Darfur: Who Will Survive Today?Andrew S. Natsios,
Presidentís Special Envoy for Sudan
Remarks to the National Holocaust Museum - Photography Exhibit
November 20, 2006
Thank you, Tom, for that introduction. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to be here with you today to draw attention to the suffering of the civilian population in Darfur. I want to talk in particular today about how the US government and the international community are working together on a lasting solution to this horrific crisis.
The crisis in Darfur has deep roots. This is the third war of Darfur in the past twenty years. The first war took place between 1986 and 1990 and was between the Fur and Arab tribes. My first trip to Darfur was in 1990 at the end of the conflict when I ran the US government's humanitarian aid effort there to help those affected by the violence. The second war took place between the Massalit and the Arab tribes between 1996 and 1998 and was much more violent than the first war. We are now witnessing a third war, and this one is by far the most devastating. The terrible destructiveness of this war is a result of the central government's arming one group of tribes with heavy weaponry over all others, a rapidly expanding population that has pitted nomads and herders against each other, successive droughts, and desertification, which has put more pressure on fragile land. One of several goals of the Bush Administration is to try to fashion a structure of peace, which will avoid a fourth war five years from now.
As these pictures will indicate and as we already know, the security situation for civilians on the ground is getting worse after a reduction in violence in 2005 and the first half of 2006 following the massive violence and atrocities of 2004. We know that at least 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million people--about one-third of Darfur's population--have been terrorized and brutally driven from their homes, some across borders. Villages have been burned to ensure that people cannot return home and if they survive, they are many times forced into IDP or refugee camps where they are dependent on international assistance to survive.
The US has undertaken significant efforts to enhance security and protect the civilian population in Darfur and has been the leading provider of humanitarian aid and relief to victims of violence in Darfur since the crisis started in 2003. In the past three years, the United States has provided more than $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance to victims of the Darfur crisis, 60% of the total. According to the UN, more than 220,000 refugees from Darfur are in Chad with 1.9 million people internally displaced (out of a population of 6.5 million in Darfur).
We have considerable evidence that our assistance to displaced persons and refugees in camps has resulted in a lower mortality level in the camps than in villages where assistance is not being provided. Preliminary results of the third Darfur Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment conducted in September 2006 show that child malnutrition has held steady and mortality rates decreased for two consecutive years. Though, malnutrition for children under five years has increased slightly-from 11.9 percent in 2005 to 13.1 percent in 2006).
Lack of access to affected populations is a major constraint in providing humanitarian assistance such as food, water and shelter. The Darfur town of Geneina sits 1000 miles from the Port of Sudan, 1500 miles from Djibouti and 1400 miles from the Mediterranean Sea Coast. There are few paved roads to or in Darfur; it is in one of the most inaccessible areas of the world. Yet humanitarian supplies must get through.
Humanitarian operations have also been severely hampered by a high level of insecurity due to confrontations between warring factions and an increasing number of violent hijackings of humanitarian vehicles. It is clear that order has broken down and that some of the violence against humanitarian agencies is purely criminal as a war economy develops which rewards kidnapping, killing, looting, and stealing. Between July and September of this year 21 humanitarian vehicles were hijacked and 31 convoys ambushed and looted during which six humanitarian workers were killed. To date twelve humanitarian workers have been killed by the recurring violence, and most recently there were 9 car-jackings of NGO vehicles in one day.
In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, the international community is actively supporting peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. The United States is a major supporter of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which has been deployed to Darfur since 2004 to provide monitoring and security for civilians there. Over the past two years, the United States has provided over $300 million to build, operate, and maintain 34 base camps for the African Union's 7,000 strong peacekeeping force in Darfur. The United States also provides vehicle and communications maintenance, as well as pre-deployment training and strategic airlift for some of the troops in AMIS.
The US is working both bilaterally and multilaterally to resolve the conflict in Darfur and is cooperating with many other international institutions-the UN, AU, and other national political leaders--to broker a political solution to end the violence and continue support for a broad, effective and sustained implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
In May 2006, the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed between the Sudanese Government and a faction of the SLM. However, other rebel groups have not signed the agreement and have continued to fight the signatories and other splinter groups. We now have eight separate rebel groups operating in Darfur, a major factor in the growing chaos in the North, complicating peace negotiations.
Violence has in fact escalated since the signing of the DPA. In the past two weeks regional violence has created more than 27,000 new IDPs in Darfur and eastern Chad. Without broadening the ethnic and factional support for the agreements, there will be no peace. AMIS has reached the limits of its capacity and has not been able to provide the level of security necessary to protect civilian populations.
Humanitarian access remains impeded in some cases and is worsening. The number of food aid recipients that could not be reached rose from 155,000 people in September of this year to 274,000 people in October. Several international aid organizations have withdrawn from Darfur in recent months due to increased insecurity, harassment by the government of Sudan, and a lack of access to vulnerable groups. If this continues, many more will suffer and die.
On August 31st of this year, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1706, authorizing the expansion of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to Darfur and effectively adding up to 17,000 additional peacekeeping troops. The Sudanese government has not accepted the UN resolution and the AMIS peacekeeping mandate has been extended through December 31, 2006.
Our highest priority continues to be protecting the civilian population and bringing an end to the violence more immediately, through a real cease-fire so that, security and stability can be achieved, the displaced can rebuild the homes that they lost, and restoration of lives and livelihoods can begin. We believe that by implementing the broad terms of UNSC Resolution 1706, we can achieve both security and humanitarian access. Its implementation will create the conditions that will assist us in reaching vulnerable populations with humanitarian assistance. It will also allow all parties to explore a lasting solution by addressing the root causes of the crisis.
For this reason, I am very pleased to report that in a meeting that I attended last Thursday at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, representatives of the international community reached agreement and approved a consensus framework for protecting victims of the atrocities in Darfur and for resolving the political crisis. I want to affirm the strong and effective leadership of Kofi Annan and Alpha Omar Konare at the Addis conference, which I believe has moved us forward several more steps toward a strategy that will end the killing and bring peace.
In the consensus document, representatives from the UK, France, China, Russia, the US, the EU, several African and Arab nations, the AU, and the Arab League, affirmed the major elements of UNSC Resolution 1706. This includes the expansion of the peacekeeping force in Darfur to 17,000 troops and 3,000 police from approximately 7,000 today. The force would be primarily African in composition and commanded by an African general. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, the senior political officer in the country, and the PKO force commander would be jointly appointed by the UN and AU. This hybrid organization transfers PKO command and control to the United Nations and mandates UN backstop support, logistics, and communications systems. The plan provides for UN funding for the Darfur peacekeeping operation.
While the Sudanese government has accepted portions of the Addis agreement, it has not endorsed it in its entirety. We urge them to do so now. Our policy is to move quickly now to implement the Addis framework; enhance AMIS capacity to operate; deploy a 17,000 soldier hybrid force; establish a real cease-fire with an enforcement mechanism; provide security and access for humanitarian assistance; re-energize the peace process by adding protocols to the DPA which will bring most of the non-signatories into the May agreement; provide international support for the voluntary and orderly resettlement and repatriation of IDPs and refugees to their original land; and then begin the reconstruction and long-term development process to deal with the destitution and marginalization which has exacerbated the conflict. Finally, any peace plan must include the disarmament of the Arab and rebel militias, particularly of heavy weaponry, and a dismantling of the structures of violence that have oppressed the people of Darfur for too long. This can only be accomplished by a neutral international peacekeeping force with experience in disarmament operations.
I want to in particular commend to you the thoughtful piece written by Julie Flynt in the Sunday Washington Post, in which she describes the destitution among the northern Arab tribes, the Rizigat Addala, an issue which has been completely ignored by the international system and which must be addressed. All tribes and all ethnic groups must be part of any reconstruction and development plan for the province or there will be no real long -term peace in Darfur.
Time is running out; I believe we have until the end of the year to put in place a structure of peace or the crisis could once again spiral out of control as it did in 2004 and reach a new stage of destructiveness and violence.
Released on November 22, 2006