“[Eric Reeves] may be the major source of disinformation (he calls it ‘analysis’) about Darfur which is then spread throughout the U.S.A…How curious that the American media latches on to Mr Reeves’ onesided falsehoods by way of presented out-of-context half-truths while at the same time ignoring the dispatches of other journalists, including those who have provided eyewitness accounts.”

The Online Journal [1]

It was the British Statesman Disraeli who was said to have observed that: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”. However apocryphal this comment may have been it could not be more apt in describing the claims made about Sudan, and most recently the Darfur crisis, by the long-standing anti-Sudan activist Eric Reeves. These claims have included allegations of genocide in Darfur. An English teacher at Smith College in Massachusetts, Reeves has been active for some time in a campaign against Sudan. In the course of this campaign Mr Reeves has written dozens of articles making serious allegations about events within Sudan. On examination many of these claims have fallen apart at the seams. Several measured criticisms of Reeves’ approach, methodology, and especially the sources he has relied upon for his claims, have been published and republished. [2] Reeves continues to make, or repeat, serious claims about the situation in Sudan – most recently focusing on Darfur – without any means of verifying them. He has, for example, made numerous allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur. [3] He has claimed that as of January 2005, 400,000 people have died in the Darfur “genocide” – this almost six times the number of people who are feared to have died through violence or disease. [4] Figures for the number of people who have died in the Darfur tragedy vary from the World Health Organisation’s estimate of 70,000 through to Khartoum’s claim of 5,000. [5] Reeves’ 400,000 number jumped from his own earlier statistical extrapolations that deaths were “already approaching 100,000” in late June 2004. [6] That is to say Reeves now says that between July and December 2004 over a third of a million civilians died in Darfur – apparently without being documented either by the aid agencies or the many foreign journalists and diplomats in Darfur. Infact in its year-end report for 2004, the United Nations pointedly noted that “by 31 December 2004…the catastrophic mortality figures predicted by some quarters have not materialised”. [7] Amazingly Reeves has made the sorts of assertions he has made while at the same time acknowledging that such claims are based on “second-hand accounts” and “fragmentary” accounts. He has also acknowledged that verification of such claims has been impossible: “There have been virtually no first-hand accounts by journalists, and the observations by humanitarian organizations are necessarily scattered”. [8]

In September 2004, in order to please the Christian right political constituency within the United States, the Bush administration chose to label the conflict in Darfur as “genocide”. This was admitted by former Senator Jack Danforth, President Bush’s special envoy to Sudan, in an interview with the BBC in July 2005. [9] This labelling also served to divert attention away from the escalating crisis in Iraq. Washington’s genocide claims have been pointedly contradicted by well-respected humanitarian groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders). [10] MSF-France President Dr Jean-Hervé Bradol subsequently described American claims of genocide in Darfur as “obvious political opportunism”. [11] Dr Bradol had previously stated that the use of the term genocide was inappropriate: “Our teams have not seen evidence of the deliberate intention to kill people of a specific group. We have received reports of massacres, but not of attempts to specifically eliminate all the members of a group.” [12] Dr Mercedes Taty, MSF’s deputy emergency director, who worked with 12 expatriate doctors and 300 Sudanese nationals in field hospitals throughout Darfur at the height of the emergency, has also warned: “I don’t think that we should be using the word ‘genocide’ to describe this conflict. Not at all. This can be a semantic discussion, but nevertheless, there is no systematic target – targeting one ethnic group or another one. It doesn’t mean either that the situation in Sudan isn’t extremely serious by itself.” [13]

In common with several people who have claimed genocide in Darfur, Reeves has turned a blind eye to the reservations of groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières about such allegations. This is particularly disingenuous given that Reeves has previously repeatedly cited MSF as a credible source on Darfur. [14] Indeed, he states that it was through Médecins Sans Frontières that he first heard about Sudan. [15] Indeed, he cites a “life-changing” conversation with the executive director of MSF as the reason he become involved with Sudan. [16] Reeves’ selectivity with regard to which MSF material he wishes to use, especially if it contradicts his case, is deeply questionable.

Médecins Sans Frontières is an exceptionally credible observer with regard to allegations of genocide for three reasons. Firstly, MSF was amongst the first humanitarian groups to establish a presence in Darfur as the conflict unfolded. MSF is very heavily involved in the provision of medical and emergency services in all three of the states that make up Darfur, deploying two thousand staff. It has been actively assisting hundreds of thousands of people displaced by fighting throughout the region. Médecins Sans Frontières is also present and engaged in Chad. MSF, therefore, has a unique institutional awareness of events in Darfur. Secondly, MSF’s reputation is quite simply beyond reproach. Médecins Sans Frontières was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. It has also received numerous other awards recognising its outstanding humanitarian work throughout the world. [17] And thirdly, MSF’s record with regard to genocide is also unambiguous. Dr Bradol, cited above, headed MSF’s programs in Rwanda in 1994, and spent several weeks assisting the surgical team that struggled to remain in Kigali during the genocide. Dr Bradol and MSF called for armed intervention in Rwanda stating “doctors can’t stop genocide”. Given the clear position with regard to genuine genocide taken by Dr Bradol and MSF, their unambiguous position in pointedly criticising allegations of genocide in Darfur is all the more powerful.

Despite having noted that Médecins Sans Frontières “has performed superbly in the field”, when MSF’s viewpoint differed from his, Reeves abruptly turned on MSF, accusing the organisation of being “disingenuous” and that it had made “ignorant and presumptuous statements about the issue of genocide” in Darfur. He dismissed comments by Dr Jean-Hervé Bradol as a “particular disgrace”. [18] Given this level of intellectual gerrymandering it is little wonder, therefore, that Reeves’ has even been criticised, especially on the genocide issue, by other established long-time anti-Sudan activists. In July 2004, for example, Jemera Rone, the Human Rights Watch Sudan specialist – whose work on Sudan has previously been described by Reeves as “assiduously researched”, “distinguished”, “unsurpassed” and “trenchant” [19] – publicly asked whether “people like Eric Reeves are abusing the legal term [genocide] to try and rouse people to act?” [20]

Reeves’ credibility on Darfur is questionable across the board. In a 17 December 2004 commentary, for example, Reeves acted as an apologist for the cold-blooded murder by rebel Sudan Liberation Army gunmen of two Save the Children (UK) aid workers, in an attack on their clearly-marked vehicle, in Darfur on 13 December 2004. [21] The United Nations special envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk unambiguously confirmed rebel involvement in these deaths. Reeves, however, claims there were “somewhat conflicting accounts” of the crime. He claims that the “perpetrator was drunk” while admitting this may not be true. He claims that there was “a heated debate…about what to do with the aid workers”. Reeves then claims: “The person responsible for shooting the two aid workers…was himself summarily shot and killed by his fellow combatants.” All these assertions are untrue. Reeves attempted to downplay the murders by claiming that “the insurgents have shown inadequate discipline, even as they confront appalling provocation.” Quite what “appalling provocation” by aid workers helping to keep civilians in Darfur alive justifies cold-blooded murder is not made clear by Reeves. He also queried whether the SLA had been responsible for the October 2004 murder of two other Save the Children aid workers in a land-mine attack. The United Nations confirmed SLA responsibility. [22] Reeves’s attempt to downplay the December murders as an “action…by a single drunken soldier” is sickening. This rebel attack on aid workers was part of a clear and systematic pattern and follows recent rebel threats against aid workers. [23] In his January 2005 report on Darfur – and referring to rebel actions – the United Nations Secretary-General reported on what he termed a “new trend” in the pattern of attacks on, and harassment of, international aid workers: “While previous incidents have only been aimed at looting supplies and goods, December has seen acts of murder and vicious assaults on staff, forcing some agencies to leave Darfur.” [24] Reeves has also claimed that there are “no credible reports of rebel attacks on civilians as such”. This further attempt to whitewash the atrocious human rights record of the Darfur rebels was breathtaking in its dishonesty.

Far from demonstrating the objectivity, discernment and research skills one would have expected from a Smith College teacher, he has shown crass selectivity. It comes, however, as no surprise. He has previously embraced similarly serious claims about Sudan. In 2000, for example, Reeves accepted at face value outlandish newspaper claims that China was deploying 700,000 soldiers to Sudan to protect Chinese interests in the Sudanese oil project. [25] Reeves called it an “explosive report” stating “it is highly doubtful that the report comes from thin air, or that important sources are not behind it.” [26] When asked about this allegation, however, the British government stated that “We have no evidence of the presence of any Chinese soldiers in Sudan, let alone the figure of 700,000 alleged in one press report.” [27] Even the Clinton Administration, as hostile as it was to the Sudanese authorities, dismissed the claims, stating that even “the figure of tens of thousands of troops is just not credible based on information available to us”. [28] He has also relied upon dubious sources for some of his other claims about Sudan. These sources have included South African Islamophobes such as Derek Hammond. [29] Hammond’s website has overtly championed the “Christian” fight against “the evil of Islam”, referring to the “anti-Christian religion of Islam”. [30]

In an independent critique of media coverage of Darfur, Online Journal has openly criticised Reeves’ claims about Darfur, stating that he “may be the major source of disinformation (he calls it ‘analysis’) about Darfur which is then spread throughout the U.S.A…How curious that the American media latches on to Mr Reeves’ one-sided falsehoods by way of presented out-of-context half-truths while at the same time ignoring the dispatches of other journalists, including those who have provided eyewitness accounts.” [31] Quite so.


1 Kersap D. Shekhdar, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Media Coverage of Darfur (But Were Afraid to Ask), Online Journal, 12 September 2004 <>.
2 See, for example, Eric Reeves’ “Reporting Credibility” on Sudan Devastated by Reuters Report, European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, 16 February 2001, available at <>; Eric Reeves, The World Food Programme and Displacement, European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, 23 February 2001, available at <>; Allegations of Oil Development Displacement Assessed Against Independent Sources, European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, March 2001, available at <>; Eric Reeves’ Credibility on Sudan Further Damaged by British Satellite Picture Analysis of Sudanese Oil Fields, Media Monitors Network, May 2001; Eric Reeves Against Africa, Media Monitors Network, May 2001; Eric Reeves, Sudan, Displacement and Double Standards, European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, 15 June 2001, available at <>.
3 See, for example, Eric Reeves, “African Auschwitz: The Concentration Camps of Darfur; The UN and the International Community Are Acquiescing in Genocide”, 12 May 2004, <>; “Stopping Genocide in Darfur: What Must Be Done”, 17 May 2004,
<>; “The Data of Destruction: Accelerating Genocide in Darfur”, 27 May 2004, <>.
4 See, Eric Reeves, “Darfur Mortality Update”, 18 January 2005, <>.
5 See, for example, “Sudan’s Foreign Minister Says only 5,000 Dead in Darfur”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 8 September 2004.
Most reputable media reporting take the WHO figure. See, for example, on 12 January 2005 Reuters stated: “About 1.7 million people are homeless and 70,000 are estimated to have died in Darfur.” Human Rights Watch, in a 14 January 2005 interview with Der Spiegel, said that 70,000 people had died in Darfur.
6 Eric Reeves, “Quantifying Genocide in Darfur: A Summary and Update”, 28 June 2004, <>.
7 Darfur 120-Day Plan Report September to December 2004, Office of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the Sudan, Khartoum, January 2005.
8 Eric Reeves, “The Accelerating Catastrophe in Darfur (Sudan): Khartoum Fixes Upon a Policy of War and Civilian Destruction”, 24 November 2003, <>.
9 See, for example, “White House Described Darfur as ‘Genocide’ to Please Christian Right”, The Independent (London), 2 July 2005.
10 See, for example, “Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières Challenges US Darfur Genocide Claims”, Mediamonitors, 5 October 2004, available at <>.
11 “From One Genocide to Another”, Article by Dr Jean-Hervé Bradol, 28 September 2004, available at Médecins Sans Frontières (UAE) website, <>.
12 “Thousands Die as World Defines Genocide”, The Financial Times (London), 6 July 2004. See also, Bradol’s views in “France Calls on Sudan to Forcibly Disarm Darfur Militias”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 7 July 2004.
13 “Violence in the Sudan Displaces Nearly 1 Million. An Aid Worker Describes the Gravity of the Humanitarian Crisis”, News Article by MSNBC, 16 April 2004.
14 See, as just a few examples, Eric Reeves, “Unnoticed Genocide”, The Washington Post, 25 February 25 2004 ; Eric Reeves, “Sudan’s Reign of Terror”, Amnesty Now, Summer 2004; Eric Reeves, “Darfur Mortality Update”, 27 August 2004, (four references); Eric Reeves, “Darfur Mortality Update”, 15 July 2004, <> (five references); Eric Reeves, “The Data of Destruction: Accelerating Genocide in Darfur”, 27 May 2004”,>; Eric Reeves, “As the Darfur Catastrophe Deepens, Genocidal Destruction Intensifies: Diplomatic Confusion Increases, With No Humanitarian Intervention in Sight”, 20 February 2004, <>.
15 See, for example, Reeves’ profile at <>.
16 Eric Reeves, “The Overdue Journey”, NewsSmith, Smith College, Spring 2003.
17 Medécins Sans Frontières has received, amongst others, the following international awards for their activities: 1999, the Nobel Peace Prize; 1998, the Conrad Hilton Prize; 1997, Prix International – Primo Levi; 1997, Prix International Sebetiater; 1996, Prix International pour la Paix et l’Action Humanitaire; 1997, Indira Gandhi Prize; 1996, Prix Seoul pour la Paix; 1993, the European Parliament’s Prix pour la liberte de l’Esprit Prix Sakharov, 1993, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ Nansen Medal; 1992, the Council of Europe’s Prix Europeen des Droits de l’Homme.
18 Eric Reeves, “Genocide in Darfur: A Growing International Strategy of Equivocation; In Place of Humanitarian Intervention, Studied Avoidance of Moral Responsibility”, 6 December 2004, <>.
19 See, for example, Eric Reeves, “Human Rights Watch Appeal on Factional Fighting in Southern Sudan”, 4 February 2001, <>.
20 E-mail publication by Jemera Rone via, 1 July 2004.
21 See, for example, Eric Reeves, “Humanitarian Aid in Darfur Threatened with Utter Collapse”, 17 December 2004, <>.
The murders were condemned by the international community: “UN envoy for Sudan condemns ‘brutal’ murder of humanitarian workers in Darfur”, Press Release by UN News Center, New York, 13 December 2004.
22 “UN Envoy Blames Darfur Rebels for Deaths of Aid Officials”, New Article by Agence France Presse, 27 October 2004.
23 “Darfur Rebels Threaten Humanitarian Aid Workers”, News Article by UPI, 23 October 2004.
24 Report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Sudan Pursuant to Paragraphs 6, 13 and 16 of Security Council Resolution 1556 (2004), Paragraph 15 of Resolution 1564 (2004) and Paragraph 1574 (2004), S/2005/10, United Nations, New York, January 2005.
25 “China Puts ‘700,000 Troops’ on Sudan Alert”, The Sunday Telegraph (London), 26 August 2000.
26 Eric Reeves, “China ‘Flexing Its Muscle’ in Sudan: Its time for SEMA!”, 30 0August 2000, <>.
27 House of Lords Hansard, Written Parliamentary Answer, 5 March 2001, column WA 10.
28 “U.S.: Reports of China’s Role in Sudanese War Are Overstated”, News Article by UPI on 29 August 2000.
29 Eric Reeves, “An Up-Dated Report on the Government of Sudan Attack on the Elementary School in Upper Kaoda”, 25 February 2000,
30 “African Christian Faith in Action”, <>. Hammond’s exaggerations are obvious: he also claimed that “Christians make up…over 80% of Southern Sudan.” (This figure should be compared with the figure of 10-15 percent carried in official American government studies, Economist Intelligence Unit briefings or Human Rights Watch material).
31 Kersap D. Shekhdar, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Media Coverage of Darfur (But Were Afraid to Ask), Online Journal, 12 September 2004 <>.

Espac Published by The European - Sudanese Public Affairs Council Copyright © David Hoile 2005
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