Through the eyes of
Dramatic new evidence of the attacks on the people of Darfur by Sudanese
government troops has emerged in 500 drawings by children who escaped
the violence by fleeing across the border to Chad.
The drawings depict
Sudanese tanks, planes and helicopters launching co-ordinated attacks
with the Arab Janjaweed militia against Darfuris defending themselves
with bows and arrows. The government of Sudan has repeatedly denied
launching military attacks in Darfur.
The graphic images include the bombing of civilians and children; homes being set on fire as villages are destroyed; beheadings; victims lying in pools of blood; women chained together being led away; and mass graves. Many of the children who drew the stories of their lives do not have fathers or brothers. Men and older boys have been slaughtered in Darfur. Childish lines that look as though they should be depicting fairgrounds or farmyards, instead show helicopter gun attacks, tanks bearing the Sudanese flag, and soldiers wearing the uniform of the Sudanese army alongside vehicles with machineguns driven by Janjaweed. The perpetrators are always light-skinned. The victims are always black.
"This is the proof," said Rebecca Tinsley, a director of Waging Peace, who will submit the drawings to the ICC and plans to exhibit them to rally support for tougher international action against Sudan. "If this is not evidence, I don't know what is. The children have provided a photographic record. They have not been manipulated. The pattern that emerged in the drawings is amazing. It corroborates what we know is happening and disproves what we are being told by the government of Sudan."
The ICC has named two suspects wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur. They are Ahmed Muhammed Harun, formerly Sudan's junior interior minister responsible for Darfur and now humanitarian affairs minister, and Ali Mohammed Ali Abd-al-Rahman, a leader of one of the Janjaweed militias. But there is no guarantee they will be handed over by Sudan.
About 110 people are dying in Darfur every day, according to Waging Peace. More than 200,000 people have been killed since the crisis began four years ago, two million have been displaced and four million rely on food aid.
On Tuesday, the United Nations backed a British and French resolution which will allow a 26,000-strong UN-African Union peacekeeping force to go to Darfur. But British officials admit this is only a first step towards a long-term peace settlement in Sudan and that the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum has made concessions before, only to frustrate progress at a later stage. There are already signs that it may do so again, with one Sudanese minister reportedly saying the UN resolution may be "stillborn".
Ms Tinsley expressed concern at statements by the Sudanese government yesterday that the force would come from African nations. She said the African Union was already overstretched and 13,000 short of the number of troops it needed in Somalia. She saw the statements as "predictable delaying tactics" by Khartoum. She feared the force might not be in place until next February, even though the UN wants to start deploying it in October. Ms Tinsley is campaigning for tougher sanctions on leading figures in the Sudanese government such as a travel ban on its prominent figures.
Omer Siddig, the Sudanese ambassador in London, welcomed the UN resolution yesterday as "a step forward in the right direction". He said it was not true that Sudanese government had given implicit or explicit support to the Janjaweed in their campaign of ethnic cleansing. "We are the government and we know things on the ground," he told BBC Radio 4.
When she visited Darfur, Ms Tinsley gathered evidence of the systematic rape of black women when they left refugee camps to gather firewood. She said rape was being used as a weapon of war, with victims being told: "I want to dilute your blood." Men called their victims abid (slave). A "second wave of genocide" was happening because many women were developing HIV-Aids and could not get drugs to treat the disease. Victims were often subsequently shunned by men.
Some aid agencies are reluctant to speak out against Sudan, fearing that they might be expelled from the country. There are claims that aid workers are being intimidated. One was accused of "telling lies" about conditions in Darfur when he returned after the Sudanese government spotted an interview he gave to his local newspaper.
When Ms Tinsley interviewed women in Darfur, several told her: "You have to be our voice. We don't have a voice."
Now, the women's children have found theirs.
Andrew Grice, Political Editor, The Independent (UK) 2 August 2007