Friday, February 29, 2008

Here are the statements from a recent press release issued by JEM:

"JEM reliable sources in Southern Darfur reveal extensive military build-up in Nyala. A convoy consisting of 98 heavy military vehicles, 10 Chinese and Russian Tanks, 12 missile launchers and 25 SPG9 left Nyala today and camped in Zalingei for the night. "

I have confirmed from sources in West-South Darfur that these statements are at least in part true. On their return to Nyala from Jebel Marra, my sources passed over GoS 90 tanks entering into West Darfur.

Meanwhile, the GoS tries to find a seat in the Arab world by staging protests all around Sudan against the re-publication of purportedly offensive cartoons in Danish newspapers. Thousands marched in Khartoum in front of Omar el-Bashir as he vociferously heralded the removal of all Danes from Sudan and the future boycott of Danish goods. All United Nations personnel were restricted from leaving their compounds. Yet according to the Danish representatives, they hadn't yet been contacted regarding any possible expulsion or of any measures that were being taken to halt the 25 million USD in cheese imports into Sudan. Words, words, words. The Danish humanitarian organizations continue their work.

More words: Palestinians are offered refuge in Sudan. But do they even want to come?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A New Camp for West Darfur

The UNHCR has decided to establish a new camp in the Al Geneina vicitiny to host the newly displaced people from Abu Surug, Silea, Jebel Moon, and Sirba. The original capacity will be approximately 6,000 people. Now comes the dirty part of a humanitarian intervention: NGOs will begin fighting for a position in the camp, to find a place as camp coordinator, water provider, NFI distributor, or anything else they can be to assure future funding for their organization.

According to our intel, the fighting in Jebel Moon continues, as SLA and JEM fighters hold their ground against government forces. More displaced people from the region might arrive.

More worrisome is that fact that Chadian troops are gathering near the vicinity of Habila, many assume to prepare for a massive repsissal against the Chadian rebels' failed attempt to take N'Djamena last month.

UNAMID, remarkeably, is a positive force in West Darfur and has been taking a pro-active and visible presence in the field, accompanying humanitarian workers and patrolling the camps all night. According to some Darfuris, their new stance has already made a difference for the safety of those in camps.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The assessments begin

IRIN published what many of us fear.

A friend of mine sent me this email:

i met somebody came from SIRBA and he reported that
people were in the village when the combination of troops arrived GOS and Janjweed
they were more than 30 vehicles land curser and approximately 100 horse and 50 camels
and they were divided in three coulms which were heading in different direction, they were ululating and shooting
every body we come to kill the GOS opposition and kill black slaves,they went to OMDA house where his is sick
and 16 men from the village visited him they killed all the men and OMDA and they move forward and come to anther
houses and run after those who trying to flee .
and he keep telling me he said i was running away next to IMMAM who was very old, he was shot four time in the
back and in leg.then burned the village only few houses remained intact and the move forward toABUSROUG and SILEA
eye witness report

Many thought, including I, that the events of 2003 and 2004 were over. We were wrong.

Friday, February 8, 2008


The GoS has begun a massive offensive in West Darfur, and has already 'flattened' and 'burned to the ground' Sirba and Abu Suruj in Northern West Darfur, according to one aid worker. 200 people have been killed, according to unconfirmed reports.

As I write this, the JEM is fighting the GoS in Silea.

Also, on the other side of the world, the UN Security Council deliberates the situation in Darfur and the delays in the deployment of the UNAMID forces.

Jan Eliasson, United Nations special envoy to Sudan, and Jean Marie Guéhenno, Under Secretary for Peacekeeping Missions, stated at a UN press conference this morning that West Darfur is in a 'war situation,' and that if this crisis continues to escalate, UNAMID will be completely ineffective in protecting civilians from violence.

"We would like to be in a position to protect the civilians who will be the main victims of that war, because their houses will be burned, they will be displaced, they will run away from the figting… Many people thought that this would happen, North of Al Geneina, but at this stage we have very limited resources - 9,000 [total peacekeepers], that is only 7,500 troops and many of them do not have the resources to have any presence," said Guéhenno.

"At the moment… the people of Darfur expect the world of us," he continued, "and we would want to give them what they hope for, but we are not in a position to do so. If there is a significant loss of life, if they see that we cannot meet their expectations - and their expectations are very high - then it will be a very difficult situation for everybody."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dry season

Some recent photos

Sunday, February 3, 2008

One More Year

It has been one week since my return to Darfur.

The security situation is the worst that many can remember, and some are comparing it to the time of the original violence in 2003/4. The cause of the it is unclear: JEM have taken over the northern corridor and the GoS no longer allows humanitarian access to that area; in south West Darfur, the government of Chad is bombing inside Sudanese territory, and humanitarian workers have evacuated and halted programs; in the East, no one is using the roads for fear of getting carjacked by unknown bandits most likely originating from a group of discontented sudanese army soldiers. There are so many actors and their goals are ill-defined.

The AU has become UNAMID in name only, with no increase in capacity nor motivation to implement their mandate. They sit in their compounds, as they have for years, and Darfuris question their utility if they have so obviously failed to quell the violence. Many fear that the slow deployment will actually cause an increase in violence and banditry, as armed groups take advantage of the time remaining before full deployment to increase their assets through carjackings and assaults on UN and NGO compounds.

Many of my colleagues are discussing what is happening in Chad, and how it will negatively effect our work. Al Geneina, where many organizations in West Darfur are based, is only 30 kms from the border and will surely suffer a violent reprisal should the Chadian government save itself from the ongoing rebel invasion. Chadian troops have effectively taken over Geneina and have been securing it from Sudanese rebels since November. They are everywhere, on every corner, and I am grateful that for the most part they remain kind and aloof, leaving the local population alone. But if they lose their gambit, will Idriss Deby, the president of Chad, bomb inside Sudan to rid it of his enemies?

There are unconfirmed reports that JEM has made an incursion into Chadian territory, in order to defend the government of Chad, the source of their arms and funding.

There are further reports that Sudanese Janjaweed have entered into Chad and are fighting with the Chadian rebels.

In the North, over 2000 paratroopers are stationed and ready to fight. I have been told that the Ministry of Defence arrived recently to ‘bless the troops’ – a sure sign that a battle is imminent. What will the JEM do?

So, although I personally feel quite safe, the immediate future for most West Darfuris is surely bleak.