afrol News, 21 January - The conflict in Western Sudan's Darfur region is developing from ethnic cleansing into genocide, exiled Sudanese rights activists claim. The Khartoum government allegedly supports Arab militias in their massacre of Fur and other indigenous people termed "slaves". Khartoum however claims its neutrality and says it is fighting "banditry" in Darfur.
According to a statement by Ahmed M. Abdalla, on behalf of the Darfur Association in Toronto (Canada), the long running human rights disaster in Darfur "is precipitously worsening." Pointing to new massacres in the region, Mr Ahmed says, what is going on in Darfur "is ethnic cleansing" of the same sort of that occurred in Rwanda, "which obscured genocide and justified international passivity until far too late."
The exiled rights activist refers to a new set of attacks on non-Arab civilian in Darfur. Through their local contacts, the association had received information about a 31 December attack by "a number of Arab tribes" on the village of Sinkita, 70 kilometres west of Nyala. "In this Sinkita massacre, thirty are dead and more than forty are injured," Mr Abdalla says, adding that "around 800 huts were burned to ashes and people are made homeless."
This was only the latest registered attack. Between 1 October and 24 December 2002, "Arab militants" allegedly had "attacked main Fur towns and villages." In these three months, attacks on nine villages had been reported, leaving 109 persons of the Fur people dead. Several were mutilated, 44 others wounded and thousands fled to the big cities of the region, according to information gathered by the Darfur Association in Toronto.
Mr Abdalla's concerns are sustained by previous reports from Sudanese human rights activists. "Since mid 1980s the Sudanese state has resorted to the genocide of indigenous peoples of the so-called Northern Sudan as the only means of creating a society whose members are all Arabs," according to the Massaleit Community in Exile.
- Like the Nuba and the Dinka-Abyaye in Kordofan and the Bija in the Red Sea Province, the Fur, the Massaleet and the Zagawa in Darfur (Western Sudan) are the targets of the Sudanese state's plans of genocide, the Massaleit Community alleges. Between May 1990 and May 2002, over 5,000 Fur had been killed and 80,800 families were made homeless, 18,500 houses and 514 shops were looted and burned, 200,000 head of livestock and hundreds of millions Sudanese pounds had been stolen, the group claims.
The Khartoum government, which is dominated by Sudan's Arab minority, denies all reports about ethnic cleansing in non-Arab communities. In Darfur, the government was doing its best to confront "ethnic clashes" and "banditry raids," Muhammad Ahmad Dirdiery, Sudan's charge d'affaires in Kenya told a UN agency.
- Tribal fighting is not new in that part of the country," Mr Dirdiery said. "It is a nomadic region. Pastoralists are prone to conflict, because they share pasture and water resources," which were getting increasingly scarce. Further, the "frequent complaints of banditry raids in the Darfur region" was "mainly attributable to the influx of weapons from the Central African Republic and Chad," Mr Dirdiery explained.
According to an earlier analysis of the Darfur conflict by Mohamed Suliman of the London-based Institute for African Alternatives (IFAA), scarce natural resources indeed had been a major factor behind its outbreak. "The relatively tranquil setting of northern Darfur was profoundly disrupted during the 1980s by the prolonged drought which has persisted with only minor interruptions since 1967 and the ensuing famine and the unprecedented mass population movement, impoverishment and destitution of the inhabitants of the affected arid and semi-arid zones," the scholar writes.
Prior to the drought, there had been low awareness of ethnicity in the Darfur region, which had existed as proud Kingdom/Sultanate for over 2000 years until 1916, when the British expelled the Sultan and Darfur was incorporated into Sudan. The drought had complicated relationships between herders and peasants in the region and slowly gave rise to ethnic confrontations, which developed into armed conflict between Arabs and Furs in the 1980s. By the 1990s, "ethnic brotherhood became paramount," Mr Suliman concludes.
Exiled Fur activists however claim that since then, the Khartoum government has taken active part in the Darfur conflict, supporting the alleged ethnic cleansing. According to the London-based Darfur Monitoring Group, the Arab militias committing massacres in Darfur are state-sponsored. Khartoum was "supplying them with arms and ammunition as well providing them with protection after they commit their atrocities."
The Massaleit Community adds that the Sudanese state is planning "to systematically destroy cultures and languages" of Sudan's non-Arab peoples. A state sponsored project, the Mashru' Altawajuh Alhadari project of civilising orientation, had the "ultimate goal of cleansing that country from all its indigenous peoples regardless of their colour, religion, ethnicity, etc., and creating a pure Arab society," the group claims. Several militias had been created to achieve this "goal".
The conflict in the Darfur region has received very little international attention, compared to the conflict between the Islamist Khartoum regime and Southern Sudan, which is dominated by Christians and followers of African religions. Unlike the Southern Sudanese, Darfur, Kordofan and several other Sudanese regions are inhabited by indigenous African peoples that converted to Islam centuries ago. A racist attitude towards these peoples from many of the politically dominant Sudanese Arabs has been documented on many occasions and the terms 'abd (male slave) and khadim (female slave) are frequently used to describe non-Arabs.
Mr Abdalla of the Toronto Darfur Association complains that the "UN and other human rights organisations shamefully" was silent "on what is going on in Darfur." The international community needed to "take immediate action now, before it is too late to protect the Fur and other indigenous people of Darfur from the atrocities of the Sudanese government and its Arab militants," the Sudanese rights activist urged.