Friday, July 14, 2006

The root causes of the Darfur conflict: A struggle over controlling an environment that can no longer support all the people who must live on it

Today, I did a Google Search with the query "what is the root cause of the darfur conflict?" To put it in a nutshell, here's what I believe:
"The root of the Darfur conflict is a struggle over controlling an environment that can no longer support all the people who must live on it" - Environmentalist Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner
Notes to myself for future reference. After more than two years of tracking daily news reports on Darfur, I have reached the conclusion that the following excerpts from a report published at the website of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, DC puts into words (I am no writer) what I believe are the root causes of the Darfur conflict, what can be done and how sensationalist shorthand distorts the reality of Darfur. The following notes, from a pdf report, were difficult to copy here. Please refer to the original source for an exact facsimile:

Washington, DC June 2005 -

Sensationalist Shorthand Distorts the Reality of Darfur


Casual observers from around the world will be forgiven for having reached a disjointed picture of events, and the root causes of events, in Darfur over the past two years, something which has led to similarly disjointed conclusions and unrealistic solutions.

A combination of lazy and often sensationalist media coverage and the activities of an already active anti- Sudanese campaign have sought to reduce the incredibly complex Darfur issue to one of an attempt by an Arab-dominated government in Khartoum to wipe out its black citizens in Darfur. Some who know a little better accept the fact that the Darfur rebels are the ones who started the conflict by attacking police stations, army garrisons and nomadic leaders and communities - and in so doing murdering hundreds of policemen and precipitating a break-down in law and order.

Apologists for this premeditated violence have nevertheless sought justify that rebel murder and mayhem by echoing rebel claims of the marginalization of Darfur.

In this issue of "Sudan Newsletter", the reader will find how clever manipulators have distorted the realities of Darfur to serve their political agenda, and in so doing deliberately tarnishing the image of Sudan in order to detract from and destabilize the historic peace agreement ending decades of civil war in southern Sudan and to call for a disastrous international military intervention in western Sudan.

The simple facts contradict much of the lacklustre media coverage of events in Darfur and point to the need for an internal solution to the conflict in western Sudan.

As can be ascertained from any reliable source on Darfur, Darfur is a region inhabited by Arabs and non-Arabs alike. They are bound by blood through centuries of intermarriage. The two rebel groups are drawn from three tribes: Zagawa, Fur and Masalit. There are more than eighty different tribes and ethnic communities in Darfur. Any solution that would reward those who carry arms in a deliberate attempt to destabilize Africa's largest country will become a recipe for a full scale war that will spill over the borders of Sudan.

A number of neighboring countries share Sudan's complex ethnic fabric. Countless people identify themselves along tribal lines rather than national affiliation. Ethnically-driven destabilization endangers the entire sub-saharan region and can only but attract extremists and terrorist organizations. Any solution to the Darfur conflict should be preceded by reconciliation between different tribes in the region.

Reconciliation should include compensation, the safe return of villagers to their villages and the prosecution of perpetrators of atrocities and violence. A political solution should be inclusive and broad-based. The designation and location of rebel and government forces and positions, as outlined in signed security agreements, is a prerequisite that would enable the government to engage other armed groups and tribes in simultaneous disarmament.

Khidir Haroun Ahmed
Head of Mission
- - -

The Darfur region of western Sudan occupies one fifth of the area of Sudan comprising approximately 250,000 square kilometers. It is larger than Egypt and equals the area of France. Geographically, it is made up of plateau some 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea-level. The volcanic Jebel Marra mountain range runs north to south for a distance of some 100 miles, rising to between 5,000 and 6,000 feet. It borders Libya to the north-west, Chad to the west, and the Central African Republic to the south-west.

Darfur was an independent sultanate that emerged in 1650 and was incorporated into Sudan first by the Turco-Egyption rule in the 19th century. Zubair Pasha and Rudolf Sulatin were among those who served as governors during that era. It remained so through the Mahadia era 1885-1898. Sultan Ali Dinar restablished his ancestors Sultanate until 1916 when he was defeated and killed by Anglo- Egyptian forces.

Since 1994 the region has been divided administratively into three states: North Darfur, with its capital Alfasher, South Darfur with its capital Nyala, and West Darfur with its capital al-Genaina. Darfur is inhabited by six million people, drawn from some eighty different tribes and ethnic groups. From a subsistence point of view, they could be divided into livestock herders - who for the most part are Arabic speakers - and farmers - who are bilingual and perceived as Africans. The ethnic groups in Darfur include the Fur, Bani Halba, Tanhor, Borty, Habaniya, Zaghawa, Zayadia, Rizaigat, Masaleet, Taaishya, Maidoub, Bargo, Dajs, Bani Hussain, Tama, Mahria, Mohameed, Salamat, Messairia, Eraighat, Etafab, Fallata, Ghimir, Bani Mansour, Ab-Darag, Selaihab, Mima, Turgom, Marareet and other African and Arabiantribes. Some tribes extend into Chad, Central Africa and Libya.

Inter-ethnic marriages for centuries have blurred the ethnic differences - all are black Darfurians - and all the people of Darfur are Sunni Muslims. Ecological and demographic transformation had a negative impact on inter-tribal relations where drought and desertification led to conflicts and often violence over scarce resources. During the 1970s and 1980s these tribal conflicts became more intense and bloody, especially between the farmers and cattle herders who in search of water and pasture invaded agricultural land.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is the increased migration of nomadic groups from Chad, Libya, and other states. Tougher living conditions coupled with the absence of or diminishing tolerance resulted in more tension between the locals and the newcomers which led to violence with cross-border implications. Increased access to weapons from southern Sudan, Chad, Libya, and Eritrea aggravated the inter-tribal conflict with the emergence of tribal militias.

Some tribes believe that the government was not able to defend them against other tribes and armed criminal gangs who have more sophisticated weapons, which led several nomadic tribes to form their own defence groups. As a result the region became an open arms market attracting arms dealers to smuggle in all kinds of weapons such as small arms, heavy and light artillery, RPG rocker launchers, and including armoured vehicles.

Between 1983-87 fighting broke out between Fur, Zaghawa and Ma'alihyah communities which resulted in 5,000 deaths, tens of thousands of displaced people and the destruction of 40,000 homes. The conflict was mediated and settled by
government and local tribal leaders. In 1990 the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army inspired an insurgency led by Daud Bolad from the Fur tribe. The insurgency was defeated in few months. In 1996 the Rezeigat and Zagawa tribes came intoarmed conflict. In 1997-99 there was fighting between Massaleit and some Arab tribes. Other tribal conflicts can be summarized as follows:

1- Conflict between Zagawa and Rizigat during 1960s
2- conflict beween Maalya and Rizigat during 1960s
3- Confilct between Taisha and Salmat,

Southern Darfur during 1980s

4- Conflict between Fur and Arabs in Jabal Marra

1978 - 1989

5- Conflict between Zagawa and Rizigat

Northern Darfur 1994

6- Conflict between Arabs and Masaleet,

Western Darfur 1994

7- Conflict between Rizigat and Zagawa,

South Darfur 1997 – 1999

8- Conflict between Maidob and Kababish
9- Conflict between Zagawa and Al-Ghmirr,

West Darfur 1999

10- Conflict between Arabs and Massalit,

Western Darfur 1999

11- Conflict between Fur and Arabs at Jabal Marra 2002
12- Conflict between Mallya and Rizigat, South Darfur 2002
13- Conflict between Arabs and Massalit , West Darfur 2003

The British colonial administration Rudolf Slatin, in his work "Sword and Fire in Sudan", cited similar icidents and tribal conflicts during his tenure as a governor in the 19th century. In most of these conflicts, it was customary for all the tribes to resolve their differences through inter-tribal conferences and reconciliation which they call it "ajaweed and motamarat al sulh" to meet to reach a mutually acceptable solution. The process of modernizing the judicial system from1970 onwards and the increase of college graduates has weakened the native administration and local solutions in the region.

Conflict in Darfur is therefore sadly not unusual. The region have seen it all before, tribal conflicts, insurgency, drought, displacement and death. On this occasion the conflict has spiraled into a humanitarian disaster. Several questions must be asked. What turned this episode into a well-organized, well-armed and well-financed civil war? What led to it being labeled as the world's "worst humanitarian crisis" while the deaths in neighboring Congo reached four million over the last few years?

Similarly, the insurgency in northern Uganda has seen the deaths of tens of thousands of people, the kidnapping of tens of thousands of children and the displacement of more than 1.6 million people in northern Uganda. The focus on Darfur has been sensationalist and disproportionate.

It lies in western sudan, one of the most distinct places in Darfur state.It stretches for several hundred miles from the small town of Kas in the south up to the out- skirts of AlFasher in the North, covereing an area of almost 12800 square kilometers. It is 10.000 ft above sea level, the second highest in the country. It consists of a range of mountains 240 Km long and 80 Km.Wide , with water-falls, volcanic lakes in an outstanding scenic beauty.

[Photo?] Darfur region is the largest producer of livestock in Sudan & it's known for its high quality world wide. A Shepard taking care of his sheep's looking for food & water.


Everybody in Sudan and the international community was euphoric when in February 2003 the Sudan government and southern rebels reached the point of no return in their peace negotiations to end the north-south civil war. In that month the government and SPLM/A signed several key peace agreements, including a Memorandum of Cessation of Hostilities.

Technically it stopped the war between the north and the south. Unfortunately, in that same month, February 2003, two rebel groups - one called Justice and Equality Movement, and the other called the Sudan Liberation Army, attacked major towns in northern Darfur, The first one was Gulu, the capital of Jebelmara region. They also attacked Kutum, Tina, Mellit and AlFasher the capital where the rebels destroyed several airplanes on the grounds. They raided the town in hundreds using 40 brand new Land Cruisers, very advanced weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine-guns, mortars, automatic rifles and modern satellite communications.

It was the start of a spate of attacks that left over 400 policemen killed and 89 police stations destroyed. According to the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General on January 25, 2005 {"Most reports indicate that the government was taken by surprise by the intensity of the attacks, as it was ill-prepared to confront such a rapid military onslaught. Furthermore, the looting by rebels of Government weaponry strengthen their position. An additional problem was the fact that the Government apparently was not in possession of sufficient military resources, as many of its forces were still located in the South, and those present in Darfur were mainly located in the major urban centers. Following initial attacks by the rebels against rural police posts, the Government decided to withdraw most police forces to urban centers. This means that the Government did not have de facto control over the rural areas, which was where the rebels based."}. The rebels destroyed almost all police stations in the region. They killed most of the police officers, creating a security vacuum which was unfortunately filled by different tribal militias including the notorius Janjaweed. Added to the chaos, is the rebels policy of targeting tribal leaders and theft of thousands of head of livestock from these tribes, which resulted in an explosion of inter-communal violence with revenge attacks and livestock raids by equally well-armed nomadic tribes. That how thousands of people fled their villages and sought refuge around the major urban centers. That mere fact refute allegation of governmental policy of genocide.


The rebels claim to be acting because of Darfur's marginalisation and underdevelopment. The leader of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) stated to the French news agency in October 2003 the following: "The government is negotiating with the south because of pressures from the international community and military pressure in the south, in the west, and in the east. A peace accord with the SPLM will be a way for the government to regroup to suppress the other marginalized areas, including the west and our movement in particular. We want a comprehensive peace for all of Sudan. We will represent an obstacle to the achievement of peace." It was a preplanned strategy to attract the international community by creating a humanitarian

Today, Sudan which potentially is very rich, is on the United Nations list of the Least Developed Countries in the world, known as LDC and ranks 139 in the UNDP's Human Development Index. It is an accepted fact that Darfur is underdeveloped, but no more so than much of the rest of Sudan, including Kordofan, the Nuba mountains, the east of Sudan, the South, and even the north of Sudan.

Therefore, justifying insurgency and armed struggle as means to redress marginalization is not a valid justification here. Sympathy by major powers of our time to such insurgencies would be at the expense of the fledgling nation-state in Africa and some other parts of the developing world.

Although the whole country is underdeveloped, considerable progress has taken place in the region in all areas and the following table reflects a part of this development. Politically, Darfurians are well represented: they comprise government ministers, state governors and are members of the supreme and constitutional courts.

The irony is that, while claiming lack of development as the cause of their movement, the rebels are repeatedly attacked key development and infrastructure projects. In March 2003 they attacked the school examination center in Tina and stole the examination papers, which adversely affecting tens of thousands of school students and their families. In June 2004 rebel attacks stopped work on an emergency water supply project in El-fasher.


The Janjaweed is a term that in short means a "jinn" or devil on horseback. It is not a new term, it has been in use for the last two decades. Originally it was a term to define a high-way robber, riding a horse or camel, carrying a gun or a rifle. Before this tragedy it had no ethnic or racial significance. Anyone, African, Arab, or whatever could be a Janjaweed - if he is on a horseback or camelback carrying a rifle and attacking people on highways.

Part of the recent propaganda campaign has been to give this term a new dimension, confined to Arab nomads in the region who are deliberately provoked by the rebels (by stealing their live stock) to focus their wrath against the tribes the rebels are drawn from. This is how burning, looting and other crimes have been committed.

The "Janjaweed" have no political organization or agenda, and included many who have exploited the conflict for their criminal end. It is very difficult to track them, since they included elements from all cultural groups in the area. Once they concluded their criminal attacks, they disappeared into their respective communities. Complicating this was the fact that decades of inter-marriage had made nonsense of any clear ethnic distinction between the so-called Arab and African in Darfur. It must be noted never the less that many Janjaweed had been caught, convicted and jailed.

Executive Summary of Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Allegations of Human Rights Violations by Armed Groups In Darfur, Western Sudan

1- Background:

H.E. President of the Republic Omar Hassan Ahmed El Bashir has issued Decree 2004/97 establishing this Commission headed by former Chief Justice Dafaa Alla El. Haj Yousef. The Commission's mandate was to find facts and collect information on alleged violations of human rights by armed groups in Darfur sates, determine causes of violations when established and possible resulting damage to lives and property. The Commission of Inquiry of 1954. Final report of the Commissions was submitted to H.E. the president of the Republic with the following findings and recommendations.

2- The Commission held 65 meetings, head 288 testimonies and visited all Darfur states several times where it inspected 30 areas believed to have been crime scenes. It met, inter alia, with local authorities and officials of different relief organizations and NGOs

3- The Commission requested and received all documents concerning its mandate and got acquainted with all relevant reports made by missions that visited Sudan from the UN, the African Union, the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Arab League and other organizations. It carefully considered all reports issued by international Human Rights Organizations, including reports made by he Geneva based Commission on Human Rights.

4- Furthermore, the Commission reviewed the decisions made by U.S. Congress, the European Community and the UN Security Council, in Addition to the minutes of talks between the government and armed opposition groups.

5- The Commission contacted armed groups to arrange a joint meeting whenever and wherever they decide in order to listen to their viewpoints, but they gave no favorable response.

6- Whenever means are available, the Commission made written, audio, video and photographic documentation of its

7- To fulfill its mandate, the Commission had to consider the geographical and historical background of Darfur. This region which has common borders with three neighboring states and more than 80 tribes witnessed considerable demographic and environmental changes due to disastrous waves of drought and desertification. Current events in Darfur essentially reflect these factors, in addition to the irrational politicization of the problem which gave it such an international dimension.

8- Darfur region which represents one firth of the total area of Sudan has a population of nearly 6 million people. It's the homeland of many tribes of Arab and African origins which inter-married and intermingled, culturally and ethnically, for centuries and formed today's unique society in Darfur.

9- Natural diversity in the region resulted in diverse economic activities and means of living, yet farming and cattle raising are the main activities beside cross-border trade.

10- Well-established customs and traditions, where tribes live in specific tribal lands, govern Land tenure in Darfur. Land tenure is closely related to the concept and exercise of authority under various designations. It's also dependent on the nature of economic activities and pastoral tribes' quest for pasture and water.

11- Tribes in Darfur co-existed in relative peace for centuries with sporadic conflicts over natural resources between nomad and sedentary tribes. These conflicts never degenerated in the past and had always been settled through tribal reconciliation conferences organized by the civil Administration under the auspices of the state. Hence, a set of customs and traditions were established to orchestrate tribal relations and activities, This consisted a unique culture feature of Darfur and tribes, regardless of their background, have realized the need to co-exist as no ethnic group can root out the other. The Commission noted that such conflict occurred even between tribes of common origins.

12- It's noteworthy that the local Administration was an essential stabilization factor in the region, considering the key role it played in settlement of conflicts and its collaboration in this respect with the concerned authorities. Unfortunately the dissolution of this Administration in 1970 created an administrative and security vacuum that aggravated these conflicts and led to acute tribalism. As a result of the consequent political polarization, such conflicts gained national dimensions related to issues of marginalization and sharing of power and wealth.

13- The deterioration of economic development and services in Darfur due to factors mentioned in the Commission's report, the administrative instability, the suspension of major development projects, unemployment and the widespread of weapons and ease to obtain them, in addition to political instability in neighboring Chad, have nourished the "culture of violence" in Darfur. This tendency let outlawed individuals from different tribal backgrounds to form semi-organized armed groups, locally referred to as jangaweed and other similar groups, They were responsible for the widespread of looting and smuggling in the 80s. This climate of insecurity forced many tribes to organized-armed groups and form defensive coalitions. The President of the Republic interfered in several occasions to create mechanisms that are capable of reestablishing law and order and State authority.

14- This fluid situation, the revolt against State's authority, conflicting administrative measures taken to deal with the problem without giving due consideration to immediate and future implications, particularly with respect to land tenure, in addition to the impact of civil war in the South and SPLA's attempts to bring the populations of remote states under the banner of the "New Sudan", have transformed these local conflicts into issues of a national dimension. The conflict between rival groups and the State started on an intellectual basis and ended up in armed confrontations which claimed the lives of nearly 500 policemen. The resulting security vacuum and other factor, including the ambitions of some groups to establish a predominant entity, gave this issue an unprecedented political and international aspect.

15- The offensive launched by armed opposition against major towns in the region, their assaults against Armed Forces which caused considerable loss of lives and property, the destruction of public facilities and prosecutors, in additions to the killing of civilians and relief workers, necessitated the interaction of Armed Forces to reestablish law and order. These actions, which triggered the current ordeal, made some of the tribes fearful of potential aggressions and resulted serious violations of human rights.

16- Wide media coverage of those incidents drew the attention of international human rights organiza- tions, but some of these relied on politically motivated information provided by inaccurate and contradictory sources. Thus, some individual states within the UN took advantage of allegations to accuse Sudan of committing ethnic cleansing genocide and organized acts of rape.

17- Accordingly, the Commission initiated its facts finding efforts and listed alleged violations of human rights and crimes against humanity. Investigation procedures involved extensive hearings, visits to alleged crime scenes, review of relevant documents and testimonies under oath.

18- Upon careful evaluation of the aforementioned elements and discussions in the light of International Human Rights Law, provisions of the international Humanitarian Law, the Statue of the International Criminal Court and relevant historical case laws, the Commission reached the following conclusions:

1- There were indeed serious violations of human rights which involved all belligerent parties.

2- Compared with documented crimes of genocide elsewhere in the world, that happened in Darfur, in spite of its gravi- ty, does not constitute such a crime. It has not been established that any specific group had sustained physical or mental damage or been purposely subjected to living conditions leading to its total or partial annihilation.

3- The Commission has established that the description of events in Darfur as genocide was merely due to the overes timation of the death toll.

4- Furthermore, the Commission has established that some civilians lost their lives in air bombardments when Armed Forces inflicted collateral damage as civilians were used as shields by rebel groups and victims received due compensations.

5- The Commission realized that armed opposition groups were responsible for killing unarmed civilians and wounded soldiers.

6- In this prevailing climate of hostility, the Commission found that various tribes committed acts of killing.

7- Killing of civilians in all the above mentioned cases violated common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention.

8- Acts of killing and their accompanying circumstances which amounted to violation of the said Article, are not viewed by the Commission as a crime of genocide.

9- There were reports of arbitrary executions and the Commission recommended further investigations into allegations not substantiated beyond doubt (para. 16 of the report).

10- The Commission conducted investigations on crimes of rape and sexual abuse and heard many testimonies, including from alleged victims.

11- The Commission found that crimes of rape and sexual abuse had been committed, but they were not systematic or widespread to be viewed as a crime against humanity. Relevant investigations have led to the accusation of few persons, including 10 of the Regular Forces. Most of these crimes were individually motivated in this climate of lawlessness. The Commission noted that most women in Darfur were unaware of the legal and linguistic significance of the word "rape", as they believed it merely meant the use of violence.

12- Forced displacement, as a component of ethnic cleansing is the removal of an ethnic or linguistic group with predominant culture from a legally owned land. Throughout history, ethnic cleansing was related to the concept of the "Nation State" and constituted a crime against humanity.

13- Accordingly, the commission visited several areas where forced displacement was alleged to have occurred. Investigations have shown that a group of non-Arab tribes was forced to leave two predominantly Arab villages. The Commission recommended further investigation as this incident, if true, constitutes a serious unprecedented act.

14- The Commission visited many villages that were burnt down. Statements by local officials and evidences showed that all belligerent parties are to blame for the burning or villages. The villages were deserted as people fled to seek refuge in camps close to areas with different services. The Commission found that allegations of ethnic cleansing were not substantiated.

15- Incidents in Darfur caused widespread panic, horror and massive movement of people to refugees' camps.

16- The current situation in Darfur, with all its implications in terms of human suffering and international repercussions, was the result of viewing the problem in a wider context that omits its local aspects and origins. Misconceptions adopted by some states to exercise pressure on Sudan are being reviewed as the international community realized the need to tackle the roots of the conflict rather than its aftermath.

17- Based on meticulous investigations, the commission found that death toll form all sides, including the armed Forces, amounted to few thousands, contrary to exaggerated figures circulated by international media and organizations.

18- In efforts to evaluate the deplorable loss of lives and property, the Commissions received relevant reports from national and local authorities. It recommended the establishment of a special judicial committee to further investigate civilian property losses.

[Photo?] Raised in a culture of war - Souk in Alfashier. The children of Darfur are raised within the 'culture of war', sadly enough. A little boy holding up a toy bomb.

19- The Commission's recommendations met international support and recognition, including through statements made by the president of African Union and western media. Recommendations were also supported by clear evidence that a considerable number of the national Armed forces personnel are from the very same tribes alleged to have been victims of genocide in Darfur.

20- It's worth mentioning that the government has exerted strenuous efforts to contain the situation prior to the escalation of events. It organized several tribal conferences, and send high level delegations composed of Fur and Zagawa tribal leaders, in order to negotiate a peaceful settlement with armed groups other senior government officials were also negotiating with armed Opposition groups just few days before rebels attack against the town of Al Fasher in April 2003.

21- The Commission has established the involvement of some members of the Chadian Army in the conflict.

22- The causes of this conflict, as determined by the Commission, require effective administrative and judicial arrangements. The Commission recommended the establishment of judicial investigation Commissions to consider the following:

(a)- Allegations of extra judicial executions.

(b)- Expropriation of two Fur tribe villages by Arab groups. Al though a relevant administrative investigation Commission was set up by South Darfur State Governor.

(c)- Investigation into incidents of killing and burning of the wounded in hospitals. The first Vice President of the Republic H.E. Ali Osman Mohammed Taha was mandated to follow up the execution of these recommendations. The Presidency of the Republic, in consultation with Chief Justice, has formed the following three committees:

(a)- Judicial investigation committee headed by member of the high Court Hon, Mohammed Abd Al Raheem.

(b)- Damage assessment committee headed by the judge of the high court Hon. Hussein Abulgasim.

(c)- Administrative committee headed by the Police Force Gen. Eltayeb Abd Al Raheem.

(d)- Other measures.


NEWS STORY / Wednesday, April 27, 2005 (WASHINGTON, D.C., 04:27:2005):

In March, 2004, USAID, in a briefing replete with colorful diagrams, estimated that by the Fall of 2004, between 300,000 and 400,000 people would lose their lives in the conflict in Darfur, regardless of international aid efforts. At that time they cited malnutrition as the likely cause of the majority of the deaths. The AID Agency attributed the numbers to "scientific methodology", without further elaboration. This estimate was clearly a prelude to the characterization of the Darfur tragedy as "genocide", an American claim that would soon follow. By the Fall of 2004, a figure of 50,000 surfaced. It was not well received by the self-styled and professional "Sudan watchers", so a figure of 70,000 was floated and attributed to the World Health Organization.

A delegation of the Arab Doctors Union visited all of the internally displaced peoples' camps in Darfur for a full month in the Fall of 2004. Their conclusions brought into serious question the WHO figures of 70,000 deaths, and as a result of their challenge, WHO representatives in Sudan and the Mediterranean region began to distance themselves from the figure, claiming that they had no knowledge of its source or origins.

In March 2005, the U.N. Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs visited Darfur and remarkably claimed that the casualties of the conflict had reached 180,000. When queried on the source of those numbers, he said "he was told" that was the figure! There was no further elaboration on who might have told him.

The Washington Post, for reasons known only to its editorial staff, has uniformly insisted on advancing the casualty figures in Darfur as being as many as 400,000. In an April 24, 2005 editorial, the paper refuted out of hand the figure of 60-160,000 deaths noted by the Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Robert Zoellick, suggesting instead that the figures cited by the staunchest and most perennial Sudan critics, Dr. Eric Reeves and Mr. John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group, were more accurate.

The Post did not provide any background on why their numbers should be taken as more reliable than those of the United States Government. These wildly swinging numbers claimed by the various interests groups united only in their deep animosity toward Sudan can have only one explanation - pure politics. Not only does the truth become yet another casualty in the tragedy of Darfur, but these exaggerations serve no purpose save that of encouraging the rebel groups to keep on fighting and thus preventing a real peace process in Darfur from gaining traction.

The cynicism involved makes it clear that topping the conflict is secondary to the goal of "keeping the pressure on Khartoum." It is high time that the American sense of honest, transparent goals and fair play replace the cynicism of the biased interest groups which have only served to prolong the tragedy.


Sudanvision May 9, 2005
The Sudanese authorities concerned are poised to file a case against " Medicin Sana Frontier " Holland for publishing reports that mislead the public opinion about rape crimes in Darfur and dodging the Sudanese authorities attempts to reveal those who made the report. That was asserted by one of Sudan Vision source's that stated: the organization published a report about rape crimes in Darfur on Marsh 8, 2005, which include fabricated information. They prepared their report and pub-lished it on a wide scale defaming Sudan and it's people. The source said, "it was a serious report that the United Nations Secretary General used and mentioned with in a whole paragraph in his statement for the United Nations General Assembly last April."Sudan Vision came to Know that Sudanese authorities, after protested by large sectors against defamation, demanded that the organization should reveal names of those who made the report and provided information, "but the started to procrastinate and protested that those who prepared the report were foreigners working in the organization and their names cannot be revealed", the source said.

They went to consult their headquarters in Amsterdam to have their opinion about the information they used in the report, but they continued to shirk accountability. The source continues." We requested that so that the information might be used in following up every one who is proved to be involved in such violations.

The source affirmed that authorities have decided to start filing cases against responsible figures in the organization under the charge of defaming Sudan and of hiding information, which caused serious harm to the country. He asserted the authorities have decided to put an end to fabricated and unfounded reports.

The Director of The World Health Organization (WHO):
Sensational Numbers Do not Help The Darfur Cause

The Financial Times - Letters Published: May 7 2005 03:00 From Prof Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters, University of Louvain School of Public Health, 1200 Brussels, Belgium:

Sir, An unseemly fight has broken out in the US over how many have died in Darfur. The US government and, in particular, Robert Zoellick, assistant secretary of state, have been singled out for criticism for having deliberately played down the serious situation in western Sudan. The opposition struggle, led by the clearly energetic and driven Eric Reeves, a professor of literature from Massachusetts and self-described "non-epidemiologist", and a group called the Coalition for International Justice, claim the number dead in Darfur is more than 400 000 since September 2003.

They came to this number by asking about 1,000 refugees fleeing into Chad following a violent attack if they had seen anybody killed. Applying this proportion to all of Darfur's affected population (about 2.5m) for upwards of 26 months, the conclusion of 400,000 was reached. The State Department, from its own analysts, has put forward an estimate of 60,00 - 160,000 dead - a considerably lower estimate and closer to ones produced by our team in the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). These are based on 30 statistically representative surveys done by professional statisticians and epidemiologists, taking into account how many would have died in Darfur anyway, without the war. The advocacy powers of Prof Reeves and CIJ are clearly stronger than their statistical ones. Deaths of 300,000- 400,000 are now quoted by the UK House of Commons, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and a series of respectable newspapers - including yours - making those who plod systematically through evidence and come up with less sensational figures look like uncharitable scrooges.

We are all convinced of the serious humanitarian need in Darfur and of the importance of pressing ahead with the peace agenda. Using badly constructed numbers for sensational attention does not help the cause. As everybody in the humanitarian game knows, numbers, alas, are rarely a triggering factor in giving humanitarian aid or initiating peace negotiations. But unsubstantiated figures and exaggerations are easily discredited and do the beleaguered Darfur population a great disservice. Europe and the US must continue - and indeed increase humanitarian aid - to Darfur, not because so many have died but because so many still live!


In it's report to the Secretary General of the United Nations on January 25 2005, the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur Stated that, "The commission concluded that the gov- ernment of Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide."

The report goes " The crucial element of genocide intent appears to be missing, at least as far as the central Government authorities are con- cerned. Generally speaking the policy of attacking, killing and forcibly displacing members of some tribes does not evince a specific intent to annihi- late, in whole or in part , a group distinguished on racial, ethnic, national or religious grounds. Rather, it would seem that those who planned and organized attacks on villages pursued the intent to drive the victims from their homes, primarily for purposes of counter-insurgency warfare."


Environmentalist Wangari Maathai who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize stated to The Washington Post on May 12, 2005 that:

"Darfur is an example of a situation where a dire scarcity of natural resources is manipulated by politicians for their own ambition. To outsiders, the conflict is seen as tribal warfare. At its roots, though, it is a struggle over controlling an environment that can no longer support all the people who must live on it. You must not deal only with the symptoms you have to get to the root causes by promoting environmental rehablitation and empowering people to do things for themselves. What is done for the people without involving them can not be sustained."

2210 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: 202.338.8565
Fax: 202.667.2406


Anonymous said...

BBC News also states the fatalities as reaching up to 300000.

Getaclue said...

Your bias is impeccable. Congratulations, you have been spoon fed infomation making the Janjaweed seem good, and have swallowed it whole. Although this conflict did begin with attacks from rebel armies, the reason so many people are concerned and appalled is that instead of targeting just the rebel armies, they are killing civilians. Women, children, babies even. Rapes are not being fabricated, they are HAPPENING.

Getaclue said...

The statement about the Janjaweed not being affiliated with Sudanese government is nothing more than ignorance. Janjaweed leaders have come out in press openly admitting that they are being supplied by the government. If they're not affiliated with government, and not committing genocide, then why is it that sudan's head of government ALONG with janjaweed leaders are being prosecuted for genocidal war crimes? Rather clever just brushing over what the Janjaweed are doing by stating "and other crimes". Want to know what these other crimes are? Water supply poisoning. Rape. Crop destruction. Don't sugar coat things. You are helping nobody. Do more research before you publish falcities that are expected to be taken as fact.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for putting theis into a realistic perspective. Finally something that actaully makes sence.