Accounting for Haskanita
Two questions about the original posting about the attack on the AMIS base in Haskanita:
1. The attackers have been “clearly identified” as rebels. Clearly identified by whom? And what makes the identification “clear”? I very much doubt that AMIS personnel in Haskanita had much interaction with the mass of rebels in Haskanita, and the evidence I have seen suggests that no rebel leaders participated in the attack. As one investigator says, those who did were “some way down the food chain”.
The little I know, from afar, suggests that the identity of the individuals who attacked the base is still unclear, although the presumption that they were rebels is the most likely one. Khalil Ibrahim of JEM was, I think, the first to name names – to the BBC’s Arabic service – but Khalil has an axe to grind: SLA Unity had refused to work with him when the JEM leadership split, preferring cooperation with the rival faction led by Bahr Abu Garda and Abdalla Banda. To begin to understand what happened at Haskanita, and why, we need to know exactly who led/participated in this attack. The UN is investigating reports that government soldiers and Rizegiat militia were seen selling AMIS belongings in el Deain market over the weekend. There is much about what happened at Haskanita, and why, that is unclear.
2. The attack was “clearly planned and premeditated”. I think evidence is needed to support this statement. I personally do not have it. One of those inside the base during the attack has said that the men who attacked the base were “very drunk”. They “ransacked and looted EVERYTHING”¦ They took all the food, fuel, vehicles, ransacked the clinic.” This does not suggest a “clearly planned” attack. It suggests a drunken rampage.
On the morning of the attack on the base, Suleiman Jamous, recently released from detention in Kadugli and still in Chad, was informed that there was a rising tide of anger among rebels in Haskanita – especially within the rank and file. They were incensed that AMIS had not spoken out publicly about the aerial bombardment of the area over the past several weeks. Furthermore, they believed the AMIS base in Haskanita was being used as a “ground station” for directing aerial bombardment. They had intercepted, on FM radio, conversations between Antonovs and a man on the ground speaking Sudanese Arabic. (Anyone who doubts this is possible should revisit the Philip Cox’s 2004 film on Darfur, which has a recording of just such a conversation.) The speaker on the ground allegedly gave details of rebel positions and asked for aerial bombardment of one of them. Since Haskanita was under rebel control, the rebels’ presumption, according to this account, was that the man on the ground was inside the AMIS base – presumably the government representative in the base. (Abdel Aziz, the rebel representative, was expelled last year when the AU ejected all non-signatories. He tried to claim allegiance to Minawi’s signatory faction in order to maintain a rebel presence in the base, but was rumbled.) This anger suggests a possible motive, depending on who carried out the attack almost 12 hours later, but not necessarily planning. I am not sure how much “planning” an attack like this would require. I doubt that whoever attacked the base expected resistance (if they were sober enough even to contemplate it). In the event, with one or two notable exceptions, the Nigerians in the base put up no fight.
It goes without saying that nothing justifies the attack. But its context is not irrelevant.
One thing I agree with: “The AU and its role need to be assessed objectively.” If they are not, where AMIS has gone, UNAMID is doomed to follow. I believe the demonization of the AU, about which I agree with Alex, may have instilled a belief, in all parties, that AMIS was fair game. But there is much about AMIS’s relationship with the Sudan government that requires “objective” assessment. Who is going to do it?
A final question. Alex says several people have challenged him. Why are they not challenging in this public forum? Alex has made in public the case for the prosecution. Are others not willing to make their own case equally publicly?