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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Lebanon is a sinking ship, parliament speaker warns

Updated 18 November 2019

Lebanon is a sinking ship, parliament speaker warns

  • Lebanon’s Berri says country a sinking ship
  • Hezbollah expects “political understandings” on new gov’t

BEIRUT: The speaker of parliament on Monday described Lebanon as a sinking ship at risk going under completely, underlining the depth of crisis in a country hamstrung by political deadlock and facing the worst economic strains since the 1975-90 civil war.
Banks, which have been seeking to prevent capital flight, were set to reopen on Tuesday as staff ended a one-week strike over security concerns posed by clients demanding their cash and protests at branches.
Struggling with a massive public debt and economic stagnation, Lebanon has sunk deeper into trouble since protests erupted against its ruling elite a month ago, leading Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to quit on Oct. 29.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told his visitors Lebanon was like a ship that was “sinking little by little,” the newspaper Al-Joumhuria reported.
“If we don’t take the necessary steps, it will sink entirely,” he said.
An-Nahar newspaper quoted him as likening Lebanon to the Titanic.
Berri, an ally of the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah, also said that efforts to form a new government were “completely frozen” and awaiting developments at any moment, Al-Joumhuria reported.
Efforts to form a new government, needed to enact urgent reforms, hit a setback at the weekend when former finance minister Mohammad Safadi withdrew his candidacy for the post of prime minister, drawing bitter recriminations.
Safadi had emerged as a candidate after Hariri, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, had been unable to agree with the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies on the type of government that should replace the outgoing cabinet.
Hariri had said that he would only return as prime minister of a cabinet of specialist ministers capable of securing international aid and saving Lebanon from crisis.
Hezbollah, which is heavily armed and listed as a terrorist group by the United States, and its allies have insisted that the government include politicians.
Hezbollah’s deputy leader, in comments to Iranian media, said “political understandings” would take place between “the parties and even with leaders of the protest movement” to form a new government, without giving further details.
Sheikh Naim Kassem also said the new government’s agenda would help to calm down the streets.
Both Hezbollah and Berri have said their preference is for Hariri to return again as prime minister — a post reserved for a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s power-sharing system.
The nationwide protests have been fueled by the mismanagement and perceived corruption of the ruling elite.
Lebanon’s economic problems have been compounded by a slowdown of capital inflows, leading to a scarcity of US dollars and spawning a hard currency black market.
Dollars were being offered at 1,820 pounds, around Friday’s level, dealers said, but still some 20% weaker than the official rate of 1,507.5 pounds.
On Sunday, banks, which have mostly been closed since the protests began, announced temporary measures including a weekly cap of $1,000 on cash withdrawals and restricting transfers abroad to cover urgent personal spending only.
A union representing bank staff said banks would be operating as normal on Tuesday after a decision to end the strike. It cited an interior ministry security plan and the newly declared measures announced by the banking association as the reason for the decision to go back to work.
“Tomorrow the banking sector will no longer be on strike. Tomorrow is a normal working day in all banks and all branches,” George Al-Hajj, President of the Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees, said.

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