account of Darfur’s most conspicuous realities, an account that is likely to contribute to the loss of a great many civilian lives. This comes after earlier reports in 2012 by Ban that say absolutely nothing about sexual violence—not even a mention of what is one of the most pervasive means of an ongoing "genocide by attrition." Sexual violence receives only parenthetical mention in the October report and a terse, absurdly unrepresentative summary:
"UNAMID documented 30 cases of sexual and gender-based violence involving 42 victims, 13 of whom were minors. This represents a slight decrease from 33 cases involving 37 victims, including 23 minors, in the previous reporting period. UNAMID monitored police investigations into the incidents, and court hearings, and facilitated the provision of legal aid and psychosocial assistance." (page 11)
This latter claim, about UNAMID monitoring of police investigations and assisting in other ways, is emphatically and repeatedly denied by Darfuris. As Radio Dabanga reports from West Darfur (January 22, 2013) (by "herders" Radio Dabanga means here to refer to nomadic Arab groups, often heavily armed and part of the pro-regime militias):
"West Darfur, five herders armed by the government raped two displaced women at the Misa area. Misa is located about four kilometers south of camp Mornei for displaced, a sheikh told Radio Dabanga. He said the men abducted the women at gunpoint from Misa, as they were collecting firewood at about 10:00am on Monday. According to the sheikh, the gunmen took turns when raping the victims, who were not released until late that night…. The sheikh said this is the second rape case in about three weeks, adding that all of these assaults in the area are carried out by the same group of herders. The police have been informed about it, he pointed out. Citizens have decided to no longer go to UNAMID when crimes occur, as the mission always tells them to first go to the police, the sheikh stressed. He complained about the lack of cooperation of UNAMID."
The blunt reality is that Darfuri women simply have no access to a justice system in cases of rape, so it is quite unclear what "legal aid" UNAMID might be providing, as the UN Secretary-General claims. Clearly the impression UNAMID is making on the people in the Misa area of West Darfur is one of callous indifference.
UN silence, misrepresentation, and inaction come even as the avalanche of rape continues to roll through Darfur, threatening girls and women everywhere (see http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2884 ). It would seem incumbent upon the Secretary-General to provide a fuller account of sexual violence and its nature in Darfur; in particular, he should identify those most responsible, as well as the racial animus that works to define nearly all instances of rape, especially in light of incidents such as these:
"Different pro-government militias raped two young girls, aged thirteen and nine, in two different incidents in North and West Darfur last week. The first occurrence took place at camp El-Amiya Sharq, in Kabkabiya city, North Darfur last Thursday evening, 31 January. An eyewitness told Radio Dabanga. The victim, a 13-year-old girl who is mentally disabled, was snatched her from her mother’s arms after three gunmen invaded their home, sources recounted. Bystanders found the girl on Friday lying on the ground out in the open bleeding and in critical condition. She was taken to a UNAMID hospital and the mission later transferred her to Kabkabiya for treatment. Witnesses informed UNAMID and the police about the incident."
"Separately, two pro-government militiamen raped a nine year-old girl from Alban Jadid in Sirba locality, West Darfur on Saturday at 9:00am. A relative of the girl told Radio Dabanga the victim and a friend of about the same age were collecting firewood in the outskirts of Alban Jadid when the alleged perpetrators, riding camels, attacked them. They took both girls to a nearby forest, although one of them managed to escape, a source said. The other was raped in turns and was not released until after the afternoon prayers. According to sources, the girl is being treated according to traditional methods in Alban Jadid and her condition is ’very bad.’" (Radio Dabanga, February 3, 2013)
At the same time, large-scale violence against those within the camps is continuous, despite the numerous "patrols" that UNAMID boasts of. Ban Ki-moon again offers a deliberately bland and untenable account of such attacks:
"Attacks on internally displaced persons have continued, resulting mostly in violations of the right to physical integrity. UNAMID recorded 37 incidents involving 100 victims, a decline from the 49 incidents involving 153 victims recorded in the previous reporting period."
"Thirty-seven incidents involving 100 victims"? Are we really being asked to take such a preposterous statistical rendering seriously? Indeed to see it as representing "improvement" over the previous reporting period? UNAMID knows, Ban Ki-moon knows, and Darfuris certainly know that this is more than a grotesque understatement: it is a deliberate misrepresentation, designed at once to mollify Khartoum and paper over the gross failure of UNAMID in fulfilling its civilian protection mandate. Such reports are also used to support the decision made by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to draw down the failing UNAMID. Ban mentions this—"reductions to the mission’s overall troop and police strengths are on track to reach the authorized ceilings"—but does not begin to have the honesty to confess that this is not because of improved security but rather because of the calculation that it no longer makes sense to fund a dysfunctional UNAMID at present levels, given the need for UN peacekeepers globally.
Very recently Zam Zam camp—less than ten miles south of el-Fasher, headquarters of UNAMID—was subject to three days of terror, with no response from the nominal civilian protection force ("Three consecutive days of attacks at North Darfur displaced camp," Zam Zam Camp, 7 February 2013):
"Schools, health centers and water stations at Zam Zam [IDP] camp near El-Fasher, North Darfur, are closed for three days since members of the Central Reserve Forces launched attacks on the area. Witnesses speaking to Radio Dabanga said the assaults took place between Tuesday and Thursday. They added the Abu Tira, as the Central Reserve Forces is known, looted and destroyed eight shops and fired random shots in the air in and outside the camp ’terrorizing the displaced….’ Displaced are saying the security situation at the camp is ’alarmingly deteriorating’ making them unable to leave their homes. They claim there is almost ’no life’ at the camp at moment and all institutions have temporarily ceased their functions. Zam Zam’s residents are urging international organizations to protect them from attacks by Abu Tira, who are ’terrorizing and intimidating’ everyone."
One would learn little of such violence, violence that is all too typical, reading UNAMID’s relentlessly upbeat dispatches, or Ban Ki-moon’s report on UNAMID and Darfur, which itself relies largely on UNAMID reporting. Together they produce shameful understatements of violence and Khartoum’s relentless denial and obstruction of humanitarian relief. Nor would one learn much of significance about actual humanitarian conditions: there are in Ban Ki-moon’s report no global data, or indeed data of any sort about: levels of malnutrition and morbidity, mortality rates, and the adequacy of clean water supplies and primary medical care.
The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) is a better source of news about Darfur, and because it is much less politically constrained provides more useful information about humanitarian conditions. Most recently (February 8, 2013) IRIN reported:
"According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 100,000 people have been displaced or severely affected by the fighting, which left more than 100 dead."
"It is unclear at this stage how long the people displaced from the Jebel Amir area are likely to remain displaced. The area is still insecure and over 120 villages have been destroyed," OCHA’s public information and reports officer in Khartoum, Damian Rance, told IRIN."
"In the locality of El Sireaf [where Jebel Amir is located] education has also been disrupted as the displaced have taken refuge in schools. Some of the displaced came to the town with their animals, and there is concern about insufficient pasture and health risks posed by animal deaths."
"The Darfur-based Radio Dabanga reported on 6 February that some 16,000 newly displaced people had arrived in the North Darfur towns of Kabkabiya and Saraf Omra following threats by rival tribal militias. Many of the displaced are living on the streets with no humanitarian support."
This is the first time that I have seen Radio Dabanga cited by IRIN, or indeed any news wire-service, in such fashion. Crediting the research and interviews from Radio Dabanga is a critical first step in understanding humanitarian realities in Darfur.
History of Humanitarian Efforts in Darfur
Khartoum’s deeply hostile relationship with international humanitarian efforts has been well documented since July 2004, when a "Memorandum of Understanding" was signed in Khartoum by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan and regime officials. Despite this MOU, violent assault, abuse, imprisonment, and harassment of relief workers has been constant; appropriation of humanitarian resources, obstruction, denial of key resources imported from abroad, and expulsions have also been consistently and authoritatively reported during the entire period. (See also overviews from December 2006 and June 2007.)
Expulsions of critical international relief agencies were most conspicuous in March 2009, when the Khartoum regime expelled thirteen INGOs, representing roughly half the total humanitarian capacity. Although new U.S. Secretary of State (then Senator) John Kerry declared at the time (April 27, 2009) "We have agreement [with Khartoum] that in the next weeks we will be back to 100 percent [humanitarian] capacity," this was shamefully disingenuous. Kerry knew such restoration of capacity was completely impossible, whatever Khartoum might "agree to"—neither the resources, logistics, nor critical experience on the ground could possibly have been replaced in the time-frame Kerry indicated. What his cynical comment did do was send to Khartoum a signal that they would not be seriously pressed by the U.S. on the reporting of humanitarian conditions in Darfur, or even humanitarian access. In an important sense, the refusal to renew the moratorium is an outgrowth of what Khartoum felt had been signaled by U.S. and international acquiescence in 2009.
The process of turning Darfur into a "black box" has also continued relentlessly, abetted by key UN relief officials, but also by UNAMID leaders, who are certainly aware of how badly their mission of civilian and humanitarian protection is failing (see http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2356 ). The response, however, is not to confront Khartoum over its relentless obstructionism but to declare a completely contrived "mission accomplished." And as violence escalates, particularly in North Darfur but throughout all three Darfur states, there is no international reporting presence, no human rights presence, and what UN "assessment missions" are permitted into Darfur are choreographed in detail by Military Intelligence. This ensures that only misleading representations emerge by way of these official visits, and that the suffering and destruction of Darfuris is more fully obscured.
My goal here is to provide the very most recent information bearing on humanitarian conditions coming primarily not from official UN sources but Darfuris themselves, either via Radio Dabanga, Darfuris in the diaspora, and sources on the ground. I preserve here and elsewhere the division of Darfur into three states: West, North, and South. These are the divisions reflected in the key cartographic resource for Darfur, the three-part Darfur Field Atlas (March 2006); Khartoum’s recent creation of a "Central Darfur" and an "East Darfur" has no basis in history, and is little more than an effort at geographic obfuscation.
The balance of this analysis has four parts, surveying representative reports from the past two weeks:
 Current medical well-being, including mental health and the provision of primary health care;
 Current standard humanitarian measures of well-being, particularly morbidity indicators, malnutrition rates, as well as water quality and availability;
 Current measures of well-being, including: freedom from fear of rape; the ability of families and villages to work their lands; access to meaningful employment; availability of needed humanitarian assistance;
 Current figures for civilian "returns" and ongoing displacement, as well as the number of civilians classified as displaced.
History of Humanitarian Assistance Following March 2009 Expulsions
It is important to note first that any account of the humanitarian situation in Darfur will be defined much more by what we don’t know statistically than by what we do; but the evidence is sufficiently extensive and disturbing that we must do our best to infer what may be gathered from a wealth of detailed anecdotal reporting.
The drop-off was precipitous in UN reporting on this vast, continuing humanitarian crisis. We see the decline most clearly seen in the failure of OCHA to secure permission to continue publishing its quarterly, highly detailed, statistically rich "Darfur Humanitarian Profiles." The last, No. 34, was published for January 1, 2009; two months later Khartoum expelled thirteen INGOs; in the process the regime made it perfectly clear to the UN what was expected, indeed required in the way of accommodation of the regime’s "sensitivities" in all reporting on Darfur.
Khartoum’s officials have on countless previous occasions prevented the UN and INGOs from gathering data, collating data, analyzing data, or promulgating the results of these analyses. Again, the quid pro quo here—continued humanitarian access to Darfur in return for an end to full UN and INGO reporting on the consequences of a continuing "genocide by attrition"—could hardly be clearer, or its moral implications less demanding of scrutiny. In any event, the amount of globally useful information and data about malnutrition, morbidity, and medical care is negligible. That this should be so is in the interest of only one actor in this brutal drama.
In the absence of the "Darfur Humanitarian Profiles," OCHA now provides a section on Darfur in its weekly "Humanitarian Bulletin: Sudan" (typically about four Website pages, with photographs, for all of Sudan and South Sudan). There are also quarterly reports, but the most recent is for the third quarter of 2012 (conditions as of November 1, 2012); the most recent of the "monthly reports" on the OCHA website is for July 2012. But although there are relatively precise data for the number of displaced in particular areas—surprisingly precise, indeed—there are still no detailed accounts of key humanitarian issues. To be sure, OCHA also publishes "Humanitarian Bulletin: South Sudan" (also about four Website pages); and these reports have a considerable amount of data relevant to understanding the many humanitarian crises presently festering in South Sudan. But this only makes that much clearer what is missing from OCHA’s reporting on Darfur in the more encompassing "Humanitarian Bulletin: Sudan."
In fact, our best global view of the humanitarian crisis came over two years ago in an unpublished but widely circulated report from Tufts University ("Navigating Without a Compass: The Erosion of Humanitarianism in Darfur," a report completed in late 2010 and based on extensive research, including field research in Darfur). It was first reported and discussed in an extensive and devastating critique of the UN humanitarian response by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting ("UN Accused of Caving in to Khartoum," January 7, 2011). On the basis of my own reading of the Tufts document, I found a series of appalling conclusions about humanitarian capacity—most notably:
"International humanitarian capacities have been seriously eroded and impaired to a point that leaves Darfuris in a more vulnerable position now than at any other time since the counter-insurgency operations and forced displacements in 2003."
Again, this analysis represents conditions as of late 2010. Moreover, the warning of humanitarian erosion and impairment was not limited to the authors of the Tufts study. Seventeen international human rights organizations declared, inter alia, in a lengthy statement on January 8, 2011 that:
"There are clear signs that the situation in Darfur is getting worse. But the international community is failing to monitor and respond properly to what is happening in Darfur."
The lengthy critique provided by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting noted:
"UNICEF reported early last year  that as many as 21 nutritional surveys were conducted since June 2009, but only seven have been released by the humanitarian affairs commission [HAC]. Six of those showed [Global Acute] malnutrition rates of between 15 and 29 per cent, the report stated."
15 percent is the threshold for a "humanitarian emergency." Nothing has changed to make possible a more encouraging characterization of conditions in Darfur. On the contrary, two years later violence continues to intensify and humanitarian conditions deteriorate yet further. And still the UN refuses to publish or promulgate data relevant to understanding this deterioration, something highlighted by IWPR two years ago in a series of interviews with UN officials speaking confidentially. In one courageous case, the UN official—Nils Kastberg, head of UNICEF in Sudan—spoke publicly:
"’Nils Kastberg [said in October 2010] that Khartoum is preventing his agency from releasing reports about malnutrition in IDP camps. ’Part of the problem has been when we conduct surveys to help us address issues, in collaboration with the ministry of health, very often other parts of the government such as the humanitarian affairs commission [HAC] interferes and delays in the release of reports, making it difficult for us to respond [in a] timely [manner],’ he said." (IWPR)
In an earlier interview with Radio Dabanga, Kastberg had also declared:
"’Sometimes it is security services that hinder access or delay access, sometimes it is the humanitarian affairs office [HAC] that delays the release of nutritional surveys. Sometimes it is delays in granting permissions and visas. It is different sections of different [government] institutions which interfere in our work.’" (http://www.radiodabanga.org/node/4997 )
Here it is important to note the rather different view of the chief UN aid official for Darfur at the time, Georg Charpentier—Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan:
"’UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to IWPR]."
This is simply despicable mendacity, which in its capitulation to Khartoum has made it a great deal more difficult for UN and other humanitarian operations to secure access. This is lying that costs lives and occasions greater human suffering.
A year earlier—January 2010—I had warned of precisely these developments: "Civilians at Risk: Human Security and Humanitarian Aid in Darfur" (January 17, 2010), and have offered substantial follow-on analyses, building on both the Tufts report and, again, information provided by Darfuris in the diaspora, Radio Dabanga, and relief officials on the ground in Darfur (all appeared in the Sudan Tribune, and are selectively noted, with links, in the Appendix).
What has been reported most recently… (this lengthy analysis continues at http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=3787 )