EL-FASHIR, Sudan (AP) -- First come the airplanes. Then the horsemen who burn, rape and kill.
Over and over, terrified villagers told the same story Thursday as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan got a firsthand look at the crisis engulfing Sudan's Darfur region. Annan, accompanied by government ministers and senior U.N. staff, toured one of the 137 camps where more than 1 million people chased from their homes over the past 16 months have sought shelter. Sitting on mats shaded by trees, he chatted with camp elders and women who described the waves of attacks humanitarian workers have likened to ethnic cleansing.
Human rights groups accuse the Sudanese government of backing militias of Arab herders, known as the Janjaweed, in a campaign to forcibly remove African farming communities from the vast western region where they have coexisted, and in some cases intermarried, for centuries. Camp residents echoed their accounts Thursday.
"First the planes were flying over us and bombing us. Then the Janjaweed came," said a 20-year-old woman, who gave her name only as Zahara. "They started to shoot and burn. They took all our belongings. They took men and slit their throats with swords. The women they took as concubines." [...] Here, at least, there have been no attacks, residents said. But women say they don't dare venture out for fear of meeting the militias they say regularly abduct and rape African women and girls. [...] Annan -- who is on a three-week tour to the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe -- has raised the possibility of sending in international troops if Sudan's government can't safeguard its people in Darfur.
Um ... Kofi? Here's the thing: given the presence of planes bombing the villages, it would appear that Sudan's government is actively attacking the people who have flocked to Darfur. Let alone the fact that the militias are apparently roaming around the outside of the camps, judging from the fact that women are afraid of being kidnapped. I think you can kind of take it as given that Sudan's government can't safeguard its people, because it's not remotely interested in safeguarding its people.
GENEINA, Sudan, June 29 -- At first light on Sunday, three young women walked into a scrubby field just outside their refugee camp in West Darfur. They had gone out to collect straw for their family's donkeys. They recalled thinking that the Arab militiamen who were attacking African tribes at night would still be asleep. But six men grabbed them, yelling Arabic slurs such as "zurga" and "abid," meaning "black" and "slave." Then the men raped them, beat them and left them on the ground, they said.
"They grabbed my donkey and my straw and said, 'Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby,' " said Sawela Suliman, 22, showing slashes from where a whip had struck her thighs as her father held up a police and health report with details of the attack. "They said, 'You get out of this area and leave the child when it's made.' " Suliman's father, a tall, proud man dressed in a flowing white robe, cried as she described the rape. It was not an isolated incident, according to human rights officials and aid workers in this region of western Sudan, where 1.2 million Africans have been driven from their lands by government-backed Arab militias, tribal fighters known as Janjaweed.
Interviews with two dozen women at camps, schools and health centers in two provincial capitals in Darfur yielded consistent reports that the Janjaweed were carrying out waves of attacks targeting African women. The victims and others said the rapes seemed to be a systematic campaign to humiliate the women, their husbands and fathers, and to weaken tribal ethnic lines. In Sudan, as in many Arab cultures, a child's ethnicity is attached to the ethnicity of the father.
"The pattern is so clear because they are doing it in such a massive way and always saying the same thing," said an international aid worker who is involved in health care. She and other international aid officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared reprisals or delays of permits that might hamper their operations.
She showed a list of victims from Rokero, a town outside of Jebel Marra in central Darfur where 400 women said they were raped by the Janjaweed. "It's systematic," the aid worker said. "Everyone knows how the father carries the lineage in the culture. They want more Arab babies to take the land. The scary thing is that I don't think we realize the extent of how widespread this is yet." [...] During a recent visit, government minders warned people at the school to stop talking about the rapes or face beatings or death. Minders also were seen handing out bribes to keep women from speaking to foreign visitors. But those at the school spoke anyway. A group of people handed a journalist two letters in Arabic that listed 40 names of rape victims, and wanted the list to be sent to Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, Republicans who were touring the region and pressing the government to disarm the Janjaweed.
Again, Kofi, notice that the government is trying to hush up everything -- although what morons would think you could hush up something this wide-scale, I'm sure I don't know. Combine the military attacks with the attempt to cover up the systematic rape policy, and I'm thinking that perhaps -- just perhaps -- it would be reasonable to assume that you can't trust Sudan's government as far as you can throw it, and you would be an utter and absolute fool to even try.
Reportedly, the UN has given Sudan 48 hours to get the Janjaweed and other militias under control. Even if Sudan had the slightest interest in getting them controlled, 48 hours is a rather stupid deadline. What can they possibly accomplish against a widely dispersed, fairly mobile, leaderless set of groups in that time frame? It would not be a reasonable deadline under any circumstances; under these, it's patently absurd. There's also the wee "Or else what happens" problem; none of the current UN resolutions on this situation has any punitive aspect. And leave us not forget, Sudan itself is head of the security council at the moment; one suspects that they can do all manner of parliamentary action to scotch any resolutions against them.Posted by iain at July 01, 2004 02:24 PM