Monday, November 15, 2004


The BBC's first class Panorama documentary "The new killing fields" aired on British TV last night.

It asked whether the first genocide of the 21st century is occurring in Darfur. The documentary left the viewer in little doubt that Darfur was genocide.

British Foreign Office Minsiter Chris Mullin, was interviewed, and made it clear there was no intention to intervene militarily with European troops who would get shot at from all sides with catastrophic repercussions for the whole of Africa. He rejected international intervention as complicated. "If any western force did intervene it would become very bogged down. Some new call for all the jihadists in the world would emerge and we'd find ourselves very quickly being shot at from all sides," he said.

BBC's Hilary Andersson, who for much of this year has been reporting from Darfur (and deserves an award) went on the trail of the killers to find out who the Janjaweed are. Travelling behind the rebel lines to areas where no television team has previously reached, the Panorama programme uncovered evidence of systematic killings on a horrifying scale. She also investigated where their orders are coming from and confronted the tribal head Hilal who is number one on the US State Department's list of suspected Janjaweed leaders.

Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, wearing a European style business suit, shirt and tie, was interviewed. He said Sudan's government has bombed towns in Darfur, but only to put down a regional uprising by the Sudan Liberation Army rebels. But survivors told a different story.

Note, another excellent report by Hilary Andersson in Darfur, from the Sunday Times yesterday: Genocide lays waste Darfur’s land of no men.

The Janjaweed are said to have shot children at this school in Kidinyir
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African Union Commander Seth Appiah Mensah told the BBC's Panorama programme that the remit he was working under was "highly restrictive" but added that he had no doubt that the Sudanese government was arming the Janjaweed militia.

"The government of Sudan forces and the militia work closely together in that area. It is difficult to distinguish who is who," he said. Read more in the Frustration of Darfur 'observer'.

Commander Seth Appiah Mensah of the African Union
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Darfur in quotes

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Panorama asked if the first genocide of the 21st century is occurring in Darfur.

Here are some key quotes from the programme and from people connected to the conflict.

"One of the reasons for our failure in Rwanda was that beforehand we did not face the fact that genocide was a real possibility. And once it started, for too long we could not bring ourselves to recognize it, or call it by that name."
Kofi Annan, April 2004 (speaking on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide)

"We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility, and that genocide may still be occurring. We believe that the evidence corroborates a specific intent to destroy a group in whole or in part."
Colin Powell, September 2004

"Genocide's not a word that I think should be bandied around lightly, for fear of devaluing the term. No-one doubts that there've been massive human rights violations, certainly crimes against humanity, committed in Darfur."
Chris Mullin, Foreign minister

"Our position is clear, that what has been going on is not a genocide, this is an American attempt to use a humanitarian situation for a political agenda."
Dr Mustafa Osman Ismail, Sudanese foreign minister

Mustafa Osman Ismail, Sudanese foreign minister

"My words are very clear in this regard. The war has its repercussions. The rebels started this war. They started burning and destroying many of the villages. They started destroying our villages first.
Musa Hilal, suspected Janjaweed leader

Musa Hilal - Arab tribal leader and 'leader' of the Janjaweed

"My son was clinging to my dress. An Arab looking man, in a uniform with military insignia, stopped his car next to me. He grabbed my son from me and threw him into a fire."
Kalima, resident of the village of Kidinyir, Darfur

"The government never initiated this war. The rebels, who are not denying it, they are the ones who initiated this war and insist on continuation of this war."
Dr Mustafa Osman Ismail, Sudanese foreign minister

"When they say we will go and fight the rebels, they lie. They do not actually go to fight the rebels. Instead they raid the villages and the small scattered communities and seize people's possessions."
Anonymous former Janjaweed recruit

"It's highly restrictive. Highly restrictive because we are not even allowed to look into issues like rape and other things. Highly restrictive because it only gives us an ability to observe, verify and report."
Commander Seth Appiah Mensah, African Union soldier in Darfur

"The children started jumping out of the windows of the classes, when they saw the 'Janjaweed' coming into the school. Some of the children were trying to run from the school, others were trying to hide inside. They killed two or three of the students who stayed in the classes. They were also shooting the other children who were trying to run away."
Hikma, teacher in the village of Kidinyir, Darfur
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Read viewer's comments to the BBC on its New Killing Fields Panorama programme.

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