By Eric Reeves
The Trump administration—staffed by fools and arrogant blowhards, and without a functioning Africa Bureau at the State Department, or even an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs—gives clear evidence of preparing the way for a permanent lifting of U.S. economic sanctions on the genocidal regime in Khartoum, even as that regime continues to deny in highly consequential ways humanitarian assistance to more than two million people in Sudan. This figure includes refugees from Darfur in eastern Chad), South Kordofan (primarily in South Sudan, and Blue Nile (primarily in Ethiopia); the number is much larger if we include Eastern Sudan, where the regime has proved relentless in expelling or excluding international humanitarian organizations—see Appendix A). The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicates that well over two million Sudanese suffer from “Acute Malnutrition”; figures from UNICEF for children under five suggest a malnutrition crisis much, much larger (see | “An Internal UNICEF Malnutrition Report on Sudan and Darfur: Why have these data been withheld?” | September 5, 2014 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1pL/).
The latest evidence of a determination to lift sanctions comes in the form of an August 28, 2017 statement from Khartoum by Mark Green, Administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID):
In particular, we are hoping to see progress on the humanitarian access right here in North Darfur. We are at a critical point in Sudan. There is still a need for life-saving humanitarian assistance, and we hope to see a successful resolution to the conflicts in Darfur and the Two Areas.
Today, I will be also visiting internally displaced people, people to whom USAID and its partners are giving critical assistance. I want to underscore—America will not walk away from our commitment to humanitarian assistance, and we will always stand with people everywhere when a disaster or humanitarian crisis strikes, for that is who we are as Americans.
Pious, unctuous words in defending the indefensible decision that is now impending.
What was not said by Administrator Green:
Green made no mention of the vast cholera epidemic sweeping Sudan, now for over a year. Indeed, his USAID cannot bring itself to use the word “cholera,” but rather follows fecklessly the UN’s World Health Organization and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs—referring to the cholera pandemic as cases of “acute watery diarrhea—this in deference to Khartoum’s insistence that Sudan not be stigmatized by the presence of cholera. No matter that cholera rages in neighboring Yemen and South Sudan and all evidence to date points clearly to a cholera epidemic: the U.S. is content to defer to this brutal regime’s sensibilities.
Failure by the UN and USAID to speak honestly about cholera in Sudan (#Cholera_In_Sudan) makes impossible an adequate international response, including massive supplies of re-hydration equipment; physicians who specialize in infectious diseases, particularly cholera; specialists in cholera epidemiology; and a broad public education program.
More than 3 million people in Darfur who are in urgent need of humanitarian aid; yet according to one highly knowledgeable person from the humanitarian community working in Darfur, with a great deal of experience on the ground, as many as 1 million of these people are still denied humanitarian access by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime. This is why we see constant reports such as the following:
The cholera infection rates are rapidly increasing in East Jebel Marra in South Darfur. Last week, more than 300 new patients were recorded in the locality. Dozens of them died.
“The situation definitely requires intervention by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and other humanitarian organisations,” he said. “Since the outbreak of cholera in the locality on August 22, the number of infections reached 316. Dozens of them died.” Abusharati said that there are no humanitarian organisations or doctors operating in the area. “There are health assistants providing first aid in the areas of Sabi, Rokona, Deribat, Lebei, and Duwa only.” (Radio Dabanga, August 28, 2017 | EAST JEBEL MARRA / KASS / NIERTETI / KALMA)
We may be sure that in his tightly controlled visit and extremely brief visit to North Darfur, Green saw none of this.
Green, during his Military Intelligence-overseen trip to Darfur, saw Zamzam camp in North Darfur, the largest in the state. One wonders whether he has read the various statements by the Khartoum regime about its plans to dismantle such camps, with extraordinarily threatening and destructive consequences. Second Vice-President Hassabo Mohamed Abdelrahman in December 2015—a little over a year and a half ago—gave voice to the regime’s views:
In a speech delivered before the representatives of former rebel groups and IDPs in El-Fasher, North Darfur on Monday, [Second Vice-President Hassabo Mohamed Abdelrahman] said Darfur has “completely recovered from the war and is now looking forward to achieve a full peace, stability and development.”
“IDP camps represent a significant and unfortunate loss of dignity and rights of citizens in their country” he said and called on the displaced “to choose within no more than a month between resettlement or return to their original areas.”
He further reiterated his government’s commitment to take all the measures and do the needful to achieve this goal, stressing that “the year 2016 will see the end of displacement in Darfur.” Abdel Rahman told the meeting that he has just ended a visit to Karnoi and Tina areas in North Darfur, adding the two areas which were affected by the conflict have totally recovered. He said his visit with a big delegation to the two areas “is a message sceptics in the fact that security and stability are back in Darfur”… (Sudan Tribune, December 28, 2015 | El Fasher, North Darfur)
When UNAMID is finished with its current round of deployments, and the U.S. under the callous and ignorant Trump administration has permanently lifted sanctions, we may be sure that Hassabo’s plans will be put into action—often violently.
[See | Assaults on Camps for the Displaced in Darfur: History Makes Clear They Will Increase, August 27, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-25W/]
Again, Green’s exceedingly brief “show the flag” mission was to make the decision to lift economic sanctions on the Khartoum regime somehow more palatable—and to second the words of the ignorant and duplicitous U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis.
[See | “U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Khartoum Steven Koutsis: Dishonest, Tendentious, Misleading” | Sudan Tribune | June 28, 2017 | [ http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article62859/].
It will, of course, do nothing to alleviate the suffering of those who continue to suffer under the Khartoum-imposed humanitarian embargo on areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North, where people—especially children—are dying from starvation.
The following email from Dr. Tom Catena of the Mother of Mercy Hospital near Kauda in the Nuba Mountains came to me on August 18, 2017:
The food shortages here are very severe. We’re now in the usual “hunger gap” period which goes from late June through end of August every year. We usually gauge the level of food shortages by when the village women show up at the hospital gates asking to work in exchange for food. Normally the women start coming in June and are gone by the end of August. This year, we’re had large numbers of women lining up at the hospital gates starting in February and there are still large numbers there every day.
Our hospital matron has been working hard trying to find work for them in exchange for a couple malwas of sorghum. Even our staff have run out of food and buying enough in the market is not feasible given the high cost of the food there. We are doing our best to take care of as many as possible. We arranged to buy a quantity of sorghum from a market several hours from here in order to help our staff who were out of food. The number of malnutrition cases on our pediatric ward is way up this year. We normally have 8 to 10 malnourished children at any one time whereas now we have 25 or so on the wards. God knows how many are in the villages and not coming for evaluation…
Khartoum refuses to negotiate in good faith the delivery of food to these people and has refused for over six years. Green’s statement declares vaguely that “we hope to see a successful resolution to the conflicts in Darfur and the Two Areas.” But it is clear that there is no will to confront Khartoum over its continuation of a humanitarian embargo used as a weapon of war against the SPLM/A-North, no matter how many civilians die as a consequence. That this clear and fundamental fact is glossed over by Green should remind us of the closing days of the Obama administration, when then UN Ambassador Samantha Power declared—falsely—that there had been a “sea change” of improvement of humanitarian access in Sudan.
The Realities of Humanitarian Access in Sudan
To argue as the Obama and Trump administrations have in working to defend a lifting of U.S. economic sanctions on Sudan entails ignoring not only the ghastly realities created by the six-year humanitarian embargo directed against the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, but the all-too regular reports from Darfur on humanitarian shortcomings that are typically a result of restrictions of one sort or another imposed by Khartoum:
• Malnutrition cases increasing among Darfur IDPs: official | Sudan Tribune | July 14, 2017 (NYALA) http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article62990
A growing number of children and elderly are malnourished at Darfur camps for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) due to the reduction of food rations provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), said IDPs official. In its weekly bulletin on 24 June, the U.N Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said a recent survey conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found critical levels of acute malnutrition in Jebel Marra….
• Cholera update: Displaced people in Darfur especially vulnerable | Radio Dabanga | July 13, 2017 | DARFUR / SOUTH KORDOFAN / EL GENEINA / TOKAR | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/cholera-update-displaced-people-in-darfur-especially-vulnerable
On Monday six people died at Kabkabiya hospital in North Darfur of cholera, while on Tuesday the isolation centre reported 18 new cases of the disease, bringing the total number of hospitalised cases to 28. More deaths and infections have been reported from across Sudan. The Coordinator of Kabkabiya camps told Radio Dabanga that four of the dead were displaced persons residing at El Salam, Midan El Kheil and Hay El Salam camps, while the other two were residing in the western and northern areas of Kabkabiya.
He pointed out that there is only one medical assistant for all infection cases in the hospital. He said the local authorities have not responded to their repeated demands to spray the camp and specify the health centre for cases of cholera.
• Woman dies giving birth, care lacking in Jebel Marra | Radio Dabanga | July 14, 2017 | DERIBAT | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/woman-dies-giving-birth-care-lacking-in-jebel-marra
A woman died in labour in a village near Deribat in East Jebel Marra on Wednesday. There was no adequate medical care or an ambulance available. The woman died in Talba, north of Deribat, in the most mountainous area of Darfur. One of her relatives told Radio Dabanga that there was no adequate medical care, or an ambulance to transport her to El Fasher. “There has been a lack of health facilities in Jebel Marra recently. This causes an increase in the mortality rates of pregnant women and women in labour in this area,” he said.
Medical sources reported that health services are “entirely absent” in large parts of East Jebel Marra, while the government of South Darfur continues to deny medics access to the area. In 2015, the federal Ministry of Health in South Darfur reported it has the highest maternal mortality rate in Sudan, without the government being able to reduce the figures.
• Darfur’s East Jebel Marra devoid of health services, 30 die of cholera | Radio Dabanga | July 10, 2017 | DARFUR / NORTH KORDOFAN / EASTERN SUDAN | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/darfur-s-east-jebel-marra-devoid-of-health-services-30-die-of-cholera
Medical sources in South Darfur reported that more than 30 people died of cholera and at least 50 others have been infected in East Jebel Marra locality during the first week of July. The disease has spread to Liba, Jasu, Fugouli, Rakona, Dolda, Sawani, Duwo, and Fina, they said.
The sources confirmed that health services are “entirely absent” in large parts of East Jebel Marra, while the government of South Darfur continues to deny medics access to the area. They called on the federal health authorities, the international community, especially the World Health Organisation, to act to allow health actors access to the locality to save the lives of people.
• Cholera update: Nine die in West Darfur camp | Radio Dabanga | July 7, 2017 | MURNEI / SHEARIA / KABKABIYA / SENNAR | https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/cholera-update-nine-people-die-in-west-darfur-camp
One person died of cholera and four others were infected at Khazan Jadeed area in Shearia, East Darfur, on Wednesday. Omda Jaafar told Radio Dabanga that the medical isolation centre has seen eight patients die from cholera since the disease broke out in the area on 6 June. He said that so far there had been 102 cases of cholera. 88 people recovered from the disease. Fourteen are still being treated. “I am concerned about the increase in the number of cases because of the residents’ dependence on drinking water, which is unsafe.”
[Sanitation and provision of clean water have been critical tasks on the part of international humanitarian organizations—when they have access—ER]
[See also |
#Cholera_In_Sudan: An important dispatch from Radio Dabanga gives some sense of what is now exploding in Darfur | August 22, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-25S/]
Rewarding Policies that Starve Children in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan | Sudan Tribune | August 22, 2017 | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article6328
The U.S. intelligence community, and its lust for whatever “counter-terrorism” intelligence the Khartoum regime is putatively able to provide, defines U.S. Sudan policy under the Trump administration, as it did for the entirety of the Obama administration and most of the administration of George W. Bush. And the U.S. intelligence community—largely but not entirely invisibly—simply doesn’t care about children starving to death in the Nuba Mountains, or the continuing rape of girls and women in Darfur, or the costs of allowing the deadly silence concerning cholera to continue. It does not care that the Khartoum regime is a vast kleptocracy, forcing on the people of Sudan policies that have put the economy in an irreversible spiral downward. This economic decline is of little matter to the men in power, so long as they control the national budget, in which over half of national resources are devoted to the military and security services.
In the eyes of the U.S. intelligence community—and European countries desperate to stem the flow of African migrants to the European continent—the Khartoum regime will remain in power for the foreseeable future. That this calculation may be wrong—that economic distress has brought the Sudanese people to the point of insurrection—doesn’t concern the U.S. intelligence community: it is collectively confident that some modus vivendi can be fashioned with whatever political arrangement succeeds the NIF/NCP. Perhaps it will be costly, but the costs can be absorbed by the huge budget now commanded by the intelligence community, directly and indirectly.
Very few in the Congress have had the courage and insight displayed years ago by then Senator Russ Feingold, as he saw U.S. Sudan policy from his position as chair of the Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Intelligence Committee. In the intervening years, Feingold’s words have proved continually accurate and prescient:
“I take serious issue with the way the report [on international terrorism by the U.S. State Department] overstates the level of cooperation in our counterterrorism relationship with Sudan, a nation which the U.S. classifies as a state sponsor of terrorism. A more accurate assessment is important not only for effectively countering terrorism in the region, but as part of a review of our overall policy toward Sudan, including U.S. pressure to address the ongoing crisis in Darfur and maintain the fragile peace between the North and the South.” (emphasis added) (Statement by Senator Russell Feingold, Chair of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations, May 1, 2009)
No Senate contest in the November 2016 elections was more dispiriting or consequential for Sudan than the defeat of Feingold in his bid to reclaim his Senate seat from Wisconsin.
Reporting on humanitarian conditions in Eastern Sudan is almost non-existent, aside from reporting by Sudan Tribune and Radio Dabanga about water shortages and the spread of cholera. There is an explanation.
In May of 2012 the regime expelled, without meaningful explanation, seven international humanitarian organizations working in eastern Sudan, one of the poorest and most severely marginalized of all the regions in Sudan. Sudan Tribune reported at the time:
Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) [Suleiman Abdel Rahman] has ordered seven foreign aid groups to suspend their humanitarian activities in eastern Sudan following the findings of an assessment study reporting infractions they allegedly committed. [The decision ended] the humanitarian activities of the seven aid groups in the three states of Eastern Sudan region: Kassala; Red Sea and Gadaref states. [The seven organizations are] Accord, Goal, Triangle, Save the Children, Plan Sudan, Malo, a British demining group, and a Japanese aid group. [The charge was that] the groups exceeded their license and roles.
We were able to get a chilling sense of Khartoum’s attitude toward foreign humanitarian assistance from words of Nafie Ali Nafie earlier that month, also from Sudan Tribune:
Earlier in May , addressing a rally organised in Port Sudan to provide support to the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie denounced calls for the return of NGOs to South Kordofan and described them [as] “trumpeters of conspiracy.” “Those who covet that foreign aid groups [secure] a foothold in the East (Sudan) … should know there is no place for them,” he further said.
This absurd propaganda—part of a long-term campaign to demonize international aid organizations as fronts for spies, Zionist infiltrators, and self-enriching opportunists—was designed to cover the regime’s real motives, which include a primary desire that there be as few foreign eyes on the ground in Sudan as possible bearing witness to gross negligence and the most egregious violations of international law. There was also a desire to punish and weaken the people of eastern Sudan for their support of the South during the long civil war.
This is what lay behind the subsequent and further suspension of humanitarian activities in eastern Sudan, in this case a UN jobs and assistance project (“UN aid programmes suspended in east Sudan,” Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], March 26, 2014):
The programme’s beneficiaries are among 6.1 million people—18% of the population—needing humanitarian assistance in Sudan.