Sunday, August 19, 2012

Parts of Darfur See Stability, but Others Are Seething

NAIROBI, Kenya -- It was a scene that seemed to belong to a different time, say, early 2004, when war was raging across Sudan's vast desert region of Darfur. Hundreds of armed men -- on horseback, camels, donkeys and in four-by-four trucks -- some in street clothes, some in camouflage fatigues, swept into the Kassab displaced persons camp and began looting, burning, raping and shooting.
In the span of a few hours, several people were killed and tens of thousands were sent running for their lives.

But this was not 2004. It happened this month, this year, and United Nations officials and aid workers said it was among the more troubling violence Darfur has experienced in years.
"We haven't had a crisis like this in awhile," said Christopher Cycmanick, a spokesman for the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as Unamid.
Nearly a decade after war first arrived, Darfur is a land of mixed signals.
Some areas have become stable -- even peaceful, many residents say -- like parts of western Darfur, where thousands of families are finally returning home.

But at the same time, other areas are seething.
The overall trend for the past couple of years had been one of cautious improvement, United Nations officials say, with civilian deaths gradually declining. But this year is on track to be a setback, they warn, with more criminality, rebel attacks, rapes, displacements and assorted mayhem than in the recent past.
Activists contend that official pronouncements of progress have long been misleadingly rosy, and they are increasingly fed up with the huge, $1.5-billion-a-year peacekeeping mission in Darfur, saying that it is failing at its core mission: protecting civilians.

"This is probably the least cost-effective peacekeeping mission in U.N. history, but it's simply not possible to say that out loud, given A.U. sensitivities," said Eric Reeves, a Smith College professor and a prolific blogger on Sudan. "There are factitious claims about 'improved' security, and woe to the man who disputes the U.N./Unamid line."
In the case of Kassab, many of the victims begged for help when the marauders stormed into the camp, but because of the intensity of the violence and some flooding along the roads, United Nations peacekeepers did not arrive until three days later. When they did get there, they pulled back because government forces were still battling the militia fighters. It took several more days before government troops were able to restore a semblance of control.

Government forces in Darfur are stretched thin these days, but beyond that, they seem to be living up to their history as some of the worst perpetrators. Just this Friday, there were reports of renegade soldiers ransacking the market in Tabit, breaking into shops and shooting civilians.

In the past few months, there have been heavy bombings in eastern Jebel Marra; deadly protests in Nyala; vicious clashes near Tabun; and further attacks on displaced people in several other camps across Darfur. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


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