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Posts Tagged ‘Darfur’

Sudan: The killing of two Ministry of Health staff in West Darfur

Posted by African Press International on November 30, 2013

Statement attributable to the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Mr. Ali Al-Za’tari, on the killing of two Ministry of Health staff in West Darfur

KHARTOUM, Sudan, November 29, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ali Al-Za’tari, strongly condemns the killing of two Sudanese Ministry of Health staff, a vaccinator and a driver, who were part of a team vaccinating vulnerable children against measles in West Darfur.

“My deepest condolences go to the family and friends of those killed,” said Mr Al-Za’tari. “I call on all parties to ensure the protection of all personnel working to deliver assistance to populations in need throughout Sudan,” he said.

UNICEF and the World Health Organization are helping to ensure that every child in Sudan is getting vaccinated, whoever they are and wherever they live.

 

SOURCE

UNITED NATIONS

 

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Government of Sudan and LJM: UNAMID’s Head welcomes the signing of final security arrangements between the two parties.

Posted by African Press International on November 21, 2013

KHARTOUM, Sudan, November 20, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The AU– UN Joint Special Representative/ Joint Chief Mediator (JSR/JCM) for Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, attended the signing ceremony of the final security arrangements between the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), stipulated under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), in the afternoon of 20 November 2013 in Khartoum.

The JSR/JCM welcomed the signing of these arrangements and expressed his hope that they would constitute a significant step towards the implementation of the DDPD. He also congratulated the Government of Sudan and the LJM for the commitment, flexibility and concessions both sides have demonstrated during the negotiations, which have brought them to this important moment.

In his brief remarks at the ceremony, Dr. Chambas reflected by saying “With this signing, a new chapter will begin for the LJM. The commencement of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of their forces will offer new opportunities for many of their troops; whether this is to join the Government forces or to seek a civilian future. It is this future away from war that the DDPD was intended to secure.”

 

SOURCE

United NationsAfrican Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)

 

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Humanitarian assistance for over a million people

Posted by African Press International on November 19, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – People are suffering the effects of intercommunal violence over natural resources and land in Darfur, and of occasional fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups. So far this year, the ICRC has helped over a million people.

“We’ve scaled up our emergency response because of rising violence in Darfur, where people face increased hardship,” said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan. “We’ve brought vital assistance to violence-affected areas.”

The ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent Society have been working hard to deliver relief rapidly. Intercommunal clashes in Jebel Amer, North Darfur state, caused thousands to flee in January and February. The two organizations jointly distributed 1,600 tonnes of food, blankets, jerrycans, tarpaulins, sleeping mats, clothes, buckets, soap and kitchen utensils to over 124,000 people, both the displaced and their host communities. As people wounded in Jebel Amer reached hospitals in Al Sireaf, Saraf Omra, Al Junaina and Al Fashir, the ICRC provided the hospitals with medical supplies. It also facilitated the evacuation by helicopter of 33 casualties from Al Sireaf to Al Fashir for treatment in the Ministry of Health hospital.

The ICRC worked with the Sudanese Red Crescent to help people in the flood-stricken Nile Valley, where thousands were left homeless in August. The two organizations distributed household and shelter items to over 30,000 people in Khartoum and Blue Nile states, in the Dongola region, and in Mereo and Wadi Halfa in Northern state. An emergency water system for 5,800 people was set up in Al Gezera state, and 10 hand pumps were installed to supply drinking water for the population of Jebel Awliya, south of Khartoum.

Darfur has seen not only increased violence but also a surge in crime. In August, unknown armed men seized eight ICRC staff in central Darfur. While they were all released within two weeks, their two trucks have still not been recovered. “Incidents like this have an effect on the humanitarian work we do for people who are suffering,” said Mr Sandoz. “We are grateful to the government authorities, and the tribal and community leaders who helped bring about the release of our colleagues.”

While Darfur remained the focus of the ICRC’s action, access to conflict-stricken areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan states remains pending. “We have offered to carry out an impartial assessment of the needs in these areas, and to provide relief to the people most severely affected,” said Mr Sandoz. “So far, however, we have not been granted access there”.

Despite the challenges, the ICRC has spared no effort to help people in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan. Highlighted below is some of the work we did between January and September.

Emergency aid for people suffering the effects of violence

The ICRC:

•    supplied household and shelter items for over 129,000 people displaced by violence, including 111,000 from Jebel Amer;

•    delivered enough medical supplies to 19 hospitals in Darfur, South Kordofan and Khartoum for them to perform 5,100 operations and treat 1,350 casualties;

•    provided essential drugs, medical supplies and furniture for the health centre in Garra Za Wia, Jebel Amer, which serves a population of 8,000;

•    repaired 38 hand pumps, upgraded a water point and installed six water tanks for the use of over 24,000 people in areas where displaced people from Jebel Amer had gathered;

•    trained 80 Red Crescent volunteers in first aid.

Helping people fend for themselves

•    With the onset of rains in July, around 460,000 people (mainly in and around the Jebel Marra area) received farming tools, plus groundnut, sorghum and vegetable seed. Another 16,575 families received farming tools only.

•    Over 15,600 families received donkey ploughs.

•    The ICRC distributed over 4,000 tonnes of food to help people cope with a food shortage and enable them to set aside seed for planting.

Improving access to water

The ICRC:

•    repaired 327 hand pumps, 33 water points and four wells, maintaining a reliable water supply for over 473,000 people;

•    trained 92 technicians in hand-pump maintenance, ensuring that communities would continue to have water.

Providing health care

The ICRC supports seven health centres that serve 138,000 people in Central and South Darfur states.

Between January and September:

•    health-centre staff saw over 49,300 patients, including 7,450 expectant mothers, and performed 26,400 childhood vaccinations;

•    the ICRC provided logistical support for Ministry of Health immunization campaigns that resulted in the vaccination of over 101,300 people, including children under five;

•    when September’s protests against the withdrawal of fuel subsidies resulted in numerous casualties, the ICRC provided hospitals in Khartoum with enough intravenous fluids, bandages and other medical supplies to treat over 150 people;

•    the ICRC sponsored the training of 44 midwifery students from villages in Darfur, to reduce deaths among mothers and children.

Supporting physical rehabilitation services

Almost 5,000 people received prosthetic or orthotic devices, crutches or physiotherapy from six ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation centres, a mobile workshop run by the National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics, and the Khartoum Cheshire Home centre for the rehabilitation of disabled children.

Vaccinating animals

•    The ICRC and the State Ministries of Animal Resources and Fisheries vaccinated over 860,000 animals belonging to more than 17,000 (mainly nomadic) families in Darfur.

•    A hundred animal-health workers received training in such skills as disease reporting and animal vaccination. Their services are expected to benefit more than 14,600 families.

•    Facilitating the release of detainees

The ICRC is often called upon to serve as a neutral intermediary when government or armed opposition groups release soldiers or civilians.

Between January and September:

•    five South Sudanese prisoners of war were repatriated following their release by the Sudanese authorities;

•    a total of 35 civilians and 27 Sudanese armed forces personnel held by armed opposition groups in Darfur were transferred home;

•    ICRC staff visited detainees held in Jebel Marra by the Sudan Liberation Army – Abdel Wahid faction.

Restoring contact between family members

Between January and September, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent:

collected and delivered nearly 8,400 Red Cross messages and organized over 800 telephone calls between members of dispersed families;

clarified the whereabouts of dozens of people reported by their families as missing or captured in connection with conflict, and received 437 new tracing requests. In addition, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent reunited a child found in South Sudan with his family in Sudan.

The ICRC has been working in Sudan since 1978. In 2003, it extended its operations to Darfur, where we are helping people suffering the effects of armed conflict and other violence.

 

SOURCE

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

 

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Armed group releases five soldiers

Posted by African Press International on November 7, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Five Sudanese soldiers held in Darfur were released today by the Sudan Liberation Army – Ali Karbino (SLA-AK), an armed opposition group. The International Committee of the Red Cross facilitated the operation in its capacity as a neutral intermediary.

“The Sudanese authorities and the SLA-AK asked us to facilitate the transfer and provide logistical support for this operation,” said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan. The regular dialogue the ICRC maintains with the government authorities and various armed opposition groups allows it to play its unique role as a neutral intermediary.

ICRC delegates accompanied the released soldiers as a helicopter flew them to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, where they were placed in the care of the Sudanese authorities. Prior to the transfer, the delegates spoke privately with the soldiers to make sure they were being transferred of their own free will.

Similar operations in Sudan this year involving the ICRC have resulted in the transfer of five South Sudanese prisoners of war released by the Sudanese government and of 32 Sudanese armed forces personnel and 36 civilians released by armed opposition groups.

The ICRC has been working in Sudan since 1978. In 2003 it extended its operations to Darfur, where it helps people suffering the effects of armed conflict and other violence.

 

SOURCE

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

 

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Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON, – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

eb/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Posted by African Press International on October 21, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON,  – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

eb/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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What we need is schools, water, and a flour mill

Posted by African Press International on August 29, 2013

TADJOU (TISSI DISTRICT),  – The southeastern Chad border district of Tissi has seen an influx of people fleeing violence in neighbouring western Sudan, among them Chadian nationals who had either migrated there for work or fled earlier violence, and new refugees from Sudan’s Darfur area. 
Mahamat Haroun Dahab’s family (his wife and four children) are among those from eastern Chad who left the country seven years ago during the conflict there, for Darfur. They recently returned to their Tissi village of Tadjou, after fleeing inter-communal violence. Dahab and his wife told IRIN their story.

[Dahab:] “I have been here for three months. I arrived in May when the Misseriya and Salamat [ethnic groups; the latter lives on both sides of the border] started fighting in Um Dhukun [Darfur]. I am not sure what they were fighting over. Around us there were people who were killed and injured.

“The journey from Sudan to the Chad border was by donkey. Then, once we were on the Chadian side, IOM [the International Organization for Migration] brought us here [to Tadjou village].

“We just packed what we had and sought safety; we did not have time to prepare ourselves.

“Here we are doing some farming, mainly of sorghum. Back in Um Dhukun I used to slaughter some sheep. I worked as a butcher. But I have always been a farmer.

“The land I had here before I fled is where I am planting my crops now; during the fighting this area was deserted and my land and house remained intact.

“None of my children have been to school. They are young and I don’t have enough money to register them.

“But I have no intention of going back to Darfur. Here, I can practice farming; there [in Um Dhukun] we had to buy things from the market.

“What we really need here is schools, a flour mill and water.

[Dahab’s wife – she did not give her name:] “We decided to leave [Um Dhukun] when our belongings, such as our [mobile] phones and livestock, started being taken by force by the Arabs.

“We are OK living here [in Tadjou] as we just go to the farm and come back.

“But the children really need schooling and some clothes. What we really want is schools.

“Myself, I have never been to school. I learned to speak Arabic because people around me speak it; but I can’t write anything or read. A person who doesn’t go to school can’t read Arabic.”

aw/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Conflicts causing deaths presents another data dilemma for mortality statisticians.

Posted by African Press International on August 18, 2013

BANGKOK, 16 August 2013 (IRIN) – Varied death tolls emerging from Egypt’s latest clashes are a reminder that obtaining mortality statistics in emergencies is still a disputed, complicated and, at times, politicized task. But tallied correctly, researchers say mortality data can b oost aid efficacy and improve funding decisions.

“Funding to save people, in the aftermath, is driven by death tolls,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), noting that death tolls are also a good indicator for survivors who need life-saving assistance.

Unlike mortality data from natural disasters, the number of dead from armed conflict can be used for political purposes and thus become subject to manipulation or misuse, according to CRED, which has maintained an “emergency events” database on the occurrence and effects of more than 18,000 mass disasters worldwide from 1900 to the present.

The politics of numbers

In Egypt’s current political crisis, death tolls have differed wildly depending on the source. In the hours following the forcible clearing of a mass sit-in of Muslim Brotherhood supporters by government forces on 14 August, the Brotherhood’s initial death toll was 500, while state TV said four people had been killed.

The government’s toll has since risen to more than 600 while the opposition’s toll is more than three times as high.

Many of the dead in Egypt were taken to makeshift hospitals run by the Brotherhood movement itself, which made outside verification of the figures difficult. The official death count is based only on bodies that passed through a hospital.

Darfur

Sudan’s Darfur conflict, which broke out 10 years ago and for which a ceasefire was signed in 2010, has generated a significant debate on death counts. The UN estimates some 300,000 died, while Khartoum puts the number closer to 10,000. In 2006 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published an analysis of mortality estimates from Darfur to examine the methodology behind death tallies.

In Darfur lack of access to some regions of the conflict, inaccurate population data and varied manipulations of baseline mortality rates (death rates in times of non-crisis) led to data shortcomings and disputed death estimates, the analysis concluded.

The US Department of State reported that between March 2003 and January 2005 a total of 98,000 to 181,000 people died, while five other studies produced estimates ranging up to nearly 400,000 people between February 2003 and August 2005. The GAO study judged none of the death tolls accurate, although it noted some estimates were more reliable than others.

A recent analysis (2010) of mortality estimates in Darfur based on retrospective mortality surveys estimated that the overall number of “excess” deaths (those attributable to crisis conditions and not just direct conflict) in Darfur between early 2003 and end of 2008 was some 300,000 people.

However, the authors acknowledged that the limits of data and problems over its interpretation that plagued earlier death tolls, persisted in theirs.

Syria

The Syrian conflict presents another data dilemma for mortality statisticians.

In a complex armed conflict as is the case of Syria, fatalities can be at the centre of political controversy with each party to the conflict wanting to downplay civilian deaths.

In August 2011 the UN Human Rights Council established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights and international law violations in Syria. But lack of access hampered the commission’s efforts, whose investigations have been forced to rely primarily on interviews with people in camps and hospitals in countries neighbouring Syria.

“Initially, we adopted a methodology that required one of two things for us to count the casualty, A) our eye-witness actually saw the deceased and knew his/her name or, B) our witness was a family member, and knew that his/her family member was deceased,” said Vic Ullom, legal adviser of the Commission of Inquiry (COI).

“For us, that was an appropriately high bar to get over those accounts that are fabricated or exaggerated. However, we only received a small percentage of the overall numbers of casualties, because we could only interview a small percentage of the refugee population,” he added.

According to the Centre for Documentation of Violations in Syria, an opposition website, the fatalities since the beginning of the conflict number some 69,000 people while the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, run by a Syrian who fled 13 years ago who is now based in the UK, puts the conflict’s casualties closer to 106,000 people. Both networks report on casualties from both sides and say they gather their information from human rights groups and activists in Syria.

However, experts warn that in a conflict like Syria’s, while a reliable network on the ground can provide decent statistics, it can also be challenging.

“They’ve got to be active and mobile, and they themselves [must] have good networks in the area that they cover. Being on the ground during a war, they will be very susceptible to all kinds of pressure, including to manipulate the numbers in favour of their political objectives,” said Ullom of COI, who added that it will be “extremely” difficult for such monitors to have access, but not favour either side.

Standard death toll tallying

In humanitarian emergencies, proper gathering, interpretation and use of mortality data can save lives as this database is the basis on which to plan a humanitarian response, say researchers.

Mortality rate is defined “as the number of deaths occurring in a given population at risk during a specified time period, also known as the recall period”. In emergencies it is usually expressed as deaths per 10,000 persons per day.

Crude mortality rate (CMR) and under five mortality rate (U5MR) are important indicators to assess and monitor the severity of an emergency situation, and are expressed per day.

CMR refers to the number of deaths among all age groups and due to all causes, while U5MR refers to the deaths of children under five years of age, out of 1,000 live births during a specified year.

According to the humanitarian guidelines known as SPHERE standards a CMR or an U5MR that is double the pre-crisis mortality rate indicates a “significant” public health emergency.

But one longstanding challenge of tallying death tolls in armed conflicts is whether to count deaths from “war-related causes”, including starvation due to lack of access to farmland in the line of fire, or from treatable diseases and minor wounds when patients cannot get treatment.

Several efforts have been made to standardize methodologies including the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART), a network of organizations and humanitarian practitioners that has published a protocol for nutrition and mortality assessments.

But getting practitioners on the ground to apply these standards under duress is another matter.

Scarce resources, security concerns hamper data collection

CRED’s Guha-Sapir added: “At this time, there is no agreed-on methodology or even guidelines that could help operational workers who are on the ground to estimate the dead.”

The Harvard Project on monitoring, reporting and fact finding has been researching for the past two years guidelines on a common investigative methodology for mortality statistics. The project targets the work of fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry mandated by the UN and entities such as the European Union.

A major challenge for such missions is they do not compile raw data, but rather, rely on often unreliable casualty statistics compiled by other organizations.

“Commissions of inquiry frequently operate under broad mandates under scarce resource and time constraints,” Rob Grace, program associate at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at the School of Public Health at Harvard University, told IRIN.

“For this reason, they tend to lack the capacity to undertake a comprehensive examination of all incidents that have occurred in the relevant context. Most commissions of inquiry mandated to gather information about violations of human rights endeavour to gather information about certain incidents that are emblematic of the patterns of violations that have occurred. The task of gathering accurate quantitative information about fatalities is not typically included in mandates for commissions of inquiry.”

Security restrictions are another added worry.

“Other challenges involve lack of territorial access in situations in which the host country has not granted the commission on-the-ground access, and ad hoc territorial access restrictions imposed, for example, by armed groups that control territory,” said Grace.

For Guha-Sapir, a systematic review of how governments and organizations, including the Red Cross and UN, calculate their death tolls is crucial.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not conduct mortality surveys during conflict, but rather relies on mortality data from health centres it supports, according to its health unit. For non-conflict mortality data, it relies on national health authorities, local civil society groups, and both national and international NGOs.

“They [governments and organizations] undoubtedly do their best in very chaotic conditions but it is first important to know how they do it. This can give some important insights into what the constraints are and also build from experience,” Guha-Sapir said.

fm/pt/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced as a result of the decade-long conflict and insecurity in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

Analysts fear local means of solving disputes in Sudan’s Darfur can still collapse

NAIROBI,  – The UN estimates that the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region has seen some 300,000 people displaced so far in 2013 – twice as many as in 2011 and 2012, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Darfur has seen a new wave of fighting in many areas in 2013. More than 300,000 people have had to flee their homes to escape violence since the beginning of the year, including over 35,000 people who have crossed the borders into Chad and the Central African Republic. The crisis is getting bigger,” Mark Cutts, OCHA head of office in Sudan, told IRIN.

An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced as a result of the decade-long conflict and insecurity.

IRIN looks at the humanitarian situation in Darfur and the causes of the current wave of conflict there.

What is the humanitarian situation like in Darfur?

UN agency figures indicate there are 1.4 million people living in the main camps in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Cutts, however, told IRIN that the “actual numbers of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in camps are significantly higher as many of the IDPs living in smaller camps/settlements are not included in these figures and many IDPs in the bigger camps remain unregistered.”

Many of those affected by the conflict are unable to receive any humanitarian assistance as insecurity has hampered efforts by aid workers to reach them. In total, 3.2 million people – more than a third of Darfur’s population – are in need of humanitarian assistance in Darfur.

“Road insecurity remains a major problem affecting movement of humanitarian staff and supplies in Central Darfur. The problem has been compounded by recent increased clashes between Misseriya and Salamat tribesmen in different parts of Central Darfur, as well as the reported movement of armed groups in the state,” OCHA said in a recent bulletin.

A recent survey by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) revealed that the violence in Darfur was a major cause of mortality among refugees and Chadian returnees crossing into Tissi to escape the violence in Darfur.

According to MSF, “61 percent of the 194 reported deaths were caused by violence, most of them (111 out of 119) by gunshots and linked to specific episodes of violence preceding the two major waves of displacements, one in early February and the other in early April.”

Nine out of 10 deaths MSF recorded during its assessment were caused by gunshot wounds. In east Darfur alone, an estimated 305 people had been killed as a result of violent clashes between the Rizeigat and Ma’alia tribes in August alone.

Peacekeepers, too, have not been spared. In July seven peacekeepers with the UN mission there were killed in an ambush – the worst in the five-year history of the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan – bringing to 13 the number of peacekeepers killed in Darfur since October 2012.

Some 50,000 Darfur refugees have crossed into Chad. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has described it as the “largest influx of Sudanese refugees into Chad since 2005”.

“[The] state is not in control of the situation nor is it able to disperse the fighting”

Officials in Darfur have admitted that the violence is now beyond the control of the state.

“[The] state is not in control of the situation nor is it able to disperse the fighting,” Abdul Hamid Musa Kasha, governor of east Darfur, told Radio Dabanga.

What are the challenges facing aid agencies in Darfur?

The deteriorating security situation has meant many aid agencies are unable to keep their staff on the ground in Darfur. Some have had their field offices looted.

In July an international NGO was robbed of an estimated US$40,000 when armed men entered their office in Central Darfur’s capital, Zalingei. In the same month, armed men stopped two buses and five trucks near Thur in Nertiti Locality while on their way from Zalingei to Nyala in South Darfur. The drivers and passengers were robbed of all personal items; one passenger was shot and injured while resisting the attack.

In May, two vehicles rented by an international NGO and carrying seven staff were carjacked in Wadi Salih Locality.

Earlier in February, the rented vehicle of another international NGO was ambushed north of Zalingei. Staff were robbed of all personal possessions.

“Commercial transporters are currently unwilling to transport relief supplies from El Geneina (West Darfur) and Zalingei to areas in the southern corridor localities – mainly Mukjar, Um Dukhun and Bindisi – due to security concerns,” OCHA said in its July bulletin.

Sudanese analyst Eric Reeves, a professor at the Smith College (USA), said in a recent analysis that “over the past year and more… violence has called into serious question the viability of any substantial ongoing relief efforts in the region. Virtually no international (expatriate) staff remain in Darfur, certainly not in the field or in remote locations – either for critical assessment work or to provide oversight for aid distribution. And as the recent killing of two workers for World Vision in their Nyala compound makes clear, there is no place of real safety in Darfur.”

OCHA’s Cutts told IRIN that while aid agencies have access to most of those in need in Darfur, “the continued insecurity and fighting and government restrictions on movement” had clearly affected aid agencies’ ability to operate.

“This has a direct impact on the ability of humanitarian actors to assess humanitarian needs and to ensure that people in need receive the assistance they require, particularly in areas of ongoing conflict,” he added.

In its 2013 World Report, Human Rights Watch said the Sudanese regime “continued to deny peacekeepers from the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) access to much of Darfur” and that “lawlessness and insecurity hampered the work of the peacekeepers and aid groups. Armed gunmen attacked and killed peacekeepers, including four Nigerians in October, abducted UNAMID and humanitarian staff and carjacked dozens of vehicles.”

According to Smith College’s Reeves, “opportunistic banditry has grown steadily and become a deeply debilitating threat to humanitarian operations. Fighting among Arab tribal groups has been a constant for a number of years, and has contributed steadily to instability and violence in Darfur.”

The Sudanese government too stands accused: “Khartoum has deliberately crippled UNAMID as an effective force for civilian and humanitarian protection. Opposed from the beginning by the regime, the mission cannot begin to fulfil its UN Security Council civilian protection mandate, and indeed operates only insofar as Khartoum’s security forces permit,” Reeves noted.

Who are the combatants in Darfur?

The conflict in Darfur is being waged on many fronts and by different actors. It involves three main rebel groups fighting the government: the SLA(Sudan Liberation Army)-Abdul Wahid faction, the SLA-Minni Minawi faction, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). And while all these rebel groups are fighting under the auspices of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, they are also divided largely along ethnic lines, with the SLA-Abdul Wahid faction being drawn mainly from the Fur tribe, and the SLA-Minni Minawi and JEM originally being drawn many from the Zaghawa tribe.

Peacekeepers and aid workers have not been spared the violence in Darfur

Meanwhile, there is inter-tribal violence between the Misseriya and Salamat, and another conflict between the Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups.

Cutts told IRIN: “This year we have also seen a new wave of localized conflict, including not only the familiar fighting between Arab and non-Arab tribes [e.g. between the Beni Halba and the Gimir; and between the Beni Halba and the Dajo] but also an increase in intra-Arab fighting [e.g. between the Salamat and the Misseriya; and most recently between the Rezeigat and the Maaliya].”

There have been clashes between government forces and militia too. In July there were violent clashes between government forces and Arab militia in the Darfur capital of Nyala, leaving many dead and many more displaced.

What is driving the conflict in Darfur?

“Underpinning almost all of the conflicts in Darfur are the disputes over land ownership and land use. Indeed, much of what is commonly referred to as “inter-tribal fighting” or fighting over “economic resources” actually relates primarily to disputes over land and access to water and grazing for animals,” Cutts, told IRIN.

The recent clashes in Darfur have mostly been as a result of inter-tribal disputes over grazing land and gold-mining rights.

In January, violence broke out between the Northern Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups over control of gold mines in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur State.

“The gold rush in Sudan is further complicating matters. At the beginning of the year there were over 60,000 migrant gold workers in North Darfur alone. In January, disputes over gold mining rights drew two Arab tribes, the Beni Hussein and the Northern Rezeigat, into a conflict that resulted in many deaths and the displacement of over 100,000 people. And this was not the first violent incident related to gold mining in Darfur,” said Cutts.

Analysts fear the competition for other resources such as gum Arabic might lead to future violent inter-communal conflicts.

In July, Human Security Baseline Assessment for Sudan (HBAS), part of the Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, noted: “New conflict trends have emerged in 2013. The most prominent of these, resource-based conflict in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur over control of artisanal gold mining and trade, began in January 2013…

“Other resources have also generated inter-communal violence: in South Darfur, the Gimir and Bani Halba have clashed over the harvesting of gum Arabic,” it added.

What is the status of the peace process?

Numerous peace processes to end the conflict between the government of Sudan and the various armed groups operating in Darfur have not borne much fruit. These include one in Abuja in 2006, and another in 2007 in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The latest such initiative was in Doha.

Signed between the Sudanese government and armed groups, they have generally been dogged by a lack of legitimacy and deemed not inclusive enough.

“The second challenge concerns poor implementation of the DDPD [Doha Document for Peace in Darfur] and a lack of inclusivity. Promised funds from both the government of Sudan and donors have been slow to arrive, which has further delayed the activities of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), established in December 2011 as the lead actor for the implementation of the agreement,” said the HBAS report.

“The third challenge to the formal peace process is the significant deterioration in security across Darfur in 2013, as local peace mechanisms struggle to contain inter-communal violence, exacerbated by government actions.”

Locally, state officials say they are mulling the idea of bringing together leaders of the warring tribes to cease hostilities and bring the conflict to an end.

ko/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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“Obama, Darfur, and Genocide”

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2013

“Civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region face wholesale destruction,” The Washington Post, July 28, 2013 (Sunday)

 

After years of obscurity and little reliable international reporting, the vast human catastrophe in Sudan’s Darfur region is once again in the news. It was regularly making headlines before 2008, when genocide in Darfur was already five years old and had claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives from the main African tribal groups, but a lack of sustained mainstream attention has meant that violence has surged effectively under the radar.

Few could have predicted that this remote and obscure region in western Sudan would galvanize American civil society. Then again, how could the loss of attention have been so rapid? …. [full text on-line:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/civilians-in-sudans-darfur-region-face-wholesale-destruction/2013/07/26/04953b82-ed63-11e2-9008-61e94a7ea20d_story.html

 

  • Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College and has written extensively on Sudan.

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The Killing of Seven UN Peacekeeping Personnel in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on July 23, 2013

All evidence to date strongly suggests that the armed force responsible for the killing of seven Tanzanian members of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a Khartoum-allied militia force led by Hamouda Bashir (seventeen peacekeeping personnel were wounded, some very seriously).  Radio Dabanga reports today (July 18, 2013), on the basis of a series of interviews with witnesses on the ground, the following (all emphases have been added; there are a few very small edits for clarity, chiefly punctuation):

[Excerpts]

• The UN says the identity of the armed group that ambushed a UNAMID patrol in South Darfur on Saturday morning “has not yet been established”; however, witnesses have told Radio Dabanga that “UN vehicles” were spotted in the area being driven by members of a known government militia.

• During his daily press briefing in New York on Monday, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky…said that “the peacekeepers were attacked when they were undertaking a routine confidence-building patrol. The peacekeepers were outnumbered four to one by their attackers who numbered between 100 and 150.  [The attackers] had trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Nesirky said the “the UN is conducting its own investigations and calls on the Government of Sudan to identify and bring to account those responsible.”

• Various witnesses from South Darfur have reported to Radio Dabanga that “two UN cars were spotted on Saturday being driven by members of the government Central Police Reserve, nicknamed Abu Tira.”

• “The soldiers driving the cars were dressed in uniforms with the distinctive ‘eagle insignia’ on their shoulder,” they said. Apparently, the vehicles had “at least five uniformed members of the Central Police Forces of Sudan on each side of the back.”

• Observers say that the vehicles were driven from Hamada Forest (Khaba Hamada), through the area of Manawashi, across the bridge of Musko (Wadi Abu Hamra) in the direction of Shengil Tobaya. “When they reached Shengil Tobaya, they turned west towards one of militia’s bases in Jebel Afara, just cross the border in North Darfur.” The UN vehicles are now reportedly parked in the fenced base in Jebel Afara. The witnesses also confirmed that “nine Abu Tira vehicles” were at the market of Manawashi early on Saturday early morning to buy food. [The UN reported] that about ten vehicles were involved in the attack on the Tanzanian force—ER]

• “They bought meat before driving off in the direction of the Hamada Forest, a bush area that lies a few kilometres off the main road connection between El Fasher and Nyala.”

• Over the past few days, several people have reported in detail to Radio Dabanga that the local Abu Tira commander, Hamouda Bashir, was recognised.  Bashir is the right-hand man of Ali Kushayb, one of the main commanders of the Abu Tira [and who] has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes.

• The local population of the villages who testify to the presence of Abu Tira on Saturday morning mainly consist of Arab tribes and people from the Birgid, Barno and Tama tribes. They confirmed to Radio Dabanga that no SLA-MM troops were present.

Only several furgan (tent encampments) of traditional nomad camel caravans of the three main Arab tribes of Irigat, Awlad Beni Mansour, and Itifad roam this area.

• UNAMID has confirmed that the ambush occurred about 25 kilometres north/northwest of the Mission’s Khor Abeche base [i.e. a few kilometers off the main Nyala/el-Fasher road (see above)—ER]. “The UNAMID patrol was a relatively small one. It was ambushed by a large group, so we were completely outnumbered. We came under heavy fire from machine guns and possibly from rocket-propelled grenades,” a spokesman told Radio Dabanga. Several UNAMID vehicles, including armoured patrol vehicles and Land Cruisers had to be towed from the scene. The wheels of the patrol vehicles were all blown.

*************

This account comports with previous reports I have received from the region, which have made the same claims about responsibility for the attack.  And yet the story of this outrageous crime is about to disappear into the abyss of UN expediency.  For the simple fact is that neither the UN nor the AU has any interest in an investigation that clearly establishes Khartoum’s responsibility.  For all the vigorous rhetoric that has come from various UN officials and others, it is merely rhetoric (an exception may be Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete).  Past behavior makes clear that neither element of the UNAMID “hybrid”—the UN and the AU—has any stomach for confronting Khartoum.  This was made especially clear following the deadly attack on a UNAMID convoy traveling to Hashaba in North Darfur last October, a mission that had as its task the investigation of a civilian massacre in the Hashaba area.  The attack was clearly the work of Khartoum-allied militia, as a great deal of evidence made clear (see “Violence in Hashaba, North Darfur: A brutal portent, another UN disgrace” at http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=3525).  To date, there has been no assignation of responsibility, and the rhetoric of the moment has proved entirely empty. 

There is a compelling historical precedent here.  For the same failure to assign responsibility for a deadly attack defined the response of the UN Secretariat and Security Council following an extraordinarily fierce attack on a UNAMID patrol on July 8, 2008 by what were clearly Khartoum-allied militia forces.  During a three-hour fire-fight near the village Umm Hakibah, North Darfur (approximately 100 kilometers southeast of el-Fasher), seven UNAMID personnel were killed and 22 wounded, some critically (see http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=2219).  This remains the highest casualty total among the many attacks on UNAMID over the past five and a half years.  The head of the UN peacekeeping at the time, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, was explicit about responsibility in his July 11, 2008 briefing of the Security Council (we have had nothing comparable from the current head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous):

[1] Guéhenno told the Security Council that the attack on UN-authorized peacekeepers “took place in an area under Sudanese government control and that some of the assailants were dressed in clothing similar to Sudanese army uniforms. He also said the ambush was ‘pre-meditated and well-organized’ and was intended to inflict casualties rather than to steal equipment or vehicles” (Voice of America [UN/New York], July 11, 2008). The peacekeepers who were attacked reported seeing approximately 200 fighters, many on horses—a signature feature of the Janjaweed (often translated as “devil [or spirit] on horseback”).

[2] Agence France-Presse reported: “Guéhenno was quoted as saying that the ambush was designed ‘to inflict casualties’ and was carried out with ‘equipment usually not used by (rebel) militias'” (UN/New York], July 11, 2008). Separately and confidentially, a UN official went further in confirming to me that some of the arms used, including large-caliber recoilless rifles, have never been seen in the arsenals of the rebel groups. This official said that Guéhenno, who is retiring, had rarely been so explicit in assigning responsibility for attacks in Darfur.

There was additional conviction that the Janjaweed—armed and in this case almost certainly directed by Khartoum’s military command—were responsible for this attack on 61 Rwandan soldiers, 10 civilian police officers, and two military observers, who were returning to their el-Fasher base after investigating the killing of two civilians:

[3] Agence France-Presse reports from Khartoum on the views of UN and African Union officials on the ground in Darfur: “Officials in the African Union and UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, said on Wednesday [July 9, 2008] that suspected Janjaweed militia, who have fought with the state [i.e., Government of Sudan], were behind the attack that killed seven peacekeepers” (July 10, 2008).

Why, then, is this UN-authorized peacekeeping force so intimidated by Khartoum?  Why has the regime not been directly confronted over these brutal, criminal attacks?  For the same reason that the UN has deferred on so many other occasions to sensibilities of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party: because a direct accusation of Khartoum would likely prompt a crisis in which the regime, particularly the more militaristic elements, would demand that UNAMID withdraw.  And with an environment that had suddenly become “non-consensual,” UN instincts would almost certainly be to use this as an excuse for abandoning a mission that has failed and has been targeted for “draw-down” on the basis of supposedly improved security “conditions on the ground” (this was Ladsous’ assessment this past April).

This in turn would almost certainly lead to wholesale withdrawal by international non-governmental humanitarian organizations, and UN security regulations would restrict all UN agencies to exceedingly small areas of Darfur.  Nearly all the displaced persons camps would be beyond reach.  Without strong support from international actors such as the U.S., the EU, and individual African nations, this scenario would play out with a grim relentlessness.

This is why the UN and AU—despite the rhetoric—wish for nothing so much as that this story disappear and that some suitably ambiguous report be accepted as “definitive.”  Its most likely form will be to acknowledge the fact of Khartoum’s claiming that the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/MM) is responsible—but that there is “other evidence” on the ground that contradicts this claim.  The language of the report (if in fact one is issued) will be as irresolute, as ambiguous, and as non-confrontational as possible.

This is the UN and AU tribute to the courage of the seven Tanzanian personnel who lost their lives, and the seventeen who were wounded in the attack of July 13, 2013.


END

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Norway condemns attack on UN and AU in Sudan

Posted by African Press International on July 20, 2013

Norway condemns the attack against UN peacekeeping forces in Sudan on 13 July. “The attack must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

On Saturday 13 July, seven people were killed and 17 injured in an attack on an African UnionUnited Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) patrol. UNAMID has a mandate from the UN Security Council to bring stability to Darfur.

“The attack against UN/AU personnel cannot be tolerated. They have a right to be protected in their work for the hard-pressed civilian population in Darfur,” said Mr Eide.

All seven of the people killed were UN military personnel from Tanzania. Among the injured were two female police advisers, also from Tanzania.

Saturday’s attack was the most serious since the UN and the AU took on joint peacekeeping responsibility in the conflict-torn region of Darfur in Sudan in 2008. Approximately 40 UNAMID personnel have been killed in Darfur since 2008. It is not yet clear who was behind the attack. Norway has previously participated in UNAMID, but no Norwegian personnel have taken part in the mission for the last couple of years.

 

End

 

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Pre-Trial Chamber II requests Nigeria to immediately arrest Omar Al Bashir

Posted by African Press International on July 15, 2013

Situation: Darfur, Sudan

Case: The Prosecutor v. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir

On 15 July 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested the Federal Republic of Nigeria to immediately arrest Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, on visit to Abuja (Nigeria) and to surrender him to the ICC. Omar Al Bashir faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, allegedly committed in Darfur (Sudan).

The Chamber recalled that Nigeria is a State party to the Rome Statute since= 2001, and has the obligation to execute the Court’s orders. The Chamber also noted that the situation in Darfur was referred to the ICC by resolution 1= 593 of the United Nations Security Council and that, according to article 87 (7) of the Rome Statute, “[w]here a State Party fails to comply with a request to cooperate by the Court contrary to the provisions of this Statute [… ] the Court may make a finding to that effect and refer the matter to the Assembly of States Parties or, where the Security Council referred the matter to the Court, to the Security Council”.

The Chamber instructed the ICC Registrar to immediately transmit the decision to the Nigerian authorities, and to prepare a report to the Chamber concer= ning Omar Al Bashir’s visit to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Background

Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir is alleged to have committed five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape), two counts of war crimes (intentionally directing attacks agains= t a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking part in hostilities, and pillaging), and three counts of genocide committed against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. Two warrants of arrest ha= ve been issued in this case. The suspect remains at large.

The ICC has informed the United Nations Security Council and the Assembly of= States Parties to the Rome Statute of Mr Al Bashir’s visits to Djibouti, Ch= ad and Kenya, as well as of the non-cooperation of Malawi and Chad in arresting Mr Al Bashir. It is for the United Nations Security Council and the Assembly of States Parties to take any measure they may deem appropriate to ensure the full cooperation with the ICC.

 

End

source ICC

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“Sudan’s Third Civil War: In Medias Res,” Dissent Magazine, July 10, 2013

Posted by African Press International on July 10, 2013

      By Eric Reeves

In December 2011 I wrote for Dissent about “the early history of Sudan’s third civil war.” Some judged my comments gratuitously pessimistic, others shared my concerns (if more privately), and still others worried about self-fulfilling prophecies. But in fact the war had already begun, battle lines were taking shape, and on at least two subsequent occasions Sudan and newly independent South Sudan came perilously close to renewed all-out war. An incident in April 2012 in the highly volatile oil region along the border between Unity State (South Sudan) and South Kordofan (Sudan) led to major fighting between the Khartoum regime’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). For over a month violence flared, including Khartoum’s repeated, indiscriminate aerial attacks on Bentiu, capital city of Unity (the South has no meaningful military air force).

But the actors in this third civil war are not simply on two sides, except insofar as all armed movements in greater Sudan have the Khartoum regime, as well as its SAF and security services, as their target. This has resulted in a loose and probably untenable alignment of forces known as the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF); it includes the increasingly potent Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N, based primarily in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan); it also includes several Darfuri rebel movements, most notably the well-armed Justice and Equality Movement and factions of the Sudan Liberation Army. The geography of conflict has greatly expanded, and the SRF attacked a major town (Umm Rawaba) in North Kordofan this past April, a northern state that had heretofore seen no fighting. A rebel force in eastern Sudan has also made cause with the SRF.

Heightening military tensions is Khartoum’s decision to halt the flow of oil from land-locked South Sudan to Port Sudan in the north, denying both economies desperately needed foreign exchange currency. Hyperinflation is poised to strike, although its consequences for the more developed, import-dependent, and integrated northern economy may well be greater than in the south. A range of other agreements between Khartoum and Juba, the capital of South Sudan, have come to nothing, including the most recent agreement (made in March) to resume oil transit.

It is difficult to find evidence of progress anywhere in greater Sudan since South Sudan became independent in July 2011; African Union (AU) mediators dutifully present various “agreements” that Khartoum refuses to sign, or signs and then violates; there is no effective international support for negotiations. An agreement to permit critical humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile—proposed in February 2012 by not only the AU but the UN and the Arab League—has gone nowhere: the SPLM/A-N signed on almost immediately, but Khartoum has dithered, reneged, and finally declared the agreement “superseded.” Meanwhile, more than 1 million people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are in increasingly desperate condition; hundreds of thousands have suffered acute malnutrition for almost two years, and more than two hundred thousand have fled to refugee camps in South Sudan, often in locations that are poorly situated for water and sanitation. Tens of thousands of civilians from Blue Nile have fled to Ethiopia.

                                                            ***

The situation in Darfur—until very recently almost totally absent from news coverage of the region—is especially shameful, given the appalling conditions that have prevailed so long within the displaced persons camps, the steep rise in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, and the escalating violence and insecurity. Relief organizations are withdrawing expatriate workers and suspending many operations. UN and nongovernmental organizations are increasingly restricted by both Khartoum’s Military Intelligence and expanding violence. The UN/AU “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has failed abysmally. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations—already vastly overstretched and funding three separate peacekeeping forces in greater Sudan—is looking to draw down UNAMID, but rather than speak honestly about its failure, the UN has made the disingenuous claim that “circumstances on the ground” permit such a withdrawal of forces. This at least was the judgment of Hervé Ladsous, head of UN peacekeeping—a judgment he now refuses to defend publicly.

International journalists have been almost completely excluded from Darfur for many years, as have independent human rights investigators. According to humanitarians on the ground, Khartoum has made of Darfur a “black box genocide.” There has been only one significant dateline from rural Darfur in several years, a story by the New York Times in February 2012; it declared on the basis of a single, tightly controlled visit to a “Potemkin Village” in West Darfur that “peace had settled on the region.” So-called “returns” of refugees and IDPs were a “sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.” In fact, every available indicator of human security and well-being was, in aggregate, deteriorating, and the level of violence in various regions accelerated sharply. “Returns”—nominally safe and voluntary—have mostly been neither.

Violence has ebbed and flowed in Darfur for more than ten years now. A dramatic surge began following the December 2010 defection from Khartoum by Minni Minawi, the only Darfuri signatory to the ill-fated 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement; the authoritative Small Arms Survey (Geneva), on the basis of courageous and detailed ground-based research, reported an escalation of violence against the (non-Arab) Zaghawa, the tribal group from which Minawi came. In the latter half of 2012, violence exploded in North Darfur, particularly near the Jebel Amir region, which has significant gold mines. The regime, desperate for a source of foreign exchange to buy parts and supplies from abroad, gave free rein to the Aballa tribal groups from which the Janjaweed, infamous for carrying out attacks in Darfur in the first decade of the twenty-first century, had been so heavily drawn. This meant attacking the Beni Hussein, the Arab group within whose administrative area Jebel Amir lies. The fighting killed hundreds, perhaps thousands—including a number of UN peacekeepers traveling to Hashaba town, site of reported mass killings by Khartoum’s forces. Peacekeepers themselves were clearly targeted by Khartoum in order to forestall such an investigation.

Militias have became increasingly aggressive, especially the notorious Abu Tira—nominally the “Central Reserve Police,” but now little more than a semi-autonomous fighting force that has attacked and extorted IDP camps and sexually assaulted countless women and girls. An even greater problem is seizure of the lands of African farmers by Arab militias and armed groups—some clearly from Chad, Niger, and Central African Republic. Farmers attempting to return are violently warned off or simply killed; women working their former lands have been raped and killed. The “returnees” that the UN celebrates are constantly being forced to return to IDP camps.

Moreover, figures for new displacement in Darfur dwarf even the most optimistic UN/UNAMID estimates for returnees. UN data, supplemented by that of NGOs, provide strong evidence that more than 1.5 million people have been newly displaced since January 1, 2008, when UNAMID officially took up its mandate. The head of UN humanitarian operations was recently obliged to report that 300,000 Darfuris had been newly displaced between January and mid-May of this year alone. The refugee surge into Chad is again growing: the figure had remained at approximately 280,000 for a number of years, but in the past half year 50,000 more people have fled to Chad, according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières—nearly all in desperate condition.

Human Rights Watch reported on June 18 satellite photographic confirmation of Janjaweed attacks on villages in South Darfur—attacks led by Ali Kushayb, the Janjaweed “colonel of colonels” indicted by the International Criminal Court for massive crimes against humanity:

Satellite images confirm the wholesale destruction of villages in Central [formerly South] Darfur in an attack in April 2013 by a militia leader sought by the International Criminal Court….The images show the town of Abu Jeradil and surrounding villages in Central Darfur state almost completely burned down….Villagers who fled the area told Human Rights Watch in May that Sudanese government forces, including the militia leader Ali Kosheib, had attacked the area. More than 42 villagers are believed to have been killed and 2,800 buildings destroyed.

Darfur teeters on the edge of a complete humanitarian collapse and uncontrollable violence. Rebel fighters have recently gained the upper hand in many areas of fighting, and the callous leaders in Khartoum seem willing to let Darfur sink into destructive chaos, so long as gold from Jebel Amir continues to make its way to the capital.

                                                                ***

Satellite photography has also revealed a great deal about Khartoum’s conduct of war in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the latter the most inaccessible of the three contested areas between north and south (including Abyei). According to an important report recently released by Amnesty International,

New satellite imagery and eyewitness testimonies from rebel-held areas in Sudan’s Blue Nile State show that Sudanese military forces have resorted to brutal scorched earth tactics to drive out the civilian population….“We had no time to bury them”: War crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State documents how bombings and ground attacks by Sudanese military forces have destroyed entire villages, left many dead and injured, and forced tens of thousands to flee—with many now facing starvation, disease and exhaustion.

None of this should be surprising, given Khartoum’s May 2011 military seizure of Abyei, now the most dangerous flash-point for renewed war along the entire north/south border. The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) provided detailed satellite photography showing a steady build-up by the SAF and its Misseriya Arab allies over several months in early 2011. The scale of destruction in Abyei town was also made clear by follow-up satellite images.

Subsequent photography indicated that South Kordofan would be the next site of major violence, and on June 5, 2011 the SAF struck again. The nature of this assault was immediately apparent, and clear patterns emerged in early reports. Human Rights Watch confirmed that Khartoum’s regular military and militia were undertaking a campaign of house-to-house roundups of Nuba (African) civilians in the capital city of Kadugli. Many of these people were hauled away in cattle trucks or summarily executed; dead bodies littered the streets of Kadugli. Nuba were also stopped at checkpoints grimly similar to those in Rwanda; those suspected of SPLM/N or “southern” political sympathies were arrested or shot. One aid worker who escaped from South Kordofan in the first weeks reported on militia forces patrolling further from Kadugli: “Those [Nuba] coming in are saying, ‘Whenever they see you are a black person, they kill you.’” Another Nuba aid worker reports that an Arab militia leader’s orders were “to just clear.”

Charges of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” were coming ever more insistently from Nuba civilians, observers on the ground, and church groups with strong ties to the region. News reports confirmed that some 7,000 Nuba had been moved forcibly by Khartoum’s security services (disguised as Red Crescent workers) from the UN security perimeter in Kadugli to a soccer stadium; they were never heard from again. Mass graves were later confirmed both by UN human rights reporters who had observed events from the ground in June 2011 and by satellite photography from SSP.

At the same time, Khartoum renewed its blockade of humanitarian assistance to the people of the Nuba, hundreds of thousands of whom had already fled into the mountainsides. Two years later the blockade continues in the Nuba Mountains and rebel-controlled areas of Blue Nile. In Darfur and these two areas, Khartoum is denying adequate food, water, and medical care to more than 3 million people. Moreover, bombing of civilians and civilian agriculture has largely destroyed the last two harvests in both the Nuba and Blue Nile; malnutrition indicators long ago reached the emergency level; children and the elderly have begun to die, and many more will die soon. The trip to precarious safety in South Sudan is too arduous for many, and many more will not leave family members to starve alone.

                                                             ***

As these events unfolded, the Obama administration has been engaged primarily in diplomatic damage control. Policy has focused on the realization of southern independence at the expense of other issues, including critical and unresolved implementation disputes arising from the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The administration has essentially abandoned Darfur—“de-coupled” was the word chosen by a senior administration official. It has remained largely mute on the military takeover of Abyei, and initially refused to credit reports of genocide in the Nuba Mountains.

On PBS’s NewsHour in 2011, Obama’s special envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman scoffed at the idea that the Nuba Mountains might become “another Darfur”: “Nuba Mountain people are fighting back and I don’t think the North is capable of dislodging large numbers of people on an ethnic basis….That’s the reality on the ground. Second, I’m not sure that’s the objective of the government….” Two years later, we know that Khartoum is not only destroying the civilian base of support for the SPLM/A-N, but doing so deliberately. The same is true in Blue Nile. The SPLM/A-N have no weapons that can defend against high-flying Antonov cargo planes, which need aim only at sorghum fields to be effective (they have no militarily useful bombing precision).

A second comment by Lyman has proved more dangerous. When asked in a December 2011 interview with the important pan-Arab news outlet, Asharq al-Awsat, about whether the United States would welcome the Arab Spring in Sudan, Lyman declared, “This is not part of our agenda in Sudan. Frankly, we do not want to see the ouster of the regime, or regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.”

But all true democratic forces—in Sudan and in exile—are committed to regime change, including those who insist that the change must be effected by nonviolent means. Lyman made clear that this broad-based democratic ambition is not consistent with U.S. goals and policy. Did he really believe that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime could preside over the “democratic” transformation of Sudan via “constitutional measures”? After twenty-four years of ruthless and comprehensive tyranny, the idea is preposterous.

Sudanese overwhelmingly want regime change, while a repressive security apparatus keeps the current cabal in power. But its survival also depends upon acquiescing before the decisions of key hardline generals—concerning the seizure of Abyei, the refusal to negotiate with the SPLM-N or allow for humanitarian access in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the abandonment of Darfur to chaos and increasing destruction, and—in an act of economic self-destruction—halting the transit of oil from the south to Port Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir has survived by siding with the most ruthless and militaristic elements in the regime (see my 2011 Dissent post “Creeping Coup in Khartoum”).

No real or just peace can emerge from negotiations with such a regime, as evidenced by the feckless efforts of the AU and the absence of unified international commitment. In the case of the Obama administration, the reasons for keeping the regime intact are all too clear: Khartoum’s putative provision of counterterrorism intelligence. The U.S intelligence community clearly puts tremendous value on the new embassy in Khartoum as a listening post (it was completed in 2010). Although we have no ambassador to Sudan, we do have a $175 million embassy, with nine buildings and more than 200 staff—and that’s before “top-shelf” spying equipment and personnel had been moved in.

Former Senator Russ Feingold, while chair of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was ideally positioned to assess the price we were paying for intelligence from Khartoum. In May 2009, he said:

I take serious issue with the way the report [on international terrorism by the U.S. State Department] overstates the level of cooperation in our counterterrorism relationship. A more accurate assessment is important not only for effectively countering terrorism in the region, but as part of a review of our overall policy toward Sudan.

For those wondering why U.S. policy toward Sudan has been so ineffective during the Obama years, why special envoys have been so inept and disingenuous, why so little has been said about ongoing atrocity crimes and genocide, and why Khartoum feels no need to abide by agreements it has signed, Senator Feingold’s comment provides the most authoritative glimpse at what is done—and ignored—in the name of “national security.”

Eric Reeves is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide and Compromising with Evil:  An Archival History of Greater Sudan, 2007—2012.

 

End

 

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An open letter to the Public Editor of the New York Times concerning Darfur

Posted by African Press International on June 15, 2013

  • By ERIC REEVES, USA, 11 June 2013

Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of the New York Times

 

Dear Ms. Sullivan:

I gather that my previous communication concerning the February 26, 2012 New York Times dispatch from the village of Nyuru, West Darfur (“A Taste of Hope Sends Refugees Back to Darfur”) seemed not to warrant a response.  I assume further that the NYT continues to stand by this dispatch as a legitimate representation of the nature of life in Darfur at the time.  This is such a deep and comprehensive failure of journalistic integrity that I feel obliged to circulate this second, fuller communication to you as widely as possible, and have begun by copying this email and distributing it by other electronic means.  In short, this is an “open letter.”

I am of course aware that the NYT did feel compelled to run a relatively brief item in late May of this year on the occasion of UN OCHA head Valerie Amos’ brief, heavily controlled visit to Darfur.  Indeed reporting could hardly be avoided since this was the occasion for her announcement that 300,000 Darfuris had already been newly displaced by mid-May of this year.  This is a staggering figure, especially given the fact that more than 600,000 were also newly displaced in 2010 – 2012according to the most reliable data available.   No mention was made in the May 2013 NYT report of how widely divergent the OCHA report is from what was reported by the NYT in February 2012.  And it certainly should have been the occasion for noting that, altogether, almost 3 million civilians have been displaced over the course of tens years of conflict in Darfur.

But the NYT dispatch by Jeffrey Gettleman from Nyuru offered not a picture of displacement but of people returning to their villages, and assumed that these were sufficiently numerous to suggest conflict in Darfur was ending: “the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 [is] a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.”  This was a truly extraordinary and grossly misleading conclusion, since all evidence at the time—and since the filing of the dispatch—sharply, indeed overwhelmingly contradicts such a claim.  Below is a partial reckoning of the inaccurate and poorly researched conclusions and comments in the dispatch.

For the sake of clarity, I should note first that NYT piece, misleadingly, does not consistently or clearly distinguish between Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur and refugees in eastern Chad, making nonsense of many sentences.  Both are immense populations, but while the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that there were 282,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad in February 2012; the most recent estimate, from both UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is 330,000.  In other words, despite the suggestion of Gettleman’s dispatch about the direction of refugee flows, the reality is that some 50,000 civilians have newly fled to Chad from Darfur (many of these people were originally from Chad). Within Darfur itself there are more than 2 million people displaced in camps; more are displaced without any place of refuge or relief (the resourceful and independent UN Integrated Regional Information Networks [IRIN] reported on April 19, 2013 that “an estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict”).

Despite the failure of the NYT reporting from Darfur, the broader pattern of violence, rape, displacement, and acute deprivation currently experienced by those in the Mornei region (where Nyuru is located) has been captured with remarkable detail and authority in the steady stream of reports from Radio Dabanga, widely acknowledged as the most authoritative news source for Darfur over the past several years.  Using Darfuri contacts on the ground throughout the region, the Darfuri diaspora in The Netherlands has created in Radio Dabanga an extraordinarily resourceful and geographically wide-ranging new form of electronic journalism—one evidently of no interest to the NYT or it reporters.  Indeed, even as the single NYT dispatch was being filed from Nyuru, Radio Dabanga was providing reports from West Darfur of militia attacks on displaced persons and camps, suspicious fires in camps, rapes, water and food shortages—none, it would seem, of any interest to the NYT even as context.

 

[All emphases have been added; I preserve the three-state division of Darfur in referring to events in West Darfur, from which “Central Darfur” has been arbitrarily carved, indicating with brackets where Radio Dabanga has used the new cartographic terminology.]

———————————————————————————-

First, the view from the New York Times:

“A Taste of Hope Sends Refugees Back to Darfur,” [dateline: NyuruWest Darfur], February 26, 2012

More than 100,000 people in Darfur have left the sprawling camps where they had taken refuge for nearly a decade and headed home to their villages over the past year, the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 and a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.

[Returns from camps in Chad?  in Darfur?  This is never clarified—ER]

The millions of civilians who fled into camps, their homes often reduced to nothing more than rings of ash by armed raiders, are among the most haunting legacies of the conflict in Darfur, transforming this rural landscape into a collection of swollen impromptu squatter towns.  And while the many thousands going home are only a small fraction of Darfur’s total displaced population, they are doing so voluntarily, United Nations officials say, offering one of the most concrete signs of hope this war-weary region has seen in years.

[A photograph caption accompanying the article, presumably written by the NYT correspondent or his editor, declares baldly]:

“Darfur was long known for the brutality inflicted upon its residents by militias, but [NB] peace has settled on the region.”

[On] a recent morning, thousands of Nyuru’s residents were back on their land doing all the things they used to do, scrubbing clothes, braiding hair, sifting grain and preparing for a joint feast of farmers and nomads. Former victims and former perpetrators would later sit down side by side together, some for the first time since Darfur’s war broke out, sharing plates of macaroni and millet—and even the occasional dance—in a gesture of informal reconciliation [ ] parts of Darfur finally appear to be turning around, for a few reasons. [  ]

Of course, all is not well in Darfur. More than two million people remain stuck in internal displacement or refugee camps.  But people who have been victimized and traumatized are sensing a change in the air and acting on it, risking their lives and the lives of their children to leave the relative safety of the camps to venture back to where loved ones were killed.  [  ]

[I]n the past few months, word began to trickle back to Chad that the   janjaweed were gone.

[The Janjaweed and comparable militia forces most certainly do remain in all regions of Darfur, if often recycled into various paramilitary guises (e.g., the Central Reserve Police, or Abu Tira, the Border Intelligence Forces, and the Popular Defense Forces—ER]

But, at the same time, there is a new police station standing on a hill, with a fresh coat of high-gloss blue, and there are no reports of major violence.  [  ]

[There were and continue to be many reports of “major violence”—none that the NYT bothered to read—ER]

François Reybet-Degat, the current head of the United Nations refugee office in Sudan, said that more than 100,000 people returned home to several different areas of Darfur in 2011, far more than in any year before that.

[Who are these “voluntary returns”?  Are they IDPs or refugees?  Conflating the two or leaving the issue ambiguous is utterly irresponsible—ER]

It’s an early sign of a bigger trend,” he said. “There are still pockets of insecurity, but the general picture is that things are improving.”

****

“…there are still pockets of insecurity…” but “peace has settled on the region.

This is a journalistic obscenity, a fantastically inaccurate claim, as insisted upon by every knowledgeable observer of Darfur with whom I have communicated.  New violent displacement vastly outstrips “voluntary” returns and has for years, even if we accept the problematic UN figure of “100,000 returns” over the preceding year (see below).  Indeed, violence is widespread and growing in scale as well as intensity.  This began well before February 2012, so how could the NYT have misrepresented conditions so badly?

Here we must ask first why were there no credible Darfuri voices cited by the NYT?  The all too obvious answer is that Khartoum’s Military Intelligence was fully in control of Gettleman’s very brief and highly localized visit, whether he knew it or not.  None of the many Darfuris I’ve spoken with gives the slightest credence to quotations attributed to supposed “villagers” of Nyuru.  All such quotations in the dispatch come from either a hopelessly self-interested UN and African Union presence in the region, or from people who knew that the consequences of speaking honestly, of not performing as they had been scripted, could be deadly.

So just where is the small village of Nyuru to which the NYT correspondent traveled?  And just why was it selected?  It is in West Darfur, about fifteen miles north of Mornei, the major town in the area and the center of district administration (West Darfur is geographically much the smallest of the three Darfur states; however, conditions in the larger regions are reflected in countless reports from North and South Darfur).  Shortly after the NYT dispatch, and outraged by its misrepresentations, Darfuris in the area—to which no foreign journalists other than the NYT’s Gettleman has been given access—along with researchers at Radio Dabanga began a thorough investigation.  This included an interview with the UNHCR representative for Chad, who denied that there had been any returns from Chad to Darfur.  After publishing a series of stinging rebukes of the NYT account, Radio Dabanga also asked the chief administrative officer for the Mornei district—the Farsha—to investigate the claims in the dispatch.  The NYT has seemed quite uninterested in his conclusions:

“The highest native administrator of Mornei, Izzedeen Abdurrahman, told Radio Dabanga ‘there is no voluntary return of refugees from eastern Chad to their villages in Nuri [Nyuru].‘ He added that if anybody claimed he had been to Nuri [Nyuru] and saw refugees returning ‘he must have confused trees with human beings.’ [ … ]

“The Farsha returned to Nuri [Nyuru] and found not a single returnee. He explained that he did not deal with voluntary return files, as the most pressing issue in Nuri [Nyuru] and surroundings is the lack of security: ’80% of the people from Nuri [Nyuru] are still living in refugee camps in eastern Chad.’  The rest of the people found shelter in camps in El Geneina, Mornei and Cisse: ‘These places are deserted, every school is destroyed.’”  (“Farsha of Mornei: no voluntary return of refugees to Nuri (Nyuru), West Darfur,” 10 April 2012, http://www.radiodabanga.org/node/28283

I have heard not a single dissenting Darfuri voice.

What we have heard recently from the Mornei area (again, Mornei is only about 15 miles from the NYT dateline of Nyuru)?  I include below a few excerpts from the scores of dispatches that Radio Dabanga has released over recent months with Mornei as a dateline; I also include reports from other parts of West Darfur, including excerpts which speak to humanitarian conditions on the ground in West Darfur and the relentless deterioration of human security, now frankly acknowledged by all international actors, including UNHCR.

If we want to know why almost 1 million people have been newly displaced over the past three and a half years—dwarfing even the untenably optimistic figure for returns attributed by the NYT to the UN—these are the dispatches we must read.  And if we want to know why “returns” are so difficult to assess as “successful,” there is much here as well that speaks about the steady assaults—including rape and murder—directed against returning African farmers by Arab militia forces and armed Arab groups that have seized the lands and farms of these displaced people.  As to deteriorating humanitarian conditions in West Darfur—logistically the most remote Darfur state—we must begin and end with accounts of the violence that has done so much to attenuate relief aid throughout Darfur.  Accounts of this violence were appearing regularly at the time the NYT dispatch appeared, a large percentage with a Mornei dateline—15 miles from Nyuru.

• Over 300 farms destroyed by herders near Darfur camp   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei/also transliterated “Murnei,” “Murni,” “Murnay”], March 29, 2013)

Herders “armed by the government” destroyed more than 300 vegetable farms near a West Darfur camp in retaliation to the alleged murder of two militiamen by a displaced last Monday. [Typically in Radio Dabanga dispatches, “herders” refers to nomadic Arab groups, including militias, that are almost always well-armed—ER]

Although the displaced confessed killing only of them in self-defense, families of both supposed victims have demanded to be paid exorbitant amounts of blood money. The sheikh denied it and Mornei’s residents staged mass demonstrations. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, the sheikh said the farmlands’ destruction by herders and their livestock is estimated at millions of Sudanese pounds. The sites are all located in Wadi Sula’s Jumjum, Aishbara and Kabere areas, near the camp.

On Thursday, 11 displaced women, including two babies, were attacked by pro-government militiamen in their farm near Mornei. Three of them were critically injured, and one of the babies in the hospital in coma.   ••

 Mornei: More than 10 herders’ attacks in a week   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei, West Darfur], October 15, 2012)

Residents of camp Mornei in West Darfur complained to Radio Dabanga about the recurring attacks carried out by herders against them and their farms, on Monday 15 October. According to a camp representative the displaced have been exposed to more than 10 attacks during the last week and that the most recent incident happened on Monday morning. The representative said a number of displaced persons were shot and beaten with whips when they tried to prevent herders from entering their farms in Wadi Jangary, south of Mornei. He added that beatings and looting against camp’s residents by herders have increased in the past two days, adding that on farms in all of Wadi Jangary, Arro, Toure, Korney Toura were targeted.   ••

• Abbala militants rape “3 displaced women” in West Darfur (Radio Dabanga [Mornei camp], March 25, 2013)

A group of militants raped three displaced women on Saturday in Mornei campWest Darfur. A relative of one of the victims told Radio Dabanga that the militants are Abbala tribesmen. The Abbala militants attacked the three women who were on their way back to the camp from their farms in Wadi Tour, south of Mornei, the relative added. Another source said that the Abbala militants raped the women at gunpoint and added that they released the women late Saturday night. The source revealed that the three victims were taken to Mornei hospital for treatment. Moreover, the source complained about the high percentage of attacks displaced people, women in particular, by pro-government militia.   [“Abbala” is the most common term used by Radio Dabanga for camel-herding nomadic Arab groups—ER]   ••

• Baby in coma after militia attack near Darfur camp   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], March 28, 2013)

Eleven displaced women, including two babies, were attacked by pro-government militiamen in their farm near a displaced camp in West Darfur on ThursdayThree of them were critically injured, and one of the babies is in the hospital in coma. Beating the victims with sticks, rifle butts and whips, militants warned them the land was for grazing and not for farming, the head of sheikhs and omdas of Mornei camps told Radio Dabanga.

They burned the winter crops of onions, peppers, tomatoes and okra, and threatened to kill whoever returned to the site, located in Wadi Misa, south of Mornei, the sheikh said. All of the victims were taken to the hospital. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, the sheikh affirmed that UNAMID troops stationed in the vicinity “failed” to protect the displaced, despite the “serious” events that took place in the area recently.   ••

• West Darfur displaced “unable” to farm due to presence of militias  (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], February 4, 2013)

Displaced living in Mornei, West Darfur, are complaining about their inability to cultivate their winter crops outside the camp because of the presence of pro-government militias stationed outside the area.   A camp leader told Radio Dabanga on Monday the militiamen have been based outside Mornei since the tribal clashes between the Abbala and Beni Hussein broke out in Jebel ‘Amer, North Darfur on 5 January. He said there is virtually no life outside the camp and appealed to government authorities and UNAMID to send patrols to the area so that displaced can cultivate their crops and collect firewood.  ••

• Government selling land belonging to Mornei IDPs in West Darfur   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], January 27, 2013)

Residents at internally displaced persons camp at Mornei in West Darfur complained that the land they were displaced from named Bobai Amer is being sold off as residential land. A camp leader said to Radio Dabanga the land which is used for farming, is being sold by Muhammed Arbab Khamis of the ruling National Congress Party, agreed with the chief of Bobai Amer for 200 Sudanese Pounds a piece. On Thursday 10 camp leaders met with Khamis to ask why he is selling their land and where the money is going. The witness said Khamis told them that if camp residents don’t want to return to their lands as they were invited to, the government will distribute their land. On the money question he said it was none of their business.   ••

• Five Mornei residents taken to hospital after militia attack   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], April 3, 2013)

Around 20 gunmen loyal to the government attacked ten people from Mornei camp in West Darfur.  The militia arrived on horses and camels as the displaced people were preparing coals four km outside of the camp.  Witnesses said the gunmen used whips and rifles to beat the camp residents.  They said the attack left five people seriously injured. They were taken to the hospital in Mornei for treatment.   ••

*****

§  The attempt to seize the lands and farms of the displaced extends throughout West Darfur, and indeed all of Darfur.  This process of confiscation and appropriation has continued unabated for years and indeed seems to be accelerating.  None of this is mentioned in the NYT dispatch.

 Confiscation of houses “attempt to dismantle camp” in West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [Garsila, West Darfur], May 31, 2013)

In an apparent attempt by the Sudanese government to dismantle the camp for displaced persons in Garsila, West Darfur, authorities have been confiscating the houses of displaced persons and redistributing them to military commanders and other officials. Sources told Radio Dabanga that this is being done by presenting the displaced with a bureaucratic catch-22 situation. The displaced are forced to present documents to prove ownership of the land, or to pay a SDG 500 ($115) fee “to complete the registration procedures.” Authorities have occupied the displaced houses and have redistributed them to leaders of the civil service, security, police, and army, sources told Radio Dabanga. “The authorities of the area threaten the displaced: either pay or be removed from your lands.”  [Such extortion schemes are increasingly common and take many forms—ER]  ••

 Armed men seize farms in West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], July 13, 2012)

A group of pro-government armed men assaulted a number of farmers in West Darfur. After insulting and beating them, they burned down their farms. The men driving a land cruiser attacked the farmers on Tuesday evening in Jimmaizat Babiker and Hajer Bagerwest of For Baranga. A farmer told Radio Dabanga that the militants expelled them from their lands and threatened to kill him if they returned. The farmer said the armed men warned the farmers the area is meant for grazing and not for agriculture according to our source. The commissioner of For Baranga, Suleiman Khater Zayed, visited the area on Wednesday and echoed the exact same words.  ••

 Returnees’ homes, provisions destroyed by fire in West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [Shibait Urdu, West Darfur], May 30, 2013)

Eight families that returned voluntarily to the area of Shibait Urdu from camp Abu Suruj in Sirba locality, West Darfur are suffering under poor humanitarian conditions after fire destroyed their homes, shelter, belongings and stocks of food last weekA displaced woman from Abu Suruj told Radio Dabanga that the eight families representing a total of about 80 individuals returned to Shibait Urdu because of the difficult living conditions at the Abu Suruj camp. The source says that it was their intention to grow some food by working their fields.   ••

 Armed militias seize farms in Kreinik, West Darfur   (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], July 8, 2012)

IDPs returning to their lands in Kreinik, 36 km east of Geneina, found that their properties had been seized by armed militias. A sheikh [told Radio Dabanga that] IDPs returning to cultivate their lands during the rainy season in West Darfur were stopped by militias.   ••

 West Darfur land settled by people from Niger, Chad, Central African  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], June 22, 2012)

Displaced people in camps in El Geneina, West Darfur, revealed that around one hundred thousand square feet of their lands has been occupied by new inhabitants from Niger, Chad and Central Africa. A sheikh from Mornei camp told Radio Dabanga that the occupied land included the areas of Masteri, Beida, Dowany, Kokoriya, Jory, Gubeya, Jeing, Mornei and many other areas. He also stated that the new inhabitants have started changing the names of the area, cutting down large trees, demolishing graves and farming on it in attempts to erase the former symbols of the areas.   ••

• New settlers in Darfur chase returnees from their farming lands  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], June 17, 2012)

Displaced Darfuris in camp Kendeby of West Darfur have been chased from their farming lands in the area of Sirba, north of the capital el-Geneina. They told Radio Dabanga that several returning IDP’s have been threatened with weapons while they were trying to sow their seeds. They say that settlers instead of the returnees from the area have taken the fertile agricultural lands in the localities of Miraya, Agi Ra, Kurk and Dumta. Displaced Darfuris in camp Kendeby of West Darfur have been chased from their farming lands in the area of Sirba, north of the capital El Geneina.

According to a community leader, the settlers had beaten five women who went out of camp Kendeby for farming in Dumta areas last Thursday. The settlers confiscated their seeds after beating them with a whipThe men warned them not to come back again.  ••

 Armed militias seize farms near Garsila, West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [Garsila, West Darfur], July 9, 2011)

Radio Dabanga was informed by a female refugee that displaced women from Garsila, West Darfur, are currently complaining about armed militias who apparently seized their farms, thus preventing their cultivation. The witness indicated that a group of the militia went to the Gedo, Gallinja and Gang Kosi areas, where several shepherds bring their herds, to take their land and set up their own farms with the Government’s support.   ••

•  Displaced father and son beaten by would-be rapists in West Darfur   (Radio Dabanga [Sirba Locality, West Darfur], May 28, 2013)

A displaced man and his son have been beaten by militiamen in their house at Kendebe camp in Sirba Locality, West Darfur on Sunday. Sources told Radio Dabanga that the militiamen entered the house and attempted to rape a female family member. When the man and his son intervened, the militiamen beat them severely before fleeing. The pair was taken to the camp clinic for medical treatment. Another group of militiamen attacked two displaced people from the same camp as they made their way from Bir Dageeg camp on Sunday. The camp sheikh told Radio Dabanga that when militiamen opened fire on two men one called Girba suffered a broken leg and another, Hak Murkez received a heavy beating.   ••

•  Gunmen storm house in El Geneina camp, West Darfur—three injured  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina], May 20, 2013)

Three people were injured on Saturday night when gunmen stormed the home of the displaced family of Ahmed Yahiya Suleiman in Abuzer camp in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. Witnesses from the camp told Radio Dabanga that two gunmen broke into Suleiman’s house at night while he was not at home. They opened fire on his wife, his son and daughter. The three injured were transferred for treatment to a hospital in El Geneina.  •

•  UNHCR “in race against time” to deliver aid to Sudanese refugees in Chad   (Radio Dabanga [Tissi, eastern Chad], May 17, 2013)

Following the displacement of tens of thousands of people from Sudan to Chad, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is “in a race against time” to deliver aid to them before the rainy seasons begins. In a press briefing on Friday, UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton said the agency “is requisitioning aid for tens of thousands of Darfur refugees in eastern Chad amid fears that heavy rains will cut off access to the group.” This year more than 50,000 people, both Sudanese and Chadians who were living in Darfur, fled violent hostilities to Tissi, just across the border. Roads to the area become impassable during the rainy season lasting from May to November and the first rains have already fallen. The region has little infrastructure and new arrivals place a strain on the local communities.

Earlier this month Médecins Sans Frontières drew international attention to the problem: “Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed before the looming rainy season cuts off road access to many areas … time is running out.”   ••

•  [West] Darfur’s Umm Dukhun “virtually deserted” after clashes resumed  (Radio Dabanga [Umm Dukhun, West Darfur], May 30, 2013)

Umm Dukhun city in [West] Darfur, which has witnessed renewed violent tribal clashes between the Salamat and Misseriya tribes, was virtually deserted as of Thursday morning. In addition, shops and markets have been closed since hostilities resumed earlier this week. Local sources told Radio Dabanga that only about 100 families remain in Umm Dukhun, while the rest of the town’s inhabitants—about 80,000 before clashes first erupted on 4 April—fled to neighbouring Chad.   ••

§  The humanitarian crisis in the Mornei area had been deteriorating rapidly even before the bizarrely rapturous NYT account of February 2012; both previous and subsequent accounts offer a stark and inescapable picture of suffering and deprivation.  Most of this derives from the violent insecurity in Darfur that the Khartoum regime considers a strategic weapon.  The brutal conditions in which people are living throughout the camps of West Darfur, as well as South Darfur and North Darfur, have received scant attention in recent years—from the NYT or indeed any non-Sudanese news source.  Given the truly staggering number of displaced persons, the acute vulnerability of the camps, the ongoing violence and consequent human displacement, the extreme attenuation of humanitarian relief, and the growing despair of people who have endured more than ten years of genocidal conflict, this lack of attention and concern is disgraceful.

• Sudan: Harsh Weather Has Many Living Rough in Mornei Camp, West Darfur  (Radio Dabanga [Mornei camp], June 7, 2013)

The displaced people of camp Mornei in West Darfur have complained of the poor conditions, in particular with regard to an acute shortage of plastic sheets. A displaced man from the camp reported to Radio Dabanga that they have not received any type of plastic sheets from the local authorities or organisations working in the field for nearly four years. “The recent rainfall and dust storms destroyed most of the plastic sheeting in the camp, and has forced some people to live in the open.” He appealed on behalf of the displaced via Radio Dabanga to all the organisations operating in Darfur to provide plastic sheets for the camp, especially as the rainy season has arrived.  ••

• Mornei camp in West Darfur facing water crisis (Radio Dabanga [Mornei camp], 11 February 2013)

Displaced residents of Mornei camp in West Darfur are facing an acute drinking water crisis, due to the lack of fuel to operate the water stations in the camp. One of the camp’s sheiks told Radio Dabanga on Sunday, 10 February, that the camp is facing a water crisis due to the lack of fuel to operate the water stations in the camp. The sheikh added the water stations have not been operating for five consecutive days due to the lack of fuel. He claims that the responsible humanitarian organization has stopped providing fuel to the camp due to the fact that UNICEF suspended its fuel support.   ••

•  UN: more than 50% water pumps broken in West Darfur camps  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], May 24, 2013)

In its latest report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that most of the water pumps in displaced camps in and around El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, are not working. “Access to water is problematic as 63 out of 93 hand pumps in the nine camps are not functioning. The nine camps have an estimated population of 119,000 people, according to the (Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission) HAC,” it was stated on Friday’s report by OCHA. The sites include Abu Zar, Adamata, Dorti, El Hujaj, El Riad, Jama Krinding One and Two and Sultan House. OCHA says the information was cross-checked with all the camps’ representatives.

OCHA further stated that an estimated 7,300 households out of 17,000 do not have latrines, while another 5,000 do not have access to communal latrines, which further depicts deterioration in the provision of acceptable sanitation facilities in the camps.

A total of eight out of 14 basic primary schools are without WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, while 20 out of 34 child friendly spaces in the camps remain closed, the UN agency declared.  ••

• El Riyadh camp: one medical clinic for 30,000 residents  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina] August 28, 2012)

Radio Dabanga was informed today that there is only one medical clinic available at the El Riyadh camp in El-Geneina, West Darfur. The camp counts 30,000 residents who claim to face a serious humanitarian crisis. A camp’s activist told Radio Dabanga that the three most serious issues in El Riyadh are lack of security, lack of water and lack of medical services. He added there is also scarcity of nurses and of midwives at the camp. The source said this situation arose after June 2011 when the Government of Sudan expelled medical international humanitarian organizations from the camp. He explained the international organizations were substituted by the Sudanese Ministry of Health.   ••

• Short rations make malnutrition rife among children in [West] Darfur camps (Radio Dabanga [Nertiti camp, West Darfur], May 30, 2013)

In the camps of [West] Darfur, displaced children are suffering from malnutrition and lack of food with no health organisations able to provide support. This is proving to be an added affliction, over and above the intense rainfall and deteriorating security situation that residents must cope with each day. A camp leader told Radio Dabanga that there are about 35 children suffering from malnutrition at Camp Khor Ramla and similar cases have been reported in Nertiti, El Salam and other camps south of Nertiti. He pointed out that due to a failure to reach an agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP), food ration distribution was suspended in the camps—a measure that has been in effect for almost two months.

The [camps’] sheiks appealed to international organisations to expedite the provision of humanitarian aid, health and tarpaulins as a matter of urgency before a veritable humanitarian disaster erupts in the camps Nertiti. “We urgently need tarpaulins and medicines to address the situation, especially as the rainy season has arrived.”   ••

• Poor health conditions leave dozens dead in Mornei   (Radio Dabanga [Mornei], September 21, 2012)

Residents of Mornei camp in West Darfur are suffering from poor health conditions as diseases like malaria, typhoid and diarrhea are spreading rapidly. In addition to the rapidly spreading diseases, the residents suffer from malnutrition and a lack of health-care and medication. One of the sheikhs told Radio Dabanga that the report [composed by the camp sheikhs] revealed the death of 64 elderly and 30 children between the ages of one and five over the past two weeksIn addition, the report confirmed that the majority of deaths are a result of diseases like malaria and typhoid.   ••

§  And within weeks of the NYT dispatch, the following report appeared; the inability to transport food supplies and fuel to pump water is entirely a function of insecurity, an insecurity that Khartoum has bred by allowing the Arab militia groups to operate with complete impunity against civilians and humanitarians.

•  WFP reduces rations in El Geneina camps   (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], May 9, 2012)

A group of displaced people from 10 camps across El Geneina said the World Food Programme told them on Monday that their rations of maize will be reduced by 50 percent. They said this have caused widespread discontent in the camps that are already suffering from food shortages and hunger. A camp leader that attended the meeting told Radio Dabanga that the WFP representatives justified the reduced ration by not being able to transport the required quantities, as truck drivers are reluctant to move around with the current security situation.  ••

§   With terrifying regularity, Khartoum either expels or intolerably constrains the work of international humanitarian organizations, again something not mentioned in the NYT dispatch:

•  Sudan government halts work of 50% NGOs in West Darfur capital  (Radio Dabanga [el-Geneina, West Darfur], January 23, 2013)

As of 1 January 2013, the government of Sudan halted the work of 50 percent of the NGOs working in El-Geneina camps, West Darfur’s capitalseveral sources told Radio Dabanga on WednesdayFive out of the 10 foreign organizations were informed by the government in mid-2012 that they could no longer exercise their activities at the camps [beyond the end of the year], sheikhs from 10 different sites affirmed. They emphasized the organizations were not expelled from Sudan. Instead, [the sheikhs] continued, organizations were ordered to stay in El-Geneina, hand over their resources to camps’ residents and focus their programs on voluntary return villages.  ••

And while Khartoum’s regular and militia forces have long attacked camps for the displaced, a shocking incident on June 9, 2013 gives a sense not only of civilian vulnerability, but of the danger faced by humanitarian workers:

•  UN chief: ‘shock, sorrow’ at killing of NGO worker in Nertiti North, West Darfur   (Radio Dabanga, [Nertiti, West Darfur], June 11, 2013)

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan “expresses shock and sorrow at the killing of a staff member of a humanitarian non-government organization on 9 June 2013 in North Camp, Nertiti [West] Darfur.” Radio Dabanga reported on Monday that on the previous night formations of pro-government militias and government troops (SAF) allegedly attacked camp Nertiti North for displaced people in [West] Darfurkilling a doctorinjuring 15 residents, and torching a medical nutrition centre and 54 housesDr Adam Mohamed Hamid was the medical director of the camp’s nutrition centre, which belongs to a foreign organisation that works with children.

Hussein Abu Sharati, spokesman for the association of displaced persons and refugees of Darfur, told Radio Dabanga that government forces supported by militias launched the attack from all directions. “They used Land Cruiser vehicles and opened fire, killing Dr Adam Mohamed Hamid, medical director of the nutrition centre at the camp and wounding 15 others.”

A spokesman for the displaced persons criticised UNAMID for not intervening and protecting the displaced, and concluded: “The nutrition centre belongs to a foreign organisation that provides nutrition for children. The killing of Dr Hamid and the torching of the centre proves that the government clearly does not want any organisations to assist the displaced of Darfur.”  ••

§  West Darfur is also the region in which rape of women and girls has been most frequently reported, a grim distinction given the epidemic of sexual violence in Darfur, one that figures nowhere in the NYT account of February 2012, even as it has been prominently reported not only by Radio Dabanga but a number of human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights), as well as by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).  And the Mornei area has certainly not been spared.  For an overview of these reports, a more comprehensive bibliography with links, and a soul-destroying compendium of individual sexual assaults, see “RAPE AS A CONTINUING WEAPON OF WAR IN DARFUR: Reports, bibliography of studies, a compendium of incidents.”

What should we make of the fact that none of these accounts comports with what the New York Times reported in February 2012 from Nyuru, West Darfur—none of them…? 


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