Uprising at Darfur refugee camp

Gee, what reason would these people have to be so angry? Note that the refugees accuse the guerilla leader who signed the peace deal of being a traitor. Note that they are very eager for Western, and especially American intervention. Once again, the case against Western intervention in Darfur may be a good one, but if the anti-war forces are going to make it, they had better be prepared to offer some other meaningful solidarity to the refugees–instead of loaning succor to their oppressors, as the idiot left did in the case of Kosova. From the New York Times, May 9 (emphasis added):

African Union Official Is Hacked to Death in Darfur

KALMA CAMP, Sudan, May 8 — An African Union official was hacked to death in this vast, squalid camp today after his post, manned by an unarmed team of eight civilian police officers, was overrun and looted by a mob of angry demonstrators.

The killing of the official — a Sudanese translator working with the African Union troops policing a much-violated cease fire agreement — underscored the tenuousness of the peace deal agreed to in Abuja by the government and the main rebel faction, as well as the barely contained tensions boiling over into violence in enormous camps where more than two million internal refugees now live.

The demonstrators were demanding that a United Nations force replace the African Union soldiers charged with protecting civilians here. Protesters at another camp, Zallingei, also attacked their African Union outpost, but no one was killed.

Chaos engulfed Kalma, one of the largest and most troubled camps for displaced people caught up in the conflict in Darfur, as Jan Egeland, the United Nations’ chief humanitarian official, visited the camp to investigate deteriorating conditions after an aid group coordinating humanitarian assistance here was evicted last month.

The violence also raised questions about the ability of the African Union force to help Sudan survive this critical period between the signing of a peace agreement, which it will have to enforce, and the arrival of a much larger United Nations’ force, which will not happen until October at the earliest.

The 7,000-member force is caught in an “impossible squeeze really between the exploding expectations of the civilian population of security which they have been denied for so long and on the other side the simple limitations of their capacity,” Mr. Egeland said.

With limited means and facing rising frustration from the people they are charged with protecting, the African Union is struggling to police a grim conflict that has spawned what the United Nations has called the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis and the United States has called genocide.

Mr. Egeland’s visit here began peacefully. He was greeted by thousands of demonstrators hoisting banners that read, “No, no rapes and genocide,” and chanting, “welcome, welcome U.S.A., welcome, welcome international force,” a swirling mass of men in white robes and women in a rainbow of shawls. Their cries betrayed some frustration but little anger to foretell the violence to come.

As the morning wore on, the sun rose to a punishing zenith. Suddenly, the mood darkened. The discontent bubbled in a concoction of frustrations. Conditions had gotten worse in the past month, and this month, residents will get half as much food because the World Food Program, short of money, was forced to cut aid. Youth groups were angry that their elders shut them out of a meeting with Mr. Egeland. The population of the camp is mostly of the Fur ethnic group, the same tribe as the leader of a rebel splinter group that refused to sign the peace agreement reached in Abuja last week.

“We don’t want this peace,” shouted Siddiq Abakar Moussa, one of the menacing youths who gathered in the camp to denounce the peace deal. “This is not our peace. We need the United Nations force to protect us.”

One banner denounced the leader of the other Sudan Liberation Army faction that signed the agreement, Minni Arcua Minnawi.

“To the Darfur Arco Minawi is destroyer,” it read. “Ruinous subverter. He is a very bad in our country.”

As Mr. Egeland’s convoy left one part of the camp, a small group of protesters tried to stab an aid worker whom they suspected of being a government spy.

“Janjaweed, janjaweed!” the crowd shouted, grasping at a Sudanese man who works for Oxfam, the British aid organization, as he tried to flee the melee in a car. They were using the local term for the Arab militias who have aligned with the government and carried out brutal attacks on non-Arab villages across the vast arid, countryside of Darfur, a region the in western Sudan the size of France.

The anger in the swirling crowd was palpable when they set upon the aid worker, a Sudanese man who has been working as a primary health coordinator for Oxfam for many years. One young man wielded a knife that came so near the worker’s flesh it sheared his shirt. Women tugged at his legs. Boys in filthy white robes wielding sticks and rocks smashed the windows of the United Nations car in which he was trying to get away.

Mr. Egeland, appearing shaken by the news of the killing of the African Union translator in the wake of his visit to the camp, condemned the violence.

“I have seen for myself how the African union colleagues courageously assist the civilian population and the humanitarian community,” he said. “It is totally, totally unacceptable what happened today in Kalma.”

Conditions have deteriorated in Kalma, one of the oldest and largest camps, since the Norwegian Refugee Council, an aid group, was evicted by Sudanese authorities. Government officials claim that the organization was allowing the rebels and criminals to flourish in the camp, but crime has increased since the agency left, people here said.

“We have no food, no safety,” said Halima Muhammed Abakar, who has lived here for three desperate years. “Yesterday, four women were raped when they went to get firewood. We are so afraid.”

The African Union is supposed to be protecting these and other displaced people, but the force of 7,000 troops is underfunded and outmanned. When the mob here set upon their compound here, the small, unarmed force inside was helpless and terrified. An armed contingent had to be dispatched from the regional capital to rescue them. But the force did not arrive on time, and the mob broke through their barricades. The translator was hacked and beaten to death, Mr. Egeland said.

Before the killing, protesters and camp residence said they were frustrated with the African Union because it was not doing enough to protect them and demanded that a United Nations force be sent at once. The U.N. is organizing such a force and the Sudanese government has said it will accept it now that a peace agreement has been signed, but it will take many months to arrive.

“The African Union are our friends, and we need them in this critical moment,” Mr. Egeland said. “We need the population to support and not attack them.”

Mr. Egeland visited Kalma in part because the situation here is emblematic of the frustrations of the displaced people in this conflict, which has raged for three years, killed 200,000 people and driven more than two million from their homes ,and in part because it symbolizes the enormous difficulties aid agencies face in helping those afflicted by the violence. Since the Norwegian Refugee Council was evicted, new arrivals to the camp have been stuck in improvised shelters with no food and little water.

“Since we arrived we don’t have any access to food, to water, to any health service,” said Sheikh Ahmed Khalil Muhammed, who fled to this camp with 160 families from a village nearby in March. They arrived two days before the Norwegian group was kicked out, and since then they have been living outdoors.

“No one has come to check on us,” Mr. Muhammed told Mr. Egeland. “We have become desperate.”

If conditions do not improve soon, Mr. Egeland said, “Kalma is a powder keg.”

An account from South Africa’s IOL notes:

The main faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), led by Minni Arcua Minnawi, signed the peace agreement in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

But a rival faction, led by Abdel Wahed Mohammed al-Nur, rejected it along with a second Darfur rebel group.

Minnawi is from the smaller Zaghawa tribe but is militarily stronger than Nur, who, like many of those in the camps visited by Egeland on Monday, is from the Fur tribe.

Most of those in the Kalma Camp are Fur, and interviewed refugees told IOL they “totally reject” the pece deal.

See our last post on Darfur.