American Friends Service Committee
Sara Burke, Managing Editor
Sam Diener, Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
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Sudanese War is Genocidal
Most of this report is drawn directly from several IRIN
(the Integrated Regional Information Networks of the UN Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, www.irinnews.org)
updates from April and May of 2004. The UN has not yet used the
word "genocide" in this context. Additional analyses
were summarized from Reuters Humanitarian Alerts, Human Rights
Watch, and from AllAfrica.com.
Armed conflict in the Darfur region is estimated to have forced more than a million people from their homes since February 2003, including thousands who have fled to neighboring Chad. According to the UN, "repeated attacks by militia, including the burning of villages, widespread looting and systematic destruction of livelihoods, have left displaced people destitute." Relief officials estimate that 30,000 people have already been killed or have died from the resultant disease and hunger in the last year, and it is feared that hundreds of thousands more people are in imminent danger due to the war, massacres, displacement, disease, hunger, the relative neglect of the outside world, and the difficulties refugee agencies are facing reaching the people in need.
In its statement issued from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, the UN added that despite the ceasefire signed on April 8, 2004, which led to a reduction of hostilities between the warring parties, the humanitarian crisis had continued. The humanitarian crisis in Darfur, western Sudan, will worsen dramatically unless the security situation there improves immediately and relief workers can reach needy people in the region more easily, the United Nations has warned.
UN World Food Program Executive Director James Morris, who led a high-level UN team to assess the situation in Darfur, said displaced families were living in difficult and unacceptable conditions and continued to fear for their lives. "I visited Mornei [Western Darfur], which has been overwhelmed by over 60,000 displaced people, who are almost completely reliant on outside assistance," Morris was quoted as saying in a UN statement. "Living conditions are abysmal. Malnutrition rates among children are soaring, and few if any are going to school. This pattern appears to be repeated across Darfur."
The UN team visited Darfur from April 28-30, 2004. It called on the Sudanese government to accelerate its efforts to control armed militias, provide security and protection for displaced people and facilitate humanitarian access.
"We received numerous reports of sexual abuse and harassment that has limited people's access to water, food and firewood. We also witnessed first hand how volatile the security situation is, and the massive human suffering that has been inflicted," Morris said. "People want to go home, and some have attempted to do so, but often they end up fleeing again as a result of renewed attacks."
The UN announced an urgent appeal for resources to increase its operational capacity in the region. However, it said an expansion of humanitarian activities would require the timely approval by the Sudanese government of applications from humanitarian agencies to expand their work in Darfur.
Sudanese officials downplayed the UN report. Sudanese media on May 3, 2004 quoted Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ibrahim Mahmud Hamid as saying: "That is the mission's report, but conditions in Darfur are no worse than those in Iraq and Palestine, as proven by the return of refugees and IDPs [internally displaced persons], especially in the areas of Kulbus [Western Darfur] and Adila [Northern Darfur]."
The Darfur conflict erupted early in 2003 between the Sudanese government and militias allied to it on the one hand, and two rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on the other hand.
The war in the west has also complicated the final stages of talks between the government, based in the largely Muslim north, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, from the largely Christian and animist South. The North-South war has continued since 1983, and has been for years one of the most destructive in the world. Talks to settle this war have produced a draft settlement agreement. Because it is rumored that the Sudanese government was to gain economic help from the US in exchange for signing the agreement, and that assistance is now threatened by the government's ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region, it is not clear if the government will follow through on what had been rumored to be the final stages of the peace deal.
The Sudanese government's military forces are drawn predominantly from the Darfur region, and it is believed that the attacks on the population of Darfur is revealing splits within the leadership of the military. Reuters reported on April 6, 2004, that 11 high-ranking Air Force officers were arrested in March after refusing to bomb targets in the Darfur region. The government accuses the officers of sabotage.
The warring parties agreed on April 8, 2004, to "ensure that all armed groups under their control" complied with the agreement, while the government stated that it "shall commit itself to neutralize the armed militias" in the region. However, observers are urging caution, not least because the details of how and when the armed militias known as the Janjawid are to be "neutralized" have yet to be outlined.
The Janjawid who have been held responsible for mass displacements and what Human Rights Watch (HRW) has referred to in a report issued on April 2 as "crimes against humanity," are neither signatories to the agreement nor specifically referred to in the text. Indeed local and national authorities in Sudan do not generally acknowledge the Janjawid and their actions, referring instead to isolated incidents of "banditry" over which, they say, they have no control.
Neither the UN nor other agencies have managed to map in any detail the areas depopulated as a result of militia activity, but according to humanitarian sources in the area, a clear trend is emerging of non-Arabs being hounded out of rural areas into urban centres. The Fur and Masalit are the main targets in southern Darfur, while small numbers of Dinka from southern Sudan are also affected. Many of the attacks take on a similar pattern, eyewitnesses told IRIN. Hundreds - some say thousands - of Janjawid riding horses and camels arrive in an area from different directions before engaging in a major offensive. Rich from looting thousands of cattle, and carrying modern communications equipment, they easily coordinate their attacks. Before and after burning the non-Arab villages (or sections of such villages) collectively accused of harbouring rebels, they often loiter, armed with automatic rifles, around water sources. Here they can intimidate and rape local women, loot their animals, and destroy key infrastructure, humanitarian workers and eyewitnesses told IRIN.
"The destruction of water sources, burning of crops and theft of livestock are a key element in the government's campaign. For obvious reasons, cutting off all sources of food and water to civilians in their homes will inevitably lead to their displacement - or starvation," HRW said in its report. The Janjawid have sometimes been accompanied by the Sudanese army or have travelled in army vehicles; often they wear army uniforms, according to eyewitnesses. "Whenever these people [the Janjawid] come and attack villages, you expect that once people have resisted the army will come. That's the scenario recently," an MP from Darfur told IRIN. "They [the militias and army] tie them [up], they torture them, trying to get information about the rebellion.
Sometimes you can be killed if you are suspected, or if you try to resist, you can be tied, you can have your hand broken or legs, you can be whipped - all kinds of torture, beatings and shootings," he added. "They don't allow anyone who is a boy, anyone from 13 to 20, [to go free], they [the Janjawid] kill them straight away when they find them." The inhabitants of the villages have no choice but to flee. Even then, thousands are subjected to further attacks on the road, with more looting and violence at Janjawid "checkpoints," the IDPs said.
The continuing conflict was having a devastating effect on women and girls, according to Pamela Delargy, the chief of the humanitarian response unit of the UN Population Fund, and who was part of the team led by Morris. Women and girls were vulnerable both during attacks and when they left camps for internally displaced persons to gather water, fuel, or fodder, she said. "As in many other recent conflicts, rape has become a weapon of war in western Sudan, with disastrous consequences for women and girls," she added.
Sitting in a tiny, makeshift straw hut in Kalma camp just outside Nyala town, 27-year-old Ajoiya, a member of the Fur community, recalled how she and her baby took refuge in a mosque in Kaileik, about 50 kilometers southwest of Kas. "They [the Janjawid] came at night, they pulled back the bedclothes to see if the women had babies. If there was no baby, they would take them away to rape them," she told IRIN. Up to 30 women in Kaileik had been taken by groups of armed Janjawid and raped each day before they fled to Kalma camp in Nyala, she said. "About 20 of my relatives were taken away. We were crying out for rescue, but no one came," she said.
Civilians from 21 villages in the Shetaya and Kaileik areas, in rural Kas, had descended on Kaileik village in early March after being attacked by the Janjawid and the military. Ajoiya's two sisters-in-law, one of their babies and her brother were shot dead as they fled their attackers, she told IRIN. Additionally, "I lost everything I had: goats, 30 kg of groundnuts, blankets and donkeys." Over a two-week period, 200 men from the villages also "disappeared," she said.
"They [the Janjawid] would gather the people every day, men on one side, women on the other. Men were selected randomly, some of them were beaten, some were killed. They used to take them away to kill them," one man, who spoke anonymously, told IRIN. "We are civilians, we don't know why we are being attacked," said another.
Meanwhile, on May 4, 2004, Sudan was reelected to the UN Human
Rights Commission, despite objections mainly by the United States.
Sudan was among 14 countries elected to the UN's highest forum
for examining human rights around the world. The nomination prompted
the US delegation to walk out.