by Jerry Gordon and Deborah Martin
At the start of the fighting season in Sudan, US Ambassador and Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, published a column on November 22, 2016 in the Sudan Tribune on the Darfur Crisis addressed to the Chairman of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), Abdul Wahid al-Nour, Peace in Sudan must not be held hostage to Abdul Wahid. Ambassador Booth chided Abdul Walid for not joining other Darfuri armed resistance groups in refraining from resistance operations and joining peace negotiations with the Islamist Republic of Sudan regime in Khartoum of President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled for 27 years following a military coup. Although at the same time, Ambassador Booth admits he can understand why Abdul Wahid is skeptical of any worthwhile outcomes for his leaving exile in Paris amid new developments of a massive effort by President Bashir and his NCP regime to launch massive ‘ethnic cleansing’ operations in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains with the ultimate objective of creating the Caliphate in Africa. That is the subject of an extensive article in the December 2016 New English Review , SITREP: Could Sudan be the cornerstone of the Caliphate in Africa? co-authored by Lt. General Abakar M. Abdallah, Jerry Gordon and Deborah Martin. SLM Chair al-Nour roared back today with a rebuttal published in the Sudan Tribune entitled: SLM Al-Nour to US Amb. Booth: “Negotiations by Khartoum are illusory.”
Below are US Ambassador Donald Booth’s and SLM Chairman Abdul Walid’s Sudan Tribune sharply contrasting columns.
US Ambassador and Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth
“Peace in Sudan must not be held hostage to Abdul Wahid,” Sudan Tribune, November 22, 2016
By US Ambassador and Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth
Abdul Wahid al-Nour, leader of one of Sudan’s armed opposition groups, has not set foot in his country in over a decade. He spends most of his time directing his armed group in Darfur from a satellite phone in his Paris apartment. His refusal to negotiate has been a perennial problem for international efforts to end the conflict in Sudan, but it has become especially damaging as other parties to the conflict begin moving toward peace.
On October 31, three of the four most prominent armed groups in Sudan committed to a unilateral, six-month cessation of hostilities following a similar commitment from the Sudanese government. While such declarations are not new to Sudan, it is unusual for parties to make that commitment at the outset of the fighting seasons (the dry season in Darfur). In recent months, we have also seen, with the notable exception of the area of Darfur under Abdul Wahid’s control, a reduction in violence and bellicose rhetoric from the negotiating parties.
Yet Abdul Wahid refuses to commit to even a temporary halt in fighting for humanitarian aid to reach the people of Jebel Marra, and he has refused overtures to negotiate with the Government of Sudan or participate in consultations to end the violence. He refused to take part in the Arusha Consultations of August 2007, the Sirte Conference of November 2007, the unification initiative in N’Djamena and Addis Ababa in July-August 2009, and the AU-UN/Qatar Initiative in Doha from 2009-2011.
Abdul Wahid has also boycotted all of the more recent initiatives to end Sudan’s conflicts, including an African Union-led process and recent meetings in Kampala overseen by President Museveni. In August, the leaders of some of the largest armed and unarmed opposition groups signed the African Union-drafted roadmap for future political negotiations, which was previously signed by the government. But Abdul Wahid did not attend.
To be fair, Abdul Wahid has valid reasons to be skeptical of the political process and to distrust a government that has bombed and displaced his people for over a decade. Recent arrests of opposition political party officials in Khartoum are a disturbing setback for those trying to engage in peaceful political competition. But Abdul Wahid’s exclusively military strategy has not advanced his cause and has enabled continued violence to devastate his homeland. Abdul Wahid’s refusal to grant UN peacekeepers permission to address claims of government attacks against civilians in areas that he controls is incomprehensible.
Peace in Sudan must not be held hostage to Abdul Wahid’s refusal to engage. What is needed is an inclusive and comprehensive peace process that involves all actors and addresses the political, security, and humanitarian issues at the root of Sudan’s conflicts. The people of Sudan, and above all the people of Jebel Mara, need Abdul Wahid at the table.
In my own recent visits to Darfur, I spoke with several groups of displaced Darfuris who all said the same thing. They just want the fighting to stop.
It is time for Abdul Wahid to join other opposition groups by declaring a unilateral ? cessation of hostilities, committing to political negotiations, and engaging in genuine efforts to end years of unspeakable violence.
Donald Booth is the United States Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan
Abdul Wahid al-Nour, Chairman, Sudan Liberation Movement
SLM Al-Nour to US Amb. Booth: “Negotiations by Khartoum are illusory,” Sudan Tribune, November 28, 2016
Your calumnious editorial scapegoating me as the primary obstacle to peace in Darfur is so glaringly devoid of truth, morality or fairness that it becomes a caricature of itself, presenting so false a narrative. It does injury to the eye and history to read your slander but it is most of all blood libel to 600,000 dead Darfuris, the vast bulk of them civilians, killed in a deliberate genocide, under a state policy of ethnic cleansing, scorched earth, criminal neglect, death and torture endured by my people.
I therefore must personally condemn and repudiate your tragi-farcical communique in the harshest possible terms not only for its mendacity but ultimately for what verges on criminal incitement in encouraging the Sudanese regime to perpetrate more atrocities. That you issued your missive when incontrovertible evidence has emerged of Sudanese regime use of chemical weapons in Darfur, and you are silent on this point, eviscerates the honest broker persona you portrayed yourself as and leaves you ethically bereft.
Eight years ago, then presidential hopeful Barak Obama at least paid lip service to ending Darfur’s suffering and expressed what seemed at the time, heartfelt empathy, just as George Bush Jr., had earlier first correctly decried the slaughter of my people as genocide but in this the new era of President-elect Trump, it seems the concept of “post-truth” also applies to the US State Department and you too Ambassador Booth in your cynical moral flexibility towards Sudan and Darfur in particular.
Never would I have imagined to see a senior US Diplomat publicly playing apologist for a hardline Islamist dictatorship linked to multiple terror groups, led by the sole sitting president on earth, Omar al Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for Crimes Against Humanity. It is a sinister page turning, Washington softly providing Khartoum carte blanche in an active genocide. You have done nothing less than this, de facto exculpated and legitimized ongoing state terrorism by Sudan against it’s own population. Will you thus admit to the true purpose of your visible efforts to rehabilitate the regime, to which the fate of the Darfuri people is readily sacrificed, where we are subordinate and judged expendable to your aims?
Your bid to enlist Khartoum as an ally against Salafist extremism, while ignoring its own brutal authoritarianism, criminal conduct, enduring linkages and sponsorship of Islamist extremism is as myopically doomed to failure as US humanitarian policy on Darfur is self-evidently, a hollow and un-kept promise, now only more flagrant a betrayal of the democratic principles you a vow to defend, you’ve traded for the expedient Realpolitik you’re peddling. You’ve not only conflated the victim with the victimizer, you have placed us in reverse categories, where those under the bombs are cast as villains and those that drop them are reasonable. The Dystopia is not of our making, it is yours.
You present me as the principal obstacle to peace, as though I were inexplicably and irrationally stubborn in rejecting what are ostensibly, sincere, government peace overtures. You paint me further as someone removed from the struggle of his people, as an aloof figure, suggesting subtly that I have somehow also lost the pulse of my people, as if you knew them better and can more readily speak to their aspirations, heartbreak or indignation than I or the Sudan Liberation Movement can? Shall we walk together in one of the Displaced People’s camps or clamber to a cliff top position to visit SLM fighters or speak to those sheltering from the bombs in the caves? I will show you then if my people still recognize me but I doubt they will have kind words for you.
I live and breathe only to deliver my people from the hell they daily endure to grant them a brighter, more just future where they may live in peace and security. To do so there is no aspect of my existence that isn’t consecrated to this cause. I was born on the soil of Darfur. I bear wounds borne in battle for defending Darfur. My life belongs to Darfur, if needs be, my death too. How dare you attempt to judge me or my people when you do not inhabit our skin or our condition? Yours is the worst possible, faux paternalism and we discard it as a matter of principle for it has the whiff of neo-colonialism. We do not fight because we relish it. We are weary of war and fight only because we are left with no equitable or palatable alternatives. We fight for sheer survival to save ourselves from extermination. We fight alone, largely unheard, unseen, a forgotten, disposable people.
Please elucidate Ambassador Booth how it is possible to enter into a peace dialogue or negotiations in good faith when the relentless brutalization of my people is unceasing? Disingenuously, you admit at the end of your bizarre missive, that I may have cause to distrust the regime for over a decade of genocidal violence against my people. Better to have presented this key truth at the outset of any discourse concerning myself or the SLM’s refusal to engage in the travesty of a peace dialogue with Khartoum, which has never shown itself to be sincere. A priori, my actions and those of the SLM are belligerent, precisely because the regime has to date never abandoned the violent subjugation to my people. We find it distinctly difficult to speak when we are routinely, shot, shelled, bombarded, gassed, tortured or raped.
Even as I write you now, government troops, their partner militias and death squads do their worst in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile State. Negotiations by Khartoum are illusory, they serve only to grant the regime greater leverage in seemingly appearing amenable to dialogue, while the guns continue to speak for the regime, its true language. So long as this remains practice, the SLM will not participate and will continue to boycott any such overtures by Khartoum.
We will happily confine our fighters to their base camps and observe a cessation of hostilities, if the regime withdraws its soldiers and paramilitaries from civilian population centers, if it ceases the practice of extra-judicial summary executions, the use of torture, rape en mass and pledges to never make use of chemical weapons again and submits it’s chemical weapons stockpiles to international inspection for disposal.
The notion that the SLM impedes joint AU-UN so called peacekeeping force access to investigate government atrocities is as ludicrous a premise as stating that the SLM blocks access to humanitarian supplies, when the SLM has begged the international community to end the crippling embargo on essential supplies, which the regime uses as a tool of war to better enable disease and hunger.
Just as the SLM will continue to call for free and open access to the media and human rights investigators, it will also demand a new international force to more ably carry out its duty in Darfur, where it is long overdue to accept that the combined peacekeeping mission in Darfur is an abject failure. The people of Darfur would be thrilled if the blue helmets would actually protect them, but when the mission is starved of the necessary manpower, resources, lacking in a sorely needed peace enforcement mandate, decisive leadership and repeatedly shown itself willing to be Khartoum’s pawn, our hopes are not high.
What truly beggars belief is that you contradict your own experience. Not long ago you met with civil leaders in three IDPs camps, all relaying their omnipresent fears of being attacked, disappeared, tortured or killed by government backed militias, paramilitaries, soldiers or police. You guaranteed their safety for openly meeting with you. All of them were later arrested and their fates as yet remain unknown and are unlikely to have been kind. How has this slipped your memory? We fight for a secular, free and pluralist, democratic Sudan, where sectarian violence and zealotry of every variety, in particular religious, racial or tribal chauvinism and ideological extremism of every stripe will no longer be state policy. We wish for all Sudanese to live in peaceful coexistence, tolerance and equanimity and we do draw partial inspiration from your Civil Rights Movement, your rule of law, democratic process and the unmatched diversity of your civil society.
Ambassador Booth, the people of Darfur will have Abdul Wahid at the negotiating table, when it is just and reasonable for me to occupy such a seat, with the confidence that the human rights, civil rights and dignity of my people and their right to live will not be casually violated as I do so. Self-defence is our God given right as is freedom from wilful stupidity. We will not sacrifice ourselves needlessly when we already die in droves. When the Sudanese regime has shown itself able only to mete out death and destruction, as it duplicitously spoke of peace, your entirely fictive rendition of the reality of Sudan and Darfur will have no bearing on the actions of the SLM. As it is your manipulative, counter-intuitive and cynical reproach, casts serious doubts about your commitment to the well being of the people of Darfur and your truer intentions. As we refuse to become your unwitting pawns, our understanding of our reality will remain lucid, unlike your distorted and utterly false narrative. Americans do not seem to hold answers for Darfur any longer, not that they ever did.
*Abdul Wahid Al-Nur, is the Chairman of Sudan Liberation Movement. He is reachable at: [email protected]