Forgotten Region of Western Sudan (Darfur)

By Yahya Arko    

The ongoing crisis in Western Sudan, Darfur began in 2003. This is as a result of fighting between the government of Sudan and its militia, composed of a movable group of fighters mostly of Arabic background known as Janjaweed, and rebel groups, notably the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Rebel groups claim that Arab-ruled government of Sudan is intentionally causing social inequality, political marginalisation and discrimination towards black Africans.

The government refuses to respond to rebel’s demands and instead, armed and supported the Janjaweed militia to carry out a military campaign against civilians. Militias have consistently attacked villages and killed civilians that share the same ethnicity as the rebel groups, steal livestock and poison water supplies, and the government air forces burn the villages to the ground.

The militia repeatedly rape girls and women who live in internally displaced person camps when they go out to collect firewood or water. As a result more than 2.7 million people have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in internally displaced person camps or to neighbouring countries such as Chad. According to non-governmental organisations, it is estimated that over 400,000 people have been killed since the conflict started.

The Darfur conflict has now been going for ten years. On a daily basis men are killed, women are raped and children are dying of malnutrition. The conflict is ongoing, and peace is nowhere near. The government and rebels are not willing to stop the conflict.

The international community has also failed the people of Darfur; the International Criminal Court (ICC) did not follow through with the indictment of the President of Sudan, Omer Al-Bashir, on charges of crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir has made many trips to the states that signed the Rome Statute such as Chad, and the ICC has said nothing.

Darfur is no longer on the international community’s agenda and is no longer in view of the international media. When is the international community going to meet its moral obligation and listen to its conscience, instead of turning a blind eye to the conflict?



Sudan burns Darfur businesses and student dormitories in Khartoum

By Alpha Fur-bell

“There are slow ongoing killings of people from the Darfur and students living in Khartoum”, said Idris Haron, a Darfurian small business owner in Khartoum.

The Sudanese government forces and its supported militias (Janjaweed) set more than 100 retails shops on fire in mid-December 2012 and in January 2013 at Al Haj Youssef town local market, eastern Nile province in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan. Al Haj Yourself is a well-known place with majority of inhabitants from Darfur. Shops in the town’s local markets are ran by either Darfurians who fled the recent conflict in Darfur or their descendant living in the towns.

Since the conflict started in Darfur in 2003, the people of Darfur living in Khartoum, particularly in Al haj Youssef and Mayo, has been the target of the Sudanese government. Over 500 Darfurians have been taken from their homes by the Sudanese security forces and killed.

The government of Sudan killed more than 700,000 people in Darfur and now turned to kill Darfurians living in big towns such as Khartoum.

An eye witness whose name cannot be identified for security reasons, reported in January, this year alone 12 Darfurians including two teachers and 5 university students were killed in Al haj Youssef and Mayo areas, which have high residency of people from Darfur.Scores of armed men in civilian uniforms and vehicles attacked SookSetta (a local market) in Al haj Youssef and Mayo, firing on civilians, looting and burning Darfurians shops. An eye witness said,“The attackers were from the Sudanese government armed forces and members of the ‘Janjaweed’, a militia the Sudanese government has deployed alongside the army that committed genocide in Darfur”.

Here is the account of the eye witness whose shop was set alight in his present:

“My own grocery shop in Al haj Youssef was burnt to ashes in front of my eyes and I could not stop it because they would have shot me. I have been left with nothing, I do not know where to start and how to feed my family. We Darfuris in Khartoum live like in a heel. We cannot go back to Darfur because we lost everything and no security and we cannot live in Khartoum because the government knows us and targets us. It is too harsh for us everywhere in Sudan”.

The eyewitness also reported that that the police force, with back-up from the Sudanese army, surrounded the local market in Al haj Youssef watching shops burning from the sidelines, adding the government was totally behind the burning of Darfurians shops.

Moreover, in early February 2013, pro-government militias stormed the dormitories of students from Darfur studying at the universities in Khartoum and set them on fire. According to the Sudan Tribune around 27 rooms housing more than 132 university students were damaged. Sudanese State media has reported that no deaths or injuries to students and that the destruction to Darfur student houses was marginal.

However, independent sources reported that more than 25 Darfuri students lost their lives during the incident and dorms were totally damaged. Other sources reported that the Sudanese government is continuously arming the Islamists students loyal to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) at different universities to disrupt the academic year for those students coming from Darfur.

“The aim for burning Darfurian student dormitories was to create accommodation problems and force them to leave dorms and the universities in Khartoum”, said a Darfur student in Khartoum.

The lack of security for Darfur students at universities in Khartoum has forced many students to discontinue their studies, fearing attacks and violent acts from pro-government militias and the security forces.

Khartoum University has admitted that students from Darfur are facing various problems from the government that include violent acts, deliberate suspension, detention without charge and forced disappearance of those student who speak against the behavior of the Islamist government in Khartoum.

Rights activists argued that the Sudanese law obviously discriminates against Darfurians and that the Sudanese government is behind any heinous activities against people of Darfur and university students in Khartoum and throughout Sudan.

South Sudan-North Sudan: potential conflict over a barrel

By Alpha Furbell

Since South Sudan separated from the north almost two years ago, oil production has stalled.

Although most oil reserves are in South Sudan, north Sudan still has enormous influence on the production of oil. North Sudan controls the oil refinaries, pipelines and transport highways from the inland production areas to the ports, allowing the oil to be exported to major buyers such as China and Europe.

Disputation still remain between the two countries as they have yet to settle the conflict  over their border areas, including the oil-rich Abyei region. The position of the Abyei region was left undecided when South Sudan separated from north Sudan after almost three decades of civil war, which caused the deaths of an estimated two million people, including women and children.

Although South Sudan and north Sudan signed an agreement to resume oil production, both countries are building their armed capabilities in the border areas. The military build-up is a clear indication that both al-Bashir, president of north Sudan, and Salva Kiir of South Sudan are opting to resolve the dispute in the oil rich Abyei region, militarily. Both presidents are warlords, having fought against each other for more than two decades: they understand war better than politics.

It is highly likely that the two countries will return to full scale war if the international community, including the United Nations and other major stakeholders in Sudan, do not intervene to effectively assist the two countries reach a permanent and acceptable deal over border areas and oil production.

Australia relied on Africa

By Ahmed Zaroog

Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia will have a great deal more influence in international arena after winning a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Richard Marles, says Australia won the seat for a variety of reasons, including its strong historic record in peacekeeping missions around the world. Africa supported Australia to win the two-year Security Council seat, with all African and Caribbean nations backing it.

The Opposition believes the Government has focused too much over recent years on aid programs to Africa, simply to win over these nations in its bid for a Security Council seat. However, it’s a challenge to Australia to keep its promises to send more aid and development assistance to Africa because, as we know, armed violence continues to escalate, the illegal arms trade is having an impact on the everyday lives, especially for people across Horn and East Africa. The region suffers from systematic human rights abuses, including killing, torture, rape, looting and destruction of property.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, needs to think more about international policy and international community its not just Asia. I believe that Carr, with his Asian wife, should help Africa by asking China to stop supplying dictators in Africa with weapons.

Sudanese City Kutum is under Curfew

By Yahya Arko, reporter at Sudanese Australian Voices (SAV)

The city of Kutum, in the northern Darfur region of Sudan, has been attacked for a second time this month by Janjaweed militia, who have reportedly placed residents and internally displaced people under a compulsory curfew.

Kutum resident Mohamed Adam said the situation in Kutum is increasingly desperate, with many residents lacking basic needs such as food and shelter. They have difficulty in surviving.

“Kutum is under control of Janjaweed militia. They push police and military outside the city. They take over police stations and declare curfew, no one is allowed to appear on the street, residents are forced to stay in their homes or they face execution.”

On Wednesday morning, Janjaweed fired on public transport vehicles, which were travelling from Dissa village, in east Kutum, to the city centre. Two passengers were killed and several others were wounded.

Mr Adam said no help arrived for two days. The wounded were taken to Elfahir hospital after two days of suffering during which they had not received first aid.

In a separate attack on Thursday morning Janjaweed attacked Rifia Secondary School and killed two students, Osman Kasham and Babiker Musa Haroon. They also wounded five students, Abdelmonam Ahmed Abdallah, Abdelbasid Adam Mohamed, Alzaki Ibrahim Hunzul, Hafiz Mohamed Haroon and Shimeen Sidik, Mr Adam told AuSud.

People claim that the government has failed to protect them. They said that the government armed Janjaweed militia to kill them. Thus, the government has created the problem in the first place.

They do not expect the government to solve the issue. Therefore they appeal to the international community to protect them from Janjaweed militia.

Human suffering in Darfur

By Alpha Furbell and Yahya Arko

There is a total collapse of law and order in Kutum, North Darfur. An eye witness from Kasab camp reported that the Sudanese government only protects Arab tribes in the region and is arming these tribes to kill and terrorize indigenous African inhabitants of the Darfur region; particularly those who were forced to leave their villages and are now live in Kasab camp.

“The Sudanese government and its Janjaweed militias come to the camp, they kill whoever they want to, rape whoever girl or women they want to, hit people with the gun stock and we do not have power to defend ourselves,” said Adam Musa who survived the horrendous attacks through telephone conversation from Kutum.

Adam said that the government supported militias. His mobile phone was taken by militia members when they raided the camp and that he rescued himself by crawling way and then running to Kutum town which about 35 km away.

‘’I left my family behind in the camp and I can’t go back because the camp is totally surrounded by armed militias,’’ he said.

The people of North Darfur suffer from a shortage in the supply of food, lack of clean drinking water and medicines intentionally engineered by the Sudanese government. This has resulted in the death of many innocent people. The situation has forced refugees to run away from the camp and many have poured into neighbouring Chad in a desperate effort to escape the genocidal activities of the Sudanese government and its supported militias.

A darfuri mother and her children stranded in refugee camp

Darfur, once the most peaceful place, has become one of the most dangerous and violent places on the planet. Looting, systemic killings, banditry, fighting between ethnic groups and continuing clashes between rebel groups and government forces throughout the region have become a daily habit. In July 2012 the Sudanese government forces launched deliberate attacks on the  internally displaced persons ( IDPs) camp known as the Kasab camp, located in the outskirt of Kutum town, North Darfur. In that attack more than 200 people including women and children were killed, over 500 were injured; some of the refugees were kidnapped by the Janjaweed militias. It was also reported that women were raped by both government forces and its supported Janjaweed militias. Those who resisted were shot to death.

Violent acts in Darfur started in 2000 when a group of Darfuris took arms against the Arab government in the north.  The Darfuris complained about the  lack of development, economic neglect, the failure of the government to provide basic development aid, schools, hospitals, roads, and other basic infrastructure, as well as systemic violation of the region`s basic human rights, and the refusal of the government in Khartoum to share power and wealth with the people of region. Since 2003 the Sudanese President Omar Bashir has supported the killings in Darfur and ordered some of his government ministers to personally oversee killings and displacement of Darfuris.

According to the United Nations and international human rights groups, there has been total carnage in Darfur since 2003 with more than  600,000 individuals,  most being women children having been killed. More than 4.5 million were forced to leave their villages. President Bashir and four of his ministers have been officially indicted by the International Criminal Court because of their direct role in crimes of genocide in Darfur.    So far Bashir has escaped arrest but he can’t leave the country because he will be arrested.

More women activists for a better Africa

By: Abdulkhalig Alhassan

Against all odds, last week Africa had good news to tell.

Two African women from Liberia have shared the Nobel Prize for peace. The outstanding news emerged amid the familiar news of famine, civil wars, corruption and political instability. Both women, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, were awarded the Nobel Prize jointly with Arab Spring activist Tawakel Karman from Yemen. They are recognized as peace activists and non-violent campaigners for their role in ending one of the most brutal civil wars in the continent, alongside their struggle to save women and children during the same war.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72 years old, is the current President of Liberia. She is a veteran politician, having been involved in politics since 1979 when she was appointed as Minister of Finance under the then President, William Tolbert.

Leymah Roberta Gbowee, 39 years old, is an African peace activist responsible for organizing a peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. This led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, the first African nation with a female president. Through efforts to stop the war, Gbowee came with brilliant ideas to rally the public. She gathered women from different religious backgrounds to pray publicly to stop the war. Also, she went further by calling for a sex strike. By doing that, she convinced women to ban sex with their men unless they put pressure on warlords to stop fighting.

The ultra-patriarchal culture that prevailed in most African societies is responsible for the appalling situation of women. The glimpse of hope that once came with the post-colonial movement’s manifestos, especially their promises of progress and gender equality, had ended in delusion. The liberation movements’ comrades of yesterday have turned on each other as bitter rivals destroying everything in their way. The theories of Pan-Africanism which have told us once about the possibility of authentic and modern values stemming from African culture, produced nothing rather than “macho culture’; the culture of tyranny, repression, brutality and the degradation of women.

Jacob Zuma, the South Africa President- the most developed and influential country in the continent- acts as perfect evidence of the bankruptcy of so-called “Authentic African values”. The man couldn’t find a good example in these ‘values’ to impress the world than polygamy! He doesn’t miss any opportunity to show off his three wives whenever he goes out publicly. Meanwhile, he fails in tackling any of South Africa’s chronic problems. Poverty, over-unemployment among blacks, injustice, asymmetrical distribution of resources, crime, and corruption among the African National Congress (ANC) are the features of the country’s politics. Robert Mugabe is another example. The Marxist guerrilla fighter of Zimbabwe has ended up being a brutal tyrant. The current Zimbabwe is merely a big detention centre for its people. Also, in Sudan, while the country is falling apart, its Islamist regime is very busy flogging women with the excuse of immodesty.

African women have endured all the consequences of political failure since liberation. They have suffered lack of skills, unequal opportunities for jobs and education as well as over-reproduction. They pay the painful price of what men do in their society. Whenever a civil war broke out or political instability occurred, African women were left alone to clean up the mess, bring together shattered families and turned out to be the bread winners. Actually this is the main character of current Africa. Whenever you watch or listen to the news there are women suffering with their kids as a result of diseases, famine, or poverty. It is thanks to their courage and wisdom that Africa still exists.

This time the Liberian president gave us a big lesson on how African women could lead and gave hope for the continent’s peaceful future. Her efforts haven’t been confined to just cleaning up what the civil war left, instead, these efforts have gone far to build and develop one of the poorest countries in the world. Since her election in 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has succeeded in building a strong and stable political democratic system in a country that has just emerged from the ashes of a sequence of civil wars.

Since then, she has improved the economy, reduced the international debt to 95%, and has brought sustainable peace to the society by creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which it is investigating the country’s 20 years of civil wars. She has also adopted a policy of free education and health insurance for all people.

It is no surprise then that she has been praised and rewarded from various International institutions. In 2010, Newsweek listed her as one of the ten best leaders in the world, while Time counted her among the top ten female leaders. That same year, The Economist called her “arguably the best President the country has ever had”.

This is the only African female president, and so far, she has done what the whole of male African politician couldn’t do. I think this is a very strong sign to re-think Africa’s’ politics, where women can give us hope and an alternative for a better future.

Arab Spring: not all roads lead to Democracy

By Abdulkhalig Alhassan

The Qaddafi era in Libya is almost done. Thus, another Arab regime bites the dust. However, that doesn’t mean the Arab Spring will bring democracy to those countries that have got rid of their tyrants. There are many indications that the power vacuum that occurred as a result of the downfall of many regimes is going to be filled by political Islamic groups.

In Egypt, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown a significant readiness to take over post-Mubarak’s reign since the early days after the revolution. Of course this is not coincidental. It has much to do with how well structured and organized most of the political Islamic groups are compared to other parties in the political arena. Ironically, this effectiveness happened despite the repression they had been through for decades. This can be attributed to the nature of these groups where their positioning as religious vanguards made it hard for the dictators to eliminate them or deprive them of their legitimacy in defending ‘Islamic identity’.  They have succeeded in gathering the masses since colonial times around a ‘religious identity’ that promoted the idea that the national state was a colonial product which came to divide the ‘nation of Islam’.  In this way, they succeeded in dictating the agenda of the debate among Muslim peoples.

Over time, this argument, this view of the nation state and the role of Islam gave political Islam the right to act on behalf of Muslims over the entire world and led at the same time,  to a sort of Islamising of the populace’s mentality, with ‘Islamic law’ an apparent manifestation of it.

Although the nation state became a fact of life in the Arab world, it did nothing to affect the ‘myth’ of the ‘Islamic nation’, nor did it lead to the questioning whether Islamic law could be complete in the modern state.

Given the fact that the masses in many Arab countries had ousted their regimes and worked to establish a new ruling system, with a belief  in democracy, the reality is that the term democracy has no clear cut meaning in the Arab political discourse, as it does in the West. For example, the Muslim Brothers of Egypt, although, they claim to accept democracy for Egypt, nevertheless, are creating a heavily polarised atmosphere by taking advantage of Islam as a ‘symbolic capital’. For instance Shariah Law (Islamic law) is a red line and something “not for compromising” according to their spokesman, Dr. Isam Aleryan. Moreover, they have made it clear that voting for a constitutional amendment – which would mean Islamising the constitution – is a ‘religious duty’ according to their campaign’s slogans.

Along the same lines, the Libyan rebels, represented by their political body, the National Transitional Council (NTC), came out of the closet after  long speculations about their identity to announce that post-Qaddafi  Libya will be a ‘modern Islamic’ state where Islamic law is the main source of its democratic constitution. The NTC spokesman didn’t miss the opportunity to spell out that secularism has no room in a ‘democratic’ Libya. Despite the fact that most of the Libyan rebels are hard-line Islamists, the influence of the secular and ordinary Muslims was strong, especially in convincing the USA and NATO to intervene.  Using the term ‘moderate Islam’ is more than enough to let the oil-hungry West to turn a blind eyes to the internal issues of a tribal society like Libya. As a result, the secular people and parties of the new new Libya are going to be the stray goats of the post-Qaddafi era.

Genuine democracy or a pseudo one doesn’t matter much to the West when it comes to oil deals and the ‘war on terror’ as long as ‘moderate Islamic Libya’ provides support in both these areas. Islamic law or Shariah law, in short, is a set of interpretations of the Koran and the Prophet’s sayings produced by many religious scholars at least one thousand years ago. Over time, these historical commentaries and interpretations gained a lot of importance through the political conflicts during the Islamic empire in the medieval times. The seeking of religious legitimacy among political rivals ended up making these works of commentary as sacred and equal to the Koran itself.
By putting these classics, which are now called Islamic law, beyond above time and place, the Islamists have maintained them as a ‘divine law’. However, with all the cosmetic changes these laws have been through, the fact is that these laws are irrelevant compared to the secular laws of today, especially, in terms of human rights, gender equality, women rights, individuals rights, citizenship etc — a set of rights a modern state cannot function without acknowledging and enshrining in law.

No doubt, the Arab Spring was a great event in terms of liberating many  people in the Arab World from fear and repression, yet in my view, Arab people may need another uprising, one that will detach them from the myth of a `glorious past’, especially in politics. Otherwise, the vicious circle will repeat itself.

U.S. Africom commander in South Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan – General Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, arrives in Juba, South Sudan and is received by Major General Thomas Mogga Cerillo of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, August 24, 2011 (Africom website)

The Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), General Carter F. Ham arrived in South Sudan capital of Juba purportedly for talks on security but analyses have descript it as a move by Americans army that could see a set-up military and counter-interligence base in south Sudan

South Sudan officially seceded from the rest of Sudan 2months a go and countries around the world since recognize it as the new nation.

North and South Sudan fought more than two decades of civil war that ultimately ended through a U.S. brokered peace deal which gave Southerners the right of self determination.

But daunting challenges are facing South Sudan, particularly the outbreak of several rebellions as well as tribal clashes.

In his meeting with Africom commander, President Salva Kiir commended the role being played by the US in facilitating peace and security to the people of South Sudan, according to a statement on the government’s website.
Kiir called for Washington’s help in building the military capacity of South Sudan.

Gen. Ham said in a press statement that the meeting discussed principle topics on military partnership between the two countries. He added the partnership would provide the armies in both states a framework for close collaboration in addressing the security concerns in the future.

The military official described the meeting with President Kiir as great and productive and disclosed that appropriate action resulting from the meeting will be taken soon. The Africom chief also presented to Kiir a symbol of military partnership between the in form of silver Jar.