Khartoum’s Strategy for Completing the Destruction of Jebel Marra: A relentless assault on civilians


Eric Reeves | March 3, 2016 |

Figures for the number of civilians displaced by the Khartoum regime's Jebel Marra offensive continue to fluctuate, but move relentlessly upward. All evidence suggests that the figure is now well in excess of 100,000 people and continues to grow; most have fled to various parts of North Darfur. Both the UN Jebel Marra Crisis Fact Sheet and the Swiss-based Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) reported in late February a figure of more than 100,000 displaced persons. This brings the total figure for the number of displaced in Darfur to over 2.7 million displace persons, the highest figure since the outbreak of violence in 2003-and this is still likely an underestimate (the UN estimate for the end of 2015 was 2.6 million Internally Displaced Persons, based primarily on WFP registrations in camps that are continually receiving new fleeing civilians).


Ninety percent of the civilians appearing in locations where their numbers can be assessed are women and children---an ominous figure

Khartoum continues to deny humanitarian access to the Jebel Marra region, thus denying assessment of the populations in Central Darfur, as well as among those who have fled west and northwest. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports in its latest Humanitarian Bulletin:

Aid organisations are still unable to identify how many people have been displaced in Central Darfur as a result of the conflict in Jebel Marra and assess their needs. Since 24 January [2016], five requests for inter-agency missions were submitted to authorities, of which four were rejected and one is pending. The United Nations continues to advocate with HAC to include humanitarian partners in the verification of IDPs and to allow inter-agency are being reported, including in Nierteti, Thur, Golo, Guldo, Boori and Wadi Boori. (February 21, 2016)

This denial is deliberate. It is a means of compelling civilian flight or destruction. So, too, is the deliberate destruction of deserted villages, a tactic that ensures the impossibility of return:

Barrel bombs kill 13, deserted villages torched in Jebel Marra, Darfur | March 2, 2016 | GOLO

On Wednesday morning [March 2, 2016] 13 people, including four children, were killed in an aerial bombardment on the area east of Golo in Jebel Marra. On Tuesday [March 1, 2016], a number of abandoned villages northwest of Golo were attacked by the Sudanese Air Force and government forces.



As has been the case throughout the Darfur genocide, the destruction of non-Arab/African villages has been comprehensive

These tactics are genocidal in nature because those targeted are known to be primarily of African (non-Arab) Fur ethnicity-and they are targeted as such. They are, in the words of regime Second Vice President Hassabo, mere "insects" and "all of them are to be killed" (see Human Right Watch, "Men with No Mercy | September 2015).


Second Vice President of the Khartoum regime, Hassabo Abdel Rahman: Referred to the non-Arab African peoples of East Jebel Marra and Jebel Marra as "insects"

Many of those who fled higher into the Jebel Marra massif are also certainly not included in the figures for displacement, nor are the many civilian casualties. Children are particularly vulnerable to the indiscriminate bombing, to the relentless ground assaults, to militia attacks on and obstruction of fleeing civilians, and to the harsh conditions into which their families have fled. We catch only a glimpse of this destruction in dispatches from the region by Radio Dabanga.

Darfur: ‘No time to flee bombers' in Jebel Marra | February 21, 2016 | JEBEL MARRA

A basic school was destroyed in an air raid on Tireinay village in Jebel Marra on Thursday. Health assistants found 361 severely malnourished children among the people hiding near the mountain peak.

The Sudanese Air Force has reportedly changed its attack strategy: the Antonovs now hit targets directly, instead of circling above the area as before. People no longer have the time any more to seek shelter.

The new attack strategy by Antonov "bombers" (militarily useless because of their extreme inaccuracy) is to attack without warning and thus not simply to instill terror but to maximize the civilian destructiveness of their crude, shrapnel-loaded barrel bombs-bombs that send out a hail of deadly metal in all directions on impact.


The infamous Anotonov (An-26), which is responsible for countless indiscriminate aerial assaults on civilians in Darfur, and also South Kordofan and Blue Nile

We are unlikely to hear of most deaths, and certainly not from the UN, which has failed to report mortality figures of any kind for Darfur over the past eight years (the last UN estimate was a calculation of April 2008, indicating that 300,000 had died from the direct and indirect effects of violence). But Radio Dabanga, with a number of reporting sources in Jebel Marra, is able to confirm incidents that suggest how deadly the present campaign-beginning in mid-January of this year-has been:

At least 32 children die of exhaustion in Darfur's Jebel Marra | January 28, 2016 | JEBEL MARRA

Conditions for hundreds of villagers hiding under trees and in caves high in Mount Jebel Marra are rapidly deteriorating. At least 32 children died of exhaustion, exposure to cold, and a lack of food.

On Wednesday seven Koran students arrived at Nierteti. Their Karmel Koran School, five kilometres east of Nierteti, was demolished in aerial bombardments last Thursday. The seven students, aged between five and 20, told Radio Dabanga that three of their comrades were killed in the air raid that demolished the Koran school. The survivors took a number of injured students with them to Kouji up in the mountain, as the way to Nierteti was blocked by militiamen. 14 of them, aged between eight and 15, succumbed to their wounds during the flight, the eldest reported to Radio Dabanga.

"A huge number of people were hiding in caves near Kouji. We waited five days and then managed to descend on Tuesday evening, and reach Nierteti on foot on Wednesday morning." He added that at least 13 children died in the caves near Kouji, Berbera, and Moro up in the mountain, "because of the lack of food and the cold." He described the situation in and near the caves as disastrous.

Children killed in bombardment on Jebel Marra, Darfur | January 26, 2016 | GOLO / TAWILA

Three children were killed and five others were wounded following aerial bombardments on villages in Darfur's western Jebel Marra on Monday morning. The area of Golo, in the upper part of Central Darfur, has been under attack by the Sudanese Air Force since Saturday. Kusum, four kilometres south of Golo, was bombed at approximately 9 am, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. Two girls, aged 12 and 14 years and the daughters of Yousif Mohamed Abdallah, were killed. Five civilians sustained injuries. One barrel bomb reportedly hit the mountain where people were hiding and caused a rock fall, killing a 4-month-old baby who happened to be on the back of her mother.

Tact, silence, and "gold stars": how not to communicate with the Khartoum regime

The failure of the UN or indeed any non-governmental humanitarian organization to promulgate estimates of civilian mortality is a sign of capitulation before Khartoum's demand that the subject of mortality, like the issue of rape as a weapon of war, not be discussed nor representative figures published. It is the price that all are apparently willing to pay to retain even compromised access in Darfur. A glimpse of broader expediency in talking about continuing genocide in Darfur was offered by the UK's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Sandip Verma). Asked why the UK could not speak more forcefully about genocidal counter-insurgencies in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, Baroness Verma replied at one point:

My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that these are very difficult situations and we have to be mindful of the language used if we are to continue to have dialogue with the Government of Sudan. They are of course horrific atrocities and we as the UK Government take our role very seriously in raising those horrific atrocities. At the same time, we are working both with the Sudanese Government and others to ensure that we are able to access those who need our assistance the most. They tend to be the ones who are hardest to reach. (House of Lords, February 29, 2016 | Sudan)


UK'Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development, Baroness Sandip Verma

Baroness Verma seems oblivious to the repeatedly demonstrated reaction of the Khartoum regime to international soft-pedaling of its atrocity crimes. For the regime has simply become even more emboldened in its crimes and more contemptuous of expectations that its behavior change. The Obama administration has also been all too consistent in its soft-pedaling of Khartoum's atrocity crimes-rarely condemning, and typically when doing so, engaging in a perverse "moral equivalence" between Khartoum and the rebel forces, whether in Darfur, South Kordofan, or Blue Nile (see my analysis of the most recent instance of this feckless habit | February 18, 2016).


The people whom Baronnes Verma would have us speak about tactfully about when discussing their fate with the Khartoum regime

The campaign against the people of Jebel Marra is far from over. We have nonetheless a clear sense of what the violence will look like: we need only survey the savage campaign in "East Jebel Marra" (North Darfur) that has extended over the past three fighting seasons (see "Changing the Demography": Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 - November 2015"). Jebel Marra is simply the next westward move of the campaign that has ravaged East Jebel Marra (Khartoum's Sudan Armed Forces yesterday claimed control over the area north of Jebel Marra, near Fanga and Kabkabiya). Violence continues to be reported throughout Darfur; both South and West Darfur have seen serious attacks on civilians, including IDP camp residents. But as Khartoum's campaign continues its westward movement, with both regular and militia forces, massive civilian destruction and displacement will certainly continue. We will continue to see headlines of the following sort from Radio Dabanga:

Ongoing Jebel Marra bombing kills 11, injures five Darfuris | February 14, 2016 | JEBEL MARRA

Disease among displaced in Jebel Marra, air raids unabated | February 28, 2016 | GOLO (Jebel Marra)

Girl dies in ongoing air raids on Darfur's Jebel Marra | February 24, 2016 | JAWA / TUR / KASS

More displaced in Central Darfur need aid | February 23, 2016 | NIERTETI (Central Darfur)

‘New Central Darfur displaced denied aid': camp coordinator | February 22, 2016 | ZALINGEI

Dire health problems among displaced in Jebel Marra | February 19, 2016 | KATRONG / GOLO / KHARTOUM

Militiamen attack Jebel Marra markets | February 17, 2016 | EAST JEBEL MARRA

Bombs rain on Sudan's Jebel Marra, rebels claim counter-attack | February 17, 2016 | JEBEL MARRA

No-go for aid workers in Central Darfur temporary: state Minister | February 22, 2016 | TUR / KHARTOUM

[Access continues to be denied more than a week after this highly dubious claim-ER]

Central Darfuri suffers horrific death | February 22, 2016 | NIERTETI

Child burns to death in Jebel Marra raids | February 19, 2016 | TABIT / TUR

Many camps to which those displaced from Jebel Marra are fleeing are already without adequate humanitarian capacity:

Hunger in South Darfur camp, aid poised for Jebel Marra displaced | March 2, 2016 | KALMA CAMP / KASS

Man killed near site for Jebel Marra displaced | February 19, 2016 | KABKABIYA

More displaced from Jebel Marra reach Shangil Tobaya | February 28, 2016 | SHANGIL TOBAYA / UM DUKHUN

• Nor do the camps provide security:

Two killed in attacks on displaced in Darfur | February 26, 2016 | NORTH JEBEL MARRA / GIREIDA

North Darfur displaced forced to register for referendum | February 22, 2016 | SARAF OMRA

• And elsewhere, especially in North Darfur-even far from the fighting-the genocidal violence continues to be reported:

Nine raped, including minors, near North Darfur camp | March 1, 2016 | EL FASHER

Farmers attacked, 16-year-old raped in North Darfur | February 21, 2016 | TABIT

Woman burns to death in North Darfur village attack | February 24, 2016 | TAWILA

Two raped for hours in North Darfur | February 17, 2016 | TAWILA

Three Darfuris raped in Tawila locality | February 16, 2016 | TAWILA

•  Concerning the ethnic animus in the assault on Darfur

We have no only Second Vice President Hasbro's characterization of African tribal groups as "insects," all to be exterminated, but more broadly in riverine Sudan, Darfuris are discriminated against, beaten, and often killed on the basis of skin color:

‘Darfur students targeted on skin colour in Khartoum' | February 22, 2016| | KHARTOUM NORTH

[Reports of this nature have become especially frequent since the September 2013 uprising over the regime's decision to lift subsidies on bread and fuel; Darfuris are being made scapegoats for the economic collapse initiated by the current regime, now approaching its 27th year in power-ER]

Darfuris are well aware of the world's silence and have repeatedly called on international actors of consequence to halt Khartoum's genocidal counter-insurgency:

'US turn blind eye to gross HRs violations in Jebel Marra': Darfur Bar | February 24, 2016 | KHARTOUM

The eyes of the world indeed remain averted from his vast arena of human suffering and destruction. This will be perhaps the most salient fact when a full history of the Darfur genocide is eventually written.

The annihilation of Darfur



Eric Reeves 
Smith College

Northampton, MA  01063




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