ME and Ophelia

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Admit their orders came from Khartoum

Below is a copy of my first post at Passion of the Present:

Today, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper contains a report entitled "Demons of Darfur admit their orders came from Sudanese leaders". The report, authored by Stuart Ramsay in Hamir Berungha, Darfur, is copied here in full - with thanks to Times Online:

ELDERS from the Janjaweed Arab militia blamed for the world’s worst refugee crisis have confirmed they were mobilised by Sudan’s government last year to suppress a black peasant revolt in Darfur, and that they are still receiving orders from Khartoum.

In a rare interview last week, the elders said they were willing to lay down their arms, but only if told to do so by their government sponsors.

On a hill in Hamir Berungha, overlooking the plains of south Darfur, the Janjaweed gathered in a circle, their white cloaks billowing in the wind. They murmured in unison to the chant of a religious leader, daggers held in the air. Camouflage-clad youths waited nearby with AK-47 automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

“Last year they came to us and asked us to fight. We gave men and we attacked the villages they were using. We did what they asked of us,” said Emir Ali Maljurhim, one of the elders, speaking through a translator.

Khartoum insists there is no connection between its forces and the militia and, on Friday, it promised to set up safe areas for uprooted black Africans from Darfur and to disarm any marauding Janjaweed. The “plan of action for Darfur” was reached after talks with Jan Pronk, a United Nations envoy, and if successful would help Sudan avoid sanctions. It is expected to be ratified by the UN tomorrow.

But the Janjaweed — the Demons of Darfur — are far removed from the diplomatic niceties of UN headquarters in New York. Maljurhim’s interview — along with others conducted with local government employees and the Sudanese army — present a frightening picture of a scorched earth policy that is continuing.

Hamir Berungha, six hours’ drive from Nyala, the regional capital, has seen some of the worst violence. As many as 100,000 fled the area in days, leaving only the Arab militias and the few farmers rich enough to pay them off.

As the Janjaweed debated last week, arguments developed between the elders and the militant youths, who want to fight all outsiders — including any UN-backed force. Meanwhile Maljurhim expressed regret at the violence and said the Arabs and the Fur, the dominant African tribe, could live peacefully.

“We ask Khartoum to come and reorient us,” he said. “The government has told us to disarm everyone and we are doing it. But we need to see how this will happen.”

As we left the hillside, an African farmer approached. Speaking English to avoid retribution, Yahaie Mohammed said his family had paid to stop their village being attacked.

But he added that the terror was continuing. “They are here among us, now. I can’t point to them, but you were speaking with them,” he said. “They say there is peace here but there is not. The burning, the stealing of animals and the killing took place — that is why the people left. The Arabs, they are lying.”

Some countries have been critical of the international response to the violence, and France has sent 200 soldiers to Chad to help Sudanese refugees crossing the border.

[Stuart Ramsay is the Sky News Africa Correspondent]

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 8/08/2004
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