Sunday, May 30, 2010

Darfur's invisible killing fields

By Rebecca Tinsley

A 16th-century English diplomat, Henry Wooton, described ambassadors as men who are “sent abroad to lie for their countries.” Last week, diplomats from around the globe beat a path to Khartoum to attend the inauguration of an indicted war criminal, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

Among them were senior United Nations officials, paying respects to a man who, by general agreement, rigged his country’s ballot last month. Even the most conciliatory and appeasing foreign election observers admitted the voting process was deeply flawed. Yet, representatives of the international community dusted down their Sunday best to honor a man accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hypocrisy as usual, you might think, and you would be right. The world wants to do business with oil-rich Sudan, and they are “on our side” in the war against terror, so we avert our eyes to human rights abuses and election fraud.

But there were ghosts at the inaugural banquets in Khartoum — the ghost of Darfur. The arid, war-torn western region of Sudan has recently become invisible. The Sudanese regime systematically denies reporters or humanitarian groups any access to vast swathes of the country. In an area a third of the size of Texas, we have no idea what is being done to civilians by the dictatorship’s armed forces. In an age when we in the United States are bombarded by information 24 hours a day, there are still places where unimaginable horror is taking place without witnesses.

Our human rights group, Waging Peace, gets fragmentary reports from civilians in Darfur. They tell us that their government continues to bomb them, and Khartoum’s Arab nomad proxies are still invading their villages and killing black African men, women and children. Sudanese officials deny access to aid workers, and, according to the U.N.’s own former Sudan rapporteur, Sima Samar, they arrest and torture humanitarian workers.

In February, there were widespread reports of a major Sudanese government air and ground offensive in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur. It is thought that 100,000 people were made homeless by the Sudanese armed forces, and an unknown number of civilians are dead. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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