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.”

Related


UN to vote on reduced extension of cross-border aid to Syria

Updated 11 July 2020

UN to vote on reduced extension of cross-border aid to Syria

  • Saturday’s vote will be on a new draft text which would provide for a single aid access point into Syria
  • Western member states reject Russia’s arguments that authorization for cross-border aid violates Syrian sovereignty

UN, United States: The UN Security Council is due to vote again Saturday on an extension of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria after Russia and China vetoed a previous measure to the chagrin of Western member states.
Authorization for the transport of aid to war-torn Syria, a system in place since 2014, expired Friday following the two countries’ veto earlier in the day and the subsequent rejection of a counterproposal by Moscow.
Saturday’s vote will be on a new draft text submitted overnight by Germany and Belgium, which would provide for a single aid access point into Syria.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called in a tweet Saturday “on all delegations to no longer obstruct a compromise.”
European countries and the US had wanted to maintain two crossing points on the Turkish border — at Bab Al-Salam, which leads to the Aleppo region, and Bab Al-Hawa, which serves the Idlib region.
The latest draft measure calls only for the Bab Al-Hawa crossing to be maintained “for a period of twelve months,” according to a text obtained by AFP. The Council would also ask the UN secretary-general for a report “at least every 60 days.”
UN authorization allows the international body to distribute aid to displaced Syrians without needing permission from Damascus.
But Russia and China argue that the authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channeled through Syrian authorities.
Russia, Syria’s closest ally, has for weeks argued that Bab Al-Salam should be removed as an access point, particularly as it leads to the Aleppo region.
Bab Al-Hawa, on the other hand, allows for aid to be funneled to nearly four million people in the insurgent Idlib region, which the Syrian regime does not control.
Western member states reject Russia’s arguments that authorization for cross-border aid violates Syrian sovereignty.
Those countries maintain that there is no credible alternative to the cross-border system and argue that Syrian bureaucracy and politics are preventing an effective flow of aid in areas not controlled by the Syrian regime.
The US has gone so far as to describe having two entry points as “a red line.”
The 15 members of the Security Council have until midday Saturday to submit amendments to the latest text before the vote.
Russia has asked for two things — a mention of the impact of unilateral sanctions on Syria (an implicit jab at the United States and Europe), and a statement acknowledging improvements in aid delivery carried out under the Syrian regime.
However, those amendments have little chance of being adopted.
China, for its part, has called for an amendment highlighting the work of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, “in particular his appeal for an immediate global cease-fire.”
In January, Moscow succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorization to six months instead of a year.
This week Russia and China exercised their veto rights as permanent members twice — on Tuesday and Friday — even as NGOs and Western countries accused them of politicizing a humanitarian issue.
To be adopted, Saturday’s draft text must get at least nine of the 15 votes, with none of the five permanent members voting against the measure.
Friday’s vetoes by Moscow and Beijing marked the 16th for Russia and 10th for China on texts linked to Syria since the war began in 2011.
In a report in June, Guterres called for a one-year extension of the aid to include the two current access points.