Darfur's displaced recount atrocities to French FM

28th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

OUM CHOUK, Sudan, July 28 (AFP) - Djahila is in no doubt what will happen to her if she leaves this refugee camp in Sudan's tormented Darfur region.

OUM CHOUK, Sudan, July 28 (AFP) - Djahila is in no doubt what will happen to her if she leaves this refugee camp in Sudan's tormented Darfur region.

Drawing her finger rapidly across her throat, she said, "The Janjaweeds have cut the throats of four members of my family."

The deputy head of the ceasefire monitoring mission here, French army colonel Georges Davoine, told AFP, "We do not have any concrete element to be able to say that genocide is taking place in Darfur."

Djahila and everybody else above the age of reason in the sprawling camp, which French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier visited Tuesday, have a very different story to tell.

They are terrified of what will happen to them if they venture out of the gates. "Do not forget ethnic cleansing," said Major Borges Nordino, a member of the monitoring committee from Mozambique. "All the refugees are blacks."

"My husband was killed by the Janjaweeds," says Hawa, he hands clenched around her long scarf. "We were bombed by aircraft." Then she turns away in shame, remembering some of the things that were done to women and girls in her village.

The Janjaweeds are the Arab nomads of the region, who arrive suddenly on the backs of horses or camels with their swords and rifles; they murder, maim, rape and pillage, according to aid and rights workers here; and then they melt back into their natural habitat, the desert stretching hundreds of miles across the frontier with Chad.

On Wednesday, an African Union report told of one of their most recent exploits.

It said "militia elements believed to be Janjaweed," raided a market, looted it and then "killed civilians, in some cases chaining them and burning them alive."

The Sudanese government is alleged to have conscripted the fierce Janjaweed to fight alongside its troops in quelling a revolt by the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Movement for Justice and Equality, two groups claiming to be fighting for the rights of the local population against the distant government in Khartoum.

In this camp, which is guarded by a detachment of Sudanese police with a machine-gun mounted on the pack of their pick-up truck, people here are afraid to talk too freely.

A village elder, in robe and turban, told Barnier in a tired voice:

"Our village was burned by the Janjaweeds and then we were bombarded by the army. The time has not yet come to go home."

But home, a place called Korma, no longer exists. Home for 40,000 people for the foreseeable future is this encampment of white tents set in ochre-coloured sand.

The French humanitarian organisation, Action Against Hunger, is too busy meeting the basic needs of the villagers to be able to do much about their psychological hurts. But one of the aid workers, Mathieu, says many of the women and girls have been raped by the Janjaweed and need support.


Subject: French news

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