If you read one thing this month about Darfur, let it be this piece in the New York Review of Books. An excerpt below the fold:
What is to be done about a regime that visits such evils on its citizens? In the short term international aid agencies must be given free access to all areas of Darfur, across the lines between government and rebel-controlled zones. This should be the immediate focus of donor and UN pressure. Beyond this, it is essential to establish an effective international monitoring regime, in order to ensure the protection of civilians and unimpeded access to them. A team of military observers from the newly born African Union is being deployed in Darfur, but their number is too small and their mandate too limited. To prevent more killing-and the concealment of crimes already committed- the international presence in Sudan requires an information network in the field that can match that of the Sudan government’s own security forces. Short of a serious threat of external military intervention, it will be difficult to achieve this. Even now, with evidence of war crimes mounting by the day, there is no international unanimity in condemning the government of Sudan. A general UN arms embargo would be opposed, for example, by China, which, in return for oil from fields in southern Sudan, has, in recent years, provided the Sudanese government with three new arms factories. An embargo would, in any case, do little to stem the flow of weapons within Sudan. An international tribunal on the Rwandan model is something to be pursued, but this is a long-term project that will not resolve the immediate crisis.
The United States and the European Union have both demanded the disarmament of the Janjawiid and said that they will impose sanctions and travel restrictions on militia leaders and the government military officers who control them. In the case of the Janjawiid, though, as a former governor of Darfur, Ahmed Diraige, has pointed out, an international travel ban is meaningless: these are not people who have cause to leave Sudan. And in the case of the Sudanese military, where does responsibility stop? The government of Sudan, purged of hard-line Islamists, is now in thrall to its security forces. The proxy militias that are used to devastate civilian lives have become the means by which the government remains in power.
The ruthlessness of the government’s response to the Darfur insurgency is a sign of fear: any hint of weakness is liable to encourage other insurgencies in the east, where rebels already control an enclave on the Eritrean frontier. To limit responsibility for military strategy in Darfur or the south to specific officials in the internal security agencies or military intelligence is not plausible. If anyone is guilty it must be the highest authority, the commander in chief, the head of state himself.
In 2002, in northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, the state to the south of Darfur, after years of international condemnation of the abduction and enslavement of local people by Murahaliin militia-and years of denial of government involvement-raids on villages ceased when the United States stepped up diplomatic pressure on the Sudanese government. Claims that the Janjawiid are outside government control are similarly unconvincing. It is clear that, when it wants, the government can call off the dogs of war. And it appears to be discreetly reining in the Janjawiid (and clandestinely incorporating them into regular military forces). As of this writing, aerial attacks on villages in Darfur have diminished, though they have not ceased. Barring a major offensive on the part of the rebels, it seems likely that the scale of abuses will be reduced, leaving a long aftermath of displacement and famine, affecting a million people or more, to be dealt with by yet another international emergency relief operation. In this way the government may yet manage to evade international condemnation, resume its deceptive engagement with donor countries, and, if the Naivasha Agreement holds, benefit from US, EC, and World Bank funding for the reconstruction of the country. While the militias remain, though, there is no guarantee that they will not be redeployed-and there will be no safety for the people of Darfur.