Today, Julie Flint and I had an op-ed piece in the Washington Post. Though it was headlined “In Darfur, From Genocide to Anarchy,” we would have preferred “Darfur: Simple, It Isn’t.” I’ve included the full text here and invite your comments.
The exchanges on this blog on the issue of mortality in Darfur have been refreshingly sober. Let me add some further observations, on culpability for famine deaths, what constitutes a “normal” death rate, and on staying objective amidst powerful moral considerations. One: Famine Crimes First, are all the deaths in Darfur the criminal responsibility of the Sudan government? What is the question of the moral and legal status of those killed by hunger and disease? Should we considered them to be murdered by the Sudan government in the same way as those shot, stabbed or burned to death in massacres? My view is that killing by starvation and deaths in famine are both crimes, but in different senses. For nearly twenty years I have argued that the verb "to starve" is transitive—it is something that one person does to another, like strangling, rather than something that happens through circumstance, like getting sunburned. What first alerted me to this was the exceptionally high death rates in displaced camps for Southern Sudanese during the famine of 1988. (For accounts of that famine, see Deborah Scroggins, Emma’s War: Love, betrayal and death in the Sudan, 2003, chapter 9; David Keen, The Benefits of […]
Posted on behalf of Timur Goksel. Timur Goksel served first as the official spokesman and then as the senior advisor of UNIFIL between 1979-2003. He now consults on conflict and peacekeeping and teaches the same at American University of Beirut. I am sure the hybrid UN-AU mission in Darfur created by Security Council Resolution 1769 has enabled all those watching the Darfur tragedy helplessly all these years to claim a victory of sorts. But will it work? With 24 years of service with a UN peacekeeping operation in south Lebanon and four years of university and seminar lecturing on peacekeeping and conflict issues, I am afraid it won’t. The UN is hardly capable of running its own complex peacekeeping operations. How the UN will ever manage an operation that is to be effectively commanded by an inexperienced, under-resourced and relatively new regional organization that has more than a few teething problems is beyond comprehension. I predict the worst possible command, control and management problems for UNAMID, especially if it opts for a robust enforcement philosophy. The only hope for this mission is a well-defined “community peacekeeping” or what is commonly known as “winning the hearts and minds” of the belligerents […]
How many people have died in Darfur and what is the value of this information? The recent ruling by the British Advertising Standards Authority that Save Darfur was guilty of misrepresenting the figure of 400,000 deaths as "fact" rather than, in its view, as "opinion," has ignited a controversy that has long haunted advocacy around humanitarian disaster. The offending advertisement by Save Darfur and Britain’s Aegis Trust read: "SLAUGHTER IS HAPPENING IN DARFUR. YOU CAN HELP END IT. In 2003, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir moved to crush opposition by unleashing vicious armed militias to slaughter entire villages of his own citizens. After three years, 400,000 innocent men, women and children have been killed." There are two parts to the case. The first is that the figure of 400,000 deaths during the crisis is an upper-limit estimate not supported by the best studies, and therefore cannot be regarded as "fact" but rather as a disputed interpretation. This is the major concern of this posting. The second is the implication that the deaths are wholly "slaughter" by the Sudan government and its militias, rather than predominantly due to hunger and disease. While such famine deaths may have their ultimate cause in the […]
*Posted on behalf of an anonymous contributor.
How one chooses which "mistakes" or precursors to learn from reveals what one believes is necessary to know in order to change the current crisis. Searching for catharsis, too many analysts have chased the most dramatic examples available. The tragedy then becomes truly Hegelian, when the desire to ring the alarm bells and stem violence comes into conflict with a willingness to pay attention to what is actually happening.
(The following essay is posted on behalf of Selma Scheewe. The author based this essay on her Thesis titled “Sexual Violence and HIV/AIDS in Conflict-ridden Darfur”, at the University of Groningen.) Introduction Sexual violence is a prominent aspect of many recent conflicts. In the media and the reports of humanitarian agencies, this sexual violence is often linked to the possible consequence of infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). In the case of Rwanda, HIV/AIDS has even been identified as a "weapon of war," which is transmitted to women intentionally by using rape. The importance of addressing the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission in conflict and other emergency settings is increasingly recognised by humanitarian organisations. However, the relationship between sexual violence in conflict settings and HIV infection has rarely been studied, even though a recent literature review concluded that conflicts are specific contexts which exacerbate vulnerabilities to HIV/AIDS as well as gender-based violence (GBV), and that anecdotal reports suggest a strong relationship between these factors. For example, as a consequence of the genocide in Rwanda there is a disproportionately large number of women infected with HIV/AIDS amongst rape survivors, these numbers together with anecdotal evidence suggests that their infection is a […]
Last weekend’s meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, of leaders of Darfur’s armed movements marked the re-launch of a serious peace process for Darfur. It’s Darfur’s first AU-UN hybrid operation, this time in the diplomatic sphere, and — given the constraints and the modest definition of "success" in the political world — so far it is doing well. Step one was completed in Tripoli a month ago, when the two special envoys (Salim Ahmed Salim and Jan Eliasson) got formal agreement from the Libyans, Chadians and Eritreans to cooperate. There’s always a chance that one of these governments will play the role of spoiler, but there are good reasons to believe that they won’t, at least not for a while, and not so actively as in the past. Libya is a new friend to the U.S. in the region. The Chad government is encouraged by plans to station international troops close to its eastern frontier, and Eritrea is concerned that its role in training militants in Somalia is exposing it to U.S. wrath. Step two was the Arusha meeting at which leaders from the non-signatory groups of the SLA, JEM and one Arab group agreed to present a common negotiating position at […]
(Posted on behalf of Paul Kirby) First, how sensible is sending 26,000 troops to ‘peacekeep’ when there is no peace agreement? Is there a serious chance of this inflaming the situation and sucking in UN/AU troops? Or should we suspect that they won’t deploy due to delaying tactics? Second, now that the political noise has been made enough to get a resolution passed is it best if high-level decision-makers forget about the issue? I am thinking principly here about unnecessary meddling and displays of force to show that ‘something is being done’, even if the most intense period of suffering appears to be over. I was at a talk last Thursday with Margie Buchanan-Smith and one of the recent UNEP report authors at the ODI and Margie in particular talked in a non-specific way about fears that the ‘grand game’ would ultimately hurt humanitarian aid efforts. Are such fears justified? And where does a meaningful peace process fit in to all this? For reports by the United Nations Environment Programme in the Sudan For reports by the Overseas Development Institute For “Conflict, camps, and coercion: the ongoing livelihoods crisis in Darfur” by Margie Buchanan-Smith and Susanne Jaspers in Disasters
(posted on behalf of Thomas Homer-Dixon )
What does it mean when we say that one factor is more or less important than another in identifying the causes of social conflict? Thomas Homer-Dixon writes here on causality in complex systems, in response to Alex de Waal’s earlier post Is Climate Change the Culprit for Darfur? and to Declan Butler’s June 28th Nature article Darfur’s climate roots challenged. Thomas Homer-Dixon holds the George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at University College, University of Toronto. [...]