Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sudan's Camp Rwanda in deadly Tawila, N Darfur (Lydia Polgreen)

Darfur trembles as peacekeepers' exit looms
By LYDIA POLGREEN The New York Times
September 9, 2006 via IHT - excerpt:
"... Many who live here say the camp is named for the Rwandan soldiers based here as monitors of a tattered cease-fire. But the camp's sheiks say the name has a darker meaning, one that reveals their deepest fears.

"What happened in Rwanda, it will happen here," said Sheik Abdullah Muhammad Ali, who fled here from a nearby village seeking the safety that he hoped the presence of about 200 African Union peacekeepers would bring. But the Sudanese government has asked the African Union to quit Darfur rather than hand over its mission to the United Nations. "If these soldiers leave," Sheik Ali said, "we will all be slaughtered."

"We beg the international community, somebody, come and save us," Sheik Ali said. "We have no means to protect ourselves. The only thing we can do is run and hide in the mountains and caves. We will all die."

Tawila and the sprawling, makeshift camp of displaced people at its edge sit astride a deadly fault line in Darfur. This small but strategic town has been the front line of some of the deadliest battles in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and sent 2.5 million fleeing.

It is a place where a grim struggle between the government and its Arab allies, and non-Arab rebel factions, has given way to a fractured struggle that pits non-Arab tribes against one another, fanning centuries-old rivalries and setting the scene for a bloodbath of score-settling vengeance should the African Union soldiers withdraw, as demanded, at the end of this month.

Tawila is an apocalyptic postcard from the next and perhaps the grimmest chapter in Darfur's agony, a preview of the coming cataclysm in the conflict the United Nations has called the world's gravest humanitarian crisis.

Thousands of people in this squalid camp fear that their annihilation will be the final chapter in this brutal battle over land, identity, resources and power, which the Bush administration and many others have called genocide.

Aid organizations have always found Tawila a difficult place to operate. Nestled in the foothills of the rich and fertile farmland of the Jebel Marra mountains and home to a mix of Arabs and non-Arabs, herders and farmers, it sits along a crucial livestock migration route and next to the main east-west road in Darfur, stretching from Chad to the main north-south road leading to Khartoum, the capital. Tawila is a strategic prize all sides in this increasingly complicated conflict have tried to win.

For the moment the peacekeepers are still here, the contingent of 200 Rwandan troops led by a Ghanaian lieutenant colonel named Wisdom Bleboo. But there is little they can do to help the people living in the Rwanda camp.

"People are dying here," Colonel Bleboo said. "Children are dying. They come to us thinking that we can help them, but we have no means to help them."
Note, Lydia's report tells us that a World Health Organization car travelling with the World Food Program was hijacked Thursday by rebel gunmen, leaving hundreds of thousands of people across Darfur without food, shelter, medicine and clean water.

Sudanese soldier in N Darfur 2006

Photo: A soldier with the Government of Sudan sits next to weapons and ammunition at an outpost in Sudan's northern Darfur town of Tawila May 17, 2006. Sudan's plan to send 10,500 new government troops to its Darfur region would violate a peace deal and is just a bid by Khartoum to stop the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, a rights watchdog said on Aug 18, 2006. (Reuters/Candace Feit/Sudan Watch archives)

Aug 21 2006 N. Darfur: Armed SLA-Minnawi soldiers at Tawilla market causes panic among traders: MILITIA LEADER'S HOMETOWN OF MISTARIHA, NORTH DARFUR. RARE INTERVIEW: Sheik Musa Hilal, leader of Um Jalul tribe in his hometown of Mistariha, Darfur (Lydia Polgreen)

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