Explaining Darfur : Lectures on the Ongoing Genocide

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Funding and support for the AU mission is drying up. Many of its soldiers have been unpaid in recent months, and a force already grossly overstretched is being told, under the Darfur Peace Agreement, to do more with less. Khartoum has demanded that the AU mission leave then, unless it agrees not to hand over to the proposed UN mission at the end of the year. While the AU may have been in the lead on the ground, it is only the UN that can ensure a coordinated, properly resourced and legitimate international response to a conflict of this magnitude. But the UN, a creature of its member states, has been found wanting in Darfur.

It has been appallingly slow to put any real pressure on the Sudanese government. It was only in March , some two years after the conflict started, and in the face of repeated provocations from the Sudanese government — including its utter failure to disarm the Janjaweed — that the Security Council belatedly moved to impose sanctions against those impeding the peace process and committing human rights violations.

And it took another year, and yet more egregious provocations, before any individuals were specifically targeted, and then only four of them — a low level air force commander, a janjaweed commander and two rebels. Hide Footnote In August the Security Council finally passed a resolution providing for the deployment of UN peacekeepers to Darfur by the end of , but effectively conditioned deployment on the consent of Khartoum — ensuring that the deployment will not take place anytime soon, and almost certainly not by the end of The Security Council has taken more robust action on the legal front.

First it established an International Commission of Inquiry. Hide Footnote The ICC started its investigation into Darfur three months later, and is now actively investigating atrocity crimes committed there — despite much obstruction from the Sudanese government.

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The EU approach has been largely to stand behind the African Union. More recently it has been providing expertise and logistical support to the AU mission. But NATO has no intention of going beyond its limited support and logistical role and actually putting troops on the ground in any significant numbers. Then there is the United States, which has a mixed record on Darfur. In its rhetoric the U. Colin Powell and George Bush have both called Darfur a genocide. Powell and Condoleezza Rice have been to Darfur. The U. And in perhaps its most significant move to date, the U. But while the U. There is a tragic irony about the U.

Then, the Administration did everything it could to avoid calling Rwanda a genocide — engaging in all sorts of semantics to avoid making that judgment, fearing that if it did it would have to take far stronger action than it was prepared to. This time round there has been little hesitation in labelling Darfur a genocide, in the light of far more ambiguous evidence — apparently on the cynical grounds that doing so did not impose any commensurate obligation to intervene. The sad reality is that Darfur simply does not matter enough, and Sudan matters too much, for the international community to do more to stop the atrocities.

Much as governments in Europe and the U. Hence their enthusiastic support for African solutions.

Darfur—the crisis explained

The issue is problematic for the U. In it flew Salah Gosh, the Sudanese chief of intelligence and one of the architects of the Darfur atrocities, out to Virginia on a private plane for meetings with the CIA. As for the UN, it is a creature of its members. So on the Security Council you have China, the largest importer of oil from Sudan, ready to block any overly intrusive UN measures.

And both Russia and China are leery of UN intervention in civil conflicts, fearing it may lead one day to intervention in Chechnya or Tibet or Xinjiang. The Arab League, and most of its member states, are xenophobically opposed to a Western-led intervention in North Africa, and strongly protective of one of their own.

And the AU is operating in Darfur with the consent of the government of Sudan, and is reluctant to push too hard for fear of being further marginalised. These motivations all combine to ensure that the international community shies away from effective intervention. Instead it focuses its efforts on providing humanitarian assistance — thereby addressing the consequences, but not the causes.

As a senior UN official has bitterly noted - the international community is 'keeping people alive with our humanitarian assistance until they are massacred. The AU mission has failed to stop the killings; NATO and the EU have made it clear they will not commit their own forces to Darfur; so the only option now is for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate requiring it to protect civilians and create an environment conducive to their return. Such a mission would enjoy the financial and military resources of the UN and member states, thus avoiding the hand to mouth existence of the AU mission.

Despite the ongoing atrocities perhaps warranting it, armed intervention by a UN peacekeeping force against the express wishes of the Sudanese government is not going to happen. Kofi Annan made this clear when he said "The fact is, without the consent of the Sudanese Government, we are not going to be able to put in the troops.

Darfur: The International Community's Failure to Protect

So what we need is to convince the Sudanese Government to bend and change its attitude and allow us to go in. Hide Footnote And such an intervention would not get past the veto of China and perhaps Russia on the Security Council. In any event, an opposed intervention force would require tens of thousands of hardened troops, and probably far more, to fight its way into Sudan and protect itself against opposing Sudanese forces.

Sudanese agreement will only be forthcoming if the international community adopts a unified front and ratchets up, and maintains, the pressure on Khartoum. Earlier in such pressure appeared to be bearing fruit, with Khartoum grudgingly agreeing to the deployment of some form of UN mission, conditional on a peace agreement being reached with the rebels.

Hide Footnote — sentiments reiterated by senior government officials following the passage of the August resolution. Hide Footnote This obduracy conveniently overlooks the fact that there is already an international military intervention in Sudan, in the south, in the form of a UN peacekeeping force to give effect to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA that ended the long running civil war there.

And Khartoum, despite its blustering, has a history of responding to international pressure — but only if it is unified and sustained. Most notably it signed up to the CPA, in part because of demands from the international community, led by the U. The regime calibrates its response to international coercion, always trying to do just enough to preempt any real sanctions. The problem is easy enough to state, but far more difficult to resolve. Khartoum, intensely focused on its own self-interest and survival, has brutally implemented a counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur. The international community, with its disparate interests and varying levels of outrage, has expressed shock and horror, and applied some pressure — but lacks the political will to apply enough sustained pressure on the Sudanese regime to change its calculus of self interest.

This failure is deserving of condemnation if for no other reason than it fails to meet the standards that world leaders set themselves when they signed up to the R2P principles. But there is a more fundamental reason to denounce their failure — namely the horrific suffering that has been inflicted on millions of Darfurians while the world stands by.

The danger is that the international community will settle for a low intensity conflict in Sudan, as we have so many other times in Africa, leaving it to humanitarian agencies to keep millions alive in Darfur at a subsistence level. Ethiopia is building a mighty dam on the Blue Nile, promising economic benefits for both itself and Sudan. But Egypt fears for its freshwater supply. It is crucial that the parties resolve their dispute before the dam begins operating.

Why does it matter? The Nile basin countries could be drawn into conflict because the stakes are so high: Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric dam as a defining national development project; Sudan covets the cheap electricity and expanded agricultural production that it promises; and Egypt perceives the possible loss of water as an existential threat.

What should be done? Next, they should negotiate a new, transboundary framework for resource sharing to avert future conflicts. The three-way dispute among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the sharing of the Nile waters remains deadlocked. Egypt fears that the dam will drastically reduce water flow downstream and thus imperil its national security. Ethiopia and Sudan assert their right to exploit the Nile waters to further develop their economies. The three countries need to act now to avert a graver crisis when the dam comes online.

Next, they and other riparian states should seek a long-term transboundary agreement on resource sharing that balances the needs of countries up and down the Nile basin and offers a framework for averting conflict over future projects. The stakes in the dispute are high. Egypt relies on the Nile for about 90 per cent of its freshwater needs.

Authorities have sold the dam as a defining national endeavour: millions of Ethiopians bought bonds to finance its construction, helping implant the initiative in the national psyche. Fervent public support for the dam has recently cooled, however, following allegations of financial mismanagement. Between and , Egyptian and Ethiopian leaders framed the GERD dispute in stark, hyper-nationalist terms and exchanged belligerent threats.

Politicians in Cairo called for sabotaging the dam. A recent rapprochement has quieted the row. In turn, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his country recognises that the dispute has no military solution. But despite the warming relations, there has been little substantive progress toward a resolution. Political upheaval in all three countries complicates this task to varying degrees. In Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir, in power since , is clinging precariously to his job amid the most sustained wave of protest the country has seen in decades.

In Ethiopia, Abiy, while enormously popular with the public, is struggling to consolidate his hold on power. These internal dynamics mean that the leaders dedicate less time to the Nile dam issue than they should. They could blunder into a crisis if they do not strike a bargain before the GERD begins operation.

Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese authorities should consider a phased approach to agreeing on a way forward. At first, Ethiopia proposed filling it in three years, while Egypt suggested a process lasting up to fifteen. To achieve a breakthrough on this question, Ethiopia should fully cooperate with its downstream partners and support studies seeking to outline an optimal fill rate timeline.

If necessary, the three countries should seek third-party support from a mutually agreed-upon partner to break the impasse. Ethiopia should also agree to stagger the fill rate so that it picks up pace in years with plentiful rains, which would minimise disruption of water flows. To reduce mutual suspicion, leaders should take a number of confidence-building measures.

Such a demonstration of Ethiopian good-will could afford the Egyptian authorities the space to make necessary adjustments, notably improving inefficient water management systems. Outside partners could help build confidence. The European Investment Bank, which the Ethiopians perceive as less pro-Egyptian than the World Bank, might offer Addis funding for the last phase of dam construction. Such funding could be conditional on Ethiopia cooperating on sticking points such as the fill rate.

Inside Story - Darfur conflict: A rebel leader's death

The EU should continue its talks with downstream countries on potential guarantees including loans and other instruments to support those countries in years in which drought or other shocks endanger food security. Next, authorities in Addis Ababa, Cairo and Khartoum should lay the ground for more substantive discussions of a long-term framework for Nile basin management to avert similar crises in the future.

Egypt should rejoin the Nile Basin Initiative, the only forum that brings together all riparian countries and the best venue available for discussing mutually beneficial resource sharing. Such talks would consider Egyptian proposals that, in the future, upstream countries carry out major development projects in consultation with downstream nations. A permanent institutional framework could also help the countries prepare for challenges down the road, including climate change-induced environmental shocks, notably variable rainfall patterns, which could cause greater water stress. Outside partners should encourage Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to approach the dispute not as an existential conflict but as a chance to establish a resource-sharing partnership.

Waiting until the dam is operational — when its impact on downstream countries is clearer — would raise the risk of violent conflict. Collins, The Nile New Haven, Most critically, though, they have drawn upon it to irrigate farmland. Hide Footnote As populations grow and climate change makes water supply increasingly erratic, geopolitical battles for control of its waters, always a factor in shaping relations among riparian countries, have grown fiercer.

Hide Footnote In , Egypt and newly independent Sudan concluded a bilateral agreement that essentially ratified the terms of the previous two. For years, it has assumed an aggressive posture to protect the security of its water supply and to prevent projects upstream that could hinder water flow.

Kukk and David A. Hide Footnote Sudan also depends on the Nile, albeit to a lesser degree. Ethiopia has long objected to this state of affairs, seeing the colonial-era treaties as lopsided, and aspired to exploit the river to expand its own economy. Ethiopia disowns the treaty as a relic of its monarchical past, and has never recognised the latter two agreements, about which it was not consulted.

Hide Footnote Both downstream countries reacted immediately and furiously, demanding that the project be frozen. Sudan, on the other hand, hopes the dam can help it substantially expand agricultural production by better regulating annual floods. It proposes that parties focus first on settling the GERD crisis to defuse tensions before the dam comes online. It suggests that the parties go on to negotiate a comprehensive transboundary resource management agreement, involving other riparian states, that could both ease tensions over the dam and include a lasting basin-wide settlement for resource sharing.

The report is based on interviews conducted from April to November with a wide range of water experts, political and security analysts, government officials and diplomats in Addis Ababa, Cairo and Khartoum, as well as Nairobi, Kampala, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Doha, Ankara, Istanbul, New York and Washington. Britain considered control of the Nile essential to protecting its imperial interests. It needed its Egyptian colony to keep access to the strategically important Suez Canal.

Hide Footnote A statement Ethiopian authorities sent to the Egyptian government in summed up their view. Plans for a dam on the Blue Nile date from around the same time. The United States Bureau of Reclamation identified a site in geological surveys conducted between and Only with the extended period of economic development and relative political stability under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi could planning for such a dam proceed.

His government made plans in secret for some years before going public with the announcement in Most Ethiopians regard the project as a source of national prestige and millions have invested their own funds in its construction. Still a work in progress, the dam is located approximately km north west of the capital Addis Ababa and 40km from the border with Sudan.

It is sandwiched between two hills, with its twin power stations positioned on either side. Upon completion, the GERD is expected to be the largest dam in Africa, 1,m long and m high, with a capacity to generate 6, megawatts of hydropower. At the height of construction about 12, people were employed at the site, working in shifts around the clock. Hide Footnote Past Ethiopian projections of when the dam will come online, however, have proven overly optimistic.

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At first, the dam was slated to begin operations in , but administrative and financial problems delayed its completion. Waiting until the GERD is operational will raise the risk of conflict due to the high stakes at play, particularly for Egypt, with its heavy dependency on the Nile for freshwater. Hide Footnote The government ordered updated site surveys, which were conducted between and , and engineers submitted a dam design in November The project was partially coordinated by the Metals and Engineering Corporation METEC , a military-led industrial conglomerate, thus classifying the endeavour as a matter of national security.

The project was an integral part of his Growth and Transformation Plan, which aimed to create large-scale foreign investment opportunities, quintuple power generation from 2, to 10, megawatts, cultivate a more dynamic manufacturing sector, and significantly expand road and rail infrastructure. Ethiopia has long struggled to obtain enough hard currency to buy the imports that it needs. After the contested election, in which the opposition made impressive gains, he increasingly relied on repression to sustain his grip on power.

The government thought that uniting the public behind a grand national endeavour would strengthen its hand. The government launched a massive nationwide fundraising campaign. Millions, including many peasant farmers, contributed, as the project attracted widespread support. The initiative raised millions of dollars. Hide Footnote The project drew widespread support from the masses, though many elites at home and in the diaspora were more sceptical. Thousands contributed, including peasant farmers. Lastly, the prime minister saw the project as crucial for gaining leverage in the region.


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Ethiopia had lost direct access to the sea after Eritrea became independent, and it had frozen relations with Asmara since fighting a bitter war with Eritrea from to Addis perceived exporting electricity to countries with insufficient generation capacity of their own as a way to wield regional clout. By gaining control of the flow of the river, his team calculated, Addis Ababa would gain considerable geopolitical clout. To cultivate greater continent-wide support for the dam project, Meles lobbied African leaders to endorse the initiative.

While no one faults Ethiopia for desiring to use its hydrological resources to further expand its economy, some experts assert that the Meles administration made a number of mistakes in its conception and execution of the project. Some experts estimate that the dam will attain peak capacity only 28 per cent of the time. Hide Footnote Also, the extreme secrecy with which the project was managed meant that Ethiopia could not benefit sufficiently from external technical support, resulting in both a sub-optimal design and a more expensive project.

In August , however, Meles died, prompting a period of upheaval in Ethiopia itself that intruded upon construction. The post-Meles transition left power in the hands of a small, feuding establishment, mostly Tigrayans. Hide Footnote The late premier had dominated all branches of government. Hide Footnote Accompanying this political upheaval was growing corruption, including within the security sector, which was leading dam construction. METEC, the military-run conglomerate and lead domestic contractor for the GERD, became a focus of controversy amid allegations of graft and mismanagement.

The officials deny all claims of embezzlement and defence lawyers call on judges to halt the prosecution, claiming there is no evidence to support the charges. Increasingly, the regime had to focus on self-preservation rather than projects such as the GERD. At no point did dam construction stop during the period of political upheaval, but it did proceed at an uneven pace. Yet his critics inside the ruling party say he has shown less enthusiasm for the project than his predecessors, particularly Meles. Since then, he has governed boldly, striking a peace deal with Eritrea, releasing political prisoners, welcoming back exiled opposition leaders, appointing a slew of women to key positions and vowing to open up political space.

But he faces enormous challenges. Ethnic tensions are mounting in much of the country, with militias proliferating, violence reaching levels not seen in decades and leaders in ethnic federal states demanding greater autonomy. Hide Footnote How Abiy will keep these forces in check, particularly with elections looming in , remains unclear. Moreover, his replacement of leaders in the security forces and crackdowns on old-guard figures accused of corruption appear to have generated hostility to his rule among elements of the bureaucracy and security establishment.

Abiy also needs reforms that can breathe new life into the economy and create jobs for millions of unemployed youths whose frustrations have spilled into the streets. Upon completion, the dam would go some way toward addressing chronic energy shortages, particularly in the industrial sector, and earning hard currency for the treasury.

It would help many rural households switch to cleaner forms of energy. Hundreds took to the streets in his hometown Gondar, as well as in Addis Ababa, to mourn him. Hide Footnote The media speculated feverishly about possible foul play, but police eventually ruled his death a suicide. He accused METEC of failing the country and announced that the firm would play no further role in dam construction. Ethiopian authorities claim that the dam is 60 per cent complete, and Western diplomats who have visited the site say much of the physical infrastructure is finished.

Hide Footnote That said, complex tasks remain pending, particularly the construction and installation of the turbines and generators, which Ethiopia has outsourced to Chinese firms China Gezhouba Group and Voith Hydro Shanghai. Hide Footnote In addition, due to foreign currency shortages at home, Ethiopia badly needs extra funding to pay for the final phases of construction and to settle bills owed to the main contractor.

The government reportedly owes the main contractor, Salini, tens of millions of dollars. Abroad, Abiy has shown greater sensitivity than his predecessors to the concerns of downstream countries Egypt and Sudan. He is notably friendlier to Egypt, at least in public. But there is also a legalistic reason the term has rarely been invoked in the midst of the crisis. The key feature of genocide is something called "specific intent" - meaning that the atrocities are carried out with the intent to destroy all or part of the victim group.

And with external investigators typically shut out during the worst of the violence it is often hard to gather enough evidence to draw this inference conclusively until the genocide is over. Some cases stand in exception to this rule, including Rwanda where the contemporaneous indications of intent were overwhelming.

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Usually the best time to reach a legally watertight genocide determination has been in a courtroom after the crime has occurred. But that of course emasculates the moral power of the word genocide to build the pressure to stop atrocities in real time, which is exactly why Craner was keen to see if a genocide determination could be made sooner rather than later. According to Taft, there was no doubt that the refugee accounts of mass killings, rapes, and destruction of items needed to sustain life for Darfur's non-Arab population could all constitute the physical "acts of genocide.

Darfur fell into the category of situations where specific intent was tough to determine with certainty in real time. As Powell recalls it "Will Taft told me that others could argue against the genocide determination with a strong legal basis, but that the conclusion on genocide was legally supportable.

In short, Powell says it came down to a "judgment call. Given the gravity of the issue, Powell's consultation with anyone outside the State Department was breathtakingly minimal. In fact I don't even remember having a conversation with the Pentagon about it," said Powell. Was the Bush administration not worried about its legal obligations under the Genocide Convention like the Clinton administration was with Rwanda? Why, in the face of advice that the evidence was inconclusive, did Powell decide to tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that genocide had occurred? A recently declassified legal memorandum, written by Taft to Powell's deputy, helps explain.

In the June 25, memorandum Taft wrote : "A determination that genocide has occurred in Darfur would have no legal - as opposed to moral, political, or policy - consequences for the United States. State Department had rejected an "expansive reading of article I [of the Genocide Convention] that would impose a legal obligation on all Contracting Parties to take particular measures to 'prevent' genocide in areas outside their territory. Legal scholars have often had differing views over what obligations do or do not flow from article I of the Genocide Convention. But the convention itself says that disputes over its interpretation or application should be brought before the International Court of Justice, and in the early s, the court began to flesh out what the undertaking to prevent genocide meant.

In a case involving alleged atrocities underway in the former Yugoslavia, the court said that Article I put those who had joined the convention "under a clear obligation to do all in their power to prevent the commission of any such acts [of genocide]. Careful to state that the legal obligation in article I did not require states to "succeed" in stopping genocide, the court concluded that a nation violated its article I obligation if it "manifestly failed to take all measures to prevent genocide which were within its power, and which might have contributed to preventing the genocide.

Still, the court's interpretation of the genocide prevention obligation remains legally authoritative. We will never know for sure, but had Taft's advice been that a determination of genocide would have obligated the U. And combined with Taft's position that the evidence was inconclusive, advice that a genocide determination would obligate the U. Instead, with advice in hand that a genocide determination would be cost-free for the U. Strangely, Taft's June 25 memorandum states that Sudan is not a party to the Genocide Convention, although it had become so several months before the memorandum was written.

As a result of this inaccuracy, Taft's advice does not dwell on what a genocide determination might mean inside Sudan itself. It blocked international access to Darfur from November to February , exacerbating starvation and disease and worsening the crisis, according to a Human Rights Watch report. But he has failed to live up to many of these pledges. Some reports say, for example, that armed militia members have been given police uniforms and sent to guard refugees. The U. Experts say many world leaders--particularly Annan--are haunted by the memory of Rwanda, where nearly 1 million people were massacred in , and are determined to prevent another African genocide.

Officials of the U. In addition, roughly , refugees have fled to eastern Chad.


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The World Health Organization WHO concluded in a September 13 study that up to 10, people, many of them children, are dying each month from disease and violence in the Darfur refugee camps. USAID estimates that as many as , people in Darfur are likely to die by the end of the year from hunger, disease, and exposure. Sudanese officials have disputed these figures. Southerners resisted attempts by Khartoum to forcibly impose Islamic culture and religion.

The protocols called for a permanent ceasefire to be signed in mid-July, followed by a comprehensive peace agreement that will include six years of autonomy for southern Sudan, followed by a referendum on its future. The signing of the permanent ceasefire was put off because of conflicts over security arrangements.

War in Darfur - Wikipedia

Armed militias retaliated against the rebel groups by targeting their villages, killing men and boys, raping women, razing crops, and destroying wells--while government forces reportedly provided air and logistical support--in what many observers characterize as a deliberate, coordinated campaign to drive black Sudanese out of Darfur. Talks to negotiate a lasting peace agreement collapsed July 17; a new round of peace talks hosted by Nigeria began August After three weeks of fruitless negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria, the two sides broke off talks September Nigerian officials said talks could resume talks in a few weeks.

The rebel groups and the government had disagreed over disarmament demands and security guarantees. Sudanese government officials said U. Special Envoy Jan Pronk reported in early August that the government had halted attacks against villages in Darfur and eased restrictions on humanitarian assistance, but international aid groups report that attacks on civilians and aid workers by armed militias continue. The government has repeatedly promised to disarm the janjaweed , but many experts--including John C. Danforth, a former presidential special envoy to Sudan and now U.



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