Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Confessions of a Sudanese deserter

“Khalid”, a member of the Janjaweed tells about the Sudanese scorched earth policy in today’s BBC News:

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The International Criminal Court is set to announce whether or not it is to issue a warrant for the arrest of the President of Sudan President al-Bashir, for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The Sudanese government has always said the accusations are political but now one of the country’s former soldiers, who served in Darfur, has been telling his story to the BBC’s Mike Thomson.

Khalid (not his real name), a polite and softly spoken man from Darfur, seems reluctant to talk about his past. It is soon clear why.

“The orders given to us were to burn the villages completely,” he says.

“We even had to poison the water wells. We were also given orders to kill all the woman and rape girls under 13 and 14.”

Khalid, who is of black African origin, says he was forcibly recruited into President Omar al-Bashir’s Sudanese army in late 2002.

He and several other men where he lived were taken to the headquarters of his regiment which was based near the north-western Darfur town of Fasher.

He admits to having taken part in seven different attacks on Darfur villages with the help of Janjaweed militia.

The first one was in the Korma area in December 2002 several months before the conflict in Darfur officially began.

He claims to have been extremely reluctant to carry out the savage orders he was given.

“When they asked me to rape the girl, I went and stood in front of her,” he said.
“Tears came into my eyes. They said: ‘You have to rape her. If you don’t we will beat you.’ I hesitated and they hit me with the butt of a rifle.

“But when I went to the girl I couldn’t do it. I took her into a corner and lay myself on top of her as if I was raping her for about 10 to 15 minutes.

“Then, I jumped up and came out. They said: ‘Did you rape her?’ I said: ‘Yes, I did’.”
Khalid says that soon after this he and the other soldiers went back to base.
When they got there he was told to join another patrol immediately.

When he refused they beat and tortured him, inflicting severe burns on his legs and back.

He spent five weeks in a military hospital recovering from his injuries.
Before long, he said, he was ordered to join other brutal raids on Darfur villages.
I asked him what he was told to do with unarmed civilians who did not resist in any way.

“They told us, don’t leave anybody, just kill everybody,” he said.

“Even the children, if left behind in the huts, we had to kill them,” he said. “People would cry and run from their huts.

“Many couldn’t take their all their children. If they had more than two they had to leave them behind. If you saw them you had to shoot and kill.”

Khalid insists that he always fired over the heads of civilians and didn’t kill anyone himself despite the orders he was given.

He says he could do this without his fellow soldiers noticing but he admits that there was no way he could avoid carrying out orders to torch peoples homes.

The six-year conflict has spawned more than two million refugees

“I did take part,” he admitted. “They forced me. We had no choice. If you didn’t they would kill you.”

Did anyone refuse?

“Two of my colleagues refused and they were shot dead.”

You can read the entire article by clicking BBC NEWS: Dharfur

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March 4, 2009 - Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Dharfur, Political Issues, Sudan | ,

11 Comments »

  1. I don’t believe any of the stuff they report about what goes on in Sudan anymore unless I see it with my own eyes. (I worked in IT there for two years until 2000; the joke that was Clinton missile attack on the Pharmaceutical Al-Shifa factory was just a few kilometers from where I was sleeping that night… grrrr… my parents freaked out! so excuse me if I sound personal)

    There’s too much conspiracy stuff there to be objective. They say Africa is the new frontier of the world economy and the U.S. (who wants their own way with Africa) did not like the government in Sudan from the beginning a bit. They didn’t like such a model with promising future in industry and other areas and with an independent mind/decision that is not in bed with the U.S. and its policies. I met al-Bashir back then; very simple and down to earth guy. I once ran into him in a mosque in his neighborhood where he casually entered and left!

    At the time (late 90’s), I heard there was a congress report that warned that if no action was taken, in 10 years the Sudan will seize to be a developing country and will become industrialized. This is almost always an indication of a no non-sense low corruption government structure (a rarity in Africa!) Despite all the cooked-up turmoil, the Sudan managed to continue its development and I was very surprised at the changes (In Khartoum) in my last visit about 2 years ago.

    As I googled trying to find references to the congressional report (still looking), I found this interesting blog from a (French?) journalist discussing his experience in Sudan: http://eliesmith.blogspot.com/2008/12/my-lessons-from-sudan.html

    I quote the following from his blog:

    “my impressions about that great black African country, has positively changed. Of course, she is still confronted to myriads of problems, some of which, it must be pointed out boldly, are not unique to her. However, my perception of western media, and some of their pretentious and hypocritical elites, is for the time being, fundamentally negative. For I deeply think that, most westerners, in chief, their governments, and all other profiteering clique, gravitating around them or the so-called leftist or liberal intellectuals and self-styled lovers of Africa, have a malicious intend. The suggested western malicious intend, is aimed at keeping African countries perpetually down.”

    “Hence, some westerners prefer the company of corrupt African leaders or those who acquiesces to their demands willy-nilly. One reason why western governments prefer African leaders who acquiesces easily to their demands is that, through such corrupt African leaders, their nefarious designs to keep Africa, as a large game park, will not only materialise faster, it will be consolidated”

    “But sadly, what are presented or masquerading as international community is not only in constant war or confrontational mood with Sudan, they are also helping and nourishing internal discontents and wars in that vast country.”

    “But what truly astonished me during my Sudan visit, was the honesty of Sudanese at all levels of their society. My encounter or precisely, my meeting with some leaders of the National Congress Party was edifying. I was left spell bound on how freely they discussed the crisis in Darfur and more, in the words of Dr Ali Osman Taha, 2nd vice president of Sudan: “the government of Sudan, made some errors in the handling of the Darfur crisis from the beginning”

    “The Darfur crisis is on the threshold of being solved, but strangely, the bearers and propagators of wars and divisions in Sudan and in other African countries have declared that, the next hotspot will be South Kordufan state. Nevertheless, the positive or negative outcome in the state of South kordufan will be an important yardstick to measure or find out, whether the central government in Khartoum has learned from her own mistakes. While the central government or some of its ideologues are honest and courageous enough to admit their own share of the responsibility in the crisis that has ravaged their country, the elaborate networks of rebel movements, especially in Darfur have regularly posed themselves as victims and de facto saints. But is anybody innocent in what is going on the Darfur?”

    Thanks.
    nbq.

    Comment by nbq | March 4, 2009 | Reply

  2. LLOOLL. How can I be angry with you, nbq, you outblogged me on my own blog?

    I’ll admit it. There may be some truth in what you say. And at the same time, there is very serious proof that the Sudanese army was in bed with the janjaweed on all those raids in Dhafur. The official policy of the Sudanese government was to kill, to displace, ro rape, to force evacuation, to eradicate the “vermin.” Civilians were targeted because they fed the “rebels.” The carnage is horrible. My heart bleeds easily, and yes, I was really mad about Ruanda, too.

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 4, 2009 | Reply

  3. Not to add to the “outblogging”, but I’ve contacted a friend (more of a mentor) whose still in Sudan for some insight into the issue. Here’s his view which gives some historical perspective to the matter and points to what really exasperated the issue (external involvement). Oh, and with this we can understand more the conspiracy that has been going on and the recent ICC (Internal Crusader Court) ruling against Al-Bashir… they just can’t wait to take the country apart and distribute the spoils amongst them:

    “To summarize what is happening: Sudan is a very big country, and it is not easy to fully control it, especially given the scarcity of resources in the hand of the government.

    The dispute between shepherds (janjaweed) and landlords (Faur tribes) has long historical roots, even before this government. Actually, this kind of dispute is prevalent in all agricultural countries. Shepherds keep moving from one region to another, following the food. When the food is ample, no problem. When it is not, shepherds tend to go into private lands to feed their livestock, which results in confrontation with landlords (stable people).

    The problem worsened when the government sought the help of shepherds to protect the borders between Sudan and Tchad. Government armed them to fulfill this role , but instead they used their arms to have stronger foothold in the private lands.

    Landlords blame the government for the atrocities they received from Janjaweed, and this is how it started. But how it continued is another story, as different countries started supporting the Faur, and this evolved into a big mess. The sad story is that Faur people are supposedly religious people, and have lots of hafiz among them. Ali Dinar, a prominent historical Faur Sultan, is the one who built the Wells of Ali, the famous Miquaat (on the road to Medina). They used to send the cover of Ka3ba long before Egypt and Saudia.

    No matter what the local government does to ease the situation, the west insists on keeping it boiling, to use it as a justification for political maneuvering. The plethora of NGOs currently in Dar Faur are making sure the situation never stabilizes, in addition to preaching Christianity, under the cover of feeding the poor.”

    Comment by nbq | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  4. oh and the significance I meant of the ICC ruling is that it threatens to destabilize the recent consolation and agreement efforts between the involved parties. I was disgusted with the ICC’s statement where it tried to “look good intentioned” by emphasizing that only official countries should seek to arrest Al-Bashir which was explained as a discouragement to the rebels to take any action themselves… HELLOOOOO!!! Like that’s going to stop them (or fractions of them) from seizing the opportunity and taking that road and justify it with the ruling.

    So, all in all, the US/Euro involvement through the ICC is just adding fuel to the fire in hopes of inciting internal dissent among the government after failing miserably at previous attempts of destabilization (war in the south, etc..)

    Thanks.

    Comment by nbq | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  5. Ummm. . . not to add to the outblogging, and then you add to it?

    I welcome your input, nbq, and your alternate perspective. One of the big problems is getting accurate news out of the Sudan, with all its injunctions against the press.

    Incitement to the rebels? the rebels are fighting for land that is historically theirs. They need no incitement, and they are sitting ducks to the armed and heavily financed janjaweed, who are no longer shepherds, they are a mercenary army. As for dividing the spoils – that is very far fetched, even in this part of the world. Sadly, my country is notorious for not caring what happens in Africa.

    Have you seen the GoogleEarth shots verifiying the Sudanese scorched-earth policy?

    Most of the NGOs just want to alleviate some of the incredible misery suffered by those remaining in Dharfur. Many, like Medicines Sans Frontiers, are entirely secular, have no religious ties whatsoever, are just doing their humanitarian thing. They are the only voice for “those who have no voices.”

    On this topic, there are no winners, only losers. You know my belief – I think bullying is as harmful to the bully as it is for the victim. Ruthless and inhumane policies damage to souls of those who promote them and who enforce them. We are just going to have to agree to disagree.

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  6. “As for dividing the spoils – that is very far fetched, even in this part of the world.”

    By dividing the spoils I meant the ‘modern’ version of it (not the usual use of the term): financial/economical aspect of gaining influence and a say in the country through puppet /corrupt leaders. As opposed to all the major investment opportunities going to China (and somewhat to Russia and other eastern Europeans) thus far (to the dismay of the western enterprises).

    “Have you seen the GoogleEarth shots verifiying the Sudanese scorched-earth policy?”

    No, but does those maps prove who actually did that?
    Regardless, from the info my friend there provided, I can see how this could have happened with the vast areas to cover and the government having to rely on the Janjaweed initially without having real control over them (else they wouldn’t have enlisted their help to begin with?). It was an unfortunate situation, but it was on its way to being resolved eventually if it wasn’t for the meddling of the external parties which lead to the rebels response and escalation. That’s why there is a failing of misplaced justice with the ICCs debacle when the finger should have been pointed to those who meddled and supported the rebels militarily against their own country thus causing more hardship and deadlocks. And NOT pointed to the President who had barely just managed to resolve a 40 year old conflict in the south only for the situation in Dar Fur to be escalated and thrown at him; yes there were mistakes with dealing with the situation at first (as some in the government admitted), but they were on the way to resolve the issue and get it over with.

    I hope (and feel) this will backfire in the meddlers face God willing.

    “like Medicines Sans Frontiers, are entirely secular, have no religious ties whatsoever”

    The move to expel the NGOs did confuse me; but I’m guessing it is more of a political bargaining game…

    On the other hand, although officially they maybe secular, it would be difficult to control the individuals.
    Plus, it would be naive to think even such organizations are immune to ‘infiltration’ by certain ‘agencies’, if you know what I mean.

    Later.

    Comment by nbq | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  7. darn… too many spelling/grammar mistakes in my last comment… in a hurry…
    which lead to the rebels= which led to the rebels’ responce
    failing=feeling

    ;p

    Comment by nbq | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  8. oh darn it..
    responce= response…

    Arghhh!! my semi-OCD creeping in every now and then!! hehe.

    Comment by nbq | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  9. MAJOR OCD! MAJOR! 😛

    nbq, you might wonder why I allow you to come on here and write comments longer than the original blog article. I appreciate that you care. We may disagree, but that is a lot better than saying “Oh Dharfur, ho hom” and flipping the channel.

    Thank you for caring, even if we don’t agree.

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  10. Hmm your dialogue is good reading, cleared up a lot of things in my mind. But you cant ignore the fact that there’s a lot of lawlessness in many African countries and a never ending struggle for power among its own people.

    Comment by Mathai | March 6, 2009 | Reply

  11. LOL, Mathai, you describe the early years in my own country. Remember, the people who came to America early on were those not happy in Europe – religious discontents. convicts coming as indentured servants, even the merchants and administrators who came were those who were expendable in their own countries. People continued to move west as the east became more civilized. There are people who don’t like too much law and too much restriction on their activities – people who thrive in anarchy and lawlessness. Law and order hasn’t been that much of an country on earth – it’s a relatively modern invention and it has to be continously modified and flexible to ke working. Think about it – is it a law if it is not enforced? Is it a good law if people won’t comply? (Guess who majored in political science? 🙂 )

    It is my cherished belief that part of what we aim for in becoming civilized is a society that while ruled by the majority will, protects the interests and rights of the minorities as well. What is happening in the Sudan is just the opposite, it is the eradication of a minority. It is genocide.

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 6, 2009 | Reply


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