Darfur Genocide: What can I do ?
Darfur was a place that had never been heard of in the international press until a few years ago, when Human Rights Watch put it on the map with a massive appeal for international support against the ethnic cleansing happening in this western part of Sudan.
The Republic of the Sudan in North East Africa with its capital, Khartoum, and a military dictatorship lead by the president Omar El Bashir, covers an area of 968 thousand square miles and has a population of 30 million people.
Six million of these people live in Darfur. At this moment in time more than half of these are affected by the ongoing fighting there; and recently, Chad too.
Before 2003, Sudan was known because of its conflict in the south, where for 21 years a civil war between the Sudanese government and the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) and SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) took place. In January 2005, the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) was signed and UN peacekeeping troops went into this region to monitor and implement the agreement.
Since July 2002 there has been an armed conflict in the Darfur region, between the Sudanese government and the so called “Janjaweed”(a government-backed militia drawn from certain Arab nomadic groups; a lot of these migrated into Darfur from Chad as a result of the civil wars in Chad in the 1960s-1980s) on one side, and different rebel groups, which call themselves SLA (Sudanese Liberation Army), SLM (Sudanese Liberation Movement), or JEM (Justice and Equality Movement), on the other side.
The government and the Janjaweed members are Arabic Muslims. The Arabs were originally located in the north of the country and represent the ethnic majority of the country. The southern half of the country consisted mostly of black Africans, also Muslims.
Today, the rebel groups come from three major ethnic groups, non Arabic and black African: the Zaghawa, the Fur and the Masaalit.
Ever since the conflict between these two groups started, more than 200,000 civilians, mostly from the same ethnic group as the rebels, have been killed. Thousands more civilians are victims of attacks including rape and sexual violence, killings, forced displacement, and looting of civilian property.
As of today, another two million people have been displaced; they now live in camps in Darfur. Around 232,000 more people have fled to neighbouring Chad.
Yet another two million are considered “conflict affected”, meaning that they need food assistance because of the damage to the local economy, trade and markets.
In September 2004 the Bush Administration acknowledged these atrocities as genocide. Genocide is legally defined in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. The main requirements for actions to be specified as genocide are the “intent to destroy…an ...ethnic, racial or religious group as such”, and include five types of violence. There is no question that the selected killings of certain ethnic minorities in Darfur and Chad fall under this definition (see: African Action Talking Points on How to Stop Genocide in Darfur, Sudan; from February, 13th, 2007).
The Genocide in Darfur and Chad has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. So far, the U.S. government has failed to respond. The same happened in 1994 in Rwanda.
The Sudanese government uses “militas”, armed groups composed of civilians instead of professional soldiers, because they are an easy and cheap solution for the government. This is not the first time, either: the government also used ethnic militias in the southern conflict.
The advantage for the government is obvious: it can, officially, distance itself from the “uncontrollable rebels” and at the same time have a large but inexpensive armed force at their disposal.
The real goal of the government, whether it is increased and undisputed access to oil or other resources or simply the never-ending history of hatred based on ethnic differences, is disguised to outsiders.
The militia-rebels benefit from fighting because of the rule that they can keep the land they acquired through their illegal actions; that is incentive enough for them.
The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)
On May 5th 2006, the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed between the Sudanese government and the SLA faction of the rebels, whose head is Minni Minawi.
The same agreement was refused by the JEM and the other SLA fraction, whose head is Abdulwahid Mohammed Nour.
The majority of the rebels rejected this agreement, because it didn’t include sufficient rules about power sharing; a rebel representation in the government or the disarmament of the Janjaweed. The disarmament is an important requirement of the rebels out of fear of being attacked again. There is an urgent need for protection for the displaced people.
Another disputed point was a victim’s compensation fund.
After the signing of the May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, the fighting became worse. There has been indiscriminate bombing by the Sudanese Government in North Darfur and the Janjaweed have attacked more civilians in West and South Darfur than ever before, resulting in many people being displaced again (as even the camps were attacked).
As there have been numerous killings and disappearances of aid workers, including UN and AU staff, humanitarian operations are being endangered.
The degree of lawlessness in this area is unimaginable. The ceasefire agreement of April 2004 has been violated by all sides of the conflict, as has the DPA.
As there is no force present to protect civilians or ethnic minorities, there is no solution of ending these killings and atrocities right now.
The Effect on Chad
As Chad is a neighbouring country sharing the longest border with Darfur, a lot of the refugees have sought shelter in Chad. Unfortunately, Chadian rebels have backed the Sudanese government since late 2005. There have been attacks across the border from Chadian rebels into Sudan as well as attacks from the Janjaweed against civilians inside Chad.
Eastern Chad now holds about 320,000 refugees, of who 220,000 come from Darfur.
In 2006 and early 2007, hundreds of Chadian civilians were killed and more than 100,000 were displaced by militia violence in Eastern Chad. Dar Sila and Dar Tama are the areas worst affected; Arab militias carry out raids against mostly non-Arab villages, killing, raping and mutilating civilians, burning homes and stealing cattle.
The Chadian government and its president, Idriss Deby, a black African from the Zaghawa tribe, supports the rebels in Sudan, who are from the same tribe.
At the same time, Sudan’s largely Arab regime supports the Arab rebels in Eastern Chad. They became a real threat to Mr Deby, as they crossed the entire country and even attacked N’Djamena, the capital, before being fought back.
Aid agencies have been under constant attack, which made them declare a “phase 4” alert for the region (phase 5 is a total evacuation of any staff and has rarely happened; except e.g. in Chechnya).
Outbreaks of disease at the camps because of a lack of safe water are the biggest threat now, together with the need for food; the transport and distribution of which depends heavily on the aid organisations.
If nothing is done soon, this region will be off the map for a lot of the African tribes.
The gravity of the abuses and the fear that the same might happen in the other neighbour region of CAR puts urgency on a UN mission with a clear mandate to protect civilians proactively and monitor the movement of arms or armed groups.
How can this Genocide be ended? What should our governments do?
- Implementation of the UN resolutions is top priority
The Sudanese government rejects a peacekeeping troop for the region of Darfur.
President Omar El Bashir threatened the UN, that he would fight any UN force in Darfur “as Hezbollah fought the Israeli forces.” Vice President Salva Kiir Mahardit , who is head of the SPLM/A as well as Miini Minawi Arkau (head of the SLA/MM) do support the presence of UN troops.
- There are several UN Security Council resolutions in place:
- Resolution 1556 from July 30th, 2004 imposes an arms embargo on Darfur and demands the disarmament of the Janjaweed by the Sudanese government
- Resolution 1591 includes the monitoring of the arms embargo in Darfur
- Resolution 1593 allows the ICC to prosecute Sudanese government officials
- Resolution 1706 from the 31st of August, 2006 authorizes the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces to Darfur
- Resolution 1556 from July 30th, 2004 imposes an arms embargo on Darfur and demands the disarmament of the Janjaweed by the Sudanese government
- The AMIS (African Mission in Sudan) force’s mandate, which was put into place in April 2004 to monitor the ceasefire and expanded in October, 2004, consisted of representatives of the African Union, representatives of the (then) two rebel groups and partners such as the EU, the UN and the U.S. The AMIS was encountering problems of funding, as the AU lacks a sufficient tax base to pay for it; non-African donors had to step in to cover the costs of approximately USD 40 million a month.
AMIS has considered a transition to UN troops since early 2006 and the Security Council has called for the UN to take over its mission in several resolutions. There are also talks of a joint operation between the AMIS and the UN since November 2006.
The Sudanese government ruled out an AMIS to UN transition and offered funds from the Arab League, which were rejected. The UN gave USD 77 million in November 2006 and the AU extended the mandate for AMIS until mid 2007.
- The African Union has currently 7,000 troops on the ground in Darfur, but it has no mandate to protect civilians. They lack the troop strength and financial and logistic support to stop the genocide.
Khartoum is still playing down the atrocities as “tribal clashes” and talks about the “fabrication” of the Darfur situation by the press.
- Media access is limited in Darfur. Many more media and celebrities have to cover the genocide in Darfur.
- Until now, the U.S. is the only government publicly acknowledging that genocide is occurring in Darfur (stated by the then Secretary of State Colin Powell on September 9th, 2004) and declared the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed responsible; they have to act accordingly.
- Genocide is not an African problem; it is an international problem and as such requires an international response.
The world, including its leading nations, must put pressure on the government in Khartoum to accept an international mission.
The solution lies within the UN and not NATO, although some people might think about the possibility of engaging NATO. NATO involvement will be seen as Western intervention in a Muslim country (again) and will be regarded as a much more aggressive approach than the possibility of UN “peacekeeping” forces.
- Many fear China and Russia would use their veto against the UN mission; traditionally, they have both been “anti-interventionalist”. Both countries have strategic relationships with Khartoum, but so far they have not used their veto right. In the worst case, the U.S. has some leverage and negotiating power in making them change their mind.
- Every means to increase political pressure to overcome the Sudanese government’s objections is needed at this moment in time.
The obstacles to the deployment of the UN force have to be removed this means changing the Sudanese government’s views. This remains possible, because there are currently UN forces stationed in Southern Sudan (as a result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of January 2005). That shows an acceptance of the UN by the Sudanese government; even if contradicting themselves at the moment, why would they allow the UN into the South and not the West? The UN needs the authorization for “all necessary means, including deadly force, to protect people under attack or threat of violence” There needs to be a military presence as well as a civilian police. The support of the EU, the AU and the Arab League is absolutely necessary to get a result.
Economic pressure from the U.S. and the EU: a ban on companies that support the genocide would be an efficient measure to make any government rethink its strategies.
The U.S. and Europe have to work together to put sufficient strain on the Sudanese economy. Companies that support the Sudanese government, and by association the genocide, should not be allowed to trade with Europe or the U.S. This would have serious implications for Sudan. Its main trading partners are the former USSR, Iran, India and China, but also Germany and the USA. Its main export products are cotton, ground nuts, beans, livestock, Arabic gums and petroleum products.
There have to be individual sanctions like asset freezing and travel bans for all 50 or more individuals named in the UN’s Commission of Inquiry and Panel of Experts reports. Foreign investments have to be targeted, which supply the goods and services to the petroleum and associated sectors. Offshore assets of businesses affiliated with the National Congress Party (which is the government majority party) have to be identified and targeted, as they are a main source for financing militias. Revenue flows from the petroleum sector have to be monitored; they could instead create a compensation fund administered towards the Darfur victims. Robust action has to be taken against any future crimes against humanity; legal pressure has to be issued on the Khartoum regime.
Military measures could include the establishment of a “no fly zone” over Darfur for the Sudanese government, which would need to be supported by Germany and France in particular.
Boycott Sudanese "blood oil" now - following the best practice of banning "blood diamonds" in Africa
In February 2007 the U.S. Treasury Department used its regulatory authority (Executive Orders No. 13067 and 13400) to prohibit any U.S. bank from participating in commercial dealings with the Sudanese government, its leadership or their respective affiliates, including oil export firms in which they have interest.
The World Security Network Foundation is urging the European governments and the EU to follow this example now. Former U.S. Ambassador James Bindenagel came up with the idea of comparing the Sierra Leone Conflict and the solution of banning the “Blood Diamonds” with the Darfur conflict and a possible ban on “blood oil”:
James Bindenagel, former U.S. Ambassador, Vice President for Community, Government and International Affairs, DePaul University Chicago, Member of the International Advisory Board of the WSN Foundation on the genocide in Darfur and a boycott of Blood Oil - an exclusive WSN TV interview
Countries like China, who have a strong connection with Sudan - they get approximately six percent of their oil from there - have to understand that by supporting this government they are indirectly supporting the bloodshed. Today, China’s attitude towards foreign political problems is mostly that of “non-intervention”. They need to understand that by officially doing “nothing” they do a lot of damage. The U.S. and Europe have to work together to make the Chinese understand that non-intervention can be a big intervention; understand that China and any other oil trading partners of Sudan are getting “blood oil”, a natural resource from a country, which, instead of giving the proceeds to their own people , are using it to finance the genocide.
People of any country have to be protected; they do not only have a right to “conflict-free oil” but should be able to use their country’s resources for themselves in a way that enriches them. The trading partners of Sudan have the means of pressuring the government into certain actions by refusing to trade with them until they cease supporting the events in Darfur and Chad.
Intense involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
The International Criminal Court (ICC), appointed to deal with the people responsible, needs to bring the perpetrators to justice. On Feb 27 2007, the prosecutor of the ICC asked the Pre-Trial Chamber to issue summonses against Ali Mohammed Ali (called Ali Kosheib), the Janjaweed militia leader, and against the State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Mohammed Haroun, former deputy minister in the Ministry of the Interior during the initial period of the 2003-2005 conflict. HRW had identified these two individuals (Haroun and Ali Kosheib), together with at least another 22 individuals, as bearing responsibility for international crimes committed in Darfur. The proceedings must finally begin, even though the Sudanese government does not recognize this court and wants to try the people responsible in their own courts.
Although Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, the ICC can now investigate and prosecute crimes in Darfur following a referral by the UN Security Council, which happened in March 2005. (UN Security Council Resolution 1593 requires the Sudanese government to cooperate with the ICC). After having determined that the crimes in Darfur do fall under the ICC jurisdiction, the investigations opened. Until today there have been such awful atrocities shocking the conscience of humanity, that this is the first case in history, where the United Nations Security Council referred a case to the prosecutor without the consent of the country involved.
The Sudanese government established the Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur (SCCED) on June 7th, 2005; exactly one day after the ICC prosecutor announced the initiation of his investigations. This court has, so far, only investigated unrelated minor crimes, like sheep theft. No senior official has been charged; in contrast, there are broad immunity provisions in Sudanese law that forbid prosecuting any members of armed forces, national security forces or the police. That says it all.
There is no other possibility but to give the ICC all power to end this mockery, including sanctions against the people responsible. The ICC so far lacks the ability to enforce its own orders; it relies on state cooperation to conduct investigations or to make arrest. A summons in contrast to an arrest, asks the persons responsible to appear in front of the court. It does not impose obligations on the state. There is an obvious concern in this case, as the government and its president so openly oppose the jurisdiction of the ICC, that the parties involved might not honour the decision of the court. In that case there is a necessity for further proceedings. The Pre-Trial Chamber may impose conditions, short of detention, to restrict the accuser’s liberty like: depositing identity documents with the court; restrictions on travel or prohibitions on contacting victims or witnesses. If the accused does not comply with the conditions or does not appear, an arrest warrant can be issued.
This is the first time a victim’s participation in proceedings before the ICC is possible. For the first time before an international criminal tribunal, victims may participate in the proceedings; unfortunately nobody has applied so far; mostly out of lack of knowledge of their rights. Someone should go out there and tell the victims about their right for reparations.
Chairmanship of the African Union (AU)
For the second time in the last two years the chair of the African Union was supposed to go to Sudan. But during the opening speech of the African Union Summit on January 29th, 2007, Alpha Omar Kanare, the AU top diplomat, criticised Sudan because of its bloodshed in Darfur. Ghana was voted to chair the AU for the coming year. Hopefully criticism from its own ranks will have some effect onto the government’s attitude.
The search for oil in the Darfur region makes it more understandable, why this region was attacked
The supporting nations delivering arms and other military supplies to the Sudanese government are China, Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine. Government revenues have substantially increased since it began exporting oil in August 1999: oil revenue is estimated at USD 3 billion a year (this was in 2004; it has more than tripled since 1999). The Sudanese government has received high levels of international humanitarian assistance. The World Food Program is providing assistance for six million people in Sudan, including Darfur and the South. It would be counterproductive to cut this, but if the government does not change its policy of attacking aid organizations, there will be nobody left that dares to help. Killing its own people to have higher oil revenue for less population: typical power-induced short term thinking resulting in unimaginable ordeals for individuals.
What can I do?
- Please support the World Security Network Foundation, Human Rights Watch and Save Darfur with its campaign to stop the genocide in Darfur now
- Contact your members of parliament to start resolutions to save Darfur and to boycott Blood Oil from this region
- Sign petitions
- As a journalist, report about this foreign affairs scandal in Darfur