The leadership of the mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement and Sudan Liberation Army (SLM/A-AW) welcomes the global call by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a cessation of all armed conflict across the planet in order to bring about more effective collective countermeasures and rational cooperation between state and non-state actors to defeat the lethal scourge of the Corona Virus pestilence ravaging all of humanity. In his humanist sentiments for the common good we cannot fault the Secretary General. There is nonetheless a profound divergence between perception and empirical fact salient to Darfur we cannot fail to address. Our first frame of reference on this grave point was revealed in the recent public statement by Guterres that correctly made mention of the dire humanitarian conditions facing refugees in South Sudan, leaving them dangerously more exposed to the threat of COVID-19, but curiously he did not specifically address or acknowledge the peril confronted by the refugees and internally displaced people in as great danger in Darfur.
Instead, words of assurance issued by UNAMID Joint Special Representative, Jeremiah Mamabolo, over Darfur were uttered only after the SLM itself had issued an urgent communique on the pressing need for emergency COVID-19 preventive health and safety measures to be implemented on behalf of Darfuri refugees and IDP’s on March 19th, an appeal the international community and world media as ever otherwise completely ignored, to include the UN Secretariat and UNAMID. And worth noting the appeal by the SLM came before the World Health Organization issued its own warning over the danger COVID-19 poses to the African continent as a whole.
The SLM does not for one instant downplay the risk faced by the civilian population of Darfur nor its unabated suffering, where ending the plight of our millions of brethren shattered and living in misery because of an unpunished genocide, that are nothing less than our very own families, dear friends and neighbors, alongside our larger national not solely regional anchoring goal to bring about liberation and true secular democracy for all the people of Sudan, is our very raison d’etre. Thus we need no instruction from New York as to what constitutes a moral call to action, as it was never with joy that we took up arms but instead only with desperate necessity and the sacred imperative of self-defense against state terror and the crushing generational marginalization of our people framed in a racist, class and extremist Islamist rationale, that also amounted to war by other means from an illegitimate government against its own population.
We have dug nearly six hundred thousand graves to bury our own mostly civilian victims felled by the murderous policies of the ousted regime of deposed war criminal Omar al Bashir. That we have lamented repeatedly the UN has inexplicably fixed the death toll of genocide at half the true figure since 2008, to be answered only by silence over this protest, is instructive in gauging the greater complexity correlating to the inescapable reality of Darfur’s and Sudan’s national condition neither Guterres or Mababolo have adequately acknowledged making their gesture in practice little more than a hollow public relations exercise. By any objective criteria the now skeletal UNAMID remains a failed mission and we will not confuse the theater of public posturing with inescapable fact.
What we see in play once more in a tired repetitive pattern is the gulf between the UN’s rhetoric and tangible action, that still seeks to characterize the SLM as the sole obstacle to peace, as have in the past many other outside actors for their own self-serving geopolitical interests, that does not correspond to either the true nature of events in either Darfur or Sudan as a whole. The most glaring fallacy that determines all else, puts forth the myth that the interim government of Sudan is a genuine transition to civilian democracy.
No matter Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s well intentioned efforts, his administration wields little more than symbolic power, where the true authority and determination in all aspects of governance and state policy remains in the hands of the leadership of the Sudanese Armed Forces, most of all the former Janjaweed genocidaire militias now formally rechristened as the Rapid Support Forces, other remaining blood stained components of the national security, police and intelligence apparatus with little democratic vocation and their partner civilian as compromised civilian ancien regime, oligarchical and political cronies, that provide a rubber stamp semblance of legitimacy to Khartoum as before. Moreover, Hamdok’s hamstrung cabinet does not rule with a mandate granted by popular sovereignty, as neither a transparent snap election nor the national referendum we urged, ever transpired. It is a government entirely lacking in legitimacy and does not reflect the will of the vast majority of the Sudanese people. In practical terms because the interim government inherited a wrecked national infrastructure and ruined economy as al Bashir’s disastrous legacy, where endemic corruption and kleptocratic practices remain widespread, especially in the highest echelons of power, the true capacity of the interim government to affect concrete change is a delusional mirage.
Framing this state of dysfunction, despite the noble efforts of a handful of its members themselves facing coercion from those in uniform, is a largely toothless judiciary, primarily also a leftover in its composition from the previous dictatorship, mostly lacking in unbiased civic vocation, as are most state governments, not unlike how many remnants of the German courts and other state officials in the post-war period were holdovers from the Nazi era well into the 1960’s. Sudan needs to undergo its own equivalent process of de-Nazification to clear out the dead wood and build a new living functional state based on the pillars of a new free society the entire nation longs to build.
So we can have no confidence whatsoever in Mababolo’s assurances that UNAMID will work closely with Hamdok’s government to bring relief to the people of Darfur most at risk in the refugee and IDP camps, as well as other civilian population centers in sore need of humanitarian and medical assistance. It is tantamount to attempting to put out a massive brushfire with only a few buckets of water. Neither is it a source of comfort that the already reduced now skeletal UNAMID that never delivered consistent security to the people of Darfur will continue its drawdown and imminent withdrawal contrary to its unfulfilled mission and the self-evident need for it to remain all the more so now. Yet the UN Secretariat continues to deliberate over the notion of an even smaller follow up mission consisting of solely civilian police, with the bulk of the security taskings allotted to the Sudanese state, which will inevitably fall primarily to the Rapid Support Forces, like leaving the security of Jewish refugees who survived the Holocaust under the care of the SS.
But Guterres and Mababolo need only ask the people of Darfur themselves if they have confidence in their promises, as they remain prey to incessant attack, rape and pillage by their old tormentors in the RSF and their partner thug militias, and continue to raise their own voices in anger and protest without any need for us to exhort them to do so. And the question still stands as the SLM recently urged on March 19th, despite the ostensibly good intentions of the UN, why has the UN Security Council done nothing to ensure that the humanitarian embargo on Darfur first imposed by al Bashir has not been lifted? And surely the UN has not undergone amnesia and failed to notice how over the years the SLM had repeatedly called on the UN to bolster troop numbers and resources for UNAMID together with a more appropriate and muscular peace enforcement mandate rather than the entirely inadequate peacekeeping mission parameters it abided by.
We have forgotten nothing and do not fail to see how ongoing fraught peace negotiations the UN wishes us to join are as ever primarily a cosmetic exercise, a component of the façade to better legitimize a transitional government that lacks genuine sovereignty. As we have clearly stated the SLM will only participate in full negotiations when all stakeholders will have a true, unfettered voice at both the regional and national level and no longer under the gun of the forces of the old order. The path to a free society cannot be walked upon when the society itself remains captive at the mercy of death squads, jailers and torturers. The pages written in blood by the previous regime and the new crimes perpetrated by the forces of repression holding the true reins of power in Khartoum cannot simply be wished away and our adamant refusal is undertaken lucidly.
We will remain steadfast in not joining an illusory state of affairs and are morally secure in our decision because the dead of Darfur, the fallen in South Kordofan and Blue Nile State, and the victims of the slaughter that took place during the government crackdown against People’s Revolution last summer implore us not to compromise. After the deaths of so many innocents, only justice and democracy will do and we are not yet at the wished for reckoning where a truth and reconciliation process may truly be undertaken in good faith, as truth itself remains a casualty.
We can assure the UN, however, as is clearly established that the SLA will continue to exercise a de facto ceasefire and not engage in offensive operations. When we continue to call for the humanitarian embargo to be lifted on Darfur and implore the UN not to withdraw UNAMID but instead reinforce it, as we have recently urged UNAMID and the international community at large to swiftly undertake an emergency effort to save Darfuri lives from COVID-19 infestation, we offer our solemn vow we will not impede any such efforts and would welcome them.
Moreover, as is also clearly indisputably on the record for many years as a tangible fact, we do not wage war nor ever take hostile action against UN peacekeepers, and this is a longstanding policy and a formal directive codified in the rules of engagement and standing orders of all SLA self-defense forces, that other resistance forces in Darfur did not follow themselves. We are a non-state army but we will continue to abide by the civilized rules of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, something the state forces of Sudan cannot claim themselves. We will not stop being the protective shield for the people of Darfur and Sudan both and whenever facing hostile incursion by the RSF or other armed aggressors against us and civilians, we will not refrain from responding with the necessary defensive measures resolutely.
We pray, reason, truth, justice and compassion will prevail but we refuse to live in a manufactured parallel reality that does not correspond to the true nature of events in both Darfur and Sudan. Time will tell if the UN and UNAMID are both true to their word. Rest assured we will keep ours.
May a merciful God have mercy on all of humanity in this terrible page turning and catastrophe for the entire planet. May developed nations and the rich great powers of the world, strengthen the purpose of civilization and the meaning of a universal humanity, by not failing to come to the aid of their fellow human beings in the developing world; when we will all weep together for the losses yet to come that will anguish every human heart, because the blood that courses through them is all the same color, as we are only one humanity.
Sincerely, Abdul Wahid al Nur
Chairman Sudan Liberation Movement & Commander in Chief Sudan Liberation Army