Naming Names: Holding Accountable Those Enabling Genocide in Sudan

Photo: Getty Images/File
Photo: Getty Images/File

By Eric Reeves

December 4, 2016 (SSNA) — As grim genocide by attrition in Darfur is set to enter its fifteenth year, as Khartoum’s claim of a purely nominal “cease-fire” in South Kordofan is belied by repeated reports of Sudan Armed Forces shelling areas of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North, and as repression in Sudan reaches a crescendo—this in response to the regime’s allowing a collapse of the national economy—it seems almost beyond comprehension that nations of the world accept all this as a “new normal.” But in fact, the view of all too many countries is that this is a new “normality,” one that shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with various worldly economic interests, or arms sales to the regime, or the most expedient deals made in pursuit of putative counter-terrorism intelligence—something of which the Obama administration is guilty.

To be sure, relationships with the regime established over many years are not similar in all ways. China and Russia, veto-wielding Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, have long been major sources of weapons to Khartoum—and reflexive supporters of the Khartoum regime at the UN. They make impossible, for example, enforcement of the arms embargo on Darfur imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005)—one of countless obstructionist policies and stratagems by which these cynically self-interested world powers protect what is in effect a client state.

The relationship of Arab countries toward Sudan has also changing, becoming much more “accepting. As economic conditions have forced the regime to forgo its many years of “eternal strategic relationship with Iran,” this has left an opening for (Sunni) Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States—particularly Qatar—to wield greater influence by means of financial assistance. Given the need felt especially by Saudi Arabia to counter Iranian influence in the region, it has been an opportune moment.

I have recently written at length on the history of the Obama administration’s relationship with Khartoum, seen through synoptic accounts of the three disastrous special envoys for Sudan: Scott Gration, Princeton Lyman, and Donald Booth (“Obama Administration Special Envoys for Sudan: A Succession of Failure, Duplicity, and Cynicism,” November 24, 2016 | ). I have also written about the implications for American Sudan policy of Donald Trump’s victory, a man elected president by running on a platform of xenophobia, exclusionism, hatred of Islam, and a pull-back from internationalism (“Sudan in the Wake of a Trump Victory,” November 15, 2016 | ). It would seem appropriate, then, to look to European nations—and especially the European countries so eagerly pursuing policies of rapprochement.

Europe and Khartoum’s Génocidaires

Differently motivated, but sharing a supreme callousness, European countries have found various ways to ignore massive evidence that the regime has not only waged relentless war on the people of Sudan’s periphery, but is a giant, seasoned kleptocracy, and that 27 years of economic mismanagement have brought the Sudanese economy to the point of collapse. Inflation for food, medicine, cooking fuel, electricity, and transportation is skyrocketing; the Central Bank of Sudan suffers from an almost total lack of Foreign Exchange Currency (Forex) with which to enable the purchase essential commodities such as wheat (for bread, the staple food for a great many Sudanese); the agricultural sector—neglected for more than two decades—is in permanent decline; water shortages, a symptom of failure to invest in infrastructure maintenance, are now rampant.

Moreover, despite the disingenuous, finally mendacious views of former Obama administration special envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman— “we [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (These words have never been retracted by the Obama administration–ER)—there is not shred of evidence that the regime is engaged in “reform via constitutional democratic measures.”

On the contrary, all evidence is that the regime is engaged in increasingly repressive measures as civil unrest continues and grows, the inextinguishable legacy of the September 2013 uprising in a number of Sudanese cities (protests were put down only when the regime gave “shoot to kill” orders to police and security officials). Newspaper shutdowns and confiscations have reached an unprecedented scale, as revealed in dispatches of just the past week:

Sudan security seizes 16 print-runs in one weekRadio Dabanga, December 4, 2016 | KHARTOUM

Sudanese security seizes two newspapersSudan Tribune, 4 DECEMBER 2016

Sudan security seizes three dailies from the printing press again, Radio Dabanga, December 2, 2016 | KHARTOUM

Sudanese Security continues crackdown on press, journalists strikeSudan Tribune, December 01, 2016 | KHARTOUM 

Sudan: Newsrooms strike against confiscationsRadio Dabanga, November 30, 2016 | KHARTOUM

Day 3 of Sudan civil disobedience: More newspapers seizedRadio Dabanga, November 29, 2016 | KHARTOUM

Crackdown on SCP: Two more members arrestedNovember 29, 2016 | KHARTOUM

Sudan: Print-runs of El Ayam and El Jareeda confiscatedNovember 28, 2016 | KHARTOUM

Sudan closes TV channel, warns anotherNovember 28, 2016 | KHARTOUM

European countries know all this—and they know full well that the regime survives only because of external financial and investment support, much of which comes from European business and corporations. None of it matters to them—not if Khartoum can be useful economically, or politically in stanching the flow of African migrants to Europe. It is not accidental that as rapprochement with Khartoum accelerates throughout Europe, we are witnessing an increase in xenophobia, directed primarily against people from Africa and the Middle East. I have seen this personally in working with a great many asylum seekers in Europe, especially those have emigrated from African countries—typically people with fewest resources.

Italy, France, Germany, the UK all seem governed more and more by the view on racial matters once notoriously expressed by current British Foreign Secretary in 2002 (in a column he wrote for The Telegraph):

“What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies,” [Boris Johnson] wrote in The Telegraph. Johnson also referred to “watermelon smiles.” (The Guardian, January 22, 2008)

Johnson claimed to have been “quoted out of context”—the last expedient of those convicted by their own words.

But recent political developments elsewhere in Europe are equally ominous. The New York Times recently spoke of the growing power of Marine Le Pen in France (November 17, 2016):

Well before the attacks that killed 129 people in Paris on Friday, Marine Le Pen, the president of the far-right National Front party, was parlaying fear of Islam, migrants and open borders into political support. Now, with France angry and in mourning, she is seizing the opportunity to expand her appeal and show her clout, underscoring how far-right messages are resonating across Europe. “France and the French are no longer safe,” Ms. Le Pen said in a speech the day after the attacks, demanding a crackdown on Islamists in the country.

The ascendancy of Matteo Salvini in Italian politics—described by one informed observer as a master of using “the language of so-called infotainment,” in short, an Italian Donald Trump—is another trend in the worrying rise in dangerous nationalistic tendencies (Politico, February 3, 2016)

The Case of Germany and Industrial Giant Siemens

But Germany in particular seems to warrant a first close look in this series. Last May, Der Spiegel—one of Germany’s leading news sources—published an explosive exposé of European policy toward African migrants, one that put Germany squarely at the center of a campaign to provide Khartoum with the high-tech equipment necessary to create “closed camps” in Sudan—closed as in “camps of incarceration.” And people incarcerated would inevitably be “concentrated” in these camps on the basis of ethnicity, region, nationality, and religion.

The Der Spiegel report began bluntly:

In an effort to help keep refugees from Africa at bay, the EU is planning to deliver personal registration equipment to Sudan, whose president is wanted on war crimes charges [more accurately, President Omar al-Bashir faces arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court charging with massive crimes against human and genocide in Darfur—ER]. Germany is leading the way. (“Questionable Deal: EU to Work with [Sudan’s] Despot to Keep Refugees Out” | )

What made the article especially disturbing was what was reported next:

The ambassadors of the 28 European Union member states had agreed to secrecy. “Under no circumstances” should the public learn what was said at the talks that took place on March 23rd, the European Commission warned during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee. A staff member of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini even warned that Europe’s reputation could be at stake. (emphasis in bold added)

There could hardly be clearer evidence that Ms. Mogherini and her colleagues knew full well the obscene nature of the “deal with the devil” that was being concocted. And yet despite the viciousness of the policies she was pushing, Mogherini was evidently too trusting of those being enjoined to secrecy: someone at the meeting in question spoke to Der Spiegel.

Under the heading “TOP 37: Country fiches,” the leading diplomats that day discussed a plan that the EU member states had agreed to: They would work together with dictatorships around the Horn of Africa in order to stop the refugee flows to Europe—under Germany’s leadership.

And so just what would this “work” involve? Citing minutes to the meeting in question as well as classified documents, Der Spiegel gives a sense of just what is entailed:

[D]ocuments relating to the project indicate that Europe want to send cameras, scanners and servers for registering refugees to the Sudanese regime in addition to training their border police and assisting with the construction of two camps with detention rooms for migrants. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has confirmed that action plan is binding, although no concrete decisions have yet been made regarding its implementation.

It should go without saying, but let’s be perfectly clear about the true “end recipients”—and “beneficiaries—of this equipment, training, and the benefit of camp construction: it will the Khartoum’s already brutally efficient National Intelligence and Security Services, with Military Intelligence no doubt a beneficiary as well (Military Intelligence for most of the years of genocide in Darfur was the primary security service and still has a highly significant presence). The Mogherini staffer who “warned that Europe’s reputation could be at stake” was more prescient than he/she realized; but Europe’s reputation is sinking so fast among those who care for the people of Sudan that there would seem to be little if anything to salvage. In any event, the plan appears to be proceeding apace. Der Spiegel concludes its article by noting:

Germany and the other EU member states … seem determined to push ahead with their pact with the despot. Sudanese authorities say there have been numerous visitors from Germany in recent weeks who were there to discuss the construction of closed camps.

This chronic German indifference to the suffering of the vast majority of Sudanese, the willingness to countenance acute deprivation—more than half of Sudan’s people live below the international poverty line and Sudan’s malnutrition rates are among the very worst in the world—is the context in which to see the significance of a very large deal made by Germany’s Siemens with the Khartoum regime—the regime that will be running German-built “concentration camps.”

Siemens and Germany History

My focus on the present occasion—the first of its sort but far from last—is the German industrial giant Siemens, which Sudan Tribune reported yesterday is committing to a major deal with the regime-owned “Sudanese Thermal Power Generating Company” (STPGC); five gas-turbine electricity generating plants are to be built by the end of 2017. Financial details of the deal were not revealed, as is often the case when Khartoum makes arrangements such as this one; but we may be sure that financial arrangements will be beneficial to the regime. And since Siemens is a distinctly “for profit” entity, we must wonder just how the plants are being financed.

Siemens CEO Willi Meixner said only that, “Our power plant engineering is making a decisive contribution to very rapidly improving the power supply system in Sudan.” But he said nothing about why Siemens was making this “decisive contribution,” and speculation may lead in a variety of ways. But perhaps relevant here also is a brief history of Siemens during the great genocide in Germany and eastern Europe known as the “Holocaust”; perhaps “corporate culture” has not changed as much as Siemens would have the world believe. For of course Siemens subsequently made apologies, offered expressions of regret for its role the Holocaust; but this is history not easily wished away; and there are some actions for which no apology can be remotely adequate.

Siemens was of course far from alone it accommodating Hitler’s ambitions; but for the moment, given the continuing genocides in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, Siemens’ history during the Holocaust seems to have particular relevance. I leave it to the reader whether the comparison is appropriate; what can’t be in disputed is that Siemens’ corporate management knows full well of the 14 years of ethnically-targeted destructions and displacement in Darfur; it knows full well of the near daily aerial assaults on civilian targets in not only Darfur but South Kordofan and Blue Nile; it knows full well the consequences of the savage humanitarian embargoes imposed by the Khartoum regime on vast populations in these three regions. And it knows of the escalating repression throughout Sudan, the rapidly growing civil unrest prompted by decades of kleptocratic self-enrichment—and the acute suffering that is a consequence of gross economic mismanagement.

If we think of the history of Germany from 1931 to 1945—14 years again—there are enough parallels to present-day Sudan have given Siemens reason for being more restrained in its dealing with Khartoum. What follows is a brief edited excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on “Siemens,” and specifically its role in the era of Nazism; the sentences are terse, factual, and extremely well sourced (the footnotes are unusually authoritative for a Wikipedia entry).

Siemens (at the time Siemens-Schuckert) exploited the forced labour of deported people in extermination camps. The company owned a plant in Auschwitz concentration camp.[14][15]

During the final years of World War II, numerous plants and factories in Berlin and other major cities were destroyed by Allied air raids. To prevent further losses, manufacturing was therefore moved to alternative places and regions not affected by the air war. The goal was to secure continued production of important war-related and everyday goods. According to records, Siemens was operating almost 400 alternative or relocated manufacturing plants at the end of 1944 and in early 1945.

The company supplied electrical parts to Nazi concentration camps and death camps. The factories had poor working conditions, where malnutrition and death were common. Also, the scholarship has shown that the camp factories were created, run, and supplied by the SS, in conjunction with company officials, sometimes high-level officials.[17][18][19][20] ]

Should Siemens be doing business with another genocidal regime? That is a question Siemens itself appears to have already answered. Sadly, Sudan reveals all too fully the poverty of the international sense of “should.”

Eric Reeves is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.

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