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Archive for November 24th, 2011

“Darfur: The Genocide the World Got Tired Of”

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2011

 Amidst precarious humanitarian conditions, human security is increasingly threatened in Darfur—by Khartoum’s military as well as by variously re-cycled militia forces, and in particular by the increasingly savage Abu Tira (Central Reserve Police). The UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a conspicuous failure, and yet continues to represent the entirety of international efforts in confronting the “responsibility to protect” acutely endangered civilians

News coverage of the Darfur region of western Sudan, including eastern Chad, has all but vanished.  Were it not for the efforts of the Sudan Tribune and Radio Dabanga, two extraordinary journalistic enterprises by Sudanese in the diaspora, Darfur would be largely reduced to the feeble visibility provided by media releases from UNAMID (the UN/African Union peacekeeping force in the region).  These stultifying, self-serving dispatches convey nothing of the continuing violence and destruction that afflict Darfuris, both in the camps and rural areas, as well as in towns.  The victims continue to be overwhelmingly from the African tribal groups of the region, who make up the vast majority of the more than 2 million people who remain uprooted, most from the most intense phase of Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency effort (April 2003 into early 2005).  During the past eight and a half years, some 500,000 people have died from violence or the consequences of violent displacement.

Insecurity and deprivation also define the lives of the Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, most of whom fled early in the conflict.  There, as Human Rights authoritatively established with reports in 2006 and 2007, Khartoum pursued ethnically African Darfuris with Antonov bombers, and turned loose their savage Janjaweed militias (see especially “‘They Came Here to Kill Us’: Militia Attacks and Ethnic Targeting of Civilians in Eastern Chad,” January 2007 and “Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad,” February 2006). And yet eastern Chad is, if possible, even less visible than Darfur. But the crisis there continues to be enormous: the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates this year that there are some 285,000 refugees who remain near the Chad/Darfur border; these people are no closer to safe returns in substantial numbers than they were five years ago.

The figure for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur has been badly politicized, particularly by the UN’s Georg Charpentier, who lowered the UN estimate for IDPs from 2.7 million to 1.9 million in July 2010—justifying this only on the basis of a footnote reference to a report by the International Organization for Migration that did not exist, and still is not complete (the undertaking is in partnership with the UN World Food Program as part of an overdue re-registration effort in the camps).  This was utterly disingenuous on Charpentier’s part, as is the consistent UN suggestion that the population of IDPs is equivalent to the populations in the camps.  This is not so. It should be noted first that camp are populations highly fluid, especially during agriculturally important times of the year, and especially if lands abandoned are in walking distance.  But the status of many other displaced persons is even more ambiguous, and a great many people have taken shelter with host families or villages, often far from their homes.  This is an enormous population that has never shown up in the census calculations of IDP numbers based solely on camp registrations (this is true of the Darfuri refugee population in eastern Chad as well).  To omit the figure for displaced persons not in the camps—without even acknowledging that this population exists, and that it is very substantial—is but another form of disingenuousness on the part of Charpentier and the UN/AU joint special representative for Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria.

Security for these displaced persons remains appallingly inadequate.  Despite Gambari’s fatuously self-serving public claims, UNAMID is almost completely dysfunctional in protecting civilians.  Certainly Darfuris are uniformly scathing in their assessment of UNAMID’s performance and protection abilities.  It is true that large-scale armed conflict between Khartoum (along with its Arab militia allies) and the rebel groups has declined in recent months; but we have seen such declines a number of times over the past eight years, and invariably fighting has resumed (moreover, two ominous recent reports indicate that dry season fighting may be about to begin). Khartoum has for the present re-deployed a great many of its military air assets to el-Obeid (North Kordofan), to South Kordofan, and to Blue Nile—including a newly expanded air field near recently captured Kurmuk (southern Blue Nile). This expansion includes helipads for combat helicopters, both gunships and troop-ferrying aircraft.  From these locations, Khartoum’s military aircraft are engaged in what all accounts suggest is daily bombardment and aerial attacks on civilians, including refugees from South Kordofan who have made it to South Sudan.

Reduced fighting in Darfur, almost certainly temporary, thus gives the world an excuse to pretend that UNAMID is somehow an adequate international response to the violence and continued displacement; in fact, it is yet another in a long line of obscene failures to make the “responsibility to protect” something more than a feel-good exhortation.  It is worth noting that since UNAMID officially took up its mandate on January 1, 2008, almost 1 million Darfuris have been newly displaced, according to figures from the UN High Commission for Refugees.  This vast number in itself makes nonsense of Charpentier’s claim that the number of IDPs may be reduced by over 800,000, a claim that Khartoum delights in.

The realities of human security in Darfur are simply not represented in any meaningful fashion by a thoroughly intimidated UN; this in turn offers special representative Gambari the opportunity to make any number of absurd claims about the success of the mission he now oversees, and which he clearly hopes to use as a stepping-stone in his career (much as his disastrous performance in Burma won him appointment by Ban Ki-moon to his present position).  But the causes for concern are many, and the daily violence experienced by Darfuris, even without major fighting or regular aerial bombardment, needs some meaningful accounting.  There should be, for example, major concerns about the mercenaries who have returned to Darfur from Libya, with their substantial weaponry.  These men could easily become an additional source of insecurity for civilians, but UNAMID has said nothing that suggests it even perceives a threat.

Further, the epidemic of rape that has stalked Darfur for more than eight years continues; Radio Dabanga provides continuing accounts on this immensely destructive phenomenon, which is rippling cruelly through families and generations.  (See below for a compendium of recent reports on the continuing outrage of widespread rape, including the rape of girls, with no accountability.)  Camps continue to be attacked, rural farms seized, civilians casually murdered, and arson is deployed more frequently as a means of destroying key institutions, including schools.

The Central Reserve Police, or Abu Tira, are now Khartoum’s primary instrument of destruction and intimidation, and they operate throughout Darfur with total impunity, sustaining a climate of fear and violence that at once endangers humanitarian operations and presents intolerable threats to civilians.  Julie Flint offers a perspicuous overview of this force

“A gendarmerie officially under the Interior Ministry, although more likely at the behest of the [former] National Intelligence and Security Service of Salah Gosh, the Central Reserve Police has become increasingly active in the conflict in Darfur (and neighbouring Kordofan). Some analysts believe this is a result of the reduced effectiveness of the Popular Defence Forces, a paramilitary group that has taken on a political dimension that makes it more useful as a political rallying tool than a fighting force; others link it to restrictions imposed on Sudan Armed Forces by the Darfur Peace Agreement. In 2004, the Central Reserve Police opened a training centre in Musa Hilal’s Misteriha barracks in North Darfur.” (“Beyond ‘Janjaweed’: Understanding the Militias of Darfur,” Small Arms Survey [Geneva], June 2009)

It was Musa Hila, the most notorious of the Janjaweed leaders, who announced in 2004 the ambition that still animates Khartoum’s efforts in Darfur: “change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.”

None of this is suggested anywhere in UNAMID’s representation of conditions in Darfur.

“Peace for our time”?

Various disingenuously optimistic claims have been made for the Darfur “peace agreement” signed in Doha, Qatar (July 14, 2011), but the political and military realities on the ground in Darfur hardly justify optimism of any sort.  For only the militarily weak and politically unviable Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) signed with Khartoum, reflecting a strategic error by mediators in Doha, one foreseen by Sudan analyst Laura Jones and others.  For by reaching agreement with this cobbled together and unrepresentative faction, the regime can now declare it has signed a peace agreement and will not re-open negotiations.  Unsurprisingly, Khartoum has consistently declared since the July signing that the agreement is final and that it is up to the other rebel groups to join el-Tigani Sissi’s LJM.

But Sissi has lost a great deal of political influence among Darfuris since he was governor in the 1980s, even among his largely Fur constituencies; many hold him at least partly responsible for accommodating Khartoum in ways that led to the present catastrophe.  Though commonly dated to 2003, the first stages of the war actually began in 2002, and this violence in turn can be traced back to yet earlier instances of ethnically-targeted violence, including large-scale destruction of the Massalit people in 1999 and even to the Fur-Arab war of 1987-89.  Sissi has too much baggage from this period, and he and the LJM simply cannot bring Darfuris to accept this peace agreement; present strife in the camps around the Doha agreement makes this painfully clear.

So it is not surprising that Khartoum refused to attend a forum on Darfur in Washington this month, organized by U.S. special envoy Princeton Lyman: the regime will do nothing that might suggest that actual negotiations of the agreement might be re-opened.  The Doha agreement is a failure, one all too predictable, especially given the unseemly infighting among the facilitators (including Gambari, the AU’s Thabo Mbeki, and former joint negotiator Djibril Bassolé) and the indifferent response by international actors of consequence, including the U.S. and the EU.  Khartoum will now simply ignore any demand that negotiations be expanded to include the more powerful rebel groups, or indeed the vast majority of Darfuri civil society, which has never been adequately represented in the peace talks because of Khartoum’s relentless obstructionism. The pursuit of peace in Darfur, as represented by the Doha agreement, is simply a charade, aiding Khartoum and allowing the U.S. and others to keep up the appearance of doing something meaningful.

The diplomatic realities are not lost on the politically and militarily more powerful rebel groups; and in what has for months seemed inevitable, an alliance has now been formed by the major military factions among the Darfur rebel groups—including the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) of Abdel Wahid el-Nur, the SLA of Minni Minawi, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) of Khalil Ibrahim—and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLA/M-N).  There are doubts that this alliance will prove militarily viable, which formally came into existence, after long negotiations, on November 11; but it seems foolish to underestimate what these forces can achieve collectively, especially as the movement (known as the Sudan Revolutionary Front, SRF) continues to grow.  On November 18 the Beja Congress—the most powerful element of the former Eastern Front during the civil war—joined the RDF.  So too did the Koch Revolution Movement.  And the brutally marginalized people of Nubia also seem likely to become part of this military and political coalition which has a single goal: regime change.

There are many who argue that Khartoum, for its part, can’t afford a return to war (and that the South can’t either), and that fears of country-wide conflict are unwarranted.  And certainly the economy in the North is in disastrous shape, with many severely negative indicators: high inflation; virtually no foreign exchange reserves; the plunging value of the Sudanese pound; growing unemployment; substantial losses of oil revenues; a hugely expensive military and security complex; the need for fiscal austerity, including removing highly popular subsidies for sugar and petrol; and external debt in excess of $38 billion, which can’t be serviced, let alone repaid.

But in the eyes of the generals who seized power earlier this year in a “creeping military coup,” one obvious solution is to seize and hold Southern oil fields and thereby boost oil revenues.  The revenues from Southern oil production were formerly divided 50/50 between Khartoum and Juba; however, if Khartoum were to succeed in capturing and holding some of the more productive concession areas, they would of course take 100 percent of the revenues.  Phillip Aguer, military spokesman for the (Southern) Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) declared—in light of Khartoum’s continuing cross-border air, ground, and artillery assaults—”this is an oil war now.”  There is strong evidence that he is right.

Humanitarian Conditions in Darfur

International attention to the crises in the border regions of Abyei, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan—however weak and unfocused—has certainly contributed substantially to Darfur’s invisibility.  The Obama administration decision of a year ago to “de-couple” Darfur from negotiations between Washington and Khartoum on issues of terrorism was taken by the regime officials as a sign that if it allowed the Southern self-determination referendum to take place as scheduled, and accepted the inevitable vote for secession, then other issues in Sudan would become less exigent—at least diplomatically.

Partly as a consequence of this U.S. signal, humanitarian conditions in a “de-coupled” Darfur remain almost completely obscured by Khartoum’s intimidation of both the UN and international relief organizations, which fear to promulgate data or reports that have not been approved by the regime.  Moreover, there are exceedingly few workers in the “deep field” (areas well away from the urban centers, where UNAMID forces and humanitarian personnel are concentrated).  Huge parts of Darfur are either too insecure to receive humanitarian assistance—or that assistance is bluntly denied by Khartoum.  We have some crude barometers of well-being; but particularly in the arena of malnutrition, data and reports are scandalously few.  The Institute for War and Peace Reporting, for example, found in an investigative report that,

“UNICEF reported early last year that as many as 21 nutritional surveys were conducted since June 2009, but only seven have been released by [Khartoum's] humanitarian affairs commission [HAC]. Six of those showed [Global Acute] malnutrition rates of between 15 and 29 per cent, the report stated.”

The emergency threshold for malnutrition is a GAM rate of 15 percent or greater.

Under the dispensation of Charpentier, virtually nothing has been released, as he abjectly defers to Khartoum’s wishes.  Indeed, he has gone so far as lie on behalf of the regime, declaring that “UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan”; but countless reports, including many from UN agencies, insistently and authoritatively contradict this outrageous mendacity.  Indeed, Nils Kastberg, chief UNICEF representative in Darfur, declared in October 2010:

“[T]he Sudanese government ‘very often’ bars the release of data on child malnutrition in Darfur. Sudanese security services have also hindered or delayed UNICEF’s access to camps in Darfur, [Kastberg said]: ‘Part of the problem has been when we conduct surveys to help us address issues, in collaboration with the ministry of health, very often other parts of the government such as the humanitarians affairs commission interferes and delays in the release of reports, making it difficult for us to respond timely.”

“UN cooperation with the Khartoum ministries like the Ministry of Health has failed to secure publication of the reports. [ ] Kastberg also pointed out that certain government agencies hinder the entry of UNICEF staff into the camps. ‘Sometimes it is security services that hinder access or delay access, sometimes it is the humanitarian affairs office that delays the release of nutritional surveys. Sometimes it is delays in granting permissions and visas. It is different sections of different institutions which interfere in our work.’”

An unreleased study by Tufts University (January 2011), assessing the evidence available and the shortcomings in humanitarian information, concluded:

“Crucial information about the humanitarian situation is lacking. There are serious issues with the proper validation of the nutrition survey reports and their immediate release—without such data neither the government nor the international community can properly understand the severity of the humanitarian situation or the efficacy of the response.” (“Navigating Without a Compass: The Erosion of Humanitarianism in Darfur,” January 2011)

The Tufts report also notes that the limited data we have reflect “an extremely poor nutritional situation with implications for functional outcomes of mortality and morbidity risk.” Put more simply, people are becoming ill and dying because they don’t have enough food to eat. The report notes as well “several causes for concern with regard to the reporting of humanitarian indicators,” especially in the context of “frequent claims [that] the situation is stable”:

“The regular occurrence of emergency levels of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) on a seasonal basis, which are ignored by the international community. If the emergency benchmark of 15% is felt not to apply to Darfur, this needs to be properly explained and justified based on evidence.”

“The poor reporting by UNICEF on the available malnutrition estimates, which buries GAM estimates by scattering them about within the report, thus making it harder for readers to evaluate.”

“The reported blocking of the release of nutrition survey reports….”

“What little data was available is subject to spin and obfuscation. A closer look at the data reflects an alarming situation about which there is no clear commentary or analysis by the UN technical agencies concerned.”

“The problems with the nutrition data illustrate wider problems of the potential for manipulation of data….”

And most grimly, the major conclusion of the Tufts reports, a conclusion that remains as true now as it was at the beginning of the year:

“…international humanitarian capacities have been seriously eroded and impaired to a point that leaves Darfuris in a more vulnerable position now than at any other time since the counterinsurgency operations and forced displacements in 2003 and early 2004.” (“Navigating Without a Compass: The Erosion of Humanitarianism in Darfur”)

Compounding the problems diagnosed in the Tuft report are the increasing difficulties in raising funds to support continuation of humanitarian efforts in Darfur after so many years, especially given Khartoum’s hostility to international nongovernmental humanitarian organizations (INGOs). Medair, for example, will withdraw from Darfur by the end of the year (December 2011) because of lack of funding, with enormous consequences: the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) notes in a recent Sudan Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin (October 20) that the “health programme of Medair serves approximately 324,000 people … in West Darfur.”  (Some 80 percent of functioning health clinics in West Darfur are run by international aid organizations or UN agencies.)  In another telling example, according to the November 3 OCHA Bulletin UNICEF found over the past month “that in Zamzam IDP camp (North Darfur) 95 percent of water points … show some degree of contamination.” The necessary humanitarian resources are simply not available.

Moreover, many humanitarian organizations have been targeted by forces that Khartoum either controls, or chooses not to control; in turn, some of these organizations are a single incident away from withdrawing altogether. Last March Catholic Relief Services, which alone distributes food to almost half a million people in West Darfur, was on the very edge of withdrawal because of Khartoum’s threatening behavior.  And other organizations have simply been expelled: in February of this year Khartoum expelled Médecins du Monde, the key provider of primary medical care in the populous Jebel Marra region, on the ludicrous charge of espionage.  This sent yet another blunt and chilling message to remaining organizations: if you go where we don’t wish you to go; if you serve people we don’t wish you to serve; if you reveal what you see on the ground; or if we wish to take another step in moving from humanitarian assistance to “development work,” we will kick you out of Darfur.

The reports on Darfur previously prepared by OCHA were quarterly, data-rich reports of considerable length, detailing humanitarian conditions (the “Darfur Humanitarian Profiles”).  These ceased after Khartoum expelled thirteen international humanitarian organizations in March 2009, and the last report (No. 34) represents conditions at the end of 2008, almost three years ago.  Charpentier, the chief OCHA official in Sudan, seems untroubled by such a gaping lack in information provided to the international community about humanitarian realities in Darfur.

[My own assessments of humanitarian conditions, based on all extant evidence, have been offered at a number of points over the past two years: "Darfur: No Way Forward from a Dangerous and Unsustainable Situation," (August 30, 2011); "Darfur Pushed Further into the Shadows" (in two parts, July 27, 2011); "Darfur Humanitarian Overview: The Consequences of International Silence," (January 23, 2011); "Darkness Visible: The UN Looks at Darfur but Refuses to See" (October 26, 2010; Dissent Magazine, on-line); "Darfur Humanitarian Update: August 31, 2010"; "Humanitarian Conditions in Darfur: An Overview," (in two parts, June 19, 2010 and July 3, 2010); "Civilians at Risk: Human Security and Humanitarian Aid in Darfur" (January 17, 2010).]

HUMAN SECURITY IN DARFUR

My primary concern in what follows is to represent the continuing deterioration in human security throughout Darfur, as reported, almost singularly, by Radio Dabanga. UNAMID is essentially worthless in its representations, offering only fitful and anodyne press releases that give no sense of the scale or ferocity or ethnically-targeted nature of violence in the region.  Indeed, many of the Radio Dabanga dispatches reveal how deeply Darfuri anger runs over UNAMID’s failures to respond to urgent pleas or to report even egregious cases of violence against civilians.

This survey of what Radio Dabanga has reported over the past three months (including a very few earlier examples) gives a sense, if only partial, of just how widespread and destructive violence continues to be.  (All emphasis in the dispatches has been added by the author.)

[1]  Rape as a Weapon of War

Rape remains one of the very most consequential weapons of war deployed by Khartoum, chiefly by the “Janjaweed” and the various paramilitary forces into which the regime has recycled them.  It is here that UNAMID has proved most completely inadequate to the tasks of confirming, investigating, reporting, or preventing rape—something that Mr. Gambari finds no occasion to mention. There is a terrible familiarity to the accounts of rape, but the sustained analyses and reports we do have provide a still-terrifying picture of brutality, pain, humiliation, and death.  In March of this year I wrote at some length about what we have long known, and what several on-the-ground studies have revealed.  There is little more that can be said generally about these unspeakable atrocities, constituting in many case war crimes, and in aggregate crimes against humanity.  Article 7 of the Rome Statute (“Crimes Against Humanity”) declares that among the acts that may constitute crimes against humanity are: “Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity” (7.1.g).

To date much of the international community, including various UN agencies and the African Union, has simply not accepted either the scale or gravity of these crimes.  This is a major failing. Below are a number of representative accounts from Radio Dabanga, just from the past two months.  It should be noted that Radio Dabanga uses the term “shepherds” in these accounts to refer to nomadic pastoralists in Darfur, overwhelmingly from Arab tribes and the source of the “Janjaweed” and other militia and paramilitary forces, either controlled or sanctioned by Khartoum.  I would emphasize how often the victims of rape are children, many of them under 15 years of age, some as young as eight or nine.  Prosecution for the crime of rape is virtually non-existent in Darfur, creating a climate of impunity that encourages more such brutal crimes:

•Serial rape crimes in West Darfur (MORNEI [West Darfur], November 17)   A series of rape crimes were committed in West Darfur’s Mornei region this week, witnesses told Radio Dabanga on Thursday. Two refugee women were raped in Mornei region’s Kabiri Valley on Tuesday, one in Aro Valley on the same day and two others in Mornei refugee camp on Monday. In all cases, armed shepherds [again, meaning "nomadic pastoralists"---ER] were accused of the rapes. Radio Dabanga cannot confirm whether all crimes were committed by the same group. In Tuesday’s incident, two refugee women were raped in their farms in Kabiri Valley by five armed shepherds. “The shepherd militiamen raped the women after they had brought their livestock on to the farms. An elderly person in the farm objected their behavior but the shepherds beat him, tied him with ropes and raped the women,” a sheikh from Mornei camp told Radio Dabanga. He added that they fled the scene of crime soon after.

In a separate incident on the same day three shepherds with guns raped one woman from Mornei refugee camp in Aro Valley. The woman was harvesting food crops when she got raped, the sheikh said. He added that shepherds, who were wearing military uniforms, assaulted the refugee in the field earlier. The refugee was taken to the hospital for treatment in a serious condition after the gang rape.

In Ronga Tash in Mornei locality, two women refugees were raped by five armed shepherds riding horses and camels on Monday. The shepherds had allegedly fired on their farms and raped the women on the farm collectively after beating them.

•Woman gang-raped in West Darfur (GARSILA, November 23)    Armed herders wearing military uniforms accused of committing the crime    Armed herders gang-raped a 32-year-old displaced woman from West Darfur’s Wadi Dawari locality on Wednesday, a witness told Radio Dabanga. Three herders were allegedly involved in the killing which took place 3 km from the city of West Garsila. A witness told Radio Dabanga that the perpetrators were wearing military uniforms. “They attacked the refugee in a farm and beat her severely and then gang-raped her and fled,” a witness said. One of sheikhs from the camps in Garsila told Radio Dabanga that they had filed a complaint with the police and that the woman was taken to hospital for treatment. The sheikh appealed to the UNAMID through Radio Dabanga to set up centers in the camps in Garsila to monitor and protect the displaced persons and refugees. The sheikh asserted that more than 8,000 displaced people in the camps, were in need of protection from abuses and attacks.

Armed group rapes student (EL FASHER, November 11)     Witnesses accuse that the crime has an ethnic dimension    A group of unidentified armed men reportedly raped a student from the region of Azban in Tawaisha, North Darfur on Wednesday. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the crime was committed on ethnic lines. The group allegedly demanded other women belonging to the same ethnicity to leave the village immediately after they had raped the student. A witness said that a militia group on board two cars as well as horse and camel-backs attacked the group of women who were gathering harvests from their farms. Subsequently, they raped the 17-year-old student who was helping her mother in the farm.

He also stated the militia group beat other women who were unable to flee and demanded that the women leave the village immediately, threatening to kill them if they return to gather harvests again. The witness added that one of the sheikhs from the village intervened and welcomed the women in his house. He also appealed to the authorities of North Darfur and the commissioner of Tawaisha county to protect civilians and put an end to the prevalent violations committed by local militias which target civilians on ethnic basis in the region.

Three Teenagers Raped in West Darfur (GARSILA, November 6)     An unidentified armed group raped three teenage refugees in West Darfur’s Garsila camp on Friday, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. “Three gunmen took the women from the village of Amarjadid in Western Garsila. The women were aged 14, 15 and 17,” a witness told Radio Dabanga. The women were only released on Sunday, after being raped by the men for the entire day, the witness said. Refugees have reported the crime with the police of Amarjadid. Further sheikhs and mayors in the area told Radio Dabanga that the ones who committed the rapes are notorious criminals known to everyone.

Two women raped in El Geneina  (El-Geneina, October 13)    Victims call on UNAMID to provide more protection to women      Armed men raped two displaced women in El Geneina, West Darfur on Tuesday. A relative of the victims told Radio Dabanga that three displaced women went out on Tuesday to gather hay from the bushes, 6 kilometers away from the camp. Gunmen appeared to the group and captured and raped two of them, the remaining one having managed to escape. They filed a report at the police and called on the UNAMID to provide more protection to the displaced people in camps in Darfur, especially women who go out to collect firewood or hay from the bushes and forest.

•Two minors raped in North Darfur (KABKABIYA, October 2)     Government-backed militia accused of being behind both incidences     A government-backed armed militia group raped a minor residing in Horse Race Camp in North Darfur’s Kabkabiya region on Saturday.  A relative of the rape victim told Radio Dabanga that the 12-year-old girl was returning with her five-year-old brother after logging when four armed militants kidnapped her and took turns at raping her. The victim was abducted from Kabkabiya military post. “They hit her five-year-old brother and tied him to a tree trunk. The police have refused to look for the perpetrators. They even said they wouldn’t come along to search for the victim,” the relative said.

Another minor raped

Another 14-year-old refugee was raped on Saturday by a group of gunmen affiliated to the government in Shuba area, south of Kabkabiya, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. The three men accused of having committed the crime arrived on horsebacks to kidnap the girl when she was working in the farm. They then gang-raped her and did not release her until the following day. Reports of rapes by government-backed forces have undergone a steep rise in recent times.

•Gunmen kill refugee, rape his wife (NERTITI, October 19)      The unidentified persons arrived on camels; witnesses have reported a case with the police    Gunmen on camels killed a refugee and raped his wife in South Darfur’s Manouashi area on Friday, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. Adam Shanab, the deceased refugee, lived along with his wife in Manouashi refugee camp in Hamada village. Three armed men on camels allegedly raided his house on Friday morning and tried to rape his wife in front of him. Residents of the village, who bore witness to the incident, told Radio Dabanga that the armed men shot Adam Shanab when he confronted them. After having killed Adam Shanab, the unidentified armed men took turns to rape his wife at gunpoint. The villagers arrived at the crime scene when they heard commotion which led to the fleeing of the armed men.  Witnesses have filed a report with the Nertiti police station, where they also left the camels that had been left behind by the gunmen.

•Policemen rape minor in West Darfur (EL GENEINA, November 21)     Two policemen allegedly raped a nine-year-old girl from El Geneina in West Darfur on Monday, a relative of the victim told Radio Dabanga. The relative told Radio Dabanga that the girl, who lived in Abu Zr refugee camp, had been asked to fetch water by her mother before sunset. “On her way back home, she was passing the Ministry of Finance. That’s when one of the security guards called her and asked her to enter the ministry to collect buckthorn,” the relative said. He added that when the girl entered the ministry, the guard and his colleague held the girl captive and took turns at raping her. Relatives of the victim stated that a report had been filed with the police in El Geneina. The police in turn arrested the perpetrators and placed them under custody while the child was transferred to the hospital for treatment.

[Again, prosecution for rape in Darfur is virtually non-existent; thus, despite the arrest of these two policemen for this unspeakable crime, it is highly unlikely they will be tried or convicted or punished.  The Sudan Tribune reported on August 17 (Khartoum):

Sudan appoints new Darfur prosecutor  August 16, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Ministry of Justice has tipped its undersecretary to replace the special prosecutor for Darfur, Abdel-Dayem Zumrawi, who tendered his resignation four months ago. Sudan created the position of a special prosecutor for Darfur in 2003 in order to prove its seriousness in going after the perpetrators of crimes allegedly committed in the course of the Sudanese government’s war against armed rebels in the western region of Darfur. But the two prosecutors who occupied the position before have failed to try or bring charges against any individual despite credible reports of atrocities committed during the zenith of the conflict in 2003 and 2004. On Tuesday, the ministry of justice announced that its undersecretary, Councilor Issam Abdul Gadir Al-Zain, will proceed to the position of a special prosecutor for Darfur, which has been vacant since the former prosecutor Zumrawi officially resigned in mid-April.]

[2]  Attacks on camps for displaced persons

Such attacks are increasing and appear to be part of Khartoum’s plan for forced returns of the displaced.  The targets are often schools, local leaders (sheikhs and omdas), and political activists.  They are immensely demoralizing to the populations that are forced by lack of security to remain in the camps:

•Darfur camps targeted by random attacks (October 10)    Witnesses urge UNAMID to protect civilians from attacks      Armed men on Land Cruiser cars opened heavy fires at Khams Dagaig camp (Zalingei, West Darfur) on Sunday, sparking terror and fear among the residents. The Zalingei camps’ coordinator accused the government of being behind the incident, and stated to have informed UNAMID of the attack, Radio Dabanga was told. No procedure seems to have been initiated by the Mission in response so far, and the coordinator appealed to UNAMID to play its role as a protector of civilians against random attacks. On a similar note, Sheikh Adam Abakr Gosh, who supervises Hamidiya camp’s Block 7, was beaten up by a group of men as he was returning from Zalingei to the camp. The armed men are said to have stripped the sheikh of his clothes, beat him and taken all his belongings.

West Darfur is not the only region affected by random attacks, as armed men opened heavy fires in all three Seraf Umra camps (Donkoj, Naseem and Jebel), North Darfur. The operation triggered panic and fear among the inhabitants. The coordinator of Seraf Umra’s camps also accused the government of masterminding the attacks, suspecting it from resorting to affiliated groups to carry them out. Leading figures from the targeted camps stated that the firing started at Naseem camp, moved on to Jebel camp to finally reach the Donkoj camp for displaced people. One of the camps’ leaders in Seraf Umra told Radio Dabanga that UNAMID has been informed of the incident, but that its officials had explained that nothing could be done without prior permission from the Sudanese police force or the Seraf Umra commissioner.

In Zamzam camp, soldiers from the central back-up forces—also known as Abu Tira—attacked a displaced person using the ends of their rifles in Zamzam market on Monday afternoon. The incident happened in front of a crowd of people, with the motives behind the attack remaining unclear. Witnesses told radio Dabanga that the soldiers left the displaced person drowning in his blood before opening heavy fires randomly in the air. Traders from the market were forced to close their shops as displaced people complained of repeated violations carried out by Abu Tira forces, appealing to UNAMID and the UN to protect the camp’s residents from such attacks.

•Army accused of assaulting refugees (EL GENEINA, November 2)     Displaced people were heading back home from the Mornei Tuesday market     Sudanese army personnel gathered and beat a group of displaced people in West Darfur’s Mornei camp on Tuesday, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. Five men in military uniforms allegedly used sticks and whips to beat refugees when they were walking back to their homes from the Tuesday market. Four of the perpetrators were reportedly on camels and the fifth was riding a horse. One witness told Radio Dabanga, “The men beat refugees severely and wounded a number of them. Some are seriously injured seriously and have been taken to the hospital to receive treatment.” He added that one of those injured was a woman who was in the seventh month of her pregnancy. The witness said that such attacks were a regular feature, especially on the days of the market. “We do not dare inform the UNAMID (United Nations African Mission in Darfur) about these incidents because in the past people who have complained have been arrested. The UNAMID also doesn’t move in any area in Mornei without the permission of the Sudanese police,” he added.

•Omda Killed in West Darfur (EL GENEINA, November 8)       Refugees say they traced the perpetrators to a military camp in Jebel Al Kabir.  Ahmed Abdallah Yahya, omda (local leader) of Manjora, in northern Sirba locality of West Darfur was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Monday, witnesses told Radio Dabanga.  According to witness accounts, the [incident] took place when the omda, also a trader, closed down his shop at the market in Sirba. While he was returning from work, he was stopped by the armed men who fired at him. “The omda died on the spot. The panic led to the refugees to go in search of the perpetrators. They said that the men disappeared into the military camp in Jebel Al Kabir in western Sirba,” one of the witnesses told Radio Dabanga.

•NISS arrests refugee from Hamidiya (Zalingei, October 28)       Though no charges have been filed, he has been detained in a camp    The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested a refugee from Hamidiya camp in Zalingei, West Darfur on Thursday. Ibrahim Mohamed Ahmed Juma was arrested by the security service without any charge and taken to NISS base in Zalingei. An activist in the camp told Radio Dabanga that he feared Ibrahim Mohamed Ahmed Juma was being tortured and demanded his immediate release. Zalingei has seen an increase in violent crimes in the last week with a civilian being shot dead on Thursday and a student being killed on Wednesday. In a separate incident, three unidentified gunmen broke into the house of Dr Abdel Salam Juma, a professor at University of Zalingei, on Thursday morning and opened fire.

•Armed group opens fire (Zalingei, September 26)     Shooting takes place in Hamidiya camp; camp coordinator accuses LJM and government-backed forces for the attack                           A group of five gunmen opened fire on West Darfur’s Hamidiya refugee camp on Saturday. The shooting that continued until Monday morning has led to some refugees fleeing the camps and the burning down of a few huts, coordinator of the Zalingei camps told Radio Dabanga. The coordinator of the camps accused members of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and government-backed forces of being behind the firing. “They are targeting people in the camps who reject the Doha peace agreement,” he said.

•Armed violence kills four in North Darfur (El Fasher [North Darfur] Sept 14)    Another refugee shot dead in El Fasher’s Abushok camp An armed group killed four people in Dermh village of Korma locality in North Darfur on Wednesday. A witness told Radio Dabanga that an armed group riding on the backs of camels and horses raided the village of Dermh in the wee hours of the morning and killed four civilians. The group also looted their property and three camels. The source suggested that panic now grips the village as the hunt for the militants continues.

•Refugee shot dead in El Fasher (El Fasher, September 14)      [In] El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, unknown assailants shot down a refugee in Camp Abushok on Tuesday. A resident of the camp, who does not wish to be named fearing retribution from authorities, told Radio Dabanga, that Ibrahim Yusuf Adam was killed while he was on his way to Asalaam camp. He also accused the government militias of having a hand in Ibrahim’s murder, “There are random shootings taking place on an everyday basis. Political activists and leaders in the camp get harassed by government authorities to silence their voices.”

•Refugee shot dead in North Darfur (Kabkabiya, November 9)     He was killed by armed men after he attempted to rescue girls from being raped  A refugee, Ahmed Saleh, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Al Matar neighborhood of North Darfur’s Kabkabiya locality on Tuesday. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that 52-year-old Adam Saleh was killed after he tried rescuing some girls in his neighborhood from four armed gunmen who were trying to rape them. “Saleh heard distressed calls from the girls and went to intervene. He tried to shake away one of the men who was trying to abduct a girl. But another armed man with a gun opened fire and loaded nine bullets into Saleh’s chest which led to his immediate death,” the witness said.

Witnesses also told Radio Dabanga that the incident had been reported immediately to the local police and the United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which has an office 300 metres from the crime scene. “But they only came to the site next morning. And when they arrived, some residents in the neighborhood gathered and pelted stones at the UNAMID personnel while chanting slogans demanding the prosecution of the offenders,” a witness recounted.

[3]  Attacks on villages, towns, and markets

Despite the absence of large-scale hostilities—touted by special representative Gambari in ways that are predictably both self-serving and disingenuous—attacks on villages, towns, and markets are a relentless feature of life in Darfur today.  Below are only a few recent examples:

•Government burns down four villages (Tabit [North Darfur] September 29)     Government forces in Tabit area of North Darfur allegedly burned down two villages on Wednesday, one of the villagers who fled the scene told Radio Dabanga. The witness said, “Nearly 17 vehicles with Sudanese army troops were on their way from Tabit to Shengel Tubaya when the intensive gunfire took place. Two villages of Tangarara and Um Kafalu villages have been burned down as a result of the fire and many have fled their homes to the mountains and valleys nearby.” He accused the government forces of looting the property of citizens and beating residents. Four men were arrested and tortured during the incident. He also pointed out that the same forces were responsible for burning down Sharafa, Um Gujja and Um Al Karo villages on Tuesday as well as looting the property of civilians.

Gunmen kill four traders

An armed group killed four civilians and injured another in a shoot out in North Darfur’s Goz Kul area on Thursday, a witness told Radio Dabanga. The armed group of nearly 35 people were traveling in a Land Cruiser loaded with dushka guns. The group opened fire on a group of nine traders who were on their way from Nyala to Jeriban. The group that attacked also looted nearly 1500 livestock from the traders, one of them told Radio Dabanga.

•Sudan forces coming from Jebel Marra cause panic in Zalingei, wound 8  (ZALINGEI, June 26)     Eight civilians from Zalingei were wounded on Tuesday and Wednesday in random shootings by government forces which were coming from Jebel Mara. Witnesses said that the wounded people included four displaced people, one of them named Nasr Eldin Suleiman Ahmed. The coordinator of camps in Zalingei told Radio Dabanga that the forces were returning back from battles with the armed factions in Jebel Mara and opened fire randomly, leading to the wounding of civilians and causing panic in the city and camps of the displaced people.

•17 civilians of Abu Zereiga executed, fighting increases in Darfur (Zalingei, June 7)     A local militia of Shangil Tobaya executed seventeen (17) civilians from Abu Zereiga by firing squad after tying their hands behind their backs and splitting them into three groups with the first two groups comprising seven people and the third group comprising three. The 17 people were kidnapped a week ago when they went to retrieve a herd of 250 cattle. Witnesses stated that as the group returned after retrieving the cattle, they were attacked by government forces backed by local militias on seventeen Land Cruisers that had machine guns attached to them along with other different kind of weapons and two military helicopters.

They claimed the helicopters bombarded the areas and fired at the group which was unarmed and confirmed that the group raised their arms in surrender and, as a result, the military forces kidnapped seventeen civilians, including Omar Abakr Idriss and Nour Eldeen Sinin Idriss, the principal of Abu Zereiga primary school. The witnesses also verified that the governmental military force handed the seventeen abducted people to the local militias who tied their hands behind their backs and divided them into three groups before shooting them in the heads. The militias then formed a military box over them to prevent anyone from taking the bodies. This has now been there for a week and no one has been able to come close for fear of being shot.

Army excesses reported in West Darfur (Mornei, Cara, August 25)      Four (4) armed men on horsebacks, wearing military uniforms looted 100 sheep from Mornei in West Darfur on Wednesday, a witness told Radio Dabanga. The witness, who did not wish to be named fearing retribution from Sudanese authorities on the ground, told Radio Dabanga, “The gunmen found a herd of sheep with a shepherd in Mornei. The gunmen opened fire in the air and the shepherd left the area. He lost control over the sheep after which the men belonging to the armed forces took the sheep to unknown location.” The witness added that a report about the incident had been filed with the Mornei police. However, no action has yet been taken in this regard. A sheep in Sudan costs approximately 200-300 pounds.

•Student shot dead in Zalingei market (Zalingei, October 26)     Victim’s relatives believe she was targeted deliberately      The student Ikhles Yaqub Adam was shot dead by members of the Sudanese Security Services in Zalingei’s main market on Tuesday. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the victim, a 3rd-year student at Zalingei University, was shopping with some friends when she was struck by the bullet. According to the security forces, the incident happened by accident as they were chasing after someone else; they opened fire in order to catch that other person and hit Ms. Adam unwillingly. Two bystanders were also wounded in the shooting.  The victim’s friends and colleagues however indicated they don’t believe the security service’s explanation, stating that Ikhles had probably been deliberately targeted due to her being a member of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-Abdel Wahid).

•Civilian shot dead in Saraf Omra (August 24)      A civilian was shot dead by a member of the local militia in Saraf Omra, North Darfur on Tuesday. A relative of the deceased, Abdul Aziz Abkar Abdullah, told Radio Dabanga that the incident had happened when Abdul Aziz was headed back to his village after shopping in the city with other villagers. As they wanted to cross the city’s checkpoint, located on the outskirts, the militia guarding it asked the group to pay two pounds per person to be granted access out of Saraf Omra. Abdul Aziz refused and was shot twice; one bullet hit his head, the other one his chest, which led to his immediate death.

•Burning of villages, families flee (EL FASHER, May 17)     Close to one hundred families fled from the area west of Shangil Tobaya and East Jebel Marra to the valleys and mountains, seeking refuge after local militias backed by government forces raided their villages. A witness told Radio Dabanga that the forces centered in Shangil Tobaya moved with more than 20 cars backed by local militias on camel and horse backs and burnt down the villages of Abu Mara, Jurab Elray, Asilowa, Karko and Linda on Sunday. The witness also stated that most of those families headed towards Zamzam camp near El Fasher yesterday morning.

•Two injured in Abu Tira firing (EL FASHER, October 23)     One of them, a watermelon trader, rushed to Khartoum hospital due to his critical state       Two refugees from North Darfur’s Zamzam camps were seriously injured on Friday when central reserve police, also known as Abu Tira, officers opened fire at them. A witness to the incident told Radio Dabanga that it occurred in the watermelon market of Zamzam camp on Friday afternoon. “Three Abu Tira officers came to the market with watermelons at 6.30 pm and one of them opened fired in the market without any warning or reason,” the witness said. One of those injured was 28-year-old Issa Mohammed Ahmed, a watermelon trader and another was 18-year-old refugee Hamada Osman Ibrahim.

“The Abu Tira forces pose a serious security threat to the refugees in the camp. The shooting was probably part of a covert plan meant to shut down the watermelon market in Zamzam camp,” he added.

[4]  Attacks on fields and agricultural lands by Arab militia forces

The phenomenon of land expropriation has defined conflict and genocide in Darfur from the very beginning.  This is largely because the Khartoum regime “paid” its Janjaweed militia forces with the land of the typically sedentary African farmers of the region.  Such expropriation and violent seizures have created an intolerable security situation: those with legitimate claims to their lands are typically threatened with violence by Khartoum’s militia allies, some from other countries (e.g., Chad and Niger).

Again, these seizures occur without fear of prosecution; indeed, they are often made by forces that are part of official regime military and militia forces:

•Armed militias seize farms near Garsila, West Darfur (Garsila, July 19)     Radio Dabanga was informed by a female refugee that displaced women from Garsila, West Darfur, are currently complaining about armed militias who apparently seized their farms, thus preventing their cultivation. The witness indicated that a group of the militia went to the Gedo, Gallinja and Gang Kosi areas, where several shepherds bring their herds, to take their land and set up their own farms with the Government’s support.

•Farmers complain of herders’ invasion (EL FASHER, November 11)    Say they have started letting cattle graze on fields before the agreed deadline     Farmers across all Darfur states complained to Radio Dabanga on Friday about their farms being invaded by herders. Radio Dabanga spoke to farmers from Kutum and Kabkabiya in North Darfur; Garsila, For Baranga and Mornei in West Darfur as well as Marshinj, El Malam and Shareiya in South Darfur. Farmers expressed their anxiety over the herders releasing their cattle on the farms before the agreed upon deadline.

‘No response from authorities’

Farmers from Kabkabiya told Radio Dabanga, “Despite lodging a number of complaints to the local authorities and appealing to the sheikhs of the herders, we have not received any positive response. Threats and abuses against us by herders have increased.”

•West Darfur land settled by people from Niger, Chad, Central African (el-Geneina, June 22)   Displaced people in camps in El Geneina, West Darfur, revealed that around one hundred thousand square feet of their lands has been occupied by new inhabitants from Niger, Chad and Central Africa. A sheikh from Mornei camp told Radio Dabanga that the occupied land included the areas of Masteri, Beida, Dowany, Kokoriya, Jory, Gubeya, Jeing, Mornei and many other areas. He also stated that the new inhabitants have started changing the names of the area, cutting down large trees, demolishing graves and farming on it in attempts to erase the former symbols of the areas.

•Herders damaging crops in South Darfur (GEREIDA, August 19)     Farmers complain that they are being forced to abandon their fields.     Farmers in north-west of Gereida in South Darfur complained on Friday of shepherds leading their livestock onto their farms and thereby damaging their bean and corn crops. One of the farmers, told Radio Dabanga that entire villages in north and west Gereida were occupied by shepherds, who forced the farmers to abandon their crops. He added that farmers in other surrounding areas were facing the same fate. There are allegedly about 200 to 300 shepherds set up in and around the area whose activities have led to farmers leaving in despair. “We would like to appeal to the local authorities or order the pastoralists to leave the region. Nomadic people must go away from our farms here,” the farmer told Radio Dabanga.

•Foreign settlers claim lands in Kebkabiya area (KEBKABIYA, April 19)     Citizens of Ghara Zawiya village near Kabkabiya in North Darfur said that 1000 new settlers coming from neighboring countries entered 12 of the villages in the area and have occupied them. They have taken over the farmland and ordered the original inhabitants to stay far from their lands. A citizen of Ghara Zawiya told Radio Dabanga that the new inhabitants came overland on camels and Large Land Cruiser which had machine guns fixed on them, besides many different types of weapons, despite the area having military protection. He pointed out that the inhabitants have settled in the villages of Um Jaras, Karikar, Hashaba, Um Duldi, Um Siyala, Taradona, East Taradona, Um Hatab, Um Rawaba Adhan Barid and Owen Rado. The citizen added that the original land owners have formed a committee to meet the commissioner of Kabkabiya. For his part, the commissioner of Kabkabiya, Dr. Adam Mohammed Adam, denied the entrance of new inhabitants into the borders of his county.

[5]  The role of the Abu Tira

One of the constant features in recent dispatches from Radio Dabanga is the role of the Central Reserve Police, typically referred to as Abu Tira.  These forces—almost entirely Arab and drawn from the ranks of the Janjaweed, the Popular Defense Forces, and other paramilitary groups—have been allowed by Khartoum, almost certainly by design, to create a constant state of insecurity and a threat of violence that is debilitating to both the displaced and settled populations of Darfur.

Much of the Abu Tira force has been moved to South Kordofan, where governor Ahmed Haroun again directs them (it was under Haroun, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, that the Abu Tira committed many of their predations in Darfur).

The pervasive nature of Abu Tira violence in Darfur is suggested by these accounts from Radio Dabanga, as well as by a number of the accounts above:

•Abu Tira personnel targeting women (Sirba [West Darfur], September 20)     Those resisting the central reserve forces are subject to threats and death     Residents of refugee camps in West Darfur’s Sirba locality complained on Tuesday about repeated threats and attacks targeted women by the Central Reserve Forces, also known as Abu Tira.  The Abu Tira were also accused of killing camp residents and damaging property in Al Jabal, Arkum, Sengir Fud and Agri refugee camps. A leading activist in the camp told Radio Dabanga, “Elements of the Abu Tira stationed near the camp have consistently come up at night and almost repeatedly kidnapped women and girls at gunpoint. The last two incidents were over the weekend.” The camp resident said that a refugee was killed on Saturday after being shot dead by Abu Tira personnel for having tried to stop them from taking his daughter by force. The second such incident was reported on Sunday. A sheikh in the camp reportedly caught the Abu Tira personnel while he was raping a women and took him to the camp commander. However, there was no action taken by the camp commander and the Abu Tira personnel returned to the camps to issue threats to the refugees.

•Mershing IDPs: militia murdering at will (May 16)     The displaced people from Mershing Camp protested Friday against impunity of the Central Reserve Forces, known locally as ‘Abu Tira’. The refugees say the militia are not investigated or prosecuted despite killing operations and threats practiced by them against the displaced of the area. The displaced people revealed that 4 people have been killed by the Abu Tira forces during the month and, through Radio Dabanga, demanded the UN and international community to take immediate procedures to offer them protection or transport them to a safe place.

•Abu Tira forces loot refugees (EL FASHER, November 4)     A group of central reserve police, better known as Abu Tira, personnel looted refugees near North Darfur’s Zamzam camp on Thursday, sources told Radio Dabanga. Abu Tira officers allegedly stole mobile phones and goods purchased by the refugees at the market in Zamzam. Refugees were shopping in preparation for Sunday’s Eid al-Adha festival. A witness from the camp told Radio Dabanga, “Abu Tira forces stopped and arrested large numbers of people in the middle of the street when they were returning home from shopping in the market.” He added that the forces then took over expensive purchases made by refugees as well as their mobile phones. “A vehicle with Abu Tira personnel drove in and took all their belongings,” the witness said.

•Difficult conditions in Darfur camps (Tawila, September 6) Abu Tirat excesses in Rwanda    [There] has been an increase in firing carried out by the Central Reserve Forces, or Abu Tirat as they are commonly known, in North Darfur’s Rwanda camp in Tawila locality. A leader of the displaced persons told Radio Dabanga, “Abu Tirat men open fire at the camp from their headquarters, using heavy artillery and RPGs. This is accompanied by cheering from large crowds of the Abu Tirat forces located on the ground. All of this is adding to an atmosphere of fear and panic among the camp population.” While claiming that gunfire continued during the day on Monday and Tuesday, the camp leader explained that a constant fear of attack is adding anxiety to the lives of the refugees in the camp. He appealed to Abu Tirat forces to put an end to such horror that causes panic. He also appealed to the UNAMID forces to intervene in order to protect them from the attacks.

[UNAMID has a base in Tawila, location of Rwanda Camp.]

•[Abu Tira in El Fasher's al-Salaam Camp] (EL FAHSER, October 5)     Refugees complain of firing and looting in the camp on a daily basis. They say, complaining about excesses committed by Abu Tira forces to the United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) bears no results. “The UNAMID asks us to go to the police to lodge complaints. But complaining to the police is of no use because they aren’t going to do anything about the Abu Tira excesses,” a civilian told Radio Dabanga. He stressed that the UNAMID’s mandate was to protect civilians, and that it should carry out its responsibility. He also demanded that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should intervene in the proceedings for the benefit of the refugees.

The Abu Tira have also been responsible for attacks on Arab groups:

•Abu Tira militia involved in ‘massacre’ in Darfur’s far south   (BURAM, June 26)        A story of a fresh massacre has come out from a remote area in the far south of Darfur. Members of the government’s Central Reserve Force involved in a spate of tribal fighting in the area are accused by a tribal leader of attacking a group of Habbaniya tribesman, killing 23. One of the leaders of the Habbaniya said that recent news reports on the recent events in Buram District incorrectly blamed the killings on the Salamat tribe, when in fact it was the Central Reserve Force who carried out the attack. This militia, known locally as ‘Abu Tira’, used eight cars to launch an attack on the Habbaniya group, gunning them down. According to the tribal leader, who narrated the course of these events over the shortwave broadcaster Radio Dabanga, his story is based on accounts of witnesses. He affirmed that they have full evidence to show the massacre was committed by the Central Reserve Police.

[6]  Aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians

Aerial military attacks on civilians have been a constant source of civilian terror and displacement for more than eight years.  I have recently concluded a lengthy analysis of these attacks, and those in South Sudan, going back to 1999, when systematic data collection began (a data spreadsheet accompanies the report at www.sudanbombing.org, as do two updates of the original May 6, 2011 report and spreadsheet).  There has been a lull in bombing attacks in recent months, as Khartoum has focused its aerial military assets to attacks on Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and South Sudan.  But as with major fighting between combatants in Darfur, there have been lulls before; and inevitably they have been followed by renewed bombing.

Since 2003 there have been more than 700 confirmed bombing attacks on civilians in Darfur.  Casualties from these attacks, including attacks by helicopter gunships at point-blank range, are in thousands; but it is displacement that has been overwhelming source of mortality resulting from aerial attacks.  All the attacks confirmed in my report—almost certainly only a small fraction of actual attacks—constitute war crimes, given their indiscriminate nature or their deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian resources, including water sources, livestock, and agricultural production.  In aggregate, as with the massive number of ethnically-targeted rapes that are clearly part of a larger strategy, these aerial attacks reach the threshold of crimes against humanity, as established by the Rome Statute (7.1.k).

And though there has been a diminishment of bombing attacks, they have not ceased.  Radio Dabanga reports (November 20):

•Sudan Armed Forces bombs North Darfur (EL FASHER, November 20)     The Sudanese Air Force (SAF) launched indiscriminate aerial attacks on Dahashim, Beer Dik, Shegig Karo, Donki Hosh and Amarai areas of North Darfur on Friday and Saturday, sources [in] the field told Radio Dabanga. Leader of the opposition Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Suleiman Sandal Haggar told Radio Dabanga that the SAF used MiG and Antonov aircrafts for the bombing, which led to the deaths of 53 camels and 217 sheep. “The attacks took place at 11 in the morning and four in the evening. That’s when people had gathered for the daily market,” Suleiman said. Suleiman requested the international community to embrace a previously passed United Nations Security Council resolution on Darfur which imposes an air embargo. “Civilians need protection from the Sudanese Air Force. They are being targeted because of their vicinity to the water resources,” he said.

Of the potential destructiveness of such bombing, a single incident from this past April stands as amply revealing:

18 women and 9 children killed in air strike in Jebel Marra, Darfur (JEBEL MARRA, April 28)       Twenty-seven people were killed, including 18 women and 9 children, when an Antonov plane dropped several bombs on the areas of Koloberi and Gurlengbang in the southern part of the Jebel Marra region. Six women were also injured in the air attack. A witness told Radio Dabanga that the airstrikes led to the burning of 27 houses and also the death of sheep and cattle. He stated that the bombed areas had been free of any rebel presence. Radio Dabanga could not contact the army for comments.

_____________________________
By Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA  01063

Source: www.sudanreeves.org

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Reality: Being supportive of one another at all times

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2011

by api

(Wisdom – changing our ways in life)

In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me – and by that time no one was left to speak up.{Martin Niemöller}

———–

Read the above and change your attitude and be supportive  to others at all times – be guided by wisdom so that you do not end up being alone with no one speaking for you when your time comes.

End

—————–

trade unionist, trade unionists, communists, catholics, and jew.

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USA: President’s wife Michele Obama thanks military families during this year’s thanksgiving day – Her Husband pardoned a turkey yesterday

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2011

By API

Here below is her message;

Good morning,

Every Thanksgiving, Barack sits down to call some of our troops and thank them for their service.

When he tells me about these conversations, it always reminds me of how blessed we are to live in a country where men and women will stand up to protect our freedoms and preserve our way of life. And whenever I’ve had the chance to meet with these heroes and their families, I’ve always walked away inspired by their courage and in awe of their strength.

I can’t think of any better way to spend Thanksgiving than letting our servicemembers know how grateful we are for everything that they do. So this year, we’re making it easy to do just that.

Give Thanks to the Troops Who Have Fought for US

There’s no better time than the holidays to let our servicemembers know how grateful we are for everything that they do.

Helping Build a Nationwide Wave of Support

Joining Forces has partnered with the USO to create a nationwide interactive thank you card. Just fill out a note and it will be added to a map along with messages from people all over the country, showing our troops and their families just how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice. If we each do our part, our veterans and their families will get the recognition they deserve this holiday season.

End

————-

flash media, better time, holiday season, sacrifice, and holidays.

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Previous Ugandan military operations failed to find Kony

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2011

by api

Previous Ugandan military operations failed to find Kony

GULU-JUBA-KINSHASA,  – Washington’s contribution of 100 military advisers to help central African forces neutralize the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been welcomed by some in the countries where the insurgency sows terror, but has also been met by caveats and calls for a negotiated path to peace.

“The situation is completely out of hand, people are being killed day and night,” Silvestor Kimbezi, a Congolese priest, told a recent workshop on the LRA’s impact in Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR), held in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu.

“These people are experiencing the worst form of violence they have ever witnessed; women and children are being abducted and subjected to inhuman conditions while older people are clobbered to death. We urge governments of these countries to get serious, otherwise people might be wiped out in these places,” he added.

Although the LRA is estimated to have fewer than 500 fighters, it has displaced some 440,000 people across the three countries, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Between January and August 2011, there were 240 attacks attributed to the LRA, leading to 130 deaths and 327 abductions. Most of these incidents took place in northeastern DRC.

“The government of South Sudan has endorsed and accepted the role of the US to help fight the LRA,” that country’s information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told IRIN in Juba.

“The US has a major role in terms of logistical support, in terms of trying to locate [groups] on difficult terrain,” he added.

“We need the support from the superpowers, who have the capacity to detect them [the LRA] hiding in very deep forest,” echoed military spokesman Philip Aguer, remarking on his country’s lack of necessary air power and surveillance capacity.

In South Sudan, into which LRA forces were first chased from their original northern Uganda bases in the late 1990s, the group remains active, especially in Western Equatoria State’s Yambio County, according to Justin Ginara, director of child welfare in the newly independent nation.

“People in Western Equatoria depend on the land. The LRA has frightened them away and they are running. All the villagers surrounding Yambio [town] have been pushed or displaced to Yambio and denied their source of livelihood, which is the land on which they depend,” he said.

“They do not have food, they do not have medicines. They become vulnerable to anything that can happen and they cannot access all the basic services like health and education,” he added.

“We hope that this suffering will soon come to an end,” civil society organizations working in the region’s LRA-affected areas wrote in a recent open letter to South Sudan President Salva Kiir, published online by Human Rights Watch.

Such organizations have criticized the governments of affected countries, especially DRC, for playing down the threat posed by the LRA to civilians.

Attacks

DRC’s government spokesman and communications minister Lambert Mende insisted in an interview with IRIN that “almost all [LRA] troops” have left DRC for CAR.

“According to the reports of our troops in the field and the evaluations that our partner make, there have been no LRA attacks since seven or eight months,” he said.

“We have instances of abductions and looting in a few villages but each time we arrested the culprits we were surprised to see that they are Congolese citizens using the LRA label to scare the others and then try to loot them. So you can understand that the LRA is not as active as it was eight months, a year or two years ago,” he said.

According to OCHA, the LRA was responsible for 82 attacks, 32 deaths and 41 abductions in northern DRC between June and August 2011.

Junior Safari, executive secretary of Groupe Lotus, a human rights NGO based in Kisangani, capital of Orientale province, suggested such assurances were attributable more to politics than reality.


Photo: Sven Torfinn/IRIN
LRA atrocities include the mutilation of thousands of innocent civilians

“The LRA is still not annihilated. It still continues to massacre the population in villages.

“As the electoral campaign got under way, it is no surprise the authorities say the security situation is under control in the country, whereas this is untrue. As for the people allegedly ‘arrested’ the government is referring to, this is just a trick for them to be seen as peacemakers,” he said.

Guy-Marin Kamandji, in charge of communication at Caritas Congo, told IRIN there was a “clear discrepancy between the official discourse” and the reality on the ground.

“The fact is that the threat really exists and that our populations still suffer the consequences.”

Kamandji described the US intervention as a “good start that will reinforce efforts already under way” but warned that the Americans would “have problems collecting information in the field because of the difficulty of the terrain, which includes the Virunga National Park.

“And they will have to face rebels who behave like guerrillas, who can disappear when they want,” he said.

Another caveat about the US involvement came from regional civil society organizations, which warned, in a common declaration signed after an October meeting in the northern DRC town of Dungu, that the “deployment will only be effective if the governments of CAR, South Sudan and Congo… fully commit to meaningful cooperation in regional and international efforts to protect civilians.”

They also suggested that Washington’s commitment, on its own, would be insufficient and appealed for “significant engagement from the African Union, European Union, UN Security Council and UN peacekeeping missions in the LRA-affected region”. They further called for “more financial and technical support to early warning networks, sensitization and demobilization efforts, and long-term rehabilitation for returnees and ex-combatants”.

Early warning

“The task will not be easy,” warned Richard Downie, deputy director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, in an analysis posted on the organization’s website.

A botched international operation – codenamed “Lightning Thunder” – mounted against the LRA with US involvement in December 2008 prompted the massacre of at least 700 civilians and led the LRA to “scatter into smaller groups, making them much more difficult to track down… The groups have discarded any communication equipment that would allow them to be traced and instead rely on runners to relay messages. In addition, the LRA is a hardened guerilla force used to operating in difficult terrain. It has survived against the odds for a quarter of a century.”

Religious opposition

Religious leaders in Uganda and Sudan, meanwhile, have spoken out against further military intervention.

The chairman of Uganda’s Episcopal conference and the Archbishop of Gulu John Baptist Odama told reporters earlier this month: “We do not want the aspect of pursuing Kony with military means. History has taught us pursuing these people militarily will just make the conflict and suffering spill over to other places.”

Sudanese bishops issued a similar message in late October, declaring: “The people of Western Equatoria, Western Bahr el-Ghazal and neighbouring countries continue to suffer due to the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army. We reject further militarization of any of these conflicts, and call upon governments and the international community to work for negotiated settlements.”

After years of negotiations a peace agreement was completed in 2008 but at a ceremony in South Sudan Kony refused to sign it, mainly over concerns about his ICC indictment.

The catastrophic consequences of Operation Lightning Thunder are likely to be repeated with any further military action, according to the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), which has played a leading mediatory role.

“While many have lost hope in any peaceful resolution to the conflict, the reality is that the peace process, in particular the Juba peace talks which began in 2006, is responsible for the relative calm being experienced in northern Uganda today,” ARLPI said when the US deployment was announced.

“Instead of relying on military intervention, let us redouble our efforts to engage in dialogue. We believe this is the only way to bring about a lasting solution that will foster healing and reconciliation in a region of the world that has long experienced instability and deserves peace.”

ca-hb-hm/am/mw

source www.irinnews.org

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Ambitious goals for the High North

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2011

by api

“In the white paper on the High North, the Government sets out ambitious goals for Norway’s efforts in the High North over the next 20-30 years. The main focus of the white paper is on foreign policy, but emphasis is also placed on how the High North policy is to promote employment and value creation across the country as a whole,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

The Government is presenting its white paper on the High North, The High North – visions and strategies, today.

“Our aim is to ensure continued peace and stability in the High North. We will promote sustainable management of the resources in the region, and strengthen international cooperation and the international legal order, which are so crucial for all activities in the north,” Foreign Minister Støre said.

“Over the last six years we have shown that we put our words into action, in areas ranging from the maritime delimitation treaty with Russia, to our efforts to promote knowledge, to the priority we have given to fisheries, energy, new industries and active High North diplomacy. Now we are looking to the future and presenting a comprehensive strategy with concrete objectives and specific priorities,” Mr Støre said.

The white paper gives an overview of the analyses underlying Norway’s High North policy, outlines the results achieved so far, and presents a number of priority areas. In the white paper, the Government sets out its intention to acquire a new ice-class research vessel, to build a new border control station at Storskog, to ease visa procedures vis-à-vis Russia, to introduce a maritime surveillance system for the High North (BarentsWatch) and to set up a separate seed money fund based in North Norway. The allocations will be made in the annual national budgets.

“Far more has happened in the north than we could have anticipated when the Stoltenberg Government identified the High North as its most important foreign policy priority. We have achieved important foreign policy goals through our cooperation with Russia, the clarification of Norway’s maritime borders and the limits of the continental shelf, and the decision to establish the secretariat for the Arctic Council in Tromsø, which will reinforce Arctic cooperation. This has laid the foundation for further developing business activities and enhancing value creation both on shore and off shore,” said Mr Støre.

“We are about to embark on an exciting chapter in the history of North Norway and Norway as a whole, with the Barents Sea as a new energy province in Europe, good prospects for the extraction of minerals in the north, and increased shipping in northern and Arctic waters.

In the white paper, the Government emphasises that Norway’s efforts in the High North are part of a national strategy, involving all ministries and building on broad-based cooperation between the public and private sectors.

“This is a project that will span generations, a national effort that will draw on expertise from all over the country,” Mr Støre said.
end

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Poor rainfall in some areas has been bad news for subsistence farmers

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2011

Poor rainfall in some areas has been bad news for subsistence farmers

HARARE,  – After a thin harvest, Rudo Mangwere, 32, a farmer in Chirumhanzu district, some 200km southwest of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, has resorted to selling wild honey by the roadside to beat hunger. She is one of just over a million rural Zimbabweans who will struggle to feed themselves for the next four months.

A single mother with three school-going children, Mangwere’s poor harvest was partly the result of inadequate rainfall in her area during the 2010/11 farming season, but also because she has no access to draught animals – oxen or a horse – to pull a plough.

”Almost every family from my area is on the road[side] these days, selling honey, mazhanje (wild loquats) and firewood. We hardly harvested anything, and this is the only way we can keep our children from starving,” Mangwere told IRIN.

Like most households from her community in Midlands Province, she can no longer pay her children’s school fees and the family is surviving on wild fruits and one main meal in the evening, she said. Although food is readily available in the local shops, most of the villagers do not have the money to buy it.

A report by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC), a government-led consortium of UN agencies, official bodies and non-governmental organizations which conducts annual food security assessments, found that 12 percent of the rural population “will not be able to meet their minimum cereal needs during the 2011/12 season”.

The figure represents a slight improvement over the 15 percent who needed food assistance in the 2010/11 season. Parts of Zimbabwe have been hit by a number of poor harvests caused by too little rain, a shortage of income to buy farming inputs, and poor planning, which have forced the government to import cereals and the hungry to depend on food donations.

The report notes that the drought-prone southern and western areas of the country have been most affected, particularly the Masvingo and Matabeleland North and South provinces, where subsistence farming is the sole source of income for most rural households.

Read more
Dry spell ends prospect of good harvest
Desperate measures in times of hunger
UN agencies barred from food assessment for ‘political reasons’
Import duties drive up food prices, hurt poor

“Agricultural production in these regions was once again poor this season,” said Felix Bamezon, country director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), in a recent statement. ”The situation is made worse by the economic downturn and we’re already seeing families resorting to skipping meals and reducing portion sizes.”

WFP is implementing a targeted seasonal programme of food distributions, cash transfers and food vouchers to assist low-income households and families with orphans and vulnerable children.

Tomson Phiri, a WFP spokesperson, told IRIN that the programme aimed to reach about 200,000 households in the affected regions with cereals, beans and vegetables during the peak hunger period between November and March.

”We have targeted 34 districts and are already on the ground in 24 districts where we are registering and assisting those in need,” he said.

WFP is appealing for US$42 million to cover a shortfall in funding for its food assistance programmes in Zimbabwe.

“Longer-term measures such as greater investment in agriculture and the livestock sector are essential,” said Bamezon. “But for now, those who are most vulnerable need urgent assistance.”

fm/ks/he

source www.irinnews.org

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