الأربعاء، 11 ديسمبر 2013

The myth of peace in Darfur

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In July 2011 the Sudanese government with the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), an attempt to create the appearance of achieved peace and security in the region. The government directed all its media channels towards celebrating this “achieved peace” in Darfur whilst ignoring the fact that the most powerful rebel groups had not signed up to the document. The world however, has turned its back on the continued massacres.
Although the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for the Sudanese president, Omar El Bashir, as well as a number of government officials for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2003; they are yet to be prosecuted. In 2010 the Sudanese minister of justice assigned four special prosecutors to investigating these crimes; all of them resigned without explanation and having not made any progress in the investigations.
In January 2012 the Darfur conflict entered a new era with armed clashes between the Arab tribes themselves over ownership of land and resources in the north and south of Darfur. Although the government had supported the same Arab tribes in clashes with the non-Arab population, the magic faded quickly into undesired and uncontrollable conflicts. One of the residents testified, “It’s very hard now to stop the ongoing clashes, the tribes are armed, and whenever looting or killing happens they identify the perpetrator as an affiliate to a certain tribe rather than a criminal. The revenge goes beyond harming the perpetrator and extends to the families and tribe as a whole”.
Intertribal conflicts have always been part of life in Darfur; but the governments’ involvement is leading to endless devastating clashes. According to an activist, who prefers to stay anonymous, in August 2013 over 110 persons were killed in clashes between Rezeigat and Maalia tribes, hundreds of Maalia were displaced, their houses were looted and burnt while Abdel Hameed Kasha, the State Governor of Central Darfur supported Rezeigat in their war against Maalia, and he was publically accusing them of supporting rebel groups.
On July 31, 2012 and during the June/July 2012 protests in Sudan, 13 peaceful protestors were shot dead and over a hundred were injured by police and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. The majority were minors and secondary school students. The Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), the principle instrument for the implementation of the DDPD, condemned the violent incidents but only blamed the federal government for their shortcomings in providing fuel and electricity. Two weeks later, on August 13 2012, the DRA premises were attacked by gunmen who kidnapped DRA officers and the state minister of youth affairs.
In December 2012, four students of Algazira University were found dead in a stream after having participated in a peaceful protest demanding the enforcement of the exemption of Darfuri students from public university tuition fees, as stipulated in the DDPD in 2011. Three out of the four students killed were originally from Darfur and Alsadig, one of them had waited five years until his family as well as residents of the Kalma camp were able to raise enough funds for his ticket to Khartoum and for his tuition at Algazira University. The DRA managed to send condolences to the familie: however, they failed to make any mention of the DDPD let alone provide any explanation as to why their children had been assassinated.
From 3 till 5 July 2013, the streets of Nyala witnessed violent clashes between Janjaweed, the pro-government militias, and the National Intelligence and Security Services NISS. This came after “Dakroon” - a nickname for one of the Rezeigat/Janjaweed leaders - and Abutira, a commander with border patrols, were shot dead by the NISS in the suburbs of Nyala. The violent clashes continued for three days, tens of people were killed, including two aid workers, while the exact numbers of those killed and injured from the NISS and Janjaweed remains unknown.
In Nyala market on 8 July 2013 Ahmed Salih Zakaria, a man from the Salamat tribe, shot Ali Koshaib, a Janjaweed leader and commander wanted by the ICC for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes. Koshaib, protected by a bulletproof vest, only suffered an injury to his arm, but his two bodyguards were killed. Zakaria was arrested immediately but died in custody two weeks later, and pro-government newspapers claimed that he had died from a bullet injury he sustained as he was trying to kill Koshaib. Furthermore, according toHRW, Ali Koshaib was involved in the ethnic attacks against the Salamat tribe in Central Darfur, in April 2013.
On 18 September 2013, Ismael Wadi, a businessman of Zaghawa descent was shot dead in Nyala. After his funeral, mass protests erupted in the city demanding justice and condemning the state of insecurity. Again the police shot live ammunition at peaceful protestors leaving 15 dead and over 70 people severely injured. The DRA, as usual, condemned the murder of Ismael Wadi and the consequent violence, however neglecting to mention the killing of the protestors.  A resident of Nyala testified to the fact that a curfew has been imposed from 7 pm onwards since these incidents took place, and that at the beginning of November this curfew was pushed to 8pm and anyone who attempted to break it was risking his or her life. If the person was lucky they would be forced to spend the night in a public park, prosecuted in the morning and punished by paying a fine or facing imprisonment. Although South Darfur appears to be the most troubled; according to Radio Dabanga on 6 November 2013, the government is insisting on evacuating the camps around Nyala and forcing Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return to their villages.
The Darfur conflict is now completing its first decade; over 300,000 civilians have been killed and over 3 million people have been displaced, of which over 450,000 fled this year alone. There are hundreds of thousands of children who’ve never had a place they could call home, apart from the displacement camps. The National Congress Party’s (NCP) peace agreements, like the DDPD, will never achieve peace as long as their signatories exclude the real actors in the conflict. Peace in Sudan will never be achieved unless all the criminals are held accountable and justice is achieved for the martyrs, the displaced and for war survivors.

#Strike4Sudan - its supporters and its critics debate the way forward

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Almost a month has passed since the people of Sudan began to rebel. Violence ensued which led to the death of over 210 peaceful protestors, the arbitrary arrest and detention of over 700 people and the disappearance of a number of young men and women whose families don’t know if they are still alive or killed by government militias.
By the end of September the mass protests had dwindled in size, but the youth had not given up. Now they are in the process of developing resistance groups to challenge the National Congress Party (NCP). Young female activists and students have organized several silent sit-ins in front of the military headquarters and on Nile Street in Khartoum; where they posters bearing photos of the October martyrs are on display. Families of the detainees are also arranging regular sit-ins in front of National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) premises.
In Sudan when a family loses a loved one, they mourn him/her again during the first national holiday after their passing. The massacre took place two weeks prior to Eid El Adha and activists called on everyone to celebrate the feast with the families of the martyrs. After Eid prayers in the Shambat neighborhood, the residents marched to the houses of the martyrs “Hazzaa” and then to “Babiker’s” and gave their condolences to the mothers who were overwhelmed with grief. In the Shambat and Althawra neighborhoods the walls are covered with the names of martyrs as well as anti-regime slogans.
Last week, a group of Sudanese activists and bloggers launched a five-day hunger strike for Sudan (#Strike4Sudan). The demands of the hunger strike were justice for the martyrs; the release of all political detainees and the right to freedom of expression. They call for the government to be held accountable for the killing of peaceful protestors and for all censorship to be lifted from the media and demand that journalists should not be harassed. 
Soon after the announcement of the planned hunger strike, three members of the detainees' families joined in; namely Taghreed Awooda, Sandra Kadooda, the wives of Mohayad Siddig (detained since September 22) and Amjad Farid (detained since September 30) and Kawther, the mother of Mohamed Alim (detained since September 22) whose family wasn’t allowed to visit him.
Reem Shawkat, a journalist and blogger, declared she was on hunger strike for numerous reasons. One of them is her belief that there is a general deterioration in the quality of food in Sudan, as well as increasing poverty. “When the people took to the streets to demand their rights, they were shot dead while others were arrested. Now I feel ashamed for drinking juice on the street when so many people can’t even secure a meal a day. Allowing people to starve is no different from killing them. It’s just a method of oppression and forced insecurity.”
Eyad Suliman, a pharmacist, went on strike because of the deterioration of health facilities. He says many patients die before even receiving medical care in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, not even mentioning what takes place in rural areas. He has some bitter stories to tell, “A man suffering from severe burns was transferred between six emergency rooms in different public hospitals because he couldn’t afford to buy the gauze and other medical supplies for his treatment. They weren’t available in the ER and they wouldn’t admit him without him supplying the materials. He was using a taxi to run between hospitals as an ambulance wasn’t even made available. Another case is of a female university lecturer who died in the process of negotiating a discount, in a public hospital, for her treatment. She was unaware she was pregnant and died because of a miscarriage. Her life could have been saved if she hadn’t been wasting her time knocking on the door of the hospital director."
Many activists have criticized the hunger strike as a form of resistance, and expressed their frustration on twitter about the decline in anti-regime protests. @walaasalah a Sudanese lawyer and human rights activist challenged the efficiency and the effectiveness of #Strike4Sudan by tweeting that people on this strike are not in the same place; all they were doing was announcing it on their social media networks and no real action was taking place on the ground. She argued that the strike was mainly targeting the international community rather than the Sudanese people, regarding this as a deterioration of anti-regime resistance. What is needed, she believes, is for activists to focus more on mobilizing the people. @blackboy, a Sudanese tweep, commented on the hunger strike, saying, “A regime that shoots its people would never care for people on hunger strike”.
Now most activists are trying to develop new forms of resistance; whether it is arranging a sit in, inviting people to mourn the martyrs with their respective families or joining in the five-day hunger strike. Activists criticizing the strike are searching for more radical revolutionary actions. What unites both supporters and opponents of #Strike4Sudan is the sense of responsibility for change which is the driving force for both.