The conflict in Darfur has entered a violent and deadly new phase.
Another “scorched earth” policy is being unleashed, reminiscent of the worst waves of government-backed violence that brought the Sudanese region to world attention five years ago and led the US to declare that what was happening there constituted genocide. ...
The brutal new onslaught is centred on western Darfur where clusters of villages have been aerially bombed and, in co-ordinated ground attacks, homes have been looted and burnt to the ground. Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee into neighbouring Chad.
“The tactics are exactly the same as those the government pursued right at the start of this conflict: aerial bombings, followed by sending in the militias to loot, kill and rape,” said one source in Sudan. “It is
as ruthless as in 2003.”
At the peak of the Darfur crisis three years ago, health experts
estimated that 6,000 to 10,000 people were losing their lives each
month to disease, hunger and violence. Today, thanks to a drop in
violence and improved healthcare, that figure is estimated at 100 to
600 a month, based on United Nations mortality estimates, news reports
and interviews with U.N. officials, aid workers and Western diplomats.
The U.S.’s chronic failure to pay its U.N. peacekeeping dues may have dire consequences. Recently, Sudan agreed to allow a 20,000-soldier U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur to stop a genocide that has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million more. But the U.S.’s arrears is jeopardizing the deployment. The Guardian has the details.
The president has rightly referred to the tragedy in Darfur as genocide. If you think that the U.S. should put its money where its mouth is, then you might think about signing this petition.
It seems that in spying on the insurgents in Iraq, the U.S. is getting help from Sudan, which is responsible for the tragedy in Darfur—the same tragedy that the U.S. president aptly describes as “genocide.” A story in the L.A. Times quotes an anonymous U.S. intelligence official: “Intelligence cooperation takes place for a whole lot of reasons. It’s not always between people who love each other deeply.”
“We can’t distribute food if we're being shot at, basically, but when
you're feeding millions of people, failure is not an option and
security is deteriorating,” says Simon Crittle, a spokesman for the
World Food Program. “When you know who the rebels are, and who the
government is, you can negotiate with them to get a food convoy through
on a certain date. But when you don’t know who’s who, anyone can pull a
gun and demand money, it makes it that much more dangerous.”
An editorial from Commonweal says that it's fine to call what's happening in Darfur "genocide," but "the word 'genocide' is not enough; we must also accept and respond to the urgency such language implies."
The crisis [in Darfur] is no longer a local land dispute between Arab and non-Arab
Muslims. It is systematic ethnic cleansing that threatens the stability
of an entire region. The United States must use all its diplomatic
resources to force Sudan's leaders into compliance with international
law. But that may not be enough. If we are going to keep calling the
violence there a genocide, we must be prepared to do whatever we can to
stop it, even if this means using force. America’s military, already
overcommitted in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in no position to undertake a
unilateral intervention, but a small NATO force, with U.S. support,
could push back the Janjaweed and establish a no-fly zone over Darfur.
Recent events in Somalia have reminded us that the U.S. government is
willing to involve itself in African conflicts when it thinks the
stakes are high enough, and they could not be much higher than they are
in Darfur. Now may seem like an especially bad time to propose yet
another military operation, however modest. But if the new cease-fire
fails to end the killing, who will tell the people of Darfur to keep
waiting? They have been waiting, and we have been watching, for too
Last Sept. 11 was a momentous day in Darfur, too. After unidentified
militiamen attacked aid workers from the Nobel Prize-winning Médecins
sans Frontières at a roadblock on that date, most of the international
aid groups ministering to Darfur's 6 million people stopped using the
roads. On Dec. 18, in the southern town of Gereida, unrelated gunmen
attacked the compounds of Oxfam and Action Contre la Faim. More than 70
aid workers subsequently pulled out of the refugee camp there—Darfur's
largest, with 130,000 people—leaving only 10 Red Cross employees
behind. Yet at the time no one revealed what had really sparked the
dramatic pullbacks. In both cases, international staff, including three
French aid workers, were either raped or sexually assaulted in
territory controlled by the Sudanese government and its allies.
Rape as a weapon has become depressingly commonplace in Darfur, where
200,000 Africans have been killed and a third of the population have
been sent fleeing into camps in three years of war. But the attacks on
international aid workers herald a dramatic and dangerous new trend—the
deliberate targeting of those helping to keep Darfur's millions of
Over the last two years the efforts of humanitarian agencies in Darfur have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians caught up in the region's conflict. During this time mortality rates were brought below emergency levels, global malnutrition was halved from the height of the crisis in mid-2004 and nearly three-quarters of all Darfurians now have access to safe drinking water. In 2006 alone, 400,000 metric tons of food were delivered. In the face of growing insecurity and danger to communities and aid workers, the UN and its humanitarian partners have effectively been holding the line for the survival and protection of millions.
Now the bad news: the bad guys have figured out that they can kill their intended victims by targeting the relief workers.
Twelve relief workers have been killed in the past six months – more
than in the previous two years combined. Their loss has had direct
consequences on the Darfur humanitarian operations. The killing of
three government water engineers in West Darfur in July 2006 led to a
temporary suspension of water and sanitation activities in camps for
IDPs. Nine workers from the same Government department were abducted in
South Darfur in November 2006 – five are still missing.
In the last six months, 30 NGO and UN compounds were directly attacked
by armed groups. More than 400 humanitarian workers have been forced to
relocate 31 times from different locations throughout the three Darfur
states, including from the capitals El Fasher and El Geneina and from
rebel-controlled areas. Assets have been looted and staff threatened
and physically harassed. In the town of Gereida (South Darfur),
targeted attacks against six humanitarian compounds on 18 December
forced the NGO staff to withdraw, seriously compromising the delivery
of vital assistance such as food, clean water and health care for
130,000 displaced persons, the largest IDP gathering in all Darfur. Ten
days earlier, in the town of Kutum (North Darfur), the staff of four
NGOs and WFP were forced to withdraw to El Fasher, after an attack on a
clearly marked humanitarian compound. These are but two examples of the
types of incidents which have taken place throughout Darfur.
Jim Wallis suggests that the upcoming State of the Union Address gives Pres. Bush an opportunity to help:
We stressed the importance of making Darfur primary in the president's
State of the Union address, with clear words about what we – and the
world – will DO in the face of Sudanese intransigence. Deadlines have
come and gone, with no real change. The State of the Union should mark
the moment for the kind of commitment that is necessary to save Darfur.
Next Tuesday, as President Bush delivers his speech, I will be
listening for action. For God's sake, save Darfur.
This video from Chad, courtesy of SaveDarfur.org, includes eye-witness accounts of the atrocities spreading there from neighboring Darfur. If you're sitting comfortably in front of a computer screen right now, the one thing you ought not do is avert your eyes.
In diplomatic circles, the Sudanese government can be wonderfully
polished as it scoffs at accusations of genocide and denounces calls
for U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.
In isolated villages,
everything is more straightforward — like the men in Sudanese military
uniforms who on Tuesday captured Abdullah Idris, a 27-year-old father
of two, in the fields as he was farming. They tried to shoot him in the
chest, but the gun misfired.
"So they beat him to the ground,"
explained Osman Omar, a nephew of Mr. Abdullah who was one of several
neighbors who recounted the events in the same way. "And then they used
their bayonets to gouge out his eyes."
Mr. Abdullah lay on his back on a hospital bed, his eye sockets swathed
in bandages soaked in blood and pus. A sister sat on the floor beside
him, crying; his wife and small children stood nearby, looking
overwhelmed and bewildered. He was so traumatized in the incident that
he has been unable to speak since, but he constantly reaches out to
hold the hands of his family members.
Three men and two women
were killed in that attack by the janjaweed, the militias of Arab
nomads that have been slaughtering black African farmers for more than
three years now. A 26-year-old woman was kidnapped, and nobody has seen
The janjaweed even explained themselves to the people
they were attacking. Survivors quoted them as shouting racial epithets
against blacks and yelling, “We are going to kill you, and we are going
to take your land.”
Mr. Abdullah’s eyes were gouged out as part
of a wave of recent attacks here in southeastern Chad. Officials from
the U.N. refugee agency counted at least 220 people killed in the last
week in this area near Goz Beida.
write this on my laptop, I’ve just returned from a long drive through
abandoned countryside. The village of Tamajour was still smoldering
after being burned by janjaweed attackers two days earlier.
finally found some residents of Tamajour, clustered around the hospital
of Goz Beida. Abdelkarim Zakaria, a 25-year-old man, lay in a bed with
two bullets lodged in his back. Friends had carried him more than 20
miles to the hospital to save his life.
Outside the hospital,
two old women from Tamajour lay on the ground, suffering from terrible
burns. The women were too feeble to flee, and they said that the
janjaweed fighters set fire to their huts even though they knew the
women were inside. One woman, Gida Zakaria, who said she thought she
was about 70, had a back that was just an ulcerating mass of raw flesh.
more than three years of such brutality, it seems incredibly inadequate
for the international community simply to hand out bandages when old
women are roasted in their huts and young men have their eyes gouged
out. What we need isn’t more bandages, but the will to stand up to
Don't let Congress and President Bush get away with offering platitudes and humanitarian aid. Someone needs to send in some troops. That someone should be the UN. If the UN fails, then NATO should intervene. If precedent is needed, then Serbia in 1999 is precedent. Every day that nothing happens is another day that people are brutalized.