Adrian Blomfeld / The Independent (UK) – 2004-05-07 09:23:10
TINE, SUDAN (April 24, 2004) — The Saharan winds swirled through the desert, choking the furnace-hot air with sand, as the survivors of the massacre at Har ‘Janga village straggled south, fleeing Sudan’s blood-soaked Darfur region.
One of the group’s donkeys collapsed within sight of Tine, on the border with Chad, its body heaving with rasping breaths as Ismael Jali, 12, wearily unfastened the bags on the dying animal’s back.
“It has been like this since we left,” he said, a white cloth scarf wrapped around his face to filter out the billowing sand. “We do not have enough water even for ourselves. Nearly all the animals have died and we have buried two old men.”
Two weeks earlier, Ismael had been brewing tea for his family when he heard the drone of Sudanese government Antonovs overhead — the chilling precursor of attacks across Darfur.
As the panicked villagers tried to flee, the bombs started raining down, one embedding a large piece of shrapnel in his five-year-old sister Khadija’s face, ripping open her cheek.
Even after the bombing there was no escape. The village had been surrounded by armed Arabs on horses and camels — members of the Janjaweed militia, who, with the backing of the Khartoum government, are apparently intent on “whiting out” Darfur’s black majority, despite both sides being Muslim.
The mounted Arabs, in military fatigues, charged into the village, wheeling precisely between the huts and firing indiscriminately. The Janjaweed were followed by government infantry who gathered Har ‘Janga’s young men into a group and executed them, each with a single shot in the back of the head.
Ismael’s family were singled out and taken to a well. The Janjaweed accused them of supporting the Sudan Liberation Army, the rebel movement that began an uprising against the government a year ago.
“They took a knife and cut my mother’s throat and they threw her into the well,” said Ismael. “Then they took my oldest sister and began to rape her one by one. My father was kneeling, crying and begging them for mercy.” Ismael escaped by hiding under a dead mule, from where he saw the Janjaweed rape his three other sisters, among them Khadija, her face now unrecognisable, before slitting their throats. “After that they killed my brother and my father,” he said. “They threw all the bodies in the well.”
The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis
The United Nations says Darfur has become the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than a million people have fled as the Janjaweed advance, burning village after village. More than 100,000 have crossed into neighboring Chad, where most have little access to emergency aid.
Khartoum has largely denied access to international relief organizations, making it impossible, in a region the size of Germany, to establish how many have been killed.
Over the past three decades camel herders of Arab descent, tacitly backed by Khartoum, have fought Darfur’s black Muslim tribes over the region’s scarce water and grazing resources, but never on this scale. Human rights organizations describe the recent escalation as government-inspired ethnic cleansing, perhaps even genocide, as the Janjaweed embark on a final solution to rid Darfur of its black Muslims.
“The reason they are killing us is because of the colour of our skin,” said Ibrahim Mustafa Sabun, who fled from the village of Jejira where the Janjaweed killed 16 people two months ago. “They just want Darfur for themselves.”
While the Janjaweed, a term that has only recently emerged, may be carrying out a long-dreamed-of pogrom, it is unlikely its campaign would be so successful without the backing of President Omar al-Bashir’s government.
Ironically the rebellion that sparked Darfur’s intra-Muslim conflict was prompted, in part, by peace negotiations that seem set to end Khartoum’s 21-year war with Christian and animist rebels in Sudan’s south. The two sides agreed to share power and oil wealth, leaving Darfur’s economically and politically marginalised population to believe it would be left out.
Although the two sides did agree a 45-day ceasefire this month to allow humanitarian access to Darfur, the rebels say Khartoum has repeatedly violated it, killing more than 100 people in 11 days.
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