The panel discussion "Making Peace in Sudan" took place at the 60th annual conference in November, 2006.
Making Peace in Sudan
Tim Carney, John Prendergast, Adam Shapiro, Peter Bechtold
Peter Bechtold: Let me take a minute to wax nostalgic as people are still walking in. When I was a young pup academic coming out of graduate school and teaching in College Park, Maryland, within a couple weeks I went down to the State Department and met the first of a long line of Sudan desk officers. I also came to the Middle East Institute and joined in 1968. I've told countless classes in the academic world and in government that that is where I met the senior practitioners of Middle East affairs in the State Department, Defense, USIA, AID, Commerce, the intelligence community and so on. The late Ambassador Parker T. Hart, whose widow we were so fortunate to see last night – what a treat – gave me the first break when in 1969 he asked me to come to MEI and speak about Sudan opposite a desk officer. Here we are in 2006 and the circle is being closed.
Let me formally begin by saying that when I was invited this summer to participate in a program and talk about Sudan, I agreed as I always do because of my support for MEI and the fact that I will always talk about Sudan to any audience anywhere. I've done it several times this year at American, at Howard, where I had two hours each. At West Point, where it was only half an hour. The single greatest challenge is to squeeze the necessary information into the totally inadequate amount of time. When I agreed to come, I didn't know if it was a one-person shot at Sudan or an entire panel. I'm delighted it is and I can announce to all of you who heard this morning's brilliant panel and yesterday's full session that Sudan is even more complicated than the issues you've heard before. If you don't know this, you badly need a panel like this.
I'm also delighted that I'm joined on the panel by three individuals whom I have known over the years in different capacities. Ambassador Tim Carney, who was our last real ambassador in Sudan in the 1990s and has produced among other things an absolutely fantastic book that I want to recommend to all of you. I have never seen a more beautiful pictorial book. Adam Shapiro, whom I've met in a different capacity as a leader in the International Students Movement, working on humanitarian issues at the time in Ramallah and now in Darfur. Later we will be joined by John Prendergast, who I've also known over the years as a human rights activist and briefly working in the State Department in the second Clinton Administration.
I was told I would have ten minutes to set the stage and each of the panelists would also have ten minutes. If I don't have three hours, I can't make my points. Part of this is me but mostly it is Sudan. So instead of the three introductory comments, I will limit myself to one, and instead of the five-point presentation that I prepared for Secretary Colin Powell prior to his visit to Sudan in 2004, I will limit myself to two of those five.
The first general observation that those few of us lifetime Sudan watchers – and in my case it goes back to the 1960s. In fact, 42 years ago today I was in Sudan. I really haven't left it in many ways. When we get together at the meetings of the Sudan Studies Association, we always lean on each other and talk about how hard it is to talk about this country – A, because it is so complex, and B, because almost everything that is in the public domain is so inaccurate. It is this combination that requires the three hour presentation.
One needs to work at first removing some of the inaccuracies, and there are many reasons for the inaccuracies. Sometimes it is just an incomplete story that something lacks context. Sometimes it is due to the fact that this is a huge country with many issues. Sometimes it is frankly a deliberate effort to distort. In Washington, of course, you're constantly aware of that dimension.
I'm glad to see John has joined us as well. An old friend and a Sudan watcher .
So there are structural reasons. I want to take a minute to point this out. If one goes to the meetings of the African Studies Association and the Middle East Studies Association, it is striking to see how Sudan is treated differently. Africanists understandably have a huge problem – a continent of more than fifty states. Usually it is divided into Anglophone, Francophone, a few loose-a-phone. That tends to be the approach. When those Africanists arrive in Khartoum, the only international airport, the folks look African all right but they soon notice that they all speak Arabic, the northerners and the southerners nowadays, and that the vast majority are Muslim. So the classical Africanist feels like a fish out of water.
The Arab specialists and Islamic studies specialists feel more at home in northern Sudan, where the capital is located, but usually they tend to find more career-rewarding areas outside Sudan. The consequence has been that while there have been some excellent individuals serving in our embassies and some scholars who have covered that region, their number tends to be quite small.
The other point one should not forget is that in my forty- years, I have never known a foreign journalist to be based in Khartoum. So the stories we see are written by people who are based either in Cairo or further north, or Addis Ababa or further south. Just two weeks ago there was a National Public Radio interview with a Washington Post correspondent who answered questions about Khartoum while he was in Johannesburg. It is that sort of thing that goes on. We understand it but that is why it is so necessary to first lay out the groundwork. This is the first of three introductory comments. The other two I'll have to save.
My first two points on the briefing. The folks on the panel have heard this before, some of you have heard it before, but here goes.
Number one. Sudan is the largest country in Africa, the largest state in the Arab world and the Middle East, the tenth largest country on earth. In that country, everything is huge – the deserts in the north, the steppe lands in the center, the jungle forests in the south and southwest, and especially that swamp, the sudd, which is the largest swamp on earth, in the center south. Everything is huge.
Why is that a problem? Because Sudan lacks infrastructure. Until recently there was no infrastructure at all. When I first got there, there were more paved roads in Arlington, Virginia, than in all of Sudan, this huge country. Now there are more paved roads in Fairfax County or where I live among the poor people in Prince George's County than in all of Sudan. Why does this matter? Because if you cannot get around from A to B in the best of times, and you certainly cannot get around when the sandstorms known as haboob come in the north and the rains come in the south and the west, governments and commerce grinds to a total stop. Therefore no government has been able to deliver services or collect taxes or administer much of anything.
I trace the modern history, as do others, to the 1820s, when we've had nine governments. The so-called Turkiya, for 60 years – Ottoman control carried out by Egyptians on the ground. The Mahdiya for thirteen years – an independent movement. And then the Anglo-Egyptian condominium for fifty-seven years. Since independence, three democratically elected governments, three military regimes – Ibrahim Abboud, Jaafer Numeiry, and Omar Hassan el-Bushir. None of these nine governments have been able to exert effective control over more than – let's be generous – 150 miles in all directions from Khartoum. The result is that in this huge country, people that are further afield have had to resolve issues by their own device. When there was conflict, which of course occurs occasionally everywhere, they used customary law to resolve it, not official law, not the Anglo-Saxon nor the shari'a courts, because they simply don't reach. So sulh, as it is known in Arabic, customary law, has been the predominant way in the north in Sudan and its equivalent in the southern Sudan. We need to keep this in mind.
In this very difficult place where the government cannot reach and others in embassies have trouble following even the Khartoum metropolitan area, much less the country, journalists flying in from some other country trying to cover in a few days what us in decades we've not been able to master, this gives you a sense of the task, which is enormous.
The second problem is my favorite one, and that is that in this huge country you have, according to serious anthropological research, 597 tribes speaking more than 400 languages and dialects. Sudan is more diverse even than India, which is very heterogeneous as you know. If you look at this huge country, in the north, as it is often summarized as Muslim, which it is predominantly, there are at least 12 distinct Muslim groupings – others can come up with more but there are at least 12. In the south there are approximately 200 religions. Christianity is there in about eight or ten forms. The rest are indigenous religions. It is an extremely diverse and heterogeneous country. It cannot be easily reduced to Arab versus African, Muslim versus Christian or animist, or any of these things.
When I do my briefings, and I've had the privilege of initially meeting Ambassador Carney and his lovely wife, I brought the same display. I said all these tribes, all these languages, all this religious diversity – and I'm always afraid my audience will have their eyes glazed over – I try to reduce it to American terms. If you consider the Sioux of North and South Dakota as one nation, there are 92 nations in Sudan. Ninety-two identities, ninety-two sets of loyalties, ninety-two sets of histories, ninety-two sets of folklore. That is the issue. Anybody who wants to know anything about Sudan, who doesn't know what I've just summarized, will never get very far.
Now, to my briefing on Darfur for the secretary. At the time in 2004 – now I've updated it – I said there were five peoples, five nations he needed to know about. The Fur in the center of the region; the Zaghawa and the Masalit – the Fur are indigenous to the western region, the Masalit and the Zaghawa live on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border. Then those three are overwhelmingly villagers who raise vegetables and have cattle. Then you have the Rizeigat and the Misseiria, who are sometimes described as Arabs. They are semi-nomadic. They also have a home base but they are more camel and goat people. Those who are able will travel in search of pasture during the dry season and then settle down for a few months during the year.
But when I was in Sudan last year, I was corrected. There are a minimum of 80 tribes, perhaps 105 – that is the largest number I've encountered – in Darfur. The conflict that so unfortunately has been in the news since 2003 is an ancient conflict. It's a conflict that involves tribes. It also involves pastoralists versus cultivators. It involves Chadian refugees who came across the border during the decades-long Chadian civil war that we should never forget when we look at Darfur Province. It involves not race and not religion.
I've brought along this display here. While it shows only a few faces in Sudan, if you asked these nine people, are you Arab or are you African? Such as this chap from Darfur -- he will say, I'm Arab. My answer is that every single person native to Darfur is an African and speaks a version of Arabic, which again is the definition scholars use for who is an Arab. So they're all Arabic-speaking Africans in Darfur. While people use these terms I have heard – Arabs and Africans and southerners refer to the northerners – this does not get us very far.
However, to tell us about these details we have our three panelists. Since he came late, his penalty is that he has to go first, and that is Adam Shapiro. Even though he's the youngest I have decided that since he brings an eyewitness account, he should share that with the group for the ten minutes we are all given.
Adam Shapiro: Thank you all for coming. I think by this really incredible turnout – I wasn't expecting as large an audience this morning but I think it's a real indicator of the kind of change we've seen in this country in terms of attention to the crisis and the tragedy of Darfur over the last three years, and also a testament to the importance that this conflict now has for a broader region than just simply Darfur itself as a region, Sudan as a country, or perhaps Sudan and Chad, neighboring countries.
I went to Darfur exactly two years ago, October/November 2004. One reason I went was because I started reading and hearing about the atrocities that were being committed in Darfur. I wanted to learn more for myself. I wanted to discover more. I wanted to do more, because what I was hearing and what I was reading about and the little bits of information we were able to get at that time indicated that something much more massive was underway. Something that was really a challenge to all of our humanity.
Let me just contextualize this for a second to say not only for myself but also for sort of the broader regional politics at the time. This is, remember, not that long after the United States military went into Iraq. I myself went to Baghdad to make a documentary film in Iraq which sought to bring out the voices and perspectives and complexities and ideas of Iraqis, which were often absent from our mainstream media. Also well underway was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its people, suffering tragedies every day, which of course continues today and doesn't seem to want to stop at any moment.
So when Darfur sort of popped up on my radar screen and I started looking for more information and talking to other people, I wasn't surprised, although somewhat disappointed, that Darfur wasn't popping up on more radar screens. If you had tried to organize a panel like this, I imagine, in 2004 or early 2005 at the Middle East Institute Annual Conference, you'd probably have maybe a quarter of the audience perhaps. That's my impression from events I was doing at the time.
When I came back from Darfur, what I really felt was missing was not only sort of broader knowledge about the region, about the complexity of the place, about the history of the place, about why this was happening and what the various interests were in seeing this tragedy unfold in Darfur, but most important to me were the voices and perspectives of Darfuri people themselves. Even as reports of rape were being written about in the New York Times, even as more and more information was starting to be unearthed about this sort of systematic campaign of violence by armed militias and by the government of Sudan's military against civilian populations, the people who were suffering these atrocities, the people who were living through these nightmares – their voices were not the ones that were being quoted, cited or given space to present in Washington, New York or other places. I still think today there is a great silence or a great absence of these voices from Darfur to be able to influence and inform those of us who are concerned, who want to know more, who want to try to find a way to help.
What I've tried to do with my work on Darfur is to bring forward those voices in whatever way. I've done that through a film and I've done that through a book. Now what I hope to do today is give you an update. I just spoke on the phone before I came here to some s we have in Darfur who were able to give us an update on what's been happening over the last couple of weeks and also what their perspectives are in terms of moving forward. Because there is a lot of talk now about moving forward – how can we get a UN peacekeeping force in there? We have a UN resolution. The government of Sudan is blocking it. How can we manage to get UN peacekeepers in there? What about the African Union force that is already there? We know how woefully inadequate that has been so far. But what are the local perspectives on that?
Just to give you a quick update, just yesterday twelve villages were burned. The initial count so far, we know of twenty civilians who have been killed. We know that at the moment militia forces and government of Sudan forces are organizing, moving up toward the north of Darfur, further north in Darfur than they've been before. There's a great fear that they're going to try to push out civilians who are internally displaced already from Darfur out of this region. In the Anka area, which is a village that I myself went to, an area which has fifteen families, just within the last two weeks has been bombed by government Antonov airplanes. The same in a village called Braik, which has 3,000 families and 15,000 individuals. At the moment the number of dead and injured are really hard to assess. The African Union is trying to put together figures but it's very difficult for the African Union to move around, as has been explained, both in terms of infrastructure and the size of Darfur. It's extremely difficult to get any kind of accurate information out.
From my conversation this morning, what I heard from one of the leaders of what has been called now the G-19 – I've just been told it has a new name, the SLA Unity Salvation Group or something like that – there's a number of different names that have been coming up and disappearing and reorganizing. That's part of the overall complexity of what's going on but I don't think the names are necessarily that important, as much as what the positions are of the people who are trying to organize opposition and who ultimately will be the people who go to negotiations.
When the Darfur peace agreement was signed a few months ago, we saw an almost immediate reaction from people in the refugee camps against the Darfur peace agreement. You wonder why – here are people who have been out of their homes for years, people who have suffered the most unreal kind of trauma, who have been forced to flee and whose security in the refugee camps themselves is far from certain. Yet at what was hailed as sort of a breakthrough in terms of the signing of the Darfur peace agreement, we saw immediate protest against it. That should have been a lesson to those in diplomatic circles, and I'm not one of them and I realize there are other people in this room who may be, but if I could be a little bit subversive – it should have been a lesson to everyone saying that we need to start consulting and looking at what local people want, what they need, what will bring peace as far as they're concerned.
What we found from the response to the Darfur peace agreement and what is still the position is that the DPA allows for the militias who are currently carrying out the violence, who are currently carrying out rape, burning villages, attacking civilians as they flee, to be integrated and to keep their arms into the police and military of the government of Sudan. It doesn't at all deal with the problem of the people who are the perpetrators of violence. In fact, it sort of rewards them.
Secondly and probably the second most important issue in terms of local perspectives on peace and what is needed for there to be peace in Darfur is the issue of compensation, the issue of all of the property that has been lost, all the homes that have been burned, all the cattle that's been killed, all the animals that have been slaughtered or stolen. This is the livelihood, this is the way that people can exist in Darfur. These pictures don't show it but if anybody has seen pictures from Darfur, it's a tough place to exist. It's a credit to the people who have survived there for so long that they can find a way to survive there for so long. They know where the water wells are. They know how to make a living and how to survive in a climate that it seems almost impossible to exist in. Yet they do it. Here is a peace agreement that's supposed to deliver them back in some way to their homes without dealing with really the most basic aspects of trying to exist again in those places.
The second aspect of compensation is more of a cultural one which has to do with – this has been a way over time, over the history of this region and other regions – where there is a grievance by one party against the other, there is often negotiation between families, clans, tribes, and some sort of arrangement is worked out to make up for the loss. Some sort of compensation deal is created and it becomes a form of reconciliation between the peoples. That's another aspect of why compensation itself is important, not just simply in terms of property or material value but in terms of seeking reconciliation in this region, in which now after four years and more – certainly people I spoke to were recalling incidents and events as far back as 1987-88, of violence that was seen as the seedlings of the great amount of violence that was unleashed in 2003 – if there's going to be reconciliation, if all the people of Darfur are going to live together again, there not only needs to be a strong implementation mechanism, a strong peace agreement that deals with the real underlying issues of marginalization, of political sidelining of the people of Darfur, but also a way for the people themselves to coexist in the region. It is difficult. It was briefly mentioned that this conflict isn't just simply about ethnicity, it's not simply about identity. It has also to do with economic livelihoods between shepherds and farmers. The resources of Darfur are scarce and shrinking. So if there's going to be a way of cooperation, of reconciliation, of people living together again in Darfur, that has to be integral to the peace agreement.
Those of us sitting here in Washington and those of us who are active on the issue, right now it seems the most pressing issue is how to stop the violence, how to stop what has been called genocide, what other people refer to as ethnic cleansing. I personally don't care. If it's that bad that you have to split hairs between these terms, you've got to do something to help. We do have to stop the violence immediately. We do have to find a way to deliver the most basic security so people can actually live and not worry about being killed by another human being or by an airplane or by a bomb or by a gun.
But we also need to think about the day after that and the day after that, which has to do with how people are going to survive and lead sustainable lives in Darfur. That requires much greater political vision and it requires integration of local perspectives into any negotiated settlement. Thank you very much.
Ambassador Tim Carney: Thanks very much. In this building, I'm going to have to defend the press. In fact, for two of the last three years the Washington Post correspondent, Emily Wax, was based in Khartoum. She's now in Nairobi. For at least the last three years the redoubtable, unlikely-named Opheera McDoom has reported for Reuters out of Khartoum, and they are among the best examples of journalism I've seen in the 40 years I've been doing foreign affairs.
I'm going to look as briefly as Peter allows at two dimensions. I assume that when we look at the topic of making peace in Sudan, we're talking about more than Darfur.
I'll look first at the internal dimension. The evidence there is that the riverine Arabs in Khartoum – and as Peter indicated, that's the governance of Sudan effectively – or ineffectively as the case may be – they are in fact and have been responsive to international concerns. The evidence? The creation of the agreement to launch Operation Lifeline Sudan between the UN, the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army in the mid/late 1980s. Read more recently of course we've seen the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development, with able Kenyan mediation, catalyzed by Senator Danforth in his role as a special envoy of President Bush, negotiating a comprehensive peace agreement to end the civil war, the longest running civil war I know of – it started in 1955 – between the north and the south. It was during those negotiations that Darfur exploded. The third agreement that Sudan has made has been to put the African Union in Darfur. However subject to valid criticisms AU actions have been, it was nevertheless a result of negotiations and is, I contend, evidence that there is a certain responsiveness to international concerns.
The other thing we've got to do, unsurprisingly enough but very difficult to convince people in Washington about, is we have to understand Khartoum's perspectives on their situation and the perspectives of the other Sudanese players. First of all – how can I describe this? There's a put-upon feeling if you're a riverine Arab in Khartoum. It's basically no respect, and that's the way they believe the US and the West in general has been treating them. For better or worse, that is a reality.
The second is that if you look at Sudanese political realities, you will see a tension – at least when I was ambassador there – and Peter, thank you, I am the last accredited US ambassador to Sudan. I left in November 1997. We have had some very able charges-d'affaires. In fact the current charge-d'affaire was ambassador in Pretoria, which is a pretty heavy caliber diplomatic piece of artillery. But in fact he is not ambassador of the United States.
In any case, what we have done is we have effectively undermined the moderates in Sudan. I won't point any fingers at John here, when he was in the administration, but in fact in the mid-1990s the Sudanese booted Osama bin Laden out, they let the CIA come and photograph camps that we said were being used for training. We did not reply. The argument was: continue to push them, we'll get more. There were also perhaps some hidden agendas. That's a matter for my next book.
In any case, Darfur was interesting because everybody in Khartoum knew there were grievances out there. There had been a black book clandestinely published and circulated by Westerners in Khartoum. But they were surprised and enraged and feared the insurgency when it really got launched. A couple of hundred police posts were rolled up. The airport and airbase at El Fasher, the capital of one of the three provinces or states that make up Darfur, was invested. The air force commander, who was I think of the Rizeigat ethnic group, was captured. He wasn't released because of any negotiations or force from Khartoum's side. He was released because his ethnic group went to the ethnic groups responsible for the insurgency and said, we'd like our man back. In traditional Sudanese terms, keeping the Rizeigat out of it was far more important than holding Khartoum's air force major-general a captive. There's a thought for negotiations as well.
We've also got to recognize certain aspects related to the mechanics of a solution. One, we just heard Adam describe what's happening to the insurgency. It keeps fragmenting. There's no discipline, there's no unity of command in the insurgency. So however much Khartoum is willing to respond to grievances in the West – and we'll talk about that in just a second – basically there's not much there.
If we look at another aspect of mechanics, the resolution of the civil war with the south through the comprehensive peace agreement, southerners are looking at the peace process – and it's a process, mind you, that results in a referendum under which the southerners can secede. But southerners are seeing the implementation of that agreement as too slow, and indeed it is. Yes, the government of South Sudan, which is quasi-independent with certain regional autonomy, has received almost $900 million in revenue. But that's just money. There continues to be a risk of confusion and a loss of focus that imperils the comprehensive peace agreement in specific and the outcome for the unity of Sudan in general.
Finally, there's another interesting reality. About a month ago we saw signed in Eritrea an accord between Khartoum and the eastern element of Sudan. For those of you who are British imperial historians, it was signed mainly with the "fuzzie-wuzzies," with the Beja, with their " 'ayrick 'ead of 'air", as Kipling wrote about them. "A first-class fighting man," he also added. Thus it seems to me there are things to play with here.
Then let's look at the external dimension. There are some realities there too. China, for example, has a veto in the UN Security Council and is very close to Khartoum because it imports a fair chunk of the 400,000 barrels of oil Sudan has been pumping since 1998. There will be no UN mission in Sudan unless Khartoum agrees. It is true Khartoum has not agreed. They have the right not to agree because that is the terms of the mandate.
Second, we've got the Arab League, of which Egypt is the most important state because of all the countries in the region, only Egypt sees Sudan as a vital national interest. The name of that interest is the Nile, and the water and the people and the irrigation and the agriculture.
Finally, about two months ago a debate began among Sudan specialists. It was started by an article in the Guardian. Simon Jenkins wrote under the title, "The Inhumane Folly of our Interventionist Machismo." I don't have to tell you what he wrote, that pretty well explains it. It's been followed up by a number of pieces from those who embrace the fantasy of regime change and the absurdity of military intervention. I was a talking head on FOX, so everybody knows where I stand on that.
In fact what we're looking at is the reality of US assistance through the UN to augment the AU. This morning's press had a piece talking about Kofi Annan and Hedi Annabi at the UN – Hedi Annabi is the assistant secretary general in the Department of Peace-Keeping – of creating a hybrid AU-UN force in Darfur itself. The bottom line? Any solution we embrace has to be based on our interests. We can talk about in more detail our interests. They're essentially stability – and that includes respect for human rights in Sudan; security – notably, Sudan's cooperation with us on counterterrorism matters; and prosperity, because Sudan with its resources is the potential engine for sub-regional prosperity.
We need serious diplomacy as a bottom line – much more serious than we've engaged in so far. We've got to put down the megaphone, as Mark Malloch Brown put it. Tony Blair isn't listening; he's still on his megaphone. We've got to follow the sensible prescriptions that Mort Abramowitz and separately Steve Morrison and Chet Crocker have written in The Washington Post. And we need an ambassador in Khartoum. It is simply not the case that an ambassador resident is some sort of reward that the United States bestows on another country. An ambassador is a tool to realize those three interests. Thanks very much.
John Prendergast: You thought commenting on Sudan from Johannesburg was disingenuous, wait until you hear what people from Washington, DC, say. We have so many prisms and biases when looking at Sudan. You really have to have a special pair of binoculars or bifocals to see through all the BS and posturing that comes out of this town and out of New York City, the United Nations, particularly certain perm-reps up there, when it comes to Sudan and the challenges that country faces and how we deal with what this administration calls genocide.
There is one objective truth however amidst all the posturing. Having taken two trips to Darfur and through the refugee camps from eastern Chad over the last few months since the Darfur peace agreement was signed in May, I can tell you with absolute certitude that the crisis is again escalating dramatically, such as some of the stories Adam related to you just a few minutes ago. The government of Sudan has launched an offensive using the US-brokered and AU-brokered Darfur peace agreement as its pretext. Remember the Hippocratic oath – when you're involved in diplomacy or medicine or anything of this nature – first do no harm. This Darfur peace agreement has made matters dramatically worse in Darfur and we have stood on the sidelines since the negotiator joined Goldman Sachs and left the vacuum of Darfur policy to the inter-agency gridlock.
So the government offensive is using Janjaweed militias, which now no longer ride on horseback but in many cases now the government has become so brazen in its rearming of these militias that they're using APCs and technicals – the Toyotas with the machine gun-mounted flatbeds – all of it are being utilized in the attacks against civilian populations that are perceived to be potentially supportive or in reality supportive of the rebellion. They use the group of rebels that signed the Darfur peace agreement as scouts to root out elements in Darfur that might not be supportive of the government. They tell them particularly where the water wells are. We're in a period now where you've got genocide by remote control, where you simply have to bomb water points and displace people and drive them into areas where there are no humanitarian agencies or humanitarian access. It's so restricted now because of insecurity that people are condemned to death or a fate just as bad as death. You have the government of Sudan's regular army and air force joining in the fray. We're back to 2003-04, the dramatic levels of ethnic cleansing – well, you can't do it twice, because they've cleansed most of Darfur of non-Arab peoples. But you can go after people. There are vestiges of communities that have not been cleared out of their villages, and you can go after displaced camps. That's where we are now.
Yes, there are rebel atrocities. Yes, there is banditry and insecurity that results from the opportunistic vultures that prey upon Darfur and have done so for decades. But the primary driver of conflict is the counterinsurgency rationale of the government of Sudan, which is in three words: divide and destroy. The result: mortality, morbidity, malnutrition. All the indicators that we have, any kind of anecdotal evidence, are skyrocketing. That's where we are. The humanitarian and human rights deterioration is profound. It was devastating for me to have to listen again, nearly four years after this crisis erupted, to women tell me that since the Darfur peace agreement was signed they have been subject to gang rape; to listen to kids who told stories to me and the team I went with from CBS that they have to watch their villages be bombed and burned since the Darfur peace agreement was signed.
Having invoked the Genocide Convention, as the Bush Administration has done, it is now desecrating that sacred document by its inaction. So what do we do now? That's the purpose of coming here. That's the purpose I hope of all of us in this room. What can we do to stop the horror in Darfur?
President Bush has named Andrew Natsios, a good man, as special envoy to the crisis. The president has clearly demanded more action. One can read through the lines of his public statements but certainly privately he is saying, let's move – this is an embarrassment. We're getting into a scenario I think where just as my former employer, President Clinton, makes speeches today about the one thing that he regrets the most about his presidency was having sat idly by while the Rwandan genocide unfolded, I believe you're going to get the same thing from this president ten years from now with respect to Darfur. He senses that clearly and has instructed the system to start giving him better options because they've generated nothing up to now of any consequence for the people of Darfur.
So we're seeing now, as you're hearing publicly from the president, that he wants the development of a plan, an attempt to create an international strategy to address – principally through diplomacy – the crisis in Darfur, nearly four years after the full-scale war erupted. I'm here to tell you today that there is sadly, after all this time and energy, there is a fatal flaw in the plan that's being developed now as we speak. I fear unless there is new international leverage created and aimed at changing the calculation of the government of Sudan, unless there is a cost imposed on this regime for the crimes against humanity that it has perpetrated in Darfur and for the intransigence it's showing by the way in implementing the peace deal for southern Sudan – which is a side plot that is going to rear its ugly head, I assure you, two years from now when we start to get in the cycle leading up to elections and then of course a referendum that will never occur, because this regime has no interest in letting the south go. Unless we impose a cost to try to change their calculations, to impose that cost for the crimes this regime has committed, I think it would be irrational for the government of Sudan, for this regime, to end the genocide, to accept a revised peace deal for Darfurians, to allow a force somehow involving the United Nations into Darfur. It would be irrational, because at this point there is no challenge. They need to continue with the counterinsurgency operations to ensure they pound the Darfur rebellion into submission, sending the message around to the rest of the country: if you challenge us, herein lies your fate. It's a very rational policy, this genocidal counterinsurgency, and they will continue it as long as there is no resistance.
The million-dollar question is – hopefully you've figured it out – what could give us leverage? What could in fact change the calculations of the government of Sudan so that it would stop the genocide, it would allow a UN force – or a UN-involved force; we're now calling it an international force. It's a nuance of language that I don't disagree with. And would allow for a renegotiation of the Darfur peace agreement, released an amendment to the Darfur peace agreement so it addresses some of the issues Adam brought up – the compensation issue particularly and the disarmament, which is not really the correct word but rather dismantling of the killing machine known corporately as the Janjaweed.
There are a few tools that could give us that leverage. The first one is we need to impose sanctions on the ruling party companies that have been created over the last few years in response to the massive oil bonanza that the country has experienced. These guys are rolling in money. The biggest issue in Khartoum is not what do we do about Darfur, how do we implement the peace deal in the south – it's corruption, because these guys are as bad as any we've seen in Luanda or Abuja. They are stealing the country blind and we've got to put a spotlight on the senior leadership of this ruling party and regime. These are the guys that are stealing blind the country and they have linkages throughout the Middle East and Europe and Asia. They can be influenced if we start to freeze their assets or even shine a spotlight.
Secondly, we've got to ramp up the International Criminal Court investigation. It's one thing that scares them. I was in Khartoum meeting with the president and vice-president when Milosevic went on the dock. It was chilling. We have to turn over our intelligence, even though this administration won't sign the ICC treaty. We need to push it.
Third, capital markets sanctions. Just introduce it legislatively – it will never pass, but I think we need to push it, press it. At least demonstrate to the Chinese and Malaysians and Indians there may be a cost to their share price for complicity in what's happening.
Fourthly, quiet, serious planning to undertake military operations in Darfur if the internally displaced camps are breached and we enter into a Rwanda scenario. The debate changes dramatically if those camps are breached and we're going to have to be prepared to do it.
My final point. I think as the war continues to escalate, and as many have noted, we've reached a tipping point. The bottom line here is if we don't act and impose a cost on this regime for its actions, then hundreds of thousands will die in the next six months while the US stands idly by.
Question & Answer:
Peter Bechtold: Thank you very much, all three panelists. You can imagine that all of us up front here, not just on this panel, are under tremendous time constraints. The time constraint is legitimate but it means that questions such as this one have not been answered. For the non-expert, what is the conflict in Darfur about and who are the principal antagonists? Who are the perpetrators, the victims of violence in Darfur? Why is the government of Sudan so hostile to various peace efforts or agreements? I feel that because I tried to provide some background, this may be addressed to me.
Let me quickly say that in February 2003 a group attacked a station, as Ambassador Carney said, in El Fasher. According to agency estimates, 375 people were killed, mostly police guards. The barracks were burned down and six small aircraft were destroyed on the ground. They are the SLA, the Sudan Liberation Army, composed almost entirely or perhaps entirely of Fur, the indigenous group. Some of their tribal friends are the authors of what is known as the Black Book. The Black Book is available online and it shows that since independence, overwhelmingly the senior positions in the government in Khartoum were controlled by three of the nations – the Nubians, the Shokrya and the Ja'alein.
Second point is that the Justice and Equality Movement joined a few months later. They're composed of different tribal elements, the Zaghawa – and one needs to remember here that the president of Chad is a Zaghawa. Chad has been in a state of civil war for about three decades, off and on. So relations between Chad and Darfur are very complicated.
This brings me to my final introductory comment that I should have made. Darfur is the one part that was added to Sudan by the British in 1916. It was not there in the 1820s and it was the booby prize, as it were, for winning the contest between the British policy of Cairo to Cape Town access versus the French policy of expanding through Equatorial Africa. They collided at the Battle of Fashoda, as some of you may recall from your history books.
There's a great deal of history, but my point again is that in Khartoum, Darfur was not on the radar. Even the south didn't used to be on the radar. It is the southern problem and when it came close to resolution that the western problem erupted. Now that the western problem is on some of the world's agenda, it is the eastern problem of the Beja tribe or confederation. Let me tell you that when I read through the archives in the 1920s and 1930s, the British reported about this, the district commissioners and the regional governors, that when there were good years and there was plenty of rain, the people out west got along just fine. But when there were two or three years of drought in a row, that is when the Misseiria and the Rizeigat and the Fur were having wars. That is when the district commissioners had to come in with a few troops and try to settle it.
It is a human tragedy. It is one that we see in Chad. It is one that we see in Niger. We see it all the way across the Sahelian region of this continent.
Question: For Ambassador Carney, should Egypt play a role in this and if so, what?
Carney: The short answer is yes. Egypt is in fact already playing a role. There is serious concern in Cairo about what's happening in the west. But at the same time there is a great solidarity with the authorities in Khartoum that are the old, politically Islamist government. You'll recall that the peace agreement with the South of last year created a coalition government. So yes, Egypt does have a role. It's not going to go on its own. It's going to be part of probably a broader Arab League effort to be rational in their view in putting together a serious African Union force there.
If I may comment on the first question, let me simply say the best books and articles to read about Darfur are written by Alex De Waal. A Short History of a Long War, with Julie Flint, is one of them. He's really good and he gives you the whole dimension of what's going on there in a way that we can't here.
Question: To Adam Shapiro, what can be done when the rebels seem disunited and are fighting each other? I guess the question refers to the earlier rebel groups that have split up. Perhaps in this connection, if you feel comfortable, you can talk about the Abuja agreement and its partiality.
Shapiro: This is a big problem, as has been indicated, is that the rebel groups do keep splintering. In fact at one point with the Darfur peace agreement, what we saw was the splintering of the SLA and the grasping of opportunity by one of the self-made rebel leaders, who has now found himself a home in Khartoum and is very much working in alliance with the regime and really has very little support in Darfur and certainly not among the displaced and refugee populations.
There is an effort underway by a lot of tribal elders and leaders who have been through these last few years of rebel disunity and factionalism, to try to come together. That's where this group called the G-19 has sort of organized itself. I think they are trying to develop a commonality of position now. We know that the regime in Khartoum has been very effective not just in Darfur but in all of Sudan at splintering and dividing opposition groups, by offering carrots to some and sticks to others. This is a pattern that is repeating itself in Darfur.
I think as an outside force or a party that would try to negotiate or foster negotiations, it's not beyond the scope of the United States or any other potential convener of negotiations to understand the dynamics that are there and to try to make sure that you don't end up with an agreement, as with the DPA, that basically promoted one minor faction within the broader SLA group – promoted him and basically led to intra-fighting in the SLA, which of course led to more civilian deaths and atrocities. I don't think it's beyond the scope or ability of some of our best diplomats to understand this and deal with it in a preemptive manner, not afterwards sort of wring our hands and say, these local people, they can't figure out how to get themselves along.
Question: John Prendergast, there's a whole series of questions. One of them is: you speak a lot about sticks to use with the government of Sudan. What about carrots? A related question is: how can the short attention span in the public be kept alive by playing on similarities to the Holocaust – is it possible or has it been attempted to utilize the influential Jewish lobby in the US and extend the network to maintain the spotlight on humanitarian disaster in Darfur? A related question: the Jewish-evangelical alliance on Darfur has been most noticed in the Middle East. This has hurt the cause of peace in Darfur gravely, says the writer. Jews do not seem to care about the killings that are going on in Israel and Palestine. Why are they so active on Darfur?
Prendergast: The carrots and sticks. First of all, the United States and the European Union have pursued a policy of what I would call gentle persuasion with the government of Sudan, in a very deliberate policy shift from the last administration. The nearest equivalent for us Africanists – there's probably about three in the room – is for many of you, reaching back to your activist roots in the 1980s, will remember President Reagan's policy of constructive engagement with the apartheid regime in South Africa and how the Congress eventually hammered the administration into a different policy, different framework – a pressure-based strategy that ultimately led to the transfer of power and dismantling of apartheid in South Africa.
So we've pursued a policy of constructive engagement and gentle persuasion with the Khartoum regime for one reason, and it's the untold story. The story is that in the 1990s, as Ambassador Carney indicated, Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan. His principal intermediary was a man named Salah Abdallah Ghosh, who happens to be currently the security chief in this government and happens to have been one of the principal architects of the counterinsurgency strategy in Darfur that has led to the deaths of 300,000 people. Last year, to demonstrate our displeasure with people like Salah Abdallah Ghosh and the regime's actions, we flew Mr. Ghosh to Langley so that he could have a private audience with our leading intelligence agents in order to debrief on key and pressing, important counterterrorism objectives.
It would be suicidal in this town, frankly, as an analyst – if I can still grasp onto that title – for one to argue that the United States at this critical juncture of its history geopolitically, should not look under every rock for information that would potentially help us in preventing an attack or in elucidating the networks that Al Qaeda has reconstituted. It's clear from my discussions with officials in this administration that the intelligence and information that Salah Abdallah Ghosh and others in the apparatus in Khartoum are providing us with is valuable information.
So President Bush has clearly stated, as clear as anything we ever said about the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to satellite states, to regimes around the world – you're either with us or against us. We have run head-on the tendency, the impulse the president and congresspersons have to respond to what they call genocide in Darfur – they've run head-on into this [counterterrorism] imperative, the new Cold War. I don't think I'm overstating the case. This is the reason why we haven't acted with any sense of boldness. This is the reason why we have wonderful speeches made by senior officials about this and that, and especially our permanent representative in New York, and we never follow those speeches up. Not once. The Security Council has passed a raft of resolutions authorizing actions against those responsible for the crimes against humanity in Darfur but never imposed a single meaningful measure because we've run into this counterterrorism imperative. That's the bottom line.
So the battle is on between the activists that I assume were somewhat disparaged in the third question, that are principally rooted I would say in student groups around the country, Jewish organizations and Christian groups, though they've reached out and worked very effectively in consultation and collaboration with Muslim organizations, with African-American organizations. To extend the analogy of South Africa, it's an attempt to build a coalition as important and meaningful as that which existed in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s and early 1990s with respect to South Africa.
I don't know who's going to win, frankly – the advocates for the status quo, constructive engagement, gentle persuasion that permeates the system here in the United States and this administration, or those activists who are pressing for the president to live up to the words that he has spoken about "not on his watch" allowing the elaboration of another genocide. We'll see what happens.
Question: Adam, my understanding is there are no good guys in Darfur. Thinking about the day after a peace agreement, how would accountability across all parties be handled? Then, what reason does the government of Sudan give for arming the Janjaweed against the Darfur people? Would it help to send in a non-violent peace force, monitor with cameras, accompanied without weapons, to stop the violence? This has worked in other places. I know you've done that before.
Shapiro: In terms of accountability, the case is in front of the International Criminal Court. As John mentioned earlier, this is something the United States government is not a signatory to but can provide important information and intelligence, as can other countries. The problem as I understand it right now is that the ICC investigators cannot actually get into Sudan to conduct their investigation. As was pointed out, it is the right of the government of Sudan to allow in who they want and keep out who they don't want. I myself went into the country illegally. I crossed the border without any permission and I don't regret having done that in any way.
But in terms of conducting an investigation and holding people accountable, we do need evidence and we do need to collect it. There are certainly the testimonies of the victims and people who are witnesses in Darfur but there needs to be more. This is where pressure from the international community should also be towards holding those people accountable who deserve to be.
In terms of arming the Janjaweed, as far as I know the government of Sudan has actually never taken credit for arming the Janjaweed and has tried to play this off. Has historically played this off as these are just tribal groups who have these ancient fights and battles and all of that. But as John indicated and as you can see when you go to Darfur, the evidence of the kind of weaponry that's been used, these groups don't have the wherewithal to pick up on the black market. There is an extensive black market but there's a lot of weaponry that can't be found.
Additionally, it should be pointed out, it's not just – the principal factor in terms of the violence is not the militias. It is the government of Sudan. It is the government who has the airplanes that are bombing villages first, softening them up, forcing people to flee. It is the military on the ground that is standing around, forcing people out of their villages and then allowing in the Janjaweed militias or whatever you want to call them in afterwards, or providing protection for them as they conduct their campaigns of violence. So it should be noted that it's not just a question of arming, it's not just a question of providing some sort of support. It is the government conducting violence itself.
Finally in terms of an unarmed civilian peace force, I do have experience in organizing and doing that. I don't know how effective we really are. But in terms of doing it in Sudan, all of the factors that make it difficult for an African Union force or a UN force – quadruple that or more than that for a civilian force, because we don't have cars, we don't have a budget. If there are funders or there's a way to implement that logistically, potentially there is a chance that it could be effective. But the question is, as in anywhere else in the world, if I as an American citizen or someone as a British citizen goes as a civilian to try to protect and we then become targets of violence, and our government doesn't do anything about that, then our ability to protect is nil. It is zero. The case some of you may know of Rachel Corrie, who was an American citizen in Gaza, who was killed there, has yet to be an investigation by the United States government, any effort to hold the government of Israel accountable for killing an American citizen. If that happens – and we have no reason to suspect that if an American were killed in Darfur trying to protect a Darfurian citizen that the US government would do anything to hold the government of Sudan accountable. So in that sense, I don't think it would be effective.
Question: Is Andrew Natsios the right man for the job and what is his real role as US special envoy? Also on China, it is buying a lot of oil from Sudan. Do they have any role in resolving the problem and how can they be made to engage as stakeholders in the international system so that they act more responsibly in that part of Africa?
Carney: Andrew Natsios has the job. There is no point talking about whether he's the man for the job or not. He's got it. But I will say this, I understand from Sudanese sources that his most recent visit to Khartoum was very well received. He may not have seen President Bashir but he got high marks.
On the Chinese role, that's a key element of enhanced diplomacy. The Chinese, who want that energy, can be brought to see that they have a role in convincing Khartoum that at the very least a serious international force has to be in Darfur just to prevent the kind of unraveling that John expressed such great concern about.
Let me add a brief comment on an issue that Adam raised, on issues of compensation and impunity. We're talking diya, to use a word that all you Arabists are familiar with. I talked with a magistrate in El Fasher when we were there shooting in Darfur for the book. He argued strongly against using traditional mechanisms because he said a diya payment is essentially camels or what have you from an ethnic group. The individual who is responsible for perpetrating the crime goes unscathed. So this magistrate argued strongly against continuing impunity by using traditional measures of compensation. My reply to him was, you want to change your culture? How long is that going to take? So I'm afraid it's probably going to have to go through diya mechanisms first.
Peter Bechtold: Thank you very much. I've gotten a message to wrap up, undoubtedly not because you are anxious for food, because the food of the mind is always more important than the food for the stomach. We had so many excellent questions about redrawing the boundaries of Sudan, about private military forces coming in. So many other interesting questions and like all moderators it's embarrassing not to be able to answer them all. Please join me in thanking the panel.
About this Transcript:
This panel convened on November 14, 2006 at the National Press Club.