SUDAN WATCH: Unidentified gunmen in Darfur steal vehicles and aid

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Unidentified gunmen in Darfur steal vehicles and aid

News reports never explain how rebels, fighting for years on end in countries like the Sudan, make a living to pay for their food, trucks, petrol, satellite phones, radios, arms and ammunition etc.

To expect peace and quiet in regions like Darfur where anarchy reigns because leadership and policing is poor or non-existent, seems unrealistic. Banditry in Darfur frequently makes headline news but seldom does banditry in countries like DR Congo or northern Uganda make the news.

Today, a report by Reuters in Khartoum opens by saying, quote "Bandits are stepping up attacks on African Union and relief convoys in Sudan's Darfur region disrupting the flow of aid in the conflict-stricken area, African Union and aid officials told Reuters on Sunday"

The gunmen were unidentified. But why call them 'bandits' and not 'unidentified gunmen'? Reuters' reporting of "stepping up attacks on African Union" makes the violence sound targetted, like war is being waged against AU troops. And the words "disrupting the flow of aid" and "obstruct aid" make it sound like there is a concerted effort to stop aid getting through. Who is creating such spin, and why? Is it the African Union, aid officials or Reuters being sloppy?

The Reuters reporter does not make clear who said the word 'bandits'. Use of the word 'bandits' and not 'rebels' to describe unidentified gunmen, implies the gunmen are from elsewhere or not part of the Darfur rebel movement and even leads one to think the gunmen could be pro government, maybe the so-called Janjaweed. It is not clear if the Reuters reporter chose to use the word 'bandits' in place of 'gunmen', or whether AU and aid officials actually used the word bandits to describe unidentified gunmen.

What difference is there between rebels and bandits? It seems to me they all part of the same anarchy but the Reuters report leads one to think maybe forces allied to the Sudanese government are stepping up attacks on African Union troops, inciting violence and stopping aid reaching those most in need, thus continuing genocide.

Here is an excerpt from the report entitled "Bandits in Sudan's Darfur attack AU, obstruct aid" which makes no mention of the word 'bandit' -
"An AU official said the African body was investigating recent attacks, and added it was not yet clear if the gunmen acted alone or had links to the other armed groups in the area.

"There is a lot of banditry ... The area is lawless and they (gunmen) are attacking everyone," Jean Baptiste Natama, a senior AU protocol officer told Reuters.

Natama said one person was lightly injured on Thursday when unidentified gunmen attacked a patrol near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state.

The AU official said the incident was the first of its kind in several weeks. But an aid official, who did not want to be named, said incidents of gunmen shooting at convoys and stealing vehicles and aid had increased in recent months in Darfur.

"The situation got worse from around April, May, June ... They (gunmen) are taking vehicles. We have lost trucks and aid commodities," said the official who would not say how much material had been lost."
As noted here in previous posts, an Arab militia, in an interview last year, admitted to not feeling guilty about looting. He explained they are too proud to ask for charity and hand outs and resort to any means to feed themselves and their families. It is not difficult to imagine Sudanese rebels having to do the same. How else do they all make a living? Or are they being funded and supplied by external sources and, if so, by whom and why?

UPDATE Aug 29: Sudanese government accuses Darfur rebel group SLM of attacks, abductions, stealing camels and vehicles. Ref article by Xinhua via ReliefWeb Aug 29, SUNA, the official news agency in Khartoum, says:
SLM, one of two main rebel groups in Darfur, attacked the al-Malam area on August 23 and seized a number of vehicles;

On August 24, SLM launched another attack against the same area, firing at unarmed people, capturing seven as well as looting 3,100 heads of camels;

The Sudanese government announced the attacks on the eve of the arrival of AU Chief Mediator to Darfur Salem Ahmed Salem in Khartoum who was charged with discussing issues related to the upcoming round of Abuja talks with the Sudanese government and the Darfur rebels.
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Displaced from Darfur, Sudan

Photo: Displaced people from Darfur, Sudan. The top United Nations refugee official called on the international community to compensate Chad with development projects for taking in tens of thousand of refugees fleeing the fighting in Darfur. (AFP/HO-UN/Yahoo)
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UPDATE Aug 31: Sudanese rebel group deny attacking aid convoys in Darfur

Copy of a report Aug 31, 2005 via Sudan Tribune - Text of report in English by independent USAID-funded Sudan Radio Service, BBC Monitoring Middle East:

Aug 31, 2005 - One of the anti-government groups in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement, SLM, has refuted reports that its forces have been attacking aid convoys in Darfur.

The SLM field spokesman, commander Muhammad Hamid Ali, claimed to Sudan Radio Service on Monday [29 August] in a telephone interview, that the Janjawid militiamen and government troops have been dressing like SLM fighters so that they can attack relief trucks and tarnish the image of the SLM.

[Soundbite of Ali]: "There are groups of the Janjawid and some elements of the government military intelligence who dress in the same uniform as SLM combatants, mark their vehicles with SLM logo and attack aid convoys, then report that the attacks have been carried out by SLM members."

Commander Ali said his people depend entirely on relief supplies to survive and it is unthinkable that the SLM troops would attack convoys carrying supplies destined for their needy people.

He claims that international humanitarian agencies have been manipulated by the government to make statements without investigations that anti-government forces have been attacking aid convoys.
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Egyptian plane loaded with relief aid arrives in Darfur

Good news. Kuna in Kuwait Aug 28 says an Egyptian transport airplane loaded with relief aid arrived in Fasher, regional capital of Darfur, to help needy people. The plane carried 5.5 tons of medicine, 3.5 tons of food and other relief supplies.

KUNA says according to official media, this was the 24th aircraft sent by Egypt to the Darfur population.
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UNCHR: 4 million refugees would return home to South Sudan

More good news. Bahrain News Agency Aug 28 report says UN high commissioner for refugees in Sudan, Antonio Guterres said in an interview he gave to the BBC that south Sudan's problem would be soon solved and more than 4 million refugees would return to their homes after 20 years of civil war.

"There is a great opportunity for peace in Sudan now. I am here to meet with Sudan's Deputy President, Silva Kiir, and representatives of various southern governorates to ease the return of the refugees", Guterres said.



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