ME and Ophelia

Sunday, June 13, 2004

To protect refugee camps and allow food aid to be delivered

Harvard's Ethan Zuckerman, who is in Berlin right now, summarises various news, "almost all of it bad", from Central Africa. Here is an excerpt from his post dated June 12:

"...The UN (as well as the UK, US, and the EU) still haven't found the political will to put peacekeepers in the region to protect refugee camps and allow food aid to be delivered.

Nor have governments met the UN's challenge to provide aid to the region - donor commitments are almost $100m short.

It seems likely that the wider world will be in the position of those refugee parents, watching a million people die. If the media bothers to watch..."
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For the children of Sudan?

Readers of this weblog may recall my previous posts on Bosnia where genocide took place ten years ago along with the mass rape, of tens of thousands, as a weapon of war.

Last year, I posted a moving report about the children of Bosnia's rape victims and the terrible difficulties faced by them, their mothers and those who care for them. The report "A cradle of inhumanity" was published by the Sunday Times in 2003, and tells the story of two little girls who believed their fathers were good men.

The following is an excerpt from yesterday's report, "Sudan militias use rape to attack tribes", that tells the story of a woman and her baby in Sudan. It makes one wonder what future is in store for such mothers and children.

"Hawa Hussein's eighth child has been growing in her belly for three months, but it's hard for her to love this child. The baby brings flashbacks. Of four horsemen from an Arab militia called the Janjaweed. Of the March evening when they swept into her quiet village, and dragged her down a red dirt path into the wilderness. Of the gang rape, again and again, for 10 days. "They tortured me because I was a Fur,'' said Hawa, 35, referring to her black African tribe, her soft voice falling to a whisper. "This baby doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the Janjaweed.''

In six months, Hawa will have another mouth to feed. She will keep the baby out of tradition, because in Fur culture a baby can't be refused. But she knows it will be an outcast. It won't have a Fur name, and it won't go through any of the rituals to welcome a newborn child, she said. And there will come a day, she knows, that she'll have to choose between her child and her tribe. If you ask her today, she'll choose her tribe. "I know this baby will not benefit the Fur,'' she said without emotion. She paused, then added: "I really don't know what will happen to this baby.''
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Have armed Arab tribes and encouraged a policy of "Arabization"

Following on from the post above, here are excerpts from yesterday's report "Sudan militias use rape to attack tribes":

"In Africa's war zones, rape is a weapon used to intimidate and control civilian populations. But in the vast, sand-blown province of Darfur, human rights activists and Western aid workers say, it has another far-reaching effect: diluting a tribe's bloodlines.

Despite a cease-fire between black African rebels and the Arab Sudanese government, in village after village, women and girls as young as 12 are being abducted, whipped and raped. Some become sex slaves, while others are impregnated and discarded on roadsides. There are no laws, no police and no courts to protect the violated. And rape is a source of shame in a community where children are valued for carrying forward traditions and bloodlines, ensuring the tribe's survival.

"This is an awfully efficient way of erasing someone's identity,'' said Nils Carstensen, a senior researcher for Danish Church Aid, a relief group, who visited Darfur recently. For decades, Arab herders have tussled with black African farmers for precious water and land. The tensions have risen sharply in recent years as successive Islamic governments have armed Arab tribes and encouraged a policy of "Arabization.''

In the most recent 15-month-old conflict, the Janjaweed, have targeted the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit tribes, which have ties to the rebels.

No one knows how many women and girls have been raped or how widespread the campaign is. But in crowded refugee camps and remote aid-worker outposts, horrific stories swirl like dust devils. They tell of armed men who burst into huts at night to grab women sleeping in the arms of their husbands. They tell of girls robbed of their virginity, then branded with hot irons to forever remind them of their humiliation. They tell of parents being forced to watch.

"Rape often appears to have taken place while victims were restrained, often at gunpoint, and at times in front of family members,'' said a U.N. human rights report on Darfur that was published last month.

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Updated - Sunday June 13 19:00PM - with the following inserts:

June 9 UN - "G8 leaders need to do more in Sudan" statement to UN from SAVE THE CHILDREN, one of the leading aid agencies working in Sudan for more than 30 years. They say "to date operations in Darfur have been difficult because of access restrictions and security problems but these appear to be easing. Save the Children will now seek to provide health care, water and food to 200,000 displaced people in Northern and Southern Darfur."

June 10 BBC - June 10 BBC Sudan: Big country, big problems: "Part of the reason why the Darfur rebels took up arms last year - apart from a long-standing resentment at perceived Arab domination of their region - was the limited nature of the SPLA-government talks in Naivasha, Kenya. The Darfur rebels felt excluded from these talks which have now agreed detailed power and wealth-sharing arrangements between the SPLA and the government right down, for example, to the percentage of government jobs each side will be allocated. In particular, the Naivasha agreement hammered out power-sharing deals for three oil-producing central regions claimed by the two sides as being in 'their' areas. These are Abyei, Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains. The Darfur region, ominously, also straddles the north and the south.

Kofi Annan said in his report to the UN Security Council that "the catastrophic situation in Darfur is a problem that will make a Sudanese peace agreement much harder to implement." The secretary-general concluded, in a formula which sums up the positive and negative signals coming from Sudan: "To conduct a consent-based [UN] monitoring and verification operation in one part of the country while there is an ongoing conflict in another part would prove politically unsustainable inside the Sudan and internationally."

Note, BBC's report states: "But before the international community is asked formally to commit to a UN mission, the so-far elusive comprehensive peace settlement would have to be agreed".

June 12 AFP - UNICEF: "The UN children's fund UNICEF has warned that half a million children are in danger in Darfur, as its director Carol Bellamy prepared to visit the war-ravaged region of western Sudan on Sunday and Monday. Bellamy was due to arrive in Khartoum late Saturday and travel to Nyala in southern Darfur the next day, according to a UNICEF spokesperson in the Sudanese capital.

On Monday, the UNICEF head was to visit Geneina in western Darfur and return to Khartoum for talks with government officials. Bellamy will 'see first-hand the life-threatening situation facing hundreds of thousands of children caught in one of the world's most rapidly developing humanitarian crises', UNICEF said on the eve of her visit.

The agency was 'deeply concerned about the growing vulnerability of the vast displaced population in Darfur, now estimated at some one million people, half of them children.' Nearly all now face food shortages, outbreaks of disease, exploitation, and the rainy season, which has just started. Bellamy's visit comes after UNICEF revised upwards an initial appeal for some 33 million dollars in relief funds for its activities in Darfur. The new figure now stands at 46 millions dollars."

June 13 Reuters - U.N. pushes for peace in south Sudan: "The Security Council on Friday authorized a U.N. advance team to quickly assess peacekeeping needs in southern Sudan, where recent agreements have paved the way for an end to Africa's longest civil war.

A resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council at the same time called for urgent efforts to resolve a separate conflict in western Sudan's remote Darfur region, where Arab militias are waging a campaign of looting, burning and rape targeting black African villages. The resolution specifically endorsed a finding by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that ending the crisis in Darfur was crucial to the success of a future U.N. peacekeeping role in the south of the vast, oil-rich northeast African nation.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Spain had pushed for rapid council approval of a measure stressing the need for quick action in both Darfur and the south. A second, smaller group, led by Muslim Pakistan, had fought to keep a reference to Darfur out of the text. Sudan's Islamic government in Khartoum has been working behind the scenes to keep Darfur off the Security Council agenda, diplomats said. But a last-minute compromise on the wording made the text acceptable, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram said. If the resolution had to mention Darfur at all, Pakistan had wanted it to focus mainly on the humanitarian crisis there rather than the political situation, he told Reuters. Without mentioning any names, Akram accused governments of hypocrisy for seeking a stronger statement on Darfur. "They make good statements about it, but when it comes to money, they fall short," he said."

June 13 Reuters - UN says Sudan Forces, Militias Executed Civilians: "A senior U.N. official said on Sunday she had 'credible information' that Sudanese forces and government-backed militias had carried out summary executions of civilians in west Sudan."

Further reading: See list of who is who in Sudan at IRIN Web Special on the prospects of peace in 'Sudan: A future without War?
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Facing any international force deployed in western Sudan

June 13 Sunday Herald - Crisis would be the ultimate test of G8’s proposed pan-African army:

Trevor Royle examines the geographical and ethnic difficulties that would face any international force deployed in western Sudan.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 6/13/2004
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