Wednesday, May 26, 2004
The first of a two-part series of panels on Darfur held in summer 2004, this discussion about the crisis in Sudan’s western region offers an update on the human rights abuses, the state of the political developments, and a range of policy options at that time. Speakers on this panel include Jemera Rone, Julie Flint, Omer Ismail, and John Prendergast.
JERRY FOWLER: Welcome to the Holocaust Museum. I am Jerry Fowler, and I am the Staff Director of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience. This is one of a series of events that we have done on the crisis in Darfur. We first started dealing with Sudan several years ago when the crisis was in the South, and of course, I imagine everyone in this audience knows that today may very well be a landmark day with regard to the conflict in the South, as everyone was anticipating the signing of the final protocol of the peace talks to resolve the conflict in the South. The last word I heard was that they were insisting they were going to do it today, but time is running out on today in Kenya, but they seem to be very, very close.
It is actually because of that when we first advertised this, Ambassador Michael Ranneberger had agreed to come and speak, but he wound up having to go to Africa on Monday to be present in Naivasha, so you see that Mike Ranneberger is not here. We are hoping to have him next week at this time, next Wednesday at 3 o’clock. This is not finalized yet, so the way to find out when it is finalized is to go to our website, which is www.CommitteeOnConscience.org, and you can click on “Events,” and you’ll have the details of when we will be able to get Ambassador Ranneberger here to provide the State Department view of what is happening.
Just very briefly, to introduce our panelists, and then I’ll make a few more introductory remarks.
In place of--spontaneously--Ambassador Ranneberger, we are very fortunate to have on my far right Julie Flint, who is an independent researcher and journalist who has worked on Sudan for many years and is the lead researcher and co-author of the new Human Rights Watch Report, “Darfur Destroyed,” based on research that she did on the ground inside Darfur in March and April.
On my right, of course, from Human Rights Watch, is Jemera Rone, who is the Sudan Researcher and Counsel for Human Rights Watch, and one of the pillars of the human rights community. She has been with Human Rights Watch for two decades--she started when she was a teenager, I guess--and among the many other accomplishments in addition to a tremendous amount of research and documentation of what has happened in Sudan, she also opened Human Rights Watch’s first office outside the United States in El Salvador back in the 1980s.
On my left, we have Omer Ismail who is from Darfur, born in Al Fashir in Western Sudan. He is a graduate of Khartoum University and has extensive experience working in international relief and development organizations, including as operations manager of Operation Lifeline Sudan which, as everyone here probably knows, is the largest relief operation in the world, or it was at the time he was working there. He fled Sudan after the National Islamic Regime took power in 1989. Since then, he has worked with the United Nations in Somalia, has helped found the Sudan Democratic Forum, and is a co-founder of Darfur Peace and Development. We are very happy to have Omer here today.
Then, on my far left is John Prendergast, who is Special Advisor to the President of the International Crisis Group. He is a former Special Advisor to the State Department, where he specialized in conflict resolution initiatives, especially working on the Great Lakes and on the Eritrea-Ethiopia negotiations. He was also involved in overall policy development and implementation for Africa, and before that, he was Director of the National Security Council for African Affairs.
We are very fortunate, in spite of the absence of Mike Ranneberger, to have an expert panel today. I just very briefly wanted to say that I myself just returned from Chad, visiting refugee camps, and I talked to dozens of refugees while I was there. There were two things that stuck with me in particular from the people I talked to, and they are very related.
The first thing is the specifics of the stories that they told and the stories that really echoed the type of documentation that Julie Flint and Human Rights Watch have done, stories that Omer Ismail has told me, stories of people’s villages being destroyed, their homes being burned, their relatives being killed, especially young boys, and of being blocked from water sources. It was clear to me and everyone I talked to that these people fled their homes in terror. It wasn’t a surprise to me, but to sit face-to-face in a refugee camp -- although there is international assistance available, these are not very great places--it was so clear that these people would not have uprooted themselves if it weren’t for a tremendous amount of fear.
The second thing that really stuck with me was how important it was to them, to almost every single one of them, to tell their story and to have someone to listen to it. It reminded me of something that I have learned from working at the Holocaust Museum and from talking to a lot of Holocaust survivors. One of the things that many survivors of the Holocaust carry with them to this day, six decades after the end, is a feeling of abandonment, how they felt during the Holocaust, especially people who were in concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe, and the sense that no one cared about what was happening to them.
I heard from the people that I talked to that the Darfurians who have fled into Chad care that somebody cares about them, and that it is very important for them to know that people were telling their stories.
Just along these lines, one in particular I’ll never forget. I was sitting in a makeshift structure that this woman was living in with her children, and she told me about the attack on her village where 33 people had been killed, including her father and her brother and her cousin. And she told me that her mother had disappeared. She didn’t know where her mother was. She didn’t know if she was dead, she didn’t know if she was alive. And she told me other details of her story.
I had come to the end of the interview, I thanked her and was preparing to leave. And she started talking, I was working with a translator, the translator said she was asking, “What about my mother? What about my mother? Where is she?”
Of course, I didn’t answer that question. The only thing I could tell her was that I would take her mother’s name back, and I would tell the story. Her mother’s name was Habi Abdullah [ph]. Right now, that’s the best I can do, but I think the one thing we always have to keep in mind in these situations is that as vast as they are and as big in scope as they are, ultimately, it is about individuals, it is about people who have lost their fathers, have lost their brothers, and people who don’t know where their mothers are.
I think that is why it is so important that those of us in all of our different capacities do what we can to tell these people’s stories, to listen to their stories and do something to change the situation and stop the violence.
Without further ado, I would like to turn it over to my colleagues from Human Rights Watch. I think Jemera will start, and then we’ll get some comments from Julie based on her visits, because I know that she collected very many stories there in her time and has done a wonderful job of documenting what is going on inside Darfur and has been going on for the past few months.
JEMERA RONE: Thank you very much, Jerry. I would like to talk about some of the recent developments in Darfur in the international arena. You may not have heard--and then again, you may--last night, the president of the Security Council read a statement which is not as good as a Security Council Resolution, but it is a lot better than nothing, and it’s a lot better than the sort of press release that the Security Council issued in April on Darfur. But the statement that the Security Council read condemned the abuses--although it didn’t specify exactly who was committing the abuses--and in the next breath, called on the Sudanese Government to disarm the Janjaweed as they had promised and expressed deep concern about human rights abuses which it listed, including murder and rape and so forth, of course, displacement, and also ethnically-targeted attacks. It didn’t say ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity, which are two ways that we have described the situation in Darfur. But this, from our point of view, was a very positive step from the Security Council and something that we hope to be able to build on.
Now, in terms of coming to some kind of resolution on the situation, and I know John can talk more about it, the two rebel groups and the Government of Sudan agreed in Chad on April 8 --which was about one day after Kofi Annan said that the situation was so serious that they would have to consider using all kinds of means, including military force, to get relief to the people in Darfur-- immediately after that, the Sudanese Government and the two rebel groups signed a ceasefire agreement. They called it a “humanitarian ceasefire agreement,” and asked the African Union, which was one of the mediators at these talks, to set up a ceasefire commission.
That was April 8. This is May 26. The commission hasn’t been set up, but they are working on it, and the parties are going to be meeting tomorrow and the next day in Addis to talk over the different forms and rules about deployment and so forth. The African Union has undertaken to do this, and the European Union has given money for them to put together the ceasefire commission. The European Union and the U.S. have been working closely with the African Union on this.
This will be the first time that the African Union has actually deployed such a force. It is a new institution, as you may or may not know, so its capacity and its capability are still untested. It is a very young institution. It doesn’t have the years of peacekeeping and other experience that the UN has. But at any rate, at the insistence of the Sudanese Government, which did not want to internationalize the conflict in Darfur, certainly not to the extent that the Southern conflict had been internationalized, pretty much stuck to its guns and tried the best it could to limit the international involvement in this and tried to limit it to the African Union taking the lead.
There are various numbers that we hear about. It is not finalized yet, but we have heard that perhaps there will be 60 ceasefire observers on the ground--that is the number that is being discussed now--plus the African Union and the others are asking that there be between 100 and 300 armed guards to protect the ceasefire monitors, plus logistics and so forth. This could be some number of people that might be able to accomplish something, although that’s such a very small number for an area the size of Darfur. Nevertheless, if the final numbers do get in there, there will be a lot more people than we first thought we were going to get--let’s put it that way. There is some hope that this might have an ameliorating effect on the situation on the ground in which the ceasefire is being practically torn to shreds.
We have been receiving reports, starting with the one that was in The New York Times and carried by Reuters over the weekend, that there was an attack on a village where 56 people were killed, almost all of them, or perhaps all of them, civilians. The person who gave that account was someone who had been taken to the hospital in Nyala and was interviewed by the Reuters journalist who happened to be in the hospital, very smart on her part. But the next day, the police came and tried to surround the hospital and prevent people from going in and interviewing anyone anymore. They are still really very concerned about keeping a handle and control on the news and what gets out.
We have been receiving reports from people in Sudan over the last few days--and when I say “we,” I mean a lot of different people have been receiving very similar reports--of fighting, quite a lot of fighting, south of Nyala, with the fear that it would be moving west of Nyala. This may be related to how the Ceasefire Commission is shaping up. It could be that the attackers in this case, the Government and the Janjaweed, want to get their hands on even more territory before the ceasefire people do come in and start watching them.
I’m just talking about the up-to-the-minute recent developments, and I’ll let other people talk a little more about the long-term patterns and so forth, but the fact that the UN Security Council took this step in making a statement to the president was helpful in that it doesn’t look like they’re just going to flub it off to the African Union as quickly as we thought they would. So this is remaining our focal point of agitation, that is, at the Security Council and with all the countries that are members of the Security Council, of which the Germans are being very proactive. One of their delegations of Ministers of Parliament, actually, of the German Legislature, went to Khartoum two weeks ago, rented a plane and was going with the German Ambassador, who is on pretty good relations with the Government. They were going to go out to Darfur to see where all of their EU money was going to be spent on all this relief, but the army prevented them from getting on the plane. So the German Government has gotten a little more riled up recently about the situation in Darfur. There are many others on the Security Council who have been lobbying for months and months and months, as the Germans have been, and look now like they are going to be inching forward and taking a few more steps under pressure from all of us.
Obviously, the fact that probably—probably again--the North-South or the Government-SPLA peace agreement will be signed in Naivasha today or, as it is almost midnight there, maybe tomorrow, is very good from the international diplomatic point of view, because many countries, particularly European Union countries, were expressing a lot of hesitation and reluctance to move on Darfur and to express anything publicly or really bring a lot of pressure to bear on the Government. They were afraid that the Government would back out of the peace agreement and walk out of negotiations and so forth.
With the Framework Agreement having been signed, it seems that there is probably less to fear, although obviously, there are still two more areas that need to be negotiated. One is the security arrangements, the deployment of the forces on the ground. That is going to be pursuant to what is in the Framework Agreement, but there is still room for anybody to walk out if they want.
The other has to do with the implementation, which is where we hope to get more human rights activity and monitoring than we probably have any right to hope, because the parties have been very bad on agreeing to anything concrete on human rights, and the international community unfortunately has not been pushing them on that. But with the resolution of this important step in the North-South peace process, there should be less reason for the international community to keep deferring on the grounds that raising the alarm and really doing something about Darfur will prevent the North-South Agreement from being finalized.
But I would like to let Julie say some things about her work in Darfur and in Chad. She made a very, very moving video which was shown on Channel 4 in the UK about her trip, and it has a lot of the testimonies in there, which are also reprinted in this report. This is the one that we put out with her invaluable assistance on the ground. Anyway, that video is on our website, which is hrw.org, so you can see some of the people that she interviewed in this report.
We put out a report just at the beginning of April which was based on another Human Rights Watch staff member’s trip into Chad, giving a little more of the background and folding into this report as well. Anyway, it gets hotter and hotter in Darfur, and now it is going to get wetter and wetter. But it was very hot, and Julie lost 20 pounds while she was there, so this was a real labor of love on her part, and we are very grateful.
JULIE FLINT: Let me begin by telling you about a family, because this is essentially about people. The figures are all really figures plucked out of the air, but the general figures are that more than 2 million are being affected by the conflict; more than a million internally displaced; more than 100,000 on the border in Chad; and in the best case, according to John’s group, 100,000 will die of disease and starvation this year, excluding any deaths if the conflict resumes full-time.
On the Chad border, I was directed by the refugees there to a child who had been shot. On trips like this, there is always one person who sticks in your mind and keeps you awake at night, and it was this child who was 12 years old. He came from a village called Tulus, which is quite far inland, close to the border with the Fur area. I was working in the Masalit area. I don’t know how much you know about Darfur, but there are basically three main tribal areas. The Fur were inland in the mountainous area, and a few of those, relatively few, are getting into Chad because they are quite deep inland. The [inaudible] in the northern part by the border of Chad, the Masalit on the southern part of the border with Chad, and I was working in the Masalit area.
This boy’s village, Tulus, was quite close to the Fur area, quite deep inland, and there had been a typical attack. They were awakened at 6 o’clock in the morning by the sound of planes, and when they heard the planes, the men took the women and children and donkeys and sent them outside the village, knowing that the planes would be followed by ground forces. The planes bombed, missed the village--they are very imprecise in these bombardments. It is steel barrels filled with all kinds of nasty bits and pieces which cause enormous wounds if they hit.
So the women and the kids left the village, and most of the men were left behind. In came Janjaweed with army, and one thing I have to say is that what is very striking in reporting this kind of thing is the consistency of the testimonies. The stories are the same. People interviewed at different times and in different places told the same story, down often to the same detail. It’s quite remarkable. They all said that after the planes bombed, in came the ground forces. Hundreds of Janjaweed, the government-supported militia, on camels and on horses, were terrifying, because they would gallop in, often firing rocket-propelled grenades or Kalashnikovs, from their animals, often with two men on one animal. One gets off and rounds up cows, and the other continues fighting.
There was fighting. I don’t know exactly how many people died in this village, because the woman and the child fled. But after they had had the fighting in he village, and something like between 20 and 40 people had been killed, they strolled toward the place where the women and children had fled, and this kid I had met hid behind a tree with three other children. He was 12, the youngest was 7. And a group of soldiers came over--he thought they were Government soldiers because their uniforms were not the uniforms of the Janjaweed; they are very close, but they are not identical--and they sat on the ground beside him. One of them was unarmed, and he motioned to others who were armed, and in cold blood, at relatively close range, they shot this child three times--once in the face, once in the arm, and once in the thigh.
He was shouting for his father, who was somewhere else, probably in the village, who came much later, put him on a donkey, carried him 40 kilometers on the donkey to the nearest town, which was a village, which used to be 3,000 people and is today 60,000 people because of the number of displaced who have congregated there.
They decided not to stay there but to try their luck in Chad. He had been on this mountainside for one month without medical help. The face was sort of healed. The arm--the bullet went through his elbow--he will never, ever use that arm again. It was horribly infected. The leg was a clean break, but it was horribly infected. That is quite typical.
The most shocking thing for me was before I went--and we heard these words that people use, “ethnic cleansing”--but the land was empty. I was in and out for 25 days, and in those 25 days, I saw a dozen civilians, and they were really walking dead. They were bones. They had gone back into the Masalit area from Chad to dig up food they had buried, because the conflict reached such a degree in the last 12 months that they started burying their harvest, and they would bury it in pits three meters deep. And because they had no food in Chad, or perhaps because they didn’t want the humiliation of begging, they had gone back to try to dig up their food. Those were the only people I saw in 25 days, and they were so frightened to see us--I was with the rebels because I had to have some kind of escort--the rebel presence could draw government presence. They just ran. I didn’t even manage to speak to them.
But I was quite systematic. I went over an area of 60 square kilometers, and I did it almost inch-by-inch, and those 60 square kilometers had once contained, only a few months ago, 14 villages which lived pretty well--I mean, they had nothing--no jobs--but they farmed. The land isn’t bad, and they could eat. There were no villages there. Eleven had been burned, and I visited them all with the exception of one, and three were abandoned because they were close to villages that had been burned, and people had just fled for fear of the Janjaweed.
Then I did other trips less systematically, and every village I came through was abandoned or mostly burnt--completely burnt, not just the straw, but they really just smashed the clay vases, so everything was done at the ground level. You found areas where they had been digging, obviously trying to find if there was buried food. What struck me was that even in villages where there were still dwellings that hadn’t been destroyed, every, single food store had been destroyed; they systematically destroyed the food stores. You can rebuild a village, but if it doesn’t have food, you can’t go back until the next harvest has produced.
That was the first thing--the fact that the land was really empty. I’m not talking about the towns which are controlled by the government, which have now swelled to impossible degrees by the displaced. The bush is empty. Everybody has been too late on this. The U.S. [inaudible] human rights prize in Africa, but they were very, very late in moving. To reverse the ethnic cleansing is going to be enormously difficult.
The second main point I would make is that the land has been emptied by massacres. Most of the villages I documented at least 20 people had been killed. And we are talking about villages of sometimes only 300 or 400 people, so it is a very high percentage.
One village, 81 people had been killed in about 800--that’s about one in ten--that is proper use of the word “decimate.” Huge numbers are dead. And this was normal.
[inaudible] I think that because in areas where there is aerial bombardment, the women and the children are sent away, and because the Janjaweed are no longer Arab nomads roaming in the bush--they have barracks, they have bases, they have military conglomerations which are often in the towns--and when they set out, the African people in those towns--ethnic Africans--know they are going somewhere, and they send out runners. So very often, villages are forewarned that government forces of some combination are coming in, and the women and the children are sent away.
Quite often, when the villages are attacked, the women and the children have left. I don’t believe they are gunning for men. I think they go and they kill whoever happens to be there. In some villages, there are quite high proportions of women and children killed; in others, I could find 50 men killed and no women and no children. In some villages, they killed women and children hiding in the beds. I think it is absolutely indiscriminate. They are shooting randomly and don’t care whom they kill.
The last and I think the most key point, is that since the rebellion started, this has been a joint campaign by the army and the Janjaweed. Everybody told me that before the rebellion started, there were burnings. This has been going on much longer than a year. It has been going on for many years. They said to me, you know, this is not the fault of the rebels. I was trying to be the devil’s advocate. “The rebels have brought this upon you.” They said “No--it’s just that before the rebellion, people like you didn’t come to talk to us. The burnings started long before the rebellion. They preceded the rebellion.”
The change since the rebellion has been that the Government has moved, I believe, from supporting the Janjaweed with arms, with weapons, and above all with a blind eye, to actively going to battle with them, be it with Land Cruisers, with heavier weapons on the ground, or with the presence of soldiers or with planes. That is the big change. You very often find that the small civil defense groups that these villages have, when they see Land Cruisers with big guns on them, they say, this is the government, and they don’t fight--they run. It is ironic, because the Janjaweed are actually the stronger force on the ground. But the mere fact that the government has a presence is enough to make people flee--with the result that the land is, as I said, completely empty.
I haven’t been to the Fur area, although I want to go. I haven’t been to the Zaghawa area. But I think this is a pattern which is repeated to some extent all across Darfur.
JERRY FOWLER: Thank you, Julie. Omer?
OMER ISMAIL: Thanks very much. Nothing could be said after this report. I’m sure everybody now got the picture. But I think I will continue on the same path, although I am going to talk about a different issue, but I will just give you another statistic of what has happened since the ceasefire agreement that took place in Chad on April 8. Forty-five days later, it was renewed, I think today. [Inaudible] today renewal.
According to the reports that we get from inside Darfur, the government used airplanes and aerial bombardment attacks 16 times in these 45 days. As a result, and together with other attacks by the Janjaweed and the government troops, 38 more villages were burned, and the government moved in nine new locations that they never had before the ceasefire agreement.
Two hundred eighty-seven civilians have been killed, and 70,000 more refugees were added to the total of the 1.2 million, including IDPs inside the Sudan and refugees across the border. One hundred seventy-one people have been arrested in several towns and villages in Darfur and also in the capital, Khartoum. These are people who opposed the Government policy in Darfur. Most of the people who were arrested in Khartoum are the people who are part of different human rights groups who criticized the government for its policy in Darfur.
We all know what happened in Nyala three years ago, south of Nyala, when these villages were attacked, and also in two areas, one called Tonkitarisa, the other called Aburadul; there were 65 civilian kills.
This is the toll after the government agreed to a ceasefire. By looking at this, we understand how serious the government of Sudan is about its agreements. Talking about what is going on in Abuja today, what is going to happen today, what is going to happen a year from now, I don’t know--seriously, I don’t--because you talk about this and we talked about this, and we came so close, so close, every time, and nothing happened. I don’t know whether this time it is going to happen. I know it is going to happen sometime, and I have a reason to believe that at least some of these people are negotiating [inaudible], and they want to reach an agreement and to settle this issue.
That brings me to the issue that I want to talk about. Most of us, at least the people that I talked to and some of you also, spoke about the situation Darfur as a humanitarian problem. Some are talking about political issues, and some see it as something [inaudible]. To me, it is a humanitarian problem that is manmade. We have other catastrophes that are naturally happening, but this one is manmade. It was made because of the failure of the political system in Sudan to address the grievances of the people of Darfur. So in that respect, I would put it in a political framework, and because of the failure of the system to address these grievances and these political issues, we have this catastrophe today.
It is important that we start by bringing people back to their homes, giving them humanitarian aid, trying to see to it that they have safe passages to come back, and that we have safe routes for humanitarian aid to go into Darfur and to these camps and to try to free these people who are concentrated in certain camps that are run by the government and the Janjaweed, free them and have the international community reach them.
These are all important things, and these are the priorities. Also, together with that, people should look into the political issues of Darfur, because without addressing these political issues, we cannot guarantee that not only the peace in Darfur but also the peace that is signed in Abuja today is going to hold and is going to become a peaceful solution for the ailments of the Sudan.
Many people inside the Sudan, many voices that a lot of people outside the Sudan and people who don’t have contact with these people inside the country don’t know. I am talking about cessation of hostilities or ceasefire that is taking place in [inaudible] for all these years. I don’t agree with that. I think there are genuine issues that were discussed there, and together, if they are taken together seriously, they will help pave the road to a peaceful settlement.
Where there is skepticism that we see today, I don’t think that our addressing the problems of all the peripheral areas in Sudan--the Beja in the east or Darfur--that is influenced today, we are going to reach any serious settlement in this problem. If it is not the South, then it is somebody else.
I beg the international community to look seriously into this. The grievances of the people of Darfur have been for years. I am not going to talk about history today, but there are [inaudible] about 1965, after what they called the “October revolution,” that sent the first military junta that took place in Sudan. There were elections. That was the first time since January 1, 1956 that the people of Darfur elected their own representatives. The big parties used to name the people that they wanted to become representatives of Darfur, and only two or three of them were from the people of Darfur; they were from some other places in Sudan. They would bring them in Darfur, and they won to represent the people of Darfur. Ninety percent of them never went back to Darfur until [inaudible] came to power in 1969, and again, the military took over the Government in Sudan.
These kinds of grievances, if we don’t address them properly, nothing is going to happen. And we go on until this government came, and now we see siding with the Janjaweed. Before that, a lot of things happened from 1990, and we talked about this in Darfur, and nobody was listening at the time. We don’t believe the international community, because they don’t know what is going on inside Sudan and with the policies of the government to jail dissidents and the people who do not agree with it.
These are all reasons for this information not to come out. But from that time, the government was helping the Janjaweed, and as Julie was saying, they have reached a point where they are going on joint missions. But before that, these people were armed, they were financed on a smaller scale. They are burning, they are looting, they are doing all these kinds of things. Only did it begin to be understood after the rebels took arms, because the people were sick of just sitting there, defenseless, not able to do anything with respect to what is happening. This is part of the political problems that I am talking about.
Let us look at the problem of security in Darfur which is part of the political problems. The problems of governance -- this is a problem of the whole Sudan, but also, the people of Darfur have their share in bad governance -- and the problems of economic development. These things have to be addressed urgently, hand-in-hand with the efforts of the international community to address the human capacity so that we can once and for all take care of these problems and finish the conflict in Darfur.
With respect to the peace process that is going to be signed in Naivasha, think for a moment--I will just throw it on the floor to think about--the people who are carrying guns are the SPLA and the government of Sudan. These are the people who are party to this agreement in Naivasha. Think of the NDA, which has the majority of the political parties in Sudan. They are not party to this. They may verbally say, “We support the agreement,” but a lot of disgruntlement is there, a lot of resentment that they are not part of this. And then, added to this, the periphery, in Darfur and the far North and in the East, when we see people who are not part of these particular parties that comprise the NDA, and they are also talking about we have to have our share of wealth and power in Sudan.
In addition to these factors, the lack of seriousness and the callousness and the recklessness of the government of Sudan in dealing with these issues of unity and making unity attractive. They are not going to make it attractive. I am sitting here, and I can safely argue that the government of Sudan wants this house to secede, wants this house to separate, because they have been talking about this all along, and every Sudanese we talk to who, from time immemorial, these guys are talking about the only way for Sudan to become a Muslim or an Islamic state is for the South to secede. That is why they are not serious about making unity attractive.
That is why we are skeptical for a month or two about whether the capital of Khartoum--they call it the “national capital,” and they define it as Shariat-based kind of laws that will govern this. What kind of national capital when one-third of the country are not Muslims, and they call it the “national capital”? And they have three million Southerners who are living in Khartoum today.
If I am a Southerner, and today the referendum was held in Khartoum, or ten years from today, with the behavior of the government of Khartoum, I would say no, no unity--I want to be alone. And added to this, the incentive that everybody was given the choice to go alone and become a separate country--it is natural that people will say this.
So the government is not serious about this. Even though they have negotiated, even though they are going to sign this agreement, they are not serious, and we will sit here again sometime in the future, and we will talk about this again. So we had better do something about it today.
Thank you very much.
JERRY FOWLER: Thank you, Omer. John?
JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thank you very much, Jerry. I think that this is precisely why the Holocaust Museum was built: for trips like the one you just took and be able to come back and tell the story and integrate into the larger mission of the Museum; talks like the ones that probably many in this audience heard just a couple of weeks ago by Samantha Power; panels like this one today and others that you continue to hold. The Museum and all of us here really have the responsibility of pricking the consciences of those who have the capacity to confront this fresh hell that is emanating from Darfur and the many Darfurs that will inevitably come in the future.
One of the great visuals of diplomacy and of life itself, I think, is the old adage that when you have dug yourself deep into a hole, the first thing you must do is to stop digging. In Sudan, the ?hole? is the policy of pure, unadulterated constructive engagement, which is otherwise known as appeasement, of the government of Sudan.
We finally saw movement and action by the UN Security Council, very halting, very tentative, but at least it is a beginning, as Jemera described. We finally saw the U.S. really lay down the markers and get serious to the parties in Naivasha to bring this round to closure. And we finally saw very strong moves by the U.S. Congress in the last couple of weeks in the direction of personal accountability for war crimes perpetrated by officials of the government of Sudan. Now we have the unique opportunity of getting out of that hole that has been dug over the last perhaps 9 to 12 months and really make a difference in ending Sudan’s agony today.
I really want to say first off a few words on what is actually going on as we speak. As always, there is nothing that is simple in Sudan. We were driving up here in the taxi, and we called up to Naivasha to see what the latest was, and everybody was on the podium but Garang and Taha, so we had to come in and do the session. Something may have happened and may not have happened, but the tent was full, and hundreds and hundreds of people are waiting for those two guys to show up and sign these final three protocols.
It is a very important step that will have been taken hopefully by the time we step out of this room today. It signals the end of almost five months of a very impressive array of delaying tactics by the government of Sudan, which brought very significant spaces, as you have already heard today, to prosecute the war and to prosecute the ethnic cleansing in Darfur. All of the excuses, though, by now were exhausted, and I think the National Congress Party, the ruling party in Sudan, would have lost a great deal of credibility internally if they had tried to engineer another significant delay, and certainly they would have gone back to the international doghouse had they done so.
This presents an extraordinary opportunity to move forward both to a final deal in Naivasha, which by the way could still be months away if we don’t even escalate the pressure from today, and also an opportunity to move forward on Darfur. But it requires capturing the moment of opportunity, and as we have seen so many times in 20 years, the international community never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity when it comes to making progress, sadly, in this place.
At the same time today as these guys are sitting on the podium in the tent out in Naivasha, we are getting reports that the promises made by the government last week at the highest levels and then through some kind of promulgation yesterday about allowing freedom of access for aid agencies, are not being fulfilled.
We all have to remember that there are three steps: first, you have to get a visa into Sudan; second, you have to get the travel permit to Darfur; and third, there has to be agreement that there is full and unimpeded access and freedom of movement for aid agencies to be able to undertake the business that they need to undertake in order to respond to assess the need. At this point, we are debating over Point A, whether these visas will be granted, and still we are probably under 50 percent rate. Somebody may be able to update me literally on an hourly basis, the aid agencies certainly have been working so hard behind the scenes, and the humanitarian diplomats have worked so hard behind the scenes to get this implemented. But as of today, we are seeing that there are layers and layers of obfuscation and delay available to those who want to block international assistance from going to people in need in Darfur.
For 20 years, we--and anybody in this room, and there are plenty of veterans in here-- saw these tactics used over and over again in the South, this deployment of all these roadblocks and obstructions and land mines. It is surreal that anyone in the international community would think that any promulgation of this government regarding aid access would be implemented without, again, ratcheting up rather than relaxing international public pressure. I say “public” very specifically, because I think the kind of private consultations don’t yield full value.
I would like to expand on the agenda that is ahead for a second and what needs to be done to put a bookend on the extraordinary interventions of our first three speakers and to reinforce to you that we internationally have to work simultaneously on four imperatives, on four distinct objectives, any one of which if left out will cripple the entire enterprise.
First, we have to prevent, obviously, a famine from fully unfolding. There are probably a lot of people in here who have more to say about this than I would, and more intelligently, but I think there are three levels of action that have to occur in order to prevent a full-scale killing famine from overtaking Western Sudan. And remember--just read the history from 1983-85--there are precedents for killing famines, and there are precedents for responding to famines; those lessons need to be fully understood logistically and politically.
Those three levels of action are, first and foremost, what you always do anywhere there is humanitarian emergency and problematic access: you deploy some form of diplomatic offensive aimed at securing that access by the government. In this case, the key--and again, there might be some interesting interventions from the floor--is the rail line: getting full access and unimpeded access for that rail line to be able to move the tonnages of food necessary to get to Darfur. And then having the kind of freedom of movement on that third leg of the three, the visas, the travel permits, and then the freedom of movement inside Darfur; having that freedom of movement to be able to get the assistance to where it is needed, both in the IDP camps and then for those who want to go back, if it is safe, to their home areas.
The second level of actions that has to occur--and by the way, all this stuff has to be simultaneous, and it is very, very difficult, and I think we have seen some very, very important work in this regard because of Roger Winter--you have the need for planning for cross-border options and to see, without military assistance, without any kind of armed backing, what you can do to get assistance into areas in Western Sudan that will be blocked by the government.
We have seen, as all of you know, 20 years of this experience--and being on the ground floor of [inaudible] and on one of the first flights that went in by the Norwegian People’s Aid in the mid-eighties, I know how difficult and how unimaginable these kinds of things are when you first start them. So, if, for some reason, the government calculates it simply can withstand international pressure and wants to starve the populations that have been ethnically cleansed in Darfur, if it makes that decision, or at least some of those populations, then there has to be very, very aggressive planning to see what can be done to get through to cross the border, whether we lean through the French on Chad, whether we work very, very innovatively and creatively with Qadafi, or whether we go to the SPLA and ask how can we work with you to do cross-border activities--these kinds of things have to be plumbed.
Then, thirdly, there has to be planning for multinational intervention in Sudan. First and foremost, the Security Council has to at least bless the initiation of a planning process. Now, do I think that this is realistic? Do I think that there will ever be international forces that would invade Sudan to set up safe havens? I don’t know. I don’t think that that is a likely scenario in the near future. However, I think it has a very, very important impact if you start going down that road and focusing the attention of the authorities in Khartoum on what potentially could come, if not this year, maybe some day in the future.
These kinds of actions, the later two categories--cross-border planning and humanitarian intervention planning--help reinforce the humanitarian diplomacy necessary to get the way you save lives most effectively, which is simply to get access and get the assistance going in a full and unfettered way. I think those are some of the elements of the famine prevention strategy, but there are a lot of other things to say.
Remember, I said there are four things you have to do simultaneously. The first one is to prevent the famine. Second is we have got to try to stop. We have just heard again compelling testimony about the continuation of the war despite the ceasefire that was signed in early April. In order to stop that fighting, in order to get that ceasefire implemented, in order to stop the atrocities associated with that fighting, I think there are a number of things that have to happen. I will just quickly say, just to reinforce what was already said on getting that Ceasefire Commission up and running, there are people who have been spending a lot of time working on this thing within the AU, within the U.S. Government, within a number of other governments. It simply hasn’t gained enough traction for the thing to be implemented--not to take away from the individuals who have put effort into that, but I think again this has to be about whether we are going to stand up or not.
And then secondly and very much associated with that Ceasefire Commission are the monitors that would be associated with it. At this point--Jemera, I don’t know if you have mentioned it; I think you already did--60 monitors were envisioned, and you need many more than that, and you need to be sure--which is not yet in the papers that are being prepared--that the Land Rovers and the helicopters that need to be associated with a mission like that--remember the terrain and remember the climate--have to be part and parcel. Freedom of movement of those assets have to be part and parcel of a ceasefire monitoring mission, and that requires pressure to get it, and that requires the Security Council to say more than any statement that they ought to let the resident representative come and get its job.
Thirdly, we have to deal with the Janjaweed. What does that mean? In the ceasefire, the terminology was to “neutralize” the Janjaweed; although that was an effort by Khartoum in N’Djamena to not say “disarm” the Janjaweed, I actually think it is the appropriate term unwittingly, because it involves a number of things. It is not practical tomorrow that the Janjaweed would be disarmed. We have to be realistic about what we are dealing with here and the history, and Omer, you have helped us to understand, just scraping the surface of that history, because it goes a long way back.
First and foremost, the government has to end support for the Janjaweed. It has to be verifiable, and that happens through, again, going back to the Ceasefire Commission and doing the monitoring. So that support, that military support, that organized support that Julie talked about--you know, these guys aren’t just guys riding around on horses who occasionally get hurled a Kalashnikov--these guys have their own barracks, they have their own organization, and it is something that has to be dismantled. In other words, ending the support and dismantling the infrastructure is the first step, and then, secondly is accountability. If you hear of any attacks--and again, that requires the monitoring, so all this stuff has to happen at once--people need to be brought to [inaudible] if they continue to--and that is not talking about past depredations--we’ll get to that in a second--but that is just present and future, so that you can do this.
These things are easier to do than what everyone is talking about, which is disarming the Janjaweed. This is going to be a hellish endeavor. It is not as easy as the government issuing an edict and these guys handing their weapons in--it ain’t going to happen. But I don’t want to let Khartoum off the hook, either. There is a great deal of effort that will have to be undertaken.
The SPLA, if this deal is accelerated in Naivasha, will be part and parcel of that effort if it happens, but it doesn’t have to be a government, SPLA, and international perhaps effort to ensure--if the first and second steps that I just outlined to you do not work, number three needs to happen very, very aggressively. And all this has to happen soon, and you know how unrealistic this is, so we are just hurling it out there--this is what ICG does. I don’t know what I’m doing. I wanted to be a sports writer. What happened? Something went wrong badly on the road.
So we have two of the four things now, which is already impossible. Now we are going to add two more. Reversing the ethnic cleansing is the ideal thing, but we just have to deal with the ethnic cleansing more frontally than we have up until now. And in that case, let’s first get the Security Council resolution that condemns what happened, that at least states that in fact there was a party that undertook such action. Now, this is not easy. As you all know, there are a number of countries on the Security Council who are opposed to even having it on the agenda, first, and then secondly, having any kind of culpability assessed to any one particular party. That’s why you get this bland language that you end up seeing, and you wonder what these people are smoking.
There has to be a condemnation. If not, there have to be individual members of the Security Council--if the U.S. can’t get it through the Security Council itself, let’s get seven of the countries to say it on the same day, or sign a statement--get creative with this stuff, but put it out there and be pushing the envelope on the public accountability, public diplomacy issue.
Secondly, we need to look at insisting--we already talked about the ceasefire monitors, but there also have to be human rights monitors. I think these human rights monitors--the principal objective would be to accompany the IDPs, whether it is staying in the displaced camps, if that is all that can happen in the coming months. If they can’t go back, if it is simply too unsafe because of all the factors that we have heard about for people to go back, then at least they are there, and the kinds of horrors and atrocities that people have to deal with because of the Janjaweed nipping around the edges of those camps maybe, maybe can be tamped down to a degree. Or, more optimistically, some return as it happens, spontaneously or more organized, back to home areas to try to support people in rebuilding and reconstructing their lives as quickly as possible.
Again, I think it is just very, very important that we don’t allow this, like we did for 20 years in Southern Sudan, to become a permanent emergency, to become a structural humanitarian crisis where it is just expected that we have got to generate $1 billion a year in humanitarian assistance to take care of people who can’t go home because it is too unsafe, because we won’t do the things to help make it safe enough.
How do you make it safe enough if you don’t have military assets on the ground, and you don’t have fully sufficient political will to do these kinds of things, to take the hits, maybe to lose people on the ground, military assets on the ground? You have to start bringing up the issues of accountability. This is the flip side of this whole thing as we are dealing with ethnic cleansing.
The accountability in this case involves a number of steps, and I’ll just mention a couple. The Security Council in the first instance ought to authorize some kind of panel, whether it is a high-level panel, whether it is some kind of a mission--there are terms for this--that goes out and investigates whether or not war crimes and crimes against humanity have occurred. Not this UN Human Rights Committee--I am not against it, but just what has it gotten us? It has to be something that comes from the Security Council and reports back to the Security Council and says, you guys asked us a pretty specific and simple question--did ethnic cleansing or however you want to structure the question as, occur in Darfur for the last nine months? And the answer is yes or no, and then you can tell us why the answer is yes or no. And if the answer is yes, that is then officially the first step you take toward laying the groundwork for accountability--whether it is a war crimes trial in the future, whether it is referral to the International Criminal Court--again, that requires innovative diplomacy and thinking.
Another aspect of accountability--and there are many, but we’ll just mention this in the interest of time--is the targeted sanctions route. The House of Representatives passed a resolution--this is not a bill but a resolution; it is always one less than what you need--to identify the most culpable officials of the Sudanese government that have been responsible for what is happening in this ethnic cleansing thing. Then, one of the members actually read the names off that the research that had been done to date in the hierarchy of the military intelligence and other people who actually have their hands of the levers of the Janjaweed. Those kinds of things have to start to happen now, to start to throw those kinds of ideas around and push it forward. And I think that is very important that the Congress has pushed it.
The very last point of the four things is, of course, bringing peace to Sudan, the tallest of all the orders. Getting the international act together on the Darfur peace process--it was a shameful thing. If you have any time to read the chapters in our latest report, or the little sections in our latest report, about how divided the international community was in support of the ceasefire talks in Darfur in April, you get a sense. Magnify that by 17 to get a sense about how divided they are about how to go forward on the larger question of peace in Darfur, and of course, the principal problem--and it will continue to be--is France and the U.S. Getting the venue right--Chad is not it; maybe Addis, maybe not Addis--it’s debatable--but getting the venue right and agreed to, getting the structure of a process. Remember how important it was for this IGAD process? For years and years, it flailed away. There was not a structure with a specific person tasked with and responsible for leading the thing. We got Sumbeiywo as the high-level envoy; we got the troika to back up the Kenyan mediation and the IGAD mediation, and that’s when we started getting traction. September 11 helped, but there were other aspects.
So getting the structure in place so they are prepared to do the negotiations and undertake very, very complex negotiations will unfold, and then the substance, getting the substance. The agenda that you just gave us was exactly right.
Then, in tandem and very, very closely connected, we need to bring rapidly to closure this deal in Naivasha. If they did sign it while we have been sitting here, the protocols--that means all the protocols--let’s just be clear--this isn’t a peace agreement--all the protocols that deal with the substantive issues that are dividing the SPLA and the government have basically been resolved. There are questions now related to implementing the ceasefire and a number of the other aspects of implementation that should take about a month if it is reasonable. If it takes longer than that, then we know what is going on. The government is still trying to buy itself some time. That is going to be unacceptable. We have got to ramp up the pressure rather than relax, rather than celebrate, rather than pat ourselves on the back internationally.
And then, thirdly--and this is something that could be a point of major disagreement--is that Garang and Taha, after having negotiated this deal, need to turn their attention quite quickly, task out to teams--it really is implementation detailed in Naivasha--they have to turn their attention rather quickly to supporting and perhaps even involving themselves directly in a negotiation in Darfur, bringing the SLA and the JEM into a negotiation and getting a deal done on the basis of the arrangements with some modifications for the [inaudible] and the [inaudible]. The deal is there; it is waiting to be had. It just requires political will.
So that’s a huge agenda, and only this kind of massive effort. I would not waste my time talking about this for Guinea-Bissau. This is Sudan, and President Bush has said he wants this to happen, he wants to make this a signature element in his foreign policy, so let’s go for it. What has happened in Darfur has already shamed all of the institutions, all of the governments that have been making these dramatic speeches about “Never again” but rarely, rarely are acting in accordance with their rhetoric. Thanks.