Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 8 August 2004

The usual suspects


Editorial, The Times-Picayune

August 07, 2004 — That was some trick the Sudanese government just pulled, lining up a group of ne’er-do-wells and petty criminals and blaming them for the genocide that has killed tens of thousands of black Africans and displaced a million villagers. Fortunately, the international community is intelligent enough not to be fooled by such an obvious charade.

Even though the government insisted that the 50 men they lined up at the Nyala jail were members of the militia known as the Janjaweed, the prisoners’ court papers said otherwise. Some of them had been imprisoned for as many as four years, which means they could not have participated in the wholesale slaughter and rapes that have taken place in western Sudan in the past 18 months.

At least one among the 50 had been jailed for violating the Islamic law that forbids drinking wine. No matter how serious a violation his drink was in Islamic law, the international community is not going to accept him as a legitimate stand-in for the criminals who have committed such atrocious crimes against humanity.

The United Nations Security Council has given the Sudanese government an Aug. 30 deadline to shut down the militias. All the evidence suggests that doing so will be a formidable task, because the ones responsible for the despicable acts occurring in Sudan are so well blended into society. They’re only visibly evil by night. By day they take the form of bureaucrats, camel herders, police officers and Sudanese soldiers.

A Sudanese columnist told The New York Times that a group of soldiers dispatched to capture members of the militia will undoubtedly include members of the militia. That’s a problem that the Sudanese government created by giving army uniforms and police commissions to such despicable people.

But they must be disarmed, and the international community should insist upon nothing less.

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