Friday, 26 April, 2013

This week marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the genocide in Darfur.  HMDT looks back at the region affected by genocide. 

‘I was happy in Darfur.  Darfur is a beautiful country.  The president of the Janjaweed gave his Janjaweed forces weapons and ammunitions, vehicles and planes.  The Janjaweed came on horses and camels and they burnt the villages and killed people. They raped our mothers and sisters. They stole our money and they displace to Chad. We found protection here in the camps, very miserable camps.’ 

Abu Bakr, a 17 year old boy who was 13 when his village in Darfur was attacked.  This quote has been provided by Waging Peace, to read more testimonies from Darfuri refugees, please visit the Waging Peace website.

 

Historically, Darfur’s many different ethnic groups lived peacefully alongside each other.  However the ethnic mix of Black Africans and Arabs have made it a target for the Sudanese government: who have been condemned as racist – favouring Arabs over Black Africans, and being complicit in ‘ethnic cleansing’ and enslavement of Black Africans.  

Genocide in Darfur was triggered as result of these rising racial tensions.  On 25 April 2003, Darfuri rebel movements, including the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) launched at attack on El Fasher Airport as well as on other Sudanese Government military targets.  They accused the government of favouring Arabs and oppressing Black African communities.  Many Darfuris felt that the Government in Khartoum had neglected and marginalised the region by focusing development on the capital and the centre of the country.

The Sudanese Government reacted to the attacks, such as that at El Fasher by arming militia – the Janjaweed – known as ‘Devils on Horseback’  – to carry out ethnic cleansing, attacking Black African people in Darfur who were perceived to be supportive of the rebels. These Janjaweed raids caused a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur.  Hundreds of villages have been destroyed in a scorched each policy.  Thousands of people have been killed, and millions of people forced to flee their homes and make Journeys towards neighbouring countries.  Refugees from Darfur say that after Government-ordered air raids on villages, the Janjaweed ride into villages and slaughter the men and rape the women before stealing whatever they can.

In 2004 a panel of experts set up by the United Nations stopped short of calling the conflict genocidal.  However, in 12 July 2010 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued indictments against the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir for three counts of genocide and several states around the world have condemned the atrocities as genocide.  President al-Bashir continues to resist arrest and deny charges.  The British Government has endorsed the ICC decision regarding al-Bashir and has urged the Sudanese Government to co-operate.  The Sudanese Government continue to deny any links between themselves and the Janjaweed, and a previous commitment to disarm the militia still shows no sign of being followed through.

Although violence in Darfur is no longer at its peak, there are still clashes between government forces, rebels, bandits and rival ethnic groups. Darfuris have made Journeys away from persecution towards countries such as Chad, where many have become stuck in border refugee camps, unable to return to their homes because of continued attacks and denied humanitarian access into the country.  A United Nations African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping force remains in Darfur. This force is an underfunded and underequipped peacekeeping mission charged with protecting the 2.7 million internally displaced people who live in camps across Darfur.  Although the worst of the genocide may be over in Darfur, the UN estimates that roughly 4.7 million people are still affected by the conflict and denied their basic human rights.

Atrocities in Sudan have also taken place in other areas; such as Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.  In 2011, Ahmed Haroun, an indicted war criminal previously involved in the atrocities in Darfur, was elected to govern the South Kordofan province.  Since then the people of the Nuba Mountains, an area of South Kordofan, have been attacked with heavy artillery by the Sudanese Government. There is evidence of the use of aerial bombardment, cluster bombs and illegal anti-personnel mines by the government to attack civilian settlements, with a fear that these technologically advanced weapons are creating a dire situation.  Mukesh Kapila, who was Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Sudan between 2003 and 2004, warns 'this is not just a repetition of Darfur; it is Darfur but more efficiently conducted'.

Holocaust Memorial Day provides an opportunity to come together to raise awareness of the genocide and continuing atrocities taking place in Sudan, commemorate those murdered and honour those who have survived.  The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2014 is Journeys, for HMD 2014 we can reflect on the experience of forced Journeys made by those affected by genocide, from homes in villages and towns and across countries, Journeys to life in new countries.  These drawings provided by Waging Peace, a NGO campaigning against genocide and human rights violations, provide a poignant testimony from young Darfuri refugees who have sought refuge in neighbouring Chad. 

This boy was eight when his village in Darfur was attacked in 2004. His drawing describes this attack, where Janjaweed forces (drawn on horseback) and Sudanese forces (in vehicles and tanks) worked together to burn his village, kill many civilians (shown lying on the ground) and displace survivors.

This boy was 9 when his village in Darfur was attacked by Sudanese Government forces and Janjaweed militias in 2003. This drawing shows some of the methods of killing used by the Janjaweed (on foot and on horses) and the Sudanese forces (in tanks, machine gun-mounted vehicles and planes). At the top of the picture a boy is thrown into a fire. In the middle, a man has a bag placed over his head before being shot. A soldier in a ‘technical’ shoots a civilian. At the bottom, a soldier appears to be cutting a man’s head off. Women, with hands tied behind their backs, are being marched off at gun point. A woman with her possessions on her head flees with her 2 children, pursued by 2 soldiers. A government plane is bombing the village and setting the houses on fire.

You can show your support for the Waging Peace campaign Darfur10 by remembering the events that have taken place in Darfur and acting by signing the global petition to UN Secretary - General Ban Ki-Moon urging the UN to take action on Darfur as well as Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.