Meet the janjaweed in darfur

War in Darfur - Wikipedia

meet the janjaweed in darfur

The Sudanese government first promised to disarm the Janjaweed in But, after meeting Hilal, I traveled to Darfur and saw a group of the. A referendum on the administrative status of Darfur is no longer of concern to the Photo by Andrew Carter (Meet the Janjaweed, ). Sudan: Struggling to meet basic needs in Darfur have been slaughtered and driven from their homes by Arab raiders, known as janjaweed.

The town now hosts around 35, displaced people. Two official camps have been set up on either side of the town, North Camp and South Camp. The first has 4, registered residents, while the latter is larger, housing 7, Nertiti is a poor town. At first glance it is difficult to tell where the town ends and the displaced camp begins.

But a second glance makes the distinction clear. The displaced camps are crammed full of huts, each one scarcely bigger than two metres in diameter, each housing a family. The average family size in the camps is seven or eight people.

The huts are built from grass collected from near the camp where Janjaweed militia stalk the area. Women risk rape and attack by venturing to the area, but it is viewed safer for them to go there than for men, who risk death.

There are few alternatives. To make a shelter for their families, the displaced in Nertiti have to risk their lives. Three women pass by with huge bundles of branches on their heads that will be used to form the framework for a more substantial grass hut. These branches also come from a Janjaweed controlled area, and to collect them is a dangerous seven-hour return journey.

The lucky ones who have been in the camps for a few weeks have roofed huts, but many live behind simple grass screens, open to the elements and with very little privacy. Their neighbours are centimetres away. Many of those in North Camp had to start from scratch again in May after a fire tore through the camp destroying huts. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blaze, started by a small child fiddling with a cooking fire.

It seems exceptionally cruel that those who had started their lives from scratch should have had yet another home taken away. But the huts have been rebuilt again, although many have not managed to replace the small amount of items they had collected while in the camp.

Very soon those living in the camp will have bigger problems when the torrential downpours that currently happens only once a day become more frequent and last longer. Even those huts with grass roofs are not substantial enough to withstand the rainy season, while those living without roofs are already suffering the wet and cold nights.

Very few of the huts have plastic sheeting to protect them from the elements.

meet the janjaweed in darfur

At North Camp a brick school building in the middle of the camp has been taken over by displaced people who did not manage to rebuild their homes after the fire. It is crammed full of people at night, with fourteen families living in a classroom 10 metres by 15 metres. Most of the families have insufficient mats and sleep directly on the earth floor.

meet the janjaweed in darfur

During the night small worms living in the ground burrow their way into the skin of the sleeping children, causing itching and then infection. In another school building is a malnutrition clinic where around children pass through every day. Most of those waiting to be seen are babies and toddlers, many sitting listlessly in the arms of their mother.

Once they reach the medical team the babies are placed in a sling underneath a set of scales, provoking heartbreaking cries of outrage and distress. Just under children are being treated for malnutrition in the North Camp, 92 of whom are severely malnourished.

Staff at the clinic fear that the situation will deteriorate, as every batch of new arrivals at the camp is in a worse state than the last. At South Camp, there is a measles clinic that immunizes and treats the disease that is endemic in the region. In the hospital tent 15 mothers with their sick children sleep on mats on the floor, after a sudden influx of cases the night before left staff struggling to find beds for everyone. In the same ward are a couple of women suffering from malaria, while in a neighbouring tent, the families of two elderly men who had lapsed into comas as a result of dehydration and malnutrition quietly keep watch.

But those in these two camps are some of the lucky ones. They were recently given a month's supply of food and there is a reserve stacked up in a classroom.

Other nearby camps are not so fortunate. The sheer scale of need in the region makes the logistics of reaching everyone a struggle.

The residents of the camp also have access to water, and for the moment, the water is clean. With the rainy season comes a risk that the few precious water sources will become contaminated with human and animal waste washing into the water system. Fatma Mohammed Hasaballah explains what life is like in the camp: They asked me, "What are you doing here? Then the Janjaweed told me to put down the wood and go away. I asked them why can't I collect this wood. What is your reason?

The Janjaweed said we don't have a reason and started to beat me and kick me. They dislocated my shoulder and I have many cuts from the attack.

I have seven children and they all live in my hut. Because my hut is not finished yet, a neighbour has allowed me to stay in this hut, which is better and has a bed.

meet the janjaweed in darfur

When I get better I will return to my own hut. We left our village, Kougo, when the Janjaweed attacked. We've been travelling all day and we're still not even at the halfway point where we're going to spend the night. And now we've got a flat tyre. That's our armed guard. He'd initially started digging with, with all the bullets in the cartridge in the gun, and then halfway through, it was pointed out to him that that perhaps wasn't such a good idea.

We were just outside of the Janjaweed Commander's territory. The Janjaweed don't usually talk to journalists but I'd heard this Commander and his twenty thousand men had fallen out with the Sudanese government and might be willing to talk. Over a satellite phone they gave me a rendezvous point.

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We're just about to meet our escort car sent by the former Janjaweed Commander. This is the Commander who's been sent to meet us. He told me that they'd fought against the rebels on the Sudanese government's behalf for five years, but received little in return so their leader had decided to lift the lid on their relationship.

Their territory covers most of Southern Darfur. They had held it for the government, pushing back the rebels but now they'd fallen out with the government. Already there had been clashes. They showed us the route to the garrison. Our escort says that this route is safe and that we won't be meeting any trouble and they should know because if we'd been travelling this route a few months ago, they were the trouble.

We'd been driving for two days. They said the garrison was another two days north. Our escort was heavily armed for the journey. The machine guns have got amulets with verses from the Koran, blessed by a local sheikh and all of them are wearing them. What do these protect you from? He said even if a spear comes right in, it won't pierce you.

The Sudanese government has denied arming the Janjaweed but these fighters said that wasn't true. They told me to look at where their weapons had come from.

You can see on this box just across here it says Yarmouk Industrial Complex, which is the main government industrial armament complex, which is under US economic sanctions for involvement in the manufacture and shipping of arms to Darfur.

One of the officers, Jeffna al Bakheet says he was recruited by the government. So how were you recruited? There was a rush to join.

But he says these rewards, being looked after by the government and investment in Arab villages, never came. Finally they told us we were approaching the garrison. The garrison is just there.

At first, all we could see were trees, then we realised we were in a vast concealed camp.

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This is not what I expected at all. There are people sleeping under trees, there are people cooking and out in the open. It's not a conventional military garrison. They were keen to show us their heavy weaponry. You can see here that the mortars actually have Chinese symbols on them.

The Chinese Government has been accused of flouting a UN arms embargo that bars the supply of weapons to groups involved in the Darfur conflict. Yeah, they say it's a Chinese gun. The Sudanese government has denied arming the Janjaweed but the men say they received weapons up until last October. We were told to wait at the edge of the garrison for the forces leader, Commander Mohammed Hamdan, but then we got word that he was having second thoughts about our filming.

We, we've just seen Commander Hamdan's car cross the riverbed.

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We heard the Government had started negotiating to bring the Commander back on side - a delicate time and not a good moment to go on the record about government backing for his Forces.

This is Commander Mohammed Hamdan, the man we've spent the last two weeks trying to meet. Hamdan's men are accused of carrying out atrocities while allied to the government, yet publicly, the powers in Khartoum have disowned them.

He said he wanted to put the record straight. He said that in fact, the government recruited him personally to fight against the Darfuri rebels in and made his men part of the Armed Forces. If we wanted proof, he said we should look around at his men's weapons and he said to me, does it seem logical to you that we, we magic these weapons and these brand new cars out of air?

Of course the government gave them to us. He says his orders came straight from the top. Commander Hamdan said that he met the President of Sudan, President Ahmad al-Bashir in his home in September ofwhere he personally asked him to carry out campaigns in Um Sidir and Kerriary in Northern Darfur that had recently been taken by the Darfuri rebels. These are the first direct allegations by a senior Janjaweed leader that his force was armed and controlled by the Sudanese Government. It's what the international community has long suspected.

meet the janjaweed in darfur

Next morning, I wanted to ask the Commander about the crimes committed against civilians by Janjaweed and why the UN want him investigated for alleged war crimes. When the world thinks of Darfur, and they think of the Arab tribes in Darfur, they think of the rapes and the looting and the pillages.

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Are your men responsible for that? Hamdan said he wasn't responsible for what others had done. His men had only fought insurgents and when the government ordered him to carry out operations in civilian areas, he refused.

And he says that he is willing to put his hand on his heart and say that he is responsible for his men and he knows what his men did and didn't do and they didn't commit atrocities. He knows the world thinks his men are Janjaweed, but in his culture, a Janjaweed is a bandit who rapes and loots.

His men were part of an organised force, therefore to call them Janjaweed is wrong. The men then produced what they said were Army ID cards.

You can see in Arabic it says identity for officers and soldiers, Armed Forces, Commission for Intelligence and Security and there's actually an ID number. They said all the men had cards like these, proving they were part of the government's forces. Hamdan said he'd welcome an investigation into his men's conduct. Hamdan wanted to show us that African villagers were still living close to the garrison, to reassure us that his men weren't murderers.

After all, Janjaweed have burnt non-Arab settlements all across Darfur. This is Isaq Abdeirahman. He's the tribal sheikh here. The sheikh said Arab bandits had attacked the village early in the conflict, but that Hamdan's forces stepped in to protect them.

At the garrison we saw something else totally unexpected. This is a new intake.

meet the janjaweed in darfur

These soldiers came in after the group defected from the government. What's interesting is that this force is not all Arab. There are both Arab Darfuris and non-Arab Darfuris, who previously were on very opposing sides of the fence, and they signed up to be a rebellion against the Sudanese government together. Hamdan has already signed treaties with some African Darfuri rebel groups, his former enemies. He knows this will cause the government deep anxiety.