Sunday, March 26, 2006

Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal says Sudanese government call to arms is carried out through tribal leaders

Osama bin Laden in Sudan

Photo: Archival Footage of Osama bin Laden in Sudan (via Watching America Mar 23, 2006: Al-Jazeera TV Qatar posted in Jan 00:02:31 MEMRI)

Janjaweed soldier

Photo: A soldier of the Janjaweed Militia [in Green] chats with Sudanese policemen in North Darfur, Sudan. (via Watching America Mar 23, 2006)

Soldiers believed to be Janjaweed

Photo: Soldiers believed to be Janjaweed. (Sudan Tribune)

Musa Hilal

Photo: Musa Hilal, leader of the Janjaweed (BBC). Click on photo for further details.

Sudan's government call to arms is carried out through tribal leaders

Excerpt from The New Yorker by Samantha Power 23 Aug 2004:

During the conflict with the rebels based in the South, the Sudanese military had honed strategy for combatting insurgents: the Air Force bombed from the sky, while Arab tribesmen, armed by the government, launched raids on the ground. In Darfur, the Sudanese Army needed to rely even more heavily upon local Arab militias. A majority of the Army's rank-and-file soldiers were from Darfur, and they could not be trusted to take up arm against their neighbors and kin. (Many Darfurians had served with the Army in the war against Garang's rebels.) By July, 2003, the government was appealing to Darfur's Arab tribal leaders to defend their homeland against rebels whom they branded as "tora bora" (an allusion to the terrorist fighters based in the caves of Afghanistan)

Musa Hilal, a forty-three-year-old Arab sheikh, was one of the first to answer the government's call, and he soon became the coordinator of the janjaweed in Darfur. I met Hilal recently, at the Khartoum airport, outside a hangar for charter flights. [Edit]

As I talked with Musal Hilal in the El Fasher airport waiting room, he discussed the possibility that he and other janjaweed leaders could have their assets frozen and their ability to travel curtailed. "I have no assets in international banks, so that is not a problem," he said as he watched Sudanese soldiers ready our plane for its flight back to Khartoum. "But the travel ban - that would be a humiliation. I am a tribal leader. My reputation comes above anything and everything."

Hilal is aware that if the international pressure on Khartoum intensifies the government might sell him out. This explains why he courts Western journalists, staging elaborate shows of African-Arab unity. But he also knows how risky it would be for the government to challenge him - even if it wanted to appease its international critics. Khartoum's leaders rely on tribal militias as their main weapon of war. And, in Hilal's case, the Sudanese government helped create him, and he knows too much.

"The government call to arms is carried out through the tribal leaders," Hilal said. "Every government comes and finds us here. When they leave, we will still be here. When they come back, we will still be here. We will always be here."
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Sheiriya Gereida

Photo (by Paula Souverijn-Eisenberg) UN top envoy Jan Pronk in Darfur, western Sudan talking politics with the Commissioner of Mershing. Courtesy Jan Pronk's blog entry - Mar 5, 2006, quote: "In February I had had difficult encounters with tribal and traditional leaders in Nyala and El Fashr. Most of them were strongly against a UN force in Darfur. They accuse the United Nations of being manipulated by the United States. They fear that Western countries and NATO want to re-colonize and occupy Sudan. They speak about a conspiracy against Islam and against Arab nations."
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AU soldiers on patrol in Darfur

Photo and caption via Watching America Mar 23, 2006: "African Union troops on patrol on Darfur. Is Washington hoping for them to fail?"
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US President to welcome chairman of African Union to the White House

Olusegun Obasanjo

Photo: Chairman of African Union, President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Mar 25 2006 The White House - excerpt: President Bush will welcome President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the White House on March 29, 2006. Nigeria is a strategic partner of the United States in Africa and the visit provides an opportunity for the President to thank President Obasanjo for his leadership as Chairman of the African Union in the deployment of African troops in response to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The two leaders also will discuss a broad range of regional and international issues including continuing cooperation in the areas of Darfur, regional security, energy security, fighting corruption, strengthening democratic institutions, and the need to bring Charles Taylor to justice.

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