Human Rights Watch issued a hard-hitting and timely report this week with a critical message:
“Sudan is at a critical juncture. The diverse political and human rights problems across the country are a complex inter-locking mosaic in which the common factor is the repressive practices of the NCP-led government [in Khartoum].”
The report details how the Sudanese government is enacting its repressive practices in almost every imaginable way—repressing political opposition, stifling the free flow of information, committing human rights violation, and launching indiscriminate attacks against civilians.
On Darfur, the report highlights a key issue that has been all over one corner of the blogosphere this week: Khartoum’s ongoing efforts to block journalists from traveling to and reporting from Darfur, and its obstruction of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur’s information-gathering. HRW notes that ongoing violence and displacement in Darfur are “a clear indication that the war in Darfur is not ‘over,’” as the outgoing military commander of UNAMID claimed last month. Khartoum’s obstruction of access in Darfur to both UNAMID and to the Sudanese and international media shows that the government is working to make it appear as though the war is over, by simply creating an information blackout. The report calls for UNAMID to make a far more concerted effort to monitor what’s happening on the ground in Darfur, report publicly, and sound the alarm when the government obstructs its access.
Human Rights Watch’s detailed account of the ongoing violence and insecurity in Darfur, coupled with its account of the Sudanese government’s clear efforts to prevent information about the reality of Darfur from reaching the international community, sure makes one wonder why General Gration, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, continues to call for the return of displaced Darfuris to their homes. Sudanese officials in Khartoum may be high-fiving each other for their success in pulling the wool over the eyes of one key diplomat on the dangerous reality of Darfur today.
And on southern Sudan, the report notes that the U.N. mission in southern Sudan, known as UNMIS, is facing similar problems as UNAMID in Darfur. UNMIS does not have access to key flashpoint areas along the North-South border, which is hindering the mission’s ability to analyze the potential for violence and monitor ceasefire violations by the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
There is a whole lot more in this report that will hopefully give certain diplomats, and all nations and intergovernmental organizations engaged on Sudan, reason to question the “gold stars and smiley faces” approach to a government brutally repressing its people.
Photo: Burned out shops in West Darfur. (Enough/Doug Mercado)