Stop the Humanitarian Blockade of Jebel Marra,
For the people of Jebel Marra, the self congratulatory backslapping and treaty signing in
Doha seem to be a world away from the reality of their existence as they starve on the mountain slopes of
Darfur. Forced from their villages as a result of a military campaign launched by the Government of Sudan, the idea of peace seems a distant prospect to say the least. Over the last 6 weeks, the displacement of over 250,000 people who are now forced to live in caves or to run from village to village in search of safety also seems far away from the concerns of the International Community, UNAMID, Save Darfur, human rights organizations or indeed anyone who might be expected to help. Instead, innocent people have been left to fend for themselves: their hopes for the future reduced to ashes alongside their villages which the Sudanese government recently burnt.
The big question here is why? Why is blatant genocide being ignored? Why, for example, can the likes of Jerry Fowler of Save Darfur tour the region telling anyone who will listen that: ďOrganized fighting is not widespread ... Nor is there systematic violence against civiliansĒ. Why, given his ďvastĒ experience on
Darfur, is he not able to spot the fact that a quarter of a million people are at this very moment sitting on the side of a mountain not far from him, while he tours around shaking hands? Why, one might ask, with his propensity for ďsavingĒ locals, is he not able to see beyond the end of his nose and take some action?
As if the myopia of Save Darfur is not bad enough, then there are the political sideshows which aim to distract attention from the governmentís recent activities in Jebel Marra. First there is the carnival of the incompetent in
Doha. Susan Riceís remarks that
Doha is a
ďmere truce between two Islamists factionsĒ are completely correct. Yet given her clarity, why is the US State Department supporting a ďpeace processĒ with individuals like Tigani Seisi when he has never been anything more than a puppet of Sadiq Al-Mahdi and the Umma Party? Why should a man who is held in such distaste by the people of
Darfur be championed as their leader when his spell as Governor of the region was nothing short of a disaster?
Finally, why is there a systematic attempt to downplay the government of
Sudanís campaign of genocide in Jebel Marra by linking it to fights between opposing rebel factions? This persistent reporting of rebel group infighting when a quarter of a million people face annihilation by the government is bizarre to say the least. The ability to downplay the crisis faced by such a large amount of people demonstrates the effectiveness of the Sudanese government media machine. It also shows how one of the most despicable campaigns that the government has launched to systematically destroy and purge the heartland of Darfur while the world looks the other way, has been successfully disguised by amplifying a lesser story.
If genocide is about intent, then it is hard to find clearer evidence of a systematic attempt to annihilate a group of people in a given geographical area than in Jebel Marra today. In the eastern and southeastern areas of the Jebel Marra -- in towns such as Kidinyeer, Leibei, Faina, Dirbat, and Jawa -- there is a clear attempt to encircle the area with the express intention of preventing people from being able to enter or leave. Once the population is locked into the area, the real work of genocide can proceed apace. Water sources are buried leaving locals without any way to access clean drinking water. Grain stores are burnt, cutting the supply of food to nothing. Grinding mills are taken away to ensure that no flour can be made. The government forces which invaded the region have also looted houses, markets and removed all the livestock. Even the humanitarian organizations that were operating have been forced to withdraw from the area as a result of their offices being looted. Food is now in scarce supply; potable water absent and the scene is set for carnage on a massive scale.
If slow starvation and thirst is not enough, then consider the cases of four women from Kidyneer. Unable to escape fast enough from government forces, they have been captured and turned into sex slaves. For Hawwa Mohamed Ali Hassaballa 58, Haram Abulgasim Hassaballa 56, Bahria Mohamed Saleh 54, Khadija Abdulrasul Abulgasim 32 their life today is one of brutality. Raped on a continual basis and held with government militias, they probably wonder whether they will even survive. Contrast this with all participants in
Doha with their fancy suits, per-diems and disingenuous hand-shaking. Has Sudanís political strata been reduced to a parade of the greedy and corrupt, while innocent women Ė mothers, daughter and wives Ė are brutalized and receive no protection from those who are supposed to help them?
Whichever way one views the situation, one thing is clear: all that counts today is the strength of oneís political connections and how much one can talk. All that counts are the sham peace talks, expensive airline tickets and the empty rhetoric of the international community.
Those without such connections are simply forgotten. For those without power, human rights conventions mean nothing; hard-fought conventions to stop genocide buy them no time. Today the people of Jebel Marra wait hoping that tomorrow will bring a better day. They wait hoping that someone will come to their rescue and stop the humanitarian blockade of their region. Unfortunately however with the current apathy of those in power, it may be some time before their plight is noticed. Let us hope that it will not be too late.
Dr. Anne Bartlett is a Professor at the
San Francisco. She may be reached at [email protected]