By Eric Reeves
February 29, 2012 —
Vast human agony and destruction continues in Darfur, even if largely invisible within conventional news reporting. Girls and women continue to be raped in epidemic numbers; violent assaults on camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are constant, as are murders and robberies by militia forces; civilian targets continue to be bombed and strafed by Khartoum’s military aircraft; and humanitarian conditions are appalling in far too many locations. And yet we hear very little of this. Given the determination of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime to deny virtually all reporting presence, this is hardly surprising.
The absence of reporting presence in Darfur
Most conspicuously, there is no human rights reporting presence in Darfur, nor has there been for a number of years; this includes even rapporteurs appointed in one form or another by the United Nations. The UN Panel of Experts on Darfur has been eviscerated, as the UN has acquiesced before Khartoum’s demand that the Panel be composed of accommodating (if unqualified) members. Many senior Humanitarian officials have been expelled by Khartoum, including (for example) two from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in summer 2010. The IOM, along with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), will be the organizations most responsible for ensuring the IDPs return to their homes voluntarily and safely, perhaps the most critical issue defining Darfur’s future.
Journalists travel rarely to Darfur and are allowed only where Khartoum’s security and intelligence services permit; they confront a hostile bureaucracy that controls all visa and travel permits, and they are closely scrutinized by security forces during their entire stay in Darfur. The effects of such restrictions and travel limitations are in evidence in a recent dispatch from West Darfur by New York Times (NYT) correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman ("A Taste of Hope Sends Refugees Back to Darfur," February 26, 2012). In discussing the highly charged issue of IDPs returning to their lands and villages---this in the context of encouraging reports that some 100,000 refugees have returned from eastern Chad to an area east of el-Geneina---Gettleman’s sources generalize excessively about Darfur, even as the dispatch as a whole omits mention of many key facts bearing on the sustainability of returns. Nowhere in the piece, for example, do we hear of an earlier "experiment" with returns that had also been cited as a success story by the UN:
"[Seven] families who came back to the Guldo region [West Darfur] in the framework of the Sudanese Government’s voluntary repatriation initiative were found in an extremely worrying state. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that they were part of 25 families who left Kalma Camp (South Darfur) as a part of the Voluntary Return program. However, the journey was too dangerous, and 18 families were forced to travel back to their original camp in South Darfur. Furthermore, they reported to Radio Dabanga that the remaining families did not receive any support from the province of West Darfur, even though it organized the deportation. They now call for international action to save these families, who are currently in a critical state." (Radio Dabanga, July 26, 2011, "Voluntary Repatriation: 7 families found in a critical state") (emphasis added; all emphases within the cited materials of this brief have been added)
And despite the calm and security the NYT correspondent finds in Nyuru village (some 50 kilometers southeast of al-Geneina), other areas find no such conditions. Insecurity facing IDPs already in the camp at Guldo was also reported by Radio Dabanga:
"Complaining farmers from Guldo Camp (West Darfur) pointed out the deliberate destruction of their farms by shepherds [i.e., nomadic Arab herders]. According to them, the shepherds intentionally set out their cows [i.e., cattle, as opposed to camels] in the farms, setting chaos and destructing their properties. Protesters are immediately beaten up, and women are raped, making them reluctant to return to their fields. Several female farmers reported the incidents to the local authorities, but no action was apparently taken. They now call on UNAMID and the UN to provide them with the necessary protection."
More recently Radio Dabanga reports that a Khartoum official is selling the land of IDPs in Mornei, West Darfur (about 15 miles south of Nyuru):
"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 [as residential land] .... " (27 January 2012)
Without land, people will remain displaced. And all evidence suggests that the conditions at Guldo and Mornei are far more representative of Darfur than those at Nyuru. There are other, more consequential omissions in the NYT dispatch, and I discuss them below. Given the importance attached to reporting by The New York Times, and the very wide re-circulation of its dispatches, it has seemed important to assess fully just how misleading a singular view from the village of Nyuru may be in the larger context of Darfur.
For it is in fact likely that in Darfur during the past year the number of civilians newly displaced in Darfur exceeds the "more than 100,000" that the NYT correspondent is persuaded have returned to their homes. Here a March 2011 dispatch from the authoritative UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) offers grim but appropriate context:
"Tens of thousands of people continue to flee their homes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur for the safety of internally displaced people’s camps after recent fighting between government forces and armed militias. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 66,000 IDPs have arrived in camps in North and South Darfur since January. At least 53,000 are in and around North Darfur State’s Zam Zam IDP Camp." (IRIN, Nairobi 16 March 2011)
These figures are from the first quarter of 2011 alone; again, while reliable figures from all areas are not available, it may well be that the number of newly displaced civilians during 2011 far exceeded the number who have chosen to return to Nyuru (e.g., the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated that as of November 2010, "268,000 [Darfuris had been] newly displaced"; more than 500,000 had been newly displace in the preceding two years). In any event, we know that the recently reported views expressed by displaced persons at Gereida camp in South Darfur are entirely typical:
"Gereida IDPs reject invitation for voluntary return
Gereida (23 January 2012) - Internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in Gereida, South Darfur have rejected the invitation by the head of the joint UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Ibrahim Gambari to voluntarily return to their villages. Gereida camp coordinator, Dawood Hagar said IDPs will only consider returning to their villages if there is a guarantee of security."
Gambari and UNAMID can make no such guarantee, and this is the most basic fact about the near-term future returns in Darfur.
Other gaps in reporting presence in Darfur
Reporting by international nongovernmental humanitarian organizations has also virtually disappeared. INGOs have been almost entirely muzzled by a UN leadership that refuses to speak honestly about conditions in camps and rural areas; these independent organizations well understand that if they do speak in ways that get ahead of the UN, they will be expelled by Khartoum. Thirteen of the world’s finest relief organizations were expelled from Darfur in March 2009---roughly half the total humanitarian capacity at the time. Widespread silence is the consequence of this fear of further expulsions. Even so, we know a good deal about what is not being reported, and it is deeply disturbing; a year ago an important study from Tufts University concluded by declaring:
"Where humanitarian access has been maintained there have been serious delays and blocking of key information, for example, the failure to release regular nutrition survey reports, which contain the vital humanitarian indicators that enable the severity of the humanitarian crisis to be judged .... Crucial information about the humanitarian situation is lacking. There are serious issues with the proper validation of the nutrition survey reports and their immediate release---without such data neither the government nor the international community can properly understand the severity of the humanitarian situation or the efficacy of the response."
This has created an overall situation that should be extremely worrisome:
"International humanitarian capacities have been seriously eroded and impaired to a point that leaves Darfuris in a more vulnerable position now than at any other time since the counter-insurgency operations and forced displacements in 2003." ("Navigating Without a Compass: The Erosion of Humanitarianism in Darfur," January 2011; unreleased, in order to protect the anonymity of researchers)
[ I discuss the full, and still-unreleased Tufts report in detail, along with other features of the broader humanitarian situation in Darfur in "Darfur Humanitarian Overview: The Consequences of International Silence" at http://goo.gl/qCaI6. My most recent overview of the humanitarian situation is "Darfur: The Genocide the World Got Tired Of" at: http://goo.gl/pIZG3 ]
A central problem in reporting on humanitarian conditions over the past several years has been repeated UN acquiescence before various unacceptable demands by Khartoum: that mortality and malnutrition data not be promulgated; that conditions on the ground not be reported except through the UN; that various obstructive requirements be followed scrupulously. The immediately past head of UN humanitarian operations in Sudan, Georg Charpentier, was widely despised because of his continual deference to Khartoum and his conspicuous mendacity about humanitarian access and the promulgation of critical humanitarian data; many other UN officials and virtually all nongovernmental organizations sharply contradicted Charpentier, if necessarily confidentially. Indeed, most broadly---and on the basis of extensive research and a great many interviews---the Institute for War and Peace Reporting concluded: "UN and diplomatic sources who spoke to IWPR say Khartoum is deliberately undermining humanitarian efforts" ("UN Accused of Caving In to Khartoum Over Darfur," January 7, 2011 [The Hague]).
The effects of this suppression of humanitarian data are also included in the investigative report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR):
"UNICEF reported early last year that as many as 21 nutritional surveys were conducted since June 2009, but only seven have been released by [Khartoum’s] humanitarian affairs commission [HAC]. Six of those showed [Global Acute] malnutrition rates of between 15 and 29 per cent, the report stated."
The emergency threshold for malnutrition is a GAM rate of 15 percent or greater. The same IWPR report cites the head of UNICEF in Darfur, Nils Kastberg, on malnutrition studies of children:
"Nils Kastberg [said in October 2010] that Khartoum is preventing his agency from releasing reports about malnutrition in IDP camps. ’Part of the problem has been when we conduct surveys to help us address issues, in collaboration with the ministry of health, very often other parts of the government such as the humanitarian affairs commission [HAC] interferes and delays in the release of reports, making it difficult for us to respond [in a] timely [manner],’ he said."
For his part, the former head of UN humanitarian operations declared to IWPR that "’UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to IWPR]." This is a shameless lie. Moreover, it is also clear that Charpentier cynically manipulated data to suggest a lower number of IDPs in Darfur. Such mendacity only serves Khartoum’s purposes and ensures that humanitarian assistance will be yet further compromised and denied.
Occasionally, it must be said, a UN official will speak bluntly about Darfur’s realities, ensuring that she will not be able to make a return visit. The UN News Center itself reported on the June 2011 assessment mission by Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights:
"A high-ranking United Nations human rights official today said she was shocked at the conditions of a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur and called for renewed international concern with the situation in the war torn Sudanese region. Kyung-wha Kang, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights visited the Zamzam IDP camp, which lies on the outskirts of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, and is home to more than 100,000 people." ("UN official ’shocked’ by conditions in Darfur camp for displaced," UN News Center, 24 June 2011)
Reporting on these developments has appeared nowhere in The New York Times.
A continuing war
But if reporting on Darfur is challenging, it is not impossible. This past month has seen publication or promulgation of several important reports and updates, including the continuing dispatches of Radio Dabanga, which chronicle with grim particularity the continuing epidemic of rape, the acute deprivation within many Internally Displaced Persons camps, and the increasingly violent predations of the Central Reserve Police (CRP), also known as the "Abu Tira" (many former "Janjaweed" militiamen have been recycled into the Abu Tira; see below). Radio Dabanga, which is continually expanding its already impressive network of sources on the ground in Darfur, is also the most reliable source for reports of aerial bombing and direct-fire attacks on civilians. Working with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (The Hague), Radio Dabanga is essential reading for understanding Darfur in any broader sense.
The most important recent report this month comes this month from Amnesty International: "No End to Violence in Darfur: Arms Supplies Continue Despite Ongoing Human Rights Violations" (February 2012). Among other key findings, Amnesty notes in its Introduction that:
"The supply of various types of weapons, munitions and related equipment to Sudan in recent years, by the governments of Belarus, the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, have allowed the Sudanese authorities to use their army, paramilitary forces, and government-backed militias to carry out grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Sudan. This ongoing flow of new arms to Darfur has sustained a brutal nine-year conflict which shows little sign of resolution.
"In the last twelve months, as other developments in Sudan overshadowed international attention on Darfur, the region has seen a new wave of fighting between armed opposition groups and government forces, including government-backed militias. The fighting has shifted during 2011 away from former epicentres of the war near the border with Chad and elsewhere, to eastern Darfur in particular. This has included targeted and ethnically motivated attacks on civilian settlements, and indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombings that have contributed to the displacement of an estimated 70,000 people from their homes and villages [this is a very conservative estimate of the number of newly displaced persons; sources on the ground and in the camps reported to Radio Dabanga that as of June 1, 2011, 83,000 people had already been newly displaced since the beginning of the year; see also above]."
What is especially disturbing in this particular report is that Amnesty International (AI) is filling the role that was to have been central to the mandate of the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005). But in yet another sign of UN failure in Darfur, the Panel of Experts no longer exists in meaningful form. Communications with previous experts who have been part of the Panel make clear that the UN has bent to the will of Khartoum and fully politicized the appointment of "experts." Former true experts have resigned in disgust when it became apparent that there would be no meaningful reporting presence in Darfur by the Panel.
Even so, AI’s conclusion about the violations of the UN arms embargo on Darfur is certainly the right one, and the report puts much of the responsibility for fueling ongoing conflict where it properly belongs, with China, Russia, and Belarus---the first two stalwart diplomatic protectors of the Khartoum regime to which they have sold so much in the way of weaponry. AI draws a key conclusion in this report, though one that is predictably and strenuously resisted by Beijing and Moscow Permanent Members of the UN Security Council:
"The case of Darfur further demonstrates that it is ineffective to put in place an arms embargo on only part of a country and allow arms to be transferred to one of the parties to the conflict whom it is known will invariably transfer some of those arms to the conflict area under embargo, thereby fuelling further grave violations of international law."
AI also confirms many of the aerial attacks that I have reported on in comprehensive terms at www.sudanbombing.org (May 6, 2011; July 15, 2011; October 15, 2011; January 12, 2012). Additional details are provided on some of the confirmed 85 bombing and direct-fire attacks against civilians in 2011; all of these attacks are in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1591:
"Despite the UN SC having prohibited all airstrikes and aerial bombardments in Darfur since 2005, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have continued to ignore this prohibition with total impunity. Witness testimonies from sites of airstrikes, material evidence of airstrikes, photographs and satellite imagery of armed military aircraft operating from Darfur’s main airports, all indicate that SAF has continued to conduct aerial bombardments and direct-fire airstrikes on both military and civilian targets in all states of Darfur during 2011.
"Eyewitnesses indicate that SAF airstrikes in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan are carried out with Mi-24 attack helicopters and Su-25 ground attack aircraft, while other aerial bombardments are undertaken by Antonov-24/26 transport aircraft converted into rudimentary bombers.
"While SAF aerial attacks have been credibly reported across all of Darfur during 2011, they have been concentrated on two particular areas:
•Jebel Marra in West Darfur, the largest unitary area of Darfur’s territory controlled by an armed opposition group (Sudan Liberation Army-Abdulwahid Mohamed Nour or SLA-AW) and,
•eastern Darfur, between the towns of Khor Abeshe and Abu Zerega around the North/South Darfur border.
"A number of aerial bombings have deliberately targeted civilian settlements, including attacks on villages in areas under government control perceived by the government to be harbouring Dafuri armed opposition groups."
These findings do not inform the NYT dispatch, which makes do with various self-serving quotes by UN and other officials, who offer claims that are simply not supported by the evidence.
One UN official declares disingenuously that "there are still pockets of insecurity" in Darfur. "Pockets of insecurity"? This is an extraordinarily misleading statement, though one eagerly sought by officials in Khartoum (see the extensive compendium below, making clear that insecurity in Darfur is in fact pervasive). Further, the NYT correspondent also cites the comments by a senior officer with UNAMID, the incompetent UN/African Union force that has been thoroughly discredited by various previous announcements on security and violence in Darfur. Indeed, UNAMID is a massive and hugely expensive failure, incompetent in protecting civilians or humanitarians (its primary mandate under Chapter 7 authority), and deeply deficient in reporting on attacks, violence, and bombings. This reporting failure is often a function of Khartoum’s routine denial of access, despite a Status of Forces Agreement (2008) granting UNAMID complete freedom of movement in fulfilling its mandate.
The mission is desperate to justify itself and its continuing presence, and it is thus hardly surprising that Dysane Dorani, head of UNAMID for the western sector of Darfur, declares rapturously:
"’It’s amazing,’ [Dorani] said. ’The people are coming together. It reminds me of Lebanon after the civil war.’"
Present peace may indeed have come to some places in Darfur, and these reported returns may be a sign justifying greater hope, though we must forget that it is the "peace of the dead" that has come to some 500,000 people in Darfur. But it is simply tendentious to generalize on the basis of such limited success, or even as the NYT correspondent does to "parts of Darfur [that] finally appear to be turning around...." Which parts? What is the evidence? And why doesn’t Khartoum allow such broader success to be seen, since the regime has every interest in presenting precisely the picture the NYT offers?
In generalizing about Darfur, we are much better guided by the authoritative Small Arms Survey (Geneva), which presents a picture very similar to that of Amnesty International in its January 18, 2012 update on armed conflict and insecurity in Darfur:
"At the military level in the field, all the Darfur rebel factions are currently cooperating, exhibiting a pragmatic survival instinct that is rallying the disparate militias against their common enemies. The Sudanese government has stepped up hostilities since early 2011, focusing on the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) stronghold of Jebel Marra and then the Zaghawa-held areas of North and South Darfur such as Shangal Tobaiya, where SLA-Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) draws strength."
Human Rights Watch was just as emphatic in its assessment of violence a year ago:
"’While the international community remains focused on Southern Sudan, the situation in Darfur has sharply deteriorated,’ said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. ’We are seeing a return to past patterns of violence, with both government and rebel forces targeting civilians and committing other abuses.’" (IRIN [Nairobi], January 28, 2011)
Even Nigeria’s Ibrahim Gambari, the duplicitous and incompetent head of
UNAMID, was obliged two months ago to backtrack on his claim of dramatically reduced violence:
"Recent surge of violence impede UNAMID patrols in Darfur - Gambari
The African Union and United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said Sudanese government restricted the movement of its patrols due the recent surge of clashes in the region. The hybrid mission highlighted recently the decrease of fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and rebel groups .... " (Sudan Tribune, December 30, 2011 [Khartoum])
Significantly, the three most militarily powerful Darfur rebel groups have recently made formal common cause with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement- North.
[The SPLA/M-N should be sharply distinguished from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army of South Sudan: their split was formalized before the September 9, 2011 deadline stipulated in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement; see page 128, Security Protocol, Appendix 2: "Calendar and Timetable," in the section on the "Post Interim Period."]
Early reports from fighting at Trogi, South Kordofan (25 kilometers to the north of Jau on the North/South border) suggest that under the military leadership of Abdel Aziz el-Hilu, the Sudan Revolution Force (as the alliance has been called) has scored a major military victory. El-Hilu is widely credited with superb tactical and strategic skills as a military leader, and the victory at Trogi would suggest that he has been biding his time, waiting for Khartoum’s forces to become over-extended. But already the response of Khartoum is to blame Juba for this defeat, in which the a major garrison post was captured, one that may have held as many as two brigades and vast quantities of light and heavy weapons and ammunition. How this will shape military actions and violence in Darfur is unclear, but the regime may well decide that the cheapest strategy, the one that ties down fewest of their already overstretched forces, will be to turn the militia groups loose on civilians— to create what Human Rights Watch has called in one of its reports "chaos by design" in Darfur.
The NYT dispatch declares that the rebel factions are now "weaker" because of the fall of el-Qaddafi (who had provided many of the weapons found throughout the Chad/Darfur region) and because of rapprochement between Khartoum and N’Djamena. And to be sure, the dynamics of supply, staging, and logistics for the rebels have changed very significantly. But they are far from "weak" and the military alliance with the SPLA-North may yet prove to be a significant "force multiplier." The rebels have been written off several times before, and yet they have not been subdued in a number of areas, most significantly the Jebel Marra massif in central Darfur as well as various rural regions. Given the military volatility of the North/South border, it may be the rebels who confront a weakened and depleted Sudan Armed Forces. Notably, the number of bombing attacks has already fallen off sharply in Darfur with the intensifying war efforts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile that began in mid-2011.
None of these reports or developments figure anywhere in the NYT account, in which their correspondent reports first-hand only what the UN, Khartoum, and a disgraced UNAMID force wish him to see---and that is all.
"Urbanization" in Darfur
When speaking more broadly about Darfur, the NYT correspondent cites what are finally bizarre comments by US senior advisor for Darfur Dane Smith:
"’Darfur is ’a quite different place from 2003,’ said Dane Smith, the American senior adviser for Darfur. He cited a telling statistic: In 2003, 18 percent of Darfur’s population lived in urban areas. Now it’s about 50 percent."
The ironies here evidently escape both Smith and the NYT correspondent. If 50 percent of Darfur’s population now lives in urban areas, this is a catastrophe on many levels. For the vast populations of displaced persons that account for such a precipitous increase aren’t living "urban lives"; indeed, the vast majority are in the environs of towns only because they are desperate for security that UNAMID can’t provide. A great many of the largest IDP camps are on the outskirts of the major cities of Nyala, el-Fasher, and el-Geneina, and they are becoming more permanent by the day. But there are no jobs for most of these people, and wages are such that women must often take on grueling jobs for very low pay (see "Darfur Women Take on Hard Labor," IWPR, February 8, 2012). It is continuing, powerfully threatening insecurity---not economic incentives or a desire for a different way of life---that accounts for "urbanization."
Moreover, there are many highly destructive consequences of the war on civilians that Khartoum has chosen to wage, and which has produced the mass movements to towns---and indeed "changed the demography of Darfur" (these words were the explicit instruction contained in a directive from notorious Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal in the early phase of the Darfur genocide, August 2004). We should note first the overall cost of the war in purely economic terms: Danielle Goldberg, Program Coordinator, Peace-building and Rights Program, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, provides a very useful overview of a study by Dr. Hamid Ali from American University in Cairo, the first such study of its kind:
"[Khartoum spent] US$35.11 billion ... between 2003-2009 on the war effort in Darfur. Dr. Ali presented his research to Sudanese diaspora, Sudan advocacy groups, and faculty and students at a workshop organized by Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights on January 10, 2012.
"[This ’staggering cost’ is] broken into the following: $10.08 billion in direct military expenses; $7.2 billion in productivity lost by internally displaced persons (IDPs), $2.6 billion in lifetime earnings of the dead, $4.1 billion in infrastructure damage and $11.04 billion for military spillover and UNAMID peace keeping operations. This excludes indirect costs such as capital flight, the emigration of skilled labor, and lost educational opportunities for future generations due to insufficient data. While data related to the conflict is limited, as information is censored and classified by the government, Ali’s finding offer a valuable baseline for future research."
This extraordinary total has many implications, some of them obvious, others not— none of them considered in the account offered by the NYT. For such massive misallocation of national resources has contributed in substantial ways to the current deep economic crisis in (northern) Sudan. The relatively brief economic boom fueled by oil revenues has rapidly collapsed and the economy is now in desperate shape.
This has direct implications for any implementation of the terms of the Doha "Darfur Peace Agreement," signed last summer by only Khartoum and a small, cobbled-together "rebel faction" with no political or military power on the ground in Darfur. The Doha document---which has been overwhelmingly rejected by Darfuri civil society---nominally commits the Khartoum regime to a series of financial payments and capital investments in Darfur that have become simply impossible. Even when Khartoum was still feeling flush following the signing of the Abuja "Darfur Peace Agreement" (May 2006), it made good on none of its financial commitments or reparation payments. The upshot is that urbanized areas are likely to become even more economically distressed as the broader northern economy continues its inexorable contraction: some economists estimate that it will shrink by as much as 4.5 percent for 2012. Unemployment will skyrocket, and there will be fewer and fewer employment opportunities for those in the camps near Darfur’s urban centers; and this will breed further anger, frustration, and despair among populations that have known nothing but "urban life" for as long as nine years in many cases.
For as the NYT dispatch points out, war in Darfur has taken a terrible toll on traditional rural agricultural life: "Darfur’s conflict has destroyed not only innumerable lives but also a whole way of life." What were formerly villages have in thousands of cases been "reduced to nothing more than rings of ash by armed raiders." This former way of life for countless generations of Darfuris can’t be recaptured, and not so much because of the amenities that are cited as inducements for staying in urban areas, but because knowledge of an agricultural way of life— its rhythms, its demands, its rewards, the intimacy of communal existence---has been lost to a generation that has come of age in the camps. A boy or girl born in 1997 who entered a camp in 2003 at age six would be fifteen now; these are critical years in understanding the "traditional ways." They are likely lost forever to a majority of non-Arab/African Darfuri youths.
The loss of agricultural life in Darfur, and the urbanization of these formerly rural populations, will in itself have dramatic consequences. The very day that the NYT account appeared, recording Dane Smith’s apparent celebration of urbanization in Darfur, a much more sobering study was released by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). And it is a devastating portrait of environmental damage that may be irreversible; it is certainly one of the largest costs of the war and makes inescapably clear that the largest current concentrations of populations (i.e., urban areas and the surrounding IDP camps) are unsustainable:
"[The UN] FAO ... presented the findings of its ’Darfur Wood-fuel Supply and Demand’ assessment in which it indicated that current wood harvesting is causing the degradation and depletion of existing resources, a press statement by the UN body indicated Sunday [February 27, 2012]." ("Land Cover Mapping and Wood Energy Analysis of Darfur’s IDP Regions")
Beneath measured prose and a plethora of maps and charts in this 75-page study, there is a grim quantification of degradation and depletion, and it augurs ominously for the future of all Darfur: in those areas where people are most concentrated, the imbalance between wood energy production (biomass) and demand is shockingly great. In Nyala, for example, the annual accessible supply potential of wood fuel for 2011 was 52,000 tons; but actual demand was 366,000 tons. These data are presented in the form of several maps, coded to indicate the imbalance, and a chart that quantifies the "supply/demand balance," indicated by ratios: from balanced (-0.5 to +0.5, represented by a neutral color) to extremely high imbalances (-50 to 20, indicated by red with black dots), i.e., dramatic deficiencies in the biomass required for wood energy production.
For large camps around the major cities and towns---e.g., Kalma, Zamzam (old and new), Abu Shouk, al-Salaam, the Kass camps, Riyhad, Brindisi, Mornei, Ardamata, Krinding 1 and 2, Beilel, Mukjar and Garsila camps---this is a formula for violent competition for scarce resources, and there is already considerable evidence that this is occurring.
Needless to say, the FAO report has not been reported by The New York Times.
Living lives of radical insecurity
However dismaying it may be that the NYT correspondent does so little to contextualize his visit to Nyuru village in West Darfur with other reports and perspectives, what is most dismaying is the evident refusal to consider seriously reports from Radio Dabanga as a guide to what life is like in Darfur. Security may be fine in Nyuru, and the women of Nyuru may not need to worry about being raped; but we needn’t look far in West Darfur to encounter a very different view of the security environment, one that comports neither with the reported picture of Nyuru or UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari’s preposterously self-congratulatory declaration that violence in Darfur has been reduced by 70 percent.
A partial list of recent headlines from Radio Dabanga, along with dates, suggests just how pervasive are violence and insecurity, the primary obstacles to large-scale returns:
 Nine women raped by Abu Tira forces
Al Lair Jar Al Nabi (9 February 2012) - Elements of Abu Tira forces (Central Reserve Forces) reportedly raped nine South Sudanese female refugees in Al Lait Jar Al Nabi in North Darfur in the past week, relative of one of the victims told Radio Dabanga ....
 Woman raped east of Zalingei
Zalingei, West Darfur (12 January 2012) - On Wednesday a young woman was raped by two armed men near Wadi Dul Beja displaced persons camp, east of Zalingei, in West Darfur. A female source told Radio Dabanga the woman ventured out of the camp with her sister and mother to collect firewood .... [Zalingei is about 50 miles southeast of Nyuru---ER]
 Girl, 14, raped in West Darfur
El Geneina (4 January 2012) - A 14-year-old girl was raped by an unknown number of gunmen, near Kandomi displaced persons’ camp in West Darfur, a source told Radio Dabanga. The girl was with four others on the way back to the camp from El Geneina hospital on Monday where they were visiting a relative. [Kandomi/Kondobi camp is approximately 35 miles from Nyuru---ER]
 Girl raped in North Darfur camp
El Fasher (30 December 2011) - On Wednesday the rape of a 12-year-old girl was reported in the Shaddad camp for displaced persons in the Shangil Tobaya region of North Darfur. A witness said that the girl was snatched at the camp and taken to the headquarters of the government affiliated Popular Defense Force (PDF), where she endured the attack for 10 hours ....
 Women raped near Eastern Chad refugee camp
Eastern Chad (30 December, 2011) - Four women from Darfur were raped in Gaga refugee camp in Eastern Chad on Sunday, a source has told Radio Dabanga. The women ventured out of the camp to fetch firewood in the early afternoon when they were attacked by four armed gunmen. A fifth woman suffered a beating but managed to escape ....
 Group of women raped near Kabkabiya
Kabkabiya (25 December 2011) - A group of women were raped by an armed group on Saturday near an internally displaced persons camp in Kabkabiya locality, North Darfur. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, one of the victims said that eight gunmen on horses intercepted the six women traveling on donkeys to collect firewood from an area east of Kabkabiya ....
 Rape and beating in South Darfur
Nyala (18 December 2011) - Three women were raped by an armed group on Saturday near the Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp in Mershing locality, South Darfur, a witness told Radio Dabanga. The women left Hashaba camp to search for firewood when the armed men opened heavy gunfire in the air to scare them. They detained the women, beating them and taking turns to rape them ....
 Woman raped near Zam Zam camp
El Fasher (14 December 2011) - A woman was raped by two men dressed in military uniform in North Darfur on Tuesday, a witness told Radio Dabanga. The woman was living in Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) fleeing the conflict in the area. Carrying her four month old baby, she ventured out of the camp 2 km east to collect firewood ....
[UNAMID has proved incapable of protecting even the IDPs of ZamZam, on the outskirts of el-Fasher, where UNAMID headquarters are located.]
 High school student coaxed out of house, raped by gang of men in Kass (13 January 2012) - On Thursday a high school student was raped by four armed men in Kass locality, South Darfur. A relative of the girl told Radio Dabanga that four armed men in civilian clothing knocked on the door of the family house. When her father answered, the men said they had an arrest warrant for the girl. The mother asked to see the warrant but was told it is not her place to question the competence of the police ....
 Two rapes in West Darfur
ZALINGEI (29 November 2011) - A refugee [from] West Darfur’s Hassa Hissa camp was raped and killed by unidentified gunmen on Tuesday, a source from Zalingei told Radio Dabanga. The armed group allegedly raped the woman in front of her husband after the evening prayers, when the victim was returning home from the city with her husband.
[Zalingei is about 50 miles southeast of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
 IDP raped in Qarsla
Qarsla (5 December 2011) - An Armed group on Sunday raped an internally displaced person from Jebelain camp in Qarsla, Western Darfur. A witness told Radio Dabanga that the Gunmen attacked the displaced person while she was working on her farm in Wadi Mara, 3 kilometers south of the camp. He said that the gunmen took turns in raping the displaced person and pointed out that the region has no UNAMID mandate and that no complaint was filed at police as no procedure will be carried out as in previous incidents ....
[Qarsla---more commonly Garsila--- is about 60 miles southeast of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
 Serial rape crimes in West Darfur: Five women fall victim to armed shepherds in one week
MORNEI (17 November 2012) - A series of rape crimes were committed in West Darfur’s Mornei region this week, witnesses told Radio Dabanga on Thursday. Two refugee women were raped in Mornei region’s Kabiri Valley on Tuesday, on in Aro Valley on the same day and two others in Mornei refugee camp on Monday. In all cases, armed shepherds were accused of the rapes ....
[Mornei is about 15 miles from the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
 Armed group rapes student
EL FASHER (11 November 2011) - Witnesses accuse that the crime has an ethnic dimension A group of unidentified armed men reportedly raped a student from the region of Azban in Tawaisha, North Darfur on Wednesday. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the crime was committed on ethnic lines. The group allegedly demanded other women belonging to the same ethnicity to leave the village immediately after they had raped the student.
 Sudan: Three Teenagers Raped in West Darfur
GARSILA (6 November 2011) - An unidentified armed group raped three
teenage refugees in West Darfur’s Garsila camp on Friday, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. "Three gunmen took the women from the village of Amarjadid in Western Garsila. The women were aged 14, 15 and 17," a witness told Radio Dabanga.
[Garsila is about 60 miles to the south of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
 Refugee shot dead in North Darfur
KABKABIYA (9 November 2011) - He was killed by armed men after he attempted to rescue girls from being raped A refugee, Ahmed Saleh, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Al Matar neighborhood of North Darfur’s Kabkabiya locality on Tuesday. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that 52-year-old Adam Saleh was killed after he tried rescuing some girls in his neighborhood from four armed gunmen who were trying to rape them.
 Policemen rape minor in West Darfur
EL GENEINA (21 November 2012) - Two policemen allegedly raped a nine-year old girl from El Geneina in West Darfur on Monday, a relative of the victim told Radio Dabanga. The relative told Radio Dabanga that the girl, who lived in Abu Zr refugee camp, had been asked to fetch water by her mother before sunset.
[el-Geneina is about 25 miles northwest of the NYT dateline Nyuru---ER]
 Woman gang-raped in West Darfur
GARSILA (23 November 2011) - Armed herders wearing military uniforms accused of committing the crime Armed herders gang-raped a 32-year-old displaced woman from West Darfur’s Wadi Dawari locality on Wednesday, a witness told Radio Dabanga. Three herders were allegedly involved in the killing which took place 3 km from the city of West Garsila.
[Garsila is about 60 miles to the south of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
These reports recur with a ghastly frequency, week in and week out, month in and month out---and have for years. Tens of thousands of Darfuri girls and women have been brutally raped as part of a deliberate, genocidal strategy in the counter insurgency war.
Continued aerial attacks on civilians throughout Darfur
It must be noted that the NYT dispatch has not a word about confirmed aerial military attacks on civilians in Darfur, including West Darfur. There were 85 such attacks in 2011 (www.sudanbombing.org), including 19 on West Darfur itself, many in the Jebel Marra region of West Darfur, which begins some 70 miles to the east of Nyuru. These singular war crimes---in aggregate, over many years, clearly crimes against humanity---have been insufficiently appreciated for their cruel destructiveness. The world’s grim fascination with the willingness of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria to shell and even bomb civilians in towns might be more appropriately turned to Darfur, South Sudan, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. Over the past 23 years, the NIF/NCP regime led by Omar al-Bashir has been responsible for more than 1,700 confirmed attacks on civilian or humanitarian targets. Many hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly as a result of these aerial assaults, or wounded, or displaced---often to what is merely postponed death.
The character of aerial attacks on Darfur’s non-Arab or African populations in the early years of the Darfur genocide have been fairly well documented by human rights groups. But absent a human rights reporting presence, and with only an incapable UNAMID force to investigate reports of bombing, many have come to forget just how savage the destruction can be, and what a terrible engine of human displacement these aerial attacks are. Radio Dabanga has yet again provided detailed reportage throughout 2011, including for some of the most horrific incidents of civilian destruction:
• 18 women and 9 children killed in air strike in Jebel Marra, Darfur
JEBEL MARRA (28 April 2011) - 27 people were killed, including 18 women and 9 children, when an Antonov plane dropped several bombs on the areas of Koloberi and Gurlengbang in the southern part of the Jebel Marra region. Six women were also injured in the air attack. A witness told Radi Dabanga that the airstrikes led to the burning of 27 houses and also the death of sheep and cattle. He stated that the bombed areas had been free of any rebel presence.
• Darfur airstrikes: 13 dead, 10 wounded
SOUTH DARFUR (16 May 2011) - Thirteen (13) citizens were killed and 10 people wounded in two consecutive airstrikes in South Darfur. An Antonov plane belonging to the Sudanese Army dropped bombs on the area of Asharaya in Yassin district of Darfur this Sunday morning leading to the death of 12. The second incident happened in the area of [Labado]. Witnesses to the incidents stated that the Antonov plane bombed the car, which led to the immediate death of a child, a young boy, and the wounding of the driver. All three were civilians. The Antonov plane returned and bombed the area leading to the immediate death of 10 people and the wounding of 8 others. A second incident happened in the area of Labado, South Darfur, where also an Antonov plane bombed two carts two kilometers away from the other air-strikes. The incident led to the death of one civilian: Faduli Abakr who was twenty-four years old. Two others were wounded.
[Following these brutal bombing attacks---reported also by Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP and the UN News Centre---Khartoum denied access to both UNAMID and humanitarians trying to reach the sites where people had been killed and wounded.]
• 4 killed and 14 wounded in Antonov airstrike south of El Daein.
EL DAIEN (19 April 2011) – An Antonov airplane belonging to the [Sudan Armed Forces] bombarded the village of Um Ajaba which lies south of El Daein city toward Bahr El Arab [South Darfur]. The bombardment led to the killing of 4 people and wounding of 14 others. An eyewitness from Um Ajaba told Radio Dabanga that the attacks from government planes have been frequent during the past few days on the areas of Um Ajaba and Tika Eltom. He added that the citizens of those areas are living in fear and panic due to the possibility of more airstrikes, saying that the military operations have been targeting civilians only, far from the armed factions which the government claims to be targeting.
The bombing began early in 2011:
• Almost daily Antonov flights in Khor Abeche region
KHOR ABECHE (January 22, 2011) - Refugees in the area of Khor Abeche, South Darfur, said the region has been relatively calm, but expressed fear of renewed fighting cautious due to the almost daily flights of Antonov aircraft in the region’s skies. The displaced persons said they also fear the spread of diseases due to lack of food rations and the deteriorating health environment and crowding of 12,000 people. The refugees further said that the recent events in the area led to the displacement of more than 1,200 pupils from the basic school and the burning of at least 60 houses and property, which resulted in the destruction of all the citizens’ savings and food, in addition to 300 head of cattle.
• Fighting, air strikes in Darfur rebel zone force thousands to flee
ROKERO (January 31, 2011) - Heavy fighting erupted between SAF forces and the movement of Abdel Wahid on Saturday and Sunday in Rokero Locality, northeast of Jebel Marra. Nimr Abdelrahman, military spokesman of the rebel movement, announced to Radio Dabanga that the government forces bombed the area, which led to the displacement of more than 7,000 citizens of that region. He said that the SLA forces won the battle.
The air strikes on areas of northeast of Jebel Marra in Rokero on Saturday led to the abandonment of eight villages. Witnesses said that a number of people were wounded in the air raids on the village. They were taken to the hospital at Kagora. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the air strikes began after a large force of infantry from the Sudanese army battled Abdel Wahid’s forces in those areas. The government aircraft appeared to be bombing at random in the region from 7:00am until 6:00pm on Saturday. The bombardment targeted the villages Awsajank, Bargu, Gamra, Bola, Kuju, Koja, Tago, and Neiri.
• Air strikes west of Shangil Tobaya, Darfur cause thousands to flee
SHANGIL TOBAYA (February 24, 2011) - Two attacking Antonov bombers and invading ground forces yesterday caused thousands to flee to the hills and valleys around North Darfur villages. More than 4 thousand people yesterday fled from the region of Abu Hamra, west of Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur. The ground forces consisted of more than 20 vehicles and local militias, according to one villager who fled from the region. He told Radio Dabanga that two Antonovs dropped a number of bombs on the region before the entry of government forces and local militias from the area Um Dereisaya. The source pointed out that a number of shells fell near a school during school hours.
• Bombing east of Jebel Marra kills 3 women, 2 children
EAST JEBEL (February 18, 2011) - Government warplanes killed 3 women and 2 children in central Darfur yesterday and Wednesday, according to an official in a rebel movement present in the area. A large number of cattle also perished in the air strikes in the area of East Jebel. Mohamed Ahmed Yagub, Secretary of Humanitarian Affairs of the Liberation and Justice Movement, told Radio Dabanga that Antonov planes and helicopter gunships bombarded areas of East Jebel including the villages of Tokumarre, Massalit, Hashaba, Wadi Mora and Dali. The attacks killed three women, two children and a large number of livestock and camels, he said. The bombs also destroyed water sources and caused people in these villages to flee. He added that bombardment is still going on west of Shangil Tobaya and near Shaddad Camp.
• Again aerial bombardments in South Darfur
NYALA (30 March 2011) - More than fifteen citizens were injured after Antonov Aircraft aerial attacks on the village of Shawa Bawadi and Ladeed in South Darfur. The wounded were taken to Nyala hospital for treatment. UNAMID also reported aerial bombardments in Khirwajid in South Darfur stating that thirteen people were wounded, and many houses and properties destroyed.
• 4 days of airstrikes causes at least 1 death and destruction of school
EL FASHER (April 4, 2011) - In areas of North and West Darfur heavy airstrikes were witnessed on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Besides many injuries, one woman was killed, and a school was destroyed. In different airstrikes on Saturday a woman was killed and three others were wounded, including a four-year-old female child when an Antonov aircrafts dropped bombs that hit Sebit Market in Hashaba, North of Kutum. Other eyewitnesses told Radio Dabanga that militias loyal to the government backed by air support attacked areas in the vicinity of Shangil Tobayi on Thursday.
And the bombing continued to the very end of 2011:
South Darfur bombed by Sudanese Air Force
NYALA (27 November 2011) - The Sudanese Air Force bombed areas of Tawiil, Beer Togud and Milli in South Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said on Sunday. A civilian from South Darfur’s Aljorin locality confirmed Friday’s air strikes in Alrehaid Aboutaib and Aljorin localities. The witness told Radio Dabanga that the aerial bombing took place at four in the afternoon. "About 34 bombs were dropped in the area. It injured a 10-year-old resident Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed. The bombings also killed nearly 30 cattle."
• Bombing in North Darfur
Muddu (21 December 2011) - On Tuesday night the Sudanese air force dropped nine bombs in Muddu, North Darfur, a local witness told Radio Dabanga. Witnesses said that many people had fled as the shelling had succeeded to create panic in the hearts of citizens in the region.
• Air strikes kill 3 from same family in Darfur
El Fasher (26 December 2011) - 3 people were killed and 5 were injured from the same family, during air strikes in the village of Khamsat, Al Lait Jar Al Nabi locality, North Darfur, a witness told Radio Dabanga. The bombing took place when the family was having dinner, killing the father Hasabon Al Zain Hamid along with one of his sons and one daughter. The injured were transferred to Al Lait Jar Al Nabi hospital.
• Air strikes and clashes continue in Darfur
El Fasher (27 December 2011) - Bombing was witnessed in North and South Darfur, there were clashes between the SLM-AW and government forces in West Darfur and unknown militias mounting attacks in South Darfur. Bombing has caused the displacement of large areas near Adila, South Darfur, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. Witnesses said Jad al Sid and S’alba were targeted heavily by the Sudanese air force on Monday and Tuesday, along with Abu Karinka and Jawgan causing many people to flee.
• 5 killed in air strikes in South Darfur
Bahr al Arab (29 December 2012) - The Sudanese air force reportedly bombed several villages in Bahr al Arab locality in South Darfur on Wednesday. Speaking to Radio Dabanga witnesses claimed five people were killed and a further 15 injured in the villages of Jawgan, Abu Matarig, Um Irig and El Fayed during the heavy shelling. Citizens strongly expressed their condemnation and anger at the indifference shown by the government during the attacks of civilian lives and property, said the source.
We may gather a sense of how relentless the bombing has been from other sources as well, including the previous work of the now eviscerated UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, no longer able (or even willing as presently configured) to discharge its mandate to monitor offensive military flights over Darfur, explicitly prohibited by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005):
"The ability of the Panel to gather and verify such information has been severely curtailed by its lack of access to the Sudan, including to Darfur. Since the renewal of it mandate on 14 October 2010, the Panel has received reports of possible offensive military overflights from UNAMID, media organisations and other sources. These reports have included:
• Reports of aerial offensives, including bombings, around Khor Abeche in South Darfur; around Tabit in North Darfur; near the Kiir Adem bridge in the vicinity of the South Darfur-Southern Sudan border; around Um Dul village in North Darfur; around Abu Zerega in North Darfur; in the area of Wad Mura in North Darfur; around Aramba village near Sartoni in North Darfur; around Kushini North, Um Arda and Korofola villages in North Darfur; around Burgo, Rowata and Owsajin villages north of Sartoni, North Darfur; around Shangil Tobaya and Tukumara in North Darfur; around Samr and Berti villages, North Darfur; between Rufta and Bargo in Jebel Marra; around Khirwajid village, South Darfur;
• Reports of shootings by helicopters around Magarin and Nortik villages in North Darfur;
• Reports of the use of helicopters and other aircraft otherwise in support of military ground operations in the vicinity of Tabit in North Darfur; around Khor Abeche in South Darfur; and around Golo and Rokero, West Darfur.
The Janjaweed live on in other forms
Finally, the Janjaweed are not gone, as the NYT suggests, although they may well be absent from the area of Nyuru, and this may indeed be what triggered what is certainly a significant number of returns. But the Janjaweed have in all too many cases not disappeared, particularly if we consider the actions of the Central Reserve Police, or Abu Tira, into which so many former Janjaweed militiamen have been recycled. Members of the paramilitary Abu Tira (highlighted in bold in the following dispatches) are continuously reported by Radio Dabanga as responsible for innumerable acts of violence as well as atrocity crimes, crimes which are rampant in a great many places in Darfur. The pervasive insecurity consequent upon the predations of the Abu Tira and other armed elements controlled or countenanced by Khartoum’s security forces is now the primary reason that returns are not occurring in larger numbers.
There is also almost continuous fighting between militia forces, sedentary agriculturalists, nomadic pastoralists (from whom the militia forces were largely drawn), and other armed elements. A very partial compendium of Radio Dabanga dispatches focusing on the most recent of violent attacks on civilians, but including representative examples from throughout 2011, would include:
• Abu Tira attacks newly displaced families at Zam Zam camp
(Zam Zam camp, 28 February 2012) - Abu Tira forces attacked families newly displaced from Abu Delik, a village that witnessed violent events last week. Dozens of families fled Abu Delik to Zam Zam internally displaced camp in North Darfur; Witnesses said Abu Tira surrounded the area of the new arrivals and arrested two men, named as El Tahir Bashir and Soraya Omar Ahmed. They proceeded to beat and attack camp residents, causing 40 families from Abu Delik to flee to the joint UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) headquarters to seek shelter. Witnesses also said security forces have positioned themselves outside the UNAMID headquarters, and will arrest anyone that tries to leave the camp via UNAMID HQ.
• Random shootings plague West Darfur
El Geneina (21 February 2012) - A group of gunmen killed a man on Sunday near El Geneina. A witness told Radio Dabanga armed men opened fire on a internally displaced man named Osman Adam, from Riyadh IDP camp, as he was riding a motorcycle on his way from El Geneina to the camp. He died instantly. In another incident the witness said a group of gunmen shot at a group of displaced people killing a 55 year old woman and wounding others.
[El-Geneina is about 30 miles west of NYT dateline Nyuru.]
• Militia group threatens displaced person camp in Mershing
Mershing (30 January 2012) -A group of armed men dressed in military
uniform threatened residents at the internally displaced persons camp of Tom Kittr, in Mershing, South Darfur on Sunday.
• Herders and farmers clash in Kass, South Darfur
Kass (15 February 2012) - On Tuesday [February 14] the city of Kass in South Darfur witnessed clashes between farmers and herders. There were conflicting reports about injuries and fatalities. One witness told Radio Dabanga the fighting killed two herders and injured an unknown number. He said the clashes erupted when a group of cattle herders entered farms trampling on crops and vegetables, damaging the land.
• Abu Tira threatening IDPs in Zam Zam camp
Zam Zam camp (31 January 2012) - A man was threatened and looted on Sunday [January 29] by soldiers belonging to Abu Tira (central reserve forces) in Zam Zam internally displaced persons camp, North Darfur. A displaced resident told Radio Dabanga, Abu Tira forces threatened a man named Omar Isaac and stole his mobile phone and 400 Sudanese Pounds (SDG). Camp residents told security at the camp about the incident. They were ordered to go into El Fasher to report the incident to the police. The source said Abu Tira forces continue to walk inside and around the camp causing a great deal of instability.
[Again, UNAMID has proved incapable of protecting even the IDPs of ZamZam, on the outskirts of el-Fasher, where UNAMID headquarters are located.]
• Abu Tira forces attack man in South Darfur
Kabon camp (31 January 2012) - 3 soldiers of the Abu Tira forces attacked a man on Sunday at Kabon internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in South Darfur. The victim named as Adam Daw el-Beit Idris, was taken to hospital in an unconscious state. An IDP told Radio Dabanga the Abu Tira soldiers asked the man to go with them into the center of the camp. The man entered a dispute with the soldiers and was beaten badly. He remains in a serious state in hospital. Camp residents also reported Abu Tira attacking their donkeys. They said Abu Tira forces attack their animals when IDPs try to challenge them out of the camps. Displaced residents have protested to local authorities, but they are yet to respond.
• Father and son shot dead in North Darfur
KUTUM, North Darfur (1 February 2012) - A father and son named Adam
Muhammed Abdullah and Haroun Muhammed were shot dead on Tuesday at their home in Damrat Al Guba, Kutum locality in North Darfur on Tuesday. A witness told Radio Dabanga that two gunmen dressed in military uniforms entered a shop belonging to the father with a third wearing civilian clothing. They asked the owner for cigarettes and halva, and then demanded the son hand over all the money kept in the shop. The son refused and was shot in the stomach. He died two hours later.
• Looting in North Darfur Malha
MALHA (16 January 2012) - An armed group of men has beaten and looted a group of civilians in the village of Donkey Ushur, in Malha locality, North Darfur. A source said a group were traveling in a vehicle to Donkey Ushur at nine in the morning when they were attacked by 15 gunmen.
• Armed group loots 75 sheep from Fatah Borno IDP camp
Fatah Borno camp (6 February 2012) - An armed group has looted seventy-five sheep from Fatah Borno internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in North Darfur. A female IDP said ’gunmen fired heavily into the air, causing those looking after the sheep to flee.’ The gunmen then stole the animals.
• Four Abu Tira groups terrorize citizens in North Darfur
Al Lait Jar Al Nabi (3 February 2012) - 8 citizens were injured including a police- man in an attack by four groups belonging to the Abu Tira forces (central reserve forces) in Al Lait Jar Al Nabi locality, in North Darfur on Thursday. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga the first attack was at a party where Abu Tira forces fired on revelers, stealing their mobile phones and money. Omar Musa Abu was shot in the head and Badr Eddin Ahmed Abdullah a policeman was also injured.
• Fatah Borno camp demands militia groups stop attacking IDPs
Fatah Borno camp (25 January 2012) - Internally displaced persons living in Fatah Borno camp, North Darfur said yesterday the camp’s security situation is getting worse. Camp residents are constantly being attacked by militant groups looting and abusing them when they venture out of the camp to collect water or firewood. Residents said they feel trapped.
• Man beaten at IDP camp in North Darfur
El Fasher (16 January 2012) - A man named as Hassan Abdel Salam Mohammed was attacked on Sunday morning by an armed group affiliated with the government near Fata Barno internally displaced persons camp in North Darfur. A source told Radio Dabanga that Mohammed was subjected to a severe beating with whips after venturing out of the camp to collect firewood.
• Three killed in North Darfur
Kabkabiya (1 January 2012) - Three people were killed and two injured when an armed group attacked Goz Zalta village, Serif Beni Husein locality, in North Darfur on Saturday. A source told Radio Dabanga at 8am on Saturday morning, 15 gunmen traveling on horses approached the village from north and west.
• Looting in Gereida, South Darfur
Nyala (1 January 2012) - On Friday, an armed group looted three vehicles in Gereida locality, South Darfur, seriously injuring eight people. The witness said that one of the injured was taken to Nyala hospital.
• Kandobi camp looted in West Darfur
Kandomi (2 January 2012) -The displaced persons Kandobi camp in West Darfur was looted yesterday evening by a group of, a witness told Radio Dabanga.
[Kandomi/Kondobi camp is approximately 35 miles from the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
• Man stabbed by Abu Tira forces in North Darfur
El Fasher (30 December 2011) - A man was killed today in Zam Zam camp, near El Fasher in North Darfur by Abu Tira forces (Central Reserve Force personnel) for refusing to hand over his belongings, a witness stated.
•Man killed, two injured near El Fasher
El Fasher (18 December 2011) - One man was killed and two injured this week when gunmen traveling in Land Cruisers attacked camel traders in Donki Shuta near El Fasher.
• Shepherd militants attack crops
MORNEI (18 November 2011) - Shepherd militants [i.e., armed nomadic
pastoralists, from which Khartoum has drawn its militias] in West Darfur’s Mornei region destroyed large areas of farms in the locality by letting their livestock graze, sources told Radio Dabanga on Friday [including a sheikh (leader) of the Mornei camp].
[Mornei is 15 miles south of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
• Army attacks youth in West Darfur
MORNEI (20 November 2011) - Three youngsters injured and four arrested in a racist attack Three youngsters were seriously injured and four others arrested in West Darfur’s Mornei refugee camp, after the Sudanese army raided a youth club on Saturday. A witness told Radio Dabanga that an army vehicle opened fire on the youth camp which left two youngsters – Abdul Malik Ahmad Ali, Yasser Awad seriously injured.
[Mornei is 15 miles south of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
• 1 killed, 6 critically injured in camp looting by Abu Tira
ZamZam camp (1 December 2011) - Camp population in shock as Central Reserve Forces beat and shoot at displaced people Aseyid Abdullah Abdalbannat was shot dead in ZamZam camp by a group of people belonging to the Central Reserve Forces, also known as Abu Tira, according to local witnesses.
• Abu Tira forces continue abuse
EL FASHER (1 December 2011) - Refugees in Zamzam camp allege that extortion and looting have become an everyday occurrence Abu Tira, or central reserve, forces continued violations against refugees from North Darfur’s Zamzam camp on Thursday, sources residing in the camp told Radio Dabanga. Thursday’s events come after Abu Tira forces were accused of killing one refugee and injuring six others in Zamzam camp on Tuesday.
•Abu Tira injures ZamZam displaced
ZamZam camp (9 December 2012) - The displaced Hater Mansour Tabor was purposely targeted during an attack by the Central Reserve Forces, also known as Abu Tira. According to witnesses from the ZamZam Camp for displaced people where the incident happened, a member of the Abu Tira forces started attacking the house of a displaced and threatening his family.
• Hundreds of livestock looted in North Darfur
El Fasher (14 December) - On Monday, pro-government militias traveling in Land Cruisers were reported as having looted the villages of Muhammad Ali, Durma, Jaraf and Jamah, close to El Fasher, a witness told Radio Dabanga.
• More violence in Zalingei IDP camp
Zalingei (16 December 2011) - On Wednesday two IDPs were killed in Hamidiya camp in Zalingei. Local militias set on fire some of the shelters, the source told Radio Dabanga. Two elderly men named Mohammed (82) and Adam Idris (73) tried to put the fires out to rescue the shelters. They were shot on the spot by the militias.
[Zalingei is 50 miles from the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
• Abu Tira personnel abuse refugees
EL FAHSER (25 November 2011) - Abu Tira forces assaulted and looted refugees from North Darfur’s Zamzam camp on Monday, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. A group of Abu Tira members allegedly assaulted Mohamed Adam Tahir Sharaf al-Din and Elmurdi Bakheet Dakam — refugees who live in Zamzam camp. A witness told Radio Dabanga that about 18 Abu Tira personnel driving a car at nine on Wednesday evening
• Farmers complain of herders’ invasion
EL FASHER (11 November 2011) - Farmers across all Darfur states complained to Radio Dabanga on Friday about their farms being invaded by herders. Radio Dabanga spoke to farmers from Kutum and Kabkabiya in North Darfur; Garsila, Fora Baranga and Mornei in West Darfur as well as Marshinj, El Malam and Shareiya in South Darfur.
[Mornei is 15 miles south of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
• Omda shot dead in West Darfur
BAIDA (25 November 2011) - Unidentified men unload six bullets causing immediate death Two gunmen killed omda Ibrahim Yagoub Sumi in West Darfur’s Baida county on Wednesday. A witness from the region said that the omda was on his way from Baida to the village of Awair Radu which lies about 5 km from Baida on his motorcycle when two armed men kidnapped him. The incident occurred on the road east of Hai Elmashtal near Baida police station. The assailants forced him off his bike and emptied their guns on him which led to his immediate death.
[Baida is about miles southwest of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
• Abu Tira forces loot refugees
EL FASHER (4 November 2011) - Witnesses say all the purchases they made in preparation of Eid al-Adha were taken away. A group of central reserve police, better known as Abu Tira, personnel looted refugees near North Darfur’s Zamzam camp on Thursday, sources told Radio Dabanga.
Armed militias seize farms near Garsila, West Darfur
Garsila (19 July 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 ...
[Garsila is about 60 miles south of the NYT dateline of Nyuru---ER]
Representative attacks from earlier in 2011:
• Village burned near Shangil Tobaya
SHANGIL TOBAYA (25 May 2011) - A village two kilometers east of Shangil Tobaya in eastern Darfur was attacked and burned Sunday evening. Armed men on 16 camels attacked the village Um Dubai. They burnt the village and wounded the resident Mohammed Siddig. They robbed the people of the village of their cattle and possessions. More than 1,500 people have fled Abu Delik to Zam Zam camp following events last week. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga around 230 households, comprising of 1,500 mostly women, children and elderly citizens, as well as a large number of injured people arrived to the camp on Monday and Tues. They said Abu Tira forces prevented the displaced citizens from entering the camp until Monday evening. The families are now living out in the open with no shelter, or access to water, food or medicine. A witness appealed to government authorities and humanitarian organisations to provide urgently needed food and water, and for UNAMID to protect those villagers that have not yet arrived to the camp from Abu Tira and security forces.
• Militiamen kill 16 Zaghawa in North Darfur after recovering looted livestock KHARTOUM (June 11, 2011) - Militiamen loyal to the Sudanese government in Darfur last week executed 16 people belonging to the Zaghawa ethnic group when they attempted to recover their stolen livestock, a rights group has said. Militiamen led by Ibrahim Abu Dur, one of the pro-government militia leaders, on1 June looted some 700 head of livestock from Zaghawa villages of Laminah, Terling, Hella Sheikh Khatir, and Abu Zeriga, near Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur. A group of villagers who managed to trap the looters was arrested by the Sudanese army and militiamen after recovering two hundred of the stolen livestock and were on their way back to Laminah and Terling villages.
• Abu Tira militia involved in ’massacre’ in Darfur’s far south
BURAM (26 June 2011) - A story of a fresh massacre has come out from a remote area in the far south of Darfur. Members of the government’s Central Reserve Force [i.e., the Abu Tira] involved in a spate of tribal fighting in the area are accused by a tribal leader of attacking a group of Habbaniya tribesman, killing 23. The Habbaniya are an Arabic-speaking tribe of pastoralists living in the region between Darfur and Bahr El Ghazal.
Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College and has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade.