Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sudan: the carrot which has nothing to do with the stick

Last week, I expressed a bit of skepticism at a deal between the Sudanese regime and rebel leaders in Darfur, an agreement referred to as "breakthrough" by many independent parties. Sadly, my skepticism was justified.

The DAY AFTER the agreement was signed, BBC journalist Fergal Keane (a veteran of the last African genocide in Rwanda and its subsequent, and expectedly hollow, promises of 'Never again') filed this report from a Darfur refugee camp.

I saw at least four jeep-loads of police driving over the flimsy shacks erected by displaced people.
Later they returned and began to beat and tear-gas the frightened crowd.

I saw one of the community leaders being thrown to the ground and attacked by several policemen.

The police launched tear-gas grenades into a compound where women and children were sheltering.

Police then entered and forced them to flee.


The police showed open contempt for United Nations officials when they arrived, firing tear-gas grenades and driving aggressively around the camp.

African Union (AU) peacekeepers at the camp said they did not have power or mandate to intervene.

More police have now arrived to reinforce the earlier contingent.

It's chilling to consider what the word 'reinforce' means in this context.

Keane continued:

The police staged two assaults on displaced people, and wouldn't desist from bulldozing their camp, despite the presence of representatives of the UN, AU and international aid agencies.


All the people here I have spoken to were driven out of their own villages by the pro-government Janjaweed militia and have witnessed rape and murder.

It is really hard to convey what it is like, when in the dark hours of the early morning, jeeps come in with searchlights, knowing that these people have absolutely no protection.

I've been covering Africa for 21 years and I thought I'd seen everything, but to watch the officials and the police of a state like Sudan - which has just signed a peace agreement - demolishing people's shacks under the eyes of international observer and breaching international law, is quite extraordinary and unique.

The domestic BBC Panorama program has also spoken to members of the Janjaweed in northern Darfur.

They also appear to substantiate the often denied claim that Arab soldiers - who are accused of rape and murder in Darfur - are armed by the Sudanese government.

Panorama interviewed one Janjaweed recruit who claimed of his commanders, "They said that if you come across any villages with rebels in burn them down. Straight away."

One refugee told of the horror inflicted on her by the Janjaweed: "Five of them surrounded me I couldn't move I was paralysed. They raped me, one after the other."

Another said, "My son was clinging to my dress. An Arab looking man, in a uniform with military insignia, stopped his car next to me. He grabbed my son from me and threw him into a fire."

A third villager Hikma, claimed the Janjaweed hurled racist insults as they carried out their attacks.

She said: "They were saying 'the blacks are slaves, the blacks are stupid catch them alive, catch them alive, take them away with you, tie them up'.

A fourth told the BBC: "We went to get the firewood at eight o'clock in the morning. Suddenly we were confronted by the attackers.

"They started asking us: 'Where are you going, fur women?', and calling us donkeys. 'Where are the rebels?'

"They started beating us. We tried to resist and defend ourselves but we failed because they threatened us with knives. Four of them raped me."

In response to the appalling situation, the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch has called on the UN Security Council to impose an long-delayed arms embargo and travel sanctions on the Sudanese regime.

A group of six aid agencies added their weight to calls for action, saying that previous UN resolutions "mounted to little more than empty threats, with minimal impact on the levels of violence". This was evidenced by the atrocities mentioned earlier that were committed in full view of UN and African Union officials.

Despite being the only major country to call the Darfur situation 'genocide' and despite having earlier pushed the arms embargo/travel ban resolution, the US has quickly changed tack, according to The Washington Post. The daily reports: The Bush administration is pressing the United Nations to reward Sudan with a major package of international debt relief and reconstruction funds if the Islamic state signs a peace deal ending a brutal, 20-year civil war with the Christian-backed Sudan People's Liberation Army in southern Sudan by the end of the year.

This is a separate conflict from Darfur (the regime has a knack for fighting its own citizens, eh?).

The offer of financial aid marks a strategy shift by the United States, which had sought international support for two U.N. resolutions threatening to sanction Sudan if it failed to crack down on the Janjaweed.

The US' ambassador to the UN John Danforth says the Bush administration wants to focus more on the carrot than the stick.

Too bad the America carrot has nothing to do with the situation the Bush administration itself called genocide.


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