Darfur victims say for sake of peace Bashir must face ICC

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A Sudanese resident of the Kalma camp for displaced people near Niyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur state, walks between makeshift shelters on October 9, 2019. (AFP)
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A Sydanese resident of the Kalma camp for displaced people near Niyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur state, speaks to AFP on October 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Darfur victims say for sake of peace Bashir must face ICC

  • Jamal Ibrahim saw his sisters get raped by militiamen in Darfur

CAMP KALMA: For Jamal Ibrahim, whose sisters were raped by militiamen in Darfur, only the handover of Sudan’s ousted dictator Omar Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court can bring peace to the restive Darfur region.
“Two of my sisters were raped in front of my eyes by militiamen who stormed through our village, setting our houses on fire,” Ibrahim, 34, told AFP at Camp Kalma, a sprawling facility where tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict in Darfur have lived for years.
“Bashir and his aides who committed the crimes in Darfur must be handed over to the ICC if peace is to be established in the region.”
Ibrahim, who is from Mershing in the mountainous Jebel Marra area of Darfur, said his village was attacked by Arab militiamen in March 2003 soon after conflict erupted in the region.
The fighting broke out when ethnic African rebels took up arms against Khartoum’s then Arab-dominated government under Bashir, alleging racial discrimination, marginalization and exclusion.
Khartoum responded by unleashing the Janjaweed, a group of mostly Arab raiding nomads that it recruited and armed to create a militia of gunmen who were often mounted on horses or camels.
They have been accused of applying a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing, looting and burning villages.
The brutal campaign earned Bashir and others arrest warrants from The Hague-based ICC for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
About 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, the United Nations says.
Bashir, who denies the ICC charges, was ousted by the army in April after months of nationwide protests against his ironfisted rule of three decades.
He is currently on trial in Khartoum on charges of corruption, but war victims like Ibrahim want the ex-leader to stand trial at the ICC, something the northeast African country’s new authorities have so far resisted.
Ibrahim said his father and his uncle were shot dead when militiamen, riding on camels, rampaged through their village.
“We fled from there... and came to this camp. Since then we have not returned to our village,” Ibrahim told an AFP correspondent who visited Camp Kalma last week.
Established near Niyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur state, Camp Kalma is one of the largest facilities hosting people displaced by the conflict.
It is a sprawling complex of dusty tracks lined with mud and brick structures, including a school, a medical center and a thriving market, where everything from clothes to mobile phones are sold.
Hundreds of thousands of Darfur victims live in such camps, subsisting on aid provided by the UN and other international organizations.
In Camp Kalma, hundreds of women and children queue up daily to collect their monthly quota of food aid.
“Often the officials here tell us that we must return to our village, but we can’t because our lands are occupied by others,” said a visibly angry Amina Mohamed, referring to Arab pastoralists who now occupy large swathes of land that previously belonged to people from Darfur.
“We won’t accept any peace deal unless we get back our land. We will leave this camp only when those who committed the crimes are taken to the ICC.”
Even as instances of violence in Darfur, a region the size of Spain, have fallen in recent years, there are still regular skirmishes between militiamen fighting for resources and livestock.
Sudan’s new transitional authorities have vowed to bring peace to Darfur and two other conflict zones of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
A Sudanese delegation led by generals and government officials is currently holding peace talks in the South Sudan capital of Juba with two umbrella rebel groups that fought Bashir’s forces in these three regions.
On Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, announced a “permanent cease-fire” in the three regions to show that authorities are committed to establishing peace.
But residents of Camp Kalma are not convinced, with hundreds of them staging a protest against the talks in Juba.
Musa Adam, 59, who hails from the village of Dilej but has lived in Camp Kalma for years, is in no mood to forgive Bashir.
Seven members of his family were shot dead by militiamen when they raided his village in 2003, Adam said.
“I know those militia leaders... I am ready to testify at the ICC against them as a witness to their crimes,” he said.
“Until these criminals are taken to the ICC, we cannot have peace in Darfur.”

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Palestinian politicians voice dismay over ‘historic agreement’

Updated 23 sec ago

Palestinian politicians voice dismay over ‘historic agreement’

  • This agreement is a betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause, complains Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas
  • A widespread Palestinian fear is that the UAE-Israel agreement could weaken the Arab Peace Initiative

AMMAN: Palestinian politicians have reacted with dismay to the US-brokered agreement that will postpone the annexation of the West Bank while the UAE and Israel establish full diplomatic relations.

The deal was reached after talks between US President Donald Trump, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an urgent meeting of the Arab League after Thursday’s joint announcement by the UAE, Israel and the US.

“The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the surprising UAE-Israeli-US trilateral announcement,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior adviser to Abbas, reading from a statement outside the president’s headquarters in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Abu Rudeineh described the agreement as a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause.”

Tel Aviv City Hall is lit up with the flags of the UAE and Israel as the countries announced they would be establishing full diplomatic ties on Thursday. (AP)

If implemented formally, the deal will pave the way for the UAE to become the third Arab country to have official relations with Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel signed the Oslo accords in 1993 and 1995. Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, while Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords in 1978.

A widespread Palestinian fear is that the UAE-Israel agreement could weaken the Arab Peace Initiative, brokered by then Crown Prince (later King) Abdullah in 2002, which called for full Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land in return for full normalization with Israel.

Jamal Dajani, a former spokesman for the Palestinian prime minister, said Palestinians feel betrayed by the UAE, whose move at this critical time undermines their struggle for independence.

“Israel’s so-called plan of annexation is illegal and a non-starter. Netanyahu knew this, so did Trump,” Dajani told Arab News.

“President Trump said that the ‘ice has been broken,’ but in fact trust has been lost.”

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Mustafa Barghouti, head of Al-Mubadara (the Initiative), an independent Palestinian political party, issued a statement calling the UAE action a “stab in the back of Palestinians.”

He said the deal endorses Israel’s decision to suspend rather than cancel the planned annexation of large parts of the West Bank.

Hamadeh Faraneh, an Amman-based member of Palestine National Council, said the decision is neither historic nor surprising because it has been known for some time that Israel and the UAE have been in regular contact.


ALSO READ: Full text of joint statement on UAE and Israel normalizing ties


He said the decision is at odds with the Arab Peace Initiative and “amounts to a reversal of the order of things.”

“Instead of the end of occupation preceding normalization, we have now normalization without any idea if there will be an end to the occupation,” he told Arab News.

The joint statement by the UAE, Israel and the US said: “Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economies will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations.”

However, Aaron David Miller, a former US peace envoy to the Middle East and a senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, described the agreement as a “historic decision” that represents three wins and one loss.”

According to Miller, it is a win for the leaders of Israel, the UAE and the US, but a loss for Palestinians.

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Twitter: @daoudkuttab

 

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