Darfur: The War for Jebel Marra
Hundreds of civilians are feared killed in Jebel Marra, and tens of thousands thought to be displaced without relief within the mountain, as government forces besiege the stronghold of the absentee SLA Chairman, Abdul Wahid Mohamed al Nur, after a month-long land and air offensive. The little information that is coming out is sporadic and partial. But everything suggests that, with a (recently postponed) deadline of 30 March set in Doha for a final settlement to the conflict, civilians are being targeted as they were in the early days of the war.
In 2002, a government-militia attack on Kidingeer in the south-east of Jebel Marra killed 30 civilians including three brothers of Shartai Suliman Hassaballa of Dar Umo. Shartai Suliman, the only Fur shartai remaining in rebel-controlled Jebel Marra, told me the force came in 30 vehicles, supported by aerial bombardment. After it withdrew, Kidingeer buried its dead in three places: by the market, south of the school and on the hill. Today, an estimated 60,000 people who had gathered around Kidingeer as the fighting gathered momentum are reported to be “˜hiding and starving in the mountains’, victims of another attempt by the Sudanese government to capture Jebel Marra and defeat the SLA.
The wheel has come full circle: as in 2002, attack by infantry, aircraft and militia (as I reported almost two weeks ago), displacement and death, no protection for civilians, repression on an as yet unknown scale in the wake of the offensive, no humanitarian relief, near-total silence from the international community.
This was understandable, perhaps, in 2002, when few people could find Darfur on a map. It is not in 2010.
I first wrote about Darfur, that something new and terrible was happening there, in the same month that Kidingeer came under attack in 2002. Abdul Wahid, leader of the then-united SLA, had called, by thuraya, from Jebel Marra to ask for help in getting international action to stop “˜genocide against my people’. In 2002 no newspaper was interested; I was able to write only in specialist magazines that required subscriptions. Eight years have passed. How is it possible that there is virtually no information coming out of Jebel Marra today? Where is the narrative the movements should be constructing? Where is the news that must surely be reaching expatriates? With UN sources speaking a full 10 days ago of as many as 400 possibly dead, where are the voices of those who have been shouting “˜Never again’? Where are the Save Darfur activists and celebrity “˜experts’? Where are the “˜protection’ forces of UNAMID? (That’s a cheap shot, I know. UNAMID still lacks resources, including helicopters, and had no hope of keeping the peace without a peace to keep. For all its failings, it has done better than I, for one, thought it would).
Abdul Wahid was unwise to ignore clear government signals that Khartoum intended to resolve the Darfur situation by the elections in April. The ongoing “˜resolution’ however seems to turn the clock back to the terrible, early days of the war. Yet where are the voices of international protest? Where is Gen. Scott Gration, who, in the middle of the offensive, on 8 March, sent a round-robin email saying: “˜Over the last several weeks… major progress has been made with the signing of the landmark ceasefire and framework agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the largest Darfuri rebel groups. This agreement, combined with the recent Chad-Sudan agreement and the normalization of relations between the two countries, provides an unprecedented opportunity for a significant reduction in violence in Darfur. With the involvement of other major rebel movements, such as the newly unified Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), as well as civil society, there is also a key opportunity for an inclusive and comprehensive peace in Darfur.”
Not a word about Jebel Marra””even though Medecins du Monde, had already been forced to suspend its activities and had already said 100,000 people were displaced.
Yesterday, according to Radio Dabanga (one of the few outlets that have come up with snippets of information about the fighting), an SAF spokesman claimed (not for the first time) that the army controls Jebel Marra. UN reports suggest a far less clear-cut and stable situation, with government forces occupying Deribat but withdrawing from Feina, some 10 miles north-west of Kidingeer. Some sources say that towns like Feina, Labei and Jawa, which had big markets, have been completely destroyed.
The UN reports sporadic clashes are continuing in Katur, Alaradeb, Alashara and Deribat, with “˜a number of cases of violence against civilians’. IDPs in Hassa Hissa have reported serious violations of rights in Deribat and Bro Basi villages on 24 February when the villages were simultaneously bombed and attacked by armed men in green uniform travelling in vehicles.
The government offensive was preceded by intensified disagreement and fighting within SLA-AW, beginning on 5 January, as I wrote on this blog on 1 February (before the government offensive began). These divisions within SLA-AW weakened the movement and cannot be ignored. One of the main fault lines in the movement is between Fur from Jebel Marra proper (the jebeliin) and those from the lowlands (the suru kwa, in Fur), who believe they are not only discriminated against within the SLA but are the victims of politically motivated attacks. The in-fighting has given the government a new divide to rule.
Today, according to rebel delegates in Doha, government forces surround Jebel Marra on all sides, enforcing a virtual blockade on movement of people goods and relief in and out of the mountains. These forces have reportedly been joined by SLA commanders hostile to Abdul Wahid, for whom the government is said to be preparing a “˜peace’ ceremony in Nyala. (I understand that a leader of the anti-Abdul Wahid wing of the SLA, a certain Abdel Latif, is already in Nyala, gifted 20 vehicles by the government.) Suleiman Jamous, the former humanitarian coordinator of the SLA but now with JEM, tells me the alliance was forged around 20 February, amid rumours that Abdul Wahid loyalists had joined forces with JEM and were preparing to attack the dissidents.
One of the many things that is not clear is when exactly the government offensive began and how many forces are involved. Gamal Adam, of the ruling family of Dar Umo, is one of the few expatriates who have made public the new suffering of the ordinary people of Jebel Marra. In the first detailed report of the offensive, which he published on 27 February, Gamal said that towns like Kidingeer, Laibei, Feina, Deribat and Dobo “˜have been exposed to continuous attacks from the air by helicopters and Antonov and MiG planes and by forces of infantrymen and janjaweed from the ground… Every single attack there is accompanied by hundreds of Arab men each of whom has at least three camels following the military vehicles. The government forces open fire indiscriminately on the villagers killing and wounding civilians. The survivors among the villagers just flee with the clothes they had on and leave everything behind.’
Gamal’s information is that the “˜janjaweed’ are from the Sa’ada tribe. The Sa’ada deny any involvement in the offensive. They do, however, have form. The Sa’ada arrived in Darfur from Chad in 1938, according to Shartai Suliman, and settled in a village called Kugi, which they renamed Gardud, meaning “˜Grazing Plains’. “˜It was Missiriya land,’ the shartai told me. “˜The Sa’ada were given an omda in 1990, and another five when the NIF came. They were given weapons and training and made “janjaweed”’.
Today, according to Gamal, “˜men from the Sa’ada tribe who accompany the invading military convoys, enter the homes and shops and take all the valuables, destroy the property that they cannot carry and rustle cattle and small stock.’
What else do we know? IDP camps around Jebel Marra are appealing for extra relief for the new displaced. A native of Jebel Marra writes to Radio Dabanga: “˜I am from Deribat and the people who died or are displaced are my parents and relatives. Those who still live there are in very bad condition because NGOs are not able to assess the area yet. That is because of the obstacles made by the Government of Sudan.’ The villages of Timu, Bomboge, Sara Woumly, Allu, Tire, Diberna (sic) and the market of Deribat have been destroyed, according to Radio Dabanga. When UNAMID tried to verify the government’s claim to control Deribat, its troops were ambushed. The government blamed rebels.
“˜The most dreadful thing,’ according to one of my sources from Jebel Marra, “˜is the oppression that is now in order. It needs a general outcry to reverse it.’
What has happened in Jebel Marra in the past couple of weeks is horrible to say the least. Perhaps you should ask US envoy Scott Gration about the Fur on Fur fightings in Jebel Marra, which ended up involving government forces and thus turning in to this mayhem.
I found this piece very moving and disturbing, particularly after all of the recent press in the Times and other places about how the war in Darfur is basically over. What do you recommend be done? How should the international community respond?
There are many disturbing questions that arise from the last few weeks’ attacks in Jebel Marra, including the killing of significant numbers of civilians and the displacement of many more. How is it that these events could happen — the largest military actions and the heaviest civilian toll since the deployment of UNAMID 27 months ago — with so little information and even less outcry? Why is it that, despite the presence of one of the world’s largest ever peacekeeping forces, with an extraordinarily strong mandate, and despite the fact that there are many international advocacy groups devoted to focusing on Darfur, that the drumbeat for international attention consists of a handful of isolated individuals, some of them the same ones that were crying in the wilderness seven or eight years ago?
Dear Alex, do not be surprised. Abdel Wahid is crying for the moon and Dr Khalil, Dr Tijani and others have become so frustrated with his empty chair politics that they cannot speak out because to do so would be to give him the one card that he plays which is to call for the international community to save him from his own folly. They see that the world is at last fed up with Darfur and more interested in the elections and the referendum and secretly welcoming this chance to be rid of Abdel Wahid even if it means turning a blind eye to the military solution.
Sharon, the international community wants Darfur to go away. The focus must be the CPA. I have much sympathy with this, having spent years documenting pre-Darfur atrocitiesâ€”especially the war in the Nuba Mountains and the oil warâ€”and knowing full well that what happened in the south and the transitional areas was every bit as bad as what has happened in Darfur and at times worse (even though the word â€˜genocideâ€™ was not used – except by Alex during our work on the Nuba). But we cannot and must not forget Darfur. The government wants the conflict â€˜settledâ€™ to be able to focus on the coming partition. What does that imply? â€˜Resolutionâ€™ of the problem of Jebel Marra, along the lines we are seeing now. Dismantling of the IDP camps? Eventual removal of UNAMID?
What to do? I am not a policy wonk. All I do is try to get facts that may help inform policy. But as well as demanding that the international community respond, we must demand that Darfurians respond. One correspondent tells me Khartoum is â€œpouring troopsâ€ into Jebel Marra. I have little doubt of that. But I want facts. How many? Led by whom? Where? Regular or irregular? Or irregular turned regular? UNAMID is saying little or nothing publicly. (Privately, I understand there are now 35,000 regular troops augmented by 12,000 irregulars. Also increased air activity including of white Antonovs, some of them allegedly with UN markings.) So it is up to us to raise an outcry. For me shouts of â€œgenocideâ€ and â€œannihilationâ€ do not cut the ice without facts, meticulously researched and tightly sourced. Purple prose does not move governments – if it is possible to move them, and at times I despair of that.
Anyone who checks the Radio Dabanga website will see references to an SLA official called Rokero. This is Sadeq al Zein, aka Rocky, a young man who loves Bob Marley (or is it Jimi Hendrix?) and who, since, the beginning of the war has been keeping meticulous lists of villages burned, people killed, huts destroyed, grain stores looted, animals stolen. When there is finally access to Jebel Marra, I urge those going there to seek Rocky out and spend time with him. If he can, he will have pages and pages of detail in small, crabbed writing (because of obvious lack of stationers in Jebel Marra). Until then, let us hope that expatriates who must be talking every day to relatives in Jebel Marra will get their act together and enable us to shout with fact as well as with fury.
Alex, where do we begin? Whom to hit on? I am a little, a lot, tired of being the punching bag of activists and venomous, anonymous voices from the rebel disapora, so let me have a go at UNAMID. (I will return to Abdul Wahid in another posting. For the moment, do you remember how after declining the DPA in May 2006 he gave an emotional press conference – in the Sheraton Hotel, I seem to recall – in which said he was returning to Darfur to die with â€œhisâ€ people. Instead he went to Nairobi. Now â€œhisâ€ people are dying, again, and he is in Paris, having made neither war nor peace in the intervening years. If there is a third way, will someone please tell me what it is.) Back to UNAMID. I argued back in 2007, in a piece that raised the wrath of UNAMID commanders, that the force is â€œtoo big, too top-heavy and too inflexible – and (has) no peace to keep.â€ I said â€œUNAMID must come out of its fortresses and deploy mobile teams across North Darfur [the focus of military activity at the time] immediately.â€ I urged the international community to â€œget UNAMID the assets it needs to support the teamsâ€ â€“ most importantly helicopters. I know, I really do, how hard it is to get out of the supercamps. But we would not be flailing around in this information vacuum now if UNAMID had better understanding of the situation on the ground and a permanent presence of some sort outside its fortresses. With the exception of a few individuals, whom you know as well as I, I am dismayed by the continuing lack of quality of UNAMIDâ€™s research and analysis â€“ and by the failure/refusal/inability of one department to share its information with another. Do you agree?
While UNAMID remains silent, governments cross their fingers and hope that Darfur will just go away, while expatriates fail to construct a coherent narrative and Abdul Wahidâ€™s propagandists prioritize attacking me over getting the story of Jebel Marra where it matters â€“ into the public domain, including in blogs like this, which policy-makers read â€“ Jebel Marra will remain in the shadows and the killing will continue. Sometimes I wonder if anyone really cares. Judging from the number of comments on this blog, they donâ€™t.
Finally, Annahâ€™s point about Gration. Those privy to Grationâ€™s meetings with the SLA, and I am not one of them, are near-universally critical of his handling of the movement, which has clearly poured fuel on the SLA fire. There is a perception among Darfurians that Abdul Wahid has the support of the West, and especially the French, otherwise why would he be in Paris? Abdul Wahid does not have the support of the West. Governments want him gone; they have talked to him until they are blue in the face and have been rewarded with a refusal to negotiate until security is restored. The lack of security is of course precisely why negotiation is needed. Yes, the NCP has broken every agreement it has signed and will probably continue to do so until obliged, somehow, not to. But the lack of security is a complex, multi-layered problem that cannot be resolved with a wave of the wand â€“ however much we wish it could be – enabling Abdul Wahid to return to Darfur a hero. That simply is not going to happen. Security has to be negotiated, and as long as Abdul Wahid retains even a smidgeon of authority those negotiations cannot succeed in his absence. His refusal to negotiate is one of the reasons why we are where we are now, with people dying again and more to come. Hence Grationâ€™s attempts to find a new leadership, so ham-fisted and so poorly informed that many believe they will only boost Abdul Wahidâ€™s declining support. Yes, Gration has made things worse. But the root of the problem is not Gration. It is Abdul Wahidâ€™s continuing failure to provide real leadership, to give the SLA/M structure and purpose, and, since he is getting nothing in the West, to return to Darfur and lead from the front. To be with â€œhisâ€ people in their hour of need.
I completely agree. This vast UNAMID force is that it is a dinosaur. The solution to Darfur’s crisis has always been political, at the national and local level, but the UN Security Council created a huge creature that is, by its nature, overwhelmed by the challenge of simply remaining operational on the ground. You will recall one experienced military officer who remarked that, if it could be the platform for a dozen good civil affairs officers, it might do some good. In fact, because UNAMID security is dependent on the goodwill of belligerents that are better armed, more motivated, and know the terrain and the people, and because it is only as good as its logistical support (a peacekeeping operation marches on its catering supplies), and that is totally dependent on GoS cooperation, UNAMID is in fact at risk of becoming a liability, instead of an asset. Most of the international concern over the last few weeks has not been the fate of the civilians in Jebel Marra, but a peacekeeping unit that ventured into the combat zone and was surrounded and disarmed.
As for the personal attacks against you, shame on those who write such nonsense, shame on them. The vacuum of leadership of the SLA lies at the root of so much of this problem and those who spend their time on misinformed and misguided attacks on the few people — and they are few despite the vast international attention to Darfur — who care about facts, is symptomatic of a leadership that has failed its people.
As long as the oil Sudan DD ( Dollar Diplomacy) is in the hands of the NCP nothing will change on the ground.
Thanks Flint for giving such a chance for us to vomit our opinions, but I would like to say only few words concerning you Julie and De Waal. All what you write today will not for give you the past for the misleading information to delude the fact on the ground in Darfur. I think you both know what I mean!
secondly whether Abdul Wahid is there or not, NCP will not stop the killing of people of Darfur, because their project of Arabization is not yet compeleted. And because they have oil money in their hand if Wahid was there Gration would have rented mercenaries commanders to kill or hijack Wahid to Doha to accomplish his mission as Special Envoy to US and also please his partiners on counter terrosit cooperation.
I am happy that you have said that peace without Wahid will happen! that is true! Its because people of Darfur and Sudan know well that no one will bring their rights only him, and if I am not right then you and Gartion bring another alternative for him.
I will go back to the point that Wahid stays in Paris, as long as he is doing his job and his people listen to him, so what is wrong with that or you want him back and be killed like Dr. Garang before mission unaccomplished. Wahid is a great fighter in the field and we the soldiers know him very well. I am sure that person from Darfur can not tell Americans what health care is for the Americans, likewise Gration anyone could not create its own bodies to resolve Darfur conflcit without consulting the right people.
Thanks again Flint; but please do not take things personnaly or otherwise be accused of receiving the DD. One of the NCP called me telling me that as far as we created International Public Opinion against them also they will change it against us by oil money. Funny and it happened.
I regret the personal attacks on Julie.
I said it then and repeat it now, don’t capitalize too much on the International Community. The International Community will help us but will not do every thing for us, if we want to solve our problems, let us start the job ourselves. And let us also realize the limitations of the International Community. For who ever thought that the International Community will interfere in the Sudan,the case is clear now.While the facts about Jebel Mara may not be all too clear.What seemingly started as a conflict between factions has escalated.
SLA/Abdel Wahid cried for the international community,so far we don’t see any movement.
Is it as Jibreel says, the world is fed up with Dar Fur? Has the International Community come to realize that they spent a lot of time and energy, on Dar Fur at the expense of the CPA? Is there a real serious attempt to create new realities on the ground and stop being held hostage by Abdel Wahid’s intransigence as some tend to see it? Is this part of the deal between Sudan and Chad? Does Abdel Wahid read events and developments in the Sudan and the Region correctly? Or will he come up with yet more conditions to join the peace process,imperfect as it may seem? It is ironic that at one time he put as a condition, the deployment of (UN Forces), well they are there now? Political Leadership is not about setting conditions in the abstract,and i fear this is the only thing Abdel Wahid has done so far, one can’t but hope that he has more to the cause of what he calls (MY People) than abstractions.
The NCP remains the de facto government, with which Abdel Wahid and all other movements have to deal, and as we have said and repeated, the NCP is not the whole of the Sudan, and I don’t see the prospects of International Community sending an occupation force to the Sudan.
My appeal to Abdel Wahid and all others, is once more, let us face our problems, and solve them ourselves, and not fall victims to what seems to be a hidden competition on influence between other powers.
David, I think there is a difference between speaking out to protest abuses and advocating riding in to â€œsaveâ€ Darfur. I absolutely agree that only Darfurians can â€œsaveâ€ Darfur, and Abdul Wahid has been done a great disservice by those who have told him, at various times, that he could expect even military intervention. But after so many years of hearing cries of â€œongoing genocideâ€ it is strange that there is near-total silence when the military machine seems to be gearing up again. I hope the reports will prove to be exaggerated. We shall see.
I never said that protesting abuses is the same as (advocating riding to save Dar Fur), on the contrary, I have always supported those objective views that are seeking the truth and a real solution to the problem. Like you I think those who raised the expectations of the Movements of Dar Fur did more of a disservice than help. Like you I find strange what you call (total silence) and in fact I am only raising questions for which I am looking for answers. All I am saying to Abdel Wahid is assume his leadership with authority and realism.
I wish to refer you to a book published in July, 1990, one year after the coup d’etat that brought General Bashir to power,and the justifications given to toppling the Government of Sadiq Almahdi. Sadiq was accused of not recognizing the (Arabism of the Fur), but that is not the issue here now, nor do I want to relitigate the past.
Im sorry to say this, but the world sadly never cared about Darfur.
In 2005 when Naivasha was signed little focus was given to Darfur.
ICID looked into the matter of genocide as ordered by the UNSC, after four months they reported that genocide wasnt taking place ‘luckily’ for the armies fighting an unidentified enemy called ‘terror’ in Iraq and Afghanistan they were not deployed to Sudan as intervention of genocide- but stayed in their locations fighting the ‘axis of evil’ (whatever that means!?).
In 2006 Abuja was signed putting Menni Minnawi in the presidential palace leaving Darfur as a killing field.
In 2009 a so-called ‘goodwill agreement’ was signed, but the indictment of Bashir lead to the breach of the agreement. Some might say that western ideas of justice caused the breach of goodwill agreement, although it is doubtful that a bilateral agreement would solve the conflict in Darfur.
And now Doha 2010, who knows what will happen.
Whether or not the Darfuris want to solve the problem themselves, their lack of unity among rebel groups is their biggest problem. If they would just put aside old grievances and stop this nonsense idea that they have different ideologies. SLA – liberal and JEM Islamist – from what I have seen there seems to be little glimpse, if any, of ideology in this conflict but a huge amount of power struggles between movement leaders.
Abdel Wahed may be a good soldier, but he has still deserted his people running away to comfy Paris. How can he still claim to be a leader and a fighter of the Darfuri people when he isnt even on the ground, in the field living among his commanders and supporters. He can be stubborn all he wants and refuse all the negotiations in the world, but he isnt the one living on om talata, sleeping on a rug under the trees with a kalashnikov in his hand – fighting on the ground. So for him this war can go on for years to come.
The Darfuris can continue fighting many years to come, and Im sure they have the capacity to do that but for the future of the Darfuris; the idp’s, refugees, civilians and for the young soldiers fighting in the sand – this is a screw without an end. Fighting for another seven years will mean further destruction of Darfur, more random killings, rape etc – the complete destruction of the Darfuri people. As mentioned earlier the world doesn’t care about Darfur, there are no natural resources or other interests in Darfur therefore the international community, the US or the Europeans will not intervene as they did with South Sudan – international politics is disgusting!
For the sake of the Darfuri people the rebel movements should come together under one umbrella just for the sake of peace, after the peace deal they can create political parties with different ideologies. Now in Doha is the time to find a durable solution and end this madness. The joint mediation has invited everyone who ever fought for Darfur on the ground and representatives of civil society. Bashir needs the Darfur crisis to go away – as part of his political makeover to be re-elected (which he certainly will be no matter what), the Qataris are ready to invest into the rebuilding (or just building) of Darfur. The Egyptians also want to invest in Sudan, the relation between Chad – Sudan is getting better.
All these factors means that the freedom fighters can actually get what they wanted – what more can they ask for.
I am glad sites like this exist where people like me, who are interested in Darfur but who arent Darfuris can rant on about this topic and share knowledge with like-minded people.
Thanks dear David, I much appreciate your brave stands towards people of Darfur. If not your good heartedness our people on the ground would have been forgotten. But I would like to tell you that not all books that are written are base on truth. Likewise all history of our country that we have been studying for five decade was discovered to be fales one. Those who were given power by British colony wrote fake herroic deeds of their grandfathers to be studied by all Sudanese. There is Sudanese proverb that says: One with a pen in his hand will not write himself a retched.
Flint thanks again for your bravery to keep all comments as posted, but also I would like to add that politics is not static its dynamic UN Gambari who failed in Mayanmar, he is today in Darfur, he may succeed or he may fail. America of last year is not America of today. In addition to that place, time can determine solution for certain problems. Therefore; consultations for all side is important in African on problem solving. Thanks again Flint
The book I refer to (Alinghaz fi Amme-Khartoum, 1990) was not written by the British, some of those who authored it are now part of some Movements of Dar Fur, but that is not an issue between us, what I say and repeat, is that there can be no solution to the problems of the Sudan unless the Sudanese themselves get together and talk to each other. An agreement between the GOS and JEM will not solve the problem, as long as one Movement, even if it is a one-man movement remains out side the process.
I am afraid that the Naivasha Agreement and the swearing in of the late Dr,John Garang, (May God shower him in His Mercies) as Vice-President lulled the Sudanese into believing that they started their march towards a solution, because in Dr.Garang they saw a leader, a visionary, that the Sudan never had before. Regrettably enough Garang died,and and with him the hopes, the dreams, the aspiration and the country is back to dithering, manipulations, shortsightedness.
I still hope that the Sudanese,will realize the real need for a serious, sincere and objective dialogue and reconciliation.
As a Sudanese, living and working in Khartoum and many other cities and towns, I find the utter lack of understanding of the Sudanese culture and people by Flint and De Waal appalling ! You have absolutely no idea what Abdel Wahid means when he says things like “his” people, “my” struggle etc… The connotations are totally lost on you as you try and force a Western perspective that has shown its failings in Sudanese society. Why else has ElBashir been able to canvas the largest masses for his support especially after the ICC indictment?
People like you, self-proclaimed activists, are the real reason why Western policies in Africa fail to be sustainable and eventually backfire ie. Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Burundi to name a few and now Darfur ! Wrong information given by “Sudan experts” at the worst time possible leads to catastrophe as has become the norm for US and EU policy in Africa.
Sudanese have the capability to solve their own problems without you “help” and have proved it with the SPLM, a much stronger army both militarily and ideologically then the JEM or SLM, and can and will do so again as the priority is Sudan and nothing ese. Abel Wahid staying in Paris and the French government not being able to push him to negotiate is a farce as well as the useless US sanctions ! The West is again sending the wrong signals to the rebels and delaying a long overdue peace also through the delusion of pressuring the Sudanese government.
We are gearing up for the fist elections in 24 years and nothing can stop our transformation into a democratic country now. Modernisation has taken place in many sectors all over Sudan and now its coming to the political system as well. Years from now you will only be remembered as agents of discord and disruption not “experts and activists”.
Julie asks: â€œWhat to do?â€ in her comment and states that facts are crucial at this point, but very scarce. I agree with her assessment but I would add that in addition to Facts, we also need Truths, we need to have some agreement as to Desired Outcomes and finally we need to try to come to some agreement as to the most appropriate Responses in order to achieve those Desired Outcomes.
Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, Part II. â€œThe first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.â€ as it often seems that lawyers bring needless confusion to an issue. And knowing that I might reinforce this sentiment I would to say a few things. To begin with, what is â€œTrueâ€ is not necessarily an absolute but merely â€œConformable to fact.â€ For example, Protestants and Roman Catholics in my country still disagree as to certain religious truths because they are looking for absolutes.
But in large part, â€œTruthâ€ is that which is constituted by â€œAgreement of thought and realityâ€ and/or â€œEventual Verificationâ€ through Agreement of thought and reality. Put another way, Truth is often a â€œConventionâ€ and rarely an absolute. And without the facts, it is extremely difficult to arrive at agreed upon truths. And â€œFactâ€ and â€œTruthâ€ are not synonymous. A â€œFactâ€ is: â€œA thing done; an action performed or an incident transpiring; an event or circumstance; an actual occurrence or phenomenon.
So, as we all know, when we are able to better gather facts about the situation in Jebel Marra, we will find facts at variance with one another based upon the varying sources. The value that we bring to the process of trying to help in support of peace and healing will be evidenced by their/our ability to take those varying facts and come to an â€œagreement of thoughtâ€ as to the truth of the situation. While this will not be an â€œAbsolute truthâ€ it will nevertheless be a truth acceptable to various domestic and international decision makers. [One example of our INABILITY to come to an agreement of thought as to the truth of a matter has been in regard to the existence or absence of â€œgenocideâ€ in Darfur.]
Once there is a [generally] agreed upon truth as to the conflict in Jebel Marra then it may be possible to consider Desired Outcomes – given those truths. Those outcomes could be [for example] humanitarian responses, the assignment of criminal liability, the withdrawal of support from one or more of the participants, etc. It is important to keep in mind that any Outcomes would take place within the context the current situation in Sudan, taking into account, among other things, the CPA, the DPA, the ongoing talks in Doha and the current situation on the ground in Darfur.
And finally, there would need to be consideration given to the Appropriate Responses in order to arrive at those Desired Outcomes. What may be considered â€œAppropriateâ€ would probably need to take into account those issues cited above that give focus to the context within which this entire process must take place.
I believe that the best practice for â€œpolicy wonksâ€ is to prepare themselves / ourselves to be able to assimilate the various and varying facts; stand ready to agree on truths that reasonably conform to the facts; be prepared to reach some general agreement as to the desired outcomes and the most appropriate responses in order to achieve those outcomes. In light of this, I do not think that it is inappropriate for individuals and organizations with sufficient credibility with the GOS and the Wahid led SLA to request to be allowed to conduct a fact finding mission to Jebel Marra [accompanied by UNAMID forces] during an agreed upon cease fire. The purpose of this mission would be to explore the possibility of a mediated truce under conditions to be agreed upon. Abdul Wahidâ€™s SLA forces and the GOS may have some reluctance to agree to such a mission, but within the context of the overall political situation, they may wish to consider that agreeing to such a mission could go a long way towards establishing either / both groups credible desire for a peaceful Sudan. This mission would find many facts at variance with one another and no absolute truths, but it could be a start.
It seems to me, as an outsider looking in, that GOS does want the conflict in Darfur settled, and this may be the impetus for the current military action (a â€œSurgeâ€ if you will) in Jebel Marra. A solution to the situation in Jebel Marra that avoids further bloodshed could be a positive for both sides, even though the GOS may feel the pressure of the time constraints given the perceived need for a solution prior to the April elections. But a GOS that is seen as willing to negotiate may gain more respect from the voters than a GOS that seeks to resolve this problem with the force of arms.
For the sake of shortening this posting, I will withhold any comments about the shortcomings of the UNAMID force until another time, as I believe that a number of things could be said there. But I would like to briefly state that it seems that the selection of General Gration as the U.S. envoy was more for superficial more reasons designed to appeal to the Western press than to provide someone who has an appropriate understanding of the situation in Sudan. As the son of Christian missionaries who spent time in the DRC and Kenya, he is deemed to have expertise based upon the perception that all of Africa is similar and a â€œone size fits allâ€ approach will work just fine. This is evidenced by the fact that much was made of the fact that General Gration speaks Swahili. It would have been much more valuable to send an envoy who speaks Arabic. And from what he has demonstrated so far, General Gration may not be up to the task.
Finally, I would like to add that while it does not sit well with me that Abdul Wahid remains in Paris while battles rage in Jebel Marra, I can not say that it is not prudent for him to remain well away from the conflict in an environment where it would be difficult to eliminate him by force. I do not like it, but I do not have enough of the facts to say that he is not doing the right thing by remaining in Paris. This is, of course, separate from the issue of his unwillingness to negotiate, with which I completely disagree.
After many years of reading about Sudan and Darfur, talking to many Sudanese (north, east, south and west), and assessing the situation; I have no doubt in my mind that whatever we heard and continue to hear about Darfur is just a story good for Hollywood. Story created by some with interest in that part of the country the same way they had interest in the south and will soon start in the east.
I had no interest in opening any discussion about Darfur until I saw a horrible reference in your article in the daily star yesterday promoting your book with Alex where you wrote “Abaker was the only survivor: militiamen attacked the camp where he was being barbecued, alive, and his captors fled.”.
If this is true and you saw it with your own eyes, then they learnt the tactic from the west which first barbecued the Somali and the pictures are there to prove it. Filling the book with sensational lies is a discussing marketing tactic.
I want to see the people of Sudan standing up and face head on all the conspiracies plotted against them and their country which I am planning to visit sometime in 2011 to see for myself what is happening in Darfur and other parts of the country.
One final note, if you wish to see a video clip of torture and murder in the south of Sudan (BBQ style) I can gladly pass it on.
Good article Julie, just makes me sick sometimes to hear this.