an interview with Lt. Gen. Abakar Mahamat Abdallah of the Sudan United Movement
by Jerry Gordon (Novemebr 2016)
International Criminal Court Case File of Sudan President Omar al Bashir
Source: Agence France Press- Getty Images
The UN estimates that more than 300,000 have been killed during the 13-year genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan and more than 2.5 million have been displaced. The notorious Janjaweed Islamist militia and National Army of the Arab Republic of the Sudan have conducted a deliberate program of “ethnic cleansing.” They have been recruiting terrorists and Arab settlers from surrounding states to conduct rampages against indigenous African tribes and occupy the region. That record of crimes against humanity does not include the toll from rampages in other conflict areas of the Blue Nile, Nuba Hills and Kordofan.
Opening session of the first roundtable on Sudan’s National Dialogue in Khartoum on April 6 2014 (SUNA)
Two attempts at resolving the internal resistance by subjugated African tribal regions through reconciliation conferences have failed. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) ending an effort to achieve a peace accord that began in 2005 under UN auspices, was signed by the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement in the capital of Qatar in July 2011. The DDPD had expired without implementation of the accord. More recently a two year National Dialogue in Khartoum that began in April 2014 between the National Congress Party regime of President Bashir and alleged Darfurian and other African tribal resistance groups ended on October 10, 2016 with another signed declaration. The National Dialogue document called for constitutional amendments and creation of a full parliamentary democracy. It also provided for a transitional government to facilitate movement from the current “National Unity” to a “National Reconciliation Government.” President Bashir had not attended the final session, feigning an illness, preparing for a meeting in Riyadh with Saudi King Salman. Moreover, President Bashir gave instructions to his Armed forces to end operations against the rebellion in Darfur by December 2016. That was in the face of an Amnesty International investigative report, issued on September 30, 2016, accusing the Bashir regime of using prohibited chemical weapons by the Janjaweed militias and Sudan National Army in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur and in other conflict areas.
Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Chair of African Union Commission
The 124 member nation International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the Netherlands was founded under the provisions of the Statute of The Treaty of Rome signed on July 17, 1998 which began activities in 2002. The ICC investigated President Bashir on charges of committing genocide in Darfur in violation of crimes against humanity, issuing a warrant for his arrest in 2009. However, no state has yet to arrest him. In June 2015 President Bashir paid a two day state visit to Johannesburg. Republic of South Africa (RSA), one of the ICC treaty members, failed to arrest him under the outstanding ICC warrant. It is alleged by sources close to President Bashir that Dubai made a grant of financial support to the RSA of $250 million that might have forestalled any possible arrest under the ICC warrant. On October 22, 2016, Justice Minister Michael Masutha of the RSA announced the country was leaving the ICC. Earlier in the same week, Burundi also announced that it was leaving the ICC. The RSA statement pointed to the decision not to arrest President Bashir of Sudan during the state visit in June 2015 as it violated the guest country’s sovereign immunity. That was followed by a statement on October 24, 2016 at a Pretoria conference by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa. While not commenting on the RSA ICC withdrawal announcement by Justice Minister Masutha, Dlamini-Zuma said:
Former Chad president Hissen Habre’s trial was an example that the continent could prosecute its leaders. He was charged with human rights violations, including rape and sexual slavery, and ordering the killings of thousands of people. In May this year, he became the first African president to be found guilty in an African court. He was sentenced to life in jail.
At a continental level, the former president of Chad has been tried in an African court, in an African country, agreed by the AU, funded by the AU, with the judges coming from Africa. He was tried for atrocities and was found guilty by an African court. Of course now he is appealing.
The Rome treaty governing the ICC while signed by 124 nations has not been ratified by the US. Russia, China and Israel have not joined the ICC. There are six African country leaders currently under investigation by the ICC. Leaders in Colombia and Afghanistan are also currently under investigation by the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity. Thus, it would appear that more African members of the AUC may follow the examples of both Burundi and the RSA opting to try in African courts any of the group’s member heads of state who are charged with alleged crimes against humanity.
An October 2016 New English Review report by Lt. Gen. Abakar Mahamat Abdallah of the Sudan United Movement (SUM) presented evidence of the Bashir regime and its genocide in Darfur. He reported The Bashir regime using Islamist mercenaries recruits from other African states for the Janjaweed militia conducting “ethnic cleansing” in the Jebel Marra region, “Sudan’s Extremist Islamist Regime Uses Chemical Weapons in Darfur Genocide.”
What was particularly concerning in General Abdallah ‘s report were: (1) The Sudan regime indiscriminate use of prohibited chemical weapons across several conflict areas in the Sudan based on the well documented incident investigation by Eric Reeves of Amnesty International in Jebel Marra in January 2016 published on September 30, 2016; (2) the destruction of villages in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur by Janjaweed militia involving slaughter of men and boys, rape of women and girls and the expropriation of property; 3) the recruitment of Jihadist mercenaries for the Janjaweed militias from “veterans” of Mali Islamists, Boko Haram and the Lord’s Resistance Army; 4) training and equipping of hundreds of Libyan ISIS fighters; 5) continuing bi-lateral discussions by the Obama Administration with the Bashir regime in Khartoum regarding international counterterrorism intelligence, despite an outstanding ICC indictment and warrant for his arrest for committing crimes against humanity; 6) payment by major EU countries to the Bashir regime to intercept illegal immigrants from transiting to the Mediterranean coast using the Islamist Janjaweed mercenaries.
Resistance fighters planning for an ambush of Janjaweed Militia in Darfur
Lt. Gen Abdallah is a native of North Darfur who joined the Sudan Liberation People’s Army (SPLA) in 1984 and became active in the Nuba Hills and Darfurian resistance. In 1989 he joined the Patriotic Salvation Movement in neighboring Chad based in Darfur. He served as an officer in the Chadian army for 23 years. He held senior intelligence and counterterrorism posts including as Coordinator of the Multi-National Joint Task Force of Nigeria, Chad and Niger. He is a December 2002 graduate of the Intelligence Officers’ Advanced and Combating Terrorism Courses, US Army Intelligence Center and Schools, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He was a Graduate Terrorism Fellow and is a Graduate of the College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University, Washington, DC, 2005. He was an International Fellow and Graduate of the US Army War College, Class of 2008.
Against this background we conducted this interview with General Abdallah.
Jerry Gordon: General Abdallah thank you for consenting to this interview.
General Abdallah: Thank you for the opportunity to present my views in the situation in the Sudan.
Gordon: What is your assessment of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and National Dialogue?
Abdallah: Chad and Uganda are pursuing their national or personal interests. Therefore, they are not supporting Sudan peace, even though they are supporting President Bashir to remain in power. Their support is not based on fair peace negotiations but simply executing what Bashir dictates. They want the Darfurian resistance movements to sign a peace deal with President Bashir based on the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in 2011 that expired and the National Dialogue document that Bashir and his collaborators produced on October 10, 2016. The Documents do not bring a peaceful resolution as the regime is not ready to implement them. What was achieved from the DDPD process during the past five years? The answer is thousands of people were killed, thousands of women were raped, over 600,000 people were displaced, and millions of animals and properties have been lost. More than half of Darfur’s land is occupied by new settlers the regime brought in from Chad, Niger, and Central African Republic. Despite continuous acts of genocide, President Bashir and his allies are celebrating what they have achieved as peace in Darfur.
Gordon: How is President Bashir manipulating the National Dialogue peace process?
Abdallah: President Bashir and his supporters created their own political parties and armed rebel groups. His regime negotiates with these groups and then signed peace deals in the name of Darfur with support of the international community. For example, during the closing ceremony of the so called National Dialogue President Bashir said, there were 36 Darfur rebel groups present. Imagine 36 Darfur rebel leaders in Khartoum. The question is who are these people? Are they really Darfurian rebels? This is how Bashir falsely declares that the Sudan government had signed peace deals with alleged rebel groups. President Bashir repeats the same scenario over and over and the international community keeps on listening and believing him. He continues committing atrocities because the international community supports him based on these false peace documents.
Gordon: What is the extent of financial assistance that President Bashir has received from Arab governments?
Abdallah: President Bashir receives financial assistance not only from Saudi Arabia and Qatar but from a number of other Arab countries, members of the Arab League, to support Janjaweed militias and other terrorist groups operating from Sudan. This financial assistance comes in the form of aid or investments. Saudi Arabia gave Sudan 4 billion dollars following Sudan’s support for the Gulf emirate and Saudi led coalition fighting against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Gordon: What is the evidence of Bashir’s “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur?
Abdallah: The evidence of ethnic cleansing in Darfur is clear. The regime armed Arab tribes and brought them in as settlers from neighboring countries. It gave them Sudanese nationality upon their arrival and promised they could occupy land if they liberated it from their owners. The government also provided these Arab tribes with arms, training, logistic support and grants and family allowances for their women and children. The regime reinforces these Arab settlers with Sudanese Armed Forces and air support. The regime unleashed these barbaric people and told them to burn villages, kill men, rape women including young girls and elders, seize everything from the Darfurian civilian population including their land. Over 4 million Darfurian people are now displaced and live in about 65 IDP camps. About 500,000 are refugees who live in 12 Camps in Chad, with 2,000 in the Central African Republic. This ethnic cleansing is committed by some Arab tribes against the Darfurian tribes of African origin.
Gordon: The Republic of South Africa announced in late October 2016 that it was joining several other African nations and leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague saying African Union (AU) nations can try their own. Neither the US nor Israel have either joined or ratified the Treaty of Rome. What prompted that action and how does it impact on President Bashir’s outstanding ICC arrest warrant?
Abdallah: If the AU member states rejected ratification of the Treaty of Rome and the ICC it does not mean that they have any intention of committing crimes under the treaty or violating Geneva Conventions. Those countries that refused to become members of ICC are not immune if they committed genocide, war crimes, and human rights abuses similar to what is occurring in the Sudan. Compared to Darfur, I do not see the Israelis have intention to commit genocide against Palestinian people contrary to what President Bashir is doing in Darfur.
AU members cannot try African leaders because they are the ones who commit crimes and do not recognize the crimes they have committed. A good example is Darfur, when the AU collectively failed to recognize that genocide had been committed in Darfur and must be stopped. Instead, they all supported Bashir, a man who committed genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. They do not want the ICC to persecute leaders like Bashir because they consider it an external intervention in African affairs. Instead, they would set up their own court and prosecute Bashir.
The AU should tell the world what are its capabilities and what type of crimes they are going to try. They watched 800,000 people killed in just 4 days in Rwanda. The AU failed to address the Darfur genocide that has been going on for more than 13 years. Let me illustrate that AU behavior from my own experience. I was among the Chadian officers that supported Idriss Deby Hitno to expel dictator Hussein Habre in 1990. Look how long it took to bring him to justice? What can you say if the international community, including African countries, allows dictators to kill people while they are in power and then it takes them 20 to 30 years to bring a criminal to justice? This is unfair and unacceptable because the process in the Chad illustration did not render swift justice. Unlike the AU prosecution of the former Chadian dictator, the ICC conducted reasonably prompt investigations and prosecuted those who committed crimes in Darfur. The ICC Darfur prosecution of Sudan’s President Bashir resulted in his indictment and issuance of an arrest warrant. That taught us we need a system in this world to stop rogue governments and their leaders continuously committing genocide and crimes against humanity. However, what should be a more important priority is stopping dictators from committing such heinous crimes and saving lives.
Gordon: What should the US, UN and international community do to protect the people of Sudan from genocide?
Abdallah: The US, UN and international community should stop cooperation with the genocidal Sudan regime in Khartoum. The Rapid Support Forces and Janjaweed militias should be designated as terrorists. Use of prohibited chemical weapons used in Jebel Marra, the Blue Nile, Nuba Hills and Kordofan regions against Darfurian and other groups in the Sudan should be stopped and the stocks destroyed. These have been manufactured in the Yarmouk military industrial complex established by Iran. The Sudan government must be forced to allow international community access to provide humanitarian aid to the displaced and beleaguered people in Jebel Marra, South Kordofan, Darfur, the Nuba Hills and the Blue Nile. One means of enabling that is the establishment of no-fly zones patrolled by US and coalition air units enforced by AU ground forces.
The Sudan United Movement (SUM) does not oppose peace while at the same time opposes plans that do not bring peace to the marginalized people of the Sudan. The Abuja peace plan was signed, but displacement of people didn’t stop. The Doha Peace Document for Darfur was signed, but the killing has not stopped. While Bashir and his collaborators were working on their National Dialogue Conference document, weapons of mass destruction were used on the people of Darfur and other conflict regions in the Sudan. Where is the peace that Sudan and the international community are talking about? SUM will not be part of such fraudulent peace plans. SUM believes peace cannot come in Sudan without regime change. Marginalization for more than 60 years in a failed state is enough.
Gordon: Why has the Darfurian resistance movement failed and what does SUM need to carry out its mission?
Abdallah: The resistance movement in Darfur failed because of the lack of sound leadership and international assistance. Some were only involved for either their own personal rather than national interests. We were abandoned to face the regime supported by the oil rich Middle East Arab states with nothing but empty hands. With SUM leadership we have begun to make that change. SUM has the capabilities to disarm Janjaweed militia terrorist groups and oppose the Sudan National Army. This will facilitate real peace and regime change discussions and bring democracy to the Sudan.
To achieve an effective resistance in Darfur and other conflict zones, SUM requires weapons including anti-tank and anti-aircraft such as MANPADs. With MANPADS we will be able to prevent Antonov planes from dropping barrel bombs on defenseless women and children. SUM also needs logistic supplies, communication equipment, and vehicles suitable for use in desert operations. We also require training on specialized equipment, civil administration and use of social media for information coverage and documentation.
Gordon: Thank you for this compelling interview.
Abdallah: You’re welcome.
Also see Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.
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