It is worth noting the geographic range of these incidents from the past few weeks: they occur widely over all three Darfur states and often in the very middle of supposedly secured areas that are nominally “protected” by UNAMID patrols. Virtually every dispatch is from a different area: Kutum, Kebkabiya, el-Geneina, el-Fasher, Nyala, Mornei, Tabet, Nertiti, Gereida, Sag al Nagam, Donki Hosh. Major camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), such as Mornei, and major towns, such as Kebkabiya, are not spared from violence; and if civilians are not secure here, where are they safe? Further, in an extraordinary report even by Darfur’s standards, it appears that UNAMID forces opened fire on civilians in Kebkabiya, killing five and wounding thirteen over two days. UNAMID has shown a perverse timidity when confronting militia and regular army forces attacking civilians, but in Kebkabiya apparently had no trouble shooting at civilians (see below).
In yet another terribly revealing finding, Radio Dabanga reports in a dispatch below that:
“Systematic rape of women and girls is regularly reported to Radio Dabanga from Darfuri camps. Some witnesses say that almost every woman living in the camps has been raped or involved in gender-based violence. They say the situation has now become so bad that many women are resigned to rape as a way of life. Men are unwilling to accompany them on daily errands out of fear that they will be killed if they try to defend them.”
The scale of UNAMID’s failure in providing security to the civilians of Darfur is rarely remarked, even as those who have seen the force in action privately offer only the most scathing assessments. None of this figures in the recent dispatch from theNew York Times’ Gettleman, who settles for the dismayingly casual and inaccurate assessment by a UN official: “there are pockets of insecurity in Darfur.” Gettleman also refuses to credit Radio Dabanga, though I must say that my own communications with the organization, as well as those who work with it in The Netherlands, have consistently revealed a professional and highly dedicated journalistic enterprise, guided by impressive integrity.
Here, from among these “pockets of insecurity” in Darfur, are dispatches from Radio Dabanga—again, over just the past few weeks (and not including several grim reports from rebel groups on the ground):
•7,000 flee after government forces raze villages in North Darfur
Khartoum (2 April 2012) - More than 7,000 people have fled their homes in North Darfur after government forces and militants reportedly burned down their villages last week. ’7,000 have left the villages of Adam Khatir, Nagojora, Hamid Dilli, Amar Jadid, Koyo and Duga Ferro near Donki Hosh and fled to the surrounding areas where there is no food, water or shelter,’ said a newly displaced witness to Radio Dabanga from a safe area. ’They attacked us for three days, from Tuesday until Thursday evening. They burned down five villages, looted more than 20 and destroyed water wells and pumps,’ added the witness. She appealed to the UN and humanitarian organisations to protect them and provide them with desperately needed assistance.
•Five Mornei residents taken to hospital after militia attack
Mornei (3 April 2012) - 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.
•Militia burn down village, residents flee
Sag Al Nagam (29 March 2012) - Abu Bakr Jazin Hamid was shot dead on Wednesday when militants stormed Sharif village near Sag Al Nagam in North Darfur. Pro-government militia riding in three cars attacked razing the village to the ground. Hamid was killed as residents fled in all directions, said a relative of Hamid.Despite the repeated murders, rapes, looting, torture and random arrests witnessed by local and state authorities, none of them have done anything about stopping those responsible, added the source.
•Protests erupt for a second day, UNAMID accused of firing at crowd
Kabkabiya (28 Mar 2012) - Protests continued for a second day on Wednesday in Kabakabiya camp for displaced people in North Darfur, following the death of five people at Tuesday’s protests reportedly shot dead by police. Yesterday’s protest erupted as camp residents learned of plans by the Commissioner of North Darfur to potentially break up the camp that they have lived in for more than nine years.
Today’s event was attended by more that 3,000 displaced people and villagers in front of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) compound. Protestors chanted slogans demanding the policemen that killed Tuesday’s demonstrators be taken to justice, said a witness to Radio Dabanga.
Dispersed by force
Witnesses said UNAMID surrounded its HQ with tanks and armoured vehicles reportedly to protect the compound during the peaceful protest. Demonstrators wrote a note intended for UNAMID to demand the policemen be punished for Tuesday’s events. The committee tried to enter the compound to meet UNAMID officials and hand over the note, but soldiers at the gate would not let them in, said a witness to Radio Dabanga. Protestors then tried to storm the compound at the main gate and started to climb the protective fences. UNAMID soldiers fired shots at those trying to get in, added the witness. The head of the Darfur Regional Authority Tijani Sissi and UNAMID chief Ibrahmi Gambari were reportedly in the building at the time. Witnesses said 13 people were wounded with seven said to be in a serious condition. Khalil Adam Abduallah, Muhammed Adam hamid and Adam Abdullah were reportedly shot in the back and stomach. Witnesses said peacekeepers also used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
•UNAMID confirms bombing in North Darfur village
Sortony (3 April 2012) - The UN/African Union Mission in Darfur has confirmed that bombing took place in Sortony village in North Darfur at the beginning of this month.In a statement UNAMID said “peacekeepers based in Sortony, visited Samara village yesterday, 5 km east of the Mission’s camp, and confirmed that bombings were carried out about 250 meters from the village on 1 April 2012.” The mission said “the team also observed two craters with metallic fragments.
•3,000 displaced in North Darfur
Khartoum (27 March 2012) – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN said on Monday that about 3,000 people from the areas of Dar Es Salam and Zam Zam camps in North Darfur have been displaced to Kalimdo and other areas with El Fasher. The FAO said that the displaced people are in need aid, food and medicines. The committee, headed by Abdullah Torshin, decided to solve the problem of camp Manjura, by paying a donation $100 million Sudanese pounds to the children of single parents in the region four months before Eid ul-Fitr. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN said on Monday that about 3,000 people from the areas of Dar Es Salam and Zam Zam camps in North Darfur have been displaced to Kalimdo and other areas with El Fasher.
•Girls raped by pro-government militia in Darfur camps
Tabet (13 March 2012) - Three girls between the ages of 14 and 17 were raped on Monday by armed men in Tabet area of North Darfur. The girls ventured out of the camp to collect firewood when they were attacked and raped by the men. They were found in a bad state, said a relative of one of the girls to Radio Dabanga.Relatives reported the case to the government’s central reserve forces who refused to track down the attackers who witnesses say fled to the Shangil Tobaya area. The witness said the girl’s state is deteriorating as there is no hospital in the area they can visit for treatment. Two girls from Amer Nakol camp were also raped by armed men in West Darfur on Monday. Gunmen traveling on horses attacked the girls as they were traveling back from Saraf camp to Amer Nakol repeatedly raping them, said a witness. The case was not reported to police as they reportedly fail to respond to incidents.
•30 rape cases at Milih camp since January
Milih camp, eastern Chad (12 March 2012) - Activists at Milih refugee camp in eastern Chad have reported around 30 cases of rape since the start of this year.Witness described the security situation at the camp as threatening and said many women are at risk of rape when they leave the camp to collect firewood or water.Women attacked at the camp also lack medical care as the closest hospitals are a distance away, said sources to Radio Dabanga. Refugees at Milih camp appealed to the US and international community to open its doors to Darfuri immigrants as they do not think Darfur will stabilise any time soon. They said returning to Darfur is becoming impossible as the militias are still in their villages, the secuirty situation has not improved and the regime that displaced them is still in power and now terrorising civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state.
•Gunmen threaten IDPs for not paying ‘ransom’
El Geneina (22 March 2012) - On Thursday residents of camps north of El Geneina fled to the surrounding areas after gunmen threatened to kill them for not paying 180 million SDG in ‘blood money’. Hundreds of militants threatened to invade the camps if displaced residents did not pay the ransom, owed for allegedly killing one of their group that went missing four months ago. Witnesses said gunmen entered camps at Manjura, Labona, Toma Sat, Goz Bugr, Jekka and Biringi threatening to kill residents and burn down the camps if the money was not paid. Residents reportedly fled in all directions.
•Gunmen kill two men near Doma camp
Doma camp (5 April 2012) - A armed group loyal to the government killed two displaced people in Doma camp in South Darfur on Wednesday. A witness told Radio Dabanga that a group of seven displaced people were traveling back from their farm lands in Attash to Doma when four gunmen opened fire killing Kosa Ahmed and Abu Baker Ali. She said the police and local people managed to chase the gunmen but they threatened to shoot and escaped.
•Militia kill three at wedding party
Gorneya (3 April 2012) - Three people were killed on Monday in Gorneya village near Nertiti in Central Darfur when militants opened fire at a wedding party.Witnesses said three pro-government militants attended a wedding party in the village when a disagreement broke out and one of them shot randomly into the crowd. Ahmed Yusef Muhammed, 24, Mutassim Bakhit, 17 and Adam Atim Rahmah were killed. Yusef Muhammed Adam, 15 is said to be in a serious condition in hospital.
•Woman raped by pro-government militia
Gereida (28 March 2012) - A woman was raped by a group of pro-government militia on Tuesday near the Gereida camp for displaced people. The woman was on her way to collect firewood together with two others when the armed men attacked the group. They grabbed the woman and raped her but her companions managed to escape, said a witness to Radio Dabanga. The incident was reported to police who said they did not have enough fuel to hunt down the militants, according to the witness. She urged local authorities and the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur to work harder to protect vulnerable displaced people from further attacks by armed groups.
Systematic rape of women and girls is regularly reported to Radio Dabanga from Darfuri camps. Some witnesses say that almost every woman living in the camps has been raped or involved in gender-based violence. They say the situation has now become so bad that many women are resigned to rape as a way of life. Men are unwilling to accompany them on daily errands out of fear that they will be killed if they try to defend them.
•Militants kill man, loot livestock
Kutum (23 March 2012) - Militants shot a man dead in Kutum locality on Wednesday. ’They were traveling on horses and entered the area, they fired heavily into the air killing El Tayb Adam Musa instantly,’ said a witness. The gunmen also reportedly looted 52 camels from the area. The witnesses appealed to local authorities and state government to end abuses by armed militia and try those involved in court.
•Two women killed in armed robbery
Huzan Jadid (21 Mar 2012) - Gunmen attacked a car in South Darfur killing two women and wounding three others on Tuesday. The men shot at the car intending to rob the passengers, hitting two women killing them instantly, the other three were taken to hospital in Nyala, said a relative of one of the victims. The car was traveling between Huzan Jadid and Shaeria in East Darfur.
•Militias attack herders in Abu Delik
Abu Delik (19 Mar 2012) - Two people were killed and 11 injured when local militias attacked herders in Abu Delik near El Fasher. The gunmen were traveling in two cars sweeping the area for herders, they found a group beating and forcing them to hand over their possessions, said a witness to Radio Dabanga. One of the cars the gunmen were traveling in overturned during the chase, reportedly killing two of them. The wounded herders were taken to El Fasher hospital for treatment.
•Armed herders threaten residents over ‘ransom’
Kutum (6 April 2012) - A group of armed camel herders threatened residents in Nadi village east of Kutum in North Darfur if they did not pay a ransom of 30 million Sudanese pounds for killing three of their camels. A resident from Nadi told Radio Dabanga that a group of herders told the chief of the village that if he did not pay 30 million SDG they would kill residents and burn down the village. The herders said the three dead camels were found on farming land that belonged to the villagers.The resident appealed to local authorities and the Darfur Regional Authority to intervene and protect residents from threats and attacks by armed groups that continue to enjoy impunity.
•Heavy shelling forces villagers out of homes in North Darfur
North Darfur (15 March 2012) - Heavy shelling took place across five villages in North Darfur forcing residents to flee from their homes. Witnesses said an Antonov plane bombed the villages of Dika, Bain, Keda, Jok and Senagarai over the past three days and is still circling the area. They said planes dropped more than 40 bombs as ground troops in six tanks and 150 vehicles moved in to the villages beating male residents, looting and burning houses.The soldiers also reportedly raped more than 30 women and girls and arrested ten of the men. Eight were released, Hassan Jarrah and Ismail Muhammed remain in detention. Witnesses said villagers fled to Wadi Maghrib in the desert area where they are now surrounded by government forces. They appeal to humanitarian organisations to save the villagers who are mainly women and children and provide emergency relief.
•Displaced camp terrorised by militia attacks
Gereida (15 March 2012) - Residents of displaced camps in Gereida complained of sustained violations by militias deployed outside the camps. The militias are raping women as they leave the camp to gather firewood and assaulting men to loot them of anything they may be carrying, said a witness to Radio Dabanga. The witness appealed to the UN/AU Mission in Darfur to protect the displaced from insurgents waiting for them outisde the camps.
APPENDIX 2: Dispatches from Radio Dabanga speaking to the credibility of the February 26, 2012 New York Times dispatch from Nyuru, West Darfur (see also my early (March 2, 2012) assessment of this irresponsible reporting, as well as a more recent examination of the conflicting accounts of the NYT and Radio Dabanga):
•Authorities hire new settlers to destroy evidence of mass graves
Wadi Salih (5 April 2012) - Sudanese authorities in the Wadi Salih area of West Darfur are reportedly hiring new settlers to destroy the evidence of mass graves in the area. Eyewitnesses said that government authorities have hired groups of new settlers to clear the evidence of mass graves particularly in Mukjar, Bindisi, Arwala, Deleig and Sundu. The groups were reportedly told to burn all traces of bodies and bones to destroy all evidence of extra-judicial killing by the government or its militias. Witnesses said Daif al Summah, Al Sadig Salona and Korin Kwei were hired by Ali Kushayb to oversee this operation. They noted that this process began following the international criminal court issuing an arrest warrant for the Sudanese defence minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, wanted for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the Wadi Salih area of West Darfur. Kushayb is also wanted by the ICC, accused by Luis Ocampo of ordering killings, rapes and looting of civilians from 2003-2004 in Darfur.
•Four more Chad camp leaders deny voluntary return to Darfur
Eastern Chad (5 April 2012) - Four more camp leaders from Goz Amir, Um Nabuk, Tolom, Berayjin in eastern Chad have confirmed to Radio Dabanga that there has not been any voluntary return to Darfur from their camps. Camp leader Ahmed of Goz Amir said there had been a steady increase of Darfuri refugees to the camp which is home to more than 27,000 people. The other camps number between 19,000 and 37,000 residents and were set up in 2004. The leaders all said that the claims that large numbers of people have repatriated to Darfur from Chad as implied by Jeffrey Gettleman’s article in the New York Times is ‘peddling government propaganda intended to promote the Doha peace agreement’.
They all call for security to seriously established in Darfur by disarming militia that continue to terrorise citizens, sending those responsible for crimes in Darfur to the international criminal court, providing both individual and collective compensation and establishing comprehensive public services.
•Camp leaders in eastern Chad deny voluntary return to Darfur
Eastern Chad (3 April 2012) - The leaders of seven refugee camps in eastern Chad have denied claims of voluntary return to Darfur by the UN and the Sudanese government. They told Radio Dabanga that the recent promotion of refugees leaving the camps in Chad in the international media is ‘false and misleading’. The camp leaders of camp Arka, Soni, Furshana, Jebel, Terayjin, Kulungo and Gaga gave unanimous statements to Radio Dabanga: local authorities must first guarantee security and provide basic services before refugees will voluntary return to their villages in Darfur.
Camp Arka Soni opened in 2004 and is still receiving refugees on a regular basis. Muhammad Dafallah, leader of this camp, said his people will only travel back when ‘the militias are all disarmed, new settlers have been expelled and those responsible for genocide are brought to justice.’ The head of the Terayiin camp, Ali Yacob, added that the government’s statements are ‘rumours and propaganda.’ At last count, these refugee camps had a population between 17,500 and 32,745 each. At least 19,400 people remain to seek refuge in Terayiin camp. Dawud Abdel Rasul, head of camp Jebel, said: ‘the UN and the Sudanese government are not dealing with the reality on the ground and reporting voluntary return for their own agenda.’ The head of Gaga camp, Ali Yahia Omar said ‘some villages are mainly abandoned with perhaps one family living in a makeshift shelter. The government gets journalists and organisations to photograph these people and say they have voluntarily returned.’ He also said that misinformation only serves to harm the genuine plight of refugees that still live in camps, ‘displaced from their home and villages for nearly ten years.’
[ Many Darfuri refugees fear that rapprochement between Khartoum and the regime of Idriss Deby in Chad will lead to violent displacement from the twelve camps in eastern Chad. There is no solid evidence of this now, but it would be entirely in keeping with the priorities of both brutal leaders. ]
•UNHCR confirms no refugees have returned to Darfur from Chad
N’Djamena, El Fasher (2 April 2012) - The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has confirmed that no refugees repatriated to Darfur from Chad as suggested by the New York Times. UNHCR Chad representative Jean Bosco spoke to Radio Dabanga.
Here is the full interview:
We are happy to interview you today at Radio Dabanga. Firstly, we would like to know: How many Sudanese are registered as refugees in Chad?
‘For the time being we have 282,743.’
How many Sudanese refugee camps are in Chad?
‘We have 12 refugee camps with Sudanese refugees.’
Is it possible for you to give us the capacity of the refugee camps?
‘There is no standard capacity. Some camps like Areka Soni are hosting 36,000, while others like Milih are hosting only 18,000.’
Did any voluntary repatriation took place ever?
‘So far no repatriation took place from the Sudanese refugee camp in Chad.’
So there are no people retained voluntary from Chad to Sudan officially under the coordination of UNHCR?
‘No, what we call spontaneous repatriation is not organised by the UNHCR. People can decide to go by themselves. In such a case, the UNHCR doesn’t provide for any assistance. We heard that some Sudanese had repatriated. We asked our colleagues from UNHCR, even implementing personnel in the Darfur region. But none had been able to provide evidence that those people were living in the refugee camps in Chad. So right now I’m not in the position to certify that any refugee had repatriated from the refugee camps in Chad.’
I ask this question because we read in the international media that there is repatriation from Sudanese refugee camps in Chad from Sudan.
‘No, this did not happen.’
In the last year, 2012, did there happen any repatriation?
‘No, last year, nobody repatriated from the refugee camps.’
What happened to the agreement between the UNHCR, the Sudanese government, the Chadian government concerning the repatriation of refugees?
‘So far, no tripartite agreement has been signed yet. There have been two tripartite technical meetings. One in Khartoum and one in Chad. The third one will most likely take place on the 9th of May 2012. I am just starting drafting the tripartite agreement. But right now even the draft of the agreement doesn’t exist yet.’
•UNAMID official’s claim 100,000 refugees returned to Darfur false
Eastern Chad (30 March 2012) - There have been claims in the international media that more than 100,000 refugees have left the camps in Chad and returned to Darfur in the past year. Radio Dabanga conducted an extensive investigation to find out if this was the case. The results suggest otherwise. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) confirmed that there are currently 12 camps in Chad with 282,743 registered people. In interviews with the 12 camp leaders to be broadcast over the next few days, they said the return of 100,000 refugees was ‘misleading’ and if this was the case the camps would also be visibly emptier. The leaders of Gaga, Furshana, Berayjin, Terayjin, Milih, Tolom, Um Nabuk, Areka Soni, Jebel, Kulungo, Ardimay, Goz Amir said they were surprised at the timing of this ‘false information’ suggesting refugees were freely returning to Darfur. They reiterated their calls for full disarmament of militias, to expel those settled on their land and prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Darfur. The leaders demand a comprehensive peace deal with all the non-signatory movements to the Doha agreement and the rebuilding of their villages that were destroyed.
UNHCR deny return
UNHCR denied the return of any Sudanese refugees to Darfur in 2011. ‘There are 282,743 registered in the camps in Chad. We had heard that some may have spontaneously returned to Darfur but they were not accompanied by us. Our staff on the ground have not been able to provide any material evidence that they were living in the camps in Chad’, said Jean Bosco UNHCR Chad representative to Radio Dabanga.
Government wants to mislead
The 12 camp leaders said the insistence of the Sudanese government and the UN /African Union Mission in Darfur to tell the international media that refugees are beginning voluntary return is to deceive the world into thinking peace and stability have returned to Darfur. They added that there are non-Sudanese nomads that have entered the area, mainly from Niger, Nigeria and Chad and that authorities photograph these people to create the impression that Darfuri refugees have returned. In West Darfur, where the 100,000 refugees were reported to have returned, displaced people also told Radio Dabanga there are new settlers in the area. ‘They have taken over areas belonging to the Masalit who are still living as refugees in Chad’.
NYT reports return
The New York Times reported in February that 100,000 refugees had returned to the Nyuru area of Darfur from the camps in Chad in 2011. ‘It’s amazing,’ said Dysane Dorani, head of the UN mission for the western sector of Darfur to the NYT. ‘The people are coming together. It reminds me of Lebanon after the civil war.’ ‘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.’ From the interviews conducted with camp leaders and UNHCR it appears that the NYT was misled by Dorani and the residents in place are in fact new settlers and not Darfuri villagers.
You can read the rest of the New York Times article here.