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Friday, March 04, 2005

"Things are looking greatly better in Darfur"---African Union Chair 

and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, following discussion of the crisis
with National Islamic Front President Omer Beshir, February 16, 2005

Eric Reeves
March 4, 2005

"'Things are looking greatly better in Darfur,' [Olusegun] Obasanjo said."
(Agence France-Presse, February 28, 2005)

If we do not understand what lies behind these monstrously inaccurate words
from Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria and current Chair of the African
Union, then we will have little chance of understanding the full nature of
international paralysis in the face of Darfur's deepening crisis. If we do not
understand why Obasanjo is willing to lie in such shameful fashion about the realities
of human destruction in Darfur, and the catastrophic threat posed by impending
famine, then we will have little chance of bringing to bear the international
pressures that will reverse his supreme and unforgivable expediency.

For Obasanjo's assessment is nothing so much as a response to immense pressure
from Khartoum and the Arab League---most conspicuously Egypt and Libya---to
define the Darfur crisis as an exclusively "African problem," and thus one that
does not need assistance from the UN, the European Union, the US, or other
international actors. To be sure, there is much in Obasanjo's own political
attitudes and world-view that inclines him to such a conclusion. And there is
throughout the leadership of African countries an understandable desire that the
African Union be a source of strength and pride, both politically and ultimately
militarily.

But the truths in Darfur are so clearly other than what Obasanjo has declared,
and the current resources of Africa and the African Union so utterly inadequate
to the critical security and humanitarian tasks at hand, that we must ask not
about disposition or inclination, but about threats, political and international
pressures, and geopolitical intimidation. These are what account for
Obasanjo's crude mendacity, and his thuggish distortion of Darfur's realities.

For of course Nigeria, for all its complexity, has its own massive and
conspicuous domestic crisis: a restive and increasingly militant Islam dominates in
twelve northern Nigerian states and threatens to set off a civil war, a potential
disaster for the continent as a whole. As Nigerian novelist and Nobel laureate
Wole Soyinka has recently argued, "The roof is already burning over our
head---the prelude to civil war." To confront this domestic challenge, Obasanjo is
desperately in need of support not only from various domestic factions and other
members of the African Union, but from both the Islamic and Arab world. And he
clearly will do all that he feels is necessary to secure that support---even
betray in deepest consequence the people of Darfur.

No matter that radical Islam in northern Nigeria increasingly threatens the
very possibility of a democratic Nigeria; and no matter that Obasanjo's political
expediency in confronting this threat is primarily in service of his own desire
for a hand-picked successor or even self-succession in 2007. Obasanjo has
decided that whatever must be done to secure international support for his policies
of domestic control and self-replication will be done.

We catch a telling glimpse of this descent into an ultimately irrational
appeasement in Obasanjo's yielding to the Muslim clerics who prevented the UN's World
Health Organization from administering polio vaccinations last year to children
in northern Nigeria, thereby again letting loose this terrible scourge in
central and eastern Africa---including in Darfur. A disease that preys primarily on
children, and that was so tantalizingly close to being eradicated, is now
reported throughout Sudan, in Ethiopia for the first time in years, in Saudi Arabia
(just across the Red Sea from Sudan), and elsewhere. The polio infections in
Sudan have been authoritatively identified as the Nigerian strain:

"[UNICEF] says an outbreak of polio in Sudan is spreading to other African
countries and beyond, threatening millions of children. Sudan had been free of
polio for three years before the current outbreak began there last May. Since
then, the crippling disease that mainly affects young children has spread rapidly
across Africa's largest country, infecting at least 124 people in 17 states."

"[UNICEF spokeswoman Joanna] Van Gerpen says a polio case in Saudi Arabia has
been positively traced back to a strain from Sudan. On Monday, two children in
Ethiopia were diagnosed with the disease, marking the first time the virus has
been reported in that country in four years. Van Gerpen says UNICEF believes the
polio virus in Ethiopia also came across the border from Sudan." [ ]

"The first polio virus detected in Sudan originated in Nigeria, which now
accounts for 60-percent of the world's polio cases. Health officials believe the
virus made its way east from Nigeria to Chad, and then into the Darfur region of
western Sudan, where a bloody, two year-old civil war has caused hundreds of
thousands of people to scatter within and outside the country."
(Voice of America [Nairobi], March 1, 2005)

An apt account of this irrationally destructive view of modern medicine was
recently offered by, again, Wole Soyinka---the great conscience of Nigeria--in the
form of a comparison between South African President Thabo Mbeki's view of
HIV/AIDS and the resistance of northern Nigeria's Islamic clerics to polio
vaccination:

"[Soyinka] likens South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, who spent years
denying the realities of AIDS---even as the epidemic's toll exceeded the number of
people shipped from Africa in the trans-Atlantic slave trade---to the imams who
fought a WHO campaign to eradicate polio: 'I find his position virtually as
illiterate as the position of Muslim fundamentalists here in Nigeria who say that
they read somewhere in the Koran that polio immunization is anti-Islamic.'"
(Henry Louis Gates in The New York Times, August 5, 2004)

Islamic fundamentalism, irrationalism, and political myopia are the real
context for Obasanjo declaring that, despite all evidence from humanitarian
organizations, human rights organizations, the UN, and international journalists,
"things are looking greatly better in Darfur." This is also the context in which to
understand why in October 2004 Obasanjo---with the presidents of Libya, Chad,
Egypt, and Sudan (meeting in Tripoli)---declared "in a joint statement issued
after the overnight meeting [that] the regional leaders stressed their
'rejection of all foreign intervention in this ***purely African question*** [emphasis
added]'" (Agence France-Presse, October 18, 2004).

Obasanjo is not interested in the people of Darfur, or whether "things are
better" or not: he is interested in making common regional cause with countries
that can be of domestic political use to him. He is not interested in considering
the implications of genocide in Darfur (which he crudely dismisses as a
possibility), but in doing as little as possible to offend the Ghaddafis, Mubaraks,
and Beshirs of this part of world. How else can we possibly explain Obasanjo's
being "reassured" about the status of Darfur by National Islamic Front President
Omer Beshir two weeks ago?

DARFUR'S REALITIES

The vicious absurdity of Obasanjo's judgment is as much in evidence whether we
consider Darfur from a humanitarian, security, or diplomatic perspective. On
the latter score, as John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group rightly
declares, "diplomatic efforts to end the Darfur crisis are 'in tatters'"
(Associated Press, February 25, 2005). There has been no progress in months, and it
is not clear when a date will be set for resumption of talks that were slated
to begin March 5, 2005 in Aswan, southern Egypt (Agence France-Presse, February
28, 2005).

December's Abuja (Nigeria) negotiating session, under exclusive African Union
auspices, was completely undermined by the massive military offensive Khartoum
had launched on the very eve of these renewed talks. The absence of any but AU
auspices may reflect, on the part of some African nations, pride of diplomatic
ownership; but in Khartoum's view, such singular auspices mean only that there
is no true mechanism of accountability. No matter what agreements the AU may
secure, the National Islamic Front regime will feel free to renege.

Thus we should hardly be surprised at Khartoum's continued reiteration of
support for the AU, or the terms in which AU engagement is defined:

"Magzoub Al-Khalifa [political secretary to the National Islamic Front/National
Congress] said the declared stance of the African Union internationally and
regionally with respect to Darfur problem is that it should be solved in the
African framework without any external interference in a manner that maintains
Sudan's unity and sovereignty." (Sudan Tribune, February 27, 2005)

If Obasanjo will accept Khartoum's characterization here of what is represented
by African Union diplomacy; if he will accept Khartoum's ongoing limitation of
the operational mandate for AU monitoring forces deployed in Darfur; and if
will accept Khartoum's declared view that "things are looking greatly better in
Darfur," then he can count on unlimited political support from the National
Islamic Front (NIF). This is the ghastly deal that Obasanjo has cut; and as This
Day newspaper (Lagos, Nigeria) reports, Khartoum has rendered initial payment in
the form of unstinting praise from Khartoum's First Vice-President Ali Osman
Taha (one of many NIF members currently under sealed indictment for massive
"crimes against humanity" per the investigation of the UN Commission of Inquiry on
Darfur):

"President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday received the report of [Khartoum's]
National Commission of Inquiry on Darfur from the First Vice President of Sudan,
Ali Usman Taha. Senior Special Assistant on Media Matters to the President, Mrs.
Oluremi Oyo, told State House correspondents, that 'the First Vice president of
the Sudan led a team of his country's delegation as a follow-up to the meeting
President Obasanjo had with President Omar El-Bashir of Sudan 10 days ago.'"

"The visiting Vice President thanked President Obasanjo for his wise
leadership, especially [ ] for the help that he is bringing to bear on the situation in
the Sudan, especially in the Darfur region.'" (This Day [Lagos] [dateline:
Abuja], March 1, 2005)

But if we leave aside the propaganda fantasy that emerges from Khartoum's
"investigation" of itself for genocide and crimes against humanity, what do we
really find in Darfur? What do the most current reports from the region suggest
about whether or not "things are looking greatly better"? And what of the African
Union in particular? If the AU diplomatic process is "in tatters," if the
Chair of the AU is being praised by Khartoum's most powerful genocidaire for his
"wisdom," what of the AU monitoring effort on the ground in Darfur? And what of
the latest reports concerning the humanitarian crisis? For the truth we must
of course turn to voices other than that of Olusegun Obasanjo.

THE CURRENT STATE OF THE A.U. MONITORING FORCE

There are currently, according to various reports, approximately 1,800 African
Union personnel on the ground in Darfur, an area the size of France. The AU
force has been, at best, marginally effective in pockets of Darfur. But months
after an October 2004 commitment to reach approximately 3,500 personnel, there
are no indications that this force is deploying with sufficient urgency or
political commitment. Moreover, it has deployed with inadequate resources, a weak
mandate, and---most tellingly---an unwillingness to ask for help.

In short, though many of the AU personnel in the field are highly dedicated
professionals, doing all they can in virtually impossible circumstances, the
larger political and military picture is one of a hopelessly inadequate force. The
various security and humanitarian capacity needs represented by the Darfur
crisis are far beyond even the most robust deployment of which the AU is currently
capable. Certainly if we bear in mind the assessment of Lt-Gen. Romeo
Dallaire, very recently reiterated during a tour of South Africa, the inadequacy of the
AU force is starkly evident. Dallaire, the UN force commander in Rwanda
during the genocide in 1994, has again insisted that "44,000 troops are needed to
bring peace to the Darfur region of Sudan rather than the 3,340 the African Union
intends sending to the region, [Dallaire said]" (Business Day [Johannesburg],
February 25, 2005).

Darfur, Dallaire argued at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, is a
"perfect example" of a "lack of political will to prevent crises developing."
This lack of "political will" characterizes both governments and
nongovernmental organizations, as well as the UN; and the refusal to speak months ago about
the basic truths defining the security crisis in Darfur has done much to lead to
the current catastrophe. Dallaire's assessment of the AU mandate should have
been clear to all in October 2004:

"Dallaire said the AU mandate [in Darfur]---which is similar to a UN Chapter
VI-type 'observe and monitor' mission---was far too weak and would result in its
being ineffectual. He said the mandate should be more robust and allow for the
protection of civilians and the disarmament of militias." (Business Day
[Johannesburg], February 25, 2005)

Though Dallaire's voice continues to be the most truthful and direct, there are
many echoes of this basic assessment, as various nongovernmental organizations
have slowly found their voices on the need for massive, urgent humanitarian
intervention in Darfur.

Human Rights Watch has recently (February 25, 2005) grown much more emphatic:

"New eyewitness accounts from Darfur of rapes, torture and mutilation by
government-backed militias underscore how the UN Security Council must take urgent
action to protect civilians and punish the perpetrators, Human Rights Watch said
today. Last week, eyewitnesses in South Darfur told Human Rights Watch how
government-backed Janjaweed militia attacked villages in the Labado area in
December and January, and singled out young women and girls for rape. Male relatives
who protested were beaten, stripped naked, tied to trees and forced to watch the
rape of the women and girls. In some cases, the men were then branded with a
hot knife as a mark of their humiliation." (Human Rights Watch, "Darfur: New
Atrocities as Security Council Dithers," February 25, 2005)

And Human Rights Watch draws precisely the appropriate conclusions:

"'Increasing the international protection force in Darfur is urgently needed to
stop the violence,' said [Peter] Takirambudde [Africa director at Human Rights
Watch]."

"The African Union, which currently has a ceasefire monitoring force of
approximately 1,800 personnel on the ground in Darfur, remains mainly based in the
state capitals and larger towns of Darfur. It lacks sufficient numbers of armed
troops to adequately patrol and investigate ongoing violations in the rural
areas."

"'With so few troops in Darfur, the AU force today simply cannot protect
civilians,' said Takirambudde. 'The United Nations must work with the African Union
to come up with a plan to vastly increase the force in Darfur.'" (Human Rights
Watch, "Darfur: New Atrocities as Security Council Dithers," February 25, 2005)

For its part, Oxfam International has declared this week that:

"The world has failed to take sufficient action to protect civilians in Darfur,
international aid agency Oxfam warned today. Horrifying atrocities have been
committed on a massive scale and more suffering is being inflicted on a daily
basis."

"Every morning in hundreds of camps and towns across Darfur, nearly 2 million
people made homeless by fighting wake up to another day of harassment, robbery
and violent attacks. Every week there are reports of women and girls being
viciously beaten or raped while collecting water and firewood. Some of them die as a
result of their injuries. As the violence continues to rage, the international
community and parties to the conflict must urgently step up efforts to protect
civilians in Darfur." (Oxfam International, "International community failing to
protect civilians in Darfur," February 28, 2005)

Adrian McIntyre, a spokesperson for Oxfam, recently

"returned from a 1,000-km road trip through South and West Darfur, where the
level of violence and suffering is appalling. In the Wadi Salih province, armed
militias prowl the countryside while displaced people are living in fear,
effectively imprisoned in the camps and towns where they have sought refuge. Men
can't go outside these settlements for fear of being killed. Women agonise over
whether the need to collect water and firewood so they can cook for their families
outweighs the threat of being beaten or raped,"

"The AU mission in Darfur has a vital role in ending violence against
civilians, [but] the scale of the crisis in Darfur exceeds the capacity of the current
AU mission to respond. To date, only half of the 3,320 personnel promised for
Darfur have arrived. Shortages of funding, logistical support, communications
equipment, accommodation and transport have also hindered the mission. The AU has
never even visited some of the places where threats to civilians are greatest.
Delays in deploying to the most volatile areas of Darfur mean that hundreds of
thousands of people remain vulnerable to attack."

"'The current AU mission needs more resources and personnel to do the job
properly. A fully expanded AU mission in Darfur---including additional troops,
ceasefire monitors and civilian police---must be deployed at once. The international
community must do whatever it takes to strengthen the ability of the AU mission
to protect civilians in Darfur from violent attacks,' said Caroline Nursey,
Oxfam's Regional Director." (Oxfam International, "International community failing
to protect civilians in Darfur," February 28, 2005)

Though more praising of the marginal achievements of the African Union efforts,
Refugees International (RI) notes that even AU successes "highlight the need
for a bigger force with more logistical and financial support from the donors who
are financing the AU deployment."

"The small size of the force limits its capacity to deter attacks. In addition,
it has no real ability to collect signals or utilize aerial or other
sophisticated intelligence that could alert it to planned attacks and early troop
concentrations." (Refugees International, February 25, 2005)

Moreover, RI speaks honestly about the AU's lack of success in the camps for
displaced persons:

"[The AU force in Darfur] generally gets low marks from residents of camps for
the internally displaced; they see no improvement in security from the AU
troops. A sheik representing internally displaced people in Masteri south of El
Geneina said of [the AU mission]: 'They come and go, but we do not see any results.
The last time they were here we thought they would help, but we found them
useless and they did not even greet us. They are just like the others.'"

Most disturbing is the Refugees International finding that, "AU reports often
appear months after the event and are sometimes watered down, since the parties
[including the Khartoum regime] have to agree on the facts in the report.
What's more, there is no clear mechanism for enforcing recommendations."

This reflects the deeply misguided political and diplomatic strategy underlying
not only AU efforts, but those of the UN and other international actors as
well:

"The African Union is handling many of its differences with Sudan through
negotiation, rather than confrontation. For example, [the AU mission] has assembled
a large library of photos to document atrocities, including executions,
castrations, rapes, pillaging and burning of villages. Most of these atrocities have
been committed by militias associated with the government, and [yet the AU
mission] refuses to make the photos public, although some were recently leaked to
The New York Times." (Refugees International, February 25, 2005)

The spokesman for another humanitarian organization, speaking on condition of
anonymity, reports to Inter Press Service other telling weaknesses:

"'And it's not just troops that are needed: better management, planning and use
of information to get the AU mission up to snuff. We're told that there simply
isn't the administrative capacity in Addis Ababa (the headquarters of the
AU)---not to mention at the field level---to manage a mission of the size/scope
requires,' he added. The AU also needs to overcome its pride and be willing to ask
for help. The slogan 'African solutions for African problems' is great, in
principle, but only if the solutions available stand a chance of addressing the
scale of the problem, he said." (Inter Press Service, March 1, 2005)

POLITICAL IMPORT OF AFRICAN UNION ATTITUDES

Another dispatch yesterday from Inter Press Service [dateline: Berlin] offers
important insight into the political stalemate that Obasanjo and others in the
African Union have created. Speaking about more insistent EU and US involvement
in Darfur, German deputy foreign minister Kerstin Müller declared,

"this is not feasible. 'For me it is hardly imaginable to tell the AU right
from the beginning that they cannot do it, if they are talking about a test case
in which they try to solve their own conflicts.'" (Inter Press Service, March
3, 2005)

But as the same dispatch makes painfully clear, this leaves the spectacle of
the AU refusing the offered help that is so conspicuously needed:

"Lotte Leicht, director of the Brussels office of Human Rights Watch, argued at
the [Darfur] panel discussion [in Berlin] that the AU had failed to protect the
people in Darfur. The AU should accept help from the EU, she said. 'I have
never seen that 25 foreign ministers are almost down on their knees, begging the AU
to take more help from the EU.'"

The basic moral and practical truth of this situation must be rendered as
explicitly as possible:

There can be no improvement in security on the ground in Darfur without massive
increases in the size and capabilities of the deploying force---increases far
beyond the present abilities of the African Union. Nor can there be an adequate
humanitarian response without vast increases in humanitarian capacity and
logistics, increases that will ultimately require military support. And yet,
despite the current extreme vulnerability of many hundreds of thousands of African
Darfuris, the African Union refuses to ask for the help Darfur clearly needs, and
allows brutally expedient leaders such as Obasanjo to define both the nature of
Darfur's catastrophe and its "purely African" character.

This is Africa betraying itself. And this is the international community
refusing to declare such deep betrayal for what it is. The phrase "African
solutions for African problems" is well on its way to becoming a terrible synonym for
acquiesce before genocide in Darfur, another African legacy that will be as
appalling as it is now inescapable.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

413-585-3326
ereeves@smith.edu
www.sudanreeves.org

Appendix: Darfur Humanitarian Update, March 4, 2005

THE FOOD CRISIS

According to authoritative UN sources, the World Food Program (WFP) reached 1.4
million people in Darfur in February 2005. While this is an increase of
100,000 from January, it still represents a decline of 100,000 from the number who
received food aid in December 2004 (1.5 million). This is the context for the
extraordinarily important recent comments by UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian
Affairs Jan Egeland:

"'Since [the world belatedly awoke to the Darfur crisis] the number of
internally displaced persons (IDPs) has doubled to between 1.8 million and 1.9 million
'and it's growing by the day.' The number of IDPs and the many hundreds of
thousands of others now outside of the camps who are in desperate need of
assistance is bound to increase, he warned, adding: 'Some are predicting 3 million, some
are predicting 4 million, some are predicting more than that, of people in
desperate need of life-saving assistance as we approach the hunger gap in
mid-year...whose lives will be at stake.'" (UN News Center [New York], February 18,
2005)

These numbers represent a crisis that will overwhelm currently available
humanitarian food resources in this remote and extremely difficult theater of
operations, and the result will be famine---famine engineered by Khartoum and its
Janjaweed militia allies, entailing near-total destruction of the agricultural
resources of the non-Arab or African tribal populations throughout Darfur.

Warnings of famine have already come from the US Agency for International
Development, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the UN's respected
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO):

"'All the indicators are there for a famine,' says Marc Bellemans, the Sudan
emergency coordinator for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. In a report
to fellow UN agencies late last year, the FAO warned 'a humanitarian crisis of
unseen proportions is unfolding in the Darfur region.'" (The Wall Street
Journal [Dateline: Fur Baranga, Darfur] February 7, 2005)

The food crisis in Darfur is of course in many ways a security crisis, a fact
highlighted repeatedly by Egeland, even as he made insistently clear the woeful
inadequacy of the present AU force:

"Egeland criticized world leaders for leaving aid workers to apply a 'bandaid'
instead of taking political action to resolve the conflict. 'You cannot have
this kind of situation and put in 10,000 unarmed men and women with blankets and
foodstuffs and field hospitals and say, "You stop this war." We cannot. Others
have to help us,' Egeland said."

"'We're front row witnesses to more massacres. We're front-row witnesses to
more displacements. We are front row witnesses to massive misery and suffering of
Darfur and we shouldn't be,' [Egeland] said. 'The armed men in militias are
getting away with murder of women and children and it is still happening. Those
who [i.e., Khartoum's genocidaires---ER] direct the militias [i.e., the
Janjaweed---ER]...these forces are also getting away with murder. It's impunity what we
have seen taking place in Darfur,' he said." (Associated Press, February 19,
2005)

"'Humanitarian workers are frustrated and angry with the situation. Many of
them feel that we are alibis or a substitute for the political action and the
security action that the world is not taking,' [Egeland] said." (Reuters, February
18, 2005)

"The basic lesson of earlier crises like Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda is 'that too
often the world sends us, the band aid, and the world believes that we keep
people alive and then they don't have to take a political and security action.
This is wrong and that's why we are really tired of being that kind of a
substitute for political and security action,' [Egeland] said." (UN News Center,
February 18, 2005)

Moreover, it must be noted that even in its commitment to humanitarian
assistance, the international community is failing badly. Oxfam International reports
that "the international community has provided $500 for each individual
affected by the tsunami, but [ ] for Sudan, [where the UN has appealed for $1.5
billion], the [international organization] has so far received only 5% of this total.
This amounts to just $16. per person." (Oxfam International [Boston], February
25, 2005)

THE REPORTING CRISIS

Despite the overwhelming evidence of massive food shortages throughout Darfur
(and, significantly, in neighboring Kordofan Province), Khartoum's
state-controlled SUNA declared (according to the UN Daily Press Review, March 2, 2005) that
"[the UN] World Food Program representative in Sudan said that reports my some
international mass media of a food shortage in Sudan were just baseless
rumors." This preposterous lie is of course not at all out of character for SUNA,
which is entirely a creature of the National Islamic Front, and designed for
domestic audiences.

But the attack on "international mass media" is all too revealing, and the
consequences of this hostility are now increasingly in evidence. For Khartoum
continues to shut down not only humanitarian access to Darfur but news access as
well, as Human Rights Watch reports (February 25, 2005):

"Meanwhile, as the Sudanese government's offensives in December and January,
aid agencies working in South Darfur came under increasing harassment from
government officials and rebel groups. In January, staff from several international
non-governmental organizations were detained by government officials often based
on unfounded allegations."

"Members of the international media and human rights groups have also found it
increasingly difficult to acquire visas for Sudan and Darfur, an indication of
the Sudanese government's efforts to reduce international exposure of its
'ethnic cleansing' campaign in Darfur." (Human Rights Watch, "Darfur: New
Atrocities as Security Council Dithers," February 25, 2005)

OTHER HUMANITARIAN ISSUES

Often lost amidst the welter of reports and statistics on Darfur are important
developments that are of the gravest significance unto themselves. A good
example is Khartoum's quiet return to a policy of forcing displaced persons from
the camps where they have sought refuge. This policy has been in clear evidence
for over eight months, and still the international presence in Darfur is not
sufficient to rescue these most vulnerable of civilians. An exceptionally
important account comes again from Refugees International, which has just returned
from Darfur (excerpts):

"The pressure for [Internally Displaced Persons to] return [to their villages]
is apparent at both the national and the local level."

"Some people who believed the government's claims of security learned the hard
way that their return was premature. A small number of families accepted
government assistance to return home to Mabruka, but they were attacked within a
month and all of their livelihood materials were stolen again. Government-supported
paramilitary forces, known as the Janjaweed, bandits and rebel forces continue
to prey on villages. Other displaced people say they are unwilling to return
home to villages that were burned and pillaged because they have no way to earn a
living there."

"A wave of returns would help the government convince the international
community that the crisis of killing and displacement is receding, perhaps reducing
calls for new sanctions and other pressure on the regime."

"Internally displaced people report direct threats by government officials in
order to pressure them to go home. In Riyhad camp just outside Al Geneina,
residents say that men on foot or horseback dressed in khaki uniforms and carrying
guns and knives come into the camp at night in an attempt to scare them into
leaving. A woman who came to the camp from Nouri more than a year ago said, 'A
month ago, the soldiers came into the camp and said to me, "If you do not go back,
we will come back soon and shoot you."' 'Even this camp is not safe, how can I
go home?' a woman displaced from Dounta asks."

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