A Mercenary Author for Hire: David Hoile and His New
Book on Darfur
Osman El-Tom, Ph.D. and Tahir Adam Mohammed, MBBS/FRCS1
writer and “activist” David Hoile has just launched a new publication on Sudan. His new work comes under the title: Darfur in perspective and
published by his London-based Organisation “The European-Sudanese Public
Affairs Council (ESPCA)” (2005).
the analysis of the book, the reader would be forgiven for concluding that the
book is either an evil joke or otherwise a work commissioned by no body other
than Musa Hilal, the notorious Darfur Janjaweed (Arab Militia) leader and whose
name is certain to top the UN list for Darfur war criminals.
unconventional for academics to dwell too much on the personalities of the
authors of books that they review.
However, and given the fact that Mr. Hoile claims to be a peace
activist, it is legitimate to review his biography before we look into his
thesis. This point, however, should not deter us from giving him any credit
that is due. So who is David Hoile and what the nature of the organisation, ESPAC, that
The eminent Sudan
analyst Eric Reeves says the following about Mr. Hoile.
Mr, Hoile has
used a variety of organizations to give apparent substance to his interminable
propaganda efforts. In addition to “The
European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council,” he also uses the name
“British-Sudanese Public Affairs Council,” and “Westminster
Associates”. The latter is important
because, as the authoritative Africa Confidential has revealed in its most recent issue (Vol 42, No 17),
“the Parliamentary register of interests lists the client of [Westminster
Associates] as the Sudan government” (Reeves 2001)
But Mr Hoile’s
notoriety is not new. In his college time in Warwick, the
Federation of Conservative Students (FCS), which he chaired, was disbanded for
its ultra rightwing views. Even former British Conservative Party chairman
Norman Tebbit who was by far not a liberal politician
described the FCS as “too barking right wing” (Norman 2001).
But the lunacy
of Mr. Hoile is much worse as the Hyde narrates:
has two photographs: one of David Hoile, wearing a tie with an odd appendage;
the second photograph is a close up of the image appended to the tie. It is a picture of Nelson Mandela: below it
are the words; “Hang Nelson Mandela and All ANC Terrorists. They are Butchers”
But Khartoum government
and the defunct Apartheid Regime of South Africa are not the only beneficiaries
of Mr. Hoile’s services. Pallister of
the Guardian reports that: “Mr. Hoile has in the past allied himself with a
number of unsavoury rebel and terrorist groups; the contras in Nicaragua, Renamo in Mozambique and Unita in Angola” (Pallister 2003).
connection of Mr Hoile with the no less dubious Khartoum government
is well documented and self-evident. Throwing light on this connection, Sudan
Update reports: Mr Hoile also worked for Westminster
Associates, contracted in 1996 to improve Sudan’s international public image. He now heads the equally pro-NIF
British-Sudanese Public Affairs Council” and “European-Sudanese Public Affairs
Council” (Sudan Update 2005).
Using a much
more powerful source, Pallister further exposes the mercenary adventures of Mr
Hoile: Shortly after Mr Hoile set up the European-Sudanese Public Affairs
Council, Lord Avebury, chairman of the parliamentary human rights group, said
in a Lords debate: “It is believed Mr Hoile receives all his money from the
Sudanese government. I hope that those who receive his literature will take
careful note of that” (Pallister 2005).
Well, Mr Hoile
objects but only to a limited degree.
Perhaps some but not all his funding comes from the Government of
Sudan. Or as he says “he
has been paid only for consultancy work” (Ibid). One wonders whether the rest of his
remuneration comes from the notorious oil company, Talisman Energy, Canada,
with which Mr Hoile is also connected. Reeves writes about this connection:
Energy of Canada sees something of value in David Hoile’s perceptions; they have
used his materials in communicating with the news media about the situation in Sudan, where they are the direct beneficiaries of the scorched-earth
warfare that has been so authoritatively established. Mr Hoile’s propagandistic denials of these
realities are evidently just what they want to hear. Perhaps in their views of Africa, they share more
yet with this profiteering bit of human viciousness
Contrition is not in Hoile’s
nature. Nonetheless, the imminent UN investigation of Darfur atrocities might provide
him with an opportunity for repentance.
As for now, let us see what has to say about Darfur.
So what is the
thesis put forward by the author in explaining Darfur crisis? Well, nothing much, other than the usual
views, if not outright propaganda, presented by Khartoum
government. In a nutshell, Hoile says
that the Darfur crisis has nothing to do with marginalisation of Darfur; that
it is precipitated by foreign powers; that the US and the international NGOs
have a role and vested interest in the eruption and continuation of the crisis;
that Darfur armed Movements do not want peace; that Darfur war is waged by the
Popular Congress Party of Turabi, as a strategy to get back to power in
Khartoum; that the international community and the UN have treated Khartoum
government unfairly; that the government of Khartoum has conducted the war in a
reasonable and responsible manner; and that the government’s bombardment of
civilian locations is justified and not dissimilar from US attacks on civilian
enclaves in Iraq.
None of the conclusions raised above points
a finger or condemns the atrocities committed by the government or its
Janjaweed allies. That is not surprising
as the mission of Hoile’s pursuit is to defend Khartoum’s role in Darfur crisis.
The denial of
the marginalisation of Darfur region has been the hallmark of Hoile’s
thesis. On the contrary, he gives a
portrait of Darfur as a region that is experiencing significant level of
development. That he does by simply
regurgitating the government’s praise of its developmental policies in Darfur (Hoile 2005:11-12). He then goes further to corroborate his point
by referring to various experts in the field.
For example he quotes the human rights activist, Ghazzi Suleiman: “The
conflict in Darfur has nothing to do with marginalisation or the inequitable
distribution of wealth” (Ibid 13). Surprisingly, Suleiman has many other
statements that are damning to Khartoum’s policies in Darfur that Hoile conveniently chooses to ignore. A Report by the Sudan’s
Human Rights organisation (Sudan Organisation Against
Torture; SOAT), which Suleiman heads reads:
has practised the policy of ‘starve your dog, and it will follow you’ with the
citizens of Darfur. People lack the very means
of life, such as drinking water, food and medical treatment. In short, they lack every service crucial for
human existence. This is the reality of
day-to-day life despite the promises which all the administrators made
personally during their rare visits to Darfur (SOAT 1998).
marginalisation of Darfur – along with other regions in Sudan- is
well documented in the Darfur Movements’ major publication “the Black Book” (The
Black Book 2004). Similar information is
equally available in many authoritative writings on Darfur. However, the fear that this marginalisation
might eventually lead to war in Darfur was also brought formally to the attention of Khartoum Government,
as far back as 1999. The reminder came
in a form of a memorandum to the President signed by 1300 Darfur dignitaries. Whether
marginalisation warrants going to war or not is a separate matter. Its simple denial as Hoile does is simply
that marginalisation of Darfur is behind the war Hoile then launches his
own conclusions. Namely, that the Popular Congress Party instigated the war in Darfur, in its futile attempt
to hit back at the Government and restore Turabi to
power in Khartoum. Hoile again turns
to various sources including the Government as well as other “experts” like
Suleiman for support (ex. Time 2004, Al-Ahram 2004 and ICG 2004). Referring to the war in Darfur, Suleiman reportedly
It is a
struggle to seize power in Khartoum, and the battlefield is in Darfur…… Turabi is the mastermind of the existing conflict in Darfur. If he is released and if the government tries
to come to an agreement with him he will stop what is going on in Darfur in a
week (Hoile 2005:16).
certainly earned a good reputation as a human right activist and the role he
played in that field over the last decade in Sudan is
admirable. Nonetheless, and if the quotation is accurate, Suleiman reduces
himself to no more than an amateur political analyst. To assume that Dr. Turabi
has the power to stop the war in Darfur in a week whereas the international community has failed to do so
in years is simply bizarre. But in some ways, both Hoile and Suleiman are
simply repeating the Government’s doctrine:
Interior Minister…. Admitted as much: The Popular
Congress< of Turabi> is involved in the
incidences in Darfur and the JEM is just another face of the Popular
…. The Governor of Darfur …. Stated that the Justice and Equality Movement was the military
wing of the Popular Congress .. (Hoile 2005:20).
The claim that Darfur war is the work of Turabi and his Islamist party faces another challenge as
well. The numbers simply do not add up
at all. Together with so many other sources,
Hoile admits that, between the two Darfur Movements, JEM is the smallest. That however does not seem to sway him from
arguing that Darfur war can be reduced to a struggle between the Islamist factions in Khartoum. Neither is the fact that there is a
close relationship between the SPLM of the Southern
Sudan and Darfur’s Sudan
Liberation Movement (SLM). To make matters more difficult for Hoile’s thesis, both the SPLM and SLM are not sympathetic
and are often antagonistic and hostile to the Islamic political movement in the
connection between JEM and Turabi’s deposition from
power is further betrayed by the sequence of events in the Sudan. While the formation of JEM and the SLM was
formally announced in the year 2001, the establishment of JEM preceded the
announcement by several years. JEM grew up as a clandestine organisation long
before the onset of the intense power struggle between Albashir
and his former master Turabi. The evidence for that
is the compilation of the Black Book that Hoile
himself credits to JEM activists. The Black Book took several years to prepare
and was initiated in and around 1997, an era in which Turabi
was at the pinnacle of his power in Khartoum Palace.
There can be no
doubt that many of JEM leaders were once active with Turabi
and later Turabi and Albashir’s Islamic Front that preceded the formation of
the Popular Congress and the National Congress Parties – of Turabi and Albashir
respectively. It is also safe to assume
that many of them learnt their ABCs of politics under the auspices of Turabi. Nonetheless, many other senior leaders of JEM,
authors included, were affiliates of other Sudanese parties across the board
and ranging in colour from the Umma Party to the Sudanese Communist party. In fact the Islamic Front was only the last
station for young Darfurian politicians in their search for a suitable
political party. Moreover, the
alienation and subsequent defection of Darfur politicians from Sudanese Islamic parties did not begin with Turabi and Albashir split over
power. It started as early as late 1980s
and well prior to Albashir’s accession to power. Both
Daoud Boulad and Farouq Adam serve here as a good example. The former left
the Islamic Front to the SPLM and was executed for its cause while the latter
left the same Islamists as a member of parliament to join the Unionist
Hoile’s allegation that JEM is an
affiliate or the military wing of the Popular Congress Party must come as a
flattering revelation to Turabi and his associates. Nonetheless, it makes poor logic. Following the turn of global and national
events regarding militant Islam, Turabi’s party is left in total disarray. Turabi’s threat to
bring the streets of Khartoum out to his defence proved to be an empty talk that failed to
translate into action. Turabi may have had a formidable past but has certainly
little clout when it comes to present and future politics in Sudan.
The position of JEM in Sudan’s politics sharply contrasts that. Whether Hoile
and his masters in Khartoum Palace concede or not, JEM is an indisputable mover and shaker of future Sudan. As such, it makes poor analysis to
portray JEM as no more than an appendage or a tributary to the Popular Congress
Party. In fact, Hoile would be more
logical if he is to reverse his assumption and take the Popular Congress Party
as an affiliate of JEM. That however has
not been suggested by anyone to date.
various foreign powers of instigating Darfur problem or elsewhere contributing to its escalation through
provision of finance to the Movements.
These powers range from militant Islamic groups (see below) to the
governments of Eritrea and the United
states. Thus Hoile writes:
It is additionally clear that the
Darfur insurgents have had considerable external assistance. The Sudan Liberation Army, for example, is said to be receiving arms and
support from Eritrea. …. The insurgents have also
been receiving military supplies by air…. CIA has reportedly supplied arms and
money to Darfur’s rebels… Washington is using Darfur’s rebels, as it did in
southern Sudan’s thirty-year old insurgency, to destabilise the Khartoum
regime( Hoile 2005:24-25)
Or in a
There is no doubt that USAID has been at the
heart of the “talking up” of possible deaths from the ongoing conflict and has
played a central role in the declaration of “genocide” in Darfur by the United
And a bit
more of the same stuff:
.. the United
States is actually helping to fund some of the activities of the very gunmen
involved in killing policemen – gunmen who if not themselves Islamist
extremists are nevertheless closely allied with the Justice and Equality
It is well known
that neither Eritrea nor possess air force capabilities that can deliver weapons to
Darfur Movements. That then leaves the fingers
pointing at the United
States and its
government but only if we assume that Khartoum government
and Mr. Hoile have abandoned their early assertion of
Israeli involvement in Darfur’s war. Leaving Eritrea
aside, it beggars belief even to contemplate that the US
government has acted to boost the war in Darfur, for election purposes or otherwise, as Hoile contemplates (See
Hoile 2005:94). Far from it, and as
records after records show, the US
government has been at the far front of any other government when it comes to
ending Darfur’s war. Many of our Darfur “rebel” colleagues and
the international observers who have witnessed the Americans in action at the
Darfur Peace Talks in Abuja will share our opinion in this regard.
In fact, they describe the American Talks’ officials
as”bullies”, so to speak, but for peace rather than for the continuation of war
as Hoile suggests.
In his futile
attempt to defend his paymasters, David Hoile goes further to contemplate a
connection between al-Qaeda and JEM in particular. This is where Hoile’s analysis disintegrates
into intellectual hooliganism. It is a cheap and opportunistic exploitation of
the atrocious September 11 disaster. Hoile
and Equality Movement is said to be receiving assistance from Islamic groups
and al-Qaeda… Many of the members of the military wing of the Popular Congress
now involved with JEM trained with al-Qaeda members in the 1990s. Miniter states that
al-Qaeda instructors, including specialists in guerrilla and urban warfare and
logistics, have been involved in training Justice and Equality insurgents in Darfur (Ibid:29).
The presence of
al-Qaeda activists in Darfur has been alluded to, several times in the book but the author has
been somewhat vague. He does not specify where his statement comes from and his
prove of evidence. The reader is then left confused whether the author is
reporting what is already there or speculating about possible future turns of
al-Qaeda terrorists were killed in Chad in 2004. Minter states that
al-Qaeda involvement in Darfur “dovetails with other reports from North Africa. The desert wastes have become al-Qaeda’s
latest battleground. There is no doubt
that al-Qaeda is already seeking to turn parts of the Sahel – and in this case
Darfur – into the next Afghanistan (Ibid:26).
earlier, Hoile notes:
In July 2004,
for example, a Saudi national said to have been “preaching holy war” within a
refugee camp in Chad was arrested. There have
been violent scenes at the camp in which two refugees had been shot dead by
local security forces. Arms caches had
also been seized in the camp (Ibid: 30).
The involvement of the United States in financing Bin Laden in his early years
in Afghanistan was certainly callous and regrettable. Post September 11 and the onset of the War Against Terror present us with a different world altogether.
This is what Hoile dismally misses to take note of. It
takes an incredible level of naivety to suggest that both the United States and al-Qaeda are knowingly or unknowingly
aiding the same armed movements.
In fact, the most basic knowledge about Darfur war suggests otherwise. Given the Arab-African twist
that is so evident in Darfur
war, it makes little sense to assume North African al-Qaeda operatives will
back the African oriented “rebels”. Rather they are
more likely to fight for the Janjaweed with their quasi-Arab banners and the
Sudanese government whose hatred of the United States is derived from its Arab-Islamic ideology and its failed Islamic
Civilisation Project. Furthermore in support of our claim, the three-man
delegation from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) visiting Darfur from 5-8 June 2004
The OIC is totally convinced” that the
international agencies and Western media have “misrepresented” the Darfur
crisis and that Khartoum did its utmost to contain it…… no wide scale
atrocities by Arabs/Janjaweed against the indigenous Darfurians
for whom the rebels are fighting (Omar 2004)
And some more:
The problem is by no means more than a
tribal conflict over basic resources, namely water and pasture (Ibid)
is obvious that the Islamic organisation considering a humanitarian crisis of
such magnitude only as a small tribal conflict is biased towards Khartoum government
and hostile to the rebels- JEM included. This is all music to al-Qaeda and David Hoile.
Muslim World has its share of blame for paying a blind eye to the mass
slaughter in Darfur. The Arab League (AL) and the Organization of
Islamic Conference (OIC) purpot to represent the
interests of the
Muslim and Arab worlds. But the majority of the AL and OIC member states are
flagrant violators of human rights within their own jurisdictions. As a result,
they do not command the moral authority to reign on the excesses of Sudan, a member state of both the
AL and the OIC (Omar
it goes on:
Arab League reluctantly sent a low-key mission to investigate the mass killings
in Darfur. It reported “gross human rights violations” in a member state but
quickly retracted its statement under pressure from Sudan. In the wake of threats of
sanctions from the UN, some AL and OIC members have worked behind the scenes to
protect the Sudanese government from any impending sanctions or military
intervention (Omar Ibid).
Despite all the
dubious sources which Hoile quotes, he has not been able to point to any
al-Qaeda operative in Darfur. His reference to some was
restricted to Chad but not Darfur. Darfur is now among the most heavily monitored spots in Africa by the extensive
presence of international organisations. At least this is the case since the
start of the war. Despite, no single evidence for the presence of al-Qaeda in the Region has been reported. Hoile attempts to
drag Al-Qaeda into Darfur war simply fails to hold
All for the
sake of Albashir:
to support Albashir all along did not come without waging war against almost
every other source of information on Darfur. Casualties in Hoile’s book are many. For example, Eric Reeves, a
formidable and well respected Darfur analyst is unfairly described as lacking
in objectivity, discernment and research skills and a source of disinformation
on Darfur (Hoile 2005:105-106.). The western Media in general for Hoile
displays inaccurate reporting, sensationalism, prejudice and hypocrisy (Ibid:142). Guilty western
media outlets include reputable households like the Independent, the Washington
Post, the New York Times, the Observer, the Economist, the Financial Times, BBC
and many others.
international NGOs, they equally fail to please Mr Hoile as they “collude with
journalists to hide their own agenda” (Ibid:153). The list unashamedly includes reputable
institutions like MSF, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Some of these are accused by Hoile of
producing reports that are questionable and flawed (Ibid:159-167).
Council Resolution (1593) dealt a terrible blow to Khartoum
government. What is crystal clear is that the Resolution was not instigated by Khartoum
government’s failure to protect its citizens as such. It was also not triggered
by the government’s attacks on the rebels.
Rather, the Resolution was a culmination of the international outrage
against the government attacks on Darfur civilians. While the
government of Khartoum can continue denying its obvious links with its surrogate army
known as Janjaweed, its aerial bombardment of civilians was evident for all, in
and outside the Sudan. After tremendous
international pressure, the government of Khartoum pledged to
end all military aerial operations in Darfur. The pledge was by all means
positive and was welcome by many including Sudan
government officials. For some reasons,
this is upsetting for Hoile:
That governments reserve the right to use air power in war is
obvious. Air power has been used in
every recent conflict – not least of which during the Iraq war and subsequent occupation.
That civilians are often killed, injured or displaced during even the
most clinical bombing attacks against insurgents has also been amply
demonstrated in Iraq. The use of power in Darfur has been no
different (Hoile 2005:177).
Indeed it has, I
may say in response to Hoile’s last sentence in the above quotation. Despite our disagreement with the Iraq war,
we can state categorically that the parallel Hoile is making is not
justified. There has not been any report
in Iraq indicating that American forces have been deliberately bombarding
civilian locations. But this has been a
regular feature of Khartoum military air operations and resulting into a powerful international
outcry. Military air force of Sudan
government consist mostly of Antanov transport planes which are ghastly
inefficient against the “rebels”. Even
against innocent civilians who cannot monitor military radio instructions, the
performance of these planes has not proved lethal enough for liking of Khartoum
government. That was why government
bombardment was often planned to coincide with Friday prayers and market
days. Only through attacking a huge
congregation of people, was the government able to achieve the desirable
maximum carnage. One has to be more than
simply dogmatic to compare that with the situation in Iraq. If Mr Hoile is still not yet convinced about Khartoum
atrocities, here is a communication of some of these military planes:
you pass through you must burn. That
way, when the villagers come back, they will have a surprise waiting for them” (An Antanov pilot ordering a ground commander of a government army
battalion in Darfur, Sudan; US Senator John McCain)….
An Antanov pilot over Darfur reports to his Khartoum
commander: ‘there is nothing under me except grass cottages, Sir”. ‘I order you to bomb them and expel their
religion’ (Tally deenhum; render them unbelievers)
the commander orders back.
Who owns the
book in the computer websites is startling.
Extracts and chapters of the book have already appeared in several
sites. While it is legitimate for
authors to post their work in websites before their final printing in a form of
a book, Hoile’s case looks somewhat odd as it flaunts all the internationally
accepted writing traditions. Parts of
the book have appeared under institutions that are not stately linked to the
author. While Hoile can claim to have
rights to what he writes in ESPAC in which he works as a director, he cannot
say the same thing regarding some other websites like the official website of
the Sudan Embassy, UK. What is bizarre is that
parts of the book are produced in line with all other Embassy briefings. As they do not bear Hoile’s name, one would
have assumed that these articles are written by the Embassy staff.
appears in a number of websites: Espac (www.espac.org),
Embassy of the Republic of Sudan, UK (www.sudanembassy.org),
Sudan Vision Independent Daily (www.sudanvisiondaily.com),
and perhaps other websites which I could not track down. In addition, Hoile also posts some of his
work in general websites like Sudan.net.
To conserve space, let me give two examples.
Hoile has at
least 12 postings in the website under Sudan Vision Independent Daily. These postings have been turned into chapters
in his book. The use of the term
“Independent” affixed to the title of the site is rather enigmatic as the
homepage in question comes complete with Sudan
flag. An article under title the “Darfur: Darfur in perspective (Part 4)
was posted June
14th 2004. The name of the author has been
withheld. Overlooking the title of the
article, which is also, used for Hoile’s book, extracts of the article appear
in Hoile’s book, pages 21-28 (see Sudanvision 2004).
was posted in the Sudan Embassy website, July 13th 2004 under the title: “The Darfur crisis: Looking beyond the propaganda” with no author attached to
it. Extracts of this article appear in
pages 11 to 24, 33, 165-166 .. in
Hoile’s book with no reference to the website (see
Sudan Embassy 2004)
There is nothing wrong for David Hoile in particular, or for that matter for any author, to
hold views contrary to other writers. It
is equally acceptable for him to work for Sudan
government as a consultant or at any other capacity. The fact that Khartoum government
is on its way to the UN Security Council on war crimes should not make a
difference. What is deplorable is that Hoile
disguises his true affiliation and masquerades as an independent human activist
and yet, expects the world to take him as such.
That is what we find utterly despicable.
flounders over the legal status of the capital Khartoum. Issue No 686:15-21.
About David Hoile. The Guardian, September
Darfur Rising: Sudan’s new crisis. International
Crisis Group, Africa Report No 76.
Diary. The Guardian. August 2001.
Omar, Farid 2004
at the Crossroads caught Between Western Hypocrisy and Muslim Complicity. http://resist.ca/story. August 12th.
Pallister, David 2003
to block asylum. The Guardian, February 17, 2003.
who is David Hoile of the notorious
European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council (ESPAC)?. WWW.freeworldnow.com/ER%209-4-2001.
Report on Human
Rights Violations in Darfur, 1998.
The Darfur crisis: Looking beyond
the propaganda. WWW.sudanembassy.org. July 13.
Sudan update 2005-08-20
In whose interest? Sudanupdate.org,
Sudan Vision 2004
Darfur: Darfur in perspective. www.sudanvisiondaily.com. June 13.
Power struggle: Darfur’s Janjaweed militia
aren’t the only ones sowing chaos and death.