Thursday, February 08, 2007

Darfur Heroics: Whistle-blower on Khartoum

An ex-employee of Khartoum speaks out on Darfur
07 Feb 2007 16:49:00 GMT

Blogged by: Jonathan Erasmus
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.
Printable view Email this article RSS [-] Text [+]

Jonathan Erasmus is an independent freelance journalist. Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters.

"The greed of a handful of men is starving millions of people of their basic human needs," whispered the former employee of the Sudanese government.

He looked nervously around the Khartoum coffeehouse, anxious not to be identified. Leaning forward, he continued, lowering his voice further: "There are ruthless leaders here that lust after wealth and power, doing anything to get it, even if it means butchering their own people."

He said he'd been privy to details of government military spending in Darfur, where experts say tens of thousands of people have been killed and some 2.5 million uprooted by prolonged violence that Washington calls genocide.

He said orders for attacks on rural villages came from the "top level" - and that President Omar al-Bashir himself was guilty of heinous crimes against humanity.

"Since he (Bashir) came into power (in June 1989) he has marginalized, excluded and racially discriminated against black Africans in Sudan. He has the blood of thousands of people on his hands."

The former government employee said he believed Bashir had purposefully implemented policies and military action to change the demographics of Sudanese society to favour Arabs financially and politically while ostracising black Africans.

Going a step further, he said: "Bashir has been ethnically cleansing Darfur. This man is responsible for the actions of his government and military. He is accountable for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been killed by government bombs and bullets."

Sudan denies targeting civilians in Darfur and says bombing raids on "legitimate targets" have focused only on rebel groups that are non-signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement signed last May in Abuja.

Khartoum also rejects charges that government helicopter gunships have attacked villages in Darfur. But the international rights organisation Human Rights Watch says Sudan is guilty of both bombing civilians and helicopter attacks on villages.

The government has in addition been repeatedly accused of financing and arming Arab militias in Darfur, though Khartoum vehemently rejects this.

However, some government sources say Khartoum has indeed been backing Arab militias, adding that there are officials in Khartoum whose sole purpose is to oversee the implementation of support to Arab militia groups in Darfur.

They say the government has been most notably supporting the Janjaweed militia blamed for the massacre of thousands of Darfuris in brutal raids on villages throughout the region.

My source said his job was to follow orders and not ask questions. He now fears that speaking out against the government seriously could jeopardise his safety. "I know the grim details about Darfur and senior people here know I know. It breaks me to think I have been involved.

"Sudan is using diplomacy to fool the world, but the reality is the government is committing grave war crimes in Darfur."

Khartoum denies this, with one government spokesman saying: "Sudan is trying to resolve the crisis in Darfur using diplomacy rather than military force."

But the source said Khartoum was hiding facts and the government was only using diplomacy in an international forum "to appear to be trying to resolve the crisis is Darfur without force" - but that on the ground it was using military force and not words.

He said government-ordered bombing raids in Darfur had been carefully calculated in both the targets and timing "to ensure the rebel groups in Darfur remain divided, as Khartoum firmly believes they have to divide and rule the rebels to control Darfur".

He added: "Khartoum doesn't really want to negotiate on Darfur. It wants to control Darfur on its own terms."

He said the extent of Khartoum's brutality towards its own people was staggering. "The quantity of munitions the government has used in Darfur is shocking. The U.N. simply can't know the true extent of the bombing and attacks government forces have carried out or they would surely have acted.

"The longer the outside world continues to be blind to what is really happening, the longer the fighting and killing of innocent civilians will continue and many, many thousands more will die."

Since the beginning of the conflict in early 2003 some experts have estimated that 200,000 people have died in Darfur, but this figure has remained unchanged for more than two years. The truth is no one really knows the extent of the massacre.

"It's sickening to say but I'm not convinced of the sincerity of international community expressions of concern anymore," the source said. "If people really cared about Darfur they would know how many Darfuris have died.

"There has been nothing to back up all the words and resolutions. They are hollow promises and hollow promises don't save lives."

He motioned to get up and leave, but stopped to add one last comment: "Once again, the world has forgotten the black African."

Reuters AlertNet is not responsible for the content of external websites.

No comments: