SUDAN WATCH: Sudan gov't describes video on Janjaweed defectors as ‘fabrications’

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sudan gov't describes video on Janjaweed defectors as ‘fabrications’

This morning, I was surprised to read a news report from the BBC's Today programme stating that the author of the report, journalist Mike Thomson, has reported for years on Sudan's conflict. After five years of reading tens of thousands of news reports on the Sudan crisis, I find it impossible to believe the actual wording of 'witness statements' such as the ones published in Mike Thomson's report, copied here below.

Approximately five years ago, when eyewitness accounts started coming out of Darfur, western Sudan, the translations from Arabic into English sounded nothing like the statements quoted in today's BBC's report and its accompanying video. To me, the Arabic language sounded like from another world, passionate, flowery and poetic and strange to my English born ears, not unlike how Osama Bin Laden comes across in his taped messages to the media. Their construction of sentences seemed quite different to ours in the English speaking world. Over the years, I've read hundreds of comments at Sudan Tribune posted by Sudanese people. Their comments, mostly in broken English, tend to be composed in fragmented sentences, nothing like the flow of an English speaking westerner.

Here's another thing about the BBC's report. Just because an eyewitness sees a person wearing a Sudanese army uniform does not necessarily mean that the person wearing the uniform is a Sudanese army soldier. Rebels and bandits steal all sorts of uniforms, gear and aid trucks.

As for the video interview in the BBC's report, what is the point of broadcasting anonymously I ask myself. If one cannot verify the source of the report one ought not to broadcast. What was the point of the BBC's report I wonder, to give anonymous people a voice? Why on the day of the ICC's judges announcing their ruling on Sudan's president, I wonder. Smells of political activism to me. Shame on the BBC for such shabby reporting.

BBC Today programme report by Mike Thomson 4 March 2009:
Arresting a president
In late 2007 I was in a large and overcrowded camp for displaced people just outside the western Darfur town of El Fasher.

A young mother, her face wet with tears, told me the story of how she came to be there.

"It was six in the morning when we heard the sounds of airplanes, horses and camels," she said.

"Then came gunfire. We were very frightened and stayed in our homes. After a while some men with guns arrived in the village and told us it was safe to come out. There were nine people in our house, including my son and my brother.

"The gumen told them to lie down. Then they shot them all. The men took everything. They even took my clothes and left me naked."


Khadiga Osman says Sudanese government soldiers helped the Janjaweed Arab militia carry out the massacre. "I saw their uniforms clearly," she told me.

Many others in Darfur said the same.

But given the Sudanese government's repeated denials that their soldiers backed or helped the Janjaweed carry out atrocities, the allegations have long been hard to prove.

Yet now a former Sudanese soldier has claimed that his regiment, based near the town of El Fasher, joined Janjaweed fighters in seven attacks on villages from late 2002.

Khalid, which is not his real name, says he was forcibly recruited and then left in no doubt what officers wanted him and his fellow black conscripts to do.

"The orders given to us are to burn the villages completely. We don't have to leave anything, even the water pots we have to destroy. We even have to poison the water wells.

"We were also given an order to kill all the women and rape the girls under 13 and 14 downwards."


He confirmed he was ordered to rape and kill adults and children.

Khalid admits to taking part in burning peoples' homes but insisted that he had no choice because he had seen two other conscripts of black African origin shot dead after refusing to do what they were told.

Simulated rape

But he says he always tried to shoot over people's heads and merely simulated the rape of a young women that he was ordered to violate.

I asked Khalid what orders he was given about what to do with unarmed civilians who offered no resistance.

"They said they are the ones who help the rebels and you have to kill everybody. Don't leave anybody, just kill everybody."


Khalid said he was also told to shoot children that had been left behind by their parents.

He estimates that the number of civilian killings he witnessed by Janjaweed and government troops runs into more than 1,000.

Finally, after a year's service, he deserted from the army and later managed to get out of the country.

Fearful that members of the International Criminal Court might come knocking on his door with an arrest warrant, Khalid asked me not to reveal his name or the place where he now lives.

But he insists that the blame for all that happened lies not with him, but with the President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir.

"Omar Bashir is in the chair. All information comes from him. The responsibility is down to him. He is the first person that is responsible for the genocide, of the killing of the children, of everything.

"If you are head of the country then any crimes then you are responsible for any crimes done by your soldiers. It is al-Bashir doing all these things."


Click here to view filmed interview.

'We were ordered to kill all the women'

Should judges from the International Criminal Court come to the same decision, which it is widely expected that they will, a warrant will be issued for the arrest of the Sudanese President.

He is currently accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

However, responsibility for the execution of a warrant for some, or all of these charges, will be left to the Sudanese authorities.

So far they have refused repeatedly to hand over two other Sudanese officials also wanted by the ICC.

As a result nobody should expect to see Mr al-Bashir standing trial in the Hague any time soon.
This report comes across as being engineered by political activism.  I have highlighted dubious text in red.  
- - -

From Sudan Tribune Wednesday 4 March 2009 - excerpt:
Sudan describes video on Janjaweed defectors as ‘fabrications’
March 3, 2009 (CAIRO) — The Sudanese government said that a series of videos showing defecting members of the notorious Janjaweed militias and soldiers speaking about attacks carried out in Darfur as well as their links with government officials were fabricated.

Janjaweed

Photo: Armed pro-government janjaweed fighter passes by a Sudanese camel herder from one of Darfur’s dominant nomad Arab tribes, Rezeigat, at the marketplace in the West Darfur town of Mukjar, Sudan (AP)

The videos were release by the UK based group Aegis Trust but was also re-circulated by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CHRS) and some Egyptian newspapers.

One of the alleged Janjaweed commanders shown by the name of Suleiman said that he met with Sudan 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha who came to Al-Fasher in North Darfur.

“He gave us instructions; just you bring to us your people, Arab people from there. I give you the weapons, the money, the horses, the camels and the uniform” he said.

Suleiman also claimed that Taha told them “We need only land. We don’t need the people here”.

Rights group and Western governments say the Sudanese government has used the Janjaweed as auxiliaries against Darfur rebels and civilians suspected of rebel sympathies. The government denies this and says the Janjaweed are outlaws.

Another Janjaweed soldier by the name of Ali said that they received the orders from Khartoum. He described killing children as young as five years old.

A senior army finance officer on the video said that money and salaries to the militias was distributed by Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“There is a promise to the Janjaweed beside the money they give them, they must take everything in the village” Suleiman said.

A Sudanese solider named Osman said that raping women and girls “is an order” and those who defy would be killed.

Suleiman acknowledged that rape was not ordered by the government “but they have all the information”.

The Sudanese ambassador to Cairo Abdel-Moniem Mabrouk said that the allegations by the defectors “are baseless”.

Mabrouk said that it was proved that these testimonies have been proved to be “a hoax” which is why “they were pulled from the internet”.

The Sudanese official further accused certain organization of paying some anonymous people to make these statements in order to “support the position of the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.

He criticized the Egyptian media for re-publishing the video saying that they should work to “ensure accuracy when receiving material from suspicious organizations that are closely linked to Western circles”.

Some observers in Khartoum have suggested that the move was correlated with worsening relations between Egypt and Sudan over the Gaza crisis. The Sudanese government attended an emergency summit in Qatar on the Gaza conflict which was boycotted by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority.

Cairo viewed the summit as a gathering of more radical voices working counter to its efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas movement which is in control of the Gaza strip. [...]

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