By Eric Reeves
November 18, 2012 (SSNA) — On November 13, 2012 the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) made the decision to provide "medevac" (medical evacuation) to approximately twelve Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers following heavy fighting with rebel forces in North Darfur. One report puts the number of evacuated wounded soldiers at two dozen. The injured were taken to the city of el-Fasher, location of the primary SAF military base in Darfur. Such military clashes between the SAF and rebel forces have been escalating for many months, as has violence against civilians, especially by Khartoum’s proxy forces in Darfur; all this occurs even as UNAMID has resolutely insisted that fighting and violence have diminished, thus justifying a draw-down in forces. But the grim truth is that UNAMID can’t sustain an adequate security presence for the vast majority of locations in Darfur facing threats of violence by Khartoum-allied militia forces. We might well wonder, then, why UNAMID would choose to deploy its conspicuously inadequate resources to evacuating Khartoum’s combatants, especially since such medevac forms no part of UNAMID’s mandate—indeed, "evacuating combatants" is neither mentioned nor suggested anywhere in the UN delineation of that mandate (running to over 1,300 words, included below as Appendix A). Nor is the task of evacuation, by aircraft or ground vehicles, anywhere mentioned in the very lengthy and highly detailed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed by Khartoum and the UN/AU force in February 2008.
To be sure, UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick is narrowly accurate in declaring that this medevac is justified by International Humanitarian Law (the medevac was "completely in line with International Humanitarian Law"), and several of the Geneva Conventions are explicit on the question of the legality of such medical evacuation. But Cycmanick seriously misrepresents the situation by declaring that medical evacuation of SAF soldiers is in any way part of the "core requirement of international humanitarian law, which falls under the Mission’s mandate" (UNAMID press release, November 13, 2012). International Humanitarian Law certainly governs the UNAMID mandate and the actions of UNAMID; but again, there is not one word about medical evacuation of combatants. On the contrary, the meaningful language of the mandate is given overly entirely to specifying the obligations of the peacekeeping force to protect civilians and humanitarians—this is the "core" task, and to suggest otherwise is simply disingenuous. The mandate does also speak vaguely about UNAMID’s assisting in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (May 2006); but the DPA had long been irrelevant when the language of the mandate was drafted, and it was simply convenient for a UN peacekeeping force to have at least a nominal "peace agreement" to be presiding over (the absurdly negotiated and widely rejected "Doha Document for Peace in Darfur" now serves as an equivalent placeholder).
Moreover, the real question here is not a legal one—it concerns the implications of UNAMID’s consequential decision to use scarce transport resources for a military medevac on behalf of a regime that has an abysmal record of itself defying International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in any number of situations. Here it should first be pointed out that UNAMID has in the past been highly selective in its use of transport resources for medevac purposes. Cycmanick claims that UNAMID has in the past provided such services to rebel wounded and civilians; however, this is a highly questionable assertion, one borne out by pitifully little in the way of reporting from the region, including from UNAMID itself. It is hardly surprising that one of the main rebel groups vehemently protested the medevac, since they are quite aware that their own wounded would never be accorded such assistance. Nor would such wounded rebel combatants enjoy the protection of IHL, even in hospitals supposedly enjoying UNAMID protection.
This only highlights the perversity of invoking International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as a defense for the recent action by UNAMID. For such defense opens UNAMID itself to any number of awkward questions:
• Why have the UN and African Union leadership done so painfully little to condemn confirmed instances of Khartoum’s violations of IHL as well as International Human Rights Law (IHRL)? These include painting military aircraft "UN white," aircraft departing directly from the air base at el-Fasher, location of UNAMID headquarters. The previous UN Panel of Experts on Darfur—before Ban Ki-moon’s Secretariat expediently sabotaged the mission—repeatedly confirmed this gross violation of IHL. Now neither the completely inept current Panel nor UNAMID reports anything of this ongoing crime, one that endangers all humanitarian aircraft and, because unrebuked, has spread to the North/South border regions.
• Why has the UN and African Union leadership done so little to overcome Khartoum’s relentless obstruction of shipments of food and medicine from Port Sudan to Darfur, another egregious violation of IHL? Why do humanitarian organizations continue to face denial of visas and travel permits for their workers? Why do these workers continue to face intimidation, harassment, severe limitations in movement, and explicit threats of violence or actual violence? These are all serious violations of IHL that continue unabated, and the current Yellow Fever epidemic in West Darfur is again demonstrating the deadly consequences of humanitarian obstruction and denial of access. This frequently fatal disease is likely to spread quickly in areas to which Khartoum continues to deny access, especially parts of Jebel Marra adjacent to the main outbreak.
• Why have UN and AU condemnations of aerial bombardment of civilians been so very occasional and so completely ineffectual? Why has Khartoum paid no price for aerial attacks on civilian targets that continue to be a standard part of its military campaign in Darfur? The most recent bombing attack, yet again on eastern Jebel Marra, killed two (Radio Dabanga, November 15, 2012), but there have been many hundreds since UNAMID took up its mandate on January 1, 2008 (see www.sudanbombing.org). Why has there been no pressure to halt a practice that has been continuous on the part of the present regime for well over a decade?
• Why have the UN and AU not been more forceful in their condemnation of the humanitarian blockade of the populous Jebel Marra region, which has had no remotely adequate relief access for three years? Again, this is an extraordinary violation of IHL.
• Why does complete impunity continue to obtain for even the most brutal violators of both IHL and IHRL in Darfur? Why is the continuing epidemic of rape in Darfur never mentioned by UNAMID? or even by the UN Secretary General? This silent acquiescence gives every sign of being a decision made to appease Khartoum.
• Why do so many camps for displaced persons report chronic violence, threatening civilians in a variety of ways? Present levels of insecurity in the camps represent a fundamental failing on the part of UNAMID in taking responsibility for its mandate. Radio Dabanga reported on November 16, 2012 an all too typical account:
"Displaced persons from Saraf Omra camps in North Darfur have complained about the high level of insecurity in the area due to the continuous attacks executed by pro-government militias, they told Radio Dabanga on Friday, 16 November. Residents from the Naseem, Dankoj and Jebel camps affirmed that pro-government militias carry out armed robberies and fire random shots targeting the camps. A camps activist told Radio Dabanga that security is lacking in the area, stressing that the lives and properties of local residents are constantly under threat."
• Why have there been no comparably urgent efforts to evacuate wounded civilians during countless violent assaults in which a UNAMID base was nearby—assaults often entailing violations of both IHL and IHRL? The massacre of civilians in Tabarat was perhaps the most egregious failure. The attack on Tabarat, very near Tawila in North Darfur, occurred on September 2, 2010 and was conducted by an Arab militia force allied with Khartoum and the SAF. More than 50 African men and boys were executed, many by gunshot at point-blank range. Scores of others were wounded, and desperate survivors made their way to nearby Tabarat to plead for assistance. The assistance never came. Six days after the attack, on September 8, 2010, UNAMID issued a terse statement confirming that Khartoum’s forces were blocking all access to Tabarat, including assisting the many wounded and dying: "On 7 September, a UNAMID [mission] on its way from El Fasher to Tarabat [sic] was stopped by an SAF convoy and were informed by the commanding officer not to return before two days due to ongoing SAF operations in the area" (UNAMID press release [el-Fasher], September 8, 2010).
Again, many scores of African villagers had been slaughtered or wounded in this notorious event; help for these civilians was desperately needed. And yet there was no evacuation, only silence and a shameful failure even to report on events at Tabarat. This stands in stark contrast with the extraordinarily detailed account by Reuters in the immediate aftermath of the Tabarat massacre (see Appendix B below); the dispatch contains a number of interviews with survivors who recounted the horror of what they had seen and the desperation with which they pleaded with UNAMID personnel for medical help and evacuation of the wounded (UNAMID has a significant base in nearby Tawila). This is the most telling context in which to understand UNAMID’s decision to medevac SAF troops, and the ensuring justification for such a mission simply because it did not conflict with IHL. What do Mr. Cycmanick and the UNAMID political leadership think about the relationship of IHL to the various events at Tabarat?
But there are many other such examples. Much more recently UNAMID has been blocked from investigating reports of atrocities committed against civilians in the Hashaba area of North Darfur (October 2012). The same was true in early August, when Arab militia forces overran the major town of Kutum, looting and destroying humanitarian supplies and resources, as well as newly displacing the entire population of nearby Kassab camp for IDPs ( http://www.sudanreeves.org/2012/08/13/3376/).
In Hashaba, Radio Dabanga reports eyewitness accounts suggesting that several hundred civilians were killed or injured in the period from September 26 through October 2. The attacking forces were repeatedly described by these eyewitnesses as Arab militia forces backed by SAF aerial military assets. The reports continued to describe the attackers on the ground as belonging to "pro-government militias." Here again, thousands of civilians were newly displaced.
Even more disturbing and significant, however, is a subsequent attack on the follow-up investigation, an unusually robust UNAMID patrol comprising 16 vehicles in all. On October 17, 2012 a very heavily armed militia group—which had carefully anticipated the route of the UNAMID convoy traveling to Hashaba—fired from elevated ground down upon the highly vulnerable UNAMID forces. UNAMID returned fire, but faced very intimidating weaponry and overwhelming tactical disadvantage; with the killing of one UNAMID soldier and the wounding of three others (one critically), the force retreated back to Kutum. The South African soldier killed was the 43rd to die in a mission that has been consistently poorly led and betrayed by the political unwillingness of UNAMID leaders to confront Khartoum over its actions, and those of its proxies.
The character of the weapons used in the attack on UNAMID forces was reported in uncharacteristic detail (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], October 22, 2012):
"'[The attackers] used arsenals of high-calibre weapons that were never used before,’ UNAMID spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri said in a written reply to AFP questions. ‘This includes mortars, medium machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47 rifles, and anti-tank guns.’"
Edmond Mulet, deputy head of UN peacekeeping operations, would later declare in an October 24 briefing of the UN Security Council that the attacking force used "heavy machine guns," a fearsomely destructive weapon when fired with the advantage of significantly higher ground position.
This was no ordinary militia assault: it is clear that the UNAMID convoy was attacked, on the basis of advance intelligence, so as to prevent the investigation of atrocity crimes and egregious violations of IHRL reported from Hashaba.
UNAMID’s invoking of IHL on the occasion of its medevac operation for SAF soldiers could hardly be more specious with this as context. As UNAMID knows full well, Khartoum has blocked humanitarian and medical access to civilians in desperate, even emergency need on countless occasions; often these are civilians who have been wounded or raped during actions by Khartoum’s forces and militias, further conspicuous violations of IHRL. At such moments, so relentlessly persistent over the five years of UNAMID presence in Darfur, we hear nothing or virtually nothing from UNAMID’s Cycmanick about either IHL or IHRL.
IHL and Khartoum’s military operations elsewhere in greater Sudan
If we look further afield, there are a great many more questions that provide context for UNAMID’s deplorable decision to medevac SAF soldiers, using scarce aerial resources that have not been deployed on those occasions when civilians were clearly at risk or had been reliably reported as wounded:
• Is UNAMID not aware that on August 2, 2011 the SAF refused to allow for the urgent medevac of three mortally wounded UN peacekeepers in Abyei (the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, UNISFA)? Despite repeated attempts to secure permission from the SAF in Kadugli (South Kordofan) for helicopter evacuation, the UN was rebuffed on each occasion until it had become too late. One of the mortally wounded soldiers would have likely survived if he had reached Kadugli in timely fashion. Alain Le Roy, then head of UN peacekeeping, declared bluntly that, "We didn’t get the clearance for the Medevac helicopter to take off immediately. They [Khartoum’s SAF] prevented us to take off by threatening to shoot at the helicopter."
• Is UNAMID unaware that in June 2011 UN human rights observers in Kadugli observed the SAF and its proxies kill a great number of civilians because of their Nuba ethnicity? Is UNAMID leadership unaware that some 7,000 civilians were removed from UN protective custody in Kadugli by Khartoum’s Military Intelligence and have never subsequently been accounted for? Is UNAMID unaware of assaults by SAF forces on UN employees in Kadugli, detailed in a leaked UN human rights report?
"The attacks on [UN Mission in Sudan, Kadugli], its staff and assets are so egregious that condemnation is insufficient. The conduct of the SAF, the PDF, the Central Reserve Police Force, and the Government Police, singularly and collectively, has frustrated and weakened the capacity of the UNMIS to implement in Southern Kordofan a mandate given to it by the UN Security Council. The conduct has also resulted in loss of life and injury of UN staff." (§74)
The UN report specifically invokes both IHL and IHRL in expressing its outrage at the acts committed by Khartoum’s SAF and its proxies; the report also demands a UN investigation and strongly suggests that there be a referral to the International Criminal Court:
"The international community must hold the Government of Sudan accountable for this conduct and insist that those responsible be arrested and brought to justice. [This] report further recommends that an independent and comprehensive investigation be conducted, into violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws in Southern Kordofan with the view to bringing those who bear the greatest responsibility to justice, including referral as appropriate to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)." (Executive Summary)
There has of course been no such investigation—merely lip-service support for such an investigation from the likes of present U.S. special envoy Princeton Lyman and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
• Is UNAMID unaware that, in outrageous violation of IHL, Khartoum continues to deny humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains (South Kordofan) and Blue Nile more than 17 months after hostilities were initiated by the regime? A million people face slow starvation and pressure to flee their homes and lands because of this deliberately destructive violation of IHL.
• Is UNAMID unaware that there are numerous, redundantly corroborated reports of the systematic destruction of food supplies in the Nuba? Many of these extraordinary violations of IHL and IHRL have been conducted by the infamous "Match Brigade," such as the complete destruction of Um Bartumbu village in March 2012 (www.NubaReports.org has posted a "screen grab" from this action, reportedly found on the body of a Popular Defense Forces militia member in the Jebel Toma area later the same month). I have received reports from the Nuba of an increased use of incendiary bombs by Khartoum in an effort to inflict greater damage on the harvest still underway; the seasonal rains no longer prevent wildfires among what little there is in the way of mature crops, especially sorghum.
• Is UNAMID unaware that Khartoum deliberately bombed refugee camps in both Upper Nile and Unity states in South Sudan on November 8 and 10, 2011? This entailed multiple egregious violations of IHL, IHRL, and other key tenets of international law.
• Is UNAMID unaware that Khartoum has again been repeatedly and highly credibly accused of using military aircraft painted "UN white," both for reconnaissance purposes along the North/South border and in delivering supplies to renegade militia leader David Yau Yau, the man presently most responsible for terrible civilian destruction in Jonglei State and a widespread inflaming of ethnic tensions—a campaign he may soon bring to Upper Nile State?
• Is UNAMID unaware of how many times Khartoum denied humanitarian access to South Sudan during the civil war, leaving millions of people at greatly increased risk? How many times Khartoum’s military aircraft deliberately attacked hospitals, feeding facilities, even humanitarian relief sites clearly marked as belong to the International Committee of the Red Cross?
The question of UNAMID awareness or ignorance of the larger context for their decision to medevac SAF soldiers is essential here; but UNAMID spokesman Cycmanick seems oblivious and the interim head of UNAMID, Aichatou Mindaoudou, seems content to issue anodyne statements about Darfur on the occasion of her first, highly controlled visit to the region. She has said nothing publicly about the UNAMID decision to medevac SAF troops, or indeed anything of consequence about UNAMID’s mandate: "continued fighting is a dead end that only harms the people of Darfur." Concerning IHL and IHRL she indulges a familiar "moral equivalence" that betrays the people of Darfur and contributes to what virtually all Darfuris see as a continuing climate of impunity, deliberately maintained by Khartoum:
"’Ms. Mindaoudou urges all sides to cease hostilities immediately, respect international human rights and humanitarian law, and engage fully in the peaceful settlement of Darfur conflict,’ UNAMID added in a news release." (UN News Centre, November 12, 2012)
In connection with the very recent murder and displacement of many civilians in the Sigili area of North Darfur, Ms. Mindaoudou places no blame but only generally deplores "all forms of violence in Darfur":
"’I am dismayed by these deaths, and very concerned over the repeated incidents that have led to the killing, injury of the local population, as well as their displacement," said UNAMID’s Acting Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator Aichatou Mindaoudou. ‘I reiterate my strong condemnation of all forms of violence in Darfur, especially the attacks against civilians, which constitute serious crimes,’ she added in a news release.’ [ ] ‘I urge all the parties to avoid violence and choose the path of peace and negotiated settlement,’ Ms. Mindaoudou stated." (UN News Centre, November 3, 2012)
Khartoum certainly feels that it has prevailed if it confronts only such incontrovertible assessments, and "urgings" that have no political support; moreover, Mindaoudou fails to assign responsibility for the violence, despite a great deal of evidence about who carried it out. Much more usefully, Radio Dabanga reports—on the basis of eyewitness accounts—that Khartoum-allied militia forces were responsible for the violence at Sigili (southeast of el-Fasher):
"About 1,000 people, or 140 families, from Sigili in Shawa area, North Darfur, have reportedly fled their village following the militia attack that left 13 people dead last Friday, 2 November, locals told Radio Dabanga. According to sources, virtually all inhabitants left the Shawa area and are moving to El-Fasher and to Zam Zam camp, they explained to Radio Dabanga on Thursday, 8 November. In addition, reports concerning a new imminent attack in Sigili by a militia based in Kalimandou, have also influenced the large displacement of residents, according to witnesses. [ ] Witnesses and activists appealed to UNAMID and to the international community to protect the civilians stranded with their livestock and who are threatened to be attacked once more by government militias." (November 10, 2012)
Claims that the medevac of SAF soldiers is a "core responsibility" of UNAMID because of IHL obligations ring hollow when such reports of civilian endangerment and casualties are essentially ignored.
Why would UNAMID decide to conduct the medevac?
UNAMID’s poorly timed and even more poorly justified decision to medevac Khartoum’s combatants raises serious questions about consequences as well as about motives. Certainly the action will further alienate both Darfuri civil society—already contemptuous of UNAMID—and the Darfur rebel groups, which have long felt, with good reason and considerable evidence, that UNAMID was not impartial and had taken sides with the regime in Khartoum. Increased Darfuri hostility towards its mission and personnel is the last thing UNAMID needs as it scales back the size of the force, claiming as justification improved security on the ground. But the real issue is why UNAMID would decide as it did. In fact, it is highly likely—although UNAMID will never admit as much—that SAF commanding officers demanded that their soldiers be medevac’d, threatening UNAMID with grave consequences if it did not comply.
Such threats of reprisal cannot be taken lightly. Here we should also recall the history of SAF hostility to and obstruction of UNAMID, as well as many explicit threats of violence against this UN-authorized force. A report by the Secretary General from November 16, 2010 notes:
"In the context of this ongoing violence, freedom of movement continues to be a serious concern for UNAMID and many of the agencies in Darfur. Since January 2009, there have been at least 42 incidents in which a UNAMID patrol was denied passage by a Government official, including incidents in which Government officials specifically threatened the safety of UNAMID staff and equipment." (page 3)
One example cited in the report is particularly telling:
"On 29 September 2009, an SAF representative in Shaeria locality informed UNAMID that the failure to provide authorities with prior notification of a patrol would result in the patrol being attacked." (page 4)
In its report of January 28, 2011 on Darfur, Human Rights Watch noted that, "The Government of] Sudan has continued to restrict UN and humanitarian agencies from accessing conflict-affected areas, including Tabit, the site of the January 25  clash." This restriction occurred during what represents perhaps the most egregious violation of IHL in Khartoum’s response to UNAMID’s efforts to fulfill its true mandate:
"UNAMID spokesman Kemal Saiki confirmed the bombing was by ‘the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) air force.’ Later on Wednesday [January 26, 2011], a group of 200 Sudanese government soldiers in 40 vehicles arrived at UNAMID’s camp in the nearby settlement of Shangil Tobay, UNAMID said. ‘(The soldiers) surrounded the team site’s exit as well as the adjacent makeshift camp, where thousands of civilians recently displaced by the December 2010 clashes have settled,’ read the statement. The Sudanese army detained four displaced people at the camp, said UNAMID. ‘The SAF commander at the scene … then threatened to burn down the makeshift camp and UNAMID team site, if the peacekeepers continued to interfere.’" (Reuters [Khartoum], January 27, 2011)
Reuters had reported two days earlier (January 25, 2011) the UN had confirmed "Sudanese soldiers fired warning shots when they saw a UNAMID patrol on Saturday [January 22, 2011] near the north Darfur settlement of Dar el-Salam and stopped it from entering the area, a UN source said."
Dismayingly, access issues were made into a political football by the Obama administration’s special envoy for Sudan, Scott Gration, who declared shortly before he ended his disastrous tenure: "’The Government of Sudan has taken great steps to lift restrictions on UNAMID,’ he said. ‘We’ve seen great improvement of access for UNAMID and for the international NGOs’" (Reuters, February 11, 2011). Gration—who predicted peace would come to Darfur by the end of 2009 and that the 2010 national Sudanese elections would be "as free and fair as possible"—bears major responsibility for the collective decision to acquiesce before Khartoum’s intransigence and its ruthless evisceration of UNAMID capacity.
UNAMID’s real mandate
The language of the UNAMID mandate is included in its entirety below, but the mission’s key terms of reference begin with these four charges: "protect its personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its own personnel and humanitarian workers;  "support early and effective implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, prevent the disruption of its implementation and armed attacks, and protect civilians, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan. [NB: the mandate was emended per UN Security Council Resolution 2003 to refer instead to the "Doha Document for Peace in Darfur," an agreement as untenable as the DPA and almost universally rejected by Darfuri civil society, political leadership, and the rebel groups—ER]  "To contribute to the restoration of necessary security conditions for the safe provision of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate full humanitarian access throughout Darfur;  "To contribute to the protection of civilian populations under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks against civilians, within its capability and areas of deployment, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan."
UNAMID’s failure in all these tasks has been abject. It has been no more successful in taking on other parts of the stipulated mandate: "To monitor, observe compliance with and verify the implementation of various ceasefire agreements signed since 2004, as well as assist with the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements."
Monitoring has consistently been limited by a lack of resources, a lack of leadership and commitment, and because Khartoum has engineered a climate so threatening that UNAMID is now largely paralyzed. Its weak efforts to monitor "compliance" with the "various ceasefire agreements signed since 2004" have had no chance for success, given the regime’s relentless denial of access to places where the "ceasefires" have been violated.
UNAMID is to "assist in the promotion of the rule of law in Darfur, including through support for strengthening an independent judiciary and the prison system." Again, there has been no progress whatsoever during the five years of UNAMID’s deployment. Incarceration, however arbitrary, is the prerogative of Khartoum’s Military Intelligence, as it has been since conflict began.
UNAMID is also to "contribute to a secure environment for economic reconstruction and development, as well as the sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes." But a great many more civilians have been newly displaced since UNAMID took up its mandate (well over 1 million people) than have fully returned to their homes (fewer than 100,000, even if one accepts the UN’s dubious reckoning of this figure).
"Means" for implementing the mandate
It becomes painfully clear in reading the language of the mandate that it is almost circular: goals and means are articulated in the very same terms. Even so, the emphasis continues to fall decisively on civilian protection:
The mandate demands that UNAMID "contribute to the promotion of respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Darfur." This demand stands as an appallingly grim joke in Darfur.
Other "means" for UNAMID to fulfill its mandate:
"To promote the re-establishment of confidence, deter violence and assist in monitoring and verifying the implementation of the redeployment and disengagement provisions of the Darfur Peace Agreement, including by actively providing security and robust patrolling of redeployment and buffer zones, by monitoring the withdrawal of long-range weapons, and by deploying hybrid police, including formed police units, in areas where internally displaced persons are concentrated, in the demilitarized and buffer zones [there are no such "zones" in Darfur—ER], along key routes of migration and in other vital areas, including as provided for in the Darfur Peace Agreement."
No "long-range weapons" have been withdrawn from Darfur; on the contrary, weapons and ammunition of primarily Chinese manufacture continue to pour into Darfur, as the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur—charged with monitoring the UN-imposed arms embargo—made painfully clear during the first five years of its existence. As noted above, the Panel has since degenerated into a meaningless and utterly uninspired fig-leaf put in place for political reasons by the UN Secretariat. "Robust patrolling" has never been a significant part of UNMID’s activities, and such patrols are now increasingly rare. Formed Police Units (FPU) are present in only a few camps, and these are some of the first elements of UNAMID to be deployed out.
UNAMID also has as part of its mandate "To monitor, verify and promote efforts to disarm the Janjaweed and other militias." The UN Security Council first "demanded" that Khartoum "disarm" the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice in July 2004 (Resolution 1556). There has been absolutely no progress on this front over more than eight years. Some former Janjaweed have been recycled into other paramilitary guises (e.g., the Border Intelligence Police and Abu Tira, or Central Reserve Police). In turn, the Abu Tira in particular are implicated in a tremendous amount of the continuing violence against civilians.
UNAMID is also to:
"…contribute to the creation of the necessary security conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate the voluntary and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes;
"…to ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations-African Union personnel, humanitarian workers and Assessment and Evaluation Commission personnel, to prevent disruption of the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement by armed groups and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks and threats against civilians;
"…to assist in harnessing the capacity of women to participate in the peace process, including through political representation, economic empowerment and protection from gender-based violence."
As noted above, UNAMID no longer even reports on the avalanche of sexual violence—and fear of such violence—that continues to sweep across Darfur and dominate the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Darfuri women and girls, overwhelmingly from the non-Arab or African tribal groups.
And critically, UNAMID has been charged "…to monitor through proactive patrolling the parties’ policing activities in camps for internally displaced persons, demilitarized and buffer zones and areas of control." In this last task, UNAMID has disgracefully, abjectly failed. As the report from the Saraf Omra camps in North Darfur (see above) makes clear, along with countless similar reports, violence is pervasive and uncontrolled in the camp areas, where living conditions continue to deteriorate.
UNAMID is at once the most expensive UN peacekeeping operation in the world and the least effective. Given the urgent needs for peacekeeping resources elsewhere, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has decided that it will draw down the force substantially. Although Hervé Ladsous, head of UN peacekeeping, has declared that the force reduction has been dictated by changed "realities on the ground" (i.e., improved security), this claim is nothing more than a cynical bit of face-saving mendacity. The tremendously challenging operation in Darfur was the first undertaken by the then relatively newly formed African Union Peace and Security Council. The initial failure of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), though widely acknowledged, seemed not to faze the AUPSC leadership; instead, earlier failure led in the end not to an effective UN protective force (per the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1706, August 2006), but a force acceptable to Khartoum—a "hybrid" UN and African Union force that was to be "predominantly African" in makeup. No matter that this ensured the force would comprise a great many poorly trained and ill-equipped personnel from many different countries that had not previously worked together; no matter, in short, that such capitulation before Khartoum’s demands ensured the disaster to which we have been witness. The regime’s obduracy has prevailed, and neither the African Union nor the UN will challenge the regime. The have much company.
This unwillingness to challenge the regime has steadily emboldened the ruthless men in Khartoum, and their military representatives in Darfur. When the SAF demanded that UNAMID medevac its wounded soldiers—as it almost certainly did—there was again no resistance. Instead, we heard only the deplorably disingenuous invoking of "International Humanitarian Law" by spokesman Cycmanick.
UNAMID is on the verge of collapse; certainly its ability and capacity to take on the primary responsibilities specified in its mandate have all but vanished. As a consequence, we may expect what is already massive violence against civilians to continue to increase in the coming months.[ Eric Reeves is author of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012, at www.CompromisingWithEvil.org ]
Appendix A: Full text of UNAMID mandate:
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council, by its resolution 1769 of 31 July 2007 decided that UNAMID is authorized to take the necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities in order to:
•protect its personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its own personnel and humanitarian workers;
•support early and effective implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, prevent the disruption of its implementation and armed attacks, and protect civilians, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan.
•The Council also decided that the mandate of UNAMID shall be as set out in paragraphs 54 and 55 of the report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission [S/2007/307/Rev.1 of 5 June 2007, namely as follows:
•To contribute to the restoration of necessary security conditions for the safe provision of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate full humanitarian access throughout Darfur;
•To contribute to the protection of civilian populations under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks against civilians, within its capability and areas of deployment, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan;
•To monitor, observe compliance with and verify the implementation of various ceasefire agreements signed since 2004, as well as assist with the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements;
•To assist the political process in order to ensure that it is inclusive, and to support the African Union-United Nations joint mediation in its efforts to broaden and deepen commitment to the peace process;
•To contribute to a secure environment for economic reconstruction and development, as well as the sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes;
•To contribute to the promotion of respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Darfur;
•To assist in the promotion of the rule of law in Darfur, including through support for strengthening an independent judiciary and the prison system, and assistance in the development and consolidation of the legal framework, in consultation with relevant Sudanese authorities;
•To monitor and report on the security situation at the Sudan’s borders with Chad and the Central African Republic.
In order to achieve these broad goals, the operation’s tasks would include the following:
Support for the peace process and good offices:
•To support the good offices of the African Union/United Nations Joint Special Representative for Darfur and the mediation efforts of the Special Envoys of the African Union and the United Nations;
•To support and monitor the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and subsequent agreements;
•To participate in and support the major bodies established by the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements in the implementation of their mandate, including through the provision of technical assistance and logistical support to those bodies;
•To facilitate the preparation and conduct of the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation, as stipulated in the Darfur Peace Agreement;
•To assist in the preparations for the conduct of the referendums provided for in the Darfur Peace Agreement;
•To ensure the complementary implementation of all peace agreements in the Sudan, particularly with regard to the national provisions of those agreements, and compliance with the Interim National Constitution;
•To liaise with UNMIS, the African Union Liaison Office for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and other stakeholders to ensure complementary implementation of the mandates of UNMIS, the African Union Liaison Office for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the hybrid operation in Darfur;[ UNMIS no longer exists, and UNAMID does not liaise with UNMISS, the successor force—ER ]
•To promote the re-establishment of confidence, deter violence and assist in monitoring and verifying the implementation of the redeployment and disengagement provisions of the Darfur Peace Agreement, including by actively providing security and robust patrolling of redeployment and buffer zones, by monitoring the withdrawal of long-range weapons, and by deploying hybrid police, including formed police units, in areas where internally displaced persons are concentrated, in the demilitarized and buffer zones, along key routes of migration and in other vital areas, including as provided for in the Darfur Peace Agreement;
•To monitor, investigate, report and assist the parties in resolving violations of the Darfur Peace Agreement and subsequent complementary agreements through the Ceasefire Commission and the Joint Commission;
•To monitor, verify and promote efforts to disarm the Janjaweed and other militias;
•To coordinate non-combat logistical support for the movements;
•To assist in the establishment of the disarmament, demobilization andreintegration programme called for in the Darfur Peace Agreement;
•To contribute to the creation of the necessary security conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate the voluntary and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes;
•In the areas of deployment of its forces and within its capabilities, to protect the hybrid operation’s personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, to ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations-African Union personnel, humanitarian workers and Assessment and Evaluation Commission personnel, to prevent disruption of the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement by armed groups and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of the Sudan, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks and threats against civilians;
•To monitor through proactive patrolling the parties’ policing activities in camps for internally displaced persons, demilitarized and buffer zones and areas of control;
•To support, in coordination with the parties, as outlined in the Darfur Peace Agreement, the establishment and training of community police in camps for internally displaced persons, to support capacity-building of the Government of the Sudan police in Darfur, in accordance with international standards of human rights and accountability, and to support the institutional development of the police of the movements;
•To support the efforts of the Government of the Sudan and of the police of the movements to maintain public order and build the capacity of Sudanese law enforcement in this regard through specialized training and joint operations;
•To provide technical mine-action advice and coordination and demining capacity to support the Darfur Peace Agreement;
Rule of law, governance, and human rights:
•To assist in the implementation of the provisions of the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements relating to human rights and the rule of law and to contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to respect for human rights and the rule of law, in which all are ensured effective protection;
•To assist all stakeholders and local government authorities, in particular in their efforts to transfer resources in an equitable manner from the federal Government to the Darfur states, and to implement reconstruction plans and existing and subsequent agreements on land use and compensation issues;
•To support the parties to the Darfur Peace Agreement in restructuring and building the capacity of the police service in Darfur, including through monitoring, training, mentoring, co-location and joint patrols;
•To assist in promoting the rule of law, including through institution-building, and strengthening local capacities to combat impunity;
•To ensure an adequate human rights and gender presence capacity, and expertise in Darfur in order to contribute to efforts to protect and promote human rights in Darfur, with particular attention to vulnerable groups;
•To assist in harnessing the capacity of women to participate in the peace process, including through political representation, economic empowerment and protection from gender-based violence;
•To support the implementation of provisions included in the Darfur Peace Agreement and any subsequent agreements relating to upholding the rights of children;
•To facilitate the effective provision of humanitarian assistance and full access to people in need.
• In its most recent resolution 2003 of 29 July 2011, the Security Council underlined the need for UNAMID to make full use of its capabilities and prioritize the protection of civilians; safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access; and to complement efforts to promote the peace as well as the political process negotiated in Doha, Qatar. It demanded that all parties to the conflict, including all armed movements, immediately end the violence and make every effort to reach a permanent ceasefire and a comprehensive settlement under the Doha Document.
Appendix B: Reuters account of the Tabarat massacre of September 2010
On September 2, 2010 in the market area of the village of Tabarat, some 20 kilometers west of Tawila (which is south of Kutum and site of a UNAMID base), more than 50 ethnically African men and boys were killed, most by gunshots at point-blank range. Despite desperately urgent reports carried by survivors to the UNAMID force stationed at nearby Tawila that evening, UNAMID refused either to intervene or to evacuate the scores of wounded, many of whom subsequently died of their wounds. Reuters reported (Khartoum, 17 September 2010) various eyewitness accounts from Tabarat, which give us some sense of what likely occurred in Hashaba. Khartoum’s security forces prevented UNAMID from investigating events in Tabarat for over a week, and it is still the case that what we know comes primarily from a series of Reuters interviews with survivors of the massacre:
“Darfuri men were shot dead at point blank range during a surprise Arab militia raid on a busy market this month in which at least 39 people were killed and almost 50 injured, eyewitnesses said on Friday. The attack on civilians was reminiscent of the early years of the counter-insurgency operation in Sudan’s west, which took up arms against the government in 2003, complaining that the region had been neglected by Khartoum. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has since issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes in Darfur, charges he denies.
“Details of the September 2 attack on the market in the village of Tabarat have not previously come to light. The government prevented peacekeepers from visiting the site until days later. But five survivors of the attack told Reuters that heavily armed Arab militia had targeted male victims and shot many at point blank range. One diplomat said the militia were likely from among those armed and mobilized by the government to quell the rebels. Those militia, known as Janjaweed, were responsible for mass rape, murder and looting. Many of the tribal militia still support the government but Khartoum has lost control over some.
“In Tabarat, men were rounded up by militia wearing military uniforms who rode into the market on horses and camels pretending to be buying goods before spraying the shops with gunfire. Then vehicles mounted with machine guns and carrying militia fighters appeared and rounded up some of the men, survivors said.
“‘They laid them down and they came up close and shot them in their heads,’ Abakr Abdelkarim, 45, told Reuters by telephone from the town of Tawilla, where many of the victims had sought refuge and medical help. ‘(Those killed) were all men and one woman—some men were tied with rope behind the cars and dragged until they died.’”
RUN FOR HIS LIFE
“Adam Saleh said he had run for his life and hidden in nearby fields to watch from afar. ‘They were targeting men—all of them were shot in the head and chest, only those who were running away got shot in their legs and arms.’ Nour Abdallah, 45, said the attackers let most of the women run away. She could not escape and so lay face down in the dirt. ‘They told me not to lift my head up or I would be shot too.’
“Saleh and others said after the attack they had gone to the joint U.N.-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping base in Tawilla to ask peacekeepers to come to Tabarat but they had refused. ‘They also refused to come and help us recover the bodies,’ Saleh added. UNAMID has said both rebels and the government prevented it getting access to the area.
“A UNAMID spokesman said he could not comment on the witness reports but an internal document seen by Reuters showed UNAMID had received similar witness reports of men being executed. The only aid agency working in Tawilla, Médecins Sans Frontières, said it could confirm 39 people died and it had treated 46 injured, many with ‘serious gunshot wounds.’ ‘We saw only men,’ said MSF head of mission Alessandro Tuzza. He said he could not comment on how the victims were shot but that MSF was still negotiating with the government to get access to the area in North Darfur province.
“The witnesses said they had buried 41 bodies in common graves but more were still in the bushes around the market. Sudan’s army denied involvement in the attack and said the local government was investigating. ‘The North Darfur government have formed a security committee to investigate this.’ Presidential adviser Ghazi Salaheddin visited the area on Friday on a fact-finding mission.” (Opheera McDoom for Reuters [Khartoum], September 17, 2010)
Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. His new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012) is available in eBook format, at no cost. www.CompromisingWithEvil.org