One of the world's hottest wars is intensifying and the people of Darfur are paying the price. A peace agreement between the government of Sudan and one of the Darfur rebel groups was signed in May 2006, but the benefits of this so-called peace have yet to reach the 2.5 million people stuck in displaced camps in Darfur and refugee camps in eastern Chad. Since the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), nearly 200,000 more people have been displaced and an additional two million people need humanitarian assistance because of the havoc that the war has wrought on their lives and livelihoods.
The ongoing violence in Darfur is now spilling over into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic, where Sudanese militiamen working in concert with Chadian Arab militias attack and burn villages, kill and rape civilians, and loot livestock and food supplies. Mounting violence across the region has had devastating effects on humanitarian work, with more relief workers killed in the last six months than in the past three years combined.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration's policy toward Darfur remains divided. Some officials still think Khartoum can be gently persuaded to change course in Darfur if the right incentives are provided, while others want to pressure the regime with serious punitive measures. Complicating this debate are U.S. intelligence agencies that consider their Sudanese counterparts to be important partners in the war against terrorist networks.
The international community – with the U.S. taking the lead – needs to unite in pushing for the punitive measures required to change Khartoum's calculations. Key leaders must be pressured to negotiate a more durable peace deal with Darfurian rebels and allow the deployment of a more effective international force with the mandate and equipment to protect civilians. The only way to achieve those two concurrent objectives is to make the regime pay for the atrocities it is orchestrating and the solutions it is obstructing. Having enjoyed total impunity to date, it is no surprise that the Khartoum regime continues to pursue a military solution in Darfur.
The announcement on February 27 that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will start proceedings against the Sudanese State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmad Muhammad Harun, and the militia/Janjaweed commander, Ali Kushayb, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in West Darfur in 2003-2004 is a step in the right direction. The international community must continue to provide strong support for the ICC to ensure the Government of Sudan complies with the legal process and provides protection to victims and witnesses.
Pressure must also be brought to bear on the rebels to produce a more constructive attitude towards a revitalized peace process and the delivery of humanitarian aid. Without a joint effort to pursue these policies simultaneously, prospects for peace will remain a distant dream for the millions of innocent civilians held hostage by instability and fear in this war-torn region.
Here's what must be done to reverse the situation:
The U.S. and EU should assemble a team of diplomats based in the region to work intensively on unifying the rebel groups. Concurrently, the UN and the African Union must immediately begin to build their capacity to reconvene negotiations between the government and the rebels.
The UN must work in close coordination with the African Union (AU) to line up the forces necessary to reach the 20,300 troops agreed upon by the AU, the UN, the Arab League, and international donor countries. The international community must also accelerate its planning and increase its preparedness for military action without consent from Khartoum by planning for a no-fly zone, and for intervention in the event of large- scale massacres of civilians.
The international community, with strong U.S. leadership, must alter the calculations of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) by working multilaterally to impose punitive measures – such as targeted sanctions and economic pressures – against senior NCP officials and the companies they control.
Crisis Group Analysts In The Field For ENOUGH
Last month, ENOUGH met with the head of operations for a humanitarian organization in West Darfur. His comments were sobering. "Every month since I started working here it has gotten more violent," he told us, "more difficult to reach all of the people that need our help."
This downward spiral has bled across Sudan's porous borders. On a recent ENOUGH trip to eastern Chad, aid workers told us that the pattern of atrocities in the Dar Sila region of Chad near the Sudan border is a mirror image of the violence that has wracked Darfur for nearly four years. Sudanese Janjaweed militias, working in concert with Chadian Arab militias, attack and burn villages, kill and rape civilians, and loot livestock and food supplies. And now this deadly pattern has spread into a third country in the region, the Central African Republic.
The humanitarian situation across the region is deteriorating dramatically due to ongoing state-sponsored violence against civilians, continued fighting between the government and rebel factions, in-fighting among the rebel factions, and the obstruction of humanitarian aid operations by all parties to the conflict.
Ongoing violence has condemned displaced Darfurians, the majority of whom are women and children, to lives of increasing desperation, reliant exclusively on external humanitarian support for their survival. Today, 2.5 million Darfurians live in settlements for displaced people, and a further two million are dependent on humanitarian assistance. And just as their dependence on charity is deepening, humanitarian agencies have come under unprecedented attack, thus ensuring that death rates will skyrocket in the coming months unless urgent action is taken.
In mid-January, a coalition of UN agencies warned that humanitarian operations in Darfur – the lifeline for millions – could collapse completely due to the increasing levels of violence and the intentional targeting of aid workers. More relief workers have been killed in the last six months than in the past three years combined. In crowded, insecure camps, the victims of Darfur wait for the arrival of promised UN peacekeepers – but all that comes are all too familiar aerial bombings and Janjaweed attacks. Thus the number of at-risk civilians continues to increase as the ability of agencies to deliver the basic necessities of life deteriorates. Localized famine is likely.
The current peacekeeping force in Darfur, the African Union Mission in Sudan, or AMIS, is overwhelmed by the situation on the ground and agreed in early 2006 that the UN should take over its operations. Meanwhile, in crowded, insecure camps, the displaced and vulnerable wait for signs of change.
Policy Challenges And Opportunities
Diplomatic efforts to deploy a stronger peacekeeping force and re-start political talks are faltering, as an uncoordinated international community issues empty threat after empty threat – the latest being vague signals by the U.S. government that it may indeed implement its so-called "Plan B." Unfortunately, this latest ultimatum, which calls for stern diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Khartoum into changing course in Darfur, has neither forced the Sudanese regime to change course nor altered the current, ineffective U.S. approach of gentle persuasion.
In August 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1706 to expand the UN peacekeeping mission, called UNMIS, already operating in southern Sudan, to Darfur. A reinforced UN mission was supposed to assume peacekeeping duties from AMIS, but in a stunning policy miscalculation, the U.S. and its allies pushed through the resolution without securing the consent of the Sudanese government. Sudan's refusal was immediate and the UN was eventually forced into another embarrassing retreat. This was only compounded by the government's expulsion of UN Special Representative to the Secretary General Jan Pronk in October 2006.
In mid-November, with the security situation worsening, the UN Secretary General held a high-level consultation in Addis Ababa to propose a compromise. At this meeting, Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lam Akol, agreed in principle for UN troops to go into Darfur as part of a hybrid AU/UN force. This diplomatic "victory," however, was short-lived; President Omar al-Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials rejected the meeting's conclusions immediately thereafter.
Frustrated with Sudanese intransigence and backpedaling, at the end of November 2006, the U.S. announced that Khartoum had one month to accept the proposals which had emerged from the Addis Ababa meeting and agree to the hybrid force, or face the consequences of an unspecified "Plan B." President Bashir, in a last-minute letter sent to outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on December 23, 2006, appeared to agree to the deployment of a 20,300-strong AU-UN force, accepting the parameters put forward by the UN and AU.
Since then, however, Bashir has not surprisingly recanted. "There are sufficient forces in the Sudan from African countries to maintain order," he said last month. "All we need is funding for the African troops." This claim was directly contradicted by the head of the AU forces, Major General Luke Aprezi, who stated, "The force is too small to do the job. We need more troops on the ground."
Meanwhile the internationally-backed Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in May 2006 by the regime and one rebel faction, has proven hollow. It was a rushed agreement, with two rebel groups refusing to sign and displaced Darfurians protesting – sometimes violently – over inadequate compensation and security provisions. Belatedly, the U.S. and others have realized that forcing implementation of the agreement is not going to win over the non-signatories, nor the people of Darfur. Khartoum has been left free to wage war against the groups who continue to fight, buying off others, and compromising the independence and neutrality of AU forces.
Bringing the rebel groups and the government of Sudan back to the negotiating table will not be easy: the rebels are too divided right now to negotiate effectively, and the Khartoum regime has demonstrated no interest in stabilizing Darfur or in negotiating a fair political agreement, preferring to pursue its policies of divide and destroy amidst impunity.
Since the conflict began in 2003, the two original rebel movements have splintered into at least eight different factions. Since last summer, the U.S. has been working with its international partners to unify the largest rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, in order to prepare for peace talks. However, these international efforts to help forge rebel unity have been uncoordinated, sporadic, and are unlikely to work until the U.S. and its partners aggressively pursue a joint strategy.
The formation late last year of a new UN/AU mediation team is a promising development. Newly appointed UN Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and AU Chief Mediator Salim Ahmed Salim are spearheading an effort to restart negotiations, but the peace process will not move forward until the rebels agree on a common negotiating position and the international community applies significant pressure on the government to return to the table. Despite the Sudanese government's promises to allow rebel unification conferences to go forward, Sudanese bombers have attacked the locations of the last two planned meetings.
ENOUGH Policy Recommendations
Peacemaking: The U.S. and EU should assemble a team of diplomats based in the region to work intensively on unifying the rebel groups. At the same time, the UN and African Union must immediately begin to build their capacity to reconvene negotiations between the government and the rebels.
Diplomatic efforts to jump-start political talks between the government and the rebel groups are rudderless. The process needs coordination and regular high-level attention from the U.S., UN, AU, EU and other outside actors. A sequential strategy must be implemented to unify the rebels and build a new process based on the successful negotiation model that led to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 by the government of Sudan and the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Army. Those talks were mediated by a regional organization – the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), in partnership with the U.S., UK, Norway and Italy – which worked closely with the IGAD mediation team and pressured the parties at critical junctures during the talks. A similar strategy is needed now.
Until the rebels can rally behind a single political agenda, and those negotiating can confidently represent those in the field, they will not be able to effectively negotiate or implement a durable peace agreement. An international team based in Chad and Darfur, can work directly with the rebels' political leadership and military commanders on the ground to build the needed consensus.
At the same time, parameters must be set for a peace process that can achieve a durable peace agreement. UN Special Envoy Jan Elliason and AU Chief Mediator Salim Ahmed Salim should convene regular meetings of their respective staffs to establish a framework for the negotiations and draft an all-inclusive final agreement that addresses the principal outstanding issues.
Those issues are: an effective mechanism to verify the dismantling of the Janjaweed; increased individual compensation for victims of the conflict; a process for safe and voluntary return of displaced people; and more political control for the people of Darfur over their own affairs.
Furthermore, the U.S., UN, AU, and EU need to agree on a coordinated approach and a clear division of labor. These actors must make every effort to engage China, Russia, and the Arab League to support renewed negotiations and express to Khartoum their backing for this process. It is essential that neither China nor Russia use their seats on the Security Council to block multilateral measures aimed at nudging the parties toward a deal.
Protection: The UN must work in close coordination with the African Union (AU) to line up the forces necessary to reach the 20,300-troop level agreed upon by the AU, the UN, the Arab League, and international donor countries. The international community must also accelerate its planning and increase its preparedness for military action without consent from Khartoum by planning for a no-fly zone, and for intervention in the event of large-scale massacres of civilians.
The international community has agreed on a three-phase process to deploy a hybrid AU/UN peacekeeping force to Darfur, despite Khartoum's objections. Until the full hybrid force deploys, donor countries must continue to fund the AU mission at full capacity and NATO members should provide military planners to assist in the rapid deployment of light and heavy UN support packages to the AU.
It is essential that the eventual hybrid force have the mandate and equipment necessary to protect civilians. Consistent pressure on the Sudanese government is necessary to compel Khartoum to accept such a force. The UN should also begin planning for deployment of peacekeepers to protect civilians and humanitarian operations in eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic, but the deployment of protection forces should occur in conjunction with genuine political dialogue between the governments of these countries and their internal opposition groups.
The international community must also accelerate its planning and increase its preparedness for military action even in the absence of consent from Khartoum. If the situation continues to deteriorate in Darfur, the Security Council should authorize NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur and have plans in place to deploy ground forces to the region with a mandate to stop the killing. Although the international community's appetite for this type of military action is small, the Sudanese government must understand that all options remain on the table. A credible planning process will in itself be a point of leverage in pressing primary objectives forward.
Punishment: The international community, with strong U.S. leadership, must alter the calculations of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) by working multilaterally to impose punitive measures – such as targeted sanctions and economic pressures – against senior NCP officials and the companies they control.
Until the international community rebuilds its leverage over the Sudanese government by enacting punitive measures, both the government and the rebels will continue to fight it out in the sands of Darfur, while the Janjaweed and other armed groups continue to kill, rape, maim, and loot with impunity. The U.S. must back up its rhetoric by demonstrating leadership in forging multilateral consensus.
First, the UN Security Council should implement targeted sanctions – travel bans and asset freezes-on individuals complicit in crimes against humanity or obstructing the peace process. The Security Council already has a sanctions committee whose panel of experts has traveled to the region and compiled three lists of individuals who are responsible for atrocities and should face sanctions, including two ministers in the current cabinet and at least eight other senior government officials. However, the Security Council has leveled sanctions against only four low-ranking offenders – one low-level government army officer, one Janjaweed leader, and two rebel commanders – but has left unaccountable those most responsible for the horrors in Darfur. The UN lists include the head of Sudanese military intelligence, Salah Abdallah Gosh, and other officials with whom U.S. intelligence agencies liaise on counter-terrorism matters.
Second, the Security Council should quickly pass a resolution calling for an investigation into the offshore banking accounts and private companies belonging to senior government officials responsible for orchestrating the atrocities in Darfur. Much of the regime's surplus cash is held in such accounts. Once identified, these accounts, which allow the Sudanese regime to fund its militias in Darfur and elsewhere, should be frozen.
Third, the U.S. and other concerned nations should provide information and declassified intelligence to the International Criminal Court to expedite arrest warrants for the principal architects of the Sudanese government's scorched-earth campaign against its own citizens.
ENOUGH Activist Agenda
"Make Them Pay"
In the absence of accountability for atrocities in Darfur, the recommendations outlined for peace-building and protection are unlikely to be fulfilled. The activist agenda must focus squarely on the implementation of targeted sanctions against individuals and companies, and increasing international cooperation with the International Criminal Court.
At this urgent and crucial time for the people of Darfur, your actions can make a difference. ENOUGH urges you to take three key activist actions to end the suffering in this war-zone: learn more about the conflict, lead your leaders in resolving the crisis through a comprehensive and regional strategy and link up with other activists and campaigns fighting for tangible policy change.
Read Crisis Group's in-depth reports about the conflict
Read these recent opinion pieces by Crisis Group staff about the need for multilateral accountability measures and greater cooperation with the International Criminal Court
- Sudan and the ICC: A Question of Accountability, Jan 31, 2007
- U.S. Must Crank Up the Heat on Khartoum, Oct 18, 2006
- Sudan: Confronting the Atrocities in Darfur, July 26, 2006
Read about "How Joe Q Citizen Can Affect Darfur" in this recent Crisis Group opinion, then…
…see how the Sudan Divestment Taskforce is spearheading a nationwide movement to divest money from a targeted list of companies underwriting mass atrocities in Darfur
Learn what your congressional representative has done for Darfur by reading his or her score
Lead Your Leaders
As the situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate, the United States must work multilaterally to impose punitive measures – including targeted sanctions and economic pressures – against senior Sudanese National Congress Party (NCP) officials and the companies they control. By contacting your elected representatives, you will be joining thousands of concerned activists from across the country in "leading their leaders." Urge them to send a message to the regime in Khartoum that there is a price to be paid for their actions.
ENOUGH is partnering in this campaign with the Genocide Intervention Network, or GI-NET, which is operating a 1-800-GENOCIDE toll-free number that will connect you to your elected officials.
Call your member of Congress and tell him or her:
- that strong U.S. leadership is needed to alter the calculations of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP);
- that members of Congress should urge the Bush Administration to work multilaterally to impose punitive measures – such as targeted sanctions and economic pressures – against senior NCP officials and the companies they control;
- to support HR 180, the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007, which was introduced by Representative Barbara Lee of California in January; and
- to support Senator Richard Durbin's legislation on foreign corporations and divestment from Sudan: S.831 – Sudan Divestment Authorization Act of 2007.
Call the White House at 1-202-456-1414, and tell President Bush:
- to work multilaterally to impose punitive measures – such as targeted sanctions and economic pressures – against senior National Congress Party (NCP) officials and the companies they control;
- to introduce a resolution at the United Nations Security Council authorizing an investigation into the assets of companies owned by senior NCP officials; and
- to work together with our allies to provide all relevant information on crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court.