Why is the World Blind to the Fresh Threat of Genocide in Darfur?
Ahmed H. Adam
16 January 2015
The year 2015 marks a new phase in the ongoing genocide in Darfur. While the world celebrated the New Year, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and his Janjaweed militia have caused more bloodshed in Darfur.
Since 3 January, the civilian populations in North Darfur have been subjected to new scorched earth campaigns since the beginning of this month. It is now clear that the genocidal war that has already claimed the lives of some 400,000 people, and displaced nearly three million, is witnessing a new and devastating stage.
According to OCHA’s conservative figures, this unfolding scorched earth campaign has resulted in the killing of dozens of innocent civilians and “significant” displacement since December 2014. Attackers have forced women, children and the elderly to leave their villages with nothing to survive on, often looting everything belonging to civilians – down to their chickens. It is now clear that the Janjaweed and their masters in Khartoum are executing a strategy of impoverishment and starvation against the black African ethnic groups of Darfur.
Many who have fled the new onslaught have joined their relatives in nearby camps for the displaced, which are already overcrowded, and acutely lacking in food, water, medicine and shelter. Currently, however, the majority have fled to areas around the Jebel Marra mountain region, with no food or shelter other than trees and grass.
“The Janjaweed have moved in for the kill”
The ongoing onslaught is an extension of the regime’s summer offensive. General Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein, Sudan’s defence minister (for whom the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for his involved in the Darfur conflict); General Mohammed Atta, the director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS); and Brigadier Hamdan Hemeti, the field commander of the RSF-Janjaweed forces have declared many times that the summer offensive would “quash” the armed movements in Darfur, before the forthcoming April election.
But the regime knows that armed movements have largely not been present in the areas currently under attack; they are situated mostly along the border with South Sudan, or in South Kordofan state, another war zone. Perhaps it is the absence of the armed movements in Darfur that encouraged the regime to carry out this new scorched earth campaign, fearing no reprisals.
For the past decade, the armed movements have been the only protection afforded to the people of Darfur, since the United Nations and African Union Mission in Darfur (Unamid) have failed miserably to protect them. With international bodies turning away, and rebel groups elsewhere, the Janjaweed have moved in for the kill.
But there are economic factors at play too. Sudan lost 75% of its oil revenue after the separation of South Sudan, and is suffering enormous economic difficulties. Rich in oil, gold and minerals, Darfur presents an opportunity to Bashir’s government who are keen to empty these resources.
The Sudanese regime’s renewed military campaign in Darfur is based on shrewd geopolitical calculations. Bashir believes that the international community, particularly the United States, Britain and France, have their sights on war against Islamic State (Isis) and other terrorist organisations. Neighbouring countries South Sudan, Libya and Chad are largely occupied with with their own internal problems as well as an ascendant Boko Haram, and other extremist groups in the Sahel and Horn of Africa. It is therefore likely that Darfur’s armed opposition movements will not be able to procure military or logistical support from international or nearby allies, limiting the military retaliation to Bashir’s advancing regime.
Bashir is right: despite the horrific attack on civilian populations in Darfur, there has been no strong reaction or response from the UN, African Union or other international players. Once again, Unamid has failed not only to protect civilians, but also to expose the ongoing civilian massacres and violations of international humanitarian law in Darfur.
Regrettably, despite the resurgence of violence, it has been reported that the leadership of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has submitted to mounting pressure from Khartoum to downsize the Unamid force in Darfur.
The current phase of the ongoing genocide in Darfur is a part of a larger strategy to impose military solutions to the political crises of Sudan. South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are also being subjected to a similar military campaign, as ground forces advance on key rebel strongholds and a campaign of aerial bombardment on civilian populations continues.
Bashir has no political solution to Sudan’s crises. The scenario of total war and the collapse of the Sudanese state is the most likely outcome, as the people of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile will not accept such humiliation and persecution without a new phase of rebellion.
It is shameful for the international community that Darfur is watching a new and horrific phase of this 12-year genocide unfold with complete silence. The current regional and international lack of response has only encouraged Bashir to continue his mass killings there. Darfurians are no less human than Syrians. The right to life is a universal, inalienable right. Since the international community has so far failed in stopping Bashir from massacring civilians in Darfur, it should provide the people of Darfur with weapons and logistics to defend themselves. It should do so urgently.
The time is now.
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