By: ROB CRILLY
THE REBELS gathered their technicals – pickups mounted with machine guns and rocket launchers – before dawn. More than 100, engines revving, surrounded the army base deep in Darfur’s northern desert. There was not much of a fight. The government soldiers simply turned and ran, leaving behind guns, bombs and mugs of steaming tea.
By the time I arrived a few days later, the rebels had taken their pick of the AK-47s and mortar rounds. They left the only fatality rotting in a ditch. The smell of the dead soldier wafted through the town of Kornoi. Unburied and forgotten.
The army returned a few weeks later in force and the rebels gave up their conquest just as easily as they had taken it.
This was the war of 2009: a to and fro between rivals. A series of feints and boasts, all far beyond the gaze of the outside world.
That was my most recent trip to Darfur, slipping across the Chadian border in a rebel column to avoid the bureaucracy, minders and rules that prevent journalists seeing the conflict for themselves. The war I found was at odds with the popular perception.
On a continent of forgotten wars, there was always supposed to be something different about Darfur. This was the first genocide of the 21st century. A slaughter of the innocents. The land’s African farmers were being wiped out by Arab raiders – the dreaded Janjaweed – doing the bidding of an evil Islamist empire in Khartoum.
The timing couldn’t have been more fortunate for the humanitarian agencies desperately trying to raise funds and awareness. Ten years after Rwanda’s genocide, politicians, movie stars and a huge array of activists lined up to do their bit.
Headline after headline urged the world to act: send in peacekeepers, enforce no-fly zones or boycott Sudan’s allies.
Only nothing much changed. The war moved from one act to the next, settling into a low-level insurgency that rumbles on today. Meanwhile, we watched Congo’s complex mishmash of rebellions flare once more. Then Somalia’s pirates dominated the world’s coverage of Africa.
Darfur faded into the background. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>