Mayhems in Sudan
By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
May 7, 2004
One of the World's most neglected humanitarian crises
United Nations called the escalating conflict in Sudan’s Darfur as "one of the world's most neglected humanitarian crises".
All the human rights groups are pointing to a grim condition swelling in Sudan, especially, in Darfur, where thousands of people were killed, more than a million people were displaced from their home, 110,000 had to flee to the neighboring nation, reports of hundreds of women being raped or forced to work in manual labor have begun to shake world’s outrageous apathy toward Africa, barely.
Last week, UN World Food Programme Executive Director James Morris led a team to Darfur, and he was appalled seeing “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with so many people in the most belligerent way being chased from their homes. Everything has been taken away from these people.” 
In Darfur, like many other conflicts around the world, “rape has become a weapon of war in western Sudan, with disastrous consequences for women and girls,"  When women and girls do their errands in gathering water and other necessary items, they are attacked, raped, forcefully taken to do manual labors or act as sexual slaves for the Janjaweed militia. 
Last month Amnesty International published a press release on this very sordid issue, describing atrocious event occurred on February 27 and 29, 2004, when villages in Tawila were attacked, "All houses as well as a market and a health center were completely looted and the market burnt. Over 100 women were raped, six in front of their fathers who were later killed". 
Janjaweed militias in collaboration with the Sudanese military were blamed for these attacks, rapes and killings. However, the Sudanese government denies any involvement.
Who are these Janjaweed militias?
They are consisted of nomadic Arabs, and they are tormenting Black Africans, who are also Muslims as the Janjaweeds are. Consequently, this is not a battle between the religious groups; it is “African”-ness and “Arab”-ness that is supposedly being manipulated by the Sudanese government.
It was last year, in February of 2003, The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), two non-Arab African political and military groups comprised from the “three largest indigenous ethnic groups in Darfur – the Fur, Zaghawa and the Masaleet” began fighting against the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militias. They accused the government for not protecting non-Arab people in Darfur; they blamed the government for relegating Darfur to a marginal position and for lack of development in the region.
On the other hand, the Arabs in Darfur blame the non-Arab African groups like Fur for politically marginalizing the Arabs in the region.
Poverty is pervasive in Darfur where the residents, villagers engage in agriculture and livestock herding for their survival. Northern Darfur had increasingly become arid, and the Arabs from this region started taking their camels, horses and other livestock to the southern less arid Darfur region in every spring for water and grassy lands for their grazing domestic animals.
Their incursion into the Southern Darfur brought them in direct confrontation with the farmers “whose crops have been trampled on and consumed by herds of camels or cattle. Some of the African communities resorted to self-defense groups in the 1990s to protect their crops, homes, and families from increasing incursions by the Arab camel – or horse-mounted raiders, many of whom have also been armed over the past decades”. 
The Sudanese government had recruited about 20,000 people from the Arab ethnic group, both from Darfur and also from the neighboring Chad, and armed them with weapon to fight the JEM and SLA. They recruited the militia since many members in Sudanese military are from Darfur and might have been reluctant to fight against the men from their homeland. It also provides the Sudanese government a propaganda tool, so that when confronted by the international community against any oppression evidence in Darfur, they can claim, quiet conveniently, that the Janjaweed militia are not under their control, they can deny any allegations of mass murders and other human rights violations, shifting blame on the militia instead.
In the past, Sudanese government had used the similar tactic, utilizing ethnic groups in creating militia in the fight, especially, the Southern Sudan where the war between the North and Southern Sudan raged for years, where a possible peace settlement mediated by the Inter Governmental Development Authority (IGAD) composed of a regional grouping of seven East African countries, may occur in the next few months between the warring groups.
It is reported that the Janjaweed militias do not engage with SLA or JEM rebels who have weapons and can fight back. They instead attack the innocent unarmed civilians, systematically, Africans in the villages, rampaging, looting their homes, raping women and killing thousands in the process.
Amnesty International claims, “The Sudan government appears to have given free rein to the nomadic militias known as the Janjaweed to kill and abduct civilians, mainly from the agricultural ethnic groups, and destroy their property. More than 800,000 people have fled from their burnt villages and most have taken refuge in towns in Darfur, while more than 120,000 have crossed the border into Chad. More than 10,000 have been killed in attacks.” 
Who are Responsible?
Accusations against the Arab dominated Sudanese government are severe. They are reportedly aiding the Janjaweed militia, with weapons, money, and even there are reports of Sudan’s military and militia participated in coordinated attacks in Darfur. Sudanese air force using Migs, Antonovs and attack helicopters dropped bombed with deadly payloads on Darfur’s villages, then the Janjaweed militia and the Sudanese army moved in to complete the task of destruction, killing thousands of innocent civilians, displacing hundreds of thousands, raping women, looting and destroying properties.
Even now, when the international community has started putting pressure on Sudanese Government, a peace deal was signed between the government and the Darfur’s rebels in the beginning of April 2004, there are reports of issuing false death certificates to the Janjaweed militia members so that they can disappear, without facing any criminal charges for the horrendous crimes they had committed. “There are reports that Janjaweed members are being flown to the Red Sea Province on the return routes of the planes that bring humanitarian supplies to Darfur and are issued military identification for the Sudanese army to prevent human rights investigators from identifying them as perpetrators.” 
The Arab tribes in the Darfur region alongside the Sudanese government are complaining that the Western nations are biased against the Arabs in Sudan.
They claim, “The armed conflict in Darfur is not simply between Arabs and non-Arabs. Fighting often occurs between Arab tribes such as the Beni Helba and Al-Mahiriya, who are part of the huge Rezeiquat tribal confederacy of western and central Sudan". 
On May 4, 2004, when Sudan was elected in the UN Human Rights commission for a three year term, a senior U.S. diplomat protested in walkout, stating the following: "The United States is perplexed and dismayed by the decision to put forward Sudan -- a country that massacres its own African citizens -- for election to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights," said U.S. representative Sichan Siv before storming out of a U.N. conference hall before the vote. "With credible reports continuing to come out of Sudan regarding the most serious human rights violations in Darfur, Sudan's membership on the commission threatens to undermine not only its work, but its very credibility." 
It immediately received a sharp rebuke from the Sudanese government representative in UN, “Omar Bashir Manis, responded by criticizing the United States for engaging in human rights abuses around the world, citing the "infamous and degrading treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison." Bashir accused the U.S. military of using excessive force in military campaigns from Afghanistan to Iraq and denying basic rights to inmates in a military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "It is yet very ironic that the United States delegation, while shedding crocodile tears over the situation in Darfur, is turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by American forces against the innocent civilian population in Iraq," he added. 
The inflamed words between Sudan and the U.S. government have been going on for sometime now. It is only the last month that Sudanese President Omar Hasan Al-Bashir furiously denied an official American request to send fact-finding team in the Darfur region. “Speaking to Thousands of supporters in Al-Fashir, the capital of Darfur, Al-Beshir warned of an “international neo-colonialist conspiracy to break-up Sudan and to demoralize Sudan’s armed forces”. 
Perhaps this is another diversion tactic? For Sudan, raising the issue of human rights violations in Iraq by the American soldiers rather than taking concrete steps in disarming the Janjaweed rebels might be considered as sneaky by many. On the same token, it might be advantageous for the Americans in diverting world's attentions to atrocities in Sudan from Iraq's carnage.
Since the Sudanese government has been swallowed up in decades old war with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA), international community, especially the neighboring East African nations who are trying to broker a peace deal between the North and South Sudan, that also supported by leaders from Washington D.C., London, Oslo and Rome, so that a final peace deal is reached in Naivasha, Kenya, are reluctant in confronting the Sudanese government on Darfur mayhem. And the Sudanese government has realized this catch-22 phase of the international community, and they wish to crush this rebellion in Darfur while using the entire tools up their sleeves in delaying peace deal in Naivasha.
However, things may get worse than they are now. European Voice reports that the civil war in Darfur risks inflicting irreparable damage on a delicate ethnic balance of seven million people and its implications go far beyond Darfur’s borders. “The war indirectly threatens the regimes in both Sudan and Chad and has the potential to inspire insurgencies in other parts of the country. The Beja Congress from eastern Sudan has already allied itself with the SLA and other groups could emerge - east and west - in an anti-government coalition.” 
If no real peace settlement is implemented in Darfur so that displaced villagers could go back to their homes, as the rainy, harvesting season is seeping away for this year while the mass displacement “of so many people continues through the rainy season, which begins in May, the resulting meager harvest could lead to famine among Darfur's 6m people.”  Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese could die of starving from this impending famine, recalling the awful memory of Rwanda, while the world stood watching with absolute negligence, entrapped in international squalid politics amid preventable bloodbath and starvations of millions.
1. Gamal NKRumah, “Darfur in Flames”, Al Ahram Weekly, April 29, 2004.
2. “Sudan Denies Atrocities in Darfur”, BBC, April 25, 2004.
3. "WFP Launches Urgent Appeal as Catastrophe Looms in Darfur”, World Food Program, April 23, 2004.
4. Estanislao Oziewicz, “Sudan’s Government Accused in Killings”, The Globe and Mail, April 24, 2004.
5. Paul Garwood, “Unicef Asks £20M to Help Sudan Refugees”, The Independent, UK, April 27, 2004.
6. “Stalling in Sudan…”, The Washington Post, April 26, 2004.
7. “Slaughter in Sudan”, The Arizona Republic, May 5, 2004.
8. Tom Lantos, “We Must Stop the Slaughter in Darfur”, The Boston Globe, May 4, 2004.
9. Colum Lynch, “U.S. Protests Sudan’s Election to Human Rights Panel”, The Washington Post, May 5, 2004.
10. Lurma Rackley, “Hundreds of Thousands will Receive help in War-Torn Darfur”, Reuters Foundation, May 4, 2004.
11. CIA The World Factbook – Sudan, Updated December 18, 2003.
12. William Minter, “Global Inertia Means Death in Sudan”, The Providence Journal, May 6, 2004.
13. “Sudan Defiant after U.S. walkout at UN, Warns Against Politicizing Darfur”, Channel News Asia, May 6, 2004.
14. “Sudan: Systematic Rape of Women and Girls”, Amnesty International, April 15, 2004.
15. “Sudan: Government Must Stop Human Rights and Humanitarian Disaster in Darfur”, Amnesty International, April 30, 2004.
16. “Sudan – Annual Report 2004”, Reporters Without Borders.
17. “Sudan: Senior UN Officials Deplore Humanitarian Situation in Darfur”, IRIN, May 5, 2004.
18. “Q A: Crisis in Darfur”, Human Rights Watch, May 5, 2004.
19. “UNconscionable”, The Economist, May 6, 2004.
20. David Mozersky, “Sudan Crisis Crying Out for Solution”, The European Voice, April 29, 2004.
21. “Sudan Denies Atrocities in Darfur”, BBC, April 25, 2004.
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: email@example.com.