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Sudan: Justice Africa Analysis
Jun 18, 2004 (040618)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
As overwhelming evidence of atrocities in Sudan continues to
emerge, there are new calls for action to stop the genocide. This
issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a mid-May
briefing by Justice Africa focusing on key elements needed to
inform such action. These include identifying the political forces
within the Sudanese government responsible for directing the
The London-based Justice Africa (http://www.justiceafrica.org),
which works closely with the Pan African Movement secretariat in
Kampala and the Inter Africa Group in Addis Ababa, has extensive
experience in the Horn of Africa. It has coordinated a series of
conferences with Sudanese civil society and human rights
organizations. Justice Africa's directors include Alex de Waal,
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Yoanes Ajawin, Abdul Mohamed, and Paulos
In response to the question "Is the Darfur conflict genocide?"
Justice Africa replies, "If we strictly apply the provisions of the
1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide, there is no doubt that the answer is yes." However, this
establishes a firm international obligation to act, which is why
governments and the United Nations are wary of using the term. Such
action, Justice Africa implies, must lead to changes in Khartoum.
"The ruthlessness with which the security elite at the heart of the
Government of Sudan have operated, and their readiness to turn
Darfur into an ethics-free zone, mean that Sudan's future stability
rests on the political exclusion or containment of key members of
this security elite."
In Washington, testifying before a Senate hearing on June 15, John
Prendergast of the International Crisis Group concluded a detailed
listing of steps needed for stronger action on Darfur with a
parallel point. "The best way to end this tragedy," he said, "is to
bring home the costs of the atrocities in Darfur to the Sudanese
officials who are directing them."
For Prendergast's testimony see
Also available on http://allafrica.com/sudan, with extensive
additional material on the current situation in Darfur, is
testimony from US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Charles
Snyder, USAID Deputy Administrator Roger Winter, and Human Rights
Watch Darfur research Julie Flint. Full testimony at the hearings
is also available at
Africa Action (http://www.africaaction.org) has launched a petition
campaign calling on the US to acknowledge that the campaign of
slaughter in Darfur amounts to genocide, and to take action to stop
it, including the use of military force.
For additional background and links to current sources visit
Many thanks to those of you who have recently sent in a voluntary
subscription payment to support AfricaFocus Bulletin. If you have
not yet made such a payment and would like to do so, please visit
http://www.africafocus.org/support.php for details.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Prospects for Peace in Sudan Briefing
Justice Africa 19 May 2004
[Excerpts only. For full text of this and earlier briefings on
Sudan from Justice Africa, visit
Political Repercussions of Darfur
11. The war in Darfur threatens to paralyse and fragment the Government of Sudan (GoS).
The conflict reaches into the heart of the GoS power structure and
the wider socio-political consensus of northern Sudan in a more
destabilising way than the war in the South ever did. If the Darfur
conflict is not resolved rapidly and decisively, the GoS may become
incapable of governing. This would benefit nobody. But the
ruthlessness with which the security elite at the heart of the GoS
have operated, and their readiness to turn Darfur into an
ethics-free zone, mean that Sudan's future stability rests on the
political exclusion or containment of key members of this security
12. Many middle-ranking and senior army officers hail from Darfur.
Reportedly, a number of senior air force officers refused to bomb
civilian targets in Darfur, leading to fears of a widespread
refusal to obey orders or worse. There is also discontent among
army officers about the use of the Janjawiid militia. The levels of
disquiet in the army over Darfur should not be underestimated.
13. The GoS continues to see the Darfur rebellion largely through
the lens of its own intra-Islamist dispute. This has contributed to
the arrest and detention of Hassan al Turabi and the closure of the
PCP. These actions are unlikely to have the desired effect. While
Turabi's potential for destabilising any political process can
never be underestimated, his control over events in Darfur is
minimal at best.
14. In truth, the Darfur conflict signals the end of Sudan's
Islamist project. The National Islamic Front was always a coalition
between Arab nationalists and Islamists, a coalition signified by
Turabi's Popular Arab and Islamic Conference, established in 1991
to bring together radical Islamists and Arab nationalists (the
secularist Palestinian George Habbash was among the non-Islamists
who attended the first conference.) Within Sudan, the Arab tendency
was primarily represented by the elites of the northern region who
have traditionally dominated the Sudanese state. The Arab
supremacism of members of the former Islamic Brigades who had been
in exile in Libya in the 1970s and 80s is a second, more neglected
component. The Islamist tendency reached out to non-Arab groups
that had been marginalized in the Sudanese state, notably including
the Fellata, Zaghawa and Fur. (The Fellata, descendants of west
African immigrants from the pre-colonial and colonial periods,
first received Sudanese citizenship under the NIF).
15. Hassan al Turabi's sympathy for the JEM rebels is therefore
more than simple opportunism. It indicates his appreciation that
the GoS has abandoned its last Islamist credentials, and is simply
interested in power. The Darfur conflict has sundered Sudan's
Islamist coalition right down its most sensitive fault line: race.
The GoS looks more and more like an ethnic and political minority
that has control over state power and wants to keep that power at
any cost, knowing full well that any liberalisation will spell its
16. By the same token, the war in Darfur could easily prefigure a
conflict that could tear apart the fabric of the Sudanese state
itself. The GoS is doing its utmost to black out any news from
Darfur and keep the citizens of Khartoum in the dark. This is for
the real fear that determined opposition could spread to the
capital. The arrest of army officers including air force commanders
alleged to have been planning a coup reflects this fear. However
hard it tries, the GoS will be unable to prevent news of the Darfur
atrocities reaching Khartoum, and fuelling opposition.
17. The Darfur conflict is irrevocably internationalised. Despite
the best efforts of the GoS to argue that it is an internal or at
best a regional affair, it cannot any longer rebuff international
engagement. The GoS strategy of a rapid all-out offensive in
January-February, intended to defeat the rebels and present a fait
accompli to the international community, has completely backfired.
Rather than dividing the international community, the GoS has
further united it in horror at what is going on. ...
18. Even more seriously, the level of outrage among all social and
political classes in northern Sudan has surpassed anything
witnessed during 21 years of war with the South. The Darfur
conflict hits all the most sensitive points of the government. It
divides the Islamist movement, it pits the riverain elites in
government against the westerners, and it challenges the unity of
the armed forces. ...
The Darfur Arabs' Point of View
19. The Arabs of Darfur have their defenders. Members of these
communities make a number of claims. First, they have argued that
they too have been the victims of human rights violations,
including massacres, at the hands of the SLA and JEM. Certainly
there are credible allegations of such abuses, some of them
reported in documents by Human Rights Watch and the UNHCHR, that
warrant further investigation. Second, they claim that the war was
started by the military insurrection of the rebels. This is not in
dispute, but it is also not questioned that Darfur has long been
neglected by central government (and indeed that the Darfurian
Arabs were as much victims of that neglect as the non-Arabs)....
20. Lastly, spokesmen for the Arabs claim that the current conflict
is a continuation of a history of dispute over territory between
farmers and herders, in which farmers have usually got the upper
hand. There is an element of truth to this. Since the mid-1980s
there have indeed been numerous clashes and although in direct
military confrontations, the herders may get the better of the
farmers, in the long run sedentary farming communities have the
upper hand in terms of expropriating pasture land and blocking
transhumance routes. But it is important to note that before the
1980s, the most common clashes were between pastoralist groups
themselves, and large scale fighting between herders and farmers
began only in that decade. This irruption of conflict had clear
political dimensions, beginning with struggles to control the
regional government of Darfur (established in 1980), and
intensifying with meddling by the Sadiq el Mahdi government after
1986 and the return to Darfur of former Ansar fighters who had been
in exile in Libya, where many of them had been members of
Ghaddafi's Islamic Brigade, and where they had absorbed an Arab
21. Sadly, neither party to the conflict has emphasised the
interconnections between the Arabs and non-Arabs in Darfur. Not
only have pastoralists and farmers had a long history of economic
interdependence, including intermarriage, but the boundaries
between ethnic groups are themselves blurred. The term widely used
in western Sudan for Arab pastoralists, 'baggara', means 'cattle
herder', and historically, members of the Fur and other ethnic
groups possessing substantial numbers of cattle have themselves
'become Baggara'. An ethnic map of the region resembles a
chequerboard, with few areas that can be said to be exclusively
'belonging' to one group, but rather a complex and overlapping web
of villages and transient pastoralist camps.
Is it Genocide?
22. Is the Darfur conflict genocide? If we strictly apply the
provisions of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment
of the Crime of Genocide, there is no doubt that the answer is yes.
The definition of 'genocide' in Article II of the Convention is
'acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or part, a
national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing
members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to
members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group
conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to
prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children
of the group to another group.' The numbers of killings may not yet
come close to those perpetrated in Rwanda or Nazi Germany, and the
entire destruction of the targeted ethnic groups does not seem in
prospect, but these extreme manifestations are not legally
necessary for a crime to count as genocide.
23. Is this a crime planned at the highest level of the Sudanese
state and executed according to a carefully designed central plan?
Or is it a counterinsurgency that has got out of control, running
wild beyond the designs of its sponsors? It would seem to be a bit
of both. During the last twenty years, the characteristic mode of
action employed by successive governments in Khartoum, when they
want to fight a cheap and effective counterinsurgency, has been to
employ militias and to give great discretion to commanders on the
ground. Thus the militia massacres in Bahr el Ghazal and the
killings and forced relocations of the Nuba were carried out, in a
way that the government could pretend was not at its direct behest.
On every occasion, however, it subsequently became clear that
military officers were involved in supplying militias and directing
their activities. The involvement of the air force, whose raids
must be directly authorised by the chief of staff's office in
Khartoum, is evidence for high level involvement.
24. The culprits for this strategy are the individuals who have run
the Sudanese security apparatus since 1989. Each time there has
been a major massacre Juba in 1992, Nuba Mountains that same year,
repeatedly in Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile the trail of evidence
leads to the same people. Are President Bashir and Vice President
Ali Osman among them? Most likely, the two most senior figures in
government instructed their immediate subordinates to do whatever
was necessary and not report back. An unspoken signal would have
been sent that Darfur was a free-fire zone, and ethics-free zone in
which anything could be done without consequence. With a history of
gross violation with total impunity following on from such signals,
there would have been no need for any more detailed instructions.
25. The implication of determining that genocide is being committed
is that no effort should be spared to stop it, and to punish those
responsible. It does not, however, mean that peace negotiations
should be abandoned in favour of an international policy of regime
change. The Darfur genocide is not a single, centrally planned
exercise (as was the Rwanda genocide for example). There is a
serious danger that the fabric of the state itself will
disintegrate under the current stresses, unleashing communal
violence on genocidal scale across different parts of Sudan.
Although the leadership in Khartoum has blood on its hands, there
is currently no alternative but to pursue the existing strategy of
negotiating with it for an end to the conflict.
Where Next for Darfur?
26. The mediation structure that is emerging resembles the IGAD
process in important respects. An African regional organisation is
in the lead role (in this case the African Union), supported by a
regional government (Chad) and key international players (the U.S.
and European Union). Achieving a consensus among the international
players is a crucial step in ensuring that there is a credible
peace process, to avoid forum shopping by the parties (especially
the government). However, a common negotiating stand by the
international mediators is complicated by the resurgence of the
anti-Khartoum lobbies in Washington. Having been kept at bay during
the IGAD negotiations, this lobby group has seized its chance with
the atrocities in Darfur. While criticism of the GoS human rights
record is amply justified, the major concern for governments must
be with the outcome of the process. Given that regime change in
Khartoum at present is a strategy for chaos, a strategy of
engagement to complement the criticism must be followed. However,
such an approach is possible only when the GoS has converged on an
internally agreed position.
27. Where the Darfur mediation differs markedly from the post-2001
IGAD process is that there is no pre-existing literature of accord.
The GoS-SPLA negotiations benefited from a decade of rounds of
talks which may not have reached a final agreement, but had
nonetheless clarified consensual positions on key theoretical
issues such as self-determination. No such literature of accord
exists for Darfur. The SLA and JEM have yet to agree on a set of
common negotiating positions, while the GoS is divided on whether
it can negotiate on political issues at all, and if so what its
position should be.
28. However, some of the basic demands of the SLA and JEM are
clear. These include: ending the marginalisation of Darfur in
Sudanese political and economic affairs; democratic elections at
the regional level; reconstituting Darfur as a single state (it was
divided into three by the current government); and providing
greater autonomy for the region. These are all eminently reasonable
demands. The GoS will fear that if it concedes to these demands,
then other northern Sudanese regions (especially the East) will
also make comparable demands. This fear may be justifiable. The
only way to address the long catalogue of grievances from all
regions of the country is through open and democratic processes,
rather than repression.
29. Absent progress, or the immediate prospect of progress, on
political issues, the parties have agreed on a 'humanitarian'
ceasefire. This freeze on hostilities needs several additional
elements if it is to be meaningful. First, it needs to be
monitored, with effective mechanisms for complaint and recourse if
it is violated. The AU is preparing to deploy ceasefire monitors in
late May. This effort needs to be supported, both logistically and
politically. Second, the ceasefire needs to be an opportunity for
the accompanied return of refugees and IDPs to their homes. This
will be a means for minimising humanitarian crisis, restoring
livelihoods and preserving land rights. If the conflict is frozen
with up to a million Darfurians displaced and indefinite recipients
of international aid in their places of displacement, then the
international community may find itself merely financing a process
of ethnic cleansing.
30. The involvement of Sudan's northern neighbours in helping
resolve the Darfur conflict is conspicuous by its absence. Neither
Egypt nor Libya, nor the Arab League nor Organisation of the
Islamic Conference, has played any role whatsoever. Colonel
Ghadaffi has described the war and massacres as 'only' a 'tribal
conflict' and condemned non-African 'interference'. The lack of
condemnation by these governments and regional organisations has
been deafening, a point that will not be lost on Sudanese citizens.
31. Does the African Union have the capacity to play a leading role
in resolving the Darfur conflict? The Chairperson of the AU,
President Alpha Oumer Konare, has made Darfur one of his highest
priorities. It is the first major challenge to the recently
established AU Peace and Security Council. The Sudan Government
welcomed the AU offer of mediation, in part because they
anticipated it would be a softer touch than the U.S. or Europeans.
They may have underestimated the determination of the AU leadership
to prove itself.
32. A durable end to the conflict will require a political solution
at the leadership level. A first step in this regard would be
Declaration of Principles, akin to that drafted by IGAD in 1994.
Such a DoP should include an assertion of basic citizenship and
residence rights, human security including right to a livelihood,
power-sharing at both regional and national level, and new
provisions for law and order in the region, which has been scarred
by banditry and organised crime for the last two decades. ...
34. The problem of the proliferation of light weapons in western
Sudan will need to be addressed. Part of the reason for the
escalation of the conflict was that there was no effective police
force in the region, so that different communities resorted to
arming themselves for self-defence and as protection against
endemic banditry. Darfur will need a new, well-equipped and
well-trained police force, probably with international technical
and logistical assistance, and a graduated programme of mutual
disarmament among communities. A prerequisite for this is the
disarmament of the Janjawiid. This should be done by the GoS, which
has responsibility for the militia.
45. The issue of accountability for human rights abuses has
received new attention, both from the demand of Sudanese civil
society (which released a statement on the issue on 29 March), and
from the international focus on atrocities in Darfur. This agenda
will not go away, and is reinforced by the evident way in which
senior GoS figures revert to policies of extreme brutality. The war
in Darfur compels diplomats and human rights activists to ask, who
is responsible for this policy? Suspicion falls upon the clique of
senior security officers who have, over the years, presided over
serious abuses in Juba, the Nuba Mountains and the oil fields, and
on those who have been most closely associated with the militia
strategies in Kordofan and Darfur, reaching back as far as the
early years of the war in the 1980s.
46. The Darfur conflict underlines the simple reality that many of
those most responsible for egregious abuses of human rights during
the war, cannot be permitted to remain in government. The argument
that the removal of Hassan al Turabi and the engagement in the IGAD
peace talks was disempowering the ruthless security elite, can no
longer be considered tenable. ...
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