Sunday, October 31, 2004


Sudan primer #1

From the ever-amazing BBC comes this really good article that seems to give a decent basic explanation for what's still happening in Sudan, in the Darfur region.

Q&A: Sudan's Darfur conflict

The world's worst humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Sudan's western region of Darfur, the United Nations says. More than 1.5 million people have fled their homes and some70,000 people have been killed. Pro-government Arab militias are accused of ethnic cleansing and even genocide against the region's black African population.

How did the conflict start?

The conflict began in the arid and impoverished region early in 2003 after a rebel group began attacking government targets, claiming that the region was being neglected by Khartoum.

The rebels say the government is oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.

There has been tension in Darfur, which means land of the Fur, for many years over land and grazing rights between the mostly nomadic Arabs and farmers from the Fur, Massaleet and Zagawa ethnic groups.

There are two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), which have been linked to senior Sudanese opposition politician Hassan al-Turabi.

What is the government doing?

It admits mobilising "self-defence militias" following rebel attacks but denies any links to the Janjaweed, accused of trying to "cleanse" large swathes of territory of black Africans.

Refugees from Darfur say that following air raids by government aircraft, the Janjaweed ride into villages on horses and camels, slaughtering men, raping women and stealing whatever they can find.

Many women report being abducted by the Janjaweed and held as sex slaves for more than a week before being released.

Human rights groups, the US Congress and US Secretary of State Colin Powell say that genocide is taking place.

If the UN accepts that a genocide is occurring, it is legally obliged to take action to stop it.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Mr Powell have both visited Darfur to see the situation for themselves and to put pressure on the government.

Sudan's government denies being in control of the Janjaweed and President Omar al-Bashir has called them "thieves and gangsters".

After strong international pressure and the threat of sanctions, the government promised to disarm the Janjaweed. But there is little evidence of this so far.

Thousands of extra policemen have been deployed but the refugees have little faith in the Sudanese security forces.

After much prompting by the US and its allies, the United Nations has threatened to impose sanctions on Sudan's oil sector if the violence is not quelled.

But this has been resisted by China and some other nations, which argue that Sudan should be able to find its own solution.

There is no deadline for Sudan to take action but the UN is compiling monthly reports on the situation in Darfur.

What has happened to the civilians?

Some 1.5 million people have left their homes and about 70,000 have been killed.

Most have fled their destroyed villages for camps in Darfur's main towns but there is not enough food, water or medicine.

The Janjaweed patrol outside the camps and Darfurians say the men are killed and the women raped if they venture too far in search of firewood or water.

Aid workers say that many thousands are at risk of starvation in the camps. The aid operation has been hampered by the rainy season, when many parts of Darfur become inaccessible.

Some children have already died from malnutrition.

As many as 200,000 have sought safety in neighbouring Chad, but many are camped along a 600km stretch of the border and remain vulnerable to attacks from Sudan.

Chad is worried that the conflict could spill over the border.

Its eastern areas have a similar ethnic make-up to Darfur.

What help are the civilians getting?

Lots of aid agencies are working in Darfur but they say they have not been given enough money by the international community.

They also say the government has been blocking their access to Darfur by demanding visas and using other bureaucratic obstacles.

Sudan says these have now been removed.

Is anyone trying to stop the fighting?

The government and the two rebel groups signed a ceasefire in April but this has not held.

The African Union and other international bodies have been able to get them together in Nigeria but little progress has been made.

Some 300 African Union troops are now in Darfur on a very limited mandate. Much of the diplomatic effort now is to push for a much larger AU with a beefed up role.

The Sudan government has agreed in principle to a force of at least 3,000 but is resisting changing their mandate, to give them powers to disarm combatants.

The government has hinted that it may let Darfur run its own affairs more if this would help solve the crisis.

It has agreed to let southern Sudan have its own government as part of a deal to end 20 years of conflict in that region.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/10/18 12:34:50 GMT© BBC MMIV


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