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.