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July/August 2004 • Vol 4, No. 7 •

Darfur: When Genocide Ain’t

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

It’s happening again. As we speak, hundreds of thousands of people are being herded into deadly concentration camps, and tens of thousands of others, are being forced to flee; to make hellish death marches under a searing sun, seeking a moment’s shade and rest.

These people are under relentless assault by murderous bands of rapists and thieves, backed by a central government, and the governments of the West, including the U.S. and the UN, can barely raise a murmur in protest. What is happening is the attempted ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of the Darfur region, in western Sudan, who have been subjected to the venomous attacks of terrorist militias, called the Janjawid, who are armed, paid, and led by the military regime in Khartoum.

For the Western governments and international agencies, now is not a good time to rock the boat with Khartoum, for it draws attention from the so-called “War on Terrorism.” Sudan is the largest country in Africa, and it has a long and brilliant history under the kingdoms of Nubia. From ancient days, it suffered under the attempted invasions of its northern neighbor, Egypt. Both invaded the other for centuries.

In more modern times, Arabs have moved southwards and settled in Sudan’s northern provinces. When the National Islamic Front staged a military coup in 1989, it began to favor these segments of Sudanese society, to the detriment of traditional Sudanese tribal groups. This political conflict has morphed into an ethnic and racial one that has become expressed as a struggle between “Arabs” and “Africans.” In the country’s west, Darfur, is a vast area, about the size of France.

The name, “Dar Fur”, means the “homeland of the Fur people”, and has been used for centuries. There, the Fur, the Zaghawa and Massaleit, who are indigenous African tribal populations, dwell, following their pastoral way of life.

In the past, whenever there was conflict between these people, and the nomadic Arabic tribal groups, both would meet to peacefully negotiate compensation. Those days are now gone. The Janjawid, according to Amnesty International reports, are killing over a thousand villagers a week, and doing so, with the support of Khartoum. The military government is using helicopter gunships, MiG jets, and Antonov bombers for aerial assaults on the villages of Darfur.

According to a taped exchange between a Sudanese ground commander and a pilot flying earlier this year: “Commander: ‘We’ve found people still in the village.’ Pilot: “Are they with us or against us?’ Commander: ‘They say they will work with us.’ Pilot: ‘They’re liars. Don’t trust them. Get rid of them.…’”

(Some time later): “Pilot: ‘Now the village is empty and secure for you. Any village you pass through must burn. That way, when the villagers come back they’ll have a surprise waiting for them.’” (From, Eric Reeves: Sudan’s Reign of Terror, pp. 18-19, Amnesty Now, 2004).

The Janjawid/government attack have indeed left a “surprise” for hundreds of thousands of people, as they have systematically destroyed over a hundred villages. Although both these people are Black people, and both are Muslim people, the issue of ethnicity has been exploited by the government to achieve political ends. One survivor of the assaults lived to quote the words of her attacker. “You are opponents to the regime, we must crush you,” he said. “Since you are black, you are like slaves. Then all the Darfur region will be in our hands. The government is on our side. The government plane is on our side to give us ammunition and food,” the Janjawidi said.

The Sudan has been visited recently by U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Both have reportedly received promises from Khartoum to “contain” the poisonous Janjawid. Yet neither of these diplomats have called the Sudanese government’s actions “terrorist,” nor “genocidal.”

I guess Africans don’t count.

—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, July 11, 2004

Read Mr. Jamal’s latest work, We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party, from South End Press





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