WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF UNAMID IN DARFUR?
It has now been more than three weeks when the Government of Sudanís forces have been wreaking havoc in eastern, southeastern, northeastern and northern parts of Jabel Marra including towns and villages such as Kidinyeer, Laibei, Feina, Dirbat, and Dobo. These towns have been exposed to continuous attacks from the air by helicopters and Antonov and MiG planes and by forces of infantrymen and janjaweed from the ground.
The tactical pattern the government has adopted in these areas is aerial attacks followed by intensive invasions from the ground. Every single attack there is accompanied by hundreds of Arab men each of whom has at least three camels following the military vehicles. The government forces open fire indiscriminately on the villagers killing and wounding civilians. The survivors among the villagers just flee with the clothes they had on and leave everything behind. Then the Arab men from the Síadaa tribe who accompany the invading military convoys, enter the homes and shops and take all the valuables, destroy the property that they cannot carry and rustle cattle and small stock.
All these attacks have been happening in the face of what appears to be a complete media blackout. The news sources that previously reported on the atrocities in Darfur are more concerned about the reunification of Islamists in Doha, the infighting amongst rebel groups and the pretense of a forthcoming election. None of these issues have anything to do with survivors of genocide in Darfur whose immediate need is protection and then the right to life with dignity in their own country. Even Radio Dabanga which is thought by many to be the voice for the destitute Darfuris, has prioritized elections and the sham of the Doha negotiations over the protection of people in Jabel Marra.
However, the most shocking absence in all of this is UNAMID. The silence of UNAMID on the attacks in Kidinyeer, Leibei, Feina, and Dirbat is outrageous and unconscionable. While UNAMIDís s mandate is limited, there is no excuse whatsoever for leaving civilians to die with a complete news blackout. UNAMIDís failure to fulfill their role of reporting the ongoing government attacks in Jabel Marra at the time when it has recently received several helicopters to intensify its monitoring operations makes me wonder on what its function really is. It weakens further the ability of the UN claim any legitimacy for peace operations and renders questionable the ďAfricanĒ in African union. In what way did these villagers see any support from their African brothers?
One wonders what will be written on the pages of history about Darfur.
Will it be that the world abandoned innocent people to be slaughtered while a mockery of negotiations took place in Doha and Chad? Will it be that news-agencies reported on the so called elections while the Sudanese government carried out its plan to annihilate an entire ethnic group?
Will it be that the international community facilitated peace talks for their own interests with the very same group of fundamentalists that it is fighting the war on terror against? Will it be that in the 21st century long after the hard fought campaigns to end slavery that a new form of enslavement of the people of Darfur is happening under the nose of the first African American President? These questions remain to be answered.
Adjunct Professor, University of San Francisco