On December 25, 2014 a government spokesperson in Karthoum, Sudan, ordered the expulsion of two senior United Nations officials: Ali Al-Za’tari, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, and Yvonne Helle, the U.N. Development Program Country Director. Sudan offered little detail as to why, other than a statement made by the Sudanese president, professional International Crimes Court dodger, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. In his statement, he called the U.N. African Union Mission in Dafur a “security burden.”
The western region of Sudan is known as Darfur or “The Realm of Fur,” named after herding- and agriculture-focused non-nomadic farming tribes known as Furs. In recent years, Darfur has become synonymous with wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians caught in the quagmire along with genocidal atrocities of staggering proportions. The civil war began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) decided to “go to the mattresses” against Bashir’s Sudanese government forces.
President al-Bashir, not wanting to look weak, unleashed a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs. Hundreds of thousands of innocent lives later, the international community finally paid attention, decried the vicious acts, and called for action from the United Nations. The social campaign worked, and Sudan’s bloody civil war came to a whimpering end. Truces that were shoehorned in place were as shaky as an alcoholic in full-on delirium tremens. Under-the-radar attacks kept occurring on a routine basis.
It seemed like the world wanted the Sudanese Government and its president held accountable. The Netherlands-based International Criminal Courts filed suit in March of 2005 against president Omar Hassan al-Bashir and key cabinet members on multiple counts of genocide. And then, just like hashtag activism, Darfur disappeared from the mainstream, and the U.N. African Union Mission in Darfur began the mind-numbing job of cleaning up the mess and repairing the damage.
Sudan has demanded the United Nations leave since 2007. Pressure intensified through the years after more and more evidence piled up, used for ammunition in I.C.C.’s human-rights violation case against the upper echelons of Sudan’s ruling party. These suspected Bashir-sanctioned “genocide machines,” known as the Janjaweed, were used to decimate villages of the Fur people in the west. Janjaweed morphed from the Arabic word janjawid, which loosely means “man, gun, horse.” A kind of ominous “have gun, will travel” business card for a violent group. Janjaweed militias were the perfect choice for al-Bashir’s genocidal ideations.
These nomadic Arab tribes, known as Guhayna, are camel herders by trade, and have had a rather long-running Hatfield-and-McCoy-like grudge with the Fur people. You see, this conflict boils down to decades-long disputes over grazing rights and water wells. The Furs, mainly black, non-Arab Africans, developed a farming system in western Darfur that has proven successful. The nomadic Janjaweed took offense to this success and a tribal blood feud was established. The resulting slaughter is evidence enough of how deeply rooted this disagreement is, and how it has woven itself into the patchwork of the region.
All of this came to a head this week when president Bashir requested the removal of two senior U.N. officials from his country. And with good reason. On December 12, 2014, Bashir received a get-out-of-jail-free card from the ICC due to the lack of international concern or arrests following the country’s civil war.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda suspended all investigations due to the lack of forward progress seen over the course of a decade. The ICC has no police force of its own; instead, in accordance with ICC international agreements, they rely on countries willing to arrest suspects indicted by the courts. If the suspect’s host country is uncooperative, the suspect remains at large. Al-Bashir and his cabinets members remained free.
So, with no one in custody and President al-Bashir basically sequestering himself in the presidential palace to wait out the whole ordeal, the I.C.C. dropped the charges. “We find ourselves in a stalemate that can only embolden perpetrators,” said Ms. Bensouda. Al-Bashir wasted no time. He officially recognized the Janjaweed as a ‘uniformed,’ sanctioned militia of the Sudanese regime. They now have government backing to support their brand of rape, murder, and pillaging in the western region of Sudan.
A group known as EnoughProject.org, who have been tracking genocide and human-rights violations globally, acquired satellite imagery purportedly showing the result of a Sudan government-sanctioned attack on a U.N. base and its surrounding displaced families in the village of Khor Abeche, South Darfur. The under-equipped United Nations peacekeepers are continually attacked by pro-government forces and Sudanese military units. Barely able to defend themselves, they did little but watch from their compound as uniformed Janjaweed militias slashed and burned the village of Khor Abeche to the ground.
Then, earlier this week, the U.N. received gruesome reports of a mass gang-rape in the western Darfur village of Tabit. Once the peacekeepers arrived, they quickly found they were, in fact, dealing with the aftermath of a beyond-human, house-of-horrors incident. Two hundred women and children were reported victims of a sadistic systematic gang-rape by the Sudanese military.
The advanced party immediately knew more support and supplies were needed, and grudgingly left Tabit with the promise to return the next day. The white trucks loaded heavy with supplies and medical aid set off the next day for the savaged village. Only, they were met by the Sudanese military, which denied their access under threat of violence. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir immediately demanded the two senior U.N. officials leave his country, insisting they be removed no later than early January.
As a smart, albeit murderous dictator, Bashir has set in place a series of events that will ensure his unimpeded removal of non-Arabs from the Darfur region.
The United Nations, in its infinite wisdom, decided to bend to Khartoum’s will, and has agreed to reduce their footprint in the country by 4,000 peacekeepers, further stretching the already stressed fabric of the U.N mission in Sudan. The question now becomes, how many civilians need to bleed before the ‘civilized’ world creates another hashtag?
(Featured Image Courtesy: Stuart Price)